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THE SHORE HOUSE.
Sarah Orne Jewett
WHILE Aunt Mary and I were living in Boston last spring, I found with my other letters one morning at breakfast a note from one of my friends, which was evidently written in a very excited state of mind: --
DEAR ELLY: I have a plan; I think it a most delightful plan, in which you and I are chief characters. Promise me you will say yes; if you do not, you will have to remember all your life that you broke a girl's heart. Come round soon as possible and lunch with me. I'm all alone, and it's a long story.
I told Aunt Mary, Kate wished me to spend the morning with her, and went "round," very much interested. My latch-key opened the Lancasters' door, which was a great convenience, and I went to the parlor, where I heard Kate practising. I went up to her, and she turned her head and we kissed each other solemnly. You need not smile; we are not sentimental girls, Kate particularly is much averse to indiscriminate kissing. She has an unkind habit of shying, and sometimes I see a pained look when the circumstances are more than commonly aggravating.
"Sit down, my dear," said she, and took no further notice of me for at least half an hour, while she went on playing furiously. I knew her ways, and waited till she spoke: --
"Have you heard that my grand-aunt, Miss Katherine Brandon of Deephaven, is dead?" She had departed this life the November previous.
"Don't be nonsensical, Kate!"
"My grand-aunt died very old," continued my friend, "and was the last of her family. There were two sisters and four or five brothers, one of whom had the honor of being my grandfather, and besides these, there were some who died young. Mamma is sole heir to the Deephaven estates, wharf, property, and all, and it is a great inconvenience to her. The house is very old, and my ancestors followed the sea and brought home the greater part of its furnishings. I have been there very little, for when I was a child Miss Katherine found no pleasure in the society of children, and when I was older she did not care to see strangers. I was busy with my lessons, and she grew more and more feeble. I have not been there for years. Mamma often went down. There are lovely woods not very far inland, and delightful rocks at the shore."
Kate told this a sentence at a time, with a few appropriate bars of music between, after the fashion of the man in The Pacha of Many Tales: "A thousand white elephants, richly caparisoned -- ti tum tilly tilly ti tum ti" -- And at this point she reached for a piece of music and played it carefully from beginning to end. After the triumphant closing chords: "Will ye step aboard, my dearest, for the high seas lie before us!" sang she exultantly, and sat down on the floor at my feet.
"Papa has just decided he must go to England in a month, and mamma is going too, which leaves me orphaned. Jack and Willy are to join a party to the Adirondacks in vacation. I have said no to every proposition mamma has made regarding the disposition of my summer, which naturally has had an exasperating effect. I told her yesterday I meant to stay in town, but this morning papa had a letter from the man who lives in the wing of the Shore House, and the most charming idea came into my head, and I said directly, 'I'm going down to Deephaven to spend my summer.' 'What!' said mamma; 'O you absurd child! do you hear what she says, papa?' And he instantly said he should go by all means, and just to think of the vista of rummages which lay before me! That settled it, and my plan came to me in a flash, and I chattered away at them, and asked mamma if she didn't think you would be the very person to go too, and she does; and I am to take Bridget and Maggie. Aunt Anna will have the other servants. The Dockums live in part of the house, so we will not be lonely, though I know you're not afraid of that. O Elinor! won't you go?"
Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster sailed the 20th of June, and I went to the Lancasters' house, and was there to welcome Kate when she came home from New York. We meant to go to Deephaven in a week, but were obliged to stay in town nearly three. Boston was nearly deserted of our friends at the last, and we used to take quiet walks in the cool of the evening after dinner up and down the street, or sit on the front steps in company with the servants left in charge of the other houses, who also sometimes walked up and down and looked at us wonderingly. We had much shopping to do, for there was the probability of our spending many days in the house; and as we were not to be very near any large town, and did not mean to come to Boston for weeks at least, there was a great deal to be thought of. We sent Bridget and Maggie and most of our boxes down in company with Mr. Dockum a day or two before, and found the house opened and set in order for us. Mrs. Lancaster, of course, disliked to have it go out of the family, but heartily deplored its belonging to her. It was much too far from the railway for a summer-house, and no one would have cared to buy it if she had wished to sell it. She had "looked after things" at the time of Miss Brandon's death, and since then the Dockums had been in charge, and everything had waited for something to turn up, in which capacity Kate and I were happy to act.
We left the railway twelve miles from Deephaven, and took passage in a stage-coach. There was only one passenger beside ourselves. She was a very large, thin, weather-beaten woman, and looked so tired and lonesome and good-natured, that I could not help saying it was very dusty; and she was apparently delighted to answer that she should think everybody was sweeping, and she always felt after she had been in the cars an hour as if she had been taken to pieces and left in the different places. And this was the beginning of our friendship with Mrs. Beulah Kew.
