A Visit to Martha's Vineyard

WE have all, in our days of atlases and “the use of the globes,” been made aware of the fact, that off the southern shore of Massachusetts lies a long and narrow island, called Martha’s Vineyard, one of the many defences thrown out by the beleaguered New England coast against its untiring foe, the Atlantic.

But how many are those who know more than this? How many have visited it, inquired into its traditions, classified its curiosities, mineral, saline, and human? How many have seen Gay Head and the Gay-Head Indians? Not many, truly; and yet the island is well worth a visit, and will repay the tourist better for his time and labor than any jaded, glaring, seaside watering-place, with its barrack of white hotel, and its crowd of idle people.

In the first place, the delicious suggestiveness of the name,—Martha’s Vineyard! At once we ask, Who was Martha? and how did she use her vineyard? Was she the thrifty wife of some old Puritan proprietor of untamed acres?—and did she fancy the wild grapes of this little island, fuller of flavor, and sweeter for the manufacture of her jellies and homemade wine, than those winch grew elsewhere?—and did she come in the vintage season, with her children and her friends, to gather in the rich purple clusters, bearing them back as did the Israelitish spies, to show the fatness of the promised land?

It was one of the fairest days of the Indian summer, when Caleb, Mysie, and the Baron (a young gentleman four years old) set gayly forth to explore this new and almost unknown region.

The first stage of their journey was New Bedford; and at the neat and quiet hotel where they spent the night, Caleb ascertained that the steamer “Eagle’s Wing” would leave its wharf, bound to the Vineyard.

Pending this event, the trio wandered about the quiet wharves, inspecting the shipping, and saturating themselves with nautical odors and information. They discovered that whaleships are not the leviathans of the deep which Mysie had supposed them, being very rarely of a thousand tons, and averaging five hundred. They were informed that whaling has ceased to be a profitable occupation to any but the officers of the ships, the owners frequently making only enough to repay their outlay from a voyage which has brought the captain and first mate several thousand dollars each.

Every member of a whaleship’s crew, from the captain down to the cabinboy, is paid, not fixed wages, but a “lay,” or share of the profits of the voyage. Formerly, these “lays” were so graduated, that the chief advantage of the expedition was to the owners; but, of late years, matters have altered, so that now it is not uncommon for the captain to receive a twelfth, tenth, or even eighth of the entire profit, and the other officers in proportion.

The attention of our travellers was now directed to numerous squares and plateaus of great black objects buried in seaweed; these, they were informed, were casks of oil, stored in this manner instead of in warehouses, as less liable to leakage.

It was also asserted, as a fact, that the sperm whale, alarmed at the untiring vigor of his assailants, has almost disappeared from the navigable waters, retreating to the fastnesses of the Frozen Ocean, where he is still pursued, although at the greatest peril, by the dauntless New Bedford, Nantucket, and Vineyard whalemen, who, as the narrator proudly stated, have, time and again, come out unscathed from the perils under which Franklin and his crew succumbed. Many a man now walks the streets of these seaports who has conversed with the Esquimaux last in company with that ill-fated crew.

Full-fed with maritime and oleaginous lore, our travellers at last embarked upon the “Eagle’s Wing,” bound down the Vineyard Sound. As the steamer gained its offing, the view of New Bedford was very picturesque, reminding one of Boston seated at the head of her beautiful bay. The passage through the islands, though not long, is intricate, requiring skilful pilotage; and as the boat passed through the channel called Wood’s Hole, certain feeble-minded sisters were positive that all on board were bound to immediate destruction; and, in truth, the reefs, between which the channel lies, approach too closely to leave much room for steering. The perils of the vasty deep, however, were finally surmounted, and the steamer made fast to its wharf at Holmes’s Hole, one of the two principal ports of Martha’s Vineyard.

