The Water-Ways of Portsmouth

SINCE the attitude of one thinking mind often expresses that of an organization, a whimsical critic might be forgiven for detecting in such a town as Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, poised among the seething forces of our young materialistic republic, a touch of resemblance to such a one as Ruskin ; who, to them that share not his beliefs, is merely the most illustrious laggard of his day. Portsmouth, too, shall take that name with a smile. She holds to the unprogressive doctrine that brawn is a good thing, but not the best. Her stilled and centred life, without ignoble idleness, is a consistent choice and a long, long protest. We are not certain that much heed is taken of her. She is venerable, if aught in New England may so be considered, and a living exhortation to money-hunters. But we are like a household who really have no time for morning prayers.

The town, settled by royalists and Churchmen, a “ sumptuous little aristocracy,” had her social pomps once, never quite rivaled by any of her sisters, but now vanished like her shattered commerce, or her civic glory, which is a tale of Revolutionary and historic days. Her decay, such as it is, is thorough and unbroken. She puts forth no spasmodic strivings ; rarely do the fresh marbles of enterprise jut against her threadbare buildings. Her citizens, agreeing in harmony, care for their own with a thoughtful public spirit natural to those whose forefathers loved Arcadia before them ; but it is no aggravation to their ears that New York is ablaze with electric lights, nor that Chicago is threaded with horsecars. Portsmouth knows her quaint dignity to be a solecism, and with a disdainful tear she withdraws out of the hubbub into solitude, whence, it seems, no summoning voice is soon to win her. From the ever-open doors of her picturesque Athenæum, the very “ islandvalley of Avilion ” in its quiet, she looks on this world with her remote scholar’s eye, speculating on what is named expediency or reform, to her wholly irrelevant. Every fibre of her being, nevertheless, is individual, correlative ; instinct with character and purpose. The formulating of theories strikes her as vain ; for she has her traditions. Her fixed ideas cannot change with each moon. She will keep her chaste identity, with plaintive conservatism, down to the ashen ending of all things. Or, in a mood of smiling homage, we passers-by liken her boldly to one of the stout old Norse ships, running triumphantly before its last impetuous wind, sails fullspread, the fatal fagots piled on deck, dying in flame in the same guise which delighted the eyes of sea-kings long in their graves.

Had Portsmouth been an inland town, her charm would have faded years ago, and her gracious melancholy, itself prouder than pride, would have fallen away. But, like Plymouth and Salem, also past their sunshiny prime, she has the loving, docile strength of the sea at her service, and the great tides to flood her weary veins with health and peace. There are no foreign fleets now at her wharves ; no Indian and South American imports to load the air with sweet odors ; no stately, populous warehouses, bridges, nor piers ; no stir along the lordly river’s margin save that of petty traders and artisans; not even the voice of guns from her dismantled forts, to salute a friend or ward off a foe. Nevertheless, her life is the water’s life. All her roads lead to that highroad. She has a magnificent, deep, compact harbor, flecked with islands, three miles in length to its farthest beacon ; the encircling Piscataqua, an odd and noble river, coursing only twenty miles, yet draining in New Hampshire alone an area of eight hundred and twenty-five square miles ; four neighboring creeks, ample and of exceeding beauty; and the illimitable Atlantic, beating since 1631 at her outer doors.

Martin Pring, in the year when Queen Bess was gathered to her fathers, left Bristol in a fifty-ton ship, with a smaller bark ; carrying a crew, all told, of thirty men: and after touching at Penobscot Bay and the mouths of the Saco and York rivers, found his way up the Piscataqua, which he set down as the river “ westernmost and best.” His flagship was the same Speedwell which the Puritan emigrants afterwards found unseaworthy, whence they were transferred to the successful Mayflower. Pring ran alongshore about twelve miles, passing on his port the silent oak which, probably, to this present writing, rears its majestic head in the garden of the Mason house, on the corner of Vaughan and Hanover streets. In 1614 the memorable and ubiquitous John Smith landed on these shores; and, returning, drew his rough map of New England, and rehearsed his tale of adventure before " Baby Charles,” then Prince of Wales. At Odiorne’s Point, nine years before, Champlain had already come and gone, after friendly parley with the red men. There the first settlers built in 1623, and their uninscribed gravestones stand now in their traces.

