Infomotions, Inc.The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas / Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851



Author: Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851
Title: The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ludlow; brigantine; alida; captain ludlow; barberie; alderman; belle barberie; coquette; master seadrift; cruiser; ship; captain; vessel
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 159,829 words (average) Grade range: 11-14 (high school) Readability score: 56 (average)
Identifier: etext12445
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Title: The Water-Witch or, The Skimmer of the Seas

Author: James Fenimore Cooper

Release Date: May 26, 2004 [EBook #12445]

Language: English

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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WATER-WITCH ***




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The Water-Witch;

Or,

The Skimmer of the Seas.

A Tale.

By J. Fenimore Cooper.


"Mais, qui diable alloit-il faire dans cette galere!"


Complete in One Volume



1871




Water Witch.

Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1856, by Stringer
and Townsend In the Clerk's office of the District Court for the southern
district of New York.




Preface.



Christendom is gradually extricating itself from the ignorance, ferocity,
and crimes of the middle ages. It is no longer subject of boast, that the
hand which wields the sword, never held a pen, and men have long since
ceased to be ashamed of knowledge. The multiplied means of imparting
principles and facts, and a more general diffusion of intelligence, have
conduced to establish sounder ethics and juster practices, throughout the
whole civilized world. Thus, he who admits the conviction, as hope
declines with his years, that man deteriorates, is probably as far from
the truth, as the visionary who sees the dawn of a golden age, in the
commencement of the nineteenth century. That we have greatly improved on
the opinions and practices of our ancestors, is quite as certain as that
there will be occasion to meliorate the legacy of morals which we shall
transmit to posterity.

When the progress of civilization compelled Europe to correct the violence
and injustice which were so openly practised, until the art of printing
became known, the other hemisphere made America the scene of those acts,
which shame prevented her from exhibiting nearer home. There was little of
a lawless, mercenary, violent, and selfish nature, that the self-styled
masters of the continent hesitated to commit, when removed from the
immediate responsibilities of the society in which they had been educated.
The Drakes, Rogers', and Dampiers of that day, though enrolled in the list
of naval heroes were no other than pirates, acting under the sanction of
commissions; and the scenes that occurred among the marauders of the land,
were often of a character to disgrace human nature.

That the colonies which formed the root of this republic escaped the more
serious evils of a corruption so gross and so widely spread, can only be
ascribed to the characters of those by whom they were peopled.

Perhaps nine-tenths of all the white inhabitants of the Union are the
direct descendants of men who quitted Europe in order to worship God
according to conviction and conscience. If the Puritans of New-England,
the Friends of Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware, the Catholics of
Maryland, the Presbyterians of the upper counties of Virginia and of the
Carolinas, and the Huguenots, brought with them the exaggeration of their
peculiar sects, it was an exaggeration that tended to correct most of
their ordinary practices. Still the English Provinces were not permitted,
altogether, to escape from the moral dependency that seems nearly
inseparable from colonial government, or to be entirely exempt from the
wide contamination of the times.

The State of New-York, as is well known, was originally a colony of the
United Provinces. The settlement was made in the year 1613; and the Dutch
East India Company, under whose authority the establishment was made,
claimed the whole country between the Connecticut and the mouth of
Delaware-bay, a territory which, as it had a corresponding depth, equalled
the whole surface of the present kingdom of France. Of this vast region,
however, they never occupied but a narrow belt on each side of the Hudson,
with, here and there, a settlement on a few of the river flats, more
inland.

There is a providence in the destiny of nations, that sets at nought the
most profound of human calculations. Had the dominion of the Dutch
continued a century longer, there would have existed in the very heart of
the Union a people opposed to its establishment, by their language,
origin, and habits. The conquest of the English in 1663, though unjust and
iniquitous in itself, removed the danger, by opening the way for the
introduction of that great community of character which now so happily
prevails.

Though the English, the French, the Swedes, the Dutch, the Danes, the
Spaniards, and the Norwegians, all had colonies within the country which
now composes the United States, the people of the latter are more
homogeneous in character, language, and opinions, than those of any other
great nation that is familiarly known. This identity of character is owing
to the early predominance of the English, and to the circumstance that
New-England and Virginia, the two great sources of internal emigration,
were entirely of English origin. Still, New-York retains, to the present
hour, a variety of usages that were obtained from Holland. Her edifices of
painted bricks, her streets lined with trees, her inconvenient and awkward
stoops and a large proportion of her names, are equally derived from the
Dutch. Until the commencement of this century, even the language of
Holland prevailed in the streets of the capital, and though a nation of
singular boldness and originality in all that relates to navigation, the
greatest sea-port of the country betrays many evidences of a taste which
must be referred to the same origin.

The reader will find in these facts a sufficient explanation of most of
the peculiar customs, and of some of the peculiar practices, that are
exhibited in the course of the following tale. Slavery, a divided
language, and a distinct people, are no longer to be found, within the
fair regions of New-York; and, without pretending to any peculiar
exemption from the weaknesses of humanity, it may be permitted us to hope,
that these are not the only features of the narrative, which a better
policy, and a more equitable administration of power, have made purely
historical.

Early released from the fetters of the middle ages, fetters that bound the
mind equally with the person, America has preceded rather than followed
Europe, in that march of improvement which is rendering the present era so
remarkable. Under a system, broad, liberal, and just as hers, though she
may have to contend with rivalries that are sustained by a more
concentrated competition, and which are as absurd by their pretension of
liberality as they are offensive by their monopolies, there is nothing to
fear, in the end. Her political motto should be Justice, and her first and
greatest care to see it administered to her own citizens.

The reader is left to make the application.




The Water-witch.


Chapter I.



    "What, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse?
    Or shall we on without apology."

    Romeo and Juliet.


The fine estuary which penetrates the American coast, between the fortieth
and forty-first degrees of latitude, is formed by the confluence of the
Hudson, the Hackensack, the Passaic, the Raritan, and a multitude of
smaller streams; all of which pour their tribute into the ocean, within
the space named. The islands of Nassau and Staten are happily placed to
exclude the tempests of the open sea, while the deep and broad arms of the
latter offer every desirable facility for foreign trade and internal
intercourse. To this fortunate disposition of land and water, with a
temperate climate, a central position, and an immense interior, that is
now penetrated, in every direction, either by artificial or by natural
streams, the city of New-York is indebted for its extraordinary
prosperity. Though not wanting in beauty, there are many bays that surpass
this in the charms of scenery; but it may be questioned if the world
possesses another site that unites so many natural advantages for the
growth and support of a widely extended commerce. As if never wearied with
her kindness, Nature has placed the island of Manhattan at the precise
point that is most desirable for the position of a town. Millions might
inhabit the spot, and yet a ship should load near every door; and while
the surface of the land just possesses the inequalities that are required
for health and cleanliness, its bosom is filled with the material most
needed in construction.

The consequences of so unusual a concurrence of favorable circumstances,
are well known. A vigorous, healthful, and continued growth, that has no
parallel even in the history of this extraordinary and fortunate country,
has already raised the insignificant provincial town of the last century
to the level of the second-rate cities of the other hemisphere. The
New-Amsterdam of this continent already rivals its parent of the other;
and, so far as human powers may pretend to predict, a few fleeting years
will place her on a level with the proudest capitals of Europe.

It would seem that, as Nature has given its periods to the stages of
animal life, it has also set limits to all moral and political ascendency.
While the city of the Medici is receding from its crumbling walls, like
the human form shrinking into "the lean and slipper'd pantaloon," the
Queen of the Adriatic sleeping on her muddy isles, and Rome itself is only
to be traced by fallen temples and buried columns, the youthful vigor of
America is fast covering the wilds of the West with the happiest fruits of
human industry.

By the Manhattanese, who is familiar with the forest of masts, the miles
of wharves, the countless villas, the hundred churches, the castles, the
smoking and busy vessels that crowd his bay, the daily increase and the
general movement of his native town, the picture we are about to sketch
will scarcely be recognized. He who shall come a generation later will
probably smile, that subject of admiration should have been found in the
existing condition of the city: and yet we shall attempt to carry the
recollections of the reader but a century back, in the brief history of
his country.

As the sun rose on the morning of the 3d of June 171-, the report of a
cannon was heard rolling along the waters of the Hudson. Smoke issued from
an embrasure of a small fortress, that stood on the point of land where
the river and the bay mingle their waters. The explosion was followed by
the appearance of a flag, which, as it rose to the summit of its staff and
unfolded itself heavily in the light current of air, showed the blue field
and red cross of the English ensign. At the distance of several miles, the
dark masts of a ship were to be seen, faintly relieved by the verlant
back-ground of the heights of Staten Island. A little cloud floated over
this object, and then an answering signal came dull and rumbling to the
town. The flag that the cruiser set was not visible in the distance.

At the precise moment that the noise of the first gun was heard, the door
of one of the principal dwellings of the town opened, and a man, who might
have been its master, appeared on its stoop, as the ill-arranged entrances
of the buildings of the place are still termed. He was seemingly prepared
for some expedition that was likely to consume the day. A black of middle
age followed the burgher to the threshold; and another negro, who had not
yet reached the stature of manhood, bore under his arm a small bundle,
that probably contained articles of the first necessity to the comfort of
his master.

"Thrift, Mr. Euclid, thrift is your true philosopher's stone;" commenced,
or rather continued in a rich full-mouthed Dutch, the proprietor of the
dwelling, who had evidently been giving a leave-taking charge to his
principal slave, before quitting the house--"Thrift hath made many a man
rich, but it never yet brought any one to want. It is thrift which has
built up the credit of my house, and, though it is said by myself, a
broader back and firmer base belongs to no merchant in the colonies You
are but the reflection of your master's prosperity, you rogue, and so much
the greater need that you took to his interests. If the substance is
wasted, what will become of the shadow? When I get delicate, you will
sicken: when I am a-hungered, you will be famished; when I die, you may
be--ahem--Euclid. I leave thee in charge with goods and chattels, house
and stable, with my character in the neighborhood. I am going to the Lust
in Rust, for a mouthful of better air. Plague and fevers! I believe the
people will continue to come into this crowded town, until it gets to be
as pestilent as Rotterdam in the dog-days. You have now come to years when
a man obtains his reflection, boy, and I expect suitable care and
discretion about the premises, while my back is turned. Now, harkee,
sirrah: I am not entirely pleased with the character of thy company. It is
not altogether as respectable as becomes the confidential servant of a man
of a certain station in the world. There are thy two cousins, Brom and
Kobus, who are no better than a couple of blackguards; and as for the
English negro, Diomede--he is a devil's imp! Thou hast the other locks at
disposal, and," drawing with visible reluctance the instrument from his
pocket, "here is the key of the stable. Not a hoof is to quit it, but to
go to the pump--and see that each animal has its food to a minute. The
devil's roysterers! a Manhattan negro takes a Flemish gelding for a gaunt
hound that is never out of breath, and away he goes, at night, scampering
along the highways like a Yankee witch switching through the air on a
broomstick--but mark me, master Euclid, I have eyes in my head, as thou
knowest by bitter experience! D'ye remember, ragamuffin, the time when I
saw thee, from the Hague, riding the beasts, as if the devil spurred them,
along the dykes of Leyden, without remorse as without leave?"

"I alway b'rieve some make-mischief tell Masser dat time;" returned the
negro sulkily, though not without doubt.

"His own eyes were the tell-tales. If masters had no eyes, a pretty world
would the negroes make of it! I have got the measure of every black heel,
on the island, registered in the big book, you see me so often looking
into, especially on Sundays; and, if either of the tire-legs I have named
dares to enter my grounds, let him expect to pay a visit to the city
Provost. What do the wild-cats mean? Do they think that the geldings were
bought in Holland, with charges for breaking in, shipment, insurance,
freight, and risk of diseases, to have their flesh melted from their ribs
like a cook's candle?"

"Ere no'tin' done in all 'e island, but a color' man do him! He do a
mischief, and he do all a work, too! I won'er what color Masser t'ink war'
Captain Kidd?"

"Black or white, he was a rank rogue; and you see the end he came to. I
warrant you, now, that water-thief began his iniquities by riding the
neighbors' horses, at night. His fate should be a warning to every negro
in the colony. The imps of darkness! The English have no such scarcity of
rogues at home, that they could not spare us the pirate to hang up on one
of the islands, as a scarecrow to the blacks of Manhattan."

"Well, I t'ink 'e sight do a white man some good, too;" returned Euclid,
who had all the pertinacity of a spoiled Dutch negro, singularly blended
with affection for him in whose service he had been born. "I hear ebbery
body say, 'er'e war' but two color man in he ship, and 'em bot' war'
Guinea-born."

"A modest tongue, thou midnight scamperer! look to my geldings--Here--here
are two Dutch florins, three stivers, and a Spanish pistareen for thee;
one of the florins is for thy old mother, and with the others thou canst
lighten thy heart in the Paus merrymakings--if I hear that either of thy
rascally cousins, or the English Diomede, has put a leg across beast of
mine, it will be the worse for all Africa! Famine and skeletons! here
have I been seven years trying to fatten the nags, and they still look
more like weasels than a pair of solid geldings."

The close of this speech was rather muttered in the distance, and by way
of soliloquy, than actually administered to the namesake of the great
mathematician. The air of the negro had been a little equivocal, during
the parting admonition. There was an evident struggle, in his mind,
between an innate love of disobedience, and a secret dread of his master's
means of information. So long as the latter continued in sight, the black
watched his form in doubt; and when it had turned a corner, he stood at
gaze, for a moment, with a negro on a neighboring stoop; then both shook
their heads significantly, laughed aloud, and retired. That night, the
confidential servant attended to the interests of his absent master, with
a fidelity and care which proved he felt his own existence identified with
that of a man who claimed so close a right in his person; and just as the
clock struck ten, he and the negro last mentioned mounted the sluggish and
over-fattened horses, and galloped, as hard as foot could be laid to the
earth, several miles deeper into the island, to attend a frolic at one of
the usual haunts of the people of their color and condition.

Had Alderman Myndert Van Beverout suspected the calamity which was so soon
to succeed his absence, it is probable that his mien would have been less
composed, as he pursued his way from his own door, on the occasion named.
That he had confidence in the virtue of his menaces, however, may be
inferred from the tranquillity which immediately took possession of
features that were never disturbed, without wearing an appearance of
unnatural effort. The substantial burgher was a little turned of fifty:
and an English wag, who had imported from the mother country a love for
the humor of his nation, had once, in a conflict of wits before the city
council, described him to be a man of alliterations. When called upon to
explain away this breach of parliamentary decorum, the punster had gotten
rid of the matter, by describing his opponent to be "short, solid and
sturdy, in stature; full, flushed and funny, in face; and proud, ponderous
and pragmatical, in propensities." But, as is usual, in all sayings of
effort there was more smartness than truth in this description; though,
after making a trifling allowance for the coloring of political rivalry,
the reader may receive its physical portion as sufficiently descriptive to
answer all the necessary purposes of this tale. If we add, that he was a
trader of great wealth and shrewdness, and a bachelor, we need say no more
in this stage of the narrative.

Notwithstanding the early hour at which this industrious and flourishing
merchant quitted his abode, his movement along the narrow streets of his
native town was measured and dignified. More than once, he stopped to
speak to some favorite family-servant, invariably terminating his
inquiries after the health of the master, by some facetious observation
adapted to the habits and capacity of the slave. From this, it would seem,
that, while he had so exaggerated notions of domestic discipline, the
worthy burgher was far from being one who indulged, by inclination, in the
menaces he has been heard to utter. He had just dismissed one of these
loitering negroes, when, on turning a corner, a man of his own color, for
the first time that morning, suddenly stood before him. The startled
citizen made an involuntary movement to avoid the unexpected interview,
and then, perceiving the difficulty of such a step, he submitted, with as
good a grace as if it had been one of his own seeking.

"The orb of day--the morning gun--and Mr Alderman Van Beverout!" exclaimed
the individual encountered. "Such is the order of events, at this early
hour, on each successive revolution of our earth."

The countenance of the Alderman had barely time to recover its composure,
ere he was required to answer to this free and somewhat facetious
salutation. Uncovering his head, he bowed so ceremoniously as to leave the
other no reason to exult in his pleasantry, as he answered--

"The colony has reason to regret the services of a governor who can quit
his bed so soon. That we of business habits stir betimes, is quite in
reason; but there are those in this town, who would scarce believe their
eyes did they enjoy my present happiness."

"Sir, there are many in this colony who have great reason to distrust
their senses, though none can be mistaken in believing they see Alderman
Van Beverout in a well-employed man. He that dealeth in the produce of the
beaver must have the animal's perseverance and forethought! Now, were I a
king-at-arms, there should be a concession made in thy favor, Myndert, of
a shield bearing the animal mordant, a mantle of fur, with two Mohawk
hunters for supporters, and the motto, 'Industry.'"

"Or what think you, my Lord," returned the other, who did not more than
half relish the pleasantry of his companion, "of a spotless shield for a
clear conscience, with an open hand for a crest, and the motto, 'Frugality
and Justice?'"

"I like the open hand, though the conceit is pretending. I see you would
intimate that the Van Beverouts have not need, at this late day, to search
a herald's office for honors. I remember, now I bethink me, on some
occasion to have seen their bearings; a windmill, courant; dyke, coulant;
field, vert, sprinkled with black cattle--No! then, memory is
treacherous; the morning air is pregnant with food for the imagination!"

"Which is not a coin to satisfy a creditor, my Lord," said the caustic
Myndert.

"Therein has truth been, pithily, spoken. This is an ill-judged step,
Alderman Van Beverout, that lets a gentleman out by night, like the ghost
in Hamlet, to flee into the narrow house with the crowing of the cock. The
ear of my royal cousin hath been poisoned, worse than was the ear of
'murdered Denmark,' or the partisans of this Mister Hunter would have
little cause to triumph."

"Is it not possible to give such pledges to those who have turned the key,
as will enable your lordship to apply the antidote."

The question stuck a chord that changed the whole manner of the other. His
air, which had borne the character of a genteel trifler, became more grave
and dignified; and notwithstanding there was the evidence of a reckless
disposition in his features, dress and carriage, his tall and not
ungraceful form, as he walked slowly onward, by the side of the compact
Alderman, was not without much of that insinuating ease and blandishment,
which long familiarity with good company can give even to the lowest moral
worth.

"Your question, worthy Sir, manifests great goodness of heart, and
corroborates that reputation for generosity, the world so freely gives. It
is true that the Queen has been persuaded to sign the mandate of my
recall, and it is certain that Mr. Hunter has the government of the
colony; but these are facts that might be reversed, were I once in a
position to approach my kinswoman. I do not disclaim certain
indiscretions, Sir; it would ill become me to deny them, in presence of
one whose virtue is as severe as that of Alderman Van Beverout. I have my
failings; perhaps, as you have just been pleased to intimate, it would
have been better had my motto been frugality; but the open hand, dear Sir,
is a part of the design you will not deny me, either. If I have
weaknesses, my enemies cannot refuse to say that I never yet deserted a
friend."

"Not having had occasion to tax your friendship, I shall not be the first
to make the charge.

"Your impartiality has come to be a proverb! 'As honest as Alderman Van
Beverout;' 'as generous as Alderman Van Beverout,' are terms in each man's
mouth; some say 'as rich;' (the small blue eye of the burgher twinkled.)
But honesty, and riches, and generosity, are of little value, without
influence. Men should have their natural consideration in society. Now is
this colony rather Dutch than English, and yet, you see, how few names are
found in the list of the Council, that have been known in the province
half a century! Here are your Alexanders and Heathcotes, your Morris's and
Kennedies, de Lanceys and Livingstons, filling the Council and the
legislative halls; but we find few of the Van Rensselaers, Van
Courtlandts, Van Schuylers, Stuyvesants, Van Beekmans, and Van Beverouts,
in their natural stations. All nations and religions have precedency, in
the royal favor, over the children of the Patriarchs. The Bohemian
Felipses; the Huguenot de Lanceys, and Bayards, and Jays; the King-hating
Morrises and Ludlows--in short, all have greater estimation in the eyes of
government, than the most ancient Patroon!"

"This has long and truly been the case. I cannot remember when it was
otherwise!"

"It may not be denied. But it would little become political discretion to
affect precipitancy in the judgment of character. If my own administration
can be stigmatized with the same apparent prejudice, it proves the clearer
how strong is misrepresentation at home. Time was wanting to enlighten my
mind and that time has been refused me. In another year, my worthy Sir,
the Council should have been filled with Van's!"

"In such a case, my Lord, the unhappy condition in which you are now
placed might indeed have been avoided."

"Is it too late to arrest the evil? It is time Anne had been undeceived,
and her mind regained. There wanteth nothing to such a consummation of
justice, Sir, but opportunity. It touches me to the heart, to think that
this disgrace should befall one so near the royal blood! 'Tis a spot on
the escutcheon of the crown, that all loyal subjects must feel desirous to
efface, and so small an effort would effect the object, too, with
certain--Mr. Alderman Myndert Van Beverout----?"

"My Lord, late Governor," returned the other, observing that his companion
hesitated.

"What think you of this Hanoverian settlement?--Shall a German wear the
crown of a Plantagenet?"

"It hath been worn by a Hollander."

"Aptly answered! Worn, and worn worthily! There is affinity between the
people, and there is reason in that reply. How have I failed in wisdom, in
not seeking earlier the aid of thy advice, excellent Sir! Ah, Myndert,
there is a blessing on the enterprises of all who come of the Low
Countries!"

"They are industrious to earn, and slow to squander."

"That expenditure is the ruin of many a worthy subject! And yet
accident--chance--fortune--or whatever you may choose to call it,
interferes nefariously, at times, with a gentleman's prosperity. I am an
adorer of constancy in friendship, Sir, and hold the principle that men
should aid each other through this dark vale of life--Mr. Alderman Van
Beverout----?"

"My Lord Cornbury?"

"I was about to say, that should I quit the Province, without expressing
part of the regret I feel, at not having sooner ascertained the merits of
its original owners, and your own in particular, I should do injustice to
sensibilities, that are only too acute for the peace of him who endures
them."

"Is there then hope that your lordship's creditors will relent, or has the
Earl furnished means to open the prison-door?"

"You use the pleasantest terms, Sir!--but I love directness of language,
above all other qualities. No doubt the prison-door, as you have so
clearly expressed it, might be opened, and lucky would be the man who
should turn the key. I am pained when I think of the displeasure of the
Queen, which, sooner or later, will surely visit my luckless persecutors.
On the other hand, I find relief in thinking of the favor she will extend
to those who have proved my friends, in such a strait. They that wear
crowns love not to see disgrace befall the meanest of their blood, for
something of the taint may sully even the ermine of Majesty.--Mr.
Alderman----!"

"My Lord?"

"--How fare the Flemish geldings?"

"Bravely, and many thanks, my Lord; the rogues are fat as butter! There is
hope of a little rest for the innocents, since business calls me to the
Lust in Rust. There should be a law, Lord Governor, to gibbet the black
that rides a beast at night."

"I bethought of some condign punishment for so heartless a crime, but
there is little hope for it under the administration of this Mr. Hunter.
Yes, Sir; were I once more in the presence of my royal cousin, there would
quickly be an end to this delusion, and the colony should be once more
restored to a healthful state. The men of a generation should cease to
lord it over the men of a century. But we must be wary of letting our
design, my dear Sir, get wind: it is a truly Dutch idea, and the profits,
both pecuniary and political, should belong to the gentlemen of that
descent--My dear Van Beverout--?"

"My good Lord?"

"Is the blooming Alida obedient? Trust me, there has no family event
occurred, during my residence in the colony, in which I have taken a
nearer interest, than in that desirable connexion. The wooing of the young
Patroon of Kinderhook is an affair of concern to the province. It is a
meritorious youth!"

"With an excellent estate, my Lord!"

"And a gravity beyond his years."

"I would give a guarantee, at a risk, that two-thirds of his income goes
to increase the capital, at the beginning of each season!"

"He seems a man to live on air!"

"My old friend, the last Patroon, left noble assets," continued the
Alderman, rubbing his hands; "besides the manor."

"Which is no paddock!"

"It reaches from the Hudson to the line of Massachusetts. A hundred
thousand acres of hill and bottom, and well peopled by frugal Hollanders."

"Respectable in possession, and a mine of gold in reversion! Such men,
Sir, should be cherished. We owe it to his station to admit him to a share
of this, our project to undeceive the Queen. How superior are the claims
of such a gentleman to the empty pretensions of your Captain Ludlow!"

"He has truly a very good and an improving estate!"

"These Ludlows, Sir, people that fled the realm for plotting against the
crown, are offensive to a loyal subject. Indeed, too much of this
objection may be imputed to many in the province, that come of English
blood. I am sorry to say, that they are fomenters of discord, disturbers
of the public mind, and captious disputants about prerogatives and vested
rights. But there is a repose in the Dutch character which lends it
dignity! The descendants of the Hollanders are men to be counted on; where
we leave them to-day, we see them to-morrow. As we say in politics, Sir,
we know where to find them. Does it not seem to you particularly offensive
that this Captain Ludlow should command the only royal cruiser on the
station?"

"I should like it better, my Lord, were he to serve in Europe," returned
the Alderman, glancing a look behind him, and lowering his voice. "There
was lately a rumor that his ship was in truth to be sent among the
islands."

"Matters are getting very wrong, most worthy Sir; and the greater the
necessity there should be one at court to undeceive the Queen. Innovators
should be made to give way to men whose names are historical, in the
colony."

"'Twould be no worse for Her Majesty's credit."

"'Twould be another jewel in her crown! Should this Captain Ludlow
actually marry your niece, the family would altogether change its
character--I have the worst memory--thy mother, Myndert, was a--a--"

"The pious woman was a Van Busser."

"The union of thy sister with the Huguenot then reduces the fair Alida to
the quality of a half-blood. The Ludlow connexion would destroy the leaven
of the race! I think the man is penniless!"

"I cannot say that, my Lord, for I would not willingly injure the credit
of my worst enemy; but, though wealthy, he is far from having the estate
of the young Patroon of Kinderhook."

"He should indeed be sent into the Indies--Myndert--?"

"My Lord?"

"It would be unjust to my sentiments in favor of Mr. Oloff Van Staats,
were we to exclude him from the advantages of our project. This much shall
I exact from your friendship, in his favor; the necessary sum may be
divided, in moieties, between you; a common bond shall render the affair
compact; and then, as we shall be masters of our own secret, there can be
little doubt of the prudence of our measures. The amount is written in
this bit of paper."

"Two thousand pounds, my Lord!"

"Pardon me, dear Sir; not a penny more than one for each of you. Justice
to Van Staats requires that you let him into the affair. Were it not for
the suit with your niece, I should take the young gentleman with me, to
push his fortunes at court."

"Truly, my Lord, this greatly exceeds my means. The high prices of furs
the past season, and delays in returns have placed a seal upon our
silver--"

"The premium would be high."

"Coin is getting so scarce, daily, that the face of a Carolus is almost as
great a stranger, as the face of a debtor--"

"The returns certain."

"While one's creditors meet him, at every corner--"

"The concern would be altogether Dutch."

"And last advices from Holland tell us to reserve our gold, for some
extraordinary movements in the commercial world."

"Mr. Alderman Myndert Van Beverout!"

"My Lord Viscount Cornbury--"

"Plutus preserve thee, Sir--but have a care! though I scent the morning
air, and must return, it is not forbid to tell the secrets of my
prison-house. There is one, in yonder cage, who whispers that the 'Skimmer
of the Seas' is on the coast! Be wary, worthy burgher, or the second part
of the tragedy of Kidd may yet be enacted in these seas."

"I leave such transactions to my superiors," retorted the Alderman, with
another stiff and ceremonious bow. "Enterprises that are said to have
occupied the Earl of Bellamont, Governor Fletcher, and my Lord Cornbury,
are above the ambition of an humble merchant."

"Adieu, tenacious Sir; quiet thine impatience for the extraordinary Dutch
movements!" said Cornbury, affecting to laugh, though he secretly felt the
sting the other had applied, since common report implicated not only him,
but his two official predecessors, in several of the lawless proceedings
of the American Buccaneers: "Be vigilant, or la demoiselle Barberie will
give another cross to the purity of the stagnant pool!"

The bows that were exchanged were strictly in character. The Alderman was
unmoved, rigid, and formal, while his companion could not forget his ease
of manner, even at a moment of so much vexation. Foiled in an effort, that
nothing but his desperate condition, and nearly desperate character, could
have induced him to attempt, the degenerate descendant of the virtuous
Clarendon walked towards his place of confinement, with the step of one
who assumed a superiority over his fellows, and yet with a mind so
indurated by habitual depravity, as to have left it scarcely the trace of
a dignified or virtuous quality.




Chapter II.



    "His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;
    His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;--"

    Two Gentlemen of Verona.


The philosophy of Alderman Van Beverout was not easily disturbed. Still
there was a play of the nether muscles of the face, which might be
construed into self-complacency at his victory, while a certain
contraction of those which controlled the expression of the forehead
seemed to betray a full consciousness of the imminent risk he had run. The
left hand was thrust into a pocket, where it diligently fingered the
provision of Spanish coin without which the merchant never left his abode;
while the other struck the cane it held on the pavement, with the force of
a resolute and decided man. In this manner he proceeded in his walk, for
several minutes longer, shortly quitting the lower streets, to enter one
that ran along the ridge, which crowned the land, in that quarter of the
island. Here he soon stopped before the door of a house which, in that
provincial town, had altogether the air of a patrician dwelling.

Two false gables, each of which was surmounted by an iron weathercock,
intersected the roof of this building, and the high and narrow stoop was
built of the red free-stone of the country. The material of the edifice
itself was, as usual, the small, hard brick of Holland, painted a delicate
cream-color.

A single blow of the massive glittering knocker brought a servant to the
door. The promptitude with which this summons was answered showed that,
notwithstanding the early hour, the Alderman was an expected guest. The
countenance of him who acted as porter betrayed no surprise when he saw
the person who applied for admission, and every movement of the black
denoted preparation and readiness for his reception. Declining his
invitation to enter, however, the Alderman placed his back against the
iron railing of the stoop, and opened a discourse with the negro. The
latter was aged, with a head that was grizzled, a nose that was levelled
nearly to the plane of his face, features that were wrinkled and confused,
and with a form which, though still solid, was bending with its load of
years.

"Brave cheer to thee, old Cupid!" commenced the burgher, in the hearty
and cordial manner with which the masters of that period were wont to
address their indulged slaves. "A clear conscience is a good night-cap,
and you look bright as the morning sun! I hope my friend the young Patroon
has slept sound as yourself, and that he has shown his face already, to
prove it."

The negro answered with the slow clipping manner that characterized his
condition and years.

"He'm werry wakeful, Masser Al'erman. I t'ink he no sleep half he time,
lately. All he a'tiverty and wiwacerty gone, an' he do no single t'ing but
smoke. A gentle'um who smoke alway, Masser Al'erman, get to be a
melercholy man, at last. I do t'ink 'ere be one young lady in York who be
he deat', some time!"

"We'll find the means to get the pipe out of his mouth," said the other,
looking askance at the black, as if to express more than he uttered.
"Romance and pretty girls play the deuce with our philosophy, in youth, as
thou knowest by experience, old Cupid."

"I no good for any t'ing, dat-a-way, now, not'ing," calmly returned the
black. "I see a one time, when few color' man in York hab more respect
among a fair sec', but dat a great while gone by. Now, de modder of your
Euclid, Masser Al'erman, war' a pretty woman, do' she hab but poor
conduc'. Den a war' young heself, and I use to visit at de Al'erman's
fadder's; afore a English come, and when ole Patroon war' a young man.
Golly! I great affection for Euclid, do' a young dog nebber come a near
me!"

"He's a blackguard! My back is no sooner turned, than the rascal's atop of
one of his master's geldings.'

"He'm werry young, master My'nert: no one get a wis'om fore a gray hair."

He's forty every minute, and the rogue gets impudence with his years. Age
is a reverend and respectable condition, when it brings gravity and
thought; but, if a young fool be tiresome, an old fool is contemptible.
I'll warrant me, you never were so thoughtless, or so heartless, Cupid, as
to ride an overworked beast, at night!"

"Well, I get pretty ole, Masser Myn'ert an' I forget all he do when a
young man. But here be'e Patroon, who know how to tell'e Al'erman such
t'ing better than a poor color' slave."

"A fair rising and a lucky day to you, Patroon!" cried the Alderman,
saluting a large, slow-moving, gentlemanly-looking young man of
five-and-twenty, who advanced, with the gravity of one of twice that
number of years, from the interior of the house, towards its outer door
"The winds are bespoken, and here is as fine a day as ever shone out of a
clear sky, whether it came from the pure atmosphere of Holland, or of old
England itself. Colonies and patronage! If the people on the other side of
the ocean had more faith in mother Nature, and less opinion of themselves,
they would find it very tolerable breathing in the plantations. But the
conceited rogues are like the man who blew the bellows, and fancied he
made the music; and there is never a hobbling imp of them all, but he
believes he is straighter and sounder, than the best in the colonies. Here
is our bay, now, as smooth as if it were shut in with twenty dykes, and
the voyage will be as safe as if it were made on a canal."

"Dat werry well, if a do it," grumbled Cupid, who busied himself
affectionately about the person of his master. "I think it alway better to
travel on 'e land, when a gentle'um own so much as Masser Oloff Der war'
'e time a ferry-boat go down, wid crowd of people; and nobody ebber come
up again to say how he feel."

"Here is some mistake!" interrupted the Alderman, throwing an uneasy
glance at his young friend. "I count four-and-fifty years, and remember no
such calamity."

"He'm werry sing'lar how a young folk do forget! 'Ere war' drown six
people in dat werry-boat. A two Yankee, a Canada Frenchman, and a poor
woman from a Jarseys. Ebbery body war werry sorry for a poor woman from a
Jarseys!"

"Thy tally is false, Master Cupid," promptly rejoined the Alderman, who
was rather expert at figures. "Two Yankees, a Frenchman, and your Jersey
woman, make but four."

"Well, den I s'pose 'ere war' one Yankee; but I, know all war' drown, for
'e Gubbenor lose he fine coach-horses in dat werry-boat."

"The old fellow is right, sure enough; for I remember the calamity of the
horses, as if it were but yesterday. But Death is monarch of the earth,
and none of us may hope to escape his scythe, when the appointed hour
shall come! Here are no nags to lose, to-day; and we may commence our
voyage, Patroon, with cheerful faces and light hearts. Shall we proceed?"

Oloff Van Staats, or the Patroon of Kinderhook, as, by the courtesy of the
colony, he was commonly termed, did not want for personal firmness. On the
contrary, like most of those who were descended from the Hollanders, he
was rather distinguished for steadiness in danger, and obstinacy in
resistance. The little skirmish which had just taken place, between his
friend and his slave, had proceeded from the several apprehensions; the
one feeling a sort of parental interest in his safety, and the other
having particular reasons for wishing him to persevere in his intention to
embark, instead of any justifiable cause in the character of the young
proprietor himself. A sign to the boy who bore a portmanteau, settled the
controversy; and then Mr. Van Staats intimated his readiness to move.

Cupid lingered on the stoop, until his master had turned a corner; then,
shaking his head with all the misgivings of an ignorant and superstitious
mind, he drove the young fry of blacks, who thronged the door, into the
house, closing all after him with singular and scrupulous care. How far
the presentiment of the black was warranted by the event, will be seen in
the course of the narrative.

The wide avenue, in which Oloff Van Staats dwelt, was but a few hundred
yards in length. It terminated, at one end, with the fortress; and at the
other, it was crossed by a high stockade, which bore the name of the city
walls; a defence that was provided against any sudden irruption of the
Indians, who then hunted, and even dwelt in some numbers, in the lower
counties of the colony.

It requires great familiarity with the growth of the town, to recognize,
in this description, the noble street that now runs for a league through
the centre of the island. From this avenue, which was then, as it is
still, called the Broadway, our adventurers descended into a lower quarter
of the town, holding free converse by the way.

"That Cupid is a negro to keep the roof on a house, in its master's
absence, Patroon," observed the Alderman, soon after they had left the
stoop. "He looks like a padlock, and one might sleep, without a dream,
with such a guardian near his dwelling. I wish I had brought the honest
fellow the key of my stable!"

"I have heard my father say, that the keys of his own were always better
near his own pillow," coolly returned the proprietor of a hundred thousand
acres.

"Ah, the curse of Cain! It is needless to look for the fur of a marten on
the back of a cat. But, Mr. Van Staats, while walking to your door this
morning, it was my fortune to meet the late governor, who is permitted by
his creditors to take the air, at an hour when he thinks the eyes of the
impertinent will be shut. I believe, Patroon, you were so lucky as to get
back your moneys, before the royal displeasure visited the man?"

"I was so lucky as never to trust him."

"That was better still, for it would have been a barren investment--great
jeopardy to principal, and no return. But we had discourse of various
interests, and, among others, something was hazarded concerning your
amatory pretensions to my niece."

"Neither the wishes of Oloff Van Staats, nor the inclinations of la belle
Barberie, are a subject for the Governor in Council," said the Patroon of
Kinderhook, stiffly.

"Nor was it thus treated. The Viscount spoke me fair, and, had he not
pushed the matter beyond discretion, we might have come to happier
conclusions."

"I am glad that there was some restraint in the discourse."

"The man certainly exceeded reason, for he led the conference into
personalities that no prudent man could relish. Still he said it was
possible that the Coquette might yet be ordered for service among the
islands!"

It has been said, that Oloff Van Staats was a fair personable young man of
vast stature, and with much of the air of a gentleman of his country; for,
though a British subject, he was rather a Hollander in feelings, habits,
and opinions. He colored at the allusion to the presence of his known
rival, though his companion was at a loss to discover whether pride or
vexation was at the bottom of his emotion.

"If Captain Ludlow prefer a cruise in the Indies, to duty on this coast, I
hope he may obtain his wish," was the cautious answer.

"Your liberal man enjoys a sounding name, and an empty coffer," observed
the Alderman, drily. "To me it seems that a petition to the admiral to
send so meritorious an officer on service where he may distinguish
himself, should deserve his thanks. The freebooters are playing the
devil's game with the sugar trade, and even the French are getting
troublesome, further south."

"He has certainly the reputation of an active cruiser."

"Blixum and philosophy! If you wish to succeed with Alida, Patroon, you
must put more briskness into the adventure. The girl has a cross of the
Frenchman in her temper, and none of your deliberations and taciturnities
will gain the day. This visit to the Lust in Rust is Cupid's own
handywork, and I hope to see you both return to town as amicable as the
Stadtholder and the States General after a sharp struggle for the year's
subsidy has been settled by a compromise."

"The success of this suit is the affair nearest my----" The young man
paused as if surprised at his own communicativeness; and, taking advantage
of the haste in which his toilette had been made, he thrust a hand into
his vest, covering with its broad palm a portion of the human frame which
poets do not describe as the seat of the passions.

"If you mean stomach, Sir, you will not have reason to be disappointed,"
retorted the Alderman, a little more severely than was usual with one so
callous. "The heiress of Myndert Van Beverout will not be a penniless
bride, and Monsieur Barberie did not close the books of life without
taking good care of the balance-sheet--but yonder are those devils of
ferrymen quitting the wharf without us! Scamper ahead, Brutus, and tell
them to wait the legal minute. The rogues are never exact; sometimes
starting before I am ready, and sometimes keeping me waiting in the sun,
as if I were no better than a dried dun-fish. Punctuality is the soul of
business, and one of my habits does not like to be ahead, nor behind his
time."

In this manner the worthy burgher, who would have been glad to regulate
the movements of others, on all occasions, a good deal by his own, vented
his complaints, while he and his companion hurried on to overtake the
slow-moving boat in which they were to embark. A brief description of the
scene will not be without interest, to a generation that may be termed
modern in reference to the time of which we write.

A deep narrow creek penetrated the island, at this point, for the distance
of a quarter of a mile. Each of its banks had a row of buildings, as the
houses line a canal in the cities of Holland. As the natural course of the
inlet was necessarily respected, the street had taken a curvature not
unlike that of a new moon. The houses were ultra-Dutch, being low,
angular, fastidiously neat, and all erected with their gables to the
street. Each had its ugly and inconvenient entrance, termed a stoop, its
vane or weathercock, its dormer-windows, and its graduated
battlement-walls. Near the apex of one of the latter, a little iron crane
projected into the street. A small boat, of the same metal, swung from its
end,--a sign that the building to which it was appended was the
ferry-house.

An inherent love of artificial and confined navigation had probably
induced the burghers to select this spot, as the place whence so many
craft departed from the town: since, it is certain, that the two rivers
could have furnished divers points more favorable for such an object,
inasmuch as they possess the advantage of wide and unobstructed channels.

Fifty blacks were already in the street, dipping their brooms into the
creek, and flourishing water over the side-walks, and on the fronts of the
low edifices. This light but daily duty was relieved by clamorous
collisions of wit, and by shouts of merriment, in which the whole street
would join, as with one joyous and reckless movement of the spirit.

The language of this light-hearted and noisy race was Dutch, already
corrupted by English idioms, and occasionally by English words;--a system
of change that has probably given rise to an opinion, among some of the
descendants of the earlier colonists, that the latter tongue is merely a
patois of the former. This opinion, which so much resembles that certain
well-read English scholars entertain of the plagiarisms of the continental
writers, when they first begin to dip into their works, is not strictly
true; since the language of England has probably bestowed as much on the
dialect of which we speak, as it has ever received from the purer sources
of the school of Holland. Here and there, a grave burgher, still in his
night-cap, might be seen with a head thrust out of an upper window,
listening to these barbarisms of speech, and taking note of all the merry
jibes, that flew from mouth to mouth with an indomitable gravity, that no
levity of those beneath could undermine.

As the movement of the ferry-boat was necessarily slow, the Alderman and
his companion were enabled to step into it, before the fasts were thrown
aboard. The periagua, as the craft was called, partook of a European and
an American character. It possessed the length, narrowness, and clean bow,
of the canoe, from which its name was derived, with the flat bottom and
lee-boards of a boat constructed for the shallow waters of the Low
Countries. Twenty years ago, vessels of this description abounded in our
rivers, and even now, their two long and unsupported masts and high
narrow-headed sails, are daily seen bending like reeds to the breeze, and
dancing lightly over the billows of the bay. There is a variety of the
class, of a size and pretension altogether superior to that just
mentioned, which deserves a place among the most picturesque and striking
boats that float. He who has had occasion to navigate the southern shore
of the Sound must have often seen the vessel to which we allude. It is
distinguished by its great length, and masts which, naked of cordage, rise
from the hull like two tall and faultless trees. When the eye runs over
the daring height of canvas, the noble confidence of the rig, and sees the
comparatively vast machine handled with ease and grace by the dexterity of
two fearless and expert mariners, it excites some such admiration as that
which springs from the view of a severe temple of antiquity The nakedness
and simplicity of the construction, coupled with the boldness and rapidity
of its movements, impart to the craft an air of grandeur, that its
ordinary uses would not give reason to expect.

Though, in some respects, of singularly aquatic habits, the original
colonists of New-York were far less adventurous, as mariners, than their
present descendants. A passage across the bay did not often occur in the
tranquil lives of the burghers; and it is still within the memory of man,
that a voyage between the two principal towns of the State was an event to
excite the solicitude of friends, and the anxiety of the traveller. The
perils of the Tappaan Zee, as one of the wider reaches of the Hudson is
still termed, was often dealt with by the good wives of the colony, in
their relations of marvels; and she who had oftenest encountered them
unharmed, was deemed a sort of marine amazon.




Chapter III.



   "--I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he hath no drowning
   mark upon him; his complexion is perfect gallows."

   Tempest.


It has been said that the periagua was in motion, before our two
adventurers succeeded in stepping on board. The arrival of the Patroon of
Kinderhook and of Alderman Van Beverout was expected, and the schipper had
taken his departure at the precise moment of the turn in the current, in
order to show, with a sort of pretending independence which has a peculiar
charm for men in his situation, that 'time and tide wait for no man.'
Still there were limits to his decision; for, while he put the boat in
motion, especial care was taken that the circumstance should not subject a
customer so important and constant as the Alderman, to any serious
inconvenience. When he and his friend had embarked, the painters were
thrown aboard, and the crew of the ferry-boat began to set their vessel,
in earnest, towards the mouth of the creek. During these movements, a
young negro was seated in the bow of the periagua, with his legs dangling,
one on each side of the cut-water, forming no bad apology for a
figure-head. He held a conch to his mouth, and with his two glossy cheeks
inflated like those of Eolus, and his dark glittering eyes expressing the
delight he found in drawing sounds from the shell, he continued to give
forth the signal for departure.

"Put up the conch, thou bawler!" cried the Alderman, giving the younker a
rap on his naked poll, in passing, with the end of his cane, that might
have disturbed the harmony of one less bent on clamor. "A thousand windy
trumpeters would be silence itself, compared to such a pair of lungs! How
now Master Schipper, is this your punctuality, to start before your
passengers are ready?"

The undisturbed boatman, without removing the pipe from his mouth, pointed
to the bubbles on the water which were already floating outward, a certain
evidence that the tide was on the ebb.

"I care nothing for your ins and outs, your ebbs and floods," returned the
Alderman, in heat. "There is no better time-piece than the leg and eye of
a punctual man. It is no more pleasant to go before one is ready, than to
tarry when all business is done. Harkee, Master Schipper, you are not the
only navigator in this bay, nor is your craft the swiftest that was ever
launched. Have a care; though an acquiescing man by nature, I know how to
encourage an opposition, when the public good seriously calls for my
support."

To the attack on himself, the schipper was stoically indifferent, but to
impeach the qualities of the periagua was to attack one who depended
solely on his eloquence for vindication. Removing his pipe, therefore, he
rejoined on the Alderman, with that sort of freedom, that the sturdy
Hollanders never failed to use to all offenders, regardless alike of rank
or personal qualities.

"Der wind-gall and Aldermen!" he growled, in the dialect of the country;
"I should be glad to see the boat in York-bay that can show the Milk-Maid
her stern! The Mayor and council-men had better order the tide to turn
when they please; and then as each man will think of his own pleasure, a
pretty set of whirlpools they will give us in the harbor!"

The schipper, having delivered himself of his sentiments, to this effect,
resumed his pipe, like a man who felt he deserved the meed of victory,
whether he were to receive it, or not.

"It is useless to dispute with an obstinate man," muttered the Alderman
making his way through vegetable baskets, butter-tubs, and all the
garniture of a market-boat, to the place occupied by his niece, in the
stern-sheets. "Good morrow to thee Alida dear; early rising will make a
flower-garden of thy cheeks, and the fresh air of the Lust in Rust will
give even thy roses a deeper bloom."

The mollified burgher then saluted the cheek whose bloom had been deepened
by his remark, with a warmth that showed he was not without natural
affection; touched his hat, in return for a low bow that he received from
an aged white man-servant; in a clean but ancient livery; and nodded to a
young negress, whose second-hand finery sufficiently showed she was a
personal attendant of the heiress.

A second glance at Alida de Barberie was scarcely necessary to betray her
mixed descent. From her Norman father, a Huguenot of the petite noblesse,
she had inherited her raven hair, the large, brilliant coal-black eyes, in
which wildness was singularly relieved by sweetness, a classical and
faultless profile, and a form which was both taller and more flexible than
commonly fell to the lot of the damsels of Holland. From her mother, la
belle Barberie, as the maiden was often playfully termed, had received a
skin, fair and spotless as the flower of France, and a bloom which
rivalled the rich tints of an evening sky in her native land. Some of the
em bon point, for which the sister of the Alderman had been a little
remarkable, had descended also to her fairer daughter. In Alida, however,
this peculiarity did not exceed the fullness which became her years,
rounding her person and softening the outlines of her form, rather than
diminishing its ease and grace These personal advantages were embellished
by a neat but modest travelling habit, a little beaver that was shaded by
a cluster of drooping feathers, and a mien that, under the embarrassment
of her situation preserved the happiest medium between modesty and
perfect self-possession.

When Alderman Van Beverout joined this fair creature, in whose future
happiness he was fully justified in taking the deep interest which he has
betrayed in some of the opening scenes of this volume, he found her
engaged in a courteous discourse with the young man, who was generally
considered as the one, among the numerous pretenders to her favor, who was
most likely to succeed. Had other cause been wanting, this sight alone
would have been sufficient to restore his good-humor: and, making a place
for himself, by quietly dispossessing Francois, the domestic of his niece,
the persevering burgher endeavored to encourage an intercourse, that he
had reason to think must terminate in the result he both meditated and
desired.

In the present effort, however, the Alderman failed. There is a feeling
which universally pervades landsmen and landswomen, when they first embark
on an element to which they are strangers, that ordinarily shuts their
mouths and renders them meditative. In the older and more observant
travellers, it is observation and comparison; while with the younger and
more susceptible, it is very apt to take the character of sentiment.
Without stopping to analyze the cause, or the consequences, in the
instance of the Patroon and la belle Barberie, it will be sufficient to
state, that in spite of all the efforts of the worthy burgher, who had
navigated the sluggish creek too often to be the subject of any new
emotions, his youthful companions gradually grew silent and thoughtful.
Though a celibite in his own person, Myndert had not now to learn that the
infant god as often does his mischief through this quiet agency, as in any
other manner. He became, therefore, mute in his turn, watching the slow
movement of the periagua with as much assiduity as if he saw his own
image on the water.

A quarter of an hour of this characteristic, and it is to be inferred
agreeable navigation, brought the boat to the mouth of the inlet. Here a
powerful effort forced her into the tide's-way, and she might be said to
put forth on her voyage. But while the black crew were trimming the sails,
and making the other necessary preparations for departure, a voice was
heard hailing them from the shore, with an order rather than a request,
that they would stay their movements.

"Hilloa, the periagua!" it cried. "Haul over your head-sheet, and jam the
tiller down into the lap of that comfortable-looking old gentleman. Come:
bear a hand, my hummers! or your race-horse of a craft will get the bit
into its mouth, and run away with you."

This summons produced a pause in the movements of the crew. After
regarding each other, in surprise and admiration, the watermen drew the
head-sheet over, put the helm a-lee, without however invading the lap of
the Alderman, and the boat became stationary, at the distance of a few
rods from the shore. While the new passenger was preparing to come off in
a yawl, those who awaited his movements had leisure to examine his
appearance, and to form their different surmises concerning his character.

It is scarcely necessary to say, that the stranger was a son of the ocean.
He was of a firmly knit and active frame, standing exactly six feet in his
stockings. The shoulders though square were compact, the chest full and
high, the limbs round, neat, and muscular,--the whole indicating a form in
which strength and activity were apportioned with the greatest accuracy. A
small bullet head was set firmly on its broad foundation, and it was
thickly covered with a mass of brown hair that was already a little
grizzled. The face was that of a man of thirty, and it was worthy of the
frame, being manly, bold, decided, and rather handsome; though it
expressed little more than high daring, perfect coolness, some obstinacy,
and a certain degree of contempt for others, that its owner did not always
take the trouble to conceal. The color was a rich, deep, and uniform red,
such as much exposure is apt to give to men whose complexions are, by
nature, light and florid.

The dress of the stranger was quite as remarkable as his person. He wore a
short pea-jacket, cut tight and tastefully; a little, low, and rakish cap,
and full bell-mouthed trowsers, all in a spotlessly white duck; a material
well adapted to the season and the climate. The first was made without
buttons, affording an apology for the use of a rich Indian shawl, that
belted his body and kept the garment tight to his frame. Faultlessly clean
linen appeared through the opening above, and a collar, of the same
material, fell over the gay bandanna, which was thrown, with a single
careless turn, around his throat. The latter was a manufacture then little
known in Europe, and its use was almost entirely confined to seamen of the
long voyage. One of its ends was suffered to blow about in the wind, but
the other was brought down with care over the chest, where it was
confined, by springing the blade of a small knife with an ivory handle, in
a manner to confine the silk to the linen: a sort of breast-pin that is
even now much used by mariners. If we add, that light, canvas slippers,
with foul-anchors worked in worsted upon their insteps, covered his feet,
we shall say all that is necessary of his attire.

The appearance of one, of the air and dress we have just described,
excited a strong sensation among the blacks who scrubbed the stoops and
pavements. He was closely attended to the place where he hailed the
periagua, by four or five loungers, who studied his manner and movements
with the admiration that men of their class seldom fail to bestow on those
who bear about them the evidence of having passed lives of adventure, and
perhaps of hardship and daring. Beckoning to one of these idlers to follow
him, the hero of the India-shawl stepped into an empty boat, and casting
loose its fast, he sculled the light yawl towards the craft which was
awaiting his arrival. There was, in truth, something in the reckless air,
the decision, and the manly attitudes of so fine a specimen of a seaman,
that might have attracted notice from those who were more practised in the
world than the little crowd of admirers he left behind him. With an easy
play of wrist and elbow, he caused the yawl to glide ahead like some
indolent marine animal swimming through its element, and as he stood, firm
as a planted statue, with a foot on each gunwale, there was much of that
confidence created by his steadiness, that one acquires by viewing the
repeated and successful efforts of a skilful rope-dancer. When the yawl
reached the side of the periagua, he dropped a small Spanish coin into the
open palm of the negro, and sprang on the side of the latter, with an
exertion of muscle that sent the little boat he quitted half-way back
towards the shore, leaving the frightened black to steady himself, in his
rocking tenement, in the best manner he could.

The tread and posture of the stranger, when he gained the half-deck of the
periagua, was finely nautical, and confident to audacity. He seemed to
analyze the half-maritime character of the crew and passengers, at a
glance, and to feel that sort of superiority over his companions, which
men of his profession were then a little too wont to entertain towards
those whose ambition could be bounded by terra-firma. His eye turned
upward, at the simple rig and modest sails of the periagua, while his
upper lip curled with the knowing expression of a critic. Then kicking the
fore-sheet clear of its elect, and suffering the sail to fill, he stepped
from one butter-tub to another, making a stepping-stone of the lap of a
countryman by the way, and alighted in the stern-sheets in the midst of
the party of Alderman Van Beverout, with the agility and fearlessness of a
feathered Mercury. With a coolness that did infinite credit to his powers
for commandirg, his next act was to dispossess the amazed schipper of the
helm, taking the tiller into his own hands, with as much composure as if
he were the every-day occupant of the post. When he saw that the boat was
beginning to move through the water, he found leisure to bestow some
observation on his fellow-voyagers. The first that met his bold and
reckless eye was Francois, the domestic of Alida.

"If it come to blow in squalls, Commodore," observed the intruder, with a
gravity that half deceived the attentive Frenchman, while he pointed to
the bag in which the latter wore his hair, "you'll be troubled to carry
your broad pennant. But so experienced an officer has not put to sea
without having a storm-cue in readiness for foul weather."

The valet did not, or affected not to understand the allusion, maintaining
an air of dignified but silent superiority.

"The gentleman is in a foreign service, and does not understand an English
mariner! The worst that can come, after all, of too much top-hamper, is to
cut away, and let it drift with the scud. May I make bold to ask, judge,
if the courts have done any thing, of late, concerning the freebooters
among the islands?"

"I have not the honor to bear Her Majesty's commission," coldly returned
Van Staats of Kinderhook, to whom this question had been hardily put.

"The best navigator is sometimes puzzled by a hazy observation, and many
an old seaman has taken a fog-bank for solid ground. Since you are not in
the courts, Sir, I wish you joy; for it is running among shoals to be
cruising there, whether as judge or suitor. One is never fairly snug and
landlocked, while in company of a lawyer, and yet the devil himself cannot
always give the sharks a good offing. A pretty sheet of water, friends,
and one as snug as rotten cables and foul winds can render desirable, is
this bay of York!"

"You are a mariner of the long voyage," returned the Patroon, unwilling
that Alida should not believe him equal to bandying wits with the
stranger.

"Long, or short; Calcutta, or Cape Cod; dead reckoning, eye-sight, or
star-gazing, all's one to your real dolphin. The shape of the coast
between Fundy and Horn, is as familiar to my eye, as an admirer to this
pretty young lady; and as to the other shore, I have run it down oftener
than the Commodore, here, has ever set his pennant, blow high or blow low.
A cruise like this is a Sunday in my navigation; though I dare say, you
took leave of the wife, blessed the children, overhauled the will, and
sent to ask a good word from the priest, before you came aboard?"

"Had these ceremonies been observed, the danger would not have been
increased," said the young Patroon, anxious to steal a glance at la belle
Barberie, though his timidity caused him, in truth, to look the other way.
"One is never nearer danger, for being prepared to meet it."

"True; we must all die, when the reckoning is out. Hang or drown--gibbet
or bullet clears the world of a great deal of rubbish, or the decks would
get to be so littered that the vessel could not be worked. The last cruise
is the longest of all; and honest papers, with a clean bill of health, may
help a man into port, when he is past keeping the open sea. How now,
schipper! what lies are floating about the docks this morning? when did
the last Albany-man get his tub down the river, or whose gelding has been
ridden to death in chase of a witch."

"The devil's babes!" muttered the Alderman; "there is no want of
roisterers to torment such innocents!"

"Have the buccaneers taken to praying, or does their trade thrive in this
heel of the war?" continued the mariner of the India-shawl, disregarding
the complaint of the burgher. "The times are getting heavy for men of
metal, as may be seen by the manner in which yon cruiser wears out her
ground-tackle, instead of trying the open sea. May I spring every spar I
carry, but I would have the boat out and give her an airing, before
to-morrow, if the Queen would condescend to put your humble servant in
charge of the craft! The man lies there, at his anchors, as if he had a
good freight of real Hollands in his hold, and was waiting for a few bales
of beaver-skins to barter for his strong waters."

As the stranger coolly expressed this opinion of Her Majesty's ship
Coquette, he rolled his glance over the persons of his companions,
suffering it to rest, a moment, with a secret significance, on the steady
eye of the burgher.

"Well--" he continued, "the sloop answers for a floating vane to tell
which way the tide is running, if she does nothing better; and that must
be a great assistance, Schipper, in the navigation of one who keeps as
bright a look-out on the manner in which the world whirls round, as a
gentleman of your sagacity!"

"If the news in the creek be true," rejoined the unoffended owner of the
periagua, "there will be other business for Captain Ludlow and the
Coquette, before many days!"

"Ah! having eaten all his meat and bread, the man will be obliged to
victual his ship anew! 'Twere a pity so active a gentleman should keep a
fast, in a brisk tide's-way. And when his coppers are once more filled,
and the dinner is fairly eaten, what dost think will be his next duty?"

"There is a report, among the boatmen of the South Bay, that something was
seen, yester'night, off the outer side of Long Island!"

"I'll answer for the truth of that rumor, for having come up with the
evening flood, I saw it myself."

"Der duyvel's luck! and what dost take it to be?"

"The Atlantic Ocean; if you doubt my word, I appeal to this well-ballasted
old gentleman, who being a schoolmaster, is able to give you latitude and
longitude for its truth."

"I am Alderman Van Beverout," muttered the object of this new attack,
between his teeth, though apparently but half-disposed to notice one who
set so little bounds to his discourse.

"I beg a thousand pardons!" returned the strange seaman, with a grave
inclination of his body. "The stolidity of your worship's countenance
deceived me. It may be, indeed, unreasonable to expect any Alderman to
know the position of the Atlantic Ocean! And yet, gentlemen, on the honor
of a man who has seen much salt water in his time, I do assure you the
sea, I speak of, is actually there. If there be any thing on it, or in it,
that should not in reason be so, this worthy commander of the periagua
will let us know the rest."

"A wood-boat from the inlet says, the 'Skimmer of the Seas' was lately
seen standing along the coast," returned the ferry-man, in the tone of one
who is certain of delivering matter of general interest.

"Your true sea-dog, who runs in and out of inlets, is a man for marvels!"
coolly observed the stranger. 'They know the color of the sea at night,
and are for ever steering in the wind's eye in search of adventures. I
wonder, more of them are not kept at making almanacs! There was a mistake,
concerning a thunder-storm, in the last I bought, and all for the want of
proper science. And pray, friend, who is this 'Skimmer of the Seas,' that
is said to be running after his needle, like a tailor who has found a hole
in his neighbor's coat?"

"The witches may tell! I only know that such a rover there is, and that he
is here to-day, and there to-morrow. Some say, it is only a craft of mist,
that skims the top of the seas, like a sailing water-fowl, and others
think it is the sprite of a vessel that was rifled and burnt by Kidd, in
the Indian Ocean, looking for its gold and the killed. I saw him once,
myself, but the distance was so great, and his manoeuvres so unnatural,
that I could hardly give a good account of his hull, or rig."

"This is matter that don't get into the log every watch! Whereaway, or in
what seas, didst meet the thing?"

"'Twas off the Branch. We were fishing in thick weather, and when the mist
lifted, a little, there was a craft seen standing in-shore, running like a
race-horse; but while we got our anchor, she had made a league of offing,
on the other tack!"

"A certain proof of either her, or your, activity! But what might have
been the form and shape of your fly-away?"

"Nothing determined. To one she seemed a full-rigged and booming ship;
another took her for a Bermudian scudder, while to me she had the look of
twenty periaguas built into a single craft. It is well known, however,
that a West-Indiaman went to sea that night, and, though it is now three
years, no tidings of her, or her crew, have ever come to any in York. I
have never gone upon the banks to fish since that day, in thick weather."

"You have done well," observed the stranger, "I have seen many wonderful
sights, myself, on the rolling ocean; and he, whose business it is to lay
between wind and water, like you, my friend, should never trust himself
within reach of one of those devil's flyers I could tell you a tale of an
affair in the calm latitudes, under the burning sun, that would be a
lesson to all of over-bold curiosity! Commission and character are not
affairs for your in-shore coaster."

"We have time to hear it," observed the Patroon, whose attention had been
excited by the discourse, and who read in the dark eye of Alida that she
felt an interest in the expected narrative.

But the countenance of the stranger suddenly grew serious. He shook his
head, like one who had sufficient reasons for his silence; and,
relinquishing the tiller, he quite coolly obliged a gaping countryman, in
the centre of the boat, to yield his place, where he laid his own athletic
form, at full length, folded his arms on his breast, and shut his eyes. In
less than five minutes, all within hearing had audible evidence that this
extraordinary son of the ocean was in a sound sleep.




Chapter IV.



    "--Be patient, for the prize I'll bring thee to,
    Shall hoodwink this mischance--."

    Tempest.


The air, audacity, and language of the unknown mariner, had produced a
marked sensation among the passengers of the periagua. It was plain, by
the playfulness that lurked about the coal-black eye of la belle Barberie,
that she had been amused by his sarcasms, though the boldness of his
manner had caused her to maintain the reserve which she believed necessary
to her sex and condition. The Patroon studied the countenance of his
mistress, and, though half offended by the freedom of the intruder, he had
believed it wisest to tolerate his liberties, as the natural excesses of a
spirit that had been lately released from the monotony of a sea-life. The
repose which usually reigned in the countenance of the Alderman had been a
little troubled; but he succeeded in concealing his discontent from any
impertinent observation. When the chief actor in the foregoing scene,
therefore, saw fit to withdraw, the usual tranquillity was restored, and
his presence appeared to be forgotten.

An ebbing tide and a freshening breeze quickly carried the periagua past
the smaller islands of the bay and brought the cruiser called the Coquette
more distinctly into view. This vessel, a ship of twenty guns, lay abreast
of the hamlet on the shores of Staten Island, which was the destination of
the ferry-boat. Here was the usual anchorage of outward-bound ships, which
awaited a change of wind; and it was here, that vessels then, as in our
times, were subject to those examinations and delays which are imposed for
the safety of the inhabitants of the city. The Coquette was alone,
however; for the arrival of a trader, from a distant port, was an event of
unfrequent occurrence, at the commencement of the eighteenth century.

The course of the periagua brought her within fifty feet of the
sloop-of-war. As the former approached, a movement of curiosity and
interest occurred among those she contained.

"Take more room for your milk-maid," grumbled the Alderman, observing that
the schipper was willing to gratify his passengers, by running as near as
possible to the dark sides of the cruiser. "Seas and oceans! is not
York-bay wide enough, that you must brush the dust out of the muzzles of
the guns of yon lazy ship? If the Queen knew how her money was eaten and
drunk, by the idle knaves aboard her, she would send them all to hunt for
freebooters among the islands. Look at the land, Alida, child, and you'll
think no more of the fright the gaping dunce is giving thee; he only
wishes to show his skill in steering."

But the niece manifested none of the terror that the uncle was willing to
ascribe to her fears. Instead of turning pale, the color deepened on her
cheeks, as the periagua came dancing along, under the lee of the cruiser;
and if her respiration became quicker than usual, it was scarcely produced
by the agitation of alarm. The near sight of the tall masts, and of the
maze of cordage that hung nearly above their heads, however, prevented the
change from being noted. A hundred curious eyes were already peeping at
them, through the ports, or over the bulwarks of the ship, when suddenly,
an officer, who wore the undress of a naval captain of that day, sprang
into the main rigging of the cruiser, and saluted the party in the
periagua, by waving his hat, hurriedly, like one who was agreeably taken
by surprise.

"A fair sky and gentle breezes to each and all!" he cried with the hearty
manner of a seaman. "I kiss my hand to the fair Alida; and the Alderman
will take a sailor's good wishes; Mr. Van Staats, I salute you."

"Ay," muttered the burgher, "your idlers have nothing better to do, than
to make words answer for deeds. A lazy war and a distant enemy make you
seamen the lords of the land, Captain Ludlow."

Alida blushed still deeper, hesitated, and then, by a movement that was
half involuntary, she waved her handkerchief. The young Patroon arose, and
answered the salutation by a courteous bow. By this time the ferry-boat
was nearly past the ship, and the scowl was quitting the face of the
Alderman, when the mariner of the India-shawl sprang to his feet, and, in
a moment, he stood again in the centre of their party.

"A pretty sea-boat, and a neat show aloft!" he said, as his understanding
eye scanned the rigging of the royal cruiser, taking the tiller at the
same time, with all his former indifference, from the hands of the
schipper. "Her Majesty should have good service from such a racer, and no
doubt the youth in her rigging is a man to get most out of his craft.
We'll take another observation. Draw away your head-sheet, boy."

The stranger had put the helm a-lee, while speaking, and by the time the
order he had given was uttered, the quick-working boat was about, and
nearly filled on the other tack. In another minute, she was again brushing
along the side of the sloop-of-war. A common complaint against this hardy
interference with the regular duty of the boat, was about to break out of
the lips of the Alderman and the schipper, when he of the India-shawl
lifted his cap, and addressed the officer in the rigging, with all the
self-possession he had manifested in the intercourse with those nearer his
person.


"Has Her Majesty need of a man in her service who has seen, in his time,
more blue water than hard ground; or is there no empty berth in so gallant
a cruiser, for one who must do a seaman's duty, or starve?"

The descendant of the king-hating Ludlows, as the Lord Cornbury had styled
the race of the commander of the Coquette, was quite as much surprised by
the appearance of him who put this question, as he was by the coolness
with which a mariner of ordinary condition presumed to address an officer
who bore so high a commission as his own. He had, how ever, sufficient
time to recollect in whose presence he stood, ere he replied, for the
stranger had again placed the helm a-lee, and caused the foresail to be
thrown aback;--a change that made the periagua stationary.

"The Queen will always receive a bold mariner in her pay, if he come
prepared to serve with skill and fidelity," he said; "as a proof of which,
let a rope be thrown the periagua; we shall treat more at our ease under
Her Majesty's pennant. I shall be proud to entertain Alderman Van
Beverout, in the mean time: and a cutter will always be at his command,
when he shall have occasion to quit us."

"Your land-loving Aldermen find their way from a Queen's cruiser to the
shore, more easily than a seaman of twenty years' experience;" returned
the other, without giving the burgher time to express his thanks for the
polite offer of the other. "You have gone through the Gibraltar passage,
without doubt, noble captain, being a gentleman that has got so fine a
boat under his orders?"

"Duty has taken me into the Italian seas, more than once," answered
Ludlow, half disposed to resent this familiarity, though too anxious to
keep the periagua near, to quarrel with him who so evidently had produced
the unexpected pleasure.

"Then you know that, though a lady might fan a ship through the straits
eastward, it needs a Levant breeze to bring her out again. Her Majesty's
pennants are long, and when they get foul around the limbs of a
thoroughly-bred sea-dog, it passes all his art to clear the jam. It is
most worthy of remark that the better the seaman, the less his power to
cast loose the knot!"

"If the pennant be so long, it may reach farther than you wish!--But a
bold volunteer has no occasion to dread a press."

"I fear the berth I wish is filled," returned the other, curling his lip:
"let draw the fore-sheet, lad; we will take our departure, leaving the fly
of the pennant well under our lee. Adieu, brave Captain; when you have
need of a thorough rover, and dream of stern-chases and wet sails, think
of him who visited your ship at her lazy moorings."

Ludlow bit his lip, and though his fine face reddened to the temples, he
met the arch glance of Alida, and laughed. But he who had so hardily
braved the resentment of a man, powerful as the commander of a royal
cruiser in a British colony, appeared to understand the hazard of his
situation. The periagua whirled round on her heel, and the next minute it
was bending to the breeze, and dashing through the little waves towards
the shore. Three boats left the cruiser at the same moment. One, which
evidently contained her captain, advanced with the usual dignified
movement of a barge landing an officer of rank, but the others were urged
ahead with all the earnestness of a hot chase.

"Unless disposed to serve the Queen, you have not done well, my friend, to
brave one of her commanders at the muzzles of his guns." observed the
Patroon, so soon as the state of the case became too evident to doubt of
the intentions of the man-of-war's men.

"That Captain Ludlow would gladly take some of us out of this boat, by
fair means or by foul, is a fact clear as a bright star in a cloudless
night; and, well knowing a seaman's duty to his superiors, I shall leave
him to his choice."

"In which case you will shortly eat Her Majesty's bread," pithily returned
the Alderman.

"The food is unpalatable, and I reject it--and yet here is a boat, whose'
crew seem determined to make one swallow worse fare."

The unknown mariner ceased speaking, for the situation of the periagua,
was truly getting to be a little critical. At least so it seemed to the
less-instructed landsmen, who were witnesses of this unexpected rencontre.
As the ferry-boat had drawn in with the island, the wind hauled more
through the pass which communicates with the outer bay, and it became
necessary to heave about, twice, in order to fetch to windward of the
usual landing-place. The first of these manoeuvres had been executed, and
as it necessarily changed their course, the passengers saw that the cutter
to which the stranger alluded was enabled to get within-shore of them; or
nearer to the wharf, where they ought to land, than they were themselves.
Instead of suffering himself to be led off by a pursuit, that he knew
might easily be rendered useless, the officer who commanded this boat
cheered his men, and pulled swiftly to the point of debarkation. On the
other hand, a second cutter, which had already reached the line of the
periagua's course, lay on its oars, and awaited its approach. The unknown
mariner manifested no intention to avoid the interview. He still held the
tiller, and as effectually commanded the little vessel as if his authority
were of a more regular character. The audacity and decision of his air and
conduct, aided by the consummate mariner in which he worked the boat,
might alone have achieved this momentary usurpation, had not the general
feeling against impressment been so much in his favor.

"The devil's fangs!" grumbled the schipper. If you should keep the
Milk-Maid away, we shall lose a little in distance, though I think the
man-of-war's men will be puzzled to catch her, with a flowing sheet!"

"The Queen has sent a message by the gentleman," the mariner rejoined: "it
would be unmannerly to refuse to hear it."

"Heave-to, the periagua!" shouted the young officer, in the cutter. "In
Her Majesty's name, I command you, obey."

"God bless the royal lady!" returned he of the foul anchors and gay shawl,
while the swift ferry-boat continued to dash ahead. "We owe her duty, and
are glad to see so proper a gentleman employed in her behalf."

By this time the boats were fifty feet asunder. No sooner was there room,
than the periagua once more flew round, and commenced anew its course,
dashing in again towards the shore. It was necessary, however, to venture
within an oar's-length of the cutter, or to keep away,--a loss of ground
to which he who controlled her movements showed no disposition to submit.
The officer arose, and, as the periagua drew near, it was evident his hand
held a pistol, though he seemed reluctant to exhibit the weapon. The
mariner stepped aside, in a manner to offer a full view of all in his
group, as he sarcastically observed--

"Choose your object, Sir; in such a party, a man of sentiment may have a
preference."

