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Sarah Orne Jewett
One of the chief pleasures in Deephaven was our housekeeping. Going to market was apt to use up a whole morning, especially if we went to the fish-houses. We depended somewhat upon supplies from Boston, but sometimes we used to chase a butcher who took a drive in his old canvas-topped cart when he felt like it, and as for fish, there were always enough to be caught, even if we could not buy any. Our acquaintances would often ask if we had anything for dinner that day, and would kindly suggest that somebody had been boiling lobsters, or that a boat had just come in with some nice mackerel, or that somebody over on the Ridge was calculating to kill a lamb, and we had better speak for a quarter in good season. I am afraid we were looked upon as being in danger of becoming epicures, which we certainly are not, and we undoubtedly roused a great deal of interest because we used to eat mushrooms, which grew in the suburbs of the town in wild luxuriance.
One morning Maggie told us that there was nothing in the house for dinner, and, taking an early start, we went at once down to the store to ask if the butcher had been seen, but finding that he had gone out deep-sea fishing for two days, and that when he came back he had planned to kill a veal, we left word for a sufficient piece of the doomed animal to be set apart for our family, and strolled down to the shore to see if we could find some mackerel; but there was not a fishermen in sight, and after going to all the fish-houses we concluded that we had better provide for ourselves. We had not brought our own lines, but we knew where Danny kept his, and after finding a basket of suitable size, and taking some clams from Danny's bait-tub, we went over to the hull of an old schooner which was going to pieces alongside one of the ruined wharves. We looked down the hatchway into the hold, and could see the flounders and sculpin swimming about lazily, and once in a while a little pollock scooted down among them impertinently and then disappeared. "There is that same big flounder that we saw day before yesterday," said I. "I know him because one of his fins is half gone. I don't believe he can get out, for the hole in the side of the schooner isn't very wide, and it is higher up than flounders ever swim. Perhaps he came in when he was young, and was too lazy to go out until he was so large he couldn't. Flounders always look so lazy, and as if they thought a great deal of themselves."
"I hope they will think enough of themselves to keep away from my hook this morning," said Kate, philosophically, "and the sculpin too. I am going to fish for cunners alone, and keep my line short." And she perched herself on the quarter, baited her hook carefully, and threw it over, with a clam-shell to call attention. I went to the rail at the side, and we were presently much encouraged by pulling up two small cunners, and felt that our prospects for dinner were excellent. Then I unhappily caught so large a sculpin that it was like pulling up an open umbrella, and after I had thrown him into the hold to keep company with the flounder, our usual good luck seemed to desert us. It was one of the days when, in spite of twitching the line and using all the tricks we could think of, the cunners would either eat our bait or keep away altogether. Kate at last said we must starve unless we could catch the big flounder, and asked me to drop my hook down the hatchway; but it seemed almost too bad to destroy his innocent happiness. Just then we heard the noise of oars, and to our delight saw Cap'n Sands in his dory just beyond the next wharf. "Any luck?" said he. "S'pose ye don't care anything about going out this morning?"
"We are not amusing ourselves; we are trying to catch some fish for dinner," said Kate. "Could you wait out by the red buoy while we get a few more, and then should you be back by noon, or are you going for a longer voyage, Captain Sands?"
"I was going out to Black Rock for cunners myself," said the cap'n. "I should be pleased to take ye, if ye'd like to go." So we wound up our lines, and took our basket and clams and went round to meet the boat. I felt like rowing, and took the oars while Kate was mending her sinker and the cap'n was busy with a snarled line.
"It's pretty hot," said he, presently, "but I see a breeze coming in, and the clouds seem to be thickening; I guess we shall have it cooler 'long towards noon. It looked last night as if we were going to have foul weather, but the scud seemed to blow off, and it was as pretty a morning as ever I see. 'A growing moon chaws up the clouds,' my gran'ther used to say. He was as knowing about the weather as anybody I ever come across; 'most always hit it just about right. Some folks lay all the weather to the moon, accordin' to where she quarters, and when she's in perigee we're going to have this kind of weather, and when she's in apogee she's got to do so and so for sartain; but gran'ther he used to laugh at all them things. He said it never made no kind of difference, and he went by the looks of the clouds and the feel of the air, and he thought folks couldn't make no kind of rules that held good, that had to do with the moon. Well, he did use to depend on the moon some; everybody knows we aren't so likely to have foul weather in a growing moon as we be when she's waning. But some folks I could name, they can't do nothing without having the moon's opinion on it. When I went my second voyage afore the mast we was in port ten days at Cadiz, and the ship she needed salting dreadful. The mate kept telling the captain how low the salt was in her, and we was going a long voyage from there, but no, he wouldn't have her salted nohow, because it was the wane of the moon. He was an amazing set kind of man, the cap'n was, and would have his own way on sea or shore. The mate was his own brother, and they used to fight like a cat and dog; they owned most of the ship between 'em. I was slushing the mizzen-mast, and heard 'em a disputin' about the salt. The cap'n was a first-rate seaman and died rich, but he was dreadful notional. I know one time we were a lyin' out in the stream all ready to weigh anchor, and everything was in trim, the men were up in the rigging and a fresh breeze going out, just what we'd been waiting for, and the word was passed to take in sail and make everything fast. The men swore, and everybody said the cap'n had had some kind of a warning. But that night it began to blow, and I tell you afore morning we were glad enough we were in harbor. The old Victor she dragged her anchor, and the fore-to'-gallant sail and r'yal got loose somehow and was blown out of the bolt-ropes. Most of the canvas and rigging was old, but we had first-rate weather after that, and didn't bend near all the new sail we had aboard, though the cap'n was most afraid we'd come short when we left Boston. That was 'most sixty year ago," said the captain, reflectively. "How time does slip away! You young folks haven't any idea. She was a first-rate ship, the old Victor was, though I suppose she wouldn't cut much of a dash now 'longside of some of the new clippers.