The glorious stream, — Piscataquack, or Pascattaway, the Indians called it, — ploughed by the keels of the cock-boats in which the stout old voyagers feared not to cross unknown wastes, must have given them a great deal of exhilarating pleasure. Nowhere on our northern coast is there such a triumphant play of lucid, sinewy, resistless water. Thoreau says somewhere of the lotus-growing Musketaquid that it has a “ moccasined tread.” He who would proportion adjectives to our brave Piscataqua must fall into the sportive characterization of seven-league boots, coppertoed, and with thunderous heelplates. It marches like a latter-day “ furious Frank or fiery Hun,” every step resonant as a broadside. A dozen cross-currents surge about the isles and manifold bridges, making at one noted point, geographically known, in accepted profanity, as “ Pull-and-be-Damned,” a narrow channel of great depth (close on seventy feet) and of admirable force. Here the most skilled boatman pulls to his own confusion against the half-tide. His shapely craft is whisked about in gigantic glee. A struggle, under the circumstances, is, according to the poet’s injunction, “ neither brave, polite, nor wise.” But when one is broken in to the freaks of the westernmost and best river, he knows that it can be cajoled and wheedled into bearing him on its back whithersoever he wishes to go. The great swells may run westward ; yet a politic fisherman, cautious and steady of nerve, can work eastward, the sure and only way. There are eddies near shore, with a will generally contrary to the will of the stream, though it often becomes necessary, in pursuance of a cruise, to forsake one shore for the other. The summering stranger drifts annually into the teeth of the Narrows, feathering his peaceful oar, until he suddenly discovers that smoothness on the Piscataqua is treacherous might, and that its beguiling dimples are so many whirlpools to play havoc with his skill. Who is there to teach him the ritual of mastery over them ? As in some perilous and delicate experiences of real life, he must be his own pilot and philosopher. But the wherry of the native, inured to the habit of patience and the economy of energy, goes its way from Portsmouth over the floodgates of the sea. Again, at Church Point,—where the steeple of St. John’s throws its shadow over the tombs of ancestral Wentworths, and over that grave (under what was the western porch of the older edifice) where sleeps the Reverend Arthur Brown, its first rector, behoven to Longfellow for our remembrance of him, — the incoming or outgoing tide, owing to a steep incline in the river’s bed, precludes any but the initiated from advancing an inch before it.

The Portsmouth toll-bridge, at the boundaries of New Hampshire and Maine, — a righteous prohibition bridge at one end, and a sad, tippling bridge at the other, — is a third of a mile long, and the water beneath has a mean depth of fifty feet at low tide. The piles are of red and white oak, continually replaced or relaid. They are spliced by twos, and are eighty-five feet long. The pile-driver hammer drops thirty feet, and weighs over twenty-one hundred pounds. The rush of water among these piles is a sound of terrific beauty, to be measured rather on its own level than above it. Deflected by the peculiar formation of the banks, the current plunges diagonally across the narrow aisles, foaming and seething under the passing railway cars of the double bridge. The carriage-road, thanks to the fire-fiend beside, and the “ earth-quaking cataract ” below, is not one of unmitigated bliss to a sensitive horse. A river-voyager, miles above, on the calmest evening, who hears this ominous roar of the tide, may suspend his labor, and with only tiller in hand, to put intelligence into his boat’s motion, say “ Home ! ” as we say it to a hound, and be certain of a gallant obedience.

Portsmouth Bridge has some dire perils. Masses of ice are swept down, in the spring, from the far-away headwaters which submit to be frozen, and are ground against the piles. Schooners, with loosened anchors, have gone under at its sides, and have been submerged like stones. Owing to the intricate structure of its supports, as much as to the fierce flood itself, there is small hope for the unwary shell entangled there, and still less for its living freight. Tragic accidents, and grimly humorous half accidents, are common, after dark, under its unlighted arches.

From the free part of the bridge is a characteristic view. It commands the high, verdurous islands to the sea; the near summits of Church Point, whose ancient belfry gives forth, every Sunday, the voice of a captive bell, born and baptized at Louisburg; or most picturesque bones and relics of dismasted vessels lying in the rushing water, and line on line of old tired wharves gone into languor and desuetude. Skimming about at all turns are the unique flat-bottomed gondolas of the Piscataqua, locally known as “ gunlows.” The latter word has been reverted, by strong circumstantial evidence, to the former. The missing link, certainly, is supplied by Burton, writing at a time coeval with the settlement of Portsmouth: “ to fetch in carts, or in gundelows, as in Venice.” These Anglicized and fallen gondolas, however, are a delight to the eye at twilight, when their yellow lateen sails dip under the bridge, and, erecting their tall yards anew, disappear, joyous and heavily-laden, against the horizon.

Landmarks hereabout have spicy and ungodly designations, of which the example already cited may be considered typical. Beyond, looking inland and away from Portsmouth, are Devil’s Pulpit, a pine-grown promontory ; and, at a much greater distance, Bloody Point, so called from an ancient dispute of ownership, which might have been bloody, save that the actual quarrel never occurred. From the former fine bluff, it seems that his Dark Majesty long exacted the tribute of a salute from superstitious sailors. When General Sullivan was President of New Hampshire, he refused, in his usual brusque fashion, to pay the popular homage to the incumbent of the Pulpit, to the intense terror and concern of those manning his boat. But one of them, with tact, saved the party from the consequences of disrespect to Auld Clootie by uncovering, as was the custom, and calling with innocent alarm to the stolid old Excellency in the stern, “ The birds, sir, seem to have flown over your hat! ” — at which delicate caution the plumed triangular head-gear was precipitately removed ; and the sly crew went their way, relieved and rejoicing.