After the conversation above mentioned we looked industriously out of the window into the pastures and pine woods. I had given up my seat to her. I do not mind riding backward, and, seeing that she did, offered my place, though it separated Kate and me, which just then seemed a great calamity. She looked as if I had done her the greatest favor of her life; and indeed, she was always the most grateful of women. I was often reminded of a remark which one of my friends once made about another: "If you give Bessie a halfsheet of paper, she behaves to you as if it were the most exquisite present she ever had!" Kate and I had some fruit remaining in our lunch-basket, and gave of our substance to Mrs. Kew. After the first mouthful, we looked at each other in dismay. "Lemons with orange's clothes on, aren't they?" said Mrs. Kew, as Kate threw hers out of the window, and I mine after it for company; and after this we began to be very friendly indeed. We both fancied the odd woman, there was something so honest and kindly about her.
"Are you going to Deephaven, dear?" said she to me; and then: "I wonder if you are going to stay long. All summer? Well, that's clever! I do hope you will come out to the Light to see me. Young folks most always like my place. Most likely your friends will bring you."
"Do you know the Shore House, the Brandon House?" asked Kate.
"Well as I know the meeting-house. There! I wonder I didn't know from the beginning; but I've been up country some weeks to see my mother, and she seemed so set to have me stop till strawberry-time, and would hardly let me come now. 'He' wrote me some of Mrs. Lancaster's folks were going to take the Shore House, but I hadn't it in mind; and so you are the ones. It's a real sightly old place, the Brandon House. I used to go and see Miss Katherine before she failed so. She must have left a power of china-ware. She set a great deal by her things."
"Why was it called the Shore House, I wonder? You say, Kate, it's not so very close to the sea."
Mrs. Kew answered that she had heard that the family lived at first a few miles farther inland, and one of the sons kept the old house, so they called it that to distinguish them.
"That must have been coeval with the Newport mill," said Kate, "if this place is as old as mamma says. Do you live in Deephaven too?"
"I've been here the better part of my life. I was born up among the hills in Vermont, and I shall always be a real up-country woman if I live here a hundred years more. The sea doesn't come natural to me, though there isn't a happier woman than I, 'long shore. It kind of worries me. When I was first married 'he' had a schooner and went to the Banks, and once he was off on a whaling voyage, and I hope I may never come to so long a three years as those were again, though I was up to mother's. Before I knew him he had been most everywhere. When he came home that time from whaling, he found I'd taken it so to heart that he said he'd never go off again, and he even sold his schooner, that is, his part, and now he keeps Deephaven Light, and we've lived there seventeen years come January. There isn't great pay, but then nobody tries to get it away from us."
"Do you really live in the light house? I remember how I used to beg to be taken out there when I was a child, and how I used to watch for the light at night," said Kate, enthusiastically.
So began a friendship which we both still treasure, for Mrs. Kew was one of the most delightful things which happened to us in that delightful summer, and she used to do so much for our pleasure and was so good to us. The day before we were to come away, "he" -- we never spoke of Mr. Kew to each other from this first day by any other name -- came with his boat, and we rowed out the three miles to the lighthouse for the last time to say good by, very sorry girls indeed. Mrs. Kew said, with tears in her eyes, that she loved us as if we were her own children, and if any misfortunes should ever come to us, -- which she asked the good Lord might never be, -- there would always be a home and a warm heart for us if she were alive. She begged us not to forget her. Her affection touched us very much, though it seemed odd to think of her offering a home to Kate Lancaster, who seems the most fortunate of girls. Mrs. Kew was so different from other people and so Dickens-y sometimes. Her comparisons were most striking and amusing, and her comments upon the books she read -- for she was a great reader -- were very shrewd and always to the point. Kate and I often agreed, after our many interviews with her, that we had very few acquaintances half so entertaining. She was never out of temper, even when the oil was being "got in" across her kitchen floor. And she was such a wise woman! This stage-ride, which we expected to find tiresome, we enjoyed very much, and were glad to think, when the coach stopped, and "he" rushed to meet her with the happiest face, that we had one friend in Deephaven at all events.
I liked the house from the very first. It was sunset when we reached it. Bridget's and Maggie's presence made it seem familiar at once, and a group of Dockums gave us a hearty welcome. There was a delicious supper ready for the hungry girls, and Maggie had been unpacking for us; and the housekeeping began in most pleasant fashion. The sea air was very welcome after the dusty day, and we walked down to the beach in the evening.
