SAMANTHA AT CONEY ISLAND
SAMANTHA AT CONEY ISLAND
A THOUSAND OTHER ISLANDS
JOSIAH ALLEN'S WIFE
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
Bible House, New York
THE CHRISTIAN HERALD
THE PLIMPTON PRESS NORWOOD MASS U.S.A.
In Which the Coney Island Microbe Enters Our Quiet Home 1
We set sail for Thousand Island Park and have a real good time, but Josiah murmurs about Coney. 23
We seek Quiet and Happiness in their beautiful hants and mingle with the pleasure seekers of Alexandria Bay. 39
We enjoy the hospitalities of Whitfield's aunt's boardin'-house at the Park, and my pardner goes a-fishin' 57
Josiah's imagination about his fishin' exploits carries him to a pint where I have to rebuke him, which makes him dretful huffy 73
In which I draw the matrimonial line round my pardner and also keep my eye on Mr. Pomper 87
In which Josiah proposes to dance and Mr. Pomper makes an advance 101
In which Mr. Pomper declares his intenshuns an' gives his views on matrimony 123
In which Mr. Pomper makes a offer of marriage and Faith has a wonderful experience 147
We Hear a Great Temperance Sermon, but Josiah Still Hankers for Coney Island 163
In Which We Return Home, and I Perswaide Josiah to Build a Cottage for Tirzah Ann 183
In Which Josiah Still Works at His Plan for Tirzah Ann's Cottage, and Decides to Send His Lumber C. O. W. 201
In Which Josiah and Serenus Depart Sarahuptishusly for Coney Island and I Start in Pursuit 211
The Curious Sights I Seen An' the Hair-Raisin' Episodes I Underwent in My Agonizin' Search for My Pardner 221
I Visit the Moon, the Witchin' Waves, Open Air Circus, Advise the Monkeys, Make the Male Statute Laugh, but Do Not Find Josiah 233
The Wonderful and Mysterious Sights I Saw in Steeple Chase Park, and My Search There for My Pardner 249
In Which I Continue My Search for Josiah Through Dreamland, Huntin' for Him in Vain, and Return to Bildad's at Night, Weary and Despairin' 273
Josiah Found at Last! the Awful Fire at Dreamland and the Terrible Sights I Saw There 293
We Return to Jonesville and Josiah Builds Tirzah Ann's Cottage With Strange Inventions and Additions 309
Faith Comes to Visit Us. We Attend the Camp Meetin' at Piller Pint, and Faith Meets the Lover of Her Youth 327
Marietta Holley [Samantha] Frontispiece
"Serenus Gowdey tramped up and down our kitchen floor swingin' his arms and describin' the wonders of Coney Island." 8
"The old deacon couldn't stand such talk. He turned him outdoors, slammed the door in his face, and forbid Faith to speak to him again." 14
"I liked Castle Rest. It seemed a monument riz up to faithful, patient mothers by the hand of filial gratitude and love." 49
"I tried to stop him. I didn't want him to demean himself before the oarsmen tryin' to find boats that hadn't been hearn on in hundreds of years." 68
"'I won't wear a veil,' sez he stoutly. But the next time a gale come from the sou'west I laid the brim back and tied the veil in a big bow knot under his chin." 83
"'What does ail you, Samantha, lockin' arms with me all the time—it will make talk! he whispered in a mad, impatient whisper, but I would hang on as long as Mr. Pomper wuz around." 99
"As they come nigh me I riz up almost wildly and ketched holt of my pardner and sez I: 'Desist! Josiah Allen, stop to once!' The aged female looked at me in surprise." 132
"'No,' sez Mr. Pomper, 'I want it done as speedily as possible, fer my late lamented left me thirteen children, two pairs of triplets, two ditto of twins, and three singles.'" 144
"Mr. Pomper, thinkin' he would see better, got up on the bench, and jest as he shouted out 'How firm a foundation,' the bench broke and down he come." 169
"And then he would call in Uncle Nate Peedick and they would bend their two gray bald heads and talk about specifications and elevations till my brain seemed most as soft as theirn." 196
"'Serenus and Josiah are havin' a gay time at Coney Island. I've jest had a card from Serenus,' sez Miss Gowdey. You could have knocked me down with a pin feather." 215
"I stood before what seemed to be a great city. Endless white towers riz up as if callin' attention to 'em." 227
"On we went under the waterfall, up, up, down, down, and finally shot out jest where we got in." 231
THE WITCHING WAVES "Folks get into little automobiles and steer 'em themselves." 236
"A boat full of men and women set out from the highest peak, shot down the declivity like lightnin' and dashed 'way out on the other side of the bridge." 239
"Rows of high-headed mettlesome hosses." 247
"I'm tellin' the livin' truth, as she towered up in front on me, her breast opened and a man's face looked out on me." 254
"As I went down with lightnin' speed I had'nt time to think much." 259
"Pretty soon it begun to move and one by one they wuz throwed off and went down I know not where." 261
"As I went into Dreamland it seemed as if all the folks in the city was there." 267
"We got in a small boat and wuz carried round and round till we dived into a dark tunnel." 277
"I went forward to see the Head Hunters. I sez to 'em 'I've hearn of your doin's and I want to advise you for your good.'" 282
"It wuz a sight to see, acres and acres of sand dotted with men, wimmen, and children." 287
"I rushed forwards and cried to the lordly beast above, jest ready to spring: 'Don't harm Josiah! Devour me instead.'" 304
"I myself never sot foot on the Bowery; I wuzn't goin' to nasty up my mind with it, though I hearn there wuz some good things to be seen there." 314
"'The suller!' He stood agast, perfectly dumb-foundered but wuzn't goin' to give in he had made a mistake. It wuz too mortifying to his pride." 319
"I don't know how long they stood there, his eyes searchin' the dear face and findin' a sacred meanin' in it." 348
IN WHICH THE CONEY ISLAND MICROBE ENTERS OUR QUIET HOME
SAMANTHA AT CONEY ISLAND AND A THOUSAND OTHER ISLANDS
IN WHICH THE CONEY ISLAND MICROBE ENTERS OUR QUIET HOME
When Serenus Gowdey got back last fall from Brooklyn, where his twin brother, Sylvester, lives, he couldn't talk about anything but Coney Island. He slighted religion, stopped runnin' down relations, politics wuz left in the lurch, and cows, hens, and crops, wuz to him as if they wuzn't. He acted crazy as a loon about that Island.
Why, Sylvester'ses wife told Miss Dagget and she told the Editor of the Augur's wife, and she told Ben Lowry's widder, and she told the Editor of the Gimlet's mother-in-law, and she told me. It come straight, that Serenus only stayed there nights and to a early breakfast, but spent his hull durin' time to Coney Island, and he a twin too. She said Sylvester felt so hurt she wuz afraid it would make a lastin' hardness. And it made me enough trouble too, yes indeed! for he would come and pour out his praises of that frisky, frivolous spot into Josiah's too willin' ears, till he got him as wild as he wuz about it.
Why, evenin's after he'd been there recountin' its attractions till bed-time, Josiah would be so wrought up he'd ride night mairs most all night. He'd spring up in bed cryin' out, "All aboard for Coney Island!" or, "There is the Immoral Railway! See the divin' girls, and the Awful Tower. Get a hot dog; look at the alligators, etc., etc." I gin him catnip to soothe his nerve, but that didn't git the pizen out of his system; no, acres of catnip couldn't.
Oh, how dead sick I'd git of their talk, Coney Island! Luna Park! Well named, I'd say to myself, it is enough to make anybody luny to hear so much about it. Steeple Chase! chasin' steeples, folly and madness. Dreamland! night mairs, most probable. Why, from Serenus' talk that I hearn onwillingly about toboggan slides, merry-go-rounds, swings, immoral railways, skatin' rinks, diving girls, loops de loops, and bumps de bumps, trips to the moon and trashy shows of all kinds I got the idee there wuzn't nothin' there God had made, only the Ocean and the little incubator babies, though them two shows wuzn't what you might call similar and the same size. Why, I myself, with my powerful mind, would git so cumfuddled hearin' his wild and glarin' descriptions, that my brain would seem to turn over under my foretop, and I didn't wonder at Josiah's bein' led away by it, much as I lamented it, for he soon declared that go there he would.
In vain I reminded him that he wuz a deacon and a grand-father. He said he didn't care how many deacons he wuz, or how many grand-fathers; he wuz goin' to see that beautiful and entrancin' place with his own eyes. I tried to quell him down, but couldn't quell him worth a cent, with Serenus firin' him up on the other side.
One Sunday, Elder Minkley preached an eloquent sermon describing the glories of the New Jerusalem, and Josiah said goin' home that from Serenus' tell, the elder had gin a crackin' good description of Coney Island.
I groaned aloud. And he sez, "You may groan and sithe all you're a minter; I shall see that magnificent place before I die."
"Well," sez I coldly, "I don't want to talk about it Sunday. If you've got to talk about shows and Pleasure Huntin', do it week days, and don't pollute this sacred day with it."
