A GEM AMONG THE SEA-WEEDS
To thee, my darling Hattie, I dedicate the Sea-Flower would that this casket contained for such as thou, a purer gem.
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.
"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!"
"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."
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."
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 palace, draw the comfortable rug about you, and fall asleep, with old Ocean for a lullaby, to dream (if your waking hours are fortunately of that bent) of some old deserted castle, "Salem witchcraft," or a lone "Grace Pool," attendant within the attic's most remote recesses.
The face of the island is level, so much so that the flat, bare commons resemble somewhat our western prairies; and with the exception of the cliffs at the north, and Sancoty Head, there are but few slight elevations. Owing to the peculiar shape of the island, its two arms stretching far out on either side, it does not appear to be as large as it really is,—being about sixteen miles long, and four wide, affording sufficient elbow room, however, for its eight thousand inhabitants. The soil is sandy, but is cultivated to some extent; and though they can boast of no extensive forests, yet you may occasionally meet with an old friend in the way of a noble elm, or the pensive weeping willow. The culture of fruit trees, also, is receiving much attention of later years, and as widely as refinement must be separated from the islanders, to be in keeping with your views, their love for the sweet spring flowers knows no bounds.
In your walks of curiosity about town, you meet with a great many of the denomination termed Friends, or Quakers, and as you pass them you cannot refrain from giving them the inside walk, for their very garb is of humility; and as you look into the placid face of some matron, you feel like uncovering yourself, for you can see the innocence looking out of her eyes. You are curious to know whither so many are wending their way, and meeting a sailor-boy, he tells you it is "fifth day," and if you follow in the wake of the "slick bonnets," they will pilot you to their nearest light-house; but precious little light you will get unless the spirit move some of them to pick up the wick. You move on with the rest till you come to their house of worship, which appears as humble as those who enter its doors. As you contrast the plainness on all sides with the richly decorated edifice in which you have been accustomed to worship, you try to smile a smile of contempt at the scene, but cannot, for you feel that the spirit of Christ is in their midst; and though not a word is spoken during the hour and a half, yet you feel that the silent worship which went up to Heaven, was heard by Him who answers prayer. As a signal for dispersing, the elders who occupy the "rising seats," arise and shake hands, and you go your way with those silent ones, feeling that their worship was acceptable to God. The Quakers of Nantucket are rapidly diminishing in number. Formerly two-thirds, perhaps, of the population, were of the Society of Friends, but now not one-third are of that denomination. As their children come up, they are not true to the faith, as were their fathers, and they put off the plain garb for the fashions of the day. A Quaker in Nantucket will in time come to be a great curiosity. Their places will, we fear, be filled by none more upright. Heaven bless them!
Nantucket of the present is not Nantucket of the past. Her quaint, old-timeness has given place to customs and manners more in accordance with things common-place. Yet her originality has not entirely forsaken her; she has a character even now, peculiar to herself. The wild waves come tumbling in, their glad shouts ringing through the midnight stillness with the same zest as of yore; and the same starry skies, which looked down on the fair maiden of a century ago, still bend over her children's children, as they tread along life's rugged way. Occasionally you may meet with one who has long since passed the meridian of life, one, perhaps, who has never been off of the island of his birth; and he will tell you of the Nantucket of the past, before her peaceful shores had been invaded by the stranger; when they might lay them down to sleep, without thought of bolt or bar, save old ocean's faithful bands. You will learn of Nantucket from the beginning down to the present time. Then the island was big with prosperity. Her sons were not obliged to leave their homes for a five years' voyage, in search of the monster from which they gained their chief maintenance, for there were then good fishing grounds near the shore, and often the whale might be seen from their little island, spouting off in the distance; and their ships came proudly bearing down to the bar, laden heavily with the good sperm oil, and all hearts were made lighter and each purse heavier, with every new arrival of good fortune; as if they had been one great family, each one smiling on another's prosperity. "But now,"—and the face of the narrator is less joyous as he turns from then to now,—"things are not what they were. Our island is becoming like what they tell me the world at large is." And the old man will re-light his pipe, and with a sad smile he will give you the names of his ancestors, from his great "Grand-'ther" down to more modern times, when his fifth cousin Obed was a large ship-owner. Ah! treat such of other days with kindness, for the style of that day will never come again; their great hearts of brotherly love are not of this generation, yet they have left an impress upon those well-loved shores that can never be entirely erased. Those foot-prints of long ago, combined with the peculiarities which will ever dwell with these children of the sea, are attractions which insure to the stranger on his first visit, visions of many a happy hour in the future; and he will long for the season to return which shall liberate so many of the city doomed artificials to a few weeks' intercourse with nature.
Awakened at early dawn by the sailor's merry "yo, ho," coming up from the waters with the sun, you turn your eyes seaward, and what a glorious sight is before you! As far as the eye can reach, water, blue, rolling water, tinged with rising sunlight in its morning purity; the night-bird folds her wings, which she has laved in the white sea-foam, softening the sigh of the breakers to the ear of those who slumbered; the white sails bow their heads, while the old tars wonder what makes them so happy. With these pleasant sunrise impressions you go forth into the day with more lenient views towards the "land of whales," sniffing the salt air with a real gusto.
Glancing up the street, you descry an object in the distance which much resembles a travelling dry-goods merchant, with the many fancy streamers flying in the breeze; but as it draws nearer, you look around in astonishment for "Barnum," fully persuaded if that worthy is not on the ground, he has mistaken his calling for once. The object in question is no less than a common two-wheeled horse-cart, such as are used to do our heavy carting, except this is on springs, and of a lighter build; in the vehicle are some half dozen ladies, standing, their only support being short ropes attached to the sides, which, however, are seldom used, except by those unaccustomed to this kind of exercise, and in this position they ride with the greatest ease, seldom losing their balance, even when going at full speed.
