[ FROM NORFOLK, VIRGINIA, TO BOGUE INLET, NORTH CAROLINA ]
FROM NORFOLK TO CAPE HATTERAS.
THE ELIZABETH RIVER. -- THE CANAL. -- NORTH LANDING RIVER. -- CURRITUCK SOUND. -- ROANOKE ISLAND. -- VISIT TO BODY ISLAND LIGHT-HOUSE. -- A ROMANCE OF HISTORY. -- PAMPLICO SOUND. -- THE PAPER CANOE ARRIVES AT CAPE HATTERAS.
In the interior of the Dismal Swamp is Drummond's Lake, named after its discoverer. It is seven miles long by five miles wide, and is the feeder of the canal. A branch canal connects it with the main canal; and small vessels may traverse the lake in search of timber and shingles. Voyagers tell me that during heavy gales of wind a terrible sea is set in motion upon this shoal sheet of water, making it dangerous to navigate. Bears are found in the fastnesses of the swamp. The Dismal Swamp Canal was dug in the old days of the wheelbarrow and spade.
The Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, the entrance to which is sixteen miles from Norfolk, on the right or east bank of the Elizabeth River, and generally known as the "new canal," was commenced about the year 1856, and finished in 1859. It is eight miles and a half in length, and connects the Elizabeth and North Landing rivers. This canal was dug by dredging-machines. It is kept in a much better state for navigation, so far as the depth of water is concerned, than the old canal, which from inattention is gradually shoaling in places; consequently the regular steam-packets which ply between Elizabeth City and Norfolk, as well as steamers whose destinations are further north, have given up the use of the Dismal Swamp Canal, and now go round through Albemarle Sound up the North River, thence by a six-mile cut into Currituck Sound, up North Landing River, and through the new canal to the Elizabeth River and into Chesapeake Bay. The shores of the Elizabeth are low and are fringed by sedgy marshes, while forests of second-growth pine present a green background to the eye. A few miles above Norfolk the cultivation of land ceases, and the canoeist traverses a wilderness.
About noon I arrived at the locks of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. The telegraph operator greeted me with the news that the company's agent in Norfolk had telegraphed to the lock-master to pass the paper canoe through with the freedom of the canal -- the first honor of the kind that had fallen to my lot. The tide rises and falls at the locks in the river about three feet and a half. When I passed through, the difference in the level between the ends of the locks did not reach two feet. The old lock-master urged me to give up the journey at once, as I never could "get through the Sounds with that little boat." When I told him I was on my second thousand miles of canoe navigation since leaving Quebec, he drew a long breath and gave a low groan.
When once through the canal-gates, you are in a heavy cypress swamp. The dredgings thrown upon the banks have raised the edge of the swamp to seven feet above the water. Little pines grow along these shores, and among them the small birds, now on their southern migrations, sported and sang. Whenever a steamer or tugboat passed me, it crowded the canoe close to the bank; but these vessels travel along the canal at so slow a rate, that no trouble is experienced by the canoeist from the disturbance caused by their revolving screws. Freedmen, poling flats loaded with shingles or frame stuff, roared out their merry songs as they passed. The canal entered the North Landing River without any lockage; just beyond was North Landing, from which the river takes its name. A store and evidences of a settlement meet the eye at a little distance. The river is tortuous, and soon leaves the swamp behind. The pine forest is succeeded by marshes on both sides of the slow-flowing current.
Three miles from North Landing a single miniature house is seen; then for nearly five miles along the river not a trace of the presence of man is to be met, until Pungo Ferry and Landing loom up out of the low marshes on the east side of the river. This ferry, with a store three-quarters of a mile from the landing, and a farm of nearly two hundred acres, is the property of Mr. Charles N. Dudley, a southern gentleman, who offers every inducement in his power to northern men to settle in his vicinity. Many of the property-holders in the uplands are willing to sell portions of their estates to induce northern men to come among them.