"Pollute nothing!" sez he, and we didn't speak for over two milds. But another weariness wuz ahead on me, and another strain on my overworked ear pans. Jest about this time, Whitfield Minkley, our Tirzah Ann's husband, got jest as much carried away and enthused over some other Islands, though he had more to show for his het up state of mind. One thousand and seventy wuz the number of islands he fell voylently in love with and tried to make us the same. He had been to Canada on bizness and went through them islands, and wuz overcome by their extreme beauty. I'd heard that Whitfield's islands wuz as beautiful as anything this side of the Heavenly gardens. Still, with Serenus on one side praisin' up Coney, and Whitfield on the other praisin' up his islands, I got so dead tired of 'em that I wished there wuzn't a single island on the hull face of the earth. Yes, extreme weariness had got me so low down as that.
One evenin', Serenus had been there and talked three hours stiddy, describin' the charms and attractions of his island. The rush and roar of the mechanical amusements, so wonderful they made scientific men wonder. The educated animals that showed how fur animals could be made to reason and understand. The constant hustle and bustle of the immense crowds, ever comin', ever goin', ever movin', never stoppin'. He stood up some of the time describin' the wonders and splendors there, and tramped up and down our kitchen floor, swingin' his arms and actin', till, when he left at late bed-time, Josiah wuz pale with longin', and when I got up to lock the door and let out the cat, my head seemed to go round and round, and I had to hang onto the door nob to stiddy myself.
And the very next forenoon Whitfield and Tirzah Ann and little Delight come to spend the day. Her name is Anna Tirzah, but I called her Heart's Delight, she wuz so sweet and pretty, and we've shortened it into Delight. I wuz glad to see 'em and done well by 'em in cookin'. I had a excelent dinner started—roast fowl and vegetables and orange puddin', etc.—but Whitfield, jest as soon as he sot down, begun to descant on the beauty of his islands. I groaned and sithed out in the buttery. "Islands agin! I had one island last night till bed-time, and now I've got one thousand and seventy ahead on me."
He begun jest as I put my potatoes on to bile, I wuz goin' to smash 'em with plenty of cream and butter; I hearn him till dinner wuz on the table, and I wuz turnin' out the rich, fragrant coffee and addin' the cream to it, and his praise on 'em wuz still flowin' in a stiddy stream, and then I asked him, in one of his short pauses for breath, how Grout Nickelson's rumatiz wuz.
He answered polite but brief, and resoomed the subject nearest and dearest. I then, with dizzy foretop and achin' ear pans, tried to turn his mind onto politics and religion, no avail. I tried cotton cloth, carbide, lamb's wool blankets, Panama Canal, literatoor, X rays, hens' eggs, Standard Oil, the school mom, reciprocity, and the tariff; not a mite of change, all his idees swoshin' up against them islands, and tryin' to float off our minds there with hisen. I thought of what I'd hearn Thomas J. read about Tennyson's character, who "didn't want to die a listener," and I sez in a firm voice, "I've had a letter from Cousin Faithful Smith. She's comin' here next spring to make a visit."
Whitfield said he should love to see Cousin Faith, but whilst she wuz here, we all ort to go to the Thousand Islands.
Sez Josiah firmly, "We ort to take her to Coney Island," and he went on rehearsin' Serenuses praises, and the education and the bliss one could git there. He rid his hobby nobly, but Whitfield, bein' young and spry, could ride his hobby faster and furder, till finally Josiah got discouraged, and sot still a spell, and then scratched his head, and went out to the barn. And Whitfield seated himself with ease on his hobby, which pranced about us till, well as I love the children, I felt relieved to see 'em go, for my head felt as if the river wuz rushin' through it. And after they left and we driv over to the post office, it seemed as if the democrat wuz a boat and the dusty road a broad, liquid stream, down which we wuz glidin' and the neighin' of the old mair (we had to leave her colt to home) wuz the snort of a steamer. My dreams that night wuz about the Saint Lawrence, kinder swoshy and floatin' round.
Well, the cold winter passed away, as winters will, if you have patience to wait (or if you don't either, to be exact and truthful). The shiverin' earth begun to git a little warmer, kinder shook herself and partly throwed off the white fur robe she'd wore all huddled round herself so long, and as the sun looked down closter and more smilin' it throwed it clear off and begun to put on its new green spring suit. Them same smiles, only more warm and persuadin' like, coaxed the sweet sap up into the bare maple tops in Josiah's sugar bush and the surroundin' world, till them same sunny smiles wuz packed away in depths of sugar loaves and golden syrup in our store room. Wild-flowers peeped out in sheltered places; pussy willows bent down and bowed low as they see their pretty faces in the onchained brook; birds sung amongst the pale green shadders of openin' leaves; the west wind jined in the happy chorus. And lo! on lookin' out of our winder before we knowed it, as it were, we see Spring had come!
And with the spring come my expected visitor, Faithful Smith. She is my own cousin on my own side, called by some a old maid. But she hain't so very old, and she's real good-lookin'—better than when she wuz a girl, I think, for life has been cuttin' pure and sweet meanin's into her face, some as they carve beauty into a cameo. She's kinder pale and her sweet soul seems to look right out at you from her soft gray eyes, and the lay of her hull face is such that you would think, if the fire of happiness could be built up under it (in her soul), it would light up into loveliness.
She wuz disappinted some years ago (or I d'no what you would call it) when she sent the man away herself. But she had a Bo when she wuz a girl by the name of Richard West. Dick West wuz the fullest of fun you ever see, though generous and good hearted; but he boasted on not believin' anything, and Faithful's father, bein' a church member of the closest kind, and she brung up as you may say, right inside the tabernacle, with her Pa's phylakracy hangin' on the very horns of the altar, you may know what opposition Richard got from her Pa and her own conscience. Her conscience, as so many good girl's consciences are, wuz a perfect tyrant, and drove her round—that, and her Pa. He wanted to be a good man, but wuz bigoted and couldn't see no higher than the top of the steeple, and didn't want to. And take these facts, with her deep true love for Richard, you may know she got tossted about more'n considerable.
Richard would make fun right in meetin'—make fun of their religious observances—and finally, though he wuz good natured, and did all his pranks through light-hearted mischief and not malice, yet at last he did git mad at the old deacon, who wuz comin' it dretful strong on him with his doctrines and exhortin' him, tellin' him he wuz a lost soul and had been from before his birth. Then Richard sassed him right back and told him he didn't believe in his idee of the Deity.
The old deacon couldn't stand such talk. He turned him outdoors, slammed the door in his face, and forbid Faith to speak to him again. She obeyed her Pa and her own conscience; but it seemed to take all the nip out of her life. You see, she loved this young man; and when anyone like Faith loves it hain't for a week or a summer, but for life.
He writ to her burnin' words of love and passion, for he loved her too in the old-fashioned way Adam did Eve—no other woman round, you know. And the words he writ wuz, I spoze, enough to melt a slate stun, let alone a heart, tender and true. She never writ a word back, and at last she wouldn't read his letters and sent 'em back onopened. That madded him and he went on from bad to worse, swung right out into wickedness. He seemed to git harder and harder, and finally seein' he could make no more impression on Faith than he could on white clear crystal, he went off west, as fur as Michigan at first, so I hearn, and so on, I don't know where to.
Well, Faith lived on in the old home, very calm and sweet actin', with a shadder on her pretty face, worryin' dretful about her lover, so it wuz spozed. But at last it seemed to wear off and a clear white light took its place on her gentle forward, as if her trouble had bleached off the earthly in her nature so her white soul could show through plain. Mebby she'd got willin' to trust even his future with the Lord.
Dretful good to children and sick folks and them that wuz in trouble, Faith wuz. Good to her Pa, who wuz very disagreable in his last days, findin' fault with his porridge and with sinners, and most of them round him. But she took care on him patient, rubbed his back and soaked his feet, and read the Sams to him, and reconciled him all she could, and finally he went out into the Great Onknown to find out his own mistakes if he had made any, and left Faith alone.
The house wuz a big square one with a large front yard with some Pollard willers standin' in a row in front on't, through which the wind come in melancholy sithes into the great front chamber at night where Faith slept, or ruther lay. And the moon fallin' through the willers made mournful reflections on the clean-painted floor, and I spoze Faith looked at 'em and read her past in the white cold rays and her future too.
She hired a man and his wife to live in part of the house, and she herself lived on there, a life as cold and colorless as a nun's. But there wuz them that said that she loved that young West to-day jest as well as she did the day they parted, bein' one of the constant naters that can't forgit; that she kep' his birthdays every year, but sarahuptishously, and on the anniversary of the day she parted with him, nobody ever see her from mornin' till night.
The tall Pollard willers wuz the only ones that could look down into her chamber, and see how she looked, or what she wuz doin'. And they never told, only jest murmured and sithed, and kinder took on about it in their own way. But the next day, Faith always looked paler and sweeter than ever, they said.
Well, I wuz glad enough to see Faith. I think a sight on her and she of me, and we had a real good time. Josiah sez to me the day after she come, "She is the flower of your family!"
And I told him I didn't know as I should put it in jest that way, and he might jest as well be mejum, sez I, "You're quite apt to demean the relation on my side, and if you take it into your head to praise one of the females, you no need to go too high."
"Well," he repeated, "she is the flower of the Smith race. Of course," sez he, glancin' at my liniment and then off towards the buttery full of good vittles, "I always except you, Samantha, who I consider the fairest flower that ever blowed out on the family tree of Smith."
