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Hawthorne on the Isles of Shoals

September 1852
Edited and published by Sophia Hawthorne (1868)

September 7th.--. . . I have made no exploration to-day, except a walk with the guests in the morning, but have lounged about the piazza and veranda. It has been a calm, warm, sunny day, the sea slumbering against the shores, and now and then breaking into white foam.

The surface of the island is plentifully overgrown with whortleberry and bayberry bushes. The sheep cut down the former, so that few berries are produced; the latter gives a pleasant fragrance when pressed in the hand. The island is one great ledge of rock, four hundred acres in extent, with a little soil thrown scantily over it; but the bare rock everywhere emerging, not only in points, but still more in flat surfaces. The only trees, I think, are two that Mr. Laighton has been trying to raise in front of the hotel, the taller of which looks scarcely so much as ten feet high. It is now about sunset, and the Fanny, with the mail, is just arrived at the moorings. So still is it, that the sounds on board (as of throwing oars into a small boat) are distinctly heard, though a quarter of a mile off. She has the Stars and Stripes flying at the main-mast. There appear to be no passengers.

The only reptile on the island is a very vivid and beautiful green snake, which is exceedingly abundant. Yesterday, while catching grasshoppers for fish-bait, I nearly griped one in my hand; indeed, I rather think I did gripe it. The snake was as much startled as myself, and, in its fright, stood an instant on its tail, before it recovered presence of mind to glide away. These snakes are quite harmless.


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