MONOMOY LIGHT AND POINT by Maro Beath Jones
The following is an unfinished story by Maro Beath Jones. In the story, he draws from his experiences of growing up on Monomoy, Cape Cod, as the son of the Monomoy Light lighthouse keeper, Asa Jones. The story clearly relates life in the late 1800s at the Monomoy Lighthouse and the life saving stations along the lonely, often stormy and dangerous Cape Cod shoreline and shoals. All the characters in the story, except “Anna Toll," are based on the people who really lived/worked there. Spot was Maro’s dog, and the Lighthouse and the various life saving station men played themselves.
Many thanks to Emily Hills Aasted for sharing this.
The keeper made sure once again that the lantern door was securely latched and bolted. And as his eyes, that had been circling the horizon for some time, turned to northward, he spoke, half to himself and half to the little boy who was with him in the tower:
"I think our Monomoy will be an island tonight--a real one this time, and a smaller one than the Harbor folks might like."
"Why Papa, I thought it always was an island--my geography says so."
"Geography or no geography, this old beach hasn't had the water all around her for a good many years; but I can promise you that she'll have it tonight...Brrr, what a no'theaster!" And the tower shook, and the braces quivered and the chains creaked. "I hope Nat's station doesn't wash away. I knew this was coming before long. These last two winter gales chewed in back of Inward Point so she almost gullied through, and unless I am wrong, the job will be finished before morning."
"But Papa, we won't be washed away, will we, and the lighthouse fall down, and Spot and Rex be drowned?" And the little boy's two arms reached up to his Daddy for the protection he knew only a daddy could give, even against the elements themselves. And Daddy bent down and picked up his child, hugged him to his heart and kissed away the fear his words had caused.
"No, no, my boy, you are safe; this light is on high ground, and see the hills all around us? But up to the north it isn't so: there the beach is flat, and the drean goes most to the backside, and if this wind keeps up and there's a lot of rain, with this high course of tide, I can't see anything to stop a new cut-through up there by tomorrow."
And now reassured as to the safety of his dog and the old horse, and the house, and the family, the little boy cuddles closer into his daddy's arms, and sees the latter give the last turn to the wick of the big lamp and cast one final glance over the machinery of the lantern. Ordinarily this meant the raising of the iron door and starting down the tower's winding stair to a waiting supper below. But just as Mr. Gould stooped to grasp the ring of the heavy trap-door, he gave a start, put his son down upon the cold floor again, and peered out through the rain-spattered windows toward the east.
This was the hour of sunset, the hour when the lamps of all the lighthouses and all the lightships of Uncle Sam's domain are lighted for the service of night. When days are not clear and the sun cannot announce its own departure from the horizon, the keeper has to rely upon his almanac to know the moment when he must strike his match and kindle the little wick that takes the place of sun and guides the ships by night from perilous reef and shoal. At this twilight hour vision can play weird tricks, and when the mist and drizzle are closing in, water and sky meet, or rather, they become as one, and under such conditions it is extremely difficult to distinguish and locate objects at sea.
At the moment when Mr. Gould suddenly directed his gaze seaward, all that was visible over the ocean at his feet was the bouncing can buoy at the tip of Bearse's Shoal and the rim of choppy breakers that mark its deadly limits. But the eyes of Mr. Gould, from their many years of peering into atmospheric depths, had been trained to see beyond the reach of ordinary eyes, and there, over the line of breakers of the shoal, he believed he espied a sail, or half a sail, at a spot where no properly navigated craft would ever dare find itself. He could not be sure--his eyes might be deceiving him: if they were not, tragedy was at hand, or had already begun.
"Ellie, can you see anything the other side of the buoy? Look sharp!" And Ellie looked and strained his every ounce of boyish energy to see what his daddy wanted him to see.
"I think there is something white off there, and sort of jumping up and down."
"So I feared; but keep on looking."
And so father and son, searching the fast approaching darkness, both conscious of a charge of duty to perform, the one to his daddy and the other to his helpless fellow man. But their efforts were without avail; the night had set in and rain was filling the air and lashing the windows, and sail (if such there was), buoy and breakers had now faded from sight.
With this single comment on his lips Mr. Gould raised the floor door, stepped through the opening, down a few rungs of the metal ladder, and reached back to lift his son to safety in his arms. A step or two more and they were upon the landing where the heavier spiral stair begins. And with little hand upon rail and daddy always just a couple of steps ahead, the brave boy, now in the dark except for the flickering light from the lantern room above, trod slowly the resounding steps to the welcoming bricks at the base of the tower below. The massive iron door is pushed open and they step over the threshold into the flood of light from the kitchen where Mamma is standing with a smile of relief illuminating her countenance.
"Why Anson, what made you so long? I was beginning to get uneasy. I didn't hear a sound from you after the light was lit. I waited and waited, as long as I could, and was just coming to call up to you. What was the matter?"
"Cadie, I am afraid there will be trouble on the Shoal tonight. I think someone is disabled off there, at this very minute. I am quite sure I saw a sail the other side of the buoy, and little Ellie here did too--didn't you, Sonnie?--and I guess we watched longer than I thought. Anyway, I must get word to Willie, and right away."
"But Anson, how? He could never see your signal this late, and the crew only patrol to the halfway house on the sunset watch."
"I shall go to the station myself and tell him--and now."
"Oh Anson, I simply can't think of you walking this beach tonight, in such a gale, and leaving us alone--I should worry myself sick."
"Cadie, I must. It is no worse for me to face a no'theaster than for John and Nate and the others. They are doing it all the time, and I feel it my duty to let Willie know of what I think I saw, and give those men maybe pounding to pieces out there a chance."
"But you aren't sure there is anyone off there."
"No, I am not sure, but these eyes of mine are pretty true, and I can't believe they are fooling me yet. I shall not shirk a duty just on a gamble, and I am going to start for Willie's station at once."
Mrs. Gould saw it was futile to argue further: she knew her husband too well, and although he sometimes presented a rough exterior and was irascible and at times unreasonable, she realized that duty, to him, was sacred, and she admired that quality in him and respected his decisions.
As he went for his oilskins and boots, Mrs. Gould placed the lamp on the supper table, arranged his place and stood by his chair, bowed. Little Ellie was clinging to her hand, for he too dreaded his father's going out into the night and leaving his mother with the tearful, worried look he was already all too familiar with. When Mr. Gould came back from the entry, ready to leave, his wife did effect one compromise and prevailed upon him not to start out without his supper. The three ate quickly and in silence, except for an occasional outburst from the father, as if in soliloquy, asking how any craft could have worked in so close to Bearse's Shoal, and in broad daylight, if the captain had any knowledge at all of that part of the coast of Cape Cod.
His supper dispatched, he called Spot, upon whom the rather unusual actions of his master had not been lost, and who was lying behind the stove with one eye open, awaiting just the call his master now made him. He leaped to Mr. Gould in a second, jumped upon him, and would have given utterance to a joyous bark, had he not been an extra well behaved dog and known that such demeanor would have elicited a cutting reprimand from his beloved master, with the possible loss of the chance to accompany him.
"Good bye, Cadie; and Ellie, you will be asleep when I get back, and in the morning we shall know whether your little eyes saw aright or not--I hope they did not. So straight to bed when Mama says, and while we are walking up the beach I will tell Spot all about what a good boy you are to mind your Mamma so well." And Anson kissed his precious wife and son, pushed the outside door of the kitchen against a rainy no'theast gale and strode out into utter darkness, with Spot at his side jumping, and now freed from the restraint of the interior of the house, yelping to his doggish heart's content.
