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This book is based, very loosely, on my great-great-grandmother’s diaries. For the most part, she described what the weather was like each day, who came to visit, and who she had lunch or tea with. There were a few good descriptions of how people traveled to Keene Valley in the 1890s and activities that occurred while they were up there, which I used to help make the book more authentic.
I have applied creative license in various places. So I apologize ahead of time to those who know the Adirondacks intimately, as not all places, trails, etc., are exactly where I have them appear in the book.
Fairfield, Connecticut June 1897
It was chilly and dark out and only five in the morning, but the two boys were already awake in their beds. They had hardly slept a wink all night. Today was the day. They waited all winter for this day. The last month of school was torturous. Even more so than usual. It wasn’t just summer vacation they were looking forward to. That had started a few weeks ago. Today they were leaving to spend the summer in the mountains. The boys were eight and ten years old and had been making this trip every year since they were babies, except for the year that Sam, the younger brother, was born. He was born in early June so they weren’t able to make the trip. His older brother Paul, although only two at the time, still held it against his little brother. That was the year of the great bear fight between the census taker and a giant she-bear. It was Sam’s fault that Paul missed it and he never let him forget it. Today, however, they were both so excited that nothing was going to ruin it. They waited in their beds as their mother had instructed. She told them they had a big day of travel ahead and they needed a good night’s sleep. They obeyed because this was one day they didn’t want to anger their mother. The concept of actually sleeping, though, was out of the question.
“Paul, do you think we can get up now?” asked Sam.
“Shhhh.” In a whisper, Paul retorted, “Forget it. Don’t even think about it. You made me miss one summer in Keene Valley. You’re not going to make me miss another. Mother said if she heard one peep out of us before six o’clock, she’d make us stay here in Fairfield with Aunt Harriet and repulsive cousin Mildred.”
“Ugh, she keeps trying to kiss me,” said Sam. “Okay, I’ll be quiet.”
There was the noise of a door opening down the hall and the boys heard footsteps.
“They’re awake!” Sam yelled as both he and Paul bounded out of bed, raced out of the room and ran right into their father, Will, still in his nightclothes.
“Father, good morning! Isn’t this the best morning there ever was?” Sam said excitedly.
“We couldn’t wait a minute longer, Father!” said Paul.
Their father looked around carefully and furtively whispered, “Neither could I. Come on.”
He put his arms around the shoulders of each of the boys and led them to the end of the hall. Just as they reached the landing and turned toward the stairs, they saw their mother, Anna, standing there, arms crossed, with a wry smile on her face.
“Hmmm, five ten,” she said, looking at a clock. The boys cowered and Will smiled at Anna. “I thought you three would never get out of bed. We’ve got a million things to do before we leave today and if you think Colleen, Millie, and I are going to do everything ourselves,” she said as she started down the stairs, “well, think again.” She stopped and looked back up at them. “So, what are you waiting for? Go get dressed. Colleen’s got flapjack batter ready to griddle.”
The boys yelled hooray and took off to their room. Will stepped uncomfortably down the stairs to Anna.
“Looking forward to the summer?” Will asked.
“I always do, Will, you know that. I can’t wait to breathe that magical mountain air again. I love it so.”
“It will be wonderful for you, I’m sure,” said Will, without much conviction. Then, excitedly, “But you know me. I’ve got a lot of work back here that I’ll need to get to soon.”
“I know, Will,” said Anna, sadly.
Will tentatively gave her a peck on the cheek. “I’ll go get dressed, too.” He headed up the stairs and down the hall. Anna tenderly brushed her cheek with the backs of her fingers and looked after him thoughtfully. After a moment, she turned and went down the stairs.
Anna and Will had known each since they were children. Both were raised in Philadelphia and their families were acquaintances. Both families were from old wealth. Anna and Will had met at several society functions and get-togethers and had always had an attraction for each other. It was easy to tell they liked one another because he used to pull her hair and she would sneak up behind him and put ice down his shirt. As they grew older, she would see him at young people’s dances and whenever his name came up on her dance card, she would always remember to have a piece of ice ready to slip down his shirt as they started to dance. But then, instead of getting angry, he would joke that dancing with her always gave him a chill up and down his spine. Then he would unavoidably manage to get his fingers caught in her hair and pull it. How could Anna resist such charm?
When Will’s family moved to Connecticut, Anna and her parents would visit occasionally and stay with the Tattersalls at Ambleside, their large Victorian home. It had very high ceilings and oversized windows and doors. There was a large veranda that circled the house where they would spend many romantic evenings swaying on the porch swing ─ at least, as romantic as it could be with every busybody in the house snooping on them to make sure everything was on the up and up. If they wanted to take walks together, it was a major logistical nightmare for everyone to coordinate so as not to intrude, but also to be properly close at hand to supervise. Anna and Will loved being mischievous and making it as difficult as possible for all the chaperones. They would lead them on merry chases along Fairfield Beach on the Long Island Sound and out onto Penfield Reef. Sometimes they’d take picnics on Greenfield Hill, especially in the spring when the dogwoods were in bloom. This was particularly taxing for their escorts, as the flower-laden trees gave Anna and Will ample places to scurry in and around and drive everyone else to distraction, much to their delight.
One summer when Anna was still in her teens, the Tattersalls invited her and her family up to the Adirondack Mountains for few weeks holiday. Will’s Great Aunt Lil had a summer lodge there in the town of Keene Valley in the upper New York State wilderness. Keene Valley was called “the home of the high peaks,” as the forty tallest mountains in New York were within a day or two’s hiking distance. It was becoming a popular retreat for the well-to-do’s to summer at because of its untarnished beauty and pristine lakes and rivers. They hiked and picnicked on the tops of mountains, viewing spectacular vistas that made each and every one of them regard it all in awe. The wildlife was abundant and the fishing was incredible. In half an hour, one could catch enough trout to feed twenty people for breakfast.
