A Dash at Cape Cod
unstated author
Putnam's Magazine 9 (49): 62-70

THERE is always a second summer in the American year. When the September gales have swept over the woods, and shaken the first leaves of autumn to the ground; when from the gardens the more delicate buds and fragrant blossoms have passed away; when the earlier fruits have ripened and been gathered; when evening begins sooner to draw the curtains of the day, and the sun’s horses start later on their morning courses; when the pleasure parties of the season are breaking up, and words of farewell are being said, and over the most buoyant mind a certain pensiveness steals, and regrets fall upon it as from out the autumnal air, then the year, which had begun to withdraw its face, turns again with a parting smile, and kisses its hand to us. Then comes a succession of golden days, when the air is still, and the heavens, slightly veiled with purple haze, are without a cloud. The autumnal flowers are arrayed in all their glory. The orchards yield up their red-sided, gold-colored apples for the winter’s store. The grapes are turned to purple. The latest pears melt upon the devouring lips, and the last drops of sweetness are being distilled into the yet unplucked peaches. Now the diligent housewife gathers from out the leaves, still green, the yellow, shining quince, and, correcting its tart juices with melted sugar, lays it by for winter tea-drinkings. The farmer husks his corn, making the green sward shine with the long, broad line of glittering ears. He piles up, also, the yellow pumpkins, or hangs the squashes against the wall, by their necks. His boys bring home at night the cows from still green and thickly-matted meadows, with udders wide distended. The poultry-yards are full of cackling, and youthful attempts at chanticleering. Fleets of geese and ducks float down the brooks, or lie moored on the ponds, and the half-grown turkey-cocks gabble and spread their tails over vast spaces of yard and pasture. This season is the mellowing of the year. In sunny European lands, and beneath sacred oriental skies, the grapes are now trodden in the wine-press, and even in our own prosaic New Jersey, the bounty of nature runs to sweet cider. The earth has put forth her great productive power, and rejoices as a woman after child-bearing; the sun has done his year’s work, and ripened all seeds and grains; there is food garnered up for man and beast; and the great God seems to look down out of heaven upon what He hath wrought, and pronounce it good.

It is a season to be enjoyed as one does old wine. As we bring this out of the cellar on high festal occasions, to celebrate the rite matrimonial, or to honor the anniversary of a birthday, to greet the coming of long absent friends, and freshen the memories which run far back to days of auld lang syne; so this brief second summer of the year should be filled up with unusual joys. Then make a holiday. Then telegraph to your best friend to come with wife and child. Let boys and girls be let loose from school that they may go a-nutting. Let there be picnics in the glens, and on the hill-sides. Climb the mountains. Coast the shores. ‘Tis the hunter’s moon, and you may follow the path of the buck and the doe, or hie on pointer or setter. You see the breaking of day as you go on your way to lie for wild fowl, which, when it is yet dark, fly overhead with whistling wings ; while far off is heard the scream of the coming wild-geese. Now let the reel hiss, as the line is cast from the rocks, for tautog. It is the season, also, for bass fishing. Now let the lover of nature and mushrooms prevent the sun, and gather his breakfast with the dew on it. Let all men—all Yankees—eat pumpkin-pie. The full moon favors husking by night; and he who finds brindled ears may kiss his partner, though he may no longer drink milk punch, for it is contrary to law. Now is “ training” time ; and there will be cakes at the muster for old and young—and, surely, pop-beer. Now pack into country-wagons, three on a seat. At morning, wind the horn, and let the hounds bay. At night, draw the bow, dance, sing, and make merry, giving God thanks; for this glorious second summer, called Indian, is given us but for seven days~ or it may be ten. Then get quickly out of doors—be off—away— and caps in the air!

Happy harvest days! and happily did we spend them, ankle-deep in thy golden sands, Cape Cod!