Thoroughly initiated, and having seen most of the lions of the place, you find yourself becoming more and more attached, forget that you have ever thought of the island as anything but attractive. Your one week has become the length of four, and the letters to anxious friends at home have been characteristic of briefness, unwilling to steal a moment's time from the enjoyment which will furnish a topic for the unemployed hours of longer days to come. Of the many excursions which have made short the hours of your sojourn here, I will not enter into detail; suffice it to say, you have been disappointed in Nantucket and its inhabitants. You have made many firm friends, the memory of whom will stir the tear of unselfish love, as you number them over, one by one, in the future. They will never be forgotten. You have found Nantucket is not merely an isolated place, where oil is manufactured; where the people only work to eat, and eat to work. [Though as some have suggested, a carriage drive connecting Nantucket with the Continent would be a great modern improvement]. As one has quaintly expressed, in a little poem entitled "An Old Story:"
"Before Columbus ever thought Of Western World, with glory fraught; Before the Northmen had been known To wander from their native zone; Before war raised a single mound, The antiquarians to confound; Indeed, so very long ago, The time one can't exactly know,— A giant Sachem, good as great, Reigned in and over our Bay State. So huge was he, his realm so small, He could not exercise at all, Except by taking to the sea. [For which he had a ticket free, Granted by Neptune, with the seal, A salient clam, and couchant eel]. His pipe was many a mile in length, His lungs proportionable in strength; And his rich moccasins,—with the pair, The seven-league boots would not compare. Whene'er siestas he would take, Cape Cod must help his couch to make; And, being lowly, it was meet He should prefer it for his feet. Well, one day, after quite a doze, A month or two in length, suppose, He waked, and, as he'd often done, Strolled forth to see the mid-day sun; But while unconsciously he slept, The sand within his moccasins crept; At every step some pain he'd feel, 'Twas now the toe, now near the heel; At length his Sachemship grew cross, The pebbles to the sea he'd toss, And with a moccasin in each hand, He threw on either side the sand; Then in an instant there appear Two little isles, the Sachem near! One as the Vineyard now is known, The other we may call our own. At ease, he freely breathed awhile, Which sent the fogs to bless our isle; And turning East, with quickened motion, The chill, bleak winds came o'er the ocean.
Ill-judging Sachem! would that you Had never shaken here that shoe. Or, having done so, would again, And join Nantucket to the main!"
Having had a peep within the nest, you sigh for the return of the bird, and we will on.
THE VOICE OF CHILDHOOD.
"Ah! Well may sages bow to thee, Dear, loving, guileless Infancy! And sigh beside their lofty lore For one untaught delight of thine; And feel they'd give their learning's store, To know again thy truth divine."
"And now behold him kneeling there, By the child's side, in humble prayer; While the same sun-beam shines upon The guilty and the guiltless one; And hymns of joy proclaim through heaven, The triumph of a soul forgiven."
MOORE'S "LALLA ROOKH."
"Mother, why does every one pass poor old Quady by without giving him even a smile? Is not that the reason why he looks so sorrowful? He looked so sad when I met him this afternoon, that I could not help holding out the daisies which I had gathered for you, towards him; and when he did not take them, but stood looking at me without speaking a word, I asked him if he did not want the flowers to carry to his home, and put them into his hand; and when I had come up with the school-girls, who had run away when they saw him coming, I looked after him, and he was still standing by the road-side, with the flowers in his hand, watching us as we went up the street. Perhaps he was resting a little, for it is a long way to the low home over the commons."
"Quady, my dear, no doubt feels that he is alone in the world, for he is the only one that is left of a large tribe of Indians; all of his kind are gone, and are buried, no one but himself knows where. He does not look upon the pale faces as brothers, though they treat him kindly. He feels that wrong has been shown his ancestors at their hands. I am glad, my child, that you were kind to the Indian."
"Yes, mother, I love everybody; but I think I love those best who look as if no one cared for them. I suppose everybody loves poor Quady, only they forget to let him know it."
"You like dat old Ingin, Sea-flower? why, he almost as black as Bingo hesef."
"Do you think I do not love you, Vingo, because you are black? You are always good to me, and what would I do without you to take me to the shore, whenever I like to go?"
"O, little missy, I tink you can sympetize wid old black Bingo; but den, ebry body not like you; you's one ob de Lord's chilen hesef."
"We are all the Lord's children, Vingo," said Mrs. Grosvenor; "and we should walk in the paths of righteousness, that we may be worthy of his name. You may go, now."
"What does Vingo mean, mother? he talks so strangely sometimes about my being left here by the Lord, and goes on muttering something to himself, which I cannot understand, and laughs as if he was very happy."
"It is his way of expressing himself, my dear; the negroes are a peculiar race."
"Yes, I think they are; I like their ways, they are always so kind. Are not their dispositions better than those of some white people? I never heard of a black man being cruel to any one, but I have seen the prints of a whip-lash on Vingo's neck, where he said his old massa used to whip him; and I asked him many times over, if he was sure it was a white man who whipped him, and he said yes, he was sure, for he remembers he used to wish white folks were black, so they could not tell which were the negroes."
"There are some very hard-hearted people in the world. Vingo was brought up in slavery; when you are a little older you will understand it better."
"Dear mother, you know what is best for me; but often, when I am interested in what is said, and ask questions, people tell me I will understand it when I am a little older; and when I sit down by myself, and they think I have forgotten all about it, I find myself wishing I was "a little older," for it disappoints me so much to leave a story not finished."
Mrs. Grosvenor looked at the child in silence.
"I have not displeased you, dear mother, have I? I did not feel that I was saying anything wrong."
"No, darling; I did not think you would understand me, that was the reason why I did not explain to you. I am always ready to talk with you, if you can comprehend what I am saying."
"Never mind, mother, I am six years old; it won't be a great while before I shall be 'a little older,' and then I can realize how very good you are to me, my dear mother, and how patient you are."
Mrs. Grosvenor clasped the child in her arms. "What makes little pet look so sober to-night?" asked Captain Grosvenor, as taking her on his knee, he pushed the dark brown curls from off her forehead, and looked into her mild, blue eyes. "What makes Sea-flower so quiet? Has anything happened to either of your seven kittens? or has some flower which has lived already a week longer than nature designed, at last withered, and gone the way of all frailties?"
"O, father, I should be very wicked if I were not happy, when I have so much to make me so; but sometimes, when I hear the shore roaring so loud as it does this evening, and look up at the stars, as they twinkle in their homes far away in the sky, there is something which comes over me of sadness, making me a great deal happier; and there is one particular star which I always notice, for it seems as if it was looking down at me so gently, that I forget myself, and put out my hand to touch it, as if it was not so far away; and I fancy sometimes that the star can read my thoughts, for it seems to smile when I am happiest."
"You are a little fanciful creature; you must learn to leave off dreaming when you are awake."
"What shall you dream about when father goes away to sea again?" asked Harry.
"I think mother will not let him go; we cannot spare him; but if you should go, father, I shall love to dream of you very often; I will think of you every day, sailing on the water with a heart so light. O, it must be so pleasant to live, to sleep on the water! And you will want to see dear mother and Harry, when you are so far away; you will not forget us;" and she hid her cheek in the hardy captain's bosom.
"No, no, darling, I shan't forget you; but we wont talk any more about it now; I have not gone yet."
What was it made that stout man's voice tremulous, as he called for his evening paper? Many a time had that stern voice been heard above the hurricane's roar, giving the word of command,—why did it tremble now? Was it that voice of childhood which sank into his heart?
* * * * *
"Missus, de sun hab done gone, now, de chllens hab all gone from school long ago, and Bingo's two eyes hab clean gone stretched, looking up de road for de Sea-flower," remarked that worthy, putting his ebony head in at the drawing-room door, where sat Mrs. Grosvenor, so busily engaged making those garments for her husband, which she feared would be needed, alas! so soon that she had not perceived the hours were gliding on apace, and that it was long past the time when Sea-flower usually came tripping in from school to receive her evening kiss, and to tell over the events of the day.