Josiah is a man of excelent judgment. But to resoom backward, I had a dretful good visit with Faith and enjoyed her bein' with us the best that ever wuz. Instead of makin' work she helped, though I told her not to. She would wipe and I would wash, and we would git through the dishes in no time. She hunted round in my work basket and found some nightcaps I'd begun and would finish 'em, put more work on 'em than I should, for I slight my every day sheep's-head nightcaps. But she trimmed 'em and cat-stitched 'em, till they wuz beautiful to look upon. She wuz always very sweet and gentle in her ways. As wuz said of her once, she entered a room so quietly and gracefully, she made all the other wimmen there feel as if they'd come in on horse-back. Now that I hadn't seen her for some time, it seemed as if I hadn't remembered how lovely and interestin' she wuz.
We had a good visit talkin' about the world's work, and reciprocity, and Woman's suffrage—which we both believed in—and hens, both settin' and layin'. And we talked about the relation on our two sides. Of course, some of the wimmen hadn't done as we thought they ort to; but we didn't run 'em, only wuz sorry they wuz so different.
There wuz Aunt Nancy John and Aunt Nancy Jim, widders of the two old Smith twins. I told Faith I wuz sorry they wuzn't more like her mother and mine, our mothers wuz so much better dispositioned, and fur better lookin', and didn't try to color their hair and act younger than they wuz; and Uncle Preserved's boy, a lawyer, I told Faith it wuz a pity he wuzn't more like our Thomas Jefferson, though it wuzn't to be expected that there could be two boys amongst the relations so nearly perfect as Thomas Jefferson wuz; but I didn't act hauty, only wuz sorry he hadn't turned out so well.
And Uncle Lemuel's two girls, I said I wouldn't want it told out of the family, but they wuz extravagant and slack, and their houses didn't look much like Tirzah Ann's and Maggie's house. But we hadn't ort to expect many such housekeepers as our children wuz. And we talked about the Thousand Islands and she promised to go out with Josiah and me the next summer if nothin' happened. And Josiah then and there, tried to make us promise to go to Coney Island on our way there. "On our way," sez I, "it would be five hundred milds out of our way!"
"And well worth it!" sez he, "to see what Serenus see, and hear what Serenus hearn. Why I git so carried away jest hearin' about that magnificent spot that I have to fairly hang onto myself to keep from startin' there to once bareheaded."
"I know it, Josiah; you've acted luny about it. And if jest hearin' about it harrers your nerve so, what would seein' it do?"
"My nerve ain't harrered," he sez.
Sez I, "Can you deny I have had to give you quarts of catnip after you have had a seancy with Serenus about that frivolous spot, full of hilarity and temptation?"
"Because you have drownded out my insides with catnip, it hain't no sign I needed it. And I tell you, Samantha Allen, you may demean that grand glorious place all you're a minter; I shall see it ere long. It is the shinin' gole I have rared up in front of me and I'm bound to set on it."
Sez I, "If you hain't got any nobler gole than that ahead on you I pity you from the bottom of my heart." And to kinder skair him I sez agin, "Do you, a Christian deacon, want to act frisky and go pleasure-huntin' at your age?"
"Why," sez he, "Serenus sez it is the most entrancin'ly beautiful and fascinatin' spot on earth. He sez, and can prove, it is the biggest playground in the hull world, to say nothin' of what you can learn there, and folks come from foreign countries jest to see it. Their first question when they land is, 'Where is Coney Island? Lead me to it!'"
"Oh shaw!" sez I.
"Well, it is so, and why should such droves of folks go there if it hain't worth it? Serenus sez and can prove, that a million folks go there in one day sometimes, and hundreds of thousands most every day."
Sez I solemnly, "Do you remember the him, 'Broad is the road that leads,' you know where. 'And thousands walk together there.' Do you want to walk with 'em, Josiah?"
"Yes, I do, and lay out to."
Oh how deep the pizen had gone into his solar system! I see scarin' didn't do no good, so I tried tender talk to wean him from the idee. I told him I thought too much on him to resk him there in such crowds. He wuz too small boneded and his head too weak to grapple with the lures and temptations that would surround him, and I'd never give my consent to his goin,' much less lead him into temptation.
"Lead your granny!" sez he in a rough axent. And that wuz all the good my lovin' talk did.
Faith said she didn't care about goin'. But we took her to visit the children, though the day I took her to Whitfield's he had of course, jest like Josiah, to ride that hobby of hisen which raced and cavorted round us, till before night he got us both most as wild as he wuz about the Islands. But she had to go from our house to Uncle Ornaldo Smithses, and had promised to visit friends out to Ohio durin' the summer. I hated to have her go.
WE SET SAIL FOR THOUSAND ISLAND PARK AND HAVE A REAL GOOD TIME, BUT JOSIAH MURMURS ABOUT CONEY.
WE SET SAIL FOR THOUSAND ISLAND PARK AND HAVE A REAL GOOD TIME, BUT JOSIAH MURMURS ABOUT CONEY.
Soon after, Whitfield wuz obleeged to go to Canada agin on that bizness and go through them Thousand Islands, and said he felt like jumpin' off the boat, swimmin' ashore and buyin' the hull on 'em, they wuz so entrancin'ly lovely. But by holdin' onto his principles and patience (of course he'd got quite a lot of patience, he'd been married a number of years) he managed to git through without jumpin' off the boat and tacklin' the job of buyin' 'em, but said to himself, "If my life is spared to finish up that bizness I'll come back and buy ten or a dozen."
So sure enough on his way back he stopped off at Alexandria Bay and tackled a real estate agent to see what he would ask for a few islands close to the beautiful Bay. He had a idee, I spoze, of locatin' the relation on his side and hern round on the different Islands, mebby an island apiece. But to his surprise and horrow he found that the price for the smallest one wuz appallin'. But he vowed that if it took every cent of money he had (and he's quite well off) he would own a piece of one big enough for a house.
So, after searchin' both by water and by land, he found a buildin' spot he felt able to buy. It wuz on one end of an island that wuz called Shadow Island, mebby because the shadder of the tall trees upon it wuz mirrored so plain in the water, makin' it look as if there wuz another and fairer isle below.
There wuz a big empty house standin' on one end of the Island, the owner bein' in Europe and not wantin' to rent it. There wuz a portion of it smooth and grassy, though the grass wuz kinder thin in places, the rocks come up so clost to the surface. But as I told Whitfield, stun is cleaner than dirt, and more healthy, unless you have 'em both throwed at you, in that case dirt is more healthy. He said the spot wuz dry and there wuz some hemlock and pine trees standin' on one end on't, and under 'em wuz a carpet of the rich brown leaves and pine needles that Whitfield thought would be beautiful for little Delight to play in.
And on the spot he'd picked out for a house the soil wuz deep enough for a good suller. Tirzah Ann always did love sullers; she kinder took to 'em. She has to go down suller most the first thing when she comes home visitin'. She never seems to want anything, only to sort o' look round. Some say her ma wuz so; but there is worse things to take to than sullers, and I wuz glad enough there wuz a place there where Tirzah Ann could have one.
Well, I declare I fell in love with the place myself. And he beset us to go out and see it, and early in the summer we sot sail, the hull on us, for the Thousand Island Park, a good noble campin' ground, though middlin' hot in some spots. I've been asked what made it so much hotter there round the Tabernacle than it was up to Summer Land, where the Universalists wuz encamped. And I don't spoze it is because they believe in hotter places, but it kinder sets folks to thinkin'. Both places are pleasant and cool enough in moderate weather.
I hadn't no idee that so beautiful a spot wuz so nigh us. For as near as we've lived to 'em, Josiah and I never laid eyes on them islands before. But I've hearn of folks that lived within' hearin' of Niagara Falls that never see that grand and stupendous wonder of the world; they didn't see it just because they could. Queer, hain't it? But it is a law of nater, and can't be changed.
So one warm lovely mornin' we sot out. We went by way of Cape Vincent which we found afterwards wuzn't the nearest way, but we didn't care, for it gin us a bigger and longer view of the noble St. Lawrence. Cape Vincent is a good-lookin' place, though like Josiah and myself, it looks as if it had been more lively and frisky in its younger days. Pretty soon the big boat hove in sight. We embarked and got good seats, Whitfield full of bliss to think he wuz started for his islands.
And sure enough, tongue can never tell the beauty and grandeur we floated by that afternoon; nor pen can't, no, a quill pen made out of a eagle's wing couldn't soar high enough. And my emotions, as I took in that seen, would been a perfect sight if anybody could got holt of 'em, as I rode along on that mighty river that is more like a ocean than a river, holdin' the water that flows from the five great inland seas of North America, the only absolutely tide-less river in the world. It is so immense in size that the spring freshets that disturbs other big rivers has no effect on its mighty depths, though once in a while, every three years, I think it is, the river draws in her old breath in an enormous sithe two or three feet deep, and stays so for some time. I d'no what makes it nor nobody duz. But truly there is enough in this old world to sithe about, as deep sithes as a mortal or a river can heave.
But to resoom forwards. The beautiful river bore us onwards, the green shores receedin' on each side till pretty soon it got to be not much shore but seemin'ly all river, all freshness and freedom and blue sparklin' water, and blue sky above. Nater wuz foldin' us in her faithful arms and sweepin' us away from the too civilized world into the freshness and onstudied beauty of her own hants.
