List Of Contents | Contents of Confessions of a Summer Colonist, by Howells
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Beyond the cottage settlements is a struggling little park, dedicated to
the only Indian saint I ever heard of, though there may be others.  His
statue, colossal in sheet-lead, and painted the copper color of his race,
offers any heathen comer the choice between a Bible in one of his hands
and a tomahawk in the other, at the entrance of the park; and there are
other sheet-lead groups and figures in the white of allegory at different
points.  It promises to be a pretty enough little place in future years,
but as yet it is not much resorted to by the excursions which largely
form the prosperity of the Beach.  The concerts and the "high-class
vaudeville" promised have not flourished in the pavilion provided for
them, and one of two monkeys in the zoological department has perished of
the public inattention.  This has not fatally affected the captive bear,
who rises to his hind legs, and eats peanuts and doughnuts in that
position like a fellow-citizen.  With the cockatoos and parrots, and the
dozen deer in an inclosure of wire netting, he is no mean attraction; but
he does not charm the excursionists away from the summer village at the
shore, where they spend long afternoons splashing among the waves, or in
lolling groups of men, women, and children on the sand.  In the more
active gayeties, I have seen nothing so decided during the whole season
as the behavior of three young girls who once came up out of the sea, and
obliged me by dancing a measure on the smooth, hard beach in their

I thought it very pretty, but I do not believe such a thing could have
been seen on OUR beach, which is safe from all excursionists, and sacred
to the cottage and hotel life of the Port.

Besides our beach and its bathing, we have a reading-club for the men,
evolved from one of the old native houses, and verandaed round for summer
use; and we have golf-links and a golf club-house within easy trolley
reach.  The links are as energetically, if not as generally, frequented
as the sands, and the sport finds the favor which attends it everywhere
in the decay of tennis.  The tennis-courts which I saw thronged about by
eager girl-crowds, here, seven years ago, are now almost wholly abandoned
to the lovers of the game, who are nearly always men.

Perhaps the only thing (besides, of course, our common mortality) which
we have in common with the excursionists is our love of the trolley-line.
This, by its admirable equipment, and by the terror it inspires in
horses, has well-nigh abolished driving; and following the old country
roads, as it does, with an occasional short-cut though the deep, green-
lighted woods or across the prismatic salt meadows, it is of a
picturesque variety entirely satisfying.  After a year of fervent
opposition and protest, the whole community--whether of summer or of
winter folks--now gladly accepts the trolley, and the grandest cottager
and the lowliest hotel dweller meet in a grateful appreciation of its
beauty and comfort.

Some pass a great part of every afternoon on the trolley, and one lady
has achieved celebrity by spending four dollars a week in trolley-rides.
The exhilaration of these is varied with an occasional apprehension when
the car pitches down a sharp incline, and twists almost at right angles
on a sudden curve at the bottom without slacking its speed.  A lady who
ventured an appeal to the conductor at one such crisis was reassured, and
at the same time taught her place, by his reply: "That motorman's life,
ma'am, is just as precious to him as what yours is to you."

She had, perhaps, really ventured too far, for ordinarily the employees
of the trolley do not find occasion to use so much severity with their
passengers.  They look after their comfort as far as possible, and seek
even to anticipate their wants in unexpected cases, if I may believe a
story which was told by a witness.  She had long expected to see some one
thrown out of the open car at one of the sharp curves, and one day she
actually saw a woman hurled from the seat into the road.  Luckily the
woman slighted on her feet, and stood looking round in a daze.

"Oh! oh!" exclaimed another woman in the seat behind, "she's left her

The conductor promptly threw it out to her.

"Why," demanded the witness, "did that lady wish to get out here?"

The conductor hesitated before he jerked the bellpull to go on: Then he
said, "Well, she'll want her umbrella, anyway."

The conductors are, in fact, very civil as well as kind.  If they see a
horse in anxiety at the approach of the car, they considerately stop, and
let him get by with his driver in safety.  By such means, with their
frequent trips and low fares, and with the ease and comfort of their
cars, they have conciliated public favor, and the trolley has drawn
travel away from the steam railroad in such measure that it ran no trains
last winter.

