William Henry Winslow.

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

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the well worn sash — for an early shower had fal-
len — wiped all the moisture away with a towel,
wrung out the cushions in the kitchen sink, and
hung them by the stove to dry.

Mrs. Oliver was about sixty years old and had
been a sailor's wife for forty of them. She was a
round faced, buxom woman, who found time in ad-
dition to doing her housework to cultivate all the
beautiful flowers about her home.

Delano was so tired that he spent the after-
noon in his room fast asleep, and it was dark before
he awoke and went to supper. His friends had all
departed for the band concert, and he was glad to



138 THE SEA LETTER

be rid of the necessity of conversation, and of main-
taining the alertness of mind and courteous
manners expected of a young gentleman in society.
He lighted a cigar and seated himself to the left of
the hotel entrance upon the piazza, where the
bachelors and old fellows congregated, and took solid
comfort, letting his mind wander from person to
person, event to event and place to place, as he
looked dreamily at the sky and sea and rested.

When the people returned from the concert,
his gentlemen friends left the ladies and swooped
upon him in a crowd.

*' I'll be confounded ! if here isn't Delano
mooning away, as if he were in love. Where the
deuce have you kept yourself all this time, old
man } " demanded Sanders.

*' Hullo! fellows; been to the concert?" was
his greeting.

''Yes, of course; had to look after the ladies, "
replied Thompson.

" I suppose they got along well enough before
you arrived here .'* "

"Not exactly. They say it was frightfully
dull, and our arrival saved the season," answered
Mac.

*' Of course ; no one to play tennis and golf
and ride a bike with them," added Young.

'' Or to talk botany, biology and astronomy, "
continued Atkins,



THE SEA LETTER 139

^ " You are a generous set. You are not seek-
ing your own pleasure, of course ?" sneered Delano.

*^ That's what we are here for — Give me a
match, please," said Atkins, "I'm dying for a
smoke."

They lighted cigarettes, cigars and pipes and
soothed themselves as they talked.

"Really, Delano; where have you kept your-
self all day.? Are you under the weather.?" asked
Thompson.

" No, only beastly tired. I've been on the go
ever since we arrived, and I took a loaf and a nap
to even up. "

"That is right. Some people never work so
hard as when they are playing. There's mighty
little re-creation in such conduct."

"That is about what I told Miss Palmer this
morning. She has been rushing athletics until
her spirit is fagged."

" I thought she never looked better. "

" O, she looks well enough, but will have a
sick spell, if she doesn't hold her horse."

"I should be very sorry." This was said
feelingly, and Thompson looked out upon the har-
bor and remained silent.

Delano looked at him keenly a moment and
blew rings of smoke carefully. He wondered if
Thompson was in love with Gabrielle.? What did
it concern him if he were .? He had assumed a
guardianship and talked in a brotherly way, but he



I40 THE SEA LETTER

had never acted like a lover. She was free to accept
the attentions of anyone. She had too much spirit
to pine after him, if he remained silent. These
thoughts passed through his mind rapidly, and he
felt a pang of self-reproach and of jealousy. Jeal-
ousy is often an incentive to action and an awak-
ener of passion.

"What a motherly soul Mrs. Conant is,"
remarked Thompson, breaking the silence.

"What makes you think so?"

* * She came over to the park to-night with an
extra wrap for Laura because the air became a
trifle misty and cool. "

"One always values a solitaire more than a
cluster."

" Laura is not a rough diamond by any means,
and her mother would not be a disagreeable mother-
in-law. "

"Are you meditating matrimony.-^"

"No; only philosophizing. I'll let you know
in time. "

" Such considerations are dangerous. "

" Mrs. Palmer seems to be a very amiable and
sensible woman."

"What the dickens is Thompson thinking
about?" muttered Delano; then, "She is an ed-
cated, refined, handsome lady — I thought you had
met her in New York society. "

"No, only here. I am slightly acquainted
with the doctor."



THE SEA LETTER 141

" He's a jolly fellow and likes a good dinner as
well as an amputation. "

"Laura says her father is coming down Sat-
urday."

"You were with her then this evening.? "

"Yes, awhile. Mac took her and Flossie out
in your trap — I preferred to walk with — Miss
Palmer. "

"A fair exchange."

The other fellows were chatting away and
didn't hear connectedly what these two men had
been saying, though they interrupted them often
by questions and appeals to their judgment.

"I hear you were out driving this evening,
Mac, " said Delano.

"Yes; I took Laura and Flossie in the trap to
the concert and then to West Chop. The girls en-
joyed it very much."

