"DOWN THE COST TO COLD SPRING LIGHT"
T H E
The Country of the
SARAH ORNE JEWETT
S. " " "
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BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
WeiWwus bettpsift tam '
COPYRIGHT, 1896 AND 1899, BY SARAH ORNE JEWBTT
COPYRIGHT, I910, 934 AND 1927 BY MARY R. JBWETT
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE
THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM
* *. **t.
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Ct m&ac sterttas
PRINTED IN THE U.S.A. ,
... I always think of her as of one who, hear-
ing New England accused of being a bleak land
without beauty, passes confidently over the snow,
and by the gray rock, and past the dark fir tree, to
a southern bank, and there, brushing away the
decayed leaves, triumphantly shows to the fault-
finder a spray of the trailing arbutus. And I should
like,for my own part, to add this: that the fragrant,
retiring, exquisite flower, which I think [she would
say is the symbol of New England virtue, is the
symbol also of her own modest and delightful art.
From THE ART or Miss JEw'r, by Charles
Miner Thompson, in the Atlantic for October, 1904
I. THE RETURN . . .
II. MS. TODD . . ..
IIL TH SOHOOLHOU . . 11
IV. AT THE SCHOOLHOSe WINDOW . 16
V. CAPTAIN LITTLEPAGE . . 20
VI. THE WAITING PLACE ..... .31
VII. THE OUTER ISLAND . . . 42
VIII. GREEN ISLAND . ... 48
IX. WILLIAM . . .. 68
X. WHERE PENNRnOTyx GRBw 72
XI. THE OLD SINGrRS ..... .80
XII. A STRANGE SAIL . . . 88
XIII. POOR JOANNA ...... 98
XIV. THa HERBMTAG . . ... 115
XV. ON SHELL.-HAP ISLAND . .. .127
XVI THE GREAT EXPEDITION . .134
XVII. A COUNTY ROAD . .. 144
XVIII. THE BOWDEN REUNION . .. 158
XIX. THE FEAST'S END . . .175
XX. ALONG SHORE . . .. 184
XXL A DUNNET SHEPHERDESS . 207
XXII. THE QUEEN'S Twn. . . 242
XXII WILLIAM'S WEDDING . .279
XXIV. TB BACKWARD VIEW . . 800
THE COUNTRY OF THE
THERE was something about the coast
town of Dunnet which made it seem more
attractive than other maritime villages of
eastern Maine. Perhaps it was the simple
fact of acquaintance with that neighbor-
hood which made it so attaching, and gave
such interest to the rocky shore and dark
woods, and the few houses which seemed to
be securely wedged and tree-nailed in among
the ledges by the Landing. These houses
made the most of their seaward view, and
there was a gayety and determined flower-
iness in their bits of garden ground; the
small-paned high windows in the peaks of
their steep gables were like knowing eyes
that watched the harbor and the far sea-line
beyond, or looked northward all along the
2 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
shore and its background of spruces and
balsam firs. When one really knows a vil.
lage like this and its surroundings, it is like
becoming acquainted with a single person.
The process of falling in love at first sight
is as final as it is swift in such a case, but
the growth of true friendship may be a life-
After a first brief visit made two or three
summers before in the course of a yachting
cruise, a lover of Dunnet Landing returned
to find the unchanged shores of the pointed
firs, the same quaintness of the village with
its elaborate conventionalities; all that mix-
ture of remoteness, and childish certainty of
being the centre of civilization of vhich her
affectionate dreams had told. One even-
ing in June, a single passenger landed upon
the steamboat wharf. The tide was high,
there was a fine crowd of spectators, and
the younger portion of the company followed
her with subdued excitement up the narrow
street of the salt-aired, white-clapboarded
LATER, there was only one fault to fin&
with this choice of a summer lodging-place,
and that was its complete lack of seclusion.
At first the tiny house of Mrs. Almira Todd,
which stood with its end to the street, ap-
peared to be retired and sheltered enough
from the busy world, behind its bushy bit
of a green garden, in which all the bloom-
ing things, two or three gay hollyhocks
and some London-pride, were pushed back
against the gray-shingled wall. It was
a queer little garden and puzzling to a
stranger, the few flowers being put at a dis-
advantage by so much greenery; but the
discovery was soon made that Mrs. Todd
was an ardent lover of herbs, both wild and
tame, and the sea-breezes blew into the
low end-window of the house laden with not
only sweet-brier and sweet-mary, but balm
and sage and borage and mint, wormwood
4 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
and southernwood. If Mrs. Todd had oo.
casion to step into the far corner of her
herb plot, she trod heavily upon thyme, and
made its fragrant presence known with all
the rest. Being a very large person, her
full skirts brushed and bent almost every
slender stalk that her feet missed. You
could always tell when she was stepping
about there, even when you were half awake
in the morning, and learned to know, in the
course of a few weeks' experience, in ex-
actly which corner of the garden she might
At one side of this herb plot were other
growths of a rustic pharmacopoeia, great
treasures and rarities among the commoner
herbs. There were some strange and pun.
gent odors that roused a dim sense and re.
membrance of something in the forgotten
past. Some of these might once have be-
longed to sacred and mystic rites, and have
had some occult knowledge handed with
them down the centuries; but now they per-
tained only to humble compounds brewed at
intervals with molasses or vinegar or spirits
in a small caldron on Mrs. Toddas kitchen
stove. They were dispensed to suffering
neighbors, who usually came at night as if
MRS. TODD. 5
by stealth, bringing their own ancient-look.
ing vials to be filled. One nostrum was
called the Indian remedy, and its price was
but fifteen cents; the whispered directions
could be heard as customers passed the win-
dows. With most remedies the purchaser
was allowed to depart unadmonished from
the kitchen, Mrs. Todd being a wise saver
of steps; but with certain vials she gave
cautions, standing in the doorway, and there
were other doses which had to be accom-
panied on their healing way as far as the
gate, while she muttered long chapters of
directions, and kept up an air of secrecy
and importance to the last. It may not have
been only the common ails of humanity
with which she tried to cope; it seemed
sometimes as if love and hate and jealousy
and adverse winds at sea might also find
their proper remedies among the curious
wild-looking plants in Mrs. Todd's garden.
The village doctor and this learned herb-
alist were upon the best of terms. The
good man may have counted upon the un-
favorable effect of certain potions which he
should find his opportunity in counteract-
ing; at any rate, he now and then stopped
and exchanged greetings with Mrs. Todd
8 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRB.
over the picket fence. The conversation
became at once professional after the brief-
est preliminaries, and he would stand twirl-
ing a sweet-scented sprig in his fingers, and
make suggestive jokes, perhaps about her
faith in a too persistent course of thorough-
wort elixir, in which my landlady professed
such firm belief as sometimes to endanger
the life and usefulness of worthy neighbors.
To arrive at this quietest of seaside vil-
lages late in June, when the busy herb-
gathering season was just beginning, was
also to arrive in the early prime of Mrs.
Todd's activity in the brewing of old-fash-
ioned spruce beer. This cooling and re-
freshing drink had been brought to won-
derful perfection through a long series of
experiments; it had won immense local
fame, and the supplies for its manufacture
were always giving out and having to be
replenished. For various reasons, the se-
clusion and uninterrupted days which had
been looked forward to proved to be very
rare in this otherwise delightful corner of
the world. My hostess and I had made our
shrewd business agreement on the basis of a
simple cold luncheon at noon, and liberal
restitution in the matter of hot suppers, to
MBR. TODD. 7
provide for which the lodger might some-
times be seen hurrying down the road, late
in the day, with cunner line in hand. It
was soon found that this arrangement made
large allowance for Mrs. Todd's slow herb-
gathering progresses through woods and
pastures. The spruce-beer customers were
pretty steady in hot weather, and there were
many demands for different soothing syrups
and elixirs with which the unwise curios-
ity of my early residence had made me
acquainted. Knowing Mrs. Todd to be a
widow, who had little beside this slender
business and the income from one hungry
lodger to maintain her, one's energies and
even interest were quickly bestowed, until it
became a matter of course that she should
go afield every pleasant day, and that the
lodger should answer all peremptory knocks
at the side door.
In taking an occasional wisdom-giving
stroll in Mrs. Todd's company, and in act-
ing as business partner during her frequent
absences, I found the July days fly fast, and
it was not until I felt myself confronted
with too great pride and pleasure in the dis-
play, one night, of two dollars and twenty.
seven cents which I had taken in during
8 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
the day, that I remembered a long piece
of writing, sadly belated now, which I was
bound to do. To have been patted kindly
on the shoulder and called "darlin'," to
have been offered a surprise of early mush.
rooms for supper, to have had all the glory
of making two dollars and twenty-seven
cents in a single day, and then to renounce
it all and withdraw from these pleasant suc-
cesses, needed much resolution. Literary
employment are so vexed with uncertain-
ties at best, and it was not until the voice of
conscience sounded louder in my ears than
the sea on the nearest pebble beach that I
said unkind words of withdrawal to Mrs.
Todd. She only became more wistfully af-
fectionate than ever in her expressions, and
looked as disappointed as I expected when I
frankly told her that I could no longer en-
joy the pleasure of what we called seeing '
folks." I felt that I was cruel to a whole
neighborhood in curtailing her liberty in
this most important season for harvesting
the different wild herbs that were so much
counted upon to ease their winter ails.
Well, dear," she said sorrowfully, I've
took great advantage o' your bein' here. I
ain't had such a season for years, but I have
MRS. TODD. 9
never had nobody I could so trust. All you
lack is a few qualities, but with time you'd
gain judgment an' experience, an' be very
able in the business. I'd stand right here
an' say it to anybody."
Mrs. Todd and I were not separated or
estranged by the change in our business re-
lations; on the contrary, a deeper intimacy
seemed to begin. I do not know what herb
of the night it was that used sometimes to
send out a penetrating odor late in the even-
ing, after the dew had fallen, and the moon
was high, and the cool air came up from
the sea. Then Mrs. Todd would feel that
she must talk to somebody, and I was only
too glad to listen. We both fell under the
spell, and she either stood outside the win-
dow, or made an errand to my sitting-room,
and told, it might be very commonplace
news of the day, or, as happened one misty
summer night, all that lay deepest in her
heart. It was in this way that I came to
know that she had loved one who was far
"No, dear, him I speak of could never
think of me," she said. When we was
young together his mother didn't favor the
10 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
match, an' done everything she could to part
us; and folks thought we both married
well, but 't wasn't what either one of us
wanted most; an' now we're left alone
again, an' might have had each other all the
time. He was above bein' a seafarin' man,
an' prospered more than most; he come of
a high family, an' my lot was plain an' hard-
workin'. I ain't seen him for some years;
he's forgot our youthful feeling's, I expect,
but a woman's heart is different; them feel-
in's comes back when you think you've done
with 'em, as sure as spring comes with the
year. An' I've always had ways of hearing'
She stood in the centre of a braided rug,
and its rings of black and gray seemed to
circle about her feet in the dim light. Her
height and massiveness in the low room gave
her the look of a huge sibyl, while the
strange fragrance of the mysterious herb
blew in from the little garden.