I do not know that the Brandon House is really very remarkable, but I never have been in one that interested me in the same way. Kate used to recount to select audiences at school some of her experiences with her Aunt Katherine, and it was popularly believed that she once carried down some indestructible picture-books when they were first in fashion, and the old lady basted them for her to hem round the edges at the rate of two a day. It may have been fabulous. It was impossible to imagine any children in the old place; everything was for grown people, even the stair-railing was too high to slide down on. The chairs looked as if they had been put at the furnishing of the house in their places, and there they meant to remain. The carpets were particularly interesting, and I remember Kate's pointing out to me one day a great square figure in one, and telling me she used to keep house there with her dolls for lack of a better playhouse, and if one of them chanced to fall outside the boundary stripe, it was immediately put to bed with a cold. It is a house with great possibilities; it might easily be made very charming. There are four very large rooms on the lower floor, and six above, a wide hall in each story, and a fascinating garret over the whole, where were many mysterious old chests and boxes, in one of which we found Kate's grandmother's love-letters; and you may be sure the "vista of rummages" Mr. Lancaster mentioned was explored to its very end. The rooms all have elaborate cornices, and the lower hall is very fine, with an archway dividing it, and pannellings of all sorts, and a great door at each end, through which the lilacs in front and the old pensioner plum-trees in the garden are seen exchanging bows and gestures. Coming from the Lancasters' high city house, it did not seem as if we had to go up stairs at all there, for every step of the stairway was so broad and low, and you come half-way to a square landing with an old straight-backed chair in each farther corner; and between them a large, round-topped window, with a cushioned seat, looking out on the garden and the village, the hills far inland, and the sunset beyond all. Then you turn and go up a few more steps to the upper hall, where we used to stay a great deal. There were more old chairs and a pair of remarkable sofas, on which we used to deposit the treasures collected in our wanderings. The wide window which looks out on the lilacs and the sea was a favorite seat of ours. Facing each other on either side of it are two old secretaries, and one of them we ascertained to be the hiding-place of secret drawers, in which may be found valuable records deposited by ourselves one very rainy day when we first explored it. We wrote, between us, a tragic "journal" on some yellow old letter-paper we found in the desk part. We put it in the most hidden drawer by itself, and flatter ourselves that it will be regarded with great interest some time or other. One of the front rooms, "the best chamber," we stood rather in dread of. It is very remarkable that there seems to be no ghost stories connected with any part of the house, particularly this. Kate and I are neither of us nervous; but there is certainly something dismal about the room. The huge, curtained bed and immense easy-chairs, windows, and everything, were draped in some old-fashioned kind of white cloth which always seemed to be waving and moving about of itself. The carpet was most singularly colored with dark reds and indescribable grays and browns, and the pattern, after a whole summer's study, could never be followed with one's eye. The paper was captured in a French prize somewhere some time in the last century, and part of the figure was shaggy, and therein little spiders found habitation, and went visiting their acquaintances across the shiny places. The color was an unearthly pink and a forbidding maroon with dim white spots, which gave it the appearance of having moulded. It made you low spirited to look long in the mirror; and the great lounge one could not have cheerful associations with, after hearing that Miss Brandon herself did not like it, having seen seven relatives, one after the other, lie there dead. There were fantastic china ornaments from Bible subjects on the mantel, and the only picture was one of the Maid of Orleans, tied with an unnecessarily strong rope to a very stout stake. The best parlor we also rarely used, because all the portraits which hung there had for some unaccountable reason taken a violent dislike to us, and followed us suspiciously with their eyes. The furniture was stately and very uncomfortable, and there was something about the room which suggested an invisible funeral.
The west parlor was our favorite room down stairs. It had a great fireplace framed in tiles which ingeniously and instructively represented the careers of the good and the bad man; the starting-place of each being a very singular cradle in the centre at the top. The last two of the series were very high art: a great coffin stands in the foreground of each, and the virtuous man is being led off by two disagreeable-looking angels, while the wicked one is hastening from an indescribable but unpleasant assemblage of claws and horns and eyes which is rapidly advancing from the distance, open-mouthed, and bringing a chain with it.
