William Henry Winslow.

The sea letter : a mystery of Martha's Vineyard online

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island lies in the mouth, and there are two islands
outside with a narrow passage between them The
inner island and one of the outer ones, however.


bear but one name, William's Island, signifying
they are connected at low water, as the chart shows,
and the other one is Merrit's Island. This cannot
be the place, and we may dismiss it and all that
vast area of water with the three hundred and sixty-
five islands included in Casco Bay. There isn't an
arrangement in it to suit the description, and there
is no use wasting time upon it."

Delano looked over the chart carefully and
acquiesced in the captain's decision with reluctance
and astonishment and said, " I should have sailed
into most of those reaches, had you left it to my
judgment, but the chart forbids."

'' It would have taken you all winter to do it,
sir ; such a cruise would be fine in the summer."

" Yes, if one could take all his friends along."

" Here is the chart from White Head to Cape
Small Point at the entrance of Casco. All clear
to the Kennebec River, and those cruisers never
went into that boisterous, tidal, treacherous hole.
Look at Sheepscot, along, narrow, salt-water sound
all the way to Wiscasset — It nearly cuts the state
in two pieces, and the Damiriscotta is almost as

" Wonderful waterways ; I never noticed them
critically before this time."

" Old Pemaquid Point, Muscongus Bay, St.
George's River — nothing to White Head."

" You are navigating more than ten knots an
hour. Captain."














" We have to — it is almost time for grub.
Here's Penobscot Bay, east and west, and not an
opening to fit along the mainland, or among the
islands. Can you see anything promising a sound
and a cave .? '*

" Not a cave ! It is rather discouraging. We
have nearly finished the Maine coast."

*' Perhaps the cave is a humbug.'*

" No, I don't believe that ; a drowning man
would not perpetrate such a fake."

" Well ; perhaps there were not any drown-
ing men and sinking ship, and some person along
the shore fixed up the message."

" Curses on him, if he did ! Such work is
too villianous to suppose. Here is the eastern
chart, Passamaquoddy Bay to Schoodic Head, in-
cluding the bays and Moos-a-bec Reach."

" Pretty long stretch of wild, rocky, beautiful
coast, Captain. I made a cruise east and west the
whole length one September, and never had such
a racket before in my life. Between the head
winds, head tides and dense fogs every day, we
lost a month, and came near total wreck several
times. They say down-east, * the fog is dry and
not unhealthy.' Pshaw ! you could wash your
face in it. We washed down decks with the
drippings. I swore I would never go east of
Schoodic again unless to attack Halifax."

They studied the chart for some time in
silence. At last, Delano blurted out, *' It's no


use ! I cannot find the combination. This busi-
ness reminds me of working out an enigma : We
find a sound with an island in the mouth of it, but
there are not any islands outside with a narrow
passage between. We find two islands outside
with a narrow passage between, and there isn't
any island in the mouth of the sound ; then, the
islands are all right, and the sound turns out to be
a bay or long river — Let's give it up. Captain."

" Not until we have finished. There doesn't
seem to be any place on this chart to agree with
the description. We have the last chart, the Mt.
Desert section, from Schoodic Head to Naskeag
Point, including Union Hill and Frenchman's Bays.
You have some knowledge of those waters 1 "

"I reckon I have, Captain; I have sailed en-
tirely around Mt. Desert, and up and down those
bays many times. I have anchored in every har-
bor, cove and channel, and fished and sailed every-
where there."

"And you don't happen to know or see any
place like the description .?"

'T'm blessed if I do!"

"Well, neither do I, By Thunder ! "

" Too bad ! too bad ! I was anticipating such a
fine cruise."

" So was I. You must have had good times

" I did, that's a fact ! The winds are fierce, the
waters rough, the rocks plenty, and summer re-


sorts closed the first of September, but there is a
crispness in the air, a brightness in the sunhght, a
blueness in the sea, and an excitement in avoiding
dangers and batthng with the gales positively de-

"You talk like an old-salt."

" I wish often I was one ; I take so much de-
light in adventure and danger."

"Kind of mountainous on Mt. Desert .''"

"Yes, they call hills, mountains — they are all
less than two thousand feet high. Splendid views
from the top of Green Mountain — You can see
blue water in every direction. The inlets and is-
lands are like a map at your feet ; Eagle Lake,
Somes Sound and Southwest Harbor shine far be-
low, and the vessels resemble toy boats sailing

"Say, Delano, let me see that copy: * Great
hole in ledge — See arrows in ledge pointing to-
wards it — A cross on face of cliff to the north' —
That looks like ledges along shore and pretty high
land around."