Frank’s Fort is a little, abrupt, lonely island in mid-stream, growing a few hardy birches, and supporting colonies of the wisest ants extant. Opposite is the bridge spanning the junction of the Piscataqua proper and the Newichewannock rivers. Beneath it one reaches the watery highroads to Durham, Newmarket, and Exeter: the superb sweep of Little and Great Bays ; the conflux of the Bellamy and Oyster rivers on the east, the Lamprey and the Squamscot or Exeter — fair streams all — on the west. Near the Newington shore is a queer brick house on the Weeks farm, which was built in 1638. But keeping to a more direct course, at a right angle to the bridge, sombrous and turbulent beneath, after the fashion of its fellow, you shall come to a most charming island,

“Beautiful as a wreck of Paradise,”

which has the ruined cellarage of a house as its sole trace of human occupation. It has enough cloistral loveliness of its own to flood a heedless soul with the joys of discovery and primal possession, until one counts several thousand fiendish initials and dates brazenly staring from a line of beech-trees (as if in the children’s grotesque game of “ Daddy, I’m on your castle!”), and pushes off, in a disenchanted reverie. The Cocheco, a forming branch of the Piscataqua, runs past Dover, fourteen miles by water from the town of Portsmouth; the Salmon Falls, on the other hand, flows hither from its source in Wolfboro.

It is mainly in the neighborhood of its historic city that the river chooses to show its willfulness. There, in summer, it has at times, for a considerable distance, the appearance of the thin, translucent ice which forms over night on a pond in November; too frail to trust, and made only for the musical skurrying of loose stones and dead leaves. Yet Piscataqua is but ill pleased and treacherous when he wears that gentle guise. Every wharf projecting from the shore breaks or alters the ebb and flow. Here is a sudden fall of many inches in as many feet; there a well-like pool, dark as midnight, and as tranquil; now a moving buoy hisses, heaving its ghostly black bulk like a drowning man; and near it, a schooner, made fast to her moorings, cleaves a huge arrow-head in the infuriated water. Fight, and you must wrestle no less than Christian with Apollyon; follow, and you must be as guardedly sensitive as if a supple, snakeeyed savage were, at his own behest, guiding you through the untraveled forest. But what unspeakable clearness in its depths ! The gay fish dance into air across your prow; white sails glitter between you and the Isles of Shoals ; and everywhere sparkles the blue, alert, fullveined river, bringer of life and of death for ages, surcharged with a spell that draws your eyes downward with weird longings, and sets your lips into a dreamy iteration of known songs after this wise :

“ Save me, and hide me with all thy waves!
Find me one grave of thy thousand graves, —
Those pure, cold, populous graves of thine,
Wrought without hand in a world without stain. ”

The southwesterly entrance to Portsmouth Harbor, exposed to sun and storm, has a line of low reefs lying close to the shore, over which the breakers dash so fitfully that a boat, on landing, must, for safety’s sake, be beached high and dry. The view there of the sea on a gray day is exceedingly monotonous and desolate. Between Odiorne’s and Frost’s Points is heard the premonitory rote of oncoming storms ; the Cassandralike strip of coast cries warning alike to the Portsmouth, Kittery, and Newcastle sailor, and to the inmates of his surfbeaten house. Opposite Frost’s Point, beyond the spindle and spar buoy off Newcastle (marking a bad passage-way, as any one who has been obliged to cross it in a heavy sea will readily attest), lies Jerry’s Point, once, with a dignity now obsolete, Jaffrey’s Point; whose burrowing earthworks, of various periods, from the very earliest fortifications of this coast to the abandoned half-ruins of yesterday, New Hampshire, with characteristic carelessness, leaves undistinguished and unrecorded, despite, too, the solitary, unavailing, most eloquent protest of the poet John Albee. Opening before us, spanned by the free bridge which connects the Wentworth Hotel with the mainland, is Little Harbor, directly accessible to both river and ocean, but choked up at low tide with weeds and mussel-beds, so that its ingress and egress are snares even to a canoe. On its shores lay of old the Indians’ favorite camping-ground. An ancient ferry and a less ancient bridge once crossed the channel here, whose currents run with considerable zest. Here, too, between banks, lives a comfortable tradition concerning a much-abused worthy and his treasures. Divers, wreckers, misers, adventurers, the entire tribe of greedy birds, occasionally gyrate and pirouette to this very day over the enchanted submarine ground, which so far keeps its piratical secret, if it have any. There was but one man who had the curious habit of gorging with gold every New England cove and inlet. And posterity thanks his forethought by teaching its schoolboys the accusing tune, —

“ My name is Robert Kidd,” —

(which they understand as poetic license for William Kidd),

“ My name is Robert Kidd, as I sailed;
My name is Robert Kidd, as I sailed ;
My name is Robert Kidd, God’s laws I did forbid,
And O wickedly I did, as I sailed.”

This is small encouragement to gentlemen desiring to enrich their fellow-citizens after Kidd’s modest and ingenious manner.

The only object of general interest between the free bridge and the triad of bridges beyond it is the famous mansion built close to the water’s brink, in 1750, by Benning Wentworth, of which much has been written. Washington was rowed by seamen, dressed in white, to this hospitable door, on his visit to Portsmouth in 1789, and entertained by Mistress Martha Hilton of the ballad, and her second husband, the “ great buck,” Colonel Michael Wentworth. On Blunt’s Island, a stone’s-throw away, lived Captain John Blunt, the pilot of Washington’s boat in the memorable crossing of the Delaware. There are many traces of our first President in the neighborhood, both by land and sea. “ Hail, matchless Washington ! ” the chorus sang to him at the garlanded gates of Portsmouth. He was taken fishing, with a brass band to celebrate his prowess, and the thirteen guns of Fort Constitution booming premature victory over the finny tribes. Imagine the effect, upon unprejudiced cod, of such incipient melodies as were then the property of our unmusical republic ! “ It not being the proper time of tide,” said the truthful father of his country in his diary, " we got but two.”