Our trio disembarked, and found themselves at once the subjects of fierce contention to no less than three aspirants for the honor of conveying them and their luggage to their point of destination. One of these, called Dave, was a grave, saturnine Yankee, his hands in the pockets of his black trousers, his costume further exhibiting the national livery of black dress coat, black satin waistcoat and necktie, cow-hide boots, and stiff, shiny hat, very much upon the back of his head. The languid and independent offers of this individual were, however, quite drowned by the flood of vociferous overtures from his two rivals,— an original youth, about eighteen years old, and a man, or rather mannikin, who, judging by his face, might be in his fiftieth, and, by his back, in his tenth year.

Mannikin first succeeded in gaining the attention of Caleb,—the efforts of Mysie, meanwhile, barely sufficing to restrain the Baron from plunging over the side of the wharf, in his anxiety to witness the departure of the steamboat. Mannikin, asserting earnestly that he had a “good conveyance” close at hand, danced around the group with vehement gesticulations, intended to strike despair into the souls of his two adversaries, who, nevertheless, retained their ground,— Dave lounging in the middle distance, a grim smile of derision upon his face, and Youth dodging in with loud offers of service, wherever Mannikin left a point undefended.

Caleb, at last, demanding to see the “good conveyance,” was led away to the head of the wharf, when Youth at once seized the Opportunity to rush in, and breathlessly inquire of Mysie,—

“Wher' ye goin’, Ma’am? Wher’ ye want to be kerried?”

“We are going to Gay-Head Lighthouse; but my"—

“Ga’ed Light? I kin kerry ye there fust-rate, and cheap too;—kerry ye there for two dollars!”

“My husband has already spoken”—

“Wat! t’ ole Ransom? Wy, he a’n’t got nothin' but a weelbarry.” And Caleb, returning at the same moment with a somewhat perplexed air, corroborated this statement by saying,—

“This man has no carriage, but will get us one in a short time.”

“But this boy,” retorted Mysie, “says he has a carriage, and will carry us to Gay Head for two dollars.”

“You hear that, ole feller?—they’re a-goin’ with me!” crowed triumphant Youth at disconcerted Mannikin, who nevertheless rapidly proceeded to pile the luggage upon his barrow and trundle it away.

This coup d’état was checked by Caleb, but afterward allowed, upon discovering that Youth's carriage was still reposing in his father’s stable, “jist up here”; and Mannikin was consoled by being allowed to earn a quarter of a dollar by transporting the luggage to that destination. The procession at once set forth, including Dave, who strolled in the rear, softly whistling, and apparently totally unconcerned, yet all the while alive with feline watchfulness.

Arrived at the stable, the travellers were requested to wait there while Youth went to find his father and “borry a wip.”

At these last words, a “subtle smile, foreboding triumph,” broke over Dave’s composed features, as he muttered,—

“Beckin you’ll need one ’fore you reach Ga’ed Light.”

The coast clear, Dave became a little more communicative, expatiated upon the dangers and discomforts of the road, the incapacity of Youth’s horse, and the improbability that his father would ratify the bargain, concluding by offering to “do the job himself in good shape for four dollars,” which offer was held in abeyance until we should learn the result of Youth’s interview with his father.

In the mean time, a matron suddenly made her appearance in the barn, with a hospitable entreaty that “the woman and child” would come up to the house and warm themselves; and Caleb strongly advocating the idea, Mysie and the Baron proceeded houseward.

About half-way they encountered Paterfamilias, hastening with Youth toward the barn, and to him Matron at once recapitulated the affair, concluding with mentioning the stipulated price. At this Pater turned, with thunderous brow, toward Youth; but Matron interposed, with womanly tact,—

“You can do jest as you like, you know, about lettin’ him go; but Dave's in the barn.”

“Dave in my barn! Wat in thunder’s he doin’ there? Yes, go, boy,— go for nothin’, if they ask you to, sooner than let that”—

The rest of the sentence was lost in the distance. But Mysie, following her guide to the house, felt quite sure of their conveyance; and, in fact, barely sufficient time elapsed for the hostess to possess herself of the leading facts in her guests’ history, before the carriage was announced, and our travellers hastened down the lane, and found there awaiting them the evident model of the Autocrat’s "OneHoss Shay,” in its last five years of senility;—to this was attached a quadruped who immediately reminded Mysie of a long-forgotten conundrum.