"There used to be some strange-looking crafts in those days; there was the old brig Hannah. They used to say she would sail backwards as fast as forwards, and she was so square in the bows, they used to call her the sugar-box. She was master old, the Hannah was, and there wasn't a port from here to New Orleans where she wasn't known; she used to carry a master cargo for her size, more than some ships that ranked two hundred and fifty ton, and she was put down for two hundred. She used to make good voyages, the Hannah did, and then there was the Pactolus; she was just about such another, - you would have laughed to see her. She sailed out of this port for a good many years. Cap'n Wall he told me that if he had her before the wind with a cargo of cotton, she would make a middling good run, but load her deep with salt, and you might as well try to sail a stick of oak timber with a handkerchief. She was a stout-built ship: I shouldn't wonder if her timbers were afloat somewhere yet; she was sold to some parties out in San Francisco. There! everything's changed from what it was when I used to follow the sea. I wonder sometimes if the sailors have as queer works aboard ship as they used. Bless ye! Deephaven used to be a different place to what it is now; there was hardly a day in the year that you didn't hear the shipwrights' hammers, and there was always something going on at the wharves. You would see the folks from up country comin' in with their loads of oak knees and plank, and logs o' rock-maple for keels when there was snow on the ground in winter-time, and the big sticks of timber-pine for masts would come crawling along the road with their three and four yoke of oxen all frosted up, the sleds creaking and the snow growling and the men flapping their arms to keep warm, and hallooing as if there wan't nothin' else goin' on in the world except to get them masts to the ship-yard. Bless ye! two o' them teams together would stretch from here 'most up to the Widow Jim's place, - no such timber-pines nowadays."
"I suppose the sailors are very jolly together sometimes," said Kate, meditatively, with the least flicker of a smile at me. The captain did not answer for a minute, as he was battling with an obstinate snarl in his line; but when he had found the right loop he said, "I've had the best times and the hardest times of my life at sea, that's certain! I was just thinking it over when you spoke. I'll tell you some stories one day or 'nother that'll please you. Land! you've no idea what tricks some of those wild fellows will be up to. Now, saying they fetch home a cargo of wines and they want a drink; they'll fetch up a basket, and how do you suppose they'll get into it?"
Of course we didn't know.
"Well, every basket will be counted, and they're fastened up particular, so they can tell in a minute if they've been tampered with; and neither must you draw the corks if you could get the basket open. I suppose ye may have seen champagne, how it's all wired and waxed. Now, they take a clean tub, them fellows do, and just shake the basket and jounce it up and down till they break the bottles and let the wine drain out; then they take it down in the hold and put it back with the rest, and when the cargo is delivered there's only one or two whole bottles in that basket, and there's a dreadful fuss about its being stowed so foolish." The captain told this with an air of great satisfaction, but we did not show the least suspicion that he might have assisted at some such festivity.
"Then they have a way of breaking into a cask. It won't do to start the bung, and it won't do to bore a hole where it can be seen, but they're up to that: they slip back one of the end hoops and bore two holes underneath it, one for the air to go in and one for the liquor to come out, and after they get all out they want they put in some spigots and cut them down close to the stave, knock back the hoop again, and there ye are, all trig."
"I never should have thought of it," said Kate, admiringly.
"There isn't nothing," Cap'n Sands went on, "that'll hender some masters from cheating the owners a little. Get them off in a foreign port, and there's nobody to watch, and they most of them have a feeling that they ain't getting full pay, and they'll charge things to the ship that she never seen nor heard of. There were two shipmasters that sailed out of Salem. I heard one of 'em tell the story. They had both come into port from Liverpool nigh the same time, and one of 'em, he was dressed up in a handsome suit of clothes, and the other looked kind of poverty-struck. 'Where did you get them clothes?' says he. 'Why, to Liverpool,' says the other; 'you don't mean to say you come away without none, cheap as cloth was there?' 'Why, yes,' says the other cap'n, - 'I can't afford to wear such clothes as those be, and I don't see how you can, either.' 'Charge 'em to the ship, bless ye; the owners expect it.'
"So the next v'y'ge the poor cap'n he had a nice rig for himself made to the best tailor's in Bristol, and charged it, say ten pounds, in the ship's account; and when he came home the ship's husband he was looking over the papers, and 'What's this?' says he, 'how come the ship to run up a tailor's bill?' 'Why, them's mine,' says the cap'n, very meaching. 'I onderstood that there wouldn't be no objection made.' 'Well, you made a mistake,' says the other, laughing; 'guess I'd better scratch this out.' And it wasn't long before the cap'n met the one who had put him up to doing it, and he give him a blowing up for getting him into such a fix. 'Land sakes alive!' says he, 'were you fool enough to set it down in the account? Why, I put mine in, so many bolts of Russia duck.'"
