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Full text of "The Nantucket scrap basket; being a collection of characteristic stories and sayings of the people of the town and island of Nantucket, Massachusetts"

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THE NANTUCKET 
SCRAP BASKET 



Being a Collection of Characteristic Stories and 

Sayings of the People of the Town and 

Island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. 



Compiled, Edited and Arranged by 
WILLIAM F/lVlACY and ROLAND B. HUSSEY 

and published for the benefit of 

THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF NANTUCKET' 



NANTUCKET 

THE INQUIRER AND MIRROR PRESS 

1916 



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Copyrighted 1916 

by 
William F. Macy 

and 
Roland B. Hussey. 




JUN 20 1916 
©CI.A433438 

*>^5 / , 



Dedicated 

by the Compilers 

to all 

SONS AND DAUGHTERS 

OF NANTUCKET. 



The House-top Walk. 



Weather-stained and beaten and empty now, 

The long, long vigil o'er; 
No longer the ships go out to sea, 

And the watchers wait no more; 
Sailors and watchers are resting now, 

Some on this sandy lea, 
And some, with the sea-grass round them twined. 

Are asleep in the wandering sea. 

But it comes to me as I walk the street 

Of the quaint, historic town, 
A vision these scenes have looked upon 

In the years so long agone— 
A vision of struggle with storm and tide, 

By the brave ones, called to roam 
On the wrathful way of the ocean wide; 

And a vision of love at home. 

On the house-top walk in the morning gray, 

And yet in the deepening night, 
They watch for the flash of a homeward sail, 

Or the swing of a mast-head light. 
It is morn again, and again 'tis eve, 

So the days drag one by one, 
And the steadfast thing in the changeful scene 

Is the love that will have its own. 

So the hair grows gray, and the faces thin, 

For the sea is empty still; 
And the lonely years will have their way, 

And God will have His will. 
But the watch is o'er. What matters now 

Though the ships drift endlessly, 
Though some are asleep in the graveyard there, 

And some in the wandering sea? 

—Charles L. Thompson. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS. 
Chapter I— Introductory. 
Chapter II — Sea Yarns and Sayings. 
Chapter III— Whale Scraps. 
Chapter IV — Anecdotes of the Quakers. 
Chapter V— Some Nantucket Traits. 
Chapter VI — Local "Characters." 
Chapter VII — Burying Ground Aftermath. 
Chapter VIII — Miscellaneous Scraps. 
Chapter IX — Twentieth Century Anecdotes. 
Chapter X— Expressions and Idioms. 
Chapter XI — Flotsam and Jetsam. 



IX 



Foreword. 

3T has long been the wish of all those who are in- 
terested in Nantucket's past that some of the many 
good stories and anecdotes of the place and its people, 
as well as some of the quaint and characteristic sayings 
and idioms of the islanders, might be collected, ar- 
ranged and preserved in some permanent form. 

The publication of this book came about in a rath- 
er curious way. Each of the two compilers, largely as 
a labor of love, had long been collecting material of 
this nature, with no very definite purpose in view other 
than a vague hope that, at some time and in some way, 
the collection might perhaps be printed. 

In the fall of 1915 the one who resides at Nan- 
tucket wrote to the other in Boston that he was mak- 
ing such a collection, and asking that he might have 
access to the "Scrap Basket," which has long been a 
feature of the reunions of the Sons and Daughters of 
Nantucket, held in Boston each autumn for the past 
twenty-odd years. After some little correspondence it 
was mutually agreed that the two should collaborate in 
the preparation of a volume, which, using the material 
contributed to the Scrap Basket since its inception, as 
a nucleus, should be published for the benefit of the 
Sons and Daughters, under the title of "The Nantuck- 



et Scrap Basket." The compilers have no apology to 
offer for the result, but a few words of explanation 
may not be amiss. 

First, we recognize that the collection is far from 
complete. The field is unlimited, and if every "scrap" 
it would be possible to obtain were included, the first 
old-time Nantucketer who read the book would be re- 
minded of many others which the compilers had over- 
looked or had never heard of. No attempt has been 
made, therefore, to cover all the ground. On the con- 
trary, the mass of available material has been carefully 
sifted with the idea of eliminating much that, for one 
reason or another, it was thought best not to use. We 
admit that the sieve was of a rather large mesh, and 
that much went through. Other compilers might have 
left out much that we put in or put in much that we 
have left out— either or both. We have used our best 
judgment, having in mind the limitations of time, space 
and expense. But the result is not final. A scrap 
basket is never full; it may be added to or subtracted 
from, and if the work meets with the approval and the 
sale which, in our more sanguine moments, we hope for 
it, future editions may contain many of the stories of 
which some of those in this book may remind its read- 
ers. We earnestly solicit such contributions for pres- 
ervation and future use if opportunity offers. 

To many Nantucketers we know that most of these 
stories are far from new. Many have heard them 
from childhood, till, by frequent repetition and long fa- 
miliarity, they have lost point and become "chestnuts. " 
To such we extend our sympathy, only hoping we may 



XI 



have unearthed some few which they have not heard, 
and suggesting that they skip the others, remembering, 
however, that to many readers most of the stories will 
be new. If the present generation fails to appreciate 
our efforts, we must look to posterity, which cannot 
fail to accord them some merit; for it is a fact that 
these things are passing; much that was well worth 
preserving has already been lost, perhaps irretrievably, 
and it is high time some attempt was made to save 
what is left. 

Many of the stories must, perforce, lose much of 
their flavor and point when separated from their proper 
surroundings and set down in cold type; they need the 
characteristic environment, the unique personality of 
the narrator, and that vague something which we call 
-atmosphere" to be appreciated at their full value. 
Moreover, it is always a risk to bring loo many quaint 
or amusing anecdotes together in a printed collection, 
for many of them lose rather than gain by proximity 
and contrast each with the other. But we take those 
chances in the confidence that the reader's imagination 
may supply some at least of what we realize is lack- 
ing. 

We have attempted to classify and arrange the 
stories and sayings under different chapter headings, 
but it will be readily understood that many of them 
might appear under any one of several heads, since they 
partake in some measure of the characteristics of each; 
so we have considered, in this connection, what seemed 
to be the salient or distinctive feature of each in ac- 



cording a place to it, and we trust the result will not 
be altogether disappointing. 

With this preliminary "slushing of the ways," 
we launch our little venture, bearing in mind always 
that "it takes one voyage to learn." 

William F. Macy, 
Roland B. Hussey. 



Chapter I. 

INTRODUCTORY. 

fERHAPS no better introduction to this collection of 
Nantucket stories and sayings could be selected than 
those oft-quoted (and quite as oft-misquoted) doggerel 
verses which purport to set forth the characteristics of 
some of the old island families. Their authorship, 
though somewhat obscure, is usually attributed to one 
Phineas Fanning, a man of some parts, who resided on 
Nantucket in the latter half of the eighteenth century, 
and who married, in 1777, Keziah, a daughter of John 
and Keziah (Folger) Coffin. The verses are as follows: 

The Rays and Russells coopers are; 

The knowing Folgerslazy; 
A learned Coleman very rare, 

And scarce an honest* Hussey. 

The Coffins noisy, fractious, loud, 

The silent Gardners plodding, 
The Mitchells good, the Barkers proud. 

The Macys eat the pudding. 

The Swains are swinish, clownish called; 

The Barnards very civil; 
The Starbucks they are loud to bawl; 

The Pinkhams beat the devil. 

*''Learned" in some versions. 

Someone has said, "All generalizations are open 
to criticism, even this one," and as these lines are sim- 



ply a series of generalizations, it is not to be presumed 
that they were ever meant to be taken seriously. 

We certainly know that members of the Ray and 
Russell families followed other trades than that of 
coopering, Folgers were not infrequently more industri- 
ous than erudite, Colemans did sometimes acquire learn- 
ing, Husseys were faithful in positions of trust, Coffins 
were on occasion quiet and Gardners vociferous, and so 
on through the list; though it may well be that the 
most conspicuous representatives of the respective 
names to the eye and mind of the rhymster at the time 
answered to the descriptions he applied to the clan as a 
whole. Perhaps the most comfortable assumption, for 
those of us who claim descent from any of the families 
enumerated, is that Phineas spoke truly only when he 
ascribed virtues to our ancestors, while in all other cas- 
es he was, let us sav, mistaken. 

A well -authenticated story comes down to us from 
early in the nineteenth century, wherein it is told that 
a Nantucket woman, on her departure for a visit with 
relatives in Brooklyn, was entrusted with a message 
from an elderly island dame to a cousin of the latter 
who lived "somewhere on Long Island." The parting 
injunction was: "Thee has Pinkham enough in thee to 
remember it, Coffin enough to relate it, and if the 
Gardner does not predominate, Mehitable will hear from 
me." This would seem to confirm at least the Coffin 
reputation for loquacity and that of the Gardners for 
reserve. As for the Pinkhams, since they "beat the 
devil," they might well be credited with long memo- 



Apropos, we recall the deposition of a venerable 
clergyman who spoke at one of the reunions of the Sons 
and Daughters of Nantucket a few years ago, to the 
effect that upon his betrothal to a fair daughter of the 
island a half-century before, his prospective father-in- 
law gave him warning of what he might expect in these 
words: "My daughter, sir, has in her veins some of 
the blood of all the original settlers of Nantucket, and 
a queerer lot God never made!" 

Dr. R. A. Douglas-Lithgow, author of "Nantuck- 
et: A History," in an interesting chapter on "Quaint 
Nantucketers," says: "They were a peculiar people, 
differing from others in manners and customs from the 

reaction of their environment It is 

from them have been transmitted those bright attri- 
butes of intelligence and character which distinguish 
Nantucketers the world over, and which, often above 
the average and occasionally tending toward eccentric- 
ity, are always forcible and ever individualistic. . . 
. . . Inherent humor is always a prominent char- 
acteristic of a Nantucketer, and in almost every case 
it is closely associated either with the sea or the gray 
fraternity of Friends, and in accordance with the ele- 
ments of both as blent in his character A 

people distinguished by certain characteristics which 
are apparent to every 'off islander' during five minutes' 
conversation. Unconventional or eccentric might de- 
scribe their idiosyncrasies, but quaintness is more ex- 
pressive, and delightfully quaint they are. " 

Many other writers and observers bear testimony 
to these characteristics and peculiarities of the island- 



ers, and most visitors who come in contact with them 
are similarly impressed; so that it would seem that 
there must be "something in it," and that as a people 
we are, consciously or unconsciously, a little wittier, 
a little quainter, or, it may be, only a little queerer 
than other folks. Perhaps the net result is a combina- 
tion of all these qualities in varying proportions, inten- 
sified and accentuated by our isolation from the rest of 
the world, and by several generations of in-breeding — 
both of which, as is well known, tend to the develop- 
ment in a high degree of racial and family traits. 

The attitude of the average Nantucketer toward 
this charge, if such it can be called, is one of amuse- 
ment and complacency, tinged perhaps at times with a 
slight resentment that anyone should consider the mat- 
ter worthy of note. Recognizing the fact that he 
couldn't be different if he would, he is equally sure that 
he wouldn't be if he could. And there's an end on't. 
Certain it is, however, that Nantucket has produced 
many unusual and unique "characters," some of great 
and others of less ability, but in any case distinctive 
and quite unlike any others to be met elsewhere. 

As Dr. Lithgow, in the passage quoted, has ob- 
served, the two strongest influences in shaping the char- 
acter and habits of these people were the sea and the 
Quaker religion. Either of these alone would have left 
its mark, one which centuries could not altogether 
obliterate. The two together, interacting one upon the 
other, were bound to have a pronounced effect. It 
could not have been otherwise. 

As the sea was always here, while the Quakers 



came some time after the settlement, the influence of 
Neptune antedates that of George Fox and his follow- 
ers, so it may be well to trace first, through song and 
story and quaint saying, this earlier and perhaps strong- 
er—because more universal — of the two influences upon 
the island character. The anecdotes and expressions 
connected with the sea and ships are so many and so 
varied that only a comparatively small part of the vast 
store of available material can be utilized. The list 
might be extended to make several such books as this, 
but the compilers have selected those which seemed 
most characteristic as well as most indigenous to our 
island. 



8 



Chapter II. 

SEA YARNS AND SAYINGS. 

g. HE very earliest Nantucket sea story of which we 
1/ have any record actually antedates the settlement of 
the island — by a few hours, at least. It is related that 
when Thomas Macy, with his good wife Sarah and their 
five children, made the famous voyage from Salisbury, 
on Cape Ann, to Nantucket, in the autumn of 1659, 
they encountered rough weather with heavy seas, and 
that Sarah, becoming alarmed, begged her husband to 
turn back — to which entreaty Goodman Thomas replied: 
"Woman, go below and seek thy God! I fear not the 
witches on earth or the devils in hell!" Which would 
indicate that the ancestor of all the pudding-eaters was 
himself something of a fire-eater. Probably none of 
the party saw anything amusing in the remark, but 
there was a certain grim humor in it which befits the 
situation as we may picture it. 

From that day to this Nantucketers have been pre- 
eminently a sea-faring folk, and their main interests 
have been in or on the ocean. Is it to be wondered at 
then that their whole conversation savors of the sea 
and ships? The habit is quite unconscious to most of 
them — 'the nautical term3 having become so incorpo- 
rated into their every-day speech that it never occurs to 




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them there is anything unusual about it. They never 
pull, they always "haul"; they do not tie or fasten 
anything, they "splice" or "belay" it; they do not 
arrange or fix a thing, they "rig it" or "rig it up"; 
they do not throw anything away, but "heave it over- 
board" ; they "back and fill," they "luff," "tack," 
"come about" and "square away" on any and all oc- 
casions. Before engaging in any venture they first 
"3ee if the coast is clear," then, as they proceed, they 
"keep the weather eye peeled" and always "look out 
for squalls. " Then they "sound it out" until they 
"fathom" it. If they don't like "the lay of the land" 
they "give it a wide berth " To be prudent is "to 
keep an eye to windward," but to be over-prudent 
to the point of timidity is to be "always reefed down 
and standing on the inshore tack " To be reckless and 
take too many chances is to "sail too close to the 
wind," and to be caught off one's guard is to be "tak- 
en aback," meaning to catch the wind on the wrong 
side of the sails — an exasperating and sometimes peri- 
lous experience for a mariner. Anything put by for a 
rainy day, or any provision against adversity or disas- 
ter is "an anchor to windward," while to be gay or 
foolish is to "carry on" as an inexperienced or reck- 
less navigator may carry on (sail). A telling rebuke 
of extravagance is the phrase "two lamps burning and 
no- ship at sea." To overcome or to best an opponent 
is to "take the wind out of his sails." To be ready 
for anything is to be "always on deck, " and so on ad 
infinitum. 

Some day, perhaps, if you are an old-time Nan- 



8 



tucketer, you "tackle up" the horse and "all rigged 
out" you "cruise down along." A "mate" recognizes 
you "by the cut of your jib," and you are "hailed" 
with the query, "where you bound?" Replying that 
you are "bound to the south 'ard" or to the "east'ard, " 
as the case may be, you are urged to "heave to" or to 
"come alongside." Complying with the request, you 
are urged to "drop anchor," and to "come aboard and 
have a gam"; so you "make fast" and visit for a 
while, till it's time to "heave your anchor short" or 
"top up your boom," and "get under way" for the 
next "port." 

So the conversation goes, not always with the nau- 
ticalisms as thick as in the samples given, but always 
with the salty flavor of the sea. Less now than for- 
merly, perhaps, for the times are changing; but much 
of it lingers yet in the speech of the older generation. 
Some of the old expressions are rarely heard nowadays. 
In former times a Nantucket mother told her children 
to "splice their patience," and if she went out, one of 
the older ones had to "tend the kitchen halyards" in 
her absence. 

Of a light-minded person or one who didn't amount 
to much, they would say, "Well I guess he'd come over 
the bar without camels," while the expression applied 
to an absolutely useless fellow, "he ain't good enough 
even to take in slack," explains itself. An ill-fitting 
garment was said to "fit like a purser's shirt on a 
hand-spike." "God made the food, but the devil made 
the cook" is a sailor's phrase, often borrowed to de- 
scribe a poor cook ashore ; and the expression "we must^ 



take it as it comes from the cook" is, perhaps, another 
form of the same idea. 

A certain Nantucket Quaker mother once denied 
that she ever used these nautical phrases, and told her 
children to remind her if they ever caught her doing it. 
The very next morning she gave one of them some eggs 
to leave at the house of a relative on the way to school 
with the words: "Take these into Cousin Phebe's, and 
tell her I think this squares the yards with us; and thee 
must scud, for it's almost school time." 

Of course not all these expressions are peculiar to 
Nantucket. Many of them are heard elsewhere along 
the coast, and even far inland, and many of them, in- 
deed, have become so much a part of the language that 
they are not recognized as nautical phrases at all. Of 
such are several already given— notably such terms as 
"taken aback," to "carry on" or "the lay of the 
land" and many others, such as main-stay, bulwark, 
chock full, etc. ; but even of these, when their sense is 
grasped ana\ understood, it must be admitted that their 
origin is obvious. Even the very common word "land- 
mark," is a sailor's term, meaning a mark on the land 
by which to steer or lay a course. Others not recog- 
nizable at all, except by the initiated, are constantly 
used. "Al" or "A No. 1" originated in the classifi- 
cation of wooden ships, being the highest grade in 
Lloyd's Register. Even more surprising, perhaps, will 
be the statement that the term "bitter end" is a very 
technical nautical phrase, that being the sailor's name 
for that part of the cable which is abaft the windlass 
bitts; so when the cable is let out to the bitter end, 



10 



that is as far as it is possible for it to go; and it is 
only in very deep water or when riding out a gale at 
anchor that this occurs. 

"To know the ropes" is obviously of nautical 
origin. It is said there are only seven "ropes" on a 
full-rigged ship. Everything else which might be tak- 
en for a rope by a land- lubber goes by some other name, 
as halyards, clewlines, earrings, garnets, sheets, tacks, 
stays, buntlines, gaskets, etc., to mention only a few. 
So that to pick the seven "ropes" from all this 
confusion of nomenclature requires an "A B"degree in 
seamanship. 

Another common expression, "fagged out, "or the 
"fag end," is undoubtedly of nautical origin, that be- 
ing the sailor's term for a rope which is untwisted and 
frayed at the end. 

Examples of this nature might be multiplied in- 
definitely, and it is a fascinating study; but further 
discussion of the subject is hardly within the scope of 
this work, even if space permitted. Our language un- 
doubtedly owes much to the sailors, who, while they 
may not have actually coined manj of the words in 
question, have probably preserved many very old ones 
which would otherwise have passed into disuse and been 
forgotten. 

Some Odd Sayings. 

"Give a woman all the advice in the world and 
then she'll go ashore with both anchors on the bows" 
expresses the contempt of an old Nantucket captain for 
feminine judgment and capacity. 



11 



"The devil would have made a sailor if he'd ever 
looked aloft" is said of or to a man who gets things 
snarled aloft by not looking to see that everything is 
clear; and the first thing he knows everything is "mops 
and brooms." 

"Nothing but hot water and ashes can be thrown 
to windward" is told to the green-horn, who needs only 
to try it once to learn the lesson. 

Said of a gale off Cape Horn: "It blows so hard 
it takes two men to hold one man's hair on." 

Of a captain in a tight place, from which it would 
seem next to impossible to extricate himself, the sailors 
were wont to say: "The old man's 'twixt Heaven and 
hell without halyard or downhaul." 

Of an incredible story: "That yarn doesn't square 
by its lifts and braces." 

Of an over-dressed woman, displaying flounce, ruffle 
and furbelow: "Here she comes, stud'n's'ls set alow 
and aloft." 

Similarly, of a sailor home from sea, with his 
pockets full of money rolling down Main street on his 
sea- legs, with a girl on each arm: "There goes Jack, 
rolling down to St. Helena, eighteen cloths in the low- 
er stud'n's'l, and no change out of a dollar!" 

An old skipper, still hale and hearty, being asked 
why he quit going to sea, replied: "Well, I thought 
when I got to the north'ard o' sixty, 'twas time to 
heave to." 



12 



Another, being invited out to dinner, announced on 
his arrival that he was "ready to fall to any time," as 
he had "come with a swep' hold." 

"Hull Down." 

Capt. Stephen Bailey, partaking of an oyster stew 
at a church supper, called the waitress with, "See 
here, my lass, can't ye get me some more oysters? 
These here are a day's sail apart." 

They Pumped. 

The crew of a leaky ship, homeward bound for 
Nantucket, had become so exhausted with work at the 
pumps that they finally came aft and told the captain 
they couldn't stand it any longer and would have to 
give up. Expecting little short of death for such a fla- 
grant breach of discipline aboard ship, their surprise 
may be imagined when the captain blandly replied, "I 
don't blame ye a bit, boys." Recovering from their 
astonishment, they asked, "But what'll we do?" 
"Pump and you'll float; quit and you'll sink," was the 
response, "and I'll sink with ye!" 

Evidently they pumped, or the story would have 
remained untold. 



After some such a voyage as this we can under- 
stand how the sailor felt who said he was going to 
shoulder an oar and march inland till somebody asked 
him what that thing was he was carrying, and there he 
would settle for the rest of his days. 



13 



Orthography. 

It was always the mate's duty to keep the log 
aboard ship. When the good ship "Aurora" arrived 
home the owners were somewhat puzzled on looking 
over the log-book to read in a good round hand at the 
top of each page: "Ship Ororor, Lat. — , Long. — " 
Calling the mate in, they asked him what it meant. 
4 'Why," said he, "that's the name o' the ship." 
"But why do you spell it that way?" they asked. The 
mate studied the letters for a while, then he burst out 
with: "Well if O-r-o r-o-r don't spell Ororor, what in 
does it spell?" 

Worthy of Note. 

Some good ones are claimed for Nantucket which 
may have had their origin elsewhere. Of these, per- 
haps, is that other log-book story concerning the mate 
who, on returning from shore leave somewhat the worse 
for liquor, forgot or was unable to write up the day's 
log. Recovering the next day, he found the captain 
had attended to that duty, adding at the end of the rec- 
ord the words "Mate drunk today." The mate said 
nothing, but at the close of the next day's record he 
wrote "Captain sober today." 

Another good one attributed to a Nantucket cap- 
tain, but not vouched for as authentic, has been widely 
quoted, even Mark Twain having related it in one of 
his books. This is the story of 

The Captain's Prescription. 

Many old-time ships carried in the medicine chest 



14 



what was called the "symptom book," in which were 
detailed such symptoms as were likely to develop in 
certain diseases. The diagnosis being thus disclosed, 
instructions were given to administer such and such a 
dose of remedy number so and so from the medicine 
chest. One day a sick sailor having developed the 
symptoms calling for number eleven, the captain found 
to his dismay that the bottle supposed to contain that 
number was empty. However, not to be stumped by a 
little thing like that, he administered equal parts of 
number six and number five to the amount of the dose 
directed for number eleven. The story has it that the 
man was pretty sick for a time, but that he finally 
pulled through, though whether owing to a strong con- 
stitution or to the captain's ingenuity, deponent sayeth 
not. 

A Question of Taste. 

Perhaps no Nantucket story is more widely known 
than the one celebrated in the verses about "Marm 
Hackett's Garden," the correct version of which, the 
islanders claim, is as follows: Captain Finney, of the 
packet sloop Penelope, had long made it his boast that 
he could tell where he was at any time by merely tasting 
the material brought up on the sounding lead. Obed 
Fisher, his mate, being more or less skeptical of his 
skipper's ability in that direction and wishing to put it 
to the test, took the lead one night during the old man's 
watch below, and after greasing it well, rolled it in the 
earth in a box which had contained some Nantucket- 
grown turnips. Then, going below, he roused the cap- 



15 

tain from a sound sleep and thrust the lead in his face, 
exclaiming: "For the Lord's sake,Cap'n, tell us where 
we be!" Touching his tongue to the lead, the skipper 
ta3ted a moment, then jumped from his bunk with a 
yell: "Great Scott! Obed, Nantucket's sunk, and 
we're right over Dr. Tupper's hill." 

Saved by a Song. 

A stuttering foremast hand, seeing a shipmate fall 
overboard, rushed aft to tell the captain, but so terrified 
and excited was he that he could only mouth helplessly, 
"B-b-b-b — !" "Sing it, man, " roared the captain, 
"sing it!" Whereupon the sailor (for 'tis well known 
that stutterers can always sing) chanted: 

"Overboard goes Barnabas- 
Half a mile astarn of us." 

He Was Particular. 

On a very rough passage across the Sound in the 
old Island Home, some of the more timid passengers 
besought an old Nantucket sailor man to tell them if 
he thought there was any danger. "Wal," said the 
old salt, puffing away at his pipe, "I've sailed on all 
the oceans; (puff, puff) I've been in 'bout every kind o' 
weather there is made, (puff, puff) and in 'bout every 
kind of a craft, (puff) man and boy, I've follered the 
sea for nigh fifty year, (puff, puff) but 'twould muckle 
me dretful to go to bottom in an old tub like this." 



® 



Chapter III. 

WHALE SCRAPS. 

II HERE is a tradition that one of our forefathers, 
!/ with the gift of prophecy, standing one day on 
what was later called Folly House Hill, said, pointing 
to the great ocean to the south, where a school of 
whales were disporting: "There is the green pasture 
where your children's children will go for their bread." 

A certain eminent New York barrister and jurist, 
who spent his declining years on Nantucket, took a 
great interest in the history of the whaling days. It is 
related of him that he once said to an island friend : 
"What has often puzzled me is how they managed to 
carry fuel enough on those whale-ships to try out all 
the oil!" It had never occurred to him, strange to 
say, that the whale itself furnished the fuel to try out 
its own blubber — a fact which has often been cited as 
an excellent example of the secondary use of things. 
As the oil was extracted, the "scraps" remaining were 
skimmed off and fed to the fire under the try-pots, so 
as long as there was any blubber to try out, there were 
scraps to try it out with. 

It has even been said that these scraps were pala- 
table, if not exactly toothsome. The compilers are un- 
able to vouch for the fact, but they offer a few samples 
to the reader, who can judge for himself. 



17 



The expression "gallied" is still current to some 
extent among the older generation of Nantucketers. It 
was a whaling term, meaning primarily, frightened and 
excited, and withal uncertain what to do next. Its 
nearest synonym, perhaps, is the modern word "rat- 
tled," though it implies more of fear and fright than 
the latter term. If a whale became "gallied" before 
being struck, it required much more skill and caution 
in the attack than would otherwise be the case. 

There is a story of Capt. Stephen Bailey (the same 
who demanded more oysters in the stew) to the effect 
that he was once called as a witness in a case in court, 
where Rufus Choate was counsel for the opposing liti- 
gant. During a somewhat severe cross examination by 
the great lawyer, the "Cap'n" suddenly remarked good 
naturedly: "Do you know, Mr. Choate, you remind me 
a good deal of a gallied whale." Somewhat surprised, 
the lawyer asked, "Why, how's that, Captain?" 
"Well, when you go down, there's no telling where 
you're coming up again!" It is said that, for once, 
the laugh was on Choate. 



Another common term was "foopaw." This is 
said to have been a corruption of the French faux pas. 
and is believed to have been borrowed from the French 
whalers. To "make a foopaw" of anything was to 
make a mess of it, to bungle it — as when a harpooneer 
missed his whale, or having succeeded in "getting an 
iron in," to have the line foul or snarl. That was a 
dangerous "foopaw" to make, as unless the line was 



18 



cut quickly before the whale "ran" or "sounded," it 
might mean death to one or more men in the boat. 

As a case in point, the following quaintly interest- 
ing passage from the log-book of Peter Folger, under a 
date in the year 1761, is apropos: 

July ye 29 we stowed away our whale. We saw 
2 sloops to the Easterd,and we saw divers sparmocities 
and we struck one and made her spout Blood. She 
went down and their came a Snarl in the Toe-line and 
catched John Meyrick and over sot the boat and we 
never saw him afterwards. We saved the whale.'" 

Of course the saying "There she blows!" would 
be quoted on every possible occasion by a people famil- 
iar with whaling, but the companion phrases, "there 
she breaches!" (breaks water) and "there goes flukes" 
(the tail) are less well known ashore, the last phrase 
meaning to show the tail. 

When an old whaleman was asked after his health, 
his reply was, "Bung-up and bilge-free," referring to 
the way casks are stowed in the hold of a ship; but if 
you happen to hear one say that he was "pretty nigh 
fin out," you can know that he has been very sick, or 
that he thought he was, for that expresses the condi- 
tion of a dying whale when he rolls over on his side, 
showing a fin above water. The nearest counterpart to 
this expression we have now is "about all in." 