"Has Harry come home yet? she may have gone up to the High School to meet him."
"Yes, missus, massa Harry here a long time."
"Then you had better go and see what keeps her; you will probably meet her on the way, and if it is not too late you may take the horse and give her a ride."
"Yes, missus;" and the jet pony, so many shades lighter than his driver, was soon lost in the distance.
The last faint shadows of the sun had died away, the moon had risen in all her queenly beauty, and Vingo had not returned; neither had anything been seen of the Sea-flower since she had left home early in the afternoon; and now Mrs. Grosvenor really began to feel anxious, as she stood looking out into the night; for, although the child was accustomed to stroll about the fields in search of wild flowers, whenever she liked, she had never before stayed away so long.
"Husband, had you not better go and see what has become of her? I cannot think what keeps them."
"It is a mystery; but give yourself no uneasiness; I'll be bound the child has made a safe harbor somewhere. She usually has a look-out aloft."
"Ah! there they come, under a full press of sail!" cried Harry, who loved well to imitate the nautical phrases of his father. "Does she not make a grand figure-head!"
"Figure-head!" exclaimed Vingo; "I am tinking, young massa, if dis 'ere head ob mine had not been made so solid like, 'spressly for figuring, dat it been a powerful time afore you cotch sight ob dis bit ob fly-away again. De good Lord be praised! but if I don't tink little missy so filled wid what de angels libs on dat she make use ob de shadow ob dar wings to take herself away ober dose yar commons! It make me smile to tink how dat old Ingin look at Sea-flower, as if de sun was puttin' out his eyes."
"Why, my child, you surely have not been out to Quady's hut! it is a long way."
"Ha! a fast sailor, always has a fair breeze; dropped anchor in the best harbor in these parts! But what's this? colors half-mast?" exclaimed the captain, as he caught sight of a little pouch, woven together of bright colored basket stuff, slung over her shoulder; a little drab paw, darting from out its deepest recesses in pursuit of a tantalizing curl, soon explains how matters stand, and a voice of the greatest feline sweetness is heard in reply to divers catlike salutations, proceeding from the adjoining apartment.
"This is my wallet, which Quady has made for me to carry my kittens in; and pussy has enjoyed it so much! 'Tis the way Quady's people used to carry their babies through these very streets, only there were prettier walks here then. O, he has told me so many pretty stories!"
"How came you to have your kitten with you? and why did you go away so far, and stay so late, my dear? I have been looking for you a long time."
"O, mother, I will tell you all about it. As I was bidding my kittens good-bye, after having a little talk with them, as I usually do before going to school, I missed one of the smallest, which I call Charity, because she always looks up at the larger ones, when they play with her too roughly, in such a forgiving way. I looked all around, and not finding her, thought she must have strayed away by herself, and I ran off to school. Our lesson for to-day was Faith, Hope, and Charity; as I read the last word I looked down, and there was my own Charity peeping at me from out my pocket. I explained to my teacher how it happened, for I thought she would be displeased; but having an errand into the next room just then, she did not think of kitten, who lay quietly sleeping again; and when I had said all my lessons, my teacher excused me, saying it was because I had been a good girl. And so we strolled over the commons together, Charity and I, and I dressed her in wild flowers, and she did look so innocent! On we went, I running after kitten, and then kitten after me, when, before I thought how far we had come, I espied Quady's low home a little way off, and he was sitting at the door. He did not see me until I stood before him, and then he went into his house and brought out a large pipe and gave to me; I thought it so strange that poor Quady should think a little girl could smoke a pipe, but I took it to please him, and then he showed me so many curious things; there was a large bow, and arrows with sharp bits of iron in their heads, and he was going to shoot a little sparrow which sat upon the fence, but I caught his arm, and begged him not to kill the poor thing. I told him God made the sparrow to be happy, and he asked me if I meant the Great Spirit, if my God was his God? When I told him it was, he put up his bow and came and sat down by me, and taking a little paper from his bosom, unrolled it, and there were the daisies which I had given him so long ago! He asked if the Great Spirit made them, too, and if he had sent me to give them to him; and when I told him the great Spirit made all the flowers, made everything, and loved everybody who loved him, and that he would let his children all come home and live with him by-and-by, the tears rolled down his cheeks, and he said,—'O! me see my brothers, then! me not be all alone! Me love Great Spirit; Great Spirit so good to send little white-face to tell me how to get home.' Then I could not help crying myself, mother, for I thought I should like to meet Quady's brothers there."
"Ah! bress de Lord, but it am good as a small bible to hear dat chile talk;" was heard in a suppressed voice, as it went stable-ward.
Day after day passed, and that little one was often seen, attended by old Nep, or in the arms of the faithful Vingo, on her way to the low home over the commons, much to the horror of sensitive mothers, who shook their heads and said, "she is a strange child." Never was Sea-flower happier than when she might be allowed to go and see the Indian; and it was indeed a strange sight to see that red man, the only representative of a departed tribe, gazing upon the little one, as she talked to him of Jesus and his word.
The autumn of the year had come. It was one of those soul-stirring days in October, which cannot fail to arouse the most thoughtless mind to a sense of the wonderful works of creation. The Sea-flower had gone to the "low home over the commons." Hand in hand, that red man and the tender child, they went their way, to where he pointed out the graves of his people; there were no stones, not a mound to mark the spot. Why was there need of any? He alone knew the place; none others had cared to know, until now, when the number of his days had well-nigh been told, this little child, of a summer's day, had breathed upon those ice-bound springs, till they had broken their bands, and were gliding on in the bright sun-light, smoothly on,—on, forever. There did the Indian lay him down, where he would have them bury him; and there, for the first and last time, did he breathe a prayer over the graves of the departed, to that Great Spirit, whom he had been taught was the one great Father of all.
"Mother, poor Quady is not so strong as he used to be; when he pounds the corn, to make nice cakes for me, his hands tremble, and I notice he takes all the broth which you send to him, for he says he has no appetite for anything else."
It was a holiday. A great display of military had arrived from the continent.
"Sea-flower, you will see the beautiful horses, and the epaulets, the white plumes, and the shining swords, but they need not think to turn your brain with all their splendor."
"Brother Harry, I should like to see all those splendid things, but I had much rather go and see Quady to-day; it is several days since I have been there, and we have such good times! I love to talk with him so well."
"You strange little creature, you can go to see the Indian any time."
"Yes, but some how I feel as if I would like to go to-day. I know he will like to see me;" and the child was soon on her way to the "low home," with Nep, who carried the pail of broth. As she drew near, she saw that Quady was not sitting at his door, as he usually did, to watch for her, but instead, the door was closed, and everything around was still; nothing was heard, save the breakers as they dashed upon the shore. Opening the door, which was never fast, she saw before her, the form of poor Quady, stretched upon the rude bed, and as he tossed to and fro, in an uneasy slumber, he muttered the words,—"pale-face—gone."