Anna loved to take walks alone through the fields and foothills. She felt something instinctively drawing her along. She could walk for hours and always felt safe in what was around her. She loved the freedom and the wildness of the forests. There was a longing deep inside her to be part of that freedom. Free of the constraints of the society in which she was a part. Free to do whatever she wanted without anyone judging her. These walks only added to her fantasy.
One day, she chanced upon an abandoned, smoldering campfire and, worried that it might flare up, she filled her canteen from the nearby river and began dousing it. She suddenly heard a rustling in some bushes nearby. Out stepped a strapping young Indian boy. He was about Anna’s age and dressed not unlike anyone else of the era, although he was dripping wet. They both stopped dead in their tracks at the sight of each other. He stared questioningly at her for a few moments.
“I’m sorry, is this your fire? I thought someone forgot to put it out,” said Anna, wondering to herself if the Indian could even understand her.
“Someone did,” replied the Indian in perfect English, which took Anna aback. “My brothers and I camped here last night and as we were getting ready to leave, we got to splashing each other in the river. The game took us downstream so I came back to check that everything was taken care of here. I see you’ve done that for me. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” said Anna.
She had met Indians before, but none as gracious and well spoken as this one. Many Indians that she had seen around the valley were day workers or sold handicrafts, but she had yet to meet one who had such a command of the English language, with no trace of an accent. There had been an Indian man found drunk and asleep on Aunt Lil’s front piazza one morning. Aunt Lil had her own way of dealing with such things. She had a large bell hanging out front that she used in case of emergencies. It happened to be hanging right near where the poor man had fallen asleep. When she saw him lying there, she was incensed at such an intrusion. She marched right over to the huge bell and began clanging it harder than she’d ever clanged it before. The unfortunate subject of her prank bolted upright in a state of inebriated shock, banging his head on the bell, making it clang all the more. Anna and all who were in the house came dashing out as the Indian teetered on the edge of the piazza, dumbfounded for a moment. He then looked at all the curious faces regarding him and, realizing his own embarrassment, took off stumbling down the street, to the delight of Aunt Lil and the befuddlement of the rest.
Anna said to the Indian boy, “You speak English very well.”
“Thank you. I was born here in America,” said the boy.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to sound rude,” she said sincerely. “It’s just that the few Indians I’ve met usually only speak their native tongue or broken English.”
“I take no offense,” the boy replied. “I’ve been to school in Massachusetts. My family summers here in the mountains.”
“So does the family we are staying with,” said Anna. “What’s the name of your tribe?”
“I am an Adirondack Indian. My ancestors preferred to be called Algonquins because their opponent tribe, the Iroquois, used the term ‘Adirondack’ in a derogatory manner. It meant ‘bark eaters’ because our ancestors survived through the cold winters eating tree bark. I don’t find it derogatory at all. I am proud to be an Adirondack.”
“And well you should be,” Anna declared. “To come from such a magnificent place. I only come from Philadelphia.”
“Philadelphia is pretty magnificent in itself, as I remember,” said the boy.
“I suppose,” Anna halfheartedly agreed. “But it lacks the basic vibrancy of all this,” as she swept her arms out around her indicating the beauty that surrounded them.
“If I may ask, what is your name?” inquired the boy.
“Anna Glover,” she said a bit shyly.
“How do you do, Anna? My name is Ausable Hancock. I’m named for the river next to which we stand,” indicating the Ausable River.
“Awe-say-bull. Ausable,” repeated Anna wondrously. “What a marvelous name. How nice to have a face to put to this river,” she said playfully.
“Thank you,” said Ausable.
Just then they heard the shouting of boys from upriver calling for Ausable.
“Those are my brothers. I’d better be off. We have quite a hike in order to make it to the top of Giant Mountain by nightfall.” He pointed up to the mountain, indicating its splendid summit. “It was nice to meet you, Anna.”
“You as well, Ausable,” replied Anna. “Have a good climb.”
He started off, and then stopped. “Oh, I forgot something.”
He went into the bushes behind the beach and pulled out three pieces of birch bark. There were paintings on all three of them.
“I like to paint,” Ausable said, looking them over. “I did these along our hike.”
“May I see them?” Anna asked.
“Of course,” he said, as he held them out to her.
They were paintings of the mountains and trees that were around them. They were very impressionistic and done in oil paint. One looked like Giant Mountain as the sun was setting on it.
“These are wonderful, Ausable,” said Anna.
“Thank you, Anna. I’m not that good, and I can only bring a few paint colors with me on hikes, but I enjoy painting. It allows me to capture my feelings in the moment and take them with me.”
“Well, I really like them. Especially this one. Is it Giant?”
Ausable, somewhat taken aback, said, “Why, yes, it is. I’m pleased you can tell.”
“Of course, I could tell,” said Anna. “It looks just like it. Beautiful.”
“Thank you very much.” Then handing it to her, he said, “I’d like you to have it.”
Anna smiled. “Oh no, I couldn’t take this.”
“Yes, please,” said Ausable. “I’d be honored if you would. No one, except my parents, has liked my work. And they have to because they’re my parents. Please take it.”
“It would be my honor to accept it. Thank you,” said Anna, taking the bark painting.
“Well, I had better be going. I have to catch up to my brothers. Have a wonderful summer, Anna Glover.”
“I will. And thank you, again,” Anna said, waving goodbye.
And he was off, disappearing as fast as he had appeared. She held out the bark to admire the painting. One more enchanting memory for Anna to have of that Keene Valley summer.
There was also a memory she had that was not so pleasant and which still beset her to this day. Anna went to a summer dance for young people at the Tahawus Hotel with Will. They danced beautifully together and were admired by all ─ except a girl from Boston named Margaret Bancroft. She had had eyes for Will for many summers in Keene Valley. But now he was here with Anna, and Margaret’s green-eyed monster was emerging. She was outside with some other girls at the refreshment table when Anna came out for a cool drink.
