By Bill Russo
Published by CCA Media at Shakespir
Copyright ©2016 Bill Russo
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. All pictures are held by commercial license and may not be duplicated by anyone without express permission.
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Cover Design by Bill Russo. It depicts an ethereal representation of the ‘Figure in Black’ behind the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown. Constructed over a three year period, in part with funds collected from townspeople, the memorial, which is the tallest free standing granite structure in the world opened in 1910 – the year in which this book is set.
Chapter One: Leaving Gray Gables
Chapter Two: 100 Traps for Lobsters and One Trap for a Rat
Chapter Three: A Beautiful Diversion
Chapter Four: Love Blooms on Feelings of Doom
Chapter Five: Sandwich Spoiled
Chapter Six: The E-I-E-I-O People
Chapter Seven: Pursued by the Marx Brothers
Chapter Eight: Through the Arboreal Arch
Chapter Nine: Boston Girls, Boston Braves, and Boston Red Sox
Chapter Ten: A Billet-doux and a Haunting too!
Chapter Eleven: Meeting the 300 Year Old Princess
Chapter Twelve: The Nobscusset Miracles
Chapter Thirteen: Rebuilding the Ruins
Chapter Fourteen: Back on the Train
Chapter Fifteen: Karma and the Little Girl from Provincetown
Chapter Sixteen: The Rod and Cod
Chapter Seventeen: The Christmas Vacation
Chapter Eighteen: Astounding News of the Lost Brother
Chapter Nineteen: The Gallows?
Chapter Twenty: The End of John Deer
A mysterious looking man, dressed entirely in black with a wide brimmed hat on his head, sat at the counter of a diner near the tiny Gray Gables railroad station at the entrance to Cape Cod. Rays of light from the morning sun pushed their way past the greasy windows as he nibbled on his spare meal, consisting merely of bread and coffee. Awaiting the early morning train from Boston, he was the only customer.
He drained the last of his unsweetened coffee and his cup was quickly refilled by a fidgety young waitress who appeared to be nervous and troubled. Observing redness around her yes, he politely asked “Are you all right? You can tell me. I’m a friend.”
The young woman knew of no earthly reason why she should unburden herself to a total stranger and yet there was something familiar about the man – perhaps it was that he reminded her of a kindly uncle, who helped her when she was a young girl, and had fallen and bruised her knee. More likely, he provoked a memory of someone who recently had been very close to her heart.
For whatever reason, she unleashed a torrent of tears and spilled her whole sad tale to the bearded figure in black. His attire could equally have been worn by a sailor, a minister, or an undertaker.
He listened wordlessly, only nodding now and then in the proper places. When she had finished, he said simply…. “Everything will be all right. All you have to do is get on the train with me when it arrives here at Gray Gables.”
A few minutes later when the Cape Cod Railroad’s Engine Number Two steamed into the station, pulling a passenger coach, a mail car, and two freight cars; she decided to do it. Pulling off her white apron, she tossed it on a hook. With only a brief word to the cook in the kitchen, she followed the man of mystery to the boarding platform.
From the mail car, the postal attendant pushed out bundles of the early morning broadsheets from Boston and New Bedford. Dated July 4, 1910, the headlines screamed – “First African American Boxing Champ! Jack Johnson Wins Heavyweight Title.”
“I have no idea why I’m doing this,” she said as they walked gingerly around the piles of newspapers.”
Moving quickly up the three steps, she walked into the coach and sat in the first empty cluster of seats.
The figure in black sat beside her and said…. “Yes you do. You’re desperate and there is nothing but trouble for you in Gray Gables. No family, no husband, nothing in your future but the prospect of the growing shame as you trudge to work day after day in that dingy restaurant.”
“How do you know this?”
“We have things in common” he answered. “People who have similar problems know such things without being told.”
“You cannot have any problem like mine,” she insisted.
“Misfortune and ill fate know no gender. But never mind that. I have good news for you. The solution to your seemingly impossible situation is no further away than the very next stop – Monument Beach.”
She asked again – “How can you know this?”
“I cannot explain it to you, except to say that I do. When we reach Monument Beach you will remain in your seat. I will get off the train. A man will board. He will be carrying something that’s difficult for him to manage. He will sit in the opposite seat, facing you and set his burden down. Speak with him. You will help him and he will help you.”
“Monument Beach! Next stop Monument Beach,” barked the conductor, as he worked his way through the coach, dressed in his dark blue uniform with gold buttons.
As the train noisily squealed to a halt, the enigmatic figure in black made a silent, unnoticed exit.
Almost immediately the young woman forgot about him and began to fret about why she had abandoned her job on a whim and boarded the Provincetown train with no destination in mind and very little in her handbag other than a lipstick, a small case of powder, a handful of coins, and five wrinkled, dollar bills.
She was so wrapped up in her predicament that she failed to notice when a young red headed man carrying a fairly large bundle in one arm and a hefty suitcase with the other, sat down in the seat across from hers.
He set his burden down and the howling that came from it jarred the young woman, whose name was Lucy Malone, back to reality.
“I’m sorry for the noise miss, I just don’t know how to keep her quiet,” he said as he fumbled to pick up an infant, wrapped in a snowy white blanket. The crying only intensified when the child was held by the large, calloused hands of the man.
“Let me,” she said, gently taking the baby from him. Immediately the little girl purred, closed her eyes, and slept.
“I’m Jimmy O’Kelly. I don’t usually talk to strange women on a train, but I……”
She interrupted him…. “Mr. O’Kelly are you calling me a ‘strange’ woman?”
“No,” he laughed, “I didn’t mean it that way. It’s just that since the baby’s mother died, I haven’t felt like talking to anyone. But you,” he hesitated, “you are being so wonderful with the girl. She’s done nothing but cry for her entire life – four weeks now.”
“But your wife doesn’t she….?”
“The baby’s mother died in childbirth, Miss….?”
“Lucy. My name is Lucy Malone.”
Their conversation continued as the train rumbled through Sandwich, and then Barnstable. By the time the conductor called, “Next Stop Yarmouth”, the two had formed a bond.
Lucy admitted that she had no set destination or plans and O’Kelly suggested that since she did so well with the baby, she should come to live at his home and take care of the child.
“I can pay you a good salary Miss Malone, plus you’ll have a roof over your head and good food to eat – as long as you don’t mind also being the cook, for I am barely able to boil water for the tea.”
“Mr. O’Kelly, perhaps I’ll try it out and see if it’s a fit for all of us. Where do you live?”
“The very next stop on the line, South Dennis. I’ve a pretty good boat building business and it keeps me quite busy, so you’ll hardly ever see me and you’ll have the run of the house.”
“I am interested but won’t your wife’s family….”
“I was not married to the woman and she had no family. It was my intention to marry her, I assure you. She had been sick all through the time she carried the child. I had promised her that after the baby was born and she got better that we would marry but…”
She cut him off… “I’ll accept your offer and the baby is delightful. What is her name?”
“Her mother never lived to see the child, but she instructed me to call her Hope.”
Further conversation at that moment was cut off by the stentorian tones of the conductor.
“South Dennis! All off for South Dennis! Next stop South Dennis!
The couple got off the train at the Main Street station, next to the town hall, with Lucy carrying Hope, and Jimmy toting his heavy bag and Lucy’s much lighter one.
By prearrangement, Crosby’s livery service had a carriage waiting for Jimmy O’Kelly at the station. The driver, Albert Crosby Junior, snapped his whip in the air and a spirited bay mare named Mehitable, quickly covered the three miles to O’Kelly’s home on the Swan River in Dennis Port.
Lucy fell instantly in love with the house which was befitting a ship’s captain, what with its two floors as well as a full attic, several barns, outbuildings, a vegetable plot, and a rose garden enclosed by an ornamental wrought iron fence.
“Surely this must be the finest house in all the Dennis Villages,” she exclaimed as they approached the front door.
“Well thank you Lucy. It’s mostly for appearance you know. My shop is further down the river closer to Nantucket Sound, but I keep my office in the house and I want my clients to see that my property is neat and well kept. It helps the business, you see.”
Lucy found that the inside was as tasteful as the exterior. Once she got Hope settled into a crib in a second floor bedroom, Jimmy gave her a tour of the property. She was delighted with the beautiful home and could not believe the good fortune that seemed to be coming her way.
Lucy took wonderful care of the child and did an equally fine job as cook and house-keeper. Though neither of them said anything at first, they both knew that they were falling in love.
It took less than three weeks for them to physically express that love, and another two weeks before they decided to share their darkest secrets.
“Jimmy, before we get further involved I have to be honest with you. I have a horrible secret and after I tell it, if you wish me to leave, I’ll do so without complaint.”
“Lucy, I too have a hideous past that I’ve been hiding from you and after I tell you about it, if you never wish to see me again, I’ll understand.”
“Let’s talk about it after dinner,” Lucy suggested.
She served Jimmy his favorite food that night – corned beef and cabbage with boiled red potatoes, tender carrots, and garden fresh corn on the cob.
Together they went upstairs after the meal and put Hope in her crib. Their bedrooms were on either side of the baby’s room. Apprehensively, they went into Lucy’s bedroom to have their talk. Sitting on her bed, they were too nervous to use their lips for speech.
Finally Jimmy broke the stalemate when he took her into his arms, kissing her long and hard. She stiffened at first but soon began responding and unleashing her pent up emotions and desires. As the intense heat between them soared, all thoughts of “The Talk” were postponed. When they awoke the next morning, which was a Sunday, they finally did set themselves free.
“I’m not much good Lucy. I’ll tell you the whole mess. I lied. I was never going to marry Hope’s mother. I dumped her when she told me she was going to have the baby. I met her in Boston last year. I was there in connection with the discussions of building the Cape Cod Canal. I represent a group of boat owners and builders who helped get the project funded. I was going out with Mary – that was her name – for a few months just to pass the time while I was in the city. It was never really serious.
“I certainly didn’t give a thought to marriage. When she told me she was going to have my baby, I abandoned her. I’m ashamed to say it. But I did – I left her. I gave her money. I know that doesn’t make it right, but I just want you to know that she didn’t have to worry for one second about money.
“When she got sick, I went back to Boston and stayed with her. I felt that at the least, I owed her that. The doctors didn’t tell her, but they were virtually certain she was going to die – perhaps even before she gave birth. She had a heart problem. I lied to her right up to the day she finally did pass away, by telling her we were going to get married. She had no family. I had her buried in Kenmore Cemetery.
After her death, I was at the lowest point of my life. I felt so much remorse for what I had done that I was not sure I could live with myself. I……”
“Stop, Jimmy! Stop right now!” Lucy demanded. “You were kind to her and acted honorably. You took care of her expenses and you stayed with her. The man who ruined me did none of those things!
“Like Mary, who gave birth to Hope, I had no family. I didn’t even have a real place to live. I had a tiny room, in the attic above the restaurant where I worked. It was so small there wasn’t even room for a table and chair – just a bed and a small bureau.
“When the first man came along that seemed like a gentleman and expressed an interest in me, I fell. I fell all the way. I would have done anything for him. I should have known something was wrong. He never really took me anywhere except to hotel rooms for what was mostly just his pleasure.
“He’d bring me presents like flowers and candy but would never take me to Vaudeville shows or fancy restaurants, though he had plenty of money. When I told him I was pregnant with his child, the first thing he said was ‘how do I know it’s mine?’
“He knew, Jimmy. He knew that he was my first and only man. He dumped me less than five minutes after I told him he was going to be a father. He said he was already married and I should ‘take care of things’. He left me and he never offered me a cent and if he did I probably wouldn’t have taken it from him. Compared to him Jimmy, you are a saint.
“Just when I was at my lowest point,” Lucy continued, “a quiet man all dressed in black, came to the restaurant at Gray Gables. He ordered only coffee and bread. I don’t know how, but he knew my troubles and he told me everything was going to be okay. I said to him……
“Lucy, did this figure in black have a beard and was he wearing a wide brimmed hat?”
“Yes Jimmy. How did you know?”
“I started to tell you a few minutes ago that when I was at my worst point, back in Boston, I was thinking about killing myself. The only thing that stopped me was Hope. I loved that baby from the first second I saw her. I couldn’t take my life and leave her without a father. But still, I was so miserable that I didn’t see how I could go on.
“I left the baby at a nursery at went to the dirty waters of the Charles River. I know that I wasn’t going to jump in – but I felt like I wanted to. A strange man, all dressed in black, sat next to me on a bench. He said, ‘Hello Jimmy’. I asked him how he knew my name and he didn’t know how he knew, but he just did. He told me that he wanted to help me. He seemed to know everything about me. He said that everything would be fine.
“At first I thought that the man was crazy, but there was something about him that was familiar. I can’t explain it, but I soon began to trust him and believe everything he said. Lucy, I’m sure that it was the same man you met. He told me that I was to take the Cape Cod Train from Boston and get off at the Monument Beach Station. He said I was to stay overnight in Bourne and then get on the first train the next morning. He instructed me to take the first empty seat I saw and that the solution to my problem would be sitting opposite me. The seat I took was the one across from you!”
Within a month Lucy Malone became Mrs. Jimmy O’Kelly. Within five more months she delivered a beautiful eight pound baby boy. The child had curly red hair, just like its real father – and just like Jimmy’s.
“Oh Lucy, he’s got my hair. Can we call him Jimmy Junior?”
All that Lucy could manage to say through her joyful tears was, “Thank you Jimmy Senior”.
The O’Kelly’s two children, Hope and Jimmy Junior; were eventually joined by two other girls and two more boys. The six O’Kelly kids were good students and fine Cape Cod citizens. The O’Kelly family members lived long and successful lives and their descendants dwell happily on Cape, to this very day.
But what of the shadowy man dressed in the colors of night?
After he got off the train at Monument beach, the figure in black immediately walked to the Sandbar Hotel where he paid cash in advance for a week’s lodging and went straight to his room.
The rushing sound of a Northeaster roared into his ears although the room’s single window was closed and there was no wind. His eyes refused to focus. A light touch of his fingers to a faint scar that ran from his right eyebrow straight up into his hairline produced the effect of a figurative boulder crashing down the craggy hills inside his head. Dislodging many others on its way, the boulder tumbled down through his cranium before crashing at the base of his brain with the force of a landslide.
He collapsed on the bed with a ‘headquake’ that would have driven most men to the highest point they could find, in order to jump to their death. To the figure in black, it was simply one more routine brain eruption – just like all the others over the last seven years.
He slept the clock around for two days before he was well enough to get up and seek out food. He found it a few hundred yards from the hotel at Sam’s Lobster Tank. He didn’t eat seafood however.
“Just coffee and bread Sam.”
“How’d you know my name?” asked the bent, old white haired man wearing a spotless cook’s apron over a clean white shirt.
“Your sign – it says Sam’s.”
“Yah but I could be anybody. I don’t have to be Sam.”
“Well then, just mark it down as a lucky guess and bring me my coffee and bread.”
“That’s about all I can bring you. I’m all out of lobster. That’s why there’s nobody in here at five p.m. on a beautiful summer afternoon.”
“I know that you’re having trouble Sam. I came here because of it. Tell me about it. I can help.”
“You are probably a nice guy mister. But there’s no help for me. I have always done well. I’ve been in business here for more than 20 summers but this is the first time the lobsters have been scarce.”
“A shortage of lobsters on Cape Cod? No Sam. That’s not possible! There’s something else going on,” said the enigmatic stranger dressed all in black, like a minister, an undertaker, or even a sailor.
Sam wasn’t sure why, but he decided to lay his whole burden on the dark, bearded man drinking coffee and eating bread – his only customer since running out of lobsters in the middle of the lunch hour.
He owned one small boat and a string of a hundred traps. Sam employed a local youth to run the traps and his craft. Every night around dusk the young man brought the catch directly to the restaurant. Each trap was checked at least three times a week. On a normal summer week, the total catch was about 700 lobsters – which meant that he could serve an average of a hundred dinners a night and make a pretty good living. But this season, traps that usually gave from five to ten lobsters had yielded only one or two at most. Jimmy Butler, his hired man had been bringing him less than two dozen a day – not even enough to cover his overhead.
The stranger removed his wide brimmed, black hat and placed it on the table, revealing a head of curly, black hair. He scratched his beard with long fingers that looked like they might be suited for anything from piano playing or knot tying, to twisting the knobs of a combination safe. His fingers moved from his beard to a spot above his right eyebrow and then lightly traced the route of a scar that took a course straight up the forehead until it disappeared into his hairline.
He might have been anywhere from 25 to 45 years old. No wrinkles marred his handsome face and there was no gray showing in his hair. He had a face that people instantly liked and that led to them trusting him without question.
“Sam. I’m on my way to Provincetown by train. I cannot explain to you the why of it, but I am unable to leave the Monument Beach Station until I help you get your business back on a profitable basis. If you’ll hire me, I’ll help Jimmy Butler, and between the two of us, we’ll coax a thousand lobsters a week out of your hundred traps.”
“But I have no money to pay you. I’ve not had a single day of profit all season and I barely have enough to pay Jimmy Butler his dollar a day.”
“My pay shall be a dinner of twin lobsters on the night of the day we reach our first thousand lobsters,” said the stranger.
“I certainly cannot turn down that offer, “smiled Sam. “Say, what’s your name anyway?”
“I cannot tell you my name Sam for I do not know it. Seven years ago at a hospital in Boston, a doctor gave me the name ‘John Doe’, but I took offense at being called a ‘doe’. A feminine name did not appeal to me. The Doctor laughed and changed the name on his paperwork from John Doe to John Deer.”
“Okay then, John Deer it is. You can start work whenever you want.”
The men shook hands on the bargain and John Deer consumed a whole pot of coffee and a half loaf of bread over the next hour as he pressed Sam for more details of his predicament. Before he left for his hotel room, he promised the restaurant owner that he’d meet Jimmy Butler at the town dock the following morning.
“I’ll tell him to expect you,” Sam said.
But John Deer was not on the boat when it set out into the sleepy harbor shortly after dawn. He was standing by himself on the dock watching the small craft slowly head towards Sam’s 100 traps marked by buoys of red, white, and green.
John Deer had sent Jimmy Butler out alone – giving him an explicit order. In a whispery, but oddly forceful voice he commanded…. “Return at sunset with no less than 150 lobsters!”
Later, in one of the one of the town’s taverns, the tale of what John Deer had said to the young lobsterman would be told by the Harbormaster and a few sailors who had overheard the brief conversation.
They reported that – “Jimmy showed up at dawn, which was very early for him and he made the boat ready. There was no sign of Mr. Deer. After a while a voice, firm but not loud, called to the young fisherman” …
‘Step out of the boat Jimmy Butler and stand on the dock. I wish to speak with you.’
“Jimmy followed the order. Walking to the center of the dock, he stood there and waited for the unseen owner of the forceful voice. For what seemed like many minutes there was nobody else in sight. Then, in an instant, the figure in black materialized in front of him, saying, – ‘I am here to help you Jimmy. I do not know why you are only able to bring Sam a few lobsters. But I do know that you should be dragging in many more than you are. Today you will harvest at least 150 lobsters. If you do not do this, then you and I will have a problem. If you do bring in the proper amount, you will earn a reward that you cannot even imagine. Do you understand me?’
The Harbormaster continued his account… “There was something really eerie about way he spoke. The words were soft and yet they seemed to have the effects of thunder claps on young Jimmy. His knees were knocking together and they produced a much louder response than the ‘yes sir’ that he managed to squeak out.”
Some 14 hours afterward, as twilight neared and the sun began to fall beneath the tree-line on the western shore of Bourne Bay; Jimmy moored Sam’s boat at the town dock. Just as he secured his moorings, he heard the authoritative voice of the figure in black.
“How many do you have?”
“For a change, I had some good luck today sir! For the first time in quite a while the lobstering was good. I have 160!”
His statement was directed to the dock where the question had seemed to come from – but as he spoke, Jimmy noticed that the man in black was already aboard and was personally inspecting the catch.
“I was quite sure that you would be able to do it Jimmy. Now it is time for you to speak the truth. Tell me the real story of why you have been bringing such a paltry catch to your employer.”
John Deer, the figure in black, was not big. He did not look especially powerful. But there was something in his manner that told Jimmy Butler he had no option but to reveal everything to the stranger.
“Look mister. He only pays me a dollar a day to run his traps. I ‘gotta’ live too. A guy at The Widow’s Peak in Barnstable told me that they pay by the pound at the dock there and they don’t ask no questions. So, this season I’ve been selling most of the catch there. I make much more than what old Sam pays me. Who can blame me?”
“I can blame you Jimmy Butler!” the figure in black shot back. “Sam pays you only a dollar a day because it is his boat and his traps you are using. It is a fair price and you’ve done him a ratty, despicable service. There is no justification for this theft Jimmy Butler!”
“I was planning to do it only a few times,” whined the young man, “but it was so easy and the money was so good that I couldn’t stop. I don’t have no family. I got nothing. There’s no one that ever helped me.”
“I will help you Jimmy. And I’ll give you a way to repay Sam and make up for what you have done.”
“Okay mister. I know it was wrong and I’m ready to take my punishment,” muttered the crestfallen youth.
The sagacious John Deer didn’t speak for a moment. With closed eyes he was rubbing the scar on his forehead with the palm of his hand in a circular motion as if he were trying to smooth away the uneven parts of his skull-bone which had been split nearly in two seven years prior.
In the last ray of twilight before darkness completely overtook the Monument Beach Town Dock, the figure in black opened his eyes. Jimmy Butler looked on in astonishment. He thought he saw in the whites of those eyes, the flickering of a Thomas Edison motion picture. He clearly envisioned the flashing of lightning bolts with their jagged, flaming arms reaching out in many sharp branches toward the edges of the shadowy man’s eyes. He saw tears like torrential rains descend from the man’s eyelids and put out the fires that had been touched off by the lightning.
He perceived that the man in black was shaking slightly. Tremors or perhaps palsy had invaded the hands and arms of the mysterious figure. As quickly as these things started, they stopped.
John Deer spoke – “I have thought about your punishment my young friend and it is this. You will bring these lobsters to Sam. You will also tell Sam that you do not choose to work for a dollar a day anymore. You will inform him that you can make more money by selling lobsters to him by the pound.”
“How can I do that?” protested Jimmy. “It’s his boat. He’s not going to pay me for lobsters I get with his own traps and boat!”
“He will happily pay you Jimmy Butler. He will be overjoyed to pay you when you tell him that he’s not going to have the expense of his boat and traps anymore. Those burdens shall fall to you, because you are going to be the owner of the boat.”
John Doe reached into his coat and pulled out a sheaf of currency – all in large denominations of five, ten, and even twenties. Handing the wad of bills to the young man, he coached him to tell Sam that he had inherited some money from the will of a previously unknown relative. He ordered the young man to pay Sam generously for the boat and traps and to always offer Sam first choice of his catch at a fair price.
Overjoyed, Jimmy wondered how he could ever repay the magnificent gift.
“It is not a gift Jimmy Butler. It is an obligation. You must cancel this debt,” said John Deer ominously. “You will repay it five-fold or I shall come back and deal with you in ways you do not want to imagine.
“Now listen closely Jimmy Butler. This is how you shall repay it. When you see a person in trouble or in need, you must help them as I have helped you. Do this as long as you live and your debt to me will be expunged.”
Jimmy started to respond but soon realized he was talking to himself. The man in black had disappeared.
Happily, he started loading his catch on a wagon to bring to Sam, when a distant voice, soft but powerful, floated across the darkness – “I will meet you at this same hour at Sam’s Lobster Tank in one week’s time after you have delivered to him a thousand lobsters. Tell Sam I want my twin lobster dinner served with a fresh loaf of bread and a pot of unsweetened coffee.”
Jimmy Butler quickly went to Sam’s place and delivered the catch. He told Sam exactly what John Deer ordered him to say. The old fellow was only too happy to be rid of the boat and get cash in hand. In future they both would fare very well in their respective businesses.
A week later in Sam’s restaurant, now overflowing with customers , the three men all sat down to a lobster feast, served by a new waiter that Sam had been able to hire thanks to his infusion of cash from Jimmy.
“Mr. Deer, it was a happy day for all of us when you came to Monument Beach. We’re going to be great friends now, the three of us,” Sam said with a wide smile as he finished off the remains of his fourth lobster.
“We are going to be good friends Sam, but I will not be able to see either of you again. I have business in Provincetown. I fear that once I get there, I will not be able to leave.”
