Sarah Orne Jewett
LAST DAYS IN DEEPHAVEN.
When the summer was ended it was no sorrow to us, for we were even more fond of Deephaven in the glorious autumn weather than we had ever been before. Mr. Lancaster was abroad longer than he had intended to be at first, and it was late in the season before we left. We were both ready to postpone going back to town as late as possible; but at last it was time for my friend to re-establish the Boston housekeeping, and to take up the city life again. I must admit we half dreaded it: we were surprised to find how little we cared for it, and how well one can get on without many things which are thought indispensable.
For the last fortnight we were in the house a good deal, because the weather was wet and dreary. At one time there was a magnificent storm, and we went every day along the shore in the wind and rain for a mile or two to see the furious great breakers come plunging in against the rocks. I never had seen such a wild, stormy sea as that; the rage of it was awful, and the whole harbor was white with foam. The wind had blown northeast steadily for days, and it seemed to me that the sea never could be quiet and smooth and blue again, with soft white clouds sailing over it in the sky. It was a treacherous sea; it was wicked; it had all the trembling land in its power, if it only dared to send its great waves far ashore. All night long the breakers roared, and the wind howled in the chimneys, and in the morning we always looked fearfully across the surf and the tossing gray water to see if the lighthouse were standing firm on its rock. It was so slender a thing to hold its own in such a wide and monstrous sea. But the sun came out at last, and not many days afterward we went out with Danny and Skipper Scudder to say good by to Mrs. Kew. I have been some voyages at sea, but I never was so danced about in a little boat as I was that day. There was nothing to fear with so careful a crew, and we only enjoyed the roughness as we went out and in, though it took much manœuvring to land us at the island.
It was very sad work to us - saying good by to our friends, and we tried to make believe that we should spend the nest summer in Deephaven, and we meant at any rate to go down for a visit. We were glad when the people said they should miss us, and that they hoped we should not forget them and the old place. It touched us to find that they cared so much for us, and we said over and over again how happy we had been, and that it was such a satisfactory summer. Kate laughingly proposed one evening, as we sat talking by the fire and were particularly contented, that we should copy the Ladies of Llangollen, and remove ourselves from society and its distractions.
"I have thought often, lately," said my friend, "what a good time they must have had, and I feel a sympathy and friendliness for them which I never felt before. We could have guests when we chose, as we have had this summer, and we could study and grow very wise, and what could be pleasanter? But I wonder if we should grow very lazy if we stayed here all the year round; village life is not stimulating, and there would not be much to do in winter, - though I do not believe that need be true; one may be busy and useful in any place."
"I suppose if we really belonged in Deephaven we should think it a hard fate, and not enjoy it half so much as we have this summer," said I. "Our idea of happiness would be making long visits in Boston; and we should be heart-broken when we had to come away and leave our lunch-parties, and symphony concerts, and calls, and fairs, the reading-club and the childrens' hospital. We should think the people uncongenial and behind the times, and that the Ridge road was stupid and the long sands desolate; while we remembered what delightful walks we had taken out Beacon Street to the three roads, and over the Cambridge Bridge. Perhaps we should even be ashamed of the dear old church for being so out of fashion. We should have the blues dreadfully, and think there was no society here, and wonder why we had to live in such a town."
"What a gloomy picture!" said Kate, laughing. "Do you know that I have understood something lately better than I ever did before, - it is that success and happiness are not things of chance with us, but of choice. I can see how we might so easily have had a dull summer here. Of course it is our own fault if the events of our lives are hindrances; it is we who make them bad or good. Sometimes it is a conscious choice, but oftener unconscious. I suppose we educate ourselves for taking the best of life or the worst, do not you ?"
"Dear old Deephaven!" said Kate, gently, after we had been silent a little while. "It makes me think of one of its own old ladies, with its clinging to the old fashions and its respect for what used to be respectable when it was young. I cannot make fun of what was once dear to somebody, and which realized somebody's ideas of beauty or fitness. I don't dispute the usefulness of a new, bustling, manufacturing town with its progressive ideas; but there is a simple dignity in a town like Deephaven, as if it tried to be loyal to the traditions of its ancestors. It quietly accepts its altered circumstances, if it has seen better days, and has no harsh feelings toward the places which have drawn away its business, but it lives on, making its old houses and boats and clothes last as long as possible."