"Pale-face has come! Quady, Pale-face has come to you! Look up, and take some of the nice broth which I have brought."
Slowly he opened his eyes, and seeing the little one was by his side, he raised his hands aloft and said, "Me thank Great Spirit; me afraid Great Spirit take me home without seeing little Pale-face once more. Me see my brothers soon; a little while, and Pale-face come to see us. Great Spirit bless little Pale-face," he feebly said; "she make poor Quady happy."
With that dying blessing his spirit took its flight. He had passed away, the last one of his kind, he who had lived a life of solitude, apart from the world, looking upon the white man as having taken from him his home, his lands, and the forests which would have been his if the white man had not, long years ago, laid them low; yes, he had breathed a blessing, with his last breath, upon the pale-face. He who had not a brother left to bury him, had thanked God that the Pale-face had come to close his eyes; yes, it was the voice of childhood which had made his last moments happy, had pointed out the road which leads the wanderer home.
It was a scene to melt the hardest heart; that little child, scarcely as high as the rude couch, reaching up to close the eyes of him whom she should see no more. As she sat by his side, and looked around the room where she had spent so many happy hours, a sense of loneliness crept over her. There was the pipe which he had smoked, laid away on the little chimney-piece, and by the bed-side was the pail of broth with which she had thought to please him so much; and at the remembrance she burst into tears, and her tears fell upon the hand of him who lay sleeping. Neptune, hearing the sad tones of his mistress, came and looked into her face; and when she took no notice of him, he crouched at her feet, and howled piteously. And thus they found them, for the little one could not think of leaving her dear Quady there alone. They buried him, as he had wished, by the side of his brothers; and when the Sea-flower gazed into that narrow house, so dark and still, she looked up and said, "Mother, I shall love to look at the stars oftener now, for he has gone to live among those bright and shining ones." Sadly did the child miss her visits to the "low home," and when in years to come her thoughts wandered over the past, her love for the poor lone Indian had not diminished. The stars shone brighter and brighter, even as her light was "shining unto the perfect day."
"What little missy look up in de sky so much for?" asked Vingo, as he walked by the shore, with Sea-flower in his arms, as was his custom of a bright moonlit evening.
"O, Vingo, it is so beautiful! I was watching those fleecy clouds, until they seemed to be little waves in which the stars were sailing upward, up, and as they looked back to us, their smile seemed to grow purer; and I think I can see Quady among them. Don't you see him, Vingo?"
"Does you mean dose little black specks in de moon, missy?"
"No, Quady is one of the bright ones now; and you will be made white, too, when you go there. Don't you want to go and be one of those bright ones, Vingo?"
"Does all de white folks go dar?"
"Yes, if they love God when they are here; if they are good he will take them home to be with him."
"Den I don't tink I wants to go dar."
"O, Vingo! that is very wicked! Why don't you want to go?"
"'Cause, missy, dey say old slabe massa am one ob de best men in de whole ob Berginny, and I's 'fraid he catch Bingo and tie him up again."
At that moment a shadow was seen in the distance, and Harry came bounding over the ground on the wings of the wind.
"Ah! I thought I should find you here, Sea-flower, making the acquaintance of some of your sisters, as they hold up their heads in the moonlight. Vingo, what do you think? Father has received orders to sail in a week!"
"O, go way, massa Harry; what you mean by dat?" said Vingo, letting fall his lower jaw, while the whites of his eyes looked as if they had some time or other been in contact with a ghost.
"I mean that the Tantalizer will be ready for sea in a week, and Father will go master of her on a Cape Horn voyage. O, if father would only let me go with him, how delighted I should be! But he says I am too young, that I am not strong enough; yet I know of boys two or three years younger than I am, who have been around Cape Horn, and are now making a second voyage. I have often heard old Captain Wendall tell of the first voyage father made, when he was but ten years old, and how nimbly he ran up to the mast-head, and was always the first to discover the whale as she spouted, and would sing out, 'there she blows!' equal to an old tar. I must prevail on father to let me go with him."
"Dear, dear Harry, do not talk so! Only think how mother will feel to have father go! He has been at home so long, ever since I was born, and how would she feel to have you both go away, and no one but Vingo and myself to comfort her."
"No one but you to comfort her? You are worth a dozen like me, darling!" and the little manly fellow threw his arms around her neck, and felt that he had the very best sister in the world.
"Ah! young massa, I tinks you hab de right sort ob spirit; you's born to be no land-lubber; but it my 'pinion you had better stay wid good, kind missus and de Sea-flower a while longer; you not find a better berth, I'm tinkin'."
"No, that I shall not; let me go where I will, I shall not find a mother like her; and as for Sea-flower, I don't believe there was ever another in the whole ocean like her."
"How funny you talk, Harry; you make me think of little Moses in the bulrushes."
"Ah! there goes a gull, flying over my right shoulder, headed seaward; the sailor's omen of good luck; perhaps father may change his mind, after all."
"Harry, I want you to promise me you will say nothing about going to sea before mother; will you promise?"
"I never could refuse you anything, little pussy, but you do not say anything about yourself; would you not like to get rid of such a graceless fellow?"
The child's sympathies had been so wrapped up in her mother's grief, that it had not occurred to her mind how much she should miss her dear father; and as she thought of Harry, who had always played so gently with her, and came every night, after her mother had heard her prayers, and told such beautiful stories, about the good little fairies, until she fell asleep, and dreamed they had all come to be her sisters; and was awakened in the morning by the tramping of so many little feet, (in near proximity to those brown curls, which seemed to have been awake long before their mistress), and saw fourteen blue eyes looking at her, besides two roguish black ones, behind the curtain, which she did not see, and would wonder if it might not have been the kittens, after all, that had whispered in her ear. As she thought of all his kindness to her, she was silent; and as the negro drew the mantle more closely about her, he wondered if the little drop which fell upon his hand was of dew.