"I suppose Laura felt neglected with Flossie
and you."

"Stop your chaffing, Delano; I am ^heart
whole and fancy free.

"There never was such a man!"

Delano felt for some reason neglected and out
of harmony with his friends. A great responsi-
bility seemed to oppress him. Was the strange
secret a burden to his spirit.'* Or did he realize
now for the first time that he was interested in two
young ladies and might be forced to make a decis-
ion between them.? He was annoyed that he



142 THE SEA LETTER

could not be gay and gallant like the other fellows,
and piqued that they had enjoyed themselves so
much without him. It hurts one's vanity, as
much to realize he is little missed from a social
gathering, as it does to know he is de trop.

Was he really in love ? Whom did he prefer ?
Which was his affinity? He did not care to ana-
lyze the characters of the ladies. He could not
weigh talents, compare temperaments, or think of
the enduring qualities necessary for happiness in
the conjugal state. Experienced and elderly peo-
ple advise such foresight, but Cupid twangs his
own bow-string. If prudence induces criticism,
reasoning ceases when the susceptible one catches
a flash from bright eyes, a classic pose of a
head, a w^ave of a shapely hand, or the gentle
curves of the form divine. Instincts are ever in-
terfering with intellectual processes; passion and
reason are frequently at war,

** And beauty leads us by a single hair."

Beauty led Delano captive. He admired
Gabrielle's independence, he liked Laura's timid
confidence ; but reflection had not enabled him to
choose between them. He recognized Thompson
now, as a rival. He could not blame him for fol-
lowing his natural inclinations, but he felt a little
resentment that he should be the one to disturb his
own serene inertia. He knew Thompson was a de-



THE SEA LETTER 143

sirable life companion for any lady. Though he
continued to banter and flirt with Laura, Delano
thought he detected a tender regard for Gabrielle.
Thompson should choose Laura, as their temper-
aments were contrary, like those of himself and
Gabrielle. A union of opposites has long been re-
garded by a majority of the people, as most likely
to insure the greatest happiness.

Many persons believe, on the contrary, that
the doctrine of similars is true in love, as it often
is in curing disease, and that the greatest happi-
ness comes from a union of similar temperaments.

Was Thompson in the same dilemma as Delano,
allured by golden tresses and a perfect savoirfaire,
and, also, enthralled by fluffy curls^ artlessness
and esprit? Evidently he was, and the bondage
was so delightful, he did not hasten to free him-
self. The summer was waning fast ; Delano was
dangerous, and he must soon make his choice» He
asked himself, if true love could be so undecided.
Where was that over-powering affinity of Delano's,
that would surely point the way 1

Both Thompson and Delano began to believe
they were in love, and all they had to do was to
make a choice. Man's vanity and imperious na-
ture are apt to warp his judgment in affairs con-
cerning women, who appear quiet as mice and
gentle as doves, though they do considerable think-
ing about human problems.



\



CHAPTER XI.



It was threatening rain; the wind was cool
from the northeast, and our summer girls had de-
cided to forego bathing and be industrious the whole
forenoon. They were gathered upon the piazza,
winding split zephyr, braiding skeins of silk, crochet-
ing point, embroidering doilies, mending gloves
and chattering with each other and surrounding
friends. Delano went over to the hotel and joined
them in time to hear about a ride to Indian Hill,
which Vic. had taken the previous day.

"We went out the State highway to a bend,"
said Vic, ''continued by a dirt road, passed a few
houses of Davistown, and climbed the hill to the left.
This is a continuation of an abrupt ridge 261 feet
high, covered by grass, bushes and boulders, and
the views from the top are magnificent."

"We must have a picnic there some day,
girls," said Gabrielle. "Many people around the
hotel have advised an excursion there, as the great
plains of the central and southern portion of the
island, and the range of hills along the northern
shore present many beautiful pictures."



THE SEA LETTER 145

" That is true, " added Mac, " and it is the
best place to find Indian arrow-heads hereabouts.'^

" You remind me of a story, " remarked May.
*' It is an Indian legend entitled ' Love and
Treason.'

" The Indians of Capawock and Nantucket
were enemies and often made attacks upon each
other. Wintuck, a young brave of the former is-
land, was fishing in Muskeget's rapid currents
and a storm drove his canoe to Nantucket, where
he was hospitably received and permitted to de-
part in safety, though he had violated faith by
becoming afifianced to the Chief's daughter.