“What was the first created animal?”

Ans. “Shay-’oss.”

Holding him ostentatiously by the head stood Youth, the “borried” whip flourished in his right hand, as he invited his passengers to seat themselves without reference to him.

This being done and the seat pretty thoroughly filled, Youth perched himself upon a bag and valise, which filled the front of the vehicle, and the journey commenced.

That ride! The first mile was not passed before the meaning of Dave’s malicious smile, at mention of a whip, became painfully apparent; for never was weapon more perseveringly used, or with so little result, the cunning old beast falling into a jog-trot at the commencement, from which no amount of vociferation or whipping could move him.

“I wouldn't hurry him so much," interposed Mysie, her compassion aroused both for beast and Youth. “I don’t like to see a horse whipped so much.”

"Oh, you see, Ma’am, he’s so used to it, he won’t go noways without it; feels kind o' lonesome, I ’xpect. It don’t hurt him none, nuther; his skin's got so thick an’ tough, that he wouldn’t know, if you was to put bilin’ tar on him.”

“Do you feed your horse on oats, much?” inquired Caleb, gravely, after a long and observant silence.

“No, Sir, we darsn’t give him no oats, 'cause he’d be sure to run away; doos sometimes, as it is.”

“I don’t think you need fear it today,” replied Caleb, quietly, as he settled himself into the corner, in the vain hope of a nap; but Youth was now loquaciously inclined.

“Reck’n Dave was disappinted,” said he, with a chuckle. “He meant to kerry ye himself; but soon’s I see him round, I says to myself, says I, ‘Ole Chick, you sha’n’t come it this time, if I go for nothin’.’”

“Competition is the soul of trade, drowsily murmured Caleb; but as Youth turned to inquire, “Whossay?” the bag upon which he was seated, and upon which, in the enjoyment of his triumph, he had been wriggling somewhat too vivaciously, suddenly gave way, and a pair of snow-white hose came tumbling out. They were at once caught and held admiringly up by Youth, with the ingenuous remark,—

“How wite them looks! An’ if you’ll blieve it, mine was jest as clean yis’day mornin’,—an’ now you look at ’em!” To facilitate which inspection, the speaker conscientiously drew up his corduroys, so as fully to display a pair of home-knit socks, which certainly had wofully deteriorated from the condition ascribed to them “yis’day mornin’.”

“You see, I went clammin’ las’ night,” pursued Youth; “an’ that’s death on clo’s.”

“What’s clammin’?” inquired the Baron, changing the subject with unconscious tact, and quite surprised at the admiring kiss bestowed upon him by his mother, while Youth, readjusting his corduroys, replied with astonishment,—

"Clammin’? Wy, clammin’s goin’ arter clams; didn’t ye never eat no clamchowder?”

“N-o, I don’t think I ever did,” replied the Baron, reflectively. “Is it like icecream?”

“Well, I never eat none o’ that, so I dnnno,” was the reply; and Youth and Child, each regarding the other with wondering pity, relapsed into silence.

Having now passed from the township of Holmes’s Hole into Tisbury, the road lay through what would have been an oak forest, except that none of the trees exceeded some four feet in height,—Youth affirming this to be their mature growth, and that no larger ones had grown since the forest was cleared by the original settlers. A few miles more were slowly passed, and Mysie began to look hopefully from every eminence for a sight of the light-house, when she was stunned by the information, that they were then entering Chilmark, and were “’bout halfway.”

Caleb, with an exclamation of disgust, leaped from “the shay,” and accomplished the remaining ten miles, wrathfully, on foot,—while Mysie, wrapping her feminine patience about her as a mantle, resigned herself to endurance; but Youth, noticing, perhaps, her weary and disconsolate expression, applied himself sedulously to the task of entertaining her; and, as a light and airy way of opening the conversation, inquired,—

“Was you pooty sick aboard the boat?”