The young man colored, as much with shame at, the degrading duty he had
been commissioned to perform, as with vexation at his failure. Recovering
his self-composure, however, he lifted his hat to la belle Barberie, and
the periagua dashed on, in triumph. Still the leading cutter was near the
shore, where it soon arrived, the crew lying on their oars at the end of
the wharf, in evident expectation of the arrival of the ferry-boat. At
this sight, the schipper shook his head, and looked up in the bold face of
his passenger, in a manner to betray how much his mind misgave the result.
But the tail mariner maintained his coolness, and began to make merry
allusions to the service which he had braved with so much temerity, and
from which no one believed he was yet likely to escape. By the former
manoeuvres, the periagua had gained a position well to windward of the
wharf; and she was now steered close upon the wind, directly for the
shore. Against the consequences of a perseverance in this course, however,
the schipper saw fit to remonstrate.

"Shipwrecks and rocky bottoms!" exclaimed the alarmed waterman. "A Holland
galliot would go to pieces, if you should run her in among those
stepping-stones, with this breeze! No honest boatman loves to see a man
stowed in a cruiser's hold, like a thief caged in his prison; but when it
comes to breaking the nose of the Milk-Maid, it is asking too much of her
owner, to stand by and look on."

"There shall not be a dimple of her lovely countenance deranged," answered
his cool passenger. "Now, lower away your sails, and we'll run along the
shore, down to yon wharf. 'Twould be an ungallant act to treat the
dairy-girl with so little ceremony, gentlemen, after the lively foot and
quick evolutions she has shown in our behalf. The best dancer in the
island could not have better played her part, though jigging under the
music of a three-stringed fiddle!"

By this time the sails were lowered, and the periagua was gliding down
towards the place of landing, running always at the distance of some fifty
feet from the shore.

"Every craft has its allotted time, like a mortal," continued the
inexplicable mariner of the India-shawl. "If she is to die a sudden death,
there is your beam-end and stern-way, which takes her into the grave
without funeral service, or parish prayers; your dropsy is being
water-logged; gout and rheumatism kill like a broken back and loose
joints; indigestion is a shifting cargo, with guns adrift; the gallows is
a bottomry-bond, with lawyers' fees; while fire, drowning, death by
religious melancholy, and suicide, are a careless gunner, sunken rocks,
false lights, and a lubberly captain."

Ere any were apprized of his intention, this singular being then sprang
from the boat on the cap of a little rock, over which the waves were
washing, whence he bounded, from stone to stone, by vigorous efforts, till
he fairly leaped to land. In another minute, he was lost to view, among
the dwellings of the hamlet.

The arrival of the periagua, which immediately after reached the wharf,
the disappointment of the cutter's crew, and the return of both the boats
to their ship, succeeded as matters of course.




Chapter V.



    _Oliv._ "Did he write this?"
    _Clo._ "Ay, Madam."

    What You Will.


If we say that Alida de Barberie did not cast a glance behind her, as the
party quitted the wharf, in order to see whether the boat that contained
the commander of the cruiser followed the example of the others, we shall
probably portray the maiden as one that was less subject to the influence
of coquetry than the truth would justify. To the great discontent of the
Alderman, whatever might have been the feelings of his niece, on the
occasion, the barge continued to approach the shore, in a manner which
showed that the young seaman betrayed no visible interest in the result of
the chase.

The heights of Staten Island, a century ago, were covered, much as they
are at present, with a growth of dwarf-trees. Foot-paths led among this
meagre vegetation, in divers directions; and as the hamlet at the
Quarantine-Ground was the point whence they all diverged, it required a
practised guide to thread their mazes, without a loss of both time and
distance. It would seem, however, that the worthy burgher was fully equal
to the office; for, moving with more than his usual agility, he soon led
his companions into the wood, and, by frequently altering his course, so
completely confounded their sense of the relative bearings of places, that
it is not probable one of them all could very readily have extricated
himself from the labyrinth.

"Clouds and shady bowers!" exclaimed Myndert, when he had achieved, to his
own satisfaction, this evasion of the pursuit he wished to avoid; "little
oaks and green pines are pleasant on a June morning. You shall have
mountain air and a sea-breeze Patroon, to quicken the appetite at the Lust
in Rust. If Alicia will speak, the girl can say that a mouthful of the
elixir is better for a rosy cheek, than all the concoctions and washes
that were ever invented to give a man a heart-ache."

"If the place be as much changed as the road that leads to it," returned
la belle Barberie, glancing her dark eye, in vain, in the direction of the
bay they had quitted, "I should scarcely venture an opinion on a subject
of which I am obliged to confess utter ignorance."

"Ah, woman is nought but vanities! To see and to be seen, is the delight
of the sex. Though we are a thousand times more comfortable in this wood
than we should be in walking along the water-side, why, the sea-gulls and
snipes lose the benefit of our company! The salt water, and all who live
on it, are to be avoided by a wise man, Mr. Van Staats, except as they
both serve to cheapen freight and to render trade brisk. You'll thank me
for this care, niece of mine, when you reach the bluff, cool as a package
of furs free from moth, and fresh and beautiful as a Holland tulip, with
the dew on it."

"To resemble the latter, one might consent to walk blindfold, dearest
uncle; and so we dismiss the subject. Francois, fais moi le plaisir de
porter ce petit livre; malgre la fraicheur de la foret, j'ai besoin de
m'evanter."

The valet took the book, with an empressement that defeated the more tardy
politeness of the Patroon; and when he saw, by the vexed eye and flushed
cheek of his young mistress, that she was incommoded rather by an internal
than by the external heat, he whispered considerately,--

"Que ma chere Mademoiselle Alide ne se fache pas! Elle ne manquerait
jamais d'admirateurs, dans un desert. Ah! si Mam'selle allait voir la
patrie de ses ancetres!--"

"'Merci bien, mon cher; gardez les feuilles, fortement fermees. Il y a des
papiers dedans."

"Monsieur Francois," said the Alderman, separating his niece, with little
ceremony, from her nearly parental attendant, by the interposition of his
own bulky person, and motioning for the others to proceed, "a word with
thee in confidence. I have noted, in the course of a busy and I hope a
profitable life, that a faithful servant is an honest counsellor. Next to
Holland and England, both of which are great commercial nations, and the
Indies, which are necessary to these colonies, together with a natural
preference for the land in which I was born, I have always been of
opinion, that France is a very good sort of a country. I think, Mr.
Francis, that dislike to the seas has kept you from returning thither,
since the decease of my late brother-in-law?"

"Wid like for Mam'selle Alide, Monsieur, avec votre permission."

"Your affection for my niece, honest Francois, is not to be doubted. It is
as certain as the payment of a good draft, by Crommeline, Van Stopper, and
Van Gelt, of Amsterdam. Ah! old valet! she is fresh and blooming as a
rose, and a girl of excellent qualities! 'Tis a pity that she is a little
opinionated; a defect that she doubtless inherits from her Norman
ancestors; since all of my family have ever been remarkable for listening
to reason. The Normans were an obstinate race, as witness the siege of
Rochelle, by which oversight real estate in that city must have lost much
in value!"

"Mille excuses, Monsieur Bevre'----; more beautiful as de rose, and no
opinatre du tout. Mon Dieu! pour sa qualite, c'est une famille tres
ancienne."

"That was a weak point with my brother Barberie, and, after all, it did
not add a cipher to the sum-total of the assets. The best blood, Mr.
Francois, is that which has been best fed. The line of Hugh Capet himself
would fail, without the butcher; and the butcher would certainly fail,
without customers that can pay. Francois, thou art a man who understands
the value of a sure footing in the world; would it not be a thousand
pities, that such a girl as Alida should throw herself away on one whose
best foundation is no better than a rolling ship?"

"Certainement, Monsieur; Mam'selle be too good to roll in de ship."

"Obliged to follow a husband, up and down; among freebooters and dishonest
traders; in fair weather and foul; hot and cold; wet and dry; bilge-water
and salt-water; cramps and nausea; salt-junk and no junk; gales and
calms,--and all for a hasty judgment formed in sanguine youth."

The face of the valet had responded to the Alderman's enumeration of the
evils that would attend so ill-judged a step in his niece, as faithfully
as if each muscle had been a mirror, to reflect the contortions of one
suffering under the malady of the sea.

"Parbleu, c'est horrible cette mer!" he ejaculated; when the other had
done. "It is grand malheur, dere should be watair but for drink, and for
la proprete, avec fosse to keep de carp round le chateau. Mais, Mam'selle
be no haste jugement, and she shall have mari on la terre solide."

"'Twould be better, that the estate of my brother-in-law should be kept in
sight, judicious Francois, than to be sent adrift on the high seas."

"Dere vas marin dans la famille de Barberie nevair."

"Bonds and balances! if the savings of one I could name, frugal Francois,
were added in current coin the sum-total would sink a common ship. You
know it is my intention to remember Alida, in settling accounts with the
world."

"If Monsieur de Barberie vas 'live, Monsieur Alderman, he should say des
choses convenables; mais, malheureusement, mon cher, maitre est mort; and,
sair, I shall be bold to remercier pour lui, et pour toute sa famille."

"Women are perverse, and sometimes they have pleasure in doing the very
thing they are desired not to do."

"Ma foi, oui!"

"Prudent men should manage them with soft words and rich gifts; with
these, they become orderly as a pair of well-broke geldings."

"Monsieur know," said the old valet, rubbing his hands, and laughing with
the subdued voice of a well-bred domestic, though he could not conceal a
jocular wink; "pourtant il est garcon! Le cadeau be good for de
demoiselles, and bettair as for de dames."

"Wedlock and blinkers! it is we gassons, as you call us, who ought to
know. Your hen-pecked husband has no time to generalize among the sex, in
order to understand the real quality of the article. Now, here is Van
Staats of Kinderhook, faithful Francois; what think you of such a youth
for a husband for Alida?"

"Pourtant, Mam'selle like de vivacite; Monsieur le Patroon be nevair trop
vif."

"The more likely to be sure--Hist, I hear a footstep. We are
followed--chased, perhaps, I should say, to speak in the language of these
sea-gentry. Now is the time to show this Captain Ludlow, how a Frenchman
can wind him round his finger, on terra-firma. Loiter in the rear, and
draw our navigator on a wrong course. When he has run into a fog, come
yourself, with all speed, to the oak on the bluff. There we shall await
you."

Flattered by this confidence, and really persuaded that he was furthering
the happiness of her he served, the old valet nodded, in reply to the
Alderman's wink and chuckle, and immediately relaxed his speed. The former
pushed ahead; and, in a minute, he and those who followed had turned short
to the left, and were out of sight.

Though faithfully and even affectionately attached to Alida, her servant
had many of the qualifications of an European domestic. Trained in all the
ruses of his profession, he was of that school which believes civilization
is to be measured by artifice; and success lost some of its value, when it
had been effected by the vulgar machinery of truth and common sense. No
wonder then the retainer entered into the views of the Alderman, with more
than a usual relish for the duty. He heard the cracking of the dried twigs
beneath the footstep of him who followed; and in order that there might be
no chance of missing the desired interview, the valet began to hum a
French air, in so loud a key, as to be certain the sounds would reach any
ear that was nigh. The twigs snapped more rapidly, the footsteps seemed
nearer, and then the hero of the India-shawl sprang to the side of the
expecting Francois.

The disappointment seemed mutual, and on the part of the domestic it
entirely disconcerted all his pre-arranged schemes for misleading the
commander of the Coquette. Not so with the bold mariner. So far from his
self-possession being disturbed, it would have been no easy matter to
restrain his audacity ever in situations far more trying than any in which
he has yet been presented to the reader.

"What cheer, in thy woodland cruise, Monsieur Broad-Pennant?" he said,
with infinite coolness, the instant his steady glance had ascertained they
were alone. "This is safer navigation for an officer of thy draught of
water, than running about the bay, in a periagua. What may be the
longitude, and where-a-way did you part company from the consorts?"

"Sair, I valk in de vood for de plaisir, and I go on de bay for
de--parbleu, non! 'tis to follow ma jeune maitresse I go on de bay; and,
sair, I wish dey who do love de bay and de sea, would not come into de
vood, du tout."

"Well spoken, and with ample spirit;--what, a student too! one in a wood
should glean something from his labors. Is it the art of furling a main
cue, that is taught in this pretty volume?"

As the mariner put his question, he very deliberately took the book from
Francois, who, instead of resenting the liberty, rather offered the
volume, in exultation.

"No, sair, it is not how to furl la queue, but how to touch de soul; not
de art to haul over de calm, but--oui, c'est plein de connoissance et
d'esprit! Ah! ha! you know de Cid! le grand homme! l'homme de genie! If
you read, Monsieur Marin, you shall see la vraie poesie! Not de big book
and no single rhyme--Sair, I do not vish to say vat is penible, mais it is
not one book widout rhyme; it was not ecrit on de sea. Le diable! que le
vrai genie, et les nobles sentiments, se trouvent dans ce livre, la!"

"Ay, I see it is a log-book, for every man to note his mind in. I return
you Master Cid, with his fine sentiments, in the bargain. Great as was his
genius, it would seem he was not the man to write all that I find between
the leaves."

"He not write him all! Yes, sair, he shall write him six time more dan
all, if la France a besoin. Que l'envie de ces Anglais se decouvre quand
on parle des beaux genies de la France!"

"I will only say, if the gentleman wrote the whole that is in the book,
and it is as fine as you would make a plain seafaring man believe, he did
wrong not to print it."

"Print!" echoed Francois, opening his eyes, and the volume, by a common
impulse, "Imprime! ha! here is papier of Mam'selle Alide, assurement."

"Take better heed of it then," interrupted the seaman of the shawl. "As
for your Cid, to me it is an useless volume, since it teaches neither the
latitude of a shoal, nor the shape of a coast."

"Sair, it teach de morale; de rock of de passion et les grands mouvements
de l'ame! Oui, Sair; it teach all, un Monsieur vish to know. Tout le monde
read him in la France; en province, comme en ville. If sa Majeste, le
Grand Louis, be not so mal avise, as to chasser Messieurs les Huguenots
from his royaume, I shall go to Paris, to hear le Cid, moi-meme!"

"A good journey to you, Monsieur Cue. We may meet on the road, until which
time I take my departure. The day may come, when we shall converse with a
rolling sea beneath us. Till then, brave cheer!"

"Adieu, Monsieur," returned Francois, bowing with a politeness that had
become too familiar to be forgotten. "If we do not meet but in de sea, we
shall not meet, nevair. Ah, ha, ha! Monsieur le Marin n'aime pas a
entendre parler de la gloire de la France! Je voudrais bien savoir lire ce
f--e Shak-a-spear, pour voir, combien l'immortel Corneille lui est
superieur. Ma foi, oui; Monsieur Pierre Corneille est vraiment un homme
illustre!"

The faithful, self-complacent, and aged valet then pursued his way towards
the large oak on the bluff; for as he ceased speaking, the mariner of the
gay sash had turned deeper into the woods, and left him alone. Proud of
the manner, in which he had met the audacity of the stranger, prouder
still of the reputation of the author, whose fame had been known in France
long before his own departure from Europe, and not a little consoled with
the reflection that he had contributed his mite to support the honor of
his distant and well-beloved country, the honest Francois pressed the
volume affectionately beneath his arm, and hastened on after his mistress.

Though the position of Staten Island and its surrounding bays is so
familiar to the Manhattanese an explanation of the localities may be
agreeable to readers who dwell at a distance from the scene of the tale.

It has already been said, that the principal communication between the
bays of Raritan and York, is called the Narrows. At the mouth of this
passage, the land on Staten Island rises in a high bluff, which overhangs
the water, not unlike the tale-fraught cape of Misenum. From this elevated
point, the eye not only commands a view of both estuaries and the city,
but it looks far beyond the point of Sandy-Hook, into the open sea. It is
here that, in our own days, ships are first noted in the offing, and
whence the news of the approach of his vessel is communicated to the
expecting merchant by means of the telegraph. In the early part of the
last century, arrivals were too rare to support such an establishment. The
bluff was therefore little resorted to, except by some occasional admirer
of scenery, or by those countrymen whom business, at long intervals, drew
to the spot. It had been early cleared of its wood, and the oak already
mentioned was the only tree standing in a space of some ten or a dozen
acres.

It has been seen that Alderman Van Beverout had appointed this solitary
oak, as the place of rendezvous with Francois. Thither then he took his
way on parting from the valet, and to this spot we must now transfer the
scene. A rude seat had been placed around the root of the tree, and here
the whole party, with the exception of the absent domestic, were soon
seated: In a minute, however, they were joined by the exulting Francois,
who immediately related the particulars of his recent interview with the
stranger.

"A clear conscience, with cordial friends, and a fair balance-sheet, may
keep a man warm in January, even in this climate," said the Alderman,
willing to turn the discourse; "but what with rebellious blacks, hot
streets, and spoiling furs, it passeth mortal powers to keep cool in
yonder overgrown and crowded town. Thou seest, Patroon, the spot of white
on the opposite side of the bay.--Breezes and fanning! that is the Lust in
Rust, where cordial enters the mouth at every breath, and where a man has
room to cast up the sum-total of his thoughts, any hour in the
twenty-four."

"We seem quite as effectually alone on this hill, with the advantage of
having a city in the view," remarked Alida, with an emphasis that showed
she meant even more than she expressed.

"We are by ourselves, niece of mine," returned the Alderman, rubbing his
hands as if he secretly felicitated himself that the fact were so. "That
truth cannot be denied, and good company we are, though the opinion comes
from one who is not a cipher in the party. Modesty is a poor man's wealth,
but as we grow substantial in the world, Patroon, one can afford to begin
to speak truth of himself, as well as of his neighbor."

"In which case, little, but good, will be uttered from the mouth of
Alderman Van Beverout," said Ludlow, appearing so suddenly from behind the
root of the tree, as effectually to shut the mouth of the burgher. "My
desire to offer the services of the ship to your party, has led to this
abrupt intrusion, and I hope will obtain its pardon."

"The power to forgive is a prerogative of the Governor, who represents the
Queen," drily returned the Alderman. "If Her Majesty has so little
employment for her cruisers, that their captains can dispose of them, in
behalf of old men and young maidens--why, happy is the age, and commerce
should flourish!"

"If the two duties are compatible, the greater the reason why a commander
should felicitate himself that he may be of service to so many. You are
bound to the Jersey Highlands, Mr. Van Beverout?"

"I am bound to a comfortable and very private abode, called the Lust in
Rust, Captain Cornelius Van Cuyler Ludlow."

The young man bit his lip, and his healthful but brown cheek flushed a
deeper red than common, though he preserved his composure.

"And I am bound to sea," he soon said. "The wind is getting fresh, and
your boat, which I see, at this moment, standing in for the islands, will
find it difficult to make way against its force. The Coquette's anchor
will be aweigh, in twenty minutes; and I shall find two hours of an ebbing
tide, and a top-gallant breeze, but too short a time for the pleasure of
entertaining such guests. I am certain that the fears of la Belle will
favor my wishes, whichsoever side of the question her inclinations may
happen to be."

"And they are with her uncle;" quickly returned Alida. "I am so little of
a sailor, that prudence, if not pusillanimity, teaches me to depend on the
experience of older heads."

"Older I may not pretend to be," said Ludlow, coloring; "but Mr. Van
Beverout will see no pretension in believing myself as good a judge of
wind and tide, as even he himself can be."

"You are said to command Her Majesty's sloop with skill, Captain Ludlow,
and it is creditable to the colony, that it has produced so good an
officer; though I believe your grandfather came into the province, so
lately as on the restoration of King Charles the Second?"

"We cannot claim descent from the United Provinces, Alderman Van
Beverout, on the paternal side, but whatever may have been the political
opinions of my grandfather, those of his descendant have never been
questioned. Let me entreat the fair Alida to take counsel of the
apprehension I am sure she feels, and to persuade her uncle that the
Coquette is safer than his periagua."

"It is said to be easier to enter than to quit your ship," returned the
laughing Alida. "By certain symptoms that attended our passage to the
island, your Coquette, like others, is fond of conquest. One is not safe
beneath so malign an influence."

"This is a reputation given by our enemies. I had hoped for a different
answer from la belle Barberie."

The close of the sentence was uttered with an emphasis that caused the
blood to quicken its movement in the veins of the maiden. It was fortunate
that neither of their companions was very observant, or else suspicions
might have been excited, that a better intelligence existed between the
young sailor and the heiress, than would have comported with their wishes
and intentions.

"I had hoped for a different answer from la belle Barberie," repeated
Ludlow, in a lower voice, but with even a still more emphatic tone than
before.

There was evidently a struggle in the mind of Alida.--She overcame it,
before her confusion could be noted; and, turning to the valet, she said,
with the composure and grace that became a gentlewoman--

"Rends moi le livre, Francois."

"Le voici--ah! ma chere Mam'selle Alide, que ce Monsieur le marin se
fachait a cause de la gloire, et des beaux vers de notre illustre M.
Pierre Corneille!"

"Here is an English sailor, that I am sure will not deny the merit of an
admired writer, even though he come of a nation that is commonly thought
hostile, Francois," returned his mistress, smiling "Captain Ludlow, it is
now a month since I am your debtor, by promise, for a volume of Corneille,
and I here acquit myself of the obligation. When you have perused the
contents of this book, with the attention they deserve, I may hope----"

"For a speedy opinion of their merits."

"I was about to say, to receive the volume again, as it is a legacy from
my father," steadily rejoined Alida.

"Legacies and foreign tongues!" muttered the Alderman. "One is well
enough; but for the other, English and Dutch are all that the wisest man
need learn. I never could understand an account of protit and loss in any
other tongue, Patroon; and even a favorable balance never appears so great
as it is, unless the account be rendered in one or the other of these
rational dialects. Captain Ludlow, we thank you for your politeness, but
here is one of my fellows to tell us that my own periagua is arrived; and,
wishing you a happy and a long cruise, as we say of lives, I bid you,
adieu."

The young seaman returned the salutations of the party, with a better
grace than his previous solicitude to persuade them to enter his ship,
might have given reason to expect. He even saw them descend the hill,
towards the water of the outer bay, with entire composure; and it was only
after they had entered a thicket which hid them from view, that he
permitted his feelings to have sway.

Then indeed he drew the volume from his pocket and opened its leaves with
an eagerness he could no longer control. It seemed as if he expected to
read more, in the pages, than the author had caused to be placed there;
but when his eye caught sight of a sealed billet, the legacy of M. de
Barberie fell at his feet; and the paper was torn asunder, with all the
anxiety of one who expected to find in its contents a decree of life or
death.

Amazement was clearly the first emotion of the young seaman. He read and
re-read; struck his brow with his hand; gazed about him at the land and at
the water; re-perused the note; examined the superscription, which was
simply to 'Capt. Ludlow, of Her Majesty's ship Coquette:' smiled; muttered
between his teeth; seemed vexed, and yet delighted; read the note again,
word by word, and finally thrust it into his pocket, with the air of a man
who had found reason for both regret and satisfaction in its contents.




Chapter VI.



    "--What, has this thing appeared again, to-night?"

    Hamlet.


"The face of man is the log-book of his thoughts, and Captain Ludlow's
seems agreeable," observed a voice, that came from one, who was not far
from the commander of the Coquette, while the latter was still enacting
the pantomime described in the close of the preceding chapter.

"Who speaks of thoughts and log-books or who dares to pry into my
movements?" demanded the young sailor, fiercely.

"One who has trifled with the first and scribbled in the last too often,
not to know how to meet a squall, whether it be seen in the clouds or only
on the face of man. As for looking into your movements, Captain Ludlow, I
have watched too many big ships in my time, to turn aside at each light
cruiser that happens to cross my course. I hope, Sir, you have an answer;
every hail has its right to a civil reply."

Ludlow could scarce believe his senses, when, on turning to face the
intruder, he saw himself confronted by the audacious eye and calm mien of
the mariner who had, once before that morning, braved his resentment.
Curbing his indignation, however, the young man endeavored to emulate the
coolness which, notwithstanding his inferior condition, imparted to the
air of the other something that was imposing, if it were not absolutely
authoritative. Perhaps the singularity of the adventure aided in effecting
an object, that was a little difficult of attainment in one accustomed to
receive so much habitual deference from most of those who made the sea
their home. Swallowing his resentment, the young commander answered--

"He that knows how to face his enemies with spirit, may be accounted
sufficiently bold; but he who braves the anger of his friends, is
fool-hardy."

"And he who does neither, is wiser than both," rejoined the reckless hero
of the sash. "Captain Ludlow, we meet on equal terms, at present, and the
parley may be managed with some freedom."

"Equality is a word that ill applies to men of stations so different."

"Of our stations and duties it is not necessary to speak. I hope that,
when the proper time shall come, both may be found ready to be at the
first, and equal to discharge the last. But Captain Ludlow, backed by the
broadside of the Coquette and the cross-fire of his marines, is not
Captain Ludlow alone, on a sea bluff, with a crutch no better than his own
arm, and a stout heart. As the first, he is like a spar supported by
backstays and forestays, braces and standing rigging; while, as the
latter, he is the stick, which keeps its head aloft by the soundness and
quality of its timber. You have the appearance of one who can go alone,
even though it blew heavier than at present, if one may judge of the force
of the breeze, by the manner it presses on the sails of yonder boat in the
bay."

"Yonder boat begins to feel the wind, truly!" said Ludlow, suddenly losing
all other interest in the appearance of the periagua which held Alida and
her friends, and which, at that instant, shot out from beneath the cover
of the hill into the broad opening of Raritan bay. "What think you of the
time, my friend? a man of your years should speak with knowledge of the
weather."

"Women and winds are only understood, when fairly in motion," returned he
of the sash; "now, any mortal who consulted comfort and the skies, would
have preferred a passage in Her Majesty's ship Coquette, to one in yonder
dancing periagua; and yet the fluttering silk we see, in the boat, tells
us there is one who has thought otherwise."

"You are a man of singular intelligence," cried Ludlow, again facing the
intruder; "as well as one of singular------"

"Effrontery," rejoined the other, observing that the commander hesitated.
Let the commissioned officer of the Queen speak boldly; I am no better
than a top-man, or at most a quarter-master."

"I wish to say nothing disagreeable, but I find your knowledge of my offer
to convey the lady and her friends to the residence of Alderman Van
Beverout, a little surprising."

"And I see nothing to wonder at, in your offer to convey the lady
anywhere, though the liberality to her friends is not an act of so clear
explanation. When young men speak from the heart, their words are not
uttered in whispers."

"Which would imply that you overheard our conversation. I believe it, for
here is cover at hand to conceal you. It may be, Sir, that you have eyes,
as well as ears."

"I confess to have seen your countenance, changing sides, like a member of
parliament turning to a new leaf in his conscience, at the Minister's
signal while you overhauled a bit of paper----"

"Whose contents you could not know!"

"Whose contents I took to be some private orders, given by a lady who is
too much of a coquette herself, to accept your offer to sail in a vessel
of the same name."

"By Heavens, the fellow has reason in his inexplicable impudence!"
muttered Ludlow, pacing backward and forward beneath the shadow of the
tree. "The language and the acts of the girl are in contradiction; and I
am a fool to be trifled with, like a midshipman fresh broken loose from
his mother's apron-string. Harkee, Master-a-a--You've a name I suppose,
like any other straggler on the ocean."

"Yes. When the hail is loud enough to be heard, I answer to the call of
Thomas Tiller."

"Well then, Master Tiller, so clever a seaman should be glad to serve the
Queen."

"Were it not for duty to another, whose claim comes first, nothing could
be more agreeable than to lend a lady in distress a helping hand."

"And who is he, who may prefer a claim to your services, in competition
with the majesty of these realms?" demanded Ludlow, with a little of the
pretension that, when speaking of its privileges, is apt to distinguish
the manner of one who has been accustomed to regard royalty with
reverence.

"Myself. When our affairs call us the same way no one can be readier than
I, to keep Her Majesty's company; but----"

"This is presuming too far, on the trifling of a moment," interrupted
Ludlow; "you know, sirrah, that I have the right to command your services,
without entering into a parley for them; and which, notwithstanding your
gay appearance, may, after all, be little worth the trouble."

"There is no need to push matters to extremity, between us, Captain
Ludlow," resumed the stranger who had appeared to muse for a moment, "If I
have baffled your pursuit once to-day, it was perhaps to make my merit in
entering the ship freely, less undeniable. We are here alone, and your
Honor will account it no boasting, if I say that a man, well limbed and
active, who stands six feet between plank and earline, is not likely to be
led against his will, like a yawl towing at the stern of a four-and-forty.
I am a seaman, Sir; and though the ocean is my home, I never venture on it
without sufficient footing. Look abroad from this hill, and say whether
there is any craft in view, except the cruiser of the Queen, which would
be likely to suit the taste of a mariner of the long voyage?"

"By which you would have me understand, you are here in quest of service?"

"Nothing less; and though the opinion of a fore-mast Jack may be of little
value, you will not be displeased to hear, that I might look further
without finding a prettier sea-boat, or a swifter, than the one which
sails under your own orders. A seaman of your station, Captain Ludlow, is
not now to learn, that a man speaks differently, while his name is his
own, and after he has given it away to the crown; and therefore I hope my
present freedom will not be long remembered."

"I have met men of your humor before, my friend, and I have not now to
learn, that a thorough man-of-war's man is as impudent on shore, as he is
obedient afloat.--Is that a sail, in the offing, or is it the wing of a
sea-fowl, glittering in the sun?"

"It may be either," observed the audacious mariner, turning his eye
leisurely towards the open ocean, "for we have a wide look-out from this
windy bluff. Here are gulls sporting above the waves, that turn their
feathers towards the light."

"Look more seaward. That spot of shining white should be the canvas of
some craft, hovering in the offing!"

"Nothing more probable, in so light a breeze Your coasters are in and out,
like water-rats on a wharf, at any hour of the twenty-four--and yet to me
it seems the comb of a breaking sea."

"'Tis snow-white duck; such as your swift rover wears on his loftier
spars!"

"A duck that is flown," returned the stranger drily, "for it is no longer
to be seen. These fly-aways, Captain Ludlow, give us seamen many sleepless
nights and idle chases. I was once running down the coast of Italy,
between the island of Corsica and the main, when one of these delusions
beset the crew, in a manner that hath taught me to put little faith in
eyes, unless backed by a clear horizon and a cool head."

"I'll hear the circumstance," said Ludlow, withdrawing his gaze from the
distant ocean, like one who was satisfied his senses had been deceived.
"What of this marvel of the Italian seas?"

"A marvel truly, as your Honor will confess, when I read you the affair,
much in the words I had it logged, for the knowledge of all concerned. It
was the last hour of the second dog-watch, on Easter-Sunday, with the wind
here at south-east, easterly. A light air filled the upper canvas, and
just gave us command of the ship. The mountains of Corsica, with Monte
Christo and Elba, had all been sunk some hours, and we were on the yards,
keeping a look-out for a land-fall on the Roman coast. A low, thick bank
of drifting fog lay along the sea, in-shore of us, which all believed to
be the sweat of the land, and thought no more of; though none wished to
enter it, for that is a coast where foul airs rise, and through which the
gulls and land-birds refuse to fly. Well, here we lay, the mainsail in the
brails, the top-sails beating the mast-heads, like a maiden fanning
herself when she sees her lover, and nothing full but the upper duck, with
the sun fairly below the water in the western board. I was then young, and
quick of eye, as of foot, and therefore among the first to see the sight!"

"Which was----?" said Ludlow, interested in spite of his assumed air of
indifference.

"Why, here just above the bank of foul air, that ever rests on that coast,
there was seen an object, that looked like ribs of bright light, as if a
thousand stars had quitted their usual berths in the heaven, to warn us
off the land, by a supernatural beacon. The sight was in itself altogether
out of nature and surprising. As the night thickened, it grew brighter and
more glowing, as if 'twere meant in earnest to warn us from the coast. But
when the word was passed to send the glasses aloft, there was seen a
glittering cross on high, and far above the spars on which earthly ships
carry their private signals."

"This was indeed extraordinary! and what did you, to come at the character
of the heavenly symbol?"

"We wore off shore, and left it a clear berth for bolder mariners. Glad
enough was I to see, with the morning sun, the snowy hills of Corsica,
again!"

"And the appearance of that object was never explained?"

"Nor ever will be. I have since spoke with the mariners of that sea
concerning the sight, but never found any who could pretend to have seen
it. There was indeed one bold enough to say, there is a church, far
inland, of height and magnitude sufficient to be seen some leagues at sea,
and that, favored by our position and the mists that hung above the low
grounds, we had seen its upper works, looming above the fogs, and lighted
for some brilliant ceremony; but we were all too old in seaman's
experience to credit so wild a tale. I know not but a church may loom, as
well as a hill or a ship; but he, who pretends to say, that the hands of
man can thus pile stones among the clouds, should be certain of believers,
ere he pushes the tale too far."

"Your narrative is extraordinary, and the marvel should have been looked
into closer. It may truly have been a church, for there stands an edifice
at Rome, which towers to treble the height of a cruiser's masts."

"Having rarely troubled churches, I know not why a church should trouble
me," said the mariner of the sash, while he turned his back on the ocean,
as if indisposed to regard the waste of water longer. "It is now twelve
years since that sight was seen, and though a seaman of many voyages, my
eyes have not looked upon the Roman coast, from that hour to this. Will
your Honor lead the way from the bluff, as becomes your rank?"

"Your tale of the burning cross and looming church, Master Tiller, had
almost caused me to forget to watch the movements of yon periagua,"
returned Ludlow, who still continued to face the bay. "That obstinate old
Dutchman----I say, Sir, that Mr. Alderman Van Beverout has greater
confidence in this description of craft than I feel myself. I like not the
looks of yonder cloud, which is rising from out the mouth of Raritan; and
here, seaward, we have a gloomy horizon.--By Heaven! there is a sail
playing in the offing or my eye hath lost its use and judgment."

"Your Honor sees the wing of the sporting gull, again; it had been nigh to
deceive my sight, which would be to cheat the look-out of a man that has
the advantage of some ten or fifteen years' more practice in marine
appearances. I remember once, when beating in among the islands of the
China seas, with the trades here at south-east----"

"Enough of your marvels, friend; the church is as much as I can swallow,
in one morning--It may have been a gull! for I confess the object small;
yet it had the steadiness and size of a distant sail! There is some reason
to expect one on our coast, for whom a bright and seaman's watch must be
had."

"This may then leave me a choice of ships," rejoined Tiller. "I thank your
Honor for having spoken, before I had given myself away to the Queen; who
is a lady that is much more apt to receive gifts of this nature, than to
return them."

"If your respect aboard shall bear any proportion to your hardihood on
shore, you may be accounted a model of civility! But a mariner of your
pretension should have some regard to the character of the vessel in which
he takes service."

"That of which your Honor spoke, is then a buccaneer?"

"If not a buccaneer, one but little better. A lawless trader, under the
most favorable view; and there are those who think that he, who has gone
so far, has not stopt short of the end. But the reputation of the 'Skimmer
of the Seas' must be known to one who has navigated the ocean, long as
you."

"You will overlook the curiosity of a seafaring man, in a matter of his
profession," returned the mariner of the sash, with strong and evident
interest in his manner. "I am lately from a distant ocean, and though many
tales of the buccaneers of the islands have been narrated, I do not
remember to have heard of that rover, before his name came into the
discourse between me and the schipper of the boat, that plies between this
landing and the city. I am not, altogether, what I seem, Captain Ludlow;
and when further acquaintance and hard service shall have brought me more
before the eyes of my commander, he may not repent having induced a
thorough seaman to enter his ship, by a little condescension and
good-nature shown while the man was still his own master. Your Honor will
take no offence at my boldness, when I tell you, I should be glad to know
more of this unlawful trader."

Ludlow riveted his eyes on the unmoved and manly countenance of his
companion. There was a vague and undefined suspicion in the look; but it
vanished, as the practised organs drank in the assurance, which so much
physical promise afforded, of the aid of a bold and active mariner. Rather
amused than offended by the freedom of the request, he turned upon his
heel, and as they descended the bluff, on their way towards the place of
landing, he continued the dialogue.

"You are truly from a distant ocean," said the young captain of the
Coquette, smiling like a man who apologizes to himself for an act of what
he thought undue condescension, "if the exploits of a brigantine known by
the name of the 'Water-Witch,' and of him who commands her, under the fit
appellation of the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' have not yet reached your ears.
It is now five summers, since orders have been in the colonies for the
cruisers to be on the alert to hunt the picaroon; and it is even said, the
daring smuggler has often braved the pennants of the narrow seas. 'Twould
be a bigger ship, not knighthood, to the lucky officer who should catch
the knave!"

"He must drive a money-gaining trade, to run these risks, and to brave the
efforts of so many skilful gentlemen! May I add to a presumption that your
Honor already finds too bold, if one may judge by a displeased eye, by
asking if report speaks to the face and other particulars of the person of
this--free trader, one must call him, though freebooter should be a
better word."

"What matters the personal condition of a rogue?" said Captain Ludlow, who
perhaps remembered that the freedom of their intercourse had been carried
as far as comported with prudence.

"What matter, truly! I asked because the description answers a little to
that of a man I once knew, in the seas of farther India, and who has long
since disappeared, though no one can say whither he has gone. But this
'Skimmer of the Seas' is some Spaniard of the Main, or perhaps a Dutchman
come from the country that is awash, in order to taste of terra-firma?"

"Spaniard of the southern coast never carried so bold a sail in these
seas, nor was there ever known a Dutchman with so light a heel. The fellow
is said to laugh at the swiftest cruiser out of England! As to his figure,
I have heard little good of it. 'Tis said, he is some soured officer of
better days, who has quitted the intercourse of honest men, because
roguery is so plainly written on his face, that he vainly tries to hide
it."

"Mine was a proper man, and one that need not have been ashamed to show
his countenance among his fellows," said he of the sash. "This cannot be
the same, if indeed there be any on the coast.--Is't known, your Honor,
that the man is truly here?"

"So goes a rumor; though so many idle tales have led me before to seek the
smuggler where he was not, that I give but little faith to the
report.--The periagua has the wind more at west, and the cloud in the
mouth of the Raritan is breaking into scud. The Alderman will have a lucky
run of it!"

"And the gulls have gone more seaward--a certain sign of pleasant
weather;" returned the other, glancing a quick but keen look over the
horizon in the offing. "I believe our rover, with his light duck, has
taken flight among them!"

"We will then go in pursuit. My ship is bound to sea; and it is time,
Master Tiller, that I know in what berth you are willing to serve the
Queen."

"God bless her Majesty! Anne is a royal lady and she had a Lord High
Admiral for her husband. As for a berth, Sir, one always wishes to be
captain even though he may be compelled to eat his ration in the
lee-scuppers. I suppose the first-lieutenancy is filled, to your Honor's
liking?"

"Sirrah, this is trifling; one of your years and experience need not be
told, that commissions are obtained by service."

"Under favor;--I confess the error. Captain Ludlow, you are a man of
honor, and will not deceive a sailor who puts trust in your word."

"Sailor, or landsman, he is safe who has the gage."

"Then, Sir, I ask it. Suffer me to enter your ship; to look into my future
messmates, and to judge of their characters; to see if the vessel suits my
humor; and then to quit her, if I find it convenient."

"Fellow," said Ludlow, "this impudence almost surpasseth patience!"

"The request is reasonable, as can be shown;" gravely returned the unknown
mariner. "Now, Captain Ludlow of the Coquette would gladly tie himself,
for better for worse, to a fair lady who is lately gone on the water, and
yet there are thousands who might be had with less difficulty."

"Still deeper and deeper in thy effrontery--and what if this be true?"

"Sir, a ship is a seaman's mistress--nay, when fairly under a pennant,
with a war declared, he may be said to be wedded to her, lawfully or not.
He becomes 'bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, until death doth
them part.' To such a long compact, there should be liberty of choice.
Has not your mariner a taste, as well as your lover? The harpings and
counter of his ship are the waist and shoulders; the rigging, the
ringlets; the cut and fit of the sails, the fashion of the millinery; the
guns are always called the teeth, and her paint is the blush and bloom!
Here is matter of choice, Sir; and, without leave to make it, I must wish
your Honor a happy cruise, and the Queen a better servitor."

"Why, Master Tiller," cried Ludlow, laughing, "you trust too much to these
stunted oaks, if you believe it exceeds my power to hunt you out of their
cover, at pleasure. But I take you at your word. The Coquette shall
receive you on these conditions, and with the confidence that a first-rate
city belle would enter a country ball-room."

"I follow in your Honor's wake, without more words," returned he of the
sash, for the first time respectfully raising his canvas cap to the young
commander. "Though not actually married, consider me a man betrothed."

It is not necessary to pursue the discourse between the two seamen any
further. It was maintained, and with sufficient freedom on the part of the
inferior, until they reached the shore, and came in full view of the
pennant of the Queen; when, with the tact of an old man-of-war's man, he
threw into his manner all the respect that was usually required by the
difference of rank.

Half an hour later, the Coquette was rolling at a single anchor, as the
puffs of wind came off the hills on her three top-sails; and shortly
after, she was seen standing through the Narrows, with a fresh
southwesterly breeze. In all these movements, there was nothing to attract
attention. Notwithstanding the sarcastic allusions of Alderman Van
Beverout, the cruiser was far from being idle; and her passage outward
was a circumstance of so common occurrence, that it excited no comment
among the boatmen of the bay, and the coasters, who alone witnessed her
departure.




Chapter VII.



    "--I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
    As that vast shore wash'd with the furthest sea,
    I would adventure for such merchandise."

    Romeo And Juliet.


A happy mixture of land and water, seen by a bright moon, and beneath the
sky of the fortieth degree of latitude, cannot fail to make a pleasing
picture. Such was the landscape which the reader must now endeavor to
present to his mind.

The wide estuary of Raritan is shut in from the winds and billows of the
open sea, by a long, low, and narrow cape, or point, which, by a medley of
the Dutch and English languages, that is by no means rare in the names of
places that lie within the former territories of the United Provinces of
Holland, is known by the name of Sandy-Hook. This tongue of land appears
to have been made by the unremitting and opposing actions of the waves, on
one side, and of the currents of the different rivers, that empty their
waters into the bay, on the other. It is commonly connected with the low
coast of New-Jersey, to the south; but there are periods, of many years in
succession, during which there exists an inlet from the sea, between what
may be termed the inner end of the cape, and the main-land. During these
periods, Sandy-Hook, of course, becomes an island. Such was the fact at
the time of which it is our business to write.

The outer, or ocean side of this low and narrow bank of sand, is a smooth
and regular beach, like that seen on most of the Jersey coast, while the
inner is indented, in a manner to form several convenient
anchoring-grounds, for ships that seek a shelter from easterly gales. One
of the latter is a circular and pretty cove, in which vessels of a light
draught are completely embayed, and where they may, in safety, ride secure
from any winds that blow. The harbor, or, as it is always called, the
Cove, lies at the point where the cape joins the main, and the inlet just
named communicates directly with its waters, whenever the passage is open.
The Shrewsbury, a river of the fourth or fifth class, or in other words a
stream of a few hundred feet in width, and of no great length, comes from
the south, running nearly parallel with the coast, and becomes a tributary
of the Bay, also, at a point near the Cove. Between the Shrewsbury and the
sea, the land resembles that on the cape, being low and sandy, though not
entirely without fertility. It is covered with a modest growth of pines
and oaks, where it is not either subject to the labors of the husbandman,
or in natural meadow. But the western bank of the river is an abrupt and
high acclivity, which rises to the elevation of a mountain. It was near
the base of the latter that Alderman Van Beverout, for reasons that may be
more fully developed as we proceed in our tale, had seen fit to erect his
villa, which, agreeably to a usage of Holland, he had called the Lust in
Rust; an appellation that the merchant, who had read a few of the classics
in his boyhood, was wont to say meant nothing more nor less than 'Otium
cum dignitate.'

If a love of retirement and a pure air had its influence in determining
the selection of the burgher of Manhattan, he could not have made a better
choice. The adjoining lands had been occupied early in the previous
century, by a respectable family of the name of Hartshorne, which
continues seated at the place, to the present hour. The extent of their
possessions served, at that day, to keep others at a distance. If to this
fact be added the formation and quality of the ground, which was, at so
early a period, of trifling value for agricultural purposes, it will be
seen there was as little motive, as there was opportunity, for strangers
to intrude. As to the air it was refreshed by the breezes of the ocean,
which was scarcely a mile distant; while it had nothing to render it
unhealthy, or impure. With this sketch of the general features of the
scene where so many of our incidents occurred, we shall proceed to
describe the habitation of the Alderman, a little more in detail.

The villa of the Lust in Rust was a low, irregular edifice, in bricks,
whitewashed to the color of the driven snow, and in a taste that was
altogether Dutch. There were many gables and weather-cocks, a dozen small
and twisted chimneys, with numberless facilities that were intended for
the nests of storks. These airy sites were, however, untenanted, to the
great admiration of the honest architect, who, like many others that bring
with them into this hemisphere habits and opinions that are better suited
to the other, never ceased expressing his surprise on the subject, though
all the negroes of the neighborhood united in affirming there was no such
bird in America. In front of the house, there was a narrow but an
exceedingly neat lawn, encircled by shrubbery; while two old elms, that
seemed coeval with the mountain, grew in the rich soil of which the base
of the latter was composed. Nor was there a want of shade on any part of
the natural terrace, that was occupied by the buildings. It was thickly
sprinkled with fruit-trees, and here and there was a pine, or an oak, of
the native growth. A declivity that was rather rapid fell away in front,
to the level of the mouth of the river. In short, it was an ample but an
unpretending country-house, in which no domestic convenience had been
forgotten; while it had little to boast of in the way of architecture,
except its rusty vanes and twisted chimneys. A few out-houses, for the
accommodation of the negroes, were nigh; and nearer to the river, there
were barns and stables, of dimensions and materials altogether superior to
those that the appearance of the arable land, or the condition of the
small farm, would seem to render necessary. The periagua, in which the
proprietor had made his passage across the outer bay, lay at a small
wooden wharf immediately below.

For the earlier hours of the evening, the flashing of candles, and a
general and noisy movement among the blacks, had denoted the presence of
the master of the villa. But the activity had gradually subsided: and
before the clock struck nine, the manner in which the lights were
distributed, and the general silence, showed that the party, most probably
fatigued with their journey, had already separated for the night. The
clamor of the negroes had ceased, and the quiet of deep sleep was already
prevailing among their humble dwellings.

At the northern extremity of the villa, which, it will be remembered,
leaned against the mountain, and facing the east, or fronting the river
and the sea, there stood a little wing, even more deeply embowered in
shrubbery and low trees, than the other parts of the edifice, and which
was constructed altogether in a different style. This was a pavilion
erected for the particular accommodation, and at the cost, of la belle
Barberie. Here the heiress of the two fortunes was accustomed to keep her
own little menage, during the weeks passed in the country; and here she
amused herself, in those pretty and feminine employments that suited her
years and tastes. In compliment to the beauty and origin of its
inhabitant, the gallant Francois had christened this particular portion of
the villa, la Cour des Fees a name that had gotten into general use,
though somewhat corrupted in sound.

On the present occasion, the blinds of the principal apartment of the
pavilion were open, and its mistress was still to be seen at one of the
windows. Alida was at an age when the sex is most sensible of lively
impressions, and she looked abroad on the loveliness of the landscape, and
on the soft stillness of the night, with the pleasure that such a mind is
wont to receive from objects of natural beauty.

There was a young moon, and a firmament glowing with a myriad of stars.
The light was shed softly on the water, though, here and there, the ocean
glittered with its rays. A nearly imperceptible, but what seamen call a
heavy air came off the sea, bringing with it the refreshing coolness of
the hour. The surface of the immense waste was perfectly unruffled, both
within and without the barrier of sand that forms the cape; but the body
of the element was heaving and setting heavily, in a manner to resemble
the sleeping respiration of some being of huge physical frame. The roar of
the surf, which rolled up in long and white curls upon the sands, was the
only audible sound; but that was heavy and incessant, sometimes swelling
on the air, hollow and threatening, and at others dying, in dull and
distant murmurs, on the ear. There was a charm in these varieties of
sound, and in the solemn stillness of such a night, that drew Alida into
her little balcony; and she leaned forward, beyond its shadow of
sweet-brier, to gaze at a part of the bay that was not visible, in the
front view, from her windows.

La belle Barberie smiled, when she saw the dim masts and dark hull of a
ship, which was anchored near the end of the cape, and within its
protection. There was the look of womanly pride in her dark eye, and
haply some consciousness of womanly power in the swell of her rich lip,
while a taper finger beat the bar of the balcony, rapidly, and without
consciousness of its employment.

"The loyal Captain Ludlow has quickly ended his cruise!" said the maiden
aloud, for she spoke under the influence of a triumph that was too natural
to be suppressed. "I shall become a convert to my uncle's opinions, and
think the Queen badly served."

"He who serves one mistress, faithfully, has no light task," returned a
voice from among the shrubbery that grew beneath and nearly veiled the
window; "but he, who is devoted to two, may well despair of success with
both!"

Alida recoiled, and, at the next instant, she saw her place occupied by
the commander of the Coquette. Before venturing to cross the low barrier
that still separated him from the little parlor, the young man endeavored
to read the eye of its occupant; and then, either mistaking its
expression, or bold in his years and hopes, he entered the room.

Though certainly unused to have her apartment scaled with so little
ceremony, there was neither apprehension, nor wonder, in the countenance
of the fair descendant of the Huguenot. The blood mantled more richly on
her cheek; and the brightness of an eye, that was never dull, increased,
while her fine form became firm and commanding.

"I have heard that Captain Ludlow gained much of his renown by gallantry
in boarding," she said, in a voice whose meaning admitted of no
misconception; "but I had hoped his ambition was satisfied with laurels so
fairly won from the enemies of his country!"

"A thousand pardons, fairest Alida," interrupted the youth; "you know the
obstacles that the jealous watchfulness of your uncle opposes to my desire
to speak with you."

"They are then opposed in vain, for Alderman Van Beverout has weakly
believed the sex and condition of his ward would protect her from these
coups-de-main."

"Nay, Alida; this is being more capricious than the winds! You know, too
well, how far my suit is unpleasant to your gardian, to torture a slight
departure from cold observances into cause of serious complaint. I had
hoped--perhaps, I should say, I have presumed on the contents of your
letter, for which I return a thousand thanks; but do not thus cruelly
destroy expectations that have so lately been raised beyond the point,
perhaps, which reason may justify."

The glow, which had begun to subside on the face of la belle Barberie,
again deepened, and for a moment it appeared as if her high
self-dependence was a little weakened. After an instant of reflection,
however, she answered steadily, though not entirely without emotion.

"Reason, Captain Ludlow, has limited female propriety within narrow
limits," she said. "In answering your letter, I have consulted good-nature
more than prudence; and I find that you are not slow in causing me to
repent the error."

"If I ever cause you to repent confidence in me, sweet Alida, may disgrace
in my profession, and the distrust of the whole sex, be my punishment!
But, have I not reason to complain of this inconstancy, on your part?
Ought I to expect so severe a reprimand--severe, because cold and
ironical--for an offence, venial as the wish to proclaim my gratitude?"

"Gratitude!" repeated Alida, and this time her wonder was not feigned.
"The word is strong, Sir; and it expresses more than an act of courtesy,
so simple as that which may attend the lending a volume of popular poetry,
can have any right to claim."

"I have strangely misconceived the meaning of the letter, or this has
been a day of folly!" said Ludlow, endeavoring to swallow his discontent.
"But, no; I have your own words to refute that averted eye and cold look;
and, by the faith of a sailor! Alida, I will believe your deliberate and
well-reflected thoughts, before these capricious fancies, which are
unworthy of your nature. Here are the very words; I shall not easily part
with the flattering hopes they convey!"

La belle Barberie now regarded the young man in open amazement. Her color
changed; for of the indiscretion of writing, she knew she was not
guiltless,--but of having written in terms to justify the confidence of
the other, she felt no consciousness. The customs of the age, the
profession of her suitor, and the hour, induced her to look steadily in to
his face, to see whether the man stood before her in all the decency of
his reason. But Ludlow had the reputation of being exempt from a vice that
was then but too common among seamen, and there was nothing in his
ingenuous and really handsome features, to cause her to distrust his
present discretion. She touched a bell, and signed to her companion to be
seated.

"Francois," said his mistress, when the old valet but half awake, entered
the apartment, "fais moi le plaisir de m'apporter de cette eau de la
fontaine du bosquet, et du vin--le Capitaine Ludlow a soif; et
rapelle-toi, bon Francois, il ne faut pas deranger mon oncle a cette
heure; il doit etre bien fatigue de son voyage."

When her respectful and respectable servitor had received his commission
and departed, Alida took a seat herself, in the confidence of having
deprived the visit of Ludlow of its clandestine character, and at the same
time having employed the valet on an errand that would leave her
sufficient leisure, to investigate the inexplicable meaning of her
companion.

"You have my word, Captain Ludlow, that this unseasonable appearance in
the pavilion, is indiscreet, not to call it cruel," she said, so soon as
they were again alone; "but that you have it, in any manner, to justify
your imprudence, I must continue to doubt until confronted by proof."

"I had thought to have made a very different use of this," returned
Ludlow, drawing a letter,--we admit it with some reluctance in one so
simple and so manly,--from his bosom: "and even now, I take shame in
producing it, though at your own orders.

"Some magic has wrought a marvel, or the scrawl has no such importance,"
observed Alida, taking a billet that she now began to repent having ever
written. "The language of politeness and female reserve must admit of
strange perversions, or all who read are not the best interpreters."

La belle Barberie ceased speaking, for the instant her eye fell on the
paper, an absorbing and intense curiosity got the better of her
resentment. We shall give the contents of the letter, precisely in the
words which caused so much amazement, and possibly some little uneasiness,
to the fair creature who was perusing it.

"The life of a seaman," said the paper, in a delicate and beautiful female
hand, "is one of danger and exposure. It inspires confidence in woman, by
the frankness to which it gives birth, and it merits indulgence by its
privations. She who writes this, is not insensible to the merit of men of
this bold calling. Admiration for the sea, and for those who live on it
has been her weakness through life; and her visions of the future, like
her recollections of the past, are not entirely exempt from a
contemplation of its pleasures. The usages of different nations--glory in
arms--change of scene--with constancy in the affections, all sweetened by
affluence, are temptations too strong for a female imagination, and they
should not be without their influence on the judgment of man. Adieu."

This note was read, re-perused, and for the third time conned, ere Alida
ventured to raise her eyes to the face of the expectant young man.

"And this indelicate and unfeminine rhapsody, Captain Ludlow has seen
proper to ascribe to me!" she said, while her voice trembled between pride
and mortification.

"To whom else can I impute it? No other, lovely Alida, could utter
language so charming, in words so properly chosen."

The long lashes of the maiden played quickly above their dark organs, and
then, conquering feelings that were strangely in contradiction to each
other, she said with dignity, turning to a little ebony escritoire which
lay beside her dressing-box--

"My correspondence is neither very important nor very extensive; but such
as it is, happily for the reputation of the writer's taste, if not for her
sanity, I believe it is in my power to show the trifle I thought it
decorous to write, in reply to your own letter. Here is a copy," she
added, opening what in fact was a draught, and reading aloud.

"I thank Capt. Ludlow for his attention in affording me an opportunity of
reading a narrative of the cruel deeds of the buccaneers. In addition to
the ordinary feelings of humanity, one cannot but regret, that men so
heartless are to be found in a profession that is commonly thought to be
generous and tender of the weak. We will, however, hope, that the very
wicked and cowardly, among seamen, exist only as foils to render the
qualities of the very bold and manly more conspicuous. No one can be more
sensible of this truth than the friends of Captain Ludlow," the voice of
Alida fell a little, as she came to this sentence, 'who has not now to
earn a reputation for mercy. In return, I send the copy of the Cid, which
honest Francois affirms to be superior to all other poems, not even
excepting Homer--a book, which I believe he is innocent of calumniating,
from ignorance of its contents. Again thanking Capt. Ludlow for this
instance of his repeated attentions I beg he will keep the volume, until
he shall return from his intended cruise."

"This note is but a copy of the one you have, or ought to have," said the
niece of the Alderman, as she raised her glowing face from leaning over
the paper, "though it is not signed, like that, with the name of Alida de
Barberie."

When this explanation was over, both parties sat looking at each other, in
silent amazement. Still Alida saw, or thought she saw, that,
notwithstanding the previous professions of her admirer, the young man
rejoiced he had been deceived. Respect for delicacy and reserve in the
other sex is so general and so natural among men, that they who succeed
the most in destroying its barriers, rarely fail to regret their triumph;
and he who truly loves can never long exult in any violation of propriety,
in the object of his affections, even though the concession be made in his
own favor. Under the influence of this commendable and healthful feeling,
Ludlow, while he was in some respects mortified at the turn affairs had
taken, felt sensibly relieved from a load of doubt, to which the
extraordinary language of the letter, he believed his mistress to have
written, had given birth. His companion read the state of his mind, in a
countenance that was frank as face of sailor could be; and though secretly
pleased to gain her former place in his respect, she was also vexed and
wounded that he had ever presumed to distrust her reserve. She still held
the inexplicable billet and her eyes naturally sought the lines. A sudden
thought seemed to strike her mind, and returning the paper, she said
coldly--

"Captain Ludlow should know his correspondent better; I much mistake if
this be the first of her communications."

The young man colored to the temples, and hid his face, for a moment, in
the hollow of his hands.

"You admit the truth of my suspicions," continued la belle Barberie, "and
cannot be insensible of my justice, when I add, that henceforth------"

"Listen to me, Alida," cried the youth, half breathless in his haste to
interrupt a decision that he dreaded; "hear me, and as Heaven is my judge,
you shall hear only truth. I confess this is not the first of the letters,
written in the same hand--perhaps I should say in the same spirit--but, on
the honor of a loyal officer, I affirm, that until circumstances led me to
think myself so happy--so--very happy,--"

"I understand you, Sir: the work was anonymous, until you saw fit to
inscribe my name as its author. Ludlow! Ludlow! how meanly have you
thought of the woman you profess to love!"

"That were impossible! I mingle little with those who study the finesse of
life; and loving, as I do, my noble profession, Alida, was it so unnatural
to believe that another might view it with the same eyes? But since you
disavow the letter--nay, your disavowal is unnecessary--I see my vanity
has even deceived me in the writing--but since the delusion is over, I
confess that I rejoice it is not so."

La belle Barberie smiled, and her countenance grew brighter. She enjoyed
the triumph of knowing that she merited the respect of her suitor, and it
was a triumph heightened by recent mortification. Then succeeded a pause
of more than a minute. The embarrassment of the silence was happily
interrupted by the return of Francois.

"Mam'selle Alide, voici de l'eau de la fontaine," said the valet; "mais
Monsieur votre oncle s'esi couche, et il a mis la clef de la cave an vin
dessous son oreiller. Ma foi, ce n'est pas facile d'avoir du bon vin du
tout, en Amerique, mais apres que Monsieur le maire s'est couche, c'est
toujours impossible; voila!"

"N'importe, mon cher; le capitaine va partir, et il n'a plus soif."

"Dere is assez de jin," continued the valet, who felt for the captain's
disappointment, "mais, Monsieur Loodle, have du gout, an' he n'aime pas so
strong liqueur."

"He has swallowed already more than was necessary for one occasion," said
Alida, smiling on her admirer, in a manner that left him doubtful whether
he ought most to repine, or to rejoice. "Thank you, good Francois; your
duty for the night shall end with lighting the captain to the door."

Then saluting the young commander, in a manner that would not admit of
denial, la belle Barberie dismissed her lover and the valet, together.

"You have a pleasant office, Monsieur Francois," said the former, as he
was lighted to the outer door of the pavilion; "it is one that many a
gallant gentleman would envy."

"Oui, Sair. It be grand plaisir to serve Mam'selle Alide. Je porte de fan,
de book, mais quant an vin, Monsieur le Capitaine, parole d'honneur, c'est
toujours impossible apres que l'Aldermain s'est couche."

"Ay--the book--I think you had the agreeable duty, to-day, of carrying the
book of la Belle?"

"Vraiment, oui! 'Twas ouvrage de Monsieur Pierre Corneille. On pretend,
que Monsieur Shak-a-spear en a emprunte d'assez beaux sentiments!"

"And the paper between the leaves?--you were charged also with that note,
good Francois?"

The valet paused, shrugged his shoulders, and aid one of his long yellow
fingers on the plane of an enormous aquiline nose, while he seemed to
muse. Then shaking his head perpendicularly, he preceded the captain, as
before, muttering, as usual, half in French and half in English,--

"For le papier, I know, rien du tout; c'est bien possible, parceque, voyez
vous, Monsieur le Capitaine, Mam'selle Alide did say, prenez-y garde; but
I no see him, depuis. Je suppose 'twas beaux compliments ecrits on de vers
of M. Pierre Corneille. Quel genie que celui de cet homme la!--n'est ce
pas, Monsieur?"

"It is of no consequence, good Francois," said Ludlow, slipping a guinea
into the hands of the valet. "If you should ever discover what became of
that paper, however, you will oblige me by letting me know. Good night;
mes devoirs a la Belle!"

"Bon soir, Monsieur le Capitaine; c'est un brave Monsieur que celui-la, et
de tres bonne famille! Il n'a pas de si grandes terres, que Monsieur le
Patteroon, pourtant, on dit, qu'il doit avoir de jolies maisons et assez
de rentes publiques! J'aime a servir un si genereux et loyal maitre, mais,
malheureusement, il est marin! M. de Barberie n'avait pas trop d'amitie
pour les gens de cette profession la."




Chapter VIII.



    "--Well, Jessica, go in;
    Perhaps, I will return immediately;
    Do as I bid you,
    Shut doors after you: Fast bind, fast find;
    A proverb never stale, in thrifty mind."

    Merchant of Venice.


The decision, with which la demoiselle Barberie had dismissed her suitor,
was owing to some consciousness that she had need of opportunity to
reflect on the singular nature of the events which had just happened, no
less than to a sense of the impropriety of his visiting her at that hour,
and in a manner so equivocal. But, like others who act from feverish
impulses, when alone the maiden repented of her precipitation; and she
remembered fifty questions which might aid in clearing the affair of its
mystery, that she would now gladly put. It was too late, however, for she
had heard Ludlow take his leave, and had listened, in breathless silence,
to his footstep, as he passed the shrubbery of her little lawn. Francois
reappeared at the door, to repeat his wishes for her rest and happiness,
and then she believed she was finally alone for the night, since the
ladies of that age and country, were little apt to require the assistance
of their attendants, in assuming, or in divesting themselves of, their
ordinary attire.

It was still early, and the recent interview had deprived Alida of all
inclination for sleep. She placed the lights in a distant corner of the
apartment, and approached a window. The moon had so far changed its
position, as to cast a different light upon the water. The hollow washing
of the surf, the dull but heavy breathing of the air from the sea, and the
soft shadows of the trees and mountain, were much the same. The Coquette
lay, as before, at her anchor near the cape, and the Shrewsbury glittered
towards the south, until its surface was concealed by the projection of a
high and nearly perpendicular bluff.

The stillness was profound, for, with the exception of the dwelling of the
family who occupied the estate nearest the villa, there was no other
habitation within some miles of the place. Still the solitude of the
situation was undisturbed by any apprehension of danger, or any tradition
of violence from rude and lawless men. The peaceable character of the
colonists, who dwelt in the interior country, was proverbial, and their
habits simple; while the ocean was never entered by those barbarians, who
then rendered some of the seas of the other hemisphere as fearful as they
were pleasant.

Notwithstanding this known and customary character of tranquillity, and
the lateness of the hour, Alida had not been many moments in her balcony,
before she heard the sound of oars. The stroke was measured, and the noise
low and distant, but it was too familiar to be mistaken. She wondered at
the expedition of Ludlow, who was not accustomed to show such haste in
quitting her presence, and leaned over the railing to catch a glimpse of
his departing boat. Each moment she expected to see the little bark issue
from out of the shadows of the land, into the sheet of brightness which
stretched nearly to the cruiser. She gazed long, and in vain, for no barge
appeared, and yet the sound had become inaudible. A light still hung at
the peak of the Coquette, a sign that the commander was out of his vessel.

The view of a fine ship, seen by the aid of the moon, with its symmetry of
spars, and its delicate tracery of cordage, and the heavy and grand
movements of the hull as it rolls on the sluggish billows of a calm sea,
is ever a pleasing and indeed an imposing spectacle. Alida knew that
more, than a hundred human beings slept within the black and silent mass,
and her thoughts insensibly wandered to the business of their daring
lives, their limited abode, and yet wandering existence, their frank and
manly qualities, their devotion to the cause of those who occupied the
land, their broken and interrupted connexion with the rest of the human
family, and finally to those weakened domestic ties, and to that
reputation for inconstancy, which are apparently a natural consequence of
all. She sighed, and her eye wandered from the ship to that ocean on which
it was constructed to dwell. From the distant, low, and nearly
imperceptible shore of the island of Nassau, to the coast of New-Jersey,
there was one broad and untenanted waste. Even the sea-fowl rested his
tired wing, and slept tranquilly on the water. The broad space appeared
like some great and unfrequented desert, or rather like a denser and more
material copy of the firmament by which it was canopied.

It has been mentioned that a stunted growth of oaks and pines covered much
of the sandy ridge that formed the cape. The same covering furnished a
dark setting to the waters of the Cove. Above this outline of wood, which
fringed the margin of the sea. Alida now fancied she saw an object in
motion. At first, she believed some ragged and naked tree, of which the
coast had many, was so placed as to deceive her vision, and had thrown its
naked lines upon the back-ground of water, in a manner to assume the shape
and tracery of a light-rigged vessel. But when the dark and symmetrical
spars were distinctly seen, gliding past objects that were known to be
stationary, it was impossible to doubt their character. The maiden
wondered, and her surprise was not unmixed with apprehension. It seemed as
if the stranger for such the vessel must needs be, was recklessly
approaching a surf, that, in its most tranquil moments, was dangerous to
such a fabric, and that he steered, unconscious of hazard, directly upon
the land. Even the movement was mysterious and unusual. Sails there were
none; and yet the light and lofty spars were soon hid behind a thicket
that covered a knoll near the margin of the sea. Alida expected, each
moment, to hear the cry of mariners in distress, and then, as the minutes
passed and no such fearful sound interrupted the stillness of the night,
she began to bethink her of those lawless rovers, who were known to abound
among the Carribean isles, and who were said sometimes even to enter and
to refit, in the smaller and more secret inlets of the American continent.
The tales, coupled with the deeds, character, and fate of the notorious
Kidd, were then still recent, and although magnified and colored by vulgar
exaggerations, as all such tales are known to be, enough was believed, by
the better instructed, to make his life and death the subject of many
curious and mysterious rumors. At this moment, she would have gladly
recalled the young commander of the Coquette, to apprize him of the enemy
that was nigh; and then, ashamed of terrors that she was fain to hope
savored more of woman's weakness than of truth, she endeavored to believe
the whole some ordinary movement of a coaster, who, familiar with his
situation, could rot possibly be either in want of aid, or an object of
alarm. Just as this natural and consoling conclusion crossed her mind, she
very audibly heard a step in her pavilion. It seemed near the door of the
room she occupied. Breathless, more with the excitement of her
imagination, than with any actual fear created by this new cause of alarm,
the maiden quitted the balcony, and stood motionless to listen. The door,
in truth, was opened, with singular caution, and, for an instant, Alida
saw nothing but a confused area in the centre of which appeared the
figure of a menacing and rapacious freebooter.

"Northern lights and moonshine!" growled Alderman Van Beverout, for it was
no other than the uncle of the heiress, whose untimely and unexpected
visit had caused her so much alarm. "This sky-watching, and turning of
night into day, will be the destruction of thy beauty, niece; and then we
shall see how plenty Patroons are for husbands! A bright eye and a
blooming cheek are thy stock in trade, girl; and she is a spendthrift of
both, who is out of her bed when the clock hath struck ten."

"Your discipline would deprive many a beauty of the means of using her
power," returned la demoiselle, smiling, as much at the folly of her
recent fears, as with affection for her reprover. "They tell me, that ten
is the witching time of night, for the necromancy of the dames of Europe."

"Witch me no witches! The name reminds one of the cunning Yankees, a race
that would outwit Lucifer himself, if left to set the conditions to their
bargain. Here is the Patroon, wishing to let in a family of the knaves
among the honest Dutchmen of his manor; and we have just settled a dispute
between us, on this subject, by making the lawful trial."

"Which, it may be proper to hope, dearest uncle, was not the trial by
battle?"

"Peace and olive-branches, no! The Patroon of Kinderhook is the last man
in the Americas, that is likely to suffer by the blows of Myndert Van
Beverout. I challenged the boy to hold a fine eel, that the blacks have
brought out of the river to help in breaking our morning fasts, that it
might be seen if he were fit to deal with the slippery rogues. By the
merit of the peaceable St. Nicholas! but the son of old Hendrick Van
Staats had a busy time of it! The lad griped the fish, as the ancient
tradition has it that thy uncle clenched the Holland florin, when my
father put it between my fingers, within the month, in order to see if the
true saving grace was likely to abide in the family for another
generation. My heart misgave me for a moment; for young Oloff has the fist
of a vice, and I thought the goodly names of the Harmans, and Rips,
Corneliuses, and Dircks of the manor rent-roll were likely to be
contaminated by the company of an Increase or a Peleg; but just as the
Patroon thought he had the watery viper by the throat, the fish gave an
unexpected twist, and slid through his fingers by the tail. Flaws and
loop-holes! but that experiment has as much wisdom as wit in it!"

"And to me, it seemeth better, now that Providence has brought all the
colonies under one government, that these prejudices should be forgotten.
We are a people, sprung from many nations, and our effort should be to
preserve the liberality and intelligence, while we forget the weaknesses,
of all."

"Bravely said, for the child of a Huguenot! But I defy the man, who brings
prejudice to my door. I like a merry trade, and a quick calculation. Let
me see the man in all New-England, that can tell the color of a
balance-sheet quicker than one that can be named, and I'll gladly hunt up
the satchel and go to school again. I love a man the better for looking to
his own interests, I; and, yet common honesty teaches us, that there
should be a convention between men, beyond which none of reputation and
character ought to go."

"Which convention shall be understood, by every man, to be the limits of
his own faculties; by which means the dull may rival the quick of thought.
I fear me, uncle, there should be an eel kept on every coast, to which a
trader comes!"

"Prejudice and conceit, child, acting on a drowsy head; 'tis time thou
seekest thy pillow, and in the morning we shall see if young Oloff of the
Manor shall have better success with thy favor, than with the prototype of
the Jonathans. Here, put out these flaring candles, and take a modest lamp
to light thee to thy bed. Glaring windows, so near midnight give a house
an extravagant name, in the neighborhood."

"Our reputation for sobriety may suffer in the opinion of the eels,"
returned Alida, laughing, "but here are few others, I believe, to call us
dissipated."

"One never knows--one never knows--" muttered the Alderman, extinguishing
the two large candles of his niece, and substituting his own little
handlamp in their place. "This broad light only invites to wakefulness,
while the dim taper I leave is good as a sleeping draught. Kiss me, wilful
one, and draw thy curtains close, for the negroes will soon rise to load
the periagua, that they may go up with the tide to the city. The noise of
the chattering black guards may disturb thy slumbers!"

"Truly, it would seem there was little here to invite such active
navigation," returned Alida, saluting the cheek of her uncle at his order.
"The love of trade must be strong, when it finds the materials of
commerce, in a solitude like this."

"Thou hast divined the reason, child. Thy father Monsieur de Barberie had
his peculiar opinions on the subject, and doubtless he did not fail to
transmit some of them to his offspring. And yet, when the Huguenot was
driven from his chateau and his clayey Norman lands, the man had no
distaste, himself, for an account-current, provided the balance was in his
own favor. Nations and characters! I find but little difference, after
all, in trade; whether it be driven with a Mohawk for his pack of furs, or
with a Seigneur, who has been driven from his lands. Each strives to get
the profit on his own side of the account, and the loss on that of his
neighbor. So rest thee well, girl; and remember that matrimony is no more
than a capital bargain, on whose success depends the sum-total of a
woman's comfort--and so once more, good night."

La belle Barberie attended her uncle, dutifully to the door of her
pavilion, which she bolted after him; and then, finding her little
apartment gloomy by the light of the small and feeble lamp he had left,
she was pleased to bring its flame in contact with the wicks of the two
candles he had just extinguished. Placing the three, near each other, on a
table, the maiden again drew nigh a window. The unexpected interview with
the Alderman had consumed several minutes, and she was curious to know
more of the unaccountable movements of the mysterious vessel.