To "throw a tub to a whale" is to offer a sop to 
keep any one quiet, said to be a survival of a very 
ancient custom when approaching a sperm whale sus- 



19 



pected of being ugly, or perhaps only "gallied," to 
throw a cask overboard so it would drift toward the 
whale to distract its attention while the boat was ap- 
proaching. 

"Put that butter within darting distance, will 
you?" was the request of an old whaleman at the table, 
bread in one hand and knife in the other, as he scanned 
the intervening distance. 

Tradition has it that no whaleman was expected to 
ask the girl of his choice for her hand until he had 
"killed his whale," and if she were of the better class 
of the island maidens, the wedding day was not fixed 
until he had won a command. "She married him be- 
fore he had a ship" was a reproach which no high-born 
damsel of spirit would venture to endure. 



Of a particularly fine young woman it was said: 
"she deserves an East India cap'n," the popular im- 
pression being that such worthies were likely to be 
more than ordinarily prosperous and successful. 



Soon after the Revolution a Nantucket whaleship 
visited London with a cargo of oil. The feeling 
against the Colonies still ran high, and Yankees were 
hardly persona grata in the old country as yet. As 
one of the whaler's crew, who happened to be a hunch- 
back, passed up the street from the wharf, a British 



20 



tar, coming up behind him, gave him a sounding whack 
on his hump with the jeering remark: "Oi s'y. Jack, 
wot you got there, now?" "Bunker Hill and be d — d 
to you!" was the tart reply of the Nantucketer. 

Some Consolation. 

An oft-quoted story, which has even been put into 
verse, is that of the Nantucket whaling captain who re- 
turned from a voyage of three or four years with a 
"clean ship." When asked what luck he had had, he 
replied cheerfully, "Well, we didn't get a whale, but 
we had a d — d fine sail !" 



It is quite evident that he was not a Quaker cap- 
tain, like so many masters of Nantucket whaleships, 
(and of whom more anon), but rather of the type re- 
ferred to in the following anecdote. 

A Reasonable Request. 

A mate reported to "the old man," (as the cap- 
tain of a whaler was always called, though he might be 
the youngest man on the ship) that a "snorter and a 
blower" had been sighted in the distance and asked 
permission to lower and give chase. The weather being 
rough, with a heavy sea running, the prudent captain 
responded, "A snorter and a blower she may be, but I 
don't see fitten for you to lower at present." The 
whale remaining in sight, after a time the mate again 
begged for the chance to try his luck. With an eye on 
the weather, the captain replied: "//'she's a snorter 



af 



21 



and a blower, you may lower and be d — d to you, sir!" 
The mate returning an hour or two later, with the cap- 
tured whale in tow, the captain's change of sentiment 
was most apparejit, when he greeted his mate as "a 
scholard and a gentleman," with ''here's yer rum, and 
here's yer see-gars, for you've earned 'em." But the 
mate was on his dignity. "I don't want yer rum," said 
he, "no no more your see-gars. All I want is a little 
cy-vi\ity, and that of the commonest d— d sort!" 

Hobson's Choice. 

Illustrating the dependence of the island families 
upon the Pacific ocean for a living, it was told that a 
wife whose husband's earnings from his last voyage 
had about disappeared, feeling the pinch of poverty, and 
noting that her rather lazy spouse showed no signs of 
replenishing the family larder, remarked one day, as 
she served the frugal dinner: "Well, John, one or 
t'other of us has got to go round Cape Horn pretty 
soon, and I ain't agoin. " 

A Warm Reception. 

So accustomed to the long absences from home of 
their husbands did some of these wives become that we 
may almost believe the story of the one who is said to 
have looked out of the window one day, and seeing her 
husband coming up the street on his return from a four- 
years' voyage "round the Horn," hastened to meet him 
at the door with the water pail, which she thrust into 
his hand with the remark: "Hello, Si. Here, go get a 
bucket o' water. Dinner'll be ready by the time you 
get back." 



22 



Still harder to believe is the alleged reply of the 
captain who was about to sail on a comparatively short 
Atlantic voyage, when reminded at the last minute that 
he had not said good-by to his wife: "Oh well, never 
mind, I shan't be gone more'n a year or so." 

The Ruling Passion. 

Seen (and heard) on one of the Nantucket 
wharves some years ago. An old whaleman spinning 
yarns to a group of summer girls. "An* jest then," the 
narrator was saying, "he up with his flukes (them's his 
tail, ladies) and down he come kerswash! acrost the 
bow o' the bo't; an' up we went int' the air 'bout ten 
fathom, more or less; an' the nex' thing I knowed I 
was a lookin' down right into his gre't gizzard, big's 
a barn door, with the rows o' white teeth a shinin', an' 
me a fallin' right square int' the openin'— (dramatic 
pause). Chorus of "oh's !" Then, from one of the 
maids: "And what did you think of then. Captain?" 
"Well," (shifting his quid slowly to the other cheek) 
"I thought he'd make 'bout a hundred barrels." 




JUDITH fCOFFIN) FOLGER-AT 94 YEARS. 



Chapter IV. 

ANECDOTES OF THE QUAKERS. 

NOTWITHSTANDING the austerity of the Quakers 
and their well-known dislike and disapproval of 
anything approaching levity in a worldly sense, they had 
a shrewd wit of their own, kindly as a rule, but not 
without its sting of irony, too, at times. Many good 
stories are told of them and about them, from which 
we have culled a few which seemed most worthy of a 
place here. Including in their numbers at one time 
fully half the population of the island, and being, by 
virtue of their ability, thrift and business acumen, the 
ruling element, politically as well as socially, no col- 
lection of characteristic Nantucket stories and sayings 
would be complete unless they were well represented 
therein, and they are entitled to at least one whole 
chapter in the "Scrap Basket." 

As is well known, the Friends never used our pro- 
fane names for the days of the week and the months of 
the year, each being known by its number. Thus we 
have the amusing incident of the Quaker schoolmaster 
who set the copy for the writing class on the black- 
board in this wise : 

Beauty fadeth soon. 
Like a rose in 6th mo. 



24 



Also of the Quaker who referred to the story of 
"Robinson Crusoe and his good man, Sixth Day." It 
has been suggested that to carry this rule to its logical 
conclusion we might expect something like this: 

Third month winds and fourth month shewers 
Bring forth the fifth month flowers. 

Equally careful were all good Quakers to avoid using 
the common plural form of the personal pronoun in the 
second person singular, though strangely enough, they 
(at least the Nantucket Friends) used the objective 
form ungrammatically in the nominative case. Thus, 
it was never "thou dost " or "thou knowest," but al- 
ways "thee does" or "thee knows" with them, and 
they were very strict about it. We do not vouch for 
the truth of this story, but it is said that a woman of 
the world's people who bore the name of Eunice Ewer 
was always referred to among them as "Theenice 
Thine." We are inclined to suspect some local wag 
among "the world's people" was responsible for that. 

Cursing by Deputy. 

The captain of a Nantucket coasting vessel, who 
was a member of the Society of Friends, in attempting 
to dock his vessel at a wharf in New York found a No- 
va Scotia craft in his way. He used all his powers of 
persuasion on the Nova Scotia captain to get him to 
move, so that he might take his vessel up to her place, 
but the Down Easter was impervious to all entreaty. 
Our Quaker captain had for a mate a man who was 
somewhat noted for his fluency in the use of swear 
words, and when it proved impossible to move the Nova 



25 



Scotian by kindness, the captain, whose patience was 
exhausted, stepped to the companionway and called 
down the stairs: "Friend Peter, come up here and use 
some of thy unadvised language on this man." Then, 
handing the speaking trumpet over to the mate, he add- 
ed, "and don't spare thyself, Peter." The mate re- 
sponded with alacrity and to such good effect that a 
clear berth was soon opened for the Nantucket coaster. 

Better or Worse? 

Another Quaker, a ship-owner, being much dis- 
turbed by the profanity of one of his workmen, said to 
him one day: "Jack, I think if thee should wear my 
coat for a week, thee might cure thyself of thy habit of 
swearing." Jack agreed to try it, and on returning- 
the coat at the end of the week, the Quaker asked: 
"Well, Friend Jack, did thee have any inclination to 
swear while thee was wearing my coat?" "No," said 
Jack, "but I did have a terrible hankerin' to lie." 
A Polite Rebuke. 

If the lie has to be passed sometimes, could it be 
done more diplomatically than in this instance? A sail- 
or man who was sadly addicted to "drawing the long 
bow," as the habit of lying was called, was thus re- 
buked by an old Quaker : "Friend Charles, if thee'd 
ever been one-half as economical of this world's goods 
as thee is of the truth, thee'd be the richest man in 
Nantucket. " 

Keep the Change. 

An old Quaker ship-master, beset by Malay pirates 
in the East Indies, noting a brown-skinned buccaneer 



26 



climbing up the ship's side by a rope, reached over side 
and cut the rope, remarking quietly: "Thee can have 
the rope, friend, but thee can't come aboard." 

Disinterested (?) Advice. 

One of the Nantucket coasters, while running the 
blockade in Vineyard sound during the war of 1812, 
was in danger of being overhauled by a boat's crew 
from an enemy privateer. The mate wanted to resist, 
and asked permission to mount a small swivel they had 
aboard, but the Quaker captain answered: "Thee knows 
my principles will not allow me to take part in any 
fighting." "But, Captain," begged the mate, "will 
you go below for a few minutes, and give up the deck 
to me?" Seeing no harm, and possibly some good in 
this, the Captain agreed and disappeared below. The 
boat approached, the swivel was mounted and trained, 
but just as it was about to be touched off, a head ap- 
peared cautiously above the companion-way, and a mild 
voice said: "Mate, if thee means to do any execution 
with that swivel, I'd advise thee to lower the muzzle 
a little." 

Good Business. 

When two well-remembered Quaker worthies plied 
the trade of tinsmiths, a man took a kettle to them to 
be mended. Calling for it, he asked: "How much, 
Peleg?" "Nothing, friend," was the reply. "Well, 
well, I'll bring all my work here." "That's what I 
wish thee to do, friend," answered Peleg, quietly. 



27 



A Man of His Word. 

One local artisan, in business on Main street for 
many years, if asked when a job would be done, would 
reply--" Well, thee may call on Fourth Day." If the 
customer called for the work on that day, and finding it 
was not finished, upbraided the shop-keeper for failing 
to keep his promise, the latter would reply: "I did not 
tell thee the work would be done ; I told thee thee 
might call on Fourth Day. I'm always glad to see 
thee." 

The Best None Too Good. 

An elderly Friend once interviewed a local black- 
smith in regard to the price for making him a carving- 
knife. "Well," was the reply, "I can make you a 
pretty good knife for seventy-five cents; I can make 
you a better one for a dollar, but I can make you one 
that would cut the devil's head off for a dollar and a 
quarter." The Friend promptly replied: "Thee may 
make me the dollar and a quarter one." 

International Amenities. 

Just before the war of 1812 a Nantucket Quaker 
ship-owner presented a check of considerable size to 
the Bank of England for payment. The irritation and 
contempt which anything American aroused in the Brit- 
ish capital at that time was intense, but the old Quak- 
er was told to call later and his check would be hon- 
ored. When he did so, he was shown two kegs of frac- 
tional currency and was curtly told that there was his 
money. Patience to count it the Quaker did not have, 
and his native shrewdness forbade his accepting it on 



28 



trust; so taking a handful of coins from each keg he 
remarked calmly : "Thee may deposit the remainder 
and give me a draft for it on New York." After hours 
of counting and verification the task was accomplished, 
and the old Friend went calmly on his way rejoicing. 

Qualified Praise. 

A worthy Quaker housewife noted, as were they 
all, for her habits of cleanliness and orderliness, decid- 
ed after much deliberation and with many misgivings 
to leave her family in the charge of her daughters 
while she attended Quarterly Meeting in Newport. 
Upon her return she praised her daughters for their 
housekeeping, saying: "Thee has done very well; but 
thee has put the pudding dish on the wrong side of the 
platter. ' ' 

Ruling Passion. 

Cousin Eunice, one of the Quaker housewives who 
had a reputation in her day for being what was called 
"nasty neat," once entertained several friends at 
"tea," which meant supper in Nantucket. Having 
occasion during the meal to go to the kitchen for some- 
thing, she was gone such a long time that the 
guests, finally becoming anxious and fearing that some- 
thing might have happened to her, decided to investi- 
gate. They found her with her sleeves rolled up, 
standing on a chair cleaning the shelves in the "chiny 
closet." "Well, there !" she said, when discovered, 
"I saw these shelves with all the dishes off of them, 
and I just thought what a fine chance 'twould be to 



29 

wash them off, and— I'm awful sorry— but 1 clean 
forgot I had a party!" 

A Friend in Need of Sympathy. 
A widower of a half-year's standing met a neigh- 
borly Quaker on a Nantucket street. The fact that the 
widower was carrying a red "piny," and was headed 
straight for the home of a buxom widow may have fur- 
nished the text for his neighbor's remark: "Friend Ja- 
bez, thee should marry again." To which Jabez re- 
sponded: "Friend Peleg, that's the first kind word 
I've heard for six months." 

Mutual. 

Any one acquainted with friends knows how par- 
ticular they were about attending meeting. On one 
very stormy Fifth Day an old lady went to the meeting 
house and, excepting the janitor who was in the entry, 
found no one. She took her seat, and after a few mo- 
ments a man entered and seated himself, as was the 
custom, on the men's side. They sat in silence during 
the hour; then he (a widower) arose, and after shaking 
hands with her (a widow), remarked: "I have had a 
very profitable season," to which she replied that she 
had also. 

Accomplished Its Purpose. 
A Quaker took a young man of the world's people 
who was visiting the island, to First Day meeting. 
There chanced to be no speaking, as "the spirit did not 
move" anyone to rise, so they sat for an hour in silent 
worship. On the way home the Quaker asked the young 



man how he had enjoyed the service. "It beat the 
devil" was the reply. "That is precisely the object," 
rejoined the Quaker, calmly. 

All is Vanity. 

A dear old member of the Society of Friends, one 
of the occupants of the rising seats, went to meeting 
on First Day in that calmness and serenity of demeanor 
which bespoke inner tranquility of heart and mind. 
The alteration in his bearing when he returned home 
was so striking that it awoke consternation in his quiet 
household. He was undeniably cross; and no reason for 
his change of heart could be surmised, until at last he 
turned upon his innocent and solicitous wife, and blurt- 
ed out: "What'd thee let me go to meeting in my barn 
hat for?" 

Too Expensive. 

One of our well-known island Friends, after the 
Quakers had ceased to hold meetings, had long been a 
regular attendant at one of the churches of the world's 
people, but quite suddenly his attendance stopped, and 
a committee from the church called upon him to ask 
why. "Can't afford it," he replied brusquely. "Can't 
afford it?" said the committee. "Why, what do you 
mean?" Whereupon he answered somewhat irreverent- 
ly: "No, I can't afford it. I've lost umbrellas and 
pocket handkerchiefs enough going to such places." 

A True Reflection. 

A Nantucket woman, brought up in all the strict- 
ness of the Friends' meeting, after her marriage de- 



31 



parted so far from Friendly usage as to admit into her 
house many articles which were ornamental enough to 
win the disapproval of members of her sect, who placed 
the ban on anything purely decorative, though if it 
could be shown that an article was useful, it might be 
permitted. A committee of friends waited upon her to 
inquire into the presence of the alleged unseemly ob- 
jects in her home. The lady was very clever, and found 
a plausible excuse for the presence of each article 
which aroused suspicion as they went through the 
house. Somewhat discomfited by their fruitless search 
for contraband, the committee finally arrived at the 
front hall on the way out; but there they espied a con- 
cave mirror. "Now this," said the spokesman trium- 
phantly, "what possible use can thee have for this?" 
"That mirror?" asked the lady in tones of surprise. 
"Why, that is the most useful thing in the house. That 
is to show thee how very small thee looks when thee 
comes on such an errand." 

A Total Loss. 

That very honest ship owner and financier, a mem- 
ber of the Society of Friends, Jacob Barker, being anx- 
ious about a ship which was long overdue, called at the 
office of one of the large marine insurance companies 
and, frankly confessing his anxieties and doubts of the 
ship's safe return, applied for a policy of insurance on 
vessel and cargo. The premium proposed was a large 
one, and the agents were anxious to underwrite the risk 
if they could do it safely. They refused, however, to 
give a definite answer at once, but asked for a few days 



32 



in which to communicate with the home office, appoint- 
ing a day later in the week when they would report. 
In the meantime every avenue of information was 
worked for news of the missing craft, while as a safe- 
guard against any slip, the policy was prepared and ex- 
ecuted, ready for delivery the moment any definite as- 
surance of the ship's safety could be obtained. 

On the day agreed upon no news, favorable or oth- 
erwise, had been received by the agents; but that morn- 
ing the honest old Quaker stopped in at the office on his 
way down-town, to say carelessly: "0, by-the way, if 
thee hasn't made out that policy thee needn't, for I've 
heard from the vessel." "Well now, Friend Jacob, 
that's too bad," exclaimed the insurance man, "for the 
company accepted the risk, and the policy is all ready," 
and stepping behind the desk he took out the paper and 
handed it to our friend. The old Quaker heaved a deep 
sigh — somewhat noncommittal in its purport — as he 
counted out the gold for the premium, and, tucking the 
precious document safely away in his inside coat pock- 
et, he remarked, still casually: "Yes, I've heard from 
her. She went to the bottom off Hatteras last month, 
with all on board." 

No Claimant. 

In the busy whaling days of Nantucket, when 
heavy drays loaded with casks of oil made their way to 
the candlehouse, "Gran'ther B.", a worthy Quaker of 
the town, had a large business in buying and selling oil. 
Several cargoes arrived that were not satisfactory in 
the estimate of the old gentleman. They looked cloudy, 



33 



and he made frequent inquiries as to the best method to 
improve the color, but to no avail. Finally a French- 
man came to town who dealt in wines and, rumor had 
it, knew how to clarify them. Now was Gran'ther B's 
time. Perhaps the same method might be used with 
his oil. 

It was not long before interested dealers became 
curious, and one of them approached Gran'ther's right- 
hand man, Zimri, who tended the vats. "What does 
the old gentleman use, Zimri," asked the zealous friend, 
"to make his oil so clear?" 

"I can't tell thee." 

"Can't tell me?" he repeated. "And there thee 
stands every day watching the vats." 

"Yes, but thee sees, when the oil is poured in, the 
old man says, 'Zimri, I want thee to do an errand for 
me around the corner'; and there's always an errand," 
sighed the fellow. 

"Yes? Well, I'll tell thee, I'll give thee five dol- 
lars if thee'll find out the secret for me." 

A few days later Zimri was again interviewed. 
"Well, how is it now? Thee knows it means a five- 
dollar-bill for thee." 

"I can't help it, "groaned Zimri, "it's always the 
same thing, 'an errand around the corner.' ' 

"Well, why doesn't thee go back some time and 
pretend thee has forgotten something," was the next 
suggestion. 

"I tried that once, but I did not find anything — 
just some empty papers," answered Zimri in despair. 

One morning Gran'ther B. seemed most reluctant 



34 



to come to breakfast, and when he had disregarded the 
summons of every member of the family, his wife went 
out with determined air to where he stood beside his 
casks, and said: "Why is thee so late to thy break- 
fast?" 

Lifting a restraining hand, he said: "Sh, mother! 
some one has been prowling around theise casks in the 
night and been scared off, for look — " and he held up 
a cane, dripping with oil, which he had taken from the 
cask. 

"What's thee going to do with it?" she asked. 
"Look for its owner, won't thee?" 

After a moment's pause, the old man said with a 
sly twinkle, "Not a bit of it. I'll never hunt for the 
owner, but I have a plan. I'll take that cane with me to 
meeting every Fifth day and First day, where on the 
high seat it will be seen by everybody." It is needless 
to say that the owner never appeared, and the cane is 
now in the possession of Gran'ther B's great-grandson. 
(The wonderful clarifying solution that was added to 
the oil proved nothing more elaborate than common 
soda.) 

Safety First. 

When Signor Blitz, the sleight-of-hand performer, 
was in town, he went into the bank, where William 
Mitchell, the cashier, spoke with him, and said: "I 
would like to see thee do one of thy coin tricks, Friend 
Blitz." The latter said he would be delighted, and re- 
questing the use of some coins, did a few stunts before 
the eyes of the astonished cashier, causing the silver to 



35 

disappear and reappear at will. William looked on in- 
terestedly a few moments, and then turning to an as- 
sistant, said: "I think thee had better put the rest of 
our silver in the vault, and turn the key." 
Calling Names. 

A young girl of Quaker parentage, playing with a 
friend of a worldly family, became incensed with her 
companion, and expressed her indignation thus forcibly :. 
"Thee's a little thee, thou!-' 

In Coffin's. 

Visitors to the island applied for accommodations 
at a boarding house kept by Quakers, and were met 
with this reply : "Yes, thee can come to us, but we 
shall be compelled to sleep thee in Coffin's." The vis- 
itors enjoyed the situation when the full meaning was 



No Telling How Good May Come. 

Aunt Eliza Nickerson was a driver of everything 
with life, and had in her employ a girl named Harriet. 
She often drove over to 'Sconset, taking Harriet, who 
sat "in the tail of the wagon," and was supplied with 
knitting needles and cotton, and was not permitted 
to loiter any during the journey, Aunt Eliza fre- 
quently prodding the girl with her foot, saying. "Knit, 
Harriet! Knit!! It is for thy good I kick thee." 

Almost. 

Hon. Walter Folger, the famous mathematician, 
whose astronomical clock was one of the wonders of his 
day, often became so absorbed in the work in hand, 



36 



whatever it might be, that he would shut himself up in 
his study for days at a time, and it was hard for his 
wife to get him even to come to his meals. One of her 
woman friends, to whom she was once relating her dif- 
ficulties in this respect, remarked that it must be very 
trying to have to live with such a man. "Indeed it 
is, "replied Mistress Folger. ''Why, do you know, 
Abigail, sometimes I almost wish he didn't knuw any 
more than thy husband!" 



Chapter V. 

SOME NANTUCKET TRAITS. 

JHHHEN all is said, perhaps the most typical char- 
US acteristic of the average Nantucketer is a certain 
complacency, a comfortable self-satisfaction and a gen- 
eral feeling of content at having been born and having 
spent his life in this most desirable place of abode. At 
its best, this is simply an intense loyalty to the place of 
his nativity and to all of its traditions. At its worst, 
it is a harmless pride, akin to that of the average resi- 
dent of most of our western towns, founded upon the 
belief that his particular section is ''God's own coun- 
try." Nantucketers realize, of course, that everyone 
could not, in the nature of things, have been born on 
the island; so without being vainglorious, they yet sym- 
pathize in a kindly way with those less fortunate than 
themselves. This is expressed quite simply in the re- 
mark of an old man who had never been "off -island" 
in his life, when asked if he did not want to go before 
he died: "No, " he said ; ' ' What would I want to go 
off island for? Nantucket's good enough for me." 

Even the children early acquire this point of view, 
as is evidenced by the two stories from the schools, one 
of the boys, who located Alaska as in "the northwest 
corner of off-island," and the other who wrote of Na- 



38 



poleon : "He was a great soldier and a great statesman, 
but he was an off-islander." 

During the occasional freeze-ups, when Nantucket 
is isolated from the mainland for days or even weeks, 
the sympathy expressed in many quarters for the isl- 
anders in being cut off from the rest of the world is 
more than reciprocated. The islanders feel that the rest 
of the world loses at least as much as they do by the 
embargo. 

Only An Off-islander. 

It is told that when the late Oliver Ames, one- 
time governor of Massachusetts, whose wife was a Nan- 
tucket woman, came to the island to be married, he 
was accosted by a native, who asked him, without 
knowing who he was, if he had come down to the wed- 
ding. "Whose wedding?" asked Mr. Ames. "Why, 
Anna Ray's. She's a Coffin, you know; but he's noth- 
ing but an off-islander." 



On the day of Charles Sumner's funeral, a good 
Nantucket lady, hearing the affair discussed, is said to 
have inquired: "Was he of Nantucket origin?" 



An old lady on Tuckernuck, learning that a party 
of people had arrived on the island for a visit, asked 
her informant: "Are they town folks, or furriners and 
philosophians?" 



39 

An Alien. 

Another lady, not to the manner born, but whose 
husband was a native, was highly amused at a remark 
which was repeated to her to the effect that "she's a 
charming woman, and we're very fond of her, but he 
is one of us." 

A Law Unto Itself. 

A "stranger lady," attending a popular service at 
one of the local churches, was much disturbed when 
they began to place chairs in the aisles after the pews 
were all filled and many people were standing. "Don't 
you know," she asked an old captain who was lending 
a hand with the chairs, "that this is against the laws 
of Massachusetts?" "Well, madam," was the reply, 
"Massachusetts laws don't apply to Nantucket." 

Perfectly Safe. 

A stranger once asked the jailer's wife if she nev- 
er felt nervous when her husband didn't happen to be 
round, and there were prisoners in the lock-up. "Cer- 
tainly not," was the indignant reply, "I'd have you 
understand they are all our own people, and perfectly 
respectable !" 

Reassuring. 

All good Nantucketers want to sleep the last sleep 
under their native sod. One good lady, ordered to a 
hospital on the mainland for treatment, was quite sure 
she should die there. "And then what' 11 be done with 
me?" she asked of a friend. "Here'll be my house all 
shut up and cold and dark. Where' 11 I go? Oh, Jane, 



40 



dear, if I could only be brought to your house. Say 
that I could, and I'll die satisfied." "Why, of course 
you can," assented the wnrm-hearted Jane, "Come and 
welcome,!" 

We are glad to be able to record that Jane's hos- 
pitality has not yet been availed of. 

Examples of this kind might be multiplied indefi- 
nitely, but enough have been given to illustrate the 
point, and many others will doubtless occur to the read- 
er who knows his Nantucket. 

Two prominent traits of the typical Nantucketer 
have often been remarked upon. One is the tendency 
to indulge in "platitudinous ponderosity," and the 
other is a habit of "dropping into poetry in a friendly 
way." A few notable examples of each of these char- 
acteristics are given. 

The disposition to clothe their thoughts and ideas 
in flowery language may be due to the Quaker influence, 
for, while the Friends stood for simplicity in many 
things, the fear of appearing in any way frivolous or 
"unseemly" in manner or deportment and the effort to 
preserve their dignity on all occasions often led them 
to adapt a somewhat forced and stilted style of speech. 

"Cousin" Elizabeth Black, 

the Quaker school mistress, was wont to praise a pupil 
who had done well in these words : "Excellent! Ex- 
cellent! Thee deserves a reward of approbation." 
This good lady, on being offered by Cousin Charles Fol- 
ger, the use of his horse and cart to convey her to his 
house for tea, admonished him solemnly to "be sure 



41 



and provide a skillful charioteer." Later in life she 
kept a little notion shop in the west part of the town. 
One day a small boy opened the door and called out: 
"Got 'ny jewsharps, Cousin 'Liz'beth?" "No, my 
child," was the reply, "nor any other instrument of 
music used by Israelite or Gentile, ancient or modern, 
either for diversion or devotion. " 

Squire Hussey, 

lawyer, justice of the peace and real estate agent in 
the 1850's, or thereabouts, indulged his propensity for 
high flown language in his advertisements in the local 
paper in this wise : 

For Sale. A dwelling house situated on the Cliff. 
This notable headland commands an extensive view of 
the Sound, where vessels may be seen daily passing to 
and fio with accelerated velocity. 

For Sale. A dwelling house on York street. This 
is one of the most popular localities of the town, in the 
midst of a refined and enlightened community. The 
Colored Methodist Society contemplates the erection of 
a house of worship immediately opposite, which fact 
will commend itself to all religiously-disposed minds. 

A Barber's Ad. 

At the sign of the Eastern Pine, 
Where the red and white combine. 

John Peters, a descendant of the famous English 
Divine, Hugh Peters, informs all the tidy citizens of 
Nantucket that Apollo and the Graces came over in the 
last packet, and have taken up their abode at the corner 
of Pearl and Water streets. He officiates as High 
Priest in their temple, where it is his delightful task to 



42 



adorn the outward man, to shave off excresences and 
trim into proportion the shrubbery which nature has 
reared around the head pieces of mankind. By a judi- 
cious application of the scissors of discrimination, the 
soap of good nature, the brush of reform, and the razor 
of decision, he expects to bring about results, which 
like powers of the Steam Engine, are, as yet, only 
dreamed of. The grace of the Athenian beau, and the 
dignity of the Roman senator, shall be so intermingled 
in the grand contour of all who submit to his touch, that 
the toute ensemble cannot fail to kindle love, and com- 
mand respect. — Inquirer, July 4, 1829. 