While Mr. Gould and Spottie dog are making their way over the hills and up the beach to inform 'Willie' of the situation on Bearse's Shoal, we can do no better, since we cannot aid them in their nasty journey, than to introduce our readers to the theater of our story and some of the circumstances attending its opening.
I want my boy and girl readers (grown people of course know their geography well enough not to have to do this) to take the biggest atlas they can lay hands on and turn to the large map of the state of Massachusetts. See what a peculiar shape its seaward portion has: isn't it just like a man's muscular right arm, bent, and with fist clenched, as if to ward off any marauders attempting to invade our eastern shores? Now look closely to where the crazy bone of this strong arm should be, and you will note projecting southward a narrow neck of land. This slender strip figures, depending upon the age and accuracy of the map at which you are looking, as either a peninsula or an island; if the latter, with the connection broken at the northern part, near the mainland. Now toward the southern extremity of this peninsula (or island, if you will) you will see the very small letters "L.H." this I am sure you will interpret as "lighthouse"; and so you must, for from the early part of the 19th century to the 30th day of July 1925 here a lighthouse stood--one of the most important upon the Atlantic coast. Important not so much on account of its size or power of its equipment, but from the fact that this was the beacon, guided by which, sailors "turned the corner" on their way to New York from Boston or farther north, passing thus from the most dangerous shoals of our eastern seaboard, into the calmer waters of Nantucket sound.
This was "Monomoy" light, named for the island on which it stood, and it was in the tower of this lighthouse that the young hero of this story and his daddy were standing at the moment we met them a little while ago.
Monomoy, the wind-blown appendix to its geological parent, Cape Cod, is a sandspit, some eight to ten miles in length, formed from the gougings and washings of the coast to the north, supplemented by the erratic shifting sands from the ocean depths that flank it. It shows throughout its length and breadth--a breadth that does not exceed half a mile at any point--all the stages of evolution in beach formation: The northern reaches are flat and new, so new and washed by the tides that even that most primitive of saline growths, common rank beachgrass (Ammophila arundinacea) has no time to fix itself. Proceeding southward the sands are higher, with meandering hills and hollows, the former now clothed with their legitimate grassy covering; while farther yet to south the elevation becomes greater and the contour more stable, with the tops of the hills so uniformly flattened that the term "moors" could quite properly be applied to them. These wide expanses are covered by a low, woody and scraggly heather, a heather that never blooms, and bears locally the most appropriate sobriquet of "poverty-grass". This heather-covered plateau forms, as it were, the backbone of the island, and as such, from the point where the lighthouse stands, curves sicklewise to the southwest. In the inner curve of the sickle thus formed is snuggled a little harbor, the "Powder Hole", famed among the coastwise sailors of three quarters of a century ago, and with which we too shall become well acquainted in the course of this narrative. Southward, over the hills from this harbor, lies the southern tip of the island, "Point Rip", exposed to all the furies of wind and wave and swept by one of the fiercest tides that plague our northern coasts: woe be to the mariner who attempts to pass this point, unfortified by local experience or the keenest of nautical judgment!
As can readily be guessed from the foregoing paragraphs, Monomoy and the region about were, at the time with which this story has to do, and still are, liberally provided with the means of warning to the mariner and the saving of the lives of those whose unlucky star might lead them to be cast away in that vicinity.
Besides the lighthouse, the scene of the opening of our story, three lightships lay within sight of its tower: The northermost, directly east of the lighthouse and some three miles out to sea, was the Pollock Rip, anchored at the spot where in 1620 our pilgrim fathers met near disaster and oblivion the day they first saw the shores of the American continent. Then there was the old Shoveful, moored close under the lee of the island, and upon which Ellie's father, Mr. Gould, had served as captain before his advancement to the keepership at Monomoy. And lastly, some five miles to the southwest of Point Rip lay the Handerchief, welcome signal of relief from the shoals and marking the entrance to safety in Nantucket and Vineyard sounds.
Two lifesaving stations graced the island, the one the "Chatham" station, at the northern extremity, close under the mainland shore from which it takes its name, and to which it fled in these later years, when its original site was encroached upon and engulfed by the resistless fury of the Atlantic waters. This was the station presided over by "Nat", thoughts of disaster to which had entered the mind of Mr. Gould while talking to his son up in the lighthouse tower. And finally there was the Monomoy station itself, midway up the island and nestled among the sandhills, whose captain was William Duston, foster-brother of Mr. Gould, to inform whom of his fears of impending wreck upon Bearse's Shoal the latter had left his family and a warm fireside, to tramp two and a half miles of beach, at night, in a drenching rain, and in the teeth of what had now become a bitter northeast gale.
Spot and his master, without mishap, reached the 'stakes', driftwood posts driven into the sand a few feet apart from station to surf, to prevent the patrolmen on their return beats in snow and blizzard missing the station and so becoming lost. Guided by these friendly markers, Mr. Gould turned westward into the hills and approached the old red station. All was dark except for one dimly lighted window in the messroom; and still, too, for the tired crew, with night's patrol ahead of them, waste no time in sitting up during the evenings.
Mr. Gould stepped from the storm into the warm, empty messroom, and Spot, after a vigorous shake of the water from his hide, made for the back of the hot stove, a place he knew well and had occupied many times before. Mr. Gould knocked at the Captain's door. Instead of Captain Duston, surfman Brad Phillips appeared, bearing a logbook in which he had been writing.
"Where is Willie?"
"Gone to a vessel drifted into a new cut-through that is making up to the noo'ard. Captain took along with him all except the south patrol and me. Didn't take the boat--breeches-buoy job. Nasty night, isn't it, for a wreck, a shallow water one at that. She looked something like a West Indies square-rigger, but dark was setting in so fast when we made her out, that Captain couldn't tell just what she was. Set down a while and dry off. What's the matter at the lighthouse to bring you up here such a night as this?"
"Nothing; but trouble enough on the backside, I am afraid. You can tell Willie I believe a schooner or a sloop is aground on the south end of Bearse's Shoal; I just made her out when I went to light up. It was awful thick, but just the same I thought I saw canvas flapping--one sail. It closed in so quick I lost her right away--didn't see hull, masts or anything. Anyway, I took no chances, and came on."
"Well Anson, I hope this is a false alarm; but you know your brother, and that means that as soon as the Captain is back and the crew into dry clothes, we shall be down there. Let me take another look at the weather." And Mr. Phillips tossed the logbook upon the table and stepped to the door and outside. In a few seconds he was back, slamming the door behind him and shaking the rain from his coat.
"Anson, this is one of the worst nights I ever saw this early in October, and I think you deserve a Congressional medal for walking up here. You better stay awhile and warm up; let me give you a cup of coffee--the kind nobody but Brad Phillips can make."
Mr. Gould drew a chair up to the stove and laid off his oilcoat. "Thank you, Brad, but I can only stay a few minutes; Cadie is up waiting for me and I must get right back; you know women, how they worry." He drank the coffee hurriedly, and after a few minutes of conversation with Phillips (mostly concerning the cut-through in process of formation up at the north) and Elam Chase, who had come down from the cupola to be relieved by Brad, got himself in shape to go out and breast the storm once more, buttoning tight his coat collar and pulling his sou'ester down over his ears and strapping it under the chin.