There was a large cabinet holding all the small curiosities and knick-knacks there seemed to be no other place for, -- odd china figures and cup and vases, unaccountable Chinese carvings and exquisite corals and sea-shells, minerals and Swiss wood-work, and articles of 'vertu' from the South Seas. Underneath were stored away boxes of letters and old magazines; for this was one of the houses where nothing seems to have been thrown away. In one parting we found a parcel of old manuscript sermons, the existence of which was a mystery, until Kate remembered there had been a gifted son of the house who entered the ministry and soon died. The windows had each a pane of stained glass, and on the wide sills we used to put our immense bouquets of field flowers. There was one place which I liked and sat in more than any other. The chimney filled nearly the whole side of the room, all but this little corner, where there was just room for a very comfortable high-cushioned chair, and a narrow window where I always had a bunch of fresh green ferns in a tall champagne glass. I used to write there often, and always sat there when Kate sang and played. She sent for a tuner, and used successfully to coax the long-imprisoned music from the antiquated piano, and sing for her visitors by the hour. She almost always sang her oldest songs, for they seemed most in keeping with everything about us. I used to fancy that the portraits liked our being there. There was one young girl who seemed so solitary and forlorn among the rest in the room, who were all middle-aged. For their part they looked amiable, but rather unhappy, as if she had come in and interrupted their conversation. We both grew very fond of her, and it seemed, when we went in the last morning on purpose to take leave of her, as if she looked at us imploringly. She was soon afterward boxed up, and now enjoys society after her own heart in Kate's room in Boston.
There was the largest sofa I ever saw opposite the fireplace; it must have been brought in in pieces, and built in the room. It was broad enough for Kate and me to lie on together, and very high and square; but there was a pile of soft cushions at one end. We used to enjoy it greatly in September when the evenings were long and cool, and we had many candles, and a fire -- and crickets too-- on the hearth, and the dear dog lying on the rug. I remember one rainy night, just before Miss Tennant and Kitty Bruce went away; we had a real drift-wood fire, and blew out the lights and told stories. Miss Margaret knows so many and tells them so well. Kate and I were unusually entertaining, for we became familiar with the family record of the town, and could recount marvellous adventures by land and sea, and ghost stories by the dozen. We had never either of us been in a society consisting of so many travelled people! Hardly a man but had been the most of his life at sea. Speaking of ghost stories, I must tell you that once in the summer two Cambridge girls who were spending a week with us unwisely enticed us into giving some thrilling recitals, which nearly frightened them out of their wits, and Kate and I were finally quite nervous too. We had all been on the sofa in the dark, singing and talking, and were sitting in great suspense after I had finished one of such particular horror that I declared it should be the last, when we heard footsteps on the hall stairs. There were lights in the dining-room which shone faintly through the half-closed door, and we saw something white and shapeless come slowly down, and clutched each other's gowns in agony. It was only Kate's dog which came in and laid his head in her lap and slept peacefully. We thought we could not sleep a wink after this, and I bravely went alone out to the light to see my watch, and, finding it was past twelve, we concluded to sit up all night and to go down to the shore at sunrise, it would be so much easier than getting up early some morning. We had been out rowing and taken a long walk the day before, and were obliged to dance and make other slight exertions to keep ourselves awake at one time. We lunched at two, and I never shall forget the sunrise that morning; but we were singularly quiet and abstracted that day, and indeed for several days after. Deephaven was "a land in which it seemed always afternoon," we breakfasted so late.
As Mrs. Kew had said, there was a power of china. Kate and I used to conclude that the lives of her grandmothers must have been spent in giving tea-parties. We counted ten sets of cups, beside quantities of stray ones; and some member of the family had evidently devoted her time to making a collection of pitchers.
There was a little cabinet in Miss Brandon's own room, which we looked over one day. There was a little package of letters; ship letters mostly, tied with a very pale and tired-looking blue ribbon. They were alone in a drawer with a locket holding some brown hair, and some dry twigs and bits of leaf which had long ago been wild roses, such as still bloom among the Deephaven rocks. No one had ever spoken of her aunt's having had a love-affair, Kate said; and she had often heard her mother wonder why she never had cared to marry, for she had chances enough doubtless, being rich and handsome and finely educated. So there was a sailor lover after all, and perhaps he had been lost at sea and she faithfully kept the secret, never mourning outwardly. "And I always thought her the most matter-of-fact old lady," said Kate; "yet here's her romance after all." We put the letters outside on a chair to read, but afterwards carefully replaced them, without untying them. I'm glad we did. There were other letters which we did read, and which interested us very much, -- letters from her girl friends written in the boarding-school vacations, and just after she finished school. Those in one of the smaller packages were very charming; it must have been such a bright, nice girl who wrote them! They were very few, and were tied with black ribbon, and marked on the outside in girlish writing: "My dearest friend, Dolly McAllister, died September 3, 1809, aged eighteen." The ribbon had evidently been untied and the letters read many times. One began: "My dear, delightful Kitten: I am quite overjoyed to find my father has business which will force him to go to Deephaven next week, and he kindly says if there be no more rain I may ride with him to see you. I will surely come, for if there is danger of spattering my gown, and he bids me stay at home, I shall go galloping after him and overtake him when it is too late to send me back. I have so much to tell you." I wish I knew more about the visit. Poor Miss Katherine! it made us sad to look over these treasures of her girlhood. There were her compositions and exercise-books; some samplers and queer little keepsakes; withered flowers and some pebbles and other things of like value, which there was probably some pleasant association with. "Only think of her keeping them all her days," said I to Kate. "I am continually throwing some relic of the kind away, because I forget why I have it!"