“Not at all.”

“That’s curous! Women ’most alluz is,—’specially wen it’s so ruffly as it is to-day. Was bubby sick any?”


“Wa-al, that’s very fortnit, for I don’t blieve he’ll be sick wen he grows up an’ goes walin’. It’s pooty tryin’, the fust two or three weeks out, ginerally. How young is he a-goin’ to begin?”

“I do not think he will ever go to sea.”

“Not a-goin’ to sea? Wy, his father’s a captain, I ’xpeet; a’n’t he?”


“Mate, then, a'n’t he?”

“He is not a sailor at all.”

“Ha’n't never ben to sea?”


Oh, the look of wide-mouthed astonishment which took possession of Youth’s hitherto vacant features, at thus encountering a strong-looking man, in the prime of life, who had never been to sea, and a healthy, sturdy boy, whose parents did not mean that he ever should! He had no more to say; every faculty was, for at least an hour, devoted to the contemplation of these lusus naturœ, thus presented to his vision.

At last, the road, which had long been in a condition of ominous second-childhood, suddenly died a natural death at the foot of a steep hill, where a rail-fence presented itself as a barrier to farther progress. The bars were soon removed by Youth, who triumphantly announced, as Cha-os walked slowly through the opening thus presented,—

"Now we’re on Ga’ed, an’ I’ll run along and take down the next bars, if you kin drive. Git along, Tom,—you ha’n’t got nothin’ but two feathers ahind you now.”

“How far is it to the Light-house?” inquired Mysie, faintly.

“Ony 'bout four mild,” was the discouraging reply, as Youth “loped” on in advance.

“Four mild!” and such miles! The only road, a faint track in the grass, now undiscernible in the gathering gloom, now on the slope of steep hills marked by deep gullies worn by the impetuous autumn rains, and down which the poor old “shay” jerked along in a series of bumps and jolts threatening to demolish at once that patriarchal vehicle and the bones of its occupants.

At last, however, from the top of one of these declivities, the brilliant, flashing light of the long-watched-for Pharos greeted Mysie’s despairing eyes, and woke new hopes of warmth, rest, and shelter. But never did bewildering ignisfatuus retire more persistently from the pursuit of unwary traveller than did that Light-house from the occupants of that creaking “shay”; and it was not till total darkness had settled upon the earth that they reached its door, and discovered, by the lamplight, streaming out, that Caleb stood in the entrance, awaiting their arrival.

As the chaise stopped, he came forward and lifted the stiff and weary forms of “the woman and child” to the ground, and delivered them to the guidance of the hostess.

The first aspect of affairs was somewhat discouraging,—the parlor into which they were ushered being without fire and but dimly lighted, the bedroom not yet prepared for toilet purposes, and the hostess, as she averred, entirely unprepared for company.

Left alone in the dreary parlor, Caleb subsided into moody silence, and Mysie into tears, upon which the Baron followed suit, and produced such a ludicrous state of affairs, that the sobs which had evoked his changed to an irrepressible laugh, in which all parties soon joined. This pleasant frame of mind was speedily encouraged and augmented, first, by water and towels ad libitum, and then by an introduction to the dining-room, in whose ample grate now roared a fire, of what our travellers were informed was peat,—an article supplying, in the absence of all other indigenous fuel, nearly every chimney upon the island.

A good cup of tea and a substantial supper prepared the trio to accept the invitation of the excellent Mr. F. (the chief keeper, and their host) to go up with him “into the Light.”

And now our travellers suddenly found that they had made a pilgrimage unawares. They had come to the island for sea-air and pebbles, to shoot ducks, seethe Indians, and find out who Martha was, and had come to the Light-house, as the only “white” dwelling upon the Head,—the rest being all occupied by the descendants of the red men,—and now found themselves applauded by their host for having “come so far to see our Light;—not so far as some, either,” continued he, “for we have had visitors from every part of the Union,—even from Florida; every one who understands such things is so anxious to see it.”

