It was pure accident that I discovered the next piece of the puzzle. Browsing the Internet for information about caves and curses and the Abenakis, I came across an intriguing tale: the curse of Brunswick Springs.
Brunswick Springs lies at the northernmost section of the Connecticut River. High on a bluff, overlooking the river, seven springs pour forth, each, according to legend, with a separate chemical makeup. Nestled in a pine forest, such springs could not be overlooked by the entrepreneurs who, at the turn of the twentieth century, saw profits in the healing waters.
But the profits were not to be. While the white businessmen sought to develop a spa for wealthy Americans, the Abnakis objected, claiming the site as a holy place. The stories I read revealed that a curse arose out of the conflict of the Abnakis and the Americans. A succession of four hotels were built and each burned to the ground within a year.
I was stunned as I read the story. The Abnakis and the white Americans and a curse that arose from the collision of two worlds; could it be coincidence. I picked up the phone and called Nibii.
She answered after the first ring. "I knew you were going to call," she said.
For a moment I was going to challenge her prescience, but I knew better. She had shown me more than once her ability to read and understand the unsaid.
I gave her a web address, and while I waited, she went to the site and read the story of Brunswick Springs. I waited quietly, and she said nothing as she read. Even through the phone, I could imagine her face, thoughtfully absorbing the information.
When she finally answered, she said, "I remember this story, but it was years ago that I heard about Brunswick Springs. Until now, I had forgotten about them."
I was much more blunt and forward thinking: "Do you think they relate to the Stanton Curse?" I asked.
"I don't know," she said.
But even as she contemplated my first question, I rushed on. "Do you think these springs were on the Path of Life?"
Nibii paused. "They are too far north," she said slowly, measuring her words carefully. But I could hear her thinking. Had she assumed the Path of Life rejoined the Connecticut River farther south? Had she confined her search for the Cave and the other legends to the wrong area, thereby cutting off some of the most intriguing geography. And could the story of the Path of Life and John Stanton and Brunswick Springs all suggest that the real collision of cultures happened at the farthest reachest of the Hamonassett journey?
It was less than a week later that Nibii and I stood on the crest of a clif, looking down on the Connecticut River.
She met me earlier in the day in Island Pond, and we drove fifteen miles east to the town of Brunswick. There was no marker to Brunswick Springs, but a local person, walking beside the road told us the way. We parked at the old community building, and then walked down an abandoned road. It was quiet, the sound of our feet on the pine needle floor, the warning call of a squirrel, the cawing of a crow, the only sounds.
Nibii was quiet. She had done her research and knew we were on holy ground. The original site of Brunswick Springs -- the cursed site -- was now returned to the Abenakis.
Half a mile down the road we saw a small pond to our right. There were no buildings, no boats, no signs of people at all. But then, in the midst of this quiet eastern forest, we saw a concrete staircase going up a hillside on our left. We climbed the twenty or so steps and saw the spectacular view below us. Two hundred feet down was the meandering river, much smaller in this northern most reach than it would be farther down as it passed the towns of Hanover, Brattleboro, Springfield, and Hartford.
From on this stairway, we could see the foundation of the last hotel, apparently, according to the legends, destroyed as were several previous structures by the curse of the Abenakis. We walked around and through the foundation, and we could imagine the rich Bostonians, pulling up to the front door in their carriages or Model T's for a chance to heal in the springs.
And then we saw another staircase, going down the cliff. At the bottom, seven small concrete pools were bubbling with water, smelling of sulphur, and displaying yellow stains that clung like moss to the rocks. And all around, on the cement platform, were shrines made of buttons, beads, feathers, and even painted coffee cans. Dream catchers hung in the branches, threads and strands of colored ribbon, and even little piles of rock. I remembered Nibii's story of the Path of Life, and the transporting of rocks from the ocean. Where did these rocks come from?
Nibii was quiet. In my experience with her, in our first meeting and each subsequent outing, she was a teacher, telling me stories, filling in the blanks, helping me appreciate a richness of the local history that few knew. But today she was silent and contemplative. I could feel an emotional energy coming from her. She was processing information that somehow brought into question many of her beliefs.