“You are the one here with Will Tattersall,” Margaret said to Anna.
“Yes, I am,” Anna said, happily. “He’s just the most wonderful boy I know.”
“Isn’t he, though?” said Margaret. “He and I have also had the most wonderful times up here together.”
Anna was taken aback. What was this girl trying to say? Whatever it was, Anna wasn’t going to take it lying down.
“Oh, well then, I suppose that’s over for you,” Anna declared. “Because Will is keeping company with me now.”
“Don’t be so sure,” said Margaret, slyly. “He has a wandering eye. And he can wander my way anytime.”
The other girls laughed and Anna turned away and went back inside to Will.
“Some awful girl out there implied that you courted her,” Anna said.
“Who said that?” asked Will, as they looked to the door and saw Margaret blowing Will a kiss. “Oh, Margaret Bancroft. She’s just a flirt. Don’t believe anything she says.”
“All right,” said Anna. “I just hope I never see her again.”
Anna and Will spent the rest of their time together discovering the new sensations they awoke in one another. And, as always, the end of their visits came much too soon. Will returned home and made every excuse possible to get their families together. He attended Yale Law School and when he graduated, he joined his father’s law practice in Fairfield. Being the proper gentleman that he was, Will waited until he felt he was well enough established to ask Anna to marry him. She immediately said yes and she moved into Ambleside where the two were finally allowed to cuddle and coo unattended out on the veranda.
Two years after they married, their son Paul came along, named for Anna’s father. Anna and Will couldn’t have been happier and life was grand. Will’s law practice was thriving and Paul was the apple of his eye. Anna spent her days taking care of Paul and joining in the myriad of social events that her mother-in-law, Kathleen, and she were involved with. They immersed themselves in charity affairs, teas, and cotillions. Every year at Christmastime, Kathleen and Will’s father, Allen, threw a birthday ball in honor of the baby Jesus. Everyone attending brought presents which were later distributed to the less fortunate in the area. It was a grand gathering of Fairfield’s finest, an event to which everyone always looked forward. Anna’s family came up for Christmas and to spend time with their grandchild, who seemed to get more presents than all those that were brought for the party.
Although Anna’s mother knew all the proper steps to be a member of polite society, Kathleen had a special way of doing things with extra flair, more than anyone Anna had ever known. She had a great imagination and was constantly coming up with new ideas and ways to implement them, all with the best of taste, of course. Anna couldn’t learn enough and Kathleen, in turn, loved teaching them to the daughter she never had. Anna took quickly to life as a Tattersall and soon she and Kathleen were unstoppable as the expert party givers. It was also good for Anna, to help keep her busy, because Will was turning his father’s small town practice into quite a thriving venture and it was keeping him away from home for longer and longer periods of time.
They summered with Aunt Lil in Keene Valley and, two years after their second son Sam was born, they bought their own house in the valley. They called it Idlenook. Unlike Aunt Lil’s house which was right on the main road, Idlenook was set back down a long, curving drive. It was a comfortable cottage with a wonderful gazebo behind it, called a summerhouse, for entertaining outside. Down a long narrow path behind the house was a beach made mostly of well-rounded river-washed stones. The property sat on the banks of the Ausable River, a river Anna still associated with the Indian boy she had met when she was a girl on her first visit to Keene Valley. She had kept his painting and hung it on the wall of the screened porch, facing the river over which was a view of Giant Mountain. The house and the gazebo looked out over the crystal clear water meandering by. Their first summer there, Will built a playhouse for the boys near the path to the beach. He told them it was a playhouse, but it coincidentally served as a storage shed for the beach furniture in the winter.
One of the bedrooms was a sleeping porch with four beds that looked out over the river. On the warmest nights in summer, the whole family would sleep there and fall asleep to the sound of the river that once formed this valley, now languidly babbling its way past the beautiful mountains and meadows.
It was now six years later and they were readying for yet another summer in the Adirondacks. Anna felt the family needed this summer together more than ever before. Over the past few years, Will’s father had slowly been stepping away from the business and the work now overwhelmed Will. The firm had become quite successful. Will had acquired clients from New York to Boston that kept him away from home for long periods of time. Anna did her best to keep herself busy, but she very much missed the playful Will she had grown up with. He was all business now and becoming more and more distant. She knew her husband was not the kind of man to see other women. He was just too good-hearted and loyal for that. To him, though, success was heady stuff. Work was something that Will thrived on and, although seeming obsessive, he was extremely happy. Unfortunately for Anna, she didn’t feel that she fit into this world of his. Kathleen saw it, but the times being as they were, people didn’t speak of such things. Will’s father, Allen, tried to make him aware of it, but Will shrugged it off, saying it was what he had to do and that Anna understood. He said he had asked her and she said she was behind him. In fact, she had, for his sake, but she really didn’t believe it deep inside.
For today, though, they were a family, getting ready for the great trek up to the Adirondacks where Will would spend a few weeks with them and then, later, get back up to see them when he could.
Anna headed down the stairs and called to Colleen in the kitchen, “They’re awake. Get the griddle hot.”
Millie was in the drawing room covering the last of the furniture with white sheets to protect it from the dust while they were gone. Will’s parents had moved to the smaller guesthouse behind Ambleside when Allen started having trouble making it up and down the stairs. The guesthouse was one story and much more easily accessible. Will would be staying with them when he came back from the mountains, so that they didn’t have to keep up the larger house without staff. Plus, he would be in New York City handling many cases much of the time.
The boys scrambled down the stairs and into the dining room only to find all the furniture in it covered up.
Paul called, “Mother, where are we eating?”
Anna came into the room. “We’ll eat downstairs in the kitchen.”