Following the channel by Pierce’s Island, in the harbor proper, you pass, on the left, some of the curious narrow lanes and dilapidated gardens of Portsmouth, once the stately haunts of gallants and ladies “ starchly mild,” now hushed into serene forgetfulness. The handsome hip-roofed, two-storied yellow house on Hunking Street, with its side towards your boat, belonged to the Lears; of whom Tobias, graduate of Harvard in 1783, was the beloved private secretary of Washington, and tutor to his stepchildren. There, in a room never since altered, Washington sat many a pleasant hour, the young applecheeked Storers on his knee. Beyond the brown rotting wharves and the desolate warehouses, whose labor has been over for more than a century, looking towmyards, you may next see from the water the spacious Gardner house, with its superb golden linden in front, twelve feet in girth when little less than the same number of feet from the ground. Every deserted path runs to the tide’s edge; silence broods there ; you are on the border of a dream-city; where the brisk privateers pranced in the wind, are the ghostly, untenanted wharves and the noiseless hulks of ships. The sole sound is the cheery plash of boyish swimmers in the Still water, the wide, comely houses overlooking their play. We remember, as a sort of pathetic finishing-touch to the scene, a pair of lovers, no longer young, on the grass, under an angle of the mouldering wall. It was like the discovery of a softly-building nest, in October, among the forsaken thickets. Another day, sauntering up thither from the low warm rampart-stones back of plebeian Bow Street (nigra sed formosa), we saw, on the flaggings before us, the happy-tearful sight, in the year of grace 1886, of an ancient in brass buttons and knee-breeches, and watched him lovingly down the road, thinking of the Last Leaf and its “ old, forsaken bough.” Portsmouth is like a palimpsest, in which, by frequent sudden treacheries, only yesterday’s annals are visible. Or it is a coin, as said Samuel Adams Drake, “ of the true weight and ring; but the date and the legend are old.”

The Point of Graves, “ impropriated forever into the use of a burial-place ” in 1671, is a quaint, solemn half-acre on the verge of the water, of late carefully mown and tended, sparsely marked with not illegible stones, the most venerable being of the year 1684, Mr. John Hoddy’s. Some astonishing cherubs figure in the carvings. Quite as curious are the severe duplicate effigies of Misses Abigail and Sarah Loud, long at rest beneath. Many escutcheons and inscriptions have been removed, or have fallen away from the great unmarked gaps and spaces. On the Vaughan tomb is a new monument, imbedding in granite the ancestral slate slab. The large modern cemetery, once Pickering’s “ trayning fielde,” not far away, itself an inclosure coupling several burying-grounds, has, on a hill near the pond, the old stones transferred from Green Street in 1875, including those of President Cutt’s family, all interesting and in sound condition, dating as far back as 1674,1693, and 1714. One of the names here written, that of Olympia Penhallow, is like a breath from Hawthorne’s romances. On this ground, in 1768, was hanged the girl Ruth Blay, for the supposed murder of her little child. A reprieve arrived at the appointed hour of execution, but the sufferer was dead, and the crowd already dispersed ; the sheriff, Packer, having hurried his duties in order that he might not be late for dinner! The whole story is strange and stirring. Idyls uncounted, decaying ungathered traditions, cluster about the shady nooks of Portsmouth; matter for the unborn poet or novelist who longs for an American theme. Each man’s acre has its secret histories and its solitary graves. On every field and hillock, nodding with corn, the chosen Egyptian skeleton sits at the feast; and the ashes of generations lurk under many a poplar or rowan tree that brushes its light tips against my lady’s chamber. To a Bostonian, especially, there is a kindly kinship and fellow-feeling in these isolated stones, which bring over and over to his eye names familiar to the morning annals of his own “ three-hilled rebel town : ” Woodbridge, Sheafe, Emerson, Shurtleff, Chauncey, Drowne, and Appleton.

The first house built in Portsmouth by a Wentworth, and used by him as a licensed tavern in 1670, —such are the plain, sturdy fountain-heads of New England dynasties! — a substantial structure, with herculean beams and chimneys thirteen by ten, stands at the head of Manning Street, next to Liberty Bridge, and owned offices, of yore, to the water, which was the natural approach to all the old manorial doors. In it were born Lieutenant-Governor John Wentworth, and that formal, gouty, autocratic Governor Benning, who became the husband of the poet’s inescapable Martha Hilton, and did little else diverting enough to remember. The bridge, built, with its draw, in 1731, has echoed to the tread of patriotic crowds in times of bygone political passion; and a sort of illuminated sign-board, “ in honor of our independence,” hangs happily yet over one of its posts. Beneath are the waters of Puddle Dock, once a beauteous and commodious inlet, now narrowed and defiled. We cannot here follow the land-paths of Portsmouth, even though away from the river, a little distance beyond, lie such noble houses as no other American town can show; of which Langdon’s immemorial colonial dwelling, and the brick Warner homestead on Daniel Street, built in 1718, and supplied with its lightning-rod by Franklin’s own hands in 1762, are scarcely less restful and truly lovable than a hundred others.