"His tribe planned an expedition against the
Nantuckets, the war-canoes were drawn up in
Ime, and the warriors were about to land, when
they were astonished to find the wily foe in ambush
along the shore, prepared to annihilate them with
arrows and spears. They retreated and paddled
home again before sunrise, chagrined and astound-
ed at the preparations of their enemies, and for
a long time wondered how they had been fore-
warned.

" Peace was finally declared between the
island tribes, and they were drawn closer together
by the marriage of Wintuck, of Chappaquiddick,
and Miaca, the daughter of the Nantucket chief.
Then the dusky bride revealed the secret. She
told of the betrothal, when Wintuck had been
cast upon the island by the gale, and declared



146 THE SEA LETTER

that her lover to warn her of danger had racep
over the shoals of Tuckernuck and Nantucket, dur-
ing low tide, and, run splashing and dashing back
through the rising flood and dangerous rips to
Chappaquiddick without his absence having been
discovered by his tribesmen.

" Thus love and treason were rewarded."

" Capital ! " declared Mac, as the hearers all
applauded.

''The Indian runner must have had as long
legs as Maushope to promenade over the shoals."

" You should not be too critical concerning
legends," said Atkins.

"A woman gave away the secret as usual,"
growled Sanders.

" Yes, after there was no longer necessity of
keeping it, mister, " retorted Flossie.

The friends went sailing in Ike's cat-boat in
the afternoon over to Woods Hole, along Naushon
to Tarpaulin Cove, and back around West Chop.
As the boat moved slowly through the Cove,
Thompson related an event of the war of 1812.

"Tarpaulin Cove is a deep indentation of the
southeast coast of Naushon Island ; there is alight-
house upon its southern point, and many vessels
anchor inside to escape adverse tides and winds.
The inhabitants of Capawock and the Elizabeth
Islands were hostile to the English in the war of
1 8 1 2, and a British man-of-war schooner lay at an-
chor in the cove.




'O



rn CQ 0:1



THE SEA LETTER 147

" An old sea captain of Vineyard Haven had
a sloop, which he ran as a packet to carry supplies
to and from New York. He had reached Woods
Hole on a return voyage, when the enemy learned
of his presence, and sent a boat load of armed men
and captured him. The cargo was confiscated, and,
being a non-combatant, he was allowed to depart
with his empty vessel. Instead of returning to the
Haven, he sailed to Falmouth, and found Capt.
Jenkins and sixty American militiamen spoiling
for a fight with the Englishmen. They put two
brass cannon upon an old sloop; piled her deck
with wood, concealed the men below, and sailed
against the enemy at night. The schooner was
discovered at anchor, and the armed sloop crossed
her stern and anchored near her. An officer hail-
ed, ' Sloop ahoy ! What vessel is that .? '

'' Jenkins answered, ' The Betsy, of Nantuck-
et'! He knew the English and Nantucket people
were friendly, and hoped to throw Captain Potter
off his guard. The latter ordered a lieutenant to
board and examine her, but he suggested caution
for fear of the craft having powder on board, and
Potter, somewhat nettled at the hesitation, which he
thought due to cowardice, went himself. He
asked Jenkins some questions about Nantucket,
which exposed his ignorance of events there,
and warned him he was being deceived by a
Yankee trick. He was trapped, but courageous;
he aimed his pistol at Jenkins and pulled the



148 THE SEA LETTER

trigger, but fortunately it missed fire. Jenkins
drew his cutlass, called upon the captain to
surrender, stamped his foot, and brought up
his men in a rush. Potter was put in irons and
hustled below, as he shouted to his lieutenant
to set fire to his vessel and blow up the mag-
azine. The Americans put the sloop along-
side the schooner and captured her before the
English could repel boarders. The lieutenant ex-
cused himself for not obeying orders by saying,
' I had too much regard for the number of my
mess.'

** The schooner was brought to Woods Hole
and the crew imprisoned at Falmouth. Captain
Isaac Winslow, of the captured sloop. Old Kite,
called to see Potter in prison and said, '■ Captain
Potter, things are mighty uncertain in this world
— yesterday I was your prisoner, and to-day you
are ours ; and I guess you'll not bother any more
boatmen this year.' He recovered two-thirds of
his cargo, loaded his sloop and sailed home, sing-
ing,

* O Potter ! poor Potter !

Potter's run his glass.

O Potter ! poor Potter !

For Jenkins's got him fast.' "

The company laughed and applauded enthusi-
astically.



THE SEA LETTER 149

" Rather a one-sided story, I should say, "
commented Atkins. EngHsh sailors never give up
a ship in that fashion, as we know from the history
of the bloody naval battles of that war."

'' The story illustrates the fearlessness of dan-
ger and eagerness for reckless adventure charac-
teristic of Yankees," remarked Helen.