There was a box in the lower part which Kate was glad to find, for she had heard her mother wonder if some such things were not in existence. It held a crucifix and a mass-book and some rosaries, and Kate told me Miss Katherine's youngest and favorite brother had become a Catholic while studying in Europe. It was a dreadful blow to the family; for in those days there could have been few deeper disgraces to the Brandon family than to have one of its sons go over to Popery. Only Miss Katherine treated him with kindness, and after a time he disappeared without telling even her where he was going, and was only heard from indirectly once or twice afterward. It was a great grief to her. "And mamma knows," said Kate, "that she always had a lingering hope of his return, for the very last time she saw Aunt Katherine she spoke of soon going to be with all the rest, and said, 'Though your Uncle Henry, dear,' -- and stopped and smiled sadly; 'you'll think me a very foolish old woman, but I never quite gave up thinking he might come home.'"
There were several other fine old houses in Deephaven, but only one was lived in by members of its original family. The others had not been kept in good repair, and some were entirely deserted. The Carew House we used to know very well. There were two old ladies and their brother, who had been Miss Brandon's most intimate friends and were also ours. The elder sister, Mrs. Dent, had outlived her husband and children, and then given up her city home and come back to the old house. She must have been a very brilliant woman, and was not at all dull when we knew her. Miss Honora had lived years at her grandfather's in Newport, and been one of the gayest, happiest girls in the world. It was one of our greatest pleasures to hear their stories of old times, and we used to go to see them almost every day. They seemed so sorry to have us come away, for perhaps, though we chattered about next summer, it was the last evening we should ever be with them; and we all felt very sad, but were particularly cheerful not withstanding. "Mr. Dick," as they called their brother, was a very kind and very quiet man. He had been a merchant in China once, and there were quantities of queer things everywhere in the house that he had brought and sent home; and this reminds me that one morning the sisters sent for us to stay all day with them, and showed us their own particular treasures of old brocades and satins and exquisite old laces, and told us where they had worn them. There were Indian shawls and scarfs which had been presents from their brother. He had been very rich for a time, and had lost most of his money, and then, finding he still had enough, came home to Deephaven. He had a fondness for reading and painting, which had not been lost sight of, and took to himself one of the upper rooms, where he spent most of his time. I never shall forget the first night we took tea with them; it impressed us very much, and yet nothing wonderful happened. Each had a most curious tea-poy, and tea was "handed round" by an old-fashioned servant, and then we sat talking in the twilight, they telling us of the time Miss Brandon and they themselves were young. After a while the elder sister said, "My dears, we always have prayers at nine." The servants came in, and she took a great Bible and read solemnly with her dear feeble old voice, "Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations"; and then we knelt, and the brother read prayers. We told each other, as we went home in the moonlight down the quiet street, how much we had enjoyed the evening; for somehow, the house and the people had nothing to do with the present, and I never have heard that Psalm since without its bringing back that summer night at the old house in Deephaven, the quaint room, and Kate and I feeling so young and worldly, the shaded light of the candles, the old book, and the voices which said amen.
Mrs. Kew did the honors of the lighthouse thoroughly, on our first visit; but I think we rarely went to see her that we did not make some entertaining discovery. Mr. Kew's nephew, a guileless youth of forty, lived with them, and the two men were of a mechanical turn and had invented numerous aids to housekeeping, -- appendages to the stove, and fixtures on the walls for everything that could be hung up; catches in the floor to hold the doors open, and ingenious apparatus to close them; but above all, a system of barring and bolting for the wide "fore door," which would have disconcerted an energetic battering-ram. After all this work being expended, Mrs. Kew informed us that it was usually wide open all night in summer weather. On the back of this very door I discovered one day a row of marks, and asked their significance. It seemed that Mrs. Kew had attempted one summer to keep count of the number of people who inquired concerning the depredations of the neighbors' chickens. Mrs. Kew's bedroom was partly devoted to the fine arts. There was a large collection of likenesses of her relatives and friends on the wall, which was interesting in the extreme. Mrs. Kew was always much pleased to tell their names, and her remarks about any feature not exactly perfect were very searching and critical. "That's my oldest brother's wife, Clorinthy Adams that was. She's well featured, if it were not for her nose, and that looks as if it had been thrown at her, and she wasn't particular about having it on firm, in hopes of getting a better one. She sets by her looks though."