Captain Sands seemed to enjoy this reminiscence, and to our satisfaction, in a few minutes, after he had offered to take the oars, he went on to tell us another story.
"Why, as for cheating, there's plenty of that all over the world. The first v'y'ge I went into Havana as master of the Deerhound, she had never been in the port before and had to be measured and recorded, and then pay her tonnage duties every time she went into port there afterward, according to what she was registered on the custom-house books. The inspector he come aboard, and he went below and looked round, and he measured her between decks; but he never offered to set down any figgers, and when we came back into the cabin, says he, 'Yes - yes - good ship! you put one doubloon front of this eye, so!' says he, 'an' I not see with him; and you put one more doubloon front of other eye, and how you think I see at all what figger you write? So I took his book and I set down her measurements and made her out twenty ton short, and he took his doubloons and shoved 'em into his pocket. There, it isn't what you call straight dealing, but everybody done it that dared, and you'd eat up all the profits of a v'y'ge and the owners would just as soon you'd try a little up-county air, if you paid all those dues according to law. Tonnage was dreadful high and wharfage too, in some ports, and they'd get your last cent some way or 'nother if ye weren't sharp.
"Old Cap'n Carew, uncle to them ye see to meeting, did a smart thing in the time of the embargo. Folks got tired of it, and it was dreadful hard times; ships rotting at the wharves, and Deephaven never was quite the same afterward, though the old place held out for a good while before she let go as ye see her now. You'd 'a' had a hard grip on't when I was a young man to make me believe it would ever be so dull here. Well, Cap'n Carew he bought an old brig that was lying over by East Parish, and he begin fitting her up and loading her for the West Indies, and the farmers they'd come in there by night from all round the country, to sell salt-fish and lumber and potatoes, and glad enough they were, I tell ye. The rigging was put in order, and it wasn't long before she was ready to sail, and it was all kept mighty quiet. She lay up to an old wharf in a cove where she wouldn't be much noticed, and they took care not to paint her any or to attract any attention.
"One day Cap'n Carew was over in Riverport dining out with some gentlemen, and the revenue officer sat next to him, and by and by says he, 'Why won't ye take a ride with me this afternoon? I've had warning that there's a brig loading for the West Indies over beyond Deephaven somewheres, and I'm going over to seize her.' And he laughed to himself as if he expected fun, and something in his pocket beside. Well, the first minute that Cap'n Carew dared, after dinner, he slipped out, and he hired the swiftest horse in Riverport and rode for dear life, and told the folks who were in the secret, and some who weren't, what was the matter, and every soul turned to and helped finish loading her and getting the rigging ready and the water aboard; but just as they were leaving the cove - the wind was blowing just right - along came the revenue officer with two or three men, and they come off in a boat and boarded her as important as could be.
"'Won't ye step into the cabin, gentlemen, and take a glass o' wine?' says Cap'n Carew, very polite; and the wind came in fresher, - something like a squall for a few minutes, - and the men had the sails spread before you could say Jack Robi'son, and before those fellows knew what they were about the old brig was a standing out to sea, and the folks on the wharves cheered and yelled. The Cap'n gave the officers a good scare and offered 'em a free passage to the West Indies, and finally they said they wouldn't report at headquarters if he'd let 'em go ashore; so he told the sailors to lower their boat about two miles off Deephaven, and they pulled ashore meek enough. Cap'n Carew had a first-rate run, and made a lot of money, so I have heard it said. Bless ye! every shipmaster would have done the same if he had dared, and everybody was glad when they heard about it. Dreadful foolish piece of business that embargo was!
"Now I declare," said Captain Sands, after he had finished this narrative, "here I'm a telling stories and you're doin' all the work. You'll pull a boat ahead of anybody, if you keep on. Tom Kew was a-praisin' up both of you to me the other day: says he, 'They don't put on no airs, but I tell ye they can pull a boat well, and swim like fish,' says he. There now, if you'll give me the oars I'll put the dory just where I want her, and you can be getting your lines ready. I know a place here where it's always toler'ble fishing, and I guess we'll get something."
Kate and I cracked our clams on the gunwale of the boat, and cut them into nice little bits for bait with a piece of the shell, and by the time the captain had thrown out the killick we were ready to begin, and found the fishing much more exciting than it had been at the wharf.
"I don't know as I ever see 'em bite faster," said the old sailor, presently; "guess it's because they like the folks that's fishing. Well, I'm pleased. I thought I'd let 'Bijah take some along to Denby in the cart to-morrow if I got more than I could use at home. I didn't calc'late on having such a lively crew aboard. I s'pose ye wouldn't care about going out a little further by and by to see if we can't get two or three haddock?" And we answered that we should like nothing better.
It was growing cloudy, and was much cooler, - the perfection of a day for fishing, - and we sat there diligently pulling in cunners, and talking a little once in a while. The tide was nearly out, and Black Rock looked almost large enough to be called an island. The sea was smooth and the low waves broke lazily among the seaweed-covered ledges, while our boat swayed about on the water, lifting and falling gently as the waves went in shore. We were not a very long way from the lighthouse, and once we could see Mrs. Kew's big white apron as she stood in the doorway for a few minutes. There was no noise except the plash of the low-tide waves and the occasional flutter of a fish in the bottom of the dory. Kate and I always killed our fish at once by a rap on the head, for it certainly saved the poor creatures much discomfort, and ourselves as well, and it made it easier to take them off the hook than if they were flopping about and making us aware of our cruelty.