"The shores are more than half ledges, and
quite elevated upon the southern and eastern sides."

"Are the harbors safe in all gales.?"

" Bar Harbor is liable to be rough, but South-
west Harbor is comfortable and safe. I used to
anchor there and go over to Bar Harbor on a buck-
board. It is a fine drive by way of Somesville
through the mountains. "


" It looks that way on the chart. Isn't South-
west rough in easterhes ? "

** Rarely — vessels have dragged ashore there,
but it is often the skipper's fault. He can make a
lee if he wishes — get behind an island, run up
Somes Sound, or over to the Cranberry Islands.
The last is easiest, and well sheltered — with two
islands having a narrow passage between them. "

*' Hm ! yes ; five feet in the shallowest part at
low tide. A vessel might get through at high tide
all right."

" Surely ! Fishermen go in and out through it.
A schooner was caught inside of Baker's Island,
with Little Cranberry under her lee, in a heavy
southeast gale, and, when the crew had given up in
despair, the big seas lifted and carried her over the
bar and up the harbor. "

"Up the harbor.?"

*'Yes; I suppose past Greening's Island on
the east side into Somes Sound. A nor' west course
would take her straight in. Don't you see it.''"
said Delano, as he laid a ruler upon the chart in the
direction of the compass point.

"But that island lies in the mouth of the
sound. By Jupiter ! Delano, look at it ! " yelled the
captain, as he sprang to his feet. " *An island lies
in mouth of sound — two islands outside with
narrow passage between' — the very description ! "

Delano straightened up, looked at the captain,
and gave a sharp whistle. The captain bent over


the chart, moved the parallel rulers again and veri-
fied the course. His hands trembled, he was as
eager as a school-boy, and could hardly believe his
senses. Delano leaned upon the table and watched
the operation. They looked at each other, at the
chart, then at each other again in blank astonish-
ment. At last, Delano slapped his hand into the
captain's and they shook hands heartily.

"Well, if we haven't been blind and dull!"
ejaculated the captain scornfully.

"I should say so!" replied Delano. ''Right
under our noses, and we couldn't see any more than
a Mammoth Cave bat in the sun."

They were silent for a few moments, then the
captain said, 'Tt strikes me that the sound is a
likely place to hunt for the cave. How are its

"Ledgy and high; the mountains rise from
the shores, with here and there a ravine and a foot-
hill. The sound is a narrow passage of deep blue
water between the mountains, where sudden gusts
and changes of wind make sailing dangerous.
When I sailed up to Somesville, we were obliged to
dodge the mainboom and watch the sheets all the
time. The grand scenery and good dinners at the
hotel amply repaid us for the perilous navigation."

"Where there are mountains, there must be
cliffs," observed the captain dryly, his mind evi-
dently intent upon the secret cave.

"O, there are plenty of them."


" One cliff to the north must have a cross up-
on it?"


"What do you think now, Delano?"

"Think now? I'm going to find that cave be-
fore snow flies, and you are going to help me."

"Much obliged — but you mean the sound ?"

"I mean both cave and sound. The cave
must be there or nowhere."

"Aye! aye! that's my idea too."

" Great Caesar! it's two o'clock."

"Whew! what will Alice say?"

The captain rolled up the charts in a jiffy,
took them across the hall to his sitting-room, and
Delano went to the hotel to dinner. Both men
were highly elated over the result of their morn-
ing's work.


A large steamboat came to the wharf at the
foot of the hill one morning, crowded with people
from adjacent resorts, and bound upon an excursion
to Gay Head. The friends could not resist the
bright flags and the music of the band, and joined
the throng upon the upper deck. Jack staggered
after them loaded with bundles and parasols, and
said, " If I'm to be pack-mule, I'll have to have a
cinch." The harbor lay in a fleecy mist and the
sea sparkled and foamed in the steamer's wake. A
cloud of vessels was going over Nantucket Shoals,
and a cluster of tide-bound sails filled Tarpaulin
Cove. The chops were yellow and green, and a
lot of *'old hookers" lay at anchor between the
boat and the distant bridge. Falmouth Heights
loomed up across the sound and a train with a trail
of smoke was running from Woods Hole to Nobska;
the morning boat was entering Buzzards Bay, near
Naushon; and the broad sound was dotted with
sail. Mackonnoky, Lambert's Cove, Paint Mill,
Roaring Brook, and Menemsha Bight, with it's jet-