FOR some days after this, Mrs. Todd's
customers came and went past my windows,
and, haying-time being nearly over, strangers
began to arrive from the inland country,
such was her widespread reputation. Some-
times I saw a pale young creature like a
white windflower left over into midsummer,
upon whose face consumption had set its
bright and wistful mark; but oftener two
stout, hard-worked women from the farms
came together, and detailed their symptoms
to Mrs. Todd in loud and cheerful voices,
combining the satisfactions of a friendly
gossip with the medical opportunity. They
seemed to give much from their own store
of therapeutic learning. I became aware
of the school in which my landlady had
strengthened her natural gift; but here was
always the governing mind, and the final
command, "Take of hy'sop one handful"
12 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
(or whatever herb it was), was received in
respectful silence. One afternoon, when I
had listened, it was impossible not to lis.
ten, with cottonless ears, and then laughed
and listened again, with an idle pen in my
hand, during a particularly spirited and
personal conversation, I reached for my hat,
and, taking blotting-book and all under my
arm, I resolutely fled further temptation,
and walked out past the fragrant green gar-
den and up the dusty road. The way went
straight uphill, and presently I stopped and
turned to look back.
The tide was in, the wide harbor was sur-
rounded by its dark woods, and the small
wooden houses stood as near as they could
get to the landing. Mrs. Todd's was the
last house on the way inland. The gray
ledges of the rocky shore were well covered
with sod in most places, and the pasture
bayberry and wild roses grew thick among
them. I could see the higher inland country
and the scattered farms. On the brink of
the hill stood a little white schoolhouse,
much wind-blown and weather-beaten, which
was a landmark to seagoing folk; from its
door there was a most beautiful view of sea
and shore. The summer vacation now pre-
THE SCHOOLHOUSE. 13
failed, and after finding the door unfastened,
and taking a long look through one of the
seaward windows, and reflecting afterward
for some time in a shady place near by
among the bayberry bushes, I returned to
the chief place of business in the village,
and, to the amusement of two of the select-
men, brothers and autocrats of Dunnet
Landing, I hired the schoolhouse for the
rest of the vacation for fifty cents a week.
Selfish as it may appear, the retired situ-
ation seemed to possess great advantages,
and I spent many days there quite undis-
tarbed, wilh the sea-breeze blowing through
the small, high windows and swaying the
heavy outside shutters to and fro. I hung
my hat and luncheon-basket on an entry
nail as if I were a small scholar, but I sat
at the teacher's desk as if I were that great
authority, with all the timid empty benches
in rows before me. Now and then an idle
sheep came and stood for a long time look-
ing in at the door. At sundown I went
back, feeling most businesslike, down toward
the village again, and usually met the flavor,
not of the herb garden, but of Mrs. Todd's
hot supper, halfway up the hill. On the
nights when there were evening meetings or
14 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
other public exercises that demanded her
presence we had tea very early, and I was
welcomed back as if from a long absence.
Once or twice I feigned excuses for stay-
ing at home, while Mrs. Todd made distant
excursions, and came home late, with both
hands full and a heavily laden apron. This
was in pennyroyal time, and when the rare
lobelia was in its prime and the elecampane
was coming on. One day she appeared at
the schoolhouse itself, partly out of amused
curiosity about my industries; but she ex-
plained that there was no tansy in the neigh-
borhood with such snap to it as some that
grew about the schoolhouse lot. Being
scuffed down all the spring made it grow so
much the better, like some folks that had it
hard in their youth, and were bound to make
the most of themselves before they died.
AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE WINDOW.
ONE day I reached the schoolhouse very
late, owing to attendance upon the funeral
of an acquaintance and neighbor, with whose
sad decline in health I had been familiar,
and whose last days both the doctor and
Mrs. Todd had tried in vain to ease. The
services had taken place at one o'clock, and
now, at quarter past two, I stood at the
schoolhouse window, looking down at the
procession as it went along the lower road
close to the shore. It was a walking funeral,
and even at that distance I could recognize
most of the mourners as they went their sol-
emn way. Mrs. Begg had been very much
respected, and there was a large company
of friends following to her grave. She had
been brought up on one of the neighboring
farms, and each of the few times that I had
seen her she professed great dissatisfaction
with town life. The people lived too close
16 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIR8.
together for her liking, at the Landing, and
she could not get used to the constant sound
of the sea. She had lived to lament three
seafaring husbands, and her house was dec-
orated with West Indian curiosities, speci-
mens of conch shells and fine coral which
they had brought home from their voyages
in lumber-laden ships. Mrs. Todd had told
me all our neighbor's history. They had
been girls together, and, to use her own
phrase, had "both seen trouble till they
knew the best and worst on 't." I could
see the sorrowful, large figure of Mrs. Todd
as I stood at the window. She made a break
in the procession by walking slowly and
keeping the after-part of it back. She held
a handkerchief to her eyes, and I knew,
with a pang of sympathy, that hers was not
Beside her, after much difficulty, I recog-
nized the one strange and unrelated person
in all the company, an old man who had
always been mysterious to me. I could see
his thin, bending figure. He wore a narrow,
long-tailed coat and walked with a stick, and
had the same "cant to leeward" as the
wind-bent trees on the height above.
This was Captain Littlepage, whom I had
AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE WINDOW. 17
seen only once or twice before, sitting pale
and old behind a closed window; never out
of doors until now. Mrs. Todd always
shook her head gravely when I asked a ques-
tion, and said that he was n't what he had
been once, and seemed to class him with
her other secrets. He might have belonged
with a simple which grew in a certain slug-
haunted corner of the garden, whose use
she could never be betrayed into telling me,
though I saw her cutting the tops by moon-
light once, as if it were a charm, and not a
medicine, like the great fading bloodroot
I could see that she was trying to keep
pace with the old captain's lighter steps.
He looked like an aged grasshopper of some
strange human variety. Behind this pair
was a short, impatient, little person, who
kept the captain's house, and gave it what
Mrs. Todd and others believed to be no
proper sort of care. She was usually called
"that Mari' Harris" in subdued conversa-
tion between intimates, but they treated her
with anxious civility when they met her face
The bay-sheltered islands and the great
sea beyond stretched away to the far horizon
18 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
southward and eastward; the little proces-
sion in the foreground looked futile and
helpless on the edge of the rocky shore. It
was a glorious day early in July, with a clear,
high sky; there were no clouds, there was
no noise of the sea. The song sparrows
sang and sang, as if with joyous knowledge
of immortality, and contempt for those who
could so pettily concern themselves with
death. I stood watching until the funeral
procession had crept round a shoulder of the
slope below and disappeared from the great
landscape as if it had gone into a cave.
An hour later I was busy at my work.
Now and then a bee blundered in and took
me for an enemy; but there was a useful
stick upon the teacher's desk, and I rapped
to call the bees to order as if they were
unruly scholars, or waved them away from
their riots over the ink, which I had bought
at the Landing store, and discovered too
late to be scented with bergamot, as if to
refresh the labors of anxious scribes. One
anxious scribe felt very dull that day; a
sheep-bell tinkled near by, and called her
wandering wits after it. The sentences
failed to catch these lovely summer cadences.
For the first time I began to wish for a comn
AT THE SCHOOLHOUSE WINDOW. 19
panion and for news from the outer world,
which had been, half unconsciously, forgot-
ten. Watching the funeral gave one a sort
of pain. I began to wonder if I ought not
to have walked with the rest, instead of hur-
rying away at the end of the services. Per-
haps the Sunday gown I had put on for the
occasion was making this disastrous change
of feeling, but I had now made myself and
my friends remember that I did not really
belong to Dunnet Landing.
I sighed, and turned to the half-written
IT was a long time after this; an hour
was very long in that coast town where no-
thing stole away the shortest minute. I had
lost myself completely in work, when I heard
footsteps outside. There was a steep foot-
path between the upper and the lower road,
which I climbed to shorten the way, as the
children had taught me, but I believed that
Mrs. Todd would find it inaccessible, unless
she had occasion to seek me in great haste.
I wrote on, feeling like a besieged miser of
time, while the footsteps came nearer, and
the sheep-bell tinkled away in haste as if
some one had shaken a stick in its wearer's
face. Then I looked, and saw Captain Lit-
tlepage passing the nearest window; the
next moment he tapped politely at the door.
"Come in, sir," I said, rising to meet
him; and he entered, bowing with much
courtesy. I stepped down from the desk
CAPTAIN LITTLEPAGE. X1
and offered him a chair by the window,
where he seated himself at once, being
sadly spent by his climb. I returned to my
fixed seat behind the teacher's desk, which
gave him the lower place of a scholar.
"You ought to have the place of honor,
Captain Littlepage," I said.
A happy, rural seat of various views,"
he quoted, as he gazed out into the sunshine
and up the long wooded shore. Then he
glanced at me, and looked all about him as
pleased as a child.
"My quotation was from Paradise Lost:
the greatest of poems, I suppose you
know?" and I nodded. "There's nothing
that ranks, to my mind, with Paradise Lost;
it's all lofty, all lofty," he continued.
" Shakespeare was a great poet; he copied
life, but you have to put up with a great
deal of low talk"
I now remembered that Mrs. Todd had
told me one day that Captain Littlepage
had overset his mind with too much read-
ing; she had also made dark reference to
his having "spells" of some unexplainable
nature. I could not help wondering what
errand had brought him out in search of
22 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
me. There was something quite charming
in his appearance: it was a face thin and
delicate with refinement, but worn into ap-
pealing lines, as if he had suffered from
loneliness and misapprehension. He looked,
with his careful precision of dress, as if he
were the object of cherishing care on the
part of elderly unmarried sisters, but I
knew Mari' Harris to be a very common-
place, inelegant person, who would have no
such standards; it was plain that the cap-
tain was his own attentive valet. He sat
looking at me expectantly. I could not
help thinking that, with his queer head and
length of thinness, he was made to hop
along the road of life rather than to walk.
The captain was very grave indeed, and I
bade my inward spirit keep close to dis-
Poor Mrs. Begg has gone," I ventured
to say. I still wore my Sunday gown by
way of showing respect.
She has gone," said the captain, -
"very easy at the last, I was informed; she
slipped away as if she were glad of the op.
I thought of the Countess of Carberry
and felt that history repeated itself.
She was one of the old stock," continued
Captain Littlepage, with touching sincerity.
" She was very much looked up to in this
town, and will be missed."
I wondered, as I looked at him, if he had
sprung from a line of ministers; he had
the refinement of look and air of command
which are the heritage of the old ecclesiasti-
cal families of New England. But as Dar-
win says in his autobiography, there is no
such king as a sea-captain; he is greater
even than a king or a schoolmaster! "
Captain Littlepage moved his chair out
of the wake of the sunshine, and still sat
looking at me. I began to be very eager to
know upon what errand he had come.
"It may be found out some o' these
days," he said earnestly. We may know
it all, the next step; where Mrs. Begg is
now, for instance. Certainty, not conjec-
ture, is what we all desire."
"I suppose we shall know it all some
day," said I.
We shall know it while yet below,"
insisted the captain, with a flush of impa-
tience on his thin cheeks. We have not
looked for truth in the right direction. I
know what I speak of; those who have
24 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
laughed at me little know how much reason
my ideas are based upon." He waved his
hand toward the village below. "In that
handful of houses they fancy that they
comprehend the universe."
I smiled, and waited for him to go on.