In a flash this faithful friend left his warm berth and was at his master's side, and the two again went out into the night. But walking this time was easier and the distance shorter, for the gale was at their backs and the thoughts of both of them were upon another good fire and the welcoming voice of Cadie awaiting them at the lighthouse, with no prospect of having to leave them again to go out and buffet a no'theast storm.
Ellie's awakening the next morning was the strangest and the earliest he had ever experienced. Instead of opening his eyes to his Mamma and hearing her 'Get up Sonnie--pancakes are ready' and turning to see Spot and his wagging tail at the bedside, a lot of people, or what seemed to him a lot, were in the room talking in hushed and excited tones, and the big lamp was on the stand, lighted, just as if it were night. Besides Mamma and Papa there was Uncle John, and Uncle Nate, and Uncle Willie, all tiptoeing about and huddling over something at the other end of the room. And then Ellie saw that the crib, from which he had graduated some time before, was again in commission, and engaging the attention of those clustered about it.
"Mamma!", and out Ellie started to jump, with a big squeak from the cords that served as spring for the bed. But Mamma turned and came quickly over to him, pushed him into his bed again and laid his head back upon the pillow. Then he heard heavy steps on the platform outside and short, nervous barks from Spot. Mamma sat down upon the bed, and leaning over her boy, clasped his face and almost smothered him with hugs and kisses, while all the time the tears were streaming down her cheeks. Ellie wondered why. Mrs. Gould was not by nature effusive, and her son knew that some extraordinary event must have taken place to bring her to such an outburst of emotion.
From the crib were issuing sounds strange to Ellie's ears: sobs, coughs, groans and hoarse cries; then silence, then all over again.
"Mamma, what is it? Why is everybody here? Who's in my crib? Isn't it morning yet?"
"My child, what a surprise we have for you!", and then a renewal of tearful embraces.
"What is it? Please, Mamma, let me see!" And then Mrs. Gould, overcoming her natural impulse to keep her boy quiet and away from turmoil and excitement, took him in her arms and carried him over to the crib. Pushing between the heads and shoulders that were bended over it, there he beheld, quivering and sobbing, and encircled by the most bedraggled and blackest curls you ever saw, the pallid, yet beautiful face--of a little girl.
Ellie stared at her for a moment, then tried instinctively to reach his hand down to her as he would to some object whose reality he must prove. But his mother drew him gently back, with a 'No, no, don't touch---the poor little thing has suffered enough!'
"Mama, who is it? Where did she come from? Who brought her? Why are Uncle Willie and the rest here?"
Mrs. Gould carried her son back across the room and laid him on his cot again. "Now please lie still, just a minute till they go, and Mamma will come and tell you what has happened, almost a fairy story, only this time a true one."
She went back to the crib and spoke to the men gathered around it. The same little coughs and cries continued, but with less anguish and seemingly calming down as the warmth from the covers and the hot brick that Mrs. Gould had placed at the child's feet were making themselves felt.
"Well Anson, I guess this is all we can do for you this night; it is not often we station men can fetch a present like this. I hope she pulls through all right, and if any woman can made her do it, it is that wife of yours. Next time you come to the station bring better news than you did this time. If all the lightkeepers had your eyes we wouldn't need patrols on the coast any more." And Capt. Duston took leave of his brother and Mrs. Gould, and waving an affectionate good bye to Ellie, with the words 'Be good to your new playmate', accompanied by the part of his crew that had come into the house with him, left the room, and via the kitchen passed to the platform outside. There they were joined by the other group Ellie had heard, and amidst new yelpings from the intrigued and excited Spot, went down the steps and struck into the path leading to the backside.
The moment Mr. and Mrs. Gould were left alone, Ellie jumped from his bed and ran over and joined then in gazing down upon the little creature in the crib. And Spot, when he had duly dismissed the company now wending its way through the eastward cut, bounds to the door, and by dint of barking and scratching upon it calls attention to those inside. Ellie patters out in his bare feet to let him in. Spot glances at his little master's empty cot and walks sheepishly over to the newly placed crib, there exercising to the full his canine prerogative of sniffing it thoroughly over. Even this does not satisfy his doggish curiosity: therefore he does what he must, the only thing, of course, he could do if he would know what was within it: namely, he raised himself upon his hind legs and places his fore paws upon the side of the crib, and so, with his tail furiously wagging, completes the group of four in ecstatic contemplation of this frail little sobbing angel that was snuggled in the bedding below them...Of course Spot couldn't stand thus for long--dogs are not made for that posture. And too, his mistress, after hugging his big head and saying to him that no one more than he deserved to gaze upon that child, orders him down, and the poor animal, crestfallen, walked over to Ellie's bed and crawled under it, laying his chin across his paws and feigning to sleep. But, his one cocked open [eye] betrays his anxiety as to what is to be the outcome of these strange doings, in which he had played so large a part, and whether in spite of all that, he must now relegate his place in the family as next to his young master, to the newly arrived bit of feminine humanity that was now ensconced in that nearby crib.
I am certain that my readers, even the very youngest of them, have guessed from the situation we have described, what had happened and where the little girl whom Ellie's eyes had so unexpectedly beheld, had come from. However, there are some details connected with the child's advent that could not be guessed, and are of such importance in the later developments of our story that we feel compelled to take a little of our time to relate them.
On arriving at the new cutthrough into which we learned the square-rigger had drifted, Captain Duston found that Nat and his crew were already there, successfully operating the breeches-buoy from the Chatham side, and that therefore the Monomoy crew would not be needed. So Captain Duston and his tired men proceeded as fast as their impedimenta would allow, back to their own station, in readiness for other ministrations of mercy that the elements in such a night as this bade fair to demand of them.
Surfman Phillips from the cupola informed the captain at once of the message from Mr. Gould, and without hesitation, for Duston knew his brother too well to falter for a moment in his confidence in his judgement or even eyesight. The surfboat was hauled from the boat-room, her paraphernalia stowed and lashed, and these heroes set themselves to face their second task, this one of more serious nature, as it involved the launching of the boat into a tremendous surf and an ugly row down the tide-ridden slue.
The launching was accomplished without mishap, and the old lifeboat, with Captain Duston at the steering oar, was soon spanking and pounding its way to south to where Mr. Gould had reported the probability of a scene of woe and disaster.
As they approached the region of the lighthouse the wind began to moderate perceptibly and the weather was clearing. Bearse's Shoal in colonial days was dry land, and is now a submerged remnant of the eastward hook of the then dreaded Cape Batturier. The depth of water on the shoal is today slight, from three to a possible six feet at average ebb, and is ever seething with choppy breakers or the rips from a scouring tide. At the fatal hour of which this part of our story treats, this stretch of torment was at its worst and utterly impassible or even approachable by any craft, large or small. Captain Duston knew this, and his only hope was to be able to succour or save any who might be miraculously emerging therefrom.
So, profiting by the cessation of the rain, the clearing sky and a rising morning moon, he worked the careening and wallowing lifeboat as near as he dared to the edge of the shoal, keenly awatch for any traces of the wreck that appeared so certain to his foster brother's eyes.