The kitchen was directly under the dining room and the food was usually sent up by way of a dumbwaiter. Paul and Sam ran around to the basement stairway and down. They could smell the hotcakes cooking already.
As they entered the kitchen, Colleen said, “Morning, boys. Fresh milk is on the table. Hotcakes will be ready in a minute.”
They sat at the table.
“I love eating in the kitchen,” said Sam. “It smells so good in here that you get all full just on the smells. Who needs to eat?”
“I do,” said Paul. “Just give me his since he’s so full.”
“Oh no, it doesn’t smell that good in here,” said Sam quickly.
“You boys are up early this morning. Any particular reason?” teased Colleen.
“Didn’t Mother tell you, Colleen? We’re leaving for Keene Valley today,” said Sam.
“Oh, and you’re looking forward to this, are you?” she asked.
“Only since we came back from there last summer,” said Paul.
Colleen O’Brien was a cheerful Irish woman whom Anna and Will hired soon after they moved into the house. Kathleen and Allen had their own servants, so Anna and Will hired Colleen and Millie. While Colleen was fun and boisterous, Millie was a shy, quiet girl whom Anna had brought with her from Philadelphia. They hired Colleen when the Milletts, their neighbors down the street, discharged her for being too “cheeky” with her mistress. Anna had met Colleen before at the Milletts’ home and enjoyed Colleen’s exuberance. Kathleen always thought the Milletts were too stuffy and, therefore, encouraged Anna to go against public opinion and hire Colleen. Anna never regretted it. She got along very well with both of her servants and they all became quite close. Will was never too keen on Anna’s friendship with the servants, but there was nothing he could do about it and it kept Anna happy, something he hadn’t been able to do for a while. Aside from that, Colleen could cook like nobody’s business. Whatever food was brought into the house, Colleen turned it into a culinary masterpiece of epic proportions.
The sun was beginning to brighten the eastern sky. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day to begin their trek. Anna and Millie were going over a list of all the supplies that they would be bringing with them to the mountains for the summer. Things they couldn’t necessarily get up there. Ten pounds of coffee, six boxes of yeast, vanilla, one pound of borax, twelve toilet soap bars, six toilet paper bundles, Domino sugar, one gallon of cooking oil (“Not enough,” Anna noted), seven pounds of tea, six pounds of chocolate, laundry soap, shelf paper, ammonia, cooking sherry, fifty cakes of soap, and twenty-four boxes of safety matches. These were loaded on a carriage to be brought to the railroad station and shipped as freight ahead of them.
“That ought to do us for now,” said Anna. “Will can bring things up as we need them when he visits.”
Inside, Paul and Sam were soaking up the remaining maple syrup with the last of their hotcakes. Anna and Millie came into the kitchen.
“Do we have any more cooking oil, Colleen?” asked Anna.
Colleen went to the pantry and came back with a gallon tin of oil.
“This is about three quarters full,” she said.
“Good,” said Anna as she took the can. “We can take this with us. Since Will is staying with his parents, we won’t be needing it here.” Handing the can to Millie, she said, “Please pack this in the carriage with the other supplies.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Millie as she took the can and went out the back door.
“So, are you two all packed and ready to go?” Anna asked the boys.
“I am,” said Paul. “But Sam isn’t.”
“I am, too,” said Sam, annoyed. “I’ve been packed since last week.”
“Oh, is that why you’ve been wearing the same underwear for days?” said Paul, giving Sam a hard time.
“I have not!” Sam protested.
“All right, boys, that’s enough,” said Anna. “Go upstairs and strip your beds and cover them up with the sheets I left up there. Then bring your valises out front and put them next to the carriage.”
The boys started out.
“And no fighting or you’re not going,” Anna added.
“See what you did?” said Sam.
“I did?” objected Paul. “You’re the one wearing day-old underwear.”
“I am not!” Sam yelled as their voices disappeared upstairs. Anna smiled at Colleen and shook her head. Will entered.
“I brought your suitcases down, Anna,” said Will. “I hope you were finished packing.”
“I’m no different than Sam. I’ve been all packed for a week,” replied Anna.
Will laughed. Then he said. “If the supplies are ready, I’ll have the carriage sent to the station.”
“All packed and ready to go,” said Anna.
“You really are a wonder, Anna,” said Will tenderly. “I’ll send the driver on his way. Colleen, pour me a couple dozen of those flapjacks. Just thinking of that great mountain air gives me an appetite.” And he was out the door.
“He’s especially cheerful today,” said Colleen.
“We all get excited about a summer in Keene Valley, don’t we?” said Anna, happily.
By the time everyone was outside and ready to go, the sun was up and it was a glorious day, one of those sparkling New England days, cool, crisp and breezy, yet warming slowly by the rising sun. They would be taking the train to New York City. Once there, they would spend the day before boarding an overnight train to Westport in upstate New York that would arrive very early the next morning.
Will had a carriage and a wagon waiting. The wagon was loaded with their suitcases and Paul and Sam were already in the carriage, ready and raring to go. In the house, Anna and Millie were covering the last of the furniture as Colleen came up from the kitchen carrying a picnic basket.
“I brought along what leftovers we had in case we get hungry on the train,” said Colleen. “And everything in the kitchen is all stowed away.”
“Thanks, Colleen. You’re a dear,” said Anna. “I checked all the locks and windows. Everything seems secure. Shall we?”
They headed out the front door onto the veranda. Anna stopped to take a breath of the fresh, brisk morning air.
She called to Will. “Everything ready, Will?”
“We’re ready to go.”
The boys cheered. Anna locked up the front door of the house as Will helped Millie and Colleen into the carriage. Will’s parents, Kathleen and Allen, appeared from around the back of the house just in time to wish them Godspeed. They all hugged and said their goodbyes. Even though he was feeling his rheumatism, Allen assured them they’d be up for a visit at some point during the summer. Anna told them she hoped they would and walked over to the carriage. Will turned to her and said, “Maybe this summer will offer something enchanting.”