Goodbyes were said and the figure in black walked toward the Monument Beach Railroad Station. On the track side of the building, he laid down on a bench. His tapered fingers massaged the long, thin scar over his eyebrow – a blemish that covered a mass of frazzled brain bits residing uneasily under the poorly knitted fracture.
His head ached as though a spike were being driven from one side of his skull to the other. He fell asleep with the palms of both hands pressing hard against his throbbing forehead.
Bright rays of dawn and warm breezes churned the salt and pepper clouds into a cheery ‘sky-salad’ that woke John Deer at 5:45, five minutes ahead of the arrival of the Cape Cod Central Provincetown Train, making its first run of the day.
The headaches of the night before had vanished and John Deer felt good. There was no weight of prophecy burdening him on this vivid morning. But still, he could not take the train all the way to the end of the line. He would board when it arrived at the Monument Beach Station in Bourne, only to get off at the very next terminal – the Sandwich station.
He would walk to the historic Newcomb Tavern in the center of town and take a room in the second floor overlooking a serene pond. He would pay for a week in advance as usual – though often he did not stay a full week at his lodgings.
He had only a dim foresight in this instance, yet he felt that his stay in Sandwich was going to be far longer than the time he had spent in Gray Gables and in Monument Beach.
He expected to remain in the Newcomb Tavern until the headaches returned. It was the curse of the headaches that gave him the blessing of his second sight. It was that curse/blessing which had allowed him to make investments of tiny sums that grew to very large amounts that were stuffed into a dozen banks on Beacon Hill and throughout the city of Boston. It was money that he cared little for – but that he needed, in order to fund the tasks that were his obligation.
The clanging of the bell signaling the arrival of the train roused him from the bench and he stepped quickly to the edge of the platform. After giving a friendly farewell pat to “Post Office Jack” the mascot of the Monument Beach Station, he boarded the train for Sandwich where he would rest and await the inspiration for his next task.
Post Offfice Jack, The Assistant Mail Clerk at Monument Beach for 17 years
Being a delightful summer morning, the train was packed with Bostonians sojourning to the Cape to avoid the heat of the city. There were three passenger coaches in the mixed ‘consist’ which also included a dining car, a baggage car, a newspaper/postal car, four freight cars, and a caboose.
The train, pulled by a powerful Alco engine, built in Providence, had a ten minute layover in Monument Beach to take on water for the steam engine and to switch a few boxcars.
Empty seats were scarce, but he found one in the front of the first car behind the engine. This coach was the least desirable since it absorbed the greatest quantities of the soft coal dust that sifted out of the belching clouds of smoke from the engine’s stack. It was also the reason that few of the windows were open despite the extreme early morning warmth of the late July day.
He sat down next to a pleasant looking young man dressed in a brown business suit. “Hello sir,” the gentleman said, as John Deer slid into the seat. “Wonderful morning, isn’t it?”
“Gorgeous, but a bit warm,” agreed John Deer. “It’s perfect for the beaches though!”
They chatted during the remainder of the layover and on the short run to the Sandwich terminal. The man, Jim Davis, explained that he had just procured a job at the Sandwich and Boston Glass Company.
“It’s a wonderful firm. A businessman with offices in Boston and New York opened the factory about a year ago and already they are shipping fifty thousand dollars worth of product every single month!”
“That’s a large figure indeed, “agreed John Deer. “But I understood that the glass business in Sandwich had gone bust.”
“It did. Back around 1890 Sandwich was the biggest glass making center in the United States, but the plant was shut down during a nationwide glass maker’s strike and was never reopened until last year (1909) by Mr. Charles Crown, that businessman I told you about. He’s also a newspaper publisher and that’s how I got the job. He ran a big article in his paper about the factory. I filled out an application form that was in the classifieds and I was hired within two weeks. My education certainly helped me secure the position. My studies of glass making were taken in Boston at the Huntington College in Kenmore Square.”
Listening to Mr. Davis talk about his job and the good financial situation in Sandwich, John Deer’s mind began to wander and he wondered why he had been impelled to go there. For some time he had been obeying an inner voice that had directed him on a journey that had begun in Boston and would end in Provincetown. Along the way, something kept forcing him off the train to help people in need. He wondered what task would fall to him in Sandwich.
John Deer was perhaps 25 years old or maybe 35, or even 45. He himself didn’t know. He had a memory of only seven years, stretching back to an awakening in a Boston Hospital with almost no recollections of his life before the accident – if accident it were, that split his skull in two. His doctors had told him it was perhaps the worst TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) that anyone had ever survived.
They alighted from the train together, Mr. Davis and Mr. Deer.
“Good luck in your new job Mr. Davis. Perhaps I’ll see you in the glass works. I just might be dropping in for a visit.
“Well I’ll look forward to that sir. Have a good day.”
The Sandwich Railroad Station in 1910
John Deer walked the short distance from the terminal to the beautiful downtown area of Sandwich, a thriving village of 1700 people. The town square was built around gentle Shawme pond. His lodging place, the Newcomb Tavern, overlooked the water. There were ten bedrooms on the second floor and John Deer booked one facing the pond.
Six fireplaces supplied warmth and a friendly glow to the graceful Colonial style building that had a lavish dining room on the first floor, serving excellent food, Cape Cod style. John Deer was feeling better than he had in some time, so his appetite allowed him to consume a considerably wider variety than his usual diet of just bread and coffee with no sugar.
The Inn was fully occupied, as was generally the case during the busy summer season. Since he was feeling so well John Deer not only took his meals in the dining room, but also stayed afterwards for conversations with the other guests. When the curse/gift was upon him, this was something he could not do.
On his second evening, after he had polished off an especially fine meal of deep fried cod, crisp fried onion rings, ‘steamers’ swimming in melted butter, and corn on the cob, followed by strawberry shortcake – the man who occupied the room opposite his, spoke.
“Terrific meal sir, wasn’t it? My name is Peters. Al Peters. I’m in furs. Not that I wear them of course,” he laughed. “But I sew them into coats and such for Boston’s finest ladies in my shop on Washington Street.”
“It’s nice to meet you Mr. Peters. I’m John Deer. I’m afraid I don’t have such an interesting job. About all I do is trade a few dull stocks now and then.”
“I’m Al. Call me Al, John. Now that I know you’re in stocks, I want to buy you a drink, maybe several. I might get some free stock tips.”
They both laughed as they made their way to the Inn’s lushly appointed ‘Old English Style Pub’ that opened out onto a terrace with a fountain and a view of the graceful steeple of a nearby church.
The soft breeze that reached them was cooled slightly as it grazed Shawme Pond, after which it was scented beautifully by dancing through a field of pink and blue hyacinth before wafting into the terrace where they sat at a glass top table with curving ornamental wrought iron legs.
“I have a great job,” affirmed Al Peters. “I get the whole summer off, every year! That’s because the only fur business there is in the warm months is the cold storage of the fur coats and wraps and such. I only need one person to watch over them, so that frees me up to spend all of July and August in this heavenly setting. What about you? Do you work for a broker?”
“No Al. I just dabble. I had a few fortunate deals that have put me in a position where I’m lucky enough to be a free agent most of the time.”
“Well John,” said Al as he sipped his champagne, “If you have any tips for me, I sure would like to know them. I’ve done very well with the Sandwich and Boston Glassworks. I bought 2,000 shares at a dollar each when they were first offered some eight or nine months ago. When the stock went up to three dollars I bought 2,000 more and then when it doubled to six, I bought another 2,000. So, I’ve got twenty thousand invested in the company and at today’s price that stock is worth $60,000. That’s a nice profit for less than a year.”
“It certainly is,” agreed John Deer, “I think perhaps it is you that is giving me a tip, but sadly I can’t think of one right now to swap back to you.”
“Oh that’s okay John. I’m just saying that if anything comes up while we are both staying here, please let me in on it and I’ll do the same.”
“That’s a bargain Al. Thanks for the champagne. Allow me to get us another.”
John Deer excused himself to use the bathroom facilities before ordering a new round of beverages. Upon his return he was surprised to see that Al Peters had been joined by two young ladies.
In the light of the elegant Murano Venetian chandelier that hung from the ceiling of the pub, the two women seemed more beautiful than any of the Vaudeville stars that he had seen in the ‘big time’ theaters like the Orpheum in Boston and the Palace in New York. The hues reflected from the chandelier’s three levels of dozens of tinted glass leaves and fruits and flowers, made it seem as though the ladies’ faces were adorned for a masked ball. He couldn’t see the details but knew that the close-up view would be even more spectacular.
It had been a long time since he thought about women – or pretty much anything except the chores he had to do to get to Provincetown, his last stop.
“John, you’re back. Please sit down and meet our neighbors.”
Al Peters introduced him to Miss Jane Wallin, a stunning, petite blond woman dressed in a very tight fitting green gown that fully flattered her full features. But he took little note of Miss Wallin, who was sitting so close to Peters that she was nearly in his lap.
It was the sepia haired beauty that al Peters introduced as Miss Emily Rapport, who captured his attention. Her hair was darker than midnight with eyes to match. Her skin was tanned beautifully as though she had spent many hours in repose at the beach to earn her deep tones, yet her visage seemed very light when compared to her shimmering black, shoulder length hair.
The two couples spent a pleasant hour discussing various topics of the day. During a lull in the conversation, Al Peters and Miss Wallin excused themselves in favor of an evening stroll around Shawme Lake.
“I don’t mind telling you it’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed myself this much, Miss Rapport.”
“It’s Emily, John. To you, I’m Emily and just so you know. I’m not as old fashioned as my name suggests,” she said playfully. “I’m flattered that you enjoy being with a plain old schoolteacher on a Cape Cod holiday.”
“Number one you are not old,” he protested. “Number two you are anything but plain and finally – they don’t make school teachers that look like you!”
“I’ll take all of those as compliments John. I’ve been in the teaching business for seven years. I’ve been very fortunate. Last year I was appointed headmistress at the Huntington School for Girls in Boston.”
“I know the school. It’s very near the place of my first memories.”
“Were you born near there?”
“No. Well yes, in a sense Emily. In a certain way I am only seven years old. I have no memories other than waking up in a hospital near your school. I had a busted skull. How I came to be fractured, is unknown. As I had no wallet or other means of identification when I was found, I also don’t know my real name or much of anything about myself. I’m pretty sure I’m not a crook or a murderer so you don’t have to be afraid….”
She cut him off – “John, how horrible for you. Is there any chance your memory will come back?”
“Yes Emily, I’m afraid there is. I’m on some sort of a crazy mission. Something inside me, is forcing me towards the city of Provincetown. I fear that my answers will be revealed there.”
“You say ‘fear’, John. Why are you afraid?”
“I’m not afraid tonight Miss Emily! Let’s talk about this at another time. There is a bright moon in the sky and a secret rose garden on the other side of the Inn. Might we explore it?”
Thus began the happiest time of John Deer’s seven years of conscious life. As the summer inched toward autumn, he and Emily spent much of their days and evenings together.
For John Deer it was the longest period since his brain injury that he had gone without the explosions in his head. By far it was also the finest time of his seven years of pain and premonition.
For Emily, their friendship had turned to love almost immediately.
John had to battle with himself and remind himself every day that he was not free to fall in love. To spend a lifetime with the most enchanting woman he had ever known was not his destiny. His lot, cast by some unseen hand – was to board a loud, foul smelling steam engine and ride it to the last stop on the line – Provincetown. The American Indians called it the ‘end of the earth’.
Provincetown: where in all probability the ‘end of the earth’ would also be the end of his life. He did not know this for certain, but had a dark feeling that it was so.
On a hazy morning in late August John deer and Emily Rapport set off in a rented buggy pulled by a prancing strawberry roan named “Goldie”. They were bound for a picnic near “Town Beach” at the entry to Sandwich Harbor. Soon they arrived at one of Cape Cod’s most scenic attractions, the Mill Creek Boardwalk.
While John unhitched the carriage and found a grazing spot for the for the reddish colored horse with a golden tail and mane, Emily set their blanket upon the soft, salt marsh grass near a large, flat boulder. Softly humming the new Vaudeville hit tune, ‘Down by the Old Mill Stream’, she laid out plates of fried chicken, corn bread, and potatoes with gravy. She warmed the meal over a small cook-fire.
After lunch they walked the 1400 foot boardwalk all the way to the head of the harbor where five foot whitecaps were bashing the rocky shoreline. Gazing over the undulating green waves of marsh grass along the way, they saw stunning views of Cape Cod Bay – framed in spots by lush beds of salt spray roses ranging in colors from a washed out red to pale pink and purple-blue.
Smiling, holding hands, and looking into each other’s eyes more often than at the elegant scenery; they crossed over the old Mill Stream and dozens of dunes before arriving at a platform overlooking the winding bay.
They could see the beginnings of the enormous construction project that would become the Cape Cod Canal. Work had begun in Bourne the previous summer and already had reached Sandwich Harbor.
Sitting at a bench on the observation platform, the lovers embraced.
“In a few days John, I have to leave to go back to school. What about you?”
“Emily I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”
“It’s settled then, you can come to Boston with me.”
“No Em. I can’t. You know that I’m not able to, though God help me, I wish I could.
Like a schoolboy on his first date, for in a sense it was very near to the truth, John closed his eyes and kissed her with open mouth. She laughed and recoiled at the same time – for in his nervousness, he fully missed her lips and landed his wet mouth upon her nose!
“Don’t be embarrassed,” she smiled. “Practice makes perfect. Try again!”
He did, with infinitely more success the second time around. For hours they sat by the sea in a warm, shared embrace.
As the red tinged clouds began gathering near the falling sun, making its way for evening, John quickly rose, “We have to be going back now. I must get “Goldie” back to her stall at the stable.”
Emily stood beside him and grabbed him as tight as she could. “I don’t ever want to let go.”
John looked into her eyes. They were the color of night. Her luxurious, onyx hair shined from the last rays of the sun. Her lips, parted slightly, were full and waiting. Returning her unyielding embrace, he kissed her deeply.
Forgotten for a moment was his mission. Overlooked was the memory of the headaches, the pains, and the premonitions. He was going to go Boston with Emily. They would marry in the Kenmore Hotel’s grand ballroom with all the faculty of the Huntington School for Girls in attendance.
Overhead, from out of nowhere, a flapping, fluttery cloud of bats appeared. Roller-coastering dangerously near Emily’s long hair, they startled the lovers and forced them to break short their feverish clinch.
The eerie creatures skittered off to the east and as they did, John’s eyes followed them. Over the stone jetties, he watched the erratic flight of the bat cloud. His gaze continued eastward and he saw all the way to Provincetown, located at the very tip of the 64 mile long sandbar in the Atlantic Ocean, called Cape Cod.
Provincetown. The glow from the city lights reminded him that there would be no kisses for him. No idyllic marriage ceremony. No band playing. No quartet harmonizing ‘Down By the Old Mill Stream’. No dancing with Emily in the street. No children playing at his feet. No Christmas Dinner with exotic foods to eat. No! None of this! Provincetown was his destination – not Boston.
Silently, they left Town Beach and began walking along the boardwalk. For more than 1400 steps, winding back to where the horse was waiting, the only sound made was the thudding of their footwear on the rough planks.
The livery shop was closed when they arrived back in the center of Sandwich. The owner had left the stable doors unlocked so John and Emily were able to get Goldie inside. They cooled her down and fed and watered the beautiful roan mare before going back to their picturesque colonial inn.
The Newcomb Tavern was already 217 years old in 1910, but was still one of the most fashionable buildings on Cape Cod. Its dining room served the tastiest food in the entire Massachusetts Bay Colony. John and Emily felt their sadness dissipating and their appetites growing, as the delicious aromas from the kitchen greeted them when they passed through the front door and into the main living room. It was a cheery area with a floor to ceiling hearth, plush couches, and a highly polished Baby Grand Piano.
They went into the dining room and took the most secluded table, eating enthusiastically from heaping platters of bay scallops, with sweet corn, potatoes, gravy, and bread straight from the oven. Their beverage was a bold red wine made by an elderly medical doctor from Dennis Village who retired from the practice of medicine, to practice the ancient ‘craft of the grapes’ that he had learned in Italy as a child.
After dinner the young couple walked through the French Doors that gave way to a terrace overlooking the East Garden, and the neatly trimmed lawns where croquet was lazily played in the day time. Sitting at a bulky table of delicately crafted ornamental iron, they stared at each other with moist eyes, but said little.
He finally broke the silence, “I want to, but I can’t ‘Em!”
“I know Johnny. I know two things – first that you do love me and second that you are guided by some internal order or feeling that you cannot control. You are exactly like the railroad tracks. They end in Provincetown for they were laid in that direction and can go nowhere else. As for you, just as if you too were being led by iron rails on top of bulky wooden ties, you also can go to no other place than Provincetown – the end of the line.”
For a long time, nothing further was said. The candle in the middle of their table, once burning cheerily and strong, was now sputtering, with its nearly naked wick ready to fall into a tiny pool of melted wax, which was all that remained of the once tall and straight, illuminated shaft.
The light from the chandelier seemed to dim as if blocked by the shadow of some unseen flying creature passing before it. Emily swallowed the little puddle that remained in the bottom of her fourth glass of wine and reached for a fifth.
As the illumination from the fixture above returned to normal, she noticed an indentation in John Deer’s forehead that she had not perceived before. The sides of his head along the divide of the scar were uneven. There was perhaps an eighth of an inch difference.
John observed her stare and said, “It never healed properly. The bone on one side was pushed deep into my brain. The doctors said that the bone penetrated into me like an axe and if the pressure had continued I would have died.”
“Were they able to relieve the pressure?”
“No Emily there was nothing they could do, short of taking a crowbar and pulling up the bone to match the other side…..”
“And that would have killed you,” she commented.
“Exactly. The physicians did the only thing they could do. They waited. For one full week I lay unconscious floating between light and dark – life and death. Just when the doctors thought that I would perish, the bone began moving of its own accord. First a tiny fraction, then an inch, then two and then three inches, the bone retracted from the interior of my brain. But before the two sides became equal, the movement stopped.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Not usually. During the times when I get the headaches, it seems like the bone presses in harder on the brain, and the gap between the two sides temporarily widens. It is during these moments that I have what is called ‘second sight’. I know things. Sometimes I can predict the winner of a baseball games, the stock market, or even what spots will fall from a pair of rolled dice. Other times I don’t see the future, but I get glimpses of people in pain and suffering. The only thing that stops my pain is helping them with their troubles.”
“I don’t have to leave for another few days,” Emily said, changing the subject, “but the time is weighing too heavily on me. I feel like a condemned prisoner waiting to be executed. Each minute is becoming more oppressive.”
She stopped talking and finished the last of her wine. John did the same. They gazed at the flickering candle in the center of the table struggling to stay lit even as the last of its wax was pulled up into the wick.
Tearfully she said, “I’m going back to Boston tomorrow.”
The dying taper sputtered its final flare and went out. With slow, reluctant steps they went to her room – for the last time.
In the morning after they shared a final tearful embrace at the Sandwich Terminal. Emily boarded the train for Boston.
With a hissing screech, the six massive power wheels of the Alco steam engine slowly began to turn. Emily shouted through the open window by her seat, “Write me. Telephone me. Do not let go of me whatever happens.”
“I promise I will keep in touch Emily. No matter what may become of me, you’ll know.”
It began as soon as the train was out of sight. His eyes refused to focus. A sickly wave of warmth started in the back of his head, at the base of his brain. It oozed like a river of hot lava, to his forehead before creeping downwards all the way to his feet. He felt like he was in a hot bath, but instead of water he seemed to be immersed in a thick petroleum-like substance that was getting hotter.
His fingers began to twitch. The involuntary jerks migrated to his hands. His vision clouded. The divide in his forehead grew larger as if the bones were being held together only by a faltering band of elastic.
Though each step was a struggle against limbs that were reluctant to move, he staggered back to his room. John Deer made it to his bed before the explosions of his cranium fully immobilized him.
Just as he managed to flop onto the mattress, the ‘headquakes’ took full control of his body and began rolling him around like dough on a breadboard. Spasms pitched his body as if it were a live fish on a hot griddle. After a time, the tremors ceased. He slept the clock around twice before regaining his normal state of mind.
Two days. For 48 hours, he had been prostrated; oblivious to the happenings on Cape Cod and in the wider world. But during this time, the ‘second sight’ visited him and when he awoke he knew what was going to happen in the village of Sandwich; as well as what he must do to help the town and its 1700 citizens.
After a bath and a breakfast of bread and unsweetened coffee, John Deer made a few private telephone calls followed by a visit to the Sandwich Savings Bank. Then he walked to the factory of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Company. He inquired about Mr. James Davis and was directed to a first floor office.
“Good morning Mr. Davis. I’m happy to see that you have the job of production manager. I have some things to discuss with you. I’m sure you don’t remember me but we met on the train at Monument Beach on the day you first came to Cape Cod.”
Looking at the figure before him, dressed entirely in black with a wide brimmed hat framing a youthful, bearded face, Jim Davis quickly recalled their earlier meeting, “I do remember you. Mr. Deer isn’t it? We had a nice talk on the train and I remember you so well because you reminded me then, as now, of my uncle. He helped me finance my schooling in Boston. How are you?”
“I’m well. I told you that I’d be around for a visit. I didn’t expect that it would be in the autumn, but summer came and went so quickly. Something has come up, Mr. Davis. “
“Please call me Jim. May I give you a tour of the works?”
“Perhaps another time Jim. That’s not why I am here today. There’s a very serious matter we need to talk about.”
“All right then. How may I help you?”
“Actually I am here to help you. To put it more exactly, I’m here to help the company. Let me explain. I have received certain information about the Sandwich Glassworks that you………….”
John Deer was cut off in mid sentence when a young man burst through the office door with a look of panic on his face. Breathlessly he shouted, “We’re out of business Mr. Davis. The company has gone bust!”
Under questioning, the man, who was in charge of the mail room, revealed that the office manager had just gotten the news that Charles Crown, the founder of the company had taken all of the firm’s capital and fled for parts unknown.
There was panic throughout the firm. All production had ceased. Suppliers were telephoning company offices demanding immediate payment. Orders of raw material and supplies that were in transit were being stopped in mid route and sent back to the shippers.
Employees who would be thrown out of work were desperate because they lived from paycheck to paycheck and there was no help for an out of work person in the early 1900s. The stock which had been trading in the nine dollar a share range had quickly fallen to fifty cents and was continuing to plummet.
The entire economy of the village was dependent upon the glass works. The failure of the company would mean the failure of the town of Sandwich and perhaps even the entire island/peninsula of Cape Cod!
A grief-stricken elderly woman, Davis’s secretary, hobbled into the office and moaned, “What are we to do? My whole life’s savings was invested in the stock of this company.”
Dozens of workers said they would lose their homes. The situation looked bleak. It was reported that because of the impending failure of his business empire Charles Crown had secretly and systematically raided the operating funds of all his companies including those in Chicago, New York, Boston and Cape Cod. It was said that he was fleeing the country with two suitcases. They were not filled with clothes however, but with one million dollars in denominations of 20, 50 and hundred dollar notes.
In Hyannis, inside the offices of the Cape Cod Recorder, the editors were speculating that panic on Wall Street could affect the whole nation. The chief of the financial news bureau reported that Crown’s despicable actions would result in more than five thousand people being thrown out of work, including the 500 in Sandwich.
Forgotten amongst the turmoil was John Deer, the bearded figure in black. He said nothing as the intensity of the situation continued to build towards full blown hysteria.
When he finally did start to speak, the dozen or so people in the production manager’s office, snapped to attention. There was something about the voice which shouted, though it was barely more than a whisper –
“Listen to me, I have something important to tell you.”
As if relating a bedtime story, he calmly continued. “I came here today because I just received the news of your plight. I wish I had learned of the situation sooner because I might have prevented it. Failing that, I am at least prepared to bandage the wounds caused by Charles Crown – who I know by another name. That does not matter to you, but here is what is important.
“Jim Davis, my purpose in visiting you today is to inform you that I have made you the President of the Sandwich Glass Company!”
Everyone looked at the mysterious looking figure in black, dressed as a preacher or an undertaker, or maybe a sailor; and immediately thought he was ‘touched’.
“Thanks Mr. Deer,” Davis responded. “I don’t think you understand. Our employer has absconded with the funds. We’re out of business!”
