From the Purple Island
IT is one of the pleasant things about the Purple Island that one need never want for society. Somebody is always at leisure to talk to you. Whether you go down to the decaying wharf, or up to the Cliff, or over to Sconset, and seat yourself on a stone or a timber to look at the sea and watch the fishing-boats, or whether, finding the street you are exploring to end in a flight of gray wooden steps leading down into somebody’s back garden, you sit down on the top step thereof and breathe in the south wind from the pines, — in either or any case, you will find appearing from somewhere an old or a young sailor, ship-owner, or captain, ready to enter into a pleasant conversation or to tell you tales of the days that are gone, when Commercial Wharf buzzed like a bee-hive and the wide pastures were white with sheep; when whalers went off on seven years’ voyages, and perhaps never heard from home in all the time; when anxious shipowners and more anxious women paced the walks on top of the great, roocy houses, with glasses all pointed seaward to get the first sight of the ship that was due and overdue. Oftentimes the glass was dropped with tears and thanksgiving as the brave vessel came in sight, adorned as a bride for her husband, and with the signal flying which showed all was well. Oftentimes the growing darkness made the glass useless, and it was closed with a sigh and the remark that there was no use in watching any more tonight. And then the pale woman and the grave old man went patiently about their daily housewifely and business cares, growing paler and graver day by day, while all the time the good ship’s bones, with those who had sailed with her, lay at rest in the Pacific or Arctic seas. Happy they who knew that their dead were dead, and had no ghastly dreams of drifting boats and waterless vessels and yelling devils of savages. In no place does the tragedy which underlies all human life take a more solemn tone than in a New England fishing or whaling town.
I was sitting in this way over on the Point, with a book in my lap and a tatting-shuttle in my hand, but doing nothing with either of them. It was a day of Paradise, bright but not glaring, and with just enough of crispness in the air to make me prefer the sunny to the shady side of the old red tower. The gracious presence which beautified the light-house in those days was absent, so I sat down on the sand and found abundance of amusement in watching the little ripples of the advancing tide, the
and the pretty little long-legged birds which tripped along the margin of the sea. I was far from strong, and weary with hard work, and the rest of body and mind was inexpressibly pleasant to me. Presently a neat dory was beached not far away, and Captain Burton and his mate Asa came up and joined me. They were both old friends. I had been sailing with them many a day in the captain’s beautiful little cat-rigged boat, and hoped to go many times more.
“ Seems to me you ’ve always got a book, but I don’t see you reading much,” remarked the captain, presently.
“ I accomplish a good deal in that way on rainy days,” I answered. “Today it would be a mere waste of time to read.”
“ Some folks say reading novels is a waste of time, anyhow,” said Asa. “ Uncle Jehiel used to say so.”
“ Uncle Jehiel thought everything a waste of time that did not help to make one sixpence into two,” answered the captain. “ If folks must have amusement, and I suppose they must, I don’t see why a good novel is n’t as good as anything else. I don’t object to one now and then, myself.”
“ Some people condemn them because they are improbable and give false views of life,” said I.
“ As to that, when any one has been knocked about the world as much as I have, he will come to think one thing about as probable as another! ” answered the captain. “ I have seen plenty of things with my own eyes which nobody would ever dare to set down in a novel, because every one would cry out, ‘ How improbable! ’ My great objection to novels is that the people in them act like such fools.”
“ You don’t consider that giving a false view of life, do you? ” I asked.
The captain smiled, showing his white, strong teeth in the midst of his grizzled beard, with quite a startling effect.
“ Well, no; not exactly, but I don’t think people in real life are fools in just that way. For instance, here ’s a young man in love with a young woman, and he wants to tell her so. Well, what does he do? He don’t ask her to go out walking or riding, and say to her right out, ‘ Betsy Jane, will you marry me? ’ or words to that effect. Nor he don’t write it in a letter and stick a stamp on it, and put it in the office, or ask his sister to hand it to her. No, that an’t delicate enough to suit his notions. So he writes a note and puts it in a bunch of flowers or a book, or some other place where it’s ten to one she never finds it. Then when he gets no answer, he does n’t take an opportunity to say, ‘ Betsy Jane, did you get my letter? ’ Not he! He goes and has a brain fever, or runs away to Australia, or some such nonsense. And very likely the young woman is wondering why he don’t speak out, and breaking her heart about it. For women do break their hearts about men, though precious few of them are worth it, I can tell you that, sissy! ”
“ Well, people are just as silly as that in real life,” remarked Asa. “ There was Ed Swayne and Susan Coffin, thee knows, Beriah ! ”
“ Tell me the story please,” said I, “ that is, if it is n’t a secret.”