“Maybe it will,” replied Anna, trying to sound optimistic. “Shall we go, Will?”
Will helped her into the carriage and indicated to the driver that they were ready to go. The driver snapped the horses to attention and off they headed, followed by the wagon full of valises, to the railway station. As they drove down the Boston Post Road, early rising neighbors waved goodbye to them, wished them a wonderful summer and looked forward to their return. As they passed the Milletts’ house, Colleen turned and looked to the other side of the street to avoid the worrying memories of her tenure there. She, like the rest of them, was looking forward to a wonderful summer in the Adirondacks.
They arrived at the station well ahead of the train. Their provisions would go on before them as freight and be waiting when they arrived the next morning in Westport, New York. Unlike their supplies, they would get to spend the day in New York City before boarding a sleeper train that evening. There were a few other people awaiting the westbound train, most just taking it a stop or two to visit friends or do business in nearby towns. The women sat in the carriage as the boys raced around the station. Will chatted with the stationmaster, John, an old friend he’d known all his life. He saw him quite often of late, from his many trips to Boston and New York on legal business.
“Train should be right on time,” John told Will. “Just heard from Bridgeport over the wire.”
“Here it comes now,” Will noticed. He called to the boys, “Train’s here boys.”
The boys ran to the edge of the tracks.
“Not so close, boys,” Anna warned as she stepped down from the carriage.
The enormous, smoke-billowing locomotive blew its whistle and lumbered slowly into the station, metal wheels squealing amid blasts of steam and sparks. Millie covered her ears and hid from the monstrous engine as it screeched past and then finally stopped. Colleen comforted her. Millie wasn’t one for “modern contraptions,” as she called such things.
John rolled a set of steps up to a door of the train where the conductor was standing, greeting him. As a few people stepped off the car, Will and the drivers took the wagon to a freight car near the end of the train and started loading the supplies into it, aided by a railway worker who came out of the caboose.
As soon as the arriving passengers were off, Paul and Sam dashed up the steps and onto the train. Anna spoke to the conductor, showing him their tickets, and he helped the ladies up the steps. The conductor led them to a compartment with six seats, three on either side facing each other. The boys had disappeared somewhere down the corridor. Anna called out for them.
“I’ll go find them,” Colleen offered, and off she went.
Anna and Millie entered the compartment.
“I’m sure the boys will want the windows,” Millie offered.
“I’m sure they will,” said Anna, so they settled into the two center seats. Paul and Sam went dashing by and Anna called out to them. “Paul, Sam, we’re in here.”
The two boys’ faces appeared in the doorway.
“We’ve seen the entire train already, Mother,” said Sam excitedly. “It has sleeping cars and there are still people sleeping in them.”
“Oh, I hope you didn’t wake anyone,” Anna said, chagrined.
“Don’t worry, Mother, I made sure he kept quiet,” said Paul.
Anna countered, “Yes, but who made sure you kept quiet?”
Paul smiled and shrugged.
“Where’s Colleen?” asked Anna. “I sent her to look for you.”
“I don’t know,” said Paul. “We didn’t see her anywhere. Don’t worry, we’ll find her.” And they were off.
Anna shook her head. A moment later, Colleen turned up in the doorway. “I can’t find hide nor hair of those boys,” she complained.
Anna and Millie looked at one another and laughed, as Colleen looked on bewildered.
“Come in and sit down, Colleen,” said Anna. “They’ll turn up.”
Colleen came in and sat down next to Millie. The conductor led Will into the compartment. “Here we are, Mr. Tattersall.” Will sat down next to Anna.
“Everything’s all set on the freight car and our luggage is up front.” he assured them.
The boys reentered the compartment.
“There’s Colleen,” said Sam. “I thought you were off looking for us.”
“Sit down, boys,” said Will. “Next stop, New York City.”
The boys took their seats by the window, which was open on this beautiful day. A gust of steam blew past the window and the train lurched forward. Millie stifled a squeal as the train started drifting lazily out of the station. They spent the next three hours enjoying the beautiful vistas as the train moved through Connecticut along the Long Island Sound. The closer they got to New York, the more houses they started to see. The boys began spotting an automobile or two here and there. They couldn’t wait to get to New York. Will had a surprise planned for them that he wouldn’t reveal and the boys were bursting their britches to know what it was.
Paul begged for the hundredth time, “Come on, Father. Please tell us what the surprise is.”
“You’ll find out when we get there,” Will said.
Sam put his head on his mother’s shoulder and looked up adoringly at her. “You’ll tell us, won’t you, Mother?”
“You want to know what it is?” she asked.
The boys were on the edge of their seat. “Yes. What is it?”
She looked at Will devilishly, then back at the boys, whispering, “It’s a surprise.”
Paul and Sam collapsed with frustration.
Anna said, “The fact is, your father hasn’t told me either. He wants us all to be surprised.”
Will smiled to himself, pleased.
The train crossed a trestle bridge onto the island of Manhattan. Soon they were seeing tall buildings. Everyone leaned toward the window to get a better look. The boys were in awe. The train began to slow and the engineer announced they were approaching Grand Central Terminal. They were all exhilarated. A day in New York was an extremely special event.
It seemed to take forever until they finally arrived at the platform in Grand Central. The boys were sure it was even “grander” than the last time they were there. Will procured a porter to assist with the luggage.
Anna, being used to the boys’ exuberance, had already enlisted Colleen and Millie’s aid to restrain them from running off into the depths of Grand Central Terminal unattended. Millie’s assistance left a bit to be desired, as her dread of big, bad New York City, and its grandeur, overwhelmed her. They headed up the ramp to the main part of the station. Will met them at the door. He had arranged for the luggage to be stored until they left that evening. Walking out the door and into Grand Central Station always gave them pause. It was magnificent, intimidating, and breathtaking all at the same time. The late morning sun streamed in through the massive windows towering overhead, making the marble-laden interior glisten so much that it almost hurt one’s eyes. Millie nearly fainted.