“Why, is it different from common light-houses?” carelessly inquired Caleb.

“Don’t you know? Haven’t you come on purpose to see it?” asked the keeper, in astonishment,—and then proceeded to explain, that this is the famous Fresnel light, the identical structure exhibited at the great Exposition at Paris, bought there by an agent of the United States, and shipped by him to America.

Owing, however, to some inexplicable blunder, its arrival was not made known to the proper authorities,—and the papers which should have accompanied it being lost or not delivered, no one at the custom-house knew what the huge case contained. It was deposited in a bonded warehouse during the legal interval, but, never having been claimed, was then sold, still unexamined, to the highest bidder. He soon identified his purchase, and proceeded to make his own profit out of it,—the consequence being that government at last discovered that the Fresnel light had been some two years in this country, and was then upon exhibition, if the President and cabinet would like to take a peep. The particulars of the bargain which ensued did not transpire, but it resulted in the lantern being repacked and reshipped to Gay Head, its original destination.

While hearing this little history, the party were breathlessly climbing three steep iron staircases, the last of which ended at a trap-door, giving admittance to the clock-room, where the keeper generally sits; from here another ladder-like staircase leads up into the lantern. Arrived at the top, the Baron screamed with delight at the gorgeous spectacle before him.

The lamp (into the four concentric wicks of which a continual and superabundant supply of oil is forced by a species of clock-work, causing a flame of dazzling brilliancy) is surrounded by a revolving cover, about eight feet high by four or five in diameter, and in shape like the hand-glasses with which gardeners cover tender plants, or the shades which one sees over fancy clocks and articles of bijouterie. This cover is composed of over six hundred pieces of glass, arranged in a complicated and scientific system of lenses and prisms, very difficult to comprehend, but very beautiful in the result; for every ray of light from that brilliant flame is shivered into a thousand glittering arrows, reflected, refracted, tinted with all the rainbow hues, and finally projected through the clear plate-glass windows of the lantern with all the force and brilliancy of a hundred rays. If any one cares to understand more clearly the why and the how, let him either go and see for himself or read about it in Brande’s Encyclopaedia. Mysie and the Baron were content to bask ignorantly in the glittering, everchanging, ever-flowing flood of light, dreaming of Fairy Land, and careless of philosophy. Only so much heed did they give to the outer world as always to place themselves upon the landward side of the lantern, lest unwittingly their forms should hide one ray of the blessed light from those for whose good it was put there.

Caleb, meanwhile, sat with his host in the clock-room, smoking many a meerschaum, and listening to the keeper’s talk about his beautiful charge,—a pet as well as a duty with him, obviously.

With the same fond pride with which a mother affects to complain of the care she lavishes upon her darling child would the old man speak of the time necessary to keep his six hundred lenses clear and spotless, each one being rubbed daily with softest doeskin saturated with rouge, to keep the windows of the lantern free from constantly accumulating saline incrustations,—of the care with which the lamp, when burning, must be watched, lest intrusive fly or miller should drown in the great reservoir of oil and be drawn into the air-passages. This duty, and the necessity of winding up the “clock” (which forces the oil up into the wick) every half-hour, require a constant watch to be kept through the night, which is divided between the chief and two assistant keepers.

The morning after their arrival, our travellers, strong with the vigor of the young day, set forth to explore the cliffs, bidding adieu to original Youth, who, standing ready to depart, beside his horse, was carolling the following ditty in glorification of his native town:—

“Ga’ed Light is out o’ sight,
Menemshee Crik is sandy,
Holmes's Hole’s a pooty place,
An’ Oldtown Pint’s onhandy.”

(Oldtown being synonymous with Edgartown, the rival seaport.)

Leaving this young patriot to his national anthem, a walk of a few hundred feet through deep sword-edged grass brought our explorers to the edge of a cliff, down which they gazed with awehushed breath. Below them, at a depth of a hundred and fifty feet, the thunderous waves beat upon the foot of the cliff over whose brink they peered, and which, stern and impassive as it had stood for ages, frowned back with the mute strength of endurance upon the furious, eager waves, which now and again dashed themselves fiercely against its front, only to be flung back shattered into a thousand glittering fragments.

