New Baytown. Harbor town on Long Island, New York, in which the novel is primarily set. New Baytown has deep connections to an old seafaring and whaling industry that had made the former fortune of the Hawley family, to which the protagonist, Ethan Allen Hawley, belongs. A Harvard graduate, Hawley works as a clerk at Marullo’s Fruit and Fancy Groceries, a store his family once owned—one of the old-fashioned, neighborhood stores, where he waits on people individually, makes sandwiches for a bank teller across the street, and extends credit on occasion.
Hawley lives in his family’s ancestral home, from which he walks two blocks every weekday down Elm Street that angles into High Street where he works. Nearby, the old Bay Hotel is being leveled, to be replaced by a Woolworth store, the old giving way to the new. New Baytown is a charming town with tree-lined sidewalks where Mr. Baker, the banker, walks daily from his home on Maple Street to the First National Bank, with unequal steps observing the old childhood superstition that stepping on the cracks will break his mother’s back.
Baker’s father and Ethan’s grandfather, Captain Hawley, had jointly owned the Belle-Adair, an exceptionally fine whaling ship that mysteriously burned—a fire Ethan suspects Baker’s father of instigating for the insurance money.
*Harvard University. Cambridge,...
(The entire section is 597 words.)