“Are we going to take the elevated train, Father?” asked Sam.
“Not this time, Sam,” said Will.
They crossed the huge terminal and exited on Forty Second Street, where the first of Will’s surprises was waiting. New York had recently begun its first taxicab service and there at the curb was an electric hansom cab that was ready to whisk them off into the streets of Manhattan. The boys bounded into the motorcar, then Will helped the women in. With a little coaxing, Millie reluctantly entered the vehicle but sat rock solid still with her eyes squeezed shut. Anna and Colleen just looked at each other, shook their heads, and smiled. The driver closed the door, got in, and slowly eased the cab into the traffic, consisting mostly of horse-drawn carriages interrupted by the occasional motor vehicle.
The ride was splendid, smooth as silk. Even Millie opened her eyes in disbelief. The sensation was enchanting. They rode along watching the beautiful edifices of New York glide by. In all the excitement, no one thought to ask where they were going. And no one seemed to care. As they drove along, the driver took them past the Brooklyn Bridge and they watched the elevated trains disappear from view over the bridge. From Battery Park, Will pointed out the Statue of Liberty that they had visited a few years earlier.
Along the way, they stopped for lunch at a restaurant Will frequented on his business trips into the city. It was the famous Delmonico’s. Will explained that the columns by the entrance were said to have been imported from the ruins of Pompeii. The maitre d’ greeted his friend, Will, who was very pleased to introduce his family. Will treated them to a delicious meal that included Lobster Newburg and ended with a flaming dessert prepared right at the table. Colleen liked the flaming touch at the end and said she would remember to use that in the future.
After lunch, they got back in the cab. They went through Central Park, finally pulling up in front of a large stone structure, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“Here’s surprise number two,” Will exclaimed.
“The museum?” asked Paul, a bit disappointed. “We’ve already seen all those old paintings, Father.”
“Don’t worry, Paul, we’re not going to see paintings today.”
“What is it?” asked Sam.
“You’ll see,” Will replied giddily. “Come along.” He paid the driver and thanked him as they got out of their first cab ride. Even Millie had to admit the ride wasn’t so bad.
She said, “It’s the first time I’ve ridden that long and don’t have a pain in my... my... well, you know what I mean.” She blushed, unable to say the word. They all agreed they knew what she meant.
Led by Will, they marched up the steps into the museum, an entry nearly as imposing as Grand Central, yet even more beautiful.
Anna walked next to Will. “What are you up to, Will?”
“Magic, Anna. Modern magic. Wait here, everyone.”
Will went to the ticket booth as the rest waited with bated breath. Anna didn’t recognize this man. This was the Will I used to know and love.The old Will had been gone for so long.What was going on? Did New York City make him come alive like this? Was this why he was so successful here? Well, I don’t care. I like this man, always had. And I am going to enjoy every minute of it.
Will came back to them. “Okay, all, we’re just in time. Follow me, if you will.”
He led them up the staircase and down a hallway. They came to a room with a sign posted at the door announcing in great big letters, “New York City - The First Moving Pictures!”
“Moving pictures?” Sam inquired. “Does that mean ‘paintings’ that move?”
“Not quite, Sam,” said Will. “They’ll explain it all to us inside.”
Will handed an attendant their tickets and they entered a room set up like a theatre. Wooden chairs and benches were arranged facing a large white cloth against one wall. About half the seats were already taken up by other people. At the opposite end of the room was some sort of large apparatus. Millie was immediately suspect.
“I don’t think I’m going to like this,” she said.
“We’re going to see some play,” moaned Paul. “Big deal.”
“Yeah, big deal,” added Sam, trying to contain himself like his big brother was.
Will found an empty row and they filed into it.
“You’re going to love this, Anna,” said Will. “It is most extraordinary.”
“I can’t wait,” Anna said, pleased but a bit confused at the moment.
A museum official dressed in a tailcoat came out from behind the white cloth and asked for everyone’s attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to what we at the Metropolitan Museum believe to be a historic event. You are about to witness the world coming alive by means of moving pictures. It’s from the laboratory of Thomas A. Edison, his greatest marvel. We present to you a variety of scenes from our great city on an Edison Vitascope. Please don’t be frightened, ladies and gentlemen, this is pure entertainment and I assure you, you will not be harmed by what you are about to see. And now, I present to you -- New York.”
The lights were turned off and the room went black for a moment. Then the large contrivance at the back of the room began to come to life. It churned and lit up the white cloth across the room. All of a sudden there appeared on the cloth a scene of a New York City street. There were people walking and carriages passing. It was as if one were looking out a very large window, yet everything had a sort of yellowish hue. The audience took a breath in unison and held it, enraptured. The cloth went white again and now the New York Harbor came into view. Freighters were being loaded with goods off the docks. Again the cloth went white, but this time, when the pictures returned, not only were the images up on the screen moving, but now the spectators had the feeling they were moving. They were being taken across the Brooklyn Bridge as they watched the towers appear to move above and past them. Millie was beginning to feel dizzy. Sam and Paul sat with their mouths open. As they got to the end of the bridge, the cloth went white again and they were at the ocean. It was a peaceful scene, as people strolled a boardwalk and enjoyed the sea air. The scene suddenly shifted to the ocean itself and the people in the theatre recoiled in shock as a large wave came toward them, filling the screen and crashing on the shore in front of them. Anna grabbed Will’s arm for a fearful moment. Drops of water appeared to remain on the cloth before it went white again. They now saw a tunnel with railroad tracks running into it. It was as if they were sitting on the tracks. All of a sudden, a train appeared out of the tunnel and came barreling at them. The audience screamed as the image of the train seemed to rush over their heads. Millie hid her eyes and screamed the loudest. A man in the front row was so startled he fell backwards in his chair and landed on the lap of a woman behind him. The cloth went white again and the lights came on. The stunned audience gathered themselves for a moment and then burst into cheers. It was a spectacular wonder. Everyone had chills and goose bumps. Not one of them had ever seen anything like this before. The boys were beside themselves with ecstasy. “Father, can we see it again?” they both cried out. “Will, darling, thank you for giving us such a marvelous experience,” said Anna adoringly. Will smiled, happy that he could do this for his family.