Shapley’s Island was the scene of many festive and select “ small-pox parties ; ” which meant the brief retirement from the world of the hilarious inoculated. Here were buried, in Revolutionary days, those of the French fleet who sickened and died in harbor ; and storms yet sometimes wash away the earth from their bleached, exiled, unremembered bones. Requiescant! for they, too, loved our country in her youth, and served her when she was alone and unrecognized. Half-way between Spruce Creek and Newcastle is Clark’s Island, an interesting hillock, where a lone and lively goat is wont to pay addresses to chance visitors ; a social, insistent creature, but easily abashed by a corrective hand. All the neighboring islands are beautifully wooded, and in autumn they blaze to the water’s surface with incalculable splendor. Badger’s Island, set well into the lower harbor, between Portsmouth and the delightful shores of Kittery Foreside, belonged of old to Governor Langdon, who generously tendered it for the Navy-Yard of Revolutionary needs ; the name of the masterbuilder, Badger, having clung to it from that time. Here the Faulkland had been launched in 1690 ; here the victorious frigate Raleigh was built in 1775, and here, also, the Ranger, which, under the Scotchman Paul Jones, carried the stars and stripes for the first time into a foreign port. Langdon superintended Hackett’s framing of the seventy-fourgun ship America, the largest then planned. When Jones was ordered to command her in 1779, he found her but half-built, and watched over her thenceforth with most affectionate concern. But no sooner was she finished — the beautiful only American ship-of-the-line, with her powerful bows, single quartergalleries, and spacious upper gun-deck, having the air, a short distance off, of a delicate frigate — than she was given by the government to France, in compensation for the loss of the Magnifique in Boston Harbor. Paul Jones’s splendid darling was captured by the admiring British in 1794, lived to extreme old age, and did duty under other owners and an alien name. Soon after her first timbers were put together at Portsmouth, when the English tried to destroy her, Jones and a handful of friends went on guard in person to defend her. When the Dauphin was born, in 1782, the little Louis, soon to be taken from the evil to come, Jones, at his private expense, had artillery mounted on board, and boomed, and drank toasts, and spun rockets, and kept up his wild feu de joie until midnight. On the ensuing 4th of July, it is superfluous to add, the noise and the fireworks outdid themselves, John Paul having had some sense of national proprieties.

In Badger’s time one hundred stanch vessels left their ways from this little island. Launching was difficult, owing to ledges, shallows, sharp corners, and dependence on the tides; the worthy master had a nervous habit of turning away as soon as preparations were complete, and watching the descent, by preference, from the windows of his great house, near by. Then followed the gathering of workmen and sailors ; and amid punch, laughter, song, and jollity the brave ship was bidden Godspeed. Those were the days when a Yankee broadside was a terror on the seas. The British Scarborough, coming to Portsmouth to forage for provisions, had a little engagement on the way with a vehement Newcastle matron, who withheld her well-water, and was punished by a shower of balls in her prim, astonished parlor. Entering the town waters, the invaders were literally driven off by two men; one of whom, Captain Tom Pickering, afterwards commanded the twenty - gun ship Hampden, and was killed in action in 1779.

In the harbor, in 1782, arrived five vessels of the great French fleet then moored off Boston, after a sound battering received from their English cousins near the West Indies. One of them, an eighty-gunner, was struck by lightning while anchored at Portsmouth, in November of that year, and four of her crew were killed. The uniform of these visiting soldiers and marines — two regiments under the Marquis de Vaudreuil, — was white. But Jack, even a Parisian Jack, cannot long keep such clothes spotless as a good conscience; and Brewster records how, in the absence of powder, our cheerful French allies periodically rolled themselves about in the big meal-chest of the Stavers house on Court Street!

The water-life of Portsmouth, however, was at its height during the war of 1812. A craze setting in for open seahunts of the sort, innumerable privateers were built and fitted out, saucy and successful for the greater part, and capturing on every cruise ponderous British vessels, with their cargoes and stores ; the winners making precarious fortunes hand over hand. Many such craft, owned and manned by individual enterprise, commissioned by the United States to pious buccaneering, unlimited pursuit and harassing of the enemy, carried but one Long Tom, or brass swivel, with merely a dozen or fourteen guns, and crews rarely averaging over one hundred men. Yet no vessel of superior physique was safe before their brilliant and audacious attack. The harbor, astir with the airy prows of bold adventurers, with the hulls of commerce and stately men-ofwar, has lapsed into a deserted highway for many a bygone year. Up and down passes an occasional work-day sail ; or the quaint gunlow beats a rapid, triangular wing seaward. There is more bustle and activity in the port of Gloucester in one day than now falls to the lot of Portsmouth in a lustrum.