Perhaps we should have done better still to have gone in rough weather. The scene here, doubtless, is more characteristic when nature frowns, than when she smiles. For the Cape is decidedly tragic. Its great mood is when nature is angry, and all her elements are at war. When the east wind is rising out of the sea, and the pine-woods begin to sigh for pain; when the ocean fretted to madness by the gale, lashes the long sandy beaches, and breaks high over the rocks on the shore; when the drift-sand flies like snow-flakes, and the whirlwinds, in their rough play, bear it aloft in the air; when the rain, bursting the clouds, contends in its turn with both winds and waves, and beats them down; when in winter the sharp sleet cuts the air, and the snow-blast shuts out the light of heaven, and night, setting in, adds the terrors of utter darkness to those of the storm, and the signal gun of the East Indiaman, drifting upon the lee-shore—a few hours before so near the wished-for haven—is heard faintly booming through the uproar of the elements, and vainly calling upon the wrecker who sits idle by his blazing fireside, pitying the poor souls whose imaginary cries ring in his ears, but whom he cannot save from the jaws of the devouring waves. For no mortal arm can stay the implacable wrath of the Almighty, when He bids the sea roar, and engulf in its depths the impious mariner and his ship. Then the traveler, on this long arm of sand vainly stretched out to embrace the unwilling, untamable ocean, and marry it in loving wedlock to the land, sees and feels what Cape Cod is. With awe he hears the sublime moaning of the long, flat beaches, and the more angry resounding of the coast where it is bolder and rocky. The north shore answers with its uproar, to the uproar of the south. As, at sea, the wind whistles and sings in the cordage of the scudding ship, to the deep bass of the roaring waves, so, here, the howling of the winds among the branches of the oaks and the loud lament of the pine-woods are added to the bellowing of the strands. How weak does man appear when tossed on these waves! Yet, how strong, when, in his snug cot on the shore, he sits reading by the unflickering candle, and heeds not either the outcries of nature or the wrath of God!

But, at the period of our visit, the stormy Cape was lying as calm and placid, in the midst of the sea, as in midsummer rise the round tops of the Alleghanies in the untroubled southern heavens. The sun looked with warm, enamored beams upon the bosom of the earth; the winds lay reposing in the depths of the pine-woods, scarcely breathing audibly; and the tired waves slept on the shore. At evening, as the full. round moon rose from the Atlantic, it spread out a level. silvery carpet to the horizon, almost tempting the beholder to walk forth on the high sea, as, on solemn festal occasions, the gold-spangled tapestry invites the feet of the guests who go up into the lighted palaces of kings. And all night long, when at intervals we awoke out of our dreams, we heard, at the distance of a stone’s throw, the innumerable ripples breaking on the sand, as if the uxorious old ocean were kissing, even in his sleep, the softly breathing lips of the shore. At midnight we arose from our bed, and walked out into the air, feeling an irrepressible curiosity to listen to the whispering of the night-winds, and overhear the telling of their secret loves. We beheld, also, the dance of the waves, which were keeping up their revelry beneath the light of the moon, tripping it as gracefully as fairies on the green-sward, and quickly dissolving in mutual embraces, like hearts in the joined breasts of lovers. How refreshing and wholesome was the salt in the air from the ocean. “There can no malignant spirit or goblin walk this strip of earth,” said we, returning to our couch, “the air is too pure.” And, indeed, it can scarcely be credited that a real, bona fide ghost was ever seen on Cape Cod. There are Quakers here, but no witches. It is not possible.

But by day our eyes feasted, through all the hours, on the richly-colored autumnal landscape. Here stretch, for miles beyond miles, the salt meadows of Barnstable, watered not by rains and dews only, but by the monthly flowing of the tides, and these level tracts are now as tawny as the lion’s skin. This, likewise, being the season when the pine-trees shed their needles, the earth beneath them is no less tawny than the open marshes. And everywhere the sand of the shore is as yellow as the breast of a robin. In the warm rays of the sun it even shines like beaten gold, making the whole cape gilt-edged. But, on the uplands, the yellow runs into a russet, a richly-tinted brown, and forms a background which is covered with a glory of autumnal tints, the purple of oaks and whortleberry bushes, the orange and scarlet of maples, the green of pines and cedars. There is color everywhere—on the fields and trees, on the meadows and the shores, in the hollows and around the edges of pools. Not a bush but glows—not a stone but shines. The very particles of sand, if closely inspected, flash like diamonds by candlelight; and though held in your hand, seem both as far off and as glittering as the stars in the blue twilight of the night. And these colors are all dashed together—a beautiful variety in unity—making a kaleidoscope in the eyes of every man. Still, it must be acknowledged that, as one proceeds further upon the Cape, he notices a gradual falling off in the tone of nature’s coloring, as old pictures, in traveling down the course of time, lose, during each century, more and more of their first blush and gorgeousness. The brilliancy of the reds and purples fades, and the browns grow duller. Even the fine gold of the pumpkins becomes tarnished; the color of animals runs to sorrel; and the habitations of man, partaking of the tendency of nature, show only the unpainted gray, or the stains of the original red and green, or the blank white of modern fashion, which makes the pupils of the eye instinctively contract to look at. There is evidently a deficiency of coloring materials on the great painter’s easel, and, at last, whether the power of nature be diminished, or this part of her work be yet raw and unfinished, there remain only the green of the pines and the yellow of the sands, wherein is no harmony.