It was almost dark when I reached the storehouse at Pungo Ferry; and as Sunday is a sacred day with me, I determined to camp there until Monday. A deformed negro held a lease of the ferry, and pulled a flat back and forth across the river by means of a chain and windlass. He was very civil, and placed his quarters at my disposal until I should be ready to start southward to Currituck Sound. We lifted the canoe and pushed it through an open window into the little store-room, where it rested upon an unoccupied counter. The negro went up to the loft above, and threw down two large bundles of flags for a bed, upon which I spread my blankets. An old stove in a corner was soon aglow with burning light wood. While I was cooking my supper, the little propeller Cygnet, which runs between Norfolk and Van Slyck's Landing, at Currituck Narrows, touched at Pungo Ferry, and put off an old woman who had been on a two years' visit to her relatives. She kindly accosted the dwarfed black with, "Charles, have you got a match for my pipe?" "Yes, missus," civilly responded the negro, handing her a light. "Well, this is good!" soliloquized the ancient dame, as she seated herself on a box and puffed away at the short-stemmed pipe. Ah, good indeed to get away from city folks, with their stuck-up manners and queer ways, a-fault-finding when you stick your knife in your mouth in place of your fork, and a-feeding you on China tea in place of dear old yaupon. Charles, you can't reckon how I longs to get a cup of good yaupon."
As the reader is about entering a country where the laboring classes draw largely upon nature for their supply of "the cup that cheers but not inebriates," I will describe he shrub which produces it.
This substitute for the tea of China is a holly (ilex), and is called by the natives "yaupon" (I. cassine, Linn.). It is a handsome shrub, growing a few feet in height, with alternate, perennial, shining leaves, and bearing small scarlet berries. It is found in the vicinity of salt water, in the light soils of Virginia and the Carolinas. The leaves and twigs are dried by the women, and when ready for market are sold at one dollar per bushel. It is not to be compared in excellence with the tea of China, nor does it approach in taste or good qualities the well-known yerbamaté, another species of holly, which is found in Paraguay, and is the common drink of the people of South America.
The old woman having gone on her way, and we being again alone in the rude little shanty, the good-natured freedman told me his history, ending with, -
"O that was a glorious day for me, When Massa Lincoln set me free."
He had too much ambition, he said, deformed as he was, to be supported as a pauper by the public. "I can make just about twelve dollars a month by dis here ferry," he exclaimed. "I don't want for nuffin'; I'se got no wife -- no woman will hab me. I want to support myself and live an honest man."
About seven o'clock he left me to waddle up the road nearly a mile to a little house.
"I an' another cullo'd man live in partnership," he said. He could not account for the fact that I had no fear of sleeping alone in the shanty on the marshes. He went home for the company of his partner, as he "didn't like to sleep alone noways."
Though the cold wind entered through broken window-lights and under the rudely constructed door, I slept comfortably until morning. Before Charles had returned, my breakfast was cooked and eaten.
With the sunshine of the morning came a new visitor. I had made the acquaintance of the late slave; now I received a call from the late master. My visitor was a pleasant, gentlemanly personage, the owner of the surrounding acres. His large white house could be seen from the landing, a quarter of a mile up the road.
"I learned that a stranger from the north was camped here, and was expecting that he would come up and take breakfast with me," was his kindly way of introducing himself.
I told him I was comfortably established in dry quarters, and did not feel justified in forcing myself upon his hospitality while I had so many good things of this life in my provision-basket.
Mr. Dudley would take no excuse, but conducted me to his house, where I remained that day, attending the religious services in a little church in the vicinity. My kind host introduced me to his neighbors, several of whom returned with us to dinner. I found the people about Pungo Ferry, like those I had met along the sounds of the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia, very piously inclined, -- the same kindhearted, hospitable people.
My host entertained me the next day, which was rainy, with his life in the Confederate army, in which he served as a lieutenant. He was a prisoner at Johnson's Island for twenty-two months. He bore no malice towards northern men who came south to join with the natives in working for the true interests of the country. The people of the south had become weary of political sufferings inflicted by a floating population from the north; they needed actual settlers, not politicians. This sentiment I found everywhere expressed. On Tuesday I bade farewell to my new friends, and rowed down the North Landing River towards Currituck Sound.
The North Carolina line is only a few miles south of the ferry. The river enters the head of the sound six or eight miles below Pungo Ferry. A stiff northerly breeze was blowing, and as the river widened, on reaching the head of the sound, to a mile or more, and bays were to be crossed from point to point, it required the exercise of considerable patience and muscular exertion to keep the sea from boarding the little craft amidship. As I was endeavoring to weather a point, the swivel of one of the outriggers parted at its junction with the row-lock, and it became necessary to get under the south point of the marshes for shelter.