Suddenly the captain wound up his line and said he thought we'd better be going in, and Kate and I looked at him with surprise. "It is only half past ten," said I, looking at my watch. "Don't hurry in on our account," added Kate, persuasively, for we were having a very good time.
"I guess we won't mind about the haddock. I've got a feelin' we'd better go ashore." And he looked up into the sky and turned to see the west. "I knew there was something the matter; there's going to be a shower." And we looked behind us to see a bank of heavy clouds coming over fast. "I wish we had two pair of oars," said Captain Sands. "I'm afraid we shall get caught."
"You needn't mind us," said Kate. "We aren't in the least afraid of our clothes, and we don't get cold when we're wet, we have made sure of that."
"Well, I'm glad to hear that," said the cap'n. "Women-folks are apt to be dreadful scared of a wetting; but I'd just as lief not get wet myself. I had a twinge of rheumatism yesterday. I guess we'll get ashore fast enough. No. I feel well enough to-day, but you can row if you want to, and I'll take the oars the last part of the way."
When we reached the moorings the clouds were black, and the thunder rattled and boomed over the sea, while heavy spatters of rain were already falling. We did not go to the wharves, but stopped down the shore at the fish-houses, the nearer place of shelter. "You just select some of those cunners," said the captain, who was beginning to be a little out of breath, "and then you can run right up and get under cover, and I'll put a bit of old sail over the rest of the fish to keep the fresh water off." By the time the boat touched the shore and we had pulled it up on the pebbles, the rain had begun in good earnest. Luckily there was a barrow lying near, and we loaded that in a hurry, and just then the captain caught sight of a well-known red shirt in an open door, and shouted, "Halloa, Danny! lend us a hand with these fish, for we're nigh on to being shipwrecked." And then we ran up to the fish-house and waited awhile, though we stood in the doorway watching the lightning, and there were so many leaks in the roof that we might almost as well have been out of doors. It was one of Danny's quietest days, and he silently beheaded hake, only winking at us once very gravely at something our other companion said.
"There!" said Captain Sands, "folks may say what they have a mind to; I didn't see that shower coming up, and I know as well as I want to that my wife did, and impressed it on my mind. Our house sets high, and she watches the sky and is al'ays a worrying when I go out fishing for fear something's going to happen to me, 'specially sence I've got to be along in years."
This was just what Kate and I wished to hear, for we had been told that Captain Sands had most decided opinions on dreams and other mysteries, and could tell some stories which were considered incredible by even a Deephaven audience, to whom the marvellous was of every-day occurrence.
"Then it has happened before?" asked Kate. "I wondered why you started so suddenly to come in."
"Happened!" said the captain. "Bless ye, yes! I'll tell you my views about these p'ints one o' those days. I've thought a good deal about 'em by spells. Not that I can explain 'em, nor anybody else, but it's no use to laugh at 'em as some folks do. Cap'n Lant - you know Cap'n Lant? - he and I have talked it over consider'ble, and he says to me, 'Everybody's got some story of the kind they will believe in spite of everything, and yet they won't believe yourn.'"
The shower seemed to be over now, and we felt compelled to go home, as the captain did not go on with his remarks. I hope he did not see Danny's wink. Skipper Scudder, who was Danny's friend and partner, came up just then and asked us if we knew what the sign was when the sun came out through the rain. I said that I had always heard it would rain again next day. "O no," said Skipper Scudder, "the Devil is whipping his wife."
After dinner Kate and I went for a walk through some pine woods which were beautiful after the rain; the mosses and lichens which had been dried up were all freshened and blooming out in the dampness. The smell of the wet pitch-pines was unusually sweet, and we wandered about for an hour or two there, to find some ferns we wanted, and then walked over toward East Parish, and home by the long beach late in the afternoon. We came as far as the boat-landing, meaning to go home through the lane, but to our delight we saw Captain Sands sitting alone on an old overturned whale-boat, whittling busily at a piece of dried kelp. "Good evenin'," said our friend, cheerfully. And we explained that we had taken a long walk and thought we would rest awhile before we went home to supper. Kate perched herself on the boat, and I sat down on a ship's knee which lay on the pebbles.
"Didn't get any hurt from being out in the shower, I hope?"
"No, indeed," laughed Kate, "and we had such a good time. I hope you won't mind taking us out again some time."
"Bless ye! no," said the captain. "My girl Lo'isa, she that's Mis Winslow over to Riverport, used to go out with me a good deal, and it seemed natural to have you aboard. I missed Lo'isa after she got married, for she was al'ays ready to go anywhere 'long of father. She's had slim health of late years. I tell 'em she's been too much shut up out of the fresh air and sun. When she was young her mother never could pr'vail on her to set in the house stiddy and sew, and she used to have great misgivin's that Lo'isa never was going to be capable. How about those fish you caught this morning? good, were they? Mis Sands had dinner on the stocks when I got home, and she said she wouldn't fry any 'til supper-time; but I calc'lated to have 'em this noon. I like 'em best right out o' the water. Little more and we should have got them wet. That's one of my whims; I can't bear to let fish get rained on."
"O Captain Sands!" said I, there being a convenient pause, "you were speaking of your wife just now; did you ask her if she saw that shower?"