Preparations for the sailing of the Tantalizer were rapidly going on. She was a stout-built ship of three hundred tons burthen, the pride of her owners; and why should she not have been? for many a rich cargo had she brought to them, thousands and thousands of dollars had she added to their possessions; many a hurricane had she outrode, and as she sat so proudly on the water, she looked as if she might outlive many more. Captain Grosvenor had sailed master of her upon six successive voyages, making a "telling" voyage each time, until, his fortune becoming sufficiently ample, he had thought to spend the rest of his days on shore; but, after a respite of seven years, he had become so restless, and so longed to try his fortune upon the water again, that, receiving a flattering offer from those in whose employ he had formerly sailed, he consented, as he said, "for the last time," to make a voyage in his favorite Tantalizer. Mrs. Grosvenor had earnestly hoped that her husband would follow the sea no more, knowing that their means were sufficient to supply all their wants; and since God in his providence had consigned this little one to their care, she had congratulated herself that there was one more tie to bind her husband to his home; and, indeed, the child was as dear to him as if she had been his own flesh and blood; and as those last seven years upon shore stood up before him, now that he was about to leave all that was dear to him, as having been spent more in keeping with God's laws than in any previous part of his life, he felt that he was a better man. Naturally of a noble, generous disposition, he had gained the respect of all who knew him. Pleasant and gentlemanly in his manners, he was no less firm in his duties on shipboard, and his stern word of command was received by his men with the same hearty "aye, aye," as when he cracked a joke with them over the club-room fire. Harry had kept his promise in regard to his wish to go with his father; and when he looked into his mother's face, and saw how mournful was her smile, he felt that it would indeed be cruel to think of leaving her. But when he heard the sailors saying, as he clambered up the rigging, that it was a pity such a sprightly little fellow could not go along with them, his desire to ship for the voyage knew no bounds, and seeking his father, in the cabin, he had a long interview with him, gaining the promise that when he should return he would secure for him a good lay, and that he might then commence the nautical career, which the captain plainly saw his inclinations had marked out.
The day had arrived when the ship would sail. Every thing had been made ready for a long voyage, should the captain not meet with his usual good fortune, which was considered unnecessary by her owners, so sanguine were they of her success; such implicit faith did they place in the abilities of her captain, that in securing his services, they looked upon the voyage as told. Ah! who can tell if that proud ship may ever return? Was there not one who looked upon her thus? Within that happy home, now so desolate, sat the wife of him who had just taken his leave of her, and the bitterness of that hour who can tell? She only who has tasted the same cup of sorrow; she who has given to the mercies of the deep him whom she holds most dear on earth. Such an one can indeed realize what were the feelings of that wife, as she sat at the window, her eye fixed upon the ship which was bearing away him whom she might never see more. The white sail is smaller and smaller, until it appears but a speck, and is finally lost in the distance. And then what a sense of desolation! Oh, might we all seek for strength in time of trouble, of Him who will not turn a deaf ear to the cries of his children! Who hath said, "As thy day, so shall thy strength be." Would that all might seek for comfort in the hour of trial, as did that stricken one,—in prayer! The Sea-flower had, with Harry, accompanied her father in the ship, as she was towed out by the steamer over the bar. As they were about to cast off, when the steamer should return, the father sought to bid his children farewell. Turning to his boy, he bade him be all that a son and brother should be. With one long embrace his eye rested upon the Sea-flower; his voice failed him.
"Father," said the child, "you will soon come to us again; then you will never leave us;" pointing to a little cross which she had privately embroidered and set up in his state-room, she said, "you will be happy, father, so happy, on the water! But sometimes, when the stars look down upon you, or the great waves break over your ship, you will want to see us; and when you look at the pretty name which you gave me," (pointing out the word Natalie, which was wrought upon the foot of the cross), "you may know that I am thinking of you. Our hearts shall be with you."
With a father's blessing upon his children, he suffered them to be taken away; and as the loud huzza went up from the deck of the steamer, he saw his little one gazing back upon him, from amidst the waving banners, with a look which sank into his heart; her gentle words were still sounding in his ear, and it would seem as if that voice of childhood was of riper years. Her words were never forgotten. Over the spirit of the child there came that which she had never known before; ah! gentle one, it is but the first drop of bitterness which must be mingled with the sweets in every life. May the All-Father keep thy feet from hidden thorns, strewing thy pathway only with the sweet flowers of innocence! He had gone; and the heart of the Sea-flower echoed,—"he has gone;" the very breeze which wafted him from home sighed "gone." Is there a heart which never knew the tone?
"I hear the tread of pioneers, Of nations yet to be; The first low wash of waves, where soon Shall roll a human sea."
"Far on the prairies of the West, A lovely floweret grows; With glowing pen, each traveller oft Describes the Prairie Rose.
"For ages there alone it grew, The prairie's gem and pride; But now the Rose of Sharon fair Is blooming at its side."
MRS. J.H. HANAFORD.
"Och, sure, mem, and it's meself that's afther a thinking that we shall be raching good ould Ireland, from the ither side of this great Ameriky, if we kape on."
"Have patience, Biddy, we shall be there to-morrow at this time; there is nothing like keeping up good courage."
"Cabbage! mem, and it's meself has not seen a hapurth of a cabbage since we stopped the last time, to get a bit to sustain hunger, sure; I think mem, they must have rolled off, when the kitchen mirror and gridiron dhraped down," said Biddy, desirous to atone in some way for the disappearance of sundry heads of cabbage, which she had found means of disposing of, even in its unprepared state, while buried among washtubs, cheese-presses, and churns.
"Bad luck to the likes of it, indade!" and she caught at a small dining-table just in time to set it upon its legs again.
"I don't wonder Biddy complains, mother; it's enough to weary the patience of Job, riding so slowly over these dismal prairies; it would really do my eyes good to get sight of a hill, or any thing to break this continual sameness. What can father be thinking of, to take us to such a lonely, out of the way place? Never mind, Biddy, we shall have the pleasure of seeing where the sun goes to."
Thus spake the occupants of a long, covered wagon, moving westward, drawn by four stout oxen, with as many horses and cows following in the rear.
"Drive on there, Patrick," called out Mr. Santon, who was riding his own horse by their side; "drive on, we must get to the settlement by another night."
"Yes, sir, I am afther urging on the bastes for the last piece or two; but the crathurs have come so far, they don't know, sure, if they be jist laying home, or afther a raching there."
Mr. Santon had formerly been a merchant in the city of Boston; he had been doing a heavy business, and had accumulated a handsome fortune, but being one of those easy sort of persons, who think everybody as honest as themselves, he had, in an evil hour, endorsed largely for those who were worse than swindlers, who had not even as much as thanked him for his name; and he had lost nearly all in that one act. Many friends he had, who knowing his worth, had kindly offered their assistance, and would willingly have set him on his feet again, for they disliked to lose so valuable a citizen from their midst; but he, declining all assistance from those, whom he knew gave not grudgingly, thanked them with a grateful heart, and taking what little was left to him after paying his debts, had started with his wife and only child, and two servants whom he had retained, for the far West, intent upon leading a quiet, unmolested life, in the bosom of his family. Haying supplied himself with all requisite tools, etc., for tilling the ground, for which occupation he had always a great desire, they had now, after a fatiguing journey of fourteen days, arrived at the little log-house, in the western part of the state of Ohio, which was to be their future home. This was a great change for Mrs. Santon, who had spent the most of her days in the city, and had always servants to call upon for her least wish, never being obliged to lift a finger against her desire. She was one of the best of women, with a kind word for every one, and greatly did the poor, upon whom she had bestowed so many gifts of charity, lament her departure. In the church, the sewing-society, by the bedside of the suffering, and in the home of poverty, had she a place; her worth was known to all. Cheerfully did she resign all to go with her husband, to follow him, wherever it might be; with him would she be happy in their home, though it might be ever so humble. Their daughter of ten years was a sprightly, pretty child, with dark hair, and bright, black, tell-tale eyes, which looked as if they might make sad havoc, when a few more years should have added to their brilliancy. Resembling her mother in features, her disposition was like her father; free and easy in her ways, she was happy so long as every thing bent to her wishes; but her mother could not but notice with regret that her child had acquired a hasty, impatient manner, which the indulgence of her father in no way served to improve; yet she was a warm-hearted little creature, and it was with great difficulty that Mrs. Santon could bring herself to censure her. Still the mother must do her duty toward her child, and many a prayer had been offered, that she might have strength to act aright.