The lee side offered a smooth bay. It was but a few minutes' work to unload and haul the canoe into the tall rushes, which afforded ample protection against the cold wind. It was three hours before the wind went down, when the canoe was launched, and, propelled by the double paddle, (always kept in reserve against accidents to oars and row-locks,) I continued over the waters of Currituck Sound.
Swans could now be seen in flocks of twenties and fifties. They were exceedingly wary, not permitting the canoe to approach within rifle range. Clouds of ducks, and some Canada geese, as well as brant, kept up a continuous flutter as they rose from the surface of the water. Away to the southeast extended the glimmering bosom of the sound, with a few islands relieving its monotony. The three or four houses and two small storehouses at the landing of Currituck Court House, which, with the brick court-house, comprise the whole village, are situated on the west bank; and opposite, eight miles to the eastward, is the narrow beach island that serves as a barrier to the ingress of the ocean.
At sunset I started the last flock of white swans, and grounded in the shoal waters at the landing. There is no regular hotel here, but a kind lady, Mrs. Simmons, accommodates the necessities of the occasional traveller. The canoe was soon locked up in the landing-house. Fortunately a blacksmith was found outside the village, who promised to repair the broken rowlock early upon the following morning. Before a pleasant wood fire giving out its heat from a grand old fireplace, with an agreeable visitor, -- the physician of the place, the tediousness of the three-hours' camp on the marshes was soon forgotten, while the country and its resources were fully discussed until a late hour.
Dr. Baxter had experimented in grape culture, and gave me many interesting details in regard to the native wine. In 1714, Lawson described six varieties of native grapes found in North Carolina. Our three finest varieties of native grapes were taken from North Carolina. They are the Scuppernong, the Catawba, and the Isabella. The Scuppernong was found upon the banks of the stream bearing that name, the mouth of which is near the eastern end of Albemarle Sound. The Catawba was originally obtained on the Catawba River, near its head-waters in Buncombe County. The Long Island stock of the Isabella grape was brought to New York by Mrs. Isabella Gibbs: hence the derivation of the name.
Of the six varieties of North Carolina grapes, five were found in Tyrrel County by Amadas and Barlow. Tradition relates that these travellers carried one small vine to Roanoke Island, which still lives and covers an immense area of ground. There are five varieties of the grape growing wild on the shores of Albemarle Sound, all of which are called Scuppernong, -- the legitimate Scuppernong being a white grape, sweet and large, and producing a wine said to resemble somewhat in its luscious flavor the Malmsey made on Mount Ida, in Candia.
The repairing of the outrigger detained me until nearly noon of the next day, when the canoe was got under way; but upon rowing off the mouth of Coanjock Bay, only four miles from Currituck Court House, a strong tempest arose from the south, and observing an old gentleman standing upon Bell Island Point, near his cottage, beckoning me to come ashore, I obeyed, and took refuge with my new acquaintance, Captain Peter L. Tatum, proprietor of Bell Island.
"The war has left us without servants," said the captain, as he presented me to his wife, "so we make the best of it, and if you will accept our hospitality we will make you comfortable."
Captain Tatum drew my attention to the flocks of swans which dotted the waters in the offing, and said: "It is hard work to get hold of a swan, though they are a large bird, and abundant in Currituck Sound. You must use a good rifle to bring one down. After a strong norther has been blowing, and the birds have worked well into the bight of the bay, near Goose Castle Point, if the wind shifts to the south suddenly, gunners approach from the outside, and the birds becoming cramped in the cove are shot as they rise against the wind."
More than forty years ago old Currituck Inlet closed, and the oysters on the natural beds, which extended up North Landing River to Green Point, were killed by the freshening of the water. Now winds influence the tides which enter at Oregon Inlet, about fifty-five miles south of the Court House. The difference between the highest and lowest tide at Currituck Court House is three feet. The sound is filled with sandy shoals, with here and there spots of mud. The shells of the defunct oysters are everywhere found mixed with the debris of the bottom of the sound. This is a favorite locality with northern sportsmen. The best "gunning points," as is the case in Chesapeake Bay, are owned by private parties, and cannot be used by the public.