The trolley, in fact, is a fad of the summer folks this year; but what it
will be another no one knows; it may be their hissing and by-word.  In
the mean time, as I have already suggested, they have other amusements.
These are not always of a nature so general as the trolley, or so
particular as the tea.  But each of the larger hotels has been fully
supplied with entertainments for the benefit of their projectors, though
nearly everything of the sort had some sort of charitable slant.  I
assisted at a stereopticon lecture on Alaska for the aid of some youthful
Alaskans of both sexes, who were shown first in their savage state, and
then as they appeared after a merely rudimental education, in the
costumes and profiles of our own civilization.  I never would have
supposed that education could do so much in so short a time; and I gladly
gave my mite for their further development in classic beauty and a final
elegance.  My mite was taken up in a hat, which, passed round among the
audience, is a common means of collecting the spectators' expressions of
appreciation.  Other entertainments, of a prouder frame, exact an
admission fee, but I am not sure that these are better than some of the
hat-shows, as they are called.

The tale of our summer amusements would be sadly incomplete without some
record of the bull-fights given by the Spanish prisoners of war on the
neighboring island, where they were confined the year of the war.
Admission to these could be had only by favor of the officers in charge,
and even among the Elite of the colony those who went were a more elect
few.  Still, the day I went, there were some fifty or seventy-five
spectators, who arrived by trolley near the island, and walked to the
stockade which confined the captives.  A real bull-fight, I believe, is
always given on Sunday, and Puritan prejudice yielded to usage even in
the case of a burlesque bull-fight; at any rate, it was on a Sunday that
we crouched in an irregular semicircle on a rising ground within the
prison pale, and faced the captive audience in another semicircle, across
a little alley for the entrances and exits of the performers.  The
president of the bull-fight was first brought to the place of honor in a
hand-cart, and then came the banderilleros, the picadores, and the
espada, wonderfully effective and correct in white muslin and colored
tissue-paper.  Much may be done in personal decoration with advertising
placards; and the lofty mural crown of the president urged the public on
both sides to Use Plug Cut.  The picador's pasteboard horse was attached
to his middle, fore and aft, and looked quite the sort of hapless jade
which is ordinarily sacrificed to the bulls.  The toro himself was
composed of two prisoners, whose horizontal backs were covered with a
brown blanket; and his feet, sometimes bare and sometimes shod with
india-rubber boots, were of the human pattern.  Practicable horns, of a
somewhat too yielding substance, branched from a front of pasteboard, and
a cloth tail, apt to come off in the charge, swung from his rear.  I have
never seen a genuine corrida, but a lady present, who had, told me that
this was conducted with all the right circumstance; and it is certain
that the performers entered into their parts with the artistic gust of
their race.  The picador sustained some terrific falls, and in his
quality of horse had to be taken out repeatedly and sewed up; the
banderilleros tormented and eluded the toro with table-covers, one red
and two drab, till the espada took him from them, and with due ceremony,
after a speech to the president, drove his blade home to the bull's
heart.  I stayed to see three bulls killed; the last was uncommonly
fierce, and when his hindquarters came off or out, his forequarters
charged joyously among the aficionados on the prisoners' side, and made
havoc in their thickly packed ranks.  The espada who killed this bull was
showered with cigars and cigarettes from our side.

I do not know what the Sabbath-keeping shades of the old Puritans made of
our presence at such a fete on Sunday; but possibly they had got on so
far in a better life as to be less shocked at the decay of piety among us
than pleased at the rise of such Christianity as had brought us, like
friends and comrades, together with our public enemies in this harmless
fun.  I wish to say that the tobacco lavished upon the espada was
collected for the behoof of all the prisoners.

Our fiction has made so much of our summer places as the mise en scene of
its love stories that I suppose I ought to say something of this side of
our colonial life.  But after sixty I suspect that one's eyes are poor
for that sort of thing, and I can only say that in its earliest and
simplest epoch the Port was particularly famous for the good times that
the young people had.  They still have good times, though whether on just
the old terms I do not know.  I know that the river is still here with
its canoes and rowboats, its meadowy reaches apt for dual solitude, and
its groves for picnics.  There is not much bicycling--the roads are rough
and hilly--but there is something of it, and it is mighty pretty to see
the youth of both sexes bicycling with their heads bare.  They go about
bareheaded on foot and in buggies, too, and the young girls seek the tan
which their mothers used so anxiously to shun.

The sail-boats, manned by weather-worn and weatherwise skippers, are
rather for the pleasure of such older summer folks as have a taste for
cod-fishing, which is here very good.  But at every age, and in whatever
sort our colonists amuse themselves, it is with the least possible
ceremony.  It is as if, Nature having taken them so hospitably to her
heart, they felt convention an affront to her.  Around their cottages, as
I have said, they prefer to leave her primitive beauty untouched, and she
rewards their forbearance with such a profusion of wild flowers as I have
seen nowhere else.  The low, pink laurel flushed all the stony fields to
the edges of their verandas when we first came; the meadows were milk-
white with daisies; in the swampy places delicate orchids grew, in the
pools the flags and flowering rushes; all the paths and way-sides were
set with dog-roses; the hollows and stony tops were broadly matted with
ground juniper.  Since then the goldenrod has passed from glory to glory,
first mixing its yellow-powdered plumes with the red-purple tufts of the
iron-weed, and then with the wild asters everywhere.  There has come
later a dwarf sort, six or ten inches high, wonderfully rich and fine,
which, with a low, white aster, seems to hold the field against
everything else, though the taller golden-rod and the masses of the high,
blue asters nod less thickly above it.  But these smaller blooms deck the
ground in incredible profusion, and have an innocent air of being stuck
in, as if they had been fancifully used for ornament by children or