“Actually no!” countered John Deer in his patient, story-telling voice. “Before I came here today I called my broker and issued orders to purchase 51 per cent of the stock of the Glassworks as soon as the price dropped to ten cents a share, which it promptly did. I now own the majority interest in the factory and you are going to run it for me.”
“But we have no funds. Supplies are being diverted from delivery. We can’t meet payroll,” Jim Davis hurled objection after objection.
In answer, John Deer opened the brief case which he had been carrying and dumped the contents on Davis’ desk. Hundreds of brand new 10, 20, and 50 dollar bills floated down like a swarm of butterflies.
“There’s fifty thousand cash there Jim. Use it for payroll, and use it to satisfy the suppliers. Get the newspaper down here and show them the money. Tell them that the Sandwich Glass Company, under the direction of the new President, Jim Davis, is healthy and open for business.”
At suppertime when John Deer got back to the Newcomb Inn, the stock of the glass company had already rebounded from a low of seven cents a share to $5.75. Wall Street was predicting it would hit a high of $20 a share within a week.
Examples of locally made glassware on display at the Sandwich Glass Museum in 2016
Walking by the bar on his way to the dining room he noticed his friend Al Peters, the furrier, sitting by himself with several empty ‘highball’ glasses in front of him. John Deer thought of Peters as a good friend, especially since it was he who had introduced him to Emily Rapport.
“What’s wrong Al? Why all those empty glasses in front of you? I’ve never known you to have more than two or three drinks in a whole evening.”
“I’m ruined John. Remember that stock tip I gave you on Sandwich Glassworks? It just kept rising and I just kept buying. I’ve got 30,000 shares now. I invested every penny I had in that company and it went bust. At nine this morning, the shares were worth about 50 cents each and my broker said that there was almost no market to sell them. I’m stuck with them and right now they are probably worth about three cents apiece. I’m wiped out.”
John Deer smiled, causing a desperate grimace that looked like a twisted horse-shoe, on his friend’s face.
“No worries, Al. Calm yourself. I have good news. You gave me a stock tip when we first met and I said I was sorry I didn’t have one for you. Well I do now. Here’s the tip. Hold on to those glassworks shares because at the closing bell today they were worth almost six dollars a share and by this time tomorrow they’ll be worth 12!”
The now joyous Al Peters sobered instantly at the magnificent news and decided to join John in the dining room where they had deep fried cod, broiled bay scallops, boiled lobsters, oiled and vinegared salad, and steamed hard shell clams – or Quahogs, as they are called in New England.
Tired from his busy day, John went straight to bed right after dinner. As his eyes closed he wondered if his work in Sandwich was complete and if tomorrow would find him moving on down the line.
He did not have long to speculate. It started with a tingling feeling, like a worm walking along the scar-line of his forehead. The tingle became a tapping and then morphed into a thumping, as a full blown migraine started brewing up a tempest inside his head.
His vision dimmed. Suddenly, he had thoughts that reminded him of a song. He kept thinking and then singing to himself…‘E-I-E-I-O’, ‘E-I-E-I-O’ – Like Old McDonald, the nursery rhyme, but different.
He sang the song, but with strange lyrics that burst into his head ….
“Old con man meant to harm
With a lie here, a cheat there,
and some stealing everywhere.
Old con artist stole the farm :
E-I-E-I-O, E-I-E-I-O, E-I-E-I-O? What did it mean?
His mind started to clear. He saw a listing of names – names that fit the rhyme.
“Carmine – that’s the E.”
“Giovanni – that’s the I.”
“and Bartolomeo is the O!”
The names ended in E, I, or O.
Further, he realized that the three most common Italian last names (Gallante, Ricci, and Russo) all end in E, I, or O. He said to himself, ‘That’s the E-I-E-I-O! But what does it signify? Do I know these people? Did I know them before my traumatic brain injury? I have a dim memory of boats crossing oceans and streams of people from the ‘old’ country flooding into Ellis Island in New York City.’
He speculated that possibly he might be an E-I-E-I-O, wondering, ‘Could I be a Gallante, a Ricci, or a or perhaps a Russo?’
John struggled through the night with the headquakes and the body shakes. By morning the nocturnal battles had left him exhausted – but empowered with new knowledge.
He knew the meaning of the E-I-E-I-Os. He even knew how they related to what he must do. Further, he knew the real identity of Charles Crown who had absconded with the funds of the businesses. He also had learned in his nocturnal suffering, where to find Crown and that it was the E-I-E-I-Os, who would capture him.
Bartolomeo Russo estimated that his day’s take was over 100 flounder. For September it was a good catch. Fishermen in Salem and Beverly made most of their money from May through August. September and the months beyond, until the cold weather kept them from working their craft, made the difference between just getting by, and having some of the finer things that the brand new 20th century had to offer – automobiles, ice boxes, moving picture shows, telephones and more.
“Meo” (pronounced May-o), as he was called by his friends and family, had his eye on a 1910 Tin Lizzie. Tersolo’s Horseless Carriage Sales on Rantoul Steet by Beverly Harbor, had new ones for $800.00. He could never expect to amass that much money but if he had a good season he might be able to come up with $400 and that would get him a good, used one.
He brought his fish to the dock where he sold them and then went home to clean up and get ready for his date with Colleen O’Brien. The Cabot Theater’s new Vaudeville line-up for the week was being headlined by the singing duet of Mike and Marge, fresh off the Palace Circuit in New York. Meo had purchased two seats in the exclusive ‘reserved’ front row section.
A quick bath got rid of the scent that identified him as a North Shore Fisherman and a fast shave scraped away the dark facial growth that gave his youthful face a look that was a little too hard for the gentle smile that he usually carried. He tried to comb his thick, curly, dark hair but as customary it defied the attempt and splayed out in all directions like a clump of wildflowers.
Selecting his best pants and shirt, he dressed quickly. Running down the stairs, he was ready to go out the front door when he was stopped.
“Hey little brother, where you going?”
“Oh hello Carmine, I’m going out on a date. What do you want?”
“No little brother. You are not going out on a date,“ Carmine replied as he was joined by three other older brothers; Giovanni, Antonio, and Lucciano.
Known in every neighborhood on the North Shore of Boston as the E-I-E-I-O boys, the Russo brothers had locked up the steam fitting and construction business in the area so tight that very little work was done without their involvement. They ran a clean, efficient company. Their prices were scaled to the customer. Beacon Hill swells had to pay dearly for their work, while the poor people paid just north of nothing. The E-I-E-I-O brothers ran the territory, not by force, but through hard work and fair dealing. There was one area however, where they had a blind spot.
Being fiercely proud of their royal Sicilian heritage, they did not believe that any of their ‘line’ should be marrying or even dating any person whose last name didn’t end in E, I, or O. (and sometimes ‘A’, as in Accetta or Saltalamacchia.)
Thus it was that when Carmine heard that his little brother ‘Meo’ was going to squire an Irish girl named Colleen O’Brien to the Cabot Theater, he knew that he and his brothers had to intervene.
Being the oldest living Russo brother, Carmine spoke for the group…
”Meo. We forbid you to see this Irish girl. We have told you before that our people do not mix with their people. Go back upstairs. You are not going anywhere tonight.”
“I’m 22 years old and I’ll do as I please. I like Colleen. I think maybe I even love her. I’m going now and you can’t stop me.”
Lucciano moved forward to speak. At 30, ‘Lucca’ was the second eldest. He was also the biggest and strongest. Of the five living Russo brothers he was the only one who did not have thick, black curly hair. He was completely bald and looked as smooth and streamlined as a bullet. ‘Lucca’ never sought trouble and never backed off from it.
He was known as the fiercest fighter between Providence and New York City’s ‘Little Italy’. He once served as a sparring partner for the living giant, Jess Willard. Willard, the heavyweight champ in the early 1900s was over six and a half feet tall and weighed more than 250 pounds! ‘Lucca’ who was 5’9” and just 180, stood toe to toe with the boxing king and never gave an inch.
Jess Willard was so strong that he could kill a man with a single punch – even with a padded glove on – sadly this was proven in the ring during a championship fight. Willard was charged with murder. He was not convicted, but never had the same zeal for fighting afterwards – later losing his crown to Jack Johnson in a title bout in Havana.
That 45 round ‘war’ in Cuba was co-promoted by Jess McMahon who was both a boxing and wrestling impresario. In 1915 in Long Island, he formed the original pro-wrestling circuit that became the WWE – one hundred years later it was still in business and being run in the 2000s by his grandson, Vinnie McMahon, Jr.
Lucciano stepped in front of Carmine and made ready to ensure that the will of the brothers was carried out – “Meo, you said you like this girl and perhaps even love her. Are you willing to take a beating for her? If you can last three minutes with me, I will stop bashing you and let you go out on your date. Is this what you wish?”
At 5’7” and 145 pounds the slender Meo was the least likely of the E-I-E-I-Os to get involved in fights of any kind, let alone one with a brother he had witnessed in victorious action many times. He was frightened, but determined. He strode right up to his big brother and said – “There’s nothing wrong with Irish people Lucca. If you want to beat me up, start wailing. I’ll not run and I’ll not hide.”
Lucca snarled. Whipping his right hand around with the speed of a greyhound, he thrust a head snapping backhand to the face of the little brother who crumpled and was splayed on the floor by the force of the strike.
“I can’t hit him again,” said the bigger man, stricken with regret. “Carmine, you’re going to have to do it.”
“Are you getting soft Lucca?” queried Carmine. “He’s defying us. We have to teach him a lesson. I’ll take care of this!”
He stomped over towards ‘Meo’ who had regained his footing and was squared up to his full height, ready to take the next thump.
Carmine, sharpening his aim with a few shadow punches, was interrupted by the ring of the telephone. Telephones were still fairly uncommon and their summons generally brought everything else to a halt, as was the case in the house where the five Russo brothers lived with their Mother and Father.
“Hey Pop, answer the telephone,” yelled Carmine to his father who was in a second floor living room reading the La Vita Italiana (The Italian Life) newspaper.
“No Carmine. Am-a no spik-a the English too good. You talk-a onna the telephono for me. Okay. Sta bene? – it’s a good, no?”
“Hello. This is the home of Russo Steamfitters and Construction Company. Carmine speaking, may I help you?”
Thus began an extraordinary phone conversation. After it was over he told his brothers…
“It was a guy called John Doe – I mean John Deer. He said he doesn’t know us and it’s very hard to explain, but he’s offering us $50,000 to go to Salem Willows in Meo’s boat and catch a crook who stole a million dollars!”
“It’s some kind of a joke,” declared Lucca. Giovanni and Antonio quickly agreed.
“He told me to go to the bank tomorrow morning at eight, and there will be a one thousand dollar down-payment in cash, waiting for us if we take the job. I said “Sure mister. We’ll do it.”
John Deer had explained during the phone call, the whole story of the robbery by the man calling himself Charles Crown. He revealed that Crown’s real name was Cardenio Collucci. He was chased out of Italy for the same reasons he was now being hunted in the United States.
In addition to the money promised from John Doe, the capture of Crown/ Collucci would also generate a reward from the Italian government of 40,000 thousand lira, or 20,000 dollars in American currency.
“This John Deer was very secretive on the telephone. He would not tell me how he knows about us, why he picked us, or how he knows where this Collucci guy is going to be. He claims that the crook will be walking on the Salem Willows pier at noon tomorrow looking to hire a boat to take him to Providence where his associates are going to help him escape to South America,” Carmine reported.
“And he wants us to provide the boat?” wondered Giovanni.
“That’s right brother. We are to put the guy and the two suitcases that he will be carrying, on Meo’s boat and then we are to take him by train to Sandwich. When we get there, we are to transport him to the Sandwich glassworks. When they receive him and the two suitcases, they will open one of the cases up and give us the rest of our payment.”
“What form will that payment take? Old clothes?” wondered Lucca.
“No brother. The suitcases are said to be full of United States treasury notes – 10, 20, and fifty dollar bills – a million dollars worth. And we get $49,000 out of it for our work. That plus the thousand dollars down-payment will make fifty thousand!”
“Well if this is real,” speculated Lucca, “it is the best deal the E-I-E-I-O boys have ever had by far. It’s enough money so that we all could retire. Or buy a factory of our own. Or take a trip around the world.”
“As the oldest brother and head of the family after Papa,” Carmine announced in his most officious voice; “I am going to declare that we owe a great favor to Meo. It is his boat that has gotten us this magnificent bounty-hunting job. I have decided that to repay this obligation, we will sanction him going out on the date with the Irish girl.”
Bartolomeo was thrilled much more by the dating concession from his big brother, than the prospect of getting a small fortune from the reward money. With no ill effects from the swat that he received from Lucca, he rushed to the barn to hitch the mare to the buggy. Soon, he was wheeling his way towards the railroad tracks, where most of the city’s people of Irish descent lived.
Colleen and Meo arrived at the Vaudeville Theater, just as the first act was just starting – a dance and chorus ensemble performing a medley of the day’s most popular songs. ‘Down by the Old Mill Stream’, which was the biggest hit of the summer, led off the set, followed by three other numbers. After the last song, the group repeated the sequence.
The act was designed to run like a continuous loop for as long as it took for the theater to fill up. Some nights it might go for its planned twelve minutes, while other times the performance could be extended to consume twenty minutes or more. It was an early crowd that night. The theater reached capacity very quickly and the show moved along smoothly to great applause from the North Shore audience.
The highlight of the ‘bill’ was the sixth act, next to closing. Mike and Marge, two of the top stars of the ‘high society’ Palace circuit, lit up the stage. Their beautiful voices blended smoothly and their elegant costumes were the envy of everyone in the house.
With Mike brilliantly playing a golden accordion, undulating in sync to the tune; they crooned a forty year old waltz. So magnificent was their singing, that the old song seemed brand new to the Beverly audience who gave them a three minute standing ovation after their emotional rendering of the ancient 1870 hit, “Silver Threads Among the Gold”.
“Darling I am growing old.
Silver threads among the gold,
shine upon my brow today.
Life is fading fast away.
But my darling you will be,
Always young and fair to me.”
On the way home, the couple took a shortcut through Ocean View Park. It wasn’t really a short cut. It was the Beverly version of lover’s lane. The two young people nervously chatted about the theater, the current state of the fishing industry, and plans for a new bridge that would make for easier access to neighboring Salem. Finally, overflowing with excitement, Meo told Colleen about the job that he and his brothers had for the next day.
“Colleen, my share will be over $8,000 and then about another $3,000 when the money from Italy comes in. It’s more than enough to buy a house, a new car, and a beautiful wedding ring, if you will wear it.”
“Should I say I will – or I do? “ Colleen laughed. “If you are really asking, I will say both anytime you wish. But what will your big brothers think about this?”
“I ‘m pretty sure everything is going to be okay with the brothers on that score from now on,” he said.
Sunrise at sheltered Beverly harbor is always beautiful. The waterfront runs in a gentle arc towards Salem. The morning sun casts a golden pathway on the surface of the bay leading to the entrance, where the harbor narrows to less than two hundred yards.
Hundreds of rowboats and sailboats gently rock in their moorings in the shallow waters off Ocean Street on any given day in spring, summer, and autumn. The first years of the 1900s saw steam trawlers begin to supplant sail in the fleets of the largest seaports. There was little desire or money, for such change among the anglers North of Boston. The thought of catching fish by dragging a giant net across the floor of the ocean seemed boring, unromantic, and even unfair, to traditional men of the sea.
Oars, sails, and hand baited lines; cast and retrieved by strong arms were good enough for their fathers and grandfathers and were good enough for most of the new breed of fishermen like Bartolomeo Russo. He loved his little sail boat almost as much as he adored the freckle faced redhead Colleen O’Brien, who was soon to be his wife.
The city of Beverly is on the left – on the opposite shore is the larger ‘Witch City’ of Salem
The boat had been their father’s. It had served Antonio Senior well, following his immigration with his wife and family to the United States in 1900. He had always managed to catch enough fish and trap a sufficient quantity of lobsters to feed his wife and six fine sons. Of all the boys, only Meo and the late Guillermo had wished to fish. The others went into the construction business. After ‘Billy’ had been lost at sea, the craft was idle until Meo turned 18 and became the new Captain of the ‘Fortunato Pescatore’ – the “Lucky Fisherman”.
Antonio Senior had given up fishing after Billy was gone. He joined his other sons in the steam-fitting trade. A quick learner, he soon was skilled enough to start his own business. Obtaining some tools and a small amount of stock and supplies, he opened a shop in a part of the barn behind the family house. The company grew rapidly and soon all of the sons except for Meo, joined the family business and turned it into the largest of its kind, North of Boston.
There was little sun that morning, when the five brothers set out to capture Cardenio Collucci. It was a cloudy September day with scarcely a breeze.
“Since it’s the first time any of us except for you Meo, have been on this boat in several years, it would have been nice if you had arranged for some sunshine and a bit of wind for us,” said Carmine, in about the closest thing to a joke, that his stern disposition would allow.
The brothers came aboard the “Fortunato Pescatore” in order of their ages, first was Carmine the eldest at 32. He had become the leader of the family business following their father’s recent retirement. At a shade under five ten, he was a tall man for the times. His dark curly hair and good looks made him popular with both men and women. When he gave a bid on a construction job, it was accepted without a question or competition. He was, as mentioned previously, a serious person, not often given to humor.
Next was Lucca. An avid health enthusiast, he was 30 and looked like an advertisement for bodybuilder Angelo Siciliano (aka-Charles Atlas) who ran notices in the newspapers offering to build weaklings into powerhouses. Lucca’s face looked much like Siciliano’s, with the exception that the top of Lucca’s head was as smooth and naked as steel. Adding to their similarity was their stature – they were each 5’ 9” and weighed 180 pounds, with muscles that made women weak and strong men stare.
Next to board, had he lived, would have been Guillermo – nicknamed ‘Billy’ so that he would fit in better in American life. His age would be 28 if he had survived the wreck of his ship off the coast of Cape Cod. He had been doing well with the family fishing boat, but accepted the offer of Captaincy of the “Nonna’s Choice”, one of the first steam powered trawlers in North America. Always an adventurer, he took the job over the objections of his parents and brothers.
At every family dinner, Billy’s mother Conchetta, still set a plate on the table in his honor. In the center of his plate, she placed his photograph – never giving up hope that one day he would walk through her front door and she would once again have her whole family with her.
Stepping gingerly aboard next, was Antonio Junior who was 26, and the fourth born of the boys. Why on earth was the fourth Russo son named Junior, instead of the first born?
That was a question the family was asked thousands of times by people who didn’t understand the culture of the Italo-Americans of the North Shore of Massachusetts – especially people like teachers, doctors, police officers and busy bodies.
The answer was very simple. Among the famiglia Russo there was a set naming order. Carmine was named for his father’s grandfather. Second born Lucca was given the name of his mother’s grandfather.
The third boy, Guillermo was named after his mom’s only brother. If Antonio Senior had a brother, the fourth boy would have been named for the brother – absent that, boy number four became Antonio Junior. Simple? Perhaps not, but the naming system was a time honored practice carried across the sea by the vast wave of Italian immigrants in the early days of the 20th century.
The last to get on the sail boat was Giovanni, the second youngest at 24. He was the artist of the group. He drew up all the blueprints for their jobs. He designed the buildings as well as the layouts of the pipes. He was as quick with a pencil or pen as the speediest boxer was with his hands or as an Olympic runner with his feet.
Giovanni did not mind crafting blueprints and such, but what he really liked to do was draw sketches of his seaside community. A few of his pen and ink drawings were displayed in the Beverly Public Library and more than one art lover predicted great things for the handsome, slender young man.
Giovanni Russo in 1910 – he served in a construction battalion in The Great War, as did his brothers.
The youngest of the sons, Meo was 22. He had been a promising student at Beverly High School but had no desire for books. All he ever wanted to do was fish, like his big brother Guillermo. “Billy” had taken him many times with him on short fishing trips.
The summer that Meo became a teenager, the two brothers went on a four day excursion to Mystery Island, a mostly barren land mass surrounded by a fifty foot strip of soft, sandy beaches. The fishing and camping on “Mystery” was the best in all New England. They spent most of the time during the day casting their lines for flounder and got hundreds.
As was customary in the early 1900s, there being no refrigeration on board ship, most of the catch was salted and preserved in wooden barrels.
At night by the glowing fire, Billy told stories of great sea adventures and powerful ship captains. The yarns would roll on for hours, one after another, until Meo finally fell asleep on the beach.
Though Billy had been gone for more than six years, Meo thought of him every single day. He wished that Billy was…the warm memories were cut short when his oldest brother Carmine, started barking orders at him.
“Faster! Go as fast as you can Meo. I want to get there as soon as possible in case he starts looking for a boat earlier than noon time.”
Carmine was so intent upon capturing Cardenio Collucci that he took no notice of, or pleasure in the beauty of the bay and the rocky shoreline. As if they had heard Carmine’s command, the oppressive, billowy sky shapes above them rapidly broke up. The great, puffy clouds of gray were pushed far out to sea by a newly arrived stiff wind. By the time they docked at Salem Willows Pier, the sun had broken through. The temperature was in the mid seventies under bright sunshine.
Carmine hustled his brothers out of the boat and began growling directives. He ordered Meo and Lucca to search the Salem Willows arcade and midway. Giovanni and Antonio were instructed to cover the rest of the area, which included picnic grounds, walking paths, a fresh water pond and salt water beaches. Carmine didn’t say what he was going to be doing, but the other brothers suspected it would be little more than checking up on them.
A fast look at the rides, which were mostly for children under 12, revealed no person even remotely resembling the man they were seeking. Giovanni suggested that Collucci might be having a late breakfast in one of the many of the arcade restaurants that served such diverse fare as Fried Seafood, Pizza Pie, Fried Dough, Butter Baked Hamburgers with Onions and Green Peppers, and Chop Suey Sandwiches. Meo agreed and they headed for ‘Mario’s Sicilian Pizza Pies’, the first place in the elongated row of eateries, opposite a column of graceful willows.
Meanwhile, Giovanni and Antonio trudged towards the main public beach near the entrance to the park. They noticed that the mild weather had drawn hundreds of people to the water, still warm from a hotter than usual summer.
They saw no man matching the description they had been given and walked back towards the towering grove of trees that gave Salem Willows its name. The Willows had been planted in the early 1800s to make a quiet, contemplative place for patients of a nearby sanatorium that had long ago had occupied the park site.
Again, finding no likely suspect, they were on their way to the boat dock when they were stopped by Carmine.
“Any sign on him?”
“No Carmine, we have not seen him,” reported ‘Tony’.
“Okay. If you do spot him, don’t say anything to him. I don’t want to scare the guy off. When we see him, we’re going to let Meo convince him to come aboard the boat.”
“Why Meo?” wondered Giovanni.
“Cause he’s the youngest and looks very trustworthy. Collucci won’t suspect a thing with a little ‘altar boy’ like Meo doing the talking. You guys keep looking. I’m going to go back and see if the others had any luck.”
Carmine walked past the midway towards the sprawling concourse of restaurants. He noted that there were a few people in front of the pizza pie place, and five or six waiting in line at the hamburger stand. The biggest crowd by far was at the next restaurant.
It was a Chinese food place called ‘Salem Lowe’. There was a burgeoning line of people that stretched around the sidewalk like a snake. The queue continued into the lot behind the building where the horses were stabled, and automobiles were parked.
There seemed to be a bigger throng around Salem Lowe’s than in all the rest of the park combined. Carmine thought it likely that Collucci would gravitate towards the most popular eatery in Salem Willows. He scanned the line looking for anyone carrying suitcases. There was no one. Walking toward the beginning of the queue he heard a familiar voice.
“Hey Carmine, it’s us!” shouted Lucca. “We’re at the front of the line. Come over here.”
His brothers had figured the same as he, that it was plausible that Collucci would select the most crowded shop because it gave him the best chance of meeting people who could help him hire a boat.
“He’s not in the line,” Meo informed Carmine, “But it’s filled up inside, so we need to go in and take a look. He could be in there right now.”
In a few minutes they reached the door and accepted the first available seats. Carmine made no secret that he was looking for someone. He got up and began striding up to each table, staring at every customer and lifting the lime colored table cloths to see if there were any suitcases hidden beneath.
Meo and Lucca remained in their places but were soon rousted when Carmine decreed that the prey was not in the building – “Get up you two. We’re leaving. He’s not here. I checked the whole place.”