I sot there perfectly entranced, and nothin' occurred to break my rapt musin's save my pardner's request for a nut cake and a biled egg, and a longin' murmer about Coney Island and a wish that he wuz started for there. But that didn't seem to quell my emotions down. I handed the food to him with a hand that seemed some distance off from my real self.
The first big island we went by wuz called Carleton. Standin' on it, loomin' up tall and solemn and mysterious, wuz some high stun towers. They stood up there as if tellin' us how little we knew. They looked like great exclamation points set there to express the futility of our boasted knowledge.
Who built them chimblys? Who started the fires under 'em? Who drinked the tea that wuz steeped there? What kind of tea wuz it? Did the water bile? How did them tea drinkers feel and look and act while them chimblys carried off the smoke of their fire? What wuz their highest aspirations and idees? What wuz their deepest joy and keenest pain? What goles did they see ahead on 'em, and did they ever set down on them goles? I can't tell nor Josiah can't. A hundred years ago one moulderin' old head-stun leaned over the grave of one of that company. Wuz it a glad or a sad heart that rested there in that ancient grave? Well, the sadness or the joy is jest as much lost and forgot as the smoke that wafted up towards the sky on the June and December mornin's of 1600 odd.
As I thought of all these things, them lofty towers riz up like gigantick skeleton fingers outstretched mockin'ly. They seemed to be sayin' to me and Josiah and the world at large, "You may boast of your inventions, your marvels of this age, your civilization, your glory, your pryin' into dark continents and unexplored regions of land and science. But what do you know anyway? Of what consequence are you? How soon your life and your memory will be utterly wiped out and forgotten. How soon the careless sun will forget the shadow you cast on the earth's bosom. How soon the green grass of the forgettin' earth will grow fresh and untrodden and cover up the traces of your eager footsteps, no matter how deep you thought you had made the track you walked in. How soon it is all wiped away as if it had never been. And Mom Nater, instead of weepin' over your loss, goes on wreathin' new flowers for new hands to gather, and mebby forgits to drop even a bud on the dusty mound where you lay sleepin'—the sleep of long forgetfulness.
"Of what account are you anyway? Poor blind voyagers, floatin' by me jest as so many generations have gone past—canoe and white sails floatin' along, floatin' along, comin' in view of me in the fur blue hazy distance, comin' into the broad light before me and glidin' off and disappearin' in the shadows. Forever and ever, new ones comin,' comin', goin', goin', year after year, generation after generation. And here we have stood calm, settled down, pintin' up into the heavens where our history is gathered up, where the ones that made our history are gathered like the drops of spray from the river that has washed on the shores at our feet, and then evaporated up agin into the blue sky."
And as I lost sight of them stun towers in the distance, they seemed to say, "Float on, poor voyagers; float along with your pitiful little crumbs of knowledge and wisdom carried so proudly. How soon the shadows will drift apart to take you into 'em and then close up and hold you there forever. And out of the shinin' west new faces will come growin' plainer and plainer as the boat draws near; they will shine out full and clear in front of me and then glide away into the mist—I shall lose sight of 'em jest as I do of you to-day. Comin'! comin'! goin'! goin'! They will look at me and wonder jest as you do to-day, and I will say to 'em jest as I do to you, 'Hail and farewell!'"
Oh what emotions I did have! And I hadn't more'n got to this pint in my meditatin', when I hearn a voice on the off side on me (Josiah wuz on the nigh side).
The voice said, "Oh how I wish I could be put back there jest a minute and see what them tall towers see when they wuz built!"
I felt that here wuz a congenial soul and I felt friendly to him as one would hail a familiar sail when they wuz floatin' on foreign waters. The voice went on:
"Oh how I wish I could be a fly, and fly back there for a hour."
Instinctively I looked round. The speaker weighed three hundred pounds if he did an ounce, and the idee of his bein' turned into a fly seemed to bring down my soarin' emotions more than considerable. Truly, we ort to be careful how we handle metafors. If he'd said he wanted to be changed into a elephant or a camel, or even a horse, it wouldn't have seemed so curious, but a fly!!! Dear me!
Clayton is a good-lookin' drowsy sort of a place, and kinder mixed up lookin' from the aft forecastle, where I stood; but at last the little foot bridge that connected us with the shore wuz took up, the old boat gin a loud yell to skair the children and young folks back from the water's edge, and the boat riders from fallin' off the boat, and we sot out agin and floated along.
And now pretty soon the islands grew closter and closter together, and we wouldn't no more than go by one lovely one, than another more perfect lookin' hove in sight, and then another and another, each one seemin'ly more beautiful than the last.
Some times we would go clost up to the shore, by islands whose green forests swep' clear down to the water's edge, makin' the water look green and cool and shady, and the water would narrow itself down between two houses seemin'ly jest to be accomodatin', and run along between 'em like a little rivulet with water lilies and buttercups dippin' down into it on each side and boys wadin' acrost. Jest think on't, that big noble-sized river, dwindlin' itself down jest to obleege somebody.
And sometimes big houses would loom up jest above the water's edge, their daintily shaded winders lookin' down into the green waves and reflected there, anon a stately mansion would set back a little with towers and pinnacles risin' above the green trees, and cool shady walks windin' by summer houses and bright posy beds, and gayly dressed folks walkin' along the beautiful paths, and mebby a pretty girl settin' in a boat, and a hull fleet of boats filled with gay pleasure seekers would glide along like gayly plumed sea birds, and fur in the distance and on every side white sails would sail on like bigger birds of white plumage, all set out for the Isle of Happiness.
I pinted out the metafor to Josiah.
"Isle of Happiness?" he sez, sort o' dreamy like. "That's right. Serenus sez its everywhere, all over the place."
"What place?" sez I, suspicion darkenin' my foretop.
"Why, Coney Island," sez he, "that's the only Isle of Happiness I ever hearn tell on."
I gin him a look. "Would you compare Coney Island with the beautiful Isle of Happiness that the poets sing on?" I sez, severe like.
"Where is it?" sez he.
"Why," sez I, "It ain't ennywheres. Its a metafor of the brain."
"Is it ketchin'?" sez he. "Seems to me I've hearn tell of that disease before!" And then before I could gin him an indignant response, he stuck his fingers in his ears and sot there grinnin' like a jimpanzee all the time I wuz speakin' out my mind. But to resoom.
Anon a bridge would rise up its fairy arch and connect two islands together, each one holdin' a mansion that looked like a palace, and the bright awnin's of the winders, the pillars and pinnacles, and gay colors, reflected in the water makin' fairy palaces below as well as above, and made the hull seen as we journeyed on one of enchantment, that would made the grand Vizier of Bagdad turn green with envy. And every palace, mansion, and cottage had its pretty boat-house, with the water layin' there smooth and invitin' waitin' for the boats to be lanched on its bosom, actin' for all the world like a first class family stream, warranted to carry safe and not kick and act in the harness. And then mebby the very next minute it would swell itself out agin, and be twenty or thirty milds acrost, rushin', hurryin', and dashin' itself along, hastenin' to the sea.
Actin' as if it had sunthin' dretful pressin' and important to tell it, and mebby it had. Who knows the language of the liquid waves as they whisper to each other on sunny beaches and at the meetin' of placid waters, makin' love to each other like as not—one tellin' the other of the sweet cow-slip and ferny medders it had to leave at the loud call of its love, the River. The River murmuring back deep words of worship and gratitude at the feet of its newly arrived love.
And then mebby the comin' rivulet complains, moanin' kinder low and sorrowful, as it swashes up on sharp stuny beaches, for what it left behind. Meadows and orchards full of May's rosy blossoms, low grassy shores fringed with flowers and fresh, shinin' grasses. And white, dimpled baby feet mebby that waded out in its cool shallows. Pretty faces that bent over its sheltered pools, as in a lookin' glass, wavin' locks that scattered gold light down into the water, bright eyes that shone like stars above it. I shouldn't wonder a mite if it missed 'em and tried to say so in its gentle, pensive swish, swash, swish.
And then mebby the River resented it and kinder roared at it; mebby that is what it is sayin' in its louder and more voylent tones, upbraidin' it for lookin' back to its more single and lonesome career, when it now has Him! Him! Rush! Roar! Crush! Roar! Roar!
We can't tell what the river is talkin' about, in its calm gentle moods or its voylent ones. Who knows what the loud angry scream and screech of the deep waves say as the tempest and storm presses down on 'em and the Deep answers back in a voice of thunder, with its great heart beatin' and heavin' up and throbbin' in its mad pain and frenzy? Who knows what it is roarin' out, as it meets opposin' forces, wave and rock, and dashes aginst 'em—fightin' and dashin' and tryin' to vanquish 'em like as not? Who can translate the voice of the waters? I can't, nor Josiah, nor nobody.
WE SEEK QUIET AND HAPPINESS IN THEIR BEAUTIFUL HANTS AND MINGLE WITH THE PLEASURE SEEKERS OF ALEXANDRIA BAY.
WE SEEK QUIET AND HAPPINESS IN THEIR BEAUTIFUL HANTS AND MINGLE WITH THE PLEASURE SEEKERS OF ALEXANDRIA BAY
Sometimes we would sail through the green water, so clost to the shore we could almost pick off some of the cedar and pine boughs as we went past, and we could look off into the green and sunny aisles of the trees into beautiful solitude and quiet. And we'd want to foller Quiet and Happiness back into them beautiful hants. And then agin, we'd float by an island where there would be lots of white tents, with wimmen and children and men and boys standin' out wavin' their handkerchiefs and shoutin' to us, good natered and sociable.