“ Oh dear, no. It was no secret thirty years ago, and we are all old folks now. I am no great hand at a yarn, but I’ve got to wait here till the light-house man comes back; and so, if it will amuse you, I ’ll tell you the story.”
And this is the story which Asa told me in that mellow voice and peculiarly soft, clear accent which seems the natural birthright of those born on the Purple Island.
“ You must know that Ed Swayne and I had been playmates and messmates ever since we could run alone. We had caught our first cod and blue-fish in company, made our first trip in a banker and our first whaling voyage together; and, in short, we were like twin brothers. Mother used to laugh about it, and once, I remember, she said that whoever married one of us would have to take the other, as well.
“ ‘I don’t know about that! ’ says grandma. ‘ Thy two little tommy kittens, Esther, were very good friends till they began to run out nights to see the pussy cats, and then thee had to send one away to keep them from scratching each other’s eyes out.’
“ I could n’t help laughing; and yet, somehow, I wished grandma had n’t said it. She was very old and very wise, and the things she said were wonderful apt to come true. Still, I could n’t think Ed and I should ever quarrel. Ed was a good boy, only he had a brooding sort of temper, and he was always proud and apt to fancy slights when nobody meant any.”
“ Rather a bad sort of temper to have,” I remarked.
“ Well, I don’t know. I never found any kind of bad temper that was very good. I don’t know that Ed’s was worse than any other. I was just the contrary, and always brought everything right out, so we slipped along together very well. We never had a serious quarrel in the world.
“ By and by Ed began to wait on Susan Coffin. No danger of our quarreling about that. Susan was my cousin, and a very nice, good girl. We were always friends, and I had a great respect and regard for her; but we no more thought of falling in love than if we had been brother and sister. Things being in that shape, I was very glad to see Ed making up to Susan, and wished them joy with all my heart. Her folks were a good deal better off than Ed. Her mother was old Cap’n Jehiel’s daughter, up to Suckernuck, and the old man had promised to give Susan two thousand dollars on her wedding-day if she married to suit him. All this made Ed rather shy for a while; but they liked each other, and before long they came to an understanding. Susan was a quiet, placid girl, but with more grit and resolution than a good many more noisy ones. Cap’n Coffin, her father, was no ways averse to the match, for he liked Ed, and had a great deal of confidence in Susan’s judgment; though for my part, I would n’t give that scallop shell for the judgment of the wisest man or woman on earth, once they are fairly in love. Aunt Esther, she liked it, too; but old Cap’n Jehiel was n’t pleased a bit. You see, he wanted her to marry one of her own family connection. There was no end of us boys to choose from, and pretty good boys too, though I say it that should n’t. But love goes where it is sent, you know.
“ One day Cap’n Jehiel came down to see Susan and talk to her about the matter. Now it happened that Susan had gone up to the haul-over with Ed that very afternoon, and when he found it out, the old man’s temper wa’n’t sweetened a bit. He waited for them till sunset, and just as he was setting out for home he met them coming in. Ed had his little boat, and there was nobody aboard but himself and Susan.
“ ‘ Ed Swayne, ahoy! ’ sings out the captain.
“ ' Ahoy! ’ answered Ed.
“ ‘Draw along-side, will you ? ’ says Cap’n Jehiel; ' I want to speak to you.’
“ So Ed drew along-side as near as he could, and says he, ‘ What can I do for you, cap’n? ’
“ Says Cap’n Jehiel, ‘ Is it true what I hear, that you are a-courting my granddaughter, Susan Coffin? ’
“ ‘ That’s so, sir,’ answers Ed.
“ ' And that she means to have you? ’
‘‘ ‘ So she says! ’ answered Ed, after looking at Susan, and waiting a minute for her to answer for herself if she chose.
“ ‘ Very well! ’ says Captain Jehiel. ‘ Then I shall save my two thousand dollars. Susan has got cousins enough to take her pick from, and if they an’t good enough for her, then my money an’t good enough, either. Good night, young folks.’
“Then they parted company, and the old man bore away for Suckernuck, thinking he had done something smart, though he might have known better than to think he should gain anything by threatening one of his own flesh and blood. Just as they parted, Susan spoke up, as placid as a summer morning.
“' Good night, grandfather,’ says she; ‘ give my love to grandmother and all the folks at home.’