I am an old man, as you can see," he con-
tinued, "and I have been a shipmaster the
greater part of my life, forty-three years
in all. You may not think it, but I am
above eighty years of age."
He did not look so old, and I hastened to
You must have left the sea a good many
years ago, then, Captain Littlepage? I
"I should have been serviceable at least
five or six years more," he answered. "My
acquaintance with certain -my experience
upon a certain occasion, I might say, gave
rise to prejudice. I do not mind telling you
that I chanced to learn of one of the great-
est discoveries that man has ever made."
Now we were approaching dangerous
ground, but a sudden sense of his suffer-
ings at the hands of the ignorant came to
my help, and I asked to hear more with all
the deference I really felt. A swallow flew
into the schoolhouse at this moment as if
a kingbird were after it, and beat itself
against the walls for a minute, and escaped
again to the open air; but Captain Lit-
tlepage took no notice whatever of the
"I had a valuable cargo of general mer.
chandise from the London docks to Fort
Churchill, a station of the old company on
Hudson's Bay," said the captain earnestly.
We were delayed in lading, and baffled by
head winds and a heavy tumbling sea all the
way north-about and across. Then the fog
kept us off the coast; and when I made
port at last, it was too late to delay in those
northern waters with such a vessel and such
a crew as I had. They cared for nothing,
and idled me into a fit of sickness; but my
first mate was a good, excellent man, with
no more idea of being frozen in there until
spring than I had, so we made what speed
we could to get clear of Hudson's Bay and
off the coast. I owned an eighth of the
vessel, and he owned a sixteenth of her.
She was a full-rigged ship, called the Mi-
nerva, but she was getting old and leaky.
I meant it should be my last v'y'ge in her,
and so it proved. She had been an excel
26 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
lent vessel in her day. Of the cowards
aboard her I can't say so much."
Then you were wrecked ?" I asked, as
he made a long pause.
I wa'n't caught astern o' the lighter by
any fault of mine," said the captain gloom-
ily. We left Fort Churchill and run out
into the Bay with a light pair o' heels; but
I had been vexed to death with their red-
tape rigging at the company's office, and
chilled with staying' on deck an' trying' to
hurry up things, and when we were well
out o' sight o' land, headin' for Hudson's
Straits, I had a bad turn o' some sort o'
fever, and had to stay below. The days
were getting short, and we made good runs,
all well on board but me, and the crew done
their work by dint of hard driving."
I began to find this unexpected narrative
a little dull. Captain Littlepage spoke
with a kind of slow correctness that lacked
the longshore high flavor to which I had
grown used; but I listened respectfully
while he explained the winds having become
contrary, and talked on in a dreary sort of
way about his voyage, the bad weather, and
the disadvantages he was under in the light.
ness of his ship, which bounced about like a
chip in a bucket, and would not answer the
rudder or properly respond to the most care-
ful setting of sails.
"So there we were blowin' along any-
ways," he complained; but looking at me
at this moment, and seeing that my thoughts
were unkindly wandering, he ceased to
It was a hard life at sea in those days,
I am sure," said I, with redoubled interest.
"It was a dog's life," said the poor old
gentleman, quite reassured, "but it made
men of those who followed it. I see a
change for the worse even in our own town
here; full of loafers now, small and poor as
't is, who once would have followed the sea,
every lazy soul of 'em. There is no occu-
pation so fit for just that class o' men who
never get beyond the fo'cas'le. I view it, in
addition, that a community narrows down
and grows dreadful ignorant when it is shut
up to its own affairs, and gets no knowledge
of the outside world except from a cheap,
unprincipled newspaper. In the old days,
a good part o' the best men here knew a
hundred ports and something of the way
folks lived in them. They saw the world
for themselves, and like's not their wives
28 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
and children saw it with them. They may
not have had the best of knowledge to carry
with 'em sight-seein', but they were some
acquainted with foreign lands an' their laws,
an' could see outside the battle for town
clerk here in Dunnet; they got some sense
o' proportion. Yes, they lived more digni-
fled, and their houses were better within an'
without. Shipping's a terrible loss to this
part o' New England from a social point o'
"I have thought of that myself," I re-
turned, with my interest quite awakened.
" It accounts for the change in a great many
things, -the sad disappearance of sea-cap-
tains,- does n't it ?"
A shipmaster was apt to get the habit
of reading," said my companion, brightening
still more, and taking on a most touching air
of unreserve. A captain is not expected
to be familiar with his crew, and for com-
pany's sake in dull days and nights he turns
to his book. Most of us old shipmasters
came to know 'most everything about some-
thing; one would take to reading' on farming
topics, and some were great on medicine, -
but Lord help their poor crews! or some
were all for history, and now and then there'd
CAPTAIN LITTLEPAGE. 29
be one like me that gave his time to the
poets. I was well acquainted with a ship-
master that was all for bees an' bee-keepin';
and if you met him in port and went aboard,
he 'd sit and talk a terrible while about their
havin' so much information, and the money
that could be made out of keeping' 'em. He
was one of the smartest captains that ever
sailed the seas, but they used to call the
Newcastle, a great bark he commanded for
many years, Tuttle's beehive. There was
old Cap'n Jameson: he had notions of Solo-
mon's Temple, and made a very handsome
little model of the same, right from the
Scripture measurements, same's other sail-
ors make little ships and design new tricks
of rigging and all that. No, there's nothing
to take the place of shipping in a place like
ours. These bicycles offend me dreadfully;
they don't afford no real opportunities of
experience such as a man gained on a voy-
age. No: when folks left home in the old
days they left it to some purpose, and when
they got home they stayed there and had
some pride in it. There's no large-minded
way of thinking now: the worst have got to
be best and rule everything; we're all turned
upside down and going back year by year."
30 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
Oh no, Captain Littlepage, I hope not~"
said I, trying to soothe his feelings.
There was a silence in the schoolhouse,
but we could hear the noise of the water on
a beach below. It sounded like the strange
warning wave that gives notice of the turn
of the tide. A late golden robin, with the
most joyful and eager of voices, was singing
close by in a thicket of wild roses.
THE WAITING PLACE.
"How did you manage with the rest of
that rough voyage on the Minerva?" I
I shall be glad to explain to you," said
Captain Littlepage, forgetting his grievances
for the moment. If I had a map at hand
I could explain better. We were driven to
and fro 'way up toward what we used to call
Parry's Discoveries, and lost our bearings.
It was thick and foggy, and at last I lost my
ship; she drove on a rock, and we managed
to get ashore on what I took to be a barren
island, the few of us that were left alive.
When she first struck, the sea was somewhat
calmer than it had been, and most of the
crew, against orders, manned the long-boat
and put off in a hurry, and were never heard
of more. Our own boat upset, but the car-
penter kept himself and me above water,
and we drifted in. I had no strength to call
32 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
upon after my recent fever, and laid down
to die; but he found the tracks of a man
and dog the second day, and got along the
shore to one of those far-missionary stations
that the Moravians support. They were
very poor themselves, and in distress; 't was
a useless place. There were but few Esqui-
maux left in that region. There we remained
for some time, and I became acquainted
with strange events."
The captain lifted his head and gave me
a questioning glance. I could not help no-
ticing that the dulled look in his eyes had
gone, and there was instead a clear intent-
ness that made them seem dark and piercing.
There was a supply ship expected, and
the pastor, an excellent Christian man, made
no doubt that we should get passage in her.
He was hoping that orders would come to
break up the station; but everything was
uncertain, and we got on the best we could
for a while. We fished, and helped the
people in other ways; there was no other
way of paying our debts. I was taken to
the pastor's house until I got better; but
they were crowded, and I felt myself in the
way, and made excuse to join with an old
seaman, a Scotchman, who had built him a
THE WAITING PLACE. 55
warm cabin, and had room in it for another.
He was looked upon with regard, and had
stood by the pastor in some troubles with
the people. He had been on one of those
English exploring parties that found one
end of the road to the north pole, but never
pould find the other. We lived like dogs in
a kennel, or so you'd thought if you had
seen the hut from the outside; but the main
thing was to keep warm; there were piles
of birdskins to lie on, and he'd made him a
good bunk, and there was another for me.
'T was dreadful dreary waiting' there; we
begun to think the supply steamer was lost,
and my poor ship broke up and strewed her-
self all along the shore. We got to watch-
ing on the headlands; my men and me knew
the people were short of supplies and had to
pinch themselves. It ought to read in the
Bible, Man cannot live by fish alone,' if
they'd told the truth of things; 't aint bread
that wears the worst on you! First part
of the time, old Gaffett, that I lived with,
seemed speechless, and I did n't know what
to make of him, nor he of me, I dare say;
but as we got acquainted, I found he'd been
through more disasters than I had, and had
troubles that wa'n't going to let him live a
34 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
great while. It used to ease his mind to
talk to an understanding person, so we used
to sit and talk together all day, if it rained
or blew so that we could n't get out. I 'd got
a bad blow on the back of my head at the
time we came ashore, and it pained me at
times, and my strength was broken, anyway;
I've never been so able since."
Captain Littlepage fell into a reverie.
"Then I had the good of my reading,"
he explained presently. "I had no books;
the pastor spoke but little English, and all
his books were foreign; but I used to say
over all I could remember. The old poets
little knew what comfort they could be to a
man. I was well acquainted with the works
of Milton, but up there it did seem to me
as if Shakespeare was the king; he has his
sea terms very accurate, and some beautiful
passages were calming to the mind. I could
say them over until I shed tears; there was
nothing beautiful to me in that place but the
stars above and those passages of verse.
Gaffett was always brooding and brood-
ing, and talking to himself; he was afraid
he should never get away, and it preyed upon
his mind. He thought when I got home I
could interest the scientific men in his dis.
THE WAITING PLACE. 30
cover: but they're all taken up with their
own notions; some didn't even take pains
to answer the letters I wrote. You observe
that I said this crippled man Gaffett had
been shipped on a voyage of discovery. I
now tell you that the ship was lost on its re-
turn, and only Gaffett and two officers were
saved off the Greenland coast, and he had
knowledge later that those men never got
back to England; the brig they shipped on
was run down in the night. So no other
living soul had the facts, and he gave them
to me. There is a strange sort of a country
'way up north beyond the ice, and strange
folks living in it. Gaffett believed it was
the next world to this."
"What do you mean, Captain Little.
page?" I exclaimed. The old man was
bending forward and whispering; he looked
over his shoulder before he spoke the last
To hear old Gaffett tell about it was
something awful," he said, going on with his
story quite steadily after the moment of ex'
citement had passed. "'T was first a tale
of dogs and sledges, and cold and wind and
snow. Then they begun to find the ice grow
rotten; they had been frozen in, and got
36 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
into a current flowing north, far up beyond
Fox Channel, and they took to their boats
when the ship got crushed, and this warm
current took them out of sight of the ice,
and into a great open sea; and they still fol-
lowed it due north, just the very way they
had planned to go. Then they struck a
coast that was n't laid down or charted, but
the cliffs were such that no boat could land
until they found a bay and struck across
under sail to the other side where the shore
looked lower; they were scant of provisions
and out of water, but they got sight of some-
thing that looked like a great town. For
God's sake, Gaffett!' said I, the first time
he told me. You don't mean a town two
degrees farther north than ships had ever
been ?' for he 'd got their course marked on
an old chart that he'd pieced out at the top ;
but he insisted upon it, and told it over and
over again, to be sure I had it straight to
carry to those who would be interested.