And agin we'd go by a kinder high island with a tall, noble mansion standin' up on it with towers and balconies, and winders all ornamented off, and flags a-flyin'. And every house and every tentin' ground had their own little wharfs runnin' down into the water and boats hitched to 'em, jest as we'd hitch the old mair and colt to a hitchin' post. And most of 'em had picturesque boat-houses painted up like the houses.
And all of these pretty houses and towers and flags and boats and everything wuz reflected down into the water, so there wuz handsome pictures above, and still more extremely beautiful ones below. For the sunlight shadow pictures wuz more beautiful fur than the reality, as is often the case. Every little sail-boat and canoe had its white shadder floatin' along by it, shinin' out from the blue and sea-green surface of the water.
Josiah wuz turrible interested in tryin' to see if the reflections wuz exactly like the real seen up above, and he kept leanin' over the edge of the boat tryin' to turn his head upside down so's to git a better look, and at last he nearly fell overboard into the water only I grabbed him quick.
Sometimes,—I don't know what made it,—there would be long lines of light in different colors layin' on the water; long waveless furrows of palest amethyst, lilock, pale rose-color, and pearl, soft green and blue, way off and near to, wide and long and changin' all the time. Why, some of the time it would seem as if the surface of the river wuz a shinin' pavement made of them glowin' and lustrous colors, that you might walk out on. And then agin, cold Reality would say to you that if you tried it, you'd most probable git drownded.
Anon we went by a island with a house standin' on it, the hull thing seemin'ly nothin' but house right in the strongest current of the river, and on the end of the island wuz a wheel fixed that run all the machinery of the house, lightin' it, and pumpin' water, and runnin' the coffee mill and sewin' machine, and rockin' the cradle, for all I know.
The river waitin' on 'em, and doin' it cheerful. A soarin' soul of power and might, so strong that a wink from its old eye-lids could swallow up a fleet of ships, and a flirt of its fingers overthrow a army of strongest men and toss 'em about like leaves on an autumn gale. To see such a powerful, noble body, that wuz used to doin' the biggest kind of jobs, quietly bucklin' down pumpin' water to supply a tea-kettle, and churn a little butter, mebby!
Why, thinks I, what a lesson to hired girls that is, they're always so fraid of doin' a little more than it is their place to do. They're so fraid of settin' back a chair, if it is their place to cook, and so afraid of bilin' a egg if it is their place to slick up the house. Why, it wuz a lesson in morals to see that big grand river crumplin' down to do housework for a spell.
Frontenac Island used to be called Round Island, I guess because it wuz kinder square in shape. It is a handsome place with a immense hotel[A] settin' back most a quarter of a mild, and jined by a long railed balcony with another, makin' room enough, it seemed to me, for an army. The broad, handsome path leadin' up to it wuz bordered with beautiful flowers and shrubs, lookin' lovely against the vivid green of the lawn.
I liked the name Frontenac first rate, and Point Vivian, and the name of the hotel on St. Lawrence Park, Lotus, seemed highly appropriate for the idle hours of rest and pleasure in the balmy summer-time.
And that park, while it could pass itself off for an island, wuz really the main land. And if you wanted a doctor on a dark, stormy night, you could get one without going on the wild waves; and if you got skairt in the night and sot off to run, you could run as fur as you wanted to without gittin' drownded.
I spoke to Josiah about this and he agreed with me, though he took the occasion to bring in Coney Island, much to my shagrin.
"I wish," sez he, "I wish we could stop off somewheres and git a hot dog."
"A hot dog?" sez I, consternation showin' in my foretop. "Don't you know that dogs roamin' round loose and overhet in this sultry weather is apt to git mad and bite you?"
"'Tain't that kind of animile I mean. I mean the kind they eat—in Coney Island."
"Do they eat dogs in Coney Island?" I asks in a faint voice.
"Yes," sez he.
"And would you eat enny on't?"
"Why not?" sez he.
"Why not?" I cries regainin' my voice to once. "Josiah Allen, have you became a canibal like them as lives in heathen lands and welcomes civilized folks with open mouths?"
"Oh," sez he, "'tain't nothin' like that. These dogs hain't made o' people. No, they air made from sassiges and cooked in front of a open grate fire. They call 'em hot dogs and Serenus sez—"
I didn't gin him no chance to tell what Serenus sez. I sez many things to him there and then that wuz calculated to make him forgit Coney Island for awhile.
But to resoom forwards. We went by a big castle that wuz built up on a hill on a island of considerable size with quite a grove of trees on it. It wuz a noble, gray stun castle, with high towers and pinnacles shinin' up toward the blue sky—Castle Rest, its name wuz, and I thought most probable anybody could rest there first rate. The one that built it and the one it wuz built for, had gone up into another castle to rest, the great Castle of Rest, whose walls can't be moved by any earthly shock. A good little mother it wuz built for, a hard-workin', patient, tired-out little mother, who wuz left with a house full of boys, and not much in the house, only boys. How she worked and toiled to keep 'em comfortable and git 'em headed right, washin', cookin', makin', and mendin'; learnin' 'em truthfulness, honesty, and industry with their letters; teachin' 'em the multiplication table and the commandments; trimmin' off their childish faults, same as she did their hair; clippin' 'em off with her own anxious lovin' hands. Mebby puttin' a bowl on their heads and cuttin' round it, or else shinglin' 'em. But 'tennyrate doin' her best for them, soul and body, till she got 'em headed right. Some on 'em givin' their hull lives to help men's souls, lovin' this old world mebby for their ma's sake, because it held so many other good wimmen; for they jest about worshipped her all on 'em. And one of her boys, while the rest of 'em wuz helpin' men and wimmen to build up better lives, he wuz buildin' up his creed of helpfulness and improvement in bricks and mortar, tryin' to do good, there hain't a doubt on't.
Mebby them walls didn't stand so firm as the others did, and tottled more now and then. Strange, hain't it, that solid bricks and stuns, that you feel and see, are less endurin' and firm than the things you can't see—changed lives, faith, hope, charity, love to God, good-will to man, and that whiter ideals and loftier aims and desires may tower up higher than any chimbly that ever belched out smoke.
Curious it is so, but so it is. But 'tennyrate this one son rode on his sleepin' cars right into millions, and his first thought wuz how he could please best the little Mother. So he built a castle for her. Tired little feet, walkin' the round of humble duties, waitin' on her small boys, did they ever expect to tread the walls of a castle? Her own too. I'll bet it seemed dretful big to her, or would anyway if it hadn't been so full, so runnin' over full of the love and thoughtfulness of all of her boys—and Love will fill and glorify cottage or castle.
But here she come yearly and gathered her strong, stalwart sons about her, welcomin' them with the same old tender smile, and constant love, and she, wropt completely round in the warm atmosphere of their love and devotion. Year after year went happily by till the last time came, and she went away out of her high castle into a still higher one. But I liked Castle Rest, for it seemed a monument riz up to faithful, patient mothers fur and near, rich and poor, by the hand of filial gratitude and love.
Comfort Island is real comfortable lookin', and Friendly Island looked friendly and neighborly. And Nobby Island looked grand and stately instead of nobby, the great house settin' up there on a high rock with big green lawns and windin' paths under the shade trees, and the bright faced posies on its tall banks peekin' over to see their faces in the deep water below, and mebby lookin' for the kind master who had gone away to stay.
And pretty soon our boat sorter turned round and backed up graceful into Alexandria Bay, and we hitched it there and lay off agin the harbor real neighborly. There wuz two hotels there in plain sight, each one on 'em as long as from our house to Miss Derias Bobbettses, all fixed off with piazzas and porticos and pillows and awnin's and handsome colors from the basement clear up—up—up to the ruff, and the grounds laid out perfectly beautiful. Grass plats and terraces and long flights of stairs, and glowin' flower beds and summer houses and long smooth walks and short ones, and everything. And folks all the time santerin' up and down the terraces and walks, and up and down the piazzas and balconies.
It beat all what a lot of steam yots and sailboats there wuz all round us. It seemed as if every island had a boat of its own and had sent 'em all to Alexandria Bay that mornin'. I thought mebby they'd hearn we wuz comin', and they wuz there to git a glimpse of us. But Whitfield said the boats come to git the mail, and mebby it wuz so.
Every yot wuz tootin' on its own separate engine; it made the seen lively but not melogious. One of the boats had a whistle that sounded as if you'd begin to holler down real low and then let your voice rise gradual till you yelled out jest as loud as you could, and then died down your yell agin real low.
It sounded curous. I hearn it wuz tryin' to raise and fall the eight notes, and it riz and fell 'em I should judge.
Some of the yots had a loud shrill whistle, some a little, fine clear one; then one would belch out low and deep some like thunder. And anon our steamer thundered forth its own deep belchin' whistle, and turned round graceful and backed off, and puffed, puffed back agin down the bay.