“ Ed and Susan parted good friends enough, but afterwards, when Ed came to think it over, he did n't feel quite satisfied. He thought Susan might have spoken up for herself, and that she need n’t have said good night quite so friendly. So he did n’t go to see her for two or three days.
“ One day he was busy putting up some cleats in his shed. He owned a pretty little house where he lived with his old grand aunt ; and, sailor-fashion, he was always tinkering it and making improvements. He was just thinking how Susan would put up her clotheslines on these cleats, and how he would make her a set of ivory clothes-pins his next voyage, when old Huldah Greenaway came in to borrow a hammer. Huldah was an off-islander who had come from nobody knew where. She was as old as the hills and as ugly as sin, and some folks thought she knew more than any one had any business to know. The women-folks used to hire her to make soap and try lard, and the like, for she was uncommonly smart to work; but they got shy of having her after a while, because wherever she went some family trouble seemed sure to follow. I don’t think, myself, there was any witchcraft about the matter. I think Huldah was only a mischief - making, tattling old sinner, but that’s bad enough, in all conscience. Well, she got what she wanted, and then says she, —
“ ‘ So you and Susan’s broke off! ’
“ ‘ Who told you that? ’ asks Ed.
“ ' Them that knows! ’ says Huldah, with her spiteful laugh. 'I don’t have to look in the papers when I want to learn the news. Susan’s a-going to marry her cousin Asa. I see ’em walking together only last night. Oh, Susan knows which side her bread is buttered! ’ says Huldah, laughing again and showing her white teeth, as strong and sharp as a shark’s. ' She don’t mean to let that money go out of the family.’
“Now, wouldn’t any one have said that the most natural thing in the world would have been for Ed to come to me, if he did n’t want to go to Susan, and ask in so many words what was the matter? ”
“ It would have been according to nature and common sense, and Scripture into the bargain!” said Captain Burton, who had been listening with the greatest interest. “ ' If thy brother trespass against thee, tell him his fault between him and thee alone,’ the good book says. But when folks are in love there’s no saying what they ’ll do.”
“ Just so. Well, Ed never said a word to me or anybody. He took his boat and went off scup-fishing all alone, and stayed till ten o’clock at night, brooding and thinking over all he had heard, and all that Susan had or had n’t said, so that by the time he got home he was in a state to catch fire at anything. As ill luck would have it, just as he was going up Step Lane to his own house he met Susan and me. We did n’t notice him, though it was moonlight, for we were in a hurry and he was on the shady side of the street. If he had only stopped or spoken, he would have heard the whole story. But not he! He thought of what old Huldah had told him, and made up his mind at once. He just went home and packed up a few things, and the next morning early he went over to New London and shipped on board a Cape Horner for a five years’ voyage. He wrote to his old aunt to tell her the news, and sent a message to Susan to the effect that he released her from her engagement to him and left her free to earn her grandfather’s money. There was n’t a word to me.
“If he had only written to Susan, it would n’t have been quite so bad, for she was a girl who could keep her own counsel; but old Aunt Eunice was a talking body, and she had never liked the notion of Ed’s marrying Susan. So she not only told Susan, but twenty other people, and in two or three days there were not a dozen people on the island who did n’t know that Ed Swayne had broken with Susan Coffin and gone off on a Cape Horner. A great many people blamed Ed, and some blamed Susan, and said she had an eye to the main chance, and so on; but nobody ventured to mention the matter to her, for she was not a girl to take liberties with.
“ Susan bore it pretty well, to all appearance. She grew a little thinner and paler, but she kept about her work all the same, attending to the house, waiting on her mother, who was a delicate woman, and making things pleasant to everybody, except to my brother Dave, who was fool enough to try to make up to her, and got sent off with a flea in his ear. She had always been a serious-minded young woman, and about this time she began to exercise in meeting, mostly in the way of prayer. Friends found her very acceptable, and she got to be uncommonly useful, especially among the young.
“ Folks naturally coupled Susan’s name and mine together, and Uncle Jehiel thought he was going to get matters his own way, and crowed a good deal about it. He found out his mistake some six months afterward, when I stood up in meeting with Lois Macey, whom I had been waiting on for a whole year. The old man was mad enough, but I cared very little about that. I didn’t want any of his money.