The long covered wagon stopped at the door of their new home just as the sun was going down.
There was but one house in sight of their little cabin, and that was, if anything, still smaller than their own; nothing was to be seen on all sides but wide prairie land, and as the little Winifred cast her eye around, she exclaimed:
"O! mother, what shall we do here? I am sure I shall not like to stay; there is no one here."
"You forget that God is here, my child," said the mother; and she commenced assisting Biddy in setting up some few articles that would make them comfortable through the night, while her husband, with Pat, attended to the out-door affairs.
"Och, and sure, mem," said Biddy, as she put her emerald head in at the door of the cabin; "faith, and it's not yesilf, mem, that's going to rest in the same room with the likes of me."
"Yes, Biddy, I see no other way; we shall have to get used to western life. I think, by partitioning off one corner, here, with blankets, we shall get along very well; and then it will be right handy for you in the morning to get the breakfast; you will not have the trouble of coming down stairs."
"Yes, mem, yese makes everything so asy like! but it's such strange times for yese, mem!" and Biddy went flying about the room, her face glowing with excitement, pulling at every uneven log in the house, fully persuaded there must be some other apartment, if no more than a closet; and as she caught at a loose board, which only separated them from the open air, she looked through, delighted that she had discovered another room, and that her mistress would not now be obliged to share the same apartment with herself; for as the remembrance of certain devotional exercises to be gone through, over each bead in her rosary, came to her, she had her doubts if the "blissed St. Pathrick," (who, for reasons best known to herself, was her favorite saint), would condescend to listen to petitions offered from such near proximity to the unbelieving Protestants; not that she thought her mistress was not a most excellent woman, but she was a Protestant, and often had she called upon the blissid St. Patrick, to "bring her dear lady over to the thrue faith." As she bent down to look into the opening, congratulating herself upon the discovery, a large cat darted through, full into her face, and ran with speed out at the door.
"Och, murther! and may the good saints presarve us alive! What will become of us at all?" and in her fright she went headlong into a pile of milk-pans, her unwieldy arms making certain involuntary revolutions, causing the air to resound with a chorus, which might have done credit to the first callithumpian in the land.
"Ho! what is all this?" cried Mr. Santon, who had stepped in at the commencement of the prelude; "what are you looking for under those pans, Biddy?"
"Sure, sir, and it's mesilf that's afther being exterpretated intirely! The varmints! faith, there was a dozen, sir, came scratching at me;" and she pointed at the aperture, as if in dread expectation of seeing their ghosts in pursuit; but lo! instead, there was the full, round face of Pat, who, having been left to take up his night's lodging with the creatures, in the apology for a barn, had espied the light, and not being able to resist the temptation of getting one more glimpse at the "swate Biddy," he had ventured to look in, and catching a glimpse of her woebegone face from among the shining tins, he exclaimed:
"Och, honey dear, and has it come to this? that yese obliged to make yese bed of the likes of that! And if ye'll wait a bit it's mesilf that'll run and fetch some of the nate, saft sthraw, that ye can fill the tins, and 'twill do ye betther; indade, and it's none but a hathen that could endure the likes of that!"
"Ah! Pathrick, is it ye? and was ye pint up in there wid the crathurs?"
"Yes, it's mesilf that will be risting with the bastes, the night," said Pat, thinking she had alluded to the creatures in the barn; "and I'll be wishing ye swate dhrames, and a plinty' of thim;" saying which he disappeared, leaving the trembling Biddy in great anxiety of mind as to what should be his fate.
As the little Winnie peeped out from behind the screen, when they had all retired, and saw Biddy counting her beads, with her eye still fixed upon the spot where she had last seen the smiling Patrick, she laughed outright, in spite of the crevices in the roof overhead, and she laid her down and looked up at the stars which came twinkling in upon her, 'till those great black eyes gradually diminished in size, and her little brain was busily engaged among the familiar scenes of the home which she had left so far away.
Cautiously did Biddy, with the first dawn of day, advance toward where she had dreamed her poor "Pathrick" was in close contact with the veritable bastes, and the family was awakened from their slumbers by her loud tones, lamenting that "niver a vistage of Pathrick, the cats, or the ante-room was left," for on looking out, the only object which met her gaze was the sun, which was just coming up in the east.
"What's the time, Biddy?" asked Mrs. Santon.
"And it's jist about three hours afther sunrise, mem."
"I think you must be mistaken, Biddy; we cannot surely have been sleeping so long after our usual time for rising."
"Indade, and the sun bes jist coming in sight, and it must have been a powerful time travelling over, sure. I'm thinking they must be afther dhrying their takettles a long time, back there in ould Boston."
Time passed on, and our adventurers were becoming more and more accustomed to western life. Mr. Santon had found his lands to be in a very good state of cultivation, the former owner having been a Dutchman, who thoroughly understood what a good farm ought to be. Mrs. Santon had proved herself to be one of the best of housekeepers, and greatly did she pride herself on her abilities for filling the station of a farmer's wife. As they sat down of an evening, to their meal of bacon and Indian cakes, and contrasted their present circumstances with what had been their former situation in life, they could not repress a smile at the change; but they were happy, contented in their humble home, and the bread which had been earned by the sweat of the brow was sweeter, the social enjoyments dearer, than when in fashionable life they had been obliged to live with an eye to the customs of society; even Winnie had found some attractions in their little western home. The neighbors comprising those who lived for twenty miles around, the nearest being a mile distant, were pleasant, light-hearted people, and the civilities which were shown to the new comers were without end.
A small log-house, unlike the others of the settlement in its exterior, inasmuch as it was honored with an additional door, served as their place of worship; and it was with great joy that Winnie looked forward to Sunday morning, when, mounted upon her pony, she might ride off for six miles to the church, accompanied by her father and mother, each riding their respective horses. Arrived at the church, they dismounted at the great horseblock, leaving their hats and mantles thereon, as was the custom; and it was a pretty sight to see the ladies walking into church, their cheeks glowing with exercise, and the fresh, morning air. As Winnie entered, her long curls composing themselves after a frolic with the breeze, many a sly glance was aimed at her from the neighboring pews, in spite of the consciences of their owners reminding them that it was holy day. It was a source of great comfort to Mrs. Santon, that she as able to come so far to this place of worship. The little society numbered not over forty persons, yet those words spoken by our Saviour, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there will I be in the midst of them," came with renewed freshness to her mind, each time she entered those doors, and she felt that she had never tasted the bliss of uninterrupted love for Christ, as now.