"I think one cannot help," said I, "having a different affection for an old place like Deephaven from that which one may have for a newer town. Here - though there are no exciting historical associations and none of the veneration which one has for the very old cities and towns abroad - it is impossible not to remember how many people have walked the streets and lived in the houses. I was thinking to-day how many girls might have grown up in this house, and that their places have been ours; we have inherited their pleasures, and perhaps have carried on work which they began. We sit in somebody's favorite chair and look out of the windows at the sea, and have our wishes and our hopes and plans just as they did before us. Something of them still lingers where their lives were spent. We are often reminded of our friends who have died; why are we not reminded as surely of strangers in such a house as this, - finding some trace of the lives which were lived among the sights we see and the things we handle, as the incense of many masses lingers in some old cathedral, and one catches the spirit of longing and prayer where so many heavy hearts have brought their burdens and have gone away comforted?"
"When I first came here," said Kate, "it used to seem very sad to me to find Aunt Katharine's little trinkets lying about the house. I have often thought of what you have just said. I heard Mrs. Patton say the other day that there is no pocket in a shroud, and of course it is better that we should carry nothing out of this world. Yet I can't help wishing that it were possible to keep some of my worldly goods always. There are one or two books of mine and some little things which I have had a long time, and of which I have grown very fond. It makes me so sorry to think of their being neglected and lost. I cannot believe I shall forget these earthly treasures when I am in heaven, and I wonder if I shall not miss them. Isn't it strange to think of not reading one's Bible any more? I suppose this is a very low view of heaven, don't you?" And we both smiled.
"I think the next dwellers in this house ought to find a decided atmosphere of contentment," said I. "Have you ever thought that it took us some time to make it your house instead of Miss Brandon's? It used to seem to me that it was still under her management, that she was its mistress; but now it belongs to you, and if I were ever to come back without you I should find you here."
It is bewildering to know that this is the last chapter, and that it must not be long. I remember so many of our pleasures of which I have hardly said a word. There were our guests, of whom I have told you nothing, and of whom there was so much to say. Of course we asked my Aunt Mary to visit us, and Miss Margaret Tennant, and many of our girl-friends. All the people we know who have yachts made the port of Deephaven if they were cruising in the neighboring waters. Once a most cheerful party of Kate's cousins and some other young people whom we knew very well came to visit us in this way, and the yacht was kept in the harbor a week or more, while we were all as gay as bobolinks and went frisking about the country, and kept late hours in the sober old Brandon house. My Aunt Mary, who was with us, and Kate's aunt, Mrs. Thorniford, who knew the Carews, and was commander of the yacht-party, tried to keep us in order, and to make us ornaments to Deephaven society instead of reproaches and stumbling-blocks. Kate's younger brothers were with us, waiting until it was time for them to go back to college, and I think there never had been such picnics in Deephaven before, and I fear there never will be again.
We are fond of reading, and we meant to do a great deal of it, as every one does who goes away for the summer; but I must confess that our grand plans were not well carried out. Our German dictionaries were on the table in the west parlor until the sight of them mortified us, and finally, to avoid their silent reproach, I put them in the closet, with the excuse that it would be as easy to get them there, and they would be out of the way. We used to have the magazines sent us from town; you would have smiled at the box of books which we carried to Deephaven, and indeed we sent two or three times for others; but I do not remember that we ever carried out that course of study which we had planned with so much interest. We were out of doors so much that there was often little time for anything else.