As we turned round, a bystander, standin' by, spoke of Bonnie Castle. It stood up sort o' by itself on a rock one side of Alexandria Bay. And I wondered if Holland's earnest soul that had thought so much on't once, ever looked down on it now. For instance when the full moon wuz high in the cloudless sky, and Bonnie Castle riz up fair as a dream, with blue clear sky above, and silence, and deep blue shinin' water below—and silence. And mebby some night bird singin' out of the pretty green garden to its mate in the cool shadows. I wondered if the lovin' soul who created it ever looked down from the blessed life, with love and longin' to the old earth-nest—home of his heart. I spozed that he did, but couldn't tell for certain. For the connection has never been made fast and plain on the Star Route to Heaven. Love rears its stations here and tries to take the bearin's, but we hain't quite got the wires to jine. Sometimes we feel a faint jarrin' and thrill as if there wuz hands workin' on the other end of the line. We feel the thrill, we see the glow of the signal lights they hold up, but we can't quite ketch the words. We strain our ears through the darkness—listening! listening!
Right acrost from Alexandria Bay is Heart Island; you'd know it at night if you couldn't see the island, for a big heart of flashin' electric lights is lifted up on a high pole, that can be seen fur and near. As well as the big shinin' cross of light that is lifted up every night on another island nigh by in memory of a sweet soul that used to live there, and is lookin' down on it now, more'n as likely as not.
Heart Island is owned by a rich New York man. It is almost covered with buildin's of different sizes and ruined castles (the ruins all new, you know; ruined a-purpose), the buildin's made of the gray stun the island is composed of. And there are gorgeous flower beds and lawns green as emerald, and windin' walks lined with statuary, and rare vases runnin' over with blossoms and foliage, and a long, cool harbor, fenced in with posies where white swans sail, archin' up their proud necks as if lookin' down on common ducks and geese. There wuz ancient stun architecture, and modern wood rustic work, and I sez to Josiah, "They believe in not slightin' any of the centuries; they've got some of most every kind of architecture from Queen Mary down to Taft."
And he sez, "It is a crackin' good plan too; amongst all on 'em they're sure to git some of the best."
"Yes," sez I, "and it shows a good-hearted sperit too, not wantin' to slight anybody."
Jest then I heard a bystander say, "Amongst all the places to the Islands, this place and Browney's take the cake."
Brownings is another beautiful place just round the corner where the flower-garlanded rocks looks down into the deep clear waters anxious to see their own beauty. And a handsome residence a little back and a big farm full of everything desirable.
Only a little way acrost from Alexandria Bay is Westminster Park, a handsome little village, with a big hotel set back under its green trees and lots of cottages round it. A nice meetin' house too, and everything else for its comfort. And all the way to the Methodist place we wuz bound for, fair islands riz up out of the water, crowned with trees and houses and tents and everything. No sooner would you go by one, than another would hove in sight. Anon we come in sight of a little village of houses fringin' the shore, called Fair View, and our next stoppin' place wuz the Camp ground. I'd hearn, time and agin, they wuz so strict there you'd have to pay for every step you took from the ship to your boarding place. And if you said anything, you would have to pay so much a word; or if you sithed, you'd have to pay so much a sithe, or breathe deep you would have to pay accordin' to the deepness of your breath.
But it wuzn't no such thing; we never paid a cent, and I sithed deep and frequent on the way up from the wharf, for weariness lay holt of me and also little Delight. She preferred hangin' onto me ruther than her parents. And I'd hearn that you'd be fined for laughin', and for a snicker or giggle; but I heard several snickers (Whitfield is full of fun, and young folks will be young folks, and talk and laugh) and not one cent did we see asked for 'em. Why, I'd hearn that they wouldn't let a good smart whiff of wind land there on Sunday. The trustees kep' 'em off and preached at 'em, and made 'em blow off Clayton way.
And I wuz told that the Sea Serpent (you know he always duz like summer resorts), took it into his head to go to the Islands one summer and happened to git to the Thousand Island Park on Sunday, and wuz swoshin' round in the water in front of the dock, kinder switchin' his tail and actin'. And the trustees got wind on't and went down with rails and tracts and they railed at him, and exhorted him and made him fairly ashamed of bein' round on Sunday. And wantin' to do a clean job with him, bein' dretful mad at his bein' out on the Sabbath day, they got a copy of their laws and restrictions governin' the Park, and they said when the serpent hearn that long document read over, he jest switched his tail, kinder disgusted like, and turned right round in the water and headed off for Kingston.
But I don't believe a word on it. I don't believe much in the sea serpent anyway, and I don't believe it ever come nigh the Thousand Island Park grounds—only the usual old serpent of Evil, that the good Christians there fight agin all they can.
[A] The great hotel which Samantha here describes was destroyed by fire in August last.
WE ENJOY THE HOSPITALITIES OF WHITFIELD'S AUNT'S BOARDIN'-HOUSE AT THE PARK, AND MY PARDNER GOES A-FISHIN'
WE ENJOY THE HOSPITALITIES OF WHITFIELD'S AUNT'S BOARDIN'-HOUSE AT THE PARK, AND MY PARDNER GOES A-FISHIN'
Whitfield's aunt kep' a small boardin'-house at the Park. Of course we knew it would be fur more genteel to go to the hotel, which loomed up stately, settin' back on its green lawn right in front of us, as the ship swep' into the harbor.
But Josiah sez, "The tender ties of relationship hadn't ort to, in fact musn't be broke by us, and Miss Dagget would probable feel dretful hurt if she knowed we wuz to the Park and had passed her coldly by." (She didn't ask half so much for our boards as the hotel did; that wuz where the boot pinched on my pardner's old feet.)
Whitfield said we had better go to Aunt Dagget's that night anyway, so we went. We found she lived in a good-lookin' cottage, and we had everything we needed for comfort. She wuz a tall, scrawny woman, with good principles and a black alpacky dress, too tight acrost the chest, but she seemed glad to see us and got a good supper, broiled steak, creamed potatoes, and cake, and such, and we all did justice to it—yes indeed.
After supper we walked out to the post office, and round in front of the houses—very sociable and nigh together they are. It must be dretful easy to neighbor there, most too easy. Why, I don't see how a woman can talk to her husband on duty, if he goes in his stockin' feet, or stays out late nights, or acts; I don't see how she can do the subject justice and not have everybody in the encampment know it. Too neighborly by fur!
But off some little distance, good-lookin' houses stood with Seclusion and Solitude guardin' their front doors—likely guards them be, and beloved by Samantha. And back of the Island, glancin' through the trees, wuz the same clear blue sparklin' waters of the St. Lawrence. They said they wuz Canada waters, but I didn't see no difference, the water wuz jest as blue and sparklin' and clear.
We retired early and our beds wuz quite comfortable, though as I told Josiah, I had seen bigger pillers, and I wuz more settled in my mind, as to whether the feathers in 'em wuz geese or hen.
He said he wuz glad to lay his head down on anything that would hold it up.
And after I remembered that Miss Dagget's bed wuz jest the other side of the thin board partition. I sez, "Yes, Josiah, with weariness and a easy conscience, any bed will seem soft as downy pillows are."
The next day I felt pretty mauger and stayed in my room most of the time, though Josiah and the children sallied round considerable. But after supper I felt better and went out and set down on the piazza that run along the front of the house, and looked round and enjoyed myself first rate.
Way off, between the trees and between the houses, I could see the dear old Saint meanderin' along, blue and gold colored where the sun struck the shining surface. And, dearer sight to me, I could catch a glimpse through the interstices of the trees, of my beloved pardner and little Delight in her white dress and flutterin' blue ribbons walkin' along by his side. Whitfield and Tirzah Ann had gone santerin' off some time before.
The hour and the seen wuz both beautiful and soothin'. The little streets between the houses stretched out on every side, some on 'em bordered with trees. Gay awnings wuz over the doors and winders, flowering shrubs and posies set off the yards, and the piazzas ornamented by the good-lookin' folks settin' out on chairs and benches, the wimmen in light, pretty summer gowns, and there wuz babies in their perambulators perambulatin' along and pretty children runnin' and playin' about.
Anon or oftener a group of good-lookin' cottagers would sally out of their houses and santer along, or a pedestrian in a hurry would walk by. It seemed like the land where it is always afternoon, that I'd hearn Thomas J. read about,
The island valley of Avilion, Where falls not rain or hail or any snow, Nor ever wind blows loudly— Deep meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns And bowery hollows, crowned by summer sea.
It wuz a fair seen! a fair seen! and my soul seemed attuned to its perfect harmony and peace. When all of a sudden I hearn these strange and skairful words comin' like a sharp shower of hail from a clear June sky:—
"Malviny is goin' to freeze to-night!"
There wuz a skairful axent on the word "freeze" that seemed to bring all of Malviny's sufferin's right in front of me. But so strong is my common sense that even in that agitatin' time I thought to myself, as I wiped the perspiration from my foretop, "Good land! what is Malviny made of to be even comfortable cool to say nothin' of freezin'." And my next thought wuz, "What sort of a place have I got into?" Truly, I had read much of the hardenin' effects of fashion and style, but I little thought they would harden so fearful hard. None of these men and wimmen settin' on them piazzas had gin any more attention to the blood-curdlin' news that a feller creeter so nigh 'em wuz perishin', no more than if they'd seen a summer leaf flutterin' down from the boughs overhead.
I thought of the rich man and Lazarus, only kinder turned round and freezin' instead of burnin'. I felt bad and queer. But anon he drew nigh the porch I wuz settin' on and looked up into my face with the same harrowin' statement, "Malviny is a-goin' to freeze to-night!"