There was no snow and ice, he said, after
they had sailed some days with that warm
current, which seemed to come right from
under the ice that they'd been pinched
up in and had been crossing on foot for
THE WAITING PLACE. 37
"But what about the town?" I asked.
SDid they get to the town? "
They did," said the captain, and found
inhabitants; 't was an awful condition of
things. It appeared, as near as Gaffett could
express it, like a place where there was
neither living nor dead. They could see
the place when they were approaching it by
sea pretty near like any town, and thick with
habitations; but all at once they lost sight
of it altogether, and when they got close in-
shore they could see the shapes of folks,
but they never could get near them, all
blowing gray figures that would pass along
alone, or sometimes gathered in companies
as if they were watching. The men were
frightened at first, but the shapes never came
near them, it was as if they blew back;
and at last they all got bold and went ashore,
and found birds' eggs and sea fowl, like any
wild northern spot where creatures were
tame and folks had never been, and there
was good water. Gaffett said that he and
another man came near one o' the fog-shaped
men that was going along slow with the look
of a pack on his back, among the rocks, an'
they chased him; but, Lord! he flittered
away out o' sight like a leaf the wind takes
38 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
with it, or a piece of cobweb. They would
make as if they talked together, but there
was no sound of voices, and they acted as if
they did n't see us, but only felt us coming
towards them,' says Gaffett one day, try-
ing to tell the particulars. They couldn't
see the town when they were ashore. One
day the captain and the doctor were gone
till night up across the high land where the
town had seemed to be, and they came back
at night beat out and white as ashes, and
wrote and wrote all next day in their note-
books, and whispered together full of excite-
ment, and they were sharp-spoken with the
men when they offered to ask any questions.
"Then there came a day," said Captain
Littlepage, leaning toward me with a strange
look in his eyes, and whispering quickly.
" The men all swore they would n't stay any
longer; the man on watch early in the morn-
ing gave the alarm, and they all put off in
the boat and got a little way out to sea.
Those folks, or whatever they were, come
about 'em like bats; all at once they raised
incessant armies, and come as if to drive 'em
back to sea. They stood thick at the edge
o' the water like the ridges o' grim war; no
thought o' flight, none of retreat. Some
THE WAITING PLACE. ;9
times a standing fight, then soaring on main
wing tormented all the air. And when
they 'd got the boat out o' reach o' danger,
Gaffett said they looked back, and there was
the town again, standing up just as they'd
seen it first, comin' on the coast. Say what
you might, they all believed 't was a kind
of waiting-place between this world an' the
The captain had sprung to his feet in his
excitement, and made excited gestures, but
he still whispered huskily.
"Sit down, sir," I said as quietly as I
could, and he sank into his chair quite spent.
Gaffett thought the officers were hurry-
ing home to report and to fit out a new ex-
pedition when they were all lost. At the
time, the men got orders not to talk over
what they had seen," the old man explained
presently in a more natural tone.
Were n't they all starving, and was n't it
a mirage or something of that sort ?" I ven-
tured to ask. But he looked at me blankly.
"Gaffett had got so that his mind ran
on nothing else," he went on. "The ship's
surgeon let fall an opinion to the captain,
one day, that 't was some condition o' the
light and the magnetic currents that let
40 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
thet -ee those folks. 'T wa'n't a right-feel.
ing part of the world, anyway; they had
to battle with the compass to make it serve,
an' everything seemed to go wrong. Gaffett
had worked it out in his own mind that they
was all common ghosts, but the conditions
were unusual favorable for seeing them.
He was always talking about the Ge'graphi-
cal Society, but he never took proper steps,
as I view it now, and stayed right there at
the mission. He was a good deal crippled,
and thought they'd confine him in some jail
of a hospital. He said he was waiting to
find the right men to tell, somebody bound
north. Once in a while they stopped there
to leave a mail or something. He was set
in his notions, and let two or three proper
explorin' expeditions go by him because he
didn't like their looks; but when I was
there he had got restless, fearin' he might
be taken away or something. He had all
his directions written out straight as a string
to give the right ones. I wanted him to
trust 'em to me, so I might have something
to show, but he would n't. I suppose he 's
dead now. I wrote to him, an' I done all I
could. 'T will be a great exploit some o'
THE WAITING PLACE. 41
I assented absent-mindedly, thinking more
just then of my companion's alert, deter.
mined look and the seafaring, ready aspect
that had come to his face; but at this mo-
ment there fell a sudden change, and the old,
pathetic, scholarly look returned. Behind
me hung a map of North America, and I
saw, as I turned a little, that his eyes were
fixed upon the northernmost regions and
their careful recent outlines with a look of
THE OUTER ISLAND.
GAFFETT with his good bunk and the
bird-skins, the story of the wreck of the
Minerva, the human-shaped creatures of fog
and cobweb, the great words of Milton with
which he described their onslaught upon the
crew, all this moving tale had such an air of
truth that I could not argue with Captain
Littlepage. The old man looked away from
the map as if it had vaguely troubled him,
and regarded me appealingly.
"We were just speaking of "- and he
stopped. I saw that he had suddenly for-
gotten his subject.
There were a great many persons at the
funeral," I hastened to say.
Oh yes," the captain answered, with sat-
isfaction. "All showed respect who could.
The sad circumstances had for a moment
slipped my mind. Yes, Mrs. Begg will be
very much missed. She was a capital man-
THE OUTER ISLAND.
ager for her husband when he was at sea.
Oh yes, shipping is a very great loss." And
he sighed heavily. There was hardly a
man of any standing who did n't interest
himself in some way in navigation. It
always gave credit to a town. I call it low-
water mark now here in Dunnet."
He rose with dignity to take leave, and
asked me to stop at his house some day,
when he would show me some outlandish
things that he had brought home from sea.
I was familiar with the subject of the deca-
dence of shipping interests in all its affect-
ing branches, having been already some
time in Dunnet, and I felt sure that Cap-
tain Littlepage's mind had now returned to
a safe level.
As we came down the hill toward the vil-
lage our ways divided, and when I had seen
the old captain well started on a smooth
piece of sidewalk which would lead him to
his own door, we parted, the best of friends.
"Step in some afternoon," he said, as affec-
tionately as if I were a fellow-shipmaster
wrecked on the lee shore of age like him-
self. I turned toward home, and presently
met Mrs. Todd coming toward me with an
44 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
"I see you sleevin' the old gentleman
down the hill," she suggested.
"Yes. I've had a very interesting after.
noon with him," I answered; and her face
"Oh, then he's all right. I was afraid
't was one o' his flighty spells, an' Mari' Har-
ris would n't" -
"Yes," I returned, smiling, "he has been
telling me some old stories, but we talked
about Mrs. Begg and the funeral beside, and
"I expect he got tellin' of you some o'
his great narratives," she answered, looking
at me shrewdly. Funerals always sets him
goin'. Some o' them tales hangs together
toler'ble well," she added, with a sharper
look than before. "An' he's been a great
reader all his seafarin' days. Some thinks
he overdid, and affected his head, but for a
man o' his years he's amazin' now when he's
at his best. Oh, he used to be a beautiful
We were standing where there was a fine
view of the harbor and its long stretches of
shore all covered by the great army of the
pointed firs, darkly cloaked and standing as
THE OUTER ISLAND. 45
if they waited to embark. As we looked
far seaward among the outer islands, the
trees seemed to march seaward still, going
steadily over the heights and down to the
It had been growing gray and cloudy, like
the first evening of autumn, and a shadow
had fallen on the darkening shore. Sud-
denly, as we looked, a gleam of golden sun-
shine struck the outer islands, and one of
them shone out clear in the light, and re-
vealed itself in a compelling way to our
eyes. Mrs. Todd was looking off across the
bay with a face full of affection and interest.
The sunburst upon that outermost island
made it seem like a sudden revelation of the
world beyond this which some believe to be
"That's where mother lives," said Mrs.
Todd. "Can't we see it plain? I was
brought up out there on Green Island. I
know every rock an' bush on it."
"Your mother I" I exclaimed, with great
"Yes, dear, certain; I've got her yet,
.9ld's I be. She's one of them spry, light.
looted little women; always was, an' light-
hearted, too," answered Mrs. Todd, with
46 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
satisfaction. "She's seen all the trouble
folks can see, without it's her last sickness;
an' she's got a word of courage for every-
body. Life ain't spoilt her a mite. She's
eighty-six an' I 'm sixty-seven, and I've
seen the time I've felt a good sight the old-
est. Land sakes alive I' says she, last time
I was out to see her. How you do lurch
about steppin' into a bo't I' I laughed so I
liked to have gone right over into the water;
an' we pushed off, an' left her laughing' there
on the shore."
The light had faded as we watched. Mrs.
Todd had mounted a gray rock, and stood
there grand and architectural, like a carya-
tide. Presently she stepped down, and we
continued our way homeward.
"You an' me, we '11 take a bo't an' go out
some day and see mother," she promised
me. "'T would please her very much, an'
there's one or two sca'ce herbs grows bet-
ter on the island than anywhere else. I
ain't seen their like nowhere here on the
"Now I'm going' right down to get us
each a mug o' my beer," she announced as
we entered the house, "an' I believe I '11
sneak in a little mite o' camomile. Goin'
THE OUTER ISLAND.
to the funeral an' all, I feel to have had a
very wearing' afternoon."
I heard her going down into the cool little
cellar, and then there was considerable delay.
When she returned, mug in hand, I noticed
the taste of camomile, in spite of my pro-
test; but its flavor was disguised by some
other herb that I did not know, and she
stood over me until I drank it all and said
that I liked it.
"I don't give that to everybody," said
Mrs. Todd kindly; and I felt for a moment
as if it were part of a spell and incantation,
and as if my enchantress would now begin
to look like the cobweb shapes of the arctic
town. Nothing happened but a quiet even-
ing and some delightful plans that we made
about going to Green Island, and on the
morrow there was the clear sunshine and
blue sky of another day.
ONE morning, very early, I heard Mrs.
Todd in the garden outside my window. By
the unusual loudness of her remarks to a
passer-by, and the notes of a familiar hymn
which she sang as she worked among the
herbs, and which came as if directed pur-
posely to the sleepy ears of my conscious-
ness, I knew that she wished I would wake
up and come and speak to her.
In a few minutes she responded to a morn.
ing voice from behind the blinds. I ex-
pect you're goin' up to your schoolhouse
to pass all this pleasant day; yes, I expect
you're goin' to be dreadful busy," she said
"Perhaps not," said I. "Why, what's
going to be the matter with you, Mrs.
Todd?" For I supposed that she was
tempted by the fine weather to take one of
her favorite expeditions along the shore pas-
GREEN ISLAND. 49
tures to gather herbs and simples, and would
like to have me keep the house.
"No, I don't want to go nowhere by
land," she answered gayly,--" no, not by
land; but I don't know's we shall have a
better day all the rest of the summer to go
out to Green Island an' see mother. I waked
up early thinking' of her. The wind's light
northeast, -'t will take us right straight
out; an' this time o' year it's liable to change
round southwest an' fetch us home pretty,
'long late in the afternoon. Yes, it's goin'
to be a good day."