And yet there is a notable exception to this law of gradual fading. There is more red in the face of the Cape Codders, all the way down to Provincetown, than of any ether people in the States. It is the old English red— blood-red. Though the skin be generally pretty thoroughly sun-burnt, bronzed often by the glare from the salt-water, yet the vermilion shines through, giving evidence of good blood and vigorous arteries. The race is, indeed, purely British. For the inhabitants are all direct descendants of the Puritans, or, at least, of early emigrants from Great Britain. There has been no mixture of races here. While the Cape has always been a fruitful womb of men, sending her sons out into all the broad American earth, there has, on the contrary, been no reflex tide of immigration. The Cape, therefore, is all of one blood, of one face, of one speech, of one homogeneous heart. True, there are Indians still in Marshpee; but are they not also red men? Their faces are, indeed, not a little smutted by a dash of negro blood in them, but some, fortunately, still show the reddish glitter of the original copper. At least, they are not pale-faced, but high-colored, and come even not without a degree of grace into the autumnal landscape.

And this red-facedness of the people is a great point in the description of Cape Cod. For, while the earth gradually loses its color and all its signs of vigor, as we travel towards the end of this path in the sands, we see that the lord of nature, on the contrary, remains ruddy and strong-featured. Neither the weakness of the land, nor the extraordinary strength of the circumambient waters and winds has been able to produce degeneracy of the race of man. He has buffeted the waves, and overmastered them. He has sailed in the very eyes and teeth of the winds. He has fixed the floating sands, by planting them with beach-grass; has sown the pine-trees in furrows; has set oaks on the hill-tops, that, when the winds, rising in their might, threaten to tear him from the land, he may have something to hold on to; has planted the barren shore with Indian corn, putting a dead “horse-foot” in every hill; has grown potatoes from sea-weed down to the very line of high-water-mark; has turned the mud of flats to oysters; has dried the cod from the great deep into codfish; and has manufactured the sea itself into salt. Thus has man made himself master; and though, in struggling with the earth, to till it, he has sometimes come upon his hip, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, and though he has often been pinched by the wind, and jammed against the leeward shore, yet, after all, lie has fought the life-long battle with the natural elements triumphantly, and still hangs out his flag of victory in the red of his face.

The Cape Codder is hardy and vigorous, and may emphatically be said to be a self-made man—external nature having done so little for him. If the bone of this young country may be considered as yet somewhat in the gristle, it is not so with that of this Cape. Its bone is mature, and its muscle also is as hard as rope’s end and bowline. Oft pelted by storms, and riddled by gales; now buried in snow-banks, and never quite sure of his footing in the sands; now petrified by east winds fresh from Greenland and the ice-islands, and then, in hot summer days, when there is not a breath of air to break the glazed surface of the surrounding ocean, baked as if he were an ostrich egg; obliged constantly to harass the surface of the earth, in order to extort from it even a niggardly increase; and, finally, driven in despair to the wall of the sea, and in straits compelled to sound the depths of the ocean with line, hook, and sinker, and to vex its surface with his keels, the Cape Cod man has to fight his way through existence as a gladiator his way out of the ring. Of course, the feebler children die early; but the grown man is all thews and sinews. His nerves are of whalebone, and his skin will keep out water like oakum.

