« EdellinenJatka »
Unclasping, with some difficulty, her fingers from the rock, into which they seemed to have grown, Mysie grasped the proffered hand, and the next moment was safe upon the turf.
"Oh, my good gracious!" muttered the kind old man; but whether the exclamation was caused by Mysie's face, pale, no doubt, by the effort necessary to raise her half-fainting figure, or by the idea of the peril in which she had been, did not appear.
Clarissa, calm and equable, was next passed up by Caleb, who, declining the proffered hand, drew himself up, by a firm grasp upon the rocky scarp of the cliff.
"Guess you was scart some then, wa'n't you?" inquired Clarissa, as the party walked homeward.
"Oh, no!” replied Mysie, quickly. "But I could not get over the top of the cliff alone, it was so steep."
"Oh, that was the matter?" drawled the child, with a sidelong glance of her sharp black eyes.
The northeast wind which went fossilizing with Mysie and Clara on their first excursion was the precursor of a furious storm of rain and wind, ranking, according to the dictum of experienced weather-seers, as little inferior to that famous one in which fell the Minot's Ledge Light-house.
As the gale reached its height, it was a sight at once terrible and beautiful, to watch, standing in the lantern, the goaded sea, whose foam-capped waves could plainly be seen at the horizon line, breaking here and there upon sunken rocks, over which in their playful moods they scarcely rippled, but on which they now dashed with such white fury as to make them discernible, even through the darkness of night. One long, low ridge of submarine rocks, around which seethed a perpetual caldron, was called the Devil's Bridge; but when erected, or for what purpose, tradition failed to
Never, surely, did the wind rave about a peaceful inland dwelling as it did about that lonely light-house for two long nights. It roared, it howled, it shrieked, it whistled; it drew back to gather strength, and then rushed to the attack with such mad fury, that the strong, young light-house, whose frame was all of iron and stone, shrunk trembling before it, and the children in their beds screamed aloud for fear. But through all and beyond all, the calm, strong light sent out its piercing, warning rays into the black night; and who can tell what sinner it may that night have prevented from crossing the Devil's Bridge to the world which lies beyond?
There was but one wreck during the storm, so far as our travellers heard; and in this the lives were saved. men, caught out in a fishing-smack, finding that their little vessel was foundering, betook themselves to their small boat; but this filled more rapidly than they could bale it; and they had just given themselves up for lost, when their signals of distress were observed on board the light-ship stationed near Newport, which sent a life-boat to their assistance, and rescued them just as their little boat went to pieces.
When Mysie heard this occurrence mentioned, as they were journeying homeward, it recalled to her mind a lit
tle incident of the day succeeding the
A Visit to Martha's Vineyard.
Walking with Clara upon the beach,
they saw borne toward them, on the
Mysie at first wondered considerably
"It would be a good thing for you, if the schooner "Mary Ann" should go to pieces off here," remarked Mysie to Clara, who had become her constant attendant.
"Why?" inquired she, expectant
"On account of her cargo.
'I'm Jonathan Homer, master and owner
She comes from Pank-a-tank, laden with oak
And bound to Surinam.'"
"Did he really say so?" asked Clara, sharply.
"I don't know," said Mysie, laughing; "but that's what I heard about it when I was a little girl."
While the storm continued too violent for out-of-door exercise, Mysie cultivated an acquaintance with a remarkably pleasant and intelligent lady who fortunately was making a visit at the light-house. She had been for many years a resident of the Vineyard, and had taken great interest in its history, both past and present. From her Mysie derived much curious and interesting information.
It seems that the island was first discovered by a certain Thomas Mayhew, who, voyaging with others to settle in the Plymouth Colony during its early days, was driven by stress of weather into a safe and commodious bay, now Edgartown harbor, but then seen and used for The storm the first time by white men. over, his companions prepared to resume their voyage; but Mayhew, seeing the land fair and pleasant to look upon, decided to remain there, and landed with whoever in the ship belonged to him.
He, of course, found the land in the hands of its original possessors, a small and peaceful tribe of Indians, living quietly upon their own island, and having very little communication with their neighbors. With them Thomas Mayhew bargained for what land he wanted, selecting it in what is now the town of Chilmark, and paying for it, to the satisfaction of all parties, with an old soldier's coat which happened to be among his possessions.
In process of time, one of his sons, named Experience, having been educated for the purpose in England, returned to his father's home as a missionary to the kind and hospitable savages among whom he dwelt. So prosperous were the labors of himself, and afterward of his son Zachariah, that in a journal, kept by the latter, it is mentioned that there were then upon
the island twelve thousand "praying Indians."
Experience Mayhew is still spoken of as "the great Indian missionary," and the house in which he lived was still standing a few years since upon the farm of Mr. Hancock in Chilmark.
The island is to this day full of Mayhews of every degree,—so far, at least, as distinctions of rank have obtained among this isolated and primitive people.