Liked His Withont Trimmings. 

The story is told of a good citizen who gave an or- 
der to his grocer thus: "I crave a pound of Coffee in 
the crude state." 

Lydia Green, 

a worthy spinster, having encountered a dead horse on a 
walk outside the town, remarked casually to a friend on 
her return: "I should have enjoyed my accustomed per- 
ambulation over the hills, were it not for inhaling the 
noxious effluvia which emanated from the cadaverous 
carcass of a defunct quadruped." 



Of course Nantucketers do not talk that way, as a 
rule, and the examples given are extreme cases, but 
there are so many such stories told of our people, and 
so many of the older generation, even today, are noted 
for employing rather stately diction and speech, that 



43 



we feel justified in recognizing this as one of their more 
or less characteristic traits. 

As for the versifying habit we doubt if any com- 
munity of its size anywhere has produced quite so many 
"feet" of rhyme per capita. Nantucket has had many 
true poets, and some exquisite verse has been written 
by natives of the island. It is not, however, with such 
that the Scrap Basket would concern itself, but rather 
with the quaint and the humorous, not to say grotesque 
form which the tendency may at times have taken. 

An early example of this trait is Obed Macy's 
well known proposal to Abigail Pinkham : 

From a long consideration 
Of the good reputation 
Thou hast in this nation, 
Gives me an inclination 
To become thy relation 
By a legal capitulation. 
And if this my declaration, 
May but gain thy approbation. 
It will lay an obligation, 
From generation to generation 

On thy friend 
Who, without thy consideration, 
May remain in vexation. 

to which Abigail is said to have replied, though the gen- 
uineness of the reply is not vouched for: 

On mature consideration 
Of this unique nariation 
Of thy infatuation, 
Without further hesitation, 
With no coy dissimulation, 
But with maidenly elation. 
And perhaps some perturbation, 
I agree to annexation, 
And life-long assimilation. 

[Note: — Obed and Abigail were married in 1786, and had ten children,] 



44 



A Rhyming Skipper. 

In 1781 the sloop Good Intent, owned by William 
Roteh and others, and known at Nantucket as "Copper 
Bottom" was seized for some infraction of the laws by 
order of the Board of War, then sitting in Boston. 
Ichabod Plaisted, the local naval oflicer, not knowing 
just how to indite his official report of the seizure, 
sought the advice of one Capt. Dowse, who, after learn- 
ing the facts, produced the following, which was duly 
sent : 

"Gents: Your orders respecting the Sloop Good 
Intent I received last night and straightway I went On 
board of said vessel, and in the State's name. Made a 
seizure thereof; but soon after came Some riotous per- 
sons, whose names I could mention, Lock'd the men I 
had plac'd as guards in the round-house, And kept them 
confin'd there as snug as a dormouse. They instantly 
made what dispatch they were able, And soon stripped 
the vessel of sails, rigging and cable. She'd a cargo 
on board of codfish and inions. And a lot of sperm oil; 
in good Whigs' opinions Was destined direct to the isle 
of Jamaica, With two sets of papers, lest a cruiser 
should take her. In this state she remains and I await 
further orders — Which I beg you to hasten, to stop new 
disorders. I need add no more lest time should be 
wasted. But remain, with respect, 

Yours, 

Ichabod Plaisted. 



Old time Nantucketers often quote that odd sign 
once displayed in front of a local store : 

Nice white quart bowls of all sizes, 
Ninepence apiece and all prices. 






45 



Another advertisement of John Peters, barber, in 
the Nantucket Inquirer of July 3, 1830, has been hand- 
ed down. This effusion consists of twelve verses of 
four lines each, but a few will suffice. 

Curling irons, best and common. 
Suitable for man or woman. 
Perfumed soap, both red and white, 
To please the sense of smell or sight. 

Razor straps and paste assorted, 
Yankee made, likewise imported; 
With one side black, the other fair 
They'll give an edge— twill split a hair. 

Then please to call, pray don't pass by. 
If I don't shave you smooth, I'll try; 
My soap is soft, my razor keen. 
To shave you well is what I mean. 

I'll cut your hair in any style — 
To suit a frown, a scowl, a smile; 
To please your taste or Fashion's rule, 
I'm an adept in either school. 

Not so bad, John, for 1830. Much worse dogger- 
el confronts us every day in the street cars, nearly a 
century later, and much less to the point at that. 



Another old one comes to light, wherein William 
Harris advertises, in 1827, that he has taken the cellar 
under Major Bigelow's house, 

Where he has opened his Oyster Shop 

For friends to sit at ease, 
While he'll supply them, cold or hot, 

Or cooked just as they please. 

to which place he invites a continuance of their patron- 
age, and 

Where they shall find, as usual, his utmost care is 
That the public shall be pleased by their servant, 

— William Harris. 



46 



One more, printed in 1858, and decidedly frank 
to say the least : 

The schooner Rosa is again down South, 

Loading with lots of trash; 
Bound for a market somewhere North, 

To shave folks out of their cash. 

With Corn, Flour, and other nice things, 

Too numerous to mention; 
I'm bound to shave folks all I can, 

'Tie my trade and whole intention. 

The almighty Dollars I need so much, 

Since the times are tight and hard, 
So if anything's wanted in my line, 

Call on Capt. J. H. Barnard. 



The files of the Nantucket newspapers contain hun- 
dreds of such advertisements, and it was evidently a 
popular way of calling atention to one's wares long be- 
fore the days when the advertising "expert" began to 
inflict his atrocities upon us. 



Even the editor often caught the trick, as witness 
this gem from the Inquirer as far back as 1822, when 
Mr. Melcher copies from an exchange the marriage no- 
tice of William Double to Ann Maria Single, and adds: 

A prudent maid to change her fate 

From solitary trouble. 
She wisely left the Single State, 

And turned into the Double. 



Some of these wedding verses were so good that 
we are tempted to reprint several of them, appearing 
in the Inquirer in the 1820's and 30's. 



47 



Christopher Sutton to Miss Margaret Hands : 

Pleasing: facts of love requited 
Here indeed is Hands united. 

Robert Nott to Miss Sophia Dewdney : 

Happy be fair Sophy's lot, 

She once was singrle, now she's nott. 

By Rev. G. Blythe. William Merry to Miss Jane 
Stephenson : 

When at the Altar hands are twined, 

The hearts are joyful— very; 
And so was Jane's when Blythely joined. 

The parson made her Meriy. 

Samuel Moody to Miss Asenath Paine: 

When Moody Samuel went to woo 

His spirits to regain, 
He made his fair one Moody too — 

Though she lost all her Pain. 

Thomas Allwood to Miss Sparke : 

"If Cupid's heart were anthracite 

It would not catch like tinder, 
But when its texture is All wood, 

A spark soon makes it cinder." 

Edward Byrd (82) and Miss Elizabeth Cherry (71) : 

"Old Birds like Cherries fully ripe." 

But perhaps the best of all was that of Editor 
Samuel H. Jenks, of The Inquirer, author of most of 
the foregoing, who appended to the marriage notice of 
Miss Lydia B. Long, when that lady changed her name 
to Bourne, this delightful bit: 

Said the bridegroom in haste to the bride-elect: 
"Don't, Lydia, be long, for the touch of love burns!" 
But she, more wary and circumspeet, 
Said: "Is this the Bourne whence no traveler retuens?" 



48 



The late Rev. Ferdinand C. Ewer is authority for 
this correspondence between his grandfather, who was a 
blacksmith, and a customer who wanted an adze made: 



Hazadiah, 
I desire 
That thou an adze would make me; 
And when 'tis done, 
Set down the sum — 
The money I'm to stake thee. 
I want an adze. 

-Bartlett Coffin. 



The reply : 



I and my lads 

Have made thy adze, 
Though nothing have to boast on; 

So take it away, 

And the money pay; 
'Tis cheaper than in Boston. 

A Shilling. 

— Hazadiah Cartwright 



As Dr. Ewer, if now living, would be about ninety 
years of age, and this happened to his grandfather, we 
can get some idea of how far back this trait showed 
itself among the islanders; but can we imagine such a 
correspondence between a local blacksmith and his cus- 
tomer in these days? 



49 



Here is another : 

Stoves polished and Carpets beat 
By Edwin Ellis, Farmer street. 

Some Artisan. 

A sign was at one time conspicuously posted, 
which stated : 

Notice. » 

Carpets taken up, Spots Removed and put down 
again. 

Tempora Mutant ur. 

A trait often attributed to Nantucketers is an ex- 
treme conservativeness toward anything new. The 
charge has often been made, and with some justifica- 
tion, perhaps, that every public improvement proposed 
has always been fought bitterly and that every possible 
obstacle to its realization has been placed in its way by 
a considerable section of the community. We are in- 
clined to doubt if this spirit is any more in evidence 
among our people than elsewhere; for it is well known 
that- this experience is almost universal with promo- 
ters of new projects the world over. The very fact 
that most of the modern public services have been suc- 
cessfully inaugurated here at an earlier date than in 
many far larger communities would seem to be a suffic- 
ient refutation of the charge. 

Certain it is, however, that many of our elderly 
people, who had lived in the days of the island's mari- 
time prosperity, looked with little favor upon the met- 
amorphosis which took place a generation ago from a 



50 



great whaling port to a popular summer resort, and 
they felt that little good could come of the change. 
The summer people were in many cases partly responsi- 
ble for this prejudice, for many of them were inclined 
to patronize the islanders in a way which was offensive 
to a proud people with a history in which all took pride. 
Aunt Eliza Russell, who lived to the age of ninety- 
three years, seventy-seven of which were spent in the 
old home on Pearl street, where she went as a bride at 
the age of sixteen, was one of the most- out-spoken in 
her disapproval of the changed conditions which came 
to pass in her later years. On one occasion she an- 
swered a ring at her door bell to find four ladies ( ?) 
standing on the door-step, one of whom addressed her 
thus: "We have been told that there are many old and 
curious things in this house, and we wondered if we 
might see them." With all the dignity of her ninety 
years, Aunt Eliza replied: "I am as old and curious as 
anything in it, and you can see me." On another oc- 
casion, when told of the profits she might derive from 
renting her spare chambers to the summer boarders, she 
remarked, "I think my income will keep me comforta- 
bly as long as I am likely to live, and I haven't the 
slightest intention of allowing 'coofs' to get in between 
my sheets with their boots on!" That settled it, and 
her spare rooms were always at the disposal of her chil- 
dren and her children's children. 



51 

Of course there are many other characteristic Nan- 
tucket traits quite as well-recognized as those men- 
tioned, but not perhaps so easily illustrated by anec- 
dotes suitable for the Scrap Basket. Of the really dis- 
tinctive qualities of Nantucket people as compared with 
others elsewhere, the compilers hesitate to speak as 
freely as they might, for fear of being themselves ac- 
cused of that particularly typical one first mentioned 
in this chapter. 



Chapter VI. 

LOCAL "CHARACTERS.'' 

/fPlF quaint, interesting and more or less eccen- 
Vll/ trie characters Nantucket has produced so many 
that a mere catalogue of the names of these notables 
would occupy many pages. Judging by the early rec- 
ords, nearly all of the original settlers might be eligi- 
ble to the list, and each generation since has produced 
its quota who have left their mark in the annals of 
their times. To mention only a few, with some sam- 
ples of their idiosyncrasies, is all that space permits. 

"Uncle Pillick" Folger 

is one of the earliest. Of him, some local wag wrote 
the verses beginning : 

"Old Uncle Pillick he built him a boat 
On the ba— ack side of Nantucket P'int; 

He rolled up his trousers and set her afloat 
On the ba— ack side of Nantucket P'int. 

His sea journal of some voyages on the sloop 
Grampus in 1751 is rich in philosophy of a quaint and 
original order, and interlarded with Latin phrases and 
quotations from the classics, which betoken no small 
erudition for a sailor man of those days. On May 15, 
1751, he writes : 

This day we fell in with the South Shoal, and made 



53 

our dear Nantucket and thro' God's mercy got round 
the point in the afternoon. So we turned it up to the 
Bar by the Sun 2 hours high. — Laus Deo. 

On another voyage July 14th, same year, he says : 

We have killed two spermacetie's. Now for home, 
Boys. We have seventy barrels in our Hold — ex bene- 
ficia divina. 

The Newbegins. 

Much has been written about this interesting and 
unusual family; but perhaps the best story presented 
concerning them was that by Dr. Lithgow in The In- 
quirer and Mirror of September 2, 1911, and from that 
story we make several excerpts which will give the 
general reader some insight into their peculiarities. 
Like as in many other examples, they have been written 
up in verse and story. 

Reference to the Newbegins usually has to do with 
the three sistera, Phoebe, Mary and Anna, who were the 
children of James and Phoebe Nicholls Newbegin. Of 
these daughters alone we shall principally speak. They 
were always more or less eccentric, and as time went 
on, their peculiarities became more accentuated. They 
are said to have been good-looking and attractive, but 
their isolation and mode of living rendered them timid 
and reticent. They had few social friendships, beyond 
those involved in their regular attendance at Friends' 
Meetings and quiet visits of some of the Friends. Even 
their education was crude and elementary, and they 
knew little of things going on in the outside world or 
even about them. They assisted in the duties of the 
house, gathered herbs and berries, sewed and wove, and 
looked after their hens, which latter were to them a 
source of the greatest comfort and pleasure. 



54 



Anna, the youngest, did all the marketing, and in 
her Quaker bonnet and garb, could often be seen walk- 
ing to town from their home about a mile distant, with 
unsteady, zig-zag gait, never passing a post or stump 
or tree without circumnavigating it three times in suc- 
cession ; nor would she step off a curb without stepping 
off of it and going back and stepping off again. Phoebe 
and Mary were taciturn, apathetic and melancholy. 

For nearly forty years these simple-minded, ec- 
centric beings lived contentedly alone. They were 
regarded as curiosities, and town people would bring 
visiting friends to gaze upon them in sympathy and 
wonder. Iheir home was of interest, and in its one 
front room lived a cat, hens and the three old maids. 
Suspended about the walls were garments and Quaker 
bonnets, with iron and wooden utensils, while on the 
mantel-piece and other convenient points there was a 
heterogeneous collection, including an old shoe, one 
brown tea pot with broken spout, yellow pitcher with- 
out handle, dead chicken, untidy lamps, well spattered 
tallow candle, and other remains of worthless bric-a- 
brac. 

They lived to good old ages, and when they became 
unable to care for themselves, were removed to the 
Friends' Boarding House, on Main street, three doors 
west of Gardner, where they were looked after by the 
Society of Friends. Anna died August 7, 1853, at the 
age of eighty-one years; Phoebe, February 23, 1860, 
ninety-four years; and Mary, August 10, 1863, ninety- 
three years. They were buried in the Friends' Burying 
Ground. 



55 



Anna was the talker of the family, and when she 
found nobody to talk to, would address the hens, which 
lived in the same room with the family. Some of these 
bipeds were regarded by her as almost human and in- 
tellectual, and she would talk to them accordingly, 
while others which were treated as pets would usually 
roost up-stairs, but were frequently seen nesting on one 
of the beds, on the mantel-piece, or in Anna's arms. 
Favorites were designated by special names, as Martha, 
Hannah, Abigail. Hannah always gave notice of her 
intention to lay by a "cluck-cluck," which, when Anna 
heard, she would open a drawer in the bureau and Han- 
nah would fly into it, and then it was nearly closed un- 
til Hannah would announce the object of her incarcera- 
tion acomplished. 

The simple-mindedness' of these people is evidenced 
in the following fact, regarding their brother George, 
who essayed to swim across Hummock pond, and when 
two thirds the way became fearful he could not make 
the shore, so turned and swam back again. 

At one time Uncle Benjamin G had a fine 

hog killed and decided to send the hams to Mary L- , 

who made a business of smoking and curing them. He 
told John, his man-of-all-work, to "take the hams to 
Mary." Now John was a frequent caller at the New- 
begins, and thought Uncle Ben intended them as a gift 
to Mary and her sisters, and took them there. Later, 
Aunt Rachel (Benjamin's wife) was calling at the 
Newbegins, when Mary burst out with: "Rachel, Ben- 
jamin's legs are perfectly beautiful! perfectly beauti- 
ful ! We have bad them fried, we have had them 



56 



baked, and we have had them in all ways, and thee 
may say to Benjamin that his legs were beautiful." 
It was not until the puzzled Rachel returned home and 
reported this incident, that the fact was brought to 
light the hams had been innocently diverted from in- 
tended channels. 

The following lines show up quite clearly some of 
the eccentricities of the sisters : 

On this little sandy isle, 

A mile or two from town, 
Live three aged sisters 

The fame of whom resounds. 
One of these sisters eighty-two, 

Another most four-score. 
And Anna, youngest of the three. 

Her years are seventy-four. 
In peace and comfort there they live, 

Free from the care of wealth, 
Enjoying more than many hearts 

In happiness and health. 
No husband ever smiled on them 

To cheer them on their course, 
But a life of sinerle blessedness 

Seemed to have been their choice. 
They've never left their native isle 

The world at large to see, 
But seem as well contented 

In ignorance to be. 
Our steamboats they have never seen 

Except at a distance, 
Likewise our ships — those noble craft- 
Have never met their vision. 
Full sixty years ago, they say, 

They visited our wharves, 
The price of apples to obtain, 

Also of beef and pork. 
They make companions of their hens, 

And nurse them with much care; 
They share with them their humble home 

And let them roost up stairs. 
One of them walks sometimes to town 

In order to procure 



57 



Whatever articles they may need 

From Cousin Reuben's store. 
It would please you very much 

To see her in her walks. 
As around a post she three times goes 

In steps so quick and fast. 
Gay visitors they sometimes have — 

Also the slick and prim— 
With pockets well-nteh bursting 

With cakes and other things. 
Could you but sea the joyous smiles 

Around Friend Mary's mouth, 
And hear the trembling accents 

As Phebe then breaks forth, 
"I'm obliged to thee, friend!" Phebe cries. 

And Anna looks her thanks, 
While Mary hastens with the prize 

As fast as she can tramp. 
Upon the upper shelf she puts 

The croods which they bestow 
And then comes and seats herself, 

The news in town to know. 
"Tis then the numerous questions 

In quick succession come, 
About the folks in town 

Also our friends at home. 
And sometimes while you're sitting 

Conversing with these three 
About their hens and chickens, 

You much amused would be— 
Pei-chance will greet your ears 

A cackling loud and shrill; 
Sometimes a smart young chanting 

Will make those wails resound. 
When we speak of leaving 

They press us hard to stay, 
And make us promise often 

To take a stroll that way. 
" ; Now, come again, all on ye," 

Is Phebe's constant cry 
As we, their mansion leaving, 

Turn round to say good-bye. 
Now, if there's anyone on this isle, 

Who never has seen these three, 
Delay no longer— visit them— 

Repaid you'll surely be. 



58 



An Old-time Constable. 

Way back in the days when our grandfathers 
were small boys there was a certain constable in Nan- 
tucket, who had charge of the little lock-up on "Hay 
Scale Lane, "now Pine Street. Any boys caught out after 
the nine o'clock curfew were impounded therein, and 
their parents were notified to come and take them home. 
The constable was somewhat infirm, and unless the boys 
were so awed by the official presence that they came at 
once on being hailed, he would try diplomacy on them 
in this wise : 

"Come here, now! Come right here to me, every 
one o' ye; or I'll tell ye all something about your grand- 
fathers that ye won't like to hear." 

Cousin Cyrus Folger 

was seen walking briskly down Main street, with both 
hands extended before him, palms toward each other. 
He was approached by several friends along the route 
who supposed he wished to shake hands. But he shook 
his head to each one, exclaiming: "Don't bother me! 
I've got the measure of a pane of glass." 

Butts Up. 

Uncle Jed R , a well-known character in the 

fifties, distinguished himself by shingling his hog-pen 
with the butts of the shingles pointing skyward. This 
innovation earned for him the nickname "Butts up." 

One day, while passing Capt. Joseph Coffin's house 
on Main street, he spied that mariner building a 
"walk" on top of his house. Wishing to be sociable, 
Uncle Jed sang out, "What'r'ye buildin' up there?" 



59 



Remembering Jed's shingling exploit, the captain re- 
plied: "A hog pen." "Humph," said Uncle Jed, "bet- 
ter stay in it when ye git it done!" 

Repartee. 

Amos Wood and Peleg West were two inveterate 
jokers, and each liked to get the better of the other. 
Amos was somewhat of a stutterer, and Peleg had a 
wooden leg. One day West observed his rival coming 
along the street, and remarked loud enough for Amos 
to hear him : 

"Here comes Amos Wood 

Who never was known to do any good." 

To which Amos retorted 

"And h-h-here is P-P-Pelee West, 
And his woo- woo- wooden part is 
M-much the best." 

The Devil on One Stick. 

Charlie Callahan also had a wooden leg. He kept 
a liquor saloon and was called "the devil on one stick." 
On one occasion he was at a house about dinner time 
where a blackberry pudding was one of the parts of the 
meal. Callahan was not asked to partake, but saw 
through an open door what was going on. Atter the 
meal was over Charlie asked the head of the family, 
"What they would take for that blagberry pudden, be- 
in's it was second hand?" 

Joseph Perry, 

remembered by many who go back even one generation, 
was not a Nantucketer by birth, but a native-born Eng- 
lishman. For many years he kept a hardware store on 



60 



Main street where Folger's restaurant is now located. 
A lady who still spoke the Friends' language had long 
waited for a special kind of an old brass latch which 
"Joe" had agreed to order for her and to let her know 
when it arrived. Finally, exasperated by the delay, 
she went down to the shop, determined to bring matters 
to a head. Joe sat, as was his wont, tipped back in 
his chair, with his feet up, calmly smoking his pipe. 
The good lady opened up as follows : 

"I suppose thee has done nothing about that door 
handle of mine yet, Joseph? Now I have waited 
about long enough, and I'd like to know if thee really 
ever intends to get it for me. Thee has treated me 
shamefully, and I am tired of it. Why doesn't thee 
say thee can't get it, and be done with it? Now, for 
the last time, is thee going to get me that handle?" 

Old Joseph sat calm and unruffled throughout this 
tirade; then, taking his pipe slowly from his mouth, 
but without changing his position otherwise, he drawled 
out, as to the world in general : 

"Lord! 'Ear that woman jaw! I tell ye now, as 
I told ye afore, it ain't a 'andle at hall, it is a latch; 
and I got it hinside." 

An Un-named but Enterprising Merchant. 

A story is told of a lazy Nantucket shop-keeper 
who was not inclined to give up his personal comfort or 
ease. Whenever he saw a customer enter the front 
door he would call out from his chair: "Well, what 
is it? What is it? Because perhaps I haven't got it." 
On one occasion a customer wished to buy a pail and 



61 



inquired the prices of the different sizes hanging in a 
line from the ceiling. The shop-keeper, without get- 
ting out of his chair, designated each pail with his foot, 
saying: "That is 50 cents; that is 62^ cents." 
"Well," said the customer, "I will take that one," 
pointing to the pail he wished to buy. The shop-keep- 
er did not stir, and a wave of distress seemed to be 
passing over him. Presently, with an air of great per- 
plexity, he said: "No, I won't sell it, for I shall only 
have to buy another." 

Prof. Maria Mitchell, 

the famous astronomer and one of Nantucket's most 
distinguished daughters, could hardly be classed as a 
"character" in the sense that some of these others are 
so named, but she was a woman of strong and original 
personality, and many good stories are told of her by 
her friends and acquaintances. She was once directed 
by her physician to use lager beer as a tonic On her 
way to visit her sister, Mrs. Kendall, in Cambridge, 
Mass., she stopped at a saloon and purchased a bottle 
of beer, which she later asked her brother-in-law to 
open for her. "Where did thee get it, Maria?" asked 
her sister. "At the saloon on the corner," relied Miss 
Mitchell serenely. "Why Maria! Doesn't thee know 
that respectable women don't go into such places?" 
"Oh," said Miss Mitchell, in the manner of one 
who has done all that could be required, "I told the 
man he ought to be ashamed of his traffic." 



A gentleman who. still cherished the theory of 



62 



woman's incapacity for any attainment not purely do- 
mestic, once asked Prof. Mitchell if she did not think 
that the delicate organization of woman unfitted her for 
the irregular hours which the night work in astronomy 
necessitated. "Sir," Miss Mitchell replied, in her deep 
masculine voice, "my mother had more night work than 
astronomy will ever demand of any woman. She 
brought up eight children." 



A certain visitor to the island had a most ardent 
desire to see Maria Mitchell, and was gratified to learn 
that she would be able to do so at a home wedding 
which she was to attend with her hostess. "But how 
shall I know which is she?" was the anxious query. 
Remembering that Miss Mitchell was of a pronounced 
brunette type, the hostess said hastily: "She'll be 
the darkest person in the room." This simple method 
of identification did not take into consideration the pres- 
ence of the family servant, a mulatto woman. The in- 
terested stranger, upon joining the assemblage, looked 
quickly around and naturally settled upon the mulatto 
as hest answering the description; so she advanced with 
outstretched hands to exclaim with fervor: "Is this our 
Maria?" 

Capt. William Baxter, 

who, for many years before the Nantucket railroad was 
built, and even for some time thereafter, drove the 
'Sconset stage, was an inveterate joker and wag, and 
many are the good stories told of him by those who 



63 



knew him. The following is one of his advertisements 
from the files of the Inquirer and Mirror: 

Back-stir. 

Ancient mariner, by sea and land, has forsaken the 
former and confines his efforts no more to trackless 
wastes. His side-wheel craft, Swiftsure, will be 
launched Monday, May 11, 1891, for the season. She 
has been newly rigged, and is supplied with hard cush- 
ions for invalids and soft seats for sweethearts. Deaf 
ear turned to cooing and billing, all confidences strictly 
confidential, and no gossip repeated. Rates reduced to 
all parts of the island. 

When Cap'n Baxter was conveying a party of visi- 
tors across the commons to 'Sconset on a dark and fog- 
gy night, he would frequently stop, jab the handle of 
his whip into the road and gravely taste the dust which 
clung to it. When inquiries were made as to the mean- 
ing of this eccentric performance, he responded: "Why 
bless you, I know this old island blindfolded the darkest 
night that ever was. I just take a sounding, and I can 
tell to a foot where we are by the taste of the bottom." 

One of Cap'n Baxter's duties was the transporta- 
tion of the mail to Siasconset, where the villagers could 
obtain their letters and papers by calling at his house. 
A complaint having been made that the sign "Post Of- 
fice" had been placed by Cap'n Baxter, without author- 
ity, over the door of his house, an official of the postal 
service visited the island to verify the charge. In the 
natural course of events he became a passenger (and 
the only one) in the Cap'n's good side-wheeler, bound 
for 'Sconset, and, quite as naturally, he had unbosomed 
himself to the Cap'n before the town was hull down. 



64 



The Cap'n shook his head doubtfully. "I live right 
there in the village," he said, "and I would be sure to 
know it if there was such a sign there, but I never saw 
it. However, the best way will be for you to see for 
yourself." So he drove to Polpis and allowed the of- 
ficial to inspect personally every farmhouse in the 
place. "You see," said the Cap'n, "there's no such 
sign here." And the inspector, satisfied that the com- 
plaint was without foundation, was driven back to town 
and took the next boat for the continent. 

"How blue the water is!" murmured one fair pas- 
senger making her first trip to 'Sconset on the Swift- 
sure. "Why, there," said the Cap'n, "this must be 
the day." Somewhat puzzled, the passenger inquired, 
"yes? what day?" "Why, we like to make things 
look nice for you strangers, so about once in so often 
we tip a couple of hogsheads of blueing overboard, so 
as to make the water a pretty color, and they must have 
just done it today." 

Two young men, "coofs," who had heard of Cap- 
tain Baxter's quips and jests, were most desirous of 
enjoying his fun at first hand, and for this purpose they 
drove out to 'Sconset. It chanced that the first one 
they met on entering the village was the Cap'n him- 
self, and to him they expressed their wishes. "You 
have come at just the right time," said the Cap'n 
pleasantly. "Cap'n Baxter is to lecture this evening 
at the school-house, and you'll have a chance to hear 
him there. But I advise you to be on hand early so as 
to get good seats." As soon as the evening shades be- 



65 



gan to gather, the young men, with happy anticipations, 
betook themselves to the school house and sat down on 
the steps to await the opening of the door. And ther^ 
they sat, and sat, and continued to sit while darkness 
settled around them and the village quieted down for 
the night. At last, becoming fearful that something 
was wrong, they returned to the village, where again 
they told their tale to the first man they met. The 
man laughed. "I guess you've seen Cap'n Baxter," 
he said. 

