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NATALIE;

or,

A GEM AMONG THE SEA-WEEDS

By

FERNA VALE.

1859.



To thee, my darling Hattie, I dedicate the Sea-Flower
would that this casket contained for such as thou,
a purer gem.




PREFACE.


In writing the following pages the author has spent pleasant hours,
which perhaps might have been less profitably employed: if anything of
interest be found among them, it is well, - and, should any be led to
take up their Cross in meekness and humility, searching out the path
that leads the wanderer home, it is indeed well.






NATALIE.




CHAPTER I.


THE SEA-FLOWER.


"What was it that I loved so well about my childhood's home?
It was the wide and wave-lashed shore, the black rocks crowned with foam!
It was the sea-gull's flapping wing, all trackless in its flight,
Its screaming note, that welcomed on the fierce and stormy night!
The wild heath had its flowers and moss, the forest had its trees,
Which, bending to the evening wind, made music in the breeze;
But earth, - ha! ha! I laugh e'en now, - earth had no charms for me,
Nor scene half bright enough to win my young heart from the sea.
No! 't was the ocean, vast and deep, the fathomless, the free, -
The mighty rushing waters, that were ever dear to me!"

ELIZA COOK.


"But the goodly pearl which the merchant bought,
And for which his all he gave,
Was a purer pearl than will e'er be brought
From under the FOAMING wave."

H. F. GOULD.


"Massa Grobener! Massa Grobener! Please, sar, look here! De good Lord
hab left his mitest ob angels here on de beach; and please, sar, step
low or de wee bit will take to its wings and fly away. De good Lord be
praised! but old Bingo hab found many a bright sea-weed in his day, but
dis am de sweetest sea-flower ob de whole."

And as he spoke, the little one stretched out its tiny arms toward the
poor old black man and gave a faint moan. Captain Grosvenor, who had now
come up with the negro, was no less surprised than had been old Vingo,
at discovering, among the fresh, bright sea-weed, an infant some eight
months old. The babe was carefully lashed into a large wooden trough or
bowl, and a canvas firmly stretched over the top, permitting only the
head and arms to remain exposed, and judging from the dripping condition
of the worthy little sea-craft, it could not have been many moments
since it had come to anchor on the smooth, hard beach; probably the now
receding waves had borne the precious burden to this most welcome
harbor - "whereby hangs a tale."

"De good Lord be praised, massa! but dis am de most curous ob all
sea-ve'cles that eber trabers de great waters! I sure it must be a
speint from de great scripture ark massa read about in de good book; or
may be it am one ob those old-time chariots, fiery chariots, we sings
about; only it so moist around here, it put de fire all out and leabe de
chariot. Or I tink it may be one ob dose machines Bingo used to see in
old slabe-massa's church, hung up ober de minister's head, to make de
good psalms or de prayers go de right way, and I don't remember which;
old Bingo always retained a bery bad memory, eber since before he was a
child; but I tink dey used to call it a sound board, though it was full
ob cracks."

Ah! poor fellow, had you seen that heart-rending look of despair,
mingled with sweet resignation, upon the face of that mother! had you
seen the glistening tear in the eye of that noble father, as, but a few
hours before, they consigned their idolized child to the mercies of the
deep; had you heard that prayer to God, if it might be his will, to
spare their darling from an ocean-grave, your great heart would have
been, if possible, kindled to a greater love for that helpless
little one!

Captain Grosvenor, after having carefully taken the child from the
grotesque looking craft, which had proved so trustworthy a sailor, and
wiped the drops of spray from its little face, wrapped it in a large
bandana, and gave it to the faithful Vingo, while he took his glass and
scanned the distant horizon; for well did he know, though even at
noon-day, that one more unfortunate bark had gone down near that dread
"Nantucket shoal," upon which so many noble hearts have found a watery
grave. "I see nothing," said the Captain, "nothing, not even a passing
sail; which is quite uncommon at this season, when so many vessels are
constantly passing and repassing our island; not even the light-boat do
I see, which is probably owing to a fog coming in from the sea, as yet
imperceptible to us here. Poor fellows! I fear they have gone down
without a soul to help them! It seems hard when there are so many stout
hearts and ready arms here, willing to risk their lives in the attempt
to save. Those shoals, Vingo, are the only unkind thing there is about
our cherished island; but the will of God be done. Truly his ways are
unsearchable."