When Massachusetts erected herself into a State, and included the Vineyard within her bounds, it was divided into the townships of Edgartown, (or Oldtown,) Holmes's Hole, Tisbury, and Chilmark, and the district of Gay Head, which last, with the island of Chip-aquid-dick, off Edgartown, and a small tract of land in Tisbury, named Christian-town, were made over in perpetuity to the Indians who chose to remain. They have not the power of alienating any portion of this territory, nor may any white man build or dwell there. If, however, one of the tribe marry out of the community, the alien husband or wife may come to live with the native spouse so long as the marriage continues; and the Indians have taken advantage of this permission to intermarry with the negroes, until there is not one pure-blooded descendant of the original stock remaining, and its physiognomy and complexion are in most cases undistinguishable in the combination of the two races.
Gay Head contains eleven hundred acres, seven of which are the birthright of every Indian child; but it is not generally divided by fences, the cattle of the whole tribe grazing together in amicable companionship. Much of the value of the property lies in the cranberry-meadows, which are large and productive, and in the beds of rich peat. A great deal of the soil, however, is valuable for cultivation, although but little used, as the majority of the men follow the example of their white co-islanders, and plough the sea instead of the land. They make excellent seamen, and sometimes rise to
the rank of officers, although few white sailors are sufficiently liberal in their views to approve of being commanded by "a nigger," as they persist in calling these half-breeds.
The wigwams, which, no doubt, were at first erected here, have given place to neat and substantial frame buildings, as comfortable, apparently, as those in many New England villages. There is also a nice-looking Baptist church, of which denomination almost every adult is a member. Near this is a parsonage, occupied until lately by a white clergyman; but the spirit of Experience Mayhew is not common in these days; and his successor, finding the parish lonely and uncongenial, removed to a pleasanter one,- his pulpit being now filled by a preacher from among the Indians themselves.
Mysie took occasion to call at one of these quasi wigwams, soon after her arrival, but could discern only one aboriginal vestige in either inhabitants or customs. This existed in the shape of a dish of succotash, (corn and beans boiled together,) which the good woman was preparing for breakfast, very possibly in ignorance that her ancestors had cooked and eaten and named the compound ages before the white intruders ever saw their shore.
Mysie pursued her morning walk in a somewhat melancholy mood. It is a sad and dreary sight to behold a nation in decay; saddest when the fall is from so slight an elevation as that on which the savage stood. Greece and Rome, falling into old age, proudly boast, "Men cannot say I did not have the crown"; each shows undying, unsurpassable achievements of her day of power and strength, cach, if she live no longer in the sight of the world, is sure of dwelling forever in its memory. But the aboriginal, when his simple routine of life is broken up by the intrusion of a people more powerful, more wicked, and more wise than himself, is incapable of exchanging his own purely physical ambitions and pursuits for the intellectual and cultivated life belonging to
the better class of his conquerors, while his wild and sensuous nature grasps eagerly at the new forms of vice which follow in their train. Civilization to the savage destroys his own existence, and gives him no better one,-destroys it irremediably and forever. The life sufficient for himself and for the day is not that which stretches its hand into the future and sets its mark on ages not yet born; it dies and is forgotten,- forgotten even by the descendants of those who lived it.
Some of the Indian names still survive; and Mysie's indignation was roused, when a descendant of the Mayhews, pointing out the hamlets of Menemshee and Nashaquitsa, (commonly called Quitsy,) added, contemptuously,
But them's only nicknames given by the colored folks; it's all Chilmark by rights."
"I suppose they are the names used by the ancestors of these Indians, before a white man ever saw the island,-are they not?" inquired she, somewhat dryly.
"Like enough, like enough," replied the other, carelessly, and not in the least appreciating the rebuke.
From the lady before referred to Mysie received an answer to her oft-repeated question,
"Is there any tradition how the island received its name?"
"Oh, yes," was the unexpected and welcome answer. "All the islands near here were granted by the King of England to a gentleman whose name is forgotten; but he had four daughters, among whom he divided his new possessions.
"This one, remarkable then, as now, in a degree, for its abundance of wild grapes, he gave to Martha as her Vineyard.
"The group to the north, consisting of Pennikeese, Cuttyhunk, Nashawena, Naushon, Pasqui, and Punkatasset, are called the Elizabeth Islands, from the daughter who inherited them.
"That little island to the southwest of us was Naomi's portion. It is now called Noman's Land, and is remarkable only
for the fine quality of the codfish caught and cured there.
"The strangest of all, however, was the name given to the island selected by Ann, which was first called Nan-took-it, and is now known as Nantucket.”
"Thank Heaven, that I at last know something about Martha!" ejaculated Mysie.
At length, every corner filled with specimens, every face deeply imbrowned by sun and wind, and the Baron with only the ghost of a pair of shoes to his feet, our travellers set their faces homeward,- Caleb resolving to renew his acquaintance with the birds at some future period, his imagination having been quite inflamed by the accounts of plover and grouse to be found here in their season. The latter, however, are very strictly protected by law during most of the season, on account of the rapidity with which they were disappearing. They are identical with the prairie-fowl, so common at the West, and are said to be delicious eating.
Desirous to improve their minds and manners by as much travel as possible, the trio resolved to leave the island by the way of Edgartown, the terminus of the steamboat route. Bidding adieu to their kind and obliging host and hostess, the twelve children, and the pleasant new friend, they set out, upon the most charming of all autumn days, for Edgartown, fully prepared to be dazzled by its beauty and confounded by its magnificence.