Cape Cod Magazine Oct 1921 by the Cape Cod Publishing Company, Hyannis
by Kirk McCall p. 15,18
The village of Grand Cove [West Dennis?] is not a populous place, nor is it in any sense up-to-date according to the modern interpretation of the word. Off of the main lines of travel, it lives and is a part of the low, wooded hills; the winding river, the cove and the great free ocean that surrounds it.
Its white cottages nestling in the hollows, its winding roads that lead to Uncle John's and Cousin Mary's, rather than to they do not represent the modern age in town planning. Here they skirt a meadow and then wind down beside the sea. All roads lead to the sea. The village, the meadow, the rustling pines and the white church spire pointing heavenward and you know Grand Cove.
Among the roads that lead from out the village none is more picturesque, more restful, more winding than Uncle Ezra's Lane. The state road runs through the village. Straight, macadamized and modern- but Grand Cove is not to blame for that. It was put there by the state so that those that neither knew nor cared for the life of the little village could visit it;; and wonder at its quaintness, and perhaps make austere remarks about its homely affairs. The state road is not part of the village nor ever will be, albeit all roads lead from it.
Uncle Ezra's Lane joins the main road near the parsonage. What better entrance? The white cottage covered with climbing roses on one side and the rows of waving corn on the other. THen, in the distance you see the ocean, with its many colors in the parting rays of a setting sun. The whole is quiet, restful, just as it was meant to be by those who first settled there. It was a little Devonshire in the new world.
The road goes down to meet the sea. Here and there a white cottage somewhat back from the road, blends with the pines, its garden and the sea. Then it turns when it reaches Grandpa Snow's English meadow and goes winding over toward the winding river. Just before you get to the river and on the right is a palatial summer home. It stand on a knoll. Bizarre, extravagant, Italian, it lives near the sea and the sea knows it not, it stands in the village and the village, is different knows it not. It is a stranger. An alien whose life, whose ideals whose very existence is irreconcilable to the hamlet. The road turns after it passes this estate and goes through the pines to the river, to the cottage of Eben Sears.
Eben Sears, of four score years and five, lives alone. This was not always so. Once a wife and family of happy, romping children shared the low, rambling cottage. There they played in the sand beside the river; they grew up, and when they were men and women they went away. Some to other homes in the village, but most of them to other homes in other cities and in distant states and lands. But the little cottage has never forgotten them. Perhaps it expects them to return, for each Spring it send forth a profusion of flower they once loved and is ready if they return.
The road ends at the cottage; or rather melts away into the rolling fields. The cottage stands amidst the fields shaded by oaks and poplars and covered with wisteria and red ramblers. If the day is clear we will find Eben, or Uncle Eben as you will know him now, sitting out on the stoop, perhaps mending a net or a sail, or just watching the river and dreaming, dreaming of the days when he was a captain and sailed the seas. Dreaming of the young Eben now a master of a liner on the Pacific, of his wife sleeping up beside the church. There are many things to dream of there for Grand Cove has a past and one not to be ashamed of.
We go in through the opening in the privet hedge to where he is sitting. He sees us as we turn in from the road and a happy smile lights up his face. Maybe he wears no hat and his white hair sort of blends with the man. The loose jersey, the baggy pants, the high boots speak of him as he is. Living in the twilight of life, one who has known the world, not a little world but many worlds; Europe, China, Africa, he has been to them all and now is resting after his labors. He has learned the beauties of nature and nature has taken him for her own. We take the stools offered and after we have exchanged the gossip of the village we ask him to tell us of his last voyage. His last trip before he came to Grand Cove to spend his remaining days.
"It was in the last part of the seventies when I made my last trip. I was captain of the four- masted Mildred Snow, as good a craft as ever drew water. Not fast, but for all of that a lucky ship. I had been sailing as master of the Hope and had been running between Buenos Aiyres and Liverpool, but we came here in ballast and then it was that Uriah Snow asked me to take the bark, Mildred Snow, out to Shanghai for silk and rice. The Snows in those days owned thirty ships out of Grand Cove and you met them all over the world.
"I went to Philadelphia to get her. Her captain had been the oldest Smith boy, Cedric was his name, and he had been offered a steamer on the Pacific and as sailing wasn't what it had been, he accepted.
"I can remember it well I went on with the family for he never expected to come here again and such a time we had getting there.
"We sailed from Philadelphia with coal and machinery for Cape Town. The voyage out to the Cape was all that could be asked, the old ship had good cargo to hold her down and with fair winds made a quick voyage. Cape Town wasn't what it is today. Then you would meet old friends from home, then it was filled with adventurers going out to the gold fields, settlers and their families from the old country. Just a big family of all kinds going and coming. Now I understand it is more settled.