And I said, with goose pimples runnin' down my back most as bad as I mistrusted as Malviny had, "Who is Malviny?"
He stopped and sez, "She is my wife."
His indifferent mean madded me and I sez, "Well, you good-for-nothin' snipe you, instead of traipsin' all over the neighborhood tellin' of your wife's state, why hain't you to home buildin' a fire and heatin' soap stuns and bricks, and steepin' pepper tea?"
"What for?" sez he, amazed like.
"Why, to keep Malviny from freezin'."
"I don't want to stop it," sez he.
Sez I, "Do you want your wife to freeze?"
"Yes," sez he.
Sez I, lookin' up and apostophrizin' the clear sky that looked down like a big calm blue eye overhead, "Are such things goin' on here in a place so good that folks can't git a letter Sundays to save their lives, or embark to see their friends if they're dyin' or dead; is such a place," I groaned, "to condone such wickedness!"
Sez the man, "What harm is there in Malviny's freezin'?"
Sez I, "You heartless wretch, you! if I wuz a man I'd shake some of the wickedness out of you, if I had to be shot up the minute afterwards!"
"What harm is there in freezin' ice-cream?" sez he.
Sez I, astounded, "Is that what Malviny's freezin'?"
"Yes," sez he.
I sunk back weak as a cat.
Sez he, "I bring it round to the cottages every time Malviny freezes; they give me their orders if they want any."
"Well," sez I in a faint voice, "I don't want any." Truly I felt that I had had enough chill and shock for one day.
Well, Whitfield and Tirzah Ann come in pretty soon and she wuz all enthused with the place. They'd been up the steep windin' way to Sunrise Mountain, and gazed on the incomparable view from there. Looked right down into the wind-kissed tops of the lofty trees and all over 'em onto the broad panaroma of the river, with its innumerable islands stretched out like a grand picture painted by the one Great Artist. They had seen the little artist's studio, perched like a eagle's nest on top of the mountain. Some dretful pretty pictures there, both on the inside of the studio and outside.
And they had stopped at the Indian camp, and Tirzah bought some baskets which they see the Indians make right before their eyes out of the long bright strips of willow. And I spoze, seein' the brown deft fingers weavin' their gay patterns, Tirzah Ann wuz carried back some distance into the land of romance and Cooper's novels, and "Lo the Poor Indian" Stories. She's very romantick.
And she'd gone into the place where they blow glass right before your eyes and then cut your name on it. I couldn't do it to save my life. I might jest as well give right up if I wuz told that I had got to blow jest a plain bottle out of some sand and stuff. And they blow out the loveliest, queerest things you ever see: ships in full sail with the ropes and riggin' of the most delicate and twisted strands of brilliancy; tall exquisite vases with flowers twisted all about 'em. Posies of all kinds, butterflies, cups, tumblers, etc. They had been into all the little art and bookstores, full of pictures and needle work, shells, painted stuns, books, and the thousand and one souvenirs of all kinds of the Thousand Islands. When Josiah come in he said he had interviewed ten or a dozen men about Coney Island—all on 'em had been there—I wuz discouraged, I thought I might jest as well let him loose with Serenus.
Well, Whitfield of course couldn't wait another minute, without seein' Shadow Island, so the next day we went over there right after dinner. Josiah proposed enthusiastickly to fish on the way there. Sez he, "Samantha, how I do wish we could git a periouger to go in."
"A what?" sez I.
"A periouger," sez he, "that we could go fishin' in, a very uneek boat."
"Uneek!" sez I, "I should think as much. Where did you ever ever hear on't?"
"In Gasses Journal, Gass used to go round in 'em."
Sez I, "That book wuz published before George Washington wuz born, or Bunker Hill thought on."
"What of it?" sez he; "that wouldn't hender a periouger from bein' a crackin' good convenience to go round on the water in, and I'm goin' to try to git one to-day. I bet my hat they have 'em to Coney Island."
I tried to stop him. I didn't want him to demean himself before the oarsmen and onlookers by tryin' to find boats that hadn't been hearn on in hundreds of years. But I couldn't git the idea out of his head till after dinner. Then he wuz more meller and inclined to listen to reason. It wuz a oncommon good meal, and he felt quite softened down in his mean by the time he finished. And Whitfield's boatman he'd engaged come with a good sizeable boat and we sot sail for Shadow Island.
When we got there the sun wuz tingin' the tops of the trees with its bright light, but the water on the nigh side, where we landed, wuz cool and green and shadowy. Dretful fresh and restful and comfortable that hot muggy day.
We disembarked on the clean little wharf and walked up to the lot Whitfield had bought. It wuz a pretty place in a kind of a holler between high rocks, but with a full and fair view of the river on the nigh side, on the off side and on the back the tall trees riz up. The site of the house mebby bein' so low down wuz the reason that there wuz good deep earth there. Tirzah Ann spoke of that most the first thing:—
"I can have a good suller, can't I?"
Whitfield spoke first of the view from the river, and little Delight sez, "Oh what soft pretty grass."
Josiah looked round for a minute on the entrancin' beauty of the water and the islands and up into the green shadders of the trees overhead, and then off into the soft blue haze that wrapped the beautiful shores in the distance. After gazin' silently for a minute he turned to me and sez, "Didn't you bring any nut cakes with you? I'd like one to eat whilst I think of another Island far more beautiful than this, where I yearn to be."
I groaned in spirit but handed him the desired refreshment, and then we talked over the subject of the cottage. Whitfield thought it would be splendid for the health of Tirzah Ann and the children, to say nothin' of their happiness. She and Delight both looked kinder pimpin', and he sez, "Mother, I've got the lot, and now I am going to lay up money just as fast as I can for our house; I hope we can live here in a year or two anyway."
Well, we stayed here for quite a spell, Whitfield and Tirzah Ann buildin' castles higher than Castle Rest, on the foundations of their rosy future, underlaid with youth and glowin' hope—the best-lookin' underpinnin' you can find anywhere. And little Delight rolled on the green moss and built her rosy castles in the illumined present, as children do. And I looked off onto the fur blue waters some as if I wuz lookin' into the past. And furder off than I could see the water, the meller blue haze lay that seemed to unite earth and heaven, and I looked on it, and way off, way off, and thought of a good many things.
Josiah wuz tryin' to ketch a fish for supper; the boatman had a pole and fish hook, but he couldn't ketch any, he hadn't any nack; it takes nack to ketch fish as well as worms.
JOSIAH'S IMAGINATION ABOUT HIS FISHIN' EXPLOITS CARRIES HIM TO A PINT WHERE I HAVE TO REBUKE HIM, WHICH MAKES HIM DRETFUL HUFFY
JOSIAH'S IMAGINATION ABOUT HIS FISHIN' EXPLOITS CARRIES HIM TO A PINT WHERE I HAVE TO REBUKE HIM, WHICH MAKES HIM DRETFUL HUFFY
The next morning we went over to Alexandria Bay on a tower. We walked up to the immense hotels past the gay flower beds that seemed to be growing right out of the massive gray boulders, and great willer trees wuz droppin' their delicate green branches where gayly dressed ladies and good-lookin' men wuz settin'. And in front wuz fleets of little boats surroundin' the big white steamboats, jest as contented as big white geese surrounded by a drove of little goslins.
I'd hearn that the great hotel that wuz nighest to us looked by night jest like one of the fairy palaces we read about in Arabian Nights, and one night we see it. From the ground clear up to the high ruff it wuz all ablaze with lines of flashin' light, and I sez instinctively to myself, "Jerusalem the golden!" and "Pan American Electric Tower!" And I d'no which metafor satisfied me best. 'Tennyrate this had the deep broad river flowin' on in front, reflectin' every glowin' light and buildin' another gleamin' castle down there more beautiful than the one on land. Josiah's only remark wuz "Coney Island!" Everything seems to make him think on't, from a tooth pick to a tower. Ten thousand electric lights wuz the number that lit up that one house, so I hearn.
The big engine and chimney they use to turn the water into glorious light, towers up behind the hotel, and made such a noise and shook the buildin' so that folks couldn't stand it, and they jest collared that noise as Josiah would take a dog he couldn't stop barkin' by the scruff of the neck and lock it up in the stable, jest so they took that noise and rumblin' and snaked it way offen into the river in a pipe or sunthin', so it keeps jest as still now up there as if it wuzn't doin' a mite of work. Queer, hain't it? But to resoom.
It wuz indeed a fair seen to turn round when you wuz about half way up the flower strewn declivity and look afar off over the wharf with its gay crowd, over the boats gaily ridin' at anchor, and behold the fairy islands risin' from the blue waves crested with castles, and mansions and cottage ruffs, chimblys and towers all set in the green of the surroundin' trees.
And, off fur as the eye could see, way through between and around, wuz other beautiful islands and trees covered with spires and ruffs peepin' out of the green. And way off, way off like white specks growin' bigger every minute, wuz great ships floatin' in, and nearer still would be anon or oftener majestic ships and steamers ploughin' along through the blue waves, sailin' on and goin' right by and mindin' their own bizness.
Well, when at last we did tear ourselves away from the environin' seen and walk acrost the broad piazzas and into the two immense hotels, as we looked around on the beauty of our surroundin's, nothin' but the inward sense of religious duty seemed strong enough to draw us back to Thousand Island Park, though that is good-lookin' too.