ties and boat-harbor, were passed rapidly, and the
bold cliffs of Gay Head were viewed from the west,
care being taken to avoid Devil's Bridge, the reef
where the Columbus foundered. The western face
of the Head had been eroded by the sea and brick-
makers, and strata of different colored clay were
seen running diagonally across it to the shore.
There were bands of white, buff, drab, blue, terra-
cotta and brick-red; dull in tone, but sufficiently
distinct and contrasted to give a gay appearance to
the bluffs a mile distant. Many persons believe
there is gross exaggeration in reports about these
colors, but they are there to astonish and convince
the visitor. Fossils have been uncovered during
excavations. The high bluffs and light-house
stand at the entrance to the sound, which is a thor-
oughfare for vessels going east and west.

The excursionists landed at the wharf and
many persons rode up the hill in ox-teams driven
by Indians.

" Are these real aborigines } " asked Gab-
rielle quietly.

" They are descendants of the Algonquins,"
answered Mac. *' ' Lo ! the poor Indian' has
gone, and coffee-colored faces look out of huts,
where bric-a-brac and refreshments are sold, and
the crowd is rushing before looking at the
scenery. There to the east by Lake Squipnocket
lived Pohoganot and Campeechee. There were
in Gay Head, in 1642, about three thousand pure-


blooded Indians, and small tribes were scattered
over the island. Gay Head village had decreased
to about three hundred persons, in 1 764, and now
only a few individuals remain, and their language
and traditions are lost to them. These relics of a
proud race have inherited some of the land of the
reservation, which was relinquished by the State
in 1856, and fishing, hunting and farming are
continued as in the olden times."

" I do not wonder at their decadence," re-
marked Thompson. " The place is treeless, rocky
and infertile ; swept by fierce gales ; washed by
violent seas ; destitute of harbors ; remote from
settlements, and difficult of access by land and
sea. But it is wild, picturesque and grSid in its
scenery and isolation, and I am very glad we came
hither to-day."

"And so am I," declared Vic; "and stand-
ing here 1 74 feet above the sea, the world appears
very large."

" What is the reason the Indians are nearly
all gone } " asked Laura timidly of a very old man
near by, who had marked Indian characteristics.

"Wall," he replied in Yankee vernacular,"
"you see the young men went whaling as soon as
they could pull an oar, and few came back. They
cut their teeth on sea-shells and were weaned on
hardtack, and it was natural for them to go to sea,
as for ducks to take to the water. This is a sea-
faring country, as you'll learn by looking at the


fish, whale and vessel weather-vanes on the barns
about the island, Miss. "

" One Indian came back though ; Epanaw
was his name ; he was carried to England against
his will. He told the Englishmen there was a
gold mine on the island, and they bought him in a
ship to find it. He swam ashore the first dark
night, and they carried back sassafras root instead
of the precious metal."

The old man chuckled, and his hearers

" Conversion didn't agree with our tribe
neither. Mayhew converted Hiacoomes, who told
him, 'White man raise more corn, catch more
fish, and live in better houses than Indian, who
has many gods. Me want to know the true God.'
Others became Christians from fear of small-pox,
and through observation of the humane acts of
believers," continued the octogenarian, who had
known Hetty Ames, the last island Queen, but
could not recall any of the language or traditions
of his people.

This was a great disappointment to Gabrielle,
who had hoped to gather material for a romance,
but Delano reminded her that Porte Crayon had
had the same experience in 1 860.

"■ There is No Man's Land," said Mac, point-
ing to a flat blur upon the water southward.

*' How far away is it t " asked Vic.


** Six miles from here ; it has only one family
living upon it."

" It is too lonesome a place for me," said

" The other excursionists had scattered over
the hillsides, looked at the scenery, and found
nooks and shade where they could picnic. The
friends sat in the shadow of the light-house and ate
their luncheon. Helen, who had said little during
the trip, related the 'Legend of Maushope, the
Giant of Gay Head.'