They spent the rest of the afternoon shopping for last-minute items for the summer that they couldn’t get in Connecticut. Their train left at six that evening and they would dine on the train. Sam kept begging to go on the elevated train, and much against Millie’s protestations, they gave in and took the El to Grand Central.
This time, when they boarded their train to go up north, they were in a sleeper car, which would deposit them at the edge of the Adirondacks, the Westport station on Lake Champlain, at three in the morning. After this exhilarating day in New York, no one, not even Millie, worried that they wouldn’t be able to sleep on the train that night.
After they settled in and the train left the station, they all gathered in the dining car for a fine meal as they watched the sun set over the rolling hills leading to the Catskill Mountains. It was a beautiful trip and they always regretted that it had to be taken at night. They missed the transition from one place to another. From the most vibrant, modern metropolis on earth to the unending wilderness of the pristine and untamed Adirondack Mountains, no two places could be more diametrically opposite and yet somehow exactly alike. Each in its own way, wild, alive, and powerful.
It was three o’clock in the morning when the conductor came by to wake up the family. They would be pulling into the Westport depot in about fifteen minutes. He had all of their bags at the door and ready to go. The boys were up in a flash, pulling open the curtains and ecstatically opening the windows, hanging out for a better look. The wonderful, familiar woodland smells came wafting into the compartment and brought a smile to Anna’s face. All the warm memories of summers past came rushing back to her. She felt such a kinship with these mountains that was almost like an intimate relationship, one she could explain to no one else and barely allowed herself to understand.
The train whistle broke her reverie as it announced their arrival at Westport. They had all slept in their clothes. They would change and wash up later at the hotel next to the train station. The train braked and steam blew up into the boys’ faces. They jumped backed and Sam landed in Millie’s lap, scaring the daylights out of her.
They descended from the train and walked toward the darkened Westport Hotel. They would sit in the rockers on the porch overlooking magnificent Lake Champlain until the hotel opened at six o’clock. They didn’t want to wake up anyone in the hotel. Their supplies had arrived earlier by freight train and were loaded into a wagon waiting for them. The conductor wished them well and the train trudged northward, headed for Montreal.
The boys began getting a bit noisy. “Shush, boys,” said Will quickly. Colleen settled them down on a cushioned bench, covering them against the damp morning chill with a quilt from the wagon. Within no time they were sound asleep. Anna and Will sat in rockers next to each other, enjoying the view, and were soon asleep themselves.
It seemed no time that the birds began singing and the sun showing over the Green Mountains of Vermont across the lake woke them. Anna stepped around to the side of the hotel -- and there lay the great Adirondacks. Massive green and some craggy peaks towered above her, breathtaking in their splendor and glorious in their rugged beauty. So unspoiled yet by mankind and now, happily, protected by a legislative act, to be deemed “forever wild.”
Mr. Durant, the hotel proprietor, soon appeared at the door and welcomed them warmly. He had been greeting them for years. He’d watched Paul and Sam grow up as he’d watched Will go from a young man to a husband and father. Even though he saw them only a couple of times a year, he felt he knew these people like his own family. He had arranged rooms for them in which to change and clean up and ushered them inside. When they were done, breakfast would be waiting for them in the dining room.
An hour later, they came down dressed and refreshed. Mrs. Durant had prepared a wonderful mountain breakfast including fresh eggs, lake trout, steak, and all sorts of muffins and breads. The Durants joined the Tattersalls for breakfast and caught up on all the doings over the winter. Mrs. Durant told them about the great ice storm they had had in April, which caught everybody by surprise and paralyzed the area for a week. It seemed an early spring had forced the spring flowers to come up. They were soon frozen solid under icy sheaths and looked like natural paperweights made of wondrous colors stuck to the earth. Mr. Durant saw none of the beauty in the freak ice storm and only talked of the devastation and loss of life it caused. He had to put a new roof on his barn, replacing the one that collapsed from the quick change in weather and sudden freezing temperatures. Unsuspecting boats were frozen into the lake and the people on them needed to be rescued, to the great danger of the rescuers. The whole town pitched in. One of the Durants’ kitchen workers lost his life when he fell through the ice trying to save a couple of fisherman stuck out in the lake. His body still had not been found.
The boys were fascinated but Mrs. Durant realized this wasn’t polite breakfast talk and quickly changed the subject to more pleasant topics. They discussed plans for the summer and hoped to get up to the valley at some point to pay the Tattersalls a visit. Anna said she’d like that. She really enjoyed the Durants. To her they were always the overture to her summer that she had long looked forward to.
They were all full from breakfast. The stagecoach had arrived and was ready to take them on the last leg of their trek to Keene Valley, a trip that would take them several hours over dirt roads. It was a large stagecoach and was designed to be as comfortable as possible riding on the rough roads. And though this one even had rubber tires, it was a far cry from the New York City cab they had taken the day before. The first half of the ride from Westport to Elizabethtown was rather flat and easygoing. It was the second half, a treacherous route over Spruce Hill, that took an experienced driver to maneuver safely.
The driver was named Brown. He had driven this stagecoach for years. He delivered the mail, supplies, and news, as well as transporting people in and out of the area. The sound of the stage coming into town and stopping at Bailey’s Hotel in Keene Valley was always heralded as an event, something people relied on as a connection to the rest of the world. Everybody looked forward to Brown’s arrival in hopes of receiving a letter or something they had ordered or an arriving guest.