"Speak to the captain and the Bowden
boy, if you see anybody going by toward
the landing," said I. "We 'll take the big
Oh, my sakes! now you let me do things
my way," said Mrs. Todd scornfully. "No,
dear, we won't take no big bo't. I '11 just
git a handy dory, an' Johnny Bowden an'
me, we 'll man her ourselves. I don't want
no abler bo't than a good dory, an' a nice
light breeze ain't goin' to make no sea; an'
Johnny's my cousin's son, mother '11 like
to have him come; an' he 'll be down to the
herrin' weirs all the time we're there, any-
way; we don't want to carry no men folkb
M) COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
havin' to be considered every minute an'
takin' up all our time. No, you let me do;
we '1 just slip out an' see mother by our-
selves. I guess what breakfast you '11 want 's
about ready now."
I had become well acquainted with Mrs.
Todd as landlady, herb-gatherer, and rustic
philosopher; we had been discreet fellow-
passengers once or twice when I had sailed
up the coast to a larger town than Dunnet
Landing to do some shopping; but I was
yet to become acquainted with her as a
mariner. An hour later we pushed off from
the landing in the desired dory. The tide
was just on the turn, beginning to fall, and
several friends and acquaintances stood along
the side of the dilapidated wharf and cheered
us by their words and evident interest.
Johnny Bowden and I were both rowing in
haste to get out where we could catch the
breeze and put up the small sail which lay
clumsily furled along the gunwale. Mrs.
Todd sat aft, a stern and unbending law-
You better let her drift; we 'll get there
'bout as quick; the tide '11 take her right
out from under these old building's; there 's
plenty wind outside."
GREEN ISLAND. 01
"Your bo't ain't trimmed proper, Mis'
Todd!" exclaimed a voice from shore.
"You 're lo'ded so the bo't 'll drag; you
can't git her before the wind, ma'am. You
set 'midships, Mis' Todd, an' let the boy
hold the sheet 'n' steer after he gits the
sail up; you won't never git out to Green
Island that way. She's lo'ded bad, your
bo't is, she 's heavy behind 's she is
Mrs. Todd turned with some difficulty
and regarded the anxious adviser, my right
oar flew out of water, and we seemed about
to capsize. "That you, Asa? Good-morn-
in'," she said politely. I always liked the
starn seat best. When 'd you git back from
up country? "
This allusion to Asa's origin was not lost
upon the rest of the company. We were
some little distance from shore, but we could
hear a chuckle of laughter, and Asa, a per-
son who was too ready with his criticism and
advice on every possible subject, turned and
walked indignantly away.
When we caught the wind we were soon on
our seaward course, and only stopped to un-
derrun a trawl, for the floats of which Mrs.
Todd looked earnestly, explaining that her
52 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
mother might not be prepared for three
extra to dinner; it was her brother's trawl,
and she meant to just run her eye along for
the right sort of a little haddock. I leaned
over the boat's side with great interest and
excitement, while she skillfully handled
the long line of hooks, and made scornful
remarks upon worthless, bait-consuming crea-
tures of the sea as she reviewed them and
left them on the trawl or shook them off
into the waves. At last we came to what
she pronounced a proper haddock, and hav-
ing taken him on board and ended his life
resolutely, we went our way.
As we sailed along I listened to an in-
creasingly delightful commentary upon the
islands, some of them barren rocks, or at
best giving sparse pasturage for sheep in the
early summer. On one of these an eager lit-
tle flock ran to the water's edge and bleated
at us so affectingly that I would willingly
have stopped; but Mrs. Todd steered away
from the rocks, and scolded at the sheep's
mean owner, an acquaintance of hers, who
grudged the little salt and still less care
which the patient creatures needed. The hot
midsummer sun makes prisons of these small
islands that are a paradise in early June,
GREEN ISLAND. 5D
with their cool springs and short thick-grow.
ing grass. On a larger island, farther out
to sea, my entertaining companion showed
me with glee the small houses of two farmers
who shared the island between them, and de-
clared that for three generations the people
had not spoken to each other even in times
of sickness or death or birth. When the
news come that the war was over, one of 'em
knew it a week, and never stepped across his
wall to tell the others," she said. "There,
they enjoy it: they've got to have something'
to interest 'em in such a place; 't is a good
deal more trying' to be tied to folks you don't
like than 't is to be alone. Each of 'em
tells the neighbors their wrongs; plenty
likes to hear and tell again; them as fetch a
bone 'll carry one, an' so they keep the fight
a-goin'. I must say I like variety myself;
some folks washes Monday an' irons Tues-
day the whole year round, even if the circus
is goin' by!"
A long time before we landed at Green
Island we could see the small white house,
standing high like a beacon, where Mrs.
Todd was born and where her mother lived,
on a green slope above the water, with dark
spruce woods still higher. There were crops
54 COUNTRY OF THE P9INTEP FIRS.
in the fields, which we presently distinguished
from one another. Mrs. Todd examined
them while we were still far at sea.
"Mother's late potatoes looks backward;
ain't had rain enough so far," she pro-
nounced her opinion. "They look weedier
than what they call Front Street down to
Cowper Centre. I expect brother William
is so occupied with his herrin' weirs an'
serving' out bait to the schooners that he
don't think once a day of the land."
What 's the flag for, up above the spruces
there behind the house?" I inquired, with
"Oh, that's the sign for herrin'," she
explained kindly, while Johnny Bowden
regarded me with contemptuous surprise.
" When they get enough for schooners they
raise that flag; an' when 't is a poor catch
in the weir pocket they just fly a little
signal down by the shore, an' then the small
bo'ts comes and get enough an' over for their
trawls. There, look! there she is: mother
sees us; she 's wavin' something' out o' the
fore door! She 'll be to the landin'-place
quick's we are."
I looked, and could see a tiny flutter in
the doorway, but a quicker signal had made
its way from the heart on shore to the heart
on the sea.
"How do you suppose she knows it's
me?" said Mrs. Todd, with a tender smile
on her broad face. There, you never get
over bein' a child long's you have a mother
to go to. Look at the chimney, now; she's
gone right in an' brightened up the fire.
Well, there, I'm glad mother's well; you'll
enjoy seeing' her very much."
Mrs. Todd leaned back into her proper
position, and the boat trimmed again. She
took a firmer grasp of the sheet, and gave
an impatient look up at the gaff and the
leech of the little sail, and twitched the sheet
as if she urged the wind like a horse. There
came at once a fresh gust, and we seemed
to have doubled our speed. Soon we were
near enough to see a tiny figure with hand-
kerchiefed head come down across the field
and stand waiting for us at the cove above
a curve of pebble beach.
Presently the dory grated on the pebbles,
and Johnny Bowden, who had been kept in
abeyance during the voyage, sprang out and
used manful exertions to haul us up with the
next wave, so that Mrs. Todd could make a
b6 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
"You done that very well," she said,
mounting to her feet, and coming ashore
somewhat stiffly, but with great dignity,,re-
fusing our outstretched hands, and return-
ing to possess herself of a bag which had
lain at her feet.
"Well, mother, here I be she an.
nounced with indifference; but they stood
and beamed in each other's faces.
Lookin' pretty well for an old lady, ain't
she?" said Mrs. Todd's mother, turning
away from her daughter to speak to me.
She was a delightful little person herself,
with bright eyes and an affectionate air of
expectation like a child on a holiday. You
felt as if Mrs. Blackett were an old and
dear friend before you let go her cordial
hand. We all started together up the hill.
"Now don't you haste too fast, mother,"
said Mrs. Todd warningly; "'t is a far
reach o' risin' ground to the fore door, and
you won't set an' get your breath when
you're once there, but go trotting about.
Now don't you go a mite faster than we pro-
ceed with this bag an' basket. Johnny, there,
'11 fetch up the haddock. I just made one
stop to underrun William's trawl till I come
to jes' such a fish's I thought you 'd want to
GREEN ISLAND. 67
make one o' your nice chowders of. I've
brought an onion with me that was layin'
about on the window-sill at home."
"That's just what I was wantin'," said
the hostess. "I give a sigh when you
spoke o' chowder, known' my onions was out.
William forgot to replenish us last time he
was to the Landin'. Don't you haste so
yourself, Almiry, up this risin' ground. I
hear you commencin' to wheeze already."
This mild revenge seemed to afford great
pleasure to both giver and receiver. They
laughed a little, and looked at each other
affectionately, and then at me. Mrs. Todd
considerately paused, and faced about to re-
gard the wide sea view. I was glad to stop,
being more out of breath than either of my
companions, and I prolonged the halt by
asking the names of the neighboring islands.
There was a fine breeze blowing, which we
felt more there on the high land than when
we were running before it in the dory.
Why, this ain't that kitten I saw when
I was out last, the one that I said did n't ap-
pear likely? exclaimed Mrs. Todd as we
went our way.
"That's the one, Almiry," said her
mother. "She always had a likely look to
58 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
me, an' she 's right after her business. I
never see such a mouser for one of her age.
If 't wan't for William, I never should have
housed that other dronin' old thing so long;
but he sets by her on account of her having'
a bob tail. I don't deem it advisable to
maintain cats just on account of their hav-
in' bob tails; they're like all other curiosi-
ties, good for them that wants to see 'em
twice. This kitten catches mice for both,
an' keeps me respectable as I ain't been for
a year. She's a real understanding' little
help, this kitten is. I picked her from
among five Miss Augusta Pennell had over
to Burnt Island," said the old woman, trudg-
ing along with the kitten close at her skirts.
"Augusta, she says to me, 'Why, Mis'
Blackett, you've took the homeliest;' an'
says I, I've got the smartest; I'm satis-
"I'd trust nobody sooner 'n you to pick
out a kitten, mother," said the daughter
handsomely, and we went on in peace and
The house was just before us now, on a
green level that looked as if a huge hand
had scooped it out of the long green field
we had been ascending. A little way above,
GREEN ISLAND. 69
the dark spruce woods began to climb the
top of the hill and cover the seaward slopes
of the island. There was just room for the
small farm and the forest; we looked down
tt the fish-house and its rough sheds, and
the weirs stretching far out into the water.
As we looked upward, the tops of the firs
came sharp against the blue sky. There
was a great stretch of rough pasture-land
round the shoulder of the island to the east-
ward, and here were all the thick-scattered
gray rocks that kept their places, and the
gray backs of many sheep that forever wan-
dered and fed on the thin sweet pasturage
that fringed the ledges and made soft hol-
lows and strips of green turf like growing
velvet. I could see the rich green of bay-
berry bushes here and there, where the rocks
made room. The air was very sweet; one
could not help wishing to be a citizen of
such a complete and tiny continent and
home of fisherfolk.
The house was broad and clean, with a
roof that looked heavy on its low walls. It
was one of the houses that seem firm-rooted
in the ground, as if they were two-thirds
below the surface, like icebergs. The front
door stood hospitably open in expectation of
60 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
company, and an orderly vine grew at each
side; but our path led to the kitchen door
at the house-end, and there grew a mass of
gay flowers and greenery, as if they had
been swept together by some diligent garden
broom into a tangled heap: there were por-
tulacas all along under the lower step and
straggling off into the grass, and clustering
mallows that crept as near as they dared,
like poor relations. I saw the bright eyes
and brainless little heads of two half-grown
chickens who were snuggled down among
the mallows as if they had been chased
away from the door more than once, and ex-
pected to be again.