“Sit down Carmine,” said Lucca quietly. “We‘ve ordered chop suey sandwiches. It will only take a few minutes for us to eat, then we can walk out to the boat landing and he’ll probably show up soon. Remember, you were told noon time and it’s not even eleven yet. Your nerves are showing brother. Sit down and mangia.”
Lucca was one of the few people who could get away with talking like that to Carmine, who generally did not accept the opinions or advice of his siblings. But,on this occasion, even Lucca could not stop the eldest brother.
“Get up out of those chairs right now! As the head of the family after Papa, I’m giving you an official order. Outside!”
Meo struggled to stop from laughing, as he was more Americanized than the other brothers and just as in the case of dating outside of the E-I-E-I-O’s; he didn’t always follow the order of the ‘old ways’.
Big Lucca did observe the traditions of the old country, and he had no desire to go against the wishes of the leader of the family after Papa – but the prospect of a few chop suey sandwiches for his empty stomach was very inviting.
Known only North of Boston, they were so good that often there was an hour’s wait at Salem Lowe’s. Lucca was fighting with himself about whether he was going to defy Carmine’s order when something stopped his struggle.
It was Meo. The little brother said, “hold it a minute you guys, look what’s coming out of the bathroom and into the dining room. Two suitcases, and a guy! Ten to one says that’s Cardenio Coluucci.”
“What should we do?” Lucca asked Carmine.
“Just watch for a minute. If he bolts for the door we will follow him. If he sits down –“
Carmine didn’t have a chance to finish, because Collucci himself cut him off! Standing not three feet from the table occupied by the Russo boys he said, “Excuse me guys but I see that there are four chairs and only three of you. I had a table when I went to wash up, but it seems to have been taken. Could I sit with you?”
Talk about the mouse walking right into the mouth of the cat! Carmine couldn’t believe the luck. To smooth things out with Lucca he said, “Sit right down pal. My brothers and I are going to have a couple chop suey sandwiches. I don’t know if you’re from the area, but if you’re new here, I can tell you that this exciting new ‘Chinese Food’ is the best thing to come to the United States since the Pilgrims landed in Provincetown!”
Carmine ordered two sandwiches for himself and two for Meo. For big Lucca, he told the waitress to bring three chop suey sandwiches, a large side of fries, onion rings, and fried rice with chicken.
The man suspected of being Charles Crown/Cardenio Collucci, ordered two chop suey sandwiches. Carmine nodded his head to his brothers to confirm that he stranger was indeed Collucci. He had been given a complete description and was certain that the man at their table was the fugitive who was going to earn them $50,000.
Collucci introduced himself as Artur Cezar. He said that he was from a Portuguese Import/Export firm and was on his way to Providence where he had passage on a ship bound for South America.
“Chicle, gentlemen. I’m big in chicle. Are you familiar with it?”
“Our late brother Billy was a great baseball player – the best ‘switch hitting’ outfielder on the North Shore, and during the games he used to chew some white tablets called Chiclets – is that the same thing,” asked Carmine?
“Well yes and no. Chiclets are based on the raw ingredient chicle which is found in trees in South America. I’m on my way there to lock up a European distribution deal that will make millions. I might be able to cut off a little slice for the right people. Oh, I see that our food is here, we’ll talk more after we eat.”
Meo thought it was hilarious that Collucci was trying to hustle the very guys that were going to capture him. Carmine on the other hand was so angry, he had to force himself not to pounce on Collucci right in the middle of his chop suey sandwich. Lucca speculated that this ‘chicle’ might actually be a good investment for them once they pocketed the rest of the $50,000 reward.
The chop suey sandwich might seem to be a very unlikely choice for the youthful Italian-Americans whose daily diet was pasta, meatballs, and more pasta – but the whole North Shore had recently become enchanted with the “Chop Suey Sandwich” – available in a small part of New England and nowhere else!
The sandwich was invented by a Chinese immigrant who fell in love with the American hamburger, but also retained a great fondness for his native food – chop suey.
When he combined his chop suey with a hamburger bun, the fusion created an ‘end product’ that was somehow entirely new, as well as delicious, and unexpected. He opened a small stand in Salem Willows in 1904. It was an instant hit. The restaurant became the most successful business in the city. Never ending queues of hungry patrons lined the willow walk from open to close. He never opened a second location and only a few other places copied his creation, so it became localized in a tiny pocket that extended from Salem, the city of witches towards the city of Fall River – made famous by whales and a parent killer named Lizzie Borden. (Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father 40 whacks. When she was done she gave her mother 41.)
Whenever their business took them to the ‘witch city’ the Russo brothers would find an excuse to get to Salem Lowe’s. The crooked Collucci was as good an excuse as any!
There was little conversation during the eager masticating and swallowing of the first helping, but by the time they started working on the second sandwich, Carmine began the flow of talk.
“So, Mr. Cezar, my brothers and I have a thousand dollars in cash with us right at the moment and we have access to more, what kind of an investment could we make with that?”
Cezar/Crown/Collucci’s eyes lit up at Carmine’s mention of the money. He replied, “In my suitcases, I just happen to have some shares of my new firm , the Portugal-Guatemala Chicle Exchange. I could let you have a hundred shares at only ten dollars each – the opening price when they go public will be about four times that! Are you interested?”
“What do you think Lucca? Would you care to get involved in this?”
“Big Lucca, working on onion rings with one hand while holding his third sandwich with the other, was too busy to answer Carmine’s question. He merely nodded.
“Let’s do it!” chipped in Meo, barely able to stop laughing as the brothers were conning the con artist.
“Excellent. We can draw up the papers right after we finish our meal,” said Cezar.
“Are you taking the train to Providence?” wondered Carmine.
“No, I would rather take advantage of the Indian Summer weather and travel by boat. I’m going to go to the dock soon to see if I can hire one.”
“Yes. The trains are a problem right now,” Meo said, looking directly at Cezar. “I’m told that they are being delayed. State and local police are searching all the cars. They’re looking for some guy who stole money from a factory on Cape Cod.”
“No matter about that Meo. Mr. Cezar, we’ll save you a trip to the boat landing,” smiled Carmine, with the look of a grizzly bear that has just speared a spawning salmon. “My brother Meo has a fine fishing boat that will get you there in no time. If you come with us, we can talk more about the investment. We only have one thousand with us, but we have about $50,000 available if we find the right investment.”
So greedy was the crooked Cezar that he failed to see the glint of steel underneath this ‘bait’. He bit, and the hook went in so hard that he fairly sprinted to the boat landing where Giovanni and Antonio were already seated on deck and waiting.
Under a beautiful early afternoon sun, Meo released the land line and they set sail. The wind was from the East at 20 knots. Full sails were set to get the most speed possible from the ‘Lucky fisherman’.
“We’re making 15 knots an hour through calm seas Mr. Cezar. That means this boat can get you to Providence in just three hours.”
“That’s wonderful gentlemen. Shall we discuss our business deal now?”
“Just a minute,” said Carmine, with his brow scrunched up in rolls that looked like waves. “Meo told you that the boat ‘could’ get you there in three hours, but it won’t! Our destination is not Providence but Beverly. And when we get to Beverly we are going to take a train trip. We know who you really are, Mr. Collucci. You’re going back to Sandwich to face trial.”
Colllucci blanched from the shock of the announcement. He sank back in his seat on deck and shook like a swimmer at Beverly Harbor beach in December. Mumbling incoherently, he twisted around and appeared to be ready to jump overboard.
“Go ahead and jump Collucci,” shouted Lucca. “We’re in the most dangerous part of the harbor. There’s an undertow between here and the shore that’s strong enough to pull a shark down to the sandy bottom. Plunge in! We won’t mind watching you drown.”
Collucci abandoned the thought, if indeed he actually was thinking about it. Slowly, the crafty old scam artist began to regain his wits. The brothers knew that like in a chess match, he was planning to make a move. He’d try to bribe them, to scare them, or recruit them. They did not know for certain what his mind was brewing but they figured he would try something.
Giovanni stood up and drew a harmonica from his blue shirt and began playing “Old McDonald”.
Carmine joined his little brother and said, “I just love harmonica music don’t you Mr. Cezar, Crown or Collucci. Who are you now Cardenio? Who are you now?”
Lucca, Meo, and Antonio stood up and got in a line with the other brothers. With Gio’s harmonica providing the accompaniment, the Russo Brothers vocal quartet taunted their captive with a serenade….
“Old con man tried to fool the Russo brothers
With a quick step here and a dirty trick there
Here a con, there a scam, a flim-flam everywhere
Old con man tried to fool us like all the others
“Just my luck, I had to get captured by the Italian version of the Marx Brothers,” moaned Collucci who seemed resigned to his fate. He said little else during the rest of the crossing and maintained his silence even as the Cape Cod bound train pulled into the Beverly Station.
Carmine dictated that he, Lucca, and Meo were to accompany the crook to Sandwich while Tony and Gio would take care of the family business.
“Papa says that he’s going to come out of retirement for a while and work with you guys,” Carmine reported. “When we get back, our pockets will be stuffed with fifty thousand dollars. Our dad can go back to retirement and we can join him.”
Getting on the train was going to be more difficult than expected because President William Taft was expected to be riding on the Beverly train. Taft, who was elected in the winter of 1909, had summered in Beverly that season and had brought a lot of his troubles to the peaceful little city of 22,000 people.
Following the assassination of President William McKinley just a few years before, congress had directed the Secret Service to protect the country’s top elected officials. In addition to local, state, and federal police searching railroad stations on a tip that Crown/Collucci might try to board, there were dozens of secret service men surrounding the train.
The brothers had no intention of giving up their prisoner to anyone other than the Chief of Police of the Town of Sandwich.
Security was beefed up because Taft was in hot water with his mentor, former President Roosevelt, for changing Teddy’s policies on conservation. By executive order, Teddy had claimed millions of acres of land and put them in the public domain where the coal and oil people couldn’t touch them. Much of this acreage was in the distant territory of Alaska.
Roosevelt was livid when Taft fired Roosevelt’s interior secretary and put the lands back up for grabs among the mining companies.
Further difficulties for Taft revolved around his anti-trust suits against big business. In just four years, Taft would launch 70 court cases against the nation’s largest employers, such as U.S. Steel, Standard Oil, and American Tobacco. In seven years, Teddy had just forty suits.
Then there was Taft’s stand on racial issues. Teddy had supported appointing African Americans to federal jobs; but Taft publicly said he would not employ any such person in posts where their appointment would cause racial friction – which meant that all of the South and a good part of the rest of the nation was off limits to any person of color aspiring to government service – unless such service was at the end of a mop or accompanied by latrine buckets. Then Taft intensified the situation by firing those people who were already in desirable federal positions.
Shortly before the train was due at Beverly’s main depot, Taft changed his mind and decided to board further up the line at Montserrat. This moved enough police and Secret Service people away from the downtown terminal to allow the brothers to get on the train with their prisoner, without incident.
When checked out by the local police walking through the railroad car, they showed identifications and passed Collucci off as a visiting uncle. For his part their prisoner did not utter a single contrary syllable, for Lucca had demanded total silence. The brothers didn’t know exactly what Lucca had said to him, but when they saw the terror on the guy’s face, they knew that they didn’t have to worry that he would spill anything.
The ride to Sandwich went smoothly, though it took five hours and required changing trains twice. The first train, from the Boston and Maine Railroad steamed into Boston’s North Station. From there they had to take the subway, the first in America, to the Kneeland Street station where they picked up their second train. It took them as far as Taunton, where they left the New Haven Line and transferred to a Cape Cod Central combination that would steam directly to the Sandwich station, right next to the freight siding of the glassworks.
When they arrived in Sandwich they went directly to the glassworks. Met by the factory’s security chief, the group was directed to the office of the President Jim Davis, where they turned over their prisoner.
In abject humiliation, Crown/Collucci/Cezar, the man who had built the famous Sandwich Glass Company, was promptly handcuffed and carted off to jail by the local police.
“Gentlemen, I guess you know that all of Cape Cod is in your debt today,” said Davis. “I can’t thank you enough, nor can the hundreds of families who would have been left destitute and in many cases, homeless if this company had failed.”
“The stolen funds that you recovered will rekindle the fires of production that were doused when Crown absconded with the million dollars. It was not just Sandwich that was affected, but he also sopped up all the working capital of the businesses in Boston, New York and as far west as Chicago. I’ll be wiring out money to them today and by noon tomorrow, thousands of displaced working people will have their jobs back – thanks to the Russo brothers of Beverly.”
He opened one of the suitcases and counted out the $49,000 reward which he sacked in a Cape Cod Five Cent Savings Bank currency bag and handed to Carmine, who for once was at a loss for words.
Meo was not – “Mr. Davis, we’d like to meet this mystery man, John Deer, who gave us the task of finding Crown, though I have to tell you it was not hard work. He literally walked right into our table while we were having lunch!”
“I wish you could, but he’s not here. He told me that he has business in Provincetown and he’s not sure if he’s going to be able to return. He owns 51 per cent of this company, and he has left me in charge. He said he’s going to keep in touch with me, but I haven’t heard from him since he departed. Gentlemen, I’m afraid that Mr. Deer is as much an enigma to me as he is to you.”
Carmine’s vocal apparatus kicked back in and he adopted his customary pretentious manner.
“As head of the Russo family, after Papa; I am declaring that we are in debt to Mr. Deer. We did a task for him, but he did us a far larger favor. I have decided that we will offer him ten thousand dollars of our reward funds in order to cancel our debt.”
“That’s a fine gesture,” agreed Jim Davis, “but Mr. Deer is quite wealthy and yet doesn’t seem to care the least bit about finances. He wants you to have the reward money – all of it.”
“We will accept the reward gratefully,” said Big Lucca who shot a harsh glance at Carmine who was supposed to consult with him before making such proclamations where big sums of cash were concerned. “I agree with my brother that we are in Mr. Deer’s debt. How can we satisfy this obligation Mr. Davis?”
“He left a message for you that will clarify that. He instructed me to read it -
‘My Dear Russo Brothers: I wish I could give you the responses you crave. I cannot tell you why I chose you to find Charles Crown. I cannot tell you how I knew your names and where to find you. I cannot tell you why I was so certain that you would succeed. I cannot tell you any of these things, for I myself am not in possession of the answers.’
‘Though I appear to be 25 or 35 perhaps, I am in a very real sense only seven years old, for it was that many years ago that I found myself in a hospital bed in Boston with my head split in two, and with no memory of who I was or how I got there. On a thin rope, I balanced between life and death for two weeks. When it appeared that the latter was the course set for me, they put a name tag on my toe that was marked “John Doe”.
‘Though I made a strong, unexpected recovery my memory did not come back. Shortly before the hospital released me, I decided that I did not want to carry the name of female rabbits, ferrets, deer, and rats, so the doctor agreed to change my tag from ‘John Doe’ to “John Deer”. I have lived under that label since.’
‘Set out on the streets of Boston without money, a home, or any prospects; life for me was difficult. In the various restaurants of the financial district, I washed dishes in exchange for food.’
‘The medical people had told me that I might improve and that my memory might come back at any time. They were wrong, the headaches got worse. My sight dimmed. The shaking of my limbs was so severe at times that I was unable to walk or control my arms and hands.’
‘Even the menial job of washing the dirty dishes of Boston’s top financiers had become too much for me. In desperation I stumbled from the area of The Opera House on Washington Street to Tremont Street by the entrance to the tunnels.’
‘Dragging myself along, for my right leg had become useless, I was nearly reduced to crawling, when I got close the tunnels of the subway. To tumble over the side of the platform and meet a quick death on the electrified third rail seemed preferable to the explosions rocking my brain and the spasms that left me with almost no control over my bodily functions.‘
‘I found that I had not even the strength to get to the southbound stairs that dropped steeply down to the underground. I was forced to roll myself like an inert log to the side of the street and into the dirt of the Boston Common.’
‘The lightning charges and thunder barrages that were being touched off in my brain, by the huge split in my head subsided somewhat as I lay on the sun-warmed, soft earth near three great arbors that stood like magnificent statues in the historic park of the Boston Central Business District.’
‘After a few more minutes my head cleared and the pain and shakes were washed away by an eerie warmth that started along the scar-line just above my right eye and ran quickly all the way down to my toenails.’
‘For the first time, I experienced what people call “Second Sight” – advance knowledge of things that will happen in future. I did not know much, but I was certain that all I had to do was sit at the bench under “The Great Elm” and things would be better.’
‘The tree was even older than Boston, which is one of the most ancient cities in the nation. It was settled in 1630, when a group of Puritans left the little village of Plymouth in favor of the location that would come to be known as ‘The Athens of America’.
‘Sitting under the tree, surrounded by the sturdy wrought iron fence, I felt the best I had since being re-born without a memory, some weeks before in Boston University Hospital.’
‘My Russo friends, this story is becoming far too long and more detailed than I had intended. Let me wrap up by saying that I lived under the protection of The Great Elm for 11 days. I slept under her arms during the dark night and sat at her feet by the day’s light.’
‘Nuts and stale bread thrown for the pigeons and squirrels were my main source of food. Water and the dregs of abandoned cartons of coffee were my drinks. At lunch time the business men lounged in the sun at the park with containers of five cent coffee purchased at the Washington Street Automat. Sometimes lady fortune would direct me to a bench where an abandoned cup was more than half full! ’
‘On the twelfth day the sun was especially warm and I was certain that something good was about to happen. A strange looking figure, dressed entirely in black, sat down next to me.’
‘He began asking me questions. He seemed familiar although I was sure I had not met him before. He seemed to be very old, yet moved and spoke like a much younger man. After a time, he reached into his coat and withdrew a pile of currency. He handed it to me and said that there was enough money for food and lodging for a month, and some extra cash to put into the stock market.’
‘I think I’d rather put the money towards more time at the inn, and more food, rather than gamble on an uncertainty like the stock market,” I said to him.
He shook his head no, and replied, “Food that you buy, and shelter that you rent are like the leaves on The Great Elm above us. They last only for a short season and then they blow away. If you invest the money, using your second sight, you will have a tree of money that will never be bare of leaves.”
‘As soon as he said it, I had a vision of a petroleum stock that I knew would split five times in the space of a single month. Somehow, I just knew it. I thanked the shadowy man in black and asked him how I could ever repay him.’
“You pay me back by helping others as I have helped you,” he replied.’
‘After speaking those words, the figure in black departed and I never saw him again. I followed up on my stock tip and kept churning the profits on a daily basis. At the end of the month I had amassed an amount of cash equal to what a dozen factory men would earn in a year. Every month my portfolio doubled until it became a fortune and I stopped investing, except for the occasional times when I need extra money.’
‘The curse/blessing of the second sight also is what told me to contact you, the Russo Brothers of Beverly, Massachusetts. As to how you can pay me back, I will repeat the words of my mentor – pay me back by helping others as I have helped you.’
‘One other thing before I’m through,
And: Carmine this advice is for you!
Do not judge by hair color or face,
we are all of a single, human race.
Help people whenever you can,
even if not of your E-I-E-I-O clan.’
‘Remember this, all of you. Helping people that you don’t even know, and thinking of the greater good of the whole race, is both what makes us human and what keeps us human.’
‘I hope someday that I can meet the Russo family in person, although I fear that John Deer will go to Provincetown and will not come out alive.’
“That’s it boys,” said Jim Davis. “That’s the whole letter he left for you. Now you know exactly as much about John Deer as I do.
After putting Jim Davis in charge of the glassworks and contacting the Russo brothers, John Deer boarded the Cape Cod Railroad’s first run of the day, not knowing his next destination. Of the 22 stations on the 64 mile main line from Bourne to Provincetown; Sandwich was only the fifth. He doubted that he had sufficient strength to get off at each of the remaining seventeen.
The belching, roaring parade of iron suspended above massive steel wheels, neared West Barnstable. He felt no headaches. No tremors, no compulsion to leave the comfort of the coach. The same was true at the next several points on the route, Pond Village, Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Bass River.
Approaching South Dennis, the 12th station, about halfway half way to the end of the line; the tremors started. The pulsing at the split in his skull began tapping a steady beat against his brain, sending out a message that the Mid Cape village where the cranberry industry was born was to be the site of his next mission.
The attack of the blessing/curse was milder than usual. His vision remained largely clear. There were no tremors in his limbs. He was able to think in layers, the first layer being the reality of the present. He was fully aware that he was riding in the passenger coach and chatting with a cranberry farmer on the way to one of his bogs.
On another plane entirely, he was experiencing visions. Though he was looking at and speaking with the Dennis man, at the same time he saw himself walking along the Old King’s Highway. The vision became more vivid. He watched himself duck off the main roadway into a dense thicket that looked like a tunnel made of brush, bushes, and trees – an arboreal arch. He continued walking for some distance until he arrived at a stand of Hemlocks that seemed to be guarding something he could not distinguish. The silent wooden soldiers stood tall and proud, as if they were protecting a fortress of ancient secrets.
Bill Russo Photo
The mighty six car combination ground to a reluctant, noisy halt at the small South Dennis terminal on Main Street, near the Town Hall. He said goodbye to the cranberry grower and got off the train.
His latest attack of second sight had been so moderate, that he didn’t have to find the solace and support of a soft bed at an inn, as he was often forced to do. Instead, he set off to fulfill whatever task he might find along the hilly, twisting route of the Old King’s Highway in North Dennis.
At a stable near the town offices he enquired about renting a horse and buggy.
“I got one you can take, but most people nowadays are hiring automobiles instead of ‘hosses’,” said the owner, Albert Crosby. “I can give you a nice Tin Lizzie for only two dollars a day. It’ll get you to the bay side of town in less than a half hour.”
“That sounds good,” agreed John Deer, but I don’t know how to operate an automobile and I don’t wish to learn. Do you have someone who could pilot it for me? I’m willing to pay well for the service.”
“It’s a slow day and my son who works for me doesn’t have much to do right now. Make it two for the car and another two dollars for him.”
John agreed and was soon bumping along Old Bass River Road at 20 miles per hour, with Albert Junior operating the machine.
“Where to Mr. Deer?”
“I’m not sure Albert. I mean, I know where I want to go but I don’t know the names of the roads. Just keep going straight and I’ll tell you when to turn.”
Like an old farmer grasping a well worn dousing rod and following its prompts toward water, the twinges behind the long scar above John Deer’s eyebrow guided him to the water he was seeking – a hundred acre pond shaped just like a fish.
“I’m going to be here for some time Albert,” he said when he saw a hand-painted wooden sign in the shape of an arrow pointing towards the lake. “Here’s an extra three dollars for your excellent piloting of the Model T. It was an experience I’ll remember and it was only the third or fourth time I have ridden on a motor car.”
With no twinges, tremors, or ‘headquakes’ to slow him down, John Deer strode happily towards the arboreal arch. From above, the entryway to the lake was bathed in sunlight; but the heavy canopy of brush and trees allowed few of the rays to penetrate within. Because of the heavy, green shroud, the interior of the living tunnel should have been darker than evening twilight. But the pathway was lit, illuminated from within by a cheery, bright glow of unknown origin. It drew him forward. He passed by the graceful stand of Hemlocks and made his way to a ridge, thick with scrub pines and wild roses.
Pushing aside a curtain of dense foliage, he saw that at the bottom of the cliff was the lake he was searching for – the crystal clear pond of a hundred acres, whose outline was a perfect representation of a fish!
Photo, copyright Bill Russo
Scargo Lake – separated from Cape Cod Bay by a narrow stand of trees and sand. Photo, copyright by Bill Russo
For seven days and seven nights he stayed there, in the most serene and nourishing place that he had ever been. By day he berry picked and drank pond water. At night his blanket was an aromatic layer of fallen pine boughs.
Sometimes in the darkest part of the pre dawn, the blessing/curse visited him. Yet the headquakes, the shakes, and tremors were less than they had been. It was as if he was getting used to the volcanic actions swirling through his brain. The second sight was coming much easier to him than it had during the times he had been prostrated for 48 hours straight.
On the morning of the eighth day he left the living tunnel and walked to North Dennis Village, where he found a restaurant, and ordered his customary coffee with no sugar and unbuttered bread.
After his sparse meal he set off for the village post office which was also a mercantile store. He purchased writing paper, a pen, and a bottle of ink. Slowly, he walked back to the Arboreal Arch and once again entered his quiet place.
The mysterious figure in black spent the next several hours composing a letter to Emily Rapport – the first true love of his seven years of life as a man named John Deer.