" In ages far remote, many children on Cape
Cod were seized by a monstrous bird and carried
away to the southwest never to return. A mighty
Indian giant, named Maushope, familiarly called
Old Squant, who could wade up and down Vine-
yard Sound without wetting his knees, followed
the bird one day after he had seized a promising
papoose, and saw him alight upon the island of
Capawock near Gay Head. He arrived too late to
rescue the infant, but found his bones added to a
great pile upon the cliff. He remained the guar-
dian genius, the ruler over good and evil spirits
around Gay Head. He lived in the cave called
Devil's Den and washed his milk pails in the
stream, which has remained white until the pres-
ent time. He taught the Indians how to trap the
wily beaver, to snare wild birds, to gather shell-
fish and to catch scale fish in the sea.


" He was often seen in the dusk of the even-
ing, wearing a cloudy night-cap, sitting upon the
highest chff of Gay Head fishing for whales, which
he cooked in great fires made of pine and oak trees
that he pulled up by the roots. So great was his
size and enormous his appetite, that it is said, he
cooked and ate a whole whale for breakfast.

*'He sat down upon a boulder in the Sound to
rest, filled his pipe with Hellebore and smoked so
furiously that great clouds enveloped the islands
and made heavy fogs, which spread along the
coast and shrouded the fishermen and the land in
dangerous gloom. When fog-banks form and be-
gin to creep over the landscape, you will hear the
Islanders say, 'There comes some of Old Squant's
smoke ; he seems to delight in befogging poor sail-

" When he emptied his pipe, the ashes were
carried by the ocean currents and formed the island
of Nantucket, which accounts for its poverty of soil
and sleepy appearance.

" Becoming tired of his contracted kingdom,
he undertook to build a bridge across the Sound to
Cuttyhunk. He gathered boulders from the oppo-
site shores ; brought them with great labor through
currents and seas, and placed them in proper posi-
tion, expecting to fill in with island soil. He re-
moved his shoe, filled it with earth and walked bare-
foot out in the water. He had deposited his first
load, which was taken from near the Head and


caused a great depression, five hundred feet across
and one hundred feet deep, and was returning to the
shore, when an inquisitive crab bit him upon his toe.

"This insult put him in a terrible rage. He
abandoned his project ; tore off a fragment of a
cliff and threw it to the southward, forming No
Man's Land ; cast his five children into the sea and
changed them into fish, and, when his wife object-
ed, flung her across to Sekonnet Point, where she
preyed upon passing sailors and may still be recog-
nized as a shattered boulder. He disappeared one
day during a hurricane of lightning, thunder and
hail, and left the island in possession of the mis-

"The deposit of lignite where he built his fires,
the great valley between the bluffs, and the Devil's
Bridge, attest the truth of this Indian legend."

Helen was complimented for the recitation,
and Sanders declared it was a proper spot for such
a story though the Indians were somewhat miscel-

" How one misses trees in the landscape," re-
marked Wilson, " These hills are only sheep pas-
tures, and the region has been pauperized by ignor-
ance and avarice."

" You are right," said Mac. " Trees that have
been growing centuries should not be sacrificed
for a dollar or two. How delightful the forest roads
around Chappaquonset and Solitude ! How sweet
the evening shadows of the shell-road ! "


" How are the roads from here to the Haven ?"
asked Laura.

"Good enough by the middle road to Squip-
nocket, then turn left through the beautiful valley
of Chilmark, or go by way of West Tisbury.
You pass Peaked Hill, 311 feet high, the highest
point of the island ; Prospect Hill, and Indian Hill,
and go through Middletown, ' ' Mac replied promptly.

He had explored every part of the island the
previous summer.

" We will be too tired to hear the band con-
cert to-night," uttered Flossie dolefully.

" You don't generally hear much of it," said
Atkins sarcastically.

"Why not, sir?"
*I don't like to tell you."

"Yes, do ! Why do you make such a remark } "

"Well, when the band begins to play, you all
begin to talk, and the louder and faster it plays,
the louder and faster you talk ; then the children
romp noisily round the stand, sail boats, drag wa-
gons and quarrel; and their mothers yell at them
and they yell back, and the men discuss every-
thing from a woman's style to regulation of the

" Mercy ! stop ! what a horrid man you are !
As if we did not come here to enjoy ourselves. "

" You enjoy other things better than the real-
ly superior music."

"O, we get too much of it. "


"Then ramble somewhere else and give others
a chance."

"Suppose we do — we aren't the multitude. "

"That's it, Miss Hastings," interrupted Mac;
"Atkins expects to regulate the park mob by inter-
fering with the rights of a few young ladies.
Nothing except a discharge of grape and cannister
would ever still that noisy assembly. "

Florence showed her gratitude, and everyone
except Atkins laughed.