"First thing she spoke of when I got into the house. 'There,' says she, 'I was afraid you wouldn't see the rain coming in time, and I had my heart in my mouth when it began to thunder. I thought you'd get soaked through, and be laid up for a fortnight,' says she. 'I guess a summer shower won't hurt an old sailor like me,' says I." And the captain reached for another piece of his kelp-stalk, and whittled away more busily than ever. Kate took out her knife and also began to cut kelp, and I threw pebbles in the hope of hitting a spider which sat complacently on a stone not far away, and when he suddenly vanished there was nothing for me to do but to whittle kelp also.
"Do you suppose," said Kate, "that Mrs. Sands really made you know about the shower?"
The captain put on his most serious look, coughed slowly, and moved himself a few inches nearer us, along the boat. I think he fully understood the importance and solemnity of the subject. "It ain't for us to say what we do know or don't, for there's nothing sartain, but I made up my mind long ago that there's something about these p'ints that's myster'ous. My wife and me will be sitting there to home and there won't be no word between us for an hour, and then of a sudden we'll speak up about the same thing. Now the way I view it, she either puts it into my head or I into hers. I've spoke up lots of times about something, when I didn't know what I was going to say when I began, and she'll say she was just thinking of that. Like as not you have noticed it sometimes? There was something my mind was dwellin' on yesterday, and she come right out with it, and I'd a good deal rather she hadn't ," said the captain, ruefully. "I didn't want to rake it all over ag'in, I'm sure." And then he recollected himself, and was silent, which his audience must confess to have regretted for a moment.
"I used to think a good deal about such things when I was younger, and I'm free to say I took more stock in dreams and such like than I do now. I rec'lect old Parson Lorimer - this Parson Lorimer's father who was settled here first - spoke to me once about it, and said it was a tempting of Providence, and that we hadn't no right to pry into secrets. I know I had a dream-book then that I picked up in a shop in Bristol once when I was in there on the Ranger, and all the young folks were beset to get sight of it. I see what fools it made of folks, bothering their heads about such things, and I pretty much let them go: all this stuff about spirit-rappings is enough to make a man crazy. You don't get no good by it. I come across a paper once with a lot of letters in it from sperits, and I cast my eye over 'em, and I says to myself, 'Well, I always was given to understand that when we come to a futur' state we was goin' to have more wisdom than we can get afore'; but them letters hadn't any more sense to 'em, nor so much, as a man could write here without schooling, and I should think that if the letters be all straight, if the folks who wrote 'em had any kind of ambition they'd want to be movin' back here again. But as for one person's having something to do with another any distance off, why, that's another thing; there ain't any nonsense about that. I know it's true jest as well as I want to," said the cap'n, warming up. "I'll tell ye how I was led to make up my mind about it. One time I waked a man up out of a sound sleep looking at him, and it set me to thinking. First, there wasn't any noise, and then ag'in there wasn't any touch so he could feel it, and I says to myself, 'Why couldn't I ha' done it the width of two rooms as well as one, and why couldn't I ha' done it with my back turned?' It couldn't have been the looking so much as the thinking. And then I car'd it further, and I says, 'Why ain't a mile as good as a yard? and it's the thinking that does it,' says I, 'and we've got some faculty or other that we don't know much about. We've got some way of sending our thought like a bullet goes out of a gun and it hits. We don't know nothing except what we see. And some folks is scared, and some more thinks it is all nonsense and laughs. But there's something we haven't got the hang of.' It makes me think o' them little black polliwogs that turns into frogs in the fresh-water puddles in the ma'sh. There's a time before their tails drop off and their legs have sprouted out, when they don't get any use o' their legs, and I dare say they're in their way consider'ble; but after they get to be frogs they find out what they're for without no kind of trouble. I guess we shall turn these fac'lties to account some time or 'nother. Seems to me, though, that we might depend on 'em now more than we do."
The captain was under full sail on what we had heard was his pet subject, and it was a great satisfaction to listen to what he had to say. It loses a great deal in being written, for the old sailor's voice and gestures and thorough earnestness all carried no little persuasion. And it was impossible not be sure that he knew more than people usually do about these mysteries in which he delighted.
"Now, how can you account for this?" said he. "I remember not more than ten years ago my son's wife was stopping at our house, and she had left her child at home while she come away for a rest. And after she had been there two or three days, one morning she was sitting in the kitchen 'long o' the folks, and all of a sudden she jumped out of her chair and ran into the bedroom, and next minute she come out laughing, and looking kind of scared. 'I could ha' taken my oath,' says she, 'that I heard Katy cryin' out mother,' says she, 'just as if she was hurt. I heard it so plain that before I stopped to think it seemed as if she were right in the next room. I'm afeared something had happened.' But the folks laughed, and said she must ha' heard one of the lambs. 'No, it wasn't,' says she, 'it was Katy.' And sure enough, just after dinner a young man who lived neighbor to her come riding into the yard post-haste to get her to go home, for the baby had pulled some hot water over on to herself and was nigh scalded to death and cryin' for her mother every minute. Now, who's going to explain that? It wasn't any common hearing that heard that child's cryin' fifteen miles. And I can tell you another thing that happened among my own folks. There was an own cousin of mine married to a man by the name of John Hathorn. He was trading up to Parsonsfield, and business run down, so he wound up there, and thought he'd make a new start. He moved down to Denby, and while he was getting under way, he left his family up to the old place, and at the time I speak of, was going to move 'em down in about a fortnight.