"Den you tinks, massa, dis little sea-flower was left here trough
mistake, by de Lord?"

"It most assuredly was left here by the Lord, Vingo, but not by
mistake. The fact is, my boy, there has been a wreck off to the east
south-east of the island; probably some vessel has mistaken her
bearings, or, being unacquainted with the coast, has run on to the
shoals and gone to pieces; and this infant was made fast to the first
floatable object that could be found, and with a mother's dying prayer
for a rudder, and the hand of Him who guides us all at the helm, she has
come to us here; and with eyes of heaven's own blue, she silently asks
for that protection which shall not be withheld from her so long as it
shall be within my power to give. And now, Vingo, boy, you may turn the
horse's head for the town."

"Yes, massa."

And though some fifty years had passed over the old negro's head, he
sprang with the agility of boyhood's days; although, as the poor fellow
often remarked, "he had a wonderful constitution for enduring rest," the
thought of his good missus's surprise, when she should learn of their
morning's adventure, gave him new life, and he fairly danced about the
beach for joy. Seated in the spring-cart, Captain Grosvenor took the
babe in his arms, that had now fallen into a quiet sleep, while Vingo,
perching himself first on one foot and then the other, to keep his
balance, gathered up the reins, and all started for home.

"I am tinking, massa, dat my missus be quite ober-much-come at de sight
of dis little sea-flower."

"Yes, boy; yes, sea-flower indeed. I have travelled the wide world from
stem to stern, but never have I met with such an emblem of innocence
before." And though the hardy sea-captain had spent the greater part of
his life among the whales, he stooped down and pressed his lips to the
brow of the unconscious sleeper.

"Luff off there a little, Vingo; keep to the right; these bare commons
are not the easiest grounds to ride over, though with a light
spring-cart like this one can navigate with some degree of comfort. The
broad ocean is the place, after all. Give me the old ship Tantalizer,
and I am at home. Take the glass, Vingo, and see if you can make out
whether the steamboat is in sight or not."

"Cannot eben make de staff, massa. Ah! now I sees him; de flag is up,
old Massachusetts am in sight."

"She will be in early to-day. Travels decently fast, considering she is
all out of joint. I hope we shall get a new steamer some day; then we
may keep posted with what is going on in the outer world."

"Yes, massa, people tink we a piece ob de continent den."

An hour's ride brought our worthy captain to his own door, where stood
Mrs. Grosvenor, with her son Harry, their only child, of seven years,
awaiting him.

"You have made a long stay at the shore this morning, my husband; but if
these little excursions will deter you from making a longer voyage, I
will not complain."

"Yes, wife, yes; but for a peace offering I have brought to you a gem
from among the sea-weeds."

"My dear husband, where can you have found this child?" and tears were
in the eyes of the lady as she received the little unknown from
his arms.

"Is it for you? to be yours, mother? Mother, may it stay with us here?"
asked Harry; and in his delight he stumbled over old Neptune, who was
stretched at full length upon the floor, and the two went rolling over
and over, first one up and then the other, till finally the boy came off
victorious, seated astride the animal's back, who marched up to Mrs.
Grosvenor's side, where they both remained, eyeing the little stranger
in silence.

"The child's dress denotes no common birth," remarked the Captain, as
his lady disrobed it of its rich lace dress, saturated with the salt
seawater. "And the gold bands; are there no marks? - nothing, by which we
may gain the least clue of its history?"

"I see nothing; and it is well; for my heart already yearns towards the
little creature, and in my selfish human nature, I can't but hope that
we may be able to keep her for our own." And as she spoke she pressed
the clasp of the band, and, behold! the miniature likeness of a lady was
brought to view. The foster mother gazed upon those features, as if it
were the face of an angel.

"I cannot have the heart to wish to retain _her_ child! To deprive that
mother of anything that can give her pain to lose. Would I could ask her
to forgive my cruel thoughts; forgive the desire to retain this her gem.
But I know she has gone to her home in the skies; she was too pure for
earth. Yes, this must be the mother, the child is so like her."