Thursday, the 10th of December, was cold, and proved as tempestuous as the previous day; but the wind had changed to the north, and I embarked amid a swashy beam-sea, with the hope of reaching Van Slyck's Landing at Currituck Narrows. The norther, however, proved too much for my safety. My course would be easterly until I had passed the mouth of Coanjock Bay and Goose Castle Point, then following the trend of the west shore southerly down the sound; but the wind raised such a rough sea that I was obliged to turn southward into Coanjock Bay, ascend it five miles, and seek for a crossing-place overland to the sound again, which I found near the entrance of the lockless canal that is used by steamers to pass from North Landing River to North River and Albemarle Sound.
A fire was soon built, upon which I placed long, light poles taken from the drift-wood, and burning them in pieces of the required lengths, (no axe being at hand,) I was prepared to make the portage. Laying these pieces of wood on the ground, I drew my canoe over them to the shore of Currituck Sound; then, by making up back-loads of the cargo, transported everything to the point of embarkation, which was just inside the mouth of a little creek.
The row to Currituck Narrows was not difficult, as the north wind was a fair one. Along the west shore of the sound there were many little houses upon the high banks, and a windmill supplied the place of a water-power for grinding corn. The improvements made by Mr. Van Slyck, of New York, were in cheering contrast to what had been seen since leaving Norfolk. Here a comfortable hotel welcomes the northern sportsmen, few of whom, for lack of accommodations and travelling conveniences, go much south of this locality, in this state, to shoot wild-fowl. Currituck Sound has an average width of four miles. Its length is about thirty-five miles. At the Narrows, a group of marshy islands divides it into two sections, the northern one being the longest.
The keen, cold air of the next day made rowing a pleasant exercise. After passing through the tortuous channel, I should have crossed to the beach and followed it; but this part of the bay is very shallow, and deeper water was found on the west side. It was an enjoyable morning, for gunners were passed, secreted behind their "blinds," or pens, of pine brush, which looked like little groves of conifera growing out of the shoal water. Geese were honking and ducks were quacking, while the deep booming of guns was heard every few minutes. Decoy-birds were anchored in many places near the marshes. Every sportsman gave me a cheering word as the canoe glided over the smooth water, while here and there the violet-backed swallow darted about over the marshes as though it were summer.
When opposite Dew's Quarter Island, several men hailed me from a newly constructed shanty. When the oldest man in the company, who had never seen a shell like the paper canoe, had examined it, he shook his head ominously; and when I told him Nag's Head must be reached that day, he grew excited, exclaiming, "Then be off now! now! Git across the bay under Bald Beach as soon as ye can, and hug the shore, hug it well clean down to Collington's, and git across the sound afore the wind rises. Sich a boat as that aren't fit for these here waters."
Taking this kindly meant advice, I pulled to the east side, where there was now a good depth of water for the canoe. On this high beach the hills were well covered with yellow pines, many of which were noble old trees. On a narrow point of the shore was the comfortable house of Hodges Gallup, the Baptist minister, a generous old gentleman, who seemed to be loved by all the watermen along the sound. He was described as being "full of fun and hospitality." His domain extended for several miles along the beach, and, with deer quietly browsing in his grand old woods, formed a pretty picture.
The beach shore now became more thickly settled, while out in the water, a few rods from each little house, arose the duck-blind, with the gunner and his boat inside, anxiously watching for birds, while their decoys floated quietly on the surface of the water. A few miles below Mr. Gallup's estate the canoe entered upon the broad waters of Albemarle Sound, and at dusk I approached Roanoke Island. The large buildings of the hotels of Nag's Head on the beach rose up as boldly to the eye as a fortification. The little sound between Roanoke Island and the beach was traversed at dusk as far as the first long pier of Nag's head, upon which with great difficulty I landed, and was soon joined by the keeper of the now deserted summer watering place, Mr. C. D. Rutter, who helped me to carry my property into a room of the old hotel.
Nag's Head Beach is a most desolate locality, with its high sand-hills, composed of fine sand, the forms of which are constantly changing with the action of the dry, hard, varying winds. A new and very large hotel was located south of the first one, and was inhabited by the family of Captain Jasper Toler, who furnished me with lodgings. A few fishermen have their homes on this dreary beach, but the village, with its one store, is a forlorn place.
The bright flashes of Body Island Light, ten miles distant, on the north side of Oregon Inlet, showed me my next abiding-place.