"One morning his wife was fidgeting round, and finally she came down stairs with her bonnet and shawl on, and said somebody must put the horse right into the wagon and take her down to Denby. 'Why, what for, mother?' they says. 'Don't stop to talk,' says she; 'your father is sick, and wants me. It's been a worrying me since before day, and I can't stand it no longer.' And the short of the story is that she kept hurrying 'em faster and faster, and then she got hold of the reins herself, and when they got within five miles of the place the horse fell dead, and she was nigh about crazy, and they took another horse at a farm-house on the road. It was the spring of the year, and the going was dreadful, and when they got to the house John Hathorn had just died, and he had been calling for his wife up to 'most the last breath he drew. He had been taken sick sudden the day before, but the folks knew it was bad travelling, and that she was a feeble woman to come near thirty miles, and they had no idee he was so bad off. I'm telling you the living truth," said Captain Sands, with an emphatic shake of his head. "There's more folks than me can tell about it, and if you were goin' to keel-haul me next minute, and hang me to the yard-arm afterward, I couldn't say it different. I was up to Parsonsfield to the funeral; it was just after I quit following the sea. I never saw a woman so broke down as she was. John was a nice man; stiddy and pleasant-spoken and straightforrard and kind to his folks. He belonged to the Odd Fellows, and they all marched to the funeral. There was a good deal of respect shown him, I tell ye.
"There is another story I'd like to have ye hear, if it's so that you ain't beat out hearing me talk. When I get going I slip along as easy as a schooner wing-and-wing afore the wind.
"This happened to my own father, but I never heard him say much about it; never could get him to talk it over to any length, best I could do. But gran'ther, his father, told me about it nigh upon fifty times, first and last, and always the same way. Gran'ther lived to be old, and there was ten or a dozen years after his wife died that he lived year and year about with Uncle Tobias's folks and our folks. Uncle Tobias lived over on the Ridge. I got home from my first v'y'ge as mate of the Daylight just in time for his funeral. I was disapp'inted to find the old man was gone. I'd fetched him some first-rate tobacco, for he was a great hand to smoke, and I was calc'latin' on his being pleased: old folks like to be thought of, and then he set more by me than by the other boys. I know I used to be sorry for him when I was a little fellow. My father's second wife she was a well-meaning woman, but an awful driver with her work, and she was always making of him feel he wasn't no use. I do' know as she meant to, either. He never said nothing, and he was always just so pleasant, and he was fond of his book, and used to set round reading, and tried to keep himself out of the way just as much as he could. There was one winter when I was small that I had the scarlet-fever, and was very slim for a long time afterward, and I used to keep along o' gran'ther, and he would tell me stories. He'd been a sailor, - it runs in our blood to foller the sea, - and he'd been wrecked two or three times and been taken by the Algerine pirates. You remind me to tell you some time about that; and I wonder if you ever heard about old Citizen Leigh, that used to be about here when I was a boy. He was taken by the Algerines once, same 's gran'ther, and they was dreadful f'erce just then, and they sent him home to get the ransom money for the crew; but it was a monstrous price they asked, and the owners wouldn't give it to him, and they s'posed likely the men was dead by that time, any way. Old Citizen Leigh he went crazy, and used to go about the streets with a bundle of papers in his hands year in and year out. I've seen him a good many times. Gran'ther used to tell me how he escaped. I'll remember if for ye some day if you'll put me in mind.
"I got to be mate when I was twenty, and I was as strong a fellow as you could scare up, and darin'! - why, it makes my blood run cold when I think of the reckless things I used to do. I was off at sea after I was fifteen year old, and there wasn't anybody so glad to see me as gran'ther when I came home. I expect he used to be lonesome after I went off, but then his mind failed him quite a while before he died. Father was clever to him, and he'd get him anything he spoke about; but he wasn't a man to set round and talk, and he never took notice himself when gran'ther was out of tobacco, so some times it would be a day or two. I know better how he used to feel now that I'm getting to be along in years myself, and likely to be some care to the folks before long. I never could bear to see old folks neglected; nice old men and women who have worked hard in their day and been useful and willin'. I've seen 'em many a time then they couldn't help knowing that the folks would a little rather they'd be in heaven, and a good respectable headstone put up for 'em in the burying-ground.
"Well, now, I'm sure I've forgot what I was going to tell you. O, yes; about grandmother dreaming about father when he come home from sea. Well, to go back to the first of it, gran'ther never was rugged; he had ship-fever when he was a young man, and though he lived to be so old, he never could work hard and never got forehanded; and Aunt Hannah Starbird over at East Parish took my sister to fetch up, because she was named for her, and Melinda and Tobias stayed at home with the old folks, and my father went to live with an uncle over in Riverport, whom he was named for. He was in the West India trade and was well-off, and he had no children, so they expected he would do well by father. He was dreadful high-tempered. I've heard say he had the worst temper that was ever raised in Deephaven.