"The same features, the same expression; and," said the Captain, "I will
use every means of finding out if there is one left of that ill-fated
crew to tell the tale. It will probably be reported in a few days, if
there are any missing vessels, either from our coasts or foreign ports.
In the meantime I will take care to have this discovery registered at
head-quarters, and then if we can discover no trace of her parentage we
may have her for our own."

"Have her for our own! Nep, do you hear that? We are to have a new
sister!" shouted the boy; and Nep, as if comprehending his young
master's words, laid his great honest face on the feet of the child, and
caressed her.

"Please, missus, don't make little Sea-flower too fresh; she be pining
for de sea;" remarked Vingo, as Mrs. Grosvenor proceeded to bathe the
child in cool fresh water; and having brought out the baby-clothes worn
by Harry, she was soon, by the aid of a little new milk, made
comfortable, and, creeping down after old Nep, sat with her hands
buried in his shaggy coat, crowing with delight. The lights at Captain
Grosvenor's burned long into the night of that eventful day, of the
discovery of the Sea-flower, while he related to his wife how they had
found the little one among the sea-weeds, and in forming plans for her
future adoption, should nothing be learned of her parentage, and no
friends come to claim the child.

Soon after the commencement of our story, a fearful storm swept the New
England coast. 'Twould seem as if the rage of the storm-king knew no
bounds; and many hearts there were made desolate in that
long-to-be-remembered September gale. Fragments of wrecks came ashore on
different parts of the island, together with casks, chests, rigging,
stoven boats, etc., which were picked up in various places, and by
various characters. Some would watch eagerly for these trophies of
destruction, and with grasping hand seize upon them, viewing the storm
as sent for their own particular benefit; increasing their worldly
goods, regardless of others' woes. While some there were, who turned
away with a heart sick at the scene of devastation, yet submissively
bowing to His will, "who holds the waters in his hand." Wreck upon wreck
was reported. The total loss of vessels from all parts of the world was
very great, which only served to increase the mystery in regard to the
unknown, which went down 'neath a calm noon-day sky. Days and months
passed on, and still no tidings; till finally they came to look upon the
loved one as their own.

The child grew in strength and beauty, and was a source of great
amusement to them all. Old Vingo would delight to make one of his
"squantums," as he called it, to the shore; and with master Harry, who
was now taking his first lessons in driving, (a point once attained,
boyhood thinks to gain no higher) and Sea-flower in his arms; with Nep,
who is determined to be "head horse," bounding off in the distance, is
happiness enough for the negro, and his white teeth glisten in the
bright sunshine like so many African pearls, as he jabbers away to
Sea-flower, as if she were comprehending the whole. But 'twas enough for
Vingo, that she in reply to his half hour's remarks, would put out her
hand toward the blue waters, and with eyes dilated with wonderment,
would say, "Tee! Indo, Tee!"

There on the beach they would have a fine race with the surf, Vingo
following with the child the receding wave, and then, as it came in with
a roar from the sea, he would run as if pursued by a foe, sometimes the
spray dashing up all around them, much to the joy of the Sea-flower, her
merry laugh according strangely with the music of the waters. Harry
amused himself for a while, throwing the bits of drift-wood into the
water, that he might see old Newfoundland dash in and combat with the
waves, to secure the prize, which he never failed to do; but wearying of
this, he came and took his seat by the side of his sister, and commenced
whittling diligently on an old piece of plank.

"Vingo, do you think my father will ever go to sea again?"

"I don't know, young massa; but why you tink ob dat?"

"O, I have often thought I would like to go with my father away over the
great ocean. I long to see more of the world; and I often think of the
time when I shall be a man, and have a ship of my own. I never hear of
a ship arrived at the bar, but it sends a thrill of delight over me, and
I watch the sailors as they come on shore after a three years' voyage,
and think how happy they must be, though they look as if they had met
with the rubbers. O, I know I shall be a sailor boy! there is something
noble about the very name."

"Missus be berry sorry to hear you talk so," said Vingo.

"I know my mother would be very sorry to have me go to sea, for I
remember how sad she looked for many days after father went away, though
I was but a little boy. And I remember my father took me in his arms,
and told me I must be a good boy, and take care of mother until he came
back. But now you would be here, Vingo, to see that my mother knew
no want."