When Cap'n Bill lay on what was apparently his 
death bed, his old friend, Joseph Clapp, an equally in- 
corrigible joker, went to see him and condole with him. 
The old man was pretty far gone and very weak, but 
that did not prevent Capt. Joe from having his little 
joke. On leaving, his parting words were: "Well. 
William, I wouldn't hurry about leaving this sinful 
world. Thee'd better stay here as long as thee can, for 
thee's not likely to go to any better place." Cap'n 
Bill took the hint, and his convalescence was rapid from 
that hour. 

"Joe" Clapp. 

Meeting Matthew Barney, Treasurer of the Sav- 
ings Bank, one day, Joseph Clapp stopped him. "Friend 
Matthew," he said, solemnly, "Thee knows that Paul 
said, 'would thou wert as I am, excepting these 
bonds.' Well, I've come to the conclusion that they 
were City of Jerusalem bonds, and that they were at a 
discount. " 



66 



Mrs. McCleave and Her Museum. 

One of the most interesting characters of the last 
generation was Mrs. Eliza A. McCleave, better known 
as '* 'Lizy Ann," who had a small museum of antiques 
and curiosities at her house on upper Main street — a 
Mecca for visitors for many summers. The collection 
was an interesting one, but the accompanying "lecture" 
delivered by the hostess herself, was much more so. It 
was largely in rhyme, and was delivered with an unc- 
tion which was irresisitible. Could it have been pre- 
served in a talking machine record, it would have 
proved one of the best sellers in the list. We can give 
but a little of it. 

"This old shell comb, though not as old as Noah. 
Yet, when fifteen, my sister Phebe wore 
She worked very hard to gratify her passion, 
And when the cost was earned, 'twas out of fashion. 



"This glass tankard, though not a hundred years, 
Grandmother's gift, as the case appears. 
The pound of putty daubed throughout is meant 
To serve for use as well as ornament. 



"These are ashes, supposed to be, 
Which fell on various ship6 at sea. 

"These musk-ox bones, just seven feet ten from end to end 

they measure; 
Look up and view them at your pleasure." 



"The man who carved the carved ivory carved this. 



67 



And again, 

"This, ladies and gentlemen, is a horsefoot or king crab— botanical 
name, Polypemus; twenty-four thousand eyes on either side, but even- 
tually nothing- but a crab." 

Lizy Ann knew every Nantucketer, of course, and 
when one of them accompanied her off island visitors, 
her personal observations were apt to be amusing and 
sometimes rather embarrassing. On one occasion a fair 
daughter of the island brought a young man from Bos- 
ton. In the midst of the lecture, Lizy Ann suddenly 
inquired: "Is this young fellow a beau of yours, Car- 
oline?" "Oh, no, no;" replied the lady. "Is he go- 
ing to be?" was the next question. 

Once, when exhibiting two small figurettes, she is 
said to have remarked: "Now friends, take notice of 
these ; one is Caesar, the other Brutus. I am not sure 
which is which. (Turning to her assistant and under- 
study) Mary Lizzie, which one of them two was it got 
slewed?" 

One of her best pieces— her chef d'oeuvre, perhaps 
—was "The Cedar Vase," a long "poem," describing 
this article wrought by Reuben Folger at his shop on 
Orange street. After reciting this effusion she often 
innocently added this interesting reminiscence: "Many 
people have admired this poem. My cousin admired it 
very much. One evening he was here and I repeated 
it to him. He went home soon afterward, and was 
found dead in his bed next morning." 

Elisha Pope Fearing Gardner, 

poet and peanut vendor, who died January 28, 1913, 
maintained for many years at his little home on Chicken 



68 



Hill, which he called "Poet's Corner," a sort of ma- 
rine and whaling exhibit of much interest to the sum- 
mer visitors. Some of the relics were well worth see- 
ing, but the various original signs posted conspicuously 
all over the place were, next of course to the poet 
himself, the chief attraction. Some of them were very 
funny. Mr. Gardner had been a soldier as well as a 
sailor, had served as a Union spy during the Civil war, 
and had had an adventurous career altogether. Though 
of a somewhat unique and eccentric personality, which 
he capitalized at its full value in his declining years, 
he was a man of some ability and much originality. 
His "boneless peanuts" became famous the country 
over, through the many write-ups he and his place 
were given by visiting journalists. The place, but not 
the "poet," may still be seen. Below appear copies 
of several of the numerous inscriptions that adorned 
the fences about Elisha's homestead: 

The years they come, the years they go, 
And Poet's Corner still is here, 
For I am alive, don't you know 
To welcome all with a good cheer. 

The sun may rise, the sun may set. 
But folks will come here just the same; 
And if some peanuts you wish to get 
This is the place, you know the name. 

When I was young and in my prime 
Full of fun I always was, 
I always had a good time— 
My only reason was, because. 

The fleas are thick here, you'll find, 

And they follow where'er you go; 

But they are gentle, they are kind. 

Never mind the weather when the wind don't blow, 



69 



These signs are new every year, 
I do not print them over twice, 
Apple sass and root beer 
Are both I think very nice. 

I was thinking the other day 

Of the folks that here do call, 

And wondered where they stowed away 

When night began to fall. 

Carted Everything. 

The late William H. Bowen ("Billy") was some- 
thing of a wag. One day, while carting off rubbish for 
a 'Sconset family, some young girls thought to have a 
little fun at his expense. One of them said: "Oh, Mr. 
Bowen, I didn't know you carted away trash." "Yes, 
yes," was the prompt response, "Get in." 



THE TOWN CRIERS. 

For many, many years, until quite recent times, 
Nantucket maintained one or more, sometimes several, 
town criers, and much of the local advertising was done 
by that method Evidently all the criers were more 
or less of characters, and many good stories concerning 
them have been preserved. 

This quaint couplet has come down to us from very 
ancient times, indicating, it may be, that the duties of 
night watchman and town crier were combined: 

"Twelve o'clock and all's well. 
Jabez Arey has beam to sell." 

Stephen Macy. 

One of the ancient criers was Stephen Macy, who 
seems to have been a man of resource. After making 
due announcement through every street and lane of the 



70 



town for a local merchant one morning, he presented 
himself before his employer for the accustomed fee. 
But it was not forthcoming, and even after some dis- 
cussion of the point the merchant did not seem inclined 
to pay for the service. So in the afternoon Stephen 
went out again and, revisiting every street and lane of 
his former route, he "uncried" his morning announce- 
ment. 

On another occasion, when the sailing packet for 
the mainland, owing to the exigencies of wind and tide, 
made her departure at the unaccustomed hour of three 
o'clock in the morning, Stephen shortly thereafter re- 
paired to the local tavern, roused the proprietor, and 
asked him if any of his boarders wanted to leave by the 
packet that day. "Why, yes," replied the landlord, 
"there are several who are anxious to get away." 
"Well," said Stephen, "tell 'em they can't, cause the 
packet's gone. " 

Charles H. Chase. 

There is a many-times -told story of Charles H. 
Chase, one of the criers during the 60's and 70's of the 
last century, to the effect that on one occasion, after 
ringing his bell lustily and making his announcement, a 
rather fresh young summer girl called out to him from 
a boarding house veranda: " Where 'd you get your bell, 
Mister?" Quick as a flash came back the reply: 
"Same place you got your manners, young woman — 
from the brass foundry!" , 



71 



William B. Ray 

succeeded Mr. Chase. His custom was to ring his bell 
loudly, and then in a very clear and intelligent but 
rather gentle conversational tone, to recite his announce- 
ment for the benefit of the immediate bystanders. 
Cap'n William C. Dunham, happening to pass one day 
as William B. was "crying" an auction, seized the 
bell, and exclaimed contemptuously : "That ain't no 
way to cry. Now lemme show you." Then, in the 
stentorian tones often heard later in the Hall of Repre- 
sentatives at Boston, he bawled out the announcement 
with all the vigor of his great lung power. Mr. Ray 
endured it in scornful silence, and at the close of the 
object lesson remarked with calm dignity: "I could do 
it that way if I wished, but I don't care to." 

On another occasion the ringing of this crier's bell 
excited a dog to a frenzy of barking. The crier waited 
with poised bell, until the clamor ceased, then "Time 
ain't nothin', " he remarked philosophically, and pro- 
ceeded with his announcement. 

Billy Clark. 

The most famous, because the best advertised by 
the write-up men, of all Nantucket's town criers, was 
the late William D. Clark. William was a "queer ge- 
nius," and columns have been written about his eccen- 
tricities. 

"Billie," as he was always called, combined in one 
incumbent the manifold duties of a score of offices. He 
was news vendor, errand boy, window washer, bill pos- 
ter, distributor of almanacs, hand-bills and general ad- 



72 



vertising matter, including free samples, all-round 
chore man and general factotum. In his day and time 
he was just about the busiest business man in town. 
"Crying" was only incidental, and he could make half 
a dozen different announcements in one round of the 
town. 

As the steamboat ran up to the wharf, and even 
before the hawsers were out, his bundles of daily pa- 
pers were thrown to him. Ripping off the wrappers as 
he started up town, he glanced over the headlines, ab- 
sorbing enough of the day's sensations to transform 
himself into a walking bulletin board. By the time he 
had reached the head of the wharf, with a toot of his 
horn to attract attention, he exploded into a monologue, 
of which a fair sample, from memory, would be some- 
thing like this : 

''Now comes the news to-night! Now comes the 
news to-night! Awful fire in Chicago! City all burnt 
up. — Hundreds of folks drowned! That's down in 
Kentucky, the river — the river Ohio overflowin' — an' 
they can't stop it! — 'Nother severe murder in New 
York! Man killed his wife, then killed himself — both 
of 'em dead! Meat auction on the lower square to- 
morrow morning at 10 a. m., at 10 a. m., to-morrow 
morning, beef, pork, mutton and lamb. And don't 
forget, ladies and gentlemen, don't forget there's a 
big surf on at 'Sconset! Take the Nantucket railroad 
and go out and see it! Round trip, 50 cents. And 
there's consid'able goin' on! Grand Concert and En- 
tertainment in the Atheneum Hall to-night, to-night at 
8 o'clock, p. m. Tickets, 25 cts., children, half price. 



73 

And remember, remember the grand ball, grand ball at 
Smith's Hall Saturday night, Number Fours, Number 
Fours grand ball! And that ain't all, no; that ain't 
all! Don't forget my birthday — November 17th, that's 
the date, ladies and gentlemen, November 17th. Toot! 
Toot! ! To-o-o-o-t! ! ! 

It is useless to attempt any imitation of the ec- 
centricities of elocution or articulation which character- 
ized Billie's delivery of one of these tirades. It has 
often been tried, but it simply can't be done in print. 
Those who have heard him can reproduce it. Others 
must trust to the imagination or get some old-timer to 
impersonate the immortal William for their edification. 
For many years Clark rendered a valuable service 
to the townspeople, which was entirely voluntary on 
his part, by announcing the approach of the steamboat. 
Day after day he climbed the many steps to the lookout 
in the old south tower, swept the northwest horizon 
with a powerful spy-glass, and as soon as he sighted 
the boat, he pushed his horn through slides in the 
windows provided for the purpose on each of the 
four sides, and gave several loud and prolonged toots 
on his horn, which could be heard in every part of the 
town. Moreover, at daylight on every morning after 
a severe storm he was at his post in the tower search- 
ing the rips and shoals about the island with his glass 
for signs of wrecks or vessels in distress; and there is 
no doubt many a poor sailor owes his life to the relief 
expeditions which often resulted from Billie's vigils 
and the quick alarm given on such occasions. With 



74 



all his peculiarities (and he had many) William D. 
Clark was a valuable citizen, and his place has never 
been and never can be filled. 

"Al" Hull. 

The very last of Nantucket's criers, Alvin Hull, 
who died a few years ago, was a born humorist. His 
wit was spontaneous, and he had the gift of self-adver- 
tisement to a remarkable degree. Having, on one oc- 
casion completed the rounds of the town, and called for 
his pay, he greeted his employer thus: 

"How'd you like the cry 1 gave you? Well, I 
tell you, I meant to give you a good one. I went out 
in the afternoon and I sez — Now if that ain't enough, 
I'll cry again after supper, when the folks are all out 
on the piazzas and down to the wharf. And there was 
something about the air last night that was jest right 
for crying. I sez to my wife when I stepped out o'- 
doors, 'It seems 'sif I jest wanted to cry.' And then 
the hour, 7.45 — I don't know what there is about it, 
but seems 'sif I could jest warble forth 7.45." 



75 



SOME LOCAL SIMILES. 

The speech of the older generation of Nantucketers 
is full of quaint similes, most of which refer to some 
old story. In some cases the story has been forgotten, 
while the expression still remains. We have succeeded 
in collecting a number of these odd sayings- with the 
accompanying stories : 

As Mad as Tucker. 

Tucker was one of those gentle souls whose heart 
was bigger than his brains. His only relation and care- 
taker was a grandmother to whom he was as deeply 
attached as his feeble mental capacity would permit. 
When this poor innocent was seen on the street one day, 
crying bitterly, the compassionate neighbors hastened 
to inquire the cause. "I'm so mad," he sobbed. "'I'm 
so mad. Granny's dead and I'm so mad I don't know 
what to do. " The poor fellow could not even distin- 
guish between his emotions, and although not wholly 
unsympathetic, the Nantucketers could not refrain from 
their inalienable right to seize upon a joke by using 
the simile, "As mad as Tucker when his granny died." 

"As Weak as Annie Burrill's Tea." 

Annie Burrill was so flustered when she enter- 
tained the minister that she forgot to put any tea in 
the tea-pot, serving him with a nice cup of freshly- 
boiled water. When asked if his tea was satisfactory, 
his reply was: "It has no bad taste, madam." Thus 
the expression became a simile for weakness in her day. 



76 



"As Bad as Old Skitzy." 

Skitzy remarked one day, "Now, wife, that cheeae 
is all gone, and I've had none of it." "Well, why 
didn't you eat some?" she asked. "Why, I don't like 
cheese," answered Skitzy. 

"As Handy as Caleb's Cheese." 

It is said that Caleb Macy was (unlike Skitzy) so 
fond of cheese that he kept one hanging by a string in 
his sitting-room, "so's to have it handy;" hence the 
expression. 

A Poor Gamaliel. 

Gamaliel, a poor good-for-nothing, coming home 
one night, said to his long-suffering wife: "Well, I've 
sold my horse." "Have you? What did you get for 
it?" "Why — a cart!" Hence, the expression, "a 
poor Gamaliel" has a deep significance to the Nan- 
tucketer. 

"You Haven't Got Dinah Paddock to Deal With." 

Dinah Paddock was a weak-minded woman whom 
the boys delighted to tease, when playing around her 
door. After she moved away, they began playing the 
same tricks on her successor, but she soon scattered 
them, saying: "I'll let you know you haven't got Di- 
nah Paddock to deal with." This became a simile for 
efficiency for that day and generation. 

"Keeping Still Like Uncle Jimmy." 

In the old days, when families laid in the win- 
ter's supply of beef and pork in barrels, Uncle Jimmy 
missed, little by little, the pork from the barrel which 



77 

stood in the yard. He suspected a certain man, but 
said nothing. 

Fourteen years went by, and one day, in talking 
of losses, the man whom he had suspected, said: "Un- 
cle Jimmy, you never found out who took that pork, 
did you?" "No," said Uncle Jimmy, "not till this 
dayl" Out of this incident grew the well-known ex- 
pression, "keeping still like Uncle Jimmy." 

"No More Use for Them Than Meader Had for His Teeth" 

A man named Meader, living during the war of 
1812, applied to his neighbor for the loan of a ham- 
mer. Being asked why he wished it, he replied: "To 
knock out my teeth. I have no need of them, for I 
can get nothing to eat." Hence the saying among old 
Nantucketers, -I have no more use for it than Nick 
Meader had for his teeth." 

A Shrinking Bride-elect. 

Someone once asked Uncle Amaziah how soon his 
daughter Susan who had been betrothed for some time, 
was to be married. "Oh, pretty soon now," was the 
reply. "She's only waiting for her gums to shrink." 
The seeker for information was somewhat puzzled for a 
time until further inquiry revealed the fact that Susan 
had recently had her whole "upper set" extracted, pre- 
paratory to having some new store teeth, so that she 
might make a good appearance as a bride. So when 
an engagement is unduly prolonged, those in the know 
are apt to say, " She must be like Susan, waiting for 
her gums to shrink." 



78 



Liked His Own Way Best. 

Bill Munn was a menial in the employ of a light- 
house keeper many years ago. He was one day writing 
to friends, and finally, after a few moments of deep 
thought, asked a member of the household how he 
spelled sugar. He was told; and then responded: "I 
have writ it 'shugar, ' and I like my own way best." 
Hence the old-time Nantucketer, may, in his response 
to a query as to why he did not do a piece of work 
differently, be likely to reply: "I'm like Bill Munn 
— J like my own way best. " 



® 



Chapter VII. 

BURYING GROUND AFTERMATH. 

|| HE half dozen or more burying grounds of the isl« 
■^ and furnish much of interest and humor in their 
often strange epitaphs. It would be wholly without 
the bounds of possibility to endeavor to give anything 
like a general presentation of all that have been col- 
lected, but the choice ones that have come to notice will 
perhaps entertain and not prove boresome. And, too, 
it is possible to append a few ludicrous episodes and 
conditions connected with funerals, etc. 

Cautionary Signals. 

"Stop, kind reader, and shed a tear 
O'erthedust that slumbers here: 
And when you read the fate of me 
Think on the glass that runs for thee." 

"Stop, my friend, as you pass by; 
As you am now so once was I. 
As I am now, so must you be; 
Prepare for death and follow me. 
Follow me and be you wise, 
And up to Heaven you will arise." 

Playing the Hose. 

An old Nantucket scrap-book credits the following 
epitaph to "a. Hosier stone": 

"He left his hose his Hannah and his love 

To go and sing Hosannah in the realms above." 



80 



At Anchor. 

The following epitaph was alleged by the Boston 
Sentinel to have been inscribed on a tombstone in Nan- 
tucket. It was not to be found in any burial ground 
on the island in 1835, and beyond question deserves a 
niche in the same Temple of Fame where the story of 
"Nantucket's First Tea" is so carefully and elaborate- 
ly embalmed : 



"Free from the storms and gusts of human life. 

Free from the squalls of passion and of strife. 

Here lies Reuben Chase anchored, who stood the sea 

Of ebbing life and flowing misery; 

He luffed and bore away to please mankind, 

Yet duty urged him still to head the wind; 

Rheumatic gusts at length his mast destroyed, 

But jury health awhile he still enjoyed. 

'Tho not dandy rigged, his prudent eye foresaw. 

He took a reef at fortune's quickest flaw. 

Worn out with age and shattered head. 

At last he struck and grounded on his bed. 

There in distress careening thus he lay, 

His final bilge expecting every day; 

Heaven took his'ballast from his dreary hold, 

And left his body destitute of soul." 



Cheerful Amid the Surroundings. 

In one of the cemeteries is a tombstone bearing 
the following line in tribute to the memory of the de- 
parted : 

"She was so pleasant." 

"Here and There" in Verse. 

The following is an epitaph to be found in the Old 
South burying ground, and gives poetical expression to 



81 

a supposedly family difference of opinion as to where 
the body should be laid : 

"However dear, she's not laid here; 
Some private grief was her disease. 
Laid to the North,* her friends to please." 

*North burying ground. Newtown. 

Don' t Crowd the Mourners. 

When you read what is here 

Think on the mourners and drop a tear. 

Newtown Burying Ground, 1815. 
One Smile. 

My life in infant's days was spent 
While to my parents i was lent 

One smiling look to them i gave 
Then descended to the grave. 

Old North, 1802. 



A Good Asset. 

He has left an affectionate widow to lament the loss. 

Old North, 1803. 
Watch Your Step. 

Learn then ye living, by these mouths be taught 

Of all these sepulchres, instruction true, 
That soon or late, death is your lot 

And the next opening grave may 
yawn for you. -„..« 

Old North, 1812. 
Recorded. 

Seven years ago thy birth was given. 

Old North, 1836. 



82 



Next! 

Stop gentle reader and think awhile 
On them that lies beneath this soil 

Perhaps it may be your next lot 
To be intomb'd on the next spot. 



Newtown, 1828, 



No Escape. 

Death is a debt to Nature due 
Which I have paid, and so must you. 



Old North, 1828. 



Philosophical. 

When soul and body did unite 
In me my parents took delight 
The scene's changed; the separation made 
And I am numbered with the dead. 
Both old and young may plainly see 
That youth was no defence for me. 
Death's summons we must all obey 
And mingle with our mother clay. 



Old North, 1802. 



Waiting the Trump. 

Reader! Farewell until the 
Red morning of the resurection 
Sparkles over yonder hills. 



Old North, 1837. 



Bah! 

She tasted of life's bitter cup 
Refused to drink the potion up, 

But turned her little head aside 
Disgusted with the taste, and died. 



Newtown, 1886. 



83 



Full to the Brim. 

Beneath this stone doth lie 
As much virtue as can die 

Which when alive did vigour give 
To as much beauty as could live. 



Old North, 1820, 



Vanity and Smoke. 



This mortal life decays apace 

How soon the bubble's broke 
Adam and all his numerous race 

Are vanity and smoke. 

Old North, 1806. 

Weather Had Changed. 

Cousin Lydia Monroe had been a boarder with un- 
cle John Sherman's family prior to her decease. Some 
time after her burial, two well-born ladies met Uncle 
John on the street one evening, and thought to have a 
bit of fun at his expense. One of them started the 
ball with: "Good evening, Uncle John," to which the 
old gentleman politely responded, Then the second lady 
asked: "Have you heard from Cousin Liddy, Uncle 
John?" "Oh, yes," came the reply, "We heerd yis- 
terday, and she's sent for her summer clothes." 

« Two in a Hill." 

It was during an epidemic of canker rash in the 
town, and there were numerous deaths, which gave Un- 
cle Cyrus Hussey rather more digging than he could 
manage, so he dug the next grave and each subsequent 
one a trifle wider, and buried two bodies in each exca- 
vation. But someone got on to the fact and reported 



84 



to the person in authority, and it being against the be- 
lief of Quakers, the practice was soon stopped. But 
ever after that Uncle Cyrus was referred to as "Two in 
a Hill." 

Buried in Two Sections. 

At the time Uncle Cromwell Coffin died at his 
home at the North Shore, on the present site of Sea 
Cliff Inn, Uncle "Liphey" Paddock was sexton. It 
was the custom in those days, after the service, for the 
corpse to be placed in the hearse before any person left 
the house, and the driver then moved away to make 
room for the carriages for the family and other mourn- 
ers. Uncle Liphey was a bit "hard of hearing," but 
understood his job generally. The coffin was placed in 
the hearse, and Uncle Liphey drove off, halting at a 
respectable distance. Somebody then told him to move 
on, with the purpose of making room for more carriages 
at the door. He thought it was the signal to pro- 
ceed and started off, the immediately-following vehi- 
cles moving with him; and this first section proceeded 
down the hill, through Centre street, beyond the curve, 
before the second section got under way. When the "first 
carriage" of this second section reached Lily street, the 
driver thought the others had passed that way, and 
drove in, the others following. Meanwhile Uncle Li- 
phey's section had reached Main street, and started 
westward for the burying ground. About this time 
Samuel Remsen, a "carman," drove up and essayed to 
get ahead of the funeral cortege. Uncle Liphey, who 
was a "rough stick," thought this was a challenge, 



85 



and exclaiming: "Not by a d— d sight, Sam Remsen ! 
You can't beat me!" whipped up his horse, and went 
prancing up Main street at a lively gait, the others hur- 
rying to keep pace. Uncle Cromwell's remains were 
duly placed in the grave, and as the "first section" 
drove out to the street, the "second section" was just 
coming up. It was Uncle Liphey's last day as sexton. 



Chapter VIII. 

MISCELLANEOUS SCRAPS. 

Any Way to Get There. 

SURING the ''gold rush" for California in '49, 
hundreds of Nantucket men and many from off-isl- 
and took ship direct from here to San Francisco. The 
following bona fide conversation was reported at the 
time : 

Stranger — How much do you ask, Mr. , for a 

cabin passage to California? 

Ship-owner — One hundred dollars cash down in ad- 
vance. But i can't take you — all full in the cabin. 

Stranger — Well, suppose I go in the hold, how 
much do you ask then? 

Ship-owner — Eighty dollars; but I can't take you. 
Hold is full. 

Stranger — But can't I go in the fore peak? What 
is the price of a passage there? 

Ship-owner — Eighty dollars, but I can't take you. 
Full, fore and aft. 

Stranger — Well, can't I go aloft somewhere? and 
suppose I do, what will you charge? 

Ship-owner— We charge eighty dollars to go any- 



87 



where; but can't carry you aloft. Got to carry provi- 
sions there. 

Stranger— It is a hard case, isn't it? But as I 
want to go tolerably bad, what will you charge to tow 

me? 

The ship-owner retreated suddenly, and didn't 
make his appearance again until the vessel sailed. 

Specie Payments. 

In the first quarter of the nineteenth century it 
was no unusual event for Boston banks to take the bills 
of country banks to the bank of issue and demand 
specie. One day, without warning, the Boston agent 
arrived in Nantucket with $50,000 in Nantucket bank 
bills and demanded specie. The bank officers tendered 
him $70,000 in Boston notes and demanded the specie 
balance. The agent declined the tender, so while the 
tellers were counting out the specie the Nantucket bank 
officials sent an agent to Boston with the Boston bank 
notes and held back every vessel from sailing until he 
returned. And the Boston agent was compelled to wait 
until he saw the Nantucket bank gain $20,000 in specie 
by his attempted sharp practice. 

Poor but Proud. 

The fame of Nantucket's sweet-toned Portuguese 
bell, which hangs in the << South tower," having 
reached as far as Boston at a time when a certain very 
prosperous religious society of the Hub was building a 
new church, it is related that the building committee of 
the Boston society wrote to the Nantucket society which 



88 



owns the bell, stating that they had a fine new church 
and asking if the Nantucket society cared to sell its 
bell. The Nantucket society replied promptly, stating 
that they had a fine old bell, and asking if the Boston 
society wanted to sell its church. 

A Genealogist. 

The following incident illustrates well the famili- 
arity of Nantucketers with matters pertaining to gene- 
alogy. A former librarian of the Atheneum went home 
one evening, deep in thought, and said to her sister : 
"Ann W. Starbuck has been taking out books as a 
member of the family of George P. Starbuck, but I 
cannot seem to recall the connection." Without a mo- 
ment's hesitation her sister answered : "Ann W. Star- 
buck's mother's father's first wife's husband was a 
brother of George P. Starbuck 's mother." 

Retribution. 

A good Quaker lady who was keen on genealogy, 
exasperated at being unable to rouse any enthusiasm for 
the subject in the mind of her younger sister, exclaimed 
one day: "Well, I wish thee might be left a legacy 
sometime, and be unable to get it because thee could 
not prove thy relationship". 

True Economy. 

Two men met on the street one day, and in the 
course of conversation the one said to the other : ' ' How 
do you manage to feed your large family with your 
small income?" "Well," he responded, "I'll tell you. 




A NANTUCKET GENTLEMAN OF THE OLD SCHOOL. 



89 



I find out what they don't like and give 'em plenty of 
it." 

(Note — The above story was related by Rev. Rob- 
ert Collyer in the course of a lecture in a city far from 
Nantucket some years ago. A lady in the audience rose 
and confirmed the truth of the story, stating that she 
was one of the large family referred to.) 

An Impatient Swain. 

A dweller on the Hinsdale road wooed and won a 
fair maiden living on a farm in Polpis. It was ar- 
ranged that the marriage should take place in town. 
On the nuptial morning the bridegroom hitched up and 
started for town. Meeting a homeward-bound Polpis 
rig on the road, he called out: "Say, if you see Sarah 
Abbie anywhere along the road, tell her to hurry up." 

The Law and the Profits. 

A certain old mason of Nantucket, being asked to 
figure on a new chimney for a wealthy "squire" who 
had the reputation of being rather "near," named a 
price which was as low as he felt he could do an honest 
job for. Still the customer was not satisfied and in- 
sisted on beating him down. He needed the work and 
was willing to sacrifice any possible profit if he could 
get "a decent day's pay" out of it, so after consider- 
able haggling, he took the contract at a figure which 
was far too low even for that. He built a first-class 
chimney, but it would not draw, and when the first fire 
was started the squire's house was filled with smoke. 
In a rage, he sought the mason and made his complaint. 
"Well," said the artisan, "of course you must have 



90 



known I couldn't guarantee the job at that price." 
"But what will it cost to make it right?" queried the 
now penitent customer, visions of a complete rebuild- 
ing of the structure at more than the original cost, flit- 
ting through his mind. After some further bargaining 
the mason agreed to correct any fault in the chimney 
and guarantee the job for an additional twenty dollars, 
which was about the amount of profit he had figured in 
his original estimate. The following day, when the 
customer was down town, the mason climbed to the roof 
of the house, tied a brick to the end of a piece of twine 
and dropped it down the chimney from the top. A few 
well-directed strokes with the brick smashed the light 
of glass he had carefully set in the flue, and the chim- 
ney "drew" perfectly forever after. 