"One day he set father to putting some cherries into a bar'l of rum, and went off down to his wharf to see to the loading of a vessel, and afore he come back father found he'd got hold of the wrong bar'l, and had sp'ilt a bar'l of the best Holland gin; he tried to get the cherries out, but that wasn't any use, and he was dreadful afraid of Uncle Matthew, and he run away, and never was heard of from that time out. They supposed he'd run away to sea, as he had a leaning that way, but nobody ever knew for certain; and his mother she 'most mourned herself to death. Gran'ther told me that it got so at last that if they could only know for sure that he was dead it was all they would ask. But it went on four years, and gran'ther got used to it some; though grandmother never would give up. And one morning early, before day, she waked him up, and says she, 'We're going to hear from Matthew. Get up quick and go down to the store!' 'Nonsense,' says he. 'I've seen him,' says grandmother, 'and he's coming home. He looks older, but just the same other ways, and he's got long hair, like a horse's mane, all down over his shoulders.' 'Well, let the dead rest,' says gran'ther; 'you've thought about the boy till your head is turned.' 'I tell you I saw Matthew himself,' says she, 'and I want you to go right down to see if there isn't a letter.' And she kept at him till he saddled the horse, and he got down to the store before it was opened in the morning, and he had to wait round, and when the man came over to unlock it he was 'most ashamed to tell what his errand was, for he had been so many times, and everybody supposed the boy was dead. When he asked for a letter, the man said there was none there, and asked if he was expecting any particular one. He didn't get many letter, I s'pose; all his folks lived about here, and people didn't write any to speak of in those days. Gran'ther said he thought he wouldn't make such a fool of himself again, but he didn't say anything, and he waited round awhile, talking to one and another who came up, and by and by says the store-keeper, who was reading a newspaper that had just come, 'Here's some news for you, Sands, I do believe! There are three vessels come into Boston harbor that have been out whaling and sealing in the South Seas for three or four years, and your son Matthew's name is down on the list of the crew.' 'I tell ye,' says gran'ther, 'I took that paper, and I got on my horse and put for home, and your grandmother she hailed me, and she said, "You've heard, haven't you?" before I told her a word.'
"Gran'ther he got his breakfast and started right off for Boston, and got there early the second day, and went right down on the wharves. Somebody lent him a boat, and he went out to where there were two sealers laying off riding at anchor, and he asked a sailor if Matthew was aboard. 'Ay, ay,' says the sailor, 'he's down below.' And he sung out for him, and when he come up out of the hold his hair was long, down over his shoulders like a horse's mane, just as his mother saw it in the dream. Gran'ther he didn't know what to say, - it scared him, - and he asked how it happened; and father told how they'd been off sealing in the South Seas, and he and another man had lived alone on an island for months, and the whole crew had grown wild in their ways of living, being off so long, and for one thing had gone without caps and let their hair grow. The rest of the men had been ashore and got fixed up smart, but he had been busy, and had put it off till that morning; he was just going ashore then. Father was all struck up when he heard about the dream, and said his mind had been dwellin' on his mother and going home, and he come down to let her see him just as he was and she said it was the same way he looked in the dream. He never would have his hair cut - father wouldn't - and wore it in a queue. I remember seeing him with it when I was a boy; but his second wife didn't like the looks of it, and she come up behind him one day and cut it off with the scissors. He was terrible worked up about it. I never see father so mad as he was that day. Now this is just as true as the Bible," said Captain Sands. "I haven't put a word to it, and gran'ther al'ays told a story just as it was. That woman saw her son; but if you ask me what kind of eyesight it was, I can't tell you, nor nobody else."
Later that evening Kate and I drifted into a long talk about the captain's stories and these mysterious powers of which we know so little. It was somewhat chilly in the house, and we had kindled a fire in the fireplace, which at first made a blaze which lighted the old room royally, and then quieted down into red coals and lazy puffs of smoke. We had carried the lights away, and sat with our feet on the fender, and Kate's great dog was lying between us on the rug. I remember that evening so well; we could see the stars through the window plainer and plainer as the fire went down, and we could hear the noise of the sea.
"Do you remember in the old myth of Demeter and Persephone," Kate asked me, "where Demeter takes care of the child and gives it ambrosia and hides it in fire, because she loves it and wishes to make it immortal, and to give it eternal youth; and then the mother finds it out and cries in terror to hinder her, and the goddess angrily throws the child down and rushes away? And he had to share the common destiny of mankind, though he always had some wonderful inscrutable grace and wisdom, because a goddess had loved him and held him in her arms. I always thought that part of the story beautiful where Demeter throws off her disguise and is no longer an old woman, and the great house is filled with brightness like lightning, and she rushes out through the halls with her yellow hair waving over her shoulders, and the people would give anything to bring her back again, and to undo their mistake. I knew it almost all by heart once," said Kate, "and I am always finding a new meaning in it. I was just thinking that it may be that we all have given to us more or less of another nature, as the child had whom Demeter wished to make like the gods. I believe old Captain Sands is right, and we have these instincts which defy all our wisdom and for which we never can frame any laws. We may laugh at them, but we are always meeting them, and one cannot help knowing that it has been the same through all history. They are powers which are imperfectly developed in this life, but one cannot help the thought that the mystery of this world may be the commonplace of the next."