The present Navy Yard, which engrosses, to small profit, the surplus energies of the town and its suburbs, occupies two islands off Kittery shore, once granted by Sir Ferdinando Gorges (under the name of Puddington’s Islands) to a son of the first Fernald, with the vain provision that they were to belong forever to the heirs male, by that right of entail which was afterwards abolished by the State of Maine. Vessels which were the glory of the American navy — when existed both a glory and a navy — were built here, the illustrious Kearsarge among them. The yard is well placed, with a fine dry-dock, and the buildings are of much interest. Between the Navy Yard proper and Seavy’s (the annexed island) is a stout little bridge, where paces the white-gloved sentry; on one side is the green sloping bank, on the other the unbroken stone barriers, over which frown the tall pattern-shops of the yard; ahead is another short bridge, beyond which, again, are the outlines of the Yantic, or the revised screw-corvette Vandalia, stripped and idle, sleeping after a cruise : a narrow water-lane, full to the brim, and opaline to the eye, where at all times it is good to be. On business bent, you would prefer the calmer course alongshore. But the pent currents, made for fights; the bridgelets, with their weedy and barnacled columns, daggers to unwary fingers ; the light, softened by the overhanging walls and the waving boughs an oar’slength away ; the deep, limpid, immaculate water, — so much evidence of life, and yet so little sound and motion beyond the race of the tides, — give it a sort of Veronese glamour. Shooting out into view of the harbor, you shall instinctively take off your cap to the presence of departed greatness, to the memories of Bainbridge, Hull, and Stewart, and to the happily reigning genius of Oliver Wendell Holmes. For here, transformed into a double-decked receiving-ship, her pine timbers painted yellow, with square abrupt stern and carven bows ; reverenced by every seaman in this beautiful beneficent ninetieth year of her age, the golden Indian summer to which her poet saved her, lies the glorious frigate Constitution ! Old Ironsides is at home and at rest, her wounds healed, her port-holes closed ; and Time slowly leads her

“ Into the peace of his dominions cold.”

Seavy’s, least of all the Portsmouth outlying creeks in historic interest, is broadest at the immediate entrance, and hardest to follow without a chart. You pass under a lonely bridge, and push on, by numerous inlets and tiny islands, through a thickly wooded country, and a channel growing shallower, to a little straggling, obstinate stone-wall, which crosses the water-path and serves as a dam. Here, mooring the boat, and working along on the left bank, you come to fairy-land, as surely as ever you may find that country, not being a child: a tall pine copse, untouched by hand of man, marshaling ranks of lustrous ferns, starred with partridge berries, and carpeted inches deep with a tawny velvet beyond the science of looms, — a place wherein to sleep a long sleep, and dream good dreams ; and girdling it, a merry, inconsequent fresh-water brook, mossybanked, golden-sanded, which dances tauntingly up to the barriers, and mocks the feebly moving finger of the salt sea. No houses are there, within sight or sound; there great lazy-winged birds, evading the hunters, flap overhead; there rare lichens cling to every rock and twig, and the cool elfin rivulet laughs everlastingly. There is nothing to learn, not even a date nor a name for the antiquarian, whose acquiring eye is twitted with beauty, pure and simple. There is “ always afternoon ; ” there are the keys of joyance to hands that know their uses, and there the gates — the languid, irresponsible, unphilanthropic gates — which shut out the world ! Along the same southerly shore, towards the town, lies Sagamore Creek, formerly called Witch Creek, on whose banks lived Benjamin Lear, the celebrated hermit, and Estwick Evans, the “pedestrious traveller.”It is, from end to end, of extraordinary loveliness. Close to the creek, but not visible, save at one point, from it, is the Strawberry Patch road, the oldest highway in New Hampshire. All about are ancient houses, or ancient sites of houses ; acres unalienated, inheritances kept; names on gravestones renewed daily among the men and women who walk beside them. Portsmouth, almost alone in the United States, can belie the plaint of our eloquent historian, that the son rarely sits in the shadow of the trees planted by his father. Throughout her sunny domain, family heritages are passed peacefully from generation to generation. Here on Sagamore Creek are farms standing centuries under the same ownership, and cherished, in a beautiful old phrase of the poet Surrey, by “ the household of continuance.” The Martine house, such now and to-morrow, was built by a Martine; and the Langdon fields, iridescent with berries, and broken into picturesque undulations of rocks and overhanging willows, are always a Langdon’s. Beyond at Newcastle, across at Kittery, townwards at Greenland and Christian Shore, the old associations linger in the old places. The Devon settlers did not bequeath their names in vain. Where a Trefethen, a Bamfylde, or a Penhallow strove to make the wilderness blossom, children of their blood are playing in the open meadows. Vaughans, Dennets, Wentworths, Gerrishes, as in the twilight of New England’s strength, walk the flagged lanes of Portsmouth. At the pioneer settlement on Odiorne’s Point, Odiornes still dwell; and the strong-timbered house not far from Mill Bridge, built by a Jackson in 1664, with its great sloping roof and projecting sills, and its door opening on the water, is no less a Jackson’s in 1887. Brewster runs over the list of land-owners from Rye Beach to Great Bay, in the Constable’s Lists for 1686, and finds that for a considerable distance, in the order of their names, the old roll-call will hold good for the present possessors. Nothing so much as this tranquil domestic conservatism gives to Portsmouth its exceeding charm.