The beach from Nag's Head to Oregon Inlet is destitute of trees, and the wind sweeps across it, from the ocean to the sound, with great violence, forcing the shallow waters to retire, and leaving the bottom dry as far out as three miles.
The next day was very windy, and the long, finger-like, sandy shoals, which extended one or two miles out into the sound, were covered with only from three to eight inches of water. I could not hug the beach for protection, but was forced to keep far out in the sound. Frequently it became necessary to get overboard and wade, pushing my boat before me. Then a deep channel between the shoals would be crossed; so, by walking and rowing in Roanoke Sound, with the wind blowing the water over the canoe and drenching its captain, the roundabout twelve miles' passage to Oregon Inlet was at last accomplished, and a most trying one it was.
Body Island Lighthouse was erected in 1872, on the north side of Oregon Inlet, to take the place of the old tower on the south shore. It is in latitude 35° 48', and longitude 75° 33'. Captain William F. Hatzel, a loyal North Carolinian, is the principal keeper, and a most efficient one he is.
The temperature was falling rapidly when I crawled into the high rushes of the wet marsh near the light-house to seek shelter from the strong wind that was blowing. As this treeless beach was destitute of fire-wood, or natural shelter of any kind, necessity compelled me to have recourse to other means for procuring them. I carried in my pocket a talisman which must open any light-keeper's door; from Maine to the Rio Grande, from Southern California to Alaska, even to the vicinity of the Arctic Circle, the Lighthouse Establishment of the United States has planted a tower or erected a light. While shivering in wet clothes on this desolate beach, most thankfully did I remember that kind and thoughtful friend, who through his potent influence had supplied me with this open sesame to lightkeepers.
There resides in Washington, when not engaged elsewhere in the important duties of the Commission of Fisheries, a genial gentleman, an ardent naturalist, a great scientist. To him the young naturalists of America turn for information and advice, and to the humblest applicant Professor Spencer F. Baird never turns a deaf ear. How this distinguished author can attend to so many and such varied duties with his laborious investigations, and can so successfully keep up a large correspondence with perhaps one thousand scientific associations of nearly every nation of the universe, is a difficult thing to imagine; but the popular and much beloved Assistant Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, seemingly ubiquitous in his busy life, does all this and much more. America may well feel proud of this man of noble nature, shedding light and truth wheresoever he moves, encouraging alike old and young with his kindly sympathy; -- now taking his precious moments to answer with his own busy hand the question in the letter of some boy naturalist about beasts, birds, reptiles, or fishes, with which epistles his desk is always covered; now stimulating to further effort the old man of science as he struggles with the cares of this world, striving, sometimes vainly, save for this ever ready aid, to work out patiently theories which are soon to blaze forth as substantial facts. The young generation of naturalists, which is soon to fill the place of their predecessors, have in this man the type of all they need ever strive to attain. How many, alas, will fall far short of it!
Since boyhood the counsels of this friend had guided me on many a journey of exploration. He had not deserted me even in this experiment, which my friends called "your wildest and most foolish undertaking." He had obtained from the Light House Board a general letter to the lightkeepers of the United States, signed by the naval secretary, Mr. Walker, in which the keepers were authorized to grant me shelter, &c., when necessary. I did not have occasion to use this letter more than twice during my journey. Having secreted my canoe in the coarse grass of the lowland, I trudged, with my letter in hand, over the sands to the house of the light-keeper, Captain Hatzel, who received me cordially; and after recording in his log-book the circumstances and date of my arrival, conducted me into a comfortable room, which was warmed by a cheerful fire, and lighted up by the smiles of his most orderly wife. Everything showed discipline and neatness, both in the house and the light-tower. The whitest of cloths was spread upon the table, and covered with a well-cooked meal; then the father, mother, and two sons, with the stranger within their gates, thanked the Giver of good gifts for his mercies.