"A Window in Thrums. " 

A dear old lady whose chief occupation and pleas- 
ure were "watching the pass go by," was heard to re- 
mark: "By the looks of that package 1 think Zimri 
Coffin has bought a piece of cheese." 

Durance Vile. 

Some one asked the Nantucket jailer how he made 
sure that all his prisoners were in when he locked up at 
night. "Oh," he said, easily, "I just call in at the 
door, 'Boys, are you there?' and they answer, 'Yes, 
we're here.' " 

Cast Off the Painter. 

A certain local painter, who was rather "poor 
pay" had long owed The Inquirer a bill for advertising. 



91 



On being dunned rather hard by Mr. Jenks, the editor, 
he finally said, "If I don't pny you that money by next 
Thursday, it'll be because I'm dead." Friday's issue 
of The Inquirer contained an obituary notice of the 
painter, written in Jenks' best style. 

It Pays to Advertise. 

The Inquirer of April 25, 1829, published the fol- 
lowing : 

Special Notice. 
The person who STOLE the subscriber's Wheel 
Barrow is requested to call and take the side boards 
which belong to it. 

E. W. Tallant. 

In much more recent times a local tailor advertises : 
"If the person who borrowed my snips will return 
them, I can lend them to someone else." 

A Few Who'd "Come Over the Bar Without Camels.' ' 

That not all Nantucketers are brilliant will be 
seen by the following collection of anecdotes. 

It was a Nantucket man who, in order to estimate 
the requisite amount of wall paper bordering needed for 
a room, borrowed a step ladder from his neighbor, so as 
to measure for it. 

A good Nantucket woman whose place was in the • 
home said that on short dnys she always put the pota- 
toes on earlier. 

And it must have been the same resourceful house- 
keeper who said that, when she wanted an extra good 
cake, she just doubled all the ingredients. 



92 



At a time when a well was being dug in a Nan- 
tucket backyard and had reached a goodly depth, the 
lady of the house went out there with a hand mirror, to 
try to see the bottom by reflecting the light into the 
depths. This so alarmed the unsuspecting digger that 
he called out in terrified tones: "H'ist me up, Eph- 
raim, h'ist me up, for I see the light of another 
world." 

Uncle Jed Russell, when he received a check for 
the first time (amount $30), was told to take it to the 
bank and get the cash. He went in, and slapping the 
paper on the counter with his big hand, blurted out: 
''Now, William Mitchell, I guess I've got you stuck. 
Look at that! Too much for your old bank, eh? Wall, 
if yer can't give me the whole at one time, give me 
what yer can !" 

Charles died rather suddenly, and a friend said to 
the widow sympathetically, '"Well, Eliza, Charles went 
off rather unexpectedly, didn't he?" "Ye-e-s, he went 
off like a Gun!" 

One mother kept her daughter in because she did 
not "like she to mix with those other girls." 

A good woman one day told with pride she had had 
her last fall's bonnet "re-mo-delled." 

A local church deacon one day made this announce- 
ment: "Arter this arternoon this arternoon's service 
will be drapped." 

A good man said his wife was just "gittin' bet- 
ter from 'penumia' ". 

Another citizen referred to the new "tarpeter" 
boats the government was constructing. 



93 



Wet Line. 

In Mr. Joseph E. C. Farnham's book, "Memories 
of my Boyhood Days in Nantucket," he speaks of 
the little store kept by the respected, innocent and in- 
offensive Quaker, Edward Mitchell, whither boys and 
girls would go for school supplies Naughty boys 
would sometimes go in in pairs, and while one would 
engage the attention of the unsuspecting Edward, the 
other seizing the end of the suspended ball of string 
would start out of the doorway, with the line a-run- 
ning, calling out ''wet line, Edward, wet line!" Not 
being mentally quick enough to seize the scissors and 
cut the string, he would stand gaping at it as it un- 
wound, until the whole ball had extended itself up Main 
street or through Fair street opposite his store. 

The Finishing Touch. 

We may perhaps admire the intensity of purpose 
and singleness of soul of that Nantucket woman who, 
having lost her case in court, visited the opposing law- 
yer and called him every opprobrious epithet which 3he 
could think of. But after she got home she thought of 
one more; so she donned her bonnet and shawl, returned 
to his office and called him that. 

En Passant. 

A knowledge of the island geography is necessary 
to the proper appreciation of this one. 

Long ago, on the occasion of one of the famous 
old-fashioned tea-parties, given by the keeper's wife 
at Great Point, a wagon-load of the guests from town 



94 



stopped at Aunt Love's in Folpis to take her with them. 
But they found the dear old lady much perturbed by 
some occurrence and in no mood for festivities. She 
refused emphatically to attend the party, and her 
friends were obliged to go on without her. They had 
not been long in their hostess' sitting room at Great 
Point, however, when Aunt Love walked in upon them, 
remarking coolly that she "was just going by and 
thought she might as well stop." 

She Knew Him. 

A certain Nantucket Micawber, whose promise to 
pay was as good for a dollar as it was for a thousand 
(and no better) came home one day and announced to 
his wife that he had bought a horse. "What did you 
give for it?" asked the wife. "Oh, I gave my note," 
he answered, blandly. "Cheap enough," quoth the 
wife, "Why didn't you get a span?" 

Her Mistake. 

The story is told of a good woman who rushed from 
her home one day and held up the sexton driving along 
with the hearse. She realized her mistake, and apolo- 
gizing, said she thought it was the "bake-cart" (mean- 
ing baker's wagon.) 

Didn't Like Her "Unworried" Attitude. 

A 'Sconseter of a former generation had been "to 
town" (meaning Nantucket), where he had met con- 
vivial companions. He finally reached his own door- 
yard, only to find his better half away. His horse 
finally put up, he started to find the good wife, whom 



95 



he discovered at a neighbor's, having a social sitting. 
By this time he had become a bit testy, and blurted 
out: "Oh here you are, settin' as unworried as if the 
Devil had you, while I've been under the wheel three 
times." The old fellow had fallen out, as he stated, 
three times on the homeward trip. He it was who al- 
ways said, when referring to his boots, that he wore 
"eightsies. " 

Preparedness. 

Uncle "Liphey" Paddock was of somewhat unus- 
ual type, and his name will figure again in another 
story. It is told that the night he died, he roused and 
inquired of the "watcher" (term used for night nurse 
in those days) what the hour was. It was then near 
midnight. He asked what time the tide changed, and 
was told. "Well," he said, "you go out and get the 
"board" (there was always a board kept in certain 
households for "laying out" bodies) and bring it here, 
for I'll die about the time the tide turns, and I don't 
want you people running around all excited after a 
board, and ev'rybody hollerin' 'Is Liphey Paddock dead? 
Has Liphey Paddock died? You jest git the board, 
now, and we'll save lots of that fussin.' ' 

To the Rescue. 

Another citizen (a resident of New Dollar lane) 
is said to have enacted the role of preparedness. He 
had a nearby neighbor who was given to intoxication, 
and often there were drunken brawls on the premises. 
One night in particular things were a little more turbu- 
lent than usual, and there came the cry: "Murder! 



96 



Murder! Help! Help!" Hastening through to his 
back yard, he caught up the axe lying against the chop- 
ping block, and going to the back fence, mounted 
the lower stringer, that he might see into his neighbor's 
yard, and, waving his axe, shouted: *'I heard the cry of 
murder, and I've come prepared." Whenever you hear 
a Nantucketer say he has "come prepared," you may 
know he refers to the above incident. 

Ready for the Fray. 

An islander who liked the good things of this life 
went to a tea party at a friend's, and partook heartily 
of the goodies spread before him. His hostess finally 
urged him to have more, and he yielded to the gentle 
persuasion with the remark: Well, don't mind if I do, 
for I've come with my 'squantum' vest on." And he 
actually had worn a large size waistcoat, that he could 
cater to his taste without restraint. 

Millinery Out of the Question. 

A former Nantucket sexton was besought by his 
daughter for permission to purchase a new bonnet. His 
reply was: "No, daughter, thee cannot have any new 
head-gear now, for I haven't buried a living soul for 
two weeks. " 

Liked to Keep Books. 

The story is told of a respected Portugusese citizen 
who kept a grocery. A townsman went to the store 
with his jug for molasses, and when ready, he asked 
the price, prepared to pay cash, when he was taken 
aback by this reply: "Feety cents; but if I sharge 
(charge) him, he be 40 cents." 



97 



So Sociable. 

Speaking of their husbands' qualifications, two 
good widow ladies vied with each other in telling of the 
merits of their respective respected departed. ''Well, 
Keziah.I know that Reuben was one who cared for thee 
diligently; but my Hezekiah was splendid in many 
ways. He was sociable. He would sit with his feet 
on the mantel-tree (mantelpiece) and spit, and spit, and 
spit. Oh! He was so sociable!" 

Belay, All! 

Capt. Stephen Bailey, discussing with friends the 
merits of careful saving, remarked: ''When you start 
the standin' riggin' of a five-dollar bill, there's but 
d— d little left." 

Forty Years Wrong. 

It was on 'Sconset bank, many years ago, that 
Capt Alex. Bunker, keeper of Sankaty light, was hav- 
ing a gam with a lot of 'Sconseters, during which he 
pointed his finger and said: "That's due east from 
here." "Guess you're mistaken, Capt. Bunker," said 
one of his hearers. The old skipper, who was of stub- 
born disposition, took immediate exception to this inter- 
ference with his opinion, and his opponent, knowing 
well whom he had to deal with, slipped quietly home 
and brought forth a compass. Setting it on a post, he 
remarked: "Now, Captain, satisfy yourself." The old 
skipper squinted and looked, and looked and squinted, 
finally blurting out: "Well*, well, Mr. Morris, I've 
lived in error these forty year." 



98 



Hove Him To. 

Uncle Fred had a blacksmith shop on Old North 
wharf, and was possessed of a bit of sporting blood, so 
always kept a shot gun at hand, once in a while getting 
a chance to shoot at a duck. The denizens about the 
wharves knew of his fondness for shooting and his 
weakness as a marksman, and often reported when game 
was in sight. One day a lad, scenting fun, called the 
good smith's attention to a loon swimming in the dock, 
and Uncle Fred started out to get him. Bang! went 
his gun, when the lad shouted: "Did you get him, 
Uncle Fred?" "No-o-o!" was the reply; but I made 
him ta-a-a-ck ship!" 

Cherchez la Femme. 

There is a story of one Nathaniel Worth, who, one 
day when his son called to see him, took the young 
man out to inspect a new colt, of which he was very 
proud. As they walked around the animal, which stood 
by its mother in the barn-yard, suddenly the colt let 
fly a tiny hoof, and as Nathaniel happened to be in the 
way, he received a rather severe kick. Seizing a stick 
the old man began to belabor the mare. "Why, fath- 
er," remonstrated the son, "it was the colt that kicked 
you — not the mare." "I know it," said Nathaniel, 
"but didn't you see her give him the wink?" 

No Regrets ? 

One of thf Husseys sends this one : 

Father and Mother Hussey planned to entertain 
their relatives at Christmastime, but when the list was 
made out, the number was appalling, and they won- 



99 



dered if they could -do it, without slighting some of 
them. Mother took a hopeful view of the matter, how- 
ever, saying, "Oh well, of course they won't all come; 
probably not more than half. You go ahead, Father, 
and invite them." So Father started out with the list. 
He was gone a long time. Mother met him at the door, 
saying, "Well, how many accepted?" "Not a devil of 
a one refuses!" was the emphatic reply. 

Call All Hands. 

Alfred Folger's seven sons were, it is said, sum- 
moned to the noon meal by their mother in this wise : 

"John M. and Henry B., 
William A. and Hiram C, 
Alfred. Charles and Roland C, 
Wash up and come to dinner." 

Asked for Prayers. 

In some of the Nantucket churches it was formerly 
customary when a church member sailed on a voyage to 
the Pacific for his wife to hand in a notice to be read 
from the pulpit, somewhat to this effect : "Capt. Peter 
Coffin, having gone to sea, his wife desires the prayers 
of the congregation." It so happened on one such oc- 
casion that an off-island minister happened to be sub- 
stituting for the regular pastor. We may imagine the 
sensation produced when it was announced with all due 
solemnity that "Capt. Peter Coffin having gone to see 
his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation." 

No Wonder They Prospered. 

During the palmy days of the whaling industry, 
when Nantucket's sperm and whale oil were lighting 



100 



the world, her own streets were dark. Many attempts 
were made to get the town to introduce a street light- 
ing system, but the proposition was invariably voted 
down at the annual town meeting. The unanswerable 
logic of the argument advanced by its opponents always 
carried the day. Stated briefly this was: that if the 
price of oil was low, no one could afford to pay the ex- 
tra tax necessary, while if the price was high, it would 
be extravagant, and the town could not afford it. So 
they exported all their oil, and either groped their way 
about or remained indoors after dark. 

A Man of Taste. 

Ariel Cathcart (always called Uncle 'Riel) kept a 
small notions store on Orange street, and displayed in 
his windows tin-capped glass jars of "stick" candy to 
tempt the young people's cents to his till. One day 
two girls visited the emporium, each with a cent, and 
each requesting a "stick of pep'mint." Lifting the 
cover, Uncle 'Riel fingered deftly among the bunch of 
barber-pole sweets, and drawing forth two, touched 
each to his protruded tongue-tip, and handed them over 
to the waiting misses with the remark: "Yes, them's 
pep'mint. " 

W W— Mixed— M M. 

Uncle Alec was a right good cobbler and had the 
patronage of the leading citizens. He was, unfortu- 
nately, forgetful, and being aware of the fact, made it 
a rule to mark in chalk on the sole of every pair of 
boots brought him to repair the initials of the owner. 
One day William Worth left footwear to be mended, 



101 



and immediately Uncle Alec caught up his chalk and 
marked on each sole, W W. Later on as he came to 
these boots, he put the mark W W on each new sole, 
and stood them aside until he found time to deliver 
them. Then, taking them up, he saw the marks in re- 
versed form — M M, and off he trudged with them to 
Matthew Myrick, who denied the soft impeachment of 
ownership, when the truth finally dawned on Uncle 
Alec, who enjoyed the joke on himself as much as oth- 
ers did who were knowing to the story. 

According to Her Light. 

A venerable Liberty street woman of some 90 
summers lived with her daughter. One day the old lady, 
who was quite active for her years, started to cross 
the room (which she alone occupied), and unfortunately 
tripped over a hit-or-miss rug, and fell to the floor 
heavily. The daughter heard the thud and rushed from 
the kitchen to find her mother just arising from the 
floor. Taking hold to assist, she said, "Mother, have 
you hurt you?" "Have I hurt me, Jeddy (Judith) ! 
Have I hurt me !! Well, I guess you'd think you'd 
hurt ye if ye pitched down and your eyes struck fire 
and your teeth flew!" The old lady, while not serious- 
ly hurt, had the misfortune to knock out her sole re- 
maining bicuspid, which had long stood its ground as a 
sort of carelessly-placed-on-one-side sentinel in the 
good woman's mouth. 

Liked His Mixed. 

Uncle James Paddock was telling a lot of friends 
one day that he liked his pork fat and lean, and always 



102 



fed his hogs to that end. "How d'ye do it, Uncle 
Jim?" piped up Barney Coffin. "Oh, that's easy 
enough," said Uncle Jim. "I jest feed 'em heavy to- 
day, and tomorrow give 'em nothin'. No trouble 'bout 
it." 

Knew the Course. 

The story is told of the late Capt. Paul West that, 
coming on deck one day, he said to the helmsman, 
"How does she head?" "Nor'west by west, half west, 
a little westerly," was the reply. "Um-mm!" 
growled the skipper, "if you could get another west in 
that course, I'd give you a glass of grog." "Nor' west 
by west, half west, a little westerly, Captain West," 
was the quick response. "Come below, you rascal, 
when your trick at the wheel is up," said the skipper 
as he started away, grinning. 

There is an old conundrum in verse: 

"The wind was West, 

And West steered we. 

The wind was right aft, 

Now how could that be?" 
Answer — Paul West had the wheel. 

"Cur'us! VeryCur'us." 

Uncle Cyrus Hussey was employed to saw a limb 
from a tree, and (as has happened in other instances) 
sat on the limb while he cut, with the result that he 
and the limb came to earth together. Later, whenever 
questioned as to his escapade, his reply was always: 
"Cur'us! Verycur'us!" 



103 



* 'Sauce for the Goose", Etc. 

A local mason was doing a job of mason work in 
the basement of a leading citizen's house, having with 
him John, a journeyman. During his stay on the job 
the boss came across a jug of "Oh Be .Joyful" and 
helped himself once or twice, undiscovered. Later, John 
caught on, and watching his opportunity, got to the 
jug. But the boss discovered him in the act and re- 
monstrated. John came back with: "Well, I guess 

what's good for is good for John." 

Appearances Sometimes Deceitful. 

A worthy citizen was before the court as defendant 
in divorce proceedings, during which the presiding jus- 
tice said, "Well, Mr. , you and Mrs. had 

always lived happily up to the time under considera- 
tion, had you not?" Quietly the reply came: "Ap- 
parently." 

"Strike While the Iron's Hot." 

A woman in a somewhat perturbed frame of mind, 
had a neighbor drop in for a little social call, and final- 
ly urged her to look after the children for a few min- 
utes "while I run over to Becky Holmes's to 'sass' 
her." 

Keen Discrimination. 

Two women were discussing the merits of macker- 
el and codfish, when one piped up with the remark: 
"Well, for my part I think mack'rel spawn is fur be- 
fore codfish breech." (The Nantucketer calls the spawn 
of the cod "breeches," probably from its resemblance 
to that article of male attire). 



104 



Quite Swell. 

Uncle Frankie thought he would have rice for his 
dinner one day. He was living alone, his wife being 
"off-island" for a visit. He was not an expert chef, 
and poured into the kettle what he deemed would make 
a good "mess." The vegetable began soon to take on 
life, and it was not long 'ere Uncle Frankie had all the 
bowls from the pantry heaping full. The Nantucketer 
keeps the story alive by using the term "Like Uncle 
Frankie's Rice" to explain that somebody had too much 
of a good thing. 

And He Was. 

A local "nebulous policeman," on duty on the 
"Square," was charged with keeping persons moving, 
and not permitting loitering on the corners. He came 
upon the late Charles Henry Webb, who was standing 
on the curb, and stepping up, said: "You can't stand 
here!" "But I am," replied Charles Henry. 



Someone once went to sell Mr. Webb some 
"breeches and chittlings." He went to the door and 
the man asked: " Want to buy any in'ards?" Webb 
looked into the pail, and said: "F-f-f-or God's s-sake, 
whose?" 

Nobody From Cambridge Had Applied. 

A lady summer resident one day stalked into a 
room in the Town's Building, where the chairman of 
the Board of Selectmen was sitting, inquired for that 
personage, and on being presented, broke out irately in 



105 



denunciation of the (from her angle of view) careless 
and unsatisfactory manner in which the garbage of the 
town was collected and removed. She talked on vigor- 
ously, the official giving polite attention without an 
interruption When the good woman had run down, 
his chairmanship agreed to all she had said, suavely 
indicated his desire that things could be improved, and 
closed with the remark: "You may not perhaps know 
the fact, my good lady, but up to the present we have 
been unable to get any Harvard graduate to apply for 
the job, and we are doing the best we can." The lady 
had a sense of humor and a lot of sound judgment, and 
fully appreciated the situation, leaving in a greatly 
comforted mental condition, after thanking the chair- 
man. 

On the Quiet. 
The late Charles 'Conor, the eminent New York 
lawyer, spent his last days as a resident of Nantucket, 
and patronized the barber shop of Rev. James E. Craw- 
ford, who was a somewhat garrulous colored preacher 
as well as a tonsorial artist. On his first visit to the 
shop, Mr. Crawford was overwhelmed and bestowed ev- 
ery attention on his new patron, talking his very best 
all the time. When Mr. 'Conor was seated in the 
chair, Mr. Crawford asked: "How would you like to 
be shaved, sir?" "In silence, " was the blunt re- 
sponse. 

"Some" Day. 

"Well, this is a beautiful morning, Mr. Craw- 
ford," said a citizen to the veteran colored barber and 



106 



preacher. "Yes, yes; perfectly goddeous!" was the 
response. 

The Rat Hole. 

"Uncle Brown" Gardner was one of the beloved 
of the Siasconset fishermen of a generation or two ago, 
and his cottage on Broadway in that village was the 
nightly rendezvous of the male population. It was there 
the writer heard this story related. It seems "Uncle 
Brown," after getting his tide's catch of cod into the 
fish-house, went home for dinner, later returning to 
dress the fish for salting. While he was absent, some 
wag took a rat he had caught and pushed it into the 
paunch of a big cod. When the old skipper opened up 
this fish he was amazed to find the rodent, and showed 
it about among his mates as a rather remarkable feat- 
ure, and it was long afterwards before he knew the 
real truth. He enjoyed the joke and always referred 
to the spot where he was anchored that day as "The 
Rat Hole." 

Steadying Her Nerves. 

A venerable lady, active for her years, was trip- 
ping along the street one morning, when she was ac- 
costed by a maiden lady contemporary with her, but 
whom she had not met for a long period. "Isn't this 

Mary ? Yes, I thought so, but haven't seen you 

for years. Aren't you out a great deal? See you 
pass frequently and you must be feelin' pretty smart. 
I am quite well, but not as well as I wish I was. I'm 
takin' Moxie." 



107 



Artist Should Have Paid Him Well. 

Years ago a popular artist painted a portrait of 
the late Joseph Starbuck, one of the oil magnates of his 
time. One day his hired man, Patrick, was called in 
to see if he recognized it. The Irishman looked at it a 
long time, and from all angles, and finally burst out 
with: "Wall, enny man who niver saw Misther Star- 
buck would know it was him!" 

Knew Art Wherever Found. 

A young man of the town was at a card party 
given by a friend, there being a large attendance. His 
luck was with him and he won the leading prize, which 
the hostess presented with the remark that the article 
was hand painted. "So are our back steps," blurted 
the young man. 

"Thee Think and I'll Saw." 

A boy sent on an errand to an old Quaker carpen- 
ter, found him sawing through the ceiling of his shop. 
The sight of the stern visage glaring down at him 
through the hole so startled the boy that he could not 
remember his errand, but could only stammer: "Fath- 
er wants — father wants — now — now, father wants" — 
.The carpenter, noting the boy's trepidation, finally said, 
not unkindly: "All right, son; thee think and I'll 
saw," and went on w r ith his work. 

A Tightwad. 

Uncle Bihu Bunker and his good wife Aunt Ruth 
lived in a house on Main street that was known locally 
as the Knife-Box, from its peculiar architecture. Aunt 



108 



Ruth had been ill for some time. One day the old gen- 
tleman was on his way down town, when a friend in- 
quired: "How's Aunt Ruth today, Uncle Bihu?" "0, 
there she lays, a bill of expense." Hence the expres- 
sion when a Nantucketer refers to some extravagant 
person or article as "A bill of expense, like Bihu's 
wife." 

"Troublous Times." 

Uncle H lived in the south part of the town 

and was of that class of persons who are "always in 
hot water." One morning a neighbor saw him rushing 
excitedly about and ventured the question: "Well, 

what's the trouble this morning, Uncle H ?" 

"Trouble! Trouble!! Trouble enough, I tell ye ! My 
pig's got away, my wife's died, and I can't find my 
pea jacket! Trouble! Trouble!! Nothin' but trouble!" 

Self Preservation. 

Uncle Christopher was a well-to-do Quaker, as 
well as a benevolent one. Uncle Al, his neighbor, was 
also a good soul, but not so well supplied in the way of 
worldly goods. Thus it frequently happened (the two 
men being about the same physique) that some of 
Christopher's half-worn clothing was transferred to 
Uncle Al. One day the latter, dressed in a long "out- 
side coat" of his benefactor, was passing through the 
street, when a bunch of lads, mistaking him for Uncle 
Christopher, commenced shouting, "Good morning, Un- 
cle Christopher!" Turning to them, Uncle Al said mild- 
ly: "Thank thee, lads; thank thee. I trust the Devil 
will make the same mistake." 



109 



The Limit. 

A Nantucket skipper was cruising in high latitudes 
when one day he noted the mate come below and get his 
pea jacket from his state-room, put it on and go on 
deck. The captain soon followed him, when he saw the 
second officer go and look at the thermometer, which 
was always fastened to the mizzen-mast, and he, too, 
went below and donned his pea jacket. A little later 
the colored cook came aft from his galley, glanced at 
the mercury, and went off for his jacket. This proved 
too much for the irascible skipper, who blurted out to 
the mate: "Here, Mr. , take off that thermome- 
ter and throw it overboard. It's a pretty how-d'ye-do 
when a dev'lish nigger cook can't tell when it's cold 
enough for a pea jacket without looking at one of those 
d — d things. T' hell with it, overboard." 

Long Time Absent. 

A neighbor dropped in to call on Mary Chase, whose 
husband had recently "sailed on a Cape Horn voyage." 
"Well, Mary," she remarked, "how long is it that 
Paul's been gone?" "Let me see," replied Mary. 
"Why, day after tomorrow Paul Chase will have been 
gone three days." 

Wanted Channel Clear. 

An Orange street lady was entertaining a friend 
from "off island," and suggested to her husband that 
he procure a team and take them for a drive. The ap- 
pointed time came, and the team (a horse and beach 
wagon) was brought by the stable man and left hitched 



110 



to the post. The women were helped to the rear seat, 
when the husband, who was a retired ship-master, of 
large frame, "let go the bow hawser," clambered to 
the front seat, and started up the horse. He was an 
awkward driver, knowing more about sailing ships than 
directing equines, and he felt a trifle nervous in his 
new role. Arriving at Martin's lane (a narrow way, 
with room only for one team) the captain hauled in and 
headed west. When well into the lane, in which at 
that time there was a slight curve, he espied Benjamin 
Sheffield coming from the opposite direction, on the 
hearse. Then the skipper's nervousness increased mo- 
mentarily, and finally, unable to control himself longer, 
he rose from his seat, leaned out over the dasher, and 
gesticulating violently, shouted in stentorian voice : 
"Starn all! Starn'all!! with your d— d old hell 
wagon !!!" There was no resisting such an appeal, 
and the good-natured sexton soon made a clear channel 
for the perturbed mariner. 

"Pay Out, Mother!" 

Nantucket boys all looked forward to the day when 
they could ship for a whaling voyage round Cape Horn. 
They thought, talked and dreamed whales and whaling 
from their earliest years. A story comes down to us 
of a boy of nine who tied one end of his mother's ball 
of darning cotton to a steel fork, and tried to harpoon 
the family cat. As the frightened animal sought to 
escape, mother entered the room and picked up the ball. 
The boy, intent only on his "whale," shouted, "Pay 
out, mother! pav out!! There she 'sounds' through the 
window !" 



Ill 



A Mark-Up Sale. 

So many good things have been preserved in the 
files of the local papers, we must find a place for a few 
more : 

Samuel B. Romaine, who had a store on Main 
street, does not appear to be one who had much faith in 
"mark down" sales. His advertisement in the Inquir- 
er of July 24, 1833, reads: 

"20 Per Cent Above Cost. 
As the reduction of stock has become so universal, 
the subscriber offers for sale all he has on hand at the 
above advance, in lots to suit purchasers for cash, his 
object being to make money." 

The following "Card" was published in The In- 
quirer of January 12, 1833: "The thief who stole a jug 
of oil from the North Humane House on Great Point, 
on Sunday last, is requested to return the jug to the 
place from which he took it; and he may keep the oil 
to light his crime-stained steps through Purgatory. And 
no questions will be asked by Caleb Cushman, Supt." 

One of Editor Jenks's esteemed contemporaries 
having spelled Inquirer with a preliminary E, Mr. Jenks 
wrote "he'll find himself ill at Es in putting out other 
people's Is. " 

Someone having taken the editor to task for men- 
tioning the South tower and omitting to comment on 
the North one, he hastened to say that a spire has been 
erected on the North tower 59 feet high from the 



112 



ground, that it is a good lookout, is painted and the 
"materials are almost as durable as the doctrines 
preached there." 

A 'Sconseter's Will. 