The same deep silence reigned about the villa, and the slumbering ocean
was heaving and setting as heavily as before. Alida again looked for the
boat of Ludlow; but her eye ran over the whole distance of the bright and
broad streak, between her and the cruiser, in vain. There was the slight
ripple of the water in the glittering of the moon's rays, but no speck,
like that the barge would make, was visible. The lantern still shone at
the cruiser's peak. Once, indeed, she thought the sound of oars was again
to be heard, and much nearer than before; and yet no effort of her quick
and roving sight could detect the position of the boat. But to all these
doubts succeeded an alarm which sprang from a new and very different
source.

The existence of the inlet, which united the ocean with the waters of the
Cove, was but little known, except to the few whose avocations kept them
near the spot. The pass being much more than half the time closed, its
varying character, and the little use that could be made of it under any
circumstances, prevented the place from being a subject of general
interest, with the coasters. Even when open the depth of its water was
uncertain, since a week or two of calms, or of westerly winds, would
permit the tides to clean its channel, while a single easterly gale was
sufficient to choke the entire inlet with sand. No wonder, then, that
Alida felt an amazement which was not quite free from superstitious alarm
when, at that hour and in such a scene, she saw a vessel gliding, as it
were unaided by sails or sweeps, out of the thicket that fringed the ocean
side of the Cove, into its very centre.

The strange and mysterious craft was a brigantine of that mixed
construction, which is much used, even in the most ancient and classical
seas of the other hemisphere, and which is supposed to unite the
advantages of both a square and of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, but which
is nowhere seen to display the same beauty of form, and symmetry of
equipment, as on the coasts of this Union. The first and smallest of its
masts had all the complicated machinery of a ship, with its superior and
inferior spars, its wider reaching, though light and manageable yards, and
its various sails, shaped and arranged to meet every vicissitude and
caprice of the winds; while the latter, or larger of the two, rose like
the straight trunk of a pine from the hull, simple in its cordage, and
spreading a single sheet of canvas, that, in itself, was sufficient to
drive the fabric with vast velocity through the water. The hull was low,
graceful in its outlines, dark as the raven's wing, and so modelled as to
float on its element like a sea-gull riding the billows. There were many
delicate and attenuated lines among its spars, which were intended to
spread broader folds of canvas to the light airs, when necessary; but
these additions to the tracery of the machine, which added so much to its
beauty by day, were now, seen as it was by the dimmer and more treacherous
rays of the moon, scarcely visible. In short, as the vessel had entered
the Cove floating with the tide, and it was so singularly graceful and
fairy-like in form, that Alida, at first, was fain to discredit her
senses, and to believe it no more than some illusion of the fancy. Like
most others, she was ignorant of the temporary inlet, and, under the
circumstances, it was not difficult to lend a momentary credence to so
pleasing an idea.

But the delusion was only momentary. The brigantine turned in its course,
and, gliding into the part of the Cove where the curvature of the shores
offered most protection from the winds and waves, and perhaps from curious
eyes, its motion ceased. A heavy plunge in the water was audible even at
the villa, and Alida then knew that an anchor had fallen into the bay.

Although the coast of North America offered little to invite lawless
depredation, and it was in general believed to be so safe, yet the
possibility that cupidity might be invited by the retired situation of her
uncle's villa, did not fail to suggest itself to the mind of the young
heiress. Both she and her guardian were reputed to be wealthy; and
disappointment, on the open sea, might drive desperate men to the
commission of crimes that in more prosperous moments would not suggest
themselves. The freebooters were said to have formerly visited the coast
of the neighboring island, and men were just then commencing those
excavations for hidden treasures and secreted booty, which have been, at
distant intervals, continued to our own time.

There are situations in which the mind insensibly gives credit to
impressions, that the reason in common disapproves. The present was one in
which Alide de Barberie, though of a resolute and even a masculine
understanding, felt disposed to believe there might be truth in those
tales, that she had hitherto heard, only to deride. Still keeping her eye
on the Motionless vessel, she drew back into her window and wrapped the
curtain round her form, undecided whether to alarm the family or not, and
acting under a vague impression that, though so distant, her person might
be seen. She was hardly thus secreted, before the shrubbery was violently
agitated, a footstep was heard in the lawn beneath her window, and then
one leaped so lightly into the balcony, and from the balcony into the
centre of the room, that the passage of the figure seemed like the
flitting of some creature of supernatural attributes.




Chapter IX.



     "Why look you, how you stare!
    I would be friends with you, and have your love."

    Shylock.


The first impulse of Alida, at this second invasion of her pavilion, was
certainly to flee. But timidity was not her weakness, and as natural
firmness gave her time to examine the person of the individual who had so
unceremoniously entered, curiosity aided in inducing her to remain.
Perhaps a vague, but a very natural, expectation that she was again to
dismiss the commander of the Coquette, had its influence on her first
decision. In order that the reader may judge how far this boldness was
excusable, we shall describe the person of the intruder.

The stranger was one in the very bud of young and active manhood. His
years could not have exceeded two-and-twenty, nor would he probably have
been thought so old, had not his features been shaded by a rich, brown
hue, that in some degree, served as a foil to a natural complexion, which,
though never fair, was still clear and blooming. A pair of dark, bushy,
and jet-black, silken whiskers, that were in singular contrast to
eye-lashes and brows of almost feminine beauty and softness, aided also in
giving a decided expression to a face that might otherwise have been
wanting in some of that character which is thought essential to comeliness
in man. The forehead was smooth and low; the nose, though prominent and
bold in outline, of exceeding delicacy in detail; the mouth and lips full,
a little inclined to be arch, though the former appeared as if it might at
times be pensive; the teeth were even and unsullied; and the chin was
small, round, dimpled, and so carefully divested of the distinguishing
mark of the sex, that one could fancy nature had contributed all its
growth to adorn the neighboring cheeks and temples. If to these features
be added a pair of full and brilliant coal-black eyes, that appeared to
vary their expression at their master's will, the reader will at once see,
that the privacy of Alida had been invaded by one whose personal
attractions might, under other circumstances, have been dangerous to the
imagination of a female, whose taste was in some degree influenced by a
standard created by her own loveliness.

The dress of the stranger was as unique as his personal attractions were
extraordinary. The fashion of the garments resembled that of those already
described as worn by the man who has announced himself as Master Tiller;
but the materials were altogether richer, and, judging only from the
exterior, more worthy of the wearer.

The light frock was of a thick purple silk, of an Indian manufacture, cut
with exceeding care to fit the fine outlines of a form that was rather
round, than square; active, than athletic. The loose trowsers were of a
fine white jean, the cap of scarlet velvet, ornamented with gold, and the
body was belted with a large cord of scarlet silk, twisted in the form of
a ship's cable. At the ends of the latter, little anchors, wrought in
bullion, were attached as gay and fitting appendages.

In contrast to an attire so whimsical and uncommon, however, a pair of
small and richly-mounted pistols were at the stranger's girdle; and the
haft, of a curiously-carved Asiatic dagger was seen projecting, rather
ostentatiously, from between the folds of the upper garment.

"What cheer! what cheer!" cried a voice, that was more in harmony with the
appearance of the speaker, than with the rough, professional salutation he
uttered, so soon as he had fairly landed in the centre of Alida's little
saloon. "Come forth, my dealer in the covering of the beaver, for here is
one who brings gold to thy coffers. Ha! now that this trio of lights hath
done its office, it may be extinguished, lest it pilot others to the
forbidden haven!"

"Your pardon, Sir," said the mistress of the pavilion, advancing from
behind the curtain, with an air of coolness that her beating heart had
nigh betrayed to be counterfeit; "having so unexpected a guest to
entertain, the additional candles are necessary."

The start, recoil, and evident alarm of the intruder, lent Alida a little
more assurance; for courage is a quality that appears to gain force, in a
degree proportioned to the amount in which it is abstracted from the
dreaded object. Still, when she saw a hand on a pistol, the maiden was
again about to flee; nor was her resolution to remain confirmed, until she
met the mild and alluring eye of the intruder, as, quitting his hold of
the weapon, he advanced with an air so mild and graceful, as to cause
curiosity to take the place of fear.

"Though Alderman Van Beverout be not punctual to his appointment," said
the gay young stranger "he has more than atoned for his absence by the
substitute he sends. I hope she comes authorized to arrange the whole of
our treaty?"

"I claim no right to hear, or to dictate, in matters not my own. My utmost
powers extend to expressing a desire, that this pavilion may be exempt
from the discussion of affairs, as much beyond my knowledge as they are
separated from my interests."

"Then why this signal?" demanded the stranger, pointing, with a serious
air, to the lights that still burned near each other in face of an open
window "It is awkward to mislead, in transactions that are so delicate!"

"Your allusion, Sir, is not understood. These lights are no more than what
are usually seen in my apartment at this hour--with, indeed, the addition
of a lamp, left by my uncle, Alderman Van Beverout."

"Your uncle!" exclaimed the other, advancing so near Alida, as to cause
her to retire a step, his countenance expressing a deep and newly-awakened
interest--"your uncle!--This, then, is one far-famed and justly extolled;
la belle Barberie!" he added, gallantly lifting his cap, as if he had just
discovered the condition and the unusual personal attractions of his
companion.

It was not in nature for Alida to be displeased. All her fancied causes of
terror were forgotten; for, in addition to their improbable and uncertain
nature, the stranger had sufficiently given her to understand, that he was
expected by her uncle. If we add, that the singular attraction and
softness of his face and voice aided in quieting her fears, we shall
probably do no violence either to the truth or to a very natural feeling.
Profoundly ignorant of the details of commerce, and accustomed to hear its
mysteries extolled as exercising the keenest and best faculties of man,
she saw nothing extraordinary in those who were actively engaged in the
pursuit having reasons for concealing their movements from the jealousy
and rivalry of competitors. Like most of her sex, she had great dependence
on the characters of those she loved; and, though nature, education, and
habit, had created a striking difference between the guardian and his
ward, their harmony had never been interrupted by any breach of affection.

"This then is la belle Barberie!" repeated the young sailor, for such his
dress denoted him to be, studying her features with an expression of face,
in which pleasure vied with evident and touching melancholy. "Fame hath
done no injustice, for here is all that might justify the folly or madness
of man!"

"This is familiar dialogue for an utter stranger," returned Alida,
blushing, though the quick dark eye that seemed to fathom all her
thoughts, saw it was not in anger. "I do not deny that the partiality of
friends, coupled with my origin, have obtained the appellation, which is
given, however, more in playfulness than in any serious opinion of its
being merited--and now, as the hour is getting late, and this visit is at
least unusual, you will permit me to seek my uncle."

"Stay!" interrupted the stranger--"it is long--very long, since so
soothing, so gentle a pleasure has been mine! This is a life of mysteries,
beautiful Alida, though its incidents seem so vulgar, and of every-day
occurrence. There is mystery in its beginning and its end; in its
impulses; its sympathies and all its discordant passions. No, do not quit
me. I am from off the sea, where none but coarse and vulgar-minded men
have long been my associates; and thy presence is a balm to a bruised and
wounded spirit."

Interested, if possible, more by the touching and melancholy tones of the
speaker, than by his extraordinary language, Alida hesitated. Her reason
told her that propriety, and even prudence, required she should apprize
her uncle of the stranger's presence; but propriety and prudence lose much
of their influence, when female curiosity is sustained by a secret and
powerful sympathy. Her own eloquent eye met the open and imploring look of
organs, that seemed endowed with the fabled power to charm; and while her
judgment told her there was so much to alarm her senses pleaded powerfully
in behalf of the gentle mariner.

"An expected guest of my uncle will have, leisure to repose, after the
privations and hardships of so weary a voyage," she said. "This is a house
whose door is never closed against the rites of hospitality."

"If there is aught about my person or attire, to alarm you," returned the
stranger, earnestly, "speak, that it may be cast away--These arms--these
foolish arms, had better not have been here," he added, casting the
pistols and dagger indignantly, through a window, into the shrubbery; "Ah!
if you knew how unwillingly I would harm any--and, least of all, a
woman--you would not fear me!"

"I fear you not," returned la Belle, firmly. "I dread the misconceptions
of the world."

"What world is here to disturb us? Thou livest in thy pavilion, beautiful
Alida, remote from towns and envy, like some favored damsel, over whose
happy and charmed life presides a benignant genius. See, here are all the
pretty materials, with which thy sex seeks innocent and happy amusement.
Thou touchest this lute, when melancholy renders thought pleasing; here
are colors to mock, or to eclipse, the beauties of the fields and the
mountain, the flower, and the tree; and from these pages are culled
thoughts, pure and rich in imagery, as thy spirit is spotless, and thy
person lovely!"

Alida listened in amazement; for, while he spoke the young mariner touched
the different articles he named, with a melancholy interest, which seemed
to say how deeply he regretted that fortune had placed him in a
profession, in which their use was nearly denied.

"It is not common for those who live on the sea, to feel this interest in
the trifles which constitute a woman's pleasure," she said, lingering,
spite of her better resolution to depart.

"The spirit of our rude and boisterous trade is then known to you?"

"It were not possible for the relation of a merchant, so extensively known
as my uncle, to be ignorant altogether of mariners."

"Ay, here is proof of it," returned the stranger, speaking so quick as
again to betray how sensitively his mind was constructed. "The History of
the American Buccaneers is a rare book to be found in a lady's library!
What pleasure can a mind like that of la belle Barberie find in these
recitals of bloody violence?"

"What pleasure, truly!" returned Alida, half tempted, by the wild and
excited eye of her companion, not withstanding all the contradictory
evidence which surrounded him, to believe she was addressing one of the
very rovers in question. "The book was lent me by a brave seaman, who
holds himself in readiness to repress their depredations; and while
reading of so much wickedness, I endeavor to recall the devotion of those
who risk their lives, in order to protect the weak and innocent--My uncle
will be angered, should I longer delay to apprize him of your presence."

"A single moment! It is long--very long, since I have entered a sanctuary
like this! Here is music; and there the frame for the gaudy tambour--these
windows look on a landscape, soft as thine own nature; and yonder ocean
can be admired without dreading its terrific power, or feeling disgust at
its coarser scenes. Thou shouldst be happy, here!"

The stranger turned, and perceived that he was alone. Disappointment was
strongly painted on his handsome face; but, ere there was time for second
thought, another voice was heard grumbling at the door of the saloon.

"Compacts and treaties! What, in the name of good faith, hath brought thee
hither? Is this the way to keep a cloak on our movements? or dost suppose
that the Queen will knight me, for being known as thy correspondent?"

"Lanterns and false-beacons!" returned the other, mimicking the voice of
the disconcerted burgher, and pointing to the lights that still stood
where last described. "Can the port be entered without respecting the
land-marks and signals?"

"This comes of moonlight and sentiment! When the girl should have been
asleep, she is up, gazing at the stars, and disconcerting a burgher's
speculations--But fear thee not, Master Seadrift; my niece has discretion,
and if we have no better pledge for her silence, there is that of
necessity; since there is no one here for a confidant, but her old Norman
valet, and the Patroon of Kinderhook, both of whom are dreaming of other
matter than a little gainful traffic."

"Fear thee not, Alderman;" returned the other, still maintaining his air
of mockery. "We have the pledge of character, if no other; since the uncle
cannot part with reputation, without the niece sharing in the loss."

"What sin is there in pushing commerce a step beyond the limits of the
law? These English are a nation of monopolists; and they make no scruple
of tying us of the colonies, hand and foot, heart and soul, with their
acts of Parliament, saying 'with us shalt thou trade, or not at all.' By
the character of the best burgomaster of Amsterdam, and they came by the
province, too, in no such honesty, that we should lie down and obey!"

"Wherein there is much comfort to a dealer in the contraband. Justly
reasoned, my worthy Alderman. Thy logic will, at any time, make a smooth
pillow, especially if the adventure be not without its profit. And now,
having so commendabiy disposed of the moral of our bargain, let us
approach its legitimate, if not its lawful, conclusion. There," he added,
drawing a small bag from an inner pocket of his frock, and tossing it
carelessly on a table; "there is thy gold. Eighty broad Johannes is no bad
return for a few packages of furs; and even avarice itself will own, that
six months is no long investment for the usury."

"That boat of thine, most lively Seadrift, is a marine humming-bird!"
returned Myndert, with a joyful tremor of the voice, that betrayed his
deep and entire satisfaction. "Didst say just eighty? But spare thyself
the trouble of looking for the memorandum; I will tell the gold myself, to
save thee the trouble. Truly, the adventure hath not been bad! A few kegs
of Jamaica, with a little powder and lead, and a blanket or two, with now
and then a penny bauble for a chief, are knowingly, ay! and speedily
transmuted into the yellow metal, by thy good aid.--This affair was
managed on the French coast?"

"More northward, where the frost helped the bargain. Thy beavers and
martens, honest burgher, will be flaunting in the presence of the Emperor,
at the next holidays. What is there in the face of the Braganza, that thou
studiest it so hard?"

"The piece peems none of the heaviest--but, luckily, I have scales at
hand,--"

"Hold!" said the stranger, laying his hand, which according to a fashion
of that day, was clad in a delicate and scented glove, lightly on the arm
of the other: "No scales between us, Sir! That was taken in return for thy
adventure; heavy or light, it must go down. We deal in confidence, and
this hesitation offends me. Another such doubt of my integrity, and our
connexion is at an end."

"A calamity I should deplore, quite or nearly as much as thyself,"
returned Myndert, affecting to laugh; though he slipped the suspected
doubloon into the bag again, in a manner that at once removed the object
of contention from view. "A little particularity in the balance part of
commerce serves to maintain friendships. But a trifle shall not cause us
to waste the precious time.--Hast brought goods suited to the colonies?"

"In plenty."

"And ingeniously assorted? Colonies and monopoly!--But there is a two-fold
satisfaction in this clandestine traffic! I never get the notice of thy
arrival, Master Seadrift, but the heart within me leapeth of gladness!
There is a double pleasure in circumventing the legislation of your London
wiseacres!"

"The chiefest of which is--?"

"A goodly return for the investment, truly--I desire not to deny the
agency of natural causes; but, trust me, there is a sort of professional
glory in thus defeating the selfishness of our rulers. What! are we born
of woman, to be used as the instruments of their prosperity! Give us equal
legislation, a right to decide on the policy of enactments, and then, like
a loyal and obedient subject,--"

"Thou wouldst still deal in the contraband!"

"Well, well, multiplying idle words is not multiplying gold. The list of
the articles introduced can be forthcoming?"

"It is here, and ready to be examined. But there is a fancy come over me,
Alderman Van Beverout, which, like others of my caprices, thou knowest
must have its way. There should be a witness to our bargain."

"Judges and juries! Thou forgettest, man, that a clumsy galliot could
sail through the tightest clause, of these extra-legal compacts. The
courts receive the evidence of this sort of traffic, as the grave receives
the dead; to swallow all, and be forgotten."

"I care not for the courts, and little desire do I feel to enter them. But
the presence of la belle Barberie may serve to prevent any misconceptions,
that might bring our connexion to a premature close. Let her be summoned."

"The girl is altogether ignorant of traffic, and it might unsettle her
opinions of her uncle's stability. If a man does not maintain credit
within his own doors, how can he expect it in the streets?"

"Many have credit on the highway, who receive none at home. But thou
knowest my humor; no niece--no traffic."

"Alida is a dutiful and affectionate child, and I would not willingly
disturb her slumbers. Here is the Patroon of Kinderhook, a man who loves
English legislation as little as myself;--he will be less reluctant to see
an honest shilling turned into gold. I will awake him: no man was ever yet
offended at an offer to share in a profitable adventure."

"Let him sleep on. I deal not with your lords of manors and mortgages.
Bring forth the lady, for there will be matter fit for her delicacy."

"Duty and the ten commandments! You never had the charge of a child,
Master Seadrift, and cannot know the weight of responsibility--"

"No niece--no traffic!" interrupted the wilful dealer in contraband,
returning his invoice to his pocket, and preparing to rise from the table,
where he had already seated himself.--"The lady knows of my presence; and
it were safer for us both, that she entered more deeply into our
confidence."

"Thou art as despotic as the English navigation-law! I hear the foot of
the child still pacing her chamber, and she shall come. But there need be
no explanations, to recall old intercourse.--The affair can pass as a bit
of accidental speculation--a by-play, in the traffic of life."

"As thou pleasest. I shall deal less in words than in business. Keep thine
own secrets, burgher, and they are safe. Still, I would have the lady, for
there is a presentiment that our connexion is in danger."

"I like not that word presentiment," grumbled the Alderman, taking a
light, and snuffing it with deliberate care; "drop but a single letter,
and one dreams of the pains and penalties of the Exchequer.--Remember thou
art a trafficker, who conceals his appearance on account of the cleverness
of his speculations."

"That is my calling, to the letter. Were all others as clever, the trade
would certainly cease.--Go, bring the lady."

The Alderman, who probably saw the necessity of making some explanation to
his niece, and who, it would seem, fully understood the positive character
of his companion, no longer hesitated; but, first casting a suspicious
glance out of the still open window he left the room.




Chapter X.



    "--Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
    To be ashamed, to be my father's child!
    But though I am a daughter to his blood
    I am not to his manners.--"

    Merchant of Venice.


The moment the stranger was again alone, the entire expression of his
countenance underwent a change. The reckless and bold expression deserted
his eye, which once more became soft, if not pensive, as it wandered over
the different elegant objects that served to amuse the leisure of la belle
Barberie. He arose, and touched the strings of a lute, and then, like
Fear, started back, as if recoiling at the sound he had made. All
recollection of the object of his visit was evidently forgotten, in a new
and livelier interest; and had there been one to watch his movements, the
last motive imputed to his presence would probably have been the one that
was true. There was so little of that vulgar and common character, which
is usually seen in men of his pursuit, in the gentle aspect and subdued
air of his fine features, that it might be fancied he was thus singularly
endowed by nature, in order that deception might triumph, if there were
moments when a disregard of opinion was seen in his demeanor, it rather
appeared assumed than easy; and even when most disposed to display lawless
indifference to the ordinary regulations of society, in his interview with
the Alderman, it had been blended with a reserve of manner that was
strangely in contrast with his humor.

On the other hand, it were idle to say that Alida de Barberie had no
unpleasant suspicions concerning the character of her uncle's guest. That
baneful influence, which necessarily exerts itself near an irresponsible
power, coupled with the natural indifference with which the principal
regards the dependant, had caused the English Ministry to fill too many of
their posts of honor and profit, in the colonies, with needy and dissolute
men of rank, or of high political connexions at home. The Province of
New-York had, in this respect, been particularly unfortunate. The gift of
it by Charles to his brother and successor, had left it without the
protection of those charters and other privileges that had been granted to
most of the governments of America. The connexion with the crown was
direct, and, for a long period, the majority of the inhabitants were
considered as of a different race, and of course as of one less to be
considered, than that of their conquerors. Such was the laxity of the
times on the subject of injustice to the people of this hemisphere, that
the predatory expeditions of Drake and others against the wealthy
occupants of the more southern countries, seem to have left no spots on
their escutcheons; and the honors and favors of Queen Elizabeth had been
liberally extended to men who would now be deemed freebooters. In short,
that system of violence and specious morality, which commenced with the
gifts of Ferdinand and Isabella, and the bulls of the Popes, was
continued, with more or less of modification, until the descendants of
those single-minded and virtuous men who peopled the Union, took the
powers of government into their own hands, and proclaimed political ethics
that were previously as little practised as understood.

Alida knew that both the Earl of Bellamont and the unprincipled nobleman
who has been introduced in the earlier pages of this tale, had not escaped
the imputation of conniving at acts on the sea, far more flagrant than any
of an unlawful trade; and it will therefore create little surprise, that
she saw reason to distrust the legality of some of her uncle's
speculations, with less pain than might be felt by one of her sex and
opinions at the present hour. Her suspicions, however, fell far short of
the truth; for it were scarce possible to have presented a mariner, who
bore about him fewer of those signs of his rude calling, than he whom she
had so unexpectedly met.

Perhaps, too, the powerful charm, that existed in the voice and
countenance of one so singularly gifted by nature, had its influence in
persuading Alida to reappear. At all events, she was soon seen to enter
the room, with an air, that manifested more of curiosity and wonder, than
of displeasure.

"My niece has heard that thou comest from the old countries, Master
Seadrift," said the wary Alderman, who preceded Alida, "and the woman is
uppermost in her heart. Thou wilt never be forgiven, should the eye of any
maiden in Manhattan get sight of thy finery before she has passed judgment
on its merit."

"I cannot wish a more impartial or a fairer judge;" returned the other,
doffing his cap in the gallant and careless manner of his trade. "Here are
silks from the looms of Tuscany, and Lyonnois brocades, that any Lombard,
or dame of France, might envy. Ribbons of every hue and dye, and laces
that seem to copy the fret-work of the richest cathedral of your Fleming!"

"Thou hast journeyed much, in thy time, Master Seadrift, and speakest of
countries and usages with understanding," said the Alderman. "But how
stand the prices of these precious goods? Thou knowest the long war, and
the moral certainty of its continuance; this German succession to the
throne, and the late earthquakes in the country, too, have much unsettled
prices, and cause us thoughtful burghers to be wary in our traffic.--Didst
inquire the cost of geldings, when last in Holland?"

"The animals go a-begging!--As to the value of my goods, that you know is
fixed; for I admit of no parley between friends."

"Thy obstinacy is unreasonable, Master Seadrift. A wise merchant will
always look to the state of the market, and one so practised should know
that a nimble sixpence multiplies faster than a slow-moving shilling. 'Tis
the constant rolling of the ball that causes the snow to cleave! Goods
that come light should not go heavy, and quick settlements follow sudden
bargains. Thou knowest our York saying, that 'first offers are the best.'"

"He that likes may purchase, and he that prefers his gold to fine laces,
rich silks, and stiff brocades, has only to sleep with his money-bags
under his pillow. There are others who wait, with impatience, to see the
articles; and I have not crossed the Atlantic, with a freight that
scarcely ballasts the brigantine, to throw away the valuables on the
lowest bidder."

"Nay, uncle," said Alida, in a little trepidation "we cannot judge of the
quality of Master Seadrift's articles, by report. I dare to say, he has
not landed without a sample of his wares?"

"Custom and friendships!" muttered Myndert; "of what use is an established
correspondence, if it is to be broken on account of a little cheapening?
But produce thy stores, Mr. Dogmatism; I warrant me the fashions are of
some rejected use, or that the color of the goods be impaired by the usual
negligence of thy careless mariners. We will, at least pay thee the
compliment to look at the effects."

"'Tis as you please," returned the other. "The bales are in the usual
place, at the wharf, under the inspection of honest Master Tiller--but if
so inferior in quality, they will scarce repay the trouble of the walk."

"I'll go, I'll go," said the Alderman, adjusting his wig and removing his
spectacles; "'twould not be treating an old correspondent well, to refuse
to look at his samples,--thou wilt follow, Master Seadrift, and so I will
pay thee the compliment to examine the effects--though the long war, the
glut of furs, the over-abundance of the last year's harvests, and the
perfect quiet in the mining districts, have thrown all commerce flat on
its back. I'll go, however; lest thou shouldst say, thy interests were
neglected. Thy Master Tiller is an indiscreet agent; he gave me a fright
to-day that exceeds any alarm I have felt since the failure of Van Halt,
Balance, and Diddle."

The voice of Myndert became inaudible, for, in his haste not to neglect
the interests of his guest, the tenacious trader had already quitted the
room, and half of his parting speech was uttered in the antechamber of the
pavilion.

"'Twould scarce comport with the propriety of my sex, to mingle with the
seamen, and the others who doubtless surround the bales," said Alida, in
whose face there was a marked expression of hesitation and curiosity.

"It will not be necessary," returned her companion. "I have, at hand,
specimens of all that you would see.--But, why this haste? We are yet in
the early hours of the night, and the Alderman will be occupied long, ere
he comes to the determination to pay the prices my people are sure to ask.
I am lately from off the sea, beautiful Alida, and thou canst not know the
pleasure I find in breathing even the atmosphere of a woman's presence."

La belle Barberie retired a step or two, she knew not why; and her hand
was placed upon the cord of the bell, before she was aware of the manner
in which she betrayed her alarm.

"To me it does not seem that I am a creature so terrific, that thou
need'st dread my presence," continued the gay mariner, with a smile that
expressed as much of secret irony, as of that pensive character which had
again taken possession of his countenance; "but ring, and bring your
attendants to relieve fears that are natural to thy sex, and therefore
seducing to mine. Shall I pull the cord?--for this pretty hand trembles
too much, to do its office."

"I know not that any would answer, for it is past the hour of
attendance;--it is better that I go to the examination of the bales."

The strange and singularly-attired being, who occasioned so much
uneasiness to Alida, regarded her a moment with a kind and melancholy
solicitude.

"Thus they are all, till altered by too much intercourse with a cold and
corrupt world!" he rather whispered, than uttered aloud. "Would that thus
they might all continue! Thou art a singular compound of thy sex's
weakness, and of manly resolution, belle Barberie; but trust me," and he
laid his hand on his heart with an earnestness that spoke well for his
sincerity; "ere word, or act, to harm or to offend thee, should proceed
from any who obey will of mine, nature itself must undergo a change. Start
not, for I call one to show the specimens you would see."

He then applied a little silver whistle to his lips, and drew a low signal
from the instrument, motioning to Alida to await the result, without
alarm. In half a minute, there was a rustling among the leaves of the
shrubbery, a moment of attentive pause, and then a dark object entered the
window, and rolled heavily to the centre of the floor.

"Here are our commodities, and trust me the price shall not be dwelt on,
between us," resumed Master Seadrift, undoing the fastenings of the little
bale, that had entered the saloon, seemingly without the aid of hands.
"These goods are so many gages of neutrality, between us; so approach, and
examine, without fear. You will find some among them to reward the
hazard."

The bale was now open, and as its master appeared to be singularly expert
in suiting a female fancy, it became impossible for Alida to resist any
longer. She gradually lost her reserve, as the examination proceeded; and
before the owner of the treasures had got into the third of his packages,
the hands of the heiress were as actively employed as his own, in gaining
access to their view.

"This is a stuff of the Lombard territories," said the vender of the
goods, pleased with the confidence he had succeeded in establishing
between his beautiful customer and himself. "Thou seest, it is rich,
flowery, and variegated as the land it came from. One might fancy the
vines and vegetation of that deep soil were shooting from this labor of
the loom--nay, the piece is sufficient for any toilette, however ample;
see, it is endless as the plains that reared the little animal who
supplies the texture. I have parted of that fabric to many dames of
England, who have not disdained to traffic with one that risks much in
their behalf."

"I fear there are many who find a pleasure in these stuffs, chiefly
because their use is forbidden."

"'Twould not be out of nature! Look; this box contains ornaments of the
elephant's tooth, cut by a cunning artificer in the far Eastern lands;
they do not disfigure a lady's dressing-table, and have a moral, for they
remind her of countries where the sex is less happy than at home. Ah! here
is a treasure of Mechlin, wrought in a fashion of my own design."

"'Tis beautifully fancied, and might do credit to one who professed the
painter's art."

"My youth was much employed in these conceits," returned the trader,
unfolding the rich and delicate lace in a manner to show that he had still
pleasure in contemplating its texture and quality. "There was a compact
between me and the maker, that enough should be furnished to reach from
the high church-tower of his town, to the pavement beneath; and yet, you
see how little remains! The London dames found it to their taste, and it
was not easy to bring even this trifle into the colonies."

"You chose a remarkable measure for an article that was to visit so many
different countries, without the formalities of law!"

"We thought to start in the favor of the church, which rarely frowns on
those who respect its privileges. Under the sanction of such authority, I
will lay aside all that remains, certain it will be needed for thy use."

"So rare a manufacture should be costly?"

La belle Barberie spoke hesitatingly, and as she raised her eyes, they met
the dark organs of her companion, fixed on her face, in a manner that
seemed to express a consciousness of the ascendency he was gaining.
Startled, at she knew not what the maiden again added hastily--

"This may be fitter for a court lady, than a girl of the colonies."

"None who have vet worn of it, so well become it;--I lay it here, as a
make-weight in my bargain with the Alderman.--This is satin of Tuscany; a
country where nature exhibits its extremes, and one whose merchants were
princes. Your Florentine was subtle in his fabrics, and happy in his
conceits of forms and colors, for which he stood indebted to the riches of
his own climate. Observe--the hue of this glossy surface is scarcely so
delicate as I have seen the rosy light, at even, playing on the sides of
his Apennines!"

"You have then visited the regions, in whose fabrics you deal?" said
Alida, suffering the articles to fall from her hand, in the stronger
interest she began to feel in their owner.

"'Tis my habit. Here have we a chain from the city of the Isles. The hand
of a Venetian could alone form these delicate and nearly insensible links:
I refused a string of spotless pearls for that same golden web."

"It was indiscreet, in one who trades at so much hazard."

"I kept the bauble for my pleasure!--Whim is sometimes stronger than the
thirst of gain; and this chain does not quit me, till I bestow it on the
lady of my love."

"One so actively employed can scarcely spare time to seek a fitting object
for the gift."

"Is merit and loveliness in the sex, so rare? La belle Barberie speaks in
the security of many conquests, or she would not deal thus lightly, in a
matter that is so serious with most females."

"Among other countries your vessel hath visited a land of witchcraft, or
you would not pretend to a knowledge of things, that, in their very
nature, must be hidden from a stranger.--Of what value may be those
beautiful feathers of the ostrich?"

"They came of swarthy Africa, though so spotless themselves. The bunch was
had, by secret traffic, from a Moorish man, in exchange for a few skins of
Lachrymyae Christi, that he swallowed with his eyes shut. I dealt with the
fellow, only in pity for his thirst, and do not pride myself on the value
of the commodity. It shall go, too, to quicken love between me and thy
uncle."

Alida could not object to this liberality, though she was not without a
secret opinion that the gifts were no more than delicate and
well-concealed offerings to herself. The effect of this suspicion was
two-fold; it caused the maiden to become more reserved in the expression
of her tastes, though it in no degree lessened her confidence in, and
admiration of, the wayward and remarkable trader.

"My uncle will have cause to commend thy generous spirit," said the
heiress, bending her head a little coldly, at this repeated declaration of
her companion's intentions, "though it would seem that, in trade, justice
is as much to be desired as generosity;--this seemeth a curious design,
wrought with the needle!"

"It is the labor of many a day, fashioned by the hand of a recluse. I
bought it of a nun, in France, who passed years in toil, upon the conceit,
which is of more value than the material. The meek daughter of solitude
wept when she parted with the fabric, for, in her eyes, it had the tie of
association and habit. A companion might be lost to one who lives in the
confusion of the world, and it should not cause more real sorrow, than
parting from the product of her needle, gave that mild resident of the
cloisters!"

"And is it permitted for your sex to visit those places of religious
retirement?" asked Alida. "I come of a race that pays little deference to
monastic life, for we are refugees from the severity of Louis; but yet I
never heard my father charge these females with being so regardless of
their vows."

"The fact was so repeated to me; for, surely, my sex are not admitted to
traffic, directly, with the modest sisters;" (a smile, that Alida was
half-disposed to think bold, played about the handsome mouth of the
speaker) "but it was so reported. What is your opinion of the merit of
woman, in thus seeking refuge from the cares, and haply from the sins, of
the world, in institutions of this order."

"Truly the question exceedeth my knowledge. This is not a country to
immure females, and the custom causes us of America little thought."

"The usage hath its abuses," continued the dealer in contraband, speaking
thoughtfully; "but it is not without its good. There are many of the weak
and vain, that would be happier in the cloisters, than if left to the
seductions and follies of life.--Ah! here is work of English hands. I
scarcely know how the articles found their way into the company of the
products of the foreign looms. My bales contain, in general, little that
is vulgarly sanctioned by the law. Speak me, frankly, belle Alida, and say
if you share in the prejudices against the character of us free-traders?"

"I pretend not to judge of regulations that exceed the knowledge and
practices of my sex," returned the maiden, with commendable reserve.
"There are some who think the abuse of power a justification of its
resistance, while others deem a breach of law to be a breach of morals."

"The latter is the doctrine of your man of invested moneys and established
fortune! He has entrenched his gains behind acknowledged barriers, and he
preaches their sanctity, because they favor his selfishness. We skimmers
of the sea--"

Alida started so suddenly, as to cause her companion to cease speaking.

"Are my words frightful, that you pale at their sound?"

"I hope they were used rather in accident, than with their dreaded
meaning. I would not have it said--no! 'tis but a chance that springs from
some resemblance in your callings. One, like you, can never be the man
whose name has grown into a proverb!"

"One like me, beautiful Alida, is much as fortune wills. Of what man, or
of what name wouldst speak?"

"'Tis nothing," returned la belle Barberie, gazing unconsciously at the
polished and graceful features of the stranger, longer than was wont in
maiden. "Proceed with your explanation;--these are rich velvets!"

"They come of Venice, too; but commerce is like the favor which attends
the rich, and the Queen of the Adriatic is already far on the decline.
That which causes the increase of the husbandman, occasions the downfall
of a city. The lagunes are filling with fat soil, and the keel of the
trader is less frequent there than of old. Ages hence, the plow may trace
furrows where the Bucentaur has floated! The outer India passage has
changed the current of prosperity, which ever rushes in the widest and
newest track. Nations might learn a moral, by studying the sleepy canals
and instructive magnificence of that fallen town; but pride fattens on its
own lazy recollections, to the last!--As I was saying, we rovers deal
little in musty maxims, that are made by the great and prosperous at home,
and are trumpeted abroad, in order that the weak and unhappy should be the
more closely riveted in their fetters."

"Methinks you push the principle further than is necessary, for one whose
greatest offence against established usage is a little hazardous commerce.
These are opinions, that might unsettle the world."

"Rather settle it, by referring all to the rule of right. When governments
shall lay their foundations in natural justice, when their object shall be
to remove the temptations to err, instead of creating them, and when
bodies of men shall feel and acknowledge the responsibilities of
individuals--why, then the Water-Witch, herself, might become a
revenue-cutter, and her owner an officer of the customs!"

The velvet fell from the hands of la belle Barberie, and she arose from
her seat with precipitation.

"Speak plainly," said Alida with all her natural firmness. "With whom am I
about to traffic?"

"An outcast of society--a man condemned in the opinions of the world--the
outlaw--the flagrant wanderer of the ocean--the lawless 'Skimmer of the
Seas!'" cried a voice, at the open window.

In another minute, Ludlow was in the room Alida uttered a shriek, veiled
her face in her robe, and rushed from the apartment.




Chapter XI.



    "--Truth will come to light;
    Murder cannot be hid long, a man's son may;
    But in the end, truth will out.--"

    Launcelot.


The officer of the Queen had leaped into the pavilion, with the flushed
features and all the hurry of an excited man. The exclamations and retreat
of la belle Barberie, for a single moment, diverted his attention; and
then he turned, suddenly, not to say fiercely, towards her companion. It
is not necessary to repeat the description of the stranger's person, in
order to render the change, which instantly occurred in the countenance of
Ludlow, intelligible to the reader. His eye, at first, refused to believe
there was no other present; and when it had, again and again, searched the
whole apartment, it returned to the face and form of the dealer in
contraband, with an expression of incredulity and wonder.

"Here is some mistake!" exclaimed the commander of the Coquette, after
time had been given for a thorough examination of the room.

"Your gentle manner of entrance," returned the stranger, across whose face
there had passed a glow, that might have come equally of anger or of
surprise, "has driven the lady from the room. But as you wear the livery
of the Queen, I presume you have authority for invading the dwelling of
the subject?"

"I had believed--nay, there was reason to be certain, that one whom all of
proper loyalty execrate, was to be found here;" stammered the
still-confused Ludlow. "There can scarce be a deception, for I plainly
heard the discourse of my captors,--and yet here is none!"

"I thank you for the high consideration you bestow on my presence."

The manner, rather than the words, of the speaker, induced Ludlow to rivet
another look on his countenance. There was a mixed expression of doubt,
admiration, and possibly of uneasiness, if not of actual jealousy, in the
eye, which slowly read all his lineaments, though the former seemed the
stronger sensation of the three.

"We have never met before!" cried Ludlow, when the organ began to grow
dim, with the length and steadiness of its gaze.

"The ocean has many paths, and men may journey on them, long, without
crossing each other."

"Thou hast served the Queen, though I see thee in this doubtful
situation?"

"Never. I am not one to bind myself to the servitude of any woman that
lives," returned the free trader, while a mild smile played about his lip
"though she wore a thousand diadems! Anne never had an hour of my time,
nor a single wish of my heart."

"This is bold language, Sir, for the ear of her officer. The arrival of an
unknown brigantine, certain incidents which have occurred to myself this
night, your presence here, that bale of articles forbidden by the law,
create suspicions that must be satisfied. Who are you?"

"The flagrant wanderer of the ocean--the outcast of society--the
condemned in the opinions of world--the lawless 'Skimmer of the Seas!'"

"This cannot be! The tongues of men speak of the personal deformity of
that wanderer, no less than of his bold disregard of the law. You would
deceive me."

"If then men err so much in that which is visible and unimportant,"
returned the other, proudly, "is there not reason to doubt their accuracy
in matters of more weight. I am surely what I seem, if I am not what I
say."

"I will not credit so improbable a tale;--give me some proof that what I
hear is true."

"Look at that brigantine, whose delicate spars are almost confounded with
the back-ground of trees," said the other, approaching the window, and
directing the attention of his companion to the Cove: "'Tis the bark that
has so often foiled the efforts of all thy cruisers, and which transports
me and my wealth whither I will, without the fetters of arbitrary laws,
and the meddling inquiries of venal hirelings. The scud, which floats
above the sea, is not freer than that vessel, and scarcely more swift.
Well is she named the Water-Witch! for her performances on the wide ocean
have been such as seem to exceed all natural means. The froth of the sea
does not dance more lightly above the waves, than yonder graceful fabric,
when driven by the breeze. She is a thing to be loved, Ludlow; trust me, I
never yet set affections on woman, with the warmth I feel for the faithful
and beautiful machine!"

"This is little more than any mariner could say, in praise of a vessel
that he admired."

"Will you say it, Sir, in favor of yon lumbering sloop of Queen Anne? Your
Coquette is none of the fairest, and there was more of pretension than of
truth, at her christening."

"By the title of my royal mistress, young beardless, but there is an
insolence in this language, that might become him you wish to represent!
My ship, heavy or light of foot, as she may be, is fated to bring yonder
false trader to the judgment."

"By the craft and qualities of the Water-Witch! but this is language that
might become one who was at liberty to act his pleasure," returned the
stranger tauntingly imitating the tone, in which his angry companion had
spoken. "You would have proof of my identity: listen. There is one who
vaunts his power, that forgets he is a dupe of my agent, and that even
while his words are so full of boldness, he is a captive!"

The brown cheek of Ludlow reddened, and he turned toward the lighter and
far less vigorous frame of his companion, as if about to strike him to the
earth, when a door opened, and Alida appeared in the saloon.

The meeting, between the commander of the Coquette and his mistress, was
not without embarrassment. The anger of the former and the confusion of
the latter, for a moment, kept both silent; but as la belle Barberie had
not returned without an object, she was quick to speak.

"I know not whether to approve, or to condemn, the boldness that has
prompted Captain Ludlow to enter my pavilion, at this unseasonable hour,
and in so unceremonious a manner," she said, "for I am still ignorant of
his motive. When he shall please to let me hear it, I may judge better of
the merit of the excuse."

"True, we will hear his explanation before condemnation," added the
stranger, offering a seat to Alida, which she coldly declined. "Beyond a
doubt the gentleman has a motive."

If looks could have destroyed, the speaker would have been annihilated.
But as the lady seemed indifferent to the last remark, Ludlow prepared to
enter on his vindication.

"I shall not attempt to conceal that an artifice has been practised," he
said, "which is accompanied by consequences that I find awkward. The air
and manner of the seaman, whose bold conduct you witnessed in the boat,
induced me to confide in him more than was prudent, and I have been
rewarded by deception."

"In other words, Captain Ludlow is not as sagacious as he had reason to
believe," said an ironical voice, at his elbow.

"In what manner am I to blame, or why is my privacy to be interrupted,
because a wandering seaman has deceived the commander of the Coquette?"
rejoined Alida. "Not only that audacious mariner, but this--this person,"
she added, adopting a word that use has appropriated to the multitude, "is
a stranger to me. There is no other connexion between us, than that you
see."

"It is not necessary to say why I landed," continued Ludlow; "but I was
weak enough to allow that unknown mariner to quit my ship, in my company;
and when I would return, he found means to disarm my men, and make me a
prisoner."

"And yet, art thou, for a captive, tolerably free!" added the ironical
voice.

"Of what service is this freedom, without the means of using it? The sea
separates me from my ship, and my faithful boat's-crew are in fetters. I
have been little watched, myself; but though forbidden to approach certain
points, enough has been seen to leave no doubts of the character of those
whom Alderman Van Beverout entertains."

"Thou wouldst also say, and his niece, Ludlow?"

"I would say nothing harsh to, or disrespectful of, Alida de Barberie. I
will not deny that a harrowing idea possessed me,--but I see my error,
and repent having been so hasty."

"We may then resume our commerce," said the trader, cooly seating himself
before the open bale, while Ludlow and the maiden stood regarding each
other in mute surprise. "It is pleasant to exhibit these forbidden
treasures to an officer of the Queen. It may prove the means of gaining
the royal patronage. We were last among the velvets, and on the lagunes,
of Venice. Here is one of a color and quality to form a bridal dress for
the Doge himself, in his nuptials with the sea! We men of the ocean look
upon that ceremony as a pledge Hymen will not forget us, though we may
wander from his altars. Do I justice to the faith of the craft, Captain
Ludlow?--or are you a sworn devotee of Neptune, and content to breathe
your sighs to Venus, when afloat? Well, if the damps and salt air of the
ocean rust the golden chain, it is the fault of cruel nature!--Ah! here
is--"

A shrill whistle sounded among the shrubbery, and the speaker became mute.
Throwing his cloths carelessly on the bale, he arose again, and seemed to
hesitate. Throughout the interview with Ludlow, the air of the free-trader
had been mild, though, at times, it was playful; and not for an instant
had he seemed to return the resentment which the other had so plainly
manifested. It now became perplexed, and, by the workings of his features,
it would seem that he vacillated in his opinions. The sounds of the
whistle were heard, again.

"Ay, ay, Master Tom!" muttered the dealer in contraband. "Thy note is
audible, but why this haste? Beautiful Alida, this shrill summons is to
say, that the moment of parting is arrived!"

"We met with less of preparation," returned la belle Barberie, who
preserved all the distant reserve of her sex, under the jealous eyes of
her admirer.

"We met without a warning, but shall our separation be without a
memorial? Am I to return with all these valuables to the brigantine, or,
in their place, must I take the customary golden tribute?"

"I know not that I dare make a traffic which is not sanctioned by the law,
in presence of a servitor of the Queen," returned Alida, smiling. "I will
not deny that you have much to excite a woman's envy; but our royal
mistress might forget her sex, and show little pity, were she to hear of
my weakness."

"No fear of that, lady.--'Tis they who are most stern in creating these
harsh regulations, that show most frailty in their breach. By the virtues
of honest Leadenhall itself, but I should like to tempt the royal Anne, in
her closet, with such a display of goodly laces and heavy brocades!"

"That might be more hazardous than wise!"

"I know not. Though seated on a throne, she is but woman. Disguise nature
as thou wilt, she is a universal tyrant, and governs all alike. The head
that wears a crown dreams of the conquests of the sex, rather than of the
conquests of states; the hand that wields the sceptre is fitted to display
its prettiness, with the pencil, or the needle; and though words and ideas
may be taught and sounded forth with the pomp of royalty; the tone is
still that of woman."

"Without bringing into question the merits of our present royal mistress,"
said Alida, who was a little apt to assert her sex's rights, "there is the
example of the glorious Elizabeth, to refute his charge."

"Ay, we have had our Cleopatras in the sea-fight, and fear was found
stronger than love! The sea has monsters, and so may have the land. He,
that made the earth gave it laws that 'tis not good to break. We men are
jealous of our qualities, and little like to see them usurped; and trust
me, lady, she that forgets the means that nature bestows, may mourn in
sorrow over the fatal error.--But, shall we deal in velvet, or is your
taste more leaning to brocade?"

Alida and Ludlow listened in admiration to the capricious and fanciful
language of the unaccountable trader, and both were equally at a loss to
estimate his character. The equivocal air was in general well maintained,
though the commander of the Coquette had detected an earnestness and
feeling in his manner, when he more particularly addressed la belle
Barberie, that excited an uneasiness he was ashamed to admit, even to
himself. That the maiden herself observed this change, might also be
inferred, from a richer glow which diffused itself over her features,
though it is scarce probable that she was conscious of its effects. When
questioned as to her determination concerning his goods, she again
regarded Ludlow, doubtingly, ere she answered.

"That you have not studied woman in vain," she laughingly replied, "I must
fain acknowledge. And yet, ere I make a decision, suffer me to consult
those who, being more accustomed to deal with the laws, are better judges
of the propriety of the purchases."

"If this request were not reasonable in itself, it were due to your beauty
and station, lady, to grant it. I leave the bale in your care; and, before
tomorrow's sun has set, one will await the answer Captain Ludlow, are we
to part in friendship, or does your duty to the Queen proscribe the word."

"If what you seem," said Ludlow, "you are a being inexplicable! If this be
some masquerade, as I half suspect, 'tis well maintained, at least, though
not worthily assumed."

"You are not the first who has refused credit to his senses, in a manner
wherein the Water-Witch and her commander have been concerned.--Peace,
honest Tom--thy whistle will not hasten Father Time! Friend, or not,
Captain Ludlow need not be told he is my prisoner."

"That I have fallen into the power of a miscreant--"

"Hist!--if thou hast love of bodily ease and whole bones. Master Thomas
Tiller is a man of rude humor, and he as little likes contumely as
another. Besides, the honest mariner did but obey my orders, and his
character is protected by a superior responsibility."

"Thy orders!" repeated Ludlow, with an expression of eye and lip that
might have offended one more disposed to take offence than him he
addressed. "The fellow who so well succeeded in his artifice, is one much
more likely to command than to obey. If any here be the 'Skimmer of the
Seas,' it is he."

"We are no more than the driving spray, which goes whither the winds list.
But in what hath the man offended, that he finds so little favor with the
Queen's captain? He has not had the boldness to propose a secret traffic
with so loyal a gentleman!"

"'Tis well, Sir; you choose a happy occasion for this pleasantry. I landed
to manifest the respect that I feel for this lady, and I care not if the
world knows the object of the visit. 'Twas no silly artifice that led me
hither."

"Spoken with the frankness of a seaman!" said the inexplicable dealer in
contraband, though his color lessened and his voice appeared to hesitate.
"I admire this loyalty in man to woman; for, as custom has so strongly
fettered them in the expression of their inclinations, it is due from us
to leave as little doubt as possible of our intentions. It is difficult to
think that la belle Barberie can do wiser than to reward so much manly
admiration!"

The stranger cast a glance, which Alida fancied betrayed solicitude, as he
spoke, at the maiden and he appeared to expect she would reply.

"When the time shall come for a decision," returned the half-pleased and
yet half-offended subject of his allusion, "it may be necessary to call
upon very different counsellors for advice. I hear the step of my
uncle.--Captain Ludlow, I leave it to your discretion to meet him, or
not."

The heavy footstep was approaching through the outer rooms of the
pavilion. Ludlow hesitated; cast a reproachful look at his mistress; and
then he instantly quitted the apartment, by the place through which he had
entered. A noise in the shrubbery sufficiently proved that his return was
expected, and that he was closely watched.

"Noah's Ark, and our grandmothers!" exclaimed Myndert, appearing at the
door with a face red with his exertions. "You have brought us the cast-off
finery of our ancestors, Master Seadrift. Here are stuffs of an age that
is past, and they should be bartered for gold that hath been spent."

"What now! what now!" responded the free-trader, whose tone and manner
seemed to change, at will, in order to suit the; humor of whomsoever he
was brought to speak with. "What now, pertinacious burgher, that thou
shouldst cry down wares that are but too good for these distant regions!
Many is the English duchess who pines to possess but the tithe of these
beautiful stuffs I offer thy niece, and, faith--rare is the English
duchess that would become them half so well!"

"The girl is seemly, and thy velvets and brocades are passable, but the
heavy articles are not fit to offer to a Mohawk Sachem. There must be a
reduction of prices, or the invoice cannot pass."

"The greater the pity. But if sail we must, sail we will! The brigantine
knows the channel over the Nantucket sands; and, my life on it! the
Yankees will find others than the Mohawks for chapmen."

"Thou art as quick in thy motions, Master Seadrift, as the boat itself.
Who said that a compromise might not be made, when discussion was
prudently and fairly exhausted? Strike off the odd florins, leave the
balance in round thousands, and thy trade is done for the season!"

"Not a stiver. Here, count me back the faces of the Braganza; throw enough
of thin ducats into the scales to make up the sum, and let thy slaves push
inland with the articles, before the morning light comes to tell the
story. Here has been one among us, who may do mischief, if he will; though
I know not how far he is master of the main secret."

Alderman Van Beverout stared a little wildly about him, adjusted his wig,
like one fully conscious of the value of appearances in this world, and
then cautiously drew the curtains before the windows.

"I know of none more than common, my niece excepted;" he said, when all
these precautions had been observed. "'Tis true the Patroon of Kinderhook
is in the house, but as the man sleeps, he is a witness in our favor. We
have the testimony of his presence, while his tongue is silent."

"Well, be it so;" rejoined the free-trader, reading, in the imploring eyes
of Alida, a petition that he would say no more. "I knew by instinct there
was one unusual, and it was not for me to discover that he sleeps. There
are dealers on the coast, who, for the sake of insurance, would charge his
presence in their bills."

"Say no more, worthy Master Seadrift, and take the gold. To confess the
truth, the goods are in the periagua and fairly out of the river. I knew
we should come to conclusions in the matter, and time is precious, as
there is a cruiser of the Queen so nigh. The rogues will pass the pennant,
like innocent market-people, and I'll risk a Flemish gelding against a
Virginia nag, that they inquire if the captain has no need of vegetables
for his soup! Ah! ha-ha-ha! That Ludlow is a simpleton, niece of mine,
and he is not yet fit to deal with men of mature years. You'll think
better of his qualities, one day, and bid him be gone like an unwelcome
dun."

"I hope these proceedings may be legally sanctioned, uncle?"

"Sanctioned! Luck sanctions all. It is in trade as in war: success gives
character and booty, in both. Your rich dealer is sure to be your honest
dealer. Plantations and Orders in Council! What are our rulers doing at
home, that they need be so vociferous about a little contraband? The
rogues will declaim, by the hour, concerning bribery and corruption, while
more than half of them get their seats as clandestinely--ay, and as
illegally, as you get these rare Mechlin laces. Should the Queen take
offence at our dealings, Master Seadrift, bring me another season, or two,
as profitable as the last, and I'll be your passenger to London, go on
'change, buy a seat in Parliament, and answer to the royal displeasure
from my place, as they call it. By the responsibility of the States
General! but I should expect, in such a case, to return Sir Myndert, and
then the Manhattanese might hear of a Lady Van Beverout, in which case,
pretty Alida, thy assets would be sadly diminished!--so go to thy bed,
child, and dream of fine laces, and rich velvets, and duty to old uncles,
and discretion, and all manner of agreeable things--kiss me, jade, and to
thy pillow."

Alida obeyed, and was preparing to quit the room, when the free-trader
presented himself before her with an air at once so gallant and
respectful, that she could scarce take offence at the freedom.

"I should fail in gratitude," he said, "were I to part from so generous a
customer, without thanks for her liberality. The hope of meeting again,
will hasten my return."

"I know not that you are my debtor for these thanks," returned Alida,
though she saw that the Alderman was carefully collecting the contents of
the bale, and that he had already placed three or four of the most
tempting of its articles on her dressing-table. "We cannot be said to have
bargained."

"I have parted with more than is visible to vulgar eyes," returned the
stranger, dropping his voice, and speaking with an earnestness that caused
his auditor to start. "Whether there will be a return for the gift, or
perhaps I had better call it loss,--time and my stars must show!"

He then took her hand, and raided it to his lips, by an action so graceful
and so gentle, as not to alarm the maiden, until the freedom was done. La
belle Barberie reddened to her forehead, seemed disposed to condemn the
liberty, frowned, smiled, and curtsying in confusion, withdrew.

Several minutes passed in profound silence, after Alida had disappeared.
The stranger was thoughtful, though his bright eye kindled, as if merry
thoughts were uppermost; and he paced the room, entirely heedless of the
existence of the Alderman. The latter, however, soon took occasion to
remind his companion of his presence.

"No fear of the girl's prating," exclaimed the Alderman, when his task was
ended. "She is an excellent and dutiful niece; and here, you see, is a
balance on her side of the account, that would shut the mouth of the wife
of the First Lord of the Treasury. I disliked the manner in which you
would have the child introduced; for, look you, I do not think that either
Monsieur Barberie, or my late sister, would altogether approve of her
entering into traffic, so very young;--but what is done, is done; and the
Norman himself could not deny that I have made a fair set-off, of very
excellent commodities, for his daughter's benefit.--When dost mean to sail
Master Seadrift?"

"With the morning tide. I little like the neighborhood of these meddling
guarda-costas."

"Bravely answered! Prudence is a cardinal quality in a private trader; and
it is a quality that I esteem in Master Skimmer, next to his punctuality
Dates and obligations! I wish half of the firms, of three and four names,
without counting the Co.'s, were as much to be depended on. Dost not think
it safer to repass the inlet, under favor of the darkness?"

"'Tis impossible. The flood is entering it like water rushing through a
race-way, and we have the wind at east. But, fear not; the brigantine
carries no vulgar freight, and your commerce has given us a swept hold.
The Queen and the Braganza, with Holland ducats, might show their faces
even in the Royal Exchequer itself! We have no want of passes, and the
Miller's-Maid is just as good a name to hail by, as the 'Water-witch.' We
begin to tire of this constant running, and have half a mind to taste the
pleasures of your Jersey sports, for a week. There should be shooting on
the upper plains?"

"Heaven forbid! Heaven forbid! Master Seadrift.--I had all the deer taken
for the skins, ten years ago;--and as to birds, they deserted us, to a
pigeon, when the last tribe of the savages went west of the Delaware. Thou
hast discharged thy brigantine to better effect, than thou couldst ever
discharge thy fowling-pieces. I hope the hospitality of the Lust in Rust
is no problem--but, blushes and curiosity! I could wish to keep a fair
countenance, among my neighbors. Art sure the impertinent masts of the
brigantine will not be seen above the trees, when the day comes? This
Captain Ludlow is no laggard when he thinks his duty actually concerned."

"We shall endeavor to keep him quiet. The cover of the trees, and the
berth of the boat, make all snug, as respects his people. I leave worthy
Tiller to settle balances between us; and so, I take my leave. Master
Alderman--a word at parting Does the Viscount Cornbury still tarry in the
Provinces?"

"Like a fixture. There is not a mercantile house in the colony more firmly
established."

"There are unsettled affairs between us.--A small premium would buy the
obligations----"

"Heaven keep thee, Master Seadrift, and pleasant voyages, back and forth!
As for the Viscount's responsibility--the Queen may trust him with another
Province, but Myndert Van Beverout would not give him credit for the tail
of a marten; and so, again, Heaven preserve thee!"

The dealer in contraband appeared to tear himself from the sight of all
the little elegancies that adorned the apartment of la belle Barberie,
with reluctance. His adieus to the Alderman were rather cavalier, for he
still maintained a cold and abstracted air; but as the other scarcely
observed the forms of decorum, in his evident desire to get rid of his
guest, the latter was finally obliged to depart. He disappeared by the low
balcony, where he had entered.

When Myndert Van Beverout was alone, he shut the windows of the pavilion
of his niece, and retired to his own part of the dwelling. Here the
thrifty burgher first busied himself in making sundry calculations, with a
zeal that proved how much his mind was engrossed by the occupation. After
this preliminary step, he gave a short but secret conference to the
mariner of the India-shawl, during which there was much clinking of gold
pieces. But when the latter retired, the master of the villa first looked
to the trifling securities which were then, as now, observed in the
fastenings of an American country house; when he walked forth upon the
lawn, like one who felt the necessity of breathing the open air He cast
more than one inquiring glance at the windows of the room which was
occupied by Oloff Van Staats, where all was happily silent; at the equally
immovable brigantine in the Cove; and at the more distant and still
motionless hull of the cruiser of the crown. All around him was in the
quiet of midnight Even the boats, which he knew to be plying between the
land and the little vessel at anchor, were invisible; and he re-entered
his habitation, with the security one would be apt to feel, under similar
circumstances, in a region so little tenanted, and so little watched, as
that in which he lived.




Chapter XII.



    "Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand,
    That you, yet, know not of,----"

    Merchant of Venice.


Notwithstanding the active movements which had taken place in and around
the buildings of the Lust in Rust, during the night which ended with our
last chapter, none but the initiated were in the smallest degree aware of
their existence. Oloff Van Staats was early afoot; and when he appeared on
the lawn, to scent the morning air, there was nothing visible, to give
rise to a suspicion that aught extraordinary had occurred during his
slumbers. La Cour des Fees was still closed, but the person of the
faithful Francois was seen, near the abode of his young mistress, busied
in some of those pretty little offices, that can easily be imagined would
be agreeable to a maiden of her years and station. Van Staats of
Kinderhook had as little of romance in his composition, as could well be
in a youth of five-and-twenty, who was commonly thought to be enamoured,
and who was not altogether ignorant of the conventional sympathies of the
passion. The man was mortal, and as the personal attractions of la belle
Barberie were sufficiently obvious, he had not entirely escaped the fate,
which seems nearly inseparable from young fancy, when excited by beauty.
He drew nigh to the pavilion, and, by a guarded but decisive manoeuvre, he
managed to come so close to the valet, as to render a verbal communication
not only natural, but nearly unavoidable.

"A fair morning and a healthful air, Monsieur Francois;" commenced the
young Patroon, acknowledging the low salute of the domestic, by gravely
lifting his own beaver. "This is a comfortable abode for the warm months,
and one it might be well to visit oftener."

"When Monsieur le Patteron shall be de lor' of ce manoir, aussi, he shall
come when he shall have la volonte," returned Francois, who knew that a
pleasantry of his ought not to be construed into an engagement on the part
of her he served, while it could not fail to be agreeable to him who heard
it. "Monsieur de Van Staats, est grand proprietaire sur la riviere, and
one day, peut-etre, he shall be proprietaire sur la mer!"

"I have thought of imitating the example of the Alderman, honest Francis,
and of building a villa on the coast; but there will be time for that,
when I shall find myself more established in life! Your young mistress is
not yet moving, Francis?"

"Ma foi, non--Mam'selle Alide sleep!--'tis good symptome, Monsieur
Patteron, pour les jeunes personnes, to tres bien sleep. Monsieur, et
toute la famille de Barberie sleep a merveille! Oui, c'est toujours une
famille remarquable, poui le sommeil!"

"Yet one would wish to breathe this fresh and invigorating air, which
comes from off the sea, like a balm, in the early hours of the day."

"Sans doute, Monsieur. C'est un miracle, how Mam'selle love de air!
Personne do not love air more, as Mam'selle Alide. Bah!--It was grand
plaisir to see how Monsieur de Barberie love de air!"

"Perhaps, Mr. Francis, your young lady is ignorant of the hour. It might
be well to knock at the door, or perhaps at the window. I confess, I
should much admire to see her bright face, smiling from that window, on
this soft morning scene."

It is not probable that the imagination of the Patroon of Kinderhook ever
before took so high a flight; and there was reason to suspect, by the
wavering and alarmed glance that he cast around him after so unequivocal
an expression of weakness, that he already repented his temerity.
Francois, who would not willingly disoblige a man that was known to
possess a hundred thousand acres of land, with manorial rights, besides
personals of no mean amount, felt embarrassed by the request; but was
enabled to recollect in time, that the heiress was known to possess a
decision of character that might choose to control her own pleasures.

"Well, I shall be too happy to knock; mais, Monsieur sais, dat sleep est
si agreable, pour les jeunes personnes! On n'a jamais knock, dans la
famille de Monsieur de Barberie, and je suis sur, que Mam'selle Alide, do
not love to hear de knock--pourtant, si Monsieur le Patteron le veut, I
shall consult ses--Voila! Monsieur Bevre, qui vient sans knock a la
fenetre. J'ai l'honneur de vous laisser avec Monsieur Al'erman."

And so the complaisant but still considerate valet bowed himself out of a
dilemma, that he found, as he muttered to himself, while retiring, 'tant
soit peu ennuyant.'

The air and manner of the Alderman, as he approached his guest, were, like
the character of the man, hale, hearty and a little occupied with his own
enjoyments and feelings. He hemmed thrice, ere he was near enough to
speak; and each of the strong expirations seemed to invite the admiration
of the Patroon, for the strength of his lungs, and for the purity of the
atmosphere around a villa which acknowledged him for its owner.

"Zephyrs and Spas! but this is the abode of health, Patroon!" cried the
burgher, as soon as these demonstrations of his own bodily condition had
been sufficiently repeated. "One sometimes feels in this air equal to
holding a discourse, across the Atlantic, with his friends at Scheveling,
or the Helder. A broad and deep chest, air like this from the sea, with a
clear conscience, and a lucky hit in the way of trade, cause the lungs of
a man to play as easily and as imperceptibly as the wings of a
humming-bird.--Let me see; there are few four-score men in thy stock. The
last Patroon closed the books at sixty-six; and his father went but a
little beyond seventy. I wonder, there has never been an intermarriage,
among you, with the Van Courtlandts; that blood is as good as an insurance
to four-score and ten, of itself."

"I find the air of your villa, Mr. Van Beverout, a cordial that one could
wish to take often," returned the other, who had far less of the brusque
manner of the trader, than his companion. "It is a pity that all who have
the choice, do not profit by their opportunities to breathe it."

"You allude to the lazy mariners in yon vessel! Her Majesty's servants are
seldom in a hurry; and as for this brigantine in the Cove, the fellow
seems to have gotten in by magic! I warrant me, now, the rogue is there
for no good, and that the Queen's Exchequer will be none the richer for
his visit. Harkee, you Brom," calling to an aged black, who was working at
no great distance from the dwelling, and who was deep in his master's
confidence, "hast seen any boats plying between yonder roguish-looking
brigantine and the land?"

The negro shook his head, like the earthen image of a mandarin, and
laughed loud and heartily.

"I b'rieve he do all he mischief among a Yankee, an' he only come here to
take he breat'," said the wily slave. "Well, I wish, wid all a heart, dere
would come free-trader, some time, along our shore Dat gib a chance to
poor black man, to make an honest penny!"

"You see, Patroon, human nature itself rises against monopoly! That was
the voice of instinct, speaking with the tongue of Brom; and it is no easy
task, for a merchant, to keep his dependants obedient to laws, which, in
themselves, create so constant a temptation to break them. Well, well; we
will always hope for the best, and endeavor to act like dutiful subjects.
The boat is not amiss, as to form and rig, let her come from where she
will.--Dost think the wind will be off the land this morning?"

"There are signs of a change in the clouds. One could wish that all should
be out in the air, to taste this pleasant sea-breeze while it lasts."

"Come, come," cried the Alderman, who had for a moment studied the state
of the heavens with a solicitude, that he feared might attract his
companion's attention. "We will taste our breakfast. This is the spot to
show the use of teeth! The negroes have not been idle during the night,
Mr. Van Staats--he-e-em--I say, Sir, they have not been idle:--and we
shall have a choice among the dainties of the river and bay.--That cloud
above the mouth of the Raritan appears to rise, and we may yet have a
breeze at west!"

"Yonder comes a boat in the direction of the city," observed the other,
reluctantly obeying a motion of the Alderman to retire to the apartment
where they were accustomed to break their fasts. "To me, it seems to
approach with more than ordinary speed."

"There are stout arms at its oars! Can it be a messenger for the cruiser?
no--it rather steers more for our own landing. These Jersey-men are often
overtaken by the night, between York and their own doors. And now,
Patroon, we will to our knives and forks, like men who have taken the best
stomachics."

"And are we to refresh ourselves alone?" demanded the young man, who ever
and anon cast a sidelong and wistful glance at the closed and immovable
shutters of la Cour des Fees.

"Thy mother hath spoilt thee, young Oloff; unless the coffee comes from a
pretty female hand, it loses its savor. I take thy meaning, and think none
the worse of thee; for the weakness is natural at thy years. Celibacy and
independence! A man must get beyond forty, before he is ever sure of being
his own master. Come hither, Master Francis. It is time my niece had
shaken off this laziness, and shown her bright face to the sun. We wait
for her fair services at the table.--I see nothing of that lazy hussy,
Dinah, any more than of her mistress."

"Assurement non, Monsieur," returned the valet. "Mam'selle Dinah do not
love trop d'activite. Mais, Monsieur Al'erman, elles sont jeunes, toutes
les deux! Le sommeil est bien salutaire, pour la jeunesse."

"The girl is no longer in her cradle, Francis, and it is time to rattle at
the windows. As for the black minx, who should have been up and at her
duty this hour, there will be a balance to settle between us. Come,
Patroon:--the appetite will not await the laziness of a wilful girl; we
will to the table.--Dost think the wind will stand at west this morning?"

Thus saying, the Alderman led the way into the little parlor, where a neat
and comfortable service invited them to break their morning fast. He was
followed by Oloff Van Staats, with a lingering step for the young man
really longed to see the windows of the pavilion open, and the fair face
of Alida smiling amid the other beautiful objects of the scene. Francois
proceeded to take such measures to arouse his mistress, as he believed to
comport with his duty to her uncle, and his own ideas of bienseance. After
some little delay, the Alderman and his guest took their seats at the
table; the former loudly protesting against the necessity of waiting for
the idle, and throwing in an occasional moral concerning the particular
merit of punctuality in domestic economy, as well as in the affairs of
commerce.

"The ancients divided time," said the somewhat pertinacious commentator,
"into years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and moments, as they
divided numbers into units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and tens of
thousands; and both with an object. If we commence at the bottom, and
employ well the moments, Mr. Van Staats, we turn the minutes into tens,
the hours into hundreds, and the weeks and months into thousands--ay! and
when there is a happy state of trade, into tens of thousands! Missing an
hour, therefore, is somewhat like dropping an important figure in a
complex calculation, and the whole labor may be useless, for want of
punctuality in one, as for want of accuracy in the other. Your father, the
late Patroon, was what may be called a minute-man.--He was as certain to
be seen in his pew, at church, at the stroke of the clock, as to pay a
bill, when its items had been properly examined. Ah! it was a blessing to
hold one of his notes, though they were far scarcer than broad pieces, or
bullion. I have heard it said, Patroon, that the manor is backed by plenty
of Johannes and Dutch ducats!"

"The descendant has no reason to reproach his ancestors with want of
foresight."

"Prudently answered;--not a word too much, not too little--a principle on
which all honest men settle their accounts. By proper management, such a
foundation might be made to uphold an estate that should count thousands
with the best of Holland or England. Growth and majority! Patroon; but we
of the colonies must come to man's estate in time, like our cousins on the
dykes of the Low Countries, or our rulers among the smithies of
England.--Erasmus, look at that cloud over the Raritan, and tell me if it
rises."

The negro reported that the vapor was stationary; and, at the same time,
by way of episode, he told his master that the boat which had been seen
approaching the land had reached the wharf, and that some of its crew were
ascending the hill towards the Lust in Rust.

"Let them come of all hospitality," returned the Alderman, heartily; "I
warrant me, they are honest farmers from the interior, a-hungered with the
toil of the night. Go tell the cook to feed them with the best, and bid
them welcome. And harkee, boy;--if there be among them any comfortable
yeoman, bid the man enter and sit at our table. This is not a country,
Patroon, to be nice about the quality of the cloth a man has on his back,
or whether he wears a wig or only his own hair.--What is the fellow gaping
at?"

Erasmus rubbed his eyes, and then showing his teeth to the full extent of
a double row, that glittered like pearls, he gave his master to
understand, that the negro, introduced to the reader under the name of
Euclid, and who was certainly his own brother of the half-blood, or by the
mother's side, was entering the villa. The intelligence caused a sudden
cessation of the masticating process in the Alderman, who had not,
however, time to express his wonder ere two doors simultaneously opened,
and Francois presented himself at the one, while the shining and doubting
face of the slave from town darkened the other. The eyes of Myndert
rolled first to this side and then to that, a certain misgiving of the
heart preventing him from speaking to either; for he saw, in the disturbed
features of each, omens that bade him prepare himself for unwelcome
tidings. The reader will perceive, by the description we shall give that
there was abundant reason for the sagacious burgher's alarm.