The Huntington School for Girls occupied most of the fourth floor of the Boston Red Sox Administration building. The spacious seven story brick building was across the street from the team’s playing field, the Huntington Avenue Grounds.
The young ladies of the Huntington School were very interested in baseball – or to be more accurate, their attention was focused on the brash young men who played America’s favorite sport. From April through October there were plenty of ballplayers to be found in the third floor public cafeteria of their building.
It was not unusual to see as many as a dozen or more professional athletes in the food line any day during the season. Not only did the Red Sox toil within a few yards of the school; but the Braves, Boston’s other major league team, played their home games nearby – just across the railroad tracks, in the South End Grounds.
When Miss Emily Rapport began her career as a rookie History teacher in the private preparatory school in 1903, she attended dozens of Red Sox games. Along with many of the other teachers and most of the 200 students of the school, she sometimes considered setting her cap for a ball player.
She was in the stands for quite a few of Cy Young’s 28 wins as led the Red Sox to the 1903 American League Championship. She saw him pitch the first perfect game in league history.
She and her group were thrilled as they sat in their seats for the 1903 World Series pitting the Pittsburgh Pirates against the hometown Red Sox.
“Miss Rapport,” asked Jenny Martin, a promising Sophomore English Literature student, “have the Sox got a chance against the mighty Pirates?”
“Of course they do,” replied her teacher. “The Pirates have won three straight National League Championships and their shortstop, Honus Wagner, is the best to ever play the game; but we have Cy Young, who I believe will become the best pitcher in history.”
She was right of course, Young won two games, and assisted by hurler Bill Dineen, he led the Boston Red Sox to the championship, winning the series five games to three. Young would go on to 511 victories – the most ever for any baseball pitcher.
Many years later, Emily was asked about Cy Young’s legendary fast ball.
“There was no way to measure the speed of a pitch back in 1903. As to how hard he threw, I can only say this. The catcher who stood behind home plate on a day that Young was pitching, had to put a slab of beefsteak in his glove to soften the impact. And by the end of the contest that slab of meat was about as thick as a piece of paper! Cy Young was the only pitcher whose speed and power required the meat protector.”
Those comments were made, of course, in her retirement years, many decades after she was a promising young instructor at the private Boston school. She rose rapidly in rank and esteem and in just six years was made the director of the institution – the first woman to be appointed to the post.
On Wednesday, October 5, 1910, the day when she would receive John’s letter, the school year was well underway. There was no distraction of post-season baseball; for the Red Sox season had ended with them picking up just 81 wins leaving them in fourth place. The Braves, Boston’s first major league club, were even worse, winning only 51 games and falling to last place in the National League.
At noon, as customary Miss Emily Rapport and her second in command, Miss Martha Dawson took lunch in the third floor cafeteria. They got in the line that formed in front of the busy food counter and selected mostly fruits and vegetables from the dozens of choices available.
They took their trays to a private dining room reserved for school faculty. During most of the day they were fully occupied with the affairs of the school, but at lunch, school business was a forbidden topic. Girl talk. Discussion of the news of the times and such, were the subjects of their noon time chats.
“How’s that handsome boyfriend of yours Martha?”
“Teddy Weston is a keeper Emily. Last night he brought me roses and he gave my dad a box of cigars! Is it any wonder my father loves him more than I do?”
They both laughed as they thought about the large, but shy young man who had been dating Martha for three months without even trying to get to second base.
“It’s not that he doesn’t want to,” Martha told her friend, “but he’s such a gentleman that he’s never going to try it unless I come right out and tell him to do it!”
“Marry this guy,” advised Emily, “it’s a cinch he won’t mind you wearing the pants in the family.”
“No ‘Em. He’s not a wimp. The guy is just kind of old fashioned. He really is a gentle giant. And speaking of guys, what about yours?”
“I haven’t heard a word in over a week, but that’s not unusual. He’s got some very important things to do. I’m hoping he’ll be free by Christmas.”
“I hope so to for your sake. Say, did you hear about Lucy Taylor?”
“Yes she passed away, but she made it to 77 and that’s a pretty good run. She was the first woman dentist. She earned her degree in the 1870s, I think it was. Why don’t we put together a tribute for her at the next assembly?”
“Great idea boss. I’ll do some research and we’ll do it up right. Since Lucy became Doctor Taylor, more than 2000 other women have taken dental degrees.
Perhaps we will produce a few more lady dentists from this year’s crop of seniors.”
Emily and Martha were interrupted by Janet Myers, Emily’s secretary, who burst into the dining room waving a white piece of paper as if she were trying to put out a raging fire.
“Miss Rapport. It’s from him! He’s written to you! It’s a letter from Mr. Deer!”
As a test of her willpower Emily took the envelope and put it in her purse, vowing to keep it there until suppertime, when she would read it at home.
Though it was burning a hole in her handbag, Emily didn’t touch John’s letter until she got home, when she immediately tore it open and began reading….
From John Deer,
Cape Cod, U.S.A.
October 3, 1910
Miss Emily Rapport
Huntington School for Girls
4362 Huntington Avenue,
My Dearest Emily,
To start this letter is easy.
Hello darling. I love you and I want to be with you!
I trust that you are well and radiantly beautiful as usual. I’m sure that I’m correct, for if not, the blessing and curse of my second sight would have warned me by banging my head like a church bell. I promise that I will telephone you next week and we’ll talk in person.
That’s the easy part. To go further is much more difficult, but I’ll try.
There is some good news. I’m halfway to the end of the earth! I’m in Dennis Village which is the mid-point of Cape Cod. The end, one way or the other, is almost in sight. I dare not hope that I’ll find no trouble in Provincetown. The key to the mystery of what happened to me lies there. I do have a bit of hope that something in the city will unlock a door to my mind and permit me to come to Boston, where I’m going to ask you to marry me.
When I left Sandwich I passed right by several communities with no headquakes and no compunction to get off the train for some sort of a mission. As I approached Dennis though, I knew I had to stop there but I didn’t know what was waiting for me.
After a week here, I now have a good idea of what lies ahead and I’ll tell you about it – though what I am going to say pushes against the boundaries of credibility. I am experiencing it and I’m not even sure I believe what is happening. Whether it is real or fancy, I must play this hand that I’ve been dealt.
While I was talking to a cranberry grower on the train, I started to have visions of a place that, as far as I know, I’ve never been to. Without knowing where it was, I was guided to the place by the ‘second sight’.
It’s an attractive rural area with a thickly wooded hillside leading to a serene pond. Such a gentle place would seem to have no story to tell, but there is a mournful tale being related to me by a woman who has been dead for about 300 years!
As soon as I entered the thick foliage that forms a living tunnel at the edge of the Old King’s Highway, I knew there was something unusual about the location. For perhaps 50 yards, the arboreal arch forms a dense canopy over a dirt path that points directly to a small forest of perfectly spaced Hemlock trees. There are two columns of the firs, about 15 feet apart from each other. They remind me of a group of soldiers standing permanently at attention.
I had the feeling of being watched, but there was no one nearby. The stout Hemlocks seemed to be serving as silent guards of some deep secret hidden in the thicket.
At the end of the line of ‘wooden soldiers’, is a steep ridge with a rarely traveled path winding down towards a kettle pond shaped exactly like a fish. I had a sense that the glade of Hemlocks and the kettle pond were carefully planned and coordinated like a massive amusement park of natural wonders.
You’ll never see a kettle pond in Boston Emily, because they don’t exist in the city. Most of them in New England are found on Cape Cod. A kettle pond is a body of water that has no inlet and no outlet. It is said that the holes that became hosts to these ponds were gouged out during the last days of the ice age by the retreat of jagged mountains of frozen water and rocks.
Many of the cavities dug out by the wandering glaciers became permanent lakes and ponds. Some were filled for a time but dried out when there was not enough rainfall to sustain them. Others turned into marshland and swamps.
Those that were fed by underground springs remained fresh and pure. The pond that I saw in my mind fits what I have described except for a few important differences.
Number one – it’s not round. While no kettle pond is perfectly round, they do appear generally circular to the eye. This pond looks like one of the fat trout that swim in it!
Number two – the kettle ponds are usually found in flat areas or in places of gentle slopes. This pond has an 85 foot tall grassy hill next to it, as if the dirt were shoveled out of the hole and piled up right next to it. It’s the highest point in all of Middle Cape Cod.
I’ve asked around at the coffee shop as well as on the beaches and very few people know much about the history of the pond. A few people told me that all of the land that is now the Dennis Villages once belonged to a tribe of long forgotten American Indians. I wondered about the village records, but as is so often the case, a fire in Town Hall destroyed historical documents that would have helped me learn more.
As it turns out, and this is the part you will find hard to believe, I have a much better source of information – a person who actually witnessed the formation of the pond and the planting of the ancient Hemlock trees – more than 300 years ago!
All the last week I camped near the ridge on the shoreline, eating berries as I found them and drinking the pure water of the lake. For the most part I’ve been free of pain and the effects that accompany my attacks.
One early morning, however, just before dawn, while lying on my bed of pine needles, I was awakened by the nearly imperceptible moving of that poorly healed crack in my head above the eyebrow. For a moment as the bone pushed against brain matter, I heard a woman’s voice. She was speaking English, or at least I heard it in English.
“Get up and we will talk,” she said to me.
Suddenly the pressure of the bone ceased. It moved back to its customary position. I could hear nothing but the occasional hawk or owl along with the whisper of the rippling waves licking the sandy beach.
For two more nights the same thing happened. Each time as the conversation deepened, the bone retreated and the connection was broken. The next night as she spoke, I took my metal canteen and pressed it against the moveable bone in my forehead as hard as I could. The pain was excruciating as I forced the bone up against the soft brain matter, but we were able to talk for several minutes until finally it hurt so much that I had to stop pushing the canteen into my head. When I released my grip, once again I lost the connection.
But I learned much. I had part of the solution to the mystery of Fish Lake, as I had begun to call it. The woman from the past and I agreed that I should rest for a few days to rebuild my strength.
After I mail this letter to you, I’ll return to the glade by the Hemlocks. Just before the morning twilight begins, I will talk again to the woman who has told me that she is the proper owner of all the land that is now occupied by the five Villages of the town of Dennis.
I’ll give you the details when we speak on the telephone next week. I expect at that time to be at least one village closer to Provincetown.
With all my love, John
Though it was the beginning of the final weeks of harvest season and the last of the pumpkins, tomatoes, cranberries, and such were being crated; early autumn had been summery.
It was nearly 70 degrees in the late afternoon when John Deer started walking from the village store back to the living tunnel leading to Fish Lake. He had mailed his letter to Emily and had done some shopping. He carried a flour sack stuffed with a bit of food and a number of other purchases that had seemed very strange to Jim Duffy, the owner of the mercantile.
“Are you sure you want to buy this stuff mister? I’ve had it for ages. There’s not a lot of call for it these days,” Duffy had said to his customer – an oddly dressed figure in black. His unusual garb marked him as some sort of a preacher maybe, or an undertaker.
“Yes Mister Duffy. I need these items for something that I have to do. If you have more I will buy them also.”
“Well, I just might have some others in the attic. But it’s so dang warm today I’d rather not go up there just now. Perhaps tonight when it cools off I’ll have a look.”
“That’ll be fine. I expect to be back here in about a week. I’ll buy all that you have.”
“That’s fine stranger. And since you’re doing me a favor, I’m going to let them go at half price. Whew! It sure is warm for autumn. You know mister, some people don’t like to say ‘autumn’. They will only use the word ‘fall’. They think that I’m snooty because I say like to say ‘autumn’. What do you think?”
“I think some people like ‘autumn’ and some people like ‘fall’ – but as for me, I like summer best of all! “ John Deer smiled, picked up his bundle and walked toward the door leaving old Duffy doubled up with laughter.
“That’s a good one mister. I’m going to use it! See you next week.”
As he neared the dirt path shrouded by the dense foliage that formed the arboreal arch, John Deer noticed that there were almost as many automobiles on the Old King’s Highway as horses. He thought to himself, ‘you don’t have to be a psychic to see that rubber and steel are going to erase wood and saddles in America within a decade. Great fortunes will be made in those industries just as they will be lost in the dying endeavors. Change, transformation, progress, new, improved – those are the watch words of today. Change: for better or worse, it is the one and only constant in this unstable world’.
Just beyond the sheltering hemlocks, he reached the quiet glade where he spread out his odd assortment of purchases. He ate a quick meal and then rested on his pine needle bed. Tilting his head upward and looking across Dennis Bay he saw the city of Provincetown, now only 30 miles away. The last slice of sun ducked behind the steeple of the distant Pilgrim Monument.
He slept. There were no dreams. No headaches. No tremors or twitches. He slept soundly, until the darkness brightened into morning twilight.
A slight vibration on the scar-line above his right eyebrow roused him. Something or someone was standing in front of the Hemlock nearest him. It was the woman, but he couldn’t see her clearly. Her arms were beckoning him and he could tell she was speaking, but he wasn’t able to understand the garbled words.
For a moment the slight tremors along his old wound lessened and he nearly lost sight of the apparition. In desperation as she started to disappear, he smashed his fist into his forehead as hard as he could.
The gap between the divide of the bones of his old wound widened after the crash of his fist. As the pressure and pain from the bone crushing into his brain increased, the vision morphed from some half seen flickering image like an Edison motion picture into a beautiful woman of flesh and blood.
The image was fuzzy.
Standing up, he walked towards the woman who was dressed in only a sack-cloth; but it seemed a more elegant garment than anything that might have been worn by anyone, even Mary, Queen of England, Canada, India, and all the British Dominions.
As if reading his thoughts she said –
“In life, I was not a queen Mr. Deer. But I was a princess. My domain was not massive and far-flung like that of the European monarchy. It consisted only of the land that is now called Dennis and Yarmouth. This beautiful area was sufficient for my people, who lived here for more than two thousand years.”
“Who are you and how may I help you?” asked John Deer, holding his throbbing head between his palms as if to keep it from exploding.
She did not answer. Instead she walked towards him and pushed his hands away from his head, replacing them with her own, which had a touch as soft and delicate as the foam left on beach sand after it has been bathed by a white capped wave. His pain was washed away like the jetsam cast off by the outgoing tide.
“It will be easier for us to speak now. I am Scargo, Princess of the Nobscusset, daughter of Chief Sagem, and grand-daughter of the noble Mashantampaine who saved our people, and who at the same time caused our extinction.”
His mind clouded again momentarily and when it cleared the lake had disappeared. Gone also were the rows of majestic Hemlock trees, and even the great hill that is the dominant feature of the North Dennis landscape.
All had been replaced by large fields cultivated with corn growing higher than the reach of a tall man. The land was flat with barely a hint of a hill or even an incline.
“This is Cape Cod the way it was in the youth of Mashantampaine, chief of all the Nobscussets. For many years before the Europeans came, he was the leader of our prosperous, if small, tribe.
“Under the wise chief, the lands gave bountiful harvests, the forests yielded more than enough game, and the fish jumped from the sea for the chance to be impaled upon the blades of our spears.
“We knew no poverty, hunger, or sickness. We had all the riches of the earth laid before us and wanted for nothing. One evening at the tribal fire, the medicine man warned of the danger coming from the sea. He told of a race of people who had captured fire and put it in sticks that they held in their hands. One fire-stick could do the work of fifty arrows in bringing down a deer or even a grizzly bear.
“The Medicine Man said that they could float across the sea in ‘Great Boats’. Just one of their ships is big enough to hold 200 canoes in its belly. He warned the tribe that the fire-stick people were coming soon.”
Scargo said that the Europeans who sailed to what they called the ‘New World’, were completely unprepared for the conditions of it. The first settlers, she noted, would never have survived a single winter if it were not for the help of the Nobscusset’s distant relations to the west, the Wampanoag people. Led by Chief Massasoit, the Wampanoags gave the newcomers food and instructed them in farming and the making of clothing and footwear suited to the climate.
“For as long as the mighty Massasoit lived, there was no trouble between the people and the European settlers. But when Massasoit left the land to be with the Great Spirit, the Europeans began claiming more and more of the people’s range.
“The people were outnumbered fifty to one by the Europeans. By the time I was born, most of the tribes of our world had been squeezed into progressively smaller areas. After the Europeans came, life was turned upside down – disease became common and game grew scarce. The numbers of our people fell from more than 500 to less than 200 when I was an infant.”
Scargo stopped talking. Her long hair, the color of night, was swaying in the gentle breeze. Her face was uncommonly radiant. John Deer thought that even the beauty of his own Emily Rapport could not equal that of the Native American Royal, Princess Scargo.
Moisture formed at the corner of her eye, quickly followed by rivers of regret as she began sobbing from the re-telling of long ago sufferings that were as fresh to her as open wounds.
“I will help you Princess. Just tell me what to do to ease your pain and I’ll do it. I cannot change the past. I can’t fix things that are broken but I’m sure…..”
“Thank you John Deer. I do appreciate that you are sincere and I realize that neither you nor anyone of your time had anything to do with our misfortune. I’m not here to ask anything like that of you. I do have a favor to request, but I don’t wish to reveal it right at the moment. First I would like to take you back to the time and the place where our fate was sealed, so that you will see it as we saw it and you can tell your people about it. They should know what was done to us.”
As she spoke, John’s head literally began to spin! Not from the outside but from within. His brain seemed to be revolving inside his skull. He had to close his eyes because the world around him was moving faster than the speediest train. When the dizziness finally stopped, he opened his eyes and he saw that he was standing by the ocean near the shoreline of a Dennis beach.
Next to him was Princess Scargo. A hundred yards or so distant, standing on the wide path that would become known as The King’s Highway, were two separate groups of people.
One party was small – perhaps fifty men banded together, each carrying a bow with a quiver of arrows and a short hunting knife.
Opposing them was a much larger group of mounted men, armed with muskets and long knives (swords). At the head of the group, atop a sturdy black stallion, was a uniformed man who was carrying upright, a lengthy wooden pole topped by a round object about the size of a pumpkin.
“The men on horseback are part of the army that wiped out our brothers and sisters who lived two days north of this place. They forced the chief, Metacomet, who they called “King Phillip”, into war. They kept squeezing the Wampanoag people into less and less land and taking away their liberties, until finally the tribe rebelled. The invaders called it a war – but it was 50,000 well armed Europeans against only 5000 Wampanoag people. It was not a war but a premeditated extermination.”
“What happened to Metacomet?” asked John Deer.
“Look closely at the pike being carried by the murderer on the black stallion. That’s Metacomet’s severed head on top of that stick!”
“They cut off his head?”
“Worse than that they did, John Deer. Even worse than that.”
“The small group? They are your people?”
“Yes John. The very old man at the front is Mashantampaine himself. My father, Sagem is directly behind. The rest of the group is all that was left of our braves – fewer than 50 warriors. Even that small number was greater than the remaining Wampanoags. Almost all of the men and many of the women and children were slaughtered. The ones they didn’t butcher, were sold into slavery John. This is what the Europeans did to the people who welcomed them, fed them, and taught them how to survive in the ‘new’ world.”
The Princess told him to listen to the demands that the leader of the mounted troops was making of the Nobscussett people.
“Attention savages of Cape Cod. I am Captain Franklin of the fifth mounted regiment of the combined Colonial and British forces. I bring you good news. As you can see, I have “King Phillip’s head on my pike. He can cause you no more trouble. The war that he started which threatened your security, is over! His warriors have all been defeated and his lands have been returned to the Colony where they belong.
“More good news,” he said in a booming voice, “I am here today to give you money. Gold! Solid gold which you can use any way you like. You will be issued four ounces of high grade dust in return for your agreement to sign over to His Majesty the King, all lands currently occupied by you.
“In return you will get not only the gold but a vast amount of safe and secure land for your tribe. The minister of agriculture has determined that a savage needs about six acres of land for optimum survival. He has drafted a plan that will provide each and every one of you with a parcel of land far in excess of the six you need. The minister is generously allotting each one of you a full ten acres!
”Since your tribe numbers around 100, you will be entitled to 1000 sections of the finest soil on Cape Cod. This will be your land and it cannot ever be taken from you. You must simply agree to a few formalities, which include a proviso that you can never leave your area, which for legal purposes we call a reservation. I repeat, you must stay on the reservation and cannot depart from it. Anyone caught leaving the boundaries of the thousand acres will be subject to being shot. That person’s head shall then be put on a pike and displayed at the gates of the reservation as a fair warning to others.”
“After my troops and I leave here today, we shall hoist King Phillip’s head on a pole above the town of Plymouth and we shall leave it at the city gates as a perpetual reminder to all savages to obey the rules of the Colony.”
Mashantampaine, bent low from many decades as Chief and from countless problems with the invaders, left his small band of braves and walked to within a foot of the enemy captain, sitting high on his black stallion.
“You say you have brought us good news? You have brought us nothing but slow death by strangulation instead of a quick bullet from your fire-stick! I don’t like strangulation. You take away our hunting grounds, our fields of corn, and the sites where for two thousand of your years we have built our wig-wams.
“You want to steal our land that stretches east and west for hundreds of arrow shoots. Then you say you will give us back barely enough land for ten arrow shoots? There are one hundred people left in my nation and you offer us a tiny patch of land that cannot support 20 braves, let alone a herd of deer, fields of grain, bogs of berries, chickens for eggs, and cows for milk.
“I have fifty braves left, with fifty bows and one thousand arrows. You have probably 400 soldiers, all with fire-sticks. Do you know what this means, Captain Franklin?”
“Tell me old man, what do you think it means?” sneered the Captain as his horse began fidgeting as if in anticipation of a battle charge.
“It means that you will kill all of my people – but not before we kill at least fifty of yours! And I promise you,” said the ancient chief in the powerful voice of a much younger warrior, “That you will be the first to die! I spit on your offer. I spit on you.”
With amazing speed for one so time worn, Chief Mashantampaine wheeled around and returned to his tribesmen, who were amazed at the fighting words of their brave leader.
“I’ll give you 15 minutes to think about this and accept my offer,” shouted Franklin as the Chief reached the warm embraces offered by his son Sagem and the elders of the tribe.
The Chief and his closest advisors calmly strolled to a glade behind a stand of scrub pines. Mashantampaine produced a ceremonial pipe. He filled it and lit it from the coals of a fire that he had built there earlier in the day.
“Be seated around the fire my sons and brothers and we shall pass the pipe. Perhaps in the clouds of the smoke we shall see whether we should back my boast and die today, or take the slow road to our meeting with the Great Spirit.”
“The old buzzard is lounging around with his councilmen and smoking a pipe!” reported Sgt. Thomas who had been dispatched to observe the ‘savages’ actions.
“I don’t like it Sergeant. I expected they would simply fall in line and give in right away. Didn’t they see the bloody head of their friend on the pike?”
“I think they’ll give in Captain. They’re just making a little show of it.”
“But we can’t be sure Sergeant. We’re in a bad position here. There’s no cover. We’re in the open. Muskets are far more deadly than their stringed weapons, but bows are faster to use, even if they are not as deadly. I have no doubt that the old monster can make good on his threat. They can take out at least fifty of us before we eliminate them. I don’t want that kind of a blood bath today.”
“Right Captain, especially if it’s you and probably me too that’s going to get killed first.”
The warm breeze coming from the big water swirled the pipe smoke around the heads of the Chief’s council members.
“We are not going to die today,” said the Chief. “I pushed back at them to make space for bargaining room. We cannot win in a fight with them. We must then forge the best deal we can make.”
“I disagree. We should not die like a wounded rabbit hiding in a hole. We should strike now while they are in the open. We may kill a hundred of them before we fall. And we’ll die as heroic warriors,” shouted Sagem.
“It’s a brave and good idea that you have my son,” agreed the old chief. “But what of our women and children back at our village? We have more than 20 wig-wams filled with squaws and young ones. Think of what will happen to them if we perish on the battle field this afternoon. Our children will probably be killed instantly. The women will wish they were murdered right away, for their lot will be rape for the pretty ones, torture for the old and the ugly, and then slavery, for any that survive.”
“You are wise and right, Father. My tongue spoke before my brain had a chance to stop it. I vote with you. We should try to get them to increase the gold offer and also attempt to bargain for more land.”
There was no slaughter of the Nobscussets that day; but as predicted they died a slow, lingering death over the next few decades.
Mashantampaine, in standing up to the European murderers was able to force a few concessions. Captain Franklin increased his offer of gold by twelve more ounces and added another 300 acres to the ‘gift’ of land.
