The Golden Road
XXII. The Yankee Storm
In an August orchard six children and a grown-up were sitting around the pulpit
stone. The grown-up was Miss Reade, who had been up to give the girls their
music lesson and had consented to stay to tea, much to the rapture of the said
girls, who continued to worship her with unabated and romantic ardour. To us,
over the golden grasses, came the Story Girl, carrying in her hand a single large
poppy, like a blood-red chalice filled with the wine of August wizardry. She
proffered it to Miss Reade and, as the latter took it into her singularly slender,
beautiful hand, I saw a ring on her third finger. I noticed it, because I had heard
the girls say that Miss Reade never wore rings, not liking them. It was not a new
ring; it was handsome, but of an old-fashioned design and setting, with a glint of
diamonds about a central sapphire. Later on, when Miss Reade had gone, I
asked the Story Girl if she had noticed the ring. She nodded, but seemed
disinclined to say more about it.
"Look here, Sara," I said, "there's something about that ring-- something you
"I told you once there was a story growing but you would have to wait until it was
fully grown," she answered.
"Is Miss Reade going to marry anybody--anybody we know?" I persisted.
"Curiosity killed a cat," observed the Story Girl coolly. "Miss Reade hasn't told me
that she was going to marry anybody. You will find out all that is good for you to
know in due time."
When the Story Girl put on grown-up airs I did not like her so well, and I dropped
the subject with a dignity that seemed to amuse her mightily.
She had been away for a week, visiting cousins in Markdale, and she had come
home with a new treasure-trove of stories, most of which she had heard from the
old sailors of Markdale Harbour. She had promised that morning to tell us of "the
most tragic event that had ever been known on the north shore," and we now
reminded her of her promise.
"Some call it the 'Yankee Storm,' and others the 'American Gale,'" she began,
sitting down by Miss Reade and beaming, because the latter put her arm around
her waist. "It happened nearly forty years ago, in October of 1851. Old Mr. Coles
at the Harbour told me all about it. He was a young man then and he says he can
never forget that dreadful time. You know in those days hundreds of American
fishing schooners used to come down to the Gulf every summer to fish mackerel.
On one beautiful Saturday night in this October of 1851, more than one hundred
of these vessels could be counted from Markdale Capes. By Monday night more
than seventy of them had been destroyed. Those which had escaped were
mostly those which went into harbour Saturday night, to keep Sunday. Mr. Coles
says the rest stayed outside and fished all day Sunday, same as through the
week, and HE says the storm was a judgment on them for doing it. But he admits
that even some of them got into harbour later on and escaped, so it's hard to