High in the roof space of the Squid and Teapot are gloomy attic rooms, these days used only for storage. Their meagre light is afforded through the small windows that look out onto barren rocks and the raging ocean below. For Tobias Thrupp these rooms provided the perfect place to hide Amelia Butterow and Lilac Middlestreet, whom he had held as captives, following the death of their guardian, Lilac’s grandfather,Bartholomew Middlestreet.
Since taking over ownership of the inn,Thrupp, who, in his younger days had cut a handsome figure, had become debauched, grossly overweight and notorious for his greed and brutality. His foul ways and warped soul were reflected in his face and form. Evil had made him ugly. He had taken to terrorising the young ladies who plied their trade at Madame Evadne’s Lodging House for Discerning Gentlemen, while, at the same time, his idleness and obnoxious ways had succeeded in driving custom away from his failing hostelry. Regular readers will know that Thrupp’s eventual demise is related in the tale ‘The Supper Guest’, in which he is seen to pay for his execrable ways.
It was one morning in early spring when, by chance, the sixteen-years old Amelia glanced out of the tiny window and spotted a figure standing on the rocks below. This was most unusual, for the only way to reach those rocks was from the sea. Had she known more about the world in which she lived, Amelia would have recognised the man as being Abraham, the Passamaquoddy trader who sometimes visited the island in his birch bark canoe.
Leaning out as far as they dared, Amelia shouted for the help that was so desperately needed. With the roar of the ocean filling his ears, it took some while for the trader to comprehend the message she was trying to convey. To the girl’s dismay he suddenly disappeared. Amelia fell to tears, believing that she had somehow offended him. Her hopes were revived, however, when Abraham returned, brandishing a coiled rope.
“Catch, and secure it to something,” he called up.
Although he threw with perfect accuracy, it took several attempts before Amelia managed to keep hold of the rope, which she then tied securely to the large iron handle of the door which Thrupp was always careful to keep locked.
Both girls watched in trepidation as the Indian scrambled blithely up the sheer sides of the inn, graceful and skilled as an acrobat.
In one movement Amelia and Lilac, three years her junior, were swept into strong, brown arms, before their rescuer kicked down the door of the garret with no more effort than if It were made of matchwood.
Quickly and quietly, they made their way past an alcohol addled Thrupp, who lay comatose in, what Abraham hoped, was a puddle of stale beer. Once outside, the foggy air of Hopeless wrapped its welcome embrace around the girls for the first time in years. Free at last, the little party wasted no time in going to Madame Evadne’s, just a short distance from the inn.
As mentioned earlier, the young ladies of Madame Evadne’s were only too aware of Thrupp’s vile temper and feared what he might do if he found the girls hiding in the bordello. Plans were made, therefore, for Abraham to ferry them to the mainland where they would be safe. That is how Amelia and Lilac found themselves living on the Passamaquoddy reservation with Abraham, his wife Cenopi and their young son, Joseph. (The name Passamaquoddy, or Peskotomuhkati in their own tongue, simply refers to a way of catching fish with a spear.)
Abraham and Cenopi treated the girls as part of their family. They taught them the native language and traditions of the tribe.
The next few years ushered in the beginning of a new century and Amelia and Lilac became every inch young women of the Passamaquoddy tribe – Peskotomuhkati pilsqehsis – with their long braided hair, beads and full-length, sleeveless dresses. Meanwhile, Joseph, at ten years old, was hoping to become as skilled a trader as his father, though given the opportunity and sunny weather, he would far rather lie and doze on the banks of the St. Croix river, earning him the name Dreaming-by-the-river-where-the-shining-salmon-springs (in fact it would have been far more accurate to have called him Dreaming-by-the-river-where-the-migrating-herring-come-to-spawn but that somehow seemed to lack a certain air of romance. Unless you are a River Herring, that is.).
For Amelia and Lilac, life on the reservation was nothing short of idyllic, compared with the nightmare of their captive years. However, each had a destiny to fulfil, a tale to tell, however brief. And somewhere in the fog across a treacherous channel, Hopeless, Maine was waiting for the next chapter to unfold.