Joining the night-watch of the chief lightkeeper, I also joined in the good man's enthusiasm for his wonderful "fixed white light," the bright beams of which poured out upon the surrounding waters a flood if brilliancy, gladdening hearts far out at sea, even though twenty miles away, and plainly saying, "This is Body Island Beach: keep off!" How grand it was to walk out on this gallery in the sky! Looking eastward, a limitless expanse of ocean; gazing westward, the waters of the great sound, the shores of which were low marshes miles away. Below me could be heard the soft cackle of the snow-goose (Anser hyperboreus), which had left its nesting-place on the barren grounds of arctic America, and was now feeding contentedly in its winter home in the shallow salt-ponds; which the gentle shur-r-r- of the waves softly broke on the strand. Above, the star-lit heavens, whose tender beauty seemed almost within my grasp. Perched thus upon a single shaft, on a narrow strip of sand far out in the great water, the many thoughts born of solitude crowded my mind, when my reverie was abruptly broken by an exclamation from Captain Hatzel, who threw open the door, and exclaimed, with beaming eyes peering into the darkness as he spoke, "I see it! Yes, it is! Hatteras Light, thirty-five miles away. This night, December 13th, is the first time I have caught its flash. Tell it to the Hatteras keeper when you visit the cape."
From Captain Hatzel I gleaned some facts of deep interest in regard to the inhabitants of the sound. Some of them, he told me, had Indian blood in their veins; and to prove the truth of his assertion he handed me a well-worn copy of the "History of North Carolina," by Dr. Francis L. Hawks, D. D. From this I obtained facts which might serve for the intricate mazes of a romance. It had been a pet scheme with Sir Walter Raleigh to colonize the coast of North Carolina, then known as Virginia, and though several expeditions had been sent out for that object, each had failed of successful issue. One of these expeditions sent by Sir Walter to Roanoke Island consisted of one hundred and twenty-one persons, of whom seventeen were women and six children. Of all these souls only two men returned to the old country, the fate of the remainder being unknown, and shrouded in the gloom which always attends mystery. England did not, however, leave her children to perish on a barren shore in the new land without at least an effort to succor them.
On March 20, in the year 1590, there sailed from Plymouth three ships, the Hopewell, John Evangelist, and Little John, taking in tow two shallops which were afterwards lost at sea. In these days the largest vessels of a fleet did not exceed one hundred to one hundred and forty tons burden. This expedition was under the charge of Admiral John White, governor of the colony of Sir Walter Raleigh on Roanoke Island, and who had left the feeble band on the island in 1587. In thirty-six days and eight hours these small vessels arrived off "Hatorask" -- Hatteras Beach. The fleet dropped anchor three leagues off the beach, and sent a well-manned boat through an inlet to Pamplico Sound.
There existed in those days passages from the ocean through the beaches into the sounds, which have since been filled up by the action of the sea. Old Roanoke Inlet, now closed, which was about four miles north of the modern Oregon Inlet, is supposed to be the one used by Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions. It is only four miles from the site of this closed inlet to Shallowbag Bay, on Roanoke Island. At the southern entrance of the bay, near Ballast Point, some vessel evidently grounded and threw overboard her stone ballast; hence the name of the point. Captain Hatzel has examined this stone, and gives his opinion, as an old pilot, that it is foreign in character. He never met with similar stones, and believes that this ballast was deposited at Shallowbag Bay by some of the vessels of Sir Walter's expeditions.
As the boat's crew above mentioned rowed northward to Roanoke Island -- made famous two hundred and seventy-two years later by the National and Confederate struggles -- they sounded their trumpets and sang familiar songs, which they hoped might be borne to their countrymen on the shore; but the marshes and upland wilderness returned no answering voice.
At daybreak the explorers landed upon Roanoke Island, which is twelve miles long by two and a half wide, and found the spot where Admiral White had left the colony in 1587. Eagerly searching for any tokens of the lost ones, they soon traced in the light soil of the island the imprint of the moccasin of the savage, but looked in vain for any footprint of civilized man. What had become of their countrymen?
At last some one spied a conspicuous tree, far up on a sandy bank, blazed and carved. There were but three letters cut upon it, C.R.O., but these simple symbols possessed a world of meaning. Three years before, when the sad farewells were being spoken, and the ships were ready to set sail for England, this feeble band, left to struggle in the wilds of the new land with sad forebodings of their possible fate, had agreed upon a signal, and had promised Admiral White that if driven to starvation upon the island, they would plant their colony fifty miles inland, near a tribe of friendly Indians. Indeed, before the ships sailed for England, they were making preparations for this move. Admiral White requested them to carve upon a tree the name of the locality to which they should remove, and if distress had overtaken them they were to add a cross over the lettering. Anxiously gathering round this interesting relic of the lost Englishmen, the rude chirography was eagerly scanned, but no vestige of a cross was found.