But, while this hardness of nature seems only to develop a superior hardness in the frame of man, all lower animals are ground down in the face against it. We saw but few of them anywhere, and these mostly stunted. Scarcely a dog yelped at us from one end of the Cape to the other; for dogs do not thrive well on fish; and, besides, the waves are there to do the barking. But one would suppose it a very paradise for cats; yet, as there are no mice but water-rats, so all the cats are cat-fish. And, accordingly, in all our lying awake to listen to the vespers which the waves on the beaches chanted through the livelong hours of night, we heard not a single charivari. Sailors, too, are notoriously hard on horses; and drift sand, like Jordan, makes a hard road to travel. Moreover, a mule in the sand is apt to be stubborn. But a soft road is well suited for the small breed of horses called ponies; for, their peculiar trick being, to throw their rider over their head, and trot back home without him, whenever they have reached a sufficiently inconvenient distance away, it is a mercy for a man to alight on a bed of sand. We found it so in our own person. Shanghae fowls do not thrive well here. Their tails do not grow, and they become so stupid as scarcely to know how to set one foot before the other—making awkward, uncertain movements, as if they were on stilts, or even walking on their own eggs. At the cattle-show in the county-town, where we happened to be present. the native breeds were all inferior. Whatever was big and fat, was foreign born, or, at least, of blood not strictly capeish. Such was their great Ayrshire bull—as huge a monster as the Trojan horse, or the whale which, in attempting to jump the Cape, landed himself, with all his tusks and blubber, high and dry on the sands. All the fat pigs were Lady Suffolks; all the battering-rams were Southdowns; and all the hens that laid golden eggs were born Poles. In fact, the only native animals at all worth the showing, were the men themselves. One in particular there was at the plowing-match, who reminded us of that Triptolemus of Eleusis, to whom, first of mortals, Ceres taught the use of the plow. Cincinnatus himself could not have bent over the tails with broader shoulders, nor a nose more truly Roman. Between his legs and the length of his furrows there was a certain correspondence. When standing upright, he cast a shadow over half the scene, and dwarfed the oxen before him till they looked scarcely bigger than rats.

The inhabitants of this ridge of drift sand are remarkably thrifty. One sees nowhere indications of extreme destitution. But, while most of the people are independent in their circumstances, there is not much wealth, and no show of it. The Grecian column will, indeed, follow the traveler all the way down the Cape, though Greece may seem further off than ever; nor can all the window-blinds on the houses make the place appear in the least degree like Venice. Here he will see a Doric entablature pierced by five small windows, and there a court-house in the form of an antique temple, but with its roof bristling with half a dozen stacks of tall, Yankee chimneys. Yet, this show of Grecian architecture, if it does not always indicate good taste, is a certain sign of thrift. The man, who builds his house with a front like an Athenian temple, is sure to be a financially successful one, and: generally, a man who has earned his own money; for they who inherit fortunes being often traveled men, or cultivated by some considerable amount of reading, know that the public edifices of the old Greeks do not suit the purpose of our modern housekeeping. Thus, every successful captain of a ship, who comes home to build a house in the sands, must have Grecian pillars. He has got the money, and he will have a cottage front like the Parthenon. Nothing can stop him.

But the thrift of Cape Cod is not of that kind which follows fawning. Here dwells evidently an independent race of men, and all living at arm’s length of each other. Even in the towns the houses do not touch, but stand apart. Every one has its separate inclosure, with plot of green-sward, orchard, and garden-patch. House and grounds form a distinct and independent establishment, leaning on no other for its support; and though, unfortunately, there are no plank-roads in these sands, yet every front door is approached from the street by a plank pathway. Nor do these people generally occupy the whole of their houses. They have vacant apartments, though none to let. The front rooms are all furnished and shut up. The family live in the kitchen. And they can afford to do so; for the back part of the house is large enough to accommodate all the members, while the other half is kept as neat as wax for tea-drinkings and the use of company. Hence, the stranger, who goes stumbling through the unlighted streets at night, may fancy himself in a Turkish town, or an aoul of the Circassians. He can no more descry the light of a candle than if he were in the centre of Ethiopia. Accordingly, to stir much abroad after nightfall in these streets filled with painted wooden posts. is to set man-traps for one’s self, and present the very sorest temptations to Providence. For, inevitably, at this corner you bark your shins—at that, you break your neck. A Chinese lantern here would not be an unmeaning joke. Still, every native, doubtless, knows the way to his habitation in the darkest night, as well as a bee to its cell in the hive. And no Spaniard goes to bed earlier. He does his work by daylight, and economizes candles. All his habits are simple and natural. He dines on the stroke of noon. He takes his tea—rather weak— at the hour when the merchant in the city sits down to dinner, and he gets up in the morning just as the town snob is going to bed. His fare, too, is simple—at breakfast, fish—at dinner, fish—fish fried, broiled, boiled, baked, and chowdered! Though, probably, there is not one housewife in ten that has not a pie, or a loaf of cake,. stowed away somewhere. And you shall nowhere eat such delectable “ apple-slump”—nowhere such dough-nuts, scarcely even in Connecticut—nowhere such baked clams, out of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. There is, also, a love of junketing and tea-drinking, when neighbors come together in winter evenings, and when lassies assemble of an afternoon at a “quilting,” making the bridal bed-spread with innumerable stitches, and squares of white calico, upon each of which is written, in indelible ink, the name of the fair sempstress who presented it. On these occasions the number of hot biscuits and sweet cakes served up is almost incredible; and the next morning after one, we have seen with our own eyes a small Cape boy make a hearty breakfast of pound-cake with plums in it.