Kate said one day that she did not care, in reading, to be always making new acquaintances, but to be seeing more of old ones; and I think it a very wise idea. We each have our pet books; Kate carries with her a much-worn copy of "Mr. Rutherford's Children," which has been her delight ever since she can remember. Sibyl and Chryssa are dear old friends, though I suppose now it is not merely what Kate reads, but what she associates with the story. I am not often separated from Jean Ingelow's "Stories told to a Child," that charmingly wise and pleasant little book. It is always new, like Kate's favorite. It is very hard to make a list of the books one likes best, but I remember that we had "The Village on the Cliff," and "Henry Esmond," and "Tom Brown at Rugby," with his more serious ancestor, "Sir Thomas Browne." I am sure we had "Fenelon," for we always have that; and there was "Pet Marjorie," and "Rab,"and "Annals of a Parish," and "The Life of the Reverend Sydney Smith"; beside Miss Tytler's "Days of Yore," and "The Holy and Profane State," by Thomas Fuller, from which Kate gets so much entertainment and profit. We read Mr. Emerson's essays together, out of doors, and some stories which had been our dear friends at school, like "Leslie Goldthwaite." There was a very good library in the house, and we both like old books, so we enjoyed that. And we used to read the Spectator, and many old-fashioned stories and essays and sermons, with much more pleasure because they had such quaint old brown leather bindings. You will not doubt that we had some cherished volumes of poetry, or that we used to read them aloud to each other when we sat in our favorite corner of the rocks at the shore, or were in the pine woods of an afternoon.
We used to go out to tea, and do a great deal of social visiting, which was very pleasant. Dinner-parties were not in fashion, though it was a great attention to be asked to spend the day, which courtesy we used to delight in extending to our friends; and we entertained company in that way often. When we first went out we were somewhat interesting on account of our clothes, which were of later pattern than had been adopted generally in Deephaven. We used to take great pleasure in arraying ourselves on high days and holidays, since when we went wandering on shore, or out sailing or rowing, we did not always dress as befitted our position in the town. Fish-scales and blackberry-briers so soon disfigure one's clothes.
We became in the course of time leaned in all manner of 'longshore lore, and even profitably employed ourselves one morning in going clam-digging with old Ben Horn, a most fascinating ancient mariner. We both grew so well and brown and strong, and Kate and I did not get tired of each at all, which I think was wonderful, for few friendships would bear such a test. We were together always, and alone together a great deal; and we became wonderfully well acquainted. We are such good friends that we often were silent for a long time, when mere acquaintances would have felt compelled to talk and try to entertain each other.
Before we left the leaves had fallen off all the trees except the oaks, which make in cold weather one of the dreariest sounds one ever hears: a shivering rustle, which makes one pity the tree and imagine it shelterless and forlorn. The sea had looked rough and cold for many days, and the old house itself had grown chilly, - all the world seemed waiting for the snow to come. There was nobody loitering on the wharves, and when we went down the street we walked fast, arm in arm, to keep warm. The houses were shut up as close as possible, and the old sailors did not seem cheery any longer; they looked forlorn, and it was not a pleasant prospect to be so long weather-bound in port. If they ventured out, they put on ancient great-coats, with huge flaps to the pockets and large horn buttons, and they looked contemptuously at the vane, which always pointed to the north or east. It felt like winter, and the captains rolled more than ever as they walked, as if they were on deck in a heavy sea. The rheumatism claimed many victims, and there was one day, it must be confessed, when a biting, icy fog was blown in-shore, that Kate and I were willing to admit that we could be as comfortable in town, and it was almost time for sealskin jackets.
In the front yards we saw the flower-beds black with frost, except a few brave pansies which had kept green and had bloomed under the tall china-aster stalks, and one day we picked some of these little flowers to put between the leaves of a book and take away with us. I think we loved Deephaven all the more in those last days, with a bit of compassion in our tenderness for the dear old town which had so little to amuse it. So long a winter was coming, but we thought with a sigh how pleasant it would be in the spring.
You would have smiled at the treasures we brought away with us. We had become so fond of even our fishing-lines; and this very day you may see in Kate's room two great bunches of Deephaven cat-o'-nine-tails. They were much in our way on the journey home, but we clung affectionately to these last sheaves of our harvest.