But the old meetin' house with its resistless cords, and the cast-iron devotion of a pardner wound their strong links round me and I wuz more than willin' to go back at night. Josiah didn't come with us, he'd gone fishin' with another deacon he'd discovered at the Park.
Well, we santered through the bizness and residence streets and went into the free library, a quaint pretty building full of good books with a memorial to Holland meetin' you the first thing, put up there by the hands of Gratitude. And we went into the old stun church, which the dead master of Bonnie Castle thought so much on and did so much for, and is full of memories of him. Whitfield thinks a sight of his writings; he sez "they dignify the commonplace, and make common things seem oncommon." Katrina, Arthur Bonniecastle, Miss Gilbert, Timothy Titcomb the philosopher, all seemed to walk up and down with Whitfield there.
And while there we took a short trip to the Lake of the Isles, a lovely place, where instead of boats full of gigglin' girls with parasols, and college boys with yells and oars, the water lilies float their white perfumed sails, and Serenity and Loneliness seem to kinder drift the boat onwards, and the fashion-tired beholder loves to hasten there, away from the crowd, and rest.
Every mind can be suited at the Islands, the devotee of fashion can swirl around in its vortex, and for them who don't care for it there are beautiful quiet places where that vortex don't foam and geyser round, and all crowned with the ineffable beauty of the St. Lawrence.
And we sailed by the Island of Summer Land (a good name), where a beloved pastor and his children in the meetin' house settled down so long ago that Fashion hadn't found out how beautiful the Thousand Islands wuz. They come here for rest and recreation, and built their cottages along the undulatin' shore in the shape of a great letter S. It wuz a pretty spot.
When the boat wuz ready to go back at night I wuz, and wuz conveyed in safety at about six p.m. to the bosom of my family. I say this poetically, for the bosom wuzn't there when I got back; it hadn't come in from fishin' yet, and when it did come it wuz cross and fraxious, for the other deacon had caught two fish and he hadn't any. He said he felt sick, and believed he wuz threatened with numony, but he wuzn't; it wuz only madness and crossness, that kinder stuffs anybody up some like tizik.
Well, Whitfield found a letter that made it necessary for him to return to Jonesville to once, and of course Tirzah Ann, like the fond wife and mother she wuz, would take little Delight and go with him. But after talkin' to Josiah, Whitfield concluded they would stay over one day more to go fishin'. So the very next mornin' he got a big roomy boat, and we sot out to troll for fish. The way they do this is to hitch a line on behind the boat and let it drag through the water and catch what comes to it. And as our boat swep' on over the glassy surface of the water that lay shinin' so smooth and level, not hintin' of the rocks and depths below, I methought, "Here we be all on us, men and wimmen, fishin' on the broad sea of life, and who knows what will tackle the lines we drop down into the mysterious depths? We sail along careless and onthinkin' over rush and rapid, depth and shallow, the line draggin' along. Who knows what we may feel all of a sudden on the end of the line? Who knows what we may be ketchin' ontirely onbeknown to us? We may be ketchin' happiness, and we may be layin' holt of sorrow. A bliss may be jerked up by us out of the depth; agin a wretchedness and a heart-ache may grip holt the end of the line. Poor fishers that we be! settin' in our frail little shallop on deep waters over onknown depths, draggin' a onceasin' line along after us night and day, year in and year out. The line is sot sometimes by ourselves, but a great hand seems to be holdin' ours as we fasten on the hook, a great protectin' Power seems to be behind us, tellin' us where to drop the line, for we feel sometimes that we can't help ourselves."
I wuz engaged in these deep thoughts as we glided onwards. Josiah wuz wrestlin' with his hat brim, he would have acted pert and happy if it hadn't been for that. At my request he had bought a straw hat to cover his eyes from the sun and preserve his complexion, and so fur is that man from megumness that he had got one with a brim so broad that it stood out around his face like a immense white wing, floppin' up and down with every gust of wind. He had seen some fashionable young feller wear one like it and he thought it would be very becomin' and stylish to get one for a fishin' excursion, little thinkin' of the discomfort it would give him.
"Plague it all!" sez he, as it would flop up and down in front of his eyes and blind him, "what made me hear to you, goin' a-fishin' blind as a bat!"
Sez I, "Why didn't you buy a megum-sized one? Why do you always go to extremes?"
"To please you!" he hollered out from under his blinders. "Jest to please you, mom!"
Sez I, "Josiah Allen, you know you did it for fashion, so why lay it off onto me? But," sez I, "if you'll keep still I'll fix it all right."
"Keep still!" sez he, "I don't see any prospect of my doin' anything else when I can't see an inch from my nose."
"Well," sez I, "push the brim back and I'll tie it down with my braize veil."
"I won't wear a veil!" sez he stoutly. "No, Samantha, no money will make me rig up like a female woman right here in a fashionable summer resort, before everybody. How would a man look with a veil droopin' down and drapin' his face?"
"Well," sez I, "then go your own way."
But the next time a gale come from the sou'west he wuz glad to submit to my drapin' him; so I laid the brim back and tied the veil in a big bow knot under his chin. Then agin he reviled the bow, and said it would make talk. But I held firm and told him I wuzn't goin' to tear my veil tiein' it in a hard knot. And he soon forgot his discomposure in wearin' braize veils, in his happiness at the idee of ketchin' fish, so's to tell the different deacons on't when he got home.
Men do love to tell fish stories. Men who are truthful on every other pint of the law, will, when they measure off with their hands how long the fish is that they ketched, stretch out that measure more'n considerable.
Well, as I say, as our boat glided on between the green islands, anon in shadder and then agin out in sunny stretches of glassy seas, I looked off on the glorified distance and thought of things even furder away than that. Tirzah Ann wuz engaged in tryin' to keep the sun out of her face; she said anxiously she wuz afraid she would git a few frecks on her nose in spite of all she could do. Whitfield wuz amusin' Delight, and Josiah ever and anon speakin' of Coney Island and askin' if it wuzn't time to eat our lunch. So the play of life goes on.
We didn't ketch much of anything, only I ketched considerable of a headache. Tirzah Ann ketched quite a number of frecks; she complained that she had burnt her nose. Delight did, I guess, ketch quite an amount of happiness, for the experience wuz new to her, and children can't bag any better or more agreeable game than Novelty. And Whitfield did seem to ketch considerable enjoyment; he loves to be out on the water.
My pardner drew up one tiny, tiny fish out of the depths; it looked lonesome and exceedingly fragile, but oh how that man brooded over that triumph! And by the time we reached Jonesville and he related that experience to the awe-struck neighbors it wuz a thrillin' and excitin' seen he depictered, and that tiny fishlet had growed, in the fertile sile of his warm imagination, to such a length, that I told him in confidence out to one side, that if I ever hearn him go on so agin about it, and if that fish kep' a growin' to that alarmin' extent, I should have to tell its exact length; it wuz jest as long as my middle finger, for I measured it on the boat, foreseein' trouble with him in this direction.
It made him dretful huffy, and he sez, "I can't help it if you do have a hand like a gorilla's."
It hain't so; I never wore higher than number 7. But I have never seen him since pull out his hands so recklessly measurin' off the dimensions of that fish, or gin hints that it took two men to carry it up from the boat to the hotel, and insinuate on how many wuz nourished on it, and for how long a time.
No, I broke it up. But Josiah Allen hain't the only man that stretches out the fish they have ketched, as if they wuz made of the best kind of Injy rubber. It seems nateral to men's nater to tell fibs about fish. Curious, hain't it? That is one of the curious things that lay holt of our lines. And wimmen have to see squirmin' at their feet anon or oftener, game that flops and wriggles and won't lay still and grows all the time.
IN WHICH I DRAW THE MATRIMONIAL LINE ROUND MY PARDNER AND ALSO KEEP MY EYE ON MR. POMPER
IN WHICH I DRAW THE MATRIMONIAL LINE ROUND MY PARDNER AND ALSO KEEP MY EYE ON MR. POMPER
The next mornin' Whitfield and Tirzah went home, Josiah and I thinkin' we would stay a few days longer. And what should I git but a letter from Cousin Faithful Smith sayin' that her Aunt Petrie beyond Kingston wuz enjoyin' poor health, and felt that she must have Faith come and visit her before she went West. So she wuz goin' to cut short her visit to the Smithses and go to her Aunt Petrie's on her way to the West, and as she had heard Josiah and I wuz to the Islands, she would stop and stay a few days with us there. And as the letter had been delayed, she wuz to be there that very day on the afternoon boat. So of course Josiah and I met her at Clayton. And I went to the boardin'-house keeper to see if I could git her a room.
But she wuz full, Miss Dagget wuz; and when anybody is full there is no more to be said; so with many groanin's from my pardner, on account of the higher price, we concluded we would git rooms at the hotel, that big roomy place, with broad piazzas runnin' round it and high ruffs. And as Josiah said bitterly, the ruffs wuzn't any higher than the prices. And I told him the prices wuzn't none too high for what we got, and I sez, "We are gittin' along in years and don't often rush into such high expenses, so we'll make the venter."
And he groaned out, "Good reason why we don't make the venter often, unless we want to go on the Town!"
And then he kinder brightened up and wondered if he couldn't make a dicker with the hotel-keeper to take a yearlin' steer to pay for our two boards.