After all, life on the Cape is more like holiday than one might suppose who had never been there. For, the men being mostly sea-faring, they do their work in all parts of the world rather than at home. The Cape Codder is omnipresent. He casts his line wherever there are codfish. If there is a school of bass or mackerel on any coast, he is after them with his seine. He chases whales from the southern frozen zone to the northern, and will doubtless, some day, throw his harpoons in the open sea at the pole. In all the steamers, liners, packets, he is captain and first mate. On the high seas, or the coast, there is no better man to handle a ship. You find him in all the crack clippers, and if a fore-and-aft schooner runs her nose into any strange place, ten to one there is at her helm a Cape Codder. He has also been in his day a fighting man. Some of our proudest frigates have been sailed by him; he was on the lakes in the last war with England, and threw up his cap there; and as for privateering, it is that one among all the trades of which he is Jack that he likes best to turn his hand to. Though not much of a fist at marching on the land, the Cape Codder, nevertheless, was at Bunker Hill and Saratoga, besides having fought the French and Indians in the old wars, and shouldered arms at Quebec. But when, having sailed all the seas, and roved the world over, he comes back to his cot in the sands, the short season he spends at home is a holiday. Then give him a fast horse, and his good wife, or sweetheart, by his side. He must go to see all his cousins. Nor does any man have so many uncles and aunts and kindred of various degrees. In fact, nearly all the inhabitants are first cousins, or call themselves such. Therefore, when the mariner comes home there must necessarily be a good deal of shaking of hands and merry-making. Everybody must tell him the news, and he in return must tell everybody of his adventures on sea and shore. He has probably seen the sea-serpent—at least, a mermaid—a whale—the elephant in his own country—or the Grand Mogul. Undoubtedly, the longest yarns are spun on Cape Cod which are spun anywhere in this country. And be it observed that the Cape Cod man, let him go to whatever part of the world he may, is sure to come back. His local tastes never die out; and where’er he roams, at every step away, he drags a lengthening cable. If he run a packet between Boston and some other of our principal sea-port cities, he does not remove his family to town, but the moment he gets on shore hies away to the Cape. He does not like the air of great cities, and cannot really feel at home anywhere that there is not sand under his feet, or even a little of it running over.his shoe-quarters.

This disposition to keep holiday, we could not but notice at the county cattle-show. There was, indeed, not much to be seen or heard—only the farmer’s old “Bright” and “Gelding,” with his ever-lasting “gee-up” and “haw-tu”—only a few pumpkins that might make the native mouth water a little to look at, a few cranberries, big as your thumb, and dark as mahogany, which it is mischievously said the Cape girls stain their cheeks with—only a show of Mexican flint corn-stalks a dozen feet high, just to show what the Cape sand could do— a specimen or two of “quilting” and domestic stocking-knitting—some curious attempts in worsted fine art, and even the beautiful vanity of cotton lace, and crocheting. But, notwithstanding the little to be seen, everybody came to see it. They came three women in a gig, and whole families in carryalls with tops of painted canvas. There were farmers in homespun, Quakers in drab, sailors in tarpaulins, and retired captains in black broadcloth. Besides a few great ladies in silks, and bonnets worn falling in the neck, there were any number of good, plain, buxom house-wives in their best bombazines and calicoes, most of them with bevies of daughters, all high-rigged, in curls, in flounces, with petticoats trimmed with lace, and all their ribbons flying. We saw very pretty girls in swings, and very eager youths buying jack-knives, whips with whalebone in the handle, and razors, warranted to shave, for twenty-five cents apiece. Every small child’s mouth was running over with sugar-candy, every man’s with tobacco, and every good-looking woman’s with smiles. All—men, women, and children—were most busily doing nothing—staring and seeing nothing—moving hither and thither, and going nowhere—and all appeared to be excessively delighted. Whoever had no baker’s gingerbread in his pockets, had peanuts in them; and if any father of a family had neglected to stuff his coat-tails with buns for the children at home, be sure his better half had not forgotten to fill her “working bag” with lions and elephants in cake, and dogs and cats in sugar. Almost every one seemed.to have bought something, and nobody looked as though he had been “sold.” They that had got rattles were tickled, and so were they who had only straws. And when finally, at the close of the day, the brass band came down the street playing the old tune of “The girl I left behind me,” we remember to have said to ourselves that it was the happiest holiday we had seen since we were in Spain.