In a little while now, as it is almost the end of September, all the
feathery gold will have faded to the soft, pale ghosts of that
loveliness.  The summer birds have long been silent; the crows, as if
they were so many exultant natives, are shouting in the blue sky above
the windrows of the rowan, in jubilant prescience of the depopulation of
our colony, which fled the hotels a fortnight ago.  The days are growing
shorter, and the red evenings falling earlier; so that the cottagers'
husbands who come up every Saturday from town might well be impatient for
a Monday of final return.  Those who came from remoter distances have
gone back already; and the lady cottagers, lingering hardily on till
October, must find the sight of the empty hotels and the windows of the
neighboring houses, which no longer brighten after the chilly nightfall,
rather depressing.  Every one says that this is the loveliest time of
year, and that it will be divine here all through October.  But there are
sudden and unexpected defections; there is a steady pull of the heart
cityward, which it is hard to resist.  The first great exodus was on the
first of the month, when the hotels were deserted by four-fifths of their
guests.  The rest followed, half of them within the week, and within a
fortnight none but an all but inaudible and invisible remnant were left,
who made no impression of summer sojourn in the deserted trolleys.

The days now go by in moods of rapid succession.  There have been days
when the sea has lain smiling in placid derision of the recreants who
have fled the lingering summer; there have been nights when the winds
have roared round the cottages in wild menace of the faithful few who
have remained.

We have had a magnificent storm, which came, as an equinoctial storm
should, exactly at the equinox, and for a day and a night heaped the sea
upon the shore in thundering surges twenty and thirty feet high.  I
watched these at their awfulest, from the wide windows of a cottage that
crouched in the very edge of the surf, with the effect of clutching the
rocks with one hand and holding its roof on with the other.  The sea was
such a sight as I have not seen on shipboard, and while I luxuriously
shuddered at it, I had the advantage of a mellow log-fire at my back,
purring and softly crackling in a quiet indifference to the storm.

Twenty-four hours more made all serene again.  Bloodcurdling tales of
lobster-pots carried to sea filled the air; but the air was as blandly
unconscious of ever having been a fury as a lady who has found her lost
temper.  Swift alternations of weather are so characteristic of our
colonial climate that the other afternoon I went out with my umbrella
against the raw, cold rain of the morning, and had to raise it against
the broiling sun.  Three days ago I could say that the green of the woods
had no touch of hectic in it; but already the low trees of the swamp-land
have flamed into crimson.  Every morning, when I look out, this crimson
is of a fierier intensity, and the trees on the distant uplands are
beginning slowly to kindle, with a sort of inner glow which has not yet
burst into a blaze.  Here and there the golden-rod is rusting; but there
seems only to be more and more asters sorts; and I have seen ladies
coming home with sheaves of blue gentians; I have heard that the orchids
are beginning again to light their tender lamps from the burning
blackberry vines that stray from the pastures to the edge of the swamps.

After an apparently total evanescence there has been a like resuscitation
of the spirit of summer society.  In the very last week of September we
have gone to a supper, which lingered far out of its season like one of
these late flowers, and there has been an afternoon tea which assembled
an astonishing number of cottagers, all secretly surprised to find one
another still here, and professing openly a pity tinged with contempt for
those who are here no longer.

I blamed those who had gone home, but I myself sniff the asphalt afar;
the roar of the street calls to me with the magic that the voice of the
sea is losing.  Just now it shines entreatingly, it shines winningly, in
the sun which is mellowing to an October tenderness, and it shines under
a moon of perfect orb, which seems to have the whole heavens to itself in
"the first watch of the night," except for "the red planet Mars."  This
begins to burn in the west before the flush of sunset has passed from it;
and then, later, a few moon-washed stars pierce the vast vault with their
keen points.  The stars which so powdered the summer sky seem mostly to
have gone back to town, where no doubt people take them for electric


Ladies make up the pomps which they (the men) forego
Summer folks have no idea how pleasant it is when they are gone
Their consciences needed no bossing in the performance

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