The cliffs themselves are very curious and beautiful, being composed of red and black ochre, the largest cliff showing the one color on its northern and the other on its southern face. The forms are various,—some showing a sheer descent, with no vestige of earth or vegetation, their faces seamed with scars won in the elemental war which they have so long withstood. In other spots the cliff has been rent into sharp pinnacles, varied and beautiful in hue.

One spot, in particular, which became Mysie’s favorite resort, was at once singular and beautiful in its conformation. About three feet above the water’s edge lay a level plateau, its floor of loose, sandy, black conglomerate, abounding in sparkling bits of quartz and sulphate of iron; beneath this lay a bed of beautifully marbled and variegated clay, its edge showing all along the black border of the plateau like the brilliant wreath with which a brunette binds her dusky hair. Blocks of this clay, fallen upon the beach, and wet with every flowing wave, lay glistening in the sunlight and looking like—

“Castile soap, mamma,” suggested the Baron, as Mysie was describing the scene in his presence, and hesitated for a simile.

At the back of the terrace, which, in its widest part, measured some fifty feet, rose suddenly and sharply the pinnacled cliffs, some snowy white, some black, some deep red, and others a cold gray. At either hand they extended quite down to the water’s edge, so that, seated upon the plateau, nothing met the eye but ocean, sky, and cliffs; no work of man struck a discordant note in the grand harmony of these three simple, mighty elements of creation.

Mysie sometimes took a book here with her, but it was not a place to read in; the scene crushed and dwarfed human thoughts and words to nothingness; and to repeat to the ocean himself what had been said of him by the loftiest even of poets seemed tame and impertinent.

These cliffs extend about a mile along the shore, and then suddenly give place to a broad sandy beach, behind which lies a level, desolate moor, treeless, shrubless, and barren of all vegetation, save coarse grass and weeds, and a profusion of stunted dog-roses, which, in their season, must throw a rare and singular charm over their sterile home.

The beach, though smooth and even, is not flat, like those of Nantasket, Nahant, and Newport, but shelves rapidly down; and there is a belief among the islanders, that a short distance out it terminates suddenly at the brow of a submarine precipice, beyond which are no soundings.

Owing to the sharp declivity of the beach, the rollers break with great force, and the surf is very high. At one point is grouped a cluster of rocks, half in the water, half on the beach, among which, as the tide comes in, the waves break with furious force, dashing high over the outermost barrier, and then plunging and leaping forward, like a troop of wild horses, their white manes flung high in air, as they leap forward over one and another of the obstacles in their path.

Perched upon the crest of one of these half-submerged rocks, watching the mad waves fling themselves exhausted at her feet, it was Mysie’s delight to sit, enjoying the half danger of her position, and retreating only when the waters had many times closed behind her throne, leaving, in their momentary absence, but a wet and slippery path back to the beach.

Along this beach, too, lay the road to Squipnocket, a pond famed for its immense flocks of wild geese and ducks,— fame shared by Menemshee Creek and Pond, as well as several others of similar aboriginal titles.

To these repaired, almost daily, Caleb, accompanied by one or another of his host’s five sons; and the result of their efforts with the gun was no inconsiderable addition to the table at Ga’ed Light.

But greatest of all the wonders at the Head are the Fossil Cliffs.

A short time after the arrival of our travellers, their hostess inquired if they had yet found any fossils. Mysie frankly confessed that they did not know there were any to find, which was evidently as great a surprise to Mrs. F. as their ignorance of the Fresnel light had been to her husband. She at once offered the services of her daughter Clarissa as guide and assistant, and gave glowing accounts of the treasures to be found. The offer was gladly accepted; and Clarissa, a merry little romp, about twelve years old, soon made her appearance, armed with a pickaxe, hoe, and basket.