"We unloaded our coal and machinery and got ready to sail for the China Coast when my mate, a fellow named Andrews was taken down with the measles and had to be taken ashore. While an old time sea-captain was something of a doctor yet they knew the limit and as Andrews had the measles he had to be taken ashore, the vessel fumigated and another mate found. As the season was pretty well advanced I looked around for another man intending to pick up Andrews on the return.
"In a town like Cape Town in those days it wasn't easy to get a good crew, let alone a man to handle the crew, and we had to be satisfied finally with a fellow by the name of Richards. Richards was tall and slim, the product of an English father and a Japanese mother. He called himself English, claimed to have been born at sea, and turned out to be an adventurer and dare-devil who could handle men and rum with the best of them.
"All went well until we got off the coast of Ceylon when we ran into a gale and put into Achin in Sumatra to refit. We lay at Achin a week and I spent most of the time sending men ashore to get the mate who would get beastly drunk and getting new sail and rope. Before I left I had a presentiment of trouble for the men were drawing their money and getting discontented. Yet, when I got away I felt that the mate would get back into his old shape and all might go right.
"It was one warm night, there was a fair wind blowing from the southwest and I had gone below to turn in at eight bells. The mate had kept to himself all day, but as he had run a rough course ahsore I thought little of it as we were only two days out. After I had been asleep some time I was awakened by my little spaniel Zip, tugging at the covering of my bunk. Now Zip was an intelligent little creature and after a minute's thought I decided to take a walk up on deck to see how she was going,
"The after hatch opened in front of the wheel and to my surprise I found it deserted and the vessel hove to. I kept pretty well behind the deck house and decided to get my revolver and explore forward. A master usually in those days, in those seas carried a pistol as sometimes it was pretty good company.
"To my surprise I found we were laying near a small rock bound island and on the shore I could see lights moving about. Not one of my men was to be seen. I crept forward on the lee side of the ship to about midships when I heard voices on the other side and got behind a pile of cordage to investigate. It did not take me many moments to see what was happening. Beside the ship were two or three boats filled with Chinamen armed to the teeth. Hanging over the side and talking to them in Pigeon English was Richards. Now I had made voyages before to the Malay Coast and could understand about what they were saying. The rascal Richards had smuggled aboard some cut-throats at Achin, had overpowered those of the crew that would not go in with them and was dickering what his share would be. By his voice I could see he was groggy as were the four cut-throats beside him, also I could make out the shining cutlasses of those beside him. Now, I tell you friends, I did some hard thinking the next few moments. I figured that he must have left one or two on guard over the sailors in the forward hold, perhaps they were dead, perhaps he had thought I didn't ocunt anyway and had left no one to watch me. I knew in a few minutes the bargain would be made and I decided on quick action.
"I stole forward to the men's hatch and picked up a couple of belaying pins on the way. Strange to say I saw none of his gang. I peeped into the hold; there on the bunks lay my men, most of them tied. In the middle of the hold were two Chinamen and two I had taken on at Philadelpha going through the clothes and boxes of the men.
"I crept quietly down clear of the hatch and slid it to cover my head. I had made up my mind to shoot if discovered, but they were too busy with their plunder and the American sailor too full of rum. I stuck my pistol in my belt and made a leap among them. For a few minutes it was lively work; one of the Chinamen got by me and made for the hatch, I knocked the others where they stood and started after him, but I was too late. He was out. I knew the men tied must be freed, so I grabbed a cutlas from a Chinaman, cut loose two of the boys and made off after the others. I went up the hatch. The Chinaman had given the alarm before closing the hatch, I could hear the sailors swearing in the hold and making ready to follow. I started for the side of the ship where I had left the mate and his murderous crew.
"A shot rang out as I got abreast of the mast. I felt it scratch the mast and it just touched my arm. I dodged behind a pile of cordage and gave them both barrels. I saw two Chinamen fall and the others scramble for cover or go over the side.
"It wasn't a long fight, I cleaned up seven with my revolver before about five of the crew joined me armed with marlin spikes, Then we decided to rush as my ammunition was getting low and as we expected a crowd on shore and in the boats to try something pretty soon. They winged one of my sailors but we answered for five more, including the one that had escaped from the forward hold. The rest dove over the side. After a time I made them out about seventy feet away holding a conference from which they would send a shot every so often. But I stationed my men where they could watch all sides and hoisting a jury sail let her work off shore with the wind. They set up a big shout and tried to come along side for two or three hours but at last we managed to get her sails set and made away.
"Two of the Chinamen never came to and we hove them overboard, the others we carried to Shanghai and turned over to the authorities. I never saw Richards again. He was no stranger in those parts, that fellow, and we were well rid of him.
"We came back to New York, picking up Andrews on the way. There the Mildred was sold. The new owner offered me the position as master but I had had enough and had made up my mind that I was coming home for good. THe old days were not like the present. I was glad to get back here and settle down with my family.
Captain Eben filled his pipe and gazed at the winding river.
"I suppose that my boy is sailing those very seas now. But it's better now, better than when I went out to Shanghai in the Mildred Snow."