“ Of course, having a wife to support, I could n’t afford to stay long at home, however I might have liked it; so after two or three months, Uncle Jethro Macey gave me a good berth on his whaler. The place was full of whalers in those days. The big ships lay in the harbor as thick as clams in a sand-bank, and the old red and gray warehouses and try - houses, that are so empty and silent now, were full of business and bustle. There was plenty of fun, too. They used to give New Year’s balls in that warehouse you see yonder, and there my own father danced with poor Elizabeth Swayne not ten minutes before she was summoned home in her pink brocade and with the mask on her face, to her aunt’s deathbed.”
“ Poor thing, she paid a heavy price for her frolic, if all tales are true! " remarked Captain Burton; “but go on, Asa.”
“ I ’m afraid I’m making a long yarn of it,” said Asa. “ So I’ll hurry up a little. Of course I went down to Aunt Esther’s to say good-by, and Susan said she guessed she would walk back with me as far as old Huldah’s. For Huldah was breaking up at last, and Susan was as good as an angel to her. She heaped coals of fire on her head if any one ever did, but Huldah’s skull was pretty thick, and I don’t believe they burned her much, after all. Just as we parted at the gate, I ventured to say something that had been on my mind all the evening.
“ ‘ Susan, supposing I meet Ed, out there anywhere; shall I say anything to him ? ’
“‘Thee may tell him how it was,’ says she, after thinking a minute. ‘ I don’t know as I ought to say any more than that.’
“ ‘ That’s more than he deserves,’ said I.
“ ‘ We won’t talk about deserts, Asa,’ says Susan. ‘ The best of us can’t afford to do that. But thee can tell him just how it was, and say that I asked thee to do so.’
“ Well, I sailed the next day, leaving Lois at home with her mother. We had been out a year and a little over, and by great good luck we had had letters once during the time. Often a whaler would be out three or four years and never hear from home once in all that time.”
“ Yes, I know,” said I. “ When I first came here we had a mail only every other day, but as sure as I said a word about it, some old gentleman would tell me how he used to go out whaling, and not get a letter in five years.”
“ Just so. Well, we had put into Callao for some repairs, and I had found a long letter from my wife, so I was feeling very nice indeed. I was going along the street, whistling, when I stumbled on a Kanaka I used to sail with, a goodhearted, honest little fellow as ever lived, and a first-rate sailor. So we naturally stopped for a bit of yarnin’, and says he to me presently, ' There ’s a man from your place in the little hospital here, very sick.’
“ ‘ Who is it? ’ I asked.
“ ' I don’t know his name,’ says he. ' He was picked up at sea in a whaleboat, the only one left alive of the crew, and brought in here by a Portuguese brig. The place is n’t far off, if you like to go and see him. I heard say he would n’t live long.’
“ Well, of course I wanted to go, and he took me to a hospital. It was a comfortable place for the kind, not very large, and was under the care of some sisters or nuns. I could speak the language enough to be understood, and the lady in charge was very polite, and took me at once to see the patient, only cautioning me that he was very weak. He was lying in a ward by himself on a decent, clean bed. He was fearfully worn and wasted, but the minute I set eyes on him I knew it was Ed Swayne. I had been angry and unforgiving toward him for a good while, but the feeling all went away the minute I saw him. It is a fearful sight, a man wasted to skin and bone by famine. There is no sickness which gives such a look.”
“ I know! ” said I. “I saw the men from Andersonville.”
“Just so. Well, Ed didn’t seem to notice me at first. He was asleep or in a stupor, I could n’t tell which, so I sat down by the bed and got out my wife’s letter again. I had read it over for the tenth time, trying to realize that I had a baby of my own, when poor Ed moaned and opened his eyes.
“ ‘ Drink ! ’ said he faintly.
“ There was a jug of cool stuff made of lemons or something standing by, and I raised his head and gave him a drink. As I laid him down he looked at me earnestly, and I saw at once that he knew me.
“ ' Asa! ’ said he in a whisper, and trying to put out his hand to me. ‘ Is it Asa, or am I dreaming again? ’
“ ' It is Asa this time, and no mistake! ’ said I, trying to speak as cheerful as I could. ' How are you, old fellow ? ’
“‘I’m not long for this world,’ says he; 'I’ve seen about the last of it, and I don't know that I’m very sorry either.’
“ I did n’t contradict him, for I never found much use in that, so I said I was glad he had such a comfortable place, or words to that effect.