"Yes, de good Lord be praised for sending good massa Grobener to take me
away from old slabe massa. I gets so filled wid liberty sometimes, dat I
mistakes myself for white man."

"Well, you are as good as a white man, any day; but tell me, Vingo, if
you have ever been much on the water?"

"Not a great deal; I used to take old massa wid his children out for a
sail sometimes, and den I hab a slight recollection ob being brought
from a great way off; but dat must hab been before I come to be berry
great. De pleasantest sail I eber take was when I leabe old Berginny in
de good Tantalizer; and I swings my hat at old slabe massa on de bank,
and asks him if he don't wish he as free as dis individual. Dat was but
a few years ago; den you wear little dress like Sea-flower, and now you
talk 'bout going to sea! Well, dat am de way wid you sea-fish here."

As the three sat on the beach, enjoying the morning breeze, Harry
observed a gentleman not far off, who appeared to be taking sketches of
the scenery around, and occasionally would give a glance towards where
our little party were sitting, somewhat to the disquietude of Nep, who
came and stood sentinel, as much as to say, "I will protect you;" but
finding the stranger disposed to do them no harm, he composed himself
for a nap. The whittling process being now finished, Harry produced what
he termed a "two-master," the which, Vingo declared it would be no sin
to worship, as it was not in the likeness of anything.

"She is not a very polished looking craft, to be sure, but I know she
is a sailer, for all that. At any rate, she shall be of some service;"
and he seized old Nep by the ear, and making fast his dogship to the
little ark, he carefully seated the Sea-flower at the helm, and with
Vingo's rainbow bandana flying from the mast-head, they were soon under
full headway. Either Nep being proud of his charge, or the little one
mistaking the thoughtful face, lit up with the glow of enthusiasm, of
the stranger, for a beacon light; they came up with him, who called to
Harry to join them.

"What is your name, my son?"

"Harry Grosvenor, sir," answered the boy, drawing himself up to his full
height.

"And what have you here?" added he. "I suppose you came along as
supercargo; pray tell me with what are you freighted?"

"The Sea-flower is my only freight, sir."

"And God grant that you may always find as valuable! but tell me, is
this angelic child your sister?"

"Yes, sir, my sister, and we all love her very much; we could not be
without her, for we might forget to thank our Father for his kindness
to us, if we had no Sea-flower to remind us of Heaven."

"So young, and can appreciate so rare a gift," mused the gentleman;
"childhood, indeed, is the first to discover purity;" and the eye of the
stranger grew moist, and the melancholy smile which sat upon his
countenance gave place to the shadows of grief. "What is the child's
name?" asked he.

"We call her Sea-flower, sir."

"'Tis a peculiar, sweet name; but has she no other?"

"We have always called her by that name. Mother says she came to us from
God, and he loves the little flowers; he smiles upon each one, as it
holds up its little head, all shining with pearly tears wept by the
stars. But do you not love my sister? I did not think she could make
you sad."

"Yes, yes, my son; take good care of her, be a true brother to her,
ever. Many long years have passed since my own little Natalie played in
my arms, but they are gone;" and the kind gentleman gathered his
sketching instruments to depart.

That night, as Mrs. Grosvenor talked with her children, as was her wont,
of the good Father who loves us all, Harry related the interview with
the stranger gentleman; and in the prayer which followed he was not
forgotten. The Sea-flower folded her tiny hands meekly, while from the
windows of her soul went up the love she could not speak. As that
faithful mother sat meditating upon the story of Harry in regard to the
stranger, which she had related to her husband, Captain Grosvenor
remarked, - "It is just one year to-day when our dear child came to us,
being also my birthday; but instead of adding a year to my life, it
seems to me old Father time has made a mistake, and made a deduction of
a year. Just one year to-day, and she is the Sea-flower still. Yes, she
will ever be the Sea-flower to us; yet I suppose she must have a name
more in keeping with the ideas of the world. What was the name of the
lost one the sad gentleman mused of?"

"He spoke of the long time ago, before his own Natalie had gone."

"Poor man! Each life must have its portion of bitterness. Natalie, - I
like the sound; it reminds me of my home on the waters. With your
consent, my wife, the Christian name of the child shall be Natalie, for
she came to us from the sea."




CHAPTER II.


THE ISLAND HOME.