Franklin departed for Boston but left a score of heavily armed troops to enforce the boundaries of the reservation. He erected a solid wall of fear around it that no man dared to cross, because of what happened to the first Nobscusset brave who tried it.
Less than six months after the tribe was shoved into its tiny enclave, Luke Rainwater, one of the strongest men of the village, sneaked out of the reservation in the darkest hour of early morning. He was on a desperate search to find food for his family.
The whole tribe was suffering, for in that short space of half a dozen ‘moons’, there was little game left to hunt, the tiny spring that was the only water source was nearly dry, there were few fish left in the spring, and the sparse crops that had been harvested were nearly gone. The gold that they had received in mock payment for their own land, had been spent on the most basic items needed to stay alive – flour, beans, rice, and such.
Under the shield of an especially murky night Luke crept through the hemlocks and spruces that provided shelter from high winds but little else that would aid the people. He reached the wide road, now called the King’s Highway, and made straight for the ‘big water’.
In the twilight of dawn he arrived at the edge of the beach. The wet sand at the shoreline where it was kissed by gentle waves seemed to be alive. It was moving slowly from the water towards him.
A ray of sun illuminated a slice of the moving sand, revealing a pair of black, protruding eyes with no pupils, and a long dark brown antenna next to each eye.
“Pig food,” he scoffed to himself. “Lobsters! Hundreds of them. It’s not much, but I can fill my sacks quickly. Even these creatures are better food than the bark of trees.”
Lobsters were anything but a delicacy to the people of Cape Cod in colonial days. They were more common than ants at a picnic and almost as unwelcome. The Europeans fed lobsters to their prison population, but the King in a rare display of kindness had ruled that people in jail could be fed lobsters no more than three times a week.
Slowly and carefully Luke Rainwater approached the largest one near him, close to 10 pounds it was, and in possession of more than enough strength in its claw to break a careless man’s arm.
Whipping the sack through the air like a hatchet, he drew it down over the claws and head of the crusty brown monster, and bagged it. Working quickly he harvested as many of the creatures as he could carry and headed back towards home.
Though it was still early morning, the King’s highway was crowded with Europeans both on horseback and on foot. Some were on their way to work, while others were out for a day of recreation. Unluckily for the Nobscusset brave with the sacks of lobsters, there was a third group; six mounted soldiers belonging to the hated Captain Franklin.
They saw Luke and gave chase. He had a head-start and might have made it to safety except that he wouldn’t drop the lobsters. They caught him just a hundred yards from the reservation.
Being civilized and following the law, the soldiers gave Luke a trial. It lasted one minute, after which he was pronounced guilty and killed on the spot. His head was cut off and put on a pole at the entrance to the reservation.
Worse still, they had drawn and quartered his body and hung the pieces in trees. If you do not know what it means to draw and quarter a person, I’ll not sicken you in this narrative by describing it.
The horror did not stop with the desecration of the body. The ruthless soldiers entered the reservation and demanded to see the leader of the ‘savages’.
“We have something for you Chief,” said Sgt. Rathbone of Franklin’s militia. He handed a small parcel to a brave who brought it to the Chief.
The chief pulled open the wrapping, which was a red scarf, and his heart sank to his toenails when he saw what was inside – the severed right hand of Luke Rainwater.
“Let this be a lesson to you all,” boomed the barbaric Sgt. Rathbone, “The next time one of you savages tries to stray from your pen, I’ll kill not only the offender but also all of his family.”
With tears flowing from her eyes, Princess Scargo told John Deer that no further attempts were made to escape their confinement in an area just big enough to allow them to slowly starve to extinction.
Her father Sagem, who became Chief after Mashantampaine’s death, devised a masterful plan that he hoped would save the people and bring new prosperity.
“Our only water source is drying up and we are dying. Our fresh water spring becomes shallower each day. The depth is so low the fish have to splash themselves with their fins to keep wet. I saw my daughter Scargo sitting by the tiny water hole with great tears running down her beautiful face.
“As one large drop from her eyes hit the water, three fish struggled to the ripples. They began happily splashing and jumping high into the air as if given new life from Scargo’s salty tears.
“I had a vision of a 100 acre pond filled with clear water. It was brim full of fresh water to drink and to give us new life. Fresh water, but fresh water inspired by a salty tear from our Princess.
“Today, our strongest bowman, White Wolf, will shoot an arrow to the west. It will mark the beginning of a lake near the place the invaders call “Yarmouth”. Then our warrior will take his bow and aim it to the east. He will shoot his arrow in the opposite direction as far as he can. Where it lands will be the eastern shore of our new lake that we shall call, Scargo’s Lake.”
From a mound of discarded clamshells from the big water, piled high in the days before the tribe was confined, each man and woman selected the largest and sharpest shell available. They followed the chief to the place in the middle of the two arrow-shoots.
“We will dig here. We will keep digging until we have made a long, narrow hole between the arrow-shoots. My vision tells me this hole will fill with pure water that will come from beneath the earth. It will swell up and fill the hole in three days – but only if we can dig it in an equal amount of time.”
So it was that Sagem tasked his small group with the impossible job of digging a one hundred acre lake in just three days, with no tools but clam shells. The scientists of the day would have said the job was impossible, and yet it was done.
In truth, the endeavor was difficult, but made much easier due to the fact that Cape Cod soil is mostly sand. The dirt quickly turns to sand when pierced to a depth of little more than a foot.
The people found that shortly after they penetrated the thin layer of topsoil, the sand became saturated and nearly pushed itself out of the way with very little effort required. With this assistance, which Sagem said was the work of the Great Spirit, the project was completed in the allotted time and the lake swelled rapidly with sparkling, cool water.
From atop Scargo Hill, created from the sand that was extracted to make the pond, Sagem rested and looked down on the lake. A wide smile crossed his face and he said, “Scargo, your lake is complete and I as I wished it, is in the shape of a fish. It is my hope that now our tribe can be renewed and that you will lead us back to strength.”
“No Father, you are our leader and you are the one who built the lake.”
Scargo Lake, seen from the hill. Photo copyright, Bill Russo.
“I built it Scargo, but you inspired it. My time is over. You are the new Chief of the people.”
That night under a full moon that lit the Hemlocks as though it were twilight time, Sagem left the people to be with the Great Spirit. Scargo became the Chief of the Nobscussetts. She was destined to be the last of a line of nobility that reached back more than 2,000 years.
In less than six months the fish in the pond grew fat and plentiful. The people, though not fat and not plentiful; didn’t have the gaunt, starved look they bore before Sagem had his vision of the arrow-shoots that set the bounds of Scargo Lake.
The everyday life of the people was much more comfortable because of the prosperity brought by the pond, but Scargo knew that the tribe was doomed. The few women of child bearing age, including the princess herself, were having difficulty getting pregnant. Among those who were successful, the children either died at birth or shortly after.
The best that the lovely Princess could hope for was to make the last years of the Nobscussetts as pleasant as possible. Under her leadership the top of newly created Scargo Hill was transformed. She directed the Braves to flatten the top of the rise and plant part of it with Hemlocks.
Two rows of young Hemlock trees were set in the soil, eight to a row. In future they would grow tall and straight and resemble soldiers guarding the place where the tribe lived and died.
In the middle of the flattened top of the hill, the braves placed all of the rocks that had been dug up during the building of the lake. The pile of boulders reached more than twenty five feet into the air and took the shape of an Egyptian pyramid. Just after the rock mound was completed, nature put a temporary halt to further work.
History gives few details of the great storm that devastated Cape Cod in the late 1600s, but Princess Scargo, who witnessed the torment said this, “In the second year after my father Sagem went to the Great Spirit, the Medicine Man warned us that a ferocious storm was crossing the ocean that could do us even more harm than the Europeans had done.
“The warning that we received allowed us to take precautions and we were safe from the tempest, but the Europeans were devastated. Many died, much livestock was destroyed, as were homes, farms, and businesses.
“One thing only, happened to the people of the Nobscusset Tribe – it was a good thing. It was a gift from the Great Spirit.
“During the height of the storm, the triangular mound of rocks that we had placed on the hill was transformed. Boulders were tossed, cracked, and reshaped by the fierce winds. When the storm was over, we walked to the hill and were amazed to see that the pile of boulders had been molded and pressed into the likeness of the Great Spirit Himself. The great stone face stood fifty feet high.
The Great Stone Face was carved not by man, but by nature itself. The tribe believed that the figure was The Great Spirit himself. The Europeans feared that the face might be that of their hated enemy whom they called ‘King Phillip’
Scargo had her braves dig a large hole directly next to the image of the Great Spirit. After their work was done, she told her people that the top of the hill, guarded by the stone face, was not for the living. It was to be a place for the dead.
The living would spend the rest of their lives below, in quiet repose of the sandy shores of the pond. They would be warm from the sun in the summer and heated in the winter by the fires in their wig wams. Their destiny was still one of doom, but thanks to Scargo’s lake, food was plentiful from the fish that swam in it, and the thirsty game that patrolled the shores.
As they died off one by one, the Princess had the bodies of her people put in the deep hole next to the Great Stone Face. Sadly, with each new death, the face made of rock began to sag – at first the change was barely noticeable; but after a few years, it mimicked the visages of the old ones. New lines and cracks appeared almost daily. The chin of the rock face drooped lower and lower toward the ground.
Even the mighty pointed crest that aped the outline of a royal feather and headdress began to flatten, crack, and threaten to topple.
Despite the oddity of the crumbling of the stone face, the years passed peacefully. Resigned to their own mortality and the extinction of the tribe, they lived each day as fully as possible. Twenty years after Sagem’s death, there were but twenty of the people left.
Each month, old age took another until finally there were only two, Scargo and White Wolf. He was the once mighty young bowman whose long, arrow-shoots marked the boundaries of the lake that brought peace and a measure of contentment, if not rebirth, to Mashantampaine’s ‘Indians’.
Princess Scargo and White Wolf made a solemn, mournful pact. At the moment of death, the lone survivor would climb into the burial hole. With the last of their strength, he or she would remove enough earth from the base of the stone face so that all fifty feet of its crumbling mass would topple down and seal off forever the tomb of the Nobscussetts.
Sickness in the form of a virulent fever came for White Wolf at the end of summer. He crawled to the crumbling stone face and stood at the edge of the once deep hole – nearly full now, after receiving the remains of the last members of the vanishing tribe. The Great Stone Face was barely a face anymore. Whole sections had flopped downward and others had fallen. A thousand wrinkles in the form of fissures and cracks, had nearly destroyed the once striking image of a rugged, brave warrior.
His last thought as he stepped off the edge and into his grave was that Scargo wasn’t going to have to move much earth to get the stone face to fall down and cover their tomb; because in its weakened state any stiff breeze might cause a complete collapse.
During the last weeks of her life, Princess Scargo totally abandoned earthly cares and pleasures. She stopped eating food, subsisting solely by chewing bits of birch tree bark with occasional sips of water.
She was ready to join White Wolf and the rest of her tribe in the rock covered hole that would lead them to the Great Spirit. She was fully willing to go, but couldn’t do so until she finished the project she had started – a written history of the Nobscussett people.
As a young girl, before Captain Stanley had imprisoned the tribe, Scargo had been taught to read and write by a kindly parishioner of the Congregational Church of Orleans.
In anger after the Europeans stole the tribe’s land, she had rejected the white man’s ‘talking paper’ and had not read so much as a newspaper in decades. Scargo was conflicted. Eager as she was to write the story of her people, she was equally anxious that no white man or woman should ever read it. She decided to write it. She also resolved that the legend of the Nobscussetts would be buried with her.
On the day she filled in the last page of the notebook given to her long ago, she drank deeply from her lake and walked to the burial hole. She looked sadly at the crumbling pile of rocks that had once resembled a warrior, disfigured by age and ready to collapse. She thought to herself, “We are twins now, old stone face. I too was once young and as beautiful as you were handsome.”
With her hand she scooped away the last bits of the dirt supporting the granite visage.
“Now we both will die.”
A hawk flying high above, dive bombed so close to her she could see into its eyes.
The penetrating, all seeing, dark orbs seemed to be sending a message – a signal of mourning and condolence.
The fierce predator appeared to realize that the last of a great race was leaving earth. It was a breed of beings, not unlike his own species, that took what they needed for survival and no more: a people that gave back to the land in equal measure to what they took from it. A group of souls that the other people on earth derided, saying that the “Indians” had never invented anything of worth, like muskets and gunpowder.
The hawk reached the bottom of its rapid dive and started to turn upwards. For a tiny fraction of a second it was absolutely frozen in the air, caught in that millisecond where there is no upward flight and the descent has stopped.
In that brief slice of time the bird was absolutely still – neither elevating nor falling. That ‘second of stillness’ is a scientific fact. It is also a fact of science that birds cannot cry.
Yet, as Scargo pushed aside the final fragments of earth and the stone face started to fall upon her – she saw tears in the hawk’s eyes that matched the ones in her own.
The bird began its upward thrust. The Great Stone Face and all of its jagged parts tumbled down upon Scargo and covered the hole, leaving only a mound of granite blocks resembling the shape of a pyramid.
John Deer’s eyes clouded again. He closed them, blinking away tears of his own, as he pondered the ill fate of the vanished tribe. He felt soft, warm hands on his forehead.
“You have suffered much from your injury John Deer and you have helped many people. Your long journey is near its end. I ask you for help for my people, but I will give you something in return. “
“I’ll help you any way that I can Princess, but I’m not sure what to do. You don’t have to give me anything. I just want to help your people because it is the right thing to do.”
“I have already given you something but you will not realize it until you get back on the train for Provincetown.”
“How can I help the Nobscussett people?”
“When I lied down and pulled the stone face onto me as a covering for our tomb, I had something in my hand. It was a notebook that tells the history of our tribe. In anger, I did not want any ‘white’ person to ever know of us – but I have changed my mind. Will you push aside the granite blocks and retrieve the notebook?”
“Certainly. I’ll be happy to do it. What else can I do for you?”
“Find a way to make our burial ground secure for us. Please ensure that no one can ever disturb our resting place.”
“I have the means to do that Princess and I give you my solemn oath that it will be done.”
As he spoke these final words the Princess removed her warm hands from his head and smiled. She began moving backwards, her image becoming translucent. In a moment she was gone.
John Deer lied down on his bed of pine needles and slept. When he awoke at dawn he was unsure if he had really spoken to the American Indian Princess, or if it had been a dream – or perhaps another symptom of the brain injury that gave him the blessing/curse.
It didn’t matter to him whether Princess Scargo had appeared to him in flesh or fantasy. He had pledged to help keep the memory of the tribe alive and he knew just who to call on for help.
He began walking as quickly as he was able, to a building near the Dennis Town Hall. Soon he saw the place he was looking for. It had a new sign in place of the old one that had simply said, “Dennis Stables”. The new name of the business was Albert Crosby and Son – Motor Car Sales.
“Hello Mr. Crosby. You probably don’t remember me, but I rented a Model T from you a short time ago and your son Albert, Junior was kind enough to…..”
“Course I remember you. We don’t get that many bearded young men all dressed in black requesting to rent a horse and buggy anymore! I had to twist your arm to get you to rent a motor!”
“Yes and I’m glad you did. I found Albert to be a fine machine pilot. I need his services again. Is he available?”
Albert was, and he was only too happy to spend the day chauffeuring John Deer. Albert remembered that he liked the ‘figure in black’ as he called him, and he liked the generous tip that he received.
“Where to Mr. Deer?” said Albert as he pulled out onto Main Street, revving up the engine of the ‘flivver’. He soon got the motor car up to more than 20 miles per hour!
“I’m looking for an old friend Albert. He’s in the construction business and is a boat builder. His name is Jimmy O’Kelly.”
“I know him. Everybody in Dennis knows Mr. and Mrs. O’Kelly. In fact we recently sold them an automobile. I’ll have you there in ten minutes.”
The ‘tin lizzie’ rolled to a stop in front of a beautifully kept, two story home overlooking the Swan River in Dennis Port. John Deer could see a fine vegetable garden in the rear yard along with a freshly painted red barn and a few outbuildings. An ornamental wrought iron fence enclosed the front yard which was home to a stunning rose garden surrounded by lush green grass and bright autumn flowers.
“Thanks Albert. Will you please wait for me? I may be a little while, but I’ll want you and your motor for the whole day.”
As his driver nodded agreement, John Deer got out of the Ford and started walking towards the open gate that framed the lovely home fit for a sea captain.
From the second floor sitting room, Lucy O’Kelly glanced out towards the street and was startled when she saw a man stepping towards her fence. He was fairly young with a well kept beard. What was unusual was that he was dressed entirely in black from his shoes to the flat, wide brimmed hat on his head.
“It can’t be!” she gasped. “Jim! Jimmy!” she called to her husband who was in his study working on some construction prints. “Come here honey, I think our benefactor from Gray Gables has returned!”
In a few moments Mr. and Mrs. O’Kelly opened their front door and saw again the enigmatic ‘figure in black’, who had literally given them both new lives when they were at their lowest point.
They welcomed John Deer and quickly served him coffee which he took with no sugar and fresh baked bread, which he took with no butter.
“This is just like the first time I met you Mr. Deer,” said Lucy. “I was in that horrible diner near the Gray Gables Railroad Station and thought my life was over. You told me all I had to do to solve all my problems was follow you onto the next train. I thought it was insane, but for some reason I did it.”
“And I thought it was crazy Mr. Deer, when you met me in Boston and told me to get on the train and go to Monument Station. I was very seriously thinking about ending my own life but you told me all that I had to do was get on the train again on the first run the next day and all would be well. We are living a fairy tale life now and it’s all thanks to you.”
After spending a few minutes catching up on the details of Lucy and Johnny’s courtship and wedding, John Deer got to the point of his visit.
“Jim, I need your help in a building project. Will you go with me today to North Dennis Village so I can show you what needs to be done?”
O’Kelly quickly agreed and the two men went outside and got in the waiting motor car. Albert Crosby gave a hard pull on the crank in the front of the vehicle. After a backfire and a cloud of black smoke, the ‘Tin Lizzie’ started right up. He jumped in the driver’s seat and drove down Main Street at a murderous clip of over 25 miles per hour.
“Albert, I know you’re a wonderful pilot, but I don’t think the motor was meant to go this fast!” exclaimed John Deer, who had a white knuckle grip on the stirrup mounted above his seat.
“It’s okay Mr. Deer,” laughed Albert flashing a set of even white teeth that seemed even whiter when contrasted with his curly red hair and the hundreds of brown freckles on his face. “You’re just not used to riding in anything that isn’t powered by something with hooves and a tail. Tell him Mr. O’Kelly!”
“He’s right John,” Jimmy laughed. “These cars actually can go even faster than this, except for the poor roads we have. Someday when the highways are paved in something better than cobblestones or hard packed soil, automobiles will be cruising at speeds of over 40 miles per hour!”
Pretty much reassured by his friend, John Deer relaxed for the remainder of the five mile ride to Scargo Lake. He showed Jimmy the great mound of boulders, as well as the graceful stand of Hemlock trees. He briefly explained the history of the location and the story of the princess and her tribe.
“Jim, I want to enclose the Hemlocks with a fence of iron rails and granite posts. I want no gates however. The area is going to be perpetually open for visitors to sit by the trees and meditate. I want to put a few granite benches near the trees. Perhaps we’ll make a single plaque of iron, with raised letters to mark the meaning of this place.”
“This is a very easy job John. I’ll put my men on it and have it done inside of three days. “
“That’s not the main job Jim. The big project has to do with that mammoth pile of boulders. That rubble was once a natural statue of an Indian Chief. I don’t want to re-create the statue but what I wish, is to use the rocks to build a tower. I want to build a granite tower as high as we can, so that people can climb it and from its peak, be able to see almost all of Cape Cod from one end to the other.”
“That is a big job John. I can get the men and help you out with the cost but it is going to be very expensive.”
“I appreciate what you are offering my friend, but I want no special price on this. I desire it to be done as quickly as possible and in this matter, money does not matter. I want you to charge me a full and fair price for the job. I have already been paid for it in a way that I cannot explain to you.”
It was agreed that Jimmy would go home and immediately set the project in motion. He would draw the tower plans and the prints for the fence that very evening and get started on the project the next morning. Workers from as far away as Bourne to the West and Truro to the East would be brought in so that the entire job could be completed in less than a month.
As the construction proceeded, John Deer had increasing doubts as to whether he had actually spoken with the flesh and blood incarnation of Princess Scargo, or if the whole affair was just an illusion induced by his affliction – the unhealed divide in his head.
The answer to his uncertainty came soon after Jimmy’s crew had cleared away the stones covering the tomb. A few moments of digging led to the grim discovery of the bones of the tribe, just as the princess had said.
In the skeletal fingers of a tiny hand, was a leather-bound note book – the diary of Princess Scargo. It confirmed everything that she had told him.
Though he still couldn’t be sure if he had communicated with her in person or through a dream, it didn’t matter. He had her written record of the Nobscussett tribe. Later, he donated the priceless work to the Cape Cod History Association.
True to his word, Jimmy O’Kelly and his crews finished everything in less than a month. With newspapermen from half a dozen village presses covering the event, the tower was opened to the public on November 24, 1910. As per John Deer’s instructions, there were no gates leading to the structure, no fences locking it off from public access, and no admission price. It would forever be free for any person with a desire to climb to the highest place in middle Cape Cod and gaze down upon Scargo’s Lake.
Scargo’s Tower – photo copyright, Bill Russo
Sixty feet tall, the tower on Scargo Hill is the highest point in all of Middle Cape Cod and was the highest place for hundreds of miles in all directions for a few months, until the completion, a few months later, of the 252 foot Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown.
Getting to the observation deck at the top is easily accomplished by mounting the steel steps of an interior spiral stair case.
A steel, spiral staircase winds up the tower to the observation deck where you can see the lake as well as the Big Water, and all the way to Provincetown. Photo by Bill Russo, copyright 2016
The tower is open every day. There are no fees. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in a land overflowing with historic places and beaches. It is located very close to the final resting place of the princess and her people.
Scargo Lake as it was in 1910. Photo – copyright, Bill Russo
Two weeks before the completion of the tower, the fence enclosing the stand of Hemlock trees was completed. As requested, Jimmy installed a granite slab bench for people to sit on. As the years passed however, the bench became a display table for the various gifts of beads, pottery and such that were left for the princess.
The two acre stand of graceful Hemlocks was surrounded by a double set of iron rails embedded in sturdy granite posts.
Best of all, Jimmy O’Kelly had crafted a plaque, which would be the sole marker in the burial ground. There would be no stones or other writing, only the following inscription of raised letters on bronze…..
“Burial Ground of the Nobscussett Tribe of Indians, of which tribe Mashantampaine was Chief.”
Photo copyright by Bill Russo
Just before the burial ground was opened to the public John Deer dragged to the granite bench, three sacks full of items purchased from Duffy’s Mercantile. The bags were full of glass beads and other trinkets that had gone out of style years before. The figure in black thought that they resembled the baubles the Europeans used to induce the “Indians” to give up their lands without payment of money. He spread them around the bench and at the base of the trees to remind visitors of the shabby treatment given to the original people of Cape Cod.
To his surprise, guests at the graveyard followed suit and brought things of their own to deposit as gifts. They left coins, dollar bills, hats, shirts, beads, feathers, shells, pottery, smooth stones and all manner of interesting items.
[The bench became a shelf for the tributes to Princess Scargo.
The lake is just beyond the trees. Bill Russo photo.]
Tribute to Scargo, placed on the Hemlock by a visitor to the burial grounds in summer, 2016. Bill Russo photo
For more than a week after the opening of the burial grounds John Deer stayed at the Corporation Beach Hotel eating his evening meals happily in the comfortable dining hall and reposing in his soft bed at night, without once being troubled by his illness.
He telephoned Emily daily. They both wished he could get on the train and go west instead of east towards Provincetown.
“I can’t Em, though I truly want to,” he told her. “I’m pretty sure that this business in Dennis with the lake and the burial ground is the last job I’ll have to do. That part of my life is over. Scargo said she was giving me a present. I didn’t know what it was, but I do now. She put her hands on my forehead and I felt warmth on my scar-line. The bones of my head are finally lining up correctly and healing.”
“That’s wonderful news John. Have you been getting the headaches?”
“No, they’re gone too. I have had no tremors or twitches, no blackouts, no premonitions. I feel perfectly normal. When I looked in the mirror this morning, I could still see the scar above my eye, but my forehead is now completely even – that bone that was pressing against my brain moved back to its original position.”