A shrill whistle echoed around the bluffs.
The hillsides became quickly alive with people,
hastening to the steamboat to get good seats, and
the friends were in the thickest of the fray. It was
a cool and pleasant sail homeward, though children
daubed their clothes and the boat with the plastic
colored clay, and men drank beer.

As they rested at the top of the hill, they
were delighted by the beautiful scene before them.
A wet finger held up barely indicated a faint
breath of air from the southwest ; the sails hung
limp and wrinkled, and the vessels, wharves and
shores were reflected in purple etchings by the
glassy water. The setting sun looked like crim-
son velvet; the clouds were in banks and bands of
rose, salmon -pink and baby-blue, shaded into marine,
purple and orange ; gray feathers blended with
sheets of pearl, green, buff and violet ; rays of fire
and gold flared between leaden masses; colorless
rays drew water ; and the sky half way to the ze-


nith was full of colors mixed and blended in such a
extravagant way, as would bankrupt a palette and
destroy any artist's reputation who copied it.

" Mamma is always talking about Italian sun-
sets; how could they surpass this?" gushed Laura,
and her eyes shone with the brightness of youth
and health.

"Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!"
said Delano reverently, as he gaztd from the sky
to sea and then into Laura's eyes.

"What is up now?" shouted Sanders from
the rear.

" Looking at the sunset, " replied Mac.

"Well, sunsets are rather common — what about

" There is time enough for both, you unroman-
tic fellow, " said Atkins.

" Everything is harmonious, peaceful and love-
ly," observed Thompson, looking around the Hav-
en and then at Gabrielle.

" What a pretty etching the old wharf with its
buoys and anchors would make-!" exclaimed Helen.

"Miss Dodge might get some new colors out
of the sky," remarked Vic.

"There comes the evening boat with the Bos-
ton crowd and the newspapers," cried Laura,
pointing across the Sound.

Delano looked at the boat and her delicate
hand and noticed the peculiar bracelet upon her
wrist, the golden serpent with ruby eyes and min-


ute scales, enamelled in gray, yellow, brown and

" I should think you would shudder at the red
eyes and glittering scales of your bracelet, " said he,
with a shrug of his shoulders.

*' O, no ; I wouldn't if it were a real snake. I
like snakes and all the animals," she replied.

" I see lots of smoke from the hotel chimneys
and supper must be ready," shouted Sanders,
interrupting a quiet conversation between Gab-
rielle and Thompson.

** Ise right smart hungry myself, Mr.
Sanders," mumbled Jack just behind him.

The party went to the hotel and its members
disappeared to use lotions and cosmetics for


One morning Sanders rushea into the group
of summer girls upon the piazza and shouted,
" They are coming ! the morning papers are full
of it ! The New York Yacht Club started yester-
day for New London, and will be here the last of
the week. Listen to this," and he read the pro-
gram of events.

A ripple of excitement ran along the piazza,
and the girls began to chatter about what they
should wear and the other details of a marine
excursion. The wind and the tide were unfavora-
ble Thursday, and it was 5 p. m. before the
racers began to arrive, though small steamers
and slow sailers had been straggling in all day.
All the fleet had arrived before dark, and the
scenes were indescribable, as the vessels moved
in between the green banks of the harbor and
threaded their way to the anchorage. The shores
were covered with people ; the Haven held over
two hundred yachts ; and pleasure boats of every
size and character filled the intervals between the
larger craft, so that movements had to be care-


fully made to avoid collision. Our summer girls
and their escorts were comfortably seated in the
capacious cat-boat Windermere, and her captain
sailed her through the fleet systematically from
without inwards, permitting everyone on board to
see the yachts as thoroughly as possible with-
out boarding them. The floating palaces of mil-
lionaires, the medium-sized racers, the plump
family craft with no pretentions to speed, the
lanky schooners, the overgrown cutters and the
stake-boats, were inspected, criticised and admired,
as the handy cat ran rapidly in and out, beside
and around them under the skipper's skilful man-

The large steamers moved with all the
steadiness and irresistible force of an iceberg ;
the small ones darted into the harbor like an
arrow from a bow ; and the racing schooners and

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Online LibraryWilliam Henry WinslowThe sea letter : a mystery of Martha's Vineyard → online text (page 6 of 18)