It seems kind o' formal coming' in this
way," said Mrs. Todd impulsively, as we
passed the flowers and came to the front
doorstep; but she was mindful of the pro-
prieties, and walked before us into the best
room on the left.
Why, mother, if you have n't gone an'
turned the carpet I" she exclaimed, with
something in her voice that spoke of awe
and admiration. When'd you get to it?
I s'pose Mis' Addicks come over an' helped
you, from White Island Landing?"
"No, she didn't," answered the old wo.
GREEN ISLAND. 61
man, standing proudly erect, and making
the most of a great moment. "I done it
all myself with William's help. He had a
spare day, an' took right holt with me; an'
't was all well beat on the grass, an' turned,
an' put down again afore we went to bed.
I ripped an' sewed over two o' them long
breadths. I ain't had such a good night's
sleep for two years."
"There, what do you think o' having'
such a mother as that for eighty-six year
old?" said Mrs. Todd, standing before us
like a large figure of Victory.
As for the mother, she took on a sudden
look of youth; you felt as if she promised a
great future, and was beginning, not ending,
her summers and their happy toils.
"My, my exclaimed Mrs. Todd. "I
could n't ha' done it myself, I 've got to
I was much pleased to have it off my
mind," said Mrs. Blackett, humbly; "the
more so because along at the first of the
next week I was n't very well. I suppose it
may have been the change of weather."
Mrs. Todd could not resist a significant
glance at me, but, with charming sympathy,
she forbore to point the lesson or to connect
62 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
this illness with its apparent cause. She
loomed larger than ever in the little old.
fashioned best room, with its few pieces of
good furniture and pictures of national inter-
est. The green paper curtains were stamped
with conventional landscapes of a foreign
order, -castles on inaccessible crags, and
lovely lakes with steep wooded shores;
under-foot the treasured carpet was covered
thick with home-made rugs. There were
empty glass lamps and crystallized bouquets
of grass and some fine shells on the narrow
"I was married in this room," said Mrs.
Todd unexpectedly; and I heard her give a
sigh after she had spoken, as if she could
not help the touch of regret that would
forever come with all her thoughts of hap-
We stood right there between the win-
dows," she added, "and the minister stood
here. William would n't come in. He was
always odd about seeing' folks, just's he is
now. I run to meet 'em from a child, an'
William, he'd take an' run away."
"I 've been the gainer," said the old
mother cheerfully. "William has been son
an' daughter both since you was married off
GREEN ISLAND. 63
the island. He's been 'most too satisfied to
stop at home 'long o' his old mother, but I
always tell 'em I 'm the gainer."
We were all moving toward the kitchen
as if by common instinct. The best room
was too suggestive of serious occasions, and
the shades were all pulled down to shut out
the summer light and air. It was indeed a
tribute to Society to find a room set apart
for her behests out there on so apparently
neighborless and remote an island. After-
noon visits and evening festivals must be
few in such a bleak situation at certain sea-
sons of the year, but Mrs. Blackett was of
those who do not live to themselves, and who
have long since passed the line that divides
mere self-concern from a valued share in
whatever Society can give and take. There
were those of her neighbors who never had
taken the trouble to furnish a best room,
but Mrs. Blackett was one who knew the
uses of a parlor.
"Yes, do come right out into the old
kitchen; I shan't make any stranger of you,"
she invited us pleasantly, after we had been
properly received in the room appointed to
formality. "I expect Almiry, here, '11 be
driftin' out'mongst the pasture-weeds quick's
64 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS~
she can find a good excuse. 'T is hot now.
You 'd better content yourselves till you get
nice an' rested, an' 'long after dinner the
sea-breeze 'll spring up, an' then you can
take your walks, an' go up an' see the pros-
pect from the big ledge. Almiry 'll want to
show off everything there is. Then I'll get
you a good cup o' tea before you start to go
home. The days are plenty long now."
While we were talking in the best room
the selected fish had been mysteriously
brought up from the shore, and lay all
cleaned and ready in an earthen crock on
I think William might have just stopped
an' said a word," remarked Mrs. Todd, pout-
ing with high affront as she caught sight of
it. He 's friendly enough when he comes
ashore, an' was remarkable social the last
time, for him."
"He ain't disposed to be very social with
the ladies," explained William's mother,
with a delightful glance at me, as if she
counted upon my friendship and tolerance.
"He's very particular, and he's all in his
old fishin'-clothes to-day. He '11 want me
to tell him everything you said and done,
after you've gone. William has very deep
GREEN ISLAND. 65
affections. He'll want to see you, Almiry.
Yes, I guess he 'll be in by an' by."
"I'll search for him by 'n' by, if he
don't," proclaimed Mrs. Todd, with an ail
of unalterable resolution. "I know all of
his burrows down 'long the shore. I '11 catch
him by hand 'fore he knows it. I've got
some business with William, anyway. I
brought forty-two cents with me that was
due him for them last lobsters he brought
"You can leave it with me," suggested
the little old mother, who was already step-
ping about among her pots and pans in the
pantry, and preparing to make the chowder,
I became possessed of a sudden unwonted
curiosity in regard to William, and felt that
half the pleasure of my visit would be lost
if I could not make his interesting ao.
MRs. TODD had taken the onion out of
her basket and laid it down upon the kitchen
table. "There's Johnny Bowden come with
us, you know," she reminded her mother.
"He '11 be hungry enough to eat his size."
"I've got new doughnuts, dear," said the
little old lady. "You don't often catch
William 'n' me out o' provisions. I expect
you might have chose a somewhat larger
fish, but I'll try an' make it do. I shall
have to have a few extra potatoes, but
there's a field full out there, an' the hoe's
leanin' against the well-house, in 'mongst the
climbin'-beans." She smiled, and gave her
daughter a commanding nod.
Land sakes alive! Le' 's blow the horn
for William," insisted Mrs. Todd, with some
excitement. "He need n't break his spirit
so far's to come in. He 'll know you need
him for something particular, an' then we
can call to him as he comes up the path. I
won't put him to no pain."
Mrs. Blackett's old face, for the first time,
wore a look of trouble, and I found it neces-
sary to counteract the teasing spirit of Al.
mira. It was too pleasant to stay indoors
altogether, even in such rewarding com-
panionship; besides, I might meet William;
and, straying out presently, I found the hoe
by the well-house and an old splint basket
at the woodshed door, and also found my
way down to the field where there was a
great square patch of rough, weedy potato-
tops and tall ragweed. One corner was
already dug, and I chose a fat-looking hill
where the tops were well withered. There is
all the pleasure that one can have in gold-
digging in finding one's hopes satisfied in
the riches of a good hill of potatoes. I
longed to go on; but it did not seem frugal
to dig any longer after my basket was full,
and at last I took my hoe by the middle
and lifted the basket to go back up the
hill. I was sure that Mrs. Blackett must be
waiting impatiently to slice the potatoes into
the chowder, layer after layer, with the
"You let me take holt o' that basket.
68 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
ma'am," said a pleasant, anxious voice
I turned, startled in the silence of the
wide field, and saw an elderly man, bent
in the shoulders as fishermen often are,
gray-headed and clean-shaven, and with a
timid air. It was William. He looked just
like his mother, and I had been imagining
that he was large and stout like his sister,
Almira Todd; and, strange to say, my fancy
had led me to picture him not far from
thirty and a little loutish. It was necessary
instead to pay William the respect due to
I accustomed myself to plain facts on the
instant, and we said good-morning like old
friends. The basket was really heavy, and
I put the hoe through its handle and offered
him one end; then we moved easily toward
the house together, speaking of the fine
weather and of mackerel which were re-
ported to be striking in all about the bay.
William had been out since three o'clock,
and had taken an extra fare of fish. I could
feel that Mrs. Todd's eyes were upon us as
we approached the house, and although I
fell behind in the narrow path, and let Wil.
liam take the basket alone and precede me
at some little distance the rest of the way, I
could plainly hear her greet him.
"Got round to coming' in, did n't you?"
she inquired, with amusement. Well, now,
that 's clever. Did n't know 's I should see
you to-day, William, an' I wanted to settle
I felt somewhat disturbed and responsi-
ble, but when I joined them they were on
most simple and friendly terms. It became
evident that, with William, it was the first
step that cost, and that, having once joined
in social interests, he was able to pursue
them with more or less pleasure. He was
about sixty, and not young-looking for his
years, yet so undying is the spirit of youth,
and bashfulness has such a power of sur-
vival, that I felt all the time as if one must
try to make the occasion easy for some one
who was young and new to the affairs of so-
cial life. He asked politely if I would like
to go up to the great ledge while dinner was
getting ready; so, not without a deep sense
of pleasure, and a delighted look of surprise
from the two hostesses, we started, William
and I, as if both of us felt much younger
than we looked. Such was the innocence
and simplicity of the moment that when I
TO COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
heard Mrs. Todd laughing behind us in the
kitchen I laughed too, but William did not
even blush. I think he was a little deaf,
and he stepped along before me most busi-
nesslike and intent upon his errand.
We went from the upper edge of the field
above the house into a smooth, brown path
among the dark spruces. The hot sun
brought out the fragrance of the pitchy
bark, and the shade was pleasant as we
climbed the hill. William stopped once or
twice to show me a great wasps'-nest close
by, or some fishhawks'-nests below in a bit
of swamp. He picked a few sprigs of late-
blooming linnuea as we came out upon an
open bit of pasture at the top of the island,
and gave them to me without speaking, but
he knew as well as I that one could not say
half he wished about linnaea. Through this
piece of rough pasture ran a huge shape of
stone like the great backbone of an enor-
mous creature. At the end, near the woods,
we could climb up on it and walk along to
the highest point; there above the circle of
pointed firs we could look down over all the
island, and could see the ocean that circled
this and a hundred other bits of island.
ground, the mainland shore and all the far
horizons. It gave a sudden sense of space,
for nothing stopped the eye or hedged one
in, that sense of liberty in space and time
which great prospects always give.
"There ain't no such view in the world,
I expect," said William proudly, and I has-
tened to speak my heartfelt tribute of praise:
it was impossible not to feel as if an un
traveled boy had spoken, and yet one loved
to have him value his native heath.
WHERE PENNYROYAL GREW.
WE were a little late to dinner, but Mrs.
Blackett and Mrs. Todd were lenient, and
we all took our places after William had
paused to wash his hands, like a pious Brah-
min, at the well, and put on a neat blue coat
which he took from a peg behind the kitchen
door. Then he resolutely asked a blessing
in words that I could not hear, and we ate
the chowder and were thankful. The kitten
went round and round the table, quite erect,
and, holding on by her fierce young claws,
she stopped to mew with pathos at each
elbow, or darted off to the open door when
a song sparrow forgot himself and lit in the
grass too near. William did not talk much,
but his sister Todd occupied the time and
told allIthe news there was to tell of Dunnet
Landing and its coasts, while the old mother
listened with delight. Her hospitality was
something exquisite; she had the gift which
WHERE PENNYROYAL GREW.
so many women lack, of being able to make
themselves and their houses belong entirely
to a guest's pleasure, that charming sur.
render for the moment of themselves and
whatever belongs to them, so that they make
a part of one's own life that can never be
forgotten. Tact is after all a kind. of mind-
reading, and my hostess held the golden
gift. Sympathy is of the mind as well as
the heart, and Mrs. Blackett's world and
mine were one from the moment we met.