Much relieved in mind, the little company continued their investigations, when, farther on, almost in their very pathway, there rose a noble tree, pointing its top heavenward, as though to remind them in whose care their lost ones had been. Approaching this giant, who had stood a silent sentinel through winter storms and summer skies, they found he bore upon his body a message for them. Stripped of its bark, five feet upward from the ground there appeared upon the bare surface in bold lettering the word so full of hope -- Croatan; and now also, as in the last case, without the graven cross. Cheered by these signs, and believing that the lost colonists had carried out their early intentions, and were now located among the friendly tribe of Croatans, wheresoever their country might be, the boat's company decided to go at once to the ships, and return the next day in search of the lost colony.
One of the ships, in moving its position from the unprotected anchorage-ground, parted its cable and left an anchor on the bottom -- the second that had been lost. The wind drove the ships towards the beach, when a third anchor was lowered; but it held the little fleet so close in to the breakers, that the sailors were forced to slip their cable and work into a channel-way, where, in deeper water, they held their ground.
In debating the propriety of holding on and attempting to wear out the gale, the scarcity of their provisions, and the possession of but one cask of water, and only one anchor for the fleet to ride at, decided them to go southward in quest of some favorable landing, where water could be found. The council held out the hope of capturing Spanish vessels in the vicinity of the West Indies; and it was agreed that, if successful they should return, richly laden with spoil, to seek their exiled countrymen. One of these vessels returned to England, while the Admiral laid his course for Trinidad; and this was the last attempt made to find the colonists.
More than a century after Admiral White had abandoned his colony, Lawson, in writing about the Hatteras Indians, says: "They said that several of their ancestors were white people, and could talk in a book as we do; the truth of which is confirmed by grey eyes being frequently found among them, and no others. They value themselves extremely for their affinity to the English, and are ready to do them all friendly offices. It is probable that the settlement miscarried for want of supplies from England, or through the treachery of the natives; for we may reasonably suppose that the English were forced to cohabit with them for relief and conversation, and that in process of time they conformed themselves to the manners of their Indian relations."
Dr. Hawks thinks, "that, driven by starvation, such as survived the famine were merged into the tribes of friendly Indians at Croatan, and, alas! lost ere long every vestige of Christianity and civilization; and those who came to shed light on the darkness of paganism, in the mysterious providence of God ended by relapsing themselves into the heathenism they came to remove. It is a sad picture of poor human nature."
It needed not the fierce gusts of wind that howled about the tall tower, causing it to vibrate until water would be spilled out of a pail resting upon the floor of the lantern, blowing one day from one quarter of the compass, and changing the next to another, to warn me that I was near the Cape of Storms.
Refusing to continue longer with my new friends, the canoe was put into the water on the 16th, and Captain Hatzel's two sons proceeded in advance with a strong boat to break a channelway through the thin ice which had formed in the quiet coves. We were soon out in the sound, where the boys left me, and I rowed out of the southern end of Roanoke and entered upon the wide area of Pamplico Sound. To avoid shoals, it being calm, I kept about three miles from the beach in three feet of water, until beyond Duck Island, when the trees on Roanoke Island slowly sank below the horizon; then gradually drawing in to the beach, the two clumps of trees of north and south Chicamicomio came into view. A life-saving station had recently been erected north of the first grove, and there is another fourteen miles further south. The two Chicamicomio settlements of scattered houses are each nearly a mile in length, and are separated by a high, bald sand-beach of about the same length, which was once heavily wooded; but the wind has blown the sand into the forest and destroyed it. A wind-mill in each village raised its weird arms to the breeze.