These efforts, happily, were unrewarded, --no flotsam, spars, boxes, hatches or other detritus that ordinarily marks the locality of a breaking craft. However, on the shore, on their right, an unwonted sight was presenting itself: Upon the beach was a fire, and in its light were walking back and forth and waving their arms two human figures, attended by an excited dog whose yelpings could be faintly heard above the roar of the breakers. Capt. Duston saw that one of the men gesticulating upon the beach was his brother, and decided to get into communication with him at once. So he twists the lifeboat's bow shorewards, and favored by the moderating wind and a lessening sea, runs her successfully upon the beach.
"Well, Anson, what is the meaning of this?", shouted Duston as he leaped from the boat.
"Come here, Willie--you are too late! I was right: there was a craft off these, but I was fooled as to her size and rig. When I changed the midnight light the moon was coming out, and there she was, close to the buoy, a heavy sort of yawl she looked like, on beam-ends, lunging and smashing, until she finally pounded off the shoal into deep water and sank...And to think I had to watch it all, and couldn't do a thing! I brought some dry wood down and made this fire, thinking it might do some good somehow; but I guess they are all lost, and I dread daylight and what we may find down the beach. Nobody could have gone through that and lived."
"Any stuff washed up?"
"No, too much tide; if there was anything, it has all drifted down the slue to Point Rip. 'Lias here, tells me that on his trip up the beach he saw what looked like a hogshead floating to the s'uth'rd...How far down was it, 'Lias?"
The gentleman so addressed was the man upon the beach with Anson, having walked up from the harbor as he often did on blustery nights, to spend the evening with the latter at cribbage. He was a twinkle-eyed and kindly old bachelor, who, in the winter season when Cadie and Ellie were on the mainland, staid with Anson nights, both for company and to insure the care of the light in case of a chance illness of the keeper. His proper name was Elias Bloomer, but to all his wrecker and Powder Hole companions he was always 'Lias. He was a great admirer of Anson and passionately fond of Ellie. His visits were frequent at the lighthouse and constituted one of the bright spots in the rather solitary life of the Gould family.
"Oh, half a mile or so", answered 'Lias. I naturally couldn't see much, with this little moon, but that cask was sure sailing pretty, and it must have had something heavy in the bottom to stand on end so well--maybe it is beached by this time."
"Anson", said Willie, "I think we will row down a ways and see if we can pick up anything: you and 'Lias follow us down the beach and be on the lookout for anything washing in or already cast up." In the minds of both Willie and his brother there lurked the real thought they would not express, that of the finding of a body or bodies washed from the ill-fated craft. This trying experience had been theirs more than once in the course of their life upon that beach, and the cart that old Rex pulled so laboriously through the beachsand had often served as hearse to bear such bodies across the island to a boat for transfer to the undertaker in Chatham. These occurrences were sad shocks to the delicate nerves of Cadie, and were never the subject of conversation in the family except upon dire necessity, not only from the lugubrious nature of the events themselves, but to obviate the bringing of this element of terror into the life of their tender child.
So the surfboat noses into the breakers once more and heads again to south. And Anson and 'Lias button their coats about their chins, the latter tucking his grizzly beard into the collar, pull down their sou'westers, and accompanied by a happy, leaping Spot, step briskly out in the direction of Point Rip, taking advantage of the harder sands just out of reach of the swirls of the pounding surf.
The boat naturally outdistances them and they are soon left with their sole attention to the beach and what the anger of the ocean may have hurled thereupon.
Approaching one of the bends of the ever changing contour of this Monomoy shore, Spot suddenly, with a yelp, shot ahead over a rising and out of sight. Turning the bend the two men became aware, in the dimness of the moonlight, of a bulky black mass, several hundred feet before them, apparently just stranded by the receding surf. Spot had reached it, and barking furiously, was frantically pawing at the sand about it. At sight of the two men, he dashed to them, yelped about them, and then back to the object, resuming his mad efforts to get at it and penetrate its mystery.
When Mr. Gould and 'Lias reached it they found it to be a cask, standing upon its end. Spot seemed in a frenzy as he pawed, smelt and yelped. 'Lias thumped upon the cask and it resounded hollow.
"That's funny, for there must be something in it!" And he was about to turn the cask upon its side for further investigation, when Spot nabbed him by the leg and pulled him away. 'Lias's rubber boots were tough and it was lucky he had them on, otherwise he would have borne the marks of Spot's teeth to the end of his life. "Has this dog run mad?"
Spot certainly looked it as he gnawed and barked and dug at the cask.
"Well, 'Lias, we had better leave it, and let Spot have his fun with it".
However, this was not to be done, for the moment the two men started away, Spot immediately jumped to Mr. Gould, and gripping his coat, pulled him back to the cask.
"Strange actions for a dog", said 'Lias; "first he won't let you touch the thing, and then he won't let you leave it!"
It was now the turn of Mr. Gould to examine the strange cask. Again, at his effort to turn it from its base, Spot made his objections; not, however, by the vehement method he used against Mr. Bloomer, but by furiously barking in Anson's face. Mr. Gould felt the cask over and on its head found a half-inch hole: instinctively he placed his ear to it and listened. Spot seemed to comprehend this, for, his barking abruptly ceased, he fastened his eyes upon Mr. Gould and now furiously wagged his tail.
"My G--, 'Lias, there's something alive inside--I hear breathing!"
At that moment, as if in desperation, Anson turned his eyes seaward, and there was Willie making for the shore. In zigzagging his course south of the shoal, he had evidently become aware of the commotion on shore and had turned in to see.
"We've got to get this thing open! Wave to Willie to come in, and we can have his axe". And the scene is now easy for us to imagine: 'Lias at the water's edge waving and shouting to the oncoming surfboat; Anson hugging the cask with his ear at the aperture, talking incoherently to himself and it; and an excited but satisfied Spot, now confining his manifestations of impatience to running around the cask, wagging his shaggy tail as if to break, and stopping intermittently long enough to place his forepaws upon the edge of the barrel and snort at the opening to which Mr. Gould has glued his ear.
The axe from the lifeboat, along with the marlinespike, were soon performing their service, and with great care upon the part of their wielders that no harm befall what might be in the cask, bit by bit, splinter by splinter, the heavy head was broken away, and in the darkness of the bottom of the great butt the groping hands of Capt. Duston came into contact with an apparent bundle of quilts; from the folds of this, as the cask was turned so that rays of the moon could penetrate therein, there emerged the dim outline of the face of a sobbing and coughing little human creature. The actions and the ejaculations of the partakers in this unexpected drama need no description: the Amazement and nigh terror were imprinted upon their countenances, as the strong, tender arms of Capt. Duston again reached into the clammy interior of the cask to lift the child out into light and air.
But this Willie could not do, for he now discovered that the child was tied in in some manner. Straps about this quilted mass were fastened to bar of sheet iron, which, in turn, was clamped to the bottom of the cask.
"So that is why she stood on end so well", exclaimed 'Lias, whose mind, in spite of the tenseness of the moment and his own sympathetic emotions, could not divorce itself from the wonderment that had been his from the instant his eyes first beheld the object that was riding so gracefully out beyond the breakers.
The thongs cut, again Capt. Duston grasps the living bundle and gently draws it forth before that awestruck group of men-- and the dog we know so well, which latter seemed at this moment strangely conscious of his call to desist from his joyous manifestations and steel himself to reverent canine hush.