The visage of the valet, at all times meagre and long, seemed extended to
far more than its usual dimensions, the under jaw appearing fallen and
trebly attenuated. The light-blue protruding eyes were open to the utmost,
and they expressed a certain confused wildness, that was none the less
striking, for the painful expression of mental suffering, with which it
was mingled. Both hands were raised, with the palms outward; while the
shoulders of the poor fellow were elevated so high, as entirely to destroy
the little symmetry that Nature had bestowed on that particular part of
his frame.

On the other hand, the look of the negro was guilty, dogged, and cunning.
His eye leered askance, seeming to wish to play around the person of his
master, as, it will be seen, his language endeavored to play around his
understanding. The hands crushed the crown of a woollen hat between their
fingers, and one of his feet described semicircles with its toe, by
performing nervous evolutions on its heel.

"Well!" ejaculated Myndert, regarding each in turn. "What news from the
Canadas?--Is the Queen dead, or has she restored the colony to the United
Provinces?"

"Mam'selle Alide!" exclaimed, or rather groaned, Francois.

"The poor dumb beast!--" muttered Euclid.

The knives and the forks fell from the hands of Myndert and his guest, as
it were by a simultaneous paralysis. The latter involuntarily arose; while
the former planted his solid person still more firmly in its seat, like
one who was preparing to meet some severe and expected shock, with all the
physical resolution he could muster.

"--What of my niece!--What of my geldings?--You have called upon Dinah?"

"Sans doute, Monsieur!"

"--And you kept the keys of the stable?"

"I nebber let him go, at all!"

"--And you bade her call her mistress?"

"She no make answair, de tout."

"--The animals were fed and watered, as I ordered?"

"'Em nebber take he food, better!"

"--You entered the chamber of my niece, yourself, to awake her?"

"Monsieur a raison."

"What the devil has befallen the innocent?"

"He lose he stomach quite, and I t'ink it great time 'fore it ebber come
back."

"--Mister Francis, I desire to know the answer of Monsieur Barberie's
daughter."

"Mam'selle no repond, Monsieur; pas un syllabe!"

"--Drenchers and fleams! The beauty should have been drenched and
blooded--"

"He'm too late for dat, Masser, on honor."

"--The obstinate hussy! This comes of her Huguenot breed, a race that
would quit house and lands rather than change its place of worship!"

"La famille de Barberie est honorable, Monsieur mais le Grand Monarque fut
un pen trop exigeant. Vraiment, la dragonade etait mal avisee, pour faire
des chretiens!"

"Apoplexies and hurry! you should have sent for the farrier to administer
to the sufferer, thou black hound!"

"'Em go for a butcher, Masser, to save he skin; for he war' too soon
dead."

The word dead produced a sudden pause. The preceding dialogue had been so
rapid, and question and answer, no less than the ideas of the principal
speaker, had got so confused, that, for a moment, he was actually at a
loss to understand, whether the last great debt of nature had been paid by
la belle Barberie, or one of the Flemish geldings. Until now,
consternation, as well as the confusion of the interview, had constrained
the Patroon to be silent, but he profited by the breathing-time to
interpose.

"It is evident, Mr. Van Beverout," he said, speaking with a tremor in the
voice, which betrayed his own uneasiness, "that some untoward event has
occurred. Perhaps the negro and I had better retire, that you may question
Francis concerning that which hath befallen Mademoiselle Barberie, more at
your leisure."

The Alderman was recalled from a profound stupor, by this gentlemanlike
and considerate proposal. He bowed his acknowledgments, and permitted Mr.
Van Staats to quit the room; but when Euclid would have followed, he
signed to the negro to remain.

"I may have occasion to question thee farther," he said, in a voice that
had lost most of that compass and depth for which it was so remarkable.
"Stand there, sirrah, and be in readiness to answer. And now, Mr. Francis,
I desire to know why my niece declines taking the breakfast with myself
and my guest?"

"Mon Dieu, Monsieur, it is not possible y repondre Les sentiments des
demoiselles are nevair decides!"

"Go then, and say to her, that my sentiments are decided to curtail
certain bequests and devises, which have consulted her interests more than
strict justice to others of my blood--ay, and even of my name, might
dictate."

"Monsieur y reflechira. Mam'selle Alide be so young personne!"

"Old or young, my mind is made up; and so to your Cour des Fees, and tell
the lazy minx as much.--Thou hast ridden that innocent, thou scowling imp
of darkness!"

"Mais, pensez-y, je vous en prie, Monsieur. Mam'selle shall nevair se
sauver encore; jamais, je vous en repond."

"What is the fellow jabbering about?" exclaimed the Alderman, whose mouth
fell nearly to the degree that rendered the countenance of the valet so
singularly expressive of distress. "Where is my niece, Sir?--and what
means this allusion to her absence?"

"La fille de Monsieur de Barberie n'y est pas!" cried Francois, whose
heart was too full to utter more. The aged and affectionate domestic laid
his hand on his breast, with an air of acute suffering; and then,
remembering the presence of his superior, he turned, bowed with a manner
of profound condolence, struggled manfully with his own emotion, and
succeeded in getting out of the room with dignity and steadiness.

It is due to the character of Alderman Van Beverout, to say, that the blow
occasioned by the sudden death of the Flemish gelding, lost some of its
force, in consequence of so unlooked-for a report concerning the
inexplicable absence of his niece. Euclid was questioned, menaced, and
even anathematized, more than once, during the next ten minutes; but the
cunning slave succeeded in confounding himself so effectually with the
rest of his connexions of the half-blood, during the search which
instantly followed the report of Francois, that his crime was partially
forgotten.

On entering la Cour des Fees, it was, in truth, found to want her whose
beauty and grace had lent its chief attraction. The outer rooms, which
were small, and ordinarily occupied during the day by Francois and the
negress called Dinah, and in the night by the latter only, were in the
state in which they might be expected to be seen. The apartment of the
attendant furnished evidence that its occupant had quitted it in haste,
though there was every appearance of her having retired to rest at the
usual hour. Clothes were scattered carelessly about; and though most of
her personal effects had disappeared enough remained to prove that her
departure had been hurried and unforeseen.

On the other hand, the little saloon, with the dressing-room and bed-room
of la belle Barberie, were in a state of the most studied arrangement. Not
an article of furniture was displaced, a door ajar, or a window open. The
pavilion had evidently been quitted by its ordinary passage, and the door
had been closed in the customary manner, without using the fastenings. The
bed had evidently not been entered, for the linen was smooth and
untouched. In short, so complete was the order of the place, that,
yielding to a powerful natural feeling, the Alderman called aloud on his
truant niece, by name, as if he expected to see her appear from some
place, in which she had secreted her person, in idle sport. But this
touching expedient was vain. The voice sounded hollow through the deserted
rooms; and though all waited long to listen, there came no playful or
laughing answer back.

"Alida!" cried the burgher, for the fourth and last time, "come forth,
child; I forgive thee thy idle sport, and all I have said of
disinheritance was but a jest. Come forth, my sister's daughter, and kiss
thy old uncle!"

The Patroon turned aside, as he heard a man so Known for his worldliness
yielding to the power of nature; and the lord of a hundred thousand acres
forgot his own disappointment, in the force of sympathy.

"Let us retire," he said, gently urging the burgher to quit the place. "A
little reflection will enable us to deride what should be done."

The Alderman complied. Before quitting the place, however, its closets and
drawers were examined; and the search left no further doubts of the step
which the young heiress had taken. Her clothes, books, utensils for
drawing, and even the lighter instruments of music, had disappeared.




Chapter XIII.



    "--Ay, that way goes the game,
    Now I perceive that she hath made compare
    Between our statures--"

    Midsummer-Night's Dream.


The tide of existence floats downward, and with it go, in their greatest
strength, all those affections that unite families and kindred. We learn
to know our parents in the fullness of their reason, and commonly in the
perfection of their bodily strength. Reverence and respect both mingle
with our love; but the affection, with which we watch the helplessness of
infancy, the interest with which we see the ingenuous and young profiting
by our care, the pride of improvement, and the magic of hope, create an
intensity of sympathy in their favor, that almost equals the identity of
self-love. There is a mysterious and double existence, in the tie that
binds the parent to the child. With a volition and passions of its own,
the latter has power to plant a sting in the bosom of the former, that
shall wound as acutely as the errors which arise from mistakes, almost
from crimes, of its own. But, when the misconduct of the descendant can be
traced to neglect, or to a vicious instruction, then, indeed, even the
pang of a wounded conscience may be added to the sufferings of those who
have gone before. Such, in some measure, was the nature of the pain that
Alderman Van Beverout was condemned to feel, when at leisure to reflect on
the ill-judged measure that had been taken by la belle Barberie.

"She was a pleasant and coaxing minx, Patroon," said the burgher, pacing
the room they occupied, with a quick and heavy step, and speaking
unconsciously of his niece, as of one already beyond the interests of
life; "and as wilful and headstrong as an unbroken colt.--Thou hard-riding
imp! I shall never find a match for the poor disconsolate survivor.--But
the girl had a thousand agreeable and delightful ways with her, that made
her the delight of my old days. She has not done wisely, to desert the
friend and guardian of her youth, ay, even of her childhood, in order to
seek protection from strangers. This is an unhappy world, Mr. Van Staats!
All our calculations come to nought; and it is in the power of fortune to
reverse the most reasonable and wisest of our expectations. A gale of wind
drives the richly-freighted ship to the bottom; a sudden fall in the
market robs us of our gold, as the November wind strips the oak of its
leaves; and bankruptcies and decayed credit often afflict the days of the
oldest houses, as disease saps the strength of the body:--Alida! Alida!
thou hast wounded one that never harmed thee, and rendered my age
miserable!"

"It is vain to contend with the inclinations," returned the proprietor of
the manor, sighing in a manner that did no discredit to the sincerity of
his remark. "I could have been happy to have placed your niece in the
situation that my respected mother filled with so much dignity and credit,
but it is now too late----"

"We don't know that;--we don't know that;" interrupted the Alderman, who
still clung to the hope of effecting the first great wish of his heart,
with the pertinacity with which he would have clung to the terms of any
other fortunate bargain. "We should never despair, Mr. Van Staats, as long
as the transaction is left open."

"The manner in which Mademoiselle Barberie has expressed her preference,
is so very decided, that I see no hope of completing the arrangement."

"Mere coquetry, Sir, mere coquetry! The girl has disappeared in order to
enhance the value of her future submission. One should never regard a
treaty at an end, so long as reasonable hopes remain that it may be
productive to the parties."

"I fear, Sir, there is more of the coquette in this step of the young
lady, than a gentleman can overlook," returned the Patroon a little dryly,
and with far more point than he was accustomed to use. "If the commander
of Her Majesty's cruiser be not a happy man, he will not have occasion to
reproach his mistress with disdain!"

"I am not certain, Mr. Van Staats, that in the actual situation of our
stipulations, I ought to overlook an innuendo that seems to reflect on the
discretion of my ward. Captain Ludlow----well, sirrah! what is the
meaning of this impertinence?"

"He'm waiting to see Masser," returned the gaping Erasmus, who stood with
the door in his hand, admiring the secret intelligence of his master, who
had so readily anticipated his errand.

"Who is waiting?--What does the simpleton mean?"

"I mean 'a gentle'um Masser say."

"The fortunate man is here to remind us of his success," haughtily
observed Van Staats of Kinderhook. "There can be no necessity of my
presence at an interview between Alderman Van Beverout and his nephew."

The justly-mortified Patroon bowed ceremoniously to the equally
disappointed burgher, and left the room the moment he had done speaking.
The negro took his retreat as a favorable symptom for one who was
generally known to be his rival; and he hastened to inform the young
captain, that the coast was clear.

The meeting, that instantly succeeded, was sufficiently constrained and
awkward. Alderman Van Beverout assumed a manner of offended authority and
wounded affection; while the officer of the Queen wore an air of compelled
submission to a duty that he found to be disagreeable. The introduction of
the discourse was consequently ceremonious, and punctiliously observant of
courtesy.

"It has become my office," continued Ludlow, after the preliminaries had
been observed, to express the surprise I feel, that a vessel of the
exceedingly equivocal appearance of the brigantine, that is anchored in
the Cove, should be found in a situation to create unpleasant suspicions
concerning the commercial propriety of a merchant so well known as Mr.
Alderman Van Beverout."

"The credit of Myndert Van Beverout is too well established, Captain
Cornelius Ludlow, to be affected by the accidental position of ships and
bays. I see two vessels anchored near the Lust in Rust, and if called upon
to give my testimony before the Queen in Council, I should declare that
the one which wears her royal pennant had done more wrong to her subjects
than the stranger. But what harm is known of the latter?"

"I shall not conceal any of the facts; for I feel that this is a case, in
which a gentleman of your station has the fullest right to the benefit of
explanations----"

"Hem--" interrupted the burgher, who disliked the manner in which his
companion had opened the interview, and who thought he saw the
commencement of a forced compromise in the turn it was taking;--"Hem--I
commend your moderation, Captain Ludlow. Sir, we are flattered in having a
native of the Province in so honorable a command on the coast. Be seated,
I pray you, young gentleman, that we may converse more at leisure. The
Ludlows are an ancient and well-established family in the colonies; and
though they were no friends of King Charles, why--we have others here in
the same predicament. There are few crowns in Europe that might not trace
some of their discontented subjects to these colonies; and the greater the
reason, say I, why we should not be too hasty in giving faith to the
wisdom of this European legislation. I do not pretend, Sir, to admire all
the commercial regulations which flow from the wisdom of Her Majesty's
counsellors. Candor forbids that I should deny this truth: but--what of
the brigantine in the Cove?"

"It is not necessary to tell one so familiar with the affairs of commerce,
of the character of a vessel called the Water-Witch, nor of that of its
lawless commander, the notorious 'Skimmer of the Seas.'"

"Captain Ludlow is not about to accuse Alderman Van Beverout of a
connexion with such a man!" exclaimed the burgher, rising as it were
involuntarily, and actually recoiling a foot or two, apparently under the
force of indignation and surprise.

"Sir, I am not commissioned to accuse any of the Queen's subjects. My duty
is to guard her interests on the water, to oppose her open enemies, and to
uphold her royal prerogatives."

"An honorable employment, and one I doubt not that is honorably
discharged. Resume your seat, Sir; for I foresee that the conference is
likely to end as it should, between a son of the late very respectable
King's counsellor and his father's friend. You have reason then for
thinking that this brigantine, which has so suddenly appeared in the Cove,
has some remote connexion with the Skimmer of the Seas?"

"I believe the vessel to be the famous Water-Witch itself, and her
commander to be, of course, that well-known adventurer."

"Well, Sir--well, Sir--this may be so. It is impossible for me to deny
it--but what should such a reprobate be doing here, under the guns of a
Queen's cruiser?"

"Mr. Alderman, my admiration of your niece is not unknown to you."

"I have suspected it, Sir;" returned the burgher, who believed the tenor
of the compromise was getting clearer, but who still waited to know the
exact value of the concessions the other party would make, before he
closed a bargain, in a hurry, of which he might repent at his
leisure--"Indeed, it has even been the subject of some discourse between
us."

"This admiration induced me to visit your villa, the past night,----"

"This is a fact too well established, young gentleman."

"Whence I took away----" Ludlow hesitated, as if anxious to select his
words--

"Alida Barberie."

"Alida Barberie!"

"Ay, Sir; my niece, or perhaps I should say my heiress, as well as the
heiress of old Etienne de Barberie. The cruise was short, Captain
Cornelius Ludlow; but the prize-money will be ample--unless, indeed, a
claim to neutral privileges should be established in favor of part of the
cargo!"

"Sir, your pleasantry is amusing, but I have little leisure for its
enjoyment. That I visited the Cour lies Fees, shall not be denied. I think
la belle Barberie will not be offended, under the circumstances, with
this acknowledgment."

"If she is, the jade has a rare squeamishness, after what has passed!"

"I pretend not to judge of more than my duty. The desire to serve my royal
mistress had induced me, Mr. Van Beverout, to cause a seaman of odd attire
and audacious deportment to enter the Coquette. You will know the man,
when I tell you that he was your companion in the island ferry-boat."

"Yes, yes, I confess there was a mariner of the long voyage there, who
caused much surprise, and some uneasiness, to myself and niece, as well as
to Van Staats of Kinderhook."

Ludlow smiled, like one not to be deceived, as he continued.

"Well, Sir, this man so far succeeded, as to tempt me to suffer him to
land, under the obligation of some half-extorted promise--we came into the
river together, and entered your grounds in company."

Alderman Van Beverout now began to listen like a man who dreaded, while he
desired to catch, each syllable. Observing that Ludlow paused, and watched
his countenance with a cool and steady eye, he recovered his self-command,
and affected a mere ordinary curiosity, while he signed to him to proceed.

"I am not sure I tell Alderman Van Beverout any thing that is new,"
resumed the young officer, "when I add, that the fellow suffered me to
visit the pavilion, and then contrived to lead me into an ambush of
lawless men, having previously succeeded in making captives of my
boat's-crew."

"Seizures and warrants!" exclaimed the burgher in his natural strong and
hasty manner of speeking.

"This is the first I have heard of the affair. It was ill-judged, to call
it by no other term."

Ludlow seemed relieved, when he saw, by the undisguised amazement of his
companion, that the latter was, in truth, ignorant of the matter in which
lie had been detained.

"It might not have been, Sir, had our watch been as vigilant as their
artifice was deep," he continued. "But I was little guarded, and having no
means to reach my ship, I--"

"Ay, ay, Captain Ludlow; it is not necessary to be so circumstantial; you
proceeded to the wharf, and----"

"Perhaps, Sir, I obeyed my feelings, rather than my duty," observed
Ludlow, coloring high, when he perceived that the burgher paused to clear
his throat "I returned to the pavilion, where----"

"You persuaded a niece to forget her duty to her uncle and protector."

"This is a harsh and most unjustifiable charge, both as respects the young
lady and myself. I can distinguish between a very natural desire to
possess articles of commerce that are denied by the laws and a more
deliberate and mercenary plot against the revenue of the country. I
believe there are few of her years and sex, who would refuse to purchase
the articles I saw presented to the eyes of la belle Barberie, especially
when the utmost hazard could be no more than their loss, as they were
already introduced into the country."

"A just discrimination, and one likely to render the arrangement of our
little affairs less difficult! I was sure that my old friend the
counsellor would not have left a son of his ignorant of principles, more
especially as he was about to embark in a profession of so much
responsibility.--And so, my niece had the imprudence to entertain a dealer
in contraband?"

"Alderman Van Beverout, there were boats in motion on the water, between
this landing and the brigantine in the Cove. A periagua even left the
river for the city, at the extraordinary hour of midnight!"

"Sir, boats will move on the water, when the hands of man set them in
motion; but what have I to answer for in the matter? If goods have entered
the Province, without license, why, they must be found and condemned; and
if free-traders are on the coast, they should be caught. Would it not be
well to proceed to town, and lay the fact of this strange brigantine's
presence before the Governor, withou delay?"

"I have other intentions. If, as you say, goods have gone up the bay, it
is too late for me to stop them; but it is not too late to attempt to
seize yon brigantine. Now, I would perform this duty in a manner as little
likely to offend any of reputable name, as my allegiance will admit."

"Sir, I extol this discretion--not that there is any testimony to
implicate more than the crew, but credit is a delicate flower, and it
should be handled tenderly. I see an opening for an arrangement--but, we
will, as in duty bound, hear your propositions first, since you may be
said to speak with the authority of the Queen. I will merely surmise that
terms should be moderate, between friends;--perhaps I should say, between
connexions, Captain Ludlow."

"I am flattered by the word, Sir," returned the young sailor, smiling with
an expression of delight. "First suffer me to be admitted to the charming
Cour des Fees, but for a moment."

"That is a favor which can hardly be refused you, who may be said to have
a right, now, to enter the pavilion at pleasure," returned the Alderman,
unhesitatingly leading the way through the long passage to the deserted
apartments of his niece, and continuing the blind allusions to the affairs
of the preceding night, in the same indirect manner as had distinguished
the dialogue during the whole interview. "I shall not be unreasonable,
young gentleman, and here is the pavilion of my niece; I wish I could
add, and here also is its mistress!"

"And is la belle Barberie no longer a tenant of la Cour des Fees!"
demanded Ludlow, in a surprise too natural to be feigned.

Alderman Van Beverout regarded the young man in wonder; pondered a moment,
to consider how far denying a knowledge of the absence of his niece might
benefit the officer, in the pending negotiation; and then he dryly
observed, "Boats passed on the water, during the night. If the men of
Captain Ludlow were at first imprisoned, I presume they were set at
liberty at the proper time."

"They are carried I know not whither--the boat itself is gone, and I am
here alone."

"Am I to understand, Captain Ludlow, that Alida Barberie has not fled my
house, during the past night, to seek a refuge in your ship?"

"Fled!" echoed the young man, in a voice of horror. "Has Alida de Barberie
fled from the house of her uncle, at all?"

"Captain Ludlow, this is not acting. On the honor of a gentleman, are you
ignorant of my niece's absence?"

The young commander did not answer; but, striking his head fiercely, he
smothered words that were unintelligible to his companion. When this
momentary burst of feeling was past, he sunk into a chair, and gazed about
him in stupid amazement. All this pantomime was inexplicable to the
Alderman, who, however, began to see that more of the conditions of the
arrangement in hand were beyond the control of his companion, than he had
at first believed. Still the plot thickened, rather than grew clear; and
he was afraid to speak, lest he might utter more than was prudent. The
silence, therefore, continued for quite a minute; during which time, the
parties sat gazing at each other in dull wonder.

"I shall not deny, Captain Ludlow, that I believed you had prevailed on
my niece to fly aboard the Coquette; for, though a man who has always kept
his feelings in his own command, as the safest manner of managing
particular interests, yet I am not to learn that rash youth is often
guilty of folly. I am now equally at a loss with yourself, to know what
has become of her, since here she is not."

"Hold!" eagerly interrupted Ludlow. "A boat left your wharf, for the city,
in the earlier hours of the morning. Is it not possible that she may have
taken a passage in it?"

"It is not possible. I have reasons to know--in short, Sir, she is not
there."

"Then is the unfortunate--the lovely--the indiscreet girl for ever lost to
herself and us!" exclaimed the young sailor, actually groaning under his
mental agony. "Rash, mercenary man! to what an act of madness has this
thirst of gold driven one so fair--would I could say, so pure and so
innocent!"

But while the distress of the lover was thus violent, and caused him to be
so little measured in his terms of reproach, the uncle of the fair
offender appeared to be lost in surprise. Though la belle Barberie had so
well preserved the decorum and reserve of her sex, as to leave even her
suitors in doubt of the way her inclinations tended, the watchful Alder
man had long suspected that the more ardent, open, and manly commander of
the Coquette was likely to triumph over one so cold in exterior, and so
cautious in his advances, as the Patroon of Kinderhook. When, therefore,
it became apparent Alida had disappeared, he quite naturally inferred that
she had taken the simplest manner of defeating all his plans for favoring
the suit of the latter, by throwing herself, at once, into the arms of the
young sailor. The laws of the colonies offered few obstacles to the
legality of their union; and when Ludlow appeared that morning, he firmly
believed that he beheld one, who, if he were not so already, was
inevitably soon to become his nephew. But the suffering of the
disappointed youth could not be counterfeited; and, prevented from
adhering to his first opinion, the perplexed Alderman seemed utterly at a
loss to conjecture what could have become of his niece. Wonder, rather
than pain, possessed him; and when he suffered his ample chin to repose on
the finger and thumb of one hand, it was with the air of a man that
revolved, in his mind, all the plausible points of some knotty question.

"Holes and corners!" he muttered, after a long silence; "the wilful minx
cannot be playing at hide-and-seek with her friends! The hussy had ever
too much of la famille de Barberie, and her high Norman blood about her,
as that silly old valet has it, to stoop to such childish trifling. Gone
she certainly is," he continued, looking, again, into the empty drawers
and closets, "and with her the valuables have disappeared. The guitar is
missing--the lute I sent across the ocean to purchase, an
excellently-toned Dutch lute, that cost every stiver of one hundred
guilders, is also wanting, and all the--hem--the recent accessions have
disappeared. And there, too, are my sister's jewels, that I persuaded her
to bring along, to guard against accidents while our backs are turned,
they are not to be seen. Francois! Francois I Thou long-tried servitor of
Etienne Barberie, what the devil has become of thy mistress?"

"Mais, Monsieur," returned the disconsolate valet, whose decent features
exhibited all the signs of unequivocal suffering, "she no tell le pauvre
Francois! En supposant, que Monsieur ask le capitaine, he shall
probablement know."

The burgher cast a quick suspicious glance at Ludlow, and shook his head,
to express his belief that the young man was true.

"Go; desire Mr. Van Staats of Kinderhook to favor us with his company."

"Hold," cried Ludlow, motioning to the valet to withdraw. "Mr. Beverout,
an uncle should be tender of the errors of one so dear as this cruel,
unreflecting girl. You cannot think of abandoning her to so frightful a
fortune!"

"I am not addicted to abandoning any thing, Sir to which my title is just
and legal. But you speak in enigmas. If you are acquainted with the place
where my niece is secreted, avow it frankly, and permit me to take those
measures which the case requires."

Ludlow reddened to his forehead, and he struggled powerfully with his
pride and his regrets.

"It is useless to attempt concealing the step which Alida Barberie has
been pleased to take," he said, a smile so bitter passing over his
features, as to lend them the expression of severe mockery; "she has
chosen more worthily than either of us could have believed; she has found
a companion more suited to her station, her character, and her sex, than
Van Staats of Kinderhook, or a poor commander of a Queen's ship!"

"Cruisers and manors! What in the name of mysteries is thy meaning? The
girl is not here; you declare she is not on board of the Coquette, and
there remains only----"

"The brigantine!" groaned the young sailor uttering the word by a violent
effort of the will.

"The brigantine!" repeated the Alderman, slowly "My niece can have nothing
to do aboard a dealer in contraband. That is to say, Alida Barberie is not
a trader."

"Alderman Van Beverout, if we wish to escape the contamination of vice,
its society must be avoided. There was one in the pavilion, of a mien and
assurance the past night, that might delude an angel. Ah! woman! woman!
thy mind is composed of vanities, and thy imagination is thy bitterest
foe!"

"Women and vanities!" echoed the amazed burgher. "My niece, the heiress of
old Etienne Marie de Barberie, and the sought of so many of honorable
names and respectable professions, to be a refugee with a rover!--always
supposing your opinions of the character of the brigantine to be just.
This is a conjecture too improbable to be true."

"The eye of a lover, Sir, may be keener than that of a guardian--call it
jealousy, if you will,--would to Heaven my suspicions were untrue!--but if
she be not there, where is she?"

The opinion of the Alderman seemed staggered. If la belle Barberie had not
yielded to the fascinations of that wayward, but seductive, eye and smile,
to that singular beauty of face, and to the secret and often irresistible
charm that encircles eminent personal attractions, when aided by mystery,
to what had she yielded, and whither had she fled?

These were reflections that now began to pass through the thoughts of the
Alderman, as they had already planted stings in the bosom of Ludlow. With
reflection, conviction began slowly to assert its power. But the truth did
not gleam upon the mind of the calculating and wary merchant, with the
same instinctive readiness that it had flashed upon the jealous faculties
of the lover. He pondered on each circumstance of the interview between
the dealer in contraband and his niece; recalled the manner and discourse
of the former; drew certain general and vague conjectures concerning the
power which novelty, when coupled with circumstances of romance, might
exercise over a female fancy; and dwelt long and secretly on some
important facts that were alone known to himself,--before his judgment
finally settled down into the same opinion, as that which his companion
had formed, with all the sensitiveness of jealous alarm.

"Women and vagaries!" muttered the burgher, after his study was ended.
"Their conceits are as uncertain as the profits of a whaling voyage, or
the luck of a sportsman. Captain Ludlow, your assistance will be needed in
this affair; and, as it may not be too late, since there are few priests
in the brigantine--always supposing her character to be what you
affirm--my niece may yet see her error, and be disposed to reward so much
assiduity and attachment."

"My services shall always be ready, so long as they can be useful to Alida
Barberie," returned the young officer with haste, and yet a little coldly.
"It will be time enough to speak of the reward, when we shall have
succeeded."

"The less noise that is made about a little domestic inconvenience like
this, the better; and I would therefore suggest the propriety of keeping
our suspicions of the character of the vessel a secret, until we shall be
better informed."

The captain bowed his assent to the proposal.

"And now that we are of the same mind in the preliminaries, we will seek
the Patroon of Kinderhook, who has a claim to participate in our
confidence."

Myndert then led the way from the empty and melancholy Cour des Fees, with
a step that had regained its busy and firm tread, and a countenance that
expressed far more of vexation and weariness, than of real sorrow.




Chapter XIV.



    "--I 'll give thee a wind.
    "--Thou art kind.
    "--And I another
    "--I myself have all the other."

    Macbeth.


The cloud above the mouth of the Raritan had not risen. On the contrary,
the breeze still came from off the sea; and the brigantine in the Cove,
with the cruiser of the Queen, still lay at their anchors, like two
floating habitations that were not intended to be removed. The hour was
that at which the character of the day becomes fixed; and there was no
longer any expectation that a landwind would enable the vessel of the
free-trader to repass the inlet, before the turn of the tide, which was
again running swiftly on the flood.

The windows of the Lust in Rust were open, as when its owner was present;
and the menials were employed, in and about the villa, in their customary
occupations; though it was evident, by the manner in which they stopped to
converse, and by the frequent conferences which had place in secret
corners, that they wondered none the less at the unaccountable
disappearance of their young mistress. In all other respects, the villa
and its grounds were, as usual, quiet and seemingly deserted.

But there was a group collected beneath the shade of an oak on the margin
of the Cove, and at a point where it was rare for man to be seen. This
little party appeared to be in waiting for some expected communication
from the brigantine; since they had taken post on the side of the inlet,
next the cape, and in a situation so retired, as to be entirely hid from
any passing observation of those who might enter or leave the mouth of
the Shrewsbury. In short, they were on the long, low, and narrow barrier
of sand, that now forms the projection of the Hook, and which, by the
temporary breach that the Cove had made between its own waters and that of
the ocean, was then an island.

"Snug should be the motto of a merchant," observed one of these
individuals, whose opinions will sufficiently announce his name to the
reader. "He should be snug in his dealings, and snug in his manner of
conducting them; snug in his credits, and, above all, snug in his
speculations. There is as little need gentlemen, in calling in the aid of
a posse-comitatus for a sensible man to keep his household in order, as
that a discreet trader should go whistling through the public markets,
with the history of his operations. I gladly court two so worthy
assistants, as Captain Cornelius Ludlow and Mr. Oloff Van Staats; for I
know there will be no useless gossip concerning the trifling derangement
that hath occurred. Ah! the black hath had communications with the
free-trader--always supposing the opinion of Mr. Ludlow concerning the
character of the vessel to be just--and he is quitting the brigantine."

Neither of the companions of the Alderman made any reply. Each watched the
movement of the skiff that contained their messenger, and each seemed to
feel an equal interest in the result of his errand. Instead, however, of
approaching the spot where his master and his two friends expected him,
the negro, though he knew that his boat was necessary to enable the party
to recross the inlet, pulled directly for the mouth of the river,--a
course that was exactly contrary to the one he was expected to take.

"Rank disobedience!" grumbled the incensed master. "The irreverent dog is
deserting us, on this neck of barren sand, where we are cut off from all
communication with the interior, and are as completely without
intelligence of the state of the market, and other necessaries, as men in
a desert!"

"Here comes one that seems disposed to bring us to a parley," observed
Ludlow, whose practised eye had first detected a boat quitting the side of
the brigantine, as well as the direction it was about to steer.

The young commander was not deceived; for a light cutter, that played like
a bubble on its element; was soon approaching the shore, where the three
expectants were seated. When it was near enough to render sight perfectly
distinct, and speech audible without an effort, the crew ceased rowing,
and permitted the boat to lie in a state of rest. The mariner of the
India-shawl then arose in the stern-sheets, and examined the thicket
behind the party, with a curious and suspicious eye. After a sufficient
search, he signed to his crew to force the cutter still nigher to the
land, and spoke:

"Who has affairs with any of the brigantine?" he coolly demanded, wearing
the air of one who had no reason to anticipate the object of their visit.
"She has little left that can turn to profit, unless she parts with her
beauty."

"Truly, good stranger," returned the Alderman, laying a sufficient
emphasis on the latter word, "here are none disposed to a traffic, which
might not be pleasing to the authorities of the country, were its nature
known. We come with a desire to be admitted to a conference with the
commander of the vessel, on a matter of especial but private concern."

"Why send a public officer on the duty? I see one, there, in the livery of
Queen Anne. We are no lovers of Her Majesty's servants, and would not
willingly form disagreeable acquaintances."

Ludlow nearly bit-through his lip, in endeavoring to repress his anger, at
the cool confidence of one who had already treated him with so little
ceremony; and then momentarily forgetting his object, in professional
pride, and perhaps we might add in the habits of his rank, he interrupted
the dialogue--

"If you see the livery of the royal authority," he said, haughtily, "you
must be sensible it is worn by one who is commissioned to cause its rights
to be respected. I demand the name and character of yon brigantine?"

"As for character, she is, like any other beauty, something vituperated;
nay, some carry their envy so far as to call it cracked! But we are jolly
mariners that sail her, and little heed crazy reports at the expense of
our mistress. As for a name, we answer any hail that is fairly spoken, and
well meant. Call us 'Honesty,' if you will, for want of the register."

"There is much reason to suspect your vessel of illegal practices; and, in
the name of the Queen, I demand access to her papers, and the liberty of a
free search into her cargo and crew. Else will there be necessity to bring
her under the guns of the cruiser, which lies at no great distance,
waiting only for orders."

"It takes no scholar to read our documents, Captain Ludlow; for they are
written by a light keel on the rolling waters, and he who follows in our
wake may guess at their authority. If you wish to overhaul our cargo, you
must look sharply into the cuffs and aprons, the negligees and stomachers
of the Governor's lady, at the next ball at the fort; or pry into the sail
that is set above the farthingales of the wife and daughters of your
Admiralty Judge! We are no cheesemongers, to break the shins of a boarding
officer among boxes and butter-tubs."

"Your brigantine has a name, sirrah; and, in Her Majesty's authority, I
demand to know it."

"Heaven forbid that any here should dispute the Queen's right! You are a
seaman, Captain Ludlow, and have an eye for comeliness in a craft, as well
as in a woman. Look at those harpings! There is no fall of a shoulder
can equal that curve, in grace or richness; this shear surpasses the
justness and delicacy of any waist: and there you see the transoms,
swelling and rounded like the outlines of a Venus. Ah! she is a bewitching
creature; and no wonder that, floating as she does, on the seas, they
should have called her----"

"Water-Witch!" said Ludlow, finding that the other paused.

"You deserve to be one of the sisterhood yourself, Captain Ludlow, for
this readiness in divination!"

"Amazement and surprise, Patroon!" exclaimed Myndert, with a tremendous
hem "Here is a discovery to give a respectable merchant more uneasiness
than the undutiful conduct of fifty nieces! This vessel is then the famous
brigantine of the notorious 'Skimmer of the Seas!' a man whose misdeeds in
commerce are as universally noted, as the stoppage of a general dealer!
Pray, Master Mariner, do not distrust our purposes. We do not come, sent
by any authority of the country, to pry into your past transactions, of
which it is quite unnecessary for you to speak; and far less to indulge in
any unlawful thirst of gain, by urging a traffic that is forbidden by the
law. We wish solely to confer with the celebrated free-trader and rover,
who must, if your account be true, command the vessel, for a few minutes,
on an affair of common interest to the three. This officer of the Queen is
obliged, by his duty, to make certain demands of you, with which you will
comply, or not, at your own good discretion; and since Her Majesty's
cruiser is so far beyond reach of bullet, it cannot be expected you will
do otherwise; but further than that, he has no present intention to
proceed. Parleys and civilities! Captain Ludlow, we must speak the man
fair, or he will leave us to get over the inlet and back to the Lust in
Rust, as we may; and that, too, as empty-handed as we came. Remember our
stipulations, without observing which I shall withdraw from the adventure,
altogether."

Ludlow bit his lip, and continued silent. The seaman of the shawl, or
Master Tiller, as he has been more than once called, again narrowly
examined the back-ground, and caused his boat to approach so near the
land, that it was possible to step into it, by the stern.

"Enter," he said to the Captain of the Coquette, who needed no second
invitation; "enter, for a valuable hostage is a safe-pledge, in a truce.
The Skimmer is no enemy to good company; and I have done justice to the
Queen's servitor, by introducing him already, by name and character."

"Fellow, the success of your deception may cause you to triumph for a
time; but remember that the Coquette----"

"Is a wholesome boat, whose abilities I have taken, to the admeasurement
of her moment-glass;" observed Tiller, very coolly taking the words out of
the other's mouth. "But as there is business to be done with the Skimmer,
we will speak more of this anon."

The mariner of the shawl, who had maintained his former audacious
demeanor, now became grave; and he spoke to his crew with authority,
bidding them pull the boat to the side of the brigantine.

The exploits, the mysterious character, and the daring of the Water-Witch,
and of him who sailed her, were, in that day, the frequent subjects of
anger, admiration, and surprise. Those who found pleasure in the
marvellous, listened to the wonders that were recounted of her speed and
boldness, with pleasure; they who had been so often foiled in their
attempts to arrest the hardy dealers in contraband, reddened at her name;
and all wondered at the success and intelligence with which her movements
were controlled. It will, therefore, create no astonishment when we say,
that Ludlow and the Patroon drew near to the light and graceful fabric
with an interest that deepened at each stroke of the oars. So much of a
profession which, in that age, was particularly marked and apart from the
rest of mankind in habits and opinions, had been interwoven into the
character of the former, that he could not see the just proportions, the
graceful outlines of the hull, or the exquisite symmetry and neatness of
the spars and rigging, without experiencing a feeling somewhat allied to
that which undeniable superiority ecites in the heart of even a rival.
There was also a taste in the style of the merely ornamental parts of the
delicate machine, which caused as much surprise as her model and rig.

Seamen, in all ages, and in every state of their art, have been ambitious
of bestowing on their floating habitations, a style of decoration which,
while appropriate to their element, should be thought somewhat analogous
to the architectural ornaments of the land. Piety, superstition, and
national usages, affect these characteristic ornaments, which are still
seen, in different quarters of the world, to occasion broad distinctions
between the appearances of vessels. In one, the rudder-head is carved with
the resemblance of some hideous monster; another shows goggling eyes and
lolling tongues from its cat-heads; this has the patron saint, or the
ever-kind Marie, embossed upon its mouldings or bows; while that is
covered with the allegorical emblems of country and duty. Few of these
efforts of nautical art are successful, though a better taste appears to
be gradually redeeming even this branch of human industry from the rubbish
of barbarism, and to be elevating it to a state which shall do no violence
to the more fastidious opinions of the age. But the vessel of which we
write, though constructed at so remote a period, would have done credit
to the improvements of our own time.

It has been said that the hull of this celebrated smuggler was low, dark,
moulded with exquisite art, and so justly balanced as to ride upon its
element like a sea-fowl. For a little distance above the water, it showed
a blue that vied with the color of the deep ocean, the use of copper being
then unknown; while the more superior parts were of a jet black,
delicately relieved by two lines, of a straw-color, that were drawn, with
mathematical accuracy, parallel to the plane of her upper works, and
consequently converging slightly towards the sea, beneath her counter.
Glossy hammock-cloths concealed the persons of those who were on the deck,
while the close bulwarks gave the brigantine the air of a vessel equipped
for war. Still the eye of Ludlow ran curiously along the whole extent of
the two straw-colored lines, seeking in vain some evidence of the weight
and force of her armament. If she had ports at all, they were so
ingeniously concealed as to escape the keenest of his glances. The nature
of the rig has been already described. Partaking of the double character
of brig and schooner, the sails and spars of the forward-mast being of the
former, while those of the after-mast were of the latter construction,
seamen have given to this class of shipping the familiar name of
Hermaphrodites. But, though there might be fancied, by this term, some
want of the proportions that constitute seemliness, it will be remembered
that the departure was only from some former rule of art, and that no
violence had been done to those universal and permanent laws which
constitute the charm of nature. The models of glass, which are seen
representing the machinery of a ship, are not more exact or just in their
lines than were the cordage and spars of this brigantine. Not a rope
varied from its true direction; not a sail, but it resembled the neat
folds of some prudent house wife; not a mast or a yard was there, but it
rose into the air, or stretched its arms, with the most fastidious
attention to symmetry. All was airy, fanciful, and full of grace, seeming
to lend to the fabric a character of unreal lightness and speed. As the
boat drew near her side, a change of the air caused the buoyant bark to
turn, like a vane, in its current; and as the long and pointed proportions
of her head-gear came into view, Ludlow saw beneath the bowsprit an image
that might be supposed to make, by means of allegory, some obvious
allusions to the character of the vessel. A female form, fashioned with
the carver's best skill, stood on the projection of the cut-water. The
figure rested lightly on the ball of one foot, while the other was
suspended in an easy attitude, resembling the airy posture of the famous
Mercury of the Bolognese. The drapery was fluttering, scanty, and of a
light sea-green tint, as if it had imbibed a hue from the element beneath.
The face was of that dark bronzed color which human ingenuity has, from
time immemorial, adopted as the best medium to portray a superhuman
expression. The locks were dishevelled, wild, and rich; the eye, full of
such a meaning as might be fancied to glitter in the organs of a
sorceress; while a smile so strangely meaning and malign played about the
mouth, that the young sailor started, when it first met his view as if a
living thing had returned his look.

"Witchcraft and necromancy!" grumbled the Alderman, as this extraordinary
image came suddenly on his vision also. "Here is a brazen-looking hussy
and one who might rob the Queen's treasury, itself, without remorse! Your
eyes are young, Patroon; what is that the minx holds so impudently above
her head?"

"It seems an open book, with letters of red, writ ten on its pages. One
need not be a conjurer, to divine it is no extract from the Bible."

"Nor from the statute-books of Queen Anne. I warrant me, 'tis a leger of
profit gained in her many wanderings. Goggling and leers! the bold air of
the confident creature is enough to put an honest man out of countenance!"

"Will read the motto of the witch?" demanded he of the India-shawl, whose
eye had been studying the detail of the brigantine's equipment, rather
than attending to the object which so much attracted the looks of his
companions. "The night air has taut'ned the cordage of that
flying-jib-boom, fellows, until it begins to lift its nose like a
squeamish cockney, when he holds it over salt-water! See to it, and bring
the spar in line; else shall we have a reproof from the sorceress, who
little likes to have any of her limbs deranged. Here, gentlemen, the
opinions of the lady may be read, as clearly as woman's mind can ever be
fathomed."

While speaking to his crew, Tiller had changed the direction of the boat;
and it was soon lying, in obedience to a motion of his hand, directly
beneath the wild and significant-looking image, just described. The
letters in red were now distinctly visible; and when Alderman Van Beverout
had adjusted his spectacles, each of the party read the following
sentence:--

    "Albeit, I neither lend nor borrow,
    By taking, nor by giving of excess,
    Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend,
    I'll break a custom."

    Merchant of Venice.

"The brazen!" exclaimed Myndert, when he had got through this quotation
from the immortal bard. "Ripe or green, one could not wish to be the
friend of so impudent a thing; and then to impute such sentiments to any
respectable commercial man whether of Venice or of Amsterdam! Let us
board the brigantine, friend mariner, and end the connexion ere foul
mouths begin to traduce our motives for the visit."

"The over-driven ship plows the seas too deep for speed; we shall get into
port, in better season without this haste. Wilt take another look into the
dark lady's pages? A woman's mind is never known at the first answer!"

The speaker raised the rattan he still carried, and caused a page of
painted metal to turn on hinges that were so artfully concealed as not to
be visible. A new surface, with another extract, was seen.

"What is it, what is it, Patroon?" demanded the burgher, who appeared
greatly to distrust the discretion of the sorceress. "Follies and rhymes!
but this is the way of the whole sex; when nature has denied them tongues,
they invent other means of speech."

    "Porters of the sea and land,
    Thus do go about, about;
    Thrice to thine, and thrice to thine,
    And thrice again to make up nine."

"Rank nonsense!" continued the burgher! "It is well for those who can, to
add thrice and thrice to their stores; but look you, Patroon--it is a
thriving trade that can double the value of the adventure, and that with
reasonable risks, and months of patient watching."

"We have other pages," resumed Tiller, "but our affairs drag for want of
attending to them. One may read much good matter in the book of the
sorceress, when there is leisure and opportunity. I often take occasion,
in the calms, to look into her volume; and it is rare to find the same
moral twice told, as these brave seamen can swear."

The mariners at the oars confirmed this assertion, by their grave and
believing faces; while their superior caused the boat to quit the place,
and the image of the Water-Witch was left floating in solitude above her
proper element.

The arrival of the cutter produced no sensation among those who were found
on the deck of the brigantine. The mariner of the shawl welcomed his
companions, frankly and heartily; and then he left them for a minute to
make their observations, while he discharged some duty in the interior of
the vessel. The moments were not lost, as powerful curiosity induced all
the visiters to gaze about them, in the manner in which men study the
appearance of any celebrated object, that has long been known only by
reputation. It was quite apparent that even Alderman Van Beverout had
penetrated farther into the mysteries of the beautiful brigantine, than he
had ever before been. But it was Ludlow who gathered most from this brief
opportunity, and whose understanding glances so rapidly and eagerly ran
over all that a seaman could wish to examine.

An admirable neatness reigned in every part. The planks of the deck
resembled the work of the cabinetmaker, rather than the coarser labor
which is generally seen in such a place; and the same excellence of
material, and exactness in the finish, were visible in the ceilings of the
light bulwarks, the railings, and all the other objects which necessarily
came conspicuously into view, in the construction of such a fabric. Brass
was tastefully rather than lavishly used, on many of those parts where
metal was necessary; and the paint of the interior was everywhere a light
and delicate straw-color. Armament there was none, or at least none
visible; nor did the fifteen or twenty grave-looking seamen, who were
silently lounging, with folded arms, about the vessel, appear to be those
who would find pleasure in scenes of violence. They were, without an
exception, men who had reached the middle age, of weather-worn and
thoughtful countenances, many of them even showing heads that had begun to
be grizzled more by time than even by exposure. Thus much Ludlow had been
enabled to ascertain, ere they were rejoined by Tiller. When the latter
again came on deck, he showed, however, no desire to conceal any of the
perfections of his habitation.

"The wilful sorceress is no niggard in accommodating her followers," said
the mariner, observing the manner in which the Queen's officer was
employed. "Here, you see, the Skimmer keeps room enough for an admiral, in
his cabins; and the fellows are berthed aft, far beyond the
fore-mast;--wilt step to the hatch, and look below?"

The captain and his companions did as desired, and to the amazement of the
former, he perceived that, with the exception of a sort of room fitted
with large and water-tight lockers, which were placed in full view, all
the rest of the brigantine was occupied by the accommodations of her
officers and crew.

"The world gives us the reputation of free-traders," continued Tiller,
smiling maliciously; "but if the Admiralty-Court were here, big wigs and
high staffs, judge and jury, it would be at a loss to bring us to
conviction. There is iron to keep the lady on her feet, and water, with
some garnish of Jamaica, and the wines of old Spain and the islands, to
cheer the hearts and cool the mouths of my fellows, beneath that deck; and
more than that, there is not. We have stores for the table and the breeze,
beyond yon bulk-head; and here are lockers beneath you, that are--empty!
See, one is open; it is neat as any drawer in a lady's bureau. This is no
place for your Dutchman's strong waters, or the coarse skins of your
tobacconist. Odd's my life! He who would go on the scent of the
Water-Witch's lading, must follow your beauty in her satins, or your
parson in his band and gown. There would be much lamentation in the
church, and many a heavy-hearted bishop, were it known that the good craft
had come to harm!"

"There must be an end to this audacious trifling with the law," said
Ludlow; "and the time may be nearer than you suppose."

"I look at the pages of the lady's book, in the pride of each morning; for
we have it aboard here, that when she intends to serve us foul, she will
at least be honest enough to give a warning. The mottoes often change, but
her words are ever true. 'Tis hard to overtake the driving mist, Captain
Ludlow, and he must hold good way with the wind itself, who wishes to stay
long in our company."

"Many a boastful sailor has been caught. The breeze that is good for the
light of draught, and the breeze that is good for the deep keel, are
different. You may live to learn what a stout spar, a wide arm, and a
steady hull, can do."

"The lady of the wild eye and wicked smile protect me! I have seen the
witch buried fathoms deep in brine, and the glittering water falling from
her tresses like golden stars; but never have I read an untruth in her
pages. There is good intelligence between her and some on board; and,
trust me, she knows the paths of the ocean too well, ever to steer a wrong
course. But we prate like gossiping river-men.--Wilt see the Skimmer of
the Seas?"

"Such is the object of our visit," returned Ludlow, whose heart beat
violently at the name of the redoubtable rover. "If you are not he, bring
us where he is."

"Speak lower; if the lady under the bowsprit hear such treason against her
favorite, I'll not answer for her good-will. If I am not he!" added the
hero of the India-shawl, laughing freely. "Well, an ocean is bigger than a
sea, and a bay is not a gulf. You shall have an opportunity of judging
between us, noble captain, and then I leave opinions to each man's wisdom.
Follow."

He quitted the hatchway, and led his companions toward the accommodations
in the stern of the vessel.




Chapter XV.



    "God save you, Sir!"
    "And you, Sir; you are welcome.
    "Travel you, Sir, or are you at the furthest?"

    Taming of the Shrew.


If the exterior of the brigantine was so graceful in form and so singular
in arrangement, the interior was still more worthy of observation. There
were two small cabins beneath the main-deck, one on each side of, and
immediately adjoining, the limited space that was destined to receive her
light but valuable cargoes. It was into one of these that Tiller had
descended, like a man who freely entered into his own apartment; but
partly above, and nearer to the stern, were a suite of little rooms that
were fitted and furnished in a style altogether different. The equipments
were those of a yacht, rather than those which might be supposed suited to
the pleasures of even the most successful dealer in contraband.

The principal deck had been sunken several feet, commencing at the
aftermost bulk-head of the cabins of the subordinate officers, in a manner
to give the necessary height, without interfering with the line of the
brigantine's shear. The arrangement was consequently not to be seen, by an
observer who was not admitted into the vessel itself. A descent of a step
or two, however, brought the visiters to the level of the cabin-floor and
into an ante-room that was evidently fitted for the convenience of the
domestics. A small silver hand-bell lay on a table, and Tiller rung it
lightly, like one whose ordinary manner was restrained by respect. It was
answered by the appearance of a boy, whose years could not exceed ten, and
whose attire was so whimsical as to merit description.

The material of the dress of this young servitor of Neptune, was a light
rose-colored silk, cut in a fashion to resemble the habits formerly worn
by pages of the great. His body was belted by a band of gold, a collar of
fine thread lace floated on his neck and shoulders, and even his feet were
clad in a sort of buskins, that were ornamented with fringes of real lace
and tassels of bullion. The form and features of the child were delicate,
and his air as unlike as possible to the coarse and brusque manner of a
vulgar ship-boy.

"Waste and prodigality!" muttered the Alderman, when this extraordinary
little usher presented himself, in answer to the summons of Tiller. "This
is the very wantonness of cheap goods and an unfettered commerce! There is
enough of Mechlin, Patroon, on the shoulders of that urchin, to deck the
stomacher of the Queen. 'Fore George, goods were cheap in the market, when
the young scoundrel had his livery!"

The surprise was not confined, however, to the observant and frugal
burgher. Ludlow and Van Staats of Kinderhook manifested equal amazement,
though their wonder was exhibited in a less characteristic manner. The
former turned short to demand the meaning of this masquerade, when he
perceived that the hero of the India-shawl had disappeared. They were then
alone with the fantastic page, and it became necessary to trust to his
intelligence for directions how to proceed.

"Who art thou, child?--and who has sent thee hither?" demanded Ludlow.
The boy raised a cap of the same rose-colored silk, and pointed to an
image of a female, with a swarthy face and a malign smile, painted, with
exceeding art, on its front.

"I serve the sea-green lady, with the others of the brigantine."

"And who is this lady of the color of shallow water, and whence come you,
in particular?"

"This is her likeness--if you would speak with her, she stands on the
cut-water, and rarely refuses an answer."

"'Tis odd that a form of wood should have the gift of speech!"

"Dost think her then of wood?" returned the child, looking timidly, and
yet curiously, up into the face of Ludlow. "Others have said the same; but
those who know best, deny it. She does not answer with a tongue, but the
book has always something to say."

"Here is a grievous deception practised on the superstition of this boy! I
have read the book, and can make but little of its meaning."

"Then read again. 'Tis by many reaches that the leeward vessel gains upon
the wind. My master has bid me bring you in--"

"Hold--Thou hast both master and mistress?--You have told us of the
latter, but we would know something of the former. Who is thy master?"

The boy smiled and looked aside, as if he hesitated to answer.

"Nay, refuse not to reply. I come with the authority of the Queen."

"He tells us that the sea-green lady is our Queen and that we have no
other."

"Rashness and rebellion!" muttered Myndert: "but this foolhardiness will
one day bring as pretty a brigantine as ever sailed in the narrow seas, to
condemnation; and then will there be rumors abroad, and characters
cracked, till every lover of gossip in the Americas shall be tired of
defamation."

"It is a bold subject, that dares say this!" rejoined Ludlow, who heeded
not the by-play of the Alderman; "Your master has a name?"

"We never hear it. When Neptune boards us, under the tropics, he always
hails the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' and then they answer. The old God knows
us well, for we pass his latitude oftener than other ships, they say."

"You are then a cruiser of some service, in the brigantine--no doubt you
have trod many distant shores, belonging to so swift a craft."

"I!--I never was on the land!" returned the boy, thoughtfully. "It must be
droll to be there; they say, one can hardly walk, it is so steady! I put a
question to the sea-green lady before we came to this narrow inlet, to
know when I was to go ashore."

"And she answered?"

"It was some time, first. Two watches were past before a word was to be
seen; but at last I got the lines. I believe she mocked me, though I have
never dared show it to my master, that he might say."

"Hast the words, here?--perhaps we might assist thee, as there are some
among us who know most of the sea-paths."

The boy looked timidly and suspiciously around, and thrusting a hand
hurriedly into a pocket, he drew forth two bits of paper, each of which
contained a scrawl, and both of which had evidently been much thumbed and
studied.

"Here," he said, in a voice that was suppressed nearly to a whisper. "This
was on the first page. I was so frightened, lest the lady should be angry,
that I did not look again till the next watch; and then," turning the
leaf, "I found this."

Ludlow took the bit of paper first offered, and read, written in a
child's hand, the following extract:

                           "I pray thee
    Remember, I have done thee worthy service;
    Told thee no lies, made no mistakings, serv'd
    Without or grudge or grumblings."

"I thought that 'twas in mockery," continued the boy, when he saw by the
eye of the young captain that he had read the quotation; 'for 'twas very
like, though more prettily worded, than that which I had said, myself!"

"And that was the second answer?"

"This was found in the first morning-watch," the child returned, reading
the second extract himself:

                    "Thou think'st
    It much to tread the ooze of the salt deep,
    And run upon the sharp wind of the north!"

"I never dared to ask again. But what matters that? They say, the ground
is rough and difficult to walk on; that earthquakes shake it, and make
holes to swallow cities; that men slay each other on the highways for
money, and that the houses I see on the hills must always remain in the
same spot. It must be very melancholy to live always in the same spot; but
then it must be odd, never to feel a motion!"

"Except the occasional rocking of an earthquake. Thou art better afloat,
child;--but thy master, this Skimmer of the Seas----"

"--Hist!" whispered the boy, raising a finger for silence. "He has come up
into the great cabin. In a moment, we shall have his signal to enter."

"A few light touches on the strings of a guitar followed, and then a
symphony was rapidly and beautifully executed, by one in the adjoining
apartment.

"Alida, herself, is not more nimble-fingered," whispered the Alderman;
"and I never heard the girl touch the Dutch lute, that cost a hundred
Holland guilders, with a livelier movement!"

Ludlow signed for silence. A fine, manly voice, of great richness and
depth, was soon heard, singing to an accompaniment on the same instrument.
The air was grave, and altogether unusual for the social character of one
who dwelt upon the ocean, being chiefly in recitative. The words, as near
as might be distinguished, ran as follows:

                    My brigantine!
    Just in thy mould, and beauteous in thy form,
    Gentle in roll, and buoyant on the surge,
    Light as the sea-fowl, rocking in the storm,
    In breeze and gale, thy onward course we urge;
                    My Water-Queen!

                    Lady of mine!
    More light and swift than thou, none thread the sea,
    With surer keel, or steadier on its path;
    We brave each waste of ocean-mystery,
    And laugh to hear the howling tempest's wrath!
                    For we are thine!

                    My brigantine!
    Trust to the mystic power that points thy way,
    Trust to the eye that pierces from afar,
    Trust the red meteors that around thee play,
    And fearless trust the sea-green lady's star;
                    Thou bark divine!

"He often sings thus," whispered the boy, when the song was ended; "for
they say, the sea-green lady loves music that tells of the ocean, and of
her power.--Hark! he has bid me enter."

"He did but touch the strings of the guitar, again, boy."

"'Tis his signal, when the weather is fair. When we have the whistling of
the wind, and the roar of the water, then he has a louder call."

Ludlow would have gladly listened longer; but the boy opened a door, and,
pointing the way to those he conducted, he silently vanished himself,
behind a curtain.

The visiters, more particularly the young commander of the Coquette, found
new subjects of admiration and wonder, on entering the main cabin of the
brigantine. The apartment, considering the size of the vessel, was
spacious and high. It received light from a couple of windows in the
stern, and it was evident that two smaller rooms, one on each of the
quarters, shared with it in this advantage. The space between these
state-rooms, as they are called in nautical language, necessarily formed a
deep alcove, which might be separated from the outer portion of the cabin,
by a curtain of crimson damask, that now hung in festoons from a beam
fashioned into a gilded cornice. A luxuriously-looking pile of cushions,
covered with red morocco, lay along the transom, in the manner of an
eastern divan; and against the bulk-head of each state-room, stood an
agrippina of mahogany, that was lined with the same material. Neat and
tasteful cases for books were suspended, here and there; and the guitar
which had so lately been used, lay on a small table of some precious wood,
that occupied the centre of the alcove. There were also other implements,
like those which occupy the leisure of a cultivated but perhaps an
effeminate rather than a vigorous mind, scattered around, some evidently
long neglected, and others appearing to have been more recently in favor.

The outer portion of the cabin was furnished in a similar style, though it
contained many more of the articles that ordinarily belong to domestic
economy. It had its agrippina, its piles of cushions, its chairs of
beautiful wood, its cases for books, and its neglected instruments,
intermixed with fixtures of a more solid and permanent appearance, which
were arranged to meet the violent motion that was often unavoidable in so
small a bark. There was a slight hanging of crimson damask around the
whole apartment; and, here and there, a small mirror was let into the
bulk-heads and ceilings. All the other parts were of a rich mahogany,
relieved by panels of rose-wood, that gave an appearance of exquisite
finish to the cabin. The floor was covered with a mat of the finest
texture, and of a fragrance that announced both its freshness, and the
fact that the grass had been the growth of a warm and luxuriant climate.
The place, as was indeed the whole vessel, so far as the keen eye of
Ludlow could detect, was entirely destitute of arms, not even a pistol, or
a sword, being suspended in those places where weapons of that description
are usually seen, in all vessels employed either in war or in a trade that
might oblige those who sail them to deal in violence.

In the centre of the alcove stood the youthful-looking and extraordinary
person who, in so unceremonious a manner, had visited la Cour des Fees the
preceding night. His dress was much the same, in fashion and material, as
when last seen; still, it had been changed; for on the breast of the
silken frock was painted an image of the sea-green lady, done with
exquisite skill, and in a manner to preserve the whole of the wild and
unearthly character of the expression. The wearer of this singular
ornament leaned lightly against the little table, and as he bowed with
entire self-possession to his guests, his face was lighted with a smile,
that seemed to betray melancholy, no less than courtesy. At the same time
he raised his cap, and stood in the rich jet-black locks with which
Nature had so exuberantly shaded his forehead.

The manner of the visiters was less easy. The deep anxiety with which both
Ludlow and the Patroon had undertaken to board the notorious smuggler had
given place to an amazement and a curiosity that caused them nearly to
forget their errand; while Alderman Van Beverout appeared shy and
suspicious, manifestly thinking less of his niece, than of the
consequences of so remarkable an interview. They all returned the
salutation of their host, though each waited for him to speak.

"They tell me I have the pleasure to receive a commander of Queen Anne's
service, the wealthy and honorable Patroon of Kinderhook, and a most
worthy and respectable member of the city corporation, known as Alderman
Van Beverout," commenced the individual who did the honors of the vessel
on this occasion. "It is not often that my poor brigantine is thus
favored, and, in the name of my mistress, I would express our thanks."

As he ceased speaking, he bowed again with ceremonious gravity, as if all
were equally strangers to him; though the young men saw plainly that a
smothered smile played about a mouth that even they could not refuse the
praise of being of rare and extraordinary attraction.

"As we have but one mistress," said Ludlow, "it is our common duty to wish
to do her pleasure."

"I understand you, Sir. It is scarce necessary to say, however, that the
wife of George of Denmark has little authority here. Forbear, I pray you,"
he added quickly, observing that Ludlow was about to answer. "These
interviews with the servants of that lady are riot unfrequent; and as I
know other matters have sent you hither, we will imagine all said that a
vigilant officer and a most loyal subject could utter, to an outlaw and a
trifler with the regulations of the customs. That controversy must be
settled between us under our canvas, and by virtue of our speed, or other
professional qualities, at proper time and in a proper place. We will now
touch on different matters."

"I think the gentleman is right, Patroon. When matters are ripe for the
Exchequer, there is no use in worrying the lungs with summing up the
testimony like a fee'd advocate. Twelve discreet men, who have bowels of
compassion for the vicissitudes of trade, and who know how hard it is to
earn, and how easy it is to spend, will deal with the subject better than
all the idle talkers in the Provinces."

"When confronted to the twelve disinterested Daniels, I shall be fain to
submit to their judgment," rejoined the other, still suffering the wilful
smile to linger round his lips. "You, Sir, I think, are called Mr. Myndert
Van Beverout.--To what fall in peltry, or what rise in markets, do I owe
the honor of this visit?"

"It is said that some from this vessel were so bold as to land on my
grounds, during the past night, without the knowledge and consent of their
owner--you will observe the purport of our discourse, Mr. Van Staats, for
it may yet come before the authorities--as I said, Sir, without their
owner's knowledge, and that there were dealings in articles that are
contraband of law, unless they enter the provinces purified and
embellished by the air of the Queen's European dominions--God bless Her
Majesty!"

"Amen.--That which quitteth the Water-Witch commonly comes purified by the
air of many different regions. We are no laggards in movement, here; and
the winds of Europe scarcely cease to blow upon our sails, before we scent
the gales of America. But this is rather Exchequer matter, to be discussed
before the twelve merciful burghers than entertainment for such a visit."

"I open with the facts, that there may be no errors. But in addition to
so foul an imputation on the credit of a merchant, there has a great
calamity befallen me and my household, during the past night. The daughter
and heiress of old Etienne de Barberie has left her abode, and we have
reason to think that she has been deluded so far as to come hither. Faith
and correspondence! Master Seadrift; but I think this is exceeding the
compass of even a trader in contraband! I can make allowances for some
errors in an account; but women can be exported and imported without duty,
and when and where one pleases, and therefore the less necessity for
running them out of their old uncle's habitation, in so secret a manner."

"An undeniable position, and a feeling conclusion! I admit the demand to
be made in all form, and I suppose these two gentlemen are to be
considered as witnesses of its legality."

"We have come to aid a wronged and distressed relative and guardian, in
searching for his misguided ward," Ludlow answered.

The free-trader turned his eyes on the Patroon, who signified his assent
by a silent bow.

"'Tis well, gentlemen; I also admit the testimony. But though in common
believed so worthy a subject for justice, I have hitherto had but little
direct communication with the blind deity. Do the authorities usually give
credit to these charges, without some evidence of their truth?"

"Is it denied?"

"You are still in possession of your senses, Captain Ludlow and may freely
use them. But this is an artifice to divert pursuit. There are other
vessels beside the brigantine, and a capricious fair may have sought a
protector, even under a pennant of Queen Anne!"

"This is a truth that has been but too obvious to my mind, Mr. Van
Beverout," observed the sententious Patroon. "It would have been well to
have ascertained whether she we seek has not taken some less exceptionable
course than this, before we hastily believe that your niece would so
easily become the wife of a stranger."

"Has Mr. Van Staats any hidden meaning in his words, that he speaks
ambiguously?" demanded Ludlow.

"A man, conscious of his good intentions, has little occasion to speak
equivocally. I believe, with this reputed smuggler, that la belle Barberie
would be more likely to fly with one she has long known, and whom I fear
she has but too well esteemed, than with an utter stranger, over whose
life there is cast a shade of so dark mystery."

"If the impression that the lady could yield her esteem with too little
discretion, be any excuse for suspicions, then may I advise a search in
the manor of Kinderhook!"

"Consent and joy! The girl need not have stolen to church to become the
bride of Oloff Van Staats!" interrupted the Alderman. "She should have had
my benediction on the match, and a fat gift to give it unction."

"These suspicions are but natural, between men bent on the same object,"
resumed the free-trader. "The officer of the Queen thinks a glance of the
eye, from a wilful fair, means admiration of broad lands and rich meadows;
and the lord of the manor distrusts the romance of warlike service, and
the power of an imagination which roams the sea. Still may I ask, what is
there here, to tempt a proud and courted beauty to forget station, sex,
and friends?"

"Caprice and vanity! There is no answering for a woman's mind! Here we
bring articles, at great risk and heavy charges, from the farther Indies,
to please their fancies, and they change their modes easier than the
beaver casts his coat. Their conceits sadly unsettle trade, and I know not
why they may not cause a wilful girl to do any other act of folly."

"This reasoning seems conclusive with the uncle. Do the suitors assent to
its justice?"

The Patroon of Kinderhook had stood gazing, long and earnestly, at the
countenance of the extraordinary being who asked this question. A
movement, which bespoke, equally, his conviction and his regret, escaped
him, but he continued silent. Not so Ludlow. Of a more ardent temperament,
though equally sensible of the temptation which had caused Alida to err,
and as keenly alive to all the consequences to herself, as well as to
others, there was something of professional rivalry, and of an official
right to investigate, which still mingled with his feelings. He had found
time to examine more closely the articles that the cabin contained, and
when their singular host put his question, he pointed, with an ironical
but mournful smile, to a footstool richly wrought in flowers of tints and
shades so just as to seem natural.

"This is no work of a sail-maker's needle!" said the captain of the
Coquette. "Other beauties have been induced to pass an idle hour in your
gay residence, hardy mariner; but, sooner or later, judgment will overtake
the light-heeled craft."

"On the wind, or off, she must some day lag, as we seamen have it! Captain
Ludlow, I excuse some harshness of construction, that your language might
imply; for it becomes a commissioned servant of the crown, to use freedom
with one who, like the lawless companion of the princely Hal, is but too
apt to propose to 'rob me the King's Exchequer.' But, Sir, this brigantine
and her character are little known to you. We have no need of truant
damsels, to let us into the mystery of the sex's taste; for a female
spirit guides all our humors, and imparts something of her delicacy to
all our acts, even though it be the fashion among burghers to call them
lawless. See," throwing a curtain carelessly aside, and exhibiting, behind
it, various articles of womanly employment, "here are the offspring of
both pencil and needle. The sorceress," touching the image on his breast,
"will not be entertained, without some deference to her sex."

"This affair must be arranged, I see, by a compromise," observed the
Alderman. "By your leave, gentlemen, I will make proposals in private to
this bold trader, who perhaps will listen to the offers I have to
propose."

"Ah! This savors more of the spirit of trade than of that of the
sea-goddess I serve," cried the other, causing his fingers to run lightly
over the strings of the guitar. "Compromise and offers are sounds that
become a burgher's lips. My tricksy spirit, commit these gentlemen to the
care of bold Thomas Tiller, while I confer with the merchant. The
character of Mr. Van Beverout, Captain Ludlow, will protect us both from
the suspicion of any designs on the revenue!"

Laughing at his own allusion, the free-trader signed to the boy, who had
appeared from behind a curtain, to show the disappointed suitors of la
belle Barberie into another part of the vessel.

"Foul tongues and calumnies! Master Seadrift, this unlawful manner of
playing round business, after accounts are settled and receipts passed,
may lead to other loss besides that of character. The commander of the
Coquette is not more than half satisfied of my ignorance of your misdoings
in behalf of the customs, already; and these jokes are like so many
punches into a smouldering fire, on a dark night. They only give light,
and cause people to see the clearer:--though, Heaven knows, no man has
less reason to dread an inquiry into his affairs than myself! I
challenge the best accountant in the colonies to detect a false footing,
or a doubtful entry, in any book I have, from the Memorandum to the
Leger."

"The Proverbs are not more sententious, nor the Psalms half as poetical,
as your library. But why this secret parley?--The brigantine has a swept
hold."

"Swept! Brooms and Van Tromp! Thou hast swept the pavilion of my niece of
its mistress, no less than my purse of its johannes. This is carrying a
little innocent barter into a most forbidden commerce, and I hope the joke
is to end, before the affair gets to be sweetening to the tea of the
Province gossips. Such a tale would affect the autumn importation of
sugars!"

"This is more vivid than clear. You have my laces and velvets; my brocades
and satins are already in the hands of the Manhattan dames; and your furs
and johannes are safe where no boarding officer from the Coquette--"

"Well, there is no need of speaking-trumpets, to tell a man what he knows
already, to his cost! I should expect no less than bankruptcy from two or
three such bargains, and you wish to add loss of character to loss of
gold. Bulk-heads have ears in a ship, as well as walls in houses. I wish
no more said of the trifling traffic that has been between us. If I lose a
thousand florins by the operation, I shall know how to be resigned.
Patience and afflictions! Have I not buried as full-fed and promising a
gelding this morning, as ever paced a pavement, and has any man heard a
complaint from my lips? I know how to meet losses, I hope; and so no more
of an unhicky purchase."

"Truly, if it be not for trade, there is little in common between the
mariners of the brigantine and Alderman Van Beverout."

"The greater the necessity thou shouldst end this silly joke, and restore
his niece. I am not sure the affair can be at all settled with either of
these hotheaded young men, though I should even offer to throw in a few
thousands more, by way of make-weight. When female reputation gets a bad
name in the market, 'tis harder to dispose of than falling stock; and your
young lords of manors and commanders of cruisers have stomachs like
usurers; no per centage will satisfy them; it must be all, or nothing!
There was no such foolery in the days of thy worthy father! The honest
trafficker brought his cutter into port, with as innocent a look as a
mill-boat. We had our discourses on the qualities of his wares, when here
was his price, and there was my gold. Odd or even! It was all a chance
which had the best of the bargain. I was a thriving man in those days,
Master Seadrift; but thy spirit seems the spirit of extortion itself!"

There was momentarily contempt on the lip of the handsome smuggler, but it
disappeared in an expression of evident and painful sadness.

"Thou hast softened my heart, ere now, most liberal burgher," he answered,
"by these allusions to my parent; and many is the doubloon that I have
paid for his eulogies."

"I speak as disinterestedly as a parson preaches! What is a trifle of gold
between friends? Yes, there was happiness in trade during the time of thy
predecessor. He had a comely and a deceptive craft, that might be likened
to an untrimmed racer. There was motion in it, at need, and yet it had the
air of a leisurely Amsterdammer. I have known an Exchequer cruiser hail
him, and ask the news of the famous free-trader, with as little suspicion
as he have in speaking the Lord High Admiral! There were no fooleries in
his time; no unseemly hussies stuck under his bowsprit, to put an honest
man out of countenance; no high-fliers in sail and paint; no singing and
luting--but all was rational and gainful barter. Then, he was a man to
ballast his boat with something valuable. I have known him throw in fifty
ankers of gin, without a farthing for freight, when a bargain has been
struck for the finer articles--ay, and finish by landing them in England
for a small premium, when the gift was made!"