Towards Spruce Creek, on the Maine shore, is the now altered Whipple garrison-house, built at a very early but uncertified date, where afterwards William Whipple, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born. The upper stories projected over the lower, as in the wooden block-house of the neighboring Fort McClary ; or the venerable Wells house, built in 1660, and still standing in Salem Street, in Boston. The protectory holes in the outstanding floors were not only for convenience in firing, but for supplying valiant wives with opportunity to quench any fire enkindled below, or to touch up an aggressive redskin with domestic hot water. Spruce Creek itself, dividing Kittery Foreside from Kittery Point, and piercing to Eliot and York, is, like Seavy’s, of no especial recorded interest. It is very wide, once the bridge is passed, and fair to see at full flood. Looming beyond it, throughout its course, is blue Agamenticus, the chosen mount, whence, according to a stately tradition, the great sachem Passaconoway, after counsel given to his assembled braves, disappeared, tall and hoary, among the clouds. Nearing the Point, an anointed eye may be on the lookout for the shade of the captivating Mary Sparhawk, daughter of the sweet girl Elizabeth Pepperell, whose Kittery wedding-dress was “ white paduroy, flowered with all sorts of colors ; ” that Mary, afterwards a famous laughing Tory beauty, who won over the commander of an all-but-bombarding fleet to spare Portsmouth, in 1775, and to sail cheerfully away to sack Portland, then Falmouth, instead.

Kittery is a town with antecedents, having been settled in 1643, and incorporated twenty-four years later, while its liege city was still under the nurseryname of “ Strabery Banke.” “ For piety,”a certain native old lady asserted with unction, “ Kittery beats all.” Its borders were once inclusive of several outlying villages. The frame church here was put up in 1714, and after that at Hingham, is the oldest in New England. The cemetery opposite is more remarkable for the romances lived by its occupants than for any peculiarities of epitaph. The subjacent worthies, however, are set forth under the most Munchausenish array of perfections, and must have been the salt of the four continents, beyond competition. There is a temptation to repeat one odd quatrain, which is incorrectly quoted in many books. It has lately been cleared from mosses and re-cut by a friendly matron, so obese that it is an excusable freak if you meanly elude her by an accelerated march, when you come to her tollbridge. Refined irony christeneth her Atalanta, inasmuch as she cannot run at all. The mortuary verse is Margaret Hill’s, who died of salt water in 1804, and runs, as many readers know, as follows : —

“ I lost my Life on the raging seas ;
A sovereign God does as he Please :
The Kittery friends they did Appear,
And my remains they Buried here.”

A pleasanter hour can hardly be passed than in Margaret Hill’s company; that is, lying a little to her left, on the brow of the bluff, among scented grasses, watching the earnest river and the happy colored islands that jut into the sea ; an alive, alert, conscious creature at the casements of the ancient house of death. Whatever symbolisms are held in water, this strong, sensitive water suggests as it hurries by. . . . “ Eternity! thither, indeed, of a truth, and not elsewhither, art thou and all things bound.”

Fort McClary is an American ruin, as is Fort Constitution. Lack of appropriation on the part of the government during the rebellion gave us the two most thrilling rarities of the coast. The unused block-house, with its venerable air, is merely a parvenu of 1845, the year when the fort was repaired. It has a queer, rambling, dungeon interior, put together with great compactness and forethought, and should be recommended as a summer retreat for our harassed President. The fort was first erected in 1700, the elder Pepperell being captain of its garrison. It was re-named, later, for the handsome young McClary, of Epsom, New Hampshire, killed by a chance shot at the close of Bunker Hill battle ; and it has had no especial history since. Near it are some glorious mellow houses, among which the Pepperell house, with its shipyards and wharves, is of paramount interest. It was built about 1730, by the old colonel and his son,— Smollett’s “Piscataquay trader,” the future baronet. It was wider then than now by twenty feet, and had a deerpark to the river ; facing which, with the local instinct that the water was to be ever the readier and finer highway, it stood. Its wealth and pomp have gone to ashes, like the bygone owners, who sleep in the crypt now close to the Pepperell Hotel. The neighboring Bray house, also narrowed, dates from the Restoration of the “ second Charles, of fame facete.” In one of the rooms, painted in panels over the fireplace, is an old picture of the siege of Louisburg. At the water-side, accessible from both kindred houses, — Margery Bray having become the wife of the elder Pepperell, — are the shattered piers where the sleek old merchants paced up and down awaiting the ships that never came home without some fortunate freight. The water is not deep there, and lapses mournfully among the piles, riveted with wooden pegs and encrusted with star-fish.

Through Chauncey’s, the best of the creeks, which divides Kittery Point from Gerrish’s and Cutt’s Islands, and was long called Braveboat or Brawboat Harbor or Creek, one may gain access to the lower Maine seacoast and the sheltered town of York. Past some exquisite heights, dear to foraging Indians, and an ancient drawbridge, once an obstacle to their gentle schemes, — now, alas! in danger of ceding place to an iron enormity, — the water glides under a second arch, and begins to insinuate itself through a farmer’s field in a very lizard-like and fantastic manner. Presently, always in case the Atlantic is pouring in supplies at your back, you will be obliged to disembark, and, leading the painter, walk a mile through the meadow ; your companion, meanwhile, if you have one, sheering your wherry off from the angles of turf, and keeping the course straight. It is a pleasant little voyage, for the water, sometimes four feet across, is deep, and broadens gradually, after the mile, into the circuitous and lucid creek again. Pushing on in the heart of a most beautiful country, you reach maple and walnut woods, and, beyond, the white line of the open sea, whence your haven is in sight. Our last personal experience of Chauncey’s was somewhat more invigorating. We had to start through it at five of a soft morning, when the tide was already past its kindest, and the sky frowning. For hours not to be so much as named amongst us, save for pardonable pride and yet more pardonable laughter, we tugged at our clumsy hired Argo, under slimy circumstances, through a channel where everything but water seemed on the increase, and whose entire surface, banked with superior mud, was narrower than the keel of the wherry ! Our fair and lauded natural canal looked like a farmer’s draining-ditch, to which the forcing tides got access from the sea. We could scarcely believe it anything else in our dismay, as we pursued our long, turtle-like, and muddy march homewards.