There were often sailing parties that came there from up and down the coast. One day Kate and I were spending the afternoon at the Light; had been fishing and were sitting in the doorway listening to the experience of Mrs. Kew's the winter she kept school at the Four Corners; saw a boatful coming, and all lost our tempers. Mrs. Kew had a lame ankle, and Kate offered to go up with them. There were some girls and young men who stood on the rocks awhile, and then came to us, with much better manners than the people who usually came, and asked if they could see the lighthouse, and Kate led the way. She was dressed that day in a costume we both frequently wore, of a gray serge skirt and striped cambric sailor jacket, a broad hat, and her boots rather the worse for wear. The celebrated Lancaster complexion was rather darkened by the sun. Mrs. Kew expressed a wish to know what questions they would ask her, and I followed after a few minutes. They seemed to have finished asking about the lantern, and to have become personal.
"Don't you get tired staying here?"
"Never! "said Kate, energetically."
"Is that your sister down stairs?"
"No, I have no sister."
"I should think you would wish she was. Aren't you ever lonesome?"
"Everybody is, sometimes," said Kate.
"But it's such a lonesome place!" said one of the girls; "I should think you would get work away. I live in Boston. Why, it's so awful quiet; nothing but the water, and the wind, when it blows; and I think either of them is worse than nothing. And only this little bit of a rocky place! I should want to go to walk."
I heard Kate pleasantly refuse the offer of pay for her services, and then they began to come down the stairs. I opened the door of a store-closet, and stood inside. Kate stayed behind to close the doors and leave everything all right, and the girl who had talked the most waited too, and when they were on the stairs just above me, and the others out of hearing, she said, "You're real good to show us the things. I guess you'll think I'm silly, but I do like you ever so much! I wish you would come to Boston. I'm in a real nice store, -- H ----'s, on Winter Street; and they will want new saleswomen in October. Perhaps you could be at my counter. I'd teach you, and you could board with me. I've got a real comfortable room, and I suppose I might have more things, for I get good pay; but I like to send money home to mother. I'm at my aunt's now, but I am going back next Monday, and if you will tell me what your name is, I'll find out for certain about the place, and write you. My name's Mary Wendell."
I knew by Kate's voice that this had rather touched her. "You are a very kind girl, indeed," said she; "but I cannot go and work with you. I should like to know more about you. I live in Boston too; my friend and I are staying over in Deephaven for the summer only." And she held out her hand to the girl, whose face had changed from its first expression of earnest good-humor to a very startled one; and when she saw the inside of Kate's hand, and her rings, which had been turned round, she was really frightened.
"O, will you please excuse me?" said she, blushing; "I ought to have known better; but you showed us round so willing, and I never thought of your not living here. I didn't mean to be rude."
"Of course you did not, and you were not. I am very glad you said it, and glad you like me," said Kate; and just then the party called the girl, and she hurried away, and I joined Kate. "Then you heard it all," said she. "I think it was so nice! She was such an honest little thing! I mean to look for her when I get home."
Kate is such a fine girl! though not any better or more clever than many others, perhaps. We are both nearly twenty-two, and can look back calmly with unprejudiced eyes at the absurdities of our youth. When she was fifteen or sixteen, she was devoted to parties, and that sort of thing, and her friends blamed Mrs. Lancaster for letting her "come out" so young; but that wise woman was not so far wrong, as it turned out. "I used to be sorry about it," said Kate to me once; "but I have got over it. I was a foolish child, in caring so much for things that were not worth caring for; but if I had been kept at home till I was nineteen or twenty, I should have been just in the midst of it now, and I know my time is worth more than it was then. Now, you see, I have been all through those things, and I like parties and dancing and to be well dressed; but they are not the one thought and ambition of my life, and I care most for better things. I can understand and enjoy what I read and study, and I like thoroughly many things for which, if I had followed the usual routine of young ladies, and had not been married, I should wait till I was twenty-five or six, and the younger set of girls grew up, and I was quite out of fashion, and then make believe I was interested in, and be longing for the old days, all the same. I don't think we need mind growing older, Elly. I cannot see that we have lost much that we need mourn over, and we are gaining a great many things." I know so many noble things she has done quietly, and of her good influence over many of her friends! She is so fresh, and good, and true, and enjoys life so heartily! so childlike, without being childish! and not in the least perfect; but when she makes mistakes, she is sorrier and more ready to hopefully try again than any girl I know.