"He deserves thy praise, grateful Alderman; but to what conclusion does
this opening tend?"

"Well, if more gold must pass between us," continued the reluctant
Myndert, "we shall not waste time in counting it; though, Heaven knows,
Master Seadrift, thou hast already drained me dry. Losses have fallen
heavy on me, of late. There is a gelding, dead, that fifty Holland ducats
will not replace on the boom-key of Rotterdam, to say nothing of freight
and charges, which come particularly heavy--"

"Speak to thy offer!" interrupted the other, who evidently wished to
shorten the interview.

"Restore the girl, and take five-and-twenty thin pieces."

"Half-price for a Flemish gelding! La Belle would blush, with honest
pride, did she know her value in the market!"

"Extortion and bowels of compassion! Let it be a hundred, and no further
words between us."

"Harkee, Mr. Van Beverout; that I sometimes trespass on the Queen's
earnings, is not to be denied and least of all to you; for I like neither
this manner of ruling a nation by deputy, nor the principle which says
that one bit of earth is to make laws for another. 'Tis not my humor, Sir,
to wear an English cotton when my taste is for the Florentine; nor to
swallow beer, when I more relish the delicate wines of Gascony Beyond
this, thou knowest I do not trifle, even with fancied rights; and had I
fifty of thy nieces, sacks of ducats should not purchase one!"

The Alderman stared, in a manner that might have induced a spectator to
believe he was listening to an incomprehensible proposition. Still his
companion spoke with a warmth that gave him no small reason to believe he
uttered no more than he felt, and, inexplicable as it might prove, that he
valued treasure less than feeling.

"Obstinacy and extravagance!" muttered Myndert; "what use can a
troublesome girl be to one of thy habits? If thou hast deluded--"

"I have deluded none. The brigantine is not an Algerine, to ask and take
ransom."

"Then let it submit to what I believe it is yet a stranger. If thou hast
not enticed my niece away, by, Heaven knows, a most vain delusion! let the
vessel be searched. This will make the minds of the young men tranquil,
and keep the treaty open between us, and the value of the article fixed in
the market."

"Freely:--but mark! If certain bales containing worthless furs of martens
and beavers, with other articles of thy colony trade, should discover the
character of my correspondents, I stand exonerated of all breach of
faith."

"There is prudence in that.--Yes, there must be no impertinent eyes
peeping into bales and packages. Well, I see, Master Seadrift, the
impossibility of immediately coming to an understanding; and therefore I
will quit thy vessel, for truly a merchant of reputation should have no
unnecessary connexion with one so suspected."

The free-trader smiled, partly in scorn and yet much in sadness, and
passed his fingers over the strings of the guitar.

"Show this worthy burgher to his friends, Zephyr," ne said; and, bowing to
the Alderman, he dismissed him in a manner that betrayed a singular
compound of feeling. One quick to discover the traces of human passion,
might have fancied, that regret, and even sorrow, were powerfully blended
with the natural or assumed recklessness of the smuggler's air and
language.




Chapter XVI.



    "This will prove a brave kingdom to me;
    Where I shall have my music, for nothing."

    Tempest.


During the time past in the secret conference of the cabin, Ludlow and the
Patroon were held in discourse on the quarter-deck, by the hero of the
India-shawl. The dialogue was professional, as Van Staats maintained his
ancient reputation for taciturnity. The appearance of Myndert, thoughtful,
disappointed, and most evidently perplexed, caused the ideas of all to
take a new direction. It is probable that the burgher believed he had not
yet bid enough to tempt the free-trader to restore his niece; for, by his
air, it was apparent his mind was far from being satisfied that she was
not in the vessel. Still, when questioned by his companions concerning the
result of his interview with the free-trader, for reasons best understood
by himself, he was fain to answer evasively.

"Of one thing rest satisfied," he said; "the misconception in this affair
will yet be explained, and Alida Barberie return unfettered, and with a
character as free from blemish as the credit of the Van Stoppers of
Holland. The fanciful-looking person in the cabin denies that my niece is
here, and I am inclined to think the balance of truth is on his side I
confess, if one could just look into the cabins, without the trouble of
rummaging lockers and cargo, the statement would give more satisfaction;
but--hem--gentlemen, we must take the assertion on credit, for want of
more sufficient security."

Ludlow looked at the cloud above the mouth of the Raritan, and his lip
curled in a haughty smile.

"Let the wind hold here, at east," he said, "and we shall act our
pleasure, with both lockers and cabins."

"Hist! the worthy Master Tiller may overhear this threat--and, after all,
I do not know whether prudence does not tell us, to let the brigantine
depart."

"Mr. Alderman Van Beverout," rejoined the Captain, whose cheek had
reddened to a glow, "my duty must not be gauged by your affection for your
niece. Though content that Alida Barberie should quit the country, like an
article of vulgar commerce, the commander of this vessel must get a
passport of Her Majesty's cruiser, ere she again enter the high sea."

"Wilt say as much to the sea-green lady?" asked the mariner of the shawl,
suddenly appearing at his elbow.

The question was so unexpected and so strange, that it caused an
involuntary start; but, recovering his recollection on the instant, the
young sailor haughtily replied--

"Or to any other monster thou canst conjure!"

"We will take you at the word. There is no more certain method of knowing
the past or the future, the quarter of the heavens from which the winds
are to come, or the season of the hurricanes, than by putting a question
to our mistress. She who knows so much of hidden matters, may tell us what
you wish to know. We will have her called, by the usual summons."

Thus saving, the mariner of the shawl gravely quitted his guests, and
descended into the inferior cabins of the vessel. It was but a moment,
before there arose sounds from some secret though not distant quarter of
the brigantine, that caused, in some measure, both surprise and pleasure
to Ludlow and the Patroon. Their companion had his motives for being
insensible to either of these emotions.

After a short and rapid symphony, a wind-instrument took up a wild strain,
while a human voice was again heard chanting to the music, words which
were so much involved by the composition of the air, as to render it
impossible to trace more than that their burthen was a sort of mysterious
incantation of some ocean deity.

"Squeaking and flutes!" grumbled Myndert, ere the last sounds were fairly
ended. "This is downright heathenish; and a plain-dealing man, who does
business above-board, has good reason to wish himself honestly at church.
What have we to do with land-witches, or water-witches, or any other
witchcraft, that we stay in the brigantine, now it is known that my niece
is not to be found aboard her; and, moreover, even admitting that we were
disposed to traffic, the craft has nothing in her that a man of Manhattan
should want. The deepest bog of thy manor, Patroon, is safer ground to
tread on, than the deck of a vessel that has got a reputation like that of
this craft."

The scenes of which he was a witness, had produced a powerful effect on
Van Staats of Kinderhook. Of a slow imagination but of a powerful and vast
frame, he was not easily excited, either to indulge in fanciful images, or
to suffer personal apprehension. Only a few years had passed since men,
who in other respects were enlightened, firmly believed in the existence
of supernatural agencies in the control of the affairs of this life; and
though the New-Netherlanders had escaped the infatuation which prevailed
so generally in the religious provinces of New-England, a credulous
superstition, of a less active quality, possessed the minds of the most
intelligent of the Dutch colonists, and even of their descendants so
lately as in our own times. The art of divination was particularly in
favor; and it rarely happened, that any inexplicable event affected the
fortunes or comforts of the good provincialists, without their having
recourse to some one of the more renowned fortunetellers of the country,
for an explanation. Men of slow faculties love strong excitement, because
they are insensible to less powerful impulses, as men of hard heads find
most enjoyment in strong liquors. The Patroon was altogether of the
sluggish cast; and to him there was consequently a secret, but deep
pleasure, in his present situation.

"What important results may flow from this adventure, we know not, Mr.
Alderman Van Beverout," returned Oloff Van Staats; "and I confess a desire
to see and hear more, before we land. This 'Skimmer of the Seas' is
altogether a different man from what our rumors in the city have reported;
and, by remaining, we may set public opinion nearer to the truth. I have
heard my late venerable aunt----"

"Chimney-corners and traditions! The good lady was no bad customer of
these gentry, Patroon; and it is lucky that they got no more of thy
inheritance, in the way of fees. You see the Lust in Rust against the
mountain there; well, all that is meant for the public is on the outside,
and all that is intended for my own private gratification is kept
within-doors. But here is Captain Ludlow, who has matters of the Queen on
his hands, and the gentleman will find it disloyal to waste the moments in
this juggling."

"I confess the same desire to witness the end," dryly returned the
commander of the Coquette. "The state of the wind prevents any immediate
change in the positions of the two vessels; and why not get a farther
insight into the extraordinary character of those who belong to the
brigantine?"

"Ay, there it is!" muttered the Alderman between his teeth. "Your insights
and outsights lead to all the troubles of life. One is never snug with
these fantastics, which trifle with a secret, like a fly fluttering round
a candle, until his wings get burnt."

As his companions seemed resolved to stay, however, there remained no
alternative for the burgher, but patience. Although apprehension of some
indiscreet exposure was certainly the feeling uppermost in his mind, he
was not entirely without some of the weakness which caused Oloff Van
Staats to listen and to gaze with so much obvious interest and secret awe.
Even Ludlow, himself, felt more affected than he would have willing owned,
by the extraordinary situation in which he was placed. No man is entirely
insensible to the influence of sympathy, let it exert its power in what
manner it will. Of this the young sailor was the more conscious, through
the effect that was produced on himself, by the grave exterior and
attentive manner of all the mariners of the brigantine. He was a seaman of
no mean accomplishments; and, among other attainments that properly
distinguish men of his profession, he had learned to know the country of a
sailor, by those general and distinctive marks which form the principal
difference between men whose common pursuit has in so great a degree
created a common character. Intelligence, at that day, was confined to
narrow limits among those who dwelt on the ocean. Even the officer was but
too apt to be one of rude and boisterous manners, of limited acquirements
and of deep and obstinate prejudices. No wonder then, that the common man
was, in general, ignorant of most of those opinions which gradually
enlighten society. Ludlow had seen, on entering the vessel, that her crew
was composed of men of different countries. Age and personal character
seemed to have been more consulted, in their selection, than national
distinctions. There was a Finlander, with a credulous and oval
physiognomy, sturdy but short frame, and a light vacant eye; and a
dark-skinned seaman of the Mediterranean, whose classical outline of
feature was often disturbed by uneasy and sensitive glances at the
horizon. These two men had come and placed themselves near the group on
the quarter-deck, when the last music was heard; and Ludlow had ascribed
the circumstance to a sensibility to melody, when the child Zephyr stole
to their side, in a manner to show that more was meant by the movement
than was apparent in the action itself. The appearance of Tiller, who
invited the party to re-enter the cabin, explained its meaning, by showing
that these men, like themselves, had business with the being, who, it was
pretended, had so great an agency in controlling the fortunes of the
brigantine.

The party, who now passed into the little ante-room, was governed by very
different sensations. The curiosity of Ludlow was lively, fearless, and a
little mingled with an interest that might be termed professional; while
that of his two companions was not without some inward reverence for the
mysterious power of the sorceress. The two seamen manifested dull
dependence, while the boy exhibited, in his ingenuous and half-terrified
countenance, most unequivocally the influence of childish awe. The mariner
of the shawl was grave, silent, and, what was unusual in his deportment,
respectful. After a moment's delay, the door of the inner apartment was
opened by Seadrift himself, and he signed for the whole to enter.

A material change had been made in the arrangement of the principal cabin.
The light was entirely excluded from the stern, and the crimson curtain
had been lowered before the alcove. A small window whose effect was to
throw a dim obscurity within, had been opened in the side. The objects on
which its light fell strongest, received a soft coloring from the hues of
the hangings.

The free-trader received his guests with a chastened air, bowing silently,
and with less of levity in his mien than in the former interview. Still
Ludlow thought there lingered a forced but sad smile about his handsome
mouth; and the Patroon gazed at his fine features, with the admiration
that one might feel for the most favored of those who were believed to
administer at some supernatural shrine. The feelings of the Alderman were
exhibited only by some half-suppressed murmurs of discontent, that from
time to time escaped him, notwithstanding a certain degree of reverence,
that was gradually prevailing over his ill-concealed dissatisfaction.

"They tell me, you would speak with our mistress," said the principal
personage of the vessel, in a subdued voice. "There are others, too, it
would seem, who wish to seek counsel from her wisdom. It is now many
months since we have had direct converse with her, though the book is ever
open to all applicants for knowledge. You have nerves for the meeting?"

"Her Majesty's enemies have never reproached me with their want," returned
Ludlow, smiling incredulously. "Proceed with your incantations, that we
may know."

"We are not necromancers, Sir, but faithful mariners, who do their
mistress's pleasure. I know that you are sceptical; but bolder men have
confessed their mistakes, with less testimony. Hist! we are not alone. I
hear the opening and shutting of the brigantine's transoms."

The speaker then fell back nearly to the line in which the others had
arranged themselves, and awaited the result in silence. The curtain rose
to a low air on the same wind-instrument; and even Ludlow felt an emotion
more powerful than interest, as he gazed on the object that was revealed
to view.

A female form, attired, as near as might be, like the figure-head of the
vessel, and standing in a similar attitude, occupied the centre of the
alcove. As in the image, one hand held a book with its page turned towards
the spectators, while a finger of the other pointed ahead, as if giving to
the brigantine its course. The sea-green drapery was floating behind, as
if it felt the influence of the air; and the face had the same dark and
unearthly hue, with its malign and remarkable smile.

When the start and the first gaze of astonishment were over, the Alderman
and his companions glanced their eyes at each other, in wonder. The smile
on the look of the free-trader became less hidden, and it partook of
triumph.

"If any here has aught to say to the lady of our bark, let him now declare
it. She has come far, at our call, and will not tarry long."

"I would then know," said Ludlow, drawing a heavy breath, like one
recovering from some sudden and powerful sensation, "if she I seek be
within the brigantine?"

He who acted the part of mediator in this extraordinary ceremony, bowed
and advanced to the book, which, with an air of deep reverence, he
consulted, reading, or appearing to read, from its pages.

"You are asked here, in return for that you inquire, if she you seek is
sought in sincerity?"

Ludlow reddened; the manliness of the profession to which he belonged,
however, overcame the reluctance natural to self-esteem; and he answered,
firmly--

"She is."

"But you are a mariner; men of the sea place their affections, often, on
the fabric in which they dwell. Is the attachment for her you seek,
stronger than love of wandering, of your ship your youthful expectations,
and the glory that forms a young soldier's dreams?"

The commander of the Coquette hesitated. After a moment of pause, like
that of self-examination, he said--

"As much so, as may become a man."

A cloud crossed the brow of his interrogator, who advanced and again
consulted the pages of the book.

"You are required to say, if a recent event has not disturbed your
confidence in her you seek?"

"Disturbed--but not destroyed."

The sea-green lady moved, and the pages of the mysterious volume trembled,
as if eager to deliver their oracles.

"And could you repress curiosity, pride, and all the other sentiments of
your sex, and seek her favor, without asking explanation, as before the
occurrence of late events?"

"I would do much to gain a kind look from Alida de Barberie; but the
degraded spirit, of which you speak, would render me unworthy of her
esteem. If I found her as I lost her, my life should be devoted to her
happiness; and if not, to mourning that one so fair should have fallen!"

"Have you ever felt jealousy?"

"First let me know if I have cause?" cried the young man, advancing a step
towards the motionless form, with an evident intent to look closer into
its character.

The hand of the mariner of the shawl arrested him, with the strength of a
giant.

"None trespass on the respect due our mistress," coolly observed the
vigorous seaman, while he motioned to the other to retreat.

A fierce glance shot from his eye; and then the recollection of his
present helplessness came, in season, to restrain the resentment of the
offended officer.

"Have you ever felt jealousy?" continued his undisturbed interrogator.

"Would any love, that have not?"

A gentle respiration was heard in the cabin, during the short pause that
succeeded, though none could tell whence it came. The Alderman turned to
regard the Patroon, as if he believed the sigh was his while the startled
Ludlow looked curiously around him, at a loss to know who acknowledged,
with so much sensibility, the truth of his reply.

"Your answers are well," resumed the free-trader, after a pause longer
than usual. Then, turning to Oloff Van Staats, he said, "Whom, or what, do
you seek?"

"We come on a common errand."

"And do you seek in all sincerity?"

"I could wish to find."

"You are rich in lands and houses; is she you seek, dear to you as this
wealth?"

"I esteem them both, since one could not wish to tie a woman he admired to
beggary."

The Alderman hemmed so loud as to fill the cabin, and then, startled at
his own interruption, he involuntarily bowed an apology to the motionless
form in the alcove, and regained his composure.

"There is more of prudence than of ardor in your answer. Have you ever
felt jealousy?"

"That has he!" eagerly exclaimed Myndert "I've known the gentleman raving
as a bear that has lost its cub, when my niece has smiled, in church, for
instance, though it were only in answer to a nod from an old lady.
Philosophy and composure, Patroon! Who the devil knows, but Alida may hear
of this questioning?--and then her French blood will boil, to find that
your love has always gone as regularly as a town-clock."

"Could you receive her, without inquiring into past events?"

"That would he--that would he!" returned the Alderman. "I answer for it,
that Mr. Van Staats complies with all engagements, as punctually as the
best house in Amsterdam, itself."

The book again trembled, but it was with a waving and dissatisfied motion.

"What is thy will with our mistress?" demanded the free-trader, of the
fair-haired sailor.

"I have bargained with some of the dealers of my country, for a wind to
carry the brigantine through the inlet."

"Go.--The Water-Witch will sail when there is need;--and you?"

"I wish to know whether a few skins I bought last night, for a private
venture, will turn to good account?"

"Trust the sea-green lady for your profits. When did she ever let any
fail, in a bargain. Child, what has brought thee hither?"

The boy trembled, and a little time elapsed before he found resolution to
answer.

"They tell me it is so queer to be upon the land!"

"Sirrah! thou hast been answered. When others go, thou shalt go with
them."

"They say 'tis pleasant to taste the fruits from off the very trees--"

"Thou art answered. Gentlemen, our mistress departs. She knows that one
among you has threatened her favorite brigantine with the anger of an
earthly Queen; but it is beneath her office to reply to threats so idle.
Hark! her attendants are in waiting!"

The wind-instrument was once more heard, and the curtain slowly fell to
its strains. A sudden and violent noise, resembling the opening and
shutting of some massive door, succeeded--and then all was still. When
the sorceress had disappeared, the free-trader resumed his former ease of
manner, seeming to speak and act more naturally. Alderman Van Beverout
drew a long breath, like one relieved; and even the mariner of the gay
shawl stood in an easier and more reckless attitude than while in her
presence. The two seamen and the child withdrew.

"Few who wear that livery have ever before seen the lady of our
brigantine," continued the free-trader, addressing himself to Ludlow; "and
it is proof that she has less aversion to your cruiser, than she in common
feels to most of the long pennants that are abroad on the water."

"Thy mistress, thy vessel, and thyself, are alike amusing!" returned the
young seaman, again smiling incredulously, and with some little official
pride. "It will be well, if you maintain this pleasantry much longer, at
the expense of Her Majesty's customs."

"We trust to the power of the Water-Witch. She has adopted our brigantine
as her abode, given it her name, and guides it with her hand. 'Twould be
weak to doubt, when thus protected."

"There may be occasion to try her virtues. Were she a spirit of the deep
waters, her robe would be blue. Nothing of a light draught can escape the
Coquette!"

"Dost not know that the color of the sea differs in different climes? We
fear not, but you would have answers to your questions. Honest Tiller will
carry you all to the land, and, in passing, the book may again be
consulted. I doubt not she will leave us some further memorial of her
visit."

The free-trader then bowed, and retired behind the curtain, with the air
of a sovereign dismissing his visiters from an audience; though his eye
glanced curiously behind him, as he disappeared, as if to trace the effect
which had been produced by the interview. Alderman Van Beverout and his
friends were in the boat again, before a syllable was exchanged between
them. They had followed the mariner of the shawl, in obedience to his
signal; and they quitted the side of the beautiful brigantine, like men
who pondered on what they had just witnessed.

Enough has been betrayed, in the course of the narrative, perhaps, to show
that Ludlow distrusted, though he could not avoid wondering at, what he
had seen. He was not entirely free from the superstition that was then so
common among seamen; but his education and native good sense enabled him,
in a great measure, to extricate his imagination from that love of the
marvellous, which is more or less common to all. He had fifty conjectures
concerning the meaning of what had passed, and not one of them was true;
though each, at the instant, seemed to appease his curiosity, while it
quickened his resolution to pry further into the affair. As for the
Patroon of Kinderhook, the present day was one of rare and unequalled
pleasure. He had all the gratification which strong excitement can produce
in slow natures; and he neither wished a solution of his doubts, nor
contemplated any investigation that might destroy so agreeable an
illusion. His fancy was full of the dark countenance of the sorceress; and
when it did not dwell on a subject so unnatural, it saw the handsome
features, ambiguous smile, and attractive air, of her scarcely less
admirable minister.

As the boat got to a little distance from the vessel, Tiller stood erect,
and ran his eye complacently over the perfection of her hull and rigging.

"Our mistress has equipped and sent upon the wide and unbeaten sea, many a
bark," he said; "but never a lovelier than our own!--Captain Ludlow, there
has been some double-dealing between us; but that which is to follow,
shall depend on our skill, seamanship, and the merits of the two crafts.
You serve Queen Anne, and I the sea-green lady. Let each be true to his
mistress, and Heaven preserve the deserving!--Wilt see the book, before we
make the trial?"

Ludlow intimated his assent, and the boat approached the figure-head. It
was impossible to prevent the feeling, which each of our three
adventurers, not excepting the Alderman, felt when they came in full view
of the motionless image. The mysterious countenance appeared endowed with
thought, and the malign smile seemed still more ironical than before.

"The first question was yours, and yours must be the first answer," said
Tiller, motioning for Ludlow to consult the page which was open. "Our
mistress deals chiefly in verses from the old writer, whose thoughts are
almost as common to us all, as to human nature."

"What means this?" said Ludlow, hastily--

    "She, Claudio, that you wrong'd, look, you restore.
                     --love her Angelo;
    I have confess'd her, and I know her virtue."

"These are plain words; but I would rather that another priest should
shrive her whom I love!"

"Hist!--Young blood is swift and quickly heated. Our lady of the bark will
not relish hot speech, over her oracles.--Come, Master Patroon, turn the
page with the rattan, and see what fortune will give."

Oloff Van Staats raised his powerful arm, with the hesitation, and yet
with the curiosity, of a girl. It was easy to read in his eye, the
pleasure his heavy nature felt in the excitement; and yet it was easy to
detect the misgivings of an erroneous education, by the seriousness of all
the other members of his countenance. He read aloud--

    "I have a motion much imports your good;
    Whereto, if you'll a willing ear incline
    What's mine is yours, and what is yours is mine:--
    So bring us to our palace, where we'll show,
    What's yet behind, that's meet you all should know."

    Measure For Measure.

"Fair-dealing, and fairer speech! 'What's yours is mine, and what is mine
is yours,' is Measure for Measure, truly, Patroon!" cried the Alderman. "A
more equitable bargain cannot be made, when the assets are of equal value.
Here is encouragement, in good sooth; and now, Master Mariner, we will
land and proceed to the Lust in Rust, which must be the place meant in the
verses. 'What's yet behind,' must be Alida, the tormenting baggage! who
has been playing hide-and-seek with us, for no other reason than to
satisfy her womanish vanity, by showing how uncomfortable she could make
three grave and responsible men. Let the boat go, Master Tiller, since
that is thy name; and many thanks for thy civilities."

"Twould give grave offence to leave the lady, without knowing all she has
to say. The answer now concerns you, worthy Alderman; and the rattan will
do its turn, in your hand, as well as in that of another."

"I despise a pitiful curiosity, and content myself with knowing what
chance and good luck teach," returned Myndert. "There are men in Manhattan
ever prying into their neighbors' credit, like frogs lying with their
noses out of water; but it is enough for me to know the state of my books,
with some insight into that of the market."

"It will not do.--This may appease a quiet conscience, like your own, Sir;
but we of the brigantine may not trifle with our mistress. One touch of
the rattan will tell you, whether these visits to the Water Witch are
likely to prove to your advantage."

Myndert wavered. It has been said, that, like most others of his origin in
the colony, he had a secret leaning to the art of divination: and the
words of the hero of the shawl contained a flattering allusion to the
profits of his secret commerce. He took the offered stick, and, by the
time the page was turned, his eyes were ready enough to consult its
contents. There was but a line, which was also quoted as coming from the
well-known comedy of 'Measure for Measure.'

    "Proclaim it, Provost, round about the city."

In his eagerness Myndert read the oracle aloud, and then he sunk into his
seat, affecting to laugh at the whole as a childish and vain conceit.

"Proclamation, me, no proclamations! Is it a time of hostilities, or of
public danger, that one should go shouting with his tidings through the
streets? Measure for Measure, truly! Harkee, Master Tiller, this sea-green
trull of thine is no better than she should be; and unless she mends her
manner of dealing, no honest man will be found willing to be seen in her
company. I am no believer in necromancy--though the inlet has certainly
opened this year, altogether in an unusual manner--and therefore I put
little faith in her words; but as for saying aught of me or mine, in town
or country, Holland or America, that can shake my credit, why I defy her!
Still, I would not willingly have any idle stories to contradict; and I
shall conclude by saying, you will do well to stop her mouth."

"Stop a hurricane, or a tornado! Truth will come in her book, and he that
reads must expect to see it--Captain Ludlow, you are master of your
movements, again; for the inlet is no longer between you and your cruiser.
Behind yon hillock is the boat and crew you missed. The latter expect you.
And now, gentlemen, we leave the rest to the green lady's guidance, our
own good skill, and the winds! I salute you."

The moment his companions were on the shore, the hero of the shawl caused
his boat to quit it; and in less than five minutes it was seen swinging,
by its tackles, at the stern of the brigantine.




Chapter XVII.



    "--like Arion on the dolphin's back,
    I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves,
    So long as I could see."

    Tempest.


There was one curious though half-confounded observer of all that passed
in and around the Cove, on the morning in question. This personage was no
other than the slave called Bonnie, who was the factotum of his master,
over the demesnes of the Lust in Rust, during the time when the presence
of the Alderman was required in the city; which was, in truth, at least
four-fifths of the year. Responsibility and confidence had produced their
effect on this negro, as on more cultivated minds. He had been used to act
in situations of care; and practice had produced a habit of vigilance and
observation, that was not common in men of his unfortunate condition.
There is no moral truth more certain, than that men, when once accustomed
to this species of domination, as readily submit their minds, as their
bodies, to the control of others. Thus it is, that we see entire nations
maintaining so many erroneous maxims, merely because it has suited the
interests of those who do the thinking, to give forth these fallacies to
their followers. Fortunately, however, for the improvement of the race and
the advancement of truth, it is only necessary to give a man an
opportunity to exercise his natural faculties, in order to make him a
reflecting, and, in some degree, an independent being. Such, though to a
very limited extent, certainly, had been the consequence, in the instance
of the slave just mentioned.

How far Bonnie had been concerned in the proceedings between his master
and the mariners of the brigantine, it is unnecessary to say. Little
passed at the villa, of which he was ignorant; and as curiosity, once
awakened, increases its own desire for indulgence, could he have had his
wish, little would have passed anywhere, near him, without his knowing
something of its nature and import. He had seen, while seemingly employed
with his hoe in the garden of the Alderman, the trio conveyed by Erasmus
across the inlet; had watched the manner in which they followed its margin
to the shade of the oak, and had seen them enter the brigantine, as
related. That this extraordinary visit on board a vessel which was in
common shrouded by so much mystery, had given rise to much and unusual
reflection in the mind of the black, was apparent by the manner in which
he so often paused in his labor, and stood leaning on the handle of his
hoe, like one who mused. He had never known his master so far overstep his
usual caution, as to quit the dwelling, during the occasional visits of
the free-trader; and yet he had now gone as it were into the very jaws of
the lion, accompanied by the commander of a royal cruiser himself. No
wonder, then, that the vigilance of the negro became still more active,
and that not even the slightest circumstance was suffered to escape his
admiring eye. During the whole time consumed by the visit related in the
preceding chapter, not a minute had been suffered to pass, without an
inquiring look in the direction, either of the brigantine, or of the
adjacent shore.

It is scarcely necessary to say how keen the attention of the slave
became, when his master and his companions were seen to return to the
land. They immediately ascended to the foot of the oak, and then there was
a long and apparently a serious conference between them. During this
consultation, the negro dropped the end of his hoe, and never suffered his
gaze, for an instant, to alter its direction. Indeed he scarcely drew
breath, until the whole party quitted the spot together, and buried
themselves in the thicket that covered the cape, taking the direction of
its outer or northern extremity, instead of retiring by the shore of the
Cove, towards the inlet. Then Bonnie respired heavily, and began to look
about him at the other objects that properly belonged to the interest of
the scene.

The brigantine had run up her boat, and she now lay, as when first seen, a
motionless, beautiful, and exquisitely graceful fabric, without the
smallest sign about her of an intention to move, or indeed without
exhibiting any other proof, except in her admirable order and symmetry,
that any of human powers dwelt within her hull. The royal cruiser, though
larger and of far less aerial mould and fashion, presented the same
picture of repose. The distance between the two was about a league; and
Bonnie was sufficiently familiar with the formation of the land and of the
position of the vessels, to be quite aware that this inactivity on the
part of those whose duty it was to protect the rights of the Queen,
proceeded from their utter ignorance of the proximity of their neighbor.
The thicket which bounded the Cove and the growth of oaks and pines that
stretched along the narrow sandy spit of land quite to its extremity,
sufficiently accounted for the fact. The negro, therefore, after gazing
for several minutes at the two immovable vessels, turned his eye askance
on the earth, shook his head, and then burst into a laugh, which was so
noisy that it caused his sable partner to thrust her vacant and circular
countenance through an open window of the scullery of the villa, to demand
the reason of a merriment that to her faithful feelings appeared to be a
little unsocial.

"Hey! you alway' keep 'e queer t'ing to heself, Bonnie, but!" cried the
vixen. "I'm werry glad to see old bones like a hoe; an' I wonner dere ar'
time to laugh, wid 'e garden full of weed!"

"Grach!" exclaimed the negro, stretching out an arm in a forensic
attitude; "what a black woman know of politic! If a hab time to talk,
better cook a dinner. Tell one t'ing, Phyllis, and that be dis; vy 'e ship
of Captain Ludlow no lif' 'e anchor, an' come take dis rogue in 'e Cove?
can a tell dat much, or no?--If no, let a man, who understan' heself,
laugh much as he like. A little fun no harm Queen Anne, nor kill 'e
Gubbenor!"

"All work and no sleep make old bone ache, Bonnie, but!" returned the
consort. "Ten o'clock--twelve o'clock--t'ree o'clock, and no bed; vell I
see 'e sun afore a black fool put 'e head on a pillow! An' now a hoe go
all 'e same as if he sleep a ten hour. Masser Myn'ert got a heart, and he
no wish to kill he people wid work, or old Phyllis war' dead, fifty year,
next winter."

"I t'ink a wench's tongue nebber satisfy! What for tell a whole world,
when Bonnie go to bed? He sleep for heself, and he no sleep for 'e
neighborhood! Dere! A man can't t'ink of ebery t'ing, in a minute. Here a
ribbon long enough to hang heself--take him, and den remem'er, Phyllis,
dat you be 'e wife of a man who hab care on he shoul'er."

Bonnie then set up another laugh, in which his partner, having quitted her
scullery to seize the gift, which in its colors resembled the skin of a
garter-snake, did not fail to join, through mere excess of animal delight.
The effect of the gift, however, was to leave the negro to make his
observations, without any further interruption from one who was a little
too apt to disturb his solitude.

A boat was now seen to pull out from among the bushes that lined the
shore; and Bonnie was enabled to distinguish, in its stern-sheets, the
persons of his master, Ludlow, and the Patroon. He had been acquainted
with the seizure of the Coquette's barge, the preceding night, and of the
confinement of the crew. Its appearance in that place, therefore,
occasioned no new surprise. But the time which past while the men were
rowing up to the sloop-of-war, was filled with minutes of increasing
interest. The black abandoned his hoe, and took a position on the side of
the mountain, that gave him a view of the whole bay. So long as the
mysteries of the Lust in Rust had been confined to the ordinary
combinations of a secret trade, he had been fully able to comprehend them;
but now that there apparently existed an alliance so unnatural as one
between his master and the cruiser of the crown, he felt the necessity of
double observation and of greater thought.

A far more enlightened mind than that of the slave, might have been
excited by the expectation, and the objects which now presented
themselves, especially if sufficiently prepared for events, by a knowledge
of the two vessels in sight. Though the wind still hung at east, the cloud
above the mouth of the Raritan had at length begun to rise. The broad
fleeces of white vapor, that had lain the whole morning over the
continent, were rapidly uniting; and they formed already a dark and dense
mass, that floated in the bottom of the estuary, threatening shortly to
roll over the whole of its wide waters. The air was getting lighter, and
variable; and while the wash of the surf sounded still more audible, its
roll upon the beach was less regular than in the earlier hours of the day.
Such was the state of the two elements, when the boat touched the side
of the ship. In a minute it was hanging by its tackles, high in the air;
and then it disappeared, in the bosom of the dark mass.

It far exceeded the intelligence of Bonnie to detect, now, any further
signs of preparation, in either of the two vessels, which absorbed the
whole of his attention. They appeared to him to be alike without motion,
and equally without people. There were, it is true, a few specks in the
rigging of the Coquette, which might be men; but the distance prevented
him from being sure of the fact; and, admitting them to be seamen busied
aloft, there were no visible consequences of their presence, that his
uninstructed eye could trace. In a minute or two, even these scattered
specks were seen no longer; though the attentive black thought that the
mast-heads and the rigging beneath the tops thickened, as if surrounded by
more than their usual mazes of ropes. At that moment of suspense, the
cloud over the Raritan emitted a flash, and the sound of distant thunder
rolled along the water. This seemed to be a signal for the cruiser; for
when the eye of Bonnie, which had been directed to the heavens, returned
towards the ship, he saw that she had opened and hoisted her three
top-sails, seemingly with as little exertion as an eagle would have spread
his wings. The ship now became uneasy; for the wind came in puffs, and the
vessel rolled lightly, as if struggling to extricate itself from the hold
of its anchor; and then, precisely at the moment when the shift of wind
was felt, an the breeze came from the cloud in the west, the cruiser
whirled away from its constrained position and appearing, for a short
space, restless as a steed that had broken from its fastenings, it came up
neatly to the wind, and lay balanced by the action of its sails. There was
another minute, or two, of seeming inactivity, after which the broad
surfaces of the top-sails were brought in parallel lines. One white sheet
was spread after another, upon the fabric; and Bonnie saw that the
Coquette, the swiftest cruiser of the crown in those seas, was dashing out
from the land, under a cloud of canvas.

All this time, the brigantine, in the Cove, lay quietly at her anchor.
When the wind shifted, the light hull swang with its currents, and the
image of the sea-green lady was seen offering her dark cheek to be fanned
by the breeze. But she alone seemed to watch over the fortunes of her
followers; for no other eye could be seen, looking out on the danger that
began so seriously to threaten them, both from the heavens, and from a
more certain and intelligible, foe.

As the wind was fresh, though unsteady, the Coquette moved through the
water with a velocity that did no discredit to her reputation for speed.
At first, it seemed to be the intention of the royal cruiser to round the
cape, and gain an offing in the open sea; for her head was directed
northwardly; but no sooner had she cleared the curve of the little bight
which from its shape is known by the name of the Horse-Shoe, than she was
seen shooting directly into the eye of the wind, and falling off with the
graceful and easy motion of a ship in stays, her head looking towards the
Lust in Rust. Her design on the notorious dealer in contraband was now too
evident to admit of doubt.

Still, the Water-Witch betrayed no symptoms of alarm. The meaning eye of
the image seemed to study the motions of her adversary, with all the
understanding of an intelligent being; and occasionally the brigantine
turned slightly in the varying currents of the air, as if volition
directed the movements of the little fabric. These changes resembled the
quick and slight movements of the hound, as he lifts his head in his
lair, to listen to some distant sound, or to scent some passing taint in
the gale.

In the mean time, the approach of the ship was so swift as to cause the
negro to shake his head, with a meaning that exceeded even his usually
important look. Every thing was propitious to her progress; and, as the
water of the Cove, during the periods that the inlet remained open, was
known to be of a sufficient depth to admit of her entrance, the faithful
Bonnie began to anticipate a severe blow to the future fortunes of his
master. The only hope, that one could perceive, for the escape of the
smuggler, was in the changes of the heavens.

Although the threatening cloud had now quitted the mouth of the Raritan,
and was rolling eastward with fearful velocity, it had not yet broken. The
air had the unnatural and heated appearance which precedes a gust; but,
with the exception of a few large drops, that fell seemingly from a clear
sky, it was as yet what is called a dry squall. The water of the bay was
occasionally dark, angry, and green; and there were moments when it would
appear as if heavy currents of air descended to its surface, wantonly to
try their power on the sister element. Notwithstanding these sinister
omens, the Coquette stood on her course, without lessening the wide
surfaces of her canvas, by a single inch. They who governed her movements
were no men of the lazy Levant, nor of the mild waters of the
Mediterranean, to tear their hair, and call on saints to stand between
their helplessness and harm; but mariners trained in a boisterous sea, and
accustomed to place their first dependence on their own good manhood,
aided by the vigilance and skill of a long and severely-exercised
experience. A hundred eyes on board that cruiser watched the advance of
the rolling cloud, or looked upon the play of light and shade, that caused
the color of the water to vary; but it was steadily, and with an entire
dependence on the discretion of the young officer who controlled the
movements of the ship.

Ludlow himself paced the deck, with all his usual composure, so far as
might be seen by external signs; though, in reality, his mind was agitated
by feelings that were foreign to the duties of his station. He too had
thrown occasional glances at the approaching squall, but his eye was far
oftener riveted on the motionless brigantine, which was now distinctly to
be seen from the deck of the Coquette, still riding at her anchor. The cry
of 'a stranger in the cove!' which, a few moments before, came out of one
of the tops, caused no surprise in the commander; while the crew,
wondering but obedient, began, for the first time, to perceive the object
of their strange manoeuvres. Even the officer, next in authority to the
captain, had not presumed to make any inquiry, though, now that the object
of their search was so evidently in view, he felt emboldened to presume on
his rank, and to venture a remark.

"It is a sweet craft!" said the staid lieutenant, yielding to an
admiration natural to his habits, "and one that might serve as a yacht for
the Queen! This is some trifler with the revenue, or perhaps a buccaneer
from the islands. The fellow shows no ensign!"

"Give him notice, Sir, that he has to do with one who bears the royal
commission," returned Ludlow, speaking from habit, and half-unconscious of
what he said. "We must teach these rovers to respect a pennant."

The report of the cannon startled the absent man and caused him to
remember the order.

"Was that gun shotted?" he asked, in a tone that sounded like rebuke.

"Shotted, but pointed wide, Sir; merely a broad hint. We are no dealers
in dumb show, in the Coquette, Captain Ludlow."

"I would not injure the vessel, even should it prove a buccaneer. Be
careful, that nothing strikes her, without an order."

"Ay, 'twill be well to take the beauty alive, Sir; so pretty a boat should
not be broken up, like an old hulk. Ha! there goes his bunting, at last!
He shows a white field--can the fellow be a Frenchman, after all?"

The lieutenant took a glass, and for a moment applied it to his eye, with
the usual steadiness. Then he suffered the instrument to fall, and it
would seem that he endeavored to recall the different flags that he had
seen during the experience of many years.

"This joker should come from some terra incognita;" he said. "Here is a
woman in his field, with an ugly countenance, too, unless the glass play
me false--as I live, the rogue has her counterpart for a
figure-head!--Will you look at the ladies, Sir?"

Ludlow took the glass, and it was not without curiosity that he turned it
toward the colors the hardy smuggler dared to exhibit, in presence of a
cruiser. The vessels were, by this time, sufficiently near each other, to
enable him to distinguish the swarthy features and malign smile of the
sea-green lady, whose form was wrought in the field of the ensign, with
the same art as that which he had seen so often displayed in other parts
of the brigantine. Amazed at the daring of the free-trader, he returned
the glass, and continued to pace the deck, in silence. There stood near
the two speakers an officer whose head and form began to show the
influence of time, and who, from his position, had unavoidably been an
auditor of what passed. Though the eye of this person, who was the
sailing-master of the sloop, was rarely off the threatening cloud, except
to glance along the wide show of canvas that was spread, he found a
moment to take a look at the stranger.

"A half-rigged brig, with her fore-top-gallant-mast fidded abaft, a double
martingale, and a standing gaft;" observed the methodical and technical
mariner, as another would have recounted the peculiarities of complexion,
or of feature, in some individual who was the subject of a personal
description. "The rogue has no need of showing his brazen-faced trull to
be known! I chased him, for six-and-thirty hours, in the chops of St.
George's, no later than the last season; and the fellow ran about us, like
a dolphin playing under a ship's fore-foot. We had him, now on our weather
bow, and now crossing our course, and, once in a while, in our wake, as if
he had been a Mother Carey's chicken looking for our crumbs. He seems snug
enough in that cove, to be sure, and yet I'll wager the pay of any month
in the twelve, that he gives us the slip. Captain Ludlow, the brigantine
under our lee, here, in Spermaceti, is the well-known Skimmer of the
Seas!"

"The Skimmer of the Seas!" echoed twenty voices, in a manner to show the
interest created by the unexpected information.

"I'll swear to his character before any Admiralty Judge in England, or
even in France, should there be occasion to go into an outlandish
court--but no need of an oath, when here is a written account I took, with
my own hands, having the chase in plain view, at noon-day." While
speaking, the sailing-master drew a tobacco-box from his pocket, and
removing a coil of pig-tail, he came to a deposit of memorandums, that
vied with the weed itself in colors. "Now, gentlemen," he continued, "you
shall have her build, as justly as if the master-carpenter had laid it
down with his rule. 'Remember to bring a muff of marten's fur from
America, for Mrs. Trysail--buy it in London, and swear'--this is not the
paper--I let your boy, Mr. Luff, stow away the last entry of tobacco for
me, and the young dog has disturbed every document I own. This is the way
the government accounts get jammed, when Parliament wants to overhaul
them. But I suppose young blood will have its run! I let a monkey into a
church of a Saturday night myself, when a youngster, and he made such
stowage of the prayer-books, that the whole parish was by the ears for six
months; and there is one quarrel between two old ladies, that has not been
made up to this hour.--Ah! here we have it:--'Skimmer of the
Seas.--Full-rigged forward, with fore-and-aft mainsail, abaft; a
gaff-top-sail; taut in his spars, with light top-hamper; neat in his gear,
as any beauty--Carries a ring-tail in light weather; main-boom like a
frigate's top-sail-yard, with a main-top-mast-stay-sail as big as a jib.
Low in the water, with a woman figure-head; carries sail more like a devil
than a human being, and lies within five points, when jammed up hard on a
wind.' Here are marks by which one of Queen Anne's maids of honor might
know the rogue; and there you see them all, as plainly as human nature can
show them in a ship!"

"The Skimmer of the Seas!" repeated the young officers, who had crowded
round the veteran tar, to hear this characteristic description of the
notorious free-trader.

"Skimmer or flyer, we have him now, dead under our lee, with a sandy beach
on three of his sides, and the wind in his eye!" cried the
first-lieutenant.

"You shall have an opportunity, Master Trysail, of correcting your
account, by actual measurement."

The sailing-master shook his head, like one who doubted, and again turned
his eye on the approaching cloud.

The Coquette, by this time, had run so far as to have the entrance of the
Cove open; and she was separated from her object, only by a distance of a
few cables'-length. In obedience to an order given by Ludlow, all the
light canvas of the ship was taken in, and the vessel was left under her
three top-sails and gib. There remained, however, a question as to the
channel; for it was not usual for ships of the Coquette's draught, to be
seen in that quarter of the bay, and the threatening state of the weather
rendered caution doubly necessary. The pilot shrunk from a responsibility
which did not properly belong to his office, since the ordinary navigation
had no concern with that secluded place; and even Ludlow, stimulated as he
was by so many powerful motives, hesitated to incur a risk which greatly
exceeded his duty. There was something so remarkable in the apparent
security of the smuggler, that it naturally led to the belief he was
certain of being protected by some known obstacle, and it was decided to
sound before the ship was hazarded. An offer to carry the free-trader with
the boats, though plausible in itself, and perhaps the wisest course of
all, was rejected by the commander, on an evasive plea of its being of
uncertain issue, though, in truth, because he felt an interest in one whom
he believed the brigantine to contain, which entirely forbade the idea of
making the vessel the scene of so violent a struggle. A yawl was therefore
lowered into the water, the main-top-sail of the ship was thrown to the
mast; and Ludlow himself, accompanied by the pilot and the master,
proceeded to ascertain the best approach to the smuggler. A flash of
lightning, with one of those thunder-claps that are wont to be more
terrific on this continent than in the other hemisphere, warned the young
mariner of the necessity of haste, if he would regain his ship, before the
cloud, which still threatened them, should reach the spot where she lay.
The boat pulled briskly into the Cove, both the master and the pilot
sounding on each side, as fast as the leads could be cast from their
hands and recovered.

"This will do;" said Ludlow, when they had ascertained that they could
enter. "I would lay the ship as close as possible to the brigantine, for I
distrust her quiet. We will go nearer."

"A brazen witch, and one whose saucy eye and pert figure might lead any
honest mariner into contraband, or even into a sea-robbery!"
half-whispered Trysail, perhaps afraid to trust his voice within hearing
of a creature that seemed almost endowed with the faculties of life. "Ay,
this is the hussy! I know her by the book, and her green jacket! But where
are her people? The vessel is as quiet as the royal vault on a
coronation-day, when the last king, and those who went before him,
commonly have the place to themselves. Here would be a pretty occasion to
throw a boat's-crew on her decks, and haul down yon impudent ensign, which
bears the likeness of this wicked lady, so bravely in the air, if------"

"If what?" asked Ludlow, struck with the plausible character of the
proposal.

"Why, if one were sure of the nature of such a minx, Sir; for to own the
truth, I would rather deal with a regularly-built Frenchman, who showed
his guns honestly, and kept such a jabbering aboard that one might tell
his bearings in the dark.--The creature spoke!"

Ludlow did not reply, for a heavy crash of thunder succeeded the vivid
glow of a flash of lightning, and glared so suddenly across the swarthy
lineaments as to draw the involuntary exclamation from Trysail. The
intimation that came from the cloud, was not to be disregarded. The wind,
which had so long varied, began to be heard in the rigging of the silent
brigantine; and the two elements exhibited unequivocal evidence, in their
menacing and fitful colors of the near approach of the gust. The young
sailor, with an absorbing interest, turned his eyes on his ship. The
yards were on the caps, the bellying canvas was fluttering far to leeward,
and twenty or thirty human forms on each spar, showed that the
nimble-fingered top-men were gathering in and knotting the sails down to a
close reef.

"Give way, men, for your lives!" cried the excited Ludlow.

A single dash of the oars was heard, and the yawl was already twenty feet
from the mysterious image. Then followed a desperate struggle to regain
the cruiser, ere the gust should strike her. The sullen murmur of the
wind, rushing through the rigging of the ship, was audible some time
before they reached her side; and the struggles between the fabric and the
elements, were at moments so evident, as to cause the young commander to
fear he would be too late.

The foot of Ludlow touched the deck of the Coquette, at the instant the
weight of the squall fell upon her sails. He no longer thought of any
interest but that of the moment; for, with all the feelings of a seaman,
his mind was now full of his ship.

"Let run every thing!" shouted the ready officer, in a voice that made
itself heard above the roar of the wind. "Clue down, and hand! Away aloft,
you top-men!--lay out!--furl away!"

These orders were given in rapid succession, and witout a trumpet, for the
young man could, at need, speak loud as the tempest. They were succeeded
by one of those exciting and fearful minutes that are so familiar to
mariners. Each man was intent on his duty, while the elements worked their
will around him, as madly as if the hand by which they are ordinarily
restrained was for ever removed. The bay was a sheet of foam, while the
rushing of the gust resembled the dull rumbling of a thousand chariots.
The ship yielded to the pressure, until the water was seen gushing
through her lee-scuppers, and her tall line of masts inclined towards the
plane of the bay, as if the ends of the yards were about to dip into the
water. But this was no more than the first submission to the shock. The
well-moulded fabric recovered its balance, and struggled through its
element, as if conscious that there was security only in motion. Ludlow
glanced his eye to leeward. The opening of the Cove was favorably
situated, and he caught a glimpse of the spars of the brigantine, rocking
violently in the squall. He spoke to demand if the anchors were clear, and
then he was heard, shouting again from his station in the weather
gangway--

"Hard a-weather!--"

The first efforts of the cruiser to obey her helm, stripped as she was of
canvas, were labored and slow. But when her head began to fall off, the
driving scud was scarce swifter than her motion. At that moment, the
sluices of the cloud opened, and a torrent of rain mingled in the uproar,
and added to the confusion. Nothing was now visible but the lines of the
falling water, and the sheet of white foam through which the ship was
glancing.

"Here is the land, Sir!" bellowed Trysail, from a cat-head, where he stood
resembling some venerable sea-god, dripping with his native element. "We
are passing it, like a race-horse!"

"See your bowers clear!" shouted back the captain.

"Ready, Sir, ready--"

Ludlow motioned to the men at the wheel, to bring the ship to the wind;
and when her way was sufficiently deadened, two ponderous anchors dropped,
at another signal, into the water. The vast fabric was not checked without
a further and tremendous struggle. When the bows felt the restraint, the
ship swung head to wind, and fathom after fathom of the enormous ropes
were extracted, by surges so violent as to cause the hull to quiver to its
centre. But the first lieutenant and Trysail were no novices in their
duty, and, in less than a minute, they had secured the vessel steadily at
her anchors. When this important service was performed, officers and crew
stood looking at each other, like men who had just made a hazardous and
fearful experiment. The view again opened, and objects on the land became
visible through the still falling rain. The change was like that from
night to day. Men who had passed their lives on the sea drew long and
relieving breaths, conscious that the danger was happily passed. As the
more pressing interest of their own situation abated they remembered the
object of their search. All eyes were turned in quest of the smuggler;
but, by some inexplicable means, he had disappeared.

'The Skimmer of the Seas!' and 'What has become of the brigantine?' were
exclamations that the discipline of a royal cruiser could not repress.
They were repeated by a hundred mouths, while twice as many eyes sought to
find the beautiful fabric. All looked in vain. The spot where the
Water-Witch had so lately lain, was vacant, and no vestige of her wreck
lined the shores of the Cove. During the time the ship was handing her
sails, and preparing to enter the Cove, no one had leisure to look for the
stranger; and after the vessel had anchored, until that moment, it was not
possible to see her length, on any side of them. There was still a dense
mass of falling water moving seaward; but the curious and anxious eyes of
Ludlow made fruitless efforts to penetrate its secrets. Once indeed, more
than an hour after the gust had reached his own ship, and when the ocean
in the offing was clear and calm, he thought he could distinguish, far to
seaward, the delicate tracery of a vessel's spars, drawn against the
horizon, without any canvas set. But a second look did not assure him of
the truth of the conjecture.

There were many extraordinary tales related that night, on board Her
Britannic Majesty's ship Coquette. The boatswain affirmed that, while
piping below in order to overhaul the cables, he had heard a screaming in
the air, that sounded as if a hundred devils were mocking him, and which
he told the gunner, in confidence, he believed was no more than the
winding of a call on board the brigantine, who had taken occasion, when
other vessels were glad to anchor, to get under way, in her own fashion.
There was also a fore-top-man named Robert Yarn, a fellow whose faculty
for story-telling equalled that of Scheherazade, and who not only
asserted, but who confirmed the declaration by many strange oaths, that
while he lay on the lee-fore-top-sail-yard-arm, stretching forth an arm to
grasp the leech of the sail, a dark-looking female fluttered over his head
and caused her long hair to whisk into his face, in a manner that
compelled him to shut his eyes, which gave occasion to a smart reprimand
from the reefer of the top. There was a feeble attempt to explain this
assault, by the man who lay next to Yarn, who affected to think the hair
was no more than the end of a gasket whipping in the wind; but his
shipmate, who had pulled one of the oars of the yawl, soon silenced this
explanation, by the virtue of his long-established reputation for
veracity. Even Trysail ventured several mysterious conjectures concerning
the fate of the brigantine, in the gun-room; but, on returning from the
duty of sounding the inlet, whither he had been sent by his captain, he
was less communicative and more thoughtful than usual. It appeared,
indeed, from the surprise that was manifested by every officer that heard
the report of the quarter-master, who had given the casts of the lead on
this service, that no one in the ship, with the exception of Alderman Van
Beverout, was at all aware that there was rather more than two fathoms of
water in that secret passage.




Chapter XVIII.



    "Sirs, take your places, and be vigilant."

    Henry IV.


The succeeding day was one in which the weather had a fixed character. The
wind was east, and, though light, not fluctuating. The air had that thick
and hazy appearance, which properly belongs to the Autumn in this climate,
but which is sometimes seen at midsummer, when a dry wind blows from the
ocean. The roll of the surf, on the shore, was regular and monotonous, and
the currents of the air were so steady as to remove every apprehension of
a change. The moment to which the action of the tale is transferred, was
in the earlier hours of the afternoon.

At that time the Coquette lay again at her anchors, just within the
shelter of the cape. There were a few small sails to be seen passing up
the bay; but the scene, as was common at that distant day, presented
little of the activity of our own times, to the eye. The windows of the
Lust in Rust were again open, and the movement of the slaves, in and about
the villa, announced the presence of its master.

The Alderman was in truth, at the hour named, passing the little lawn in
front of la Cour des Fees, accompanied by Oloff Van Staats and the
commander of the cruiser. It was evident, by the frequent glances which
the latter threw in the direction of the pavilion, that he still thought
of her who was absent; while the faculties of the two others were either
in better subjection, or less stimulated by anxiety. One who understood
the character of the individual, and who was acquainted with the past,
might have suspected, by this indifference on the part of the Patroon,
placed as it was in such a singular contrast to a sort of mysterious
animation which enlivened a countenance whose ordinary expression was
placid content, that the young suitor thought less than formerly of the
assets of old Etienne, and more of the secret pleasure he found in the
singular incidents of which he had been a witness.

"Propriety and discretion!" observed the burgher, in reply to a remark of
one of the young men--"I say again, for the twentieth time, that we shall
have Alida Barberie back among us, as handsome, as innocent, ay, and as
rich, as ever!--perhaps I should also say, as wilful. A baggage, to worry
her old uncle, and two honorable suitors, in so thoughtless a manner!
Circumstances, gentlemen," continued the wary merchant, who saw that the
value of the hand of which he had to dispose, was somewhat reduced in the
market, "have placed you on a footing, in my esteem. Should my niece,
after all, prefer Captain Ludlow for a partner in her worldly affairs, why
it should not weaken friendship between the son of old Stephanus Van
Staats and Myndert Van Beverout. Our grandmothers were cousins, and there
should be charities in the same blood."

"I could not wish to press my suit," returned the Patroon, "when the lady
has given so direct a hint that it is disagreeable--"

"Hint me no hints! Do you call this caprice of a moment, this trifling, as
the captain here would call it, with the winds and tides, a hint! The girl
has Norman blood in her veins, and she wishes to put animation into the
courtship. If bargains were to be interrupted by a little cheapening of
the buyer, and some affectation of waiting for a better market in the
seller, Her Majesty might as well order her custom-houses to be closed at
once, and look to other sources for revenue. Let the girl's fancy have its
swing, and the profits of a year's peltry against thy rent-roll, we shall
see her penitent for her folly, and willing to hear reason. My sister's
daughter is no witch, to go journeying for ever about the world, on a
broomstick!"

"There is a tradition in our family," said Oloff Van Staats, his eye
lighting with a mysterious excitement, while he affected to laugh at the
folly he uttered, "that the great Poughkeepsie fortune-teller foretold, in
the presence of my grandmother, that a Patroon of Kinderhook should
intermarry with a witch. So, should I see la Belle in the position you
name, it would not greatly alarm me."

"The prophecy was fulfilled at the wedding of thy father!" muttered
Myndert, who, notwithstanding the outward levity with which he treated the
subject, was not entirely free from secret reverence for the provincial
soothsayers, some of whom continued in high repute, even to the close of
the last century. "His son would not else have been so clever a youth! But
here is Captain Ludlow looking at the ocean, as if he expected to see my
niece rise out of the water, in the shape of a mermaid."

The commander of the Coquette pointed to the object which attracted his
gaze, and which, appearing as it did at that moment, was certainly not of
a nature to lessen the faith of either of his companions in supernatural
agencies.

It has been said that the wind was dry and the air misty, or rather so
pregnant with a thin haze, as to give it the appearance of a dull, smoky
light. In such a state of the weather, the eye, more especially of one
placed on an elevation, is unable to distinguish what is termed the
visible horizon at sea. The two elements become so blended, that our
organs cannot tell where the water ends, or where the void of the heavens
commences. It is a consequence of this in distinctness, that any object
seen beyond the apparent boundary of water, has the appearance of floating
in the air. It is rare for the organs of a landsman to penetrate beyond
the apparent limits of the sea, when the atmosphere exhibits this
peculiarity, though the practised eye of a mariner often detects vessels,
which are hid from others, merely because they are not sought in the
proper place. The deception may also be aided by a slight degree of
refraction.

"Here;" said Ludlow, pointing in a line that would have struck the water
some two or three leagues in the offing. "First bring the chimney of
yonder low building on the plain, in a range with the dead oak on the
shore, and then raise your eyes slowly, till they strike a sail."

"That ship is navigating the heavens!" exclaimed Myndert! "Thy grandmother
was a sensible woman, Patroon; she was a cousin of my pious progenitor,
and there is no knowing what two clever old ladies, in their time, may
have heard and seen, when such sights as this are beheld in our own!"

"I am as little disposed as another, to put faith in incredible things,"
gravely returned Oloff Van Staats; "and yet, if required to give my
testimony, I should be reluctant to say, that yonder vessel is not
floating in the heavens!"

"You might not give it to that effect, in safety;" said Ludlow. "It is no
other than a half-rigged brigantine, on a taut bowline, though she bears
no great show of canvas. Mr. Van Beverout, Her Majesty's cruiser is about
to put to sea."

Myndert heard this declaration in visible dissatisfaction. He spoke of the
virtue of patience, and of the comforts of the solid ground; but when he
found the intention of the Queen's servant was not to be shaken, he
reluctantly professed an intention of repeating the personal experiment
of the preceding day. Accordingly, within half an hour, the whole party
were on the banks of the Shrewsbury, and about to embark in the barge of
the Coquette.

"Adieu, Monsieur Francois;" said the Alderman nodding his head to the
ancient valet, who stood with a disconsolate eye on the shore. "Have a
care of the movables in la Cour des Fees; we may have further use for
them."

"Mais, Monsieur Beevre, mon devoir, et, ma foi, suppose la mer was plus
agreable, mon desir shall be to suivre Mam'selle Alide. Jamais personne de
la famille Barberie love de sea; mais, Monsieur, comment faire? I shall
die sur la mer de douleur; and I shall die d'ennui, to rester ici, bien
sur!"

"Come then, faithful Francois," said Ludlow. "You shall follow your young
mistress; and perhaps, on further trial, you may be disposed to think the
lives of us seamen more tolerable than you had believed."

After an eloquent expression of countenance, in which the secretly-amused
though grave-looking boat's-crew thought the old man was about to give a
specimen of his powers of anticipation, the affectionate domestic entered
the barge. Ludlow felt for his distress, and encouraged him by a look of
approbation. The language of kindness does not always need a tongue; and
the conscience of the valet smote him with the idea that he might have
expressed himself too strongly, concerning a profession to which the other
had devoted life and hopes.

"La mer, Monsieur le Capitaine," he said, with an acknowledging reverence,
"est un vaste theatre de la gloire. Voila Messieurs de Tourville et Dougay
Trouin; ce sont des hommes, vraiment remarquables! mais Monsieur, quant a
toute la famille de Barberie, we have toujours un sentiment plus favorable
pour la terre."

"I wish your whimsical jade of a mistress, Master Francois, had found
the same sentiment," dryly observed Myndert: "for let me tell you, this
cruising about in a suspicious vessel is as little creditable to her
judgment as--cheer up, Patroon; the girl is only putting thy mettle to the
trial, and the sea air will do no damage to her complexion or her pocket.
A little predilection for salt water must raise the girl in your
estimation, Captain Ludlow!"

"If the predilection goes no further than to the element, Sir;" was the
caustic answer. "But, deluded or not, erring or deceived, Alida Barberie
is not to be deserted, the victim of a villain's arts. I did love your
niece, Mr. Van Beverout, and--pull with a will, men; fellows, are you
sleeping on the oars?"

The sudden manner in which the young man interrupted himself, and the
depth of tone in which he spoke to the boat's crew, put an end to the
discourse. It was apparent that he wished to say no more, and that he even
regretted the weakness which had induced him to say so much. The remainder
of the distance, between the shore and the ship, was passed in silence.

When Queen Anne's cruiser was seen doubling Sandy-Hook, past meridian on
the 6th June (sea-time) in the year 17--, the wind, as stated in an
ancient journal, which was kept by one of the midshipmen, and is still in
existence, was light, steady at south, and by-west-half-west. It appears,
by the same document, that the vessel took her departure at seven o'clock,
P.M., the point of Sandy-Hook bearing west-half-south, distant three
leagues. On the same page which contains these particulars, it is
observed, under the head of remarks--"Ship under starboard steering-sails,
forward and aft, making six knots. A suspicious half-rigged brigantine
lying-to on the eastern board, under her mainsail, with fore-top-sail to
the mast; light and lofty sails and jib loose; foresail in the brails. Her
starboard steering-sail-booms appear to be rigged out, and the gear rove,
ready for a run. This vessel is supposed to be the celebrated
hermaphrodite, the Water-Witch, commanded by the notorious 'Skimmer of the
Seas,' and the same fellow who gave us so queer a slip, yesterday. The
Lord send us a cap-full of wind, and we'l try his heels, before
morning!--Passengers, Alderman Van Beverout, of the second ward of the
City of New-York, in Her Majesty's province of the same name; Oloff Van
Staats, Esq. commonly called the Patroon of Kinderhook, of the same
colony; and a qualmish-looking old chap, in a sort of marine's jacket, who
answers when hailed as Francis. A rum set taken altogether, though they
seem to suit the Captain's fancy. Mem.--Each lipper of a wave works like
tartar emetic on the lad in marine gear."

As no description of ours can give a more graphic account of the position
of the two vessels in question, at the time named, than that which is
contained in the foregoing extract, we shall take up the narrative at that
moment, which the reader will see must, in the 43d degree of latitude, and
in the month of June have been shortly after the close of the day.

The young votary of Neptune, whose opinions have just been quoted, had
indeed presumed on his knowledge of the localities, in affirming the
distance and position of the cape, since the low sandy point was no longer
visible from the deck. The sun had set, as seen from the vessel, precisely
in the mouth of the Raritan; and the shadows from Navesink, or Neversink
as the hills are vulgarly called, were thrown far upon the sea. In short,
the night was gathering round the mariners, with every appearance of
settled and mild weather, but of a darkness deeper than is common on the
ocean. Under such circumstances, the great object was to keep on the
track of the chase, during the time when she must necessarily be hid from
their sight.

Ludlow walked into the lee-gangway of his ship, and, leaning with his
elbow on the empty hammock-cloths, he gazed long and in silence at the
object of his pursuit. The Water-Witch was lying in the quarter of the
horizon most favorable to being seen. The twilight, which still fell out
of the heavens, was without glare in that direction; and for the first
time that day, he saw her in her true proportions. The admiration of a
seaman was blended with the other sensations of the young man. The
brigantine lay in the position that exhibited her exquisitely-moulded hull
and rakish rig to the most advantage. The head, having come to the wind,
was turned towards her pursuer; and as the bows rose on some swell that
was heavier than common, Ludlow saw, or fancied he saw, the mysterious
image still perched on her cut-water, holding the book to the curious, and
ever pointing with its finger across the waste of water. A movement of the
hammock-cloths caused the young sailor to bend his head aside, and he then
saw that the master had drawn as near to his person as discipline would
warrant. Ludlow had a great respect for the professional attainments that
his inferior unquestionably possessed; and he was not without some
consideration for the chances of a fortune, which had not done much to
reward the privations and the services of a seaman old enough to be his
father. The recollection of these facts always disposed him to be
indulgent to a man who had little, beyond his seaman-like character and
long experience, to recommend him.

"We are likely to have a thick night, Master Trysail," said the young
captain, without deeming it necessary to change his look, "and we may yet
be brought on a bowline, before yonder insolent is overhauled."

The master smiled, like one who knew more, than he expressed, find
gravely shook his head.

"We may have many pulls on our bowlines, and some squaring of yards, too,
before the Coquette (the figure-head of the sloop-of-war was also a
female) gets near enough to the dark-faced woman, under the bowsprit of
the brigantine, to whisper her mind. You and I have been nigh enough to
see the white of her eyes, and to count the teeth she shows, in that
cunning grin of hers,--and what good has come of our visit? I am but a
subordinate, Captain Ludlow, and I know my duty too well not to be silent
in a squall, and I hope too well not to know how to speak when my
commander wishes the opinions of his officers at a council; and therefore
mine, just now, is perhaps different from that of some others in this
ship, that I will not name, who are good men, too, though none of the
oldest."

"And what is thy opinion, Trysail?--the ship is doing well, and she
carries her canvas bravely."

"The ship behaves like a well-bred young woman in the presence of the
Queen; modest, but stately--but, of what use is canvas, in a chase where
witchcraft breeds squalls, and shortens sail in one vessel, while it gives
flying kites to another! If Her Majesty, God bless her! should be ever
persuaded to do so silly a thing as to give old Tom Trysail a ship, and
the said ship lay, just here-a-way, where the Coquette is now getting
along so cleverly, why then, as in duty bound, I know very well what her
commander would do----"

"Which would be----?"

"To, in all studding-sails, and bring the vessel on the wind."

"That would be to carry you to the southward, while the chase lies here in
the eastern board!"

"Who can say, how long she will lie there? They told us, in York, that
there was a Frenchman, of our burthen and metal, rummaging about among
the fishermen, lower down on the coast. Now, Sir, no man knows that the
war is half over better than myself, for not a ha'penny of prize-money has
warmed my pocket, these three years;--but, as I was saying, if a Frenchman
will come off his ground, and will run his ship into troubled water,
why--whose fault is it but his own? A pretty affair might be made out of
such a mistake, Captain Ludlow; whereas running after yonder brigantine,
is napping out the Queen's canvas for nothing. The vessel's bottom will
want new sheathing, in my poor opinion, before you catch him."

"I know not, Trysail," returned his captain, glancing an eye aloft; "every
thing draws, and the ship never went along with less trouble to herself.
We shall not know which has the longest legs, till the trial is made."

"You may judge of the rogue's speed by his impudence. There he lies,
waiting for us, like a line-of-battle ship lying-to for an enemy to come
down. Though a man of some experience in my way, I have never seen a
lord's son more sure of promotion, than that same brigantine seems to be
of his heels! If this old Frenchman goes on with his faces much longer, he
will turn himself inside-out, and then we shall get an honest look at him,
for these fellows never carry their true characters above-board, like a
fair-dealing Englishman. Well, Sir, as I was remarking, yon rover, if
rover he be, has more faith in his canvas than in the church. I make no
doubt, Captain Ludlow, that the brigantine went through the inlet, while
we were handing our top-sails yesterday; for I am none of those who are in
a hurry to give credit to any will-o'-the-wisp tale; besides which, I
sounded the passage with my own hands, and know the thing to be possible,
with the wind blowing heavy over the taffrail; still, Sir, human nature
is human nature, and what is the oldest seaman after all, but a man?--And
so to conclude, I would rather any day chase a Frenchman, whose
disposition is known to me, than have the credit of making traverses, for
eight-and-forty hours, in the wake of one of these flyers, with little
hope of getting him within hail."

"You forget, Master Trysail, that I have been aboard the chase, and know
something of his build and character."

"They say as much aboard, here," returned the old tar, drawing nearer to
the person of his captain, under an impulse of strong curiosity; "though
crone presume to be acquainted with the particulars. I am not one of those
who ask impertinent questions, more especially under Her Majesty's
pennant; for the worst enemy I have will not say I am very womanish. One
would think, however, that there was neat work on board a craft that is so
prettily moulded about her water-lines?"

"She is perfect as to construction, and admirable in gear."

"I thought as much, by instinct! Her commander need not, however, be any
the more sure of keeping her off the rocks, on that account. The prettiest
young woman in our parish was wrecked, as one might say, on the shoals of
her own good looks, having cruised once too often in the company of the
squire's son. A comely wench she was, though she luffed athwart all her
old companions, when the young lord of the manor fell into her wake. Well,
she did bravely enough, Sir, as long as she could carry her flying kites,
and make a fair wind of it; but when the squall of which I spoke, overtook
her, what could she do but keep away before it?--and as others, who are
snugger in their morals hove-to as it were, under the storm-sails of
religion and such matters as they had picked up in the catechism, she
drifted to leeward of all honest society! A neatly-built and clean-heeled
hussy was that girl; and I am not certain, by any means, that Mrs. Trysail
would this day call herself the lady of a Queen's officer, had the other
known how to carry sail in the company of her betters."

The worthy master drew a long breath, which possibly was a nautical sigh,
but which certainly had more of the north wind than of the zephyr in its
breathing; and he had recourse to the little box of iron, whence he
usually drew consolation.

"I have heard of this accident before;" returned Ludlow, who had sailed as
a midshipman in the same vessel with, and indeed as a subordinate to, his
present inferior. "But, from all accounts, you have little reason to
regret the change, as I hear the best character of your present worthy
partner."

"No doubt, Sir, no doubt.--I defy any man in the ship to say that I am a
backbiter, even against my wife, with whom I have a sort of lawful right
to deal candidly. I make no complaints, and am a happy man at sea, and I
piously hope Mrs. Trysail knows how to submit to her duty at home.--I
suppose you see, Sir, that the chase has hauled his yards, and is getting
his fore-tack aboard?" Ludlow, whose eye did not often turn from the
brigantine, nodded assent; and the master, having satisfied himself, by
actual inspection, that every sail in the Coquette did its duty,
continued--"The night is coming on thick, and we shall have occasion for
all our eyes to keep the rogue in view, when he begins to change his
bearings--but, as I was saying, if the commander of yonder half-rig is too
vain of her good looks, he may yet wreck her, in his pride! The rogue has
a desperate character as a smuggler, though, for my own part, I cannot say
that I look on such men with as unfavorable an eye as some others. This
business of trade seems to be a sort of chase between one man's wits and
another man's wits, and the dullest goer must be content to fall to
leeward. When it comes to be a question of revenue, why, he who goes free
is lucky, and he who is caught, a prize. I have known a flag-officer look
the other way, Captain Ludlow, when his own effects were passing
duty-free; and as to your admiral's lady, she is a great patroness of the
contraband. I do not deny, Sir, that a smuggler must be caught, and when
caught, condemned, after which there must be a fair distribution among the
captors; but all that I mean to say is, that there are worse men in the
world than your British smuggler--such, for instance, as your Frenchman,
your Dutchman, or your Don."

"These are heretodox opinions for a Queen's servant;" said Ludlow, as much
inclined to smile as to frown.

"I hope I know my duty too well to preach them to the ship's company, but
a man may say that, in a philosophical way, before his captain, that he
would not let run into a midshipman's ear. Though no lawyer, I know what
is meant by swearing a witness to the truth and nothing but the truth. I
wish the Queen got the last, God bless her! several worn-out ships would
then be broken up, and better vessels sent to sea in their places. But,
Sir, speaking in a religious point of view, what is the difference between
passing in a trunk of finery, with a duchess's name on the brass plate, or
in passing in gin enough to fill a cutter's hold?"

"One would think a man of your years, Mr. Trysail, would see the
difference between robbing the revenue of a guinea, and robbing it of a
thousand pounds."