Besides, she had that final, that highest
gift of heaven, a perfect self-forgetfulness.
Sometimes, as I watched her eager, sweet
old face, I wondered why she had been set
to shine on this lonely island of the north-
ern coast. It must have been to keep the
balance true, and make up to all her scat-
tered and depending neighbors for other
things which they may have lacked.
When we had finished clearing away the
old blue plates, and the kitten had taken
tare of her share of the fresh haddock, just
as we were putting back the kitchen chairs
in their places, Mrs. Todd said briskly that
she must go up into the pasture now to
gather the desired herbs.
"You can stop here an' rest, or you can
T4 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
accompany me," she announced. "Mother
ought to have her nap, and when we come
back she an' William '11 sing for you. She
admires music," said Mrs. Todd, turning to
speak to her mother.
But Mrs. Blackett tried to say that she
could n't.sing as she used, and perhaps Wil-
liam would n't feel like it. She looked
tired, the good old soul, or I should have
liked to sit in the peaceful little house while
she slept; I had had much pleasant experi-
ence of pastures already in her daughter's
company. But it seemed best to go with
Mrs. Todd, and off we went.
Mrs. Todd carried the gingham bag which
she had brought from home, and a small
heavy burden in the bottom made it hang
straight and slender from her hand. The
way was steep, and she soon grew breathless,
so that we sat down to rest awhile on a con-
venient large stone among the bayberry.
There, I wanted you to see this, 't is
mother's picture," said Mrs. Todd; "'t was
taken once when she was up to Portland, soon
after she was married. That's me," she
added, opening another worn case, and dis-
playing the full face of the cheerful child she
looked like still in spite of being past sixty.
WHERE PENNYROYAL GREW. 75
SAnd here 's William an' father together.
I take after father, large and heavy, an'
William is like mother's folks, short an'
thin. He ought to have made something o'
himself, bein' a man an' so like mother; but
though he 's been very steady to work, an'
kept up the farm, an' done his fishing' too
right along, he never had mother's snap an'
power o' seeing' things just as they be. He's
got excellent judgment, too," meditated Wil-
liam's sister, but she could not arrive at
any satisfactory decision upon what she evi-
dently thought his failure in life. I think
it is well to see any one so happy an' making'
the most of life just as it falls to hand," she
said as she began to put the daguerreotypes
away again; but I reached out my hand to
see her mother's once more, a most flower-
like face of a lovely young woman in quaint
dress. There was in the eyes a look of an-
ticipation and joy, a far-off look that sought
the horizon; one often sees it in seafaring
families, inherited by girls and boys alike
from men who spend their lives at sea, and
are always watching for distant sails or the
first loom of the land. At sea there is no-
thing to be seen close by, and this has its
counterpart in a sailor's character, in the
76 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
large and brave and patient traits that are
developed, the hopeful pleasantness that one
loves so in a seafarer.
When the family pictures were wrapped
again in a big handkerchief, we set forward
in a narrow footpath and made our way to
a lonely place that faced northward, where
there was more pasturage and fewer bushes,
and we went down to the edge of short grass
above some rocky cliffs where the deep sea
broke with a great noise, though the wind
was down and the water looked quiet a little
way from shore. Among the grass grew
such pennyroyal as the rest of the world
could not provide. There was a fine fra-
grance in the air as we gathered it sprig by
sprig and stepped along carefully, and Mrs.
Todd pressed her aromatic nosegay between
her hands and offered it to me again and
There 's nothing' like it," she said; oh
no, there's no such pennyr'yal as this in the
State of Maine. It 's the right pattern of
the plant, and all the rest I ever see is but
an imitation. Don't it do you good ?" And
I answered with enthusiasm.
There, dear, I never showed nobody else
but mother where to find this place; 't is
WHERE PENNYROYAL GREW. 77
kind of sainted to me. Nathan, my hus-
band, an' I used to love this place when we
was courtin', and she hesitated, and then
spoke softly -" when he was lost, 't was
just off shore trying' to get in by the short
channel out there between Squaw Islands,
right in sight o' this headland where we 'd
set an' made our plans all summer long."
I had never heard her speak of her hus-
band before, but I felt that we were friends
now since she had brought me to this place.
"'T was but a dream with us," Mrs.
Todd said. "I knew it when he was gone.
I knew it and she whispered as if she
were at confession -" I knew it afore he
started to go to sea. My heart was gone
out o' my keeping' before I ever saw Nathan;
but he loved me well, and he made me real
happy, and he died before he ever knew
what he 'd had to know if we 'd lived long to.
gether. 'T is very strange about love. No,
Nathan never found out, but my heart was
troubled when I knew him first. There 's
more women likes to be loved than there is
of those that loves. I spent some happy
hours right here. I always liked Nathan,
and he never knew. But this pennyr'yal
always reminded me, as I 'd sit and gather
78 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
it and hear him talkin'- it always would
remind me of the other one."
She looked away from me, and presently
rose and went on by herself. There was
something lonely and solitary about her
great determined shape. She might have
been Antigone alone on the Theban plain.
It is not often given in a noisy world to come
to the places of great grief and silence. An
absolute, archaic grief possessed this country-
woman; she seemed like a renewal of some
historic soul, with her sorrows and the re-
moteness of a daily life busied with rustic
simplicities and the scents of primeval herbs.
I was not incompetent at herb-gathering,
and after a while, when I had sat long enough
waking myself to new thoughts, and reading
a page of remembrance with new pleasure,
I gathered some bunches, as I was bound
to do, and at last we met again higher up
the shore, in the plain every-day world we
had left behind when we went down to the
pennyroyal plot. As we walked together
along the high edge of the field we saw a
hundred sails about the bay and farther sea-
ward; it was mid-afternoon or after, and the
day was coming to an end.
WHERE PENNYROYAL GREW. I7
Yes, they 're all making' towards the
shore, the small craft an' the lobster
smacks an' all," said my companion. "We
must spend a little time with mother now,
just to have our tea, an' then put for home."
"No matter if we lose the wind at sun.
down; I can row in with Johnny," said I;
and Mrs. Todd nodded reassuringly and kept
to her steady plod, not quickening her gait
even when we saw William come round the
corner of the house as if to look for us, and
wave his hand and disappear.
Why, William's right on deck; I did n't
know's we should see any more of him! "
exclaimed Mrs. Todd. Now mother '11 put
the kettle right on; she's got a good fire
goin'." I too could see the blue smoke
thicken, and then we both walked a little
faster, while Mrs. Todd groped in her full
bag of herbs to find the daguerreotypes and
be ready to put them in their places.
THE OLD SINGERS.
WILLIAM was sitting on the side door step,
and the old mother was busy making her
tea; she gave into my hand an old flowered-
William thought you'd like to see this,
when he was setting' the table. My father
brought it to my mother from the island of
Tobago; an' here's a pair of beautiful mugs
that came with it." She opened the glass
door of a little cupboard beside the chimney.
"These I call my best things, dear," she
said. "You'd laugh to see how we enjoy
'em Sunday nights in winter: we have a
real company tea 'stead o' livin' right along
just the same, an' I make something' good
for a s'prise an' put on some o' my preserves,
an' we get a-talkin' together an' have real
Mrs. Todd laughed indulgently, and looked
to see what I thought of such childishness.
THE OLD SINGERS. 31
"I wish I could be here some Sunday
evening," said I.
William an' me 'll be talking' about you
an' thinking' o' this nice day," said Mrs.
Blackett affectionately, and she glanced at
William, and he looked up bravely and
nodded. I began to discover that he and
his sister could not speak their deeper feel-
ings before each other.
"Now I want you an' mother to sing,"
said Mrs. Todd abruptly, with an air of
command, and I gave William much sym-
pathy in his evident distress.
"After I 've had my cup o' tea, dear,"
answered the old hostess cheerfully; and so
we sat down and took our cups and made
merry while they lasted. It was impossible
not to wish to stay on forever at Green
Island, and I could not help saying so.
I 'm very happy here, both winter an'
summer," said old Mrs. Blackett. William
an' I never wish for any other home, do we,
William? I 'm glad you find it pleasant;
I wish you'd come an' stay, dear, whenever
you feel inclined. But here 's Almiry; I
always think Providence was kind to plot an'
have her husband leave her a good house
where she really belonged. She'd been very
82 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
restless if she 'd had to continue here on
Green Island. You wanted more scope,
did n't you, Almiry, an' to live in a large
place where more things grew? Sometimes
folks wonders that we don't live together;
perhaps we shall some time," and a shadow
of sadness and apprehension flitted across
her face. "The time o' sickness an' failing'
has got to come to all. But Almiry 's got an
herb that's good for everything." She smiled
as she spoke, and looked bright again.
"There 's some herb that's good for
everybody, except for them that thinks
they 're sick when they ain't," announced
Mrs. Todd, with a truly professional air of
finality. "Come, William, let's have Sweet
Home, an' then mother 'll sing Cupid an' the
Bee for us."
Then followed a most charming surprise.
William mastered his timidity and began to
sing. His voice was a little faint and frail,
like the family daguerreotypes, but it was a
tenor voice, and perfectly true and sweet. I
have never heard Home, Sweet Home sung
as touchingly and seriously as he sang it;
he seemed to make it quite new; and when
he paused for a moment at the end of the
first line and began the next, the old mother
THE OLD SINGERS. 03
joined him and they sang together, she miss-
ing only the higher notes, where he seemed
to lend his voice to hers for the moment and
carry on her very note and air. It was the
silent man's real and only means of expres-
sion, and one could have listened forever,
and have asked for more and more songs of
old Scotch and English inheritance and the
best that have lived from the ballad music
of the war. Mrs. Todd kept time visibly,
and sometimes audibly, with her ample foot.
I saw the tears in her eyes sometimes, when
I could see beyond the tears in mine. But
at last the songs ended and the time came
to say good-by; it was the end of a great
Mrs. Blackett, the dear old lady, opened
the door of her bedroom while Mrs. Todd
was tying up the herb bag, and William had
gone down to get the boat ready and to blow
the horn for Johnny Bowden, who had
joined a roving boat party who were off the
I went to the door of the bedroom, and
thought how pleasant it looked, with its
pink-and-white patchwork quilt and the
brown unpainted paneling of its woodwork.
Come right in, dear," she said. I want
84 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
you to set down in my old quilted rocking .
chair there by the window; you 'll say it's
the prettiest view in the house. I set there
a good deal to rest me and when I want to
There was a worn red Bible on the light-
stand, and Mrs. Blackett's heavy silver-
bowed glasses; her thimble was on the nar-
row window-ledge, and folded carefully on
the table was a thick striped-cotton shirt
that she was making for her son. Those
dear old fingers and their loving stitches,
that heart which had made the most of
everything that needed love! Here was the
real home, the heart of the old house on
Green Island! I sat in the rocking-chair,
and felt that it was a place of peace, the
little brown bedroom, and the quiet outlook
upon field and sea and sky.