While surfmen Nate Allen and Johnnie Bearse (both, incidentally brothers-in-law to Mrs. Gould) salvaged for future inspection the butt with its internal trappings intact, by laboriously pushing it up over the rise, above high-water mark, the rest of the troop, headed by Willie bearing the little waif, still enveloped in its outwardly damp coverings, snug in his arms, and flanked by an excited Anson and an incoherent 'Lias, set rapid pace over the knolls for the lighthouse, with Spot, his energetic "composure" regained, blazing a direct way through the wet beachgrass.
The conversation, quite erratic, of this company, and quite natural to the situation, we may dispense with, except to note such expressions as: "Looks like a girl!" "Sha'n't we ever get to that lighthouse?" "Why didn't she get wetter?" "What will Cadie say?" "What could she have come off of?" "Keep her covered, Cap'n!" "Ellie's got a twin now!" "Hope Clara's fire is hot!", and the like, easily left to the imagination of the reader who may have shown the patience to be struggling thus far.
As they neared the lighthouse Anson hastened on ahead, over the raise south of the building, and striding across the level bit of sand surrounding it, leaped upon the platform and shouted to the house: "Cadie, make a bed--we got a baby!" Mrs. Gould was alert and waiting, and rushed out fairly screaming: "What do you mean, Anson?"
"We found a baby, alive, and you must get ready for it! Willie's got it--most here!"
Mrs. Gould burst into tears: "And all lost?"
"I dunno--looks so; fix up something right off, before the child freezes to death!" And into the house dog and master bounced, followed by poor Cadie in a quasi-hysterical state, while stolid Mr. Gould himself was on approach to a man entirely out of his wits.
As Willie and crew and dear old 'Lias hove in sight over the rising, Spot is back to them in a second with welcoming yelps and escorts them to the lighthouse door. They enter with their precious burden, which is deposited by Captain Duston into the arms of his sister, who, recovered from her shock, has already taken her place in the great rocking-chair by the kitchen fire, in waiting for the coming trust.
She unrolls the quilt and brings to view, fully though somewhat quaintly dressed, the limp form of a little girl, of some five to seven years.
The remainder of our story to the hour of Ellie's awakening is not difficult of conjecture: the undressing and warming of the frightened child, the preparation of the crib and the placing her therein, the curiosity and lively conversation of the station crew, the mutual confidences between Capt. Duston and Anson, the volubility of 'Lias (who will have a big story to tell at the Powder Hole when daylight comes), and through all, the recitals and living over again of the rescue, with a pardonable enlargement upon the role played by our heroic Spot in his persistence in forcing the two men to stay by the cask until its mystery was solved.
Here we may take leave from the scene at the lighthouse, for with day still some time away, the house has settled back to its broken rest. Ellie, carefree child, has been tucked into his cot again and is sound asleep. Keeper Gould, exhausted by his night of turmoil, has turned in in the next room to profit by the remaining hours of the morning and is heavily snoring. The little child, bless her, who has flown in to them out of the night, soothed by the warmth of her nest, has ceased her sobbing and moaning and entered upon the rhythmical breathing of restful sleep.
There was one, however, for whom the agitations of this night had proven too severe: Mrs. Gould, with her sympathetic heart in prey to the emotions aroused by the events which we have tried to describe, is still wide awake. Her anguish of spirit is great at thoughts of the suffering and inevitable loss of those who had struck upon the nearby shoal. She is strangely moved at the miraculous saving and plight of the little girl lying before her in Ellie's old crib; she senses a possible danger to her from the night's exposure; she shudders at what may become of her and wonders where she may be from. Could she possibly be from some wreck other than that upon Bearse's Shoal? And then instinctively her mind turns to her own little boy and the perils staring him the face in this their life by the sea. She could not reconcile sleep, and fitfully moved about the room, from her chair to the crib, from crib to Ellie's cot; out into the next room to see that Anson is still resting, and back to her chair again.
At last, however, even this excitation is overcome by exhaustion, and at one of her turns in her chair by the fire her fatigued brain begins to yield to a lassitude that in a short time relaxes her frame and bows her wearied head, and she finally succumbs to a merited, albeit restless, slumber.
So we will tiptoe our way out of the house and betake ourselves to another part of the Beach, where a related scene of some moment is soon to be enacted.
We are near Point Rip, described in an earlier chapter of our story. Daylight is approaching, A man, alone, is walking the beach, headed to northward. He has again fulfilled an official part in the duties of a disagreeable night's patrol.
With the attention drawn to our coast guardsmen by the more sensational features of the noble career, the public sometimes loses sight or is even ignorant of another phase of their toil, which is of transcendent importance, although a matter of most inconspicuous daily routine. This is the nocturnal beach patrol. And it means that throughout the hours of night, regardless of the state of the elements, at a time when most of humanity is snugly wrapped in sleep, upon the strands of our coast wherever the Life Saving Station is found, for mariners' protection, a ceaseless march is kept by a band of strong-nerved, solitary, unsung heroes.
We know something of the vigils of our municipal guardians the patrolling police, of the military patrols upon the great war fronts, and many others, attended by every danger and multifold sacrifice; but they at least are found where people are. The coastwise surfman, however, has to endure, in the generality of cases, a solitude difficult to experience in any other calling no matter how arduous it may be. He plods the shore, away from the haunts of men. In his dismal tramp the only voice he hears is the crash of pounding sea. His footpath is an ever obliterated wetted track by a restless water's edge. The lights he sees, if mist or rains or fogs or snows do not shut them from his vision, are the blinkings from the lightship out at sea, or from a distant lighthouse, if such there be in the patrolman's particular horizon. But he must not only stride out his stint: he has another obligation, and this is what really brings him to these doleful hours. The government compels him to walk his beat, with the one objective of spying out the out of place, the undesired, the dreaded, the fatal. His eyes are there to sense the ship that is heading for disaster. He must evaluate a light or a ghostly silhouette that may appear upon the waters, their movement, their intensity, their elevation, their distance. Immense responsibility is his: for if in the judgment of that puny, trudging man, that ship is where she should not be or heading to where she should not go, he holds the power to command her to alter course and obviate impending doom.
This remotest of control, so ominous, so Promethean, is effected by his ever present nightly companion, the Coston light. This innocent appearing contrivance is composed of a club-handle like unto a policeman's billy, into the metal end of which is inserted a small cartridge possessing a percussion cap. This, in turn, is manipulated by a metal point at the end of a rod, manipulated by the push of a plunger button projecting from the club's end. The powder of the cartridge is ignited, its flare of red not only a warning signal, but if the craft be already in distress it conveys an additional message that she is not only sighted, but that succor will come if humanly possible.
The other implement carried from the station by the patrolman as he sets out upon his lonely jaunt, is his pitiless warrant or, a handless clock. The key to its operation is fastened at a post at the end of the beat, ordinarily at a point where a body of water terminates the trek, and the telltale punch from it upon the hieroglyphical dial within the clock witnesses to the advent of the patrolman to his required goal and reveals the hour and minute of his arrival thereat. Where the geography of the coast is such that surfmen from two stations can meet, the clock is substituted by an exchange of appropriately marked metal checks, which per se as truly attests the integrity of the patrolmen involved.