Thus laden, and in the teeth of a shrewd northeast wind, the little barefooted pioneer led the way directly over the brow of a cliff, which, had Mysie been alone, she would have pronounced entirely impracticable. Now, however, fired with a lofty emulation, she silently followed her guide, grasping, however, at every shrub and protection with somewhat convulsive energy.

"Here’s a good place,” announced Clarissa, pausing where a shelf of gravelly rock afforded tolerable foothold. “Professor Hitchcock told father that in here were strata of the tertiary formation, and there’s where we get the fossils.”

“But how do you come at the tertiary formation through all this sand and gravel?” asked Mysie, aghast at the prospect.

"Oh, dig; that’s why I brought the pick and hoe; we must dig a hole about a foot deep, and then we shall come to the stuff that has the fossils in it. You may have the hoe, and I’ll take the pick, 'cause that’s the hardest.”

“Then let me have it; I am stronger than you,” exclaimed Mysie, suddenly roused to enthusiasm at the idea of “picking” her way into the tertiary formation of the earth, and exhuming its fossilized remains.

Seizing the pickaxe, she aimed a mighty blow at the clay and gravel conglomerate before her: but the instrument, falling wide of its intended mark, struck upon a rock, and sent such a jarring thrill up both her arms and such a tingle to her fingers’ ends as suddenly quenched her antiquarian zeal, and reminded her of a frightful account she once read of a convent of nuns captured by some brutal potentate, who forced them to mend his highways by breaking stones upon them with very heavy hammers; and the historian mentioned, as a common occurrence, that, when any sister dislocated her shoulder, one of her comrades would set it, and the sufferer would then resume her labors.

Mysie, having this warning before her eyes, and being doubtful of Clarissa’s surgical abilities, concluded to postpone her researches, and proposed to her companion to fill the basket with shells and pebbles from the beach, to which cowardly proposition Clarissa yielded but a reluctant consent.

The next day, however, Mr. F. and Caleb, learning the result of the fossilsearch, offered to apply their more efficient skill and strength to a new attempt in the same direction; and, with high hopes for the result, Mysie, still accompanied by Clarissa, proceeded to another portion of the cliffs, where a low, wedgeshaped promontory, shadowed by beetling crags, was, as Mr. F. confidently stated, “sure for teeth.”

The pickaxe, in the sinewy arms of its owner, soon dislodged great cakes of the upper deposit and laid bare a stratum of olive-green clay, which was announced to be a fossil-bed. Lumps of this clay being broken off and crumbled up, proved indeed rich in deposit. They found sharks’ teeth, the edges still sharply serrated, firmly set in pieces of the jawbone,—whales’ teeth,—vertebræ of various species,— fragments of bone, great and small,— several species of shell-fish, among which chiefly abounded a kind called quahaug, —and many nondescript fragments, not easily classified. One of these was a little bone closely resembling the tibia of a child’s leg, and may have belonged to some antediluvian infant lost at sea, (if Noah's ancestors were mariners,) or perhaps drowned in the Deluge,—for Mr. F. quoted an eminent geologist who has visited the Vineyard, and who supposed these remains to have been brought here by that mighty Flood-tide. Another savant, however, supposes the island to have been thrown up from the sea by volcanic action; and that the fossils, now imbedded in cliffs a hundred feet high, were once deposited upon the bed of the ocean. There is certainly a great amount of conglomerate, which has evidently been fused by intense heat; and masses of rock, sea-pebbles, sand, and iron-ore are now as firmly integrated as a piece of granite.