One, of course, does not go to Cape Cod for adventures. The most that can be expected to happen to him there out of the ordinary course of events, is, perhaps, to get rather badly stuck in the sand. Still all travelers are bound to have adventures; and we must, therefore, make the most of our little incident, or, rather, mere observation on the road. So our story runs as follows: It is not strange that locomotive civilization should not yet have reached the end of the Cape; and the only wonder is that the railroad should have gone as far as it has before being effectually run into the ground. At any rate we reverted to the old, cast-offstage-coach at a point on the Cape very nearly amidships. The day being as beautiful as the last rose of autumn, we were naturally tempted to take a seat on the coach-box; and, seeing no person present at all resembling a driver, we waived the ceremony of asking leave, and straightway invited ourselves up. But, as we sat there quietly looking at the different cut of the tails of the four horses, we were taken by surprise at seeing a small boy climb to the seat by our side, and gather up the reins, as if he were really going to drive the coach himself. We looked at the boy again, and thought surely he could not be turned of ten, though we afterwards learned that he was twelve, being small for his age. And this boy, said we to ourselves, is evidently going to drive this coach-and-four to Orleans! We immediately took out our glass, and inspected him closely. Was he Phæton? If so, he would, doubtless, set the Cape on fire before getting to the first stopping-place. An old whip he certainly was not. Was he a whip at all? There he sat on the box. a boy apparently ten years of age, and his legs barely long enough for him to reach the foot-board. By-and-by, he encouraged his team up a hill with his voice, for whip he had not yet taken in hand; but his chirrup had the clear, decided ring of a full-grown hostler. “Get along Chandler Bob,” said he, at length, addressing the nigh wheel-horse; “and you Jaques,” calling to the off-leader. But we, meanwhile, had not said a word, and, in fact, had scarcely made up our mind what to say. “Eh, there, Lizzie—what are you doing ?“ called out the young Jehu to the rather restless mare on the nigh lead. Still we said nothing; but, screwing our glass firmly into our right eye, looked, at intervals, sharply at the boy. Besides his thick buckskin gloves there was nothing in his appearance in the least degree professional. He neither wore a pea-jacket, nor was he in his shirt-sleeves. His single-breasted jacket, buttoned close in the neck, was a plain drab; and around his neck was a clean, modest turn-over collar, such as is commonly worn by boys of tender age. “Hunter !” he exclaimed threateningly, and, at the same time, offering to strike the off-wheeler with the slack of his reins. Whereupon “Hunter” mended his pace, and we continued our observations. The boy’s hat was a nice felt, and of a modest color corresponding with that of his dress. A bourgeois, well-to-do in the world, would not dress his son any better. And his looks were in keeping with his dress—his complexion being a healthy brown, almost an olive, but with no red in it, more like the bark of the rose than its flower. Being so young, his features, of course, were not yet very definitely chiseled, but showed, indistinctly, the outlines of a future manliness. Only his eye was already perfect—being a large dark gray, and thickly shaded by long black lashes.

“Steady, Lizzie,” he cried, for the mare, which was a little gay, was still inclined to fret occasionally. And now, taking down our glass, we entered into some conversation with the young expert, for such he was, beyond all question. The first inquiry one generally makes of boys of this age is, “What is your name ?” We used a little circumlocutory politeness, but managed to find out that the lad’s name was James. The second question naturally is, “How old are you, my boy ?“ And we also contrived to get this information from the little man without giving offense. Then, as James occasionally threw out his foot with a sideward motion, in making his appeals to “Hunter,” we were curious to know the reason of it.