This last will and testament, dated at 'Sconset, 
May 30, 1841, was unearthed not long ago: 

"I, Obed Gardner, master mariner, now livin at 
Sconset, write down this will. 

Item. I have cruised with my wife, Huldy Jane, 
since 1811. We signed articles, in town, before the 
preacher on Independence Day. I want her and my 
oldest son Jotham to be Captain and mate in bringin to 
port whatever I leave and to see that every one of the 
crew gets the lay as writ down on this paper. I put 
mother in command. I know sheel be Captain anyway, 
for six months after we started on our life cruise I 
found out that I was mate and she was master. I don't 
mean that she ever mutinied, but I no that whenever 
we didn't agree she always manoovred to windward. 
May be it is all right for she could sail closer to wind 
than I could." 

After a bequest of an interest in the ship Nancy 
Rotch, then somewhere on the seas, to his son Jotham, 
the Captain's will goes on: — ■ 

"Item. I want mother to have the house on Union 
street until she goes aloft. Then I want it to go to the 
children in equal lays and if any child dies I want the 
lay of the parent to go to the parent's young ones, but 
I don't want my daughter Belindy to have anything as 
long as her husband is livin. He is a lubber, but she 
has been cruisin with him for years. I haven't got 
anything partickler agin him, but he doesn't no how to 
navigate the sea of life. I do believe if he wanted to 
stop a leak board ship it would be just like him to go 



113 



into the hold with an auger and bore a hole threw the 
plankin to let the bilge water out into the sea. 

But Belindy likes him. That's just like a woman. 
If I should give the lay out-and-out to her, I am afraid 
her husband would manoover to get it. So I want 
mother and Jotham to put it out at interest, and give 
what comes out of it to her until her husband ships for 
a corpse below decks in the grave yard. Then she can 
take the lay and do what she wants to with it." 

The will went on to cut his son "Ezry" out with- 
out a shilling because he had been disobedient and re- 
fractory and had run away to sea and to China. Then 
there was another item : — 

"I want mother and Jotham to settle up things as 
soon as they can break bulk and make a fair divide be- 
tween the children. But don't forget what I have writ 
down about mother and Belindy. I don't think Belindy 's 
husband will make any fuss about the way I have taken 
care of her unless she runs head on to the shoals of a 
lawyer's office. Then look out for squalls. I hope 
sheel stand off if she sees a lawyer comin thort her 
bows. " 

The will was witnessed by Jethro Coffin, 2d, Elea- 
zur Paddack and Shubael Starbuck, but it was never 
presented in court for probate because the turn of 
events* made it unnecessary. The Nancy Rotch returned 
and was sold for a good price. Belindy's husband was 
drowned by the upsetting of his dory on Miacomet Rip. 
Ezra returned from China, prosperous and anxious to 
make amends for past shortcomings, and no one was 
more delighted to see him than Cap'n Obed. When 
the latter died, it was at Ezra's suggestion that the 
whole estate was given to the widow during her life- 
time. After her death, at the age of 92, it was divided 



114 



among the children, except that Ezra gave his "lay 
to Belindy's oldest boy, who had been named for him. 



We do not know the origin of this quatrain, nor the 
occasion it is supposed to celebrate, but it was often 
quoted in the old days: 

They sang "Old Hundred" on the sea; 

The fishes heard the racket, 
And wondered what the noise could be, 

And who was on the packet. 



The Friends' version of the well-known rhyme 

Thirty days hath September, 
April, June, and November," etc. 

will be of interest: 

"The ninth, the eleventh, the fourth, the sixth 

Have thirty days to each affixed; 
All the rest have thirty-one, 

Except the second alone, 
Which hath twenty-eight, 

Excepting leap year, (once in four} 
When it hath one day more." 



Varying Degrees. 

"Is thee comfortable, Sarah?" said Cousin Mary 
to her irascible friend. "Comf 't'ble, Mary! Comf't'- 
ble! No, I'm never comf 't'ble!" "What I meant, 
Sarah, was, is thee any les3 comfortable than usual?" 



Chapter IX. 

TWENTIETH CENTURY ANECDOTES. 

QLO many good modern stories have found their way 
s^r into the Scrap Basket from time to time that the 
compilers have thought best to devote a separate chap- 
ter to these more recent contributions to our budget of 
humor. 

Many amusing incidents are related by our summer 
visitors of their experiences with the carriage drivers 
who, for a modest stipend, will drive the unsuspecting 
stranger through the town or over the island roads, de- 
scribing ''all the points of interesf'after a fashion of 
their own. A few of these bon mots have been pre- 
served : 

Vide Inscription. 

A young driver, evidently not to the manner born, 
or at least unversed in the island traditions, took his 
passengers through Winter street and pointed out the 
Coffin School. Asked as to the identity of its founder, 
he replied: "Well, 1 don't know much about him, ex- 
cept that 'twas a feller by the name of Bart." 

Pitied Their Ignorance. 

Another, quite as evidently very much to the man- 
ner born, and proud of the fact, confided to a friend, 
after conducting a party about the town, that he had 



116 



been asked what those platforms were on the top of 
many of the houses. "I told 'em they were 'walks,' 
he added, "but I don't know where they'd been all 
their days." 

We Can't Fathom This One. 

A party driving through the Sauls Hills country 
asked the local Jehu where all the big boulders which 
dot the landscape in that part of the island came from. 
"Oh, them?" was the reply. "Them was left by the 
glaciers. At least, that's what the glaciers claim." 

Sympathetic, but Practical. 

One of the old "Cap'n's" who drove a carriage 
during the summer months for many years, noting that 
one of his passengers, a lady, who occupied the front 
seat with him, was dressed in deep mourning, inquired 
sympathetically: "Met with a loss, madam?" The 
lady, though somewhat taken aback by the question, 
replied quietly, "Yes." After a pause he asked, still 
sympathetically, "husband?" Again, from the lady, 
"Yes." Another pause, then, most sympathetically, 
"hope he left you comf 'table." 

Had Been -Off." 

A Nantucket school teacher in the primary grade 
asked her pupils one day how many of them had ever 
been off island. One little girl, whose history the 
teacher happened to be very well informed about, was 
among those who raised their hands. "Why, Polly," 
she said, "I didn't know you had ever been off island. 
When did you go?" "One day last summer," replied 



117 



the little six year old, "papa took me down to Brant 
Point, and I took off my shoes and stockings and waded 
right off. " 

Free Grace. 

Another little "daughter," making a visit to Bos- 
ton, was taking her first meal at a hotel. After the 
soup was served and they had begun to eat, she sudden- 
ly remarked: "O, say, nobody asked a blessing." 
"Why, Helen," reproved her sister, two years older, 
"we pay here !" 

Jordan's a Hard Road to Travel. 

A Nantucket boy, having obtained his high school 
diploma, went to Boston to seek his fortune. After a 
time he "secured a situation," as the home paper puts 
it, in one of the big department stores. Being young, 
however, and his duties arduous, the pull of the old 
home was pretty strong, and nostalgia having won the 
day, he threw up his job as summer approached and 
went back to his good mother, who, after greeting him 
affectionately and providing him with a good hot sup- 
per, asked anxiously: "Well, and what did Mr. Jordan 
say when you left?" 

A Kind Employer. 

Another boy, after a year in a New York office, 
was granted the customary fortnight's vacation, which, 
as might be expected, he elected to spend on the isl- 
and. Having a grand good time, without consulting 
his employer, he overstayed his leave several days. 
About the time he thought of starting back he received 



118 



a letter from the office advising him that his vacation 
was indefinitely extended. This so pleased his innocent 
old mother that she took the letter round to all the 
neighbors, "just to show what a nice man Georgie 
worked for. ' ' 

Some School Stories. 

"English as she is taught" produces much the 
same results in the Nantucket schools as elsewhere, ap- 
parently. On one occasion the late Dr. Sharp, who was 
an authority on marine biology, spoke on that subject 
to the pupils of the high school. Part of the informa- 
tion imparted had to do with the spawning habits of 
certain molluscs. The principal having asked the pu- 
pils to write out what they could remember of the lec- 
ture, one boy carefully noted and reported the interest- 
ing fact that "oysters always spoon in August." 

Another incident is related of a girl pupil who 
glibly recited her well-learned history lesson to the ef- 
fect that during a certain battle the attacking army 
ascended the hill "pantaloon after pantaloon " 

Another boy gave the definition of bullion as "a 
little bull." 

The Retort Courteous. 

As evidence of the fact that despite the foregoing 
stories, our educational system does "take"sometimes, 
it is a pleasure to relate the following, which would 
seem almost too good to be true were it not vouched for 
on the best of authority. 

A Nantucket boy went up on the Ocean House ve- 



119 



randa, and accosted a complacent looking fat gentleman 
who sat with his feet on the rail : 

"Want to buy any pond lilies?" said the boy. 

"No, I guess not," said the man; "Making any 
money, bub?" 

"A little," was the reply. 

"What do you sell when they're ain't no pond- 
lilies?" was the next question. 

"Oh, sometimes one thing and sometimes anoth- 
er", replied the boy. 

"Humph! Don't you go to school?" 

"Oh yes; when there is any. School is closed 
now. ' ' 

"Do you go to school on Nantic":et?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Oh, they have a school here, then, do they?" 

"Oh, yes sir." 

"Well, what do they learn you in school?" 

"Why, they teach us grammar and other things." 

He Knew His Place. 

That the local boatmen, no less than the carriage 
drivers, are responsible for their share of the humors 
of life, is shown by one or two "scraps" which have 
reached us. They like nothing better than to get one 
of those amateur sailors oi the common or piazza vari- 
ety out "back of the rips," and soak a little of the 
brine out of him. 

"What would you do," asked the skipper of a cat- 
boat on one such occasion, addressing a jolly fresh wa- 
ter tar in a smart yachting cap, if you were aboard 



120 



ship and the old man should sing out: "Hey, you Jack, 
lay aloft there and clew up that fore-to-gallant star- 
board studd'n's'l boom iron?" After a moment's deep 
thought, Percy, with a keener perception of the situa- 
tion and his relation to it than he had perhaps been 
given credit for, replied with conviction: "I should go 
right straight home!" 

Courtesy Has Its Limits. 

Nantucket skippers are always prudent, and usual- 
ly courteous to the last degree, but we can hardly con- 
done, though we may well understand, this example of 
pardonable exasperation or the part of one of them at 
the helm of a boat bound for Wauwinet, with a stiff 
breeze from the east'ard, and a boat-load of passengers, 
wearied and grown careless by a constant repetition of 
apparently senseless tack-tics : "Ready about, now! 
Ready about! Hard-a-lee! Low bridge,- there! Low 
bridge!! Low Bridge!!! — Well, I shan't say it again, 
and (sotto voce) I don't care a d — n if some of ye do 
get a crack on the head!" 

A Patent Boat. 

"But you can't get home if the wind is dead 
against you, can you?" inquired an anxious passenger, 
as they started back from Great Point in a "smoky 
sou-wester." "Oh yes," replied the skipper, reassur- 
ingly* "You see I had this boat made with two sides 
on purpose, so that when she couldn't sail on one tack, 
she could on the other. It's the only boat in these wa- 
ters that's built just that way." And the passenger, 



121 



her confidence in the adaptability of the craft and the 
sagacity of its skipper restored, curled up in her oil 
skins and took a nap. 

He Needed "A Voyage to Learn." 

"I didn't ask for a round-trip ticket," exclaimed 
an irate passenger on the Gay Head, en route to Nan- 
tucket, as the purser detached the Woods-Hole-to-N an- 
tucket coupon and handed back the return portion of 
the ticket. "I don't want that for anything, you can 
keep it," he persisted, as the purser pressed the slip 
on h'm. "Whv, you'll need it to come back on, won't 
you?" said the official. "Not at all, sir," was the 
haughty reply, "Not at all! I intend to return some 
other way." 

"Not Unless She's Got Fins." 

This reminds us of the incident reported some 
years ago by the superintendent of the Nantucket Rail- 
road when he received a telegram from the lost ca 
tracer of some Western railroad asking him if freight 
car No. so and so had by any chance strayed onto the 
Nantucket road, and got side-tracked. 

Oh for the Wings of a Dove. 

A super-annuated mariner served for many years 
as custodian of the old Atheneum museum. On one 
occasion a party of excursionists arrived late in the af- 
ternoon and wanted to see the collection. As was his 
custom, the old man took them about the room, ex- 
plaining the various curiosities and relics. Having con- 
cluded the rounds and the visitors showing no signs of 



122 



going, though it was then past closing time and his five 
o v clock "tea" was waiting, he started in again, think- 
ing that a repetition of even a part of his lecture would 
prove a sufficient hint and have the desired effect. But 
not so. The visitors drank in his words with the same 
avidity as before, and apparently expected him to go 
through it all again. Finally, seizing a big club from 
one of the shelves, he swung it loosely in his hand as he 
pattered on: "This, ladies and gentlemen, is a genuyne 
war club used by the savages of the Fiji Islands — I 
wish to God I was there!" 



Chapter X. 

EXPRESSIONS AND IDIOMS. 

SHE Compilers have here undertaken to set down al- 
phabetically some of the more common words, nau- 
tical expressions and idiomatic sayings which are char- 
acteristic of the Nantucket speech. Many of them are 
heard elsewhere along the coast, and some are of uni- 
versal use even far from the sea, but not a few of them 
are quite peculiar to this section. Every term given 
will no doubt suggest many others, and a book could 
easily be compiled on this one subject; but we have 
simply jotted down those expressions which have occur- 
red to us, in the belief that even a limited glossary of 
such terms would be of interest, leaving to others the 
interesting task of extending the list until it may some 
time, perhaps, be fairly complete. Some of the words 
quoted are very difficult to define. Though we have 
heard them all our lives, and know exactly what they 
mean when we hear them, there seem to be no syno- 
nymns for many of them, and the exact shade of mean- 
ing is sometimes difficult to indicate. 

A 

"Adrift" — Nantucketers use this word constantly in 
the sense of loose or unfastened: as "a blind on 
the house got adrift in the gale"; also to ex- 



124 



press general disorder as "everything was all 
adrift." 

"Aloft" — High up, or above, as "I'm going aloft (up- 
stairs) to bed;" or "I put the thing up aloft." 

"All Sail Set" — Hurriedly; sometimes, fully dressed. 
"He was going 'all sail set' for home." "She 
had 'all sail set' for the party." 

"Alongside" — Meaning obvious. In very common use. 

' 'Amidships" — The middle 

"An Anchor to Windward" — Prudent — prepared to 
meet an emergency. 

"Anchor It" - To put a weight on anything; or secure 
it so it won't get "adrift." 

"Any Port in a Storm" — Meaning obvious. 

"Astern" — In the rear of, or behind. 

"Astern the Lighter" — Tardy, lagging behind; a light- 
er being a slow-moving craft used for transferring 
cargo, to be "astern the lighter" is to be rather a 
laggard, and the term is used in a contemptuous 
sense, as "Oh, he's always astern the lighter!" 

"Athwart, athwartships (or 'thwartships) "—Cross- 
wise, as '"thwartships of the bench." Speaking of 
an operation, a Nantucketer said: "they cut him 
'thwartships. " 

"Athwart the bow" — Passing in front of. 

"At Loggerheads" — At variance; opposed. 

"At Sea" — Uncertain, undetermined; as "I was all at 
sea as to what to do next." Also, wrong or in 
error; as "he was all at sea about the matter." 



125 



B 
Back of the Rip" — The dangerous shoals and sand- 
bars which surround the island are known as 
"rips"; the islanders have a way of consigning 
any annoying person or thing to a point beyond 
these obstructions to navigation, from which it 
would be difficult if not impossible to return. Ex- 
ample : "I wish he (or it) was back of the rip!" 

Back and Fill" — To vaccillate, to be unsteady or in- 
firm of purpose. 

Bare Poles" — This term is used to indicate scanty 
raiment; as, "she was scudding under bare 
poles. " 

Beat" — To tack, to make headway against the wind 
by changing the course frequently. We do not say 
"tack to windward," but "beat to windward," 
though otherwise the two words are practically 
synonymous. 

Beating or Beating Up"— Tacking, making head 
against the wind or other adverse conditions. 

Beats the Pattern" — Clever, remarkable. 

Belay" — To hold, to stop, to make fast. 

Below" — Obviously the opposite of aloft, used in the 
same way, as applying to down stairs or down cel- 
lar. 

Berth" — Situation; as, "he has secured a berth with 
Jones & Co." Sometimes used as a verb to indi- 
cate locating oneself comfortably ; as, "he berthed 
at Cousin Sarah's." 



126 



"Better Weather" —Easier times, improved conditions, 
as "let's hope he'll make better weather of it 
now"; also used as a verb, meaning clears or im- 
proves; "there she better-weathers" means that it 
is clearing up after a storm. 

"Bow On" — Head on, face to face, as "I saw him 
coming bow on." 

"Bows Under" — Laboring heavily, as a ship in a head 

sea. 
"Born in the Middle of the Week and Looking Both 

Ways for Sunday" — A queer old local expression 

applied to a very cross-eyed person. 

C 

' Came out of the Bureau Drawer" — (sometimes the 
top drawer) —Meaning fresh, dainty, clean. 

'Carry On" — To be gay or reckless. An imprudent 
skipper was said to carry on (sail). This term, 
though originally used in the nautical sense, im- 
plying recklessness, has come to be used to express 
any lively good time, in the sense that the verb to 
train is sometimes used. 

"Cannikin Tub" — A wooden pail, with straight sides, 
hooped and with a close-fitting wooden cover. The 
term is an old one, but though in constant use to- 
day by Nantucketers, most off-islanders are puz- 
zled by it. 

"Chock," "chock-full," "chock-a-block" and "chock- 
a-block full" — are all nauticalisms in general use, 
but more commonly used among a seafaring peo- 



127 



pie than elsewhere, and Nantucketers employ these 
various terras on all occasions. Each has its par- 
ticular shade of meaning when correctly used. 

"Clip In"— To run in for a short visit,as "I think I'll 
clip in to Mary's on the way home." It implies a 
hurried call, and if the visitor announces that he 
just clipped in, he is not expected to tarry more 
than a few minutes. 

''Clipper Built" — A well-set-up man or woman is re- 
ferred to as clipper built — that is, trim, trig and 
up-to-date. 

"Close Aboard" — Very near. 

"Close to the Wind" — Hard pressed or hard up, physi- 
cally, financially or .otherwise. 

"Cock-billed" — Awry ; out of plumb. 

"Come About" — To turn round, to change the course, 
as a ship when tacking against the wind. Much 
used in a figurative sense by the islanders. 

"Come Aboard" — A welcome to the coming guest, or an 
invitation to a passer-by or a casual visitor to ac- 
cept one's hospitality. 

"Continent, the" — The islander's name for the main- 
land of North America. 

"Coof" — An "off-islander," said to have been applied 
originally only to Cape Codders. 

"Commons" — Unlike most old New England towns, 
Nantucket never had a Common, but it did have 
thousands of acres of "commons, " that is, undivid- 
ed lands held in common by the early proprietors 



128 



and their successors. Until recent times all the 
unfenced lands on the island were called "the 
commons" and it is only since the advent of the 
summer folks in the last generation that we have 
come to call them "the moors," which, by the 
way, is said to be a misnomer, as they are not 
moors at all in the true meaning of that word, but 
rather heath lands or heath. 

Cornstarch Airs" — Stiff, formal manners. 

Course and Distance" — Mean much to the islander, 
and are constantly employed in conversation. To 
say that a boat or a vessel was a mile to the 
south'ard headed nor'west tells the story in a word. 
So, when speaking of meeting an acquaintance, he 
says "he was headed to the eastward when I saw 
him." A boy applying for the loan of a saw was 
told by the owner, an old mariner, "head right 
through that door, port your helm, haul to the 
south'ard about ten foot, and you'll find it hung 
on a nail about hand-spike high." The lad, being 
island-bred, found the saw. The stranger is di- 
rected to a certain house as on the north, east, 
south or west side of the street, and is expected to 
find it without a compass. At one of the old-time 
"huddles," (as dancing parties were then called) 
the prompter leaned over the rail of the suspended 
band-stand and shouted in perfect time to the mu- 
sic: "Chassez a little to the north'ard, and shet 
that door!" The door was promptly closed by one 
of the dancers, and the wintry draught shut out. 



129 



"Craft"— This word is often given a personal applica- 
tion. Respect or contempt are expressed by such 
terms as "She's quite a craft," or "He's a poor 
craft." Eccentricity is implied in the term "a 
queer craft." 

"Cruise" — A word in very common use, both as a verb 
and as a noun, being in either case pronounced 
with the sharp s sound, as if it were spelled 
"crooce." Any outing or vacation trip is called 
a cruise, and we speak of cruising about town, out 
west'ard way, or "just down-along." 

"Cut of His Jib" — General appearance, physique, 
clothes, and general get-up. By this do we judge 
of a person, and "size him up." 

D 

"Dandy Funk"--A sailor's pudding— see sub-title 
"Tid-bits," following this list. 

"Doctor, the"— the name by which the cook is always 
known at sea. 

"Douse the Glim"— To put out the light; not local, 
but one of the slang nautical terms which still lin- 
gers. 

"Down Along" — Many Nantucketers, when asked as to 
where they are bound, reply "Oh, jest down 
along." No one has ever been able to locate just 
where this popular destination is located. The 
North Shorer, the Upper Main Streeter, or the 
Chicken Hiller means when he uses it, that he is 
going down town. The Newtowner gives it the 



130 



same meaning, but he also uses it to express a 
port in the opposite direction, as when he heads 
for home. The Under-the-Banker also uses it to 
indicate both up town and down town. We have 
always heard of people who were going there, but 
we never knew any one to arrive. "Up-along" 
is sometimes heard, but much less frequently. 

"Down by the Head" — A vessel loaded heavily for- 
ward, so as to put her bow too deep in the water, 
is said to be "down by the head" and the expres- 
sion is sometimes applied to a person bowed by age 
or infirmity. 

"Drifting or Drifting Round" — Going aimlessly from 
place to place, with no definite destination. 

"Draws Lots of Water" — Influential, substantial, of 
some importance. 

E 

"Ease Off" — To give way slowly, as in argument. 

"Even Keel" — Upright. This expression is very fre- 
quently used by the native islanders, and in such 
manner as the following: Passing a well-filled 
bowl of liquid to another, the housewife may be 
heard to say, "Now keep it on an even keel, so's 
not to spill." Or referring to some unstable 
thing: "I had hard work to keep the thing on an 
even keel." 

"Everything Drawing" — Making the best possible 
progress in any enterprise. It conveys the idea 
that, whatever a person maybe doing, he has called 



131 



to his assistance every available factor to facili- 
tate his work, as the mariner trims every sail so 
that it may best catch the breeze and "draw." 

F 
"Fair Wind" — In wishing well a parting guest, one 
says, "A fair wind to you." It is used also in 
speaking of a streak of luck, as "he struck a fair 
wind." 

"Fall To" — To begin work; often, to begin eating a 
meal. 

"Fare"— The total catch, as "a big fare of fish." 

"Fast" — Attached. The whaleman and fisherman get 
fast to whale or fish, while if one's clothing is 
caught in some projection, it is referred to as 
"got fast to an old spike" (or whatever the offend- 
ing projection may have been). The term "make 
fast" is to suggest attaching boat, horse, any- 
thing to some stable object. 

"Fathom" — To understand, grasp the meaning or to 
penetrate the sense of. 

"Figure Nine with the Tail Cut Off"— That is, noth- 
ing; of no account or consequence. 

"Fin Out" — "All in," as we say nowadays. A dying 
whale rolled over and showed his fin. So the 
whalemen used to say, when a man was very sick 
or badly hurt, "he was pretty nigh fin out." 

"First" — Eager, anxious; as "he was quite first to go 



132 

the voyage." This is a curious and, apparently, 
quite local use of this word. 

"Flax" — To gad about, to hustle, as "flax around and 
get something on the table for dinner." 

"Fleet" — To move, especially to move over, to change 
the position of. 

"Foopaw" — A bungling job; to make a foopaw of a 
thing is to make a mess of it. Said to be a cor- 
ruption of the French faux pas, picked up from 
the French whalers in the Pacific. 

"Fudge" — To bother, to fool or "bamboozle." 

G 

"Gaily" — To frighten, to terrify; more often used 'in 
the perfect participle from "gallied," meaning 
nervous, uncertain as to what to do next, "rat- 
tled" — applied to a whale when alarmed. 

"Galley" — The sailor's name for the cook-house aboard 
ship; often applied to the kitchen of a house. 

"Galley West" — An odd sailor's expression, often 
heard, but the origin of which is obscure. To 
strike or hit a thing so as to demolish it or knock 
it over is to "knock it galley west." The galley 
doubtless refers to the cook-house. But why west 
rather than east, or any other point of the compass? 

"Gam" — A social visit and talk. Originally this term 
was applied to a school of whales, and its use by 
the whalemen is doubtless derived from that 
source. Whaleships meeting at sea, often hove 



133 



to, and the captains would visit back and forth 
during the time the ships were in company. Under 
certain conditions the crews were allowed the priv- 
ilege also. The word was used both as a noun 
and as a verb, and it is still very frequently heard 
among Nantucketers. One says, ''I met so-and-so 
today, and we had a grand gam together," or "we 
gammed for an hour or more." 

"Get the Drift" — To catch the meaning of; also to 
get in touch with latest news and gossip, as "I'm 
going down town to get the drift." 

"Gingerbread Cut the Right Way" — Is an old-time 

expression denoting that some matter has been 

satisfactorily settled for the person under con- 
sideration. 

"Go Ashore to Windward" — Said of a person who 
would go wrong with no excuse. 

"Going by the Board" — Neglected, decaying, dilapi- 
dated; a building, a boat, a road, or a business 
which is not looked after and taken care of is said 
to be "fast going by the board." 

"Gone to Bottom" — When a Nantucketer drops a 
thing, he is apt to speak of it as having gone to 
bottom. 

"Greasy Luck" — To wish a whaleman greasy luck 
meant to wish him a good voyage, with plenty of 
oil; hence the Nantucketer uses it in well-wishes 
to his friends in any proposed venture. To say on 



134 



parting, "Well, greasy luck to you!" is to say 
"bon voyage I" 

"Greenhorn" — An inexperienced person, a "tender- 
foot." 

"Gunwale Deep" — (pronounced "gunnel deep") -Heav- 
ily loaded, that is, loaded to the gunwale, the up- 
per edge of the side of a boat. 

H 

"Hail" — To call or speak to, as "I was going by and 
he hailed me." In very common use on the island 
in this sense. Also used as a synonymn for 
"come" in such expressions as "Where do you 
hail from?" 

"Half Seas Over"— Half drunk. 

"Hatch" — Applied to any trap door, or a door at the 
head of a flight of stairs. 

"Hatches Battened Down" — All secure and tightly 
closed to keep the wind and rain out. 

"Head Boat" — First, in the lead; used in a compli- 
mentary sense, as "he was usually head boat;" or 
perhaps sarcastically, as "oh, she always wants 
to be head boat." 

"Home Port" — The place where one lives; much used 
among the island folk. 

"Head Wind" — Reverses or difficulties to be overcome, 
as "he's having a head wind getting his hay in." 

"Heave" — This verb is used in its various forms, in 
the sense of throw or cast. 



135 



"Heave To" — To come to a stop; in the perfect par- 
ticiple form, "hove to," it means stationary, at a 
standstill. 

"Heave in sight" — To come into view. 

"Heave your Anchor Short" — Get ready to go; as the 
hour grows late, and it's time to go home, father 
says "Come, mother, heave your anchor short." 
This does not mean to start at once, but to get 
wraps, etc., and prepare for departure. 

"Hitch" — This word has many uses, both as noun and 
verb, and is indispensable to the islander's vocab- 
ulary. In addition to its more common uses, he 
speaks, perhaps, of the next hitch, meaning the 
next attempt, or of a hitch (a delay or obstruction) 
in the proceedings. To "hitch along" is to move 
over. It is also used to imply making fast. 

"Hoist" — Most old Nantucketers prefer this word to 
either lift or raise. They "h'ist" the basket on 
to the table, the box into the cart, and even the 
food to the mouth. The word has another odd use, 
in a sort of a perverted sense, meaning a fall, as 
"the staging gave way, and he got a bad h'ist." 
There seems to be no explanation of this use of 
the term. 

"Hooked In" — Walking arm in arm. In the old days 
an unmarried couple seen on the street "hooked 
in" were supposed to be engaged, and the gossips 
would say "oh, they must be engaged, for I saw 
them on Main street hooked in." 



136 



'Hot Water and Ashes to Leeward" — To understand 
that leeward (pronounced looard) is the direction 
in which the wind is blowing, is sufficient explan- 
ation of this old phrase borrowed from the sailors. 