I could tell you scores of stories about our summer, -- our days in the woods, our drives and rides and walks, and, best of all, our moonlight sails. We never went on the water alone, but business is not Deephaven's chief characteristic, and we always found some one to take care of us. Dear old Tom Kew we liked better than any one, and he told surprising sea stories and ghost stories, like a story-book sailor. We used to go out to the Light early in the afternoon, when it was not too hot, and sometimes fish off the rocks, nearly always being rewarded with excellent specimens of that undesirable fish, the sculpin; or Mrs. Kew would relate with great satisfaction some of her Vermont experiences. Then we would have an unreasonably good supper, and after that climb the ladder stairs to the lantern, to see the lamps lighted, and sit there awhile watching the ships and the sunset. Twice from the lighthouse we saw a yacht squadron out at sea, like a flock of grand, white birds. Then we would come down, and row away in the twilight far out from land, where, with our faces turned from the Light, it seemed as if we were alone, and the sea shoreless; and as the darkness closed round us softly, Kate and I would draw nearer to each other. Perhaps it would be moonrise, for we always tried to be on the water then. When it was late, we would take the oars again and go slowly in, under the stars, sometimes talking and singing and laughing, but oftenest silent.
We became, in the course of time, learned in all manner of 'long-shore lore, and even profitably employed ourselves, one October morning, in going clam-digging with old Ben Horn, a most fascinating ancient mariner. We both grew so well and brown and strong! and one day I caught sight of a label on my dress, and found Kate had pulled it from an envelope and fastened it on me: "Return to Dr. Cullis's Consumptives' Home, if not called for within ten days."
We soon had callers from the village, and, when we came away, there was hardly a person whom we did not know, from the "minister" down. He, like all our best Deephaven friends, was old. I wonder at his staying there all his life, for he was an excellent scholar, and his sermons always good and often eloquent. We used to occupy the old Brandon pew, with great dignity. I wish I could tell you of half the queer people we knew. Deephaven seemed like one of the quiet little English seaside towns, more than anything else. It was not in the least American. There was no bustle, no manufactories, nobody seemed in the least hurry. The only foreigners were a few stranded sailors. It used to be a place of note, rich and busy, as the forsaken warehouses showed, and also the houses where the Brandons and Carews, the Mannings and Chantreys, lived. There were scarcely any new buildings, and the men near the shore go outward in boats, and inland in fish-wagons, and sometimes mackerel and halibut fishing in schooners, for the city markets. Back from the village they are farmers, and we knew very few of them, but we were friends with all the fishing people, even old Donnell, who lived an apparently desolate life by himself in a hut, and was reputed to have been a bloodthirsty pirate in his youth, and was consequently greatly feared by all the children, and for misdemeanors in his latter days avoided generally. Kate talked with him awhile one day down by the fish-house, and made him come up with her for a bandage for his hand, which she saw he had hurt; and the next morning he brought us a "new" lobster apiece, -- fishermen mean a thing is only not salted, when they say it is "fresh." We happened to be near the door and received him ourselves, and gave him a great piece of tobacco, and the means of drinking our health. "Bless your pretty hearts!" said he, "may ye be happy and live long, and get good husbands, and if they ain't good to you, may they die from you!"
There were the Vibberts, who occupied apartments in one of the old warehouses. The mother and all the five children were seriously cross-eyed, and we rarely called upon them on that account! Madam Vibbert was of Dutch descent, and they all talked a bewildering lingo in consequence. You could not go a dozen yards without seeing one of the dirty children, and something was always happening to them. One day, the baby would get scalded, and the next one would get adrift in a leaky boat, or fall off a high rock and be taken up for dead. They were continually disappearing for days together and the anxious mother would make a tour of the village in quest of them, resting long and lunching often in the kitchens. The young Vibberts were very considerate about putting their parents to the expense of a funeral; and when you heard of some harrowing accident, the victim was always at your door next morning for something to eat, for you never saw one of them who had had any breakfast for a fortnight. Kate overheard a child say it was her birthday once, and we requested her and another small, light-haired girl in red calico to leave their games in the sand, and took them up to the principal grocery to give them a great faring of candy and peanuts. They must have said something about it, for Lucinda Vibbert, for one, had six birthdays that summer.
Mrs. Kew spent two or three days with us once, when there was a "conference." We also took two ministers and their wives, and entertained them to the best of our ability. Bridget gave us astonishing dinners, "For," said she, "Miss Elinor, I saw them coming up the road, and they looking that worn and hungry after the meeting that my heart sunk for them." Kate and I talked theology and books with the clergymen, and talked about housekeeping and the fashions, and got "receipts" from Bridget for the wives, and went faithfully to "meeting." They seemed to have a good time with us, and were very pleasant people.