“ ' Yes, they are very kind,’ he answered, in a dejected sort of way; ‘ but it seems dreary to die without having any one to make a prayer or say a verse of Scripture to comfort one. The ladies are very good, but they are not our sort, you know, and I can’t understand them, nor they me. Can’t you stay with me, Asa? I shan’t keep you long. I know I have n’t used you very well, but ’ — and here he stopped for weakness, but he held my hand with his wasted fingers and looked into my face with great, hollow, hungry eyes. That look went to my heart, I can tell you. I did n’t answer for about a minute, and during that minute I thought of more things than a man often does in an hour. Our ship was to sail next day on her homeward voyage. I did n’t know how soon I might get another chance, and there was my wife expecting me, and the other young woman that I hadn’t seen yet. But Lois was well off with her mother, and here was my old friend to all appearance dying, with not a soul near to care for him except strangers. I thought all this over while I was dropping my wife’s letter and picking it up again. Then I made up my mind what my duty was.
“ ' Of course I ’ll stay with you; that is, if I can settle matters with Uncle Jethro, and I guess I can,’ says I. ' Don’t you worry, Ned! I shan’t leave you alone, anyhow.’
“ It took some time to see Uncle Jethro and talk him over, for at first he would n’t hear of such a thing, and scolded me for thinking of it. But he was a good old man, and soft-hearted, and a good Christian besides; and at last he agreed to let me stay if I would send Kanaka John in my place. Then I had to hunt up John, to write to Lois and pack up some things I had bought for her at one place and another, and get my traps ashore. I was n’t afraid of what Lois would say, though, of course, I knew she would feel it at first. By night-fall, however, it was all done. I hired a decent lodging — decent for those parts — not far from the hospital, and then I went back to Ed. He had fallen into a kind of stupor again, and the nurse said that unless he took a turn for the better she did n’t think he could last many hours. You see, he had been almost starved to death, and, as sometimes happens in such cases, he seemed to have lost the power of taking nourishment. I won’t deny that as I sat by Ed’s bedside about two o’clock in the morning, with the lights burning low, and everything quiet, only some poor crazy woman who was crying and screaming in another part of the house, — I won’t deny that I wished myself back on shipboard again. I thought of Lois and the baby that I had never seen and might never see; of the chances there were against my getting a direct passage home; of Uncle Jethro’s arrival at home, and the way Lois and my mother would look when they found that I had not come. I remembered how delicate mother was, and how many things might happen, and I won’t deny but I made something of a fool of myself. If there is any time in the twenty-four hours when the devil has particular control of a man’s thoughts, it is between two and four o’clock in the morning.”
“ Some folks would say that your second thoughts were best, and that your first duty was toward your wife!” remarked Captain Burton,
“ I don’t believe second thoughts arc always best!” answered Asa, his dark face flushing a little; “I believe when a man is in the habit of trying to do and think the thing that is right, his firstthoughts are almost always best. And I think a man’s first duty to his wife is to do his duty like a man, whatever it costs him. If my wife had been in any need or danger, she would have had the first claim, but she was n’t. She was safe at home among her own folks, and nobody knows what those four words mean — among your own folks.— till he has been sick among strangers in a strange land.”
“That’s just as true as you live!” said Captain Burton, emphatically. “ I think you did the right thing. Go ahead! ”
“ I knew that kind of thing would n’t answer, of course,” continued Asa. “ So I took out a little Testament mother gave me when I went my first voyage, and which I always carried in my pocket; and after I had read and thought a little while, I was all right again. Still, the night was pretty long, and I did n’t dare to go to sleep because the lady had told me that Ed might be taken worse at any time. I had got out my letter, to have another look at the lock of the baby’s hair which Lois had pinned at the top of the paper, when Ed moved and opened his eyes. I saw at once that he knew me.
“ ' You have got a letter from home ? ’ says he in a kind of ghostly whisper, after I had given him a drink and laid him down again.
“ ‘ Yes, from my wife,’ says I. He gave a deep sigh and closed his eyes, but presently opened them again.
“ ' Is Susan — is she well? ’ he asked.
“ 'I suppose so, though Lois does n’t mention her,’ answered I; ‘ she has so much to tell about the baby, that she has no room for anything else, only to say generally that all our folks are well.’
“ Ed opened his eyes so wide that they seemed to swallow up all the rest of his face.
“ ' Lois! ’ says he. ‘ Who’s Lois? ’
“ ‘ Why, Lois Macey that was. I forgot thee did n’t know I was married. Yes, Lois and I were joined more than a year ago, and now she has a nice little girl. ’
“‘Lois!’ he repeated in the same dazed way, and then a minute afterwards, ‘I don’t understand; I thought you were going to marry Susan Coffin.’