Brown was a master at handling the rut-strewn road to Keene Valley from Elizabethtown. He was also quite a character and could spin a yarn, more to his own amusement than to his passengers’. The boys enjoyed listening to his tall tales of the exploits of all sorts of mountain folk.
The ride took them north along Lake Champlain and soon turned west and began to head up into the beautiful Adirondacks. The nearer they got to Keene Valley, the home of the High Peaks, the more dramatic the views. The stagecoach came perilously close to the drops into the chasms alongside the uneven road. Of course, Brown had stories of terrible close calls and near tumbles into the depths.
Brown said, “But in all the years of making the trip, I ain‘t never lost even the smallest piece of mail. Oh, maybe a passenger or two, but nothin’ important as the mail.” They all got a good chuckle out of this.
As the long ride went into its final hour, Brown had a new story to tell. It involved “Adirondack Murray” and his famous deer-hunting incident. Murray’s stories of the Adirondacks were infamous and credited as one of the main causes of the influx of tourism in the area.
“It seems Murray and his guide, Steve, were out a-huntin’ one night. They was doin’ what’s called ‘Jack-shootin’, where you wears a light on yer head to attract the deer. They bagged themselves a buck and dropped it. As they neared it, that damn buck ups and takes off and starts to escapin’. Murray lunges at him and grabs a hold of his antlers and that buck takes Murray for a merry ride, neither about to give up the fight. The deer finally manages to throw off Murray into a thicket, but Steve is there just in time to grab onto the beast’s tail. Now, you know, the tail of a deer is about as big as a tufted titmouse, and just as fluttery. But that Steve was able to hang on and to mostly keep hisself away from those kickin’ hooves, looking like a dancin’ marionette without no strings. The buck tried to escape by heading into a river, but Steve was able to jump on his head and he drowned the creature.”
Sam and Paul were enraptured by the story. “More, more,” they begged, and Brown was always happy to oblige. Millie and Colleen napped while Anna took in the familiar sights and smells of the forest. She watched as chipmunks and squirrels darted across the road. Some sat and watched the carriage, almost as if with contempt, as this weird horse- drawn coach disturbed their harmonious existence.
As they crested Spruce Hill, the valley magically revealed itself to them through small glimpses between trees or evergreens and blindingly white birch. All of a sudden they reached a clearing and there was the vista of the high peaks. And nestled below them was Keene Valley, dotted with small houses and farms amongst meadows and fields. They could see Noonmark Mountain’s pyramid shape standing alone as a beacon at the far end of the valley. Next to it the range of Dix, Saddleback, Wolfjaws, and the tallest of them all, Mount Marcy. Brown stopped the stage for them to take in the awe-inspiring panorama. They all were silent in reverence for God’s handiwork.
They headed off and were now coming down into the valley itself, arriving at an intersection in the road. The north led to Lake Placid, the south to Keene Valley, just a few more miles or so. At last. They’d be at Bailey’s in no time. Aunt Lil would be there with her buckboard ready to take them to Idlenook. And if Aunt Lil was there, she’d have the whole town there and whipped into a frenzy over their arrival. Not to mention the usual excitement over the stage’s appearance.
As they drove the road, they passed the Bradley Farm and waved to old Mrs. Bradley out tending to the early summer crops. She bade them welcome back. They could see she had corn, tomatoes, and bean stalks growing already. They passed many houses and were greeted warmly by old friends sitting on their front porches enjoying an after-lunch respite. It was a very small close-knit community and everybody knew everyone else. And their goings on. Gossip was deemed very impolite but was one of the main recreations of valley denizens.
They crossed the Ausable River and rounded a bend. They passed the town library and the Keene Valley Country Club with its new tennis courts. And ahead, they saw the crowd gathered in front of Bailey’s to greet them and the stage. And, as predicted, there was Aunt Lil’s buckboard ready and waiting with stout Aunt Lil atop it. The stage pulled to a stop next to Lil’s carriage.
Lil examined her watch and said to Brown, “Twelve minutes late, Brown. It’s not nice to keep an old lady waiting for her family this long.”
Brown tipped his hat. “Mrs. Tattersall, my sincerest apologies. It will never happen again.” He made no excuses, knowing they would get him nowhere. Besides, he was right on time.
Everyone waved hello and greeted the Tattersalls. Those expecting mail and parcels met excitedly with Brown as to what he had for them. The family disembarked, greeted a few people, and went straight to Aunt Lil’s carriage.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Aunt Lil,” Will said. “We stopped to look at the view from the top of Spruce Hill.”
“You’re not really late,” Aunt Lil said. “I just like to keep Brown on his toes so he knows his place. He can get very cheeky if you let him.”
Anna and Will stifled smiles and each gave Aunt Lil a hug. The boys were reluctant to. Their experiences with Aunt Lil almost always resulted in their being embarrassed by her in some way. And this was no exception. As they stood back, hesitant to kiss Aunt Lil, she called them over to her, rather loudly. They just stayed back and shuffled their feet.
“Say hello to your great-aunt, boys,” Will demanded.
They hesitated again one moment too long and Aunt Lil was outraged. “What kind of boys are these?” she bellowed, gaining everybody’s attention. “My own great-nephews won’t give me a kiss hello. I am in shock.” She was getting very dramatic. And she was very good at getting things her way and knew how to do it.
“What could two boys such as these have against such a lady as myself?” she went on, now acting hurt. “What have I done to offend you? What have I done to deserve such public humiliation from my own family?”
The boys realized there was only one way to stop this. They looked at each other and jumped into the wagon and hugged Aunt Lil like there was no tomorrow. They kissed her and even acted as if they were fighting over her.