However, the fossils came; here they certainly are; many of them perfect in form, and light and porous to the eye, but all hard and heavy as stone to the touch. Teeth, which are considered the most valuable of all the remains, are sometimes found as wide as a man’s hand, and weighing several pounds; but Mysie was quite content with the more insignificant weight of those which filled her basket, especially when an immense reticulated paving-stone was added, which Mr. F. pronounced to be a whale’s vertebra. She then was induced to trust the precious collection to Caleb’s care, the more willingly that the ascent of the cliffs was now to be attempted. This was easily and quickly accomplished by Mr. F. and his little son, by going to the right spot before beginning to climb; but Mysie declaring that the ascent was quite practicable where they were, Caleb and Clarissa felt bound in honor to accompany her. For some distance, all went very well,—the face of the cliff presenting slight inequalities of surface, which answered for footand hand-holds, and not being very steep; but suddenly Mysie, the leader of the group, arriving within about three feet of the top, found the rock above her so smooth as to give no possible foothold by which she might reach the strong, coarse grass which nodded tauntingly to her over the brink.

Clinging closely to the face of the cliff, she turned her head to announce to Caleb that she could not go on, and, in turning, looked down. Before this site had felt no fear, only perplexity; but the sight of those cruel rocks below,—the hollow booming of the waves, as they lashed the foot of the cliff,—the consciousness that a fall of a hundred feet awaited her, should she let go her hold, —all this struck terror to Mysie’s heart; and while a heavy, confused noise came throbbing and ringing through her head, she shut her eyes, and fancied she had seen her last of earth.

In an instant Caleb was beside her,— his arm about her, holding her safely where she was;—but to continue was impossible for either.

“Ho! Mr. F.!” shouted Caleb; “come this way, will you, and give my wife your hand? She is a little frightened, and can’t go on.”

Presently a stout arm and hand appeared from among that nodding, mocking grass, and a cheery voice exclaimed,—

“Here, my dear lady, take right hold, strong;—you can’t pull me over,—not if you try to.”

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 state.

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. Two 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 little incident of the day succeeding the storm.

Walking with Clara upon the beach, they saw borne toward them, on the crest of a mighty wave, a square beam of wood, bent at an obtuse angle, which Clara at once pronounced to be the knee from some large boat, and, rushing dauntlessly into the water, the energetic little maid battled with the wave for its unwieldy toy, and finally dragged it triumphantly out upon the beach, and beyond the reach of the wave, only wishing that she had “a piece of chalk to make father’s mark upon it.” Failing the chalk, she rushed off home for “father and one of the boys,” who soon bestowed the prize in a place of safety.

Mysie at first wondered considerably that persons should take so much trouble for a piece of wood, but ceased to do so when she remembered that on the whole island could not probably be found a tree of a foot in diameter, and that everything like board or joist at the light-house must he brought by sea to Holmes’s Hole, Edgartown, or Menemshee, and thence carted over that road to Gay Head, becoming, by the time it reached “the Light,” not a common necessary, but an expensive luxury. She was not, therefore, surprised at being accompanied in her next walk along the beach by quite a little party of wreckers, who, joyfully seizing every chip which the waves tossed within their reach, accumulated at last a very respectable pile of drift-wood.

“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, expectantly.

“On account of her cargo. When hailed by another ship, and asked his name, the captain replied,—

‘I’m Jonathan Homer, master and owner
Of the schooner Mary Ann;
She comes from Pank-a-tank, laden with oak plank,
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 first time by white men. The storm 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,—each, 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 decree, 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.

"Edgartown is a much finer place than Holmes’s Hole, I understand," remarked Caleb to their driver.

“Well, I dunno; it’s some bigger,” was the reply.

“But it is a better sort of place, I am told; people from Edgartown don’t seem to think much of Holmes’s Hole.”

"No, nor the Holmes’s Hole folks don’t think much of Old town; it’s pretty much according to who you talk to, which place is called the handsomest, I reckon.”

“Athens or Rome, London or Paris, Oldtown or Holmes’s Hole, Mysie,” murmured Caleb, as their driver stopped to reply to the driver of “a team,” who was anxious to know when he was “a-goin’ to butcher agin.”

Edgartown proved to be a pretty little seaside town, with some handsome wooden houses, a little bank, and a very nice tavern, at which the travellers received very satisfactory entertainment. The next day, reëmbarking upon the “Eagle’s "Wing,” they soon reached New Bedford.