'' The same Old Kite was wrecked during a
gale in the Haven only a few years ago, and the
captain's descendants live in his old house in the
valley," added Isaac respectfully. ■

" That is another historical point for my note
book, " said Vic.

The breezes freshened off the Chop and a
great wind gust forced the boat around broadside
and caused her to heel dangerously. She came by
the wind quickly and the panic that had arisen
amongst the ladies subsided. Then Ike called the
passengers farther aft in the standing-room, drop-
ped the peak of the main-sail, kept away, and ran
smoothly and safely around the point into the har-
bor. Ike handled the boat skilfully, and said a cat-
boat was easily forced around by pressure of wind
in the peak of the sail, especially if she be ballast-
ed too much by the head. " Most persons think
they can sail a boat, " said he, " but the drowning
accidents in the papers every day contradict them.
It requires a quick eye, a strong arm, a knowledge
of seamanship and good judgment. Then 'tain't
so dead easy."



ISO THE SEA LETTER

"You are right," affirmed Delano. "There is
quite as much risk as romance in saihng, and one
cannot manage a girl and a sailboat at the same
time."

" We are all learning how to sail, Mr. Delano,"
said Vic. " Look at our faces and hands, tanned
like Russia leather."

" Tan isn't evidence, but we'll concede you go
boating," answered Atkins, as the party landed
and went to supper.

Delano proceeded to his room afterwards and
the captain soon came in smiling and happy.

"Any news, Captain V Delano asked.

" Yes, good news ; Alice says I can go, and Mr.
Lowley writes about several good craft he thinks
we could charter. They are just beginning to haul
out and strip for the winter, but here's his letter."

" Good enough, old man. " Delano took the
letter and read : "'There is a thirty-footer, forty
feet over all, nine feet beam, seven feet draft ;
5,000 lbs. iron on keel, 1000 lbs. lead inside; flush
deck, skylight, cockpit, cabin with four berths,
transoms and table; forecastle, with two hammocks,
naptha stove, lockers and dishes; hatch and sail-
room in run ; cutter rig ; two anchors and chains,
one ten foot boat, and an excellent outfit. Can be
chartered for fifty dollars a month. Is in first
class condition, just returned from a cruise to East-
port. '



THE SEA LETTER 151

" That reads pretty well, doesn't it, Captain ?"

"Yes, a plaything for some rich man, I sup-
pose."

"■ ' One forty-footer ; ' Um ! Too large.

** ' One, thirty-six feet water line, fourteen feet
beam, four feet draft, sloop rig ; ' Will not do ;
too much of a skimming-dish for deep water.

"'One twenty-five footer ; ' Too small, Um!
Guess we'll run up to Boston to-morrow and look
them over; hey, Captain.?"

" Aye, aye ! probably that would be the best.
It isn't safe to go to sea unless you're sure you've
got sound timbers in the kelson."

They went away by the first boat the next
morning and, after a very enjoyable time looking
over the fleet of beautiful yachts at South Boston,
finally, selected the first vessel mentioned in the
letter, and carefully inspected the outfit. They had
the pick of several yachtsmen, whose captains had
hauled their craft out already, and shipped two
sturdy seamen for the cruise.

Frank Merangue was a tall strong man, a na-
tive of Maine, who had filled every position on a
coaster from cook to captain, and was thoroughly
acquainted with the islands, headlands and harbors
along the coast from Boston to Halifax. He was
engaged to do a sailor's duty, assist in piloting, and
take charge of the yacht when his superiors were
away.



152 THE SEA LETTER

Robert Frizzle was an amateur yachtsman,
with a penchant for cooking. He was short, stout
and capable. He had learned seamanship snapping
on balloon-jibs and smothering spinnakers, racing
crack yachts about Massachusetts Bay, and ship-
ped to wrestle with the gasoline stove and have an
opportunity of seeing new cruising grounds. Bob
could mix a rum-punch, make a lobster-salad, or
climb aloft and sit upon the truck, with equal sang
froid. He anticipated wants, and, was always busy
until everything was ship-shape, when he would
sing odd songs and smoke his pipe alternately.

Delano and the captain held a consultation
with these two men ; made out lists of articles and
supplies for the voyage, and ordered Merangue to
receive and receipt for them, and see them stowed
in the lockers and transoms, where they would be
handy. The yacht Orinda lay well off the shore
in the deep water of the channel, and Delano sign-
ed a receipt for her, requested the men to get on
board before dark, and have everything ready for
sea as soon as possible. Then he and the captain
went up town, ordered the stores delivered next
day, purchased some things for personal use, and
caught the last train for Woods Hole and Capa-
wock. It had been a busy day for them, but they
had acted with the usual energy of Americans,
who knew what they wanted and how to get it.