"Long may this ocean-gem be bright,
And long may it be fair,
In Freedom's pure and blessed light,
And Virtue's hallowed air!
While still across its ocean bound,
Shall e'er be borne the truthful sound,
Our island home! our island home!
We love our island home!"

MRS. J. H. HANAFORD.


"And yet that isle remaineth,
A refuge for the free,
As when true-hearted Macy
Beheld it from the sea.
God bless the sea-beat island!
And grant for evermore,
That Charity and Freedom dwell,
As now, upon the shore!"

J. G. WHITTIER.


Gentle reader, pause a little, and let us for a few moments turn our
thoughts toward that Island of the sea, upon which it was the fate of
our heroine, through the guidance of a divine providence, to find a home
in the bosoms of those whose hearts' beatings were of love for our
unknown. Yea, love ever encircleth purity.

Properly, this chapter, descriptive of the Island of Nantucket, should
have been our first; but had that been the case, alas, for the simple
tale of Natalie! How many would have passed it by with but one thought,
and that thought invariably, - Nantucket! pooh! a fish story, strikingly
embellished with ignorance. And you may indeed discover in the
feebleness of my unpretending pen, much that is food for critics; yet
give not a thought of ridicule to Nantucket's favored ones, for it is
not for me to enlist under her banner of superiority of intellect. To
the many questions which I know you have it in your heart to ask, as
touching the civilization, etc., of these islanders, I do not reply, as
I might be tempted under other circumstances to do, that it would be
advisable to procure a passport before landing on those shores, lest one
might stand in danger of being harpooned by the natives; but rather let
me, in as correct a light as I may, set forth to those who have
heretofore known but little of those who inhabit that triangular bit of
land in the wide ocean, which, when we were six year olds, we passed
over on our maps with the thought, I wonder if they have Sundays there.

Situated nearly one hundred miles, in a south-easterly course from the
city of Boston, and about thirty miles from the nearest point of main
land, Nantucket lifts her proud head from out the broad Atlantic, whose
waters, even when lashed to madness, have been kind to her. And now, on
this oppressive July morning, let us throw aside our cares, and come out
from our daily round of duties, where we have been scaling with our eyes
the tall brick barriers which shut out God's beautiful blue sky and
sunshine. Yes, let us off, anywhere, to get one glimpse of Nature. On
board the good steamer "Island Home," a two hours' sail carries us over
that distance which separates Cape Cod from Nantucket. If you have not
passed most of your days among the Connecticut hills, you pay little
attention to that "green-eyed monster," who considers it a part of his
duty to prepare the uninitiated for the good time coming. Arrived at the
bar, which stretches itself across the entrance to the harbor, our
first impressions take to themselves the forms of sundry venerable
windmills, church spires and towers, representing various orders of
architecture; but that which strikes us most is the scarcity of
shipping, not more than a dozen vessels lying at the wharves. In former
times Nantucket numbered as many whaleships belonging to her port, as
did any town on our seaboard. Indeed, she was built up from the produce
of the ocean, and carried the palm for years as being first among the
American whale fisheries; but her number has dwindled away, till not
one-fourth of those homeward-bound ships are destined for the port of
Nantucket.

The town, we find, is situated on the northern shore of the island, at
the harbor's head. The houses are compact, and most of them built of
wood, with little regard to beauty; though some few residences there
are, of modern style, which do credit to their designers; but the
greater number speak only of antiquity, with their shingled sides; and
you will rarely see a house that has not a "walk" upon its roof, with
which they could by no means dispense, as in case of ship-wreck near
the island, the roofs of the whole town will be alive with men, women,
and children, spyglass in hand. Besides the town there are but one or
two small villages, "Polpis," and the far-famed "Siaconset," or
"Sconset," as it is usually termed, - numbering some four dozen houses.
This village is seven and one-half miles from the town, affording a
delightful place of recreation for families from town, who, as the
summer holidays come round, harness up old Dobbin, and prepare for a six
weeks' "siesta." If, by reason of the great financial pressure, you find
you have not sufficient pocket-money to take you for a short tour to
Europe, come to "Sconset;" it is a glorious place! take a stroll along
that grand old beach, and watch the moon rise from out the ocean; then
go to your comfortable seven-by-nine lodgings, which seems like a


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