"Which is just the difference between retail and wholesale,--and that is
no trifle, I admit, Captain Ludlow, in a commercial country, especially in
genteel life. Still, Sir, revenue is the country's right and therefore I
allow a smuggler to be a bad man only not so bad as those I have just
named, particularly your Dutchman! The Queen is right to make those rogues
lower their flags to her in the narrow seas, which are her lawful
property; because England, being a wealthy island, and Holland no more
than a bit of bog turned up to dry, it is reasonable that we should have
the command afloat. No, Sir, though none of your outcriers against a man,
because he has had bad luck in a chase with a revenue-cutter, I hope I
know what the natural rights of an Englishman are. We must be masters,
here, Captain Ludlow, will-ye-nill-ye, and look to the main chances of
trade and manufactures!"

"I had not thought you so accomplished a statesman, Master Trysail!"

"Though a poor man's son, Captain Ludlow, I am a free-born Briton, and my
education has not been entirely overlooked. I hope I know something of the
constitution, as well as my betters. Justice and honor being an
Englishman's mottoes, we must look manfully to the main chance. We are
none of your flighty talkers, but a reasoning people, and there is no want
of deep thinkers on the little island; and therefore, Sir, taking all
together, why England must stick up for her rights! Here is your Dutchman,
for instance, a ravenous cormorant; a fellow with a throat wide enough to
swallow all the gold of the Great Mogul, if he could get at it; and yet a
vagabond who has not even a fair footing on the earth, if the truth must
be spoken! Well, Sir, shall England give up her rights to a nation of such
blackguards? No, Sir; our venerable constitution and mother church itself
forbid, and therefore I say, dam'me, lay them aboard, if they refuse us
any of our natural rights, or show a wish to bring us down to their own
dirty level!"

"Reasoned like a countryman of Newton, and an eloquence that would do
credit to Cicero! I shall endeavor to digest your ideas at my leisure,
since they are much too solid food to be disposed of in a minute. At
present we will look to the chase, for I see, by the aid of my glass, that
he has set his studding-sails, and is beginning to draw ahead."

This remark closed the dialogue, between the captain and his subordinate.
The latter quitted the gangway with that secret and pleasurable sensation
which communicates itself to all who have reason to think they have
delivered themselves creditably of a train of profound thought.

It was, in truth, time to lend every faculty to the movements of the
brigantine; for there was great reason to apprehend, that by changing her
direction in the darkness, she might elude them. The night was fast
closing on the Coquette, and at each moment the horizon narrowed around
her, so that it was only at uncertain intervals the men aloft could
distinguish the position of the chase. While the two vessels were thus
situated, Ludlow joined his guests on the quarter-deck.

"A wise man will trust to his wits, what cannot be done by force;" said
the Alderman. "I do not pretend to be much of a mariner, Captain Ludlow,
though I once spent a week in London, and I have crossed the ocean seven
times to Rotterdam. We did little in our passages, by striving to force
nature. When the nights came in dark, as at present, the honest schippers
were content to wait for better times; by which means we were sure not to
miss our road, and of finally arriving at the destined port in safety."

"You saw that the brigantine was opening his canvas, when last seen; and
he that would move fast, must have recourse to his sails."

"One never knows what may be brewing, up there in the heavens, when the
eye cannot see the color of a cloud. I have little knowledge of the
character of the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' beyond that which common fame
gives him; but, in the poor judgment of a landsman, we should do better by
showing lanterns in different parts of the ship, lest some homeward-bound
vessel do us an injury, and waiting until the morning, for further
movements."

"We are spared the trouble, for look, the insolent has set a light
himself, as if to invite us to follow. This temerity exceeds belief! To
dare to trifle thus with one of the swiftest cruisers in the English
fleet! See that every thing draws, gentlemen, and take a pull at all the
sheets. Hail the tops, Sir, and make sure that every thing is home."

The order was succeeded by the voice of the officer of the watch, who
inquired, as directed, if each sail was distended to the utmost. Force was
applied to some of the ropes, and then a general quiet succeeded to the
momentary activity.

The brigantine had indeed showed a light, as if in mockery of the attempt
of the royal cruiser. Though secretly stung by this open contempt of their
speed, the officers of the Coquette found themselves relieved from a
painful and anxious duty. Before this beacon was seen, they were obliged
to exert their senses to the utmost, in order to get occasional glimpses
of the position of the chase; while they now steered in confidence for the
brilliant little spot, that was gently rising and falling with the waves.

"I think we near him," half-whispered the eager captain; "for, see, there
is some design visible on the sides of the lantern. Hold!--Ah! 'tis the
face of a woman, as I live!"

"The men of the yawl report that the rover shows this symbol in many parts
of his vessel, and we know he had the impudence to set it yesterday in our
presence, even on his ensign."

"True--true; take you the glass, Mr. Luff, and tell me if there be not a
woman's face sketched in front of that light--we certainly near him
fast--let there be silence, fore and aft the ship. The rogues mistake our
bearings!"

"A saucy-looking jade, as one might wish to see!" returned the lieutenant.
"Her impudent laugh is visible to the naked eye."

"See all clear for laying him aboard! Get a party to throw on his decks,
Sir! I will lead them myself."

These orders were given in an under tone, and rapidly. They were promptly
obeyed. In the mean time, the Coquette continued to glide gently ahead,
her sails thickening with the dew, and every breath of the heavy air
acting with increased power on their surfaces. The boarders were
stationed, orders were given for the most profound silence, and as the
ship drew nearer to the light, even the officers were commanded not to
stir. Ludlow stationed himself in the mizen channels, to cun the ship; and
his directions were repeated to the quarter-master, in a loud whisper.

"The night is so dark, we are certainly unseen!" observed the young man to
his second in command; who stood at his elbow. "They have unaccountably
mistaken our position. Observe how the face of the painting becomes more
distinct--one can see even the curls of the hair.--Luff, Sir! luff--we
will run him aboard! on his weather-quarter."

"The fool must be lying-to!" returned the lieutenant. "Even your witches
fail of common sense; at times! Do you see which way he has his head,
Sir?"

"I see nothing but the light. It is so dark that our own sails are
scarcely visible--and yet I think here are his yards, a little forward of
our lee beam."

"'Tis our own lower boom. I got it out, in readiness for the other tack,
in case the knave should ware. Are we not running too full?"

"Luff you may, a little,--luff, or we shall crush him!"

As this order was given, Ludlow passed swiftly forward. He found the
hoarders ready for a spring, and he rapidly gave his orders. The men were
told to carry the brigantine at every hazard, but not to offer violence,
unless serious resistance was made. They were thrice enjoined not to enter
the cabins, and the young man expressed a generous wish that, in every
case, the 'Skimmer of the Seas' might be taken alive. By the time these
directions were given, the light was so near that the malign countenance
of the sea-green lady was seen in every lineament. Ludlow looked, in vain,
for the spars, in order to ascertain in which direction the head of the
brigantine lay; but, trusting to luck, he saw that the decisive moment was
come.

"Starboard, and run him aboard!--Away there, you boarders, away! Heave
with your grapnels; heave, men, with a long swing, heave! Meet her, with
the helm--hard down--meet her--steady!"--was shouted in a clear, full, and
steady voice, that seemed to deepen at each mandate which issued from the
lips of the young captain.

The boarders cheered heartily, and leaped into the rigging. The Coquette
readily and rapidly yielded to the power of her rudder. First inclining to
the light, and then sweeping up towards the wind again, in another instant
she was close upon the chase. The irons were thrown, the men once more
shouted, and all on board held their breaths in expectation of the crash
of the meeting hulls. At that moment of high excitement, the woman's face
rose a short distance in the air, seemed to smile in derision of their
attempt, and suddenly disappeared. The ship passed steadily ahead, while
no noise but the sullen wash of the waters was audible. The boarding-irons
were heard falling heavily into the sea; and the Coquette rapidly overrun
the spot where the light had been seen, without sustaining any shock.
Though the clouds lifted a little, and the eye might embrace a circuit of
a few hundred feet, there certainly was nothing to be seen, within its
range, but the unquiet element, and the stately cruiser of Queen Anne
floating on its bosom.

Though its effects were different on the differently-constituted minds of
those who witnessed the singular incident, the disappointment was general.
The common impression was certainly unfavorable to the earthly character
of the brigantine; and when opinions of this nature once get possession of
the ignorant, they are not easily removed. Even Trysail, though
experienced in the arts of those who trifle with the revenue-laws, was
much inclined to believe that this was no vulgar case of floating lights
or false beacons, but a manifestation that others, besides those who had
been regularly trained to the sea, were occasionally to be found on the
waters. If Captain Ludlow thought differently, he saw no sufficient reason
to enter into an explanation with those who were bound silently to obey.
He paced the quarter-deck, for many minutes; and then issued his orders to
the equally-disappointed lieutenants. The light canvas of the Coquette was
taken in, the studding-sail-gear unrove, and the booms secured. The ship
was then brought to the wind, and her courses having been hauled up, the
fore-top-sail was thrown to the mast. In this position the cruiser lay,
waiting for the morning light, in order to give greater certainty to her
movements.




Chapter XIX.



    "I, John Turner,
    Am master and owner
    Of a high-deck'd schooner.
    That's bound to Carolina--"
    etc. etc. etc. etc.

    Coasting Song.


It is not necessary to say, with how much interest Alderman Van Beverout,
and his friend the Patroon, had witnessed all the proceedings on hoard the
Coquette. Something very like an exclamation of pleasure escaped the
former, when it was known that the ship had missed the brigantine, and
that there was now little probability of overtaking her that night.

"Of what use is it to chase your fire-flies, about the ocean, Patroon?"
muttered the Alderman, in the ear of Oloff Van Staats. "I have no further
knowledge of this 'Skimmer of the Seas,' than is decent in the principal
of a commercial house,--but reputation is like a sky-rocket, that may be
seen from afar! Her Majesty has no ship that can overtake the free-trader,
and why fatigue the innocent vessel for no thing?"

"Captain Ludlow has other desires than the mere capture of the
brigantine;" returned the laconic and sententious Patroon. "The opinion
that Alida de Barberie is in her, has great influence with that
gentleman."

"This is strange apathy, Mr. Van Staats, in one who is as good as engaged
to my niece, if he be not actually married, Alida Barberie has great
influence with that gentleman! And pray, with whom, that knows her, has
she not influence?"

"The sentiment in favor of the young lady, in general, is favorable."

"Sentiment and favors! Am I to understand, Sir by this coolness, that our
bargain is broken?--that the two fortunes are not to be brought together,
and that the lady is not to be your wife?"

"Harkee, Mr. Van Beverout; one who is saving of his income and sparing of
his words, can have no pressing necessity for the money of others; and, on
occasion, he may afford to speak plainly. Your niece has shown so decided
a preference for another, that it has materially lessened the liveliness
of my regard."

"It were a pity that so much animation should fail of its object! It would
be a sort of stoppage in the affairs of Cupid! Men should deal candidly,
in all business transactions, Mr. Van Staats; and you will permit me to
ask, as for a final settlement, if your mind is changed in regard to the
daughter of old Etienne de Barberie, or not?"

"Not changed, but quite decided;" returned the young Patroon. "I cannot
say that I wish the successor of my mother to have seen so much of the
world. We are a family that is content with our situation, and new customs
would derange my household."

"I am no wizard, Sir; but for the benefit of a son of my old friend
Stephanus Van Staats, I will venture, for once, on a prophecy. You will
marry, Mr. Van Staats--yes, marry--and you will wive, Sir, with--prudence
prevents me from saying with whom you will wive; but you may account
yourself a lucky man, if it be not with one who will cause you to forget
house and home, lands and friends, manors and rents, and in short all the
solid comforts of life. It would not surprise me to hear that the
prediction of the Poughkeepsie fortune-teller should be fulfilled!"

"And what is your real opinion, Alderman Van Beverout, of the different
mysterious events we have witnessed?" demanded the Patroon, in a manner to
prove that the interest he took in the subject, completely smothered any
displeasure he might otherwise have felt at so harsh a prophecy. "This
sea-green lady is no common woman!"

"Sea-green and sky-blue!" interrupted the impatient burgher. "The hussy is
but too common, Sir; and there is the calamity. Had she been satisfied
with transacting her concerns in a snug and reasonable manner, and to have
gone upon the high seas again, we should have had none of this foolery, to
disturb accounts which ought to have been considered settled. Mr. Van
Staats, will you allow me to ask a few direct questions, if you can find
leisure for their answer?"

The Patroon nodded his head, in the affirmative.

"What do you suppose, Sir, to have become of my niece?"

"Eloped."

"And with whom?"

Van Staats of Kinderhook stretched an arm towards the open ocean, and
again nodded. The Alderman mused a moment; and then he chuckled, as if
some amusing idea had at once gotten the better of his ill-humor.

"Come, come, Patroon," he said, in his wonted amicable tone, when
addressing the lord of a hundred thousand acres, "this business is like a
complicated account, a little difficult till one gets acquainted with the
books, and then all becomes plain as your hand. There were referees in the
settlement of the estate of Kobus Van Klinck, whom I will not name; but
what between the handwriting of the old grocer, and some inaccuracy in the
figures, they had but a blind time of it until they discovered which way
the balance ought to come; and then by working backward and forward, which
is the true spirit of your just referee, they got all straight in the end.
Kobus was not very lucid in his statements, and he was a little apt to be
careless of ink. His leger might be called a book of the black art; for it
was little else than fly-tracks and blots, though the last were found of
great assistance in rendering the statements satisfactory. By calling
three of the biggest of them sugar-hogsheads, a very fair balance was
struck between him and a peddling Yankee who was breeding trouble for the
estate; and I challenge, even at this distant day, when all near interests
in the results may be said to sleep, any responsible man to say that they
did not look as much like those articles as any thing else. Something they
must have been, and as Kobus dealt largely in sugar, there was also a
strong moral probability that they were the said hogsheads. Come, come,
Patroon; we shall have the jade back again, in proper time. Thy ardor gets
the better of reason; but this is the way with true love, which is none
the worse for a little delay Alida is not one to balk thy merriment; these
Norman wenches are not heavy of foot at a dance, or apt to go to sleep
when the fiddles are stirring!"

With this consolation, Alderman Van Beverout saw fit to close the
dialogue, for the moment. How far he succeeded in bringing back the mind
of the Patroon to its allegiance, the result must show; though we shall
take this occasion to observe again, that the young proprietor found a
satisfaction in the excitement of the present scene, that, in the course
of a short and little diversified life, he had never before experienced.

While others slept, Ludlow passed most of the night on deck. He laid
himself down in the hammock-cloths, for an hour or two, towards morning
though the wind did not sigh through the rigging louder than common,
without arousing him from his slumbers. At each low call of the officer of
the watch to the crew, his head was raised to glance around the narrow
horizon; and the ship never rolled heavily without causing him to awake.
He believed that the brigantine was near, and, for the first watch, he was
not without expectation that the two vessels might unexpectedly meet in
the obscurity. When this hope failed, the young seaman had recourse to
artifice, in his turn, in order to entrap one who appeared so practised
and so expert in the devices of the sea.

About midnight, when the watches were changed, and the whole crew, with
the exception of the idlers, were on deck, orders were given to hoist out
the boats. This operation, one of exceeding toil and difficulty in
lightly-manned ships, was soon performed on board the Queen's cruiser, by
the aid of yard and stay-tackles, to which the force of a hundred seamen
was applied. When four of these little attendants on the ship were in the
water, they were entered by their crews, prepared for serious service.
Officers, on whom Ludlow could rely, were put in command of the three
smallest, while he took charge of the fourth in person. When all were
ready, and each inferior had received his especial instructions, they
quitted the side of the vessel, pulling off, in diverging lines, into the
gloom of the ocean. The boat of Ludlow had not gone fifty fathoms, before
he was perfectly conscious of the inutility of a chase; for the obscurity
of the night was so great, as to render the spars of his own ship nearly
indistinct, even at that short distance. After pulling by compass some ten
or fifteen minutes, in a direction that carried him to windward of the
Coquette, the young man commanded the crew to cease rowing, and prepared
himself to await, patiently, for the result of his undertaking.

There was nothing to vary the monotony of such a scene, for an hour, but
the regular rolling of a sea that was but little agitated, a few
occasional strokes of the oars, that were given in order to keep the barge
in its place, or the heavy breathing of some smaller fish of the
cetaceous kind, as it rose to the surface to inhale the atmosphere. In no
quarter of the heavens was any thing visible; not even a star was peeping
out, to cheer the solitude and silence of that solitary place. The men
were nodding on the thwarts and our young sailor was about to relinquish
his design as fruitless, when suddenly a noise was heard, at no great
distance from the spot where they lay. It was one of those sounds which
would have been inexplicable to any but a seaman, but which conveyed a
meaning to the ears of Ludlow, as plain as that which could be imparted by
speech to a landsman. A moaning creak was followed by the low rumbling of
a rope, as it rubbed on some hard or distended substance; and then
succeeded the heavy flap of canvas, that, yielding first to a powerful
impulse, was suddenly checked.

"Hear ye that?" exclaimed Ludlow, a little above a whisper. "'Tis the
brigantine, gybing his main-boom! Give way, men--see all ready to lay him
aboard!"

The crew started from their slumbers; the splash of oars was heard, and,
in the succeeding moment, the sails of a vessel, gliding through the
obscurity, nearly across their course, were visible.

"Now spring to your oars, men!" continued Ludlow, with the eagerness of
one engaged in chase. "We have him to advantage, and he is ours!--a long
pull and a strong pull--steadily, boys, and together!"

The practised crew did their duty. It seemed but a moment, before they
were close upon the chase.

"Another stroke of the oars, and she is ours!" cried
Ludlow.--"Grapple!--to your arms!--away, boarders, away!"

These orders came on the ears of the men with the effect of martial
blasts. The crew shouted, the clashing of arms was heard, and the tramp of
feet on the deck of the vessel announced the success of the enterprise.
A minute of extreme activity and of noisy confusion followed. The cheers
of the boarders had been heard, at a distance; and rockets shot into the
air, from the other boats, whose crews answered the shouts with manful
lungs. The whole ocean appeared in a momentary glow, and the roar of a gun
from the Coquette added to the fracas. The ship set several lanterns, in
order to indicate her position; while blue-lights, and other marine
signals were constantly burning in the approaching boats, as if those who
guided them were anxious to intimidate the assailed by a show of numbers.

In the midst of this scene of sudden awakening from the most profound
quiet, Ludlow began to look about him, in order to secure the principal
objects of the capture. He had repeated his orders about entering the
cabins, and concerning the person of the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' among the
other instructions given to the crews of the different boats; and the
instant they found themselves in quiet possession of the prize, the young
man dashed into the private recesses of the vessel, with a heart that
throbbed even more violently than during the ardor of boarding. To cast
open the door of a cabin, beneath the high quarter-deck, and to descend to
the level of its floor, were the acts of a moment. But disappointment and
mortification succeeded to triumph. A second glance was not necessary to
show that the coarse work and foul smells he saw and encountered, did not
belong to the commodious and even elegant accommodations of the
brigantine.

"Here is no Water-Witch!" he exclaimed aloud under the impulse of sudden
surprise.

"God be praised!" returned a voice, which was succeeded by a frightened
face from out a state-room. "We were told the rover was in the offing, and
thought the yells could come from nothing human!"

The blood, which had been rushing through the arteries and veins of
Ludlow so tumultuously now crept into his cheeks, and was felt tingling at
his fingers'-ends. He gave a hurried order to his men to re-enter their
boat, leaving every thing as they found it. A short conference between the
commander of Her Majesty's ship Coquette, and the seaman of the
state-room, succeeded; and then the former hastened on deck, whence his
passage into the barge occupied but a moment. The boat pulled away from
the fancied prize, amid a silence that was uninterrupted by any other
sound than that of a song, which, to all appearance, came from one who by
this time had placed himself at the vessel's helm. All that can be said of
the music is, that it was suited to the words, and all that could be heard
of the latter, was a portion of a verse, if verse it might be called,
which had exercised the talents of some thoroughly nautical mind. As we
depend, for the accuracy of the quotation, altogether on the fidelity of
the journal of the midshipman already named, it is possible that some
injustice may be done the writer; but, according to that document, he sang
a strain of the coasting song, which we have prefixed to this chapter as
its motto.

The papers of the coaster did not give a more detailed description of her
character and pursuits, than that which is contained in this verse. It is
certain that the log-book of the Coquette was far less explicit. The
latter merely said, that 'a coaster called the Stately Pine, John Turner,
master, bound from New-York to the Province of North Carolina, was boarded
at one o'clock, in the morning, all well.' But this description was not of
a nature to satisfy the sea men of the cruiser. Those who had been
actually engaged in the expedition were much too excited to see things in
their true colors; and, coupled with the two previous escapes of the
Water-Witch, the event just related had no small share in confirming
their former opinions concerning her character. The sailing-master was
not now alone, in believing that all pursuit of the brigantine was
perfectly useless.

But these were conclusions that the people of the Coquette made at their
leisure, rather than those which suggested themselves on the instant. The
boats, led by the flashes of light, had joined each other, and were rowing
fast towards the ship, before the pulses of the actors beat with
sufficient calmness to allow of serious reflection; nor was it until the
adventurers were below, and in their hammocks, that they found suitable
occasion to relate what had occurred to a wondering auditory. Robert Yarn,
the fore-top-man who had felt the locks of the sea-green lady blowing in
his face during the squall, took advantage of the circumstance to dilate
on his experiences; and, after having advanced certain positions that
particularly favored his own theories, he produced one of the crew of the
barge, who stood ready to affirm, in any court in Christendom, that he
actually saw the process of changing the beautiful and graceful lines that
distinguished the hull of the smuggler, into the coarser and more clumsy
model of the coaster.

"There are know-nothings," continued Robert, after he had fortified his
position by the testimony in question, "who would deny that the water of
the ocean is blue, because the stream that turns the parish-mill happens
to be muddy. But your real mariner, who has lived much in foreign parts,
is a man who understands the philosophy of life, and knows when to believe
a truth and when to scorn a lie. As for a vessel changing her character
when hard pushed in a chase, there are many instances; though having one
so near us, there is less necessity to be roving over distant seas, in
search of a case to prove it. My own opinion concerning this here
brigantine, is much as follows;--that is to say, I do suppose there was
once a real living hermaphrodite of her build and rig, and that she might
be employed in some such trade as this craft is thought to be in; and
that, in some unlucky hour, she and her people met with a mishap, that has
condemned her ever since to appear on this coast at stated times. She has,
however, a natural dislike to a royal cruiser; and no doubt the thing is
now sailed by those who have little need of compass or observation! All
this being true, it is not wonderful that when the boat's-crew got on her
decks, they found her different from what they had expected. This much is
certain, that when I lay within a boat-hook's length of her
sprit-sail-yard-arm, she was a half-rig, with a woman figure-head, and as
pretty a show of gear aloft, as eye ever looked upon; while every thing
below was as snug as a tobacco-box with the lid down:--and here you all
say that she is a high-decked schooner, with nothing ship-shape about her!
What more is wanting to prove the truth of what has been stated?--If any
man can gainsay it, let him speak."

As no man did gainsay it, it is presumed that the reasoning of the top-man
gained many proselytes. It is scarcely necessary to add, how much of
mystery and fearful interest was thrown around the redoubtable 'Skimmer of
the Seas,' by the whole transaction.

There was a different feeling on the quarter-deck. The two lieutenants put
their heads together, and looked grave; while one or two of the
midshipmen, who had been in the boats, were observed to whisper with their
messmates, and to indulge in smothered laughter. As the captain, however,
maintained his ordinary dignified and authoritative mien, the merriment
went no further, and was soon entirely repressed.

While on this subject, it may be proper to add that, in course of time,
the Stately Pine reached the capes of North Carolina, in safety; and that,
having effected her passage over Edenton bar, without striking, she
ascended the river to the point of her destination. Here the crew soon
began to throw out hints, relative to an encounter of their schooner with
a French cruiser. As the British empire, even in its most remote corners,
was at all times alive to its nautical glory, the event soon became the
discourse in more distant parts of the colony; and in less than six
months, the London journals contained a very glowing account of an
engagement, in which the names of the Stately Pine, and of John Turner,
made some respectable advances towards immortality.

If Captain Ludlow ever gave any further account of the transaction than
what was stated in the log-book of his ship, the bienseance, observed by
the Lords of the Admiralty, prevented it from becoming public.

Returning from this digression, which has no other connexion with the
immediate thread of the narrative, than that which arises from a reflected
interest, we shall revert to the further proceedings on board the cruiser.

When the Coquette had hoisted in her boats, that portion of the crew which
did not belong to the watch was dismissed to their hammocks, the lights
were lowered, and tranquillity once more reigned in the ship. Ludlow
sought his rest, and although there is reason to think that his slumbers
were a little disturbed by dreams, he remained tolerably quiet in the
hammock-cloths, the place in which it has already been said he saw fit to
take his repose, until the morning watch had been called.

Although the utmost vigilance was observed among the officers and
look-outs, during the rest of the night, there occurred nothing to arouse
the crew from their usual recumbent attitudes between the guns. The wind
continued light but steady, the sea smooth, and the heavens clouded, as
during the first hours of darkness.




Chapter XX.



    "The mouse ne'er shunned the cat, as they did budge
    From rascals worse than they."

    Coriolanus.


Day dawned on the Atlantic, with its pearly light, succeeded by the usual
flushing of the skies, and the stately rising of the sun from out the
water. The instant the vigilant officer, who commanded the morning watch,
caught the first glimpses of the returning brightness, Ludlow was
awakened. A finger laid on his arm, was sufficient to arouse one who slept
with the responsibility of his station ever present to his mind. A minute
did not pass, before the young man was on the quarter-deck, closely
examining the heavens and the horizon. His first question was to ask if
nothing had been seen during the watch. The answer was in the negative.

"I like this opening in the north-west," observed the captain, after his
eye had thoroughly scanned the whole of the still dusky and limited view.
"Wind will come out of it. Give us a cap-full, and we shall try the speed
of this boasted Water-Witch!--Do I not see a sail, on our
weather-beam?--or is it the crest of a wave?"

"The sea is getting irregular, and I have often been thus deceived, since
the light appeared."

"Get more sail on the ship. Here is wind, in-shore of us; we will be ready
for it. See every thing clear, to show all our canvas."

The lieutenant received these orders with the customary deference and
communicated them to his inferiors again, with the promptitude that
distinguishes sea discipline. The Coquette, at the moment, was lying under
her three top-sails, one of which was thrown against its mast, in a manner
to hold the vessel as nearly stationary as her drift and the wash of the
waves would allow. So soon, however, as the officer of the watch summoned
the people to exertion, the massive yards were swung; several light sails,
that served to balance the fabric as well as to urge it ahead, were
hoisted or opened; and the ship immediately began to move through the
water. While the men of the watch were thus employed, the flapping of the
canvas announced the approach of a new breeze.

The coast of North America is liable to sudden and dangerous transitions,
in the currents of the air. It is a circumstance of no unusual occurrence,
for a gale to alter its direction with so little warning, as greatly to
jeopard the safety of a ship, or even to overwhelm her. It has been often
said, that the celebrated Ville de Paris was lost through one of these
violent changes, her captain having inadvertently hove-to the vessel under
too much after-sail, a mistake by which he lost the command of his ship
during the pressing emergency that ensued. Whatever may have been the fact
as regards that ill-fated prize, it is certain that Ludlow was perfectly
aware of the hazards that sometimes accompany the first blasts of a
north-west wind on his native coast, and that he never forgot to be
prepared for the danger.

When the wind from the land struck the Coquette, the streak of light,
which announced the appearance of the sun, had been visible several
minutes. As the broad sheets of vapor, that had veiled the heavens during
the prevalence of the south-easterly breeze, were rolled up into dense
masses of clouds, like some immense curtain that is withdrawn from before
its scene, the water, no less than the sky, became instantly visible, in
every quarter. It is scarcely necessary to say, how eagerly the gaze of
our young seaman ran over the horizon, in order to observe the objects
which might come within its range. At first disappointment was plainly
painted in his countenance, and then succeeded the animated eye and
flushed cheek of success.

"I had thought her gone!" he said to his immediate subordinate in
authority. "But here she is, to leeward, just within the edge of that
driving mist, and as dead under our lee as a kind fortune could place her.
Keep the ship away, Sir, and cover her with canvas, from her trucks down.
Call the people from their hammocks, and show yon insolent what Her
Majesty's sloop can do, at need!"

This command was the commencement of a general and hasty movement, in
which every seaman in the ship exerted his powers to the utmost. All hands
were no sooner called, than the depths of the vessel gave up their
tenants, who, joining their force to that of the watch on deck, quickly
covered the spars of the Coquette with a snow-white cloud. Not content to
catch the breeze on such surfaces as the ordinary yards could distend,
long booms were thrust out over the water, and sail was set beyond sail,
until the bending masts would bear no more. The low hull, which supported
this towering and complicated mass of ropes, spars, and sails, yielded to
the powerful impulse, and the fabric, which, in addition to its crowd of
human beings, sustained so heavy a load of artillery, with all its burthen
of stores and ammunition, began to divide the waves, with the steady and
imposing force of a vast momentum. The seas curled and broke against her
sides, like water washing the rocks, the steady ship feeling, as yet, no
impression from their feeble efforts. As the wind increased, however, and
the vessel went further from the land, the surface of the ocean gradually
grew more agitated, until the highlands, which lay over the villa of the
Lust in Rust, finally sunk into the sea; when the top-gallant-royals of
the ship were seen describing wide segments of circles against the
heavens, and her dark sides occasionally rose, from a long and deep roll,
glittering with the element that sustained her.

When Ludlow first descried the object which he believed to be the chase,
it seemed a motionless speck on the margin of the sea. It had now grown
into all the magnitude and symmetry of the well-known brigantine. Her
slight and attenuated spars were plainly to be seen, rolling, easily but
wide, with the constant movement of the hull, and with no sail spread, but
that which was necessary to keep the vessel in command on the billows. But
when the Coquette was just within the range of a cannon, the canvas began
to unfold; and it was soon apparent that the "Skimmer of the Seas" was
preparing for flight.

The first manoeuvre of the Water-witch was an attempt to gain the wind of
her pursuer. A short experiment appeared to satisfy those who governed the
brigantine that the effort was vain, while the wind was so fresh and the
water so rough. She wore, and crowded sail on the opposite tack, in order
to try her speed with the cruiser; nor was it until the result
sufficiently showed the danger of permitting the other to get any nigher,
that she finally put her helm aweather, and ran off, like a sea-fowl
resting on its wing, with the wind over her taffrail.

The two vessels now presented the spectacle of a stern chase. The
brigantine also opened the folds of all her sails, and there arose a
pyramid of canvas, over the nearly imperceptible hull, that resembled a
fantastic cloud driving above the sea, with a velocity that seemed to
rival the passage of the vapor that floated in the upper air. As equal
skill directed the movements of the two vessels, and the same breeze
pressed upon their sails, it was long before there was any perceptible
difference in their progress. Hour passed after hour, and were it not for
the sheets of white foam that were dashed from the bows of the Coquette,
and the manner in which she even out stripped the caps of the combing
waves, her commander might have fancied his vessel ever in the same spot.
While the ocean presented, on every side, the same monotonous and rolling
picture, there lay the chase, seemingly neither a foot nearer, nor a foot
farther, than when the trial of speed began. A dark line would rise on the
crest of a wave, and then, sinking again, leave, nothing visible, but the
yielding and waving cloud of canvas, that danced along the sea.

"I had hoped for better things of the ship, Master Trysail!" said Ludlow,
who had long been seated on a night-head, attentively watching the
progress of the chase. "We are buried to the bob-stays; and yet, there yon
fellow lies, nothing plainer than when he first showed his
studding-sails!"

"And there he will lie, Captain Ludlow, while the light lasts. I have
chased the rover in the narrow seas, till the cliffs of England melted
away like the cap of a wave; and we had raised the sand-banks of Holland
high as the sprit-sail-yard, and yet what good came of it? The rogue
played with us, as your portsman trifles with the entangled trout; and
when we thought we had him, he would shoot without the range of our guns,
with as little exertion as a ship slides into the water, after the spur
shoars are knocked from under her bows."

"Ay, but the Druid had a little of the rust of antiquity about her. The
Coquette has never got a chase under her lee, that she did not speak."

"I disparage no ship, Sir, for character is character, and none should
speak lightly of their fellow-creatures, and, least of all, of any thing
which follows the sea. I allow the Coquette to be a lively boat on a wind,
and a real scudder going large; but one should know the wright that
fashioned yonder brigantine, before he ventures to say that any vessel in
Her Majesty's fleet can hold way with her, when she is driven hard."

"These opinions, Trysail, are fitter for the tales of a top, than for the
mouth of one who walks the quarter-deck."

"I should have lived to little purpose, Captain Ludlow, not to know that
what was philosophy in my young days, is not philosophy now. They say the
world is round, which is my own opinion--first, because the glorious Sir
Francis Drake, and divers other Englishmen, have gone in, as it were, at
one end, and out at the other; no less than several seamen of other
nations, to say nothing of one Magellan, who pretends to have been the
first man to make the passage, which I take to be neither more nor less
than a Portuguee lie, it being altogether unreasonable to suppose that a
Portuguee should do what an Englishman had not yet thought of
doing;--secondly, if the world were not round, or some such shape, why
should we see the small sails of a ship before her courses, or why should
her truck heave up into the horizon before the hull? They say, moreover,
that the world turns round, which is no doubt true; and it is just as true
that its opinions turn round with it, which brings me to the object of my
remark--yon fellow shows more of his broadside, Sir, than common! He is
edging in for the land, which must lie, hereaway, on our larboard beam, in
order to get into smoother water. This tumbling about is not favorable to
your light craft, let who will build them."

"I had hoped to drive him off the coast. Could we get him fairly into the
Gulf Stream, he would be ours, for he is too low in the water to escape
us in the short seas. We must force him into blue water, though our upper
spars crack in the struggle! Go aft, Mr. Hopper, and tell the officer of
the watch to bring the ship's head up, a point and a half, to the
northward, and to give a slight pull on the braces."

"What a mainsail the rogue carries! It is as broad as the instructions of
a roving commission, with a hoist like the promotion of an admiral's son!
How every thing pulls aboard him! A thorough-bred sails that brigantine,
let him come whence he may!"

"I think we near him! The rough water is helping us, and we are closing.
Steer small, fellow; steer small! You see the color of his mouldings
begins to show, when he lifts on the seas."

"The sun touches his side--and yet, Captain Ludlow, you may be right--for
here is a man in his fore-top, plainly enough to be seen. A shot, or two,
among his spars and sails, might now do service."

Ludlow affected not to hear; but the first-lieutenant having come on the
forecastle, seconded this opinion, by remarking that their position would
indeed enable them to use the chase-gun, without losing any distance. As
Trysail sustained his former assertion by truths that were too obvious to
be refuted, the commander of the cruiser reluctantly issued an order to
clear away the forward gun, and to shift it into the bridle-port. The
interested and attentive seamen were not long in performing this service;
and a report was quickly made to the captain, that the piece was ready.

Ludlow then descended from his post on the night-head, and pointed the
cannon himself.

"Knock away the quoin, entirely;" he said to the captain of the gun, when
he had got the range; "now mind her when she lifts, forward; keep the ship
steady, Sir--fire!"

Those gentleman 'who live at home at ease,' are often surprised to read
of combats, in which so much powder, and hundreds and even thousands of
shot, are expended, with so little loss of human life; while a struggle on
the land, of less duration, and seemingly of less obstinacy, shall sweep
away a multitude. The secret of the difference lies in the uncertainty of
aim, on an element as restless as the sea. The largest ship is rarely
quite motionless, when on the open ocean; and it is not necessary to tell
the reader, that the smallest variation in the direction of a gun at its
muzzle, becomes magnified to many yards at the distance of a few hundred
feet. Marine gunnery has no little resemblance to the skill of the fowler;
since a calculation for a change in the position of the object must
commonly be made in both cases, with the additional embarrassment on the
part of the seaman, of an allowance for a complicated movement in the
piece itself.

How far the gun of the Coquette was subject to the influence of these
causes, or how far the desire of her captain to protect those whom he
believed to be on board the brigantine, had an effect on the direction
taken by its shot, will probably never be known. It is certain, however,
that when the stream of fire, followed by its curling cloud, had gushed
out upon the water, fifty eyes sought in vain to trace the course of the
iron messenger among the sails and rigging of the Water-Witch. The
symmetry of her beautiful rig was undisturbed, and the unconscious fabric
still glided over the waves, with its customary ease and velocity. Ludlow
had a reputation, among his crew, for some skill in the direction of a
gun. The failure, therefore, in no degree aided in changing the opinions
of the common men concerning the character of the chase. Many shook their
heads, and more than one veteran tar, as he paced his narrow limits with
both hands thrust into the bosom of his jacket, was heard to utter his
belief of the inefficacy of ordinary shot, in bringing-to that
brigantine. It was necessary, however to repeat the experiment, for the
sake of appearances. The gun was several times discharged, and always with
the same want of success.

"There is little use in wasting our powder, at this distance, and with so
heavy a sea," said Ludlow, quitting the cannon, after a fifth and
fruitless essay. "I shall fire no more. Look at your sails, gentlemen, and
see that every thing draws. We must conquer with our heels, and let the
artillery rest.--Secure the gun."

"The piece is ready, Sir;" observed its captain, presuming on his known
favor with the commander, though he qualified the boldness by taking off
his hat, in a sufficiently respectful manner--"'Tis a pity to balk it!"

"Fire it, yourself, then, and return the piece to its port;" carelessly
returned the captain, willing to show that others could be as unlucky as
himself.

The men quartered at the gun, left alone, busied themselves in executing
the order.

"Run in the quoin, and, blast the brig, give her a point-blanker!" said
the gruff old seaman, who was intrusted with a local authority over that
particular piece. "None of your geometry calculations, for me!"

The crew obeyed, and the match was instantly applied. A rising sea,
however, aided the object of the directly-minded old tar, or our narration
of the exploits of the piece would end with the discharge, since its shot
would otherwise have inevitably plunged into a wave, within a few yards of
its muzzle. The bows of the ship rose with the appearance of the smoke,
the usual brief expectation followed, and then fragments of wood were seen
flying above the top-mast-studding-sail-boom of the brigantine, which, at
the same time, flew forward, carrying with it, and entirely deranging,
the two important sails that depended on the spar for support.

"So much for plain sailing!" cried the delighted tar, slapping the breach
of the gun, affectionately. "Witch or no witch, there go two of her
jackets at once; and, by the captain's good-will, we shall shortly take
off some more of her clothes! In spunge----"

"The order is to run the gun aft, and secure it;" said a merry midshipman,
leaping on the heel of the bowsprit to gaze at the confusion on board the
chase. "The rogue is nimble enough, in saving his canvas!"

There was, in truth, necessity for exertion, on the part of those who
governed the movements of the brigantine. The two sails that were rendered
temporarily useless, were of great importance, with the wind over the
taffrail. The distance between the two vessels did not exceed a mile, and
the danger of lessening it was now too obvious to admit of delay. The
ordinary movements of seamen, in critical moments, are dictated by a
quality that resembles instinct, more than thought. The constant hazards
of a dangerous and delicate profession, in which delay may prove fatal,
and in which life, character, and property are so often dependent on the
self-possession and resources of him who commands, beget, in time, so keen
a knowledge of the necessary expedients, as to cause it to approach a
natural quality.

The studding-sails of the Water-Witch were no sooner fluttering in the
air, than the brigantine slightly changed her course, like some bird whose
wing has been touched by the fowler; and her head was seen inclining as
much to the south, as the moment before it had pointed northward. The
variation, trifling as it was, brought the wind on the opposite quarter,
and caused the boom that distended her mainsail to gybe. At the same
instant, the studding-sails, which had been flapping under the lee of this
vast sheet of canvas, swelled to their utmost tension; and the vessel
lost little, if any, of the power which urged her through the water. Even
while this evolution was so rapidly performed, men were seen aloft, nimbly
employed, as it has been already expressed by the observant little
midshipman, in securing the crippled sails.

"A rogue has a quick wit," said Trysail, whose critical eye suffered no
movement of the chase to escape him; "and he has need of it, sail from
what haven he may! Yon brigantine is prettily handled! Little have we
gained by our fire, but the gunner's account of ammunition expended; and
little has the free-trader lost, but a studding-sail-boom, which will work
up very well, yet, into top-gallant-yards, and other light spars, for such
a cockle-shell."

"It is something gained, to force him off the land into rougher water;"
Ludlow mildly answered. "I think we see his quarter-pieces more plainly,
than before the gun was used."

"No doubt, Sir, no doubt. I got a glimpse of his lower dead-eyes, a minute
ago; but I have been near enough to see the saucy look of the hussy under
his bowsprit; yet there goes the brigantine, at large!"

"I am certain that we are closing;" thoughtfully returned Ludlow. "Hand me
a glass, quarter master."

Trysail watched the countenance of his young commander, as he examined the
chase with the aid of the instrument; and he thought he read strong
discontent in his features, when the other laid it aside.

"Does he show no signs of coming back to his allegiance, Sir?--or does the
rogue hold out in obstinacy?"

"The figure on his poop is the bold man who ventured on board the
Coquette, and who now seems quite as much at his ease as when he
exhibited his effrontery here!"

"There is a look of deep water about that rogue; and I thought Her Majesty
had gained a prize, when he first put foot on our decks. You are right
enough, Sir, in calling him a bold one! The fellow's impudence would
unsettle the discipline of a whole ship's company, though every other man
were an officer, and all the rest priests. He took up as much room in
walking the quarter-deck, as a ninety in waring; and the truck is not
driven on the head of that top-gallant-mast, half as hard as the hat is
riveted to his head. The fellow has no reverence for a pennant! I managed,
in shifting pennants at sunset, to make the fly of the one that came down
flap in his impudent countenance, by way of hint; and he took it as a
Dutchman minds a signal--that is, as a question to be answered in the next
watch. A little polish got on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war, would make
a philosopher of the rogue, and fit him for any company, short of heaven!"

"There goes a new boom, aloft!" cried Ludlow, interrupting the discursive
discourse of the master. "He is bent on getting in with the shore."

"If these puffs come much heavier," returned the master, whose opinions of
the chase vacillated with his professional feelings, "we shall have him at
our own play, and try the qualities of his brigantine! The sea has a green
spot to windward, and there are strong symptoms of a squall on the water.
One can almost see into the upper world, with an air clear as this. Your
northers sweep the mists off America, and leave both sea and land bright
as a school-boy's face, before the tears have dimmed it, after the first
flogging. You have sailed in the southern seas, Captain Ludlow, I know;
for we were shipmates among the islands, years that are past: but I never
heard whether you have run the Gibralter passage, and seen the blue water
that lies among the Italy mountains?"

"I made a cruise against the Barbary states, when a lad; and we had
business that took us to the northern shore."

"Ay! 'Tis your northern shore, I mean! There is not a foot of it all, from
the rock at the entrance to the Fare of Messina, that eye of mine hath not
seen. No want of look-outs and land-marks in that quarter! Here we are
close aboard of America, which lies some eight or ten leagues there-away
to the northward of us, and some forty astern; and yet, if it were not for
our departure, with the color of the water, and a knowledge of the
soundings, one might believe himself in the middle of the Atlantic. Many a
good ship plumps upon America before she knows where she is going; while
in yon sea, you may run for a mountain, with its side in full view,
four-and-twenty hours on a stretch, before you see the town at its foot."

"Nature has compensated for the difference, in defending the approach to
this coast, by the Gulf Stream, with its floating weeds and different
temperature; while the lead may feel its way in the darkest night, for no
roof of a house is more gradual than the ascent of this shore, from a
hundred fathoms to a sandy beach."

"I said many a good ship, Captain Ludlow, and not good
navigator.--No--no--your thorough-bred knows the difference between green
water and blue, as well as between a hand-lead and the deep-sea. But I
remember to have missed an observation, once, when running for Genoa,
before a mistrail. There was a likelihood of making our land-fall in the
night, and the greater the need of knowing the ship's position. I have
often thought, Sir, that the ocean was like human life,--a blind track for
all that is ahead, and none of the clearest as respects that which has
been passed over. Many a man runs headlong to his own destruction, and
many a ship steers for a reef under a press of canvas. To-morrow is a fog,
into which none of us can see; and even the present time is little better
than thick weather, into which we look without getting much information.
Well, as I was observing, here lay our course, with the wind as near aft
as need be, blowing much as at present; for your French mistrail has a
family likeness to the American norther. We had the main-top-gallant-sail
set, without studding-sails, for we began to think of the deep bight in
which Genoa is stowed, and the sun had dipped more than an hour. As our
good fortune would have it, clouds and mistrails do not agree long, and we
got a clear horizon. Here lay a mountain of snow, northerly, a little
west, and there lay another, southerly with easting. The best ship in
Queen Anne's navy could not have fetched either in a day's run, and yet
there we saw them, as plainly as if anchored under their lee! A look at
the chart soon gave us an insight into our situation. The first were the
Alps, as they call them, being as I suppose the French for apes, of which
there are no doubt plenty in those regions; and the other were the
highlands of Corsica, both being as white, in midsummer, as the hair of a
man of fourscore. You see, Sir, we had only to set the two, by compass, to
know, within a league or two, where we were. So we ran till midnight, and
hove-to; and in the morning we took the light to feel for our haven----"

"The brigantine is gybing, again!" cried Ludlow. "He is determined to
shoal his water!"

The master glanced an eye around the horizon and then pointed steadily
towards the north. Ludlow observed the gesture, and, turning his head, he
was at no loss to read its meaning.




Chapter XXI.



    "--I am gone, Sir
    And, anon, Sir,
    I'll be with you again."

    Clown in Twelfth Night.


Although it is contrary to the apparent evidence of our senses, there is
no truth more certain than that the course of most gales of wind comes
from the leeward. The effects of a tempest shall be felt, for hours, at a
point that is seemingly near its termination, before they are witnessed at
another, that appears to be nearer its source. Experience has also shown
that a storm is more destructive, at or near its place of actual
commencement, than at that whence it may seem to come. The easterly gales
that so often visit the coasts of the republic, commit their ravages in
the bays of Pennsylvania and Virginia, or along the sounds of the
Carolinas, hours before their existence is known in the states further
east; and the same wind, which is a tempest at Hatteras, becomes softened
to a breeze, near the Penobscot. There is, however, little mystery in this
apparent phenomenon. The vacuum which has been created in the air, and
which is the origin of all winds, must be filled first from the nearest
stores of the atmosphere; and as each region contributes to produce the
equilibrium, it must, in return, receive other supplies from those which
lie beyond. Were a given quantity of water to be suddenly abstracted from
the sea, the empty space would be replenished by a torrent from the
nearest surrounding fluid, whose level would be restored, in succession,
by supplies that were less and less violently contributed. Were the
abstraction made on a shoal, or near the land, the flow would be greatest
from that quarter where the fluid had the greatest force, and with it
would consequently come the current.

But while there is so close an affinity between the two fluids, the
workings of the viewless winds are, in their nature, much less subject to
the powers of human comprehension than those of the sister element. The
latter are frequently subject to the direct and manifest influence of the
former, while the effects produced by the ocean on the air are hid from
our knowledge by the subtle character of the agency. Vague and erratic
currents, it is true, are met in the waters of the ocean; but their origin
is easily referred to the action of the winds, while we often remain in
uncertainty as to the immediate causes which give birth to the breezes
themselves. Thus the mariner, even while the victim of the irresistible
waves, studies the heavens as the known source from whence the danger
comes; and while he struggles fearfully, amid the strife of the elements,
to preserve the balance of the delicate and fearful machine he governs, he
well knows that the one which presents the most visible, and to a landsman
much the most formidable object of apprehension, is but the instrument of
the unseen and powerful agent that heaps the water on his path.

It is in consequence of this difference in power, and of the mystery that
envelops the workings of the atmosphere, that, in all ages, seamen have
been the subjects of superstition, in respect to the winds. There is
always more or less of the dependency of ignorance, in the manner with
which they have regarded the changes of that fickle element. Even the
mariners of our own times are not exempt from this weakness. The
thoughtless ship-boy is reproved if his whistle be heard in the howling of
the gale, and the officer sometimes betrays a feeling of uneasiness, if at
such a moment he should witness any violation of the received opinions of
his profession. He finds himself in the situation of one whose ears have
drunk in legends of supernatural appearances, which a better instruction
has taught him to condemn, and who when placed in situations to awaken
their recollection, finds the necessity of drawing upon his reason to
quiet emotions that he might hesitate to acknowledge.

When Trysail directed the attention of his young commander to the heavens,
however, it was more with the intelligence of an experienced mariner, than
with any of the sensations to which allusion has just been made. A cloud
had suddenly appeared on the water, and long ragged portions of the vapor
were pointing from it, in a manner to give it what seamen term a windy
appearance.

"We shall have more than we want, with this canvas!" said the master,
after both he and his commander had studied the appearance of the mist,
for a sufficient time. "That fellow is a mortal enemy of lofty sails; he
likes to see nothing but naked sticks, up in his neighbourhood!"

"I should think his appearance will force the brigantine to shorten sail;"
returned the Captain. "We will hold-on to the last, while he must begin to
take in soon, or the squall will come upon him too fast for a light-handed
vessel."

"'Tis a cruiser's advantage! And yet the rogue shows no signs of lowering
a single cloth!"

"We will look to our own spars;" said Ludlow, turning to the lieutenant of
the watch. "Call the people up, Sir, and see all ready, for yonder cloud."

The order was succeeded by the customary hoarse summons of the boatswain,
who prefaced the effort of his lungs by a long, shrill winding of his
call, above the hatchways of the ship. The cry of "all hands shorten sail,
ahoy!" soon brought the crew from the depths of the vessel to her upper
deck. Each trained seaman silently took his station; and after the ropes
were cleared, and the few necessary preparations made, all stood in
attentive silence, awaiting the sounds that might next proceed from the
trumpet, which the first-lieutenant had now assumed in person.

The superiority of sailing, which a ship fitted for war possesses over one
employed in commerce, proceeds from a variety of causes. The first is in
the construction of the hull, which in the one is as justly fitted, as the
art of naval architecture will allow, to the double purposes of speed and
buoyancy; while in the other, the desire of gain induces great sacrifices
of these important objects, in order that the vessel may be burthensome.
Next comes the difference in the rig, which is not only more square, but
more lofty, in a ship of war than in a trader; because the greater force
of the crew of the former enables them to manage both spars and sails that
are far heavier than any ever used in the latter. Then comes the greater
ability of the cruiser to make and shorten sail, since a ship manned by
one or two hundred men may safely profit by the breeze to the last moment,
while one manned by a dozen often loses hours of a favorable wind, from
the weakness of her crew. This explanation will enable the otherwise
uninitiated reader to understand the reason why Ludlow had hoped the
coming squall would aid his designs on the chase.

To express ourselves in nautical language, 'the Coquette held on to the
last.' Ragged streaks of vapor were whirling about in the air, within a
fearful proximity to the lofty and light sails, and the foam on the water
had got so near the ship, as already to efface her wake; when Ludlow, who
had watched the progress of the cloud with singular coolness, made a sign
to his subordinate that the proper instant had arrived.

"In, of all!" shouted through the trumpet, was the only command necessary;
for officers and crew were well instructed in their duty.

The words had no sooner quitted the lips of the lieutenant, than the
steady roar of the sea was drowned in the flapping of canvas. Tacks,
sheets, and halyards, went together; and, in less than a minute, the
cruiser showed naked spars and whistling ropes, where so lately had been
seen a cloud of snow-white cloth. All her steering-sails came in together,
and the lofty canvas was furled to her top-sails. The latter still stood,
and the vessel received the weight of the little tempest on their broad
surfaces. The gallant ship stood the shock nobly; but, as the wind came
over the taffrail, its force had far less influence on the hull, than on
the other occasion already described. The danger, now, was only for her
spars; and these were saved by the watchful, though bold, vigilance of her
captain.

Ludlow was no sooner certain that the cruiser felt the force of the wind,
and to gain this assurance needed but a few moments, than he turned his
eager look on the brigantine. To the surprise of all who witnessed her
temerity, the Water-Witch still showed all her light sails. Swiftly as the
ship was now driven through the water, its velocity was greatly
outstripped by that of the wind. The signs of the passing squall were
already visible on the sea, for half the distance between the two vessels;
and still the chase showed no consciousness of its approach. Her commander
had evidently studied its effects on the Coquette; and he awaited the
shock, with the coolness of one accustomed to depend on his own resources,
and able to estimate the force with which he had to contend.

"If he hold-on a minute longer, he will get more than he can bear, and
away will go all his kites, like smoke from the muzzle of a gun!" muttered
Trysail. "Ah! there come down his studding-sails--ha! settle away the
mainsail--in royal, and top-gallant sail, with top-sail on the cap!--The
rascals are nimble as pickpockets in a crowd!"

The honest master has sufficiently described the precautions taken on
board of the brigantine. Nothing was furled; but as every thing was hauled
up, or lowered, the squall had little to waste its fury on. The diminished
surfaces of the sails protected the spars, while the canvas was saved by
the aid of cordage. After a few moments of pause, half-a-dozen men were
seen busied in more effectually securing the few upper and lighter sails.

But though the boldness with which the 'Skimmer of the Seas' carried sail
to the last, was justified by the result, still the effects of the
increased wind and rising waves on the progress of the two vessels, grew
more sensible. While the little and low brigantine began to labor and
roll, the Coquette rode the element with buoyancy, and consequently with
less resistance from the water. Twenty minutes, during which the force of
the wind was but little lessened, brought the cruiser so near the chase,
as to enable her crew to distinguish most of the smaller objects that were
visible above her ridge-ropes.

"Blow winds, and crack your cheeks!" said Ludlow, in an under tone, the
excitement of the chase growing with the hopes of success. "I ask but one
half-hour, and then shift at your pleasure!"

"Blow, good devil, and you shall have the cook!" muttered Trysail, quoting
a very different author. "Another glass will bring us within hail."

"The squall is leaving us!" interrupted the captain. "Pack on the ship,
again, Mr. Luff, from her trucks to her ridge-ropes!"

The whistle of the boatswain was again heard at the hatchways, and the
hoarse summons of 'all hands make sail, ahoy!' once more called the people
to their stations. The sails were set, with a rapidity which nearly
equalled the speed with which they had been taken in; and the violence of
the breeze was scarcely off the ship, before its complicated volumes of
canvas were spread, to catch what remained. On the other hand, the chase,
even more hardy than the cruiser, did not wait for the end of the squall;
but, profiting by the notice given by the latter, the 'Skimmer of the
Seas' began to sway his yards aloft, while the sea was still white with
foam.

"The quick-sighted rogue knows we are done with it," said Trysail; "and he
is getting ready for his own turn. We gain but little of him,
notwithstanding our muster of hands."

The fact was too true to be denied, for the brigand tine was again under
all her canvas, before the ship had sensibly profited by her superior
physical force. It was at this moment, when, perhaps, in consequence of
the swell on the water, the Coquette might have possessed some small
advantage, that the wind suddenly failed. The squall had been its expiring
effort; and, within an hour after the two vessels had again made sail, the
canvas was flapping against the masts, in a manner to throw back, in
eddies, a force as great as that it received. The sea fell fast, and ere
the end of the last or forenoon watch, the surface of the ocean was
agitated only by those long undulating swells, that seldom leave it
entirely without motion. For some little time, there were fickle currents
of air playing in various directions about the ship, but always in
sufficient force to urge her slowly through the water; and then, when the
equilibrium of the element seemed established, there was a total calm.
During the half-hour of the baffling winds, the brigantine had been a
gainer, though not enough to carry her entirely beyond the reach of the
cruiser's guns.

"Haul up the courses!" said Ludlow, when the fast breath of wind had been
felt on the ship, and quitting the gun where he had long stood, watching
the movements of the chase. "Get the boats into the water, Mr. Luff, and
arm their crews."

The young commander issued this order, which needed no interpreter to
explain its object, firmly, but in sadness. His face was thoughtful, and
his whole air was that of a man who yielded to an imperative but an
unpleasant duty. When he had spoken, he signed to the attentive Alderman
and his friend to follow, and entered his cabin.

"There is no alternative," continued Ludlow, as he laid the glass, which
so often that morning had been at his eye, on the table, and threw himself
into a chair. "This rover must be seized at every hazard, and here is a
favorable occasion to carry him by boarding. Twenty minutes will bring us
to his side, and five more will put us in possession; but--"

"You think the Skimmer is not a man to receive such visiters with an old
woman's welcome;" pithily observed Myndert.

"I much mistake the man, if he yield so beautiful a vessel, peacefully.
Duty is imperative on a seaman, Alderman Van Beverout; and, much as I
lament the circumstance, it must be obeyed."

"I understand you, Sir. Captain Ludlow has two mistresses, Queen Anne and
the daughter of old Etienne de Barberie. He fears both. When the debts
exceed the means of payment, it would seem wise to offer to compound; and,
in this case, Her Majesty and my niece may be said to stand in the case of
creditors."

"You mistake my meaning, Sir;" said Ludlow proudly. "There can be no
composition between a faithful officer and his duty, nor do I acknowledge
more than one mistress in my ship--but seamen are little to be trusted in
the moment of success, and with their passions awakened by
resistance.--Alderman Van Beverout, will you accompany the party and serve
as mediator?"

"Pikes and hand-grenades! Am I a fit subject for mounting the sides of a
smuggler, with a broadsword between my teeth! If you will put me into the
smallest and most peaceable of your boats, with a crew of two boys, that I
can control with the authority of a magistrate, and covenant to remain
here with your three top-sails aback, having always a flag of truce at
each mast, I will bear the olive-branch to the brigantine, but not a word
of menace. If report speaks true, your 'Skimmer of the Seas' is no lover
of threats, and Heaven forbid that I should do violence to any man's
habits! I will go forth as your turtle-dove, Captain Ludlow; but not one
foot will I proceed as your Goliath."

"And you equally refuse endeavoring to avert hostilities?" continued
Ludlow, turning his look on the Patroon of Kinderhook.

"I am the Queen's subject, and ready to aid in supporting the laws;"
quietly returned Oloff Van Staats.

"Patroon!" exclaimed his watchful friend; "you know not what you say! If
there were question of an inroad of Mohawks, or an invasion from the
Canadas, the case would differ; but this is only a trifling difference,
concerning a small balance in the revenue duties, which had better be left
to your tide-waiter, and the other wild-cats of the law. If Parliament
will put temptation before our eyes, let the sin light on their own heads.
Human nature is weak, and the vanities of our system are so many
inducements to overlook unreasonable regulations. I say, therefore, it is
better to remain in peace, on board this ship, where our characters will
be as safe as our bones, and trust to Providence for what will happen."

"I am the Queen's subject, and ready to uphold her dignity;" repeated
Oloff, firmly.

"I will trust you, Sir;" said Ludlow, taking his rival by the arm, and
leading him into his own state-room.

The conference was soon ended, and a midshipman shortly after reported
that the boats were ready for service. The master was next summoned to the
cabin and admitted to the private apartment of his commander. Ludlow then
proceeded to the deck, where he made the final dispositions for the
attack. The ship was left in charge of Mr. Luff, with an injunction to
profit by any breeze that might offer, to draw as near as possible to the
chase. Trysail was placed in the launch, at the head of a strong party of
boarders. Van Staats of Kinderhook was provided with the yawl, manned only
by its customary crew; while Ludlow entered his own barge, which contained
its usual complement, though the arms that lay in the stern-sheets
sufficiently showed that they were prepared for service.

The launch, being the soonest ready, and of much the heaviest movement,
was the first to quit the side of the Coquette. The master steered
directly for the becalmed and motionless brigantine. Ludlow took a more
circuitous course, apparently with an intention of causing such a
diversion as might distract the attention of the crew of the smuggler, and
with the view of reaching the point of attack at the same moment with the
boat that contained his principal force. The yawl also inclined from the
straight line steering as much on one side as the barge diverged on the
other. In this manner the men pulled in silence for some twenty
minutes,--the motion of the larger boat, which was heavily charged, being
slow and difficult. At the end of this period, a signal was made from the
barge, when all the men ceased rowing and prepared themselves for the
struggle. The launch was within pistol-shot of the brigantine, and
directly on her beam; the yawl had gained her head where Van Staats of
Kinderhook was studying the malign expression of the image, with an
interest that seemed to increase as his sluggish nature became excited;
and Ludlow, on the quarter opposite to the launch, was examining the
condition of the chase by the aid of a glass. Trysail profited by the
pause, to address his followers:

"This is an expedition in boats," commenced the accurate and
circumstantial master, "made in smooth water, with little, or one may say
no wind, in the month of June, and on the coast of North America. You are
not such a set of know-nothings, men, as to suppose the launch has been
hoisted out, and two of the oldest, not to say best seamen, on the
quarter-deck of Her Majesty's ship, have gone in boats, without the
intention of doing something more than to ask the name and character of
the brig in sight. The smallest of the young gentlemen might have done
that duty, as well as the captain, or myself. It is the belief of those
who are best informed, that the stranger, who has the impudence to lie
quietly within long range of a royal cruiser, without showing his colors,
is neither more nor less than the famous 'Skimmer of the Seas;' a man
against whose seamanship I will say nothing, but who has none of the best
reputation for honesty, as relates to the Queen's revenue. No doubt you
have heard many extraordinary accounts of the exploits of this rover, some
of which seem to insinuate, that the fellow has a private understanding
with those who manage their transactions in a less religious manner than
it may be supposed is done by the bench of bishops. But what of that? You
are hearty Englishmen, who know what belongs to church and state; and,
d----e, you are not the boys to be frightened by a little witchcraft. [a
cheer] Ay, that is intelligible and reasonable language, and such as
satisfies me you understand the subject. I shall say no more, than just to
add, that Captain Ludlow desires there may be no indecent language, nor,
for that matter, any rough treatment of the people of the brigantine,
over and above the knocking on the head, and cutting of throats, that may
be necessary to take her. In this particular, you will take example by me,
who, being older, have more experience than most of you, and who, in all
reason, should better know when and where to show his manhood. Lay about
you like men, so long as the free-traders stand to their quarters--but
remember mercy, in the hour of victory! You will on no account enter the
cabins; on this head my orders are explicit, and I shall make no more of
throwing the man into the sea, who dares to transgress them, than if he
were a dead Frenchman; and, as we now clearly understand each other, and
know our duty so well, there remains no more than to do it. I have said
nothing of the prize-money, [a cheer] seeing you are men that love the
Queen and her honor, more than lucre, [a cheer]; but this much I can
safely promise, that there will be the usual division, [a cheer] and as
there is little doubt but the rogues have driven a profitable trade, why
the sum-total is likely to be no trifle." [Three hearty cheers.]

The report of a pistol from the barge, which was immediately followed by a
gun from the cruiser, whose shot came whistling between the masts of the
Water-Witch, was the signal to resort to the ordinary means of victory.
The master cheered, in his turn; and in a full, steady, and deep voice, he
gave the order to 'pull away!' At the same instant, the barge and yawl
were seen advancing towards the object of their common attack, with a
velocity that promised to bring the event to a speedy issue.

Throughout the whole of the preparations in and about the Coquette, since
the moment when the breeze failed, nothing had been seen of the crew of
the brigantine. The beautiful fabric lay rolling on the heaving and
setting waters; but no human form appeared to control her movements, or
to make the arrangements that seemed so necessary for her defence. The
sails continued hanging as they had been left by the breeze, and the hull
was floating at the will of the waves. This deep quiet was undisturbed by
the approach of the boats; and if the desperate individual, who was known
to command the free-trader, had any intentions of resistance, they had
been entirely hid from the long and anxious gaze of Ludlow. Even the
shouts, and the dashing of the oars on the water, when the boats commenced
their final advance, produced no change on the decks of the chase; though
the commander of the Coquette saw her head-yards slowly and steadily
changing their direction. Uncertain of the object of this movement, he
rose on the seat of his boat, and, waving his hat, cheered the men to
greater exertion. The barge had got within a hundred feet of the broadside
of the brigantine, when the whole of her wide folds of canvas were seen
swelling outwards. The exquisitely-ordered machinery of spars, sails, and
rigging, bowed towards the barge, as in the act of a graceful
leave-taking, and then the light hull glided ahead, leaving the boat to
plow through the empty space which it had just occupied. There needed no
second look to assure Ludlow of the inefficacy of further pursuit, since
the sea was already ruffled by the breeze which had so opportunely come to
aid the smuggler. He signed to Trysail to desist; and both stood looking,
with disappointed eyes, at the white and bubbling streak which was left by
the wake of the fugitive.

But while the Water-Witch left the boats, commanded by the captain and
master of the Queen's cruiser, behind her, she steered directly on the
course that was necessary to bring her soonest in contact with the yawl.
For a few moments, the crew of the latter believed it was their own
advance that brought them so rapidly near their object; and when the
midshipman who steered the boat discovered his error, it was only in
season to prevent the swift brigantine from passing over his little bark.
He gave the yawl a wide sheer, and called to his men to pull for their
lives. Oloff Van Staats had placed himself at the head of the boat, armed
with a banger, and with every faculty too intent on the expected attack,
to heed a danger that was scarcely intelligible to one of his habits. As
the brigantine glided past, he saw her low channels bending towards the
water, and, with a powerful effort, he leaped into them, shouting a sort
of war-cry, in Dutch. At the next instant, he threw his large frame over
the bulwarks, and disappeared on the deck of the smuggler.

When Ludlow had caused his boats to assemble on the spot which the chase
had so lately occupied, he saw that the fruitless expedition had been
attended by no other casualty than the involuntary abduction of the
Patroon of Kinderhook.




Chapter XXII.



    "What country, friends, is this?"
          "--Illyria, lady."

    What You Will.


Men are as much indebted to a fortuitous concurrence of circumstances, for
the characters they sustain in this world, as to their personal qualities.
The same truth is applicable to the reputations of ships. The properties
of a vessel, like those of an individual, may have their influence on her
good or evil fortune; still, something is due to the accidents of life, in
both. Although the breeze, which came so opportunely to the aid of the
Water-Witch, soon filled the sails of the Coquette, it caused no change in
the opinions of her crew concerning the fortunes of that ship; while it
served to heighten the reputation which the 'Skimmer of the Seas' had
already obtained, as a mariner who was more than favored by happy chances,
in the thousand emergencies of his hazardous profession. Trysail, himself,
shook his head, in a manner that expressed volumes, when Ludlow vented his
humor on what the young man termed the luck of the smuggler; and the crews
of the boats gazed after the retiring brigantine, as the inhabitants of
Japan would now most probably regard the passage of some vessel propelled
by steam. As Mr. Luff was not neglectful of his duty, it was not long
before the Coquette approached her boats. The delay occasioned by hoisting
in the latter, enabled the chase to increase the space between the two
vessels, to such a distance, as to place her altogether beyond the reach
of shot. Ludlow, however, gave his orders to pursue, the moment the ship
was ready; and he hastened to conceal his disappointment in his own cabin.

"Luck is a merchant's surplus, while a living profit is the reward of his
wits!" observed Alderman Van Beverout, who could scarce conceal the
satisfaction he felt, at the unexpected and repeated escapes of the
brigantine. "Many a man gains doubloons, when he only looked for dollars;
and many a market falls, while the goods are in the course of clearance.
There are Frenchmen enough, Captain Ludlow to keep a brave officer in
good-humor; and the less reason to fret about a trifling mischance in
overhauling a smuggler."

"I know not how highly you may prize your niece, Mr. Van Beverout; but
were I the uncle of such a woman, the idea that she had become the
infatuated victim of the arts of yon reckless villain, would madden me!"

"Paroxysms and straight-jackets! Happily you are not her uncle, Captain
Ludlow, and therefore the less reason to be uneasy. The girl has a French
fancy, and she is rummaging the smuggler's silks and laces; when her
choice is made, we shall have her back again, more beautiful than ever,
for a little finery."

"Choice! Oh, Alida, Alida! this is not the election that we had reason to
expect from thy cultivated mind and proud sentiments!"

"The cultivation is my work, and the pride is an inheritance from old
Etienne de Barberie;" dryly rejoined Myndert. "But complaints never
lowered a market, nor raised the funds. Let us send for the Patroon, and
take counsel coolly, as to the easiest manner of finding our way back to
the Lust in Rust, before Her Majesty's ship gets too far from the coast of
America."

"Thy pleasantry is unseasonable, Sir. Your Patroon is gone with your
niece, and a pleasant passage they are likely to enjoy, in such company!
We lost him, in the expedition with our boats."

The Alderman stood aghast.

"Lost!--Oloff Van Staats lost, in the expedition of the boats! Evil
betide the day when that discreet and affluent youth should be lost to the
colony! Sir, you know not what you utter when you hazard so rash an
opinion. The death of the young Patroon of Kinderhook would render one of
the best and most substantial of our families extinct, and leave the third
best estate in the Province without a direct heir!"

"The calamity is not so overwhelming;" returned the captain, with
bitterness. "The gentleman has boarded the smuggler, and gone with la
belle Barberie to examine his silks and laces!"

Ludlow then explained the manner in which the Patroon had disappeared.
When perfectly assured that no bodily harm had befallen his friend, the
satisfaction of the Alderman was quite as vivid, as his consternation had
been apparent but the moment before.

"Gone with la belle Barberie, to examine silks and laces!" he repeated,
rubbing his hands together, in delight. "Ay, there the blood of my old
friend, Stephanus, begins to show itself! Your true Hollander is no
mercurial Frenchman, to beat his head and make grimaces at a shift in the
wind, or a woman's frown; nor a blustering Englishman (you are of the
colony yourself, young gentleman) to swear a big oath and swagger; but, as
you see, a quiet, persevering, and, in the main, an active son of old
Batavia, who watches his opportunity, and goes into the very presence
of----"

"Whom?"--demanded Ludlow, perceiving that the Alderman had paused.

"Of his enemy; seeing that all the enemies of the Queen are necessarily
the enemies of every loyal subject. Bravo, young Oloff! thou art a lad
after my own heart, and no doubt--no doubt--fortune will favor the brave!
Had a Hollander a proper footing on this earth, Captain Cornelius Ludlow,
we should hear a different tale concerning the right to the Narrow Seas,
and indeed to most other questions of commerce."

Ludlow arose with a bitter smile on his face, though with no ill feeling
towards the man whose exultation was so natural.

"Mr. Van Staats may have reason to congratulate himself on his good
fortune," he said, "though I much mistake if even his enterprise will
succeed, against the wiles of one so artful, and of an appearance so gay,
as the man whose guest he has now become. Let the caprice of others be
what it may, Alderman Van Beverout, my duty must be done. The smuggler,
aided by chance and artifice, has thrice escaped me; the fourth time, it
may be our fortune. If this ship possesses the power to destroy the
lawless rover, let him look to his fate!"

With this menace on his lips, Ludlow quitted the cabin, to resume his
station on the deck, and to renew his unwearied watching of the movements
of the chase.

The change in the wind was altogether in favor of the brigantine. It
brought her to windward, and was the means of placing the two vessels in
positions that enabled the Water-Witch to profit the most by her peculiar
construction. Consequently, when Ludlow reached his post, he saw that the
swift and light craft had trimmed every thing close upon the wind, and
that she was already so far ahead, as to render the chances of bringing
her again within range of his guns almost desperate; unless, indeed, some
of the many vicissitudes, so common on the ocean, should interfere in his
behalf. There remained little else to be done, therefore, but to crowd
every sail on the Coquette that the ship would bear, and to endeavor to
keep within sight of the chase, during the hours of darkness which must so
shortly succeed. But before the sun had fallen to the level of the water,
the hull of the Water-Witch had disappeared; and when the day closed, no
part of her airy outline was visible, but that which was known to belong
to her upper and lighter spars. In a few minutes afterwards, darkness
covered the ocean; and the seamen of the royal cruiser were left to pursue
their object, at random.

How far the Coquette had run during the night does not appear, but when
her commander made his appearance on the following morning, his long and
anxious gaze met no other reward than a naked horizon. On every side, the
sea presented the same waste of water. No object was visible, but the
sea-fowl wheeling on his wide wing, and the summits of the irregular and
green billows. Throughout that and many succeeding days, the cruiser
continued to plow the ocean, sometimes running large, with every thing
opened to the breeze that the wide booms would spread, and, at others,
pitching and laboring with adverse winds, as if bent on prevailing over
the obstacles which even nature presented to her progress. The head of the
worthy Alderman had got completely turned; and though he patiently awaited
the result, before the week was ended, he knew not even the direction in
which the ship was steering. At length he had reason to believe that the
end of their cruise approached. The efforts of the seamen were observed to
relax, and the ship was permitted to pursue her course, under easier sail.