I think we liked Deephaven better every week. Aunt Mary visited us in October, and Kitty Bruce and darling Miss Tennant in August, and Nelly Cameron and some beloved "Newporters," and -- here I am giving you a new proof of my possessing the gift of continuance -- Miss Tennant was more charming than ever, and you may be sure we kept her as long as we could, and were inconsolable at her departure. There is a cool and shady place known to us in the Deephaven rocks close to the water, where we used to stay a great deal. I never can forget our evenings at the shore. The moon, early in August, was very fine, and when we did not go out rowing, we climbed the highest rocks, and watched the water. One night the tide was coming in, and the day before had been stormy, and it was very grand. I always think of Miss Margaret and Kate at twilight, just as I do of some one else at sunset. English violets are Kate, and another friend is often with me in the shape of a tea-rose. Perhaps it's because we have frequently eaten them together! I am inexhaustible on the subject of similitudes, though all are not quite so sentimental as these; for I distinctly remember a candlestick at the Shore House which was not used all that summer save by some guest, because it looked so precisely like some one we disliked. We stayed till November, and then I went home with Kate for a time. My father came home, and the hope I had of his being ordered to or near Boston was scattered to the four winds. It was a sorrow, for Boston seems more like home than any of my numerous abiding-places; for the Denis family are wanderers upon the face of the earth.
I cannot help thinking what a capital foundation the Brandon House would be for a story. I have no material wherewith to concoct an account of a love-affair, but I might have been making your hair stand on end all this time with some legend, and Miss Honora Carew's reminiscences would be charming if I could only tell them as she does. Perhaps unwisely, I wished to tell about Kate Lancaster and myself, and you would not have believed it if I said we saw a ghost or had some remarkable experience with every-day people. Is it not most probable that the two girls kept house and knew the pleasant people and were very happy indeed, and that nothing in particular happened?
"The Shore House" appeared in Atlantic Monthly (32:358-368), September 1873. Jewett reworked it and incorporated it into Deephaven (1877).
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The Pacha of Many Tales: "A thousand white elephants, richly caparisoned: In Deephaven, Jewett attributes this quotation to one of Captain Frederick Marryat's (1792-1848) novels, but does not give a title. Marryat is the author of The Pacha of Many Tales (1835), but the passage she quotes does not appear in that novel, nor does it appear in any of Marryat's e-texts listed at the University of Pennsylvania's OnLine Books page as of December 2012.
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the high seas lie before us: This song appears in Chapter 9 of Mopsa the Fairy (1869) by Jean Ingelow (1820-1897).
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Adirondacks: A group of mountains in northeastern New York, on the border with Canada.
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the Banks: Usually, this means the Grand Banks, according to Britannica Online, "a portion of the North American continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean, lying southeast and south of Newfoundland, Canada. Noted as an international fishing ground, the banks extend for 350 miles (560 km) north to south and for 420 miles (675 km) east to west." However, Maine fishermen also fished Georges Banks: A productive area in the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
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Newport mill: It is likely Kate refers to a landmark in Newport, Rhode Island, the Old Stone Mill. Local legend includes the belief that the former windmill was built by pre-Columbian Norse visitors. This information makes Kate's joke understandable to herself -- since her family has a house in Newport -- and, perhaps, to Elinor, but probably not to Mrs. Kew. Jewett removed this remark when she revised this material for Deephaven.
Link to information about the Old Stone Mill.
Link to Library of Congress Photograph
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Dickens-y: Charles Dickens (1812-1870), British author of such novels as David Copperfield (1850).
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a French prize … in the last century: Presumably, the wallpaper came from a French ship captured in the 18th Century, during one of the various "French and Indian" wars.
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the Maid of Orleans: Joan of Arc (c. 1412-1456).
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tiles … represented the careers of the good and the bad man: Visual representations of the contrasting stories of the good and bad person may be seen in the engravings of William Hogarth (1697-1764), for example: "A Harlot's Progress" and "A Rake's Progress."
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vertu: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1913 gives this definition: A love of the fine arts; a taste for curiosities. J. Spence. An article, piece, of virtu, an object of art or antiquity; a curiosity, such as those found in museums or private collections.
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"a land in which it seemed always afternoon": See the opening of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's (1809-1892), "The Lotos Eaters."
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tea-poy: a small table used in serving tea.
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dwelling-place in all generations: See Psalms 90.
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nice store, -- H___'s on Winter Street: Winter Street in Boston remains today a retail area. Perhaps the woman refers to Hayward's Furriers? This store is at 8 Winter Street today, but whether it was on Winter Street in the 1870s is not known. Assistance is welcome.
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wanderers upon the face of the earth: Genesis 11:4. Identified and discussed by Mitchell Breitwieser in National Melancholy: Mourning and Opportunity in Classic American Literature. (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2007), 186-7.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College.
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