'Hull Down" — Just showing above the horizon, as the 
masts and sails of a ship; hence to see only the 
head and shoulders or the upper part of a person's 
body abuve a fence, a hedge or a snow bank, is to 
see him "hull down." 

I 
"In Charge of the Ship" — Applied to anyone upon 
whom responsibility rests during the absence of 
the owner or boss. It is often used in defining the 
duties of a care-taker. 

"In the Doldrums" — Making no progress; hence dull, 
listless, perhaps sulky and dissatisfied. The Dol- 
drums is the sailor's name for that part of the 
ocean near the equator, where, at certain seasons, 
the winds are light, variable and baffling, with 
calms and squalls interspersed, and little progress 
can be made by a sailing ship. 

"In the Suds" — In the thick of things, especially in a 
social way, as "oh, she's right in the suds." 

"It Takes a Voyage to Learn" — Equivalent to "expe- 
rience is the best teacher." This is often quoted 
as an excuse for mistakes or inefficiency due to in- 
experience. 



137 



"Jadehopper" — A curious old word applied to a lewd 
or vicious woman, or sometimes to one who is only 
mischievous and lively. 

K 

"Kettle Halyards," or sometimes "Kitchen Halyards" 
—refers to domestic duties, especially of a culinary 
nature or work in the kitchen. In the absence of 
the mother, a child was often left to "tend the 
kettle halyards. " 

"Keel Out" — Literally, of course, upside down, but 
used to express illness, as "I've been keel out for 
a week with the grip." 

"Know the Ropes" — To be familiar with anything or 
well posted. See reference in Chapter II — "Sea 
Yarns and Sayings." 

L 

"Laboring Oar" — The heavy part of the work; a per- 
son who does more than a fair share, as compared 
with his fellows, is said to "pull the laboring 
oar." 

"Land" — As a verb, to disembark, or to bring to the 
shore, as "he landed a hundred fish today." 

"Last Out the Voyage" — Sufficient for the time set. 

"Late On the Tide" — Delayed, belated. 

"Lay" — A share, a percentage. All whaling voyages 
were conducted on the profit-sharing basis, each 
man interested, from the owners and captain down 



138 



to the greenhorn and boy, getting a proportionate 
part of the proceeds. The word has lingered in 
common use in the island speech. 

"Lay of the Land" — The existing conditions and cir- 
cumstances. To get the lay of the land is to get 
posted and acquaint one's self with all the condi- 
tions. 

"Lee Day" — An open or free day, with no special job 
on hand. 

"Lee Set" — A low bank of clouds to leeward — some- 
times presaging a storm. 

" Loaded to the Bow Thwart" -The bow thwart (the 
cross-seat of a boat) being higher above the wat- 
er line than the others, a boat loaded to that point 
was filled to its reasonable capacity, though not, 
perhaps, quite "gunwale deep." As used by the 
islanders it means heavily loaded. 

"Lobscouse" — A sailor's dish — see sub-title "Tid- 
bits," following this list. 

"Long-sparred" — A person with long limbs. 

"Lower" — As the old-time Nantucketer "h'ists" most 
everything, rather than raising or lifting it, so he 
lowers, rather than handing down or dropping a 
thing. 

M 

"Marriageable" — The use of this word in a certain 
sense by Nantucketers seems to be rather unique. 
A woman speaks of some article of wearing appar. 



139 



el, furniture, or household decoration as her "mar- 
riageable, " meaning that the dress was a part of 
her trousseau, or that the table or picture was a 
wedding present. Examples: "Jane has kept her 
marriageable dress all these years, and her daugh- 
ter will be married in it;" or "that bureau was a 
marriageable present from my aunt." 

Masthead" —Any point high up, out of reach. If a 
spring roller shade winds itself to the top of the 
window, the housewife says, " Well, that's gone to 
masthead." Anything very high up is said to be 
"masthead high. " 

Melzer" — A sailor's dish. See sub-title "Tid-bits," 
following this list. 

Mess"- — Enough for a meal — As a mess of clams, or 
a mess of birds. When such commodities are 
scarce they say, "it's hard to get enough for a 
mess." The word is also used to describe certain 
dishes for the table, as "I'll fix up a mess for 
dinner," that is, make a chowder or a stew. 

Miss His Reckoning"' — To lose one's way, to miscal- 
culate, to make a mistake. 

Misstay" — To make a mistake. 

Muckle" — To work hard under adverse conditions, as 
"he muckled away at it till he finally got it 
right;" also to bother or disturb, as "don't muc- 
kle me now. " 

N 
Navigate" — This word is employed to express prog- 
ress by any means of locomotion, walking, riding, 



140 



driving, etc. Bad walking is called "bad naviga- 
ting", and vice versa. 

"Needs to Eat a Piece of Mad Dog" — Is an ancient 
and expressive term applied to a slow-going, stupid 
person. 



"Odd as Huckleberry Chowder" — Is an expressive lo- 
calism used as a simile for extreme eccentricity. 

"Off" — An abbreviation of "off-island," is very fre- 
quently heard. One often hears such a remark as 
"I haven't seen you lately. Have you been Off?" 
Still more odd is the expression "when did you 
come On from Off?" 

"Off and On" — This very common expression wherever 
the language is spoken is undoubtedly of nautical 
origin, meaning to steer a course first away from 
and then toward the land. It may frequently be 
heard here in its original sense, as "cruising off 
and on. " 

"Off -Island and Off -Islander" — Words in constant local 
use, and of too obvious a meaning to require defi- 
nition. 

"Off -Soundings" — In deep water. One who gets be- 
yond his capacity in an argument is said to be off- 
soundings, that is, he can't "touch bottom." 

"Old Coot" — A rather disrespectful name for an old 
person, as "there were a lot of old coots there." 

"Old Town Turkey" — The Nantucketer's name for any 
resident of Martha's Vineyard; from the town of 



141 



Edgartown, which was formerly known as Old 
Town. 

''On Deck" — Alert, prepared, ready for anything. 

"On the Stocks" — In process of completion, as "I've 
got a job of work on the stocks." On the hooks 
has much the same meaning. 

"On the Ways" — Is used more to imply illness or dis- 
ability from any cause, that is, "on the ways for 
repairs. " 

"Over the Bay" — Another name for intoxicated. 

"Over the Bulge" (or Bilge) — The crisis passed; used 
especially to denote the successful accomplishment 
of the hardest part of a job or duty. 

P 

"Pass, the" — People on the street. All Nantucketers 
enjoy "watching the pass." 

"Pernickety" — A survival of old English speech, 
meaning fussy, particular, especially about trifles. 

"Petered" or "Petered Out" — Used up; exhausted. 

"Piggin" — Another good old word, still used to some 
extent. It means a small wooden tub, with hoops, 
and one stave projecting above the rim to form a 
handle; used as a receptacle for flour, meal or oth- 
er material. It differs from a cannikin tub, in 
having the long stave and no cover. 

"Plain Sailing" — A nautical expression in general use 
everywhere, meaning good, easy going. 



142 



"Folpisy" — Countrified, outlandish; a very old local 
term, dating back to a time when the people of 
that suburb were, perhaps, less in touch with the 
civilizing influences of the island's metropolis than 
at present. "Don't act Polpisy!" was said to a 
child who was awkward and ungainly. 

"Port" — The left-hand side; very much used by Nan- 
tucket men and boys. Also, as a noun, to indicate 
a place or locality, as the last, next or home port. 

"Put Out" — To start; same as "set sail" or "get un- 
der way. " 

Q 

"Quint" — An abbreviation of quintessence; applied to 
a "pernickety" old maid; from a local saying de- 
scribing such a person, "she's the quintessence of 
old maid stewed down to a half pint." The 
corresponding adjective is "quinty. " 

R 

"Rantum Scoot" — A term, we believe, peculiar to 
Nantucket, and very old. It means a day's 
"cruise" or picnic about the island, usually a 
drive, but it might be on foot. The distinctive 
feature of such an excursion is that the party has 
no definite destination, but rather a roving commis- 
sion, in which respect such a trip differs from a 
"squantum" (which see later). "Rantum" is 
probably a corruption of random. 

"Rig, Rig Out, Rig Up," etc.- — These terms are con- 
stantly used by the islanders, in common with 



143 



most seafaring folk, as substitutes for other words 
expressing the same meaning in use elsewhere, 
such as fix, arrange, prepare, make ready, etc. 

"Running Before the Wind" — To be favored by luck, 
as of a sucessful man it may be said "he's run- 
ning before the wind now all right." 

S 
"Sat in the Butter Tub" — Said of one who has fallen 
into good luck, especially of one who has married 
well; an expressive phrase, to say the least. 

"Scrabble" — Formerly used to express hustle and 
haste. 

"Scrap Islander" — The name applied to a Nantucketer 
by the people of Martha's Vineyard. 

"Scud" — To hurry, to move quickly. A nauticalism 
much used in general conversation. 

"Seeing the Look" — Noting a family resemblance; us- 
ually applied in the case of children to parents or 
to other ancestors. We speak of seeing the "Fol- 
ger look" or the "Starbuck look." 

"Set Sail" — To start, to depart, to "get under way." 
It is not in the literal or formal use of these terms 
that our interest lies, but in their every-day fig- 
urative use, as "it's time to set sail for home," 
or, on the occasion of a picnic or a cruise, "there 
were so many things to do we didn't 'set sail', or 
'get underway' till the middle of the forenoon." 

"She Rig" — A contemptuous term, reflecting on the 



144 



weaker sex, applied to anything which is not prop- 
erly made, set up or put together— in direct oppo- 
sition to 

"Ship Shape" — Implying masculine skill and efficiency. 
"Everything ship-shape" means all in perfect or- 
der and condition. 

"Shooler" — The old English verb "shool" is rarely 
heard, but its derivative, "Shooler" is still used 
occasionally, and is applied to any one who likes 
to roam about the shores or over the commons in 
search of a "mess" or a "voyage" of fish, clams, 
berries or game, or for any other object. 

"Sign Articles" — To make an agreement or contract 
of any kind. 

"Skimming Slicks" — Securing the full limit of return 
from any effort. A "slick," as used by the isl- 
anders, refers to the smooth, oily patches often 
seen on the sea over a school of blue-fish, macker- 
el or other surface-feeding fish, and which exudes 
from the small fish or "bait" on which the school 
are feeding. The full significance of this term 
will be recognized if one stops to think of the labor 
necessary to skim the slick and get all there is in 
it. 

"Skoodle" — To squat or crouch down; rarely heard 
now, though in common use fifty years ago. 

"Slatch" — A good English word, though somewhat old- 
fashioned; literally anjnterval of good weather in 
an otherwise stormy period; but Nantucketers use 



145 



it also to express a brief respite from labor or du- 
ty. An old-time Nantucket housewife, in making 
a neighborly call during the forenoon, might have 
said: "I had a little 'slatch' in my work, so 1 
thought I'd leave Melinda to 'tend the kettle hal- 
yards', and 'clip in' for a few minutes." 

"Slurrup" — A shiftless, untidy woman; a slattern. 
The adjective "slurrupy" was also used to de- 
scribe such a person 

"Snivver" — Here's a queer word, still used occasional- 
ly. One says "I'll be over to your house snivver 
dinner." The presumption is that the speaker 
means "as soon as ever I have had my dinner." A 
good definition would be: immediately after. We 
have been unable to find any record of the use of 
this odd term off-island. 

"Sound" — To inquire into or about, to investigate, as 
"I'll sound him, and see how he feels about it," 
or "You'd better sound it carefully before decid- 
ing " Often used also with the word "out," as 
"we'll sound it out first." 

"Speak" — To communicate with; used in its nautical 
sense, this verb is always in a transitive form. 
Not speak with or to a person, (as in the ordinary 
sense) but to speak him or her (with no interven- 
ing preposition). As one ship speaks another on 
the high seas, so one Nantucketer speaks another 
on the street. As distinguished from "hailing" — 
the latter implies distance between the speaker 



146 



and the speakee, which is net necessarily the case 
in "speaking' '. 

"Spell Set" — Difficult to define exactly; an islander, 
delayed by annoying circumstances from accom- 
plishing any object in view, will say there was a 
"spell set" against him. It would seem to have 
some connection with the tides. 

"Spitting Image" — A rather inelegant term, implying 
a striking resemblance, as of a child to a parent; 
but why "spitting" no one seems to know. 

"Splice the Main Brace" — Old English nauticalism for 
taking a drink ; always understood, afloat or 
ashore, by the bibulous brotherhood. 

"Squantum" — Doubtless of Indian origin; the Nan- 
tucketer's name for a party outing or picnic- — dif- 
fering from a "rantum scoot" (see before) in that 
a squantum usually implies some definite destina- 
tion for the cruise. 

"Square the Yards" — To settle up, to balance an ac- 
count. 

"Stand Off" — To keep away, to avoid; as a ship 
stands off from the shore; "stand-offish" is much 
used as an adjective to imply exclusiveness. 

"Steer Clear" — To shun, to avoid, to keep away from, 
to avoid colliding with; one of those nautical ex- 
pressions which is in universal use ashore. 

"Stingaree" — A name given to an annoyingly persis- 
tent person. 



147 



•'Strange Sail" — Any stranger within our gates is so 
referred to. 

"Straight Wake" — A bee line; as "the lad made a 
straight wake for home." 

'Struck by a Squall" — Demolished or wrecked by the 
elements or by any accidental means; anything 
which is in a tumbledown, dilapidated condition 
is said to look as if it had been struck by a squall. 

"Struck with the Dry Wilt" — A person who looks seedy 
from illness or other cause is referred tc as look- 
ing as though he was struck with the dry wilt. 

T 
"Tack" — To progress in an uneven course, as a boat or 
vessel against a head wind. 

"Tack Ship" — The same as tack, but often used like 
"come about" to indicate a change of course. 

"Talking Tacks Aboard" — Loquacious, verbose. 

"Tall as the Mainmast" — Said of a very tall person. 

"Taken Aback" — Surprised, astonished, dumbfounded; 

from a ship catching the wind on the wrong si^e 

• of its sails, when it is said to be "taken aback." 

"Take in Slack" — To gather in the loose end; hence 
to render minor assistance in any operation. 

"Taking a Lunar"— To look about, to observe condi- 
tions from the maritime custom of taking a lunar 
observation. Many old Nantucketers step out- 
doors every night and "take a lunar" before 
"turning in." 



148 



"There She Blows"— The lookout's cry on sighting a 
whale; hence often used by people of a whaling 
community like ours to denote the first sight of a 
thing. 

"There She Breaches" (breaks water) "there she white 
waters," "there goes flukes" (the tail), etc. — all 
these various cries of the lookout, as he watched 
the whale while preparations were being made for 
its pursuit, are quoted by the old-timers on the 
least provocation when any of them can be made 
to fit the occasion. 

"This Latitude" — This vicinity or neighborhood. Meet- 
ing an acquaintance in some unaccustomed part of 
the town, the islander asks, "What are you doing 
in this latitude?" or "Aren't you out of your lat- 
itude?" 

"Three Sheets in the Wind" — Still another name for 

drunk. 
"Tivis" — To wander aimlessly about. 

"Top Up Your Boom" — Get ready to go; from the 
custom of hoisting on the topping-lift of a fore 
and aft sail, before hoisting the sail itself. 

"Turn In and Turn Out" — The sailor's universal terms 
for going to bed and getting up. Most island men 
and boys prefer this form to "retire" and "rise." 

"Traipse" or "Trapes" — One of the survivals from 
old-time speech, meaning to gad or gallivant on the 
street. (See same under "Some Queer Words We 
Use" at end of this list). 



149 



"Trim" — To load evenly, as a good sailor would 
"trim" a boat. Also, neat, natty. 

"Trim Sail" — To so order affairs as to meet conditions 
— as to "trim sail according to your means," that 
is, to buy only as you can afford. 

"Two Lamps Burning and No Ship at Sea" — An old 
saying used as a rebuke for extravngance of any 
kind. 

U 
"Under Way" — Moving, getting headway on; some- 
times written (incorrectly, we think) under weigh. 

"Under the Window"' — 'By, at or beside the window 
seems to be preferred by off-islanders, but your 
true Nantucketer still sits "under" the window, 
and "watches the pass." 

V 

"Voyage" — To the old-time resident every expedition 
is a voyage, and whatever results from the voyage 
is also a voyage. The term, so used, has come 
down from the whaling days, when the number of 
barrels of oil secured determined whether it had 
been a good or a poor voyage. So today, if one 
goes clamming, fishing, hunting or berrying, the 
result of his efforts is the "voyage", and on his 
return, he is asked, "What kind of a voyage have 
you had?" or "Did you have a good voyage?" 

"Veer and Haul" — To "back and fill", to vaccillate, 
like a changeable wind. 



150 



W 
"Wadgetty" — Fidgety; nervous. 

"Watch the Pass" — A never-failing source of enjoy- 
ment to a true Nantucketer. Fortunate is he (and 
especially she) who lives on one of the main ave- 
nues of travel, where the opportunity for this di- 
version is greatest. 

"Watcher"-- One who sits up at night with a sick 
person, and attends to his or her wants. In the 
old days there were no trained nurses, and, anyway, 
a nurse had to do only with babies, or possibly 
with children. The invalid was usually cared for 
by a member of the family during the day, but at 
night a "watcher" (sometimes hired, but more 
often a volunteer) came in and took charge. Af- 
ter a death, a watcher always sat up with "the 
remains" each night until the funeral. 

"Weather" — This word had several meanings in addi- 
tion to its ordinary significance. As an adjective, 
it meant "windward," as the "weather bow," or 
the "weather side" of anything. As a verb it 
meant to get safely by, as, of a sick person, "if 
he weathers the night, he may pull through;" or, 
in a financial sense, "if he weathers this year, he 
may succeed in the end, ' ' etc. 

"Weather Eye Peeled" — Alert, on the watch. 

"When the Spirit Moves" — A Quaker term. No one 
was supposed to "speak in meeting" unless the 
Spirit moved. Hence Nantucketers use the term 



151 

to indicate that they will do a thing when or if 
the Spirit moves, that is, when or if the inspira- 
tion comes. 
Where Do You Hail From?" — What is your ''home 
port" or place of residence? 

Whick-Whack" — To dash hither and yon, as "He 
was whick-whacking back and forth, from house 
to barn and from barn to house, all day." 

Whittle"— To annoy, to tease, to pester; also some- 
times to be nervous and uneasy (see same under 
"Some Queer Words We Use", at end of this list.) 

Wide Berth"— Plenty of room; to give a person or a 
thing a wide berth is to shun or avoid him; to keep 
well away from. 

; Wilcox" — To pass a restless, uneasy, sleepless night. 
The expression "I wilcoxed all night long" is of- 
ten heard even now. (See same under "Some 
Queer Words We Use", following this list.) 

'Wild as a Tuckernuck Steer"— Wild, harum-scarum. 
Many beef cattle were formerly raised on Tucker- 
nuck, and their antics, when brought into the gay 
metropolis of Nantucket town, probably gave rise 
to this expression. 

'Wild Fowl Flavor"— Tasty and appetizing food was 
said to "have a real wild fowl flavor." The dish 
in question might be a pie or any kind of food, 
but the expression was used in a complimentary 
sense, meaning good, "moreish." 



152 



Weather Sayings. 

Mark Twain says somewhere, speaking of the 
weather, that it's a thing we are always talking about, 
but nobody ever seems to do anything about it. Could 
Mark have spent a winter on Nantucket, he might have 
thought there were times when we talked of little else; 
and with reason, perhaps, for it is a matter of vital 
consequence to us and to all our interests. Many Nan- 
tucketers specialize on the subject. The first thing 
they do on rising in the morning is to "take an obser- 
vation." Breakfast has no interest for them till they 
have looked at the thermometer, the barometer, the 
nearest weather vane, and the sky overhead This 
done, plans for the day may be considered. There is 
much weather lore among them. Any old-timer can 
predict the weather for twenty-four or even forty-eight 
hours ahead; and sometimes he hits it right, as might 
naturally be expected. Perseverance will accomplish 
anything. 

In former times there were many wise saws con- 
cerning the weather, and some of them are still current 
among the islanders. Yet it is a curious thing that if 
one starts out to make a collection of such sayings, he 
cannot find anyone who can remember off-hand more 
than two or three — usually the same ones. Probably 
some one has a collection of such sayings, but if so, 
the compilers have been, up to the hour of going to 
press, unable to locate it. A few, however, have been 
jotted down, some of which are known to be very old. 
It is hoped that if a second edition of this book should 
ever appear, the list may be greatly extended. 



153 



One of the things which every old-time Nantucket- 
er recognizes at sight is the particular kind of a day 
which is known as a "weather breeder." It is always 
a perfect day, but not every perfect day is necessarily 
a weather breeder. It is difficult to describe, and still 
more difficult, to the uninitiated, at least, to recog- 
nize. The saying, "There's always a calm before a 
storm," is known the world over, and the expression 
has its counterpart in all languages. It may be applied 
to a day as well as an hour. Hence the "weather 
breeder" --a fair, calm day, with a cloudless sky, or at 
most a few fleecy white wisps far up in the blue, when 
distant objects stand out clearly, when Pocomo Head 
and Great Point hang suspended 'twixt sea and sky and 
even Cape Cod may be visible in mirage. Everything 
on or near the water is clearly and sharply reflected. 
The wind is usually, but not always, from the east, for 
though 'tis said 

"When the wind is in the east 

'Tis good for neither man nor beast," 

we often have some beautiful weather when the wind 
is in that quarter — a fact which is, we think, not gen- 
erally recognized. But, as every perfect day is not a 
weather breeder, neither is every fair day with an east 
wind such. The unusual clearness of the air is one of 
the best signs, for 

"The further the sight the nearer the rain." 
Toward night there is quite apt to be a "mackerel 
sky," and every sailor knows 

"Mackerel scales, 
Furl your sails." 



154 



And if this condition is accompanied or followed by 
" mares' tails," then look out, for 

"Mackerel sky and mares' tails 
Make lofty ships carry low sails." 

Now watch the barometer and remember that 

"First rise after a low — 
Squalls expect and more blow." 

When the expected happens, observe it closely, for 

"First the wind and then the rain, 
Hoist your topsails up again." 
But 

"First the rain and then the wind, 
Topsail sheets and halyards mind!" 

If it hauls to the south'ard a bit, and blows hard, be 
prepared for what is to follow, for 

"A nor' wester never dies in debt to a southeaster." 
However, take comfort in the fact that, the debt being 
paid, with interest, 

"A howl from the north brings a scream from the 
east, a whisper from the south, and a song from the 
west," 

provided, of course, it goes round that way; that is, 
from north to east, east to south, etc. ; but if, on the 
contrary, the wind "backs," that is, changes in the op- 
posite direction, then you may know that it has all to 
be done over again, for 

"Winds that change against the sun 
Are always sure to backward run." 

1 And this never fails, for there can be no settled 



155 



weather (if there ever is such a thing in this latitude) 
until the wind has gone round the right way — that is, 
with the sun. And to the older islanders it is a well- 
known fact that there is (almost without exception) a 
dead calm within twenty-four hours before or after the 
full of the moon. 

A knowledge of these simple rules will enable any 
land-lubber to set up as a weather prophet with quite 
as much chance of establishing a reputation as if pic- 
kled in brine for three-quarters of a century. 

The varieties of weather known to Nantucketers 
often surprise the inland visitor, who recognizes only 
two kinds, good and bad. We have fair, good, fine, 
foul, dirty, nasty, bad, thick, rough, heavy and several 
other sorts, including "owlish" and "mirogenous. " 
Wind conditions are described as dead calm, stark calm, 
calm, light, puffy, squally, heavy, single-reef, two-, 
three- and close-reef breezes, half-a-gale, gale, hurri- 
cane, etc. ; or a wind may be described as a six or 
eight-knot-breeze, and so on. Among those to the 
manner born, a "tempest" means a thunder-storm. 
Boxing the Compass. 

We have our own names for the points of the com- 
pass. Many writers persist in making the sailor man 
say "nor'east" and "sou'east." None such ever used 
the words. He does say "nor' west" and " sou' west, " 
but north is "no'the," with a long "o" and a soft 
"th." Northeast is "no'theast, " pronounced the same 
way (the "no'the" like the verb "loathe.") South is 
pronounced with the same soft "th" (like "mouth" 
when used as a verb). 



156 



When either north or south is used as an adjective 
before the noun, however, each takes its ordinary dic- 
tionary pronunciation, as a "north wind," or the 
"south shore." It is only when used without the noun 
that the long "o" sound in "no'the" and the soft 
"th" in both words are heard. Thus we say the wind 
is "out southe, " or "about no'the" — never a "no'the 
wind" or the "southe shore." It is a curious distinc- 
tion, for which there seems to be no reason except cus- 
tom itself. Then we have "no-no'theast, " and "sou'- 
southeast, " but always "nor'nor'west" and "sou'- 
sou'west." Writers who wish to apply the local col- 
or correctly are urged to study these forms carefully, and 
not slip up, as most of them do, on such simple mat- 
ters. "Southe" is sometimes used as a verb, when 
speaking of the moon, as "when the moon southes;" 
and the word "easting" is sometimes heard. 

Underground Moon. 

And we must not let another lunar phase pass un- 
heeded, as a part of the island's weather curriculum — ■ 
the "underground moon." Here we have a strictly 
local phase of the orb of night. When the moon makes 
a change between the hours of 12 and 1 o'clock, she is 
classed as an "underground moon," and the claim is 
made that foul weather is sure to accompany. Care- 
ful notes indicate that such conditions do result, but 
that the rule is not infallible. The real "under- 
ground" moon is when that heavenly body makes its 
change between the time of setting and rising, and 
between the hours of 12 and 1 o'clock, being at the 



157 

time below the horizon— or underground. The real 
weather-wise Nantucketer holds quite tenaciously to 
the theory. 

TID BITS. 
It would be a mistake to fail to preserve here the 
menu known to whalemen in the early days. It will 
intensify our respect for our forbears, who as lads were 
eager to risk all the comforts of home to sail on long 
voyages, knowing full well what conditions they would 
be compelled to meet The mess table of those days 
was in strong contrast to what is served Jack in these 
days of tinned food-stuffs, and the "tar" of today is 
better looked after in every particular, through better 
national and international laws bearing upon his pro- 
tection. 

Lob Scouse. 
In the old days Lob Scouse was a prominent fea- 
ture of the menu of a whaleship. It was a stew of 
soaked hard tack, pork fat, or "top o' the pot" (grease 
left after boiling "salt horse"— beef), or any sort of 
"slush" (sailor's term for grease), boiled with molas- 
ses and water. 

Potato Scouse 
Was the same as above, excepting that potatoes were 
substituted for hard-tack. 

Dandyfunk. 
This appears to have been a dish of class on ship- 
board, made of powdered hard-tack, molasses and wat- 
er and baked in the oven— evidently a sort of pudding. 



158 



Salt Horse 

(salted beef) was served twice a week, as was boiled 
salt pork. 

Duff 
Boiled in a cloth, was on the menu twice weekly, 
and one day of the seven gingerbread was served. 

Meal and Molasses. 

Scalded yellow meal with molasses was served 
daily, and occasionally salt fish and potatoes. 

Whale scraps were occasionally eaten, and porpoise 
meat, and sometimes fresh fish found place on the fes- 
tive board; and when they were trying out a whale, ad- 
vantage was taken of the abundance of hot fat to do 
more or less frying in the try-pots. 

To the whaleman, salt beef was always "meat," 
while pork was pork. As some preferred one and 
some the other, a sailor would frequently offer to swap 
his "meat" for his mess-mate's pork, or vice versa. 
Whalemen used to say they varied their diet by having 
salt horse and hard-tack one meal, and hard-tack and 
salt horse the next, and so on. 



Some Queer Words We Use. 

To the student of etymology the speech of the 
Nantucket people offers an interesting field. Here he 
will encounter many unusual words and expressions 
rarely found elsewhere outside of the dictionary, and 
not always there, yet frequently used and perfectly un- 
derstood by the older generation of islanders. 



159 

In an essay entitled "Shakespeare's American- 
isms," Henry Cabot Lodge answers some of the Eng- 
lish critics who have referred rather slurringly to cer- 
tain alleged innovations in the mother tongue as 
"Americanisms," and proves conclusively, by quota- 
tions from Shakespeare and his contemporaries, that 
many of these terms are simply survivals of well-rec- 
ognized forms which were in common use in the Eliz- 
abethan age or even earlier. One such word quoted by 
Mr. Lodge is "fleet," used as a verb, which he had 
often noted in Nantucket. The primary definition of 
this word, according to the Century dictionary, is "to 
move quickly, " but as it survives with us, it is used 
more in its second sense, "to move over, to move 
along", or, in the transitive form, "to change the 
place of." An excellent example is contained in the 
story of a Quaker minister, who, noting that a consid- 
erable part of his scattered congregation occupied the 
back seats, began his discourse by saying : "Come, fleet 
for'ard, friends; there's too much weight aft." Cu- 
riously enough the Century Dictionary's example is al- 
most exactly similar, to wit: "To fleet aft the crew of 
a whale boat, that by their weight they may help to 
keep the head of the boat up when a whale is sound- 
ing." 