It was past meridian, on one of those days of moderate exertion, that
Francois was seen stealing from below, and staggering from gun to gun, to
a place in the centre of the ship, where he habitually took the air, in
good weather, and where he might dispose of his person, equally without
presuming too far on the good-nature of his superiors, and without
courting too much intimacy with the coarser herd who composed the common
crew.

"Ah!" exclaimed the valet, addressing his remark to the midshipman who has
already been mentioned by the name of Hopper--"Voila la terre! Quel
bonheur! I shall be so happy--le batiment be trop agreable, mais vous
savez, Monsieur Aspirant; que je ne suis point marin--What be le nom du
pays?"

"They call it, France," returned the boy, who understood enough of the
other's language to comprehend his meaning; "and a very good country it
is--for those that like it."

"Ma foi, non!"--exclaimed Francois, recoiling a pace, between amazement
and delight.

"Call it Holland, then, if you prefer that country most."

"Dites-moi, Monsieur Hoppair," continued the valet, laying a trembling
finger on the arm of the remorseless young rogue; "est-ce la France?"

"One would think a man of your observation could tell that for himself. Do
you not see the church-tower, with a chateau in the back-ground, and a
village built in a heap, by its side. Now look into yon wood! There is a
walk, straight as a ship's wake in smooth water, and one--two--three--ay,
eleven statues, with just one nose among them all!"

"Ma foi--dere is not no wood, and no chateau and no village, and no
statue, and no no nose,--mais Monsieur, je suis age--est-ce la France?"

"Oh, you miss nothing by having an indifferent sight, for I shall explain
it all, as we go along. You see yonder hill-side, looking like a
pattern-card, of green and yellow stripes, or a signal-book, with the
flags of all nations, placed side by side--well, that is--les champs; and
this beautiful wood, with all the branches trimmed till it looks like so
many raw marines at drill, is--la foret----"

The credulity of the warm-hearted valet could swallow no more; but,
assuming a look of commiseration and dignity, he drew back, and left the
young tyro of the sea to enjoy his joke with a companion who just then
joined him.

In the meantime, the Coquette continued to advance. The chateau, and
churches, and villages, of the midshipman, soon changed into a low sandy
beach, with a back-ground of stunted pines, relieved here and there, by an
opening, in which appeared the comfortable habitation and numerous
out-buildings of some substantial yeoman, or occasionally embellished by
the residence of a country proprietor. Towards noon, the crest of a hill
rose from the sea: and, just as the sun set behind the barrier of
mountain, the ship passed the sandy cape, and anchored at the spot that
she had quitted when first joined by her commander after his visit to the
brigantine. The vessel was soon moored, the light yards were struck, and a
boat was lowered into the water. Ludlow and the Alderman then descended
the side, and proceeded towards the mouth of the Shrewsbury. Although it
was nearly dark before they had reached the shore, there remained light
enough to enable the former to discover an object of unusual appearance
floating in the bay, and at no great distance from the direction of his
barge. He was led by curiosity to steer for it.

"Cruisers and Water-Witches!" muttered Myndert, when they were near enough
to perceive the nature of the floating object. "That brazen hussy haunts
us, as if we had robbed her of gold! Let us set foot on land, and nothing
short of a deputation from the City Council shall ever tempt me to wander
from my own abode, again!"

Ludlow shifted the helm of the boat, and resumed his course towards the
river. He required no explanation, to tell him more of the nature of the
artifice, by which he had been duped. The nicely-balanced tub, the
upright spar, and the extinguished lantern, with the features of the
female of the malign smile traced on its horn faces, reminded him, at
once, of the false light by which the Coquette had been lured from her
course, on the night she sailed in pursuit of the brigantine.




Chapter XXIII.



    "--His daughter, and the heir of his kingdom,
                --hath referred herself
    Unto a poor but worthy gentleman:--"

    Cymbeline.


When Alderman Van Beverout and Ludlow drew near to the Lust in Rust, it
was already dark. Night had overtaken them, at some distance from the
place of landing; and the mountain already threw its shadow across the
river, the narrow strip of land that separated it from the sea, and far
upon the ocean itself. Neither had an opportunity of making his
observations on the condition of things in and about the villa, until they
had ascended nearly to its level, and had even entered the narrow but
fragrant lawn in its front. Just before they arrived at the gate which
opened on the latter, the Alderman paused, and addressed his companion,
with more of the manner of their ancient confidence, than he had
manifested during the few preceding days of their intercourse.

"You must have observed, that the events of this little excursion on the
water, have been rather of a domestic than of a public character;" he
said. "Thy father was a very ancient and much-esteemed friend of mine, and
I am far from certain that there is not some affinity between us, in the
way of intermarriages. Thy worthy mother, who is a thrifty woman, and a
small talker, had some of the blood of my own stock. It would grieve me to
see the good understanding, which these recollections have created, in any
manner interrupted. I admit, Sir, that revenue is to the state what the
soul is to the body--the moving and governing principle; and that, as the
last would be a tenantless house without its inhabitants, so the first
would be an exacting and troublesome master without its proper products.
But there is no need of pushing a principle to extremities! If this
brigantine be, as you appear to suspect, and indeed as we have some reason
from various causes to infer, the vessel called the Water-Witch she might
have been a legal prize had she fallen into your power; bait now that she
has escaped, I cannot say what may be your intentions; but were thy
excellent father, the worthy member of the King's Council, living, so
discreet a man would think much before he opened his lips, to say more
than is discreet, on this or any other subject."

"Whatever course I may believe my duty dictates, you may safely rely on my
discretion concerning the--the remarkable--the very decided step which
your niece has seen proper to take;" returned the young man, who did not
make this allusion to Alida without betraying, by the tremor of his voice,
how great was her influence still over him. "I see no necessity of
violating the domestic feelings to which you allude, by aiding to feed the
ears of the idly curious, with the narrative of her errors."

Ludlow stopped suddenly, leaving the uncle to infer what he would wish to
add.

"This is generous, and manly, and like a loyal--lover, Captain Ludlow,"
returned the Alderman; "though it is not exactly what I intended to
suggest. We will not, however, multiply words in the night air--ha! when
the cat is asleep, the mice are seen to play! Those night-riding,
horse-racing blacks have taken possession of Alida's pavilion; and we may
be thankful the poor girl's rooms are not as large as Harlaem Common, or
we should hear the feet of some hard-driven beast galloping about in
them."

The Alderman, in his turn, cut short his speech, and started as if one of
the spukes of the colony had suddenly presented itself to his eyes. His
language had drawn the look of his companion towards la Cour des Fees; and
Ludlow had, at the same moment as the uncle, caught an unequivocal view of
la belle Barberie, as she moved before the open window of her apartment.
The latter was about to rush forward, but the hand of Myndert arrested the
impetuous movement.

"Here is more matter for our wits, than our legs;" observed the cool and
prudent burgher. "That was the form of my ward and niece, or the daughter
of old Etienne Barberie has a double.--Francis! didst thou not see the
image of a woman at the window of the pavilion, or are we deceived by our
wishes? I have sometimes been deluded in an unaccountable manner, Captain
Ludlow, when my mind has been thoroughly set on the bargain, in the
quality of the goods; for the most liberal of us all are subject to mental
weakness of this nature, when hope is alive!"

"Certainement, oui!" exclaimed the eager valet "Quel malheur to be oblige
to go on la mer, when Mam'selle Alide nevair quit la maison! J'etais sur,
que nous nous trompions, car jamais la famille de Barberie love to be
marins!"

"Enough, good Francis; the family of Barberie is as earthy as a fox. Go
and notify the idle rogues in my kitchen, that their master is at hand;
and remember, that there is no necessity for speaking of all the wonders
we have seen on the great deep. Captain Ludlow, we will now join my
dutiful niece, with as little fracas as possible."

Ludlow eagerly accepted the invitation, and instantly followed the
dogmatical and seemingly unmoved Alderman towards the dwelling. As the
lawn was crossed, they involuntarily paused, a moment, to look in at the
open windows of the pavilion.

La belle Barberie had ornamented la Cour des Fees, with a portion of that
national taste, which she inherited from her father. The heavy
magnificence that distinguished the reign of Louis XIV. had scarcely
descended to one of the middling rank of Monsieur de Barberie, who had
consequently brought with him to the place of his exile, merely those
tasteful usages which appear almost exclusively the property of the people
from whom he had sprung, without the encumbrance and cost of the more
pretending fashions of the period. These usages had become blended with
the more domestic and comfortable habits of English, or what is nearly the
same thing, of American life--an union which, when it is found, perhaps
produces the most just and happy medium of the useful and the agreeable.
Alida was seated by a small table of mahogany, deeply absorbed in the
contents of a little volume that lay before her. By her side stood a
tea-service, the cups and the vessels of which were of the diminutive size
then used, though exquisitely wrought, and of the most beautiful material.
Her dress was a negligee suited to her years; and her whole figure
breathed that air of comfort, mingled with grace, which seems to be the
proper quality of the sex, and which renders the privacy of an elegant
woman so attractive and peculiar. Her mind was intent on the book, and the
little silver urn hissed at her elbow, apparently unheeded.

"This is the picture I have loved to draw," half-whispered Ludlow, "when
gales and storms have kept me on the deck, throughout many a dreary and
tempestuous night! When body and mind have been impatient of fatigue, this
is the repose I have most coveted, and for which I have even dared to
hope!"

"The China trade will come to something, in time and you are an excellent
judge of comfort, Master Ludlow;" returned the Alderman. "That girl now
has a warm glow on her cheek, which would seem to swear she never faced a
breeze in her life; and it is not easy to fancy, that one who looks so
comfortable has lately been frolicking among the dolphins.--Let us enter."

Alderman Van Beverout was not accustomed to use much ceremony in his
visits to his niece. Without appearing to think any announcement
necessary, therefore, the dogmatical burgher coolly opened a door, and
ushered his companion into the pavilion.

If the meeting between la belle Alida and her guests was distinguished by
the affected indifference of the latter, their seeming ease was quite
equalled by that of the lady. She laid aside her book, with a calmness
that might have been expected had they parted but an hour before, and
which sufficiently assured both Ludlow and her uncle that their return was
known and their presence expected. She simply arose at their entrance, and
with a smile that betokened breeding, rather than feeling, she requested
them to be seated. The composure of his niece had the effect to throw the
Alderman into a brown study, while the young sailor scarcely knew which to
admire the most, the exceeding loveliness of a woman who was always so
beautiful, or her admirable self-possession in a scene that most others
would have found sufficiently embarrassing. Alida, herself, appeared to
feel no necessity for any explanation; for, when her guests were seated,
she took occasion to say, while busied in pouring out the tea--

"You find me prepared to offer the refreshment of a cup of delicious
bohea. I think, my uncle calls it the tea of the Caernarvon Castle."

"A lucky ship, both in her passages and her wares! Yes, it is the article
you name; and I can recommend it to all who wish to purchase. But niece of
mine, will you condescend to acquaint this commander in Her Majesty's
service, and a poor Alderman of her good city of New-York, how long you
may have been expecting our company?"

Alida felt at her girdle, and, drawing out a small and richly-ornamented
watch, she coolly examined its hands, as if to learn the hour.

"We are nine. I think it was past the turn of the day, when Dinah first
mentioned that this pleasure might be expected. But, I should also tell
you, that packages which seem to contain letters have arrived from town."

This was giving a new and sudden direction to the thoughts of the
Alderman. He had refrained from entering on those explanations which the
circumstances seemed to require, because he well knew that he stood on
dangerous ground, and that more might be said than he wished his companion
to hear, no less than from amazement at the composure of his ward. He was
not sorry, therefore, to have an excuse to delay his inquiries, that
appeared so much in character as that of reading the communications of his
business correspondents. Swallowing the contents of the tiny cup he held,
at a gulp, the eager merchant seized the packet that Alida now offered;
and, muttering a few words of apology to Ludlow, he left the pavilion.

Until now, the commander of the Coquette had not spoken. Wonder, mingled
with indignation, sealed his mouth, though he had endeavored to penetrate
the veil which Alida had drawn around her conduct and motives, by a
diligent use of his eyes. During the first few moments of the interview,
he thought that he could detect, in the midst of her studied calmness, a
melancholy smile struggling around her beautiful mouth; but only once had
their looks met, as she turned her full, rich, and dark eyes furtively on
his face, as if she were curious to know the effect produced by her manner
on the mind of the young sailor.

"Have the enemies of the Queen reason to regret the cruise of the
Coquette?" said la Belle, hurriedly, when she found her glance detected;
"or have they dreaded to encounter a prowess that has already proved their
inferiority?"

"Fear, or prudence, or perhaps I might say conscience, has made them
wary;" returned Ludlow, pointedly emphasizing the latter word. "We have
run from the Hook to the edge of the Grand Bank, and returned without
success."

"'Tis unlucky. But, though the French escaped, have none of the lawless
met with punishment? There is a rumor among the slaves, that the
brigantine which visited us is an object of suspicion to the Government?"

"Suspicion!--But I may apply to la belle Barberie, to know whether the
character her commander has obtained be merited?"

Alida smiled, and, her admirer thought, sweetly as ever.

"It would be a sign of extraordinary complaisance, were Captain Ludlow to
apply to the girls of the colony for instruction in his duty! We may be
secret encouragers of the contraband, but surely we are not to be
suspected of any greater familiarity with their movements. These hints may
compel me to abandon the pleasures of the Lust in Rust, and to seek air
and health in some less exposed situation. Happily the banks of the Hudson
offer many, that one need be fastidious indeed to reject."

"Among which you count the Manor House of Kinderhook?"

Again Alida smiled, and Ludlow thought it was triumphantly.

"The dwelling of Oloff Van Staats is said to be commodious, and not badly
placed. I have seen it,------"

"In your images of the future?" said the young man, observing she
hesitated.

Alida laughed downright. But, immediately recovering her self-command, she
replied--

"Not so fancifully. My knowledge of the beauties of the house of Mr. Van
Staats, is confined to very unpoetical glimpses from the river, in passing
and repassing. The chimneys are twisted in the most approved style of the
Dutch Brabant, and, although wanting the stork's nests on their summits,
it seems as if there might be that woman's tempter, comfort, around the
hearths beneath. The offices, too, have an enticing air, for a thrifty
housewife!"

"Which office, in compliment to the worthy Patroon, you intend shall not
long be vacant?"

Alida was playing with a spoon, curiously wrought to represent the stem
and leaves of a tea-plant. She started, dropped the implement, and raised
her eyes to the face of her companion. The look was steady, and not
without an interest in the evident concern betrayed by the young man.

"It will never be filled by me, Ludlow;" was the answer, uttered solemnly,
and with a decision that denoted a resolution fixed.

"That declaration removes a mountain!--Oh! Alida, if you could as
easily------"

"Hush!" whispered the other, rising and standing for a moment in an
attitude of intense expectation. Her eye became brighter, and the bloom on
her cheek even deeper than before, while pleasure and hope were both
strongly depicted on her beautiful face--"Hush!" she continued, motioning
to Ludlow to repress his feelings. "Did you hear nothing?"

The disappointed and yet admiring young man was silent, though he watched
her singularly interesting air, and lovely features, with all the
intenseness that seemed to characterize her own deportment. As no sound
followed that which Alida had heard or fancied she had heard, she resumed
her seat, and appeared to lend her attention once more to her companion.

"You were speaking of mountains?" she said, scarce knowing what she
uttered. "The passage between the bays of Newburgh and Tappan, has scarce
a rival, as I have heard from travelled men."

"I was indeed speaking of a mountain, but it was of one that weighs me to
the earth. Your inexplicable conduct and cruel indifference have heaped it
on my feelings, Alida. You have said that there is no hope for Oloff Van
Staats; and one syllable, spoken with your native ingenuousness and
sincerity, has had the effect to blow all my apprehensions from that
quarter to the winds. There remains only to account for your absence, to
resume the whole of your power over one who is but too readily disposed to
confide in all you say or do."

La belle Barberie seemed touched. Her glance at the young sailor was
kinder, and her voice wanted some of its ordinary steadiness, in the
reply.

"That power has then been weakened?"

"You will despise me, if I say no;--you will distrust me, if I say yes."

"Then silence seems the course best adapted to maintain our present
amity.--Surely I heard a blow struck, lightly, on the shutter of that
window?"

"Hope sometimes deceives us. This repeated belief would seem to say that
you expect a visiter?"

A distinct tap on the shutter confirmed the impression of the mistress of
the pavilion. Alida looked at her companion, and appeared embarrassed.
Her color varied, and she seemed anxious to utter something that either
her feelings or her prudence suppressed.

"Captain Ludlow, you have once before been an unexpected witness of an
interview in la Cour des Fees, that has, I fear, subjected me to
unfavorable surmises. But one manly and generous as yourself can have
indulgence for the little vanities of woman. I expect a visit, that
perhaps a Queen's officer should not countenance."

"I am no exciseman, to pry into wardrobes and secret repositories, but one
whose duty it is to act only on the high seas, and against the more open
violators of the law. If you have any without, whose presence you desire,
let them enter without dread of my office. When we meet in a more suitable
place, I shall know how to take my revenge."

His companion looked grateful, and bowed her acknowledgments. She then
made a ringing sound, by using a spoon on the interior of one of the
vessels of the tea equipage. The shrubbery, which shaded a window,
stirred; and presently, the young stranger, already so well known in the
former pages of this work, and in the scenes of the brigantine, appeared
in the low balcony. His person was scarcely seen, before a light bale of
goods was tossed past him, into the centre of the room.

"I send my certificate of character as an avant-courier;" said the gay
dealer in contraband, or Master Seadrift, as he was called by the
Alderman, touching his cap, gallantly, to the mistress of la Cour des
Fees, and then, somewhat more ceremoniously to her companion; after which
he returned the goldbound covering to its seat, on a bed of rich and
glossy curls, and sought his package. Here is one more customer than I
bargained for, and I look to more than common gain! We have met before,
Captain Ludlow."

"We have, Sir Skimmer of the Seas, and we shall meet again. Winds may
change, and fortune yet favor the right!"

"We trust to the sea-green lady's care;" returned the extraordinary
smuggler, pointing, with a species of reverence, real or affected, to the
image that was beautifully worked, in rich colors, on the velvet of his
cap. What has been will be, and the past gives a hope for the future. We
meet, here, on neutral ground, I trust."

"I am the commander of a royal cruiser, Sir:" haughtily returned the
other.

"Queen Anne may be proud of her servant!--but we neglect our affairs. A
thousand pardons, lovely mistress of la Cour des Fees. This meeting of two
rude mariners does a slight to your beauty, and little credit to the
fealty due the sex. Having done with all compliments, I have to offer
certain articles that never failed to cause the brightest eyes to grow
more brilliant, and at which duchesses have gazed with many longings."

"You speak with confidence of your associations, Master Seadrift, and rate
noble personages among your customers, as familiarly as if you dealt in
offices of state."

"This skilful servitor of the Queen will tell you, lady, that the wind
which is a gale on the Atlantic, may scarce cool the burning cheek of a
girl on the land, and that the links in life are as curiously interlocked
as the ropes of a ship. The Ephesian temple, and the Indian wigwam, rested
on the same earth."

"From which you infer that rank does not alter nature. We must admit,
Captain Ludlow, that Master Seadrift understands a woman's heart, when he
tempts her with stores of tissues gay as these!"

Ludlow had watched the speakers in silence. The manner of Alida was far
less embarrassed, than when he had before seen her in the smuggler's
company; and his blood fired, when he saw that their eyes met with a
secret and friendly intelligence. He had remained, however, with a
resolution to be calm, and to know the worst. Conquering the expression of
his feelings by a great effort, he answered with an exterior of composure,
though not without some of that bitterness in his emphasis, which he felt
at his heart.

"If Master Seadrift has this knowledge, he may value himself on his good
fortune;" was the reply.

"Much intercourse with the sex, who are my best customers, has something
helped me;" returned the cavalier dealer in contraband. "Here is a
brocade, whose fellow is worn openly in the presence of our royal
mistress, though it came from the forbidden looms of Italy; and the ladies
of the court return from patriotically dancing, in the fabrics of home, to
please the public eye, once in the year, to wear these more agreeable
inventions, all the rest of it, to please themselves. Tell me, why does
the Englishman, with his pale sun, spend thousands to force a sickly
imitation of the gifts of the tropics, but because he pines for forbidden
fruit? or why does your Paris gourmand roll a fig on his tongue, that a
Lazzarone of Naples would cast into his bay, but because he wishes to
enjoy the bounties of a low latitude, under a watery sky? I have seen an
individual feast on the eau sucre of an European pine, that cost a guinea,
while his palate would have refused the same fruit, with its delicious
compound of acid and sweet, mellowed to ripeness under a burning sun,
merely because he could have it for nothing. This is the secret of our
patronage; and as the sex are most liable to its influence, we owe them
most gratitude."

"You have travelled, Master Seadrift," returned la Belle smiling, while
she tossed the rich contents of the bale on the carpet, "and treat of
usages as familiarly as you speak of dignities."

"The lady of the sea-green mantle does not permit an idle servant. We
follow the direction of her guiding hand; sometimes it points our course
among the isles of the Adriatic, and at others on your stormy American
coasts. There is little of Europe between Gibraltar and the Cattegat, that
I have not visited."

"But Italy has been the favorite, if one may judge by the number of her
fabrics that you produce."

"Italy, France, and Flanders, divide my custom; though you are right, in
believing the former most in favor. Many years of early life did I pass on
the noble coasts of that romantic region. One who protected and guided my
infancy and youth, even left me for a time, under instruction, on the
little plain of Sorrento."

"And where can this plain be found?--for the residence of so famous a
rover may, one day, become the theme of song, and is likely to occupy the
leisure of the curious."

"The grace of the speaker may well excuse the irony! Sorrento is a village
on the southern shore of the renowned Naples bay. Fire has wrought many
changes in that soft but wild country, and if, as religionists believe,
the fountains of the great deep were ever broken up, and the earth's crust
disturbed, to permit its secret springs to issue on the surface, this may
have been one of the spots chosen by him whose touch leaves marks that are
indelible, in which to show his power. The bed of the earth, itself, in
all that region, appears to have been but the vomitings of volcanoes; and
the Sorrentine passes his peaceable life in the bed of an extinguished
crater. 'Tis curious to see in what manner the men of the middle ages have
built their town, on the margin of the sea, where the element has
swallowed one-half the ragged basin, and how they have taken the yawning
crevices of the tufo, for ditches to protect their walls! I have visited
many lands, and seen nature in nearly every clime; but no spot has yet
presented, in a single view, so pleasant a combination of natural objects,
mingled with mighty recollections, as that lovely abode on the Sorrentine
cliffs!"

"Recount me these pleasures, that in memory seem so agreeable, while I
examine further into the contents of the bale."

The gay young free-trader paused, and seemed lost in images of the past.
Then, with a melancholy smile, he soon continued. "Though many years are
gone," he said, "I can recall the beauties of that scene, as vividly as if
they still stood before the eye. Our abode was on the verge of the cliffs.
In front lay the deep-blue water, and on its further shore was a line of
objects such as accident or design rarely assembles in one view. Fancy
thyself, lady, at my side, and follow the curvature of the northern shore,
as I trace the outline of that glorious scene! That high, mountainous, and
ragged island, on the extreme left, is modern Ischia. Its origin is
unknown, though piles of lava lie along its coast, which seems fresh as
that thrown from the mountain yesterday. The long, low bit of land,
insulated like its neighbor, is called Procida, a scion of ancient Greece.
Its people still preserve, in dress and speech, marks of their origin. The
narrow strait conducts you to a high and naked bluff! That is the Misenum,
of old. Here Eneas came to land, and Rome held her fleets, and thence
Pliny took the water, to get a nearer view of the labors of the volcano,
after its awakening from centuries of sleep. In the hollow of the ridge,
between that naked bluff and the next swell of the mountain, lie the
fabulous Styx, the Elysian fields, and the place of the dead, as fixed by
the Mantuan. More on the height and nearer to the sea, lie, buried in the
earth, the vast vaults of the Piscina Mirabile--and the gloomy caverns of
the Hundred Chambers; places that equally denote the luxury and the
despotism of Rome. Nearer to the vast pile of castle, that is visible so
many leagues, is the graceful and winding Baiaen harbor; and against the
side of its sheltering hills, once lay the city of villas. To that
sheltered hill, emperors, consuls, poets, and warriors, crowded from the
capital, in quest of repose, and to breathe the pure air of a spot in
which pestilence has since made its abode. The earth is still covered with
the remains of their magnificence, and ruins of temples and baths are
scattered freely among the olives and fig-trees of the peasant. A fainter
bluff limits the north-eastern boundary of the little bay. On it, once,
stood the dwellings of emperors. There Caesar sought retirement, and the
warm springs on its side are yet called the baths of the bloody Nero. That
small conical hill, which, as you see, possesses a greener and fresher
look than the adjoining land, is a cone ejected by the caldron beneath,
but two brief centuries since. It occupies, in part, the site of the
ancient Lucrine lake. All that remains of that famous receptacle of the
epicure, is the small and shallow sheet at its base, which is separated
from the sea by a mere thread of sand. More in the rear, and surrounded by
dreary hills, lie the waters of Avernus. On their banks still stand the
ruins of a temple, in which rites were celebrated to the infernal deities.
The grotto of the Sybil pierces that ridge on the left, and the Cumaean
passage is nearly in its rear. The town, which is seen a mile to the
right, is Pozzuoli--a port of the ancients, and a spot now visited for its
temples of Jupiter and Neptune, its mouldering amphitheatre, and its
half-buried tombs. Here Caligula attempted his ambitious bridge; and while
crossing thence to Baiae, the vile Nero had the life of his own mother
assailed. It was there, too, that holy Paul came to land, when journeying
a prisoner to Rome. The small but high island, nearly in its front, is
Nisida, the place to which Marcus Brutus retired after the deed at the
foot of Pompey's statue, where he possessed a villa, and whence he and
Cassius sailed to meet the shade and the vengeance of the murdered Caesar,
at Philippi. Then comes a crowd of sites more known in the middle ages;
though just below that mountain, in the back-ground, is the famous
subterranean road of which Strabo and Seneca are said to speak, and
through which the peasant still daily drives his ass to the markets of the
modern city. At its entrance is the reputed tomb of Virgil, and then
commences an amphitheatre of white and terraced dwellings. This is noisy
Napoli itself, crowned with its rocky castle of St. Elmo! The vast plain,
to the right, is that which held the enervating Capua and so many other
cities on its bosom. To this succeeds the insulated mountain of the
volcano, with its summit torn in triple tops. 'Tis said that villas and
villages, towns and cities, lie buried beneath the vineyards and palaces
which crowd its base. The ancient and unhappy city of Pompeii stood on
that luckless plain, which, following the shores of the bay, comes next;
and then we take up the line of the mountain promontory, which forms the
Sorrentine side of the water!"

"One who has had such schooling, should know better how to turn it to a
good account;" said Ludlow, sternly, when the excited smuggler ceased to
speak.

"In other lands, men derive their learning from books; in Italy, children
acquire knowledge by the study of visible things:" was the undisturbed
answer

"Some from this country are fond of believing that our own bay, these
summer skies, and the climate in general, should have a strict resemblance
to those of a region which lies precisely in our own latitude;" observed
Alida, so hastily, as to betray a desire to preserve the peace between her
guests.

"That your Manhattan and Raritan waters are broad and pleasant, none can
deny, and that lovely beings dwell on their banks, lady," returned
Seadrift, gallantly lifting his cap, "my own senses have witnessed. But
'twere wiser to select some other point of your excellence, for
comparison, than a competition with the glorious waters, the fantastic and
mountain isles, and the sunny hill-sides of modern Napoli! 'Tis certain
the latitude is even in your favor, and that a beneficent sun does not
fail of its office in one region more than in the other. But the forests
of America are still too pregnant of vapors and exhalations, not to impair
the purity of the native air. If I have seen much of the Mediterranean,
neither am I a stranger to these coasts. While there are so many points of
resemblance in their climates, there are also many and marked causes of
difference."

"Teach us, then, what forms these distinctions, that, in speaking of our
bay and skies, we may not be led into error."

"You do me honor, lady; I am of no great schooling, and of humble powers
of speech. Still, the little that observation may have taught me, shall
not be churlishly withheld. Your Italian atmosphere, taking the humidity
of the seas, is sometimes hazy. Still water in large bodies, other than in
the two seas, is little known in those distant countries. Few objects in
nature are drier than an Italian river, during those months when the sun
has most influence. The effect is visible in the air, which is in general
elastic, dry, and obedient to the general laws of the climate. There
floats less exhalation, in the form of fine and nearly invisible vapor,
than in these wooded regions. At least, so he of whom I spoke, as one who
guided my youth, was wont to say."

"You hesitate to tell us of our skies, our evening light, and of our
bay?"

"It shall be said, and said sincerely--Of the bays, each seems to have
been appropriated to that for which nature most intended it.--The one is
poetic, indolent, and full of graceful but glorious beauty; more pregnant
of enjoyment than of usefulness. The other will, one day, be the mart of
the world!"

"You still shrink from pronouncing on their beauty;" said Alida,
disappointed, in spite of an affected indifference to the subject.

"It is ever the common fault of old communities to overvalue themselves,
and to undervalue new actors in the great drama of nations, as men long
successful disregard the efforts of new aspirants for favor;" said
Seadrift, while he looked with amazement at the pettish eye of the
frowning beauty. "In this instance, however, Europe has not so greatly
erred. They who see much resemblance between the bay of Naples and this of
Manhattan, have fertile brains; since it rests altogether on the
circumstance that there is much water in both, and a passage between an
island and the main-land, in one, to resemble a passage between two
islands in the other. This is an estuary, that a gulf; and while the
former has the green and turbid water of a shelving shore and of tributary
rivers, the latter has the blue and limpid element of a deep sea. In these
distinctions, I take no account of ragged and rocky mountains, with the
indescribable play of golden and rosy light upon their broken surfaces,
nor of a coast that teems with the recollections of three thousand years!"

"I fear to question more. But surely our skies may be mentioned, even by
the side of those you vaunt?"

"Of the skies, truly, you have more reason to be confident. I remember
that standing on the Capo di Monte, which overlooks the little,
picturesque, and crowded beach of the Marina Grande, and Sorrento, a spot
that teems with all that is poetic in the fisher man's life, he of whom I
have spoken, once pointed to the transparent vault above, and said, 'There
is the moon of America!' The colors of the rocket were not more vivid than
the stars that night, for a Tramontana had swept every impurity from the
air, far upon the neighboring sea. But nights like that are rare, indeed,
in any clime! The inhabitants of low latitudes enjoy them occasionally;
those of higher never."

"And then our flattering belief, that these western sunsets rival those of
Italy, is delusion?"

"Not so, lady. They rival, without resembling. The color of the etui, on
which so fair a hand is resting, is not softer than the hues one sees in
the heavens of Italy. But if your evening sky wants the pearly light, the
rosy clouds, and the soft tints which, at that hour, melt into each other,
across the entire vault of Napoli, it far excels in the vividness of the
glow, in the depth of the transitions, and in the richness of colors.
Those are only more delicate, while these are more gorgeous! When there
shall be less exhalation from your forests, the same causes may produce
the same effects. Until then, America must be content to pride herself on
an exhibition of nature's beauty, in a new, though scarcely in a less
pleasing, form."

"Then they who come among us from Europe, are but half right, when they
deride the pretensions of our bay and heavens?"

"Which is much nearer the truth than they are wont to be, on the subject
of this continent. Speak of the many rivers, the double outlet, the
numberless basins, and the unequalled facilities of your Manhattan harbor;
for in time, they will come to render all the beauties of the unrivalled
bay of Naples vain: but tempt not the stranger to push the comparison
beyond. Be grateful for your skies, lady, for few live under fairer or
more beneficent--But I tire you with these opinions, when here are colors
that have more charms for a young and lively imagination, than even the
tints of nature!"

La belle Barberie smiled on the dealer in contraband, with an interest
that sickened Ludlow; and she was about to reply, in better humor, when
the voice of her uncle announced his near approach.




Chapter XXIV.



   "There shall be, in England, seven half-penny loaves sold for a penny.
   The three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony,
   to drink small beer."--Jack Cade.


Had Alderman Van Beverout been a party in the preceding dialogue, he could
not have uttered words more apposite, than the exclamation with which he
first saluted the ears of those in the pavilion.

"Gales and climates!" exclaimed the merchant, entering with an open letter
in his hand. "Here are advices received, by way of Curacoa, and the coast
of Africa, that the good ship Musk-Rat met with foul winds off the Azores,
which lengthened her passage home to seventeen weeks--this is too much
precious time wasted between markets, Captain Cornelius Ludlow, and 'twill
do discredit to the good character of the ship, which has hitherto always
maintained a sound reputation, never needing more than the regular seven
months to make the voyage home and out again. If our vessels fall into
this lazy train, we shall never get a skin to Bristol, till it is past
use. What have we here, niece? Merchandise! and of a suspicious
fabric!--who has the invoice of these goods, and in what vessel were they
shipped?"

"These are questions that may be better answered by their owner;" returned
la Belle, pointing gravely, and not without tremor in her voice, towards
the dealer in contraband, who, at the approach of the Alderman, had shrunk
back as far as possible from view.

Myndert cast an uneasy glance at the unmoved countenance of the commander
of the royal cruiser, after having bestowed a brief but understanding look
at the contents of the bale. "Captain Ludlow, the chaser is chased!" he
said. "After sailing about the Atlantic, for a week or more, like a Jew
broker's clerk running up and down the Boom Key at Rotterdam, to get off a
consignment of damaged tea, we are fairly caught ourselves! To what fall
in prices, or change in the sentiments of the Board of Trade, am I
indebted for the honor of this visit, Master a--a--a--gay dealer in green
ladies and bright tissues?"

The confident and gallant manner of the free-trader had vanished. In its
place, there appeared a hesitating and embarrassed air, that the
individual was not wont to exhibit, blended with some apparent indecision,
on the subject of his reply.

"It is the business of those who hazard much, in order to minister to the
wants of life," he said, after a pause that was sufficiently expressive of
the entire change in his demeanor, "to seek customers where there is a
reputation for liberality. I hope my boldness will be overlooked, on
account of its motive, and that you will aid the lady in judging of the
value of my articles, and of their reasonableness as to price, with your
own superior experience."

Myndert was quite as much astonished, by this language, and the subdued
manner of the smuggler, as Ludlow himself. When he expected the heaviest
demand on his address, in order to check the usual forward and reckless
familiarity of Seadrift, in order that his connexion with the 'Skimmer of
the Seas' might be as much as possible involved in ambiguity, to his own
amazement, he found his purpose more than aided by the sudden and
extraordinary respect with which he was treated. Emboldened, and perhaps a
little elevated in his own esteem, by this unexpected deference, which the
worthy Alderman, shrewd as he was in common, did not fail, like other men,
to impute to some inherent quality of his own, he answered with a greater
depth of voice, and a more protecting air, than he might otherwise have
deemed it prudent to assume to one who had so frequently given him proofs
of his own fearless manner of viewing things.

"This is being more eager as a trader, than prudent as one who should know
the value of credit;" he said, making, at the same time, a lofty gesture
to betoken indulgence for so venial an error. "We must overlook the
mistake, Captain Ludlow; since, as the young man truly observes in his
defence, gain acquired in honest traffic is a commendable and wholesome
pursuit. One who appears as if he might not be ignorant of the laws,
should know that our virtuous Queen and her wise counsellors have decided
that Mother England can produce most that a colonist can consume! Ay! and
that she can consume, too, most that the colonist can produce!"

"I pretend not to this ignorance, Sir; but, in pursuing my humble barter, I
merely follow a principle of nature, by endeavoring to provide for my own
interests. We of the contraband do but play at hazard with the
authorities. When we pass the gauntlet unharmed, we gain; and when we
lose, the servants of the crown find their profit. The stakes are equal,
and the game should not be stigmatized as unfair. Would the rulers of the
world once remove the unnecessary shackles they impose on commerce, our
calling would disappear, and the name of free-trader would then belong to
the richest and most esteemed houses."

The Alderman drew a long, low whistle. Motioning to his companions to be
seated, he placed his own compact person in a chair, crossed his legs with
an air of self-complacency, and resumed the discourse.

"These are very pretty sentiments, Master--a--a--a--, you bear a worthy
name, no doubt, my ingenious commentator on commerce?"

"They call me Seadrift, when they spare a harsher term;" returned the
other, meekly declining to be seated.

"These are pretty sentiments, Master Seadrift, and they much become a
gentleman who lives by practical comments on the revenue-laws. This is a
wise world, Captain Cornelius Ludlow, and in it there are many men whose
heads are tilled, like bales of goods, with a general assortment of
ideas.--Hornbooks and primers! Here have Van Bummel, Schoenbroeck, and Van
der Donck, just sent me a very neatly-folded pamphlet, written in good
Leyden Dutch, to prove that trade is an exchange of what the author calls
equivalents, and that nations have nothing to do but to throw open their
ports, in order to make a millennium among the merchants!"

"There are many ingenious men who entertain the same opinions;" observed
Ludlow, steady in his resolution to be merely a quiet observer of all that
passed.

"What cannot a cunning head devise, to spoil paper with! Trade is a racer,
gentlemen, and merchants the jockeys who ride. He who carries most weight
may lose; but then nature does not give all men the same dimensions, and
judges are as necessary to the struggles of the mart as to those of the
course. Go, mount your gelding, if you are lucky enough to have one that
has not been melted into a weasel by the heartless blacks, and ride out to
Harlaem Flats, on a fine October day, and witness the manner in which the
trial of speed is made. The rogues of riders cut in here, and over there;
now the whip and now the spur; and though they start fair, which is more
than can always be said of trade, some one is sure to win. When it is neck
and neck, then the neat is to be gone over, until the best bottom gains
the prize."

"Why is it then that men of deep reflection so often think that commerce
flourishes most when least encumbered?"

"Why is one man born to make laws, and another to break them?--Does not
the horse run faster with his four legs free, than when in hopples? But in
trade, Master Seadrift, and Captain Cornelius Ludlow, each of us is his
own jockey; and putting the aid of custom-house laws out of the question,
just as nature has happened to make him. Fat or lean, big bones or fine
bones, he must get to the goal as well as he can. Therefore your heavy
weights call out for sandbags and belts, to make all even. That the steed
may be crushed with his load, is no proof that his chance of winning will
not be better by bringing all the riders to the same level."

"But to quit these similies," continued Ludlow, "if trade be but an
exchange of equivalents----"

"Beggary and stoppages!" interrupted the Alder man, who was far more
dogmatical than courteous in argument. "This is the language of men who
have read all sorts of books, but legers. Here have advices from Tongue
and Twaddle, of London, which state the nett proceeds of a little
adventure, shipped by the brig Moose, that reached the river on the 16th
of April, ultimo. The history of the whole transaction can be put in a
child's muff--you are a discreet youth, Captain Cornelius; and as to you,
Master Seadrift, the affair is altogether out of your line--therefore, as
I was observing, here are the items, made out only a fortnight since, in
the shape of a memorandum;" while speaking, the Alderman had placed his
spectacles and drawn his tablets from a pocket. Adjusting himself to the
light, he continued: "Paid bill of Sand, Furnace, and Glass, for beads, L.
3. 2. 6.--Package and box, 1. 101/2--Shipping charges, and freight, 11.
4.--Insurance, averaged at, 1. 5.--Freight, charges, and commission of
agent among Mohawks, L. 10.--Do. do. do. of shipment and sale of furs, in
England, L. 7. 2 Total of costs and charges, L. 20. 18. 81/2, all in
sterling money. Note, sale of furs, to Frost and Rich, nett avails, L.
196. 11. 3.--Balance, as per contra, L. 175. 12. 51/2.--a very satisfactory
equivalent this, Master Cornelius, to appear on the books of Tongue and
Twaddle, where I stand charged with the original investment of L. 20. 19.
81/2! How much the Empress of Germany may pay the firm of Frost and Rich for
the articles, does not appear."

"Nor does it appear that more was got for your beads, in the Mohawk
country, than they were valued at there, or was paid for the skins than
they were worth where they were produced."

"Whe--w--w--w!" whistled the merchant, as he returned the tablets to his
pocket.

"One would think that thou hadst been studying the Leyden pamphleteer, son
of my old friend! If the savage thinks so little of his skins, and so much
of my beads, I shall never take, the pains to set him right; else, always
by permission of the Board of Trade, we shall see him, one day, turning
his bark canoe into a good ship, and going in quest of his own ornaments.
Enterprise and voyages! Who knows but that the rogue would see fit to stop
at London, even; in which case the Mother Country might lose the profit
of the sale at Vienna, and the Mohawk set up his carriage, on the
difference in the value of markets! Thus, you see, in order to run a fair
race, the horses must start even, carry equal weights, and, after all, one
commonly wins. Your metaphysics are no better than so much philosophical
gold leaf, which a cunning reasoner beats out into a sheet as large as the
broadest American lake, to make dunces believe the earth can be transmuted
into the precious material; while a plain practical man puts the value of
the metal into his pocket, in good current coin."

"And yet I hear you complain that Parliament has legislated more than is
good for trade, and speak in a manner of the proceedings at home, that,
you will excuse me for saying, would better become a Hollander than a
subject of the crown."

"Have I not told you, that the horse will run faster without a rider, than
with a pack-saddle on his back? Give your own jockey as little, and your
adversary's as much weight as you can, if you wish to win. I complain of
the borough-men, because they make laws for us, and not for themselves. As
I often tell my worthy friend, Alderman Gulp, eating is good for life, but
a surfeit makes a will necessary."

"From all which I infer, that the opinions of your Leyden correspondent
are not those of Mr. Van Beverout."

The Alderman laid a finger on his nose, and looked at his companions, for
a moment, without answering.

"Those Leydeners are a sagacious breed! If the United Provinces had but
ground to stand on, they would, like the philosopher who boasted of his
lever, move the world! The sly rogues think that the Amsterdammers have
naturally an easy seat, and they wish to persuade all others to ride
bare-back. I shall send the pamphlet up into the Indian country, and pay
some scholar to have it translated into the Mohawk tongue, in order that
the famous chief Schendoh, when the missionaries shall have taught him to
read, may entertain right views of equivalents! I am not certain that I
may not make the worthy divines a present, to help the good fruits to
ripen."

The Alderman leered round upon his auditors, and, folding his hands meekly
on his breast, he appeared to leave his eloquence to work its own effects.

"These opinions favor but little the occupation of the--the gentleman--who
now honors us with his company," said Ludlow, regarding the gay-looking
smuggler with an eye that showed how much he was embarrassed to find a
suitable appellation for one whose appearance was so much at variance with
his pursuits. "If restrictions are necessary to commerce, the lawless
trader is surely left without an excuse for his calling."

"I as much admire your discretion in practice, as the justice of your
sentiments in theory, Captain Ludlow;" returned the Alderman. "In a
rencontre on the high seas, it would be your duty to render captive the
brigantine of this person; but, in what may be called the privacy of
domestic retirement, you are content to ease your mind in moralities! I
feel it my duty, too, to speak on this point, and shall take so favorable
an occasion, when all is pacific, to disburthen myself of some sentiments
that suggest themselves, very naturally, under the circumstances." Myndert
then turned himself towards the dealer in contraband, and continued, much
in the manner of a city magistrate, reading a lesson of propriety to some
disturber of the peace of society. "You appear here, Master Seadrift," he
said, "under what, to borrow a figure from your profession, may be called
false colors. You bear the countenance of one who might be a useful
subject, and yet are you suspected of being addicted to certain practices
which--I will not say they are dishonest, or even discreditable--for on
that head the opinions of men are much divided, but which certainly have
no tendency to assist Her Majesty, in bringing her wars to a glorious
issue, by securing to her European dominions that monopoly of trade, by
which it is her greatest desire to ease us of the colonies of looking any
further after our particular interests, than beyond the doors of her own
custom-houses. This is an indiscretion, to give the act its gentlest
appellation; and I regret to add, it is accompanied by certain
circumstances which rather heighten than lessen the delinquency." The
Alderman paused a moment, to observe the effect of his admonition, and to
judge, by the eye of the free-trader, how much farther he might push his
artifice; but perceiving, to his own surprise, that the other bent his
face to the floor, and stood like one rebuked, he took courage to proceed.
"You have introduced into this portion of my dwelling, which is
exclusively inhabited by my niece, who is neither of a sex nor of years to
be legally arraigned for any oversight of this nature, sundries of which
it is the pleasure of the Queen's advisers that her subjects in the
colonies should not know the use, since, in the nature of fabrications,
they cannot be submitted to the supervising care of the ingenious artisans
of the mother island. Woman, Master Seadrift, is a creature liable to the
influence of temptation, and in few things is she weaker than in her
efforts to resist the allurements of articles which may aid in adorning
her person. My niece, the daughter of Etienne Barberie, may also have an
hereditary weakness on this head, since the females of France study these
inventions more than those of some other countries. It is not my
intention, however, to manifest any unreasonable severity; since, if old
Etienne has communicated any hereditary feebleness on the subject of
fancy, he has also left his daughter the means of paying for it. Hand in
your account, therefore, and the debt shall be discharged, if debt has
been incurred. And this brings me to the last and the gravest of your
offences.

"Capital is no doubt the foundation on which a merchant builds his edifice
of character," continued Myndert, after taking another jealous survey of
the countenance of him he addressed; "but credit is the ornament of its
front. This is a corner-stone; that the pilasters and carvings, by which
the building is rendered pleasant; sometimes, when age has undermined the
basement, it is the columns on which the superstructure rests, or even the
roof by which the occupant is sheltered. It renders the rich man safe, the
dealer of moderate means active and respectable, and it causes even the
poor man to hold up his head in hope: though I admit that buyer and seller
need both be wary, when it stands unsupported by any substantial base.
This being the value of credit, Master Seadrift, none should assail it
without sufficient cause, for its quality is of a nature too tender for
rude treatment. I learned, when a youth, in my travels in Holland, through
which country, by means of the Trekschuyts, I passed with sufficient
deliberation to profit by what was seen, the importance of avoiding, on
all occasions, bringing credit into disrepute. As one event that occurred
offers an apposite parallel to what I have now to advance, I shall make a
tender of the facts in the way of illustration. The circumstances show the
awful uncertainty of things in this transitory life, Captain Ludlow, and
forewarn the most vigorous and youthful, that the strong of arm may be cut
down, in his pride, like the tender plant of the fields! The banking-house
of Van Gelt and Van Stopper, in Amsterdam, had dealt largely in securities
issued by the Emperor for the support of his wars. It happened, at the
time, that Fortune had favored the Ottoman, who was then pressing the city
of Belgrade, with some prospects of success. Well, Sirs, a headstrong and
ill-advised laundress had taken possession of an elevated terrace in the
centre of the town, in order to dry her clothes. This woman was in the act
of commencing the distribution of her linens and muslins, with the break
of day, when the Mussulmans awoke the garrison by a rude assault. Some,
who had been posted in a position that permitted of retreat, having seen
certain bundles of crimson, and green, and yellow, on an elevated parapet,
mistook them for the heads of so many Turks; and they spread the report,
far and near, that a countless band of the Infidels, led on by a vast
number of sherriffes in green turbans, had gained the heart of the place,
before they were induced to retire. The rumor soon took the shape of a
circumstantial detail, and, having reached Amsterdam, it caused the funds
of the Imperialists to look down. There was much question, on the
Exchange, concerning the probable loss of Van Gelt and Van Stopper in
consequence. Just as speculation was at its greatest height on this head,
the monkey of a Savoyard escaped from its string, and concealed himself in
a nut-shop, a few doors distant from the banking-house of the firm, where
a crowd of Jew boys collected to witness its antics. Men of reflection,
seeing what they mistook for a demonstration on the part of the children
of the Israelites, began to feel uneasiness for their own property. Drafts
multiplied; and the worthy bankers, in order to prove their solidity,
disdained to shut their doors at the usual hour. Money was paid throughout
the night; and before noon, on the following day, Van Gelt had cut his
throat, in a summer-house that stood on the banks of the Utrecht canal;
and Van Stopper was seen smoking a pipe, among strong boxes that were
entirely empty. At two o'clock, the post brought the intelligence that
the Mussulmans were repulsed, and that the laundress was hanged; though I
never knew exactly for what crime, as she certainly was not a debtor of
the unhappy firm. These are some of the warning events of life, gentlemen;
and as I feel sure of addressing those who are capable of making the
application, I shall now conclude by advising all who hear me to great
discretion of speech on every matter connected with commercial character."

When Myndert ceased speaking, he threw another glance around him, in order
to note the effect his words had produced, and more particularly to
ascertain whether he had not drawn a draft on the forbearance of the
free-trader, which might still meet with a protest. He was at a loss to
account for the marked and unusual deference with which he was treated, by
one who, while he was never coarse, seldom exhibited much complaisance for
the opinions of a man he was in the habit of meeting so familiarly, on
matters of pecuniary interest. During the whole of the foregoing harangue,
the young mariner of the brigantine had maintained the same attitude of
modest attention; and when his eyes were permitted to rise, it was only to
steal uneasy looks at the face of Alida. La belle Barberie had also
listened to her uncle's eloquence, with a more thoughtful air than common.
She met the occasional glances of the dealer in contraband, with answering
sympathy; and, in short, the most indifferent observer of their deportment
might have seen that circumstances had created between them a confidence
and intelligence which, if it were not absolutely of the most tender, was
unequivocally of the most intimate, character. Ail this Ludlow plainly
saw, though the burgher had been too much engrossed with the ideas he had
so complacently dealt out, to note the fact.

"Now that my mind is so well stored with maxims on commerce, which I
shall esteem as so many commentaries on the instructions of my Lords of
the Admiralty," observed the Captain, after a brief interval of silence,
"it may be permitted to turn our attention to things less metaphysical.
The present occasion is favorable to inquire after the fate of the
shipmate we lost in the last cruise; and it ought not to be neglected."

"You speak truth, Mr. Cornelius--The Patroon of Kinderhook is not a man to
fall into the sea, like an anker of forbidden liquor, and no questions
asked. Leave this matter to my discretion, Sir; and trust me, the tenants
of the third best estate in the colony shall not long be without tidings
of their landlord. If you will accompany Master Seadrift into the other
part of the villa for a reasonable time, I shall possess myself of all the
facts that are at all pertinent to the right understanding of the case."

The commander of the royal cruiser, and the young mariner of the
brigantine, appeared to think that a compliance with this invitation would
bring about a singular association. The hesitation of the latter, however,
was far the most visible, since Ludlow had coolly determined to maintain
his neutral character, until a proper moment to act, as a faithful
servitor of his royal mistress, should arrive. He knew, or firmly
believed, that the Water-Witch again lay in the Cove, concealed by the
shadows of the surrounding wood; and as he had once before suffered by the
superior address of the smugglers, he was now resolved to act with so much
caution, as to enable him to return to his ship in time to proceed against
her with decision, and, as he hoped, with effect. In addition to this
motive for artifice, there was that in the manner and language of the
contraband dealer to place him altogether above the ordinary men of his
pursuit, and indeed to create in his favor a certain degree of interest,
which the officer of the crown was compelled to admit. He therefore bowed
with sufficient courtesy, and professed his readiness to follow the
suggestions of the Alderman.

"We have met on neutral ground, Master Seadrift," said Ludlow to his gay
companion, as they quitted the saloon of la Cour des Fees; "and though
bent on different objects, we may discourse amicably of the past. The
'Skimmer of the Seas' has a reputation in his way, that almost raises him
to the level of a seaman distinguished in a better service. I will ever
testify to his skill and coolness as a mariner, however much I may lament
that those fine qualities have received so unhappy a direction."

"This is speaking with a becoming reservation for the rights of the crown,
and with meet respect for die Barons of the Exchequer!" retorted Seadrift,
whose former, and we may say natural, spirit seemed to return, as he left
the presence of the burgher. "We follow the pursuit, Captain Ludlow, in
which accident has cast our fortunes. You serve a Queen you never saw, and
a nation who will use you in her need and despise you in her prosperity;
and I serve myself. Let reason decide between us."

"I admire this frankness, Sir, and have hopes of a better understanding
between us, now that you have done with the mystifications of your
sea-green woman. The farce has been well enacted; though, with the
exception of Oloff Van Staats and those enlightened spirits you lead about
the ocean, it has not made many converts to necromancy."

The free-trader permitted his handsome mouth to relax in a smile.

"We have our mistress, too," he said; "but she exacts no tribute. All that
is gained goes to enrich her subjects, while all that she knows is
cheerfully imparted for their use. If we are obedient, it is because we
have experienced her justice and wisdom I hope Queen Anne deals as kindly
by those who risk life and limb in her cause?"

"Is it part of the policy of her you follow, to reveal the fate of the
Patroon; for though rivals in one dear object--or rather I should say,
once rivals in that object--I cannot see a guest quit my ship with so
little ceremony, without an interest in his welfare."

"You make a just distinction," returned Seadrift, smiling still more
meaningly--"Once rivals is indeed the better expression. Mr. Van Staats is
a brave man, however ignorant he may be of the seaman's art. One who has
showed so much spirit will be certain of protection from personal injury,
in the care of the 'Skimmer of the Seas.'"

"I do not constitute myself the keeper of Mr. Van Staats; still, as the
commander of the ship whence he has been--what shall I term the manner of
his abduction?--for I would not willingly use, at this moment, a term that
may prove disagreeable--"

"Speak freely, Sir, and fear not to offend. We of the brigantine are
accustomed to divers epithets that might startle less practised ears. We
are not to learn, at this late hour, that, in order to become respectable,
roguery must have the sanction of government. You were pleased, Captain
Ludlow, to name the mystifications of the Water-Witch; but you seem
indifferent to those that are hourly practised near you in the world, and
which, without the pleasantry of this of ours, have not half its
innocence."

"There is little novelty in the expedient of seeking to justify the
delinquency of individuals, by the failings of society."

"I confess it is rather just than original. Triteness and Truth appear to
be sisters! And yet do we find ourselves driven to this apology, since the
refinement of us of the brigantine has not yet attained to the point of
understanding all the excellence of novelty in morals."

"I believe there is a mandate of sufficient antiquity, which bids us to
render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's."

"A mandate which our modern Caesars have most liberally construed! I am a
poor casuist, Sir; nor do I think the loyal commander of the Coquette
would wish to uphold all that sophistry can invent on such a subject. If
we begin with potentates, for instance, we shall find the Most Christian
King bent on appropriating as many of his neighbors' goods to his own use,
as ambition, under the name of glory, can covet; the Most Catholic,
covering with the mantle of his Catholicity, a greater multitude of
enormities on this very continent, than even charity itself could conceal;
and our own gracious Sovereign, whose virtues and whose mildness are
celebrated in verse and prose, causing rivers of blood to run, in order
that the little island over which she rules may swell out, like the frog
in the fable, to dimensions that nature has denied, and which will one day
inflict the unfortunate death that befell the ambitious inhabitant of the
pool. The gallows awaits the pickpocket; but your robber under a pennant
is dubbed a knight! The man who amasses wealth by gainful industry is
ashamed of his origin; while he who has stolen from churches, laid
villages under contribution, and cut throats by thousands, to divide the
spoils of a galleon or a military chest, has gained gold on the highway of
glory! Europe has reached an exceeding pass of civilization, it may not be
denied; but before society inflicts so severe censure on the acts of
individuals, notwithstanding the triteness of the opinion, I must say it
is bound to look more closely to the example it sets, in its collective
character."

"These are points on which our difference of opinion is likely to be
lasting;" said Ludlow, assuming the severe air of one who had the world
on his side "We will defer the discussion to a moment of greater leisure,
Sir. Am I to learn more of Mr. Van Staats, or is the question of his fate
to become the subject of a serious official inquiry?"

"The Patroon of Kinderhook is a bold boarder!" returned the free-trader,
laughing. "He has carried the residence of the lady of the brigantine by a
coup-de-main; and he reposes on his laurels! We of the contraband are
merrier in our privacy than is thought, and those who join our mess seldom
wish to quit it."

"There may be occasion to look further into its mysteries--until when, I
wish you adieu."

"Hold!" gaily cried the other, observing that Ludlow was about to quit the
room--"Let the time of our uncertainty be short, I pray thee. Our mistress
is like the insect, which takes the color of the leaf on which it dwells.
You have seen her in her sea-green robe, which she never fails to wear
when roving over the soundings of your American coast: but in the deep
waters, her mantle vies with the blue of the ocean's depths. Symptoms of a
change, which always denote an intended excursion far beyond the influence
of the land, have been seen!"

"Harkee, Master Seadrift! This foolery may do while you possess the power
to maintain it. But remember, that though the law only punishes the
illegal trader by confiscation of his goods when taken, it punishes the
kidnapper with personal pains, and sometimes with--death!--And,
more--remember that the line which divides smuggling from piracy is easily
past, while the return becomes impossible."

"For this generous counsel, in my mistress's name I thank thee;" the gay
mariner replied, bowing with a gravity that rather heightened than
concealed his irony--"Your Coquette is broad in the reach of her booms,
and swift on the water, Captain Ludlow, but let her be capricious,
wilful, deceitful, nay powerful, as she may, she shall find a woman in the
brigantine equal to all her arts, and far superior to all her threats!"

With this prophetic warning on the part of the Queen's officer, and cool
reply on that of the dealer in contraband, the two sailors separated. The
latter took a book, and threw himself into a chair, with a well-maintained
indifference; while the other left the house, in a haste that was not
disguised.

In the mean time, the interview between Alderman Van Beverout and his
niece still continued. Minute passed after minute, and yet there was no
summons to the pavilion. The gay young seaman of the brigantine had
continued his studies for some time after the disappearance of Ludlow, and
he now evidently awaited an intimation that his presence was required in
la Cour des Fees. During these moments of anxiety, the air of the
free-trader was sorrowful rather than impatient; and when a footstep was
heard at the door of the room, he betrayed symptoms of strong and
uncontrollable agitation. It was the female attendant of Alida, who
entered, presented a slip of paper, and retired. The eager expectant read
the following words, hastily written in pencil:--

"I have evaded all his questions, and he is more than half-disposed to
believe in necromancy. This is not the moment to confess the truth, for he
is not in a condition to hear it, being already much disturbed by the
uncertainty of what may follow the appearance of the brigantine on the
coast, and so near his own villa. But, be assured, he shall and will
acknowledge claims that I know how to support, and which, should I fail of
establishing, he would not dare to refuse to the redoubtable 'Skimmer of
the Seas.' Come hither, the moment you hear his foot in the passage."

The last injunction was soon obeyed. The Alderman entered by one door, as
the active fugitive retreated by another; and where the weary burgher
expected to see his guests, he found an empty apartment. This last
circumstance, however, gave Myndert Van Beverout but little surprise and
no concern, as would appear by the indifference with which he noted the
circumstance.

"Vagaries and womanhood!" thought, rather than muttered, the Alderman.
"The jade turns like a fox in his tracks, and it would be easier to
convict a merchant who values his reputation, of a false invoice, than
this minx of nineteen of an indiscretion! There is so much of old Etienne
and his Norman blood in her eye, that one does not like to provoke
extremities; but here, when I expected Van Staats had profited by his
opportunity, the girl looks like a nun, at the mention of his name. The
Patroon is no Cupid, we must allow; or, in a week at sea, he would have
won the heart of a mermaid!--Ay--and here are more perplexities, by the
return of the Skimmer and his brig, and the notions that young Ludlow has
of his duty. Life and mortality! One must quit trade, at some time or
other, and begin to close the books of life. I must seriously think of
striking a final balance. If the sum-total was a little more in my favor
it should be gladly done to-morrow!"




Chapter XXV.



    "--Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphosed me;
    Made me neglect my studies, lose my time,
    War with good counsel, set the world at nought."

    Two Gentlemen of Verona.


Ludlow quitting the Lust in Rust with a wavering purpose. Throughout the
whole of the preceding interview, he had jealously watched the eye and
features of la belle Barberie; and he had not failed to draw his
conclusions from a mien that too plainly expressed a deep interest in the
free-trader. For a time, only, had he been induced, by the calmness and
self-possession with which she received her uncle and himself, to believe
that she had not visited the Water-Witch at all; but when the gay and
reckless being who governed the movements of that extraordinary vessel,
appeared, he could no longer flatter himself with this hope. He now
believed that her choice for life had been made; and while he deplored the
infatuation which could induce so gifted a woman to forget her station and
character, he was himself too frank not to see that the individual who had
in so short a time gained this ascendency over the feelings of Alida, was,
in many respects, fitted to exercise a powerful influence over the
imagination of a youthful and secluded female.

There was a struggle in the mind of the young commander, between his duty
and his feelings. Remembering the artifice by which he had formerly fallen
into the power of the smugglers, he had taken his precautions so well in
the present visit to the villa, that he firmly believed he had the person
of his lawless rival at his mercy. To avail himself of this advantage, or
to retire and leave him in possession of his mistress and his liberty, was
the point mooted in his thoughts. Though direct and simple in his habits,
like most of the seamen of that age, Ludlow had all the loftier sentiments
that become a gentleman. He felt keenly for Alida, and he shrunk, with
sensitive pride, from incurring the imputation of having acted under the
impulses of disappointment. To these motives of forbearance, was also to
be added the inherent reluctance which, as an officer of rank, he felt to
the degradation of being employed in a duty that more properly belongs to
men of less elevated ambition. He looked on himself as a defender of the
rights and glory of his sovereign, and not as a mercenary instrument of
those who collected her customs; and though he would not have hesitated to
incur any rational hazard, in capturing the vessel of the smuggler, or in
making captives of all or any of her crew on their proper element, he
disliked the appearance of seeking a solitary individual on the land. In
addition to this feeling, there was his own pledge that he met the
proscribed dealer in contraband on neutral ground. Still the officer of
the Queen had his orders, and he could not shut his eyes to the general
obligations of duty. The brigantine was known to inflict so much loss on
the revenue of the crown, more particularly in the other hemisphere, that
an especial order had been issued by the Admiral of the station, for her
capture. Here then was an opportunity of depriving the vessel of that
master-spirit which, notwithstanding the excellence of its construction,
had alone so long enabled it to run the gauntlet of a hundred cruisers
with impunity. Agitated by these contending feelings and reflections, the
young sailor left the door of the villa, and came upon its little lawn, in
order to reflect with less interruption, and, indeed, to breathe more
freely.

The night had advanced into the first watch of the seaman. The shadow of
the mountain, however, still covered the grounds of the villa, the river,
and the shores of the Atlantic, with a darkness that was deeper than the
obscurity which dimmed the surface of the rolling ocean beyond. Objects
were so indistinct as to require close and steady looks to ascertain their
character, while the setting of the scene might be faintly traced by its
hazy and indistinct outlines. The curtains of la Cour des Fees had been
drawn, and, though the lights were still shining within, the eye could not
penetrate the pavilion. Ludlow gazed about him, and then held his way
reluctantly towards the water.

In endeavoring to conceal the interior of her apartment from the eyes of
those without, Alida had suffered a corner of the drapery to remain open.
When Ludlow reached the gate that led to the landing, he turned to take a
last look at the villa; and, favored by his new position, he caught a
glimpse, through the opening, of the person of her who was still uppermost
in his thoughts.

La belle Barberie was seated at the little table, by whose side she had
been found, earlier in the evening. An elbow rested on the precious wood,
and one fair hand supported a brow that was thoughtful far beyond the
usual character of its expression, if not melancholy. The commander of the
Coquette felt the blood rushing to his heart, for he fancied that the
beautiful and pensive countenance was that of a penitent. It is probable
that the idea quickened his drooping hopes; for Ludlow believed it might
not yet be too late to rescue the woman, he so sincerely loved, from the
precipice over which she was suspended. The seemingly irretrievable step,
already taken, was forgotten; and the generous young sailor was about to
rush back to la Cour des Fees, to implore its mistress to be just to
herself, when the hand fell from her polished brow, and Alida raised her
face, with a look which denoted that she was no longer alone. The captain
drew back, to watch the issue.

When Alida lifted her eyes, it was in kindness, and with that frank
ingenuousness with which an unperverted female greets the countenance of
those who have her confidence. She smiled, though still in sadness rather
than in pleasure; and she spoke, but the distance prevented her words from
being audible. At the next instant, Seadrift moved into the space visible
through the half-drawn drapery, and took her hand. Alida made no effort to
withdraw the member; but, on the contrary, she looked up into his face
with still less equivocal interest, and appeared to listen to his voice
with an absorbed attention. The gate was swung violently open, and Ludlow
had reached the margin of the river before he again paused.

The barge of the Coquette was found where her commander had ordered his
people to lie concealed, and he was about to enter it, when the noise of
the little gate, again shutting with the wind, induced him to cast a look
behind. A human form was distinctly to be seen, against the light walls of
the villa, descending towards the river. The men were commanded to keep
close, and, withdrawing within the shadow of a fence, the captain waited
the approach of the new-comer.

As the unknown person passed, Ludlow recognized the agile form of the
free-trader. The latter advanced to the margin of the river, and gazed
warily about him for several minutes. A low but distinct note, on a common
ship's-call, was then heard. The summons was soon succeeded by the
appearance of a small skiff, which glided out of the grass on the opposite
side of the stream, and approached the spot where Seadrift awaited its
arrival. The free-trader sprang lightly into the little boat, which
immediately began to glide out of the river. As the skiff passed the spot
where he stood, Ludlow saw that it was pulled by a single seaman; and, as
his own boat was manned by six lusty rowers, he felt that the person of
the man whom he so much envied was at length fairly and honorably in his
power. We shall not attempt to analyze the emotion that was ascendant in
the mind of the young officer. It is enough for our purpose to add, that
he was soon in his boat and in full pursuit.

As the course to be taken by the barge was diagonal rather than direct, a
few powerful strokes of the oars brought it so near the skiff, that
Ludlow, by placing his hand on the gunwale of the latter, could arrest its
progress.

"Though so lightly equipped, fortune favors you less in boats than in
larger craft, Master Seadrift;" said Ludlow, when, by virtue of a strong
arm, he had drawn his prize so near, as to find himself seated within a
few feet of his prisoner. "We meet on our proper element, where there can
be no neutrality between one of the contraband and a servant of the
Queen."

The start, the half-repressed exclamation, and the momentary silence,
showed that the captive had been taken completely by surprise.

"I admit your superior dexterity," he at length said, speaking low and not
without agitation. "I am your prisoner, Captain Ludlow; and I would now
wish to know your intentions in disposing of my person."

"That is soon answered. You must be content to take the homely
accommodations of the Coquette, for the night, instead of the more
luxurious cabin of your Water-Witch. What the authorities of the Province
may decide, to-morrow, it exceeds the knowledge of a poor commander in the
navy to say."

"The lord Cornbury has retired to----?"

"A gaol," said Ludlow, observing that the other spoke more like one who
mused than like one who asked a question. "The kinsman of our gracious
Queen speculates on the chances of human fortune, within the walls of a
prison. His successor, the brigadier Hunter, is thought to have less
sympathy for the moral infirmities of human nature!"

"We deal lightly with dignities!" exclaimed the captive, with all his
former gaiety of tone and manner. "You have your revenge for some personal
liberties that were certainly taken, not a fortnight since, with this boat
and her crew; still, I have much mistaken your character, if unnecessary
severity forms one of its features. May I communicate with the
brigantine?"

"Freely--when she is once in the care of a Queen's officer."

"Oh, Sir, you disparage the qualities of my mistress, in supposing there
exists a parallel with your own! The Water-Witch will go at large, till a
far different personage shall become your captive.--May I communicate with
the shore?"

"To that there exists no objection--if you will point out the means."

"I have one, here, who will prove a faithful messenger."

"Too faithful to the delusion which governs all your followers! Your man
must be your companion in the Coquette, Master Seadrift, though;" and
Ludlow spoke in melancholy, "if there be any on the land, who take so near
an interest in your welfare as to find more sorrow in uncertainty than in
the truth, one of my own crew, in any of whom confidence may be placed,
shall do your errand."

"Let it be so;" returned the free-trader, as if satisfied that he could,
in reason, expect no more. "Take this ring to the lady of yonder
dwelling," he continued, when Ludlow had selected the messenger, "and say
that he who sends it is about to visit the cruiser of Queen Anne in
company with her commander. Should there be question of the motive, you
can speak to the manner of my arrest."

"And, mark me, fellow--" added his captain; "that duty done, look to the
idlers on the shore, and see that no boat quits the river, to apprize the
smugglers of their loss."

The man, who was armed in the fashion of a seaman on boat duty, received
these orders with the customary deference; and the barge having drawn to
the shore for that purpose, he landed.

"And now, Master Seadrift, having thus far complied with your wishes, I
may expect you will not be deaf to mine. Here is a seat at your service in
my barge, and I confess it will please me to see it occupied."

As the captain spoke, he reached forth an arm, partly in natural
complaisance, and partly with a carelessness that denoted some
consciousness of the difference in their rank, both to aid the other to
comply with his request, and, at need, to enforce it. But the free-trader
seemed to repel the familiarity; for he drew back, at first, like one who
shrunk sensitively from the contact, and then, without touching the arm
that was extended with a purpose so equivocal, he passed lightly from the
skiff into the barge, declining assistance. The movement was scarcely
made, before Ludlow quitted the latter, and occupied the place which
Seadrift had just vacated. He commanded one of his men to exchange with
the seaman of the brigantine; and, having made these preparations, he
again addressed his prisoner.

"I commit you to the care of my cockswain and these worthy tars, Master
Seadrift. We shall steer different ways. You will take possession of my
cabin, where all will be at your disposal; ere the middle watch is called
I shall be there to prevent the pennant from coming down, and your
sea-green flag turning the people's heads from their allegiance."

Ludlow then whispered his orders to his cockswain, and they separated. The
barge proceeded to the mouth of the river, with the long and stately sweep
of the oars, that marks the progress of a man-of-war's boat; while the
skiff followed, noiselessly and, aided by its color and dimensions, nearly
invisible.

When the two boats entered the waters of the bay, the barge held on its
course towards the distant ship; while the skiff inclined to the right,
and steered directly for the bottom of the Cove. The precaution of the
dealer in contraband had provided his little boat with muffled sculls; and
Ludlow, when he was enabled to discover the fine tracery of the lofty and
light spars of the Water-Witch, as they rose above the tops of the dwarf
trees that lined the shore, had no reason to think his approach was known.
Once assured of the presence and position of the brigantine, he was
enabled to make his advances with all the caution that might be necessary.

Some ten or fifteen minutes were required to bring the skiff beneath the
bowsprit of the beautiful craft, without giving the alarm to those who
doubtless were watching on her decks. The success of our adventurer,
however, appeared to be complete; for he was soon holding by the cable,
and not the smallest sound, of any kind, had been heard in the brigantine.
Ludlow now regretted he had not entered the Cove with his barge; for, so
profound and unsuspecting was the quiet of the vessel, that he doubted not
of his ability to have carried her by a coup-de-main. Vexed by his
oversight, and incited by the prospects of success, he began to devise
those expedients which would naturally suggest themselves to a seaman in
his situation.

The wind was southerly, and, though not strong it was charged with the
dampness and heaviness of the night air. As the brigantine lay protected
from the influence of the tides, she obeyed the currents of the other
element; and, while her bows looked outward, her stern pointed towards the
bottom of the basin. The distance from the land was not fifty fathoms, and
Ludlow did not fail to perceive that the vessel rode by a kedge, and that
her anchors, of which there was a good provision, were all snugly stowed.
These facts induced the hope that he might separate the hawser that alone
held the brigantine, which, in the event of his succeeding, he had every
reason to believe would drift ashore, before the alarm could be given to
her crew, sail set, or an anchor let go. Although neither he nor his
companion possessed any other implement to effect this object, than the
large seaman's knife of the latter, the temptation was too great not to
make the trial. The project was flattering; for, though the vessel in that
situation would receive no serious injury, the unavoidable delay of
heaving her off the sands would enable his boats, and perhaps the ship
herself, to reach the place in time to secure their prize. The bargeman
was asked for his knife, and Ludlow himself made the first cut upon the
solid and difficult mass. The steel had no sooner touched the compact
yarns, than a dazzling glare of light shot into the face of him who held
it. Recovering from the shock, and rubbing his eyes, our startled
adventurer gazed upwards, with that consciousness of wrong which assails
us when detected in any covert act, however laudable may be its motive;--a
sort of homage that nature, under every circumstance, pays to loyal
dealings.