The shepherd of this little flock was a man fearing God, just, and upright; his services in the cause of Christ were offered voluntarily, without money, or price. Coming, as he had, in his old age, to spend the remainder of his days in the family of a beloved son, he had found with joy that his declining years might be profitably employed; that he might earn that reward which is promised to those who make a right use of the talents which God has given them; that he might merit those blessed words, "well done, good and faithful servant." His labors among this people had not proved ineffectual; many had been brought to see the great mercies of their Redeemer, souls had been converted to Christ, and as the song of praise went up from beneath that humble roof, the glad shouts were borne aloft, and angels joined in the chorus.
* * * * *
It was a beautiful afternoon, everybody was busy about the farm of Mr. Santon; Winnie was sitting at the door, intent upon her own thoughts, when she caught sight of their good minister approaching upon his horse, his silver locks flying in the wind. Biddy, learning they were to have a visit from the "Protestant praste," turned first pale, then red, and when the old gentleman dismounted at the door, she let fall the shoulder of bacon, which she was preparing for the supper, and darted behind the screen, in her haste hitting her foot against the lowest tin, in a pile of two dozen, which brought the rest down to inquire into the state of affairs.
The presence of the old gentleman served to impart a cheerfulness to all who gazed upon his happy countenance, and his kind tones, as he inquired for the welfare of the family, penetrated the screen, reaching the ear of Biddy, who sat wondering what the good father Teely would say, if he knew she had so far sinned as to remain under the same roof with a "wicked Protestant praste;" but as she heard him speaking to Pat, who had come in of an errand, with such a pleasant voice, she ventured a peep out, and the form of her thoughts just at that moment, might have been a little, a very little, savoring of heresy. Suffice it to say, when the old gentleman took his departure, there was a peculiar twinkle in Biddy's eye, and she had so far overcome her aversion to the "imposther" as to have had a few private words with him, which had by no means decreased her usual flow of good spirits. It was evident that Biddy "had on her high heels," for the rest of that evening. As Winnie strolled over the farm, enjoying the evening breeze, reflecting upon her good pastor's words, her attention was suddenly attracted toward the enclosure where the cows were being milked, by hearing the voice of Biddy, who, as she "stripped" the patient animal again, for the dozenth time, was very much engaged with Pat, whose round, smiling face, as he glanced at her from the opposite side of the creature, shone with delight; and as the white foam rose higher and higher in Biddy's pail, so did the warmth of her feelings get the better of her, and those tell-tale eyes of Winnie's danced with mischief, as she overheard the following conversation:
"Ah, Pathrick dear, does ye think there is the laste sin in it? And indade, it's mesilf that's thinking the blissid St. Pathrick would be afther misthaking him for a good Catholic!"
"And what did he say, honey dear? did he think he could be afther comforting the likes of us?"
"Thrath, and he did; it was himsilf that said niver a word when I was spaking to him about it, but was afther showering a blissing upon us, the dear sowl!"
"But what will the praste say? Biddy, sure he'll be very angry, intirely."
"Faith, and it's no longer ago than the day afther yesterday, that the misthress was saying if we confissed our sins with a right spirit, we should be afther being forgiven; and now, Pathrick, I'm thinking we 'll be afther getting married, and then there will be a plinty of time for confissing."
"Och, honey, and that's the thruth for ye," said the assenting Pat, and together they walked towards the cabin.
Winnie, putting that and that together, made up her mind that Patrick and Biddy had become tired of a life of single blessedness, and were seriously contemplating matrimony, which was, indeed the case; and Biddy, having made known her desires to her mistress, who saw no just cause why they should not be bound together in the holy bands of wedlock, the next Wednesday was set apart when Patrick and Biddy would be made husband and wife.
The day arrived, and Biddy, arrayed in her best snuff-color, with ribbons and laces to match, stood up with him of her choice, to pronounce those vows which should make them one, even though the ceremony should be performed by a Protestant.
"Will you take this woman to be your wedded wife?" spake the reverend gentleman, in a clear, distinct tone.
"Ah! kape on, kape on!" shouted the enraptured Pat; "don't be throublin yesilf with questions; dear knows it's mesilf that's in it;" and his smiling face was mirrored in numerous brass buttons, which were hanging around his buff vest.
As soon as the old gentleman could get his voice again, for the boisterous joy of Pat, be turned to the trembling Biddy.
"Do you take this man to be your lawful husband, and leaving all others, will you cleave unto him alone?"
"Indade, your Riverence!" exclaimed Biddy, "I'll be afther claving him all the days of me life! It's not mesilf, sure, that was always born and reared in the great city of Cork, that'll be doing things by halves!" and in her happiness she caught Pat around the neck, giving him a smack, which might have been attributed to the opening of the bottle of whiskey with which Mr. Santon had graced the occasion, had it not been for those great eyes of Winnie, which would discover the accident, in spite of their mistress's endeavors to direct their attention elsewhere.
And now Patrick and Biddy were husband and wife. Never was there a more devoted couple; the days glided pleasantly on, Biddy keeping time in her endeavors to please her mistress with the joys of her heart; everything went on cheerfully, not a note of discontent was heard, except that the little Winnie would sometimes break into sighing for the pleasures of her early home. Nothing occurred to disturb the quietude of this home in the West, until early in the ensuing Fall, when Mrs. Santon was taken with a violent attack of Western fever, which threatening to undermine her health, Mr. Santon was fearful lest they should be obliged to return East; but the fever leaving her, she was again able to attend to her duties, with only an occasional "shake," and the discussion as to their return was for the present discontinued.
THE OUTWARD BOUND.
"Go in thy glory o'er the ancient sea, Take with thee gentle winds thy sails to swell, Sunshine and joy upon thy streamers be; Fare thee well, bark; farewell!"
"Farewell; God knows when we shall meet again. I have a faint, cold fear thrilling through my veins, That almost freezes up the heat of life."
SHAKESPEARE'S "ROMEO AND JULIET."
As the dews of heaven fall gently, lulling the flowers to rest, so did the low, clear voice of the Sea-flower soothe the weary spirits of Mrs. Grosvenor, as she read from the evening paper the following paragraph:
"Spoken by bark Constitution, of New York, in latitude 39 deg. 20', longitude 45 deg., ship Tantalizer, of Nant., Capt. I. W. Grosvenor, eighty days from home; had taken seventy barrels of sperm oil, and was made fast to a forty-barrel right whale: would sail for South Seas in a few days; all well."
"Hurrah for father!" exclaimed Harry; "he will be at home in less than two years, at that rate, and then he promised me that I should see what old ocean is made of!"