Three miles further down is Kitty Midget's Hammock, where a few red cedars and some remains of live-oaks tell of the extensive forest that once covered the beach. Here Captain Abraham Hooper lives, and occupies himself in fishing with nets in the ocean for blue-fish, which are salted down and sent to the inland towns for a market. I had drawn my boat into the sedge to secure a night's shelter, when the old captain on his rounds captured me. The change from a bed in the damp sedge to the inside seat of the largest fireplace I had ever beheld, was indeed a pleasant one. Its inviting front covered almost one side of the room. While the fire flashed up the wide chimney, I sat inside the fireplace with the three children of my host, and enjoyed the genial glow which arose from the fragments of the wreck of a vessel which had pounded herself to death upon the strand near Kitty Midget's Hammock. How curiously those white-haired children watched the man who had come so far in a paper boat! "Why did not the paper boat soak to pieces?" they asked. Each explanation seemed but to puzzle them the more; and I found myself in much the same condition of mind when trying to make some discoveries concerning Kitty Midget. She must, however, have lived somewhere on Clark's Beach long before the present proprietor was born. We spent the next day fishing with nets in the surf for blue-fish, it being about the last day of their stay in that vicinity. They go south as far as Cape Hatteras, and then disappear in deep water; while the great flocks of gulls, that accompany them to gather the remnants of fish they scatter in their savage meals, rise in the air and fly rapidly away in search of other dainties.
On Thursday I set out for Cape Hatteras. The old sailor's song, that -
"Hatteras has a blow in store For those who pass her howling door,"
has far more truth than poetry in it. Before proceeding far the wind blew a tempest, when a young fisherman in his sailboat bore down upon me, and begged me to come on board. We attempted to tow the canoe astern, but she filled with water, which obliged us to take her on board. As we flew along before the wind, dashing over the shoals with mad-cap temerity, I discovered that my new acquaintance, Burnett, was a most daring as well as reckless sailor. He told me how he had capsized his father's schooner by carrying sail too long. "This 'ere slow way of doing things" he detested. His recital was characteristic of the man.
"You see, sir, we was bound for Newbern up the Neuse River, and as we were well into the sound with all sail set, and travelling along lively, daddy says, 'Lorenzo, I reckon a little yaupon wouldn't hurt me, so I'll go below and start a firs under the kittle.' Do as you likes, daddy,' sez I. So down below he goes, and I takes command of the schooner. A big black squall soon come over Cape Hatteras from the Gulf Stream, and it did look like a screecher. Now, I thought, old woman, I'll make your sides ache; so I pinted her at it, and afore I could luff her up in the wind, the squall kreened her on to her beam-ends. You'd a laughed to have split yourself, mister, if you could have seen daddy a-crawling out of the companion-way while the water was a-running down stairs like a crick. Says he, ruther hurriedly, 'Sonny, what's up?' It isn't what's up, daddy; but what's down,' sez I; it sort o' looks as if we had capsized.' Sure 'nuff,' answered dad, as the ballast shifted and the schooner rolled over keel uppermost. We floundered about like porpoises, but managed to get astride her backbone, when dad looked kind of scornfully at me, and burst out with, 'Sonny, do you call yourself a keerful sailor?' 'Keerful enough, dad,' sez I, 'for a smart one. It's more credit to a man to drive his vessel like a sailor, than to be crawling and bobbing along like a diamond-backed terrapin.' Now, stranger, if you'll believe me, that keerful old father of mine would never let me take the helum again, so I sticks to my aunt at the cape."
I found that the boat in which we were sailing was a dug-out, made from two immense cypress logs. Larger boats than this are made of three logs, and smaller ones are dug out of one.
Burnett told me that frame boats were so easily pounded to pieces on the shoals, that dug-outs were preferred -- being very durable. We soon passed the hamlet of North Kinnakeet, then Scarsborough with its low houses, then South Kinnakeet with its two wind-mills, and after these arose a sterile, bald beach with Hatteras light-tower piercing the sky, and west of it Hatteras woods and marshes. We approached the low shore and ascended a little creek, where we left our boats, and repaired to the cottage of Burnett's aunt.
After the barren shores I had passed, this little house, imbedded in living green, was like a bright star in a dark night. It was hidden away in a heavy thicket of live-oaks and cedars, and surrounded by yaupons, the bright red berries of which glistened against the light green leaves. An old woman stood in the doorway with a kindly greeting for her "wild boy," rejoicing the while that he had "got back to his old aunty once more."
"Yes, aunty," said my friend Lorenzo, "I am back again like a bad penny, but not empty-handed; for as soon as our season's catch of blue-fish is sold, old aunty will have sixty or seventy dollars."
"He has a good heart, if he is so head-strong," whispered the motherly woman, as she wiped a tear from her eyes, and gazed with pride upon the manly-looking young fellow, and -- invited us in to tea -- YAUPON.