I looked up, and we understood each other
without speaking. I shall like to think o'
your setting' here to-day," said Mrs. Black-
ett. "I want you to come again. It has
been so pleasant for William."
The wind served us all the way home, and
did not fall or let the sail slacken until we
were close to the shore. We had a generous
freight of lobsters in the boat, and new po-
THE OLD FINGERS. 85
tatoes which William had put aboard, and
what Mrs. Todd proudly called a full "kag"
of prime number one salted mackerel; and
when we landed we had to make business
arrangements to have these conveyed to her
house in a wheelbarrow.
I never shall forget the day at Green
Island. The town of Dunnet Landing
seemed large and noisy and oppressive as
we came ashore. Such is the power of con-
trast; for the village was so still that I could
hear the shy whippoorwills singing that
night as I lay awake in my downstairs bed-
room, and the scent of Mrs. Todd's herb
garden under the window blew in again and
again with every gentle rising of the sea-
A STRANGE SAIL.
EXCEPT for a few stray guests, islanders
or from the inland country, to whom Mrs.
Todd offered the hospitalities of a single
meal, we were quite by ourselves all sum-
mer; and when there were signs of invasion,
late in July, and a certain Mrs. Fosdick ap-
peared like a strange sail on the far hori-
zon, I suffered much from apprehension. I
had been living in the quaint little house
with as much comfort and unconsciousness
as if it were a larger body, or a double shell,
in whose simple convolutions Mrs. Todd
and I had secreted ourselves, until some
wandering hermit crab of a visitor marked
the little spare room for her own. Perhaps
now and then a castaway on a lonely desert
island dreads the thought of being rescued.
I heard of Mrs. Fosdick for the first time
with a selfish sense of objection; but after
all, I was still vacation-tenant of the school.
A STRANGE SAIL. L 7
house, where I could always be alone, and
it was impossible not to sympathize with
Mrs. Todd, who, in spite of some prelimi-
nary grumbling, was really delighted with
the prospect of entertaining an old friend.
For nearly a month we received occa-
sional news of Mrs. Fosdick, who seemed to
be making a royal progress from house to
house in the inland neighborhood, after the
fashion of Queen Elizabeth. One Sunday
after another came and went, disappointing
Mrs. Todd in the hope of seeing her guest
at church and fixing the day for the great
visit to begin; but Mrs. Fosdick was not
ready to commit herself to a date. An as-
surance of some time this week" was not
sufficiently definite from a free-footed house-
keeper's point of view, and Mrs. Todd put
aside all herb-gathering plans, and went
through the various stages of expectation,
provocation, and despair. At last she was
ready to believe that Mrs. Fosdick must
have forgotten her promise and returned to
her home, which was vaguely said to be over
Thomaston way. But one evening, just as
the supper-table was cleared and "readied
up," and Mrs. Todd had put her large apron
over her head and stepped forth for an even.
88 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
ing stroll in the garden, the unexpected hap.
opened. She heard the sound of wheels, and
gave an excited cry to me, as I sat by the
window, that Mrs. Fosdick was coming right
up the street.
She may not be considerate, but she's
dreadful good company," said Mrs. Todd
hastily, coming back a few steps from the
neighborhood of the gate. "No, she ain't
a mite considerate, but there's a small lob-
ster left over from your tea; yes, it's a real
mercy there's a lobster. Susan Fosdick
might just as well have passed the compli-
ment o' coming' an hour ago."
"Perhaps she has had her supper," I
ventured to suggest, sharing the house-
keeper's anxiety, and meekly conscious of
an inconsiderate appetite for my own supper
after a long expedition up the bay. There
were so few emergencies of any sort at
Dunnet Landing that this one appeared
"No, she's rode 'way over from Nahum
Brayton's place. I expect they were busy
on the farm, and could n't spare the horse
in proper season. You just sly out an' set
the teakittle on again, dear, an' drop in a
good han'ful o' chips; the fire's all alive.
A STRANGE SAIL. 89
I'H take her right up to lay off her things,
an' she 'll be occupied with explanations an'
getting' her bunnit off, so you '11 have plenty
o' time, She's one I should n't like to have
find me unprepared."
Mrs. Fosdick was already at the gate, and
Mrs. Todd now turned with an air of com-
plete surprise and delight to welcome her.
"Why, Susan Fosdick," I heard her ex.
claim in a fine unhindered voice, as if she
were calling across a field, I come near giv-
ing of you up! I was afraid you'd gone
an' 'portioned out my visit to somebody else.
I s'pose you 've been to supper? "
"Lor', no, I ain't, Almiry Todd," said
Mrs. Fosdick cheerfully, as she turned, laden
with bags and bundles, from making her
adieux to the boy driver. "I ain't had a
mite o' supper, dear. I 've been lottin' all
the way on a cup o' that best tea o' yourn,
- some o' that Oolong you keep in the little
chist. I don't want none o' your useful
"I keep that tea for ministers' folks,"
gayly responded Mrs. Todd. "Come right
along in, Susan Fosdick. I declare if you
ain't the same old sixpence I "
As they came up the walk together, laugh.
90 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
ing like girls, I fled, full of cares, to the
kitchen, to brighten the fire and be sure that
the lobster, sole dependence of a late sup-
per, was well out of reach of the cat. There
proved to be fine reserves of wild raspber-
ries and bread and butter, so that I regained
my composure, and waited impatiently for
my own share of this illustrious visit to
begin. There was an instant sense of high
festivity in the evening air from the moment
when our guest had so frankly demanded
the Oolong tea.
The great moment arrived. I was for-
mally presented at the stair-foot, and the
two friends passed on to the kitchen, where
I soon heard a hospitable clink of crockery
and the brisk stirring of a tea-cup. I sat in
my high-backed rocking-chair by the win-
dow in the front room with an unreasonable
feeling of being left out, like the child who
stood at the gate in Hans Andersen's story.
Mrs. Fosdick did not look, at first sight,
like a person of great social gifts. She was
a serious-looking little bit of an old woman,
with a birdlike nod of the head. I had
often been told that she was the "best hand
in the world to make a visit," -as if to
visit were the highest of vocations; that
A STRANGE SAIL. W1
everybody wished for her, while few could
get her; and I saw that Mrs. Todd felt
a comfortable sense of distinction in being
favored with the company of this eminent
person who "knew just how." It was cer-
tainly true that Mrs. Fosdick gave both her
hostess and me a warm feeling of enjoyment
and expectation, as if she had the power of
social suggestion to all neighboring minds.
The two friends did not reappear for at
least an hour. I could hear their busy voices,
loud and low by turns, as they ranged from
public to confidential topics. At last Mrs.
Todd kindly remembered me and returned,
giving my door a ceremonious knock before
she stepped in, with the small visitor in her
wake. She reached behind her and took
Mrs. Fosdick's hand as if she were young
and bashful, and gave her a gentle pull for-
"There, I don't know whether you 're
goin' to take to each other or not; no, no-
body can't tell whether you '11 suit each
other, but I expect you '11 get along some
way, both having seen the world," said our
affectionate hostess. "You can inform Mis'
Fosdick how we found the folks out to Green
Island the other day. She's always been
92 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
well acquainted with mother. I 'll slip out
now an' put away the supper things an' set
ny bread to rise, if you '1 both excuse me.
You can come out an' keep me company
when you get ready, either or both." And
Mrs. Todd, large and amiable, disappeared
and left us.
Being furnished not only with a subject
of conversation, but with a safe refuge in
the kitchen in case of incompatibility, Mrs.
Fosdick and I sat down, prepared to make
the best of each other. I soon discovered
that she, like many of the elder women of
that coast, had spent a part of her life at
sea, and was full of a good traveler's curi-
osity and enlightenment. By the time we
thought it discreet to join our hostess we
were already sincere friends.
You may speak of a visit's setting in as
well as a tide's, and it was impossible, as
Mrs. Todd whispered to me, not to be pleased
at the way this visit was setting in; a new
impulse and refreshing of the social cur-
rents and seldom visited bays of memory
appeared to have begun. Mrs. Fosdick had
been the mother of a large family of sons
and daughters, sailors and sailors' wives,
- and most of them had died before her.
A STRANGE SAIL.
I soon grew more or less acquainted with
the histories of all their fortunes and mis-
fortunes, and subjects of an intimate nature
were no more withheld from my ears than if
I had been a shell on the mantelpiece. Mrs.
Fosdick was not without a touch of dignity
and elegance; she was fashionable in her
dress, but it was a curiously well-preserved
provincial fashion of some years back. In
a wider sphere one might have called her a
woman of the world, with her unexpected
bits of modern knowledge, but Mrs. Todd's
wisdom was an intimation of truth itself.
She might belong to any age, like an idyl of
Theocritus; but while she always understood
Mrs. Fosdick, that entertaining pilgrim could
not always understand Mrs. Todd.
That very first evening my friends plunged
into a borderless sea of reminiscences and
personal news. Mrs. Fosdick had been stay-
ing with a family who owned the farm
where she was born, and she had visited
every sunny knoll and shady field corner;
but when she said that it might be for the
last time, I detected in her tone something
expectant of the contradiction which Mrs.
Todd promptly offered.
94 COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.
"Almiry," said Mrs. Fosdick, with sad.
ness, you may say what you like, but I
am one of nine brothers and sisters brought
up on the old place, and we 're all dead but
"Your sister Dailey ain't gone, is she?
Why, no, Louisa ain't gone! exclaimed
Mrs. Todd, with surprise. "Why, I never
heard of that occurrence!"
"Yes 'm; she passed away last October,
in Lynn. She had made her distant home
in Vermont State, but she was making a
visit to her youngest daughter. Louisa was
the only one of my family whose funeral I
was n't able to attend, but 't was a mere
accident. All the rest of us were settled
right about home. I thought it was very
slack of 'em in Lynn not to fetch her to the
old place; but when I came to hear about
it, I learned that they 'd recently put up a
very elegant monument, and my sister Dailey
was always great for show. She'd just been
out to see the monument the week before she
was taken down, and admired it so much
that they felt sure of her wishes."
"So she 's really gone, and the funeral
was up to Lynn I" repeated Mrs. Todd, as
if to impress the sad fact upon her mind.
A STRANGE SAIL. 95
SShe was some years younger than we be,
too. I recollect the first day she ever came
to school; 't was that first year mother sent
me inshore to stay with aunt Topham's folks
and get my schooling. You fetched little
Louisa to school one Monday morning' in a
pink dress an' her long curls, and she set
between you an' me, and got cryin' after a
while, so the teacher sent us home with her
"She was scared of seeing so many chil-
dren about her; there was only her and me
and brother John at home then; the older
boys were to sea with father, an' the rest of
us wa'n't born," explained Mrs. Fosdick.
"That next fall we all went to sea together.
Mother was uncertain till the last minute, as
one may say. The ship was waiting orders,
but the baby that then was, was born just
in time, and there was a long spell of extra
bad weather, so mother got about again be-
fore they had to sail, an' we all went. I
remember my clothes were all left ashore
in the east chamber in a basket where
mother'd took them out o' my chist o'
drawers an' left 'em ready to carry aboard.
She did n't have nothing aboard, of her own,
that she wanted to cut up for me, so when