“Hunter,” said he, “keeps an eye on me from behind his blinder, and whenever he sees this motion of the foot, he thinks I am going to kick him.”

“And how long may it be since you began to drive a coach ?“

“I go to school; but I have driven more or less since I was eight years old.”

“But how could you drive a coach when you were only eight?”

“My father began with lashing me on to the box, to prevent my falling off; for I couldn’t then reach the foot-board, and I drove so.”

By this time our interest in James had risen to a high point, and we afterwards learned from others that this account of himself was strictly true. Should we ask him to take a cigar with us? Plainly not. Here was a specimen of “Young America” whose patriotism evidently did not consist in smoking and chewing. He talked familiarly with his horses, but did not swear at them. There was nothing of the vulgar stage-driver about the lad, no taking on of airs, no slang in his language, no brag. He had not even the usual frolic and roguery of his years. He did not crack his whip—using it only to threaten the little vagabonds who attempted to climb up on the rack behind; and there was no laughing in his eyes which indicated that he was going to tip the coach over. His face was that of one who had taken responsibility upon himself, and felt equal to it. It beamed with intelligence, but the expression of it was firm, self-restraining, and even demure. The impending shadow of a coming man darkened in it the brightness of the school-boy. We afterwards learned that for pluck the little fellow had not his equal in all the country round. If by chance there was a horse in the stable that nobody dared drive, he would beg his father to let him do it. And, long before leaving the coach-box, we came distinctly to the conclusion that James—we never should have thought of calling him Jimmy—by the time he was twenty-one years of age, would be “up” for Congress. For surely the boy who, at twelve years of age, can drive a four-in-hand, with a mettlesome “Lizzie” among them, will, in the course of another ten, be competent to manage such an ass as the sovereign people. Indeed, now-a-days, a thorough-bred hostler might not be so unsuitable a hero for cleansing the Augean stables of our federal polities. So, hurrah for the Cape Cod boy, James! He took us into Orleans in good style, having made his time to a minute; with “Lizzie” only a little frothy, but scarcely a wet hair on either “Chandler Bob,” or “Hunter.”

We left the Cape not without a certain feeling of regret. Perhaps it was partly because of the termination of the Indian summer, and we had to say,

“Die schönen Tage in Aranjuez
Sind nun zu Ende.”

Possibly, the very pleasant quarters in which we had spent the last night of our journey might have had something to do with it. The fact simply was, that there being a press of company at the inn, some kind-hearted lady, whether young or otherwise, and to ourselves utterly unknown, had surrendered the use of her own apartment for the accommodation of a tired traveler. Of this, however, having ourselves no knowledge, we were taken quite aback, on entering it, at seeing where we were, and, but for the lateness of the hour, would have stoutly refused taking advantage of such too generous hospitality. Under the circumstance, however, nothing more could well be done than, considering that we were standing in a sanctum, to put off our shoes as quickly as possible—which we accordingly aid, and gave them to the “boots.” And when he had departed, and the door was locked, taking our stand in the middle of the floor, with hands in pockets, and making a complete gyration in our survey of the Walls, all four of which were hung with various kinds of female apparel, we exclaimed at last, “What a pretty pickle of codfish we are in !” The mortification of our gallantry, in having taken possession of the apartment, was overwhelming. That we had not been instrumental in turning a young damsel, and as beautiful as young, out of her chamber, was, to our mind, by no means so certain. She might, indeed, but, also, she might not, be a spinster. There was a neat case of shoes hanging on the wall; but, to have examined them for the purpose of taking a measure, would have been profanation. We tried to calm our mind by the reflection that they were probably a foot in length, at least; but, somehow, we could not refrain from doubting it. In fact, we were more than half of the opinion that they were coquettishly small and dainty. Then, as to the hoops—but there were none to be seen. They were, probably, standing up in the closet; but even from their size, could we have seen them, no certain inference could have been drawn respecting the size of the wearer. Indeed, all the hoops we had noticed on the Cape were entirely out of fashionable proportion, seeming scarcely bigger, in comparison with those worn in the great, cities, than strawberry-baskets when they first come. But the good book was lying on the table, and there could certainly be no harm in reading that. So we began with the fly-leaf.

A Dash at Cape Cod. unstated author. 1857. Putnam's Magazine 9 (49): 62-70 MOA link