Our man whom we now meet plodding the beach was Elisha Higgins, who happened to be this morning's south watch and was now upon the return journey stationwards. He still had some four miles to tramp and must perforce en route pass the lighthouse, whose position, midway between the Point and the Station, was always a convenient and refreshing stop for evening patrols to extend a brief greeting to Mr. and Mrs. Gould and deliver to them their occasional mail. Upon reaching, however, the neighborhood of the scene of rescue of the little girl from her briny conveyance, the multiplicity and confusion of footprints he was scuffing through caused him to glance about, and there, at the left, over the rising, above the surf line, he perceived the top portion of the enormous butt that had been pushed up, as we know, by Allen and Bearse to the higher sands for future investigation.
One of the eerie duties of these tireless marchers of the shore is to make examination of any unwonted objects lying upon his course. In the uncertain lights of night bulk and contour, against the background of ghostly sands, are very deceiving, and not infrequently, after a storm such as tore through the early part of the night in which we still find ourselves, an innocent appearing mass in or on the sands has proven to be that most dreaded of all the ocean's jetsam, the corpse of a drowned human creature.
So, as if by instinct, Lisha clambered up to the cask. In spite of at once realizing that he had been preceded by others, plus a dog, in some unusual attention to that object, it did not require many seconds for him to turn it upon its side, pull away the broken portions of its head, draw out the remnants of damp bedding, stand it upon its head, heavy though it was, to thump out whatever yet remained, turn it over again and set it upon its natural bottom. He now examined the pile he had emptied of what appeared rubbish, and in its midst discovered, wet and on the point of disintegration, a paper which when he with difficulty unfolded, came to be of foolscap dimensions [13x16-17 inches], in all appearances intended as a letter. Lisha knew this must have some value and had been overlooked or not discovered when whatever had been within the cask had been removed. He saw, too, that the course of the footprints, so many and so varying, was directly over the hill toward the lighthouse. So, assuring himself that there was naught else of value to salvage, he left the rest of the contents of the cask in a heap by it, and clasping the paper carefully in his hand and for its protection inserting both it and his hand into his large coat pocket, sensing full well that something unusual was astir, after one final scrutinizing glance out over shore and sea, made his way also straight for the lighthouse.
By now Anson had awakened, and Cadie, too, freshened by the precious moments she had passed in slumber, was now back to grim reality. The two are in the kitchen, discussing in hushed tones the stirring event of the night now past and the eventualities of the day now upon them.
While thus engaged, even before stepping into the room where the little lady and their beloved Ellie were sleeping, the shadow of a man passed before the window, and following a quick knock upon the door Elisha Doane strode into the room.
"Anson, what's happened?"
"Anson, I have traveled some: I have been to the Grand Banks and the Banks of Newfoundland; I have been to Ponce and Tampice, and I have sailed Chatham Bay and walked this beach for years, but I've got to admit I never came across anything to equal this story you've told me, and I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen the child in that crib. It sort of makes my nose crack to see those two lying there, just like my little twins back home with Betsy...What are you going to do with her? You always did want a girl, Clara, and it looks to me as though your chance had come. I haven't forgot how you used to dress Ellie like a girl and how you envied me and Betsy our Minerva...What do you suppose Mother will say to this? I know: 'So Clarie's got a girl, has she? And I do hope she's satisfied now!"
"And now I've got something to tell you! I came to the butt, and looked it over; in amongst that bedding I found this--what seems to be a letter. First I thought I should carry it to Cap'n, but I see he left the baby here, and she is surely of more consequence that a letter--if letter it be, and I guess the two ought to keep together; we don't want any row betwixt the Lighthouse and Life Saving Services. I hardly dared look at it, for I was afraid it would dissolve right there if I handled it any more. So here it is, and you can see what you can make out of it."
Nathan carefully drew the softened sheet from the pocket where it had remained during his walk up from the beach and his conversation with the Goulds, and unfolded it upon Cadie's kitchen table.
Yes, it surely was a letter, but much of it had been obliterated, washed out by the wet; not only that, but the words that were legible upon it proved absolutely unintelligible to those who were examining it. Inasmuch as this document has a decided importance in the development of our story, and there will be many of our readers with a linguistic bent who could gather something of its purport, we make bold to give a reproduction of it at this point.
[The reproduction was not found on the carbon copy that this typing was made from, so I was not able to include it here. - Emily Hills Aasted]
"That is some foreign language," said Anson."
"Wait a minute!" nearly shouted Nathan; I know what that is: it is French. I know it because it has those funny little marks over the letters like on the tally board of our tail-block."
For the benefit of the many of our readers to whom Nate's last expression would be meaningless, we must permit an interruption, long enough to explain that the 'tally board' is a paddle-like slab of wood about a foot in length and four or five inches wide, painted black, bearing a set of directions in printed white letters, English on one side and French on the other. This board is attached to a tackle block (tail-block) that can be pulled aboard a ship in distress, once the brass cannon on shore (technically, the Lyle gun) has shot its line over the craft, thus establishing physical connection between beach and vessel. The tail-block is then made fast to the ship's mast or other firm, elevated point upon her. How this is to be done and the method of subsequent manipulation of the life-car or breeches buoy are explicitly set forth upon the tally board mentioned above...By the way of parenthesis we may venture to add that the author of these lines received his first intimation that there existed such a phenomenon as a foreign tongue, from his contact as a little boy with these (to him) strangely lettered objects that were so conspicuous about the boatroom where he used to play at this identical 'Monomoy' station.
Then Anson spoke: "There is nobody around here that can English this; the only ones I can think of on the mainland would be Miss Charity in Harwich--she used to teach French in the Academy, or Charlie Martel in Chatham--he is a Frenchman. But you leave it here anyway, I will keep it and turn it in to the Inspector when I make my report."
And now Mr. Allen, after this so unexpected and singular interruption of his homeward patrol, proceeds to resume the beat. But he cannot resist one more peek at the little waif and Ellie. As he stood in the doorway in contemplation of them, we know what thought was lurking in his mind, for when he turned back to the kitchen and bend down to give a parting slap upon the shaggy pelt of the waiting Spot, neither Mr. Gould nor his wife could fail to note the tear that was glistening upon his bronzed and weathered cheek. Down the steps of the lighthouse platform he walks, and turning to wave a farewell to his sister-in-law and Anson, follows, with full daylight now upon him, the same path his comrades had trod some hours before and entering the cut through the eastward hills, disappears from the lighthouse view.
"Maman, Maman!" a little voice, a new and strange voice to that Gould household, wailed, rather than called, from the adjoining room. And then Ellie appeared in the doorway, in his nightgown, rubbing his eyes.
"Mamma, sh's woke up, and talking awful funny."
Mr. Gould had gone out for the morning chores: ashes to empty, wood to split, coal to bring in, Rex to feed, leaving his wife in preparations for the breakfast. Mrs. Gould heeded at once the announcement from her son, and with him leading her by the hand, walked timidly and almost on tiptoes, in and over to the newly commissioned crib...And what a sight! There she was, at last with anguished, semi-conscious expression gone, replaced now by meaningful, pleading looks that moved poor Cadie's heart to utmost depths. Her little arms came up as the latter bent over the crib, and fastened themselves around the convulsed woman's neck, accompanied by that same wail, 'Maman, Maman!', and a flow of other words unintelligible to Mrs. Gould and the wonderstruck little fellow at her side. Mrs. Gould lifted her from her bed, and still tightly clasped to her throat, carried out to the chair by the kitchen stove, and there sat down. Ellie crowded close, contemplating both Mamma and the little girl with an indescribable look of curiosity, joy, and a glint of pain at beholding his mother's continuing tears.