"My son, you will learn full soon what a life at sea is; your bright visions may indeed some of them be realized, the many dangers to which you will be exposed, will not serve to mar your joys, for to such a heart as yours they will pass unheeded; but for all that, my son, you will meet with many hardships, of which you little know. I would wish you never to follow the sea, my boy, but if you are still determined upon it, when your father returns I shall have to give my consent, though with reluctance. You will then be old enough to choose your own pursuits for life, and whatever they may be, remember, Harry, to lead an honest, upright life, never losing sight of your early instructions, and the prayers of your mother."
As Mrs. Grosvenor ceased speaking she looked upon her son, and could hardly realize that her little rosy-cheeked Harry, who had loved to lay his head upon her bosom, and listen while she told him of his father, who had gone away over the blue water, to get such pretty things for his boy, had grown to be a tall lad of fifteen years; and well might she have been proud of her son, for the nobleness of his soul was apparent in every feature. As Vingo expressed himself, "Young massa Harry am got up ob what neber would get used to de atmosphere ob old Berginny."
"Mother," said Harry, "I shall never forget your teachings. I shall always hold them sacred in my heart, and wherever I go, in whatever circumstances I am placed, I will be true to you, my mother;" and he pressed a fervent kiss upon the brow of her who was worthy the name.
As Mrs. Grosvenor returned her son's embrace, she felt that perhaps she had said too much; that she had been selfish in wishing to have him always near her; and she observed that he wore an expression of pain, of deep emotion, which he in vain attempted to conceal.
The Sea-flower had rested her head upon her hand, and while her mother had been engaged with Harry, a silent spectator might have wondered to what unseen object those deep oases of love were imparting their purity. The words of Harry had fallen upon her ear,—"I shall see what old Ocean is made of;" shall we follow in the train of her musings? they will lead us not where the fallen tread. On the banks of the still waters of peace, 'neath the willows, whose tears are of innocence, frisk the tender lambs, who taste only of the sweets of the green pasture:—"I shall see what old ocean is made of." Far away in coral dells, where the nymphs of ocean tune their harps in praise to Nature's God, the Sea-flower loves to ramble, as if she had been a child in time long past, and the mysteries of ocean were that childhood's home. Ah, loved one, thou dost not pause to find what 'tis which makes thy heart to beat in unison with the murmuring of the waters! perchance those restless billows are but the echoings of thy soul's desire to breathe that upper air, and breathing, gasp for more, 'Tis not for us to tell thee that bright ones came down, and bore the spirit of her who gave thee life, to that better land, from hence; nor of the dying prayer, "Lord, keep my child," which was caught up by each listening billow, and the supplication, e'er since renewed by the voices of the deep.
Why Mrs. Grosvenor had spoken thus, upon this evening to her son, she could not tell; she felt there was some irresistible power which bade her speak that charge,—"never lose sight of your early instructions, and the prayers of your mother." As she retired early for the night, feeling slightly indisposed, she met the gaze of Harry, which was fixed upon her, attributing its uncommon earnestness to a determination on his part to cherish her words. And he never did forget them But, ah! fond mother, sleep on, take thy rest, and gain strength for the morrow's rising, for thou knowest not of the cup of sorrow which is being prepared for thee.
As Harry sat watching the bright flames as they went crackling up the chimney, his sister came and rested her head upon his shoulder, where they remained, until Sea-flower, reminding him of the lateness of the hour, was about to retire, when her brother threw his arm about her, begging her to remain a little, for, said he, "I shall not always have my dear sister to comfort me."
"To comfort you! Harry, do you, who are always so light-hearted and joyous, need comforting?"
"Ah, pussy, but you can make the happiest heart happier. I was thinking of mother; it is a comfort to me that she has you, Sea-flower, to cheer her lonely hours."
"I think mother is less sad than she has been, for now she is looking forward to the time when father shall come home; and I think she flatters herself that she can dissuade you from going to sea, and then we shall be an unbroken, happy family once more."
Those words! why had they power to make that boy turn pale? Had he not been screened from the bright glow of the fire-light, the Sea-flower must have noticed his agitation, as she looked up for the good-night kiss; he clasped her in his arms for a moment, and then the door closed upon her gentle form.
The old clock in the church tower had struck eleven, and Harry heard the cry of the watch, "all's well." He still stood where he had parted with his sister; as her last footfall upon the stairs died away, and the house was hushed for the night, the plans which he had matured long days ago, for this night's execution, laid fast hold of him. Can it be possible that the boy is about to forget those last words of his mother? No, they are still sounding in his ear; and his promise, "I will not forget the prayers of my mother." But does he consider, in the step which he is about to take, of the arrow which will pierce that mother's heart? He walks the room with a quick tread; he does reflect, and pities his mother from the bottom of his heart, praying that the blow may fall gently; but he has shipped for a voyage in the Nautilus, and this night, at high tide, she will sail.
Noiselessly he ascends to his room, and taking his clothes from the drawer, where they had been placed with care, makes them into a bundle, not forgetting the little bible, which was given him by his mother only the day before, as a birthday gift. Pausing in the upper hall, he listens, if he may get one last faint sound from those he holds so dear; but save the uneasy slumbers of Vingo, nothing is heard. All is now ready for his departure; stepping into the parlors, where hang the portraits of the family, he takes a farewell of each. The Sea-flower and his mother! his eyes fill with tears, and his heart is swelling into his throat; he is upon the point of retracing his steps, when his eye rests upon the features of his father. The daring boldness of the expression, which the artist had but too well portrayed, fires him with fresh courage; every nerve thrills with new life, and kissing the inanimate canvas, as if it were indeed his dear mother and sister, he tore himself away from home. Walking rapidly down the deserted street, without venturing a look back, he passes many an endeared object; the old white church, where he has been accustomed to worship, Sunday after Sunday, for many years, holds high its head in the bright moonlight, and the hands of the old town clock upon the tower, seem to beckon him to return. He falters; it would seem as if the very doors of the church would open and receive him. Throwing down the bundle, he kneels upon the door-stone, and breathes a prayer to heaven, to bless those who will enter therein when he shall be gone. Pressing his lips to the cold stone where they have trod, he rises, when lo! standing by his side, with the package of clothes in his mouth, is the old house dog, Nep; and as the watch in the tower cries, "past eleven o'clock, and all is well," he looks wistfully into his master's face, as if he would ask, is all well? What is to be done? in less than half an hour the ship will be towed out into the stream; there is no time to be lost, but the dog will not think of leaving his master, for his experience of years tells him it is a new thing for the boy to be wandering from home at this unseasonable hour. In vain did Harry attempt to drive the faithful creature from him, for never having been an unwelcome companion before, the dog did not understand his master's threatening gestures; yet he could understand that something was amiss, and for that reason kept close upon his master's heels, to shield him from all danger.