So whnn some of our hypercritical visitors are in- 
clined to poke a bit of fun at us for using certain "out- 
landish" words, it may be wiser for them to first con- 
sult the dictionary and make sure that the word in 
question is not some rather choice bit of pure old Eng- 
lish speech. 



160 



It may be of interest to consider a few of the 
more common examples of such words, many of which 
are given in our list of "Expressions and Idioms." 
Few if any of them could yet be considered obsolete, 
and the worst that could be said of any of them is that 
they are more or less archaic. There is space to men- 
tion only a few, which we have arranged alphabetically. 
Almost any old Nantucketer can add one or more to the 
list, which may thus grow to a long chapter by itself 
should a second edition of this book ever appear. 

"Clip" — A Nantucketer would say, "I'll just 
'clip' in to Mary's on the way back." One meaning 
of the verb clip is to move quickly, and as our use of 
this term implies haste, or a hurried call, it is doubt- 
less derived from that meaning. 

"Coof" — the Century defines as "a lout, a cow- 
ard." (Scotch). Originally the word was without 
doubt used in a somewhat contemptuous sense, and to 
the resident of a prosperous urban community of ten 
thousand people, such as Nantucket was seventy or 
eighty years ago, visitors from Cape Cod (to whom the 
term was originally applied) might well have seemed 
loutish. Gradually the word came to be applied to any 
off-islander and lost most of its contemptuous signifi- 
cance, implying only a slight inferiority by reason of 
the accident of birth elsewhere than on the island. It 
is a good English word, which is the main point. 

"Diddledees" — a curious old word used for pine- 
needles. This has always been something of a puzzle, 
but the Century again helps us out: "Diddledees — a 



161 



shrub in the Falkland Islands and other Antarctic re- 
gions used for fuel." As pine-needles have been used 
as "kindlings" by the Nantucket people for generations 
past, may it not be that the word was brought from 
the Antarctic by the whalers? In the absence of any 
better explanation of the origin of the term, this theory 
is advanced for what it may be worth. 

"Flax" as a verb. The Century gives as an ex- 
ample "flax around," which is just the way Nantucket 
people use it, meaning to gad about, or to hustle. 

"Fudge" —Long before its use as a noun, applied 
to a certain kind of candy, our ancestors used this word 
as a verb, meaning to bother or plague, to fool, or 
something like the term "bamboozle." There is a 
story of an old Quaker grocer who sent word to a cus- 
tomer who had complained of the butter he sent her 
that "it was good butter, and he would not be fudged 
by women." Another story tells of a Quaker who was 
asked to sell half of a two-cent pickle for one cent. 
His reply was, "Thee get along now, thee can't fudge 
me." There is a dictionary definition, "to prod with 
a stick," from which the local use of the term may 
have been derived, but it is a trifle obscure. 

"Gam" — Originally "a school of whales, " from 
which it was quite natural the whalemen should have 
applied it to a social visit between ships, which is one 
of the Century's definitions. 

"Gaily" — Though this word has survived princi- 
pally in the perfect participle form, "gallied," it was 
also used in the present and other tenses. It is a vari- 



162 



ation, recognized in the dictionary, of the good old Eng- 
lish verb gallow, to frighten or terrify. "The wrath- 
ful skies gallow the very wanderers of tht dark." — 
Shakespeare. 

"Meeching" — Is another word often noted. The 
dictionary gives "skulking, sneaking, mean," which is 
just the sense we give it in Nantucket. 

"Muster" — Not as applied to the military, but to 
any group or assemblage of people, as "quite a mus- 
ter," which is a secondary definition of the term in the 
dictionary, and, we think, rather unusual "off -island." 

"Perceive" — No word causes more comment, per- 
haps, among our visitors than this; not of course the 
word itself, but the way Nantucketers use it. It is 
difficult to define the exact shade of difference between 
our use of the word and that of others. With us it 
means something more than to see or discern, or even 
to notice. It means rather to grasp or "take in. " For 
example if one speaks to an old islander, he or she, as 
recognition dawns, says: "Oh, how do you do! I 
didn't perceive you at first." It is perfectly obvious 
that he saw you, but it required something more, the 
use of some other sense or senses, and possibly some 
slight lapse of time, to perceive you. In view of this 
use of the word, the Century Dictionary definition is 
very interesting: "to become aware of, to have knowl- 
edge of." And again "specifically, to come to know 

through the organs of sense When we 

perceive, the object is actually before us, appealing to 
various sense organs." Is it not curious that this ex- 



163 

act distinction, subtle as it is, should have survived 
among us, to be frequently remarked upon by outsiders? 
"Perceivance" — In a similar sense this word still 
persists in the speech of Nantucketers. Is it ever heard 
elsewhere? The dictionary gives an example from Mil- 
ton : ''The senses and common perceivance carry this 
message to the soul. " When a Nantucket woman of 
the old regime wishes to convey the idea that she scorn- 
fully ignored some slighting remark, she says with dig- 
nity : "Yes, I heard it, but I took no perceivance of it." 

"Pernickety" — When a Nantucket person calls 
another pernickety, it strikes an outsider as provincial 
or even as if the word might have been coined for the 
occasion; but again the Century justifies us as follows: 
"Pernickety — precise in trifles, fussily particular, es- 
pecially about dress or trifles," — which is exactly how 
we use the term. 

"Porch"-- Applied to an ell kitchen. A summer 
cottager who instructed the native man-of all-work to 
sweep and clean the porch accused him of stupidity 
when she returned an hour or two later to find her 
kitchen nicely cleaned, while the veranda remained in 
the same disorder as when she went out. Each knew 
what a porch was, but each had something quite differ- 
ent in mind. The word porch is defined as "a covered 
way or entrance, whether enclosed or unenclosed." In 
ecclesiastical architecture, where it presumably origi- 
nated, it describes the covered and usually enclosed en- 
trance built on to a church or cathedral -for all the 
world, in general outline and appearance, like the ell 



164 



kitchen of a typical old Nantucket house, succeeding 
the "lean-to" in the very old ones. The use of the 
word as applied to a veranda is modern U. S. , and 
more or less local at that. So the Nantucketer may 
have been nearer right than his employer. The room over 
this style of kitchen was always "the porch chamber." 

"Scrimshont" — A curious word, of which the orig- 
inal is said to have been scrimshaw. The dictionary 
defines it in effect as any fine or delicate mechanical 
work, especially the carving on shells or ivory done by 
sailors. Many fine examples of "scrimshonting" may 
still be seen in some of the old Nantucket homes, and 
the Historical Association has some excellent speci- 
mens in its collection. 

"Scrouge" is another survival, meaning "to 
squeeze, to press, to crowd," especially in a financial 
way, as by a creditor in dealing with a debtor. Did 
Dickens, perhaps, have it in mind when he named his 
central character in the "Christmas Carol?" 

"Serve" — If a Nantucket woman breaks her 
broomstick or mop-handle, she fits the pieces together 
and asks her husband or some other man to "serve" it. 
If he is a sailor he knows what she means, and he does 
a wonderfully neat job. He does not need to look in 
the dictionary, where he might learn that it means "to 
bind or wind tightly with small cord or marline;" but 
unless he is a sailor, or has been taught by a sailor, he 
cannot do it without having at least one of the ends, if 
not both, showing when the work is finished. It is a 
fine art when properly done. 



165 



"Shod," according to the dictionary, means "to 
saunter about, to loiter idly" — a favorite pastime with 
the "shooler," who is a well-known character in the 
local vernacular. 

"Slatch" — A word still in quite common use on 
the island among the older people. It means "a short 
gleam of fine weather, an interval in a storm." When 
caught away from home in a heavy rain, we plan, if 
possible, to "wait for a slatch" before starting to re- 
turn. The term is also sometimes used in the sense of 
a respite from labor, as "I had a slatch in my work, 
and I thought I'd run over and see you. " 

"Sliver"— (pronounced with a long "i")— Ask 
your city fish man to sliver a flounder, a plaice fish or 
a scup for you, and there's one chance in ten, if he's 
not an old fisherman himself, that he will know what 
you mean; yet the dictionary defines it exactly: "to 
cut each side of a fish away in one piece from the head 
to the tail, which is the only proper way to clean eith- 
er of the fish mentioned, as every Nantucketer knows. 

"Stir", as a noun — This may be, strictly speak- 
ing, less distinctively local than some of the other 
terms, but it is doubtful if it is used as frequently in 
this sense elsewhere as here. One says, for instance, 
"I've been down town, but there isn't much stir." 
The word means "activity, bustle, movement, action, 
commotion, excitement"— all of which are included in 
the thing which is lacking in the sentence quoted. 

"Traipse", or "trapes" is another verb which 
Nantucketers still use frequently in the exact sense au- 



166 



thorized by the Century: ''To gad or flount about 
idly." It includes a little of the meaning of both 
"flax" and "shool" above given, with something add- 
ed, but it implies something rather less reputable than 
either of those terms. To say that a woman "traipses" 
up and down Main street comes dangerously near slan- 
der on our island. 

"Whittle" — There seems to be no good authority 
for our use of this word, meaning to fuss, to get un- 
easy ; also, sometimes, to tease, to pester. One says, 
"Well, it's time to go. Mother'll be whittling." 
What child of a Nantucket mother hasn't been told, 
when he had exhausted her patience to the point of ex- 
asperation by teasing for something, "Oh, stop your 
whittling!" 



Many other words are less easy to place, though 
every old Nantucketer will recognize some if not all of 
them. 

"Bungy" — "Where you going?" "I'm going to 
Bungy." What and where is Bungy? The impression 
seems to be that the reply is a rather saucy one — al- 
most as if to say, "None of your business." 

"Flink" — "I'm going out on a flink," meaning a 
good time. May it be a corruption of "fling" some- 
times used in a similar sense? 

"Huddle" — An old-time name for a dance or ball. 
All the old-timers will recall "Handy's huddles." 



167 

"Muckle" — See Expressions and Idioms. Origin 
obscure. 

"Rantum-scoot" — Does it mean to scoot at ran- 
dom? That is the implication of the term, as used. 
Who knows? 

"Skoodle" — To crouch, to squat. There seems to 
be no authority for this, though long in common use. 

"Slurrup" — A slattern; the adjective was "slur- 
rupy." There is a definition (Provincial English) of 
slur, meaning "mud, especially thin, washy mud." A 
possible connection suggests itself. 

"Strams"— Children; not common, but apparently 
authentic. Whence came it? 

"Wilcox" — Much used in Nantucket formerly, to 
describe an uneasy, sleepless night. To this day the old 
folks (and some of the young ones) say; "I couldn't 
sleep. I wilcoxed all night long." It has been sug- 
gested that the term originated with a story of some 
family named Wilcox who, having an overplus of com- 
pany one night, slept four or five in a bed, with the 
natural result that no one slept at all. 

Unlike most rural New Englanders, including even 
Cape Cod coofs, your Nantucketer never "cal'lates, " 
though some writers have made him ^do so, by implica- 
tion, in their attempts to reproduce the local dialect. 
Nor does he, like the Southerner, "reckon.' Most as- 
suredly he never, like the Englishman, "fancies." He 
does sometimes "guess" (which, by the way, is one of 
the "Americanisms" which Mr. Lodge proves by sever- 



168 



al examples has a good Shakespearean origin and au- 
thority) ; but he employs a much more elegant and dig- 
nified phrase than either of these. He "presumes like- 
ly." That is his particular contribution to the many 
variations of the word think. He prefaces most of his 
opinions with the phrase, as "I presume likely the boat 
will be late tonight;" and if you ask him almost any 
question requiring anything short of a positively affirm- 
ative reply, he answers it: "I presume likely." 
There is something akin to the Scotchman's well-known 
reluctance to make any unqualifiedly positive statement 
in the Nantucketer's use of this phrase, and he keeps it 
handy for all occasions. 

Nantucketers never sit at the window or by the 
window, but always "under" the window. There is 
perhaps no phrase which is more often noted in our 
speech than this, and we who use it are often asked to 
explain or even to demonstrate just how we sit under 
the window. The answer is, obviously, that as Nan- 
tucket windows are usually rather high from the floor, 
as we sat by or at one of them, we are under them, just 
as the wall paper or the baseboard, or even the floor, 
for that matter, is under them — which only goes to 
prove that whatever may be said of us, we are never 
in the wrong. Let him who can prove the contrary. 

We might go on indefinitely citing peculiarities of 
the local dialect, if such a term may be used in this 
connection ; but it would need another book to pursue 
the subject to its limits, and the limitations of our 
space forbid. But we cannot close without a word 
about what is known as "the Nantucket yes marm," 



169 



which, after all, is no more Nantucket than Cape Cod, 
or anywhere else, for that matter; though we are just- 
ly accused of using it more generally and more univer- 
sally, perhaps, than other people. Though rather in- 
formal, it is good English, strange to say. To refer 
once more to our Century Dictionary, we find 
"h'm-h'm— a murmur of assent." Nantucketers do 
not say "h'm-h'm," but "m'm-h'm"— that is, there 
is no aspirated sound on the first syllable, but only on 
the second. The lips are kept tightly closed, and the 
sound comes through the nose. One has only to listen 
to a modern Nantucketer "murmuring assent" over the 
telephone to realize how fixed the habit is with all of 
us. 



Chapter XL 

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM. 

A queer old couplet, sometimes quoted by the old- 
timers, though no one seems to know how or 
where it originated: 

''First a feast, and then a famine, 

And then out on the banks a-clammin'." 



That the old-time speech of the island people has 
not entirely passed out of use, is proved by a compara- 
tively recent experience of a family who were looking 
for an apartment for the summer. Having hesitated 
about taking the upper floor of one of the old houses, on 
the ground that it was not quite large enough for their 
needs, the lady of the house offered to "heave in a room 
up garret," which served to clinch the bargain. 

Whalers' "Shop Talk." 

About the year 1800, a Boston man, on returning 
from a visit to Nantucket, told his friends that he had 
never heard of such a barbarous, cold-blooded lot of 
people as those islanders. When asked to explain, he 
replied: "Well, I'll tell you a little conversation I 
overheard on the wharf between two apparently respec- 
table citizens. One said to the other, 'Have you sold 



171 



your head?' to which the other replied, 'No, not yet; 
I've sold my body and my bone, but I'm waiting for a 
better offer for my head!' 

A Division of Labor. 
After the fight between the American privateer 
Prince of Neufchatel and the boats from the British 
frigate Endymion, off the south side of Nantucket, dur- 
ing the war of 1812, many wounded men were landed 
on the island. Among them were two shipmates, one 
of whom had lost a hand, while the other had been hit 
in the jaw by a musket ball. Being asked out to din- 
ner with others of their comrades, they both suffered a 
serious handicap in competition with their more fortu- 
nate messmates, who were all too busy to notice their 
predicament. Finally, he of the one hand addressed 
him of the broken jaw with, "I say, Jack, you can't 
grind, and I can't carve, so what do you say to splicing? 
You cut for me, and I'll chew for you." 
That Second-Harid Pulpit. 
There are several different versions of this tale, 
two or three of which have found their way into the 
Scrap Basket. They vary, however, only as to the 
store where it happened, and the place where the pulpit 
came from. The story is that a certain shop-keeper, 
who shall be nameless, carried such a varied line that it 
was hard to think of anything which he could not pro- 
duce So famous in this respect did the shop become 
that finally a wager was made between two citizens 
that one could not ask for anything which the proprie- 
tor did not have in stock. Going into the store, the 



172 



spokesman said: "We've called to see if you happened 
to have a second-hand pulpit." "Why, yes," was the 
reply; "now you speak of it, I believe I have; but I 
never expected to sell it, and I'd pretty near forgotten 
I had it. When they took down the old Teazer Meeting 
House, I bought the pulpit, and I've got it up garret. 
I'll bring it down." The loser paid his bet, and paid 
for the pulpit as well, though "he had no more use for 
it than Nick Meader had for his teeth." 

Not Too Much at a Time. 

Uncle James's son Theophilus, who was in "for- 
eign parts," wrote a letter to his mother. After the 
lamp was lighted in the sitting room, she put on her 
specs, and sat down to read it aloud to the family. Af- 
ter she had read a page or two Uncle James stopped 
her, saying, "There, that'll do for this time, mother; 
now put it on the mantel, put the whetstone over it, 
and finish reading it tomorrow." Being a dutiful 
wife, she obeyed, and the family had to wait for the 
second installment. 

Twisted. 

Reuben Clark, who was famous as a gunner, lived 
at the foot of Mill Hill. One day a boy saw a fish- 
hawk light on the topmost point of the mill-vane. 
Greatly excited, he ran down the hill, banged on the 
door of the Clark domicile, and yelled: "Reub Gun, get 
your dark, and shoot the mill-vane on the fish-hawk!" 

This reminds us of the time Hiram's pig escaped, 
when Uncle Isaac, his father-in-law, called out, "Hi- 



173 



ram! Hiram! Half a dozen hammers and a board-nail, 
quick! The pig's under the gate!" 

Question Not Debatable. 

Richard Macy, father of Zaccheus, had engaged to 
marry Alice Paddack, a single woman, he being at the 
time about 80 years old. On telling his son Caleb of 
his intention, the latter remonstrated on account of his 
father's great age, whereat Richard told Caleb that he 
misapprehended the reason for his call ; he had not come 
to consult him or to get his concurrence — he merely 
came to inform him that he should marry Alice Pad- 
dack. 

More Good Things from the Inquirer. 

This advertisement appeared in the Inquirer of 
March 11, 1823: 

Wanted 

"Smart, native, honest Lad of from 12 to 16 
years of age, who writes a good hand and is acquainted 
with figures, to attend in a West India Goods Store. 
No compensation will be allowed." 

What a temptation to an ambitious boy to enter a 
mercantile life ! 



The Inquirer of October 5, 1833, quotes the fol- 
lowing native poetry, transcribed from a shutter on a 
local grocery store : 

"New Cider Sweat and good 

Pleas to trye it if you would 

Apples Paires and Peaches too 

As good frute as ever grew 

Oysters fine as ever you saw 

You can have them cook't or take them raw. " 



174 



Cured of "Playing Sick." 

The Mirror of Feb. 28, 1846, tells of an old Nan- 
tucket ship captain "now located far away," who, be- 
ing applied to by a lazy sailor for some medicine, 
said that he cut up a head of tobacco, steeped it in a 
pint of black fish oil, administered it, and "put such an 
injunction" upon the fellow that he never troubled him 
again. 

Rich, but Humble. 

There is a story which has been attributed to sev- 
eral different local plutocrats at various times, but the 
story itself is probably older than some of its alleged 
heroes. It first appeared in the Worcester Yeoman in 
November, 1828, and was related as an example of the 
democracy existing in Nantucket. Some strangers, 
landing at the wharf, noticed two elderly men with a 
cart, and at once piled their luggage aboard and or- 
dered it delivered at a certain boarding house in the 
town. When the cart arrived, the strangers ordered 
the various articles disposed of according to their wish- 
es, but on asking for the bill, their surprise may be 
imagined when they were informed that there was no 
charge for the service and that if any further work of 

the kind was needed, to call on Mr. and Capt. 

. Inquiry soon revealed the fact that the strang- 
ers had employed two of the richest men on the island, 
who seemed to enjoy the joke even more than their em- 
ployers, who had profited by the service rendered. 



175 



Gatherings. 

The late John Rand, remembered as an incorrigible 
joker, was one of the many Nantucket men who enlist- 
ed early in the Civil war, going out with the Twentieth 
Regiment, M. V. M., as a member of Company I. The 
examining surgeon asked him if he had ever had any 
serious illness, to which John replied that when he was 
a boy he used to have "gatherings in his head." 
Finding no sign of any such trouble he was asked what 
had been done to cure it. "Why," he replied, "my 
mother used to treat 'em with a fine-tooth comb!" 
John was accepted. 

Knew the Exact Spot. 
"Where did you get such a bad cold?" was asked 
of a Nantucket man who was obviously suffering in 
that respect. " Well, I'll tell you where I got it," 
was the reply. "It was right between John Shaw's 
house and Roland Folger's shop." 

Height of His Ambition. 

One day Jake E was heard to say: "Wish I 

had a million dollars." "What would you do, Jake, 
if you had a million dollars?" "I'd go right down 
to auction and buy a d— d great piece of corned beef," 
was the response. 

* Epitaphs Which Might Have Been. 
In an interesting letter to his cousin, Keziah 
Coffin, Benjamin Franklin suggested these two epitaphs 
— the first for his parents, and the second for himself. 
They were printed in The Nantucket Inquirer, January 
26, 1824. 



176 



Josiah Franklin 

And Abiah, his wife, 

Lie here interred. 

They lived loveingly together in Wedlock 

Fifety-five Years 

And without an Estate or gainfull Imployment 

by constant Labour and honest Industry 

With God's Blessing 

Maintained a large Family comfortably and 

brought up thirteen Children and seven 

Grandchildren 

Reputably. 

From this Instance Reader 

be encouraged to Dilligence in thy Calling 

And distrust not Providence. 

He was a Pious and Prudent Man 

She was a diligent and Virtuous Woman 

Their youngest Son 

In filial Regard to their Memory 

Places this Stone — 

J. F. horn 1655 died 1744 

A. F. born 1666 died 1752 



The Body of B. Franklin 

Printer 

Like the Cover of an old Book 

Its Contents torn out 

And stript of its Lettering and Gilding 

Lies here Food for Worms 

But the Work shall not be lost 

It will (as he believes) appear once more 

In a new and more beautiful Edition 

Corrected and Amended 

By the Author. 

He was born Jan. 6, 1706. And 

died 17— 



177 



Non Persona Grata. 

Here is a copy of an official warrant issued by the 
Selectmen of Sherborn, in 1738: 

Nantucket, ss. To the Constables of the Town of Sher- 
born, or either of them, &c : 

Information being made to us, the subscribers, that 
Marther Broadbrook of the County of Barnstable is 
landed into this town in order to take up her abode 
here, which is like to be of ill consequence if not time- 
ly prevented : 

These are therefore to order you or either of you 
to warn the said Marther Broadbrook immediately to 
depart this town or to expect the severity of the law in 
that case made and provided, and make Return of this 
order to either of us as soon as may be. 
The 22nd of the 6th month, 1738. 

Jabez Bunker, 
Nathan Folger, 
Thomas Macy, 
Richard Coffin, 
John Macy, 
Paul Starbuck, 
Ebenezer Barnard, 

Selectmen. 
On the back of this order is the following endorse- 
ment : 

Nantucket, Sherborn, August 29, 1738, Pursuant 
to this warrant this day warned the within Marther 
Broadbrook. (The signature is illegible.) 



178 

A Quiet Hint. 

An old-time grocer of the island disliked loafers 
in his store, and posted the following placard conspicu- 
ously : 

"Right Man in the Right, 

Place- 
Husband at Home in the 
Evening." 



179 



A Rhymed Resume. 

The following lines, which portray traits of many 
old Nantucket families, were written by Matthew Bar- 
ney, and read at the Coffin family gathering and cele- 
bration, 1881. 

Ho! children of "Scrap Island*', hear, 

Leave each your avocation ; 
Come, gather in the old home dear; 

Let's have a Celebration. 

Two hundred years have passed away, 

Since came the pair of Macys, 
And from that stock we show, today, 

A troop of smiling faces. 

Old Tristram Coffin's name we find 

A regiment could furnish, 
And Mary Starbuck's strength of mind 

Lives other minds to burnish. 

Come, Rays and Russells, leave your trade, 

There's fun for coopers brewing; 
Nantucket sons and daughters staid 

Old friendships are renewing. 

Come, knowing Folgers, 'tis said you need 

In labor's line true grit, 
So to our invite please take heed, 

There's less of work than wit. 

Come, Colemans, for the name recalls 
Thoughts of the good old preacher; 

Tho' seldom found in college halls, 
Yet truth's your sterling feature. 

Come, Coffins, noisy, fractious, loud, 

We can excuse your manner ; 
Of all the names that homeward crowd 

I'm sure yours take the banner. 



180 

Come, silent Gardners, slow and sure, 
Leave business whilst you're gamming; 

If one week's play you can't endure, 
We'll find you work at clamming. 

Come, quiet, honest Husseys, too, 

(From Christopher descended) 
We shall not get a speech from you — 

Least said is soonest mended. 

Come, Mitchells, good, the old rhymes say, 
(I suppose it means at writing) 

Let's have a poem for the day, 
Rich, joyous and delighting. 

Come, Barkers, you are rated proud, 
We know you have some humor; 

Just lend a hand; we'll show the crowd 
This gathering's not mere rumor. 

Come, Macys, of the good old stock — 
The first that trod our shores — 

From that good pair has sprung a fleck 
That's counted now by scores. 

Don't fail to come, we do insist: 

This is not all a fable, — 
We'll put you down upon the list 

At the " pudding' ' place at table. 

Come, Swains, 'tis said a grouty set 
(Perhaps there is some reason); 

You grumble if a chance you get, 
Both in and out of season. 

Come, Barnards, quiet in your mien, 

In general, civil-spoken; 
Come, Pinkhams, lay aside your spleen, 

Let not good cheer be broken. 



181 

Come, Starbucks, ye of Edward's line, 

Nathaniel and his Mary, 
Wide-scattered 'mong Carolina's pine, 

And o'er the western prairie 
'Tis said you're cold and rather rough. 

Our welcome will be warm enough. 

Come, Bunkers, ye of William's stock, 

And his young wife Joanna; 
When roused, you're stubborn as a rock, 

But kind your natural manner. 

Come, Paddacks of Ichabod's bold race, 
That taught our grandsires whaling; 

Come, let a smile light every face, 
For soberness is your failing. 

Come, honest Chases, rather bluff, 
And sometimes prone to fretting. 

A whale is sure to cry, " enough," 
If once you get a "setting." 

Come, Worths, with notions quaint and rare, 
Most taught in Whalemen's College, 

Where he is best who'll do and dare, 
Tho' lacking in book knowledge. 

Come, Jenkins, cold and slow of speech, 

Minds of mechanic turn ; 
Some facts this gathering's sure to teach, 

You are not too wise to learn. 

Come, Cartwrights, square in thought and act, 

More sober-hued than gay , 
This gathering is a stubborn fact, 

There's time to work and play. 

Come, Brooks and Brocks, a sturdy race, 

Of old Puritanic stock. 
These r ".mes have oft held honor's place, 

In halls and battle-shock. 



182 

Come, Barneys, you of Jacob's line — 
The good old Baptist preacher — 

Though not of cast of mind to shine, 
You have pugnacious feature. 

Come, Jones and Gerald, and Jenks, too, 

We need you in our array. 
We've speeches planned, and songs from you, 

And a poem for the day. 

Come, Coon and Cash, you have a claim 

In valor's line to stand; 
Leviathan, the great sea game, 

Oft yielded to your hand. 

Come, Browns, you have mechanic skill, 

But lack in earnest thought — 
Come, let your hand and heart and will 

To aid this plan be brought. 

Come, Myricks, of the old-time stock, 
Cool, square, and sharp in trade, 

Your thought can pierce through wood or rock 
To work out plans you've made. 

Come, Joys, 'tis said that you can brag, 

(And some we know were able) 
We look to you that talk shan't flag, 

For that's good sauce at table. 

Come, Mooers, of Capt. William's clan, 

Who first at mast-head wore 
Our stars and stripes, and the first man 

To float them at England's shore. 

Come, Smiths — you sprang from Capt. John, 

Saved by that Indian lassie; 
The name hath oft true honor won, 

Tho' some are blunt and sassy. 



183 

Come, Clarks, perhaps your name you trace 

(For surely you may try it) 
Back to the old explorer's race; 

If so, here's chance to cry it. 

Come, Aliens, you can trace your name 

To dear old Scotia's shore; 
Come out your shell, don't be so tame, 

We'll make old golden roar. 

Come, Meaders, of the old-time folks, 
We ask your strong arms' aid; 

Our call is real and no joke — 
Here may be a chance to trade. 

Come, Eastons, you're from Rhody's Isle, 
Though earnest, have your doubt; 

You'll find a pleasure worth you while — 
Come, aid to bring it out. 

Come, Baxters, maybe of Richard's line, 

Of old covenanter's fame, 
Here's chance for smile if you incline, 

Or be in joke the game.