The poor woman was now becoming aware that she had in this new charge not only a frail little creature who was to require for she knew not how long her motherly care, but one to whom apparently she could not make herself understood and who possibly would not be able to make her wants known to her. Mrs. Gould rocked her and soothed her, and undertook, as clearly as she might, to put some natural questions to her.
"What is your name? Where do you live? Who are your Papa and Mamma?" At these last words the little girl's eyes lighted up through her residuum of tears, and she repeated them again and again, though with an accent and intonation that unmistakably betrayed her foreign parentage. With these words she mingled others, the most frequently occurring seeming to be 'Anna Toll'.
"Is Anna Toll your name, dear?" And the child moaned, 'Anna Toll, Anna Toll', and the good woman, in her candid mindedness and credulity, really believed that thus the little girl was attempting to reveal her name to her.
Mr. Gould had now returned to the house and rejoined his family by the kitchen stove and was listening to the "conversation" between his wife and the little new-comer.
"Can you understand her, Cadie?"
"No, not everything, but she has told us her name, and it's 'Anna Toll'".
At these words the child took her cue and began again her plaintive wailing of that 'name', accompanied by her unceasing 'Papa, Maman', looking, with a sort of expectancy, about the room, that is, as far as her clinging to Mrs. Gould would allow her to move her head.
"So it looks she had, and until she gets to talking a little plainer I guess 'Anna toll' is what we'll have to call her". And 'Anna Toll' she became, and so remained through all the vicissitudes of her sojourn in this new and welcoming environment into which she had been cast.
A description of the breakfast scene in which this little girl now participated is beyond the powers of the present writer: It would require the gifts of [?] to paint such a picture: The outbursts of Cadie's welling mother love, now seemingly in possession of a little girl, as had always been her yearning; the awkward yet impassioned interest of Mr. Gould in this renewed assumption of a daddy's role; the furtive glances of Ellie and his laying of little hands upon the waif's ebon locks and velvet cheeks, which latter were beginning to show their colors once more; and withal the rebudding of life and consciousness in the little creature herself after the wonder of those meager hours of sleep and the invigoration from this first meal of hers in the bosom of this welcoming group. Her mist of tears evaporates, her tongue unloosens and she warbles in a speech whose melody, though lost upon those now hearing her, is the most rapturous of any tongue of human kind upon this wide earth of ours. She appears to question; she tastes the food from the hand of her new 'Maman', snuggles once more into her breast, casts her eyes anew about the room with her ever searching glances and murmurs again her pitiful refrain, "Papa, Maman, ah, 'Anna Toll'"!
To the reader before whom looms a monotonous recital of disjointed dialogue between the little waif and those who of necessity must sustain conversation with her, we may offer a note of relief by the statement that for children, especially at the tender age of our "Anna Toll", the colloquial acquirement of a new tongue in an environment in which it is in full usage, is unbelievably rapid and seemingly automatic, and more effectively so when, as in the present instance, the abetting coadjutor is another child. We may then safely and profitably dispense with the transcription of the linguistic hurdles which the little girl and her new "Maman" and Ellie and the rest will have to face in the earlier stages of their intercourse, and confine ourselves contentedly to the substance rather than the form of their conversations.
As Nate Allen had so rightfully surmised, Anna Toll was of French tongue, but whether by parentage or geographical accident we shall for the present let remain unrevealed.
The miracle breakfast is over, and Mrs. Gould, after dressing her in her dried cloth, places upon the floor, upon her feet, the little girl whom she has been holding all during the meal, and draws her Ellie now becoming slightly awkward and bashful, close to her and places her little hands in his, and looking with an unspeakable affection into the eyes of the two, speaks these prophetic words:
"Ellie, for a while, only God knows how long, you have a little sister. Anna Toll, I know you don't understand what I am saying to you, but I will tell you just the same: Darling girl, you are not to be alone with us, for this little boy, our precious Ellie, will be your friend and playmate. You must love her, Ellie, and be good to her and protect her, and not forget that you will have to take extra care of her all the time, because she does not speak our language and she won't understand much of anything you say to her; and above all, make the best of the precious minutes you will be together, for we have no idea how long the good Lord will let her stay with us". And then, after a moment of silence, as if coming back to this real world again from a flight of fancy, she added, kissing them both, "Now, Ellie' you just take her on a little walk around the lighthouse, and we'll see whether the awful adventure she has been through has made her forget how to walk". And with Ellie still holding her by the hand, the two children scuffed along the platform and around the house, he explaining to his fair protegee points of interest, which, to his boyish imagination, could well be classed among the seven wonders of the world, and for the first time in his life playing the role of linguistic tutor.
First in their peregrination they arrived at the cellar door, a slanting affair covering a hatch-like opening in the platform, and built against the house. This door is far too heavy for Ellie to raise, but he knew well what was to be encountered when it was raised: First those magic steps, some half dozen of them, leading to the cold bricks of the cellar floor. What a gallery of wonders that basement held, and what unforgettable dank odors greeted one who stepped within! There was the strange cauldron, built into the bricks as was the oven underneath it. This was called the 'set-tub', and functioned very properly in the epoch preceding the Goulds and the modern range, as the kettle for boiling the clothes, but now in use only when Mamma makes her lye for producing her annual batch of 'hull-corn' ('hominy' to you of this year of 1940). A little farther on were the paint-pot shelves--intriguing colors overflowed upon the sides of the pails: heading the list that omnipresent "lead-color", so characteristic of the fundamental decoration of the lighthouse establishments of some decades ago and always the ground shade for the black-and-white sprinkling of their living-room floors. Then there was the dull reddish "copper-color", reserved for the bottoms of the boats on account of its metallic ingredient that preserves those parts that have to remain under salt water for long periods. Nor, naturally, were lacking the more conventional tints, many of them individualistic mixings dependent upon the artistry of the keeper who might be wielding the brushes in some particular era. And the bottles of turpentine, the demijohns of linseed oil; coal-tar with its pleasing pungency, the covering required for the dome of the tower, periods for the application of which were agonizing hours for Mr. Gould, for he otherwise so unafraid and in spite of his years of life upon the sea and in the army, had never been able to rid himself of his propensity to 'giddiness' when working at considerable heights. At another side of the cellar stood the 'cans' of kerosine, tier upon tier. At the time of our story these tins were encased in a protecting shell of wood, hence appearing to Ellie's eyes so many mere cubical boxes, and always redolent with their disagreeable petroleum odor. And we must not forget the other stairs of the cellar, those that led up into the house interior itself, into the cool and dark 'but'ry' that was the scene of the tragedy of the cheese that will be related on a later page.
However, we must leave this cellar, for we have already abandoned our little friends for too long, much longer than it was taking Ellie to explain to his nonplussed companion the mysteries under that door, some of which we have just brought to our readers' attention. And they continue their promenade around the building. Ellie leads Anna toll over to the rampart of the platform, a solid board fence, of a height not too great to prevent the children looking over it to the sands outside and below. He walks her over to the corner, the southwest one, and from there he points out to her the sand fence of heavy boarding, extending from the angle of the platform and serving something as does a jetty in the water, viz., to hold the sand from moving elsewhere and so undermining the platform that surrounds the house. This platform, it should be explained in passing, corresponds to the deck of a ship and furnishes the inmates of the lighthouse a stable spot to walk, work or lounge, unaffected by the vagaries of the environing shifting soil.