The morning we came away our friends were all looking out from door or window to see us go by, and after we had passed the last house and there was no need to smile any longer, we were very dismal. The sun was shining again bright and warm as if the Indian summer were beginning, and we wished that it had been a rainy day.
The thought of Deephaven will always bring to us our long quiet summer days, and reading aloud on the rocks by the sea, the fresh salt air, and the glory of the sunsets; the wail of the Sunday psalm-singing at church, the yellow lichen that grew over the trees, the houses, and the stone-walls; our boating and wanderings ashoÿe; our importance as members of society, and how kind every one was to us both. By and by the Deephaven warehouses will fall and be used for firewood by the fisher-people, and the wharves will be worn away by the tides. The few old gentlefolks who still linger will be dead then; and I wonder if some day Kate Lancaster and I will go down to Deephaven for the sake of old times, and read the epitaphs in the burying-ground, look out to sea, and talk quietly about the girls who were so happy there one summer long before. I should like to walk along the beach at sunset, and watch the color of the marshes and the sea change as the light of the sky goes out. It would make the old days come back vividly. We should see the roofs and chimneys of the village, and the great Chantrey elms look black against the sky. A little later the marsh fog would show faintly white, and we should feel it deliciously cold and wet against our hands and faces; when we looked up there would be a star; the crickets would chirp loudly; perhaps some late sea-birds would fly inland. Turning, we should see the lighthouse lamp shine out over the water, and the great sea would move and speak to us lazily in its idle, high-tide sleep.
Ladies of Llangollen: Wikipedia says, "The Ladies of Llangollen were two upper-class women from Ireland whose relationship scandalised and fascinated their contemporaries."
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Cambridge Bridge: Between Boston and Cambridge, MA, across the Charles River. The place names of Deephaven, such as the Ridge road and the long sands are familiar names in York County, Maine.
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bobolinks: The bobolink is a North American song bird nesting in grass or marsh land; its characteristic call is rendered as Abob o lincoln.
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Mr. Rutherford's Children (1855), by Anna Bartlett (1824-1915) and Susan Warner (1819-1885).
Stories told to a Child (1865) by Jean Ingelow (1820-1897)
The Village on the Cliff (1867) by Anne Thackeray Ritchie (1837-1919)
Henry Esmond (1862) by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Tom Brown at Rugby / Tom Brown's School Days (1857) by Thomas Hughes (1822-1896)
Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682) is best known for his Religio Medici / Religion of a Physician (1643).
Fenelon: Wikipedia says, "François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon, more commonly known as François Fénelon (6 August 1651 – 7 January 1715), was a French Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, poet and writer. He today is remembered mostly as the author of The Adventures of Telemachus, first published in 1699."
Pet Marjorie / Marjorie Fleming's Book: The Story Of Pet Marjorie (1863) by John Brown (1810-1882)
"Rab and his friends" (1859) by John Brown (1810-1882)
Annals of a Parish / Annals of the parish: or, The chronicle of Dalmailing; during the ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, written by himself (1821) by John Galt
The Life of the Reverend Sydney Smith / A Memoir of the Reverend Sydney Smith by his daughter, Lady Holland, with a Selection from his Letters (1855), by Saba Holland (d. 1866)
Days of Yore (1866) by Sarah Tytler (Henrietta Kiddie, 1827-1914)
The Holy and Profane State / The Holy State and the Prophane State (1642) by Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)
Emerson's essays: The American author, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), published several collections of essays during his life-time.
Leslie Goldthwaite / A Summer in Leslie Goldthwaite's Life (1871) by Adeline Dutton Train Whitney (1824 – 1906)
Old volumes of the Spectator: Almost certainly, Jewett refers to the British radical weekly Spectator (founded 1828).
china-aster stalks: China asters are garden flowers with large blooms of various colors, especially lavender and pink.
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cat-o'-nine-tails: Commonly known as cattails in North America, a reedy plant that grows in marshy areas.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, assisted by Tanner Brossart, Coe College.