“Do you think that the phantom princess had something to do with it?”
“I have no doubts about it,” John said. “I don’t have the ‘second-sight’ anymore but I am thinking more clearly than I ever have. I’m even starting to get little glimpses of my life before the injury.”
“I hope you don’t find out that in your other life you were married and had six children!”
“No Em, I feel sure that I have never been married and I am quite sure you’re the only girl for me. I’m going to get on the train tomorrow and go to Provincetown and have it out with fate. One way or the other, I want this thing resolved by Christmas.”
After spending his last evening in Dennis with his friends Jimmy and Lucy O’Kelly, John Deer returned to his room at the hotel. He had a long list of correspondence to attend to.
He wrote a letter to Jim Davis regarding the Sandwich Glassworks – a portion of which stated… “You have been a good friend Jim and an excellent administrator of the company. If for some reason I don’t get out of this Provincetown mess alive, my brokers have been instructed to turn my 51 per cent of the company over to you.”
To the Russo brothers in Beverly he wrote…”Many thanks for your fine work in recovering the money stolen from the glassworks. That the business is now prospering is due in large part to your efforts. I have an urgent matter I have to attend to in Provincetown during the Christmas season. I don’t think I have a great chance of success, but if I do come out on top, I will be contacting you about building a house near Salem for myself and my bride to be.”
To his brokers he gave a long list of instructions which can be summarized as follows: In the event of his death, the bulk of his vast estate would go to Miss Emily Rapport of Boston. James Davis was to receive the stock certificates of the glassworks.
Other sums of money and property were slated to be sent to the Russo brothers, the hospital in Boston where his life was saved, and a dozen worthy charities. He also left a grant to Provincetown for the completion and upkeep of the new Pilgrim Monument.
The figure in black even left a bequest to Emily’s beloved Red Sox. He donated $50,000 to the team so that they could leave their battered old ball field and construct a new park in Boston’s Fenway section. He added a note to the team owner, hoping that the new Fenway ball park would be ready in time for the 1912 season.
After posting the letters in a nearby box, he returned to his room and slept soundly until dawn when he got up and walked to the South Dennis Railroad Station. As he stepped on the platform he saw the plume of smoke from the Provincetown Special’s first run of the day.
It being early morning as well as off season, the passenger coach was nearly empty. He sat in a seat by himself and thought about the eleven stops remaining before he finally reached the end of the earth. Provincetown: a tiny, bustling fishing village – surrounded by the sea on all sides, but for a sliver of land connecting it to Truro.
Fishing village. Fishing boat. Cod, Fluke, and Blues. The words kept turning in his mind, seeming to have some importance. They remained like unaligned pieces of a puzzle.
A fluke. A fluke is a flat, flounder-like fish; though it also is a word that accurately described his itinerant life since his injury. Blues, also a breed of fish and also a word that accurately described the feelings he was having as he got further away from the city where Emily lived and closer to the city where he might die.
In his mind, he spoke to himself, ‘There are eleven more villages along the route. How many times will I have to get off and help people in distress? Do I dare hope that the blessing/curse has really left me and that now, I can perhaps help myself?’
His thoughts were interrupted by the conductor striding through the car…”Harwich. Harwich. All off for Harwich.“
The conductor hopped down the three steps to the platform and continued his hawking, “All aboard for Pleasant Lake, Brewster, Orleans, Truro and Provincetown. All aboard!”
Half a dozen people got on the still nearly-empty coach as the combination belched its smoke and the six giant drive wheels screeched as they started moving along the track, led by their smaller companions, the four guide wheels.
Typical 1920s Ten Wheeler, but not one that was actually in use on Cape Cod
From Harwich Center it was just a short run to the next stop, Pleasant Lake Village. John Deer considered leaving the train and searching out a tiny settlement in the area. It was said to be a very small town by the side of a strange lake, a lake that defies description.
He had heard that the lake had three separate and distinct sections, one of salt water and another at the opposite shore that was fresh water. In the middle of the lake, which was said to be six miles long and one mile wide, was an eerie section of brackish water.
The “Brack”, as the locals called it, supposedly gave birth to large catfish that had the habits and teeth of sharks! An outcast, amphibious boy the locals called “Jimmy Catfish” was said to be able to summon the killer catfish and even swim with them.
As the train arrived at the terminal John’s thoughts returned to his problem at hand, getting to the end of the line. He abandoned his thoughts of getting off the train to possibly help the ‘catfish boy’. He closed his eyes.
“This stop is Pleasant Lake. All out for Pleasant Lake,” barked the conductor who stepped quickly to the platform as the train ground to a halt. “All aboard for Brewster, Orleans, Eastham, Truro and Provincetown. Board!”
Eight more stops: two in Brewster – East Brewster and Brewster. After that the train would steam into old Orleans. The town was so named, not for anything to do with ‘new’ Orleans, but after the French Duke of Orleans who assisted the village when it was twice captured by the British during the American Revolution of the 1770s.
John Deer had no idea how he knew that bit of history. ‘Perhaps I was a history teacher before the brain injury,’ he thought to himself. ‘If I get my memory back, I can possibly become a teacher in Emily’s Huntington School for Girls!’
While he was thus occupied in drowsy daydreaming, the train chugged on through the Brewsters, Orleans, Eastham and North Eastham.
“Next stop Truro. All aboard for Truro, Corn Hill, and the city of Provincetown. All Aboard.”
The towns were further apart now and the train could make more speed. The fireman furiously shoveled the coal on and the engineer got the P-town Special all the way up to forty miles per hour!
Truro and the village of Corn Hill were quickly passed by and the conductor announced, “All aboard for Provincetown, the end of the line. All aboard for Provincetown.”
John Deer was both excited and apprehensive as the final terminal neared. Due to the narrowing of the land between Truro and Provincetown the train had to slow down to five miles per hour. It looked as though the waves were going to wash right over the tracks as Cape Cod Bay closed in from one side and Nantucket Sound encroached from the other.
As the sandy land once again widened, the train got back up near 30 miles per hour and quickly arrived at the last passenger stop. There was one further stop, fisherman’s wharf, where the fishermen’s catch was loaded for delivery to Boston – but John Deer was not bound for there. He got off with the rest of the riders at the downtown station.
Provincetown Terminal 1910
As was his usual practice he made straight for a victualer, ordering unsweetened coffee with cream, and bread with no butter. He purchased a newspaper, dated Monday, December 12, 1910.
It was a very slow news day. The paper had one story speculating that taxes in Provincetown would rise in 1911. There was a short story about President Taft’s three new Supreme Court appointees, and an article about the nearly completed Pilgrim memorial in the center of town.
Other than that the whole front page was devoted to a report that the Ritz Carlton in New York had broken a long standing tradition by allowing a woman to smoke a cigarette in its dining room! Horrified patrons complained to the manager who said, “I’d rather have her smoking than drinking a cocktail!”
The other big event of the day was a scandalous report that the actors and actresses in silent movies were using profane and lewd language in their films. A lip reader discovered the transgressions and nearly fainted. When reporters for the New York tabloids wrote down what the ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ of the Edison flickers were saying, the tabloid editors said with a gasp, “Even we can’t print this stuff!”
After his spare meal, John Deer walked out onto Commercial Street. He checked into a hotel, thinking he might need to rest for a day or so before beginning his work in the city where he was certain he’d learn his true identity and find out what fate had in store for him.
After an unusually good sleep, he was so energized he decided to set off immediately in search of his true identity. He reasoned that the best place to start would be the town’s medical facility, located in the John Barclay Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company.
He sensed that his injury might have happened in Provincetown and if so, his first treatment might have been in John Barclay’s facility which was the medical home of all three of the local physicians.
Cape Cod, always warmer than mainland Massachusetts, was experiencing even more moderate weather than usual that season. After a September cold spell, the weather had changed and the area saw mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the 50s and 60s, from October first right up to the present day, the 13th of December.
After a quick breakfast at the restaurant he walked along Commercial Street past the shoe shop, several restaurants, the toy store, and the A & P; finally arriving at the entrance to the Barclay Company. The town’s main street runs for about two miles alongside Cape Cod Bay, from one end of town to the other. Barclay’s factory was situated almost exactly at the mid-point, alongside Fisherman’s Wharf and the freight station of the Cape Cod Railroad.
About a dozen park benches, facing the ocean, lined the sidewalk near the area. They were constantly occupied by the locals as well as the visitors, who enjoyed watching the never ending, motion-pictures presented by nature; of sunrises and sun falls, of ships arriving and ships departing, and of the loading into boxcars, the daily catch of hundreds of barrels of salted cod.
The Cape Cod catch of salt cod was shipped by rail to every one of the 46 states – even the new one, Oklahoma that was brought into the fold three years previously, in 1907.
The street was unusually busy that morning. Horses still predominated, but more and more of the noisy automobiles were being sold every day. Ford, the most popular of the machines, reportedly had sold more than 10,000 units the previous year and might triple that number by the end of 1911.
Forgotten for the moment was his mission. John Deer relaxed on one of the benches and watched a fishing boat release its land line and set out under full sail. ‘Sail is doomed, just as horses are doomed,’ he said to himself.
“No. There will always be boats powered by sail and there will always be strong and beautiful horses pulling buggies and carts – just not as many.”
Startled, John Deer looked in the direction of the voice. A young girl with long curly hair the color of midnight had sat down next to him. He thought to himself, ‘I didn’t realize that I was actually speaking my thoughts aloud’.
“You weren’t talking out loud John, you were thinking,” she said.
“How did you know my name and how do you know what I’m thinking?” said the bewildered John Deer – for it was usually him who knew the thoughts of others. Since the princess had laid her hands on his head, his pains were gone, and so was his ability to know peoples’ thoughts and to know things about the future.
“I can’t tell you how I know John, because I don’t know myself how I do it,” she replied. “But I know this. Your work is done John Deer. You have repaid all that you were given and now it is time for another to take your place. I think it’s me, Maria Da Silva,” said the pretty raven haired girl.
“But you’re so young. You can’t be more than 13 or 14. It’s too heavy a burden for….”
“I am 12, John. I don’t understand why I have been blessed or cursed with this duty, any more than you did. I only know that you’re now free to find out who you are. The answer is not to be learned in the Barclay Company. You need to go to the Rod and Cod Tavern across the street from the toy store you passed a few minutes ago.”
“What’s going to happen to me Maria?”
“I’m not sure John. I’ve always had premonitions and such, but I didn’t think much about it, until yesterday. In my mind I saw you get off the train and instantly I knew things. I knew about you and the work that you have done and I knew that it was time for me to fill your shoes so that you can get your life back. My work is just starting and my first job is to help my family. We’ll meet again. But for now, just go. Go to the Rod and Cod.”
Without another word he took the counsel of the pretty young girl with the dark eyes and long black hair that tumbled in coils and curls to her shoulders and began the mile long walk along Commercial Street to the tavern.
Commercial Street circa 1900
As for Maria, her story started in a ramshackle cottage on a dirt path off the West End of Commercial Street near the breakwater at Long Point. She was the daughter of a poor fisherman and his wife. Their shack at the edge of the sea was threatened daily with destruction by the rise and fall of the tides.
In summer, her father Francisco Da Silva, began fishing every day at sunrise from his small boat. He brought his catch to the wharf just as the sun was setting in the harbor. His profits from the daily sales were enough to buy bread and milk but little more.
In winter, the family survived off the summer cash until it was gone. Afterwards they existed until spring on little more than love.
In the middle of December in 1910, the world was preparing for the birthday of the Man from Nazareth. The Da Silva family was doing its best to get ready for that celebration and one more – it was also to be the 13th birthday of Maria. She had been born on December 25 in the drafty cottage, after the family had been turned away from the John Barclay Medical Center, for having no money and no insurance.
It was a difficult birth, but a kindly neighbor lady helped, and though the baby’s head was injured during the delivery, the child seemed fine and was responsive.
“Maria came out bloodied far more than you’d expect. It was because of the wound to the head. But when I wiped her face, I was happily surprised to see that she had her eyes wide open and was alert.” said the midwife, Mrs. Pires. “It’s rare, but I have seen it before. It usually means the child will be healthy, vigorous and perhaps a seer.”
As time went by Maria was that and more. She was one of the smartest students in the entire seventh grade. There were 196 students in the Provincetown school system – grades one through twelve. Maria’s class was the largest with 27 pupils.
The weather turned cold as the holiday approached. A snow storm just short of a blizzard hit Cape Cod. At the same time, a problem with the heating system in the town’s only school house, forced an early Christmas break.
Maria helped her mother with holiday preparations. They knitted new mittens, scarves, and hats for presents for each other. They made cheery Christmas cards by coloring in seasonal pictures from the newspaper and pasting them on cardboard.
As always Maria’s dad Francisco tried to get winter work. He was able to make a few dollars by shoveling snow left by the storm that had helped to over burden the school’s crumbling main chimney.
He made just enough money to be able to buy a wonderful holiday dinner for his family. The table would overflow with turkey and ham, grapes and apples, wine and eggnog, and chocolates and candy canes.
There would not however, be enough money for the one thing that Maria had desired for two years – a shiny bicycle like the one in the window of the toy store.
In desperation Francisco walked to the factory owned by John Barclay, the wealthiest man in town. As Cisco trudged through the snow into the parking lot, he saw Mr. Barclay getting out of his machine, a very expensive ‘Alco’, made by the American Locomotive Company of Providence, Rhode Island. He gave instructions to his chauffer and began walking to the entrance of his building.
“Mr. Barclay. Hold up a second. Can I speak with you?”
Barclay turned and looked without slowing his walk.
“I’m busy Da Silva,” he said brusquely. “Some of us on Cape Cod have to work year round. We can’t all be lucky enough to have a summer job!”
“Work is what I want to talk to you about Mr. Barclay. If I could just have a few days employment so that I can buy my family a Christmas present; and it’s my daughter’s birthday as well.”
“You should have saved your summer fishing money instead of begging me for……..”
“Listen Barclay, I am not begging for anything. I am asking you man to man for a job of work. Rich as you are you cannot disrespect and disregard me.”
“I’m sorry ‘Cisco’ for being impolite,” said Barclay adopting a patronizing tone, “but I am quite busy with my new acquisition of an automobile dealership in Barnstable and other things. We are not hiring right now. Good day.”
Barclay stomped off as if offended by the mere presence of the fisherman. He went inside without looking back. Barclay was flush with cash after unloading 500 acres of mostly useless land in a town south Boston. He had successfully spread a rumor that the property was going to be the site of a new Henry Ford automobile manufacturing plant.
The lie grew a veneer of truth when Henry Ford himself came to Massachusetts and spent more than a month looking at property near the Charles River. Barclay’s land was a swampy tract off the Boston and Providence highway in a town named Foxboro. After Ford selected some acreage in Cambridge for his manufacturing plant – Barclay’s swamp wasn’t even worth a dollar an acre. The property that Ford purchased near Cambridge, along with other sites in Framingham and Somerville, would in future, be home to automobile plants that would produce more cars than Detroit, until being closed near the end of the 1900s.
“The whole thing was a disaster for those of us in the investment group. We paid over a hundred dollars an acre for that Foxboro land which will probably never be used for anything but breeding mosquitoes,” said a young gentleman name Lowe, who also had an interest in vaudeville palaces and motion picture theaters.
“Caveat Emptor, is what Barclay said to us after we lost a half million dollars on that deal?” reported Mr. Lowe. “Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware! That’s what the scoundrel said, after we were nearly bankrupted by his lies.”
After being shunned by Barclay, Cisco Da Silva continued his search for a job of work. The community was home to less than 4500 year round residents, so there were few places to look.
That night at a meager supper he told his family what had happened when he tried to get work from Barclay.
“Don’t be sad Daddy,” advised the smiling 12 year old Maria, who was starting to realize that she was a ‘seer’ just as the midwife had long ago predicted. “Barclay will be served a little dish of karma soon enough. And usually once karma starts putting things on a person’s table, bad things happen. Barclay will get his. I just know it.”
The next day brought sunshine and an unseasonal warm-up to near 70. The sands and shells at Herring Cove Beach shimmered like gemstones in the brilliant rising sun when Maria and her mom arrived for a walk and some beach combing.
Aside from the pretty shells, they saw little else on the beach until Maria glimpsed a shiny reddish stone shaped like an egg. Picking it up, she waved her arms and cried…
“Look Mama an egg rock! I never expected to find such a treasure on the beach. It’s a real egg rock. See how round it is. How smooth it is. And notice the gorgeous red hue.”
“What’s an egg rock?”
“Oh Mom, it’s very special! An egg rock is an unusual stone. It is not just shaped like an egg – it is an egg. It’s said that sometimes there is a gem inside. When the rock is cracked, out may tumble a diamond or a giant ruby. You never know what’s going to be inside. I know that this is a good luck omen. Let’s walk home by way of Commercial Street. Maybe we can go in the toy store and just look.”
“But Maria I feel so bad. You know we cannot buy you the bike. Your Dad and I – we tried, but we just….”
“Don’t worry about that Mama. I think everything is going to work out fine.”
Warm sunshine had melted the snow and the sidewalks were bristling with people taking advantage of the fine weather. Many shops were closed for the season but several restaurants and galleries were open. The toy store had set up a sidewalk display highlighted by a shiny new blue Schwinn ladies bicycle – the very bike that Maria desired.
Last minute shoppers queued around piles of wooden soldiers, board games, hockey sticks, baseball gloves, Lincoln Logs and huge piles of the year’s most popular item – cuddly, stuffed ‘Teddy Bears’ named after Teddy Roosevelt who had recently left office as perhaps the most popular president in the history of the entire 46 states of the U.S.A.
Maria noticed that John Barclay was among the crowd looking with excitement at a stuffed bear that was almost as big as a full grown man. She knew that Barclay was interested in anything that was new and expensive.
Johnny Dimpell, was showing Barclay how the arms of the bear moved up and down, and that it had realistic eyes, and even wore a red bandana around its neck.
It was common knowledge that the millionaire had a young grand daughter who he doted on. Dimpell knew that he had a potential sale of fifty or even a hundred dollars – maybe more.
Maria recalled the talk with her dad about karma. Along with a twinge in her head and a slight headache, an idea came to her. She began chatting excitedly, more than loud enough for Barclay to hear.
“Mama I really cannot trade an egg rock for a bicycle. What if the egg rock has a gem inside worth a hundred bicycles? No Mama, I simply cannot do it no matter how much I admire the very honest and astute Mr. Dimpell and his store.”
“What are you talking about Maria?”
“Play along Mom. You’ll see,” she laughed.
Maria kept up the patter and her mom joined in. Finally both Mr. Dimpell and Barclay were curious enough to wander over to them.
“What’s this about an egg rock Maria?”
“Oh hello Mr. Dimpell”, said Maria’s mom, “she found an egg rock that washed ashore on Herring Cove beach. Can you believe it?”
“What is an egg rock?” wondered the rich man.
“Hi there Mr. Barclay, I didn’t know you were here,” Maria fibbed. “You probably know more about egg rocks than I do. I am sure you have at least one in your collection. As you are aware, an egg rock is really more egg than rock. The outer shell can be broken. I have heard it said that inside, sometimes a great treasure gem can be found. You know, just like discovering a pearl in an oyster.”
“I’ve never heard of an egg rock,” said Barclay. “What about it Dimpell? Is there such a thing?”
“Well yes Mr. Barclay. I have even seen them for sale, though I have never had any in my store.”
“Maria is thinking of cashing it in so that she can buy the blue bicycle,” said the mother.
“No Mom. I told you that I want the bicycle, but I don’t want to give up the egg rock. I think that it’s good luck. If I keep it, I’ll get much more than just a new bicycle.”
“I might be interested in getting an egg rock for my granddaughter for Christmas,” stated the rich man. “Dimpell, how much will you charge me for one?”
“Mr. Barclay I don’t carry them. I don’t have any. In the summer I am sure you can get all you want over at the…….”
“Dammit Dimpell! I can’t wait until summer. I need an egg rock now! Christmas is only two days away. My granddaughter has to have an egg rock under her tree! I must have one at any cost.”
“My dear Mrs. Da Silva,” Barclay lugubriously addressed Maria’s mom, “please persuade your daughter to sell me her egg rock. I will give her the money for the bike and an extra hundred dollars besides.”
Maria and her mother stepped away from the two men to discuss the situation. After much earnest ‘pleading’ by mother to daughter, Maria agreed to the sale.
“I will sell you this rock Mr. Barclay. But I cannot guarantee that this particular egg rock will have a rare gem inside. I recommend never breaking it open. Keep its contents a mystery. Do we have a deal?”
The excited millionaire happily agreed and peeled off the cash from a roll as thick as an apple. Maria paid for the blue bicycle and gave her mom the extra hundred dollars saying, “Merry Christmas Mama.”
The Da Silvas had their best Christmas ever thanks to the windfall.
Mr. Barclay was a hero to his granddaughter as he presented her with the only egg rock obtainable that season on all of Cape Cod.
The week after Christmas found Francisco Da Silva once again looking for winter work on Commercial Street. Something had changed. Everywhere he went he was looked upon with honor, and people were queuing up to give jobs to the parent of such a fine girl as Maria Da Silva.
“Maria has always been a great student and a wonderful daughter. Why suddenly is everyone celebrating her?” he asked the toy store owner, Mr. Dimpell.
“Don’t you know Cisco? Ask Maria, she will tell you.”
At dinner that evening he did question his daughter and had a great laugh when she explained everything. Maria gave her father a clipping from last summer’s newspaper ad from the Provincetown Hardware store and told him to bring it to Mr. Barclay. She also gave him a message to deliver.
Cisco walked to the parking lot of the John Barclay Medical center and waited for the great man to step from his Alco limousine.
“Mr. Barclay. Hold up a minute I have something for you from my daughter Maria.”
“Oh hello Da Silva. What have you got for me?”
Cisco handed Barclay the advertisement from the hardware store. It read:
“Egg Rocks: Now at Provincetown Hardware
$5.99 for one cubic foot of egg rocks
Perfect for landscaping. Round and Smooth”
Barclay read the advertisement and looked up at Cisco with a scowl growing on his surprised face. Before he could say anything, Cisco added…..
“She told me to give you a message…..
Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware!”
Without feeling very hopeful, John Deer started his lonely walk to the Rod and Cod, a neighborhood inn that had been the favorite gathering place of the town’s fishermen for many years.
Its lack of fancy tables, very plain front bar, simple back-bar, and the good natured innkeeper that ran the establishment, made the uncomplicated, hard working men of the sea feel at home. They’d fill the place night after night re-living their most dangerous fishing trips, the worst storms ever to hit the Cape, and occasionally telling stories of fair maidens met in distant ports.
Buttoning his long black coat against the weather that was rapidly turning colder, John Deer quickly trekked the mile long walk to the downtown district. It was busier than ever due to the railroad’s recent decision to run trains to and from the city almost every hour of the day.
Solidly determined to find out about his past, he strode right up to the bar and took the only available seat, an end one, next to the door that led to the bathrooms.
His appearance in the Rod and Cod did not go unnoticed, but it also did not cause much of a stir. Dressed all in black as he was, his clothing was similar to half a dozen fishermen in the place. His well trimmed beard was like that of many of the local sailors.
“Hello sir,” said Jim Hannon who not only was the owner of the bar, but also a Deputy Sheriff of Barnstable County, which gave him authority in all fifteen of the Cape Cod towns. “What can I get for you?”
“I see from that badge you have pinned to your apron that you not only serve the drinks, but also uphold the law. So I’ll have some Information first Sheriff, and then if you don’t arrest me, I’d appreciate a cold beer,” replied John Deer.
“Well why would I want to be arresting a potential customer? You haven’t robbed one of my competitors have you, and then come to spend their money here?” he joked.
“No, I haven’t held anybody up.”
“Well that’s good,” laughed Jim Hannon, still playing the jovial host, “cause if you had, I’d probably let you spend all of their money on drinks for the house before I arrested you!”
That brought a laugh from a dozen of the fishermen, who now crowded around the stranger on the off chance that maybe he actually was going to front a round of drinks for the house.
“I need to know something. Look at me closely. I had a head injury and I’ve lost my memory. I may have been here seven years ago. I have a dim recollection of being in this fishing village before I got hurt.”
Jim Hannon leaned forward and looked long and hard at the bearded man, all dressed in black with a wide brimmed hat on his head.