"I wonder," said I, "why it is that one hears so much more of such things from simple country people. They believe in dreams, and they have a kind of fetichism, and believe so heartily in supernatural causes. I suppose nothing could shake Mrs. Patton's faith in warnings. There is no end of absurdity in it, and yet there is one side of such lives for which one cannot help having reverence; they live so much nearer to nature then people who are in cities, and there is a soberness about country people oftentimes that one cannot help noticing. I wonder if they are unconsciously awed by the strength and purpose in the world about them, and the mysterious creative power which is at work with them on their familiar farms. In their simple life they take their instincts for truths, and perhaps they are not always so far wrong as we imagine. Because they are so instinctive and unreasoning they may have a more complete sympathy with Nature, and may hear her voices when wiser ears are deaf. They have much in common, after all, with the plants which grow up out of the ground and the wild creatures which depend upon their instincts wholly.""I think," said Kate, "that the more one lives out of doors the more personality there seems to be in what we call inanimate things. The strength of the hills and the voice of the waves are no longer only grand poetical sentences, but an expression of something real, and more and more one finds God himself in the world, and believes that we may read the thoughts that He writes for us in the book of Nature." And after this we were silent for a while, and in the mean time it grew very late, and we watched the fire until there were only a few sparks left in the ashes. The stars faded away and the moon came up out of the sea, and we barred the great hall door and went up stairs to bed. The lighthouse lamp burned steadily, and it was the only light that had not been blown out in all Deephaven.
Cadiz the ship she needed salting dreadful ... slushing the mizzen-mast: Wikipedia says: "Cadiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Spain and one of the oldest in all southwestern Europe, has been a principal home port of the Spanish Navy since the accession of the Spanish Bourbons in the 18th century." After 1767, Cadiz was a Spanish center of slave trading to Cuba. See Wikipedia and Discovering Bristol.
In wooden ship-building, rock salt as a wood-preservative is packed around the internal structures in areas where there is little air-circulation. Insurance companies required that this packing be maintained. Source: Wooden Ship-Building (1919), by Charles Desmond, p. 103.
Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828) defines "slush" as a mixture of refuse fats and oils used on ships to coat and protect the masts from weathering.
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oak knees and logs o' rock-maple for keel: Webster's Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828) defines a knee in ship-building as "a piece of timber somewhat in the shape of the human knee when bent, having two branches or arms, and used to connect the beams of a ship with her sides or timbers." While oak is a favored wood for knees, many types of wood are used. Rock maple, according to the Free Dictionary is "maple of eastern and central North America having three-lobed to five-lobed leaves and hard close-grained wood much used for cabinet work especially the curly-grained form; sap is chief source of maple syrup and maple sugar." The tree also is commonly known as sugar maple.
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spigot: a wooden faucet placed in the bunghole of a cask.
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meaching: (also meeching). Meek, self-effacing. According to biographer Paula Blanchard, this term had a range of negative connotations. See her Chapter 18.
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a tempting of Providence: Providence represents God as active in the world.
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spirit-rappings: Sounds that spirits of the dead supposedly made in the process of attempting to communicate with the living. Jewett later looked into Spiritualism, the religious movement that developed around rappings and seances after the middle of the 19th Century in the United States. Celia Thaxter was intensely interested in Spiritualism in 1882-83, under the influence of the medium, Rose Darrah. Paula Blanchard, in Sarah Orne Jewett. reports that Jewett and Fields also showed some interest, but were more skeptical (181-2).
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Odd Fellows: Wikipedia says: "The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a global altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the British Oddfellows service organizations of the 17th century." Wikipedia also reports: " Odd Fellowship became the first fraternity in the U.S. to include both men and women in 1851." Wikipedia
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scarlet fever: a bacterial infection related to strep throat, usually affecting young children and frequently fatal before the use of antibiotics.
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Algerine pirates: Algerian or Barbary Coast pirates. Wikipedia says: "The Barbary pirates, sometimes called Barbary corsairs or Ottoman corsairs, were pirates and privateers who operated from North Africa, based primarily in the ports of Tunis, Tripoli and Algiers. This area was known in Europe as the Barbary Coast, a term derived from the name of its Berber inhabitants. Their predation extended throughout the Mediterranean, south along West Africa's Atlantic seaboard and even South America, and into the North Atlantic as far north as Iceland, but they primarily operated in the western Mediterranean. In addition to seizing ships, they engaged in Razzias, raids on European coastal towns and villages, mainly in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal, but also in the British Isles, the Netherlands and as far away as Iceland. The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Muslim market in North Africa and the Middle East." Wikipedia
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Demeter and Persephone: Sister of Zeus, mother of Persephone, Demeter was the Greek goddess of the harvest. Associated with sacred groves, she was also the goddess of peaceful living in settled communities, of marriage and the family circle. Persephone was taken by Hades to be his bride in the underworld, which caused Demeter such grief that the seasons ended and all life was threatened. Zeus persuaded Hades to free her, but Hades tricked her so that she had to remain with him for a third of each year, providing a story of the origins of the seasons. Wikipedia adds: "Demeter's search for her daughter Persephone took her to the palace of Celeus, the King of Eleusis in Attica. She assumed the form of an old woman, and asked him for shelter. He took her in, to nurse Demophon and Triptolemus, his sons by Metanira. To reward his kindness, she planned to make Demophon immortal; she secretly anointed the boy with ambrosia and laid him in the flames of the hearth, to gradually burn away his mortal self. But Metanira walked in, saw her son in the fire and screamed in fright. Demeter abandoned the attempt. Instead, she taught Triptolemus the secrets of agriculture, and he in turn taught them to any who wished to learn them. Thus, humanity learned how to plant, grow and harvest grain." Wikipedia
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fetichism: Wikipedia says: "A fetish is an object believed to have supernatural powers, or in particular, a man-made object that has power over others." Wikipedia
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, assisted by Tanner Brossart, Coe College.
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