45- * *



THE SEA LETTER 153

There was a grand celebration of music, fire-
works and social festivities, the 3 1 st. of August,
to wind up the season. Lake Anthony was a blaze
of red fire, stars, serpents, fountains, bombs,
rockets and fiery figures : small yachts, covered by
flags and Chinese lanterns, filled the snug harbor
from the jetties to the causeway : the band played
upon a grand stand in Washington Park : the paths,
streets, groves and cottages were filled by a joy-
ous throng of well-dressed people; and long
lines of buggies, phaetons, surreys and traps were
occupied by the elite of the summer colonies. It
was interesting to see twenty thousand or more
people on pleasure bent, covering the hillsides and
the cottage piazzas, uttering " ahs ! " and "ohs !" at
the showers of colored stars, and swaying with great
waves of applause and enthusiasm at the close of
favorite numbers by the band. "It is little that
makes the glad laugh," and these merry people
laughed easily and often, and appeared to be very
happy. Long after the ending of the display and
the concert, the cottages, villas and hotels were re-
splendent with light ; the hills of E — echoed back
merry greetings and ripples of laughter, and the
man in the moon exchanged winks with sweet
creatures in challie and tulle.

Delano and the captain had made several
trips to Boston, gotten the stores on board and all
preparations were made for sailing; and the yacht
was anchored off South Boston in charge of Me-



1 54 THE SEA LETTER

rangue. Their reticence and frequent absence had
caused considerable talk and curiosity among their
friends, but they were all soon to part and busy
packing and planning for home or other resorts,
and Delano was not pestered by many questions,
nor annoyed by drafts upon his confidence. It
was noticed that his manner had become hurried
and brusque ; his mind was filled with anticipa-
tions of the cruise, and he often read over the mys^
terious directions of the sea letter in the hope of
extracting more meaning than was apparent in its
phraseology.

This last evening he devoted to his friends,
and was as gay and gallant as any of his party.
They promenaded through the parks and along the
sea-wall ; watched the glint of moonlight upon the
water ; commented upon the costumes and the
conduct of passers-by ; took refreshments at the
cafe, and separated at midnight in joyous moods.
Delano talked sense with Gabrielle and nonsense
with Laura ; advised v/ith Thompson concerning
his return coaching trip to New York, and in-
structed Jack about his dogs and horses. He
watched Gabrielle and Laura, as they walked arm-
in-arm along the hotel piazza and through the hall ;
lifted his hat as they waved their hands at him in
adieu, and walked slowly and thoughtfully over to
his lodgings, where he and the captain talked and
smoked for an hour.



CHAPTER XII.



When the hotel guests were coming down to
breakfast next morning, Delano and the captain
were across the Somid upon the "Dude Train,"
speeding through the morning mists to Boston.
They . proceeded immediately to the Point, sig-
nalled Orinda for a boat, and were taken on board
from the Boston Yacht Club landing-stage, where
Delano had right by courtesy through his member-
ship in the Marblehead Corinthian. They looked
over the pretty yacht, and were pleased with the
comfort of their quarters and the trim appearance
of the little ship. They put their baggage in one
of the after bunks; the charts, coast-pilot, log-book
and oil-suits in the other ; Delano selected the
forward starboard berth and the captain took the
port one, and they arranged their toilet articles
and clothes in the drawers beneath. The sailors
had already stowed the stores and got their kits
into place in the forecastle, and Merangue report-
ed the cutter alow and aloft all ready for sea.



156 THE SEA LETTER

Bob rushed a luncheon and all enjoyed their
first meal afloat. Clearing off ; looking over the
chart ; noting the wind, sky, tide and weather
report, and some calculations of time and distance,
kept them occupied awhile : then they hoisted
the mainsail, ran up the ensign to the peak and
the South Boston Yacht Club signal to the truck,
weighed anchor, set the stay-sail and jib, and,
turning lazily around, began the eventful voyage,
which deeply concerned several persons of the
summer colony.

The gentle westerly wind stretched the
snowy canvas and tugged at the sheets, as the
yacht slid past Fort Independence, the bold bluffs
of Long Island, and Deer Island's treacherous,
tide-swept point, and when the sheets were
trimmed in, Bug Light and the Beacon passed,


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Online LibraryWilliam Henry WinslowThe sea letter : a mystery of Martha's Vineyard → online text (page 8 of 18)