“Take the hat off, and let me see your face without it. That’s it. Turn your head and look at Marty Crosby, that fisherman to your right. Okay, turn to the other side now.”
“What do you think Marty? I think I do know him, do you remember him too?”
“Course I do Jim Hannon. Wasn’t I with you the very night it happened?”
“You men know me!” gasped John Deer, frightened and excited at the same time.
“We could hardly forget you mister,” said the Deputy Sheriff. “It was in this very room, seven years ago that you killed a man!”
At the Huntington School for Girls Christmas Assembly on Friday, December 16, 1910, awards were presented to outstanding students for first term achievements. The event was capped by a luncheon in the third floor cafeteria. The festive meal was a celebration of the upcoming Christmas break. The school would be shut down until Monday January 9, 1911.
In the teachers’ dining room, Emily and her top assistant Martha Dawson, who was also her best friend, were devouring their Lobster Newburg while picking at a green salad on the side. They were discussing their plans for the long holiday.
“Teddy and I are going to Conway, New Hampshire for two weeks. We’re going to ski, eat a lot of good food, gain five or ten pounds, have some wine and….”
“Don’t tell me. He’s going to round third base!” Emily interrupted. “I knew you were getting along well, but I never suspected…”
“We’re each going to have our own room at the resort. So, let’s just say that he’s on third base, but home plate is going to have to wait. I don’t think the wait will be long Em. I’m pretty sure he’s asked me on this trip to propose. Actually I’m positive of it, because his Mom and I are very close and she said that he made a purchase at Desjardin’s Jewelers that I am going to love.”
“I’m thrilled for you Martha. You two make a wonderful couple. You’re going to be very happy and probably have seven kids and a big house and I am sooooo jealous.”
“What about John, Emily? Is there any news?”
“He’s in Provincetown trying to find out if anyone there knows him and can shed some light on what happened to him. I didn’t have any plans for the holiday, but I’ve just now made up my mind. I’m going to go to him. I’ll be in Provincetown for Christmas, and somehow I’ll help him to find out who he is. Perhaps by New Year’s Day, I’ll have someone to play ‘baseball’ with too. I don’t mind telling you Martha – John could easily round the bases with me anytime he wants to!”
“Emily, that’s just shocking!” laughed her friend.
The next morning found Miss Emily Rapport in the office of the Bay State Shipping Company on Boylston Street where she booked one way passage on the huge steamer, “The Dorothy Bradford”. She was scheduled to leave Boston Harbor at at noon and would be at the MacMillan Pier in Provincetown by four. She paid the fare of three dollars and went back to her apartment on Washington Street to finish packing.
The Dorothy Bradford ferried thousands of people from Boston to Provincetown during its daily runs from 1900 into the 1920s.
Every morning after breakfast all the Russo brothers except for Meo, who was on his fishing boat, walked to their shop at the other end of Rantoul Street to plan the day’s work. Since receiving the windfall of $50,000 from Sandwich and $20,000 more from the Italian government, the brothers had hired a dozen new employees – pipefitters as well as construction workers.
Following Carmine’s lead, the family did less actual work and spent most of the day inside the shop planning existing jobs, or sometimes out in the field prospecting for new business. Their company was prospering beyond belief but despite their affluence they had abandoned all thoughts of early retirement.
They also chose to keep their home on Rantoul Street instead of building fancy new houses in the rich sections of town like Beverly Farms where Teddy Roosevelt’s pal, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge lived. Townspeople said that the Lodge family was so ‘snooty’ they only talked to the Cabots and the Cabots only talked to God. It’s a sure bet they wouldn’t want any E-I-E-I-Os moving into their plush section!
Rantoul Street was, and is to this very day, the place in Beverly where new arrivals land. Many of them try to get away as fast as they can, but not the Russo people. They felt comfortable and at home in the long boulevard that begins at Beverly harbor and runs for a mile and a half until merging into Cabot Street at the Railroad tracks, across from the high school.
Each day at noon, without fail, the brothers left their building and walked six doors down, to the Rose Restaurant, at the edge of the harbor. The food at the small café was second to none in the city of Beverly – though the staff numbered just four.
The tiny six-stool bar was tended by their cousin Gino. His wife Arietta did the cooking. Another cousin, Maria-elena, had waitress duty. Vincenzo, still another cousin, washed dishes, swept floors, and bounced the occasional rowdy from the premises.
The Rose was owned by Gino’s father Mario, who in retirement became known as ‘The King of the Primitives’ because of his remarkable paintings of scenes he remembered from his youth in Sicily. His pieces were rudimentary and childlike in many respects. But the art world was in love with his work. His bold use of color and vivid detail despite the unsophisticated lines, made his paintings much desired in the art enclaves of Boston, Cambridge, Cape Cod, and the Berkshires.
After he retired and handed over the lunch room to Gino, the old man became unhappy and found that time weighed heavily on him. His other son Bassillio, a college trained artist, gave him some paints, canvas and brushes and suggested that he paint whatever he could remember about Malfa, the tiny island of his birth just off the coast of the big island, Sicily.
“I’m-a not-a too good-a, at this-a painting thing Bassillio,” he said as he showed his son his first finished piece. It was a rendering of his own father’s tomato field.
To an untrained eye, the painting might have seemed to be the work of a five year old.
“Papa,” that is amazing work!” declared an excited Bassillio. “I went to art school for four years and I’ve been making a living as an artist for ten years, and I could never do anything as fine as that.”
Bassillio showed his dad’s work to other artists on the North Shore and they agreed that it was extraordinary. In a year’s time, Gino’s paintings were hanging in galleries in seven states and were bringing the highest prices of anything sold in the venues.
Several of his best works were hung in various locations throughout the lunch portion of the Rose, as well as in the adjoining bar with its six stools and four high-back booths.
The main feature of the lunchroom was the horseshoe shaped lunch counter. There were eight stools in each section. The area was open on the fourth side, allowing easy access from the kitchen for Maria-elena to serve the meals.
The daily blue plate special cost 20 cents. Every day the food was good, but it was spectacular on Fridays when Arietta’s special was fried clams and French fries. Wednesday was pasta day and it was almost as good. Thursday was ‘boiled dinner’ day and even the neighborhood’s dyed in the wool ‘paisans’ devoured the beef brisket, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage piled up on the plate as high as a football.
There was never an empty seat at the Rose. As soon as somebody finished their meal and left, another person who had been waiting outside, would be ushered inside to the still warm stool. There was always a line of a dozen or more people on the sidewalk. Sometimes the queue would be policed by an actual policeman – usually it was another cousin, Luigi Russo, the Rantoul Street beat cop, who made sure the line was orderly and moved well.
As you can probably imagine, patrons at the lunchroom were encouraged to eat their meal as rapidly as possible within reason, and then move out, to make way for the next customer. Such leisure activities as chatting or reading newspapers were discouraged during the busy times of breakfast and lunch.
To break this unwritten rule, was to invite a visit from Vincenzo. If a customer happened to have a newspaper spread out on the counter and ‘Big Vinny’ spotted it, he would remove his white apron and hang it on a hook by the sink. He’d walk slowly to the offending customer and simply pick up the newspaper, often without saying a word. The now nervous patron, would quickly finish his meal and leave.
This very thing happened on that day in mid December when the four Russo brothers led by Carmine, leader of the family after Papa, crowded into a booth that Cousin Gino had reserved for them.
It being even busier than usual for a Friday, Vincenzo told Maria-elena that he’d take the brothers’ orders since he was caught up with his dish washing.
“Hello boys, I’m your waitress Vincenzo,” he joked.
“Very funny Vinny, if girls looked like you the human race would die out in one generation!” said Geo.
“Well you ain’t too pretty yourself Giovanni,” countered Big Vinny, who at two inches over six feet was one of the tallest men of Boston’s North Shore, but certainly not one of its most handsome.
Lucca interrupted, “Hey Vin. What are you doing with that newspaper tucked in your back pocket? Gino don’t allow no reading in here!”
“I just took it from some guy who was probably eating here for the first time and didn’t know the rules. I was nice to him. I simply told him we have a deal with the library, they don’t sell fried clams and we don’t sell books and papers, and we don’t read ‘em here neither.”
“Here you guys can have it,” said Vinny, removing the paper from his back pocket and tossing it on the table, “Take it back to the shop. You can read it there, because the way I hear it, now that you got all that extra help, you haven’t got too much else to do.”
The brothers laughed and gave him their lunch orders. Carmine started to discuss their next big project, an additional railroad bridge that would span the harbor from Beverly to Salem. If they were awarded the bid, it would be their biggest job by far.”
“Holy crap! Shut up a minute you guys! Look at that headline in the paper! I don’t believe it!” The excited shouts came from Tony Junior, who picked up the newspaper and began reading aloud….
“The nearly intact wreckage of a fishing trawler that ran aground off Nantucket seven years ago has been discovered. According to Roland Jones, the island’s harbor master, the ‘Nonna’s Choice’, a coal fired steamer, apparently sunk almost immediately after one of its boilers exploded. Jones went on to……
“Wait a minute,” Carmine said, breathlessly, “that was our brother Billy’s ship! Does it say if anybody survived?”
Tony Junior read the rest of the startling article. After hearing it, the boys were shaken to their toenails and they left the Rose Café without even waiting for their fried clams.
“We gotta get home and tell Ma and Pa about this,” said Geo.
The brothers raced outside and sprinted for their home at the other end of Rantoul Street, stopping only briefly to ask Cousin Luigi the beat cop, to find Meo at the fish pier and tell him to get home quickly.
Tony Junior rapidly outdistanced the pack and was the first to reach the house. The rambling three story structure sat directly across the tracks from the flagman’s building at Gloucester Crossing, the intersection of the town’s two main streets, Rantoul and Cabot. Fifteen times per day as the trains were about to roll through, the “Crossing Tender” got up from his seat in the shack and cranked down the gates that warned the operators of buggies and automobiles, of the oncoming train. The message was reinforced by the flagman as he walked back and forth in front of the gates, waving a huge red flag.
Tony dashed up the front steps and on up to the second floor living-room where Papa and Mama were battling each other in a brutal game of ‘Scopone’. The popular Italian game simulates a Sicilian war in which cards and tricks are captured, using a combination of strategy, skill, and luck.
“Stop the game,” shouted “Junior,” breathlessly.
“Hey bachagaloop! Whatta you trying-a do? I’m-a getting a-scalped inna this-a game by you mama; but right-a now I’m ready to capture you mama’s cavallo and donna (horse and queen!)”
“Papa, shuddup-a you face,” ordered Mama. “don’t-a be calling my boy no dummy! He’s-a smart-a boy!”
The other brothers by then had filed into the room. Carmine, being the head of the family after Papa, ordered all talk of card games and anything else to stop, immediately!
“Mama! Papa! We have news of Billy. They found the wreckage of his ship. The ship’s log was recovered and they could read it because it was in a waterproof box,” Carmine reported.
“Well this is good-a news. I’m-a think-a so. But what about Guillermo?”
“He was not on the trawler when it sank Papa! The boat was in Provincetown for repairs to the boiler. As Captain of the ship, Billy told the crew they could have a week in the city, but were to report back to the MacMillan Pier in seven days time after the boiler was fixed. The crew came back, but Billy never did. They waited two days and then the first mate took command and set out for Nantucket. The boiler that was supposed to have been repaired blew up. Most of the crew was killed by the blast and the rest drowned.”
“But where’s-a my boy Guillermo?” Mama asked with fresh tears in her eyes, but also with a little slice of hope building up in her heart.
“The paper says that nobody knows what happened to Billy. He paid the shipyard in advance for the repairs, but never came back to check up on the work and was never seen in Provincetown again.”
Lucca, usually the least talkative of the family said – “What we must do is go to Provincetown. We will shake down that little city like it’s never been rousted before. We’ll find out what happened to our brother – one way or the other!”
The very next morning the five brothers, along with Mama, Papa, and Meo’s fiancé, Colleen in tow; boarded the train at the Beverly Depot for the 140 mile trip to Provincetown. They were certain that the end of the line would be the beginning of the solution to the mystery of Billy’s disappearance.
John Deer crumpled into one of the booths at the Rod and Cod Tavern after Deputy Sheriff Jim Hannon told him that he had killed a man in the very room in which he was now standing.
“How did I get away? Have you been keeping a gallows in the town square for me these past seven years? “
“Well, it’s true that you did kill…….”
“I’ll not run this time Sheriff. I’m ready to pay for my crimes.”
“If you stop jabbering and interrupting me for a minute, I want to tell you something!” said Hannon. “You did kill a man, but as far as paying for your crimes – it is I who should be paying you!”
“What the Deputy means,” said fisherman Marty Crosby, “is that you killed the man in self defense. There’s no charge against you.”
“And the part about me paying you,” added Hannon Hannon “is because you probably saved my daughter’s life.”
Hannon explained that seven years before, his daughter Melissa had been working for him; serving customers, helping with the ordering, keeping the books and such. One night a drunken customer named Lute Fowler started to drag her off to the backroom. He was a well known brawler, crook, and an extremely dangerous man.
“I had left her in charge of the Rod and Cod while Marty and I went to look at a new ice box that I wanted for the bar. So, neither of us was actually there when it happened. But there were twelve men in the place when he started ripping the clothes off Melissa and not a one of them dared to make a move – except you stranger. Except you!”
“What did I do?” John Deer wondered.
“You went right over to him, though he was much bigger than you, and pulled my daughter right out of his arms. She ran to safety, and he came charging at you.”
“He had his arms straight out in front of him, like he was going to strangle you,” Marty picked up the story. “But you grabbed his arm and twirled him around like a little toy poodle. He fell down on the floor right next to the bar.”
“That was bad news,” said Jim Hannon. “because, I always have a peacemaker there in case of trouble – it’s a 64 ounce wooden bat just like the one Tris Speaker of the Red Sox uses. Well Fowler spotted it, and he came up swinging. He lambasted you with that bat straight across your forehead. It made a sound louder than thunder and lightning. You recoiled from the blow and everybody thought you were going to die right that second. Blood started trailing down your face in a little river from your scalp-line down to your eyes.”
“But you didn’t go down,” Marty once again took up the tale. “You grabbed the bat right out of his hands and with a mighty roar that seemed to come from a deep underground pit, you whomped him with the bat directly on his right ear. His head exploded like an over ripe tomato thrown onto a vaudeville stage. As he started to fall, you turned around and swung the bat left handed, and got him on the other ear! What brains weren’t scrambled by the homerun stroke from the right side were certainly crushed by the left-handed swing. He fell to the floor after you ‘switch-hitted’ him and never moved. Not even a twitch.”
“By the time Marty and I got back from looking at that ice box,” said Jim Hannon, “Fred Crump had already taken the body down to the funeral home. My daughter told us everything that happened. You were sitting in a booth with a towel on your forehead but you seemed okay. I sat down and started speaking with you. The cloth you were holding against your wound was soaked with blood, so I went to the bar to get you a fresh one and when I got back you were gone. I ran outside but I couldn’t find you. A few people said they saw you get on the Boston bound train.”
“I guess I did get on the train, I must have been in shock and collapsed somewhere along the route. I woke up in Boston in a hospital with a skull fracture that nearly split my brain in two. I also had lost my memory. I didn’t even know my name. The hospital called me John Doe, but I……”
“…..didn’t want to be named after female rabbits, ferrets, and rats, so the doctor changed your name tag from ‘John Doe’ to “John Deer”.
The words that interrupted him in mid sentence were spoken by a beautiful woman who had slipped unnoticed into the Rod and Cod. She had heard the whole story of what happened the night John Deer suffered his injury.
John whirled around and saw…..
“Emily! Emily, I’m free! Did you hear?”
They embraced and laughed through their tears at the good fortune that had come to them in Provincetown.
“Not so fast Mister. I want to talk to you!”
The new voice came from a man with dark curly hair and a rough face that looked vaguely familiar. He stepped to within two feet of John Deer and Emily.
“I am Carmine Russo, first brother and head of the Russo family, after Papa. I also heard everything that has been said here. I and the family have been sitting in the booths listening to the whole story. I know that you know us, because you hired us to capture Cardenio Collucci, which we did.
“The problem I have right now is that I don’t think you are who you say you are. You are not John Deer!”
One by one, the other four brothers stood up, their faces as grim as a January snowstorm at dusk. Then Mama and Papa also rose, as did Tony Junior’s finance Colleen. The entire Russo family stared hard and long at John Deer.
Lucca broke rank and walked slowly up to Carmine. Wider and taller than his ‘big brother’, Lucca had a bullet head and a body as bulky as Charles Atlas. In the dim light of the bar he looked even fiercer than usual.
“I agree with Carmine,” Lucca said in a soft, but deep voice that seemed to be potentially more powerful than the massive Engine Number Two of the Cape Cod Railroad. “I know you are not John Deer!”
“I am certain that you are not John Deer. Instead, you are my little brother Billy,” said big Lucca, breaking out into a wide smile.
With that pronouncement, all the five brothers plus Papa pounced on John Deer and showered him with hugs and backslaps; while kisses were rained down on him from Mama and Meo’s fiancé Colleen O’Brien.
The bittersweet reunion of lovers and family continued for hours in the warm atmosphere of the quaint Provinetown bar called the Rod and Cod. Everyone from Mama to John Deer himself; had dozens and dozens of questions.
Carmine, as leader of the family after Papa, took it upon himself to sort things out. He showed John Deer/Billy Russo, family photos with “John Deer” in them.
“He looks exactly the same today as he did in those pictures,” vowed Colleen and the family agreed that it was true.
“It’s the beard,” John/Billy offered. “If I shaved it you’d see all the wrinkles!”
“I have a question for you Deputy Hannon,” Lucca said. “You’re a trained lawman as well as a bartender, so I guess you’re good at remembering faces, but how could you recall our brother’s face? Before tonight you only saw him once and it was seven years ago!”
“It’s because of Crump the undertaker,” Hannon offered. “This city of Provincetown is really just a small village. Everybody has at least two jobs. As you pointed out, I am the barkeep and the deputy as well. Fred Crump is the undertaker and doubles as the town’s professional photographer. He took pictures not only of the dead man Lute Fowler, but also of your brother. If you go look in my office you will see a large framed photograph hanging on my wall. It is a picture of a hero, a brave man to whom I owe everything. It’s a photo of your brother. I have looked at that image every day for the last seven years hoping that I could someday say thank-you to this man in person.”
The reunion party lasted all through the night, assisted by some bottles of Chianti that were broken out in honor of Anthony Senior, the head of the family, before Carmine. At six a.m. John/Billy walked to the railroad terminal. He made a telephone call and then purchased tickets for ten people – the six brothers (himself included), as well as Emily, Mama, Papa, and Colleen O’Brien, the future Mrs. Bartolomeo Russo.
A short time later as the train prepared to leave the station, the family started up the steps to board. John/Billy was last in line, just behind Emily. As he placed his foot on the first step of the three leading into the passenger car, he looked back and saw a female form sitting on one of the benches by the side of the terminal. She was all dressed in black with a wide brimmed hat on her head.
“Emily, you get on, I’ll be join you in a minute,” said John as he turned around and walked toward the figure in black.
“John the train is leaving! Come back. John the wheels are starting to movie, you’re going to miss the train. Please get on now!” Emily pleaded.
As if not hearing, he continued toward the wooden bench. When he was within a foot of her, the figure in black spoke to him…
“Goodbye John Deer/Billy Russo. Your work is done. I willingly take your burden from you.”
“Maria? Is it you? You look older today, but you’re still barely a teenager. It’s too much for you. I can stay and handle….”
“Your time is done John/Billy. You are healed. No more will you carry the burden/blessing of second sight. I have known for some time that you would come here and that the tasks would fall to me. Despite my lack of years, I’m ready and I will do the work until such time as it is taken from me as I have taken it from you.”
“In parting I’ll give you some good news that I have ‘seen’. In time, you will regain your memory. Your marriage will be a great success and you will have four wonderful children – two boys and two girls. Your train is leaving Billy/John. Get on it now. Ciao Billy. Ciao.”
He raced towards the Cape Cod Engine Number Two, which had begun to pick up speed. His leap for the stairs was close but he made it, and was seated inside the coach in time to hand the family’s tickets to the conductor.
“Have a pleasant ride to Sandwich folks. It’s 16 stops up the line on a sleepy morning. Take a nap if you like, I’ll let you know when we get there,” the conductor said.
“Sandwich?” questioned Carmine. “Why did he say Sandwich? I thought you bought the tickets for Beverly. Why does the conductor think we are getting off in Sandwich?”
“We are going to the place where I first met Emily. It’s down by the old mill stream in Sandwich – the Newcomb Inn. I booked the entire top floor for the whole family. We’ll stay there a month or more, long enough to have a beautiful double wedding – the marriages of Meo and Colleen and of myself and Emily.”
Back at the railroad station, the little girl from Provincetown watched the train as it pulled out of the terminal. She kept looking at it until it became as small as the head of a thumbtack.
She felt a twinge in her hands. Her body began to tremble. Lights started to flash in her brain. She stumbled home and managed to reach her bed in time. She would sleep for 48 hours uninterrupted by her parents who knew of her special ability/disability.
When she awoke, though still a very young girl, she would leave her home; guided on a mission by a compulsion she could not ignore – for she was the new ‘Cape Cod figure in black’.
Thanks for reading about Cape Cod’s Figure in Black. If you liked the book, please consider leaving a review on the site where you got the book.
Bill Russo is the author of The Creature from the Bridgewater Triangle and Other Odd Tales from New England; in which he recounts his meeting with a swamp creature called a Puckwudgie. His blog about that scary encounter led to an appearance in the award winning documentary, The Bridgewater Triangle. He also was also featured on national television in ‘Monsters and Mysteries in America’ and ‘America’s Bermuda Triangle’.
A number of his fictional works are centered in the Bridgewater Triangle, where he says “Fanatasy and reality are crowded together into a haunted 200 square mile area of Massachusetts – where they share an uneasy truce”.
‘Swamp Tales’ and its prequel, ‘Jimmy Catfish’ take readers deep into Southeastern Massachusetts and neighboring Cape Cod for various adventures involving ghosts, monsters, and a strange amphibious boy who swims with, and leads, a school of shark-like, killer catfish.
In ‘Ghosts of Cape Cod’, Russo does not write the typical tale of people waking up and seeing spectral beings at the foot of their bed; rather, he probes into the fascinating lives of the real people who became the legendary ‘haunts’ of one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States.
Many of the ‘Ghosts’ are well known such as the real ‘Pirate of the Caribbean’, Sam Bellamy. He was Captain of the Whidah – the richest prize ship in history. Others are lesser known but no less fascinating, like the Reverend Joseph Metcalf who owned the first of the once ubiquitous Cape Cod Flower Boats. The story of the Ghost of the 13 Churches is told in detail for the first time. It’s an odd yarn of a peculiar doctor who amassed one of the biggest fortunes in Colonial Massachusetts. He gave it away to the 13 churches of Cape Cod when he died; but then returned from the grave to take it all back!
The Ghosts of Cape Cod audio book is available at all major retailers. The narration is by Scott R. Pollak of National Public Radio.
Bill Russo, retired on Cape Cod, was educated in Boston at the Huntington School and at Grahm College in Kenmore Square. He was editor of several newspapers in Massachusetts as well as a former disc jockey, news writer/presenter, and broadcaster for various outlets in New England.
His other employment included management positions in logistics and warehousing as well as a stint as an ironworker and President of Boston Local 501 of the Shopmen’s Ironworkers Union.
Contact Bill at [email protected] All e-mails are personally answered
Bill’s Blog is called Adventures in Type and Space: http://billrrrrr.blogspot.com/
He also shares news and videos on his Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/billrrrrr
The train running from Bourne to Provincetown has a strange rider. Bearded and dressed entirely in black, with a wide brimmed hat, the â€˜figure in blackâ€™ does not know who he is. He suffered a near fatal brain injury that left him with no memory, but gave him the curse/blessing of second sight. Bound for Provincetown, heâ€™s sure heâ€™ll find out what happened to him there, at the end of the line. Getting there is proving very difficult, for something inside his shattered brain, forces him off the train to help total strangers in need. There are 22 stops between Gray Gables, the welcome mat to Cape Cod, and Provincetown - the end of the 64 mile long sandbar. The figure in black thinks that the place the Native Americans called "The End of the Earth" might also be the end of his life but he's determine to get there, if he can last that long.