On Cutt’s Island, bordering the creek, dotted with venerable homesteads, and reached as well by a rough, delightful road, is the cairn of Francis Champernowne, one of the most romantic figures of his day. He was a gentleman of Devon, kinsman of Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who took these lands by a transferred grant of Gorges in 1636, and lived in honorable splendor, here and at Greenland, until his death in 1687. Champernowne inherited a fine Norman name, and did not belie whatever hardy virtues it implied; he filled the highest offices in the state, from his twenty-seventh year, when he was provincial councilor, to the date of his decease, when he was councilor, again, to Sir Edmund Andros. He married the widow of Robert Cutt. Under a rough heap of boulders, either in accordance with his own modest desires, or because it afforded protection against marauding wolves, he lies buried; in a walled and lonely inclosure, close to the ocean, on land now the property of a sea-loving poet. Of this remarkable man, in his adopted country, at least, there are but sparse records. His name is one of the few precious points of color in our sombre New England retrospect.

Great Island, on which is the village of Newcastle, bars out the first force of the sea from the town of Portsmouth, and divides the main and the lesser outlets of the river. Off its northerly shore one may see, among the rest, Bos’n Allen’s reverend house, with its portly chimneys and violently inclined roof, close to the post-office, in the heart of the curious, compact little town. From the ocean side, one has a glimpse of Newcastle’s blessed Authors’ Colony, and of the beautiful, strong-muscled Jaffrey house, aged, steeped in memories, and loved of its owner. Moving on foot, seaward from the village, you may climb the slight cliff where rises the Walbach martello tower, with its crumbling sally-port and parapets, another ruin which is a perennial joy to the artist, and a pitfall to chroniclers ; — and reach from it the noble gateway of Fort Constitution. Known first as the Castle (its earliest commander being Richard Cutt, in 1674), it took later, from the reigning sovereigns, the name of William and Mary; afterward, in Revoltionary days, that of Fort Hancock; and when rebuilt in 1808, its present title. Its garrison consists of one harmless sergeant, who, like itself, fires no hostile shots. The granite loopholes, the flaggings and mortar-stands, are of splendid size and design ; but the work of renovation, suddenly stopped near the close of the last war, has left things, since, as desolate as Balclutha. There are to be found piles on piles of canister, shell and bomb, large and small; and fine Parrott guns, one hundred and fifty pounders, wheeled into place. But weeds grow under and cobwebs over; hinges are rusted, derricks and rails are broken ; and so forlorn is the aspect of the entire inclosure that it is a relief, after a moment, to turn away.

In December of 1774, Mr. Paul Revere, perhaps with that same serviceable myth-horse to whom we owe more than a mausoleum, spurred hither from Boston, bearing official warning that a new law over-seas forbade the further exportation of gunpowder to the colonies; having the subsequent satisfaction of learning that the Portsmouth Sons of Liberty, and divers Newcastle patriots, under John Sullivan, John Langdon, and, probably, John Pickering, invested this same fort, overcame its ample numbers, and bore off in triumph to Durham meeting-house one hundred barrels of powder. That powder was turned to salutary uses in the hands of the young army at Bunker Hill. Within the area of the fort are the unmarked graves of minister Robert Jourdan, who rests from his labors since 1679, and of many forefathers of the seafaring villagers.

Off this shore, at the uttermost limits of the harbor, among “ enchanted garden-islets,” is Whale-Back Light; part of the first tower, erected in 1829, crouching beside its granite supplanter. Storms drive in the passing vessels, or faithless air becalms them, in great flocks, off the reefs ; so that the blue Newcastle river-street often verily becomes a “ sea-city, a Venice moored for a night, not a trace of which shall be seen in the morning.” Newcastle is the sentinel, now disarmed, at the grassgrown gates of Portsmouth: behind is the gentle city, mother of famous sons, beautiful unspeakably in her monastic quiet; before, the mighty Europe-laving ocean, unbroken save where the white Isles of Shoals glisten by day, and the watchful coast-lights flash up, one by one, on the darkened horizon. So, drowsily and by star-shine, fade from our eyes glimpses of the blossomy shores, and from our ears the song of the untamable river, sweeter to old Portsmouth than her own joy-bells. For Piscataqua is not alone the sunny pathway of her ships and the natural guardian of her superb outlying acres, but the very pulse and life-blood of her heart; the sole possible renewer of her youth, when there shall be written the annals of a renascent navy.

Louise Imogen Guiney.