The two youthful pilgrims continue their way to the south side of the building, and here Ellie proudly shows to Anna Toll the "gap", the opening in the fence that permits one to reach the platform from without or to step from it to the ground outside. Coming now to the east front they step over to its gap, and here Ellie receives a most pleasurable shock, for Anna Toll points to it and of her own accord pronounces the word--g a p, clearly and distinctly: Ellie evidently is showing good promise for the profession of teacher of his own language, should that career ever be opened to him. When the little girl peeked through that gap and made this initial pronouncement of hers, little did she realize how appropriate the act was, for it was through this very opening that she made her entree during the preceding night in the sheltering arms of Ellie's Uncle Willie to safety and arms of Mrs. Gould, her present hospitable asylum.
At this point the plank floor of the platform gives way to brick, for at this northeast corner of the property stands the old tower itself, and its pedestal has to be reinforced by a more substantial foundation than a flooring of mere wood.
In close vicinity of the tower is an outbuilding containing the 'shop', for here keeper Gould worked at the sundry carpenter and joinery jobs required in the upkeep of the lighthouse, as well as at his newly acquired trade of bookbinding, that helped him to employ idle hours as well as to enhance the chary stipend that was his from his official government position. Between this shop and the bottom of the lighthouse tower was a space of no more possibly than a foot and a half or two feet. Through this Ellie conducts the girl, and in order to satisfy the inevitable bent of a boy to 'show off' a little, he leaves her standing for a moment and proceeds to execute his daring climb to the first projecting ring of the tower, where one of its enormous component cylinders is bolted to its neighbor just under--the one that constitutes the base of the tower. This little stunt in her son's accomplishments constituted one of Cadie's terrors, for a slip upon his part was always a possibility, with a consequent broken leg, arm or even head, a possibility, than God, that was never realized. We'll hope Cadie was not looking at this particular moment, for it would have surely marred some of the blessedness of the emotions to which the strange events which we have described had subjected her, and we simply cannot allow such a dismal thing come upon her at this time.
The acrobatics of Ellie must have fulfilled their purpose, for the little girl evidenced unmistakable pleasure as she watched him, stamping her little feet, clapping her hands, at the same time pointing up to the shelf to which Ellie had clambered and giving utterance in a sort of subdued gleeful shout to that word now so frequent upon her lips, "Anna Toll, Anna Toll".
"No, you mustn't try it; you have to know how, and you got too much skirts; you will fall down and get hurt, and Mamma would cry, and I don't want to see my Mamma cry."
This seemed to pacify the girl, for as Ellie slipped from his precarious position (and in reality it was no mean task to maintain himself in it, although we have to admit that he was at this point favored by the slight inward curve of the body of the tower from its inexorable perpendicularity) she of her own accord took his hand again, and a few steps farther on they reappeared before the kitchen door whence they had set out upon their personally conducted tour.
"Mamma!" And Mrs. Gould, beaming, stepped from the sink at which she had been occupied with the breakfast dishes, out upon the doorstep. "Mamma, she can walk all right, and she has talked once: she said 'gap'; I think she likes me".
Mrs. Gould was unable to withhold her smile at these last words of Ellie, and however happy were her thoughts at this moment, they became no less so as she noted the confiding manner in which the little girl kept hold of the boy's hand and gathered herself nearer and nearer to him.
"Now Ellie, walk with her off the platform and see how she likes that".
Ellie thought for a moment and blurted out, suddenly leaving the little girl and darting into the house, "I know what we'll do--we'll go sailing".
Now, dear reader, pray do not be startled and charge Ellie with undertaking a rather bold entertainment for his little guest at this early date, for Mrs. Gould not only was not perturbed, but nodded assent and followed her little boy into the kitchen, reached to the shelf over the stove and took from it and handed to Ellie two small objects, the nature of which we shall in a moment disclose. And she accompanied this act by these words: "I wouldn't take her farther than New York this time, because you we've got to have some dinner bye and bye". And Ellie, taking Anna Toll by the hand again, led her through the north gap (the one that served the lighthouse family as front gate), down the steps, over the hummock hardened by ashes, that served as 'path' or 'walk', around the sand-fence and onto the level stretch of cleaner sands on the western side of the house. And from there, strangely enough, the sailing voyage of Anna Toll was about to begin!
The youth of our readers' generation are very alert, I will admit, yet I believe I am quite safe in saying that no boy or girl whose eyes have not wandered beyond this line could ever guess the fashion of the sea trip now to be undertaken. Anyway, this is not the sort of sailing trip that for one reason at least I could recommend mammas to encourage their offspring in, not owing to any serious danger that could threaten them, but on account of the frightful wear and tear upon their sailor boys' clothing.
Oh, how that elbow of the left sleeve of Ellie's little plaid waist had suffered upon the various voyages he had made up and down the Atlantic coast, to the West Indies or even to European shores, in the years that he had devoted to navigation! The ships that Ellie sailed were not large--he was holding two of them in his left hand now--but they were seaworthy and had always yet been able to ride out any waves they had pushed their noses into.
Ellie knelt in the morning shade of the fence and pulled his companion to the same position. He stretched his little legs in a sidewise direction, something as the ancient Romans did at their banquets, and leaning his left elbow into the sand, assumed a pose of nonchalance that, while not such as to predispose an onlooker favorably as to his skill as a seaman, did place him, however, in an attitude of absolute mastery over the crafts which he placed under his command.
These latter were several, and of two general designs: first, those which were veritable models: catboats, dories, yachts and steamships; of these the prize was a miniature steam yacht, fabricated by Uncle Nate. How she rode the 'waves', sometimes laboriously climbing the crest of one, perpendicularly, to fall into the trough of the next one like a water toboggan; at other times, when port had to be reached quickly, or lose a dinner or supper, she would plow straight through the billows, at a speed that, relative to size, no modern regatta speedboat could ever hope to attain.
The other type in Ellie's fleet was cruder and rougher, and to transform them into a craft of the sea the fertile imagination such as only a child can muster, has to be largely drawn upon. Their height was many times their breadth, and their length out of proportion to both, mere profiles or silhouettes of sailing crafts, all of which Ellie himself could easily manufacture, a shingle or a lath being the most prolific source of constructing material. But in both types of crafts there was always one palpable incongruity: Whether steamboat, sailboat, rowboat or schooner, their dimensions were always the same, this necessitated by the limitations in the grasping and propelling capacity of the juvenile hand that controlled them, and the uniformity in the height of the 'waves' that they must ride.
It has been years since the author of these lines participated in this genus of navigation he has attempted to describe, and the geography of the 'seas' Ellie so sailed has become faint with time, but he does remember that the harbors and headlands of the immediate vicinity of the lighthouse were the closest to the old platform fence, while Nantucket, Boston and ports across the Atlantic lay in a vague, sandy horizon, the attaining unto which worked havoc upon our little hero's wardrobe and demanded the continual plying of Cadie's tireless needle.
In the approach of our two youthful mariners to 'docks' of embarkation they were not alone, for bouncing around the end of the sandfence came Spot, and with an affectionate lick of Ellie's hand and a recognizing glance at the girl, accompanied by a friendly way of his tail, he proceeded out into the sunlit open 'ocean' and there flopped himself down in a latitude to him very familiar, thus transforming himself into a huge mountainous island which in its isolation from the main, recumbent aspect and plenitude of contour, appeared decidedly Gibraltesque.