“ I’m rather a bad Quaker, I know, but I never was given to swearing. However, I did swear a little then.
“ ‘ I swear to thunder if thee an’t the biggest fool that ever sailed out of harbor! ’ says I. ‘ Susan Coffin never would have had me if I had wanted her, and I never did want her. What should I want of a little red-headed wax doll like Susan, when I could have such a girl as Lois Macey ? ’ says I.
“ That touched Ed, as I meant it should. He was so excited that he sat right up in bed. ‘ Red-headed wax doll! ’ said he in quite a fury; ‘ Susan Coffin is handsomer than Lois Macey ever thought she was, and her hair is no more red than yours.’
“ ‘ Well, we won’t quarrel about that,’ says I, laughing. ' Susan is a good girl, anyhow, as nobody knows better than I; and as for beauty, she ’s handsome enough for thee, any day. But what put such a notion in thy head? ’
“ ‘ Well, Huldah Greenaway told me first. ’
“‘A pretty business for thee to be listening to old Huldah! As if thee did n’t know what she was! ’
“ ‘ And then I saw you walking together so late in Step Lane that night before I came away. I met you just above the steps,’ said Ed; but he looked ashamed as he spoke.
“‘Edward Swayne, if thee wasn’t sick, thee 'd deserve to have thy head broke, for a fool, if nothing worse! ’ says I. ‘ If thee’d ’a’ spoken out like a man, instead of sneaking along in the dark, thee ’d have heard all about it. Grandma was taken worse, and mother was feeble and had a little baby, so I went for Susan to stay with grandma. There’s the explanation of the whole mystery. Susan cares more for thy thick head than for all her cousins put together, and if thee had n’t been a jealous-pated idiot, we might both have been going home to our wives in the old island this minute. ’
“ Ed groaned and hid his face. By and by he said, without looking up, —
“ ‘ I don't suppose Susan will ever speak to me again.’
“ ‘ Thee don’t deserve that she should,’ said I, ‘but I ’ll tell thee what she said to me the last thing: “ Asa, if thee should meet Ed anywhere, tell him how it was.” ’
“We were both silent a good while after this, but by and by a bird chirped out by the window, and says Ed, —
“ ‘ It’s morning, is n’t it? ’
“ ‘ Yes; why? ’
“ ‘ Because, I’m hungry; and I want my breakfast! ’ answered Ed. ‘ Asa, yesterday I gave myself up to die. I thought I should never see another morning, and I did n’t want to. But now I must get well if I can, if only to go home and tell Susan that I am sorry. I don’t know whether she will have me, and I shan’t blame her if she don’t; but I must try, anyway. I have n’t wanted to eat anything since they picked me up, but now I am hungry, and I want my breakfast. ’
“Well, I called the nurse, and she brought Ed some chocolate. He drank it every bit, and then cried because the lady would n’t let him have any more. After that he mended faster than any one I ever saw, and in little more than a month he was ready to go home. He was never tired of hearing about Susan and her doings, but he looked rather blank when he heard about her preaching.
“ ‘I don’t believe she will have a word to say to me! ’ says he. ‘ She ’ll be afraid of disobliging friends.’
“ ‘ Not a bit, so long as thee belongs to meeting,’ says I. ' Look at Rosanna Coit; her husband ’s a sailor.’
“ That cheered him up a little, but he was in twenty minds about going home at the very last minute. I don’t know what sort of a meeting they had, or how they made it up. But make it up they did, and that in a very short time, and Uncle Jehiel came to the wedding.
“ ‘ Well, young folks,’ says he, when he had kissed the bride, ‘ I suppose you think you have cheated the old man, but you are mistaken. I ’ve been looking into the matter, and I find that Edward’s grandmother and my mother were own cousins. So Susan’s gone and married her cousin, after all.’ That was the way he got out of it, you see. They had quite a family, and their oldest son married my oldest girl and went to San Francisco. Now he ’s captain of one of their great steamers that run between California and China.”
That was the story friend Asa told me, sitting on the sand over by the red light-house on the beach of the Purple Island, while the white gulls dipped and rose and the beach-birds called to each other in strange, clear voices, and the solemn double toll of the bell-buoy came over the water. You will not find the Purple Island set down on any map. But if you go down to Wood’s Hole and take the Island Home, you will by and by see a long strip of purple haze overhanging the southern horizon, and the tall churches and houses of the old town rising gray, quaint, and beautiful before you.
Lucy Ellen Guernsey.