Though Ludlow felt, at the instant of this interruption, that he stood in
jeopardy of his life, the concern it awakened was momentarily lost in the
spectacle before him. The bronzed and unearthly features of the image were
brightly illuminated; and, while her eyes looked on him steadily, as if
watching his smallest movement, her malign and speaking smile appeared to
turn his futile effort into scorn! There was no need to bid the seaman at
the oars to do his duty. No sooner did he catch the expression of that
mysterious face, than the skiff whirled away from the spot, like a
sea-fowl taking wing under alarm. Though Ludlow, at each moment, expected
a shot, even the imminence of the danger did not prevent him from gazing,
in absorbed attention, at the image. The light by which it was illumined,
though condensed, powerful, and steadily cast, wavered a little, and
exhibited her attire. Then the captain saw the truth of what Seadrift had
asserted; for, by some process of the machine into which he had not
leisure to inquire, the sea-green mantle had been changed for a slighter
robe of the azure of the deep waters. As if satisfied with having betrayed
the intention of the sorceress to depart, the light immediately vanished.

"This mummery is well maintained!" muttered Ludlow, when the skiff had
reached a distance that assured him of safety. "Here is a symptom that the
rover means soon to quit the coast. The change of dress is some signal to
his superstitious and deluded crew. It is my task to disappoint his
mistress, as he terms her, though it must be confessed that she does not
sleep at her post."

During the ten succeeding minutes, our foiled adventurer had leisure, no
less than motive, to feel how necessary is success to any project whose
means admit of dispute. Had the hawser been cut and the brigantine
stranded, it is probable that the undertaking of the captain would have
been accounted among those happy expedients which, in all pursuits, are
thought to distinguish the mental efforts of men particularly gifted by
Nature; while, under the actual circumstances, he who would have reaped
all the credit of so felicitous an idea, was mentally chafing with the
apprehension that his unlucky design might become known. His companion was
no other than Robert Yarn, the fore-top-man, who, on a former occasion,
had been heard to affirm, that he had already enjoyed so singular a view
of the lady of the brigantine, while assisting to furl the fore-top-sail
of the Coquette.

"This has been a false board, Master Yarn," observed the captain, when the
skiff was past the entrance of the Cove, and some distance down the bay;
"for the credit of our cruise, we will not enter the occurrence in the
log. You understand me, Sir: I trust a word is sufficient for so shrewd a
wit?"

"I hope I know my duty, your Honor, which is to obey orders, though it may
break owners," returned the top-man. "Cutting a hawser with a knife is but
slow work in the best of times; but though one who has little right to
speak in the presence of a gentleman so well taught, it is my opinion that
the steel is not yet sharpened which is to part any rope aboard yon rover,
without the consent of the black-looking woman under her bowsprit."

"And what is the opinion of the berth-deck concerning this strange
brigantine, that we have so long been following without success?"

"That we shall follow her till the last biscuit is eaten, and the
scuttle-butt shall be dry, with no better fortune. It is not my business
to teach your Honor; but there is not a man in the ship, who ever expects
to be a farthing the better for her capture. Men are of many minds
concerning the 'Skimmer of the Seas;' but all are agreed that, unless
aided by some uncommon luck, which may amount to the same thing as being
helped by him who seldom lends a hand to any honest undertaking, that he
is altogether such a seaman as another like him does not sail the ocean!"

"I am sorry that my people should have reason to think so meanly of our
own skill. The ship has not yet had a fair chance. Give her an open sea,
and a cap-full of wind, and she'll defy all the black women that the
brigantine can stow. As to your 'Skimmer of the Seas,' man or devil, he is
our prisoner."

"And does your Honor believe that the trim-built and light-sailing
gentleman we overhauled in this skiff, is in truth that renowned rover?"
asked Yarn, resting on his sculls, in the interest of the moment. "There
are some on board the ship, who maintain that the man in question is
taller than the big tide-waiter at Plymouth, with a pair of shoulders----"

"I have reason to know they are mistaken. If we are more enlightened than
our shipmates, Master Yarn, let us be close-mouthed, that others do not
steal our knowledge--hold, here is a crown with the face of King Louis; he
is our bitterest enemy, and you may swallow him whole, if you please, or
take him in morsels, as shall best suit your humor. But remember that our
cruise in the skiff is under secret orders, and the less we say about the
anchor-watch of the brigantine, the better."

Honest Bob took the piece of silver, with a gusto that no opinions of the
marvellous could diminish; and, touching his hat, he did not fail to make
the usual protestations of discretion. That night the messmates of the
fore-top-man endeavored, in vain, to extract from him the particulars of
his excursion with the captain; though the direct answers to their home
questions were only evaded by allusions so dark and ambiguous, as to give
to that superstitious feeling of the crew, which Ludlow had wished to
lull, twice its original force.

Not long after this short dialogue, the skiff reached the side of the
Coquette. Her commander found his prisoner in possession of his own cabin,
and, though grave if not sad in demeanor, perfectly self-possessed. His
arrival had produced a deep effect on the officers and men, though, like
Yarn, most of both classes refused to believe that the handsome and
gayly-attired youth they had been summoned to receive, was the notorious
dealer in contraband.

Light observers of the forms under which human qualities are exhibited,
too often mistake their outward signs. Though it is quite in reason to
believe, that he who mingles much in rude and violent scenes should imbibe
some of their rough and repelling aspects, still it would seem that, as
the stillest waters commonly conceal the deepest currents, so the powers
to awaken extraordinary events are not unfrequently cloaked under a
chastened, and sometimes under a cold, exterior. It has often happened,
that the most desperate and self-willed men are those whose mien and
manners would give reason to expect the mildest and most tractable
dispositions; while he who has seemed a lion sometimes proves, in his real
nature, to be little better than a lamb.

Ludlow had reason to see that the incredulity of his top-man had extended
to most on board; and, as he could not conquer his tenderness on the
subject of Alida and all that concerned her, while on the other hand there
existed no motive for immediately declaring the truth, he rather favored
the general impression by his silence. First giving some orders of the
last importance at that moment, he passed into the cabin, and sought a
private interview with his captive.

"That vacant state-room is at your service, Master Seadrift," he observed,
pointing to the little apartment opposite to the one he occupied himself.

"We are likely to be shipmates several days, unless you choose to shorten
the time, by entering into a capitulation for the Water-Witch; in which
case----"

"You had a proposition to make."

Ludlow hesitated, cast an eye behind him, to be certain they were alone,
and drew nearer to his captive.

"Sir, I will deal with you as becomes a seaman. La belle Barberie is
dearer to me than ever woman was before;--dearer, I fear, than ever woman
will be again. You need not learn that circumstances nave occurred,--Do
you love the lady?"

"I do."

"And she--fear not to trust the secret to one who will not abuse the
trust--returns she your affection?"

The mariner of the brigantine drew back with dignity; and then, instantly
recovering his ease, as if fearful he might forget himself, he said with
warmth.

"This trifling with woman's weakness is the besetting sin of man! None may
speak of her inclinations, Captain Ludlow, but herself. It never shall be
said, that any of the sex had aught but fitting reverence for their
dependent state, their constant and confiding love, their faithfulness in
all the world's trials, and their singleness of heart, from me."

"These sentiments do you honor; and I could wish, for your own sake, as
well as that of others, there was less of contrariety in your character.
One cannot but grieve----"

"You had a proposition, for the brigantine?"

"I would have said, that were the vessel yielded without further pursuit,
means might be found to soften the blow to those who will otherwise be
most wounded by her capture."

The face of the dealer in contraband had lost some of its usual brightness
and animation; the color of the cheek was not as rich, and the eye was
less at ease, than in his former interviews with Ludlow. But a smile of
security crossed his fine features, when the other spoke of the fate of
the brigantine.

"The keel of the ship that is to capture the Water-Witch is not yet laid,"
he said, firmly; "nor is the canvas that is to drive her through the
water, wove! Our mistress is not so heedless as to sleep, when there is
most occasion for her services."

"This mummery of a supernatural aid may be of use in holding the minds of
the ignorant beings who follow your fortunes, in subjection, but it is
lost when addressed to me. I have ascertained the position of the
brigantine--nay, I have been under her very bowsprit, and so near her
cut-water, as to have examined her moorings. Measures are now taking to
improve my knowledge, and to secure the prize."

The free-trader heard him without exhibiting alarm, though he listened
with an attention that rendered his breathing audible.

"You found my people vigilant?" he rather carelessly observed, than asked.

"So much so, that I have said the skiff was pulled beneath her martingale,
without a hail! Had there been means, it would not have required many
moments to cut the hawser by which she rides, and to have laid your
beauteous vessel ashore!"

The gleam of Seadrift's eye was like the glance of an eagle. It seemed to
inquire, and to resent, in the same instant. Ludlow shrunk from the
piercing look, and reddened to the brow,--whether with his recollections,
or not, it is unnecessary to explain.

"The worthy device was thought of!--nay, it was attempted!" exclaimed the
other, gathering confirmation in the consciousness of his companion.--"You
did not--you could not succeed!"

"Our success will be proved in the result."

"The lady of the brigantine forgot not her charge! You saw her bright
eye--her dark and meaning face! Light shone on that mysterious
countenance--my words are true, Ludlow, thy tongue is silent, but that
honest countenance confesses all!"

The gay dealer in contraband turned away, and laughed in his merriest
manner.

"I knew it would be so," he continued, "what is the absence of one humble
actor from her train. Trust me, you will find her coy as ever, and
ill-disposed to hold converse with a cruiser who speaks so rudely through
his cannon. Ha!--here are auditors!"

An officer, to announce the near approach of a boat, entered. Both Ludlow
and his prisoner started at this intelligence, and it was not difficult to
fancy both believed that a message from the Water-Witch might be expected.
The former hastened on deck; while the latter, notwithstanding a
self-possession that was so much practised, could not remain entirely at
his ease. He passed into the state-room, and it is more than probable that
he availed himself of the window of its quarter-gallery, to reconnoitre
those who were so unexpectedly coming to the ship.

But after the usual hail and reply, Ludlow no longer anticipated any
proposal from the brigantine. The answer had been what a seaman would call
lubberly; or it wanted that attic purity that men of the profession rarely
fail to use on all occasions, and by the means of which they can tell a
pretender to their mysteries, with a quickness that is almost instinctive.
When the short, quick "boat-ahoy!" of the sentinel on the gangway, was
answered by the "what do you want?" of a startled respondent in the boat,
it was received among the crew of the Coquette with such a sneer as the
tyro, who has taken two steps in any particular branch of knowledge, is
apt to bestow on the blunders of him who has taken but one.

A deep silence reigned, while a party consisting of two men and as many
females mounted the side of the ship, leaving a sufficient number of forms
behind them in the boat to man its oars. Notwithstanding more than one
light was held in such a manner as would have discovered the faces of the
strangers had they not all been closely muffled, the party passed into
the cabin without recognition.

"Master Cornelius Ludlow, one might as well put on the Queen's livery at
once, as to be steering in this uncertain manner, between the Coquette and
the land, like a protested note sent from endorser to endorser, to be
paid," commenced Alderman Van Beverout, uncasing himself in the great
cabin with the coolest deliberation, while his niece sunk into a chair
unbidden, her two attendants standing near in submissive silence. "Here is
Alida, who has insisted on paying so unseasonable a visit, and, what is
worse still, on dragging me in her train, though I am past the day of
following a woman about, merely because she happens to have a pretty face.
The hour is unseasonable, and as to the motive--why, if Master Seadrift
has got a little out of his course, no great harm can come of it, while
the affair is in the hands of so discreet and amiable an officer as
yourself."

The Alderman became suddenly mute; for the door of the state-room opened,
and the individual he had named entered in person.

Ludlow needed no other explanation than a knowledge of the persons of his
guests, to understand the motive of their visit. Turning to Alderman Van
Beverout, he said, with a bitterness he could not repress--

"My presence may be intrusive. Use the cabin as freely as your own house,
and rest assured that while it is thus honored, it shall be sacred to its
present uses. My duty calls me to the deck."

The young man bowed gravely, and hurried from the place. As he passed
Alida, he caught a gleam of her dark and eloquent eye, and he construed
the glance into an expression of gratitude.




Chapter XXVI.



    "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
    It were done quickly--"

    Macbeth.


The words of the immortal poet, with which, in deference to an ancient
usage in the literature of the language, we have prefaced the incidents to
be related in this chapter, are in perfect conformity with that governing
maxim of a vessel, which is commonly found embodied in its standing
orders, and which prescribes the necessity of exertion and activity in the
least of its operations. A strongly-manned ship, like a strong-armed man,
is fond of showing its physical power, for it is one of the principal
secrets of its efficiency. In a profession in which there is an unceasing
contest with the wild and fickle winds, and in which human efforts are to
be manifested in the control of a delicate and fearful machinery on an
inconstant element, this governing principle becomes of the last
importance. Where 'delay may so easily be death,' it soon gets to be a
word that is expunged from the language; and there is perhaps no truth
more necessary to be known to all young aspirants for naval success, than
that, while nothing should be attempted in a hurry, nothing should be done
without the last degree of activity that is compatible with precision.

The commander of the Coquette had early been impressed with the truth of
the foregoing rule, and he had not neglected its application in the
discipline of his crew. When he reached the deck, therefore, after
relinquishing the cabin to his visiters, he found those preparations which
he had ordered to be commenced when he first returned to the ship, already
far advanced towards their execution. As these movements are closely
connected with the future events it is our duty to explain, we shall
relate them with some particularity.

Ludlow had no sooner given his orders to the officer in charge of the
deck, than the whistle of the boatswain was heard summoning all hands to
their duty. When the crew had been collected, tackles were hooked to the
large boats stowed in the centre of the ship, and the whole of them were
lowered into the water. The descent of those suspended on the quarters,
was of course less difficult and much sooner effected. So soon as all the
boats, with the exception of one at the stern, were out, the order was
given to 'cross top-gallant-yards.' This duty had been commenced while
other things were in the course of performance, and a minute had scarcely
passed before the upper masts were again in possession of their light
sails. Then was heard the usual summons of, 'all hands up anchor, ahoy!'
and the rapid orders of the young officers to 'man capstan-bars,' to
'nipper,' and finally to 'heave away.' The business of getting the anchor
on board a cruiser and on board a ship engaged in commerce, is of very
different degrees of labor, as well as of expedition. In the latter, a
dozen men apply their powers to a slow-moving and reluctant windlass,
while the untractable cable, as it enters, is broken into coils by the
painful efforts of a grumbling cook, thwarted, perhaps, as much as he is
aided by the waywardness of some wilful urchin who does the service of the
cabin. On the other hand, the upright and constantly-moving capstan knows
no delay. The revolving 'messenger' is ever ready to be applied, and
skilful petty officers are always in the tiers, to dispose of the massive
rope, that it may not encumber the decks.

Ludlow appeared among his people, while they were thus employed. Ere he
had made one hasty turn on the quarter-deck, he was met by the busy
first-lieutenant.

"We are short, Sir," said that agent of all work.

"Set your top-sails."

The canvas was instantly permitted to fall, and it was no sooner stretched
to the yards, than force was applied to the halyards, and the sails were
hoisted.

"Which way, Sir, do you wish the ship cast?" demanded the attentive Luff.

"To seaward."

The head-yards were accordingly braced aback in the proper direction, and
it was then reported to the captain that all was ready to get the ship
under way.

"Trip the anchor at once, Sir; when it is stowed, and the decks are
cleared, report to me."

This sententious and characteristic communication between Ludlow and his
second in command, was sufficient for all the purposes of that moment. The
one was accustomed to issue his orders without explanation, and the other
never hesitated to obey, and rarely presumed to inquire into their motive.

"We are aweigh and stowed, Sir; every thing clear," said Mr. Luff, after a
few minutes had been allowed to execute the preceding commands.

Ludlow then seemed to arouse himself from a deep reverie. He had hitherto
spoken mechanically, rather than as one conscious of what he uttered, or
whose feelings had any connexion with his words. But it was now necessary
to mingle with his officers and to issue mandates that, as they were less
in routine, required both thought and discretion. The crews of the
different boats were 'called away,' and arms were placed in their hands.
When nearly or quite one-half of the ship's company were in the boats, and
the latter were all reported to be ready, officers were assigned to each,
and the particular service expected at their hands was distinctly
explained.

A master's mate in the captain's barge, with the crew strengthened by
half-a-dozen marines, was ordered to pull directly for the Cove, into
which he was to enter with muffled oars, and where he was to await a
signal from the first-lieutenant, unless he met the brigantine endeavoring
to escape, in which case his orders were imperative to board and carry her
at every hazard. The high-spirited youth no sooner received this charge,
than he quitted the ship and steered to the southward, keeping inside the
tongue of land so often named.

Luff was then told to take command of the launch. With this heavy and
strongly-manned boat, he was ordered to proceed to the inlet, where he was
to give the signal to the barge, and whence he was to go to the assistance
of the latter, so soon as he was assured the Water-Witch could not again
escape by the secret passage.

The two cutters were intrusted to the command of the second-lieutenant,
with orders to pull into the broad passage between the end of the cape, or
the 'Hook,' and that long narrow island which stretches from the harbor of
New-York for more than forty leagues to the eastward, sheltering the whole
coast of Connecticut from the tempests of the ocean. Ludlow knew, though
ships of a heavy draught were obliged to pass close to the cape, in order
to gain the open sea, that a light brigantine, like the Water-Witch, could
find a sufficient depth of water for her purposes further north. The
cutters were, therefore, sent in that direction, with orders to cover as
much of the channel as possible, and to carry the smuggler should an
occasion offer. Finally, the yawl was to occupy the space between the two
channels, with orders to repeat signals, and to be vigilant in
reconnoitring.

While the different officers intrusted with these duties were receiving
their instructions, the ship, under the charge of Trysail, began to move
towards the cape. When off the point of the Hook, the two cutters and the
yawl 'cast off,' and took to their oars, and when fairly without the
buoys, the launch did the same, each boat taking its prescribed direction.

If the reader retains a distinct recollection of the scene described in
one of the earlier pages of this work, he will understand the grounds on
which Ludlow based his hopes of success. By sending the launch into the
inlet, he believed he should inclose the brigantine on every side; since
her escape through either of the ordinary channels would become
impossible, while he kept the Coquette in the offing. The service he
expected from the three boats sent to the northward, was to trace the
movement of the smuggler, and, should a suitable opportunity offer, to
attempt to carry him by surprise.

When the launch parted from the ship, the Coquette came slowly up to the
wind, and with her fore-top-sail thrown to the mast, she lay, waiting to
allow her boats the time necessary to reach their several stations. The
different expeditions had reduced the force of the crew quite one-half,
and as both the lieutenants were otherwise employed, there now remained on
board no officer of a rank between those of the captain and Trysail. Some
time after the vessel had been stationary, and the men had been ordered to
keep close, or, in other words, to dispose of their persons as they
pleased, with a view to permit them to catch 'cat's naps,' as some
compensation for the loss of their regular sleep, the latter approached
his superior, who stood gazing over the hammock-cloths in the direction of
the Cove, and spoke.

"A dark night, smooth water, and fresh hands make boating agreeable duty!"
he said. "The gentlemen are in fine heart, and full of young men's hopes;
but he who lays that brigantine aboard, will, in my poor judgment, have
more work to do than merely getting up her side. I was in the foremost
boat that boarded a Spaniard in the Mona, last war; and though we went
into her with light heels, some of us were brought out with broken
heads.--I think the fore-top-gallant-mast has a better set, Captain
Ludlow, since we gave the last pull at the rigging?"

"It stands well;" returned his half-attentive commander. "Give it the
other drag, if you think best."

"Just as you please, Sir; 'tis all one to me. I care not if the mast is
hove all of one side, like the hat on the head of a country buck; but when
a thing is as it ought to be, reason would tell us to let it alone. Mr.
Luff was of opinion, that by altering the slings of the main-yard, we
should give a better set to the top-sail sheets; but it was little that
could be done with the stick aloft, and I am ready to pay Her Majesty the
difference between the wear of the sheets as they stand now, and as Mr.
Luff would have them, out of my own pocket, though it is often as empty as
a parish church in which a fox-hunting parson preaches. I was present,
once, when a real tally-ho was reading the service, and one of your
godless squires got in the wake of a fox, with his hounds, within hail of
the church-windows! The cries had some such effect on my roarer, as a puff
of wind would have on this ship; that is to say, he sprung his luff, and
though he kept on muttering something I never knew what, his eyes were in
the fields the whole time the pack was in view. But this wasn't the worst
of it; for when he got fairly back to his work again, the wind had been
blowing the leaves of his book about, and he plumped us into the middle of
the marriage ceremony. I am no great lawyer, but there were those who said
it was a god-send that half the young men in the parish weren't married
to their own grandmothers!"

"I hope the match was agreeable to the family," said Ludlow, relieving one
elbow by resting the weight of his head on the other.

"Why, as to that, I will not take upon me to say since the clerk corrected
the parson's reckoning before the mischief was entirely done. There has
been a little dispute between me and the first-lieutenant, Captain Ludlow,
concerning the trim of the ship. He maintains that we have got too much in
forward of what he calls the centre of gravity; and he is of opinion that
had we been less by the head, the smuggler would never have had the heels
of us, in the chase; whereas I invite any man to lay a craft on her
water-line----"

"Show our light!" interrupted Ludlow. "Yonder goes the signal of the
launch!"

Trysail ceased speaking, and, stepping on a gun, he also began to gaze in
the direction of the Cove. A lantern, or some other bright object, was
leisurely raised three times, and as often hid from view. The signal came
from under the land, and in a quarter that left no doubt of its object.

"So far, well;" cried the Captain, quitting his stand, and turning, for
the first time, with consciousness, to his officer. "'Tis a sign that they
are at the inlet, and that the offing is clear. I think, Master Trysail,
we are now sure of our prize. Sweep the horizon thoroughly with the
night-glass, and then we will close upon this boasted brigantine."

Both took glasses, and devoted several minutes to this duty. A careful
examination of the margin of the sea, from the coast of New-Jersey to that
of Long-Island, gave them reason to believe that nothing of any size was
lying without the cape. The sky was more free from clouds to the eastward
than under the land and it was not difficult to make certain of this
important fact. It gave them the assurance that the Water-Witch had not
escaped by the secret passage, during the time lost in their own
preparations.

"This is still well;" continued Ludlow. "Now he cannot avoid us--show the
triangle."

Three lights, disposed in the form just named were then hoisted at the
gaff-end of the Coquette. It was an order for the boats in the Cove to
proceed. The signal was quickly answered from the launch, and then a small
rocket was seen sailing over the trees and shrubbery of the shore. All on
board the Coquette listened intently, to catch some sound that should
denote the tumult of an assault. Once Ludlow and Trysail thought the
cheers of seamen came on the thick air of the night; and once, again,
either fancy or their senses told them they heard the menacing hail which
commanded the outlaws to submit. Many minutes of intense anxiety
succeeded. The whole of the hammock-cloths on the side of the ship nearest
to the land were lined with curious faces, though respect left Ludlow to
the sole occupation of the short and light deck which covered the
accommodations; whither he had ascended, to command a more perfect view of
the horizon.

"'Tis time to hear their musketry, or to see the signal of success!" said
the young man to himself, so intently occupied by his interest in the
undertaking, as to be unconscious of having spoken.

"Have you forgotten to provide a signal for failure?" said one at his
elbow.

"Ha! Master Seadrift;--I would have spared you this spectacle."

"'Tis one too often witnessed, to be singular. A life passed on the ocean
has not left me ignorant of the effect of night, with a view seaward, a
dark coast, and a back-ground of mountain!"

"You have confidence in him left in charge of your brigantine! I shall
have faith in your sea-green lady, myself, if he escape my boats, this
time."

"See!--there is a token of her fortune;" returned the other, pointing
towards three lanterns that were shown at the inlet's mouth, and over
which many lights were burnt in rapid succession.

"'Tis of failure! Let the ship fall-of, and square away the yards! Round
in, men, round in. We will run down to the entrance of the bay, Mr.
Trysail. The knaves have been aided by their lucky star!"

Ludlow spoke with deep vexation in his tones, but always with the
authority of a superior and the promptitude of a seaman. The motionless
being, near him, maintained a profound silence. No exclamation of triumph
escaped him, nor did he open his lips either in pleasure or in surprise.
It appeared as if confidence in his vessel rendered him as much superior
to exultation as to apprehension.

"You look upon this exploit of your brigantine, Master Seadrift, as a
thing of course;" Ludlow observed, when his own ship was steering towards
the extremity of the cape, again. "Fortune has not deserted you, yet; but
with the land on three sides, and this ship and her boats on the fourth, I
do not despair yet of prevailing over your bronzed goddess!"

"Our mistress never sleeps;" returned the dealer in contraband, drawing a
long breath, like one who had struggled long to repress his interest.

"Terms are still in your power. I shall not conceal that the Commissioners
of Her Majesty's customs set so high a price on the possession of the
Water-Witch, as to embolden me to assume a responsibility from which I
might, on any other occasion, shrink. Deliver the vessel, and I pledge you
the honor of an officer that the crew shall land without question.--Leave
her to us, with empty decks and a swept hold, if you will,--but, leave the
swift boat in our hands."

"The lady of the brigantine thinks otherwise. She wears her mantle of the
deep waters, and, trust me, spite of all your nets, she will lead her
followers beyond the offices of the lead, and far from soundings;--ay!
spite of all the navy of Queen Anne!"

"I hope that others may not repent this obstinacy! But this is no time to
bandy words; the duty of the ship requires my presence."

Seadrift took the hint, and reluctantly retired to the cabin. As he left
the poop, the moon rose above the line of water in the eastern board, and
shed its light along the whole horizon. The crew of the Coquette were now
enabled to see, with sufficient distinctness, from the sands of the Hook
to the distance of many leagues to seaward. There no longer remained a
doubt that the brigantine was still within the bay. Encouraged by this
certainty, Ludlow endeavored to forget all motives of personal feeling, in
the discharge of a duty that was getting to be more and more interesting,
as the prospect of its successful accomplishment grew brighter.

It was not long before the Coquette reached the channel which forms the
available mouth of the estuary. Here the ship was again brought to the
wind, and men were sent upon the yards and all her more lofty spars, in
order to overlook, by the dim and deceitful light, as much of the inner
water as the eye could reach; while Ludlow, assisted by the master, was
engaged in the same employment on the deck. Two or three midshipmen were
included, among the common herd, aloft.

"There is nothing visible within," said the captain after a long and
anxious search, with a glass. "The shadow of the Jersey mountains prevents
the sight in that direction, while the spars of a frigate might be
confounded with the trees of Staten Island, here, in the northern
board.--Cross-jack-yard, there!"

The shrill voice of a midshipman answered to the hail.

"What do you make within the Hook, Sir?"

"Nothing visible. Our barge is pulling along the land, and the launch
appears to be lying off the inlet; ay--here is the yawl, resting on its
oars without the Romar; but we can find nothing which looks like the
cutter, in the range of Coney."

"Take another sweep of the glass more westward, and look well into the
mouth of the Raritan,--mark you any thing in that quarter?"

"Ha!--here is a speck on our lee quarter!"

"What do you make of it?"

"Unless sight deceives me greatly, Sir, there is a light boat pulling in
for the ship, about three cables' length distant"

Ludlow raised his own glass, and swept the water in the direction named.
After one or two unsuccessful trials, his eye caught the object; and as
the moon had now some power, he was at no loss to distinguish its
character. There was evidently a boat, and one that, by its movements, had
a design of holding communication with the cruiser.

The eye of a seaman is acute on his element, and his mind is quick in
forming opinions on all things that properly appertain to his profession.
Ludlow saw instantly, by the construction, that the boat was not one of
those sent from the ship; that it approached in a direction which enabled
it to avoid the Coquette, by keeping in a part of the bay where the water
was not sufficiently deep to admit of her passage; and that its movements
were so guarded as to denote great caution, while there was an evident
wish to draw as near to the cruiser as prudence might render advisable.
Taking a trumpet, he hailed in the well-known and customary manner.

The answer came up faintly against the air, but it was uttered with much
practice in the implement, and with an exceeding compass of voice.

"Ay, ay!" and, "a parley from the brigantine!" were the only words that
were distinctly audible.

For a minute or two, the young man paced the deck in silence. Then he
suddenly commanded the only boat which the cruiser now possessed, to be
lowered and manned.

"Throw an ensign into the stern-sheets," he said when these orders were
executed; "and let there be arms beneath it. We will keep faith while
faith is observed, but there are reasons for caution in this interview."

Trysail was directed to keep the ship stationary, and after giving to his
subordinate private instructions of importance in the event of treachery,
Ludlow went into the boat in person. A very few minutes sufficed to bring
the jolly-boat and the stranger so near each other, that the means of
communication were both easy and sure. The men of the former were then
commanded to cease rowing, and, raising his glass, the commander of the
cruiser took a more certain and minute survey of those who awaited his
coming. The strange boat was dancing on the waves, like a light shell that
floated so buoyantly as scarce to touch the element which sustained it,
while four athletic seamen leaned on the oars which lay ready to urge it
ahead. In the stern-sheets stood a form, whose attitude and mien could not
readily be mistaken. In the admirable steadiness of the figure, the folded
arms, the fine and manly proportions, and the attire, Ludlow recognized
the mariner of the India-shawl. A wave of the hand induced him to venture
nearer.

"What is asked of the royal cruiser?" demanded the captain of the vessel
named, when the two boats were as near each other as seemed expedient.

"Confidence!" was the calm reply.--"Come nearer Captain Ludlow; I am here
with naked hands! Our conference need not be maintained with trumpets."

Ashamed that a boat belonging to a ship of war should betray doubts, the
people of the yawl were ordered to go within reach of the oars.

"Well, Sir, you have your wish. I have quitted my ship, and come to the
parley, with the smallest of my boats."

"It is unnecessary to say what has been done with the others!" returned
Tiller, across the firm muscles of whose face there passed a smile that
was scarcely perceptible. "You hunt us hard, Sir, and give but little rest
to the brigantine. But again are you foiled!"

"We have a harbinger of better fortune, in a lucky blow that has been
struck to-night."

"You are understood, Sir; Master Seadrift has fallen into the hands of the
Queen's servants--but take good heed! if injury, in word or deed, befall
that youth, there live those who well know how to resent the wrong!"

"These are lofty expressions, to come from a proscribed man; but we will
overlook them, in the motive. Your brigantine, Master Tiller, lost its
master spirit in the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' and it may be wise to listen
to the suggestions of moderation. If you are disposed to treat, I am here
with no disposition to extort."

"We meet in a suitable spirit, then; for I come prepared to offer terms of
ransom, that Queen Anne, if she love her revenue, need not despise;--but,
as in duty to Her Majesty, I will first listen to her royal pleasure."

"First, then, as a seaman, and one who is not ignorant of what a vessel
can perform, let me direct your attention to the situation of the parties.
I am certain that the Water-Witch, though for the moment concealed by the
shadows of the hills, or favored perhaps by distance and the feebleness
of this light, is in the waters of the bay. A force, against which she has
no power of resistance, watches the inlet; you see the cruiser in
readiness to meet her off the Hook. My boats are so stationed as to
preclude the possibility of escape, without sufficient notice, by the
northern channel; and, in short, the outlets are all closed to your
passage. With the morning light, we shall know your position, and act
accordingly."

"No chart can show the dangers of rocks and shoals more clearly!--and to
avoid these dangers----?"

"Yield the brigantine, and depart. Though outlawed, we shall content
ourselves with the possession of the remarkable vessel in which you do
your mischief, and hope that, deprived of the means to err, you will
return to better courses."

"With the prayers of the church for our amendment! Now listen, Captain
Ludlow, to what I offer. You have the person of one much loved by all who
follow the lady of the sea-green mantle, in your power; and we have a
brigantine that does much injury to Queen Anne's supremacy in the waters
of this hemisphere;--yield you the captive, and we promise to quit this
coast, never to return."

"This were a worthy treaty, truly, for one whose habitation is not a
mad-house! Relinquish my right over the principal doer of the evil, and
receive the unsupported pledge of a subordinate's word! Your happy
fortune, Master Tiller, has troubled your reason. What I offer, was
offered because I would not drive an unfortunate and remarkable man, like
him we have, to extremities, and--there may be other motives, but do not
mistake my lenity. Should force become necessary to put your vessel into
our hands, the law may view your offences with a still harsher eye. Deeds
which the lenity of our system now considers as venial, may easily turn to
crime!"

"I ought not to take your distrust, as other than excusable," returned
the smuggler, evidently suppressing a feeling of haughty and wounded
pride. "The word of a free-trader should have little weight in the ears of
a queen's officer. We have been trained in different schools, and the same
objects are seen in different colors. Your proposal has been heard, and,
with some thanks for its fair intentions, it is refused without a hope of
acceptation. Our brigantine is, as you rightly think, a remarkable vessel!
Her equal, Sir, for beauty or speed, floats not the ocean. By heaven! I
would sooner slight the smiles of the fairest woman that walks the earth,
than entertain a thought which should betray the interest I feel in that
jewel of naval skill! You have seen her, at many times, Captain Ludlow--in
squalls and calms; with her wings abroad, and her pinions shut; by day and
night; near and far; fair and foul;--and I ask you, with a seaman's
frankness, is she not a toy to fill a seaman's heart?"

"I deny not the vessel's merits, nor her beauty--'tis a pity she bears no
better reputation."

"I knew you could not withhold this praise! But I grow childish when there
is question of that brigantine! Well Sir, each has been heard, and now
comes the conclusion. I part with the apple of my eye, ere a stick of that
lovely fabric is willingly deserted. Shall we make other ransom for the
youth?--What think you of a pledge in gold, to be forfeited should we
forget our word."

"You ask impossibilities. In treating thus at all, I quit the path of
proud authority, because, as has been said, there is that about the
'Skimmer of the Seas' that raises him above the coarse herd who in common
traffic against the law. The brigantine, or nothing!"

"My life, before that brigantine! Sir, you forget our fortunes are
protected by one who laughs at the efforts of your fleet; You think that
we are inclosed and that, when light shall return, there will remain
merely the easy task to place your iron-mounted cruiser on our beam, and
drive us to seek mercy. Here are honest mariners, who could tell you of
the hopelessness of the expedient. The Water-Witch has run the gauntlet of
all your navies, and shot has never yet defaced her beauty."

"And yet her limbs have been known to fall before a messenger from my
ship!"

"The stick wanted the commission of our mistress," interrupted the other,
glancing his eye at the credulous and attentive crew of the boat. "In a
thoughtless moment, 'twas taken up at sea, and fashioned to our purpose
without counsel from the book. Nothing that touches our decks, under
fitting advice, comes to harm.--You look incredulous, and 'tis in
character to seem so. If you refuse to listen to the lady of the
brigantine, at least lend an ear to your own laws. Of what offence can you
charge Master Seadrift, that you hold him captive?"

"His redoubted name of 'Skimmer of the Seas' were warranty to force him
from a sanctuary," returned Ludlow, smiling. "Though proof should fail of
any immediate crime, there is impunity for the arrest, since the law
refuses to protect him."

"This is your boasted justice! Rogues in authority combine to condemn an
absent and a silent man. But if you think to do your violence with
impunity, know there are those who take deep interest in the welfare of
that youth."

"This is foolish bandying of menaces," said the captain, warmly. "If you
accept my offers, speak; and if you reject them, abide the consequences."

"I abide the consequences. But since we cannot come to terms, as victor
and the submitting party, we may part in amity. Touch my hand, Captain
Ludlow, as one brave man should salute another, though the next minute
they are to grapple at the throat."

Ludlow hesitated. The proposal was made with so frank and manly a mien,
and the air of the free-trader, as he leaned beyond the gunwale of his
boat, was so superior to his pursuit, that, unwilling to seem churlish, or
to be outdone in courtesy, he reluctantly consented, and laid his palm
within that the other offered. The smuggler profited by the junction to
draw the boats nearer, and, to the amazement of all who witnessed the
action, he stepped boldly into the yawl, and was seated, face to face,
with its officer in a moment.

"These are matters that are not fit for every ear," said the decided and
confident mariner, in an under tone, when he had made this sudden change
in the position of the parties. "Deal with me frankly, Captain Ludlow:--is
your prisoner left to brood on his melancholy, or does he feel the
consolation of knowing that others take an interest in his welfare?"

"He does not want for sympathy, Master Tiller--since he has the pity of
the finest woman in America."

"Ha! la belle Barberie owns her esteem!--is the conjecture right?"

"Unhappily, you are too near the truth. The infatuated girl seems but to
live in his presence. She has so far forgotten the opinions of others, as
to follow him to my ship!"

Tiller listened intently, and, from that instant, all concern disappeared
from his countenance.

"He who is thus favored may, for a moment, even forget the brigantine!" he
exclaimed, with all his natural recklessness of air. "And the
Alderman----?"

"Has more discretion than his niece, since he did not permit her to come
alone."

"Enough.--Captain Ludlow, let what will follow. We part as friends. Fear
not, Sir, to touch the hand of a proscribed man, again; it is honest
after its own fashion, and many is the peer and prince who keeps not so
clean a palm. Deal tenderly with that gay and rash young sailor; he wants
the discretion of an older head, but the heart is kindness itself--I would
hazard life, to shelter his--but at every hazard the brigantine must be
saved.--Adieu!"

There was strong emotion in the voice of the mariner of the shawl,
notwithstanding his high bearing. Squeezing the hand of Ludlow, he passed
back into his own barge, with the ease and steadiness of one who made the
ocean his home.

"Adieu!" he repeated, signing to his men to pull in the direction of the
shoals, where it was certain the ship could not follow. "We may meet
again; until then, adieu."

"We are sure to meet, with the return of light."

"Believe it not, brave gentleman. Our lady will thrust the spars under her
girdle, and pass a fleet unseen.--A sailor's blessing on you--fair winds
and a plenty; a safe landfall, and a cheerful home! Deal kindly by the
boy, and, in all but evil wishes to my vessel, success light on your
ensign!"

The seamen of both boats dashed their oars into the water at the same
instant, and the two parties were quickly without the hearing of the
voice.




Chapter XXVII.



              "--Did I tell this,
    Who would believe me?"

    Measure for Measure.


The time of the interview related in the close of the preceding chapter,
was in the early watches of the night. It now becomes our duty to
transport the reader to another, that had place several hours later, and
after day had dawned on the industrious burghers of Manhattan.

There stood, near one of the wooden wharves which lined the arm of the sea
on which the city is so happily placed, a dwelling around which there was
every sign that its owner was engaged in a retail commerce, that was
active and thriving, for that age and country. Notwithstanding the
earliness of the hour, the windows of this house were open; and an
individual, of a busy-looking face, thrust his head so often from one of
the casements, as to show that he already expected the appearance of a
second party in the affair that had probably called him from his bed, even
sooner than common. A tremendous rap at the door relieved his visible
uneasiness; and, hastening to open it, he received his visiter, with much
parade of ceremony, and many protestations of respect, in person.

"This is an honor, my lord, that does not often befall men of my humble
condition," said the master of the house, in the flippant utterance of a
vulgar cockney; "but I thought it would be more agreeable to your
lordship, to receive the a--a--here, than in the place where your
lordship, just at this moment, resides. Will your lordship please to rest
yourself, after your lordship's walk?"

"I thank you, Carnaby," returned the other, taking the offered seat, with
an air of easy superiority. "You judge with your usual discretion, as
respects the place, though I doubt the prudence of seeing him at all. Has
the man come?"

"Doubtless, my lord; he would hardly presume to keep your lordship
waiting, and much less would I countenance him in so gross a disrespect.
He will be most happy to wait on you, my lord, whenever your lordship
shall please."

"Let him wait: there is no necessity for haste. He has probably
communicated some of the objects of this extraordinary call on my time,
Carnaby; and you can break them, in the intervening moments."

"I am sorry to say, my lord, that the fellow is as obstinate as a mule. I
felt the impropriety of introducing him, personally, to your lordship; but
as he insisted he had affairs that would deeply interest you, my lord, I
could not take upon me to say, what would be agreeable to your lordship,
or what not; and so I was bold enough to write the note."

"And a very properly expressed note it was, Master Carnaby. I have not
received a better worded communication, since my arrival in this colony."

"I am sure the approbation of your lordship might justly make any man
proud! It is the ambition of my life, my lord, to do the duties of my
station in a proper manner, and to treat all above me with a suitable
respect, my lord, and all below me as in reason bound. If I might presume
to think in such a matter, my lord, I should say, that these colonists are
no great judges of propriety, in their correspondence, or indeed in any
thing else."

The noble visiter shrugged his shoulder, and threw an expression into his
look, that encouraged the retailer to proceed.

"It is just what I think myself, my lord," he continued, simpering; "but
then," he added, with a condoling and patronizing air, "how should they
know any better? England is but an island, after all; and the whole world
cannot be born and educated on the same bit of earth."

"'Twould be inconvenient, Carnaby, if it led to no other unpleasant
consequence."

"Almost, word for word, what I said to Mrs. Carnaby myself, no later than
yesterday, my lord, only vastly better expressed. 'Twould be inconvenient,
said I, Mrs. Carnaby, to take in the other lodger, for every body cannot
live in the same house; which covers, as it were, the ground taken in your
lordship's sentiment. I ought to add, in behalf of the poor woman, that
she expressed, on the same occasion, strong regrets that it is reported
your lordship will be likely to quit us soon, on your return to old
England."

"That is really a subject on which there is more cause to rejoice than to
weep. This imprisoning, or placing within limits, so near a relative of
the crown, is an affair that must have unpleasant consequences, and which
offends sadly against all propriety."

"It is awful, my lord! If it be not sacrilege by the law, the greater the
shame of the opposition in Parliament, who defeat so many other wholesome
regulations, intended for the good of the subject."

"Faith, I am not sure I may not be driven to join them myself, bad as they
are, Carnaby; for this neglect of ministers, not to call it by a worse
name, might goad a man to even a more heinous measure.'

"I am sure nobody could blame your lordship, were your lordship to join
any body, or any thing but the French! I have often told Mrs. Carnaby as
much as that, in our frequent conversations concerning the unpleasant
situation in which your lordship is just now placed."

"I had not thought the awkward transaction attracted so much notice,"
observed the other, evidently wincing under the allusion.

"It attracts it only in a proper and respectful way, my lord. Neither Mrs.
Carnaby, nor myself, ever indulges in any of these remarks, but in the
most proper and truly English manner."

"The reservation might palliate a greater error. That word proper is a
prudent term, and expresses all one could wish. I had not thought you so
intelligent and shrewd a man, Master Carnaby: clever in the way of
business, I always knew you to be; but so apt in reason, and so matured in
principle, is what I will confess I had not expected. Can you form no
conjecture of the business of this man?"

"Not in the least, my lord. I pressed the impropriety of a personal
interview; for, though he alluded to some business or other, I scarcely
know what, with which he appeared to think your lordship had some
connexion, I did not understand him, and we had like to have parted
without an explanation."

"I will not see the fellow."

"Just as your lordship pleases--I am sure that, after so many little
affairs have passed through my hands, I might be safely trusted with this;
and I said as much,--but as he positively refused to make me an agent, and
he insisted that it was so much to your lordship's interests--why, I
thought, my lord, that perhaps--just now----"

"Show him in."

Carnaby bowed low and submissively, and after busying himself in placing
the chairs aside, and adjusting the table more conveniently for the elbow
of his guest, he left the room.

"Where is the man I bid you keep in the shop?" demanded the retailer, in a
coarse, authoritative voice, when without; addressing a meek and
humble-looking lad, who did the duty of clerk. "I warrant me, he is left
in the kitchen, and you have been idling about on the walk! A more
heedless and inattentive lad than yourself is not to be found in America,
and the sun never rises but I repent having signed your indentures. You
shall pay for this, you----"

The appearance of the person he sought, cut short the denunciations of the
obsequious grocer and the domestic tyrant. He opened the door, and, having
again closed it, left his two visiters together.

Though the degenerate descendant of the great Clarendon had not hesitated
to lend his office to cloak the irregular and unlawful trade that was then
so prevalent in the American seas, he had paid the sickly but customary
deference to virtue, of refusing on all occasions, to treat personally
with its agents. Sheltered behind his official and personal rank, he had
soothed his feelings, by tacitly believing that cupidity is less venal
when its avenues are hidden, and that in protecting his station from an
immediate contact with its ministers, he had discharged an important, and,
for one in his situation, an imperative, duty. Unequal to the exercise of
virtue itself, he thought he had done enough in preserving some of its
seemliness. Though far from paying even this slight homage to decency, in
his more ordinary habits, his pride of rank had, on the subject of so
coarse a failing, induced him to maintain an appearance which his pride of
character would not have suggested. Carnaby was much the most degraded and
the lowest of those with whom he ever condescended to communicate
directly; and even with him there might have been some scruple, had not
his necessities caused him to stoop so far as to accept pecuniary
assistance from one he both despised and detested.

When the door opened, therefore, the lord Cornbury rose, and, determined
to bring the interview to a speedy issue, he turned to face the individual
who entered, with a mien, into which he threw all the distance and
hauteur that he thought necessary for such an object. But he encountered,
in the mariner of the India-shawl, a very different man from the
flattering and obsequious grocer who had just quitted him. Eye met eye;
his gaze of authority receiving a look as steady, if not as curious, as
his own. It was evident, by the composure of the fine manly frame he saw,
that its owner rested his claims on the aristocracy of nature. The noble
forgot his acting under the influence of surprise, and his voice expressed
as much of admiration as command when he said--

"This, then, is the Skimmer of the Seas!"

"Men call me thus: if a life passed on oceans gives a claim to the title,
it has been fairly earned."

"Your character--I may say that some portions of your history, are not
unknown to me. Poor Carnaby, who is a worthy and an industrious man, with
a growing family dependent on his exertions, has entreated me to receive
you, or there might be less apology for this step than I could wish. Men
of a certain rank, Master Skimmer, owe so much to their station, that I
rely on your discretion."

"I have stood in nobler presences, my lord, and found so little change by
the honor, that I am not apt to boast of what I see. Some of princely rank
have found their profit in my acquaintance."

"I do not deny your usefulness, Sir; it is only the necessity of prudence,
I would urge. There has been, I believe, some sort of implied contract
between us--at least, so Carnaby explains the transaction, for I rarely
enter into these details, myself--by which you may perhaps feel some right
to include me in the list of your customers. Men in high places must
respect the laws, and yet it is not always convenient, or even useful,
that they should deny themselves every indulgence, which policy would
prohibit to the mass. One who has seen as much of life as yourself, needs
no explanations on this head; and I cannot doubt, but our present
interview will have a satisfactory termination."

The Skimmer scarce deemed it necessary to conceal the contempt that caused
his lip to curl, while the other was endeavoring to mystify his cupidity;
and when the speaker was done, he merely expressed an assent by a slight
inclination of the head. The ex-governor saw that his attempt was
fruitless, and, by relinquishing his masquerade, and yielding more to his
natural propensities and tastes, he succeeded better.

"Carnaby has been a faithful agent," he continued, "and by his reports, it
would seem that our confidence has not been misplaced. If fame speaks
true, there is not a more dexterous navigator of the narrow seas than
thyself, Master Skimmer. It is to be supposed that your correspondents on
this coast, too, are as lucrative as I doubt not they are numerous."

"He who sells cheap can never want a purchaser. I think your lordship has
no reason to complain of prices."

"As pointed as his compass! Well, Sir, as I am no longer master here, may
I ask the object of this interview?"

"I have come to seek your interest in behalf of one who has fallen into
the grasp of the Queen's officers."

"Hum--the amount of which is, that the cruiser in the bay has entrapped
some careless smuggler. We are none of us immortal, and an arrest is but a
legal death to men of your persuasion in commerce. Interest is a word of
many meanings. It is the interest of one man to lend, and of another to
borrow; of the creditor to receive, and of the debtor to avoid payment.
Then there is interest at court, and interest in court--in short, you must
deal more frankly, ere I can decide on the purport of your visit."

"I am not ignorant that the Queen has been pleased to name another
governor over this colony, or that your creditors, my lord, have thought
it prudent to take a pledge for their dues, in your person. Still, I must
think, that one who stands so near the Queen in blood, and who sooner or
later must enjoy both rank and fortune in the mother country, will not
solicit so slight a boon as that I ask, without success. This is the
reason I prefer to treat with you."

"As clear an explanation as the shrewdest casuist could desire! I admire
your succinctness, Master Skimmer, and confess you for the pink of
etiquette. When your fortune shall be made, I recommend the court circle
as your place of retirement. Governors, creditors, Queen, and
imprisonment, all as compactly placed, in the same sentence, as if it were
the creed written on a thumb-nail! Well, Sir, we will suppose my interest
what you wish it.--Who and what is the delinquent?"

"One named Seadrift,--a useful and a pleasant youth, who passes much
between me and my customers; heedless and merry in his humors, but dear to
all in my brigantine, because of tried fidelity and shrewd wit. We could
sacrifice the profits of the voyage, that he were free. To me he is a
necessary agent, for his skill in the judgment of rich tissues, and other
luxuries that compose my traffic, is exceeding; and I am better fitted to
guide the vessel to her haven, and to look to her safety amid shoals and
in tempests, than to deal in these trifles of female vanity."

"So dexterous a go-between should not have mistaken a tide-waiter for a
customer--how befell the accident?"

"He met the barge of the Coquette at an unlucky moment, and as we had so
lately been chased off the coast by the cruiser, there was no choice but
to arrest him."

The dilemma is not without embarrassment. When once his mind is settled,
it is no trifle that will amuse this Mr. Ludlow. I do not know a more
literal construer of his orders in the fleet;--a man, Sir, who thinks
words have but a single set of meanings, and who knows as little as can be
imagined on the difference between a sentiment and a practice."

"He is a seaman, my lord, and he reads his instructions with a seaman's
simplicity. I think none the worse of him, that he cannot be tempted from
his duty; for, let us understand the right as we will, our service once
taken, it becomes us all to do it faithfully."

A small red spot came and went on the cheek of the profligate Cornbury.
Ashamed of his weakness, he affected to laugh at what he had heard, and
continued the discourse.

"Your forbearance and charity might adorn a churchman, Master Skimmer!" he
answered. "Nothing can be more true, for this is an age of moral truths,
as witness the Protestant succession. Men are now expected to perform, and
not to profess. Is the fellow of such usefulness that he may not be
abandoned to his fate?"

"Much as I dote on my brigantine, and few men set their affections on
woman with a stronger love, I would see the beauteous craft degenerate to
a cutter for the Queen's revenue, before I would entertain the thought!
But I will not anticipate a long and painful imprisonment for the youth,
since those who are not altogether powerless already take a deep and
friendly concern in his safety."

"You have overcome the Brigadier!" cried the other, in a burst of
exultation, that conquered the little reserve of manner he had thought it
necessary to maintain; "that immaculate and reforming representative of my
royal cousin has bitten of the golden bait, and proves a true colony
governor after all!"

"Lord Viscount, no. What we have to hope or what we have to fear from your
successor, is to me a secret."

"Ply him with promises, Master Skimmer--set golden hopes before his
imagination; set gold itself before his eyes, and you will prosper. I will
pledge my expected earldom that he yields! Sir, these distant situations
are like so many half-authorized mints, in which money is to be coined;
and the only counterfeit is your mimic representative of Majesty. Ply him
with golden hopes; if mortal, he will yield!"

"And yet, my lord, I have met men who preferred poverty and their
opinions, to gold and the wishes of others."

"The dolts were lusus naturae!" exclaimed the dissolute Cornbury, losing
all his reserve in a manner that better suited his known and confirmed
character. "You should have caged them, Skimmer, and profited by their
dullness, to lay the curious under contribution. Don't mistake me, Sir, if
I speak a little in confidence. I hope I know the difference between a
gentleman and a leveller, as well as another; but trust me, this Mr.
Hunter is human, and he will yield if proper appliances are used;--and you
expect from me----?"

"The exercise of that influence which cannot fail of success; since there
is a courtesy between men of a certain station, which causes them to
overlook rivalry, in the spirit of their caste. The cousin of Queen Anne
can yet obtain the liberty of one whose heaviest crime is a free trade,
though he may not be able to keep his own seat in the chair of the
government."

"Thus far, indeed, my poor influence may yet extend, provided the fellow
be not named in any act of outlawry. I would gladly enough Mr. Skimmer
end my deeds in this hemisphere, with some act of graceful mercy,
if--indeed--I saw--the means----"

"They shall not be wanting. I know the law is like any other article of
great price; some think that Justice holds the balance, in order to weigh
her fees. Though the profits of this hazardous and sleepless trade of mine
be much overrated, I would gladly line her scales with two hundred broad
pieces, to have that youth again safe in the cabin of the brigantine."

As the 'Skimmer of the Seas' thus spoke, he drew, with the calmness of a
man who saw no use in circumlocution, a heavy bag of gold from beneath his
frock, and deposited it, without a second look at the treasure, on the
table. When this offering was made, he turned aside, less by design than
by a careless movement of the body, and, when he faced his companion
again, the bag had vanished.

"Your affection for the lad is touching, Master Skimmer," returned the
corrupt Cornbury; "it were a pity such friendship should be wasted. Will
there be proof to insure his condemnation?"

"It may be doubted. His dealings have only been with the higher class of
my customers, and with but few of them. The care I now take is more in
tenderness to the youth, than with any great doubts of the result. I shall
count you, my lord, among his protectors, in the event that the affair is
noised?"

"I owe it to your frankness--but will Mr. Ludlow content himself with the
possession of an inferior, when the principal is so near? and shall we not
have a confiscation of the brigantine on our hands?"

"I charge myself with the care of all else. There was indeed a lucky
escape, only the last night, as we lay at a light kedge, waiting for the
return of him who has been arrested. Profiting by the possession of our
skiff; the commander of the Coquette, himself, got within the sweep of my
hawse--nay, he was in the act of cutting the very fastenings, when the
dangerous design was discovered. 'Twould have been a fate unworthy of the
Water-Witch, to be cast on shore like a drifting log, and to check her
noble career by some such a seizure as that of a stranded waif!"

"You avoided the mischance?"

"My eyes are seldom shut, lord Viscount, when danger is nigh. The skiff
was seen in time, and watched; for I knew that one in whom I trusted was
abroad.--When the movement grew suspicious, we had our means of
frightening this Mr. Ludlow from his enterprise, without recourse to
violence."

"I had not thought him one to be scared from following up a business like
this."

"You judged him rightly--I may say we judged him rightly. But when his
boats sought us at our anchorage, the bird had flown."

"You got the brigantine to sea, in season?" observed Cornbury, not sorry
to believe that the vessel was already off the coast.

"I had other business. My agent could not be thus deserted, and there were
affairs to finish in the city. Our course lay up the bay."

"Ha! Master Skimmer, 'twas a bold step, and one that says little for your
discretion!"

"Lord Viscount, there is safety in courage," calmly and perhaps ironically
returned the other. "While the Queen's captain closed all the outlets, my
little craft was floating quietly under the hills of Staten. Before the
morning watch was set, she passed these wharves; and she now awaits her
captain, in the broad basin that lies beyond the bend of yonder
head-land."

"This is a hardiness to be condemned! A failure of wind, a change of tide,
or any of the mishaps common to the sea, may throw you on the mercy of the
law, and will greatly embarrass all who feel an interest in your safety."

"So far as this apprehension is connected with my welfare, I thank you
much, my lord; but, trust me, many hazards have left me but little to
learn in this particular. We shall run the Hell-Gate, and gain the open
sea by the Connecticut Sound."

"Truly, Master Skimmer, one has need of nerves to be your confidant! Faith
in a compact constitutes the beauty of social order; without it, there is
no security for interests, nor any repose for character. But faith may be
implied, as well as expressed; and when men in certain situations place
their dependence on others who should have motives for being wary, the
first are bound to respect, even to the details of a most scrupulous
construction, the conditions of the covenant. Sir, I wash my hands of this
transaction, if it be understood that testimony is to be accumulated
against us, by thus putting your Water-Witch in danger of trial before the
Admiralty."

"I am sorry that this is your decision," returned the Skimmer. "What is
done, cannot be recalled, though I still hope it may be remedied. My
brigantine now lies within a league of this, and 'twould be treachery to
deny it. Since it is your opinion, my lord, that our contract is not
valid, there is little use in its seal--the broad pieces may still be
serviceable, in shielding that youth from harm."

"You are as literal in constructions, Master Skimmer, as a school-boy's
version of his Virgil. There is an idiom in diplomacy, as well as in
language, and one who treats so sensibly should not be ignorant of its
phrases. Bless me, Sir; an hypothesis is not a conclusion, any more than a
promise is a performance. That which is advanced by way of supposition, is
but the ornament of reasoning, while your gold has the more solid
character of demonstration. Our bargain is made."

The unsophisticated mariner regarded the noble casuist a moment, in doubt
whether to acquiesce in this conclusion, or not; but ere he had decided on
his course, the windows of the room were shaken violently, and then came
the heavy roar of a piece of ordnance.

"The morning gun!" exclaimed Cornbury, who started at the explosion, with
the sensitiveness of one unworthily employed.--"No! 'tis an hour past the
rising of the sun!"

The Skimmer showed no yielding of the nerves though it was evident, by his
attitude of thought and the momentary fixedness of his eye, that he
foresaw danger was near. Moving to the window, he looked out on the water,
and instantly drew back, like one who wanted no further evidence.

"Our bargain then is made," he said, hastily approaching the Viscount,
whose hand he seized and wrung in spite of the other's obvious reluctance
to allow the familiarity; "our bargain then is made. Deal fairly by the
youth, and the deed will be remembered--deal treacherously, and it shall
be revenged!"

For one instant longer, the Skimmer held the member of the effeminate
Cornbury imprisoned; and then, raising his cap with a courtesy that
appeared more in deference to himself than his companion, he turned on his
heel, and with a firm but quick step he left the house.

Carnaby, who entered on the instant, found his guest in a state between
resentment, surprise, and alarm. But habitual levity soon conquered other
feelings, and, finding himself freed from the presence of a man who had
treated him with so little ceremony, the ex-governor shook his head, like
one accustomed to submit to evils he could not obviate, and assumed the
ease and insolent superiority he was accustomed to maintain in the
presence of the obsequious grocer.

"This may be a coral or a pearl, or any other lion--ha! do I not see the
masts of a ship, moving above the roofs of yonder line of stores?"

"Well, your lordship has the quickest eye!--and the happiest way of seeing
things, of any nobleman in England! Now I should have stared a quarter of
an hour, before I thought of looking over the roofs of those stores, at
all; and yet your lordship looks there at the very first glance."

"Is it a ship or a brig, Master Carnaby--you have the advantage of
position, for I would not willingly be seen--speak quickly, dolt;--is it
ship, or brig?"

"My lord--'tis a brig--or a ship--really I must ask your lordship, for I
know so little of these things----"

"Nay, complaisant Master Carnaby--have an opinion of your own for one
moment, if you please--there is smoke curling upward, behind those
masts----"

Another rattling of windows, and a second report, removed all doubts on
the subject of the firing. At the next instant, the bows of a vessel of
war appeared at the opening of a ship-yard, and then came gun after gun in
view, until the whole broadside and frowning battery of the Coquette were
visible.

The Viscount sought no further solution of the reason why the Skimmer had
left him so hurriedly. Fumbling a moment in a pocket, he drew forth a hand
filled with broad pieces of gold. These he appeared about to lay upon the
table; but, as it were by forgetfulness, he kept the member closed, and
bidding the grocer adieu, he left the house, with as firm a resolution as
was ever made by any man, conscious of having done both a weak and a
wicked action, of never again putting himself in familial contact with so
truckling a miscreant.




Chapter XXVIII.



    "--What care these roarers for the name of king?"

    Tempest.


The Manhattanese will readily comprehend the situation of the two vessels;
but those of our countrymen who live in distant parts of the Union, may be
glad to have the localities explained.

Though the vast estuary, which receives the Hudson and so many minor
streams, is chiefly made by an indentation of the continent, that portion
of it which forms the port of New-York is separated from the ocean by the
happy position of its islands. Of the latter, there are two, which give
the general character to the basin, and even to a long line of coast;
while several, that are smaller, serve as useful and beautiful accessories
to the haven and to the landscape. Between the bay of Raritan and that of
New-York there are two communications, one between the islands of Staten
and Nassau, called the Narrows, which is the ordinary ship-channel of the
port, and the other between Staten and the main, which is known by the
name of the Kilns. It is by means of the latter, that vessels pass into
the neighboring waters of New-Jersey, and have access to so many of the
rivers of that state. But while the island of Staten does so much for the
security and facilities of the port, that of Nassau produces an effect on
a great extent of coast. After sheltering one-half of the harbor from the
ocean, the latter approaches so near the continent as to narrow the
passage between them to the length of two cables, and then stretching away
eastward for the distance of a hundred miles, it forms a wide and
beautiful sound. After passing a cluster of islands, at a point which lies
forty leagues from the city, by another passage, vessels can gain the
open sea.

The seaman will at once understand, that the tide of flood must
necessarily flow into these vast estuaries from different directions. The
current which enters by Sandy-Hook (the scene of so much of this tale)
flows westward into the Jersey rivers, northward into the Hudson, and
eastward along the arm of the sea that lies between Nassau and the Main.
The current, that comes by the way of Montauk, or the eastern extremity of
Nassau, raises the vast basin of the Sound, fills the streams of
Connecticut, and meets the western tide at a place called Throgmorton, and
within twenty miles of the city.

As the size of the estuaries is so great, it is scarcely necessary to
explain that the pressure of so wide sheets of water causes the currents,
at all the narrow passes, to be exceedingly rapid; since that equal
diffusion of the element, which depends on a natural law, must, wherever
there is a deficiency of space, be obtained by its velocity. There is,
consequently, a quick tide throughout the whole distance between the
harbor and Throgmorton; while it is permitted to poetic license to say,
that at the narrowest part of the channel, the water darts by the land
like an arrow parting from its bow. Owing to a sudden bend in the course
of the stream, which makes two right-angles within a short distance, the
dangerous position of many rocks that are visible and more that are not,
and the confusion produced by currents, counter-currents, and eddies, this
critical pass has received the name of "Hell-Gate." It is memorable for
causing many a gentle bosom to palpitate with a terror that is a little
exaggerated by the boding name, though it is constantly the cause of
pecuniary losses, and has in many instances been the source of much
personal danger. It was here, that a British frigate was lost, during the
war of the Revolution, in consequence of having struck a rock called
'the Pot,' the blow causing the ship to fill and to founder so suddenly,
that even some of her people are said to have been drowned. A similar but
a greatly lessened effect is produced in the passage among the islands, by
which vessels gain the ocean at the eastern extremity of the sound; though
the magnitude of the latter sheet of water is so much greater than that of
Raritan-bay and the harbor of New-York, that the force of its pressure is
diminished by a corresponding width in the outlets. With these
explanations, we shall return to the thread of the narrative.

When the person, who has so long been known in our pages by the nom de
guerre of Tiller, gained the open street, he had a better opportunity of
understanding the nature of the danger which so imminently pressed upon
the brigantine. With a single glance at the symmetrical spars and broad
yards of the ship that was sweeping past the town, he knew her to be the
Coquette. The little flag at her fore-top-gallant mast sufficiently
explained the meaning of the gun; for the two, in conjunction with the
direction the ship was steering, told him, in language that any seaman
could comprehend, that she demanded a Hell-Gate pilot. By the time the
Skimmer reached the end of a lone wharf, where a light and swift-rowing
boat awaited his return, the second report bespoke the impatience of his
pursuers to be furnished with the necessary guide.

Though the navigation in this Republic, coastwise, now employs a tonnage
equalling that used in all the commerce of any other nation of
Christendom, England alone excepted, it was of no great amount at the
commencement of the eighteenth century. A single ship, lying at the
wharves, and two or three brigs and schooners at anchor in the rivers,
composed the whole show of sea vessels then in port. To these were to be
added some twenty smaller coasters and river-craft, most of whom were the
shapeless and slow-moving masses which then plied, in voyages of a month's
duration, between the two principal towns of the colony. The appeal of the
Coquette, therefore, at that hour and in that age, was not likely to be
quickly answered.

The ship had got fairly into the arm of the sea which separates the island
of Manhattan from that of Nassau, and though it was not then, as now,
narrowed by artificial means, its tide was so strong as, aided by the
breeze, to float her swiftly onward. A third gun shook the windows of the
city, causing many a worthy burgher to thrust his head through his
casement; and yet no boat, was seen pulling from the land, nor was there
any other visible sign that the signal would be speedily obeyed. Still the
royal cruiser stood steadily on, with sail packed above sail, and every
sheet of canvas spread, that the direction of a wind, which blew a little
forward of the beam, would allow.

"We must pull for our own safety, and that of the brigantine, my men;"
said the Skimmer, springing into his boat and seizing the tiller--"A quick
stroke, and a strong!--here is no time for holiday feathering, or your
man-of-war jerk! Give way, boys; give way, with a will, and together!"

These were sounds that had often saluted the ears of men engaged in the
hazardous pursuit of his crew. The oars fell into the water at the same
moment, and, quick as thought, the light bark was in the strength of the
current.

The short range of wharves was soon passed, and, ere many minutes, the
boat was gliding up with the tide, between the bluffs of Long Island and
the projection which forms the angle on that part of Manhattan. Here the
Skimmer was induced to sheer more into the centre of the passage, in order
to avoid the eddies formed by the point, and to preserve the whole
benefit of the current. As the boat approached Coerlaer's, his eye was seen
anxiously examining the wider reach of the water, that began to open
above, in quest of his brigantine. Another gun was heard. A moment after
the report, there followed the whistling of a shot; and then succeeded the
rebound on the water, and the glittering particles of the spray. The ball
glanced a few hundred feet further, and, skipping from place to place, it
soon sunk into the element.

"This Mr. Ludlow is disposed to kill two birds with the same stone,"
coolly observed the Skimmer, not even bending his head aside, to note the
position of the ship. "He wakes the burghers of the town with his noise,
while he menaces our boat with his bullets. We are seen, my friends, and
have no dependence but our own manhood, with some assistance from the lady
of the sea-green mantle. A quicker stroke, and a strong! You have the
Queen's cruiser before you, Master Coil; does she show boats on her
quarters, or are the davits empty?"

The seaman addressed pulled the stroke-oar of the boat, and consequently
he faced the Coquette. Without in the least relaxing his exertions, he
rolled his eyes over the ship, and answered with a steadiness that showed
him to be a man accustomed to situations of hazard.

"His boat-falls are as loose as a mermaid's locks, your Honor, and he
shows few men in his tops; there are enough of the rogues left, however,
to give us another shot."

"Her Majesty's servants are early awake, this morning. Another stroke or
two, hearts of oak, and we throw them behind the land!"

A second shot fell into the water, just without the blades of the oars;
and then the boat, obedient to its helm, whirled round the point, and the
ship was no longer visible. As the cruiser was shut in by the formation
of the land, the brigantine came into view on the opposite side of
Coerlaer's. Notwithstanding the calmness that reigned in the features of
the Skimmer, one who studied his countenance closely might have seen an
expression of concern shadowing his manly face, as the Water-Witch first
met his eye. Still he spoke not, concealing his uneasiness, if in truth he
felt any, from those whose exertions were at that moment of the last
importance. As the crew of the expecting vessel saw their boat, they
altered their course, and the two were soon together.

"Why is that signal still flying?" demanded the Skimmer, the instant his
foot touched the deck of his brigantine, and pointing, as he spoke, at the
little flag that fluttered at the head of the forward mast.

"We keep it aloft, to hasten off the pilot," was the answer.

"Has not the treacherous knave kept faith?" exclaimed the Skimmer, half
recoiling in surprise. "He has my gold, and in return I hold fifty of his
worthless promises--ha!--the laggard is in yon skiff; ware the brig round,
and meet him, for moments are as precious now as water in a desert."

The helm was a-weather, and the lively brigantine had already turned more
than half aside, when another gun drew every eye towards the point. The
smoke was seen rising above the bend of the land, and presently the
head-sails, followed by all the hull and spars of the Coquette, came into
view. At that instant, a voice from forward announced that the pilot had
turned, and was rowing with all his powers towards the shore. The
imprecations that were heaped on the head of the delinquent were many and
deep, but it was no time for indecision. The two vessels were not half a
mile apart, and now was the moment to show the qualities of the
Water-Witch. Her helm was shifted; and, as if conscious herself of the
danger that threatened her liberty, the beautiful fabric came sweeping up
to her course, and, inclining to the breeze, with one heavy flap of the
canvas, she glided ahead with all her wonted ease. But, the royal cruiser
was a ship of ten thousand! For twenty minutes, the nicest eye might have
been at a loss to say which lost or which gained, so equally did the
pursuer and the pursued hold on their way. As the brigantine was the
first, however, to reach the narrow passage formed by Blackwell's, her
motion was favored by the increasing power of the stream. It would seem
that this change slight as it was, did not escape the vigilance of those
in the Coquette; for the gun, which had been silent so long, again sent
forth its flame and smoke. Four discharges, in less than so many minutes,
threatened a serious disadvantage to the free-traders. Shot after shot
passed among their spars, and opened wide rents in the canvas. A few more
such assaults would deprive them of their means of motion. Aware of the
crisis, the accomplished and prompt seaman who governed her movements
needed but an instant to form his decision.

The brigantine was now nearly up with the head of Blackwell's. It was
half-flood, on a spring tide. The reef that projects from the western end
of the island far into the reach below, was nearly covered; but still
enough was visible to show the nature of the barrier it presented to a
passage from one shore to the other. There was one rock, near the island
itself, which lifted its black head high above the water. Between this
dark mass of stone and the land, there was an opening of some twenty
fathoms in width. The Skimmer saw, by the even and unbroken waves that
rolled through the passage, that the bottom lay less near to the surface
of the water, in that opening, than at any other point along the line of
reef. He commanded the helm a-weather, once more, and calmly trusted to
the issue.

Not a man on board that brigantine was aware that the shot of the royal
cruiser was whistling between their masts, and damaging their gear, as the
little vessel glided into the narrow opening. A single blow on the rock
would have been destruction, and the lesser danger was entirely absorbed
in the greater. But when the passage was cleared, and the true stream in
the other channel gained, a common shout proclaimed both the weight of
their apprehension and their relief. In another minute, the head of
Blackwell's protected them from the shot of their pursuers.

The length of the reef prevented the Coquette from changing her direction,
and her draught of water closed the passage between the rock and the
island. But the deviation from the straight course, and the passage of the
eddies, had enabled the ship, which came steadily on, to range up nearly
abeam of her chase. Both vessels, though separated by the long narrow
island, were now fairly in the force of those currents which glide so
swiftly through the confined passages. A sudden thought glanced on the
mind of the Skimmer, and he lost no time in attempting to execute its
suggestion. Again the helm was put up, and the image of the sea-green lady
was seen struggling to stem the rapid waters. Had this effort been crowned
with success, the triumph of her followers would have been complete; since
the brigantine might have reached some of the eddies of the reach below,
and leaving her heavier pursuer to contend with the strength of the tide,
she would have gained the open sea, by the route over which she had so
lately passed. But a single minute of trial convinced the bold mariner
that his decision came too late. The wind was insufficient to pass the
gorge, and, environed by the land, with a tide that grew stronger at each
moment, he saw that delay would be destruction. Once more the light vessel
yielded to the helm, and, with every thing set to the best advantage, she
darted along the passage.

In the mean time, the Coquette had not been idle Borne on by the breeze,
and floating with the current, she had even gained upon her chase; and as
her lofty and light sails drew strongest over the land, there was every
prospect of her first reaching the eastern end of Blackwell's. Ludlow saw
his advantage, and made his preparations accordingly.

There needs little explanation to render the circumstances which brought
the royal cruiser up to town, intelligible to the reader. As the morning
approached, she had entered more deeply into the bay: and when the light
permitted, those on board her had been able to see that no vessel lay
beneath the hills, nor in any of the more retired places of the estuary. A
fisherman, however, removed the last of their doubts, by reporting that he
had seen a vessel, whose description answered that of the Water-Witch,
passing the Narrows in the middle watch. He added that a swiftly-rowing
boat was, shortly after, seen pulling in the same direction. This clue had
been sufficient. Ludlow made a signal for his own boats to close the
passages of the Kilns and the Narrows, and then, as has been seen, he
steered directly into the harbor.

When Ludlow found himself in the position just described, he turned all
his attention to the double object of preserving his own vessel, and
arresting that of the free-trader. Though there was still a possibility of
damaging the spars of the brigantine by firing across the land, the
feebleness of his own crew, reduced as it was by more than half its
numbers, the danger of doing injury to the farm-houses that were here and
there placed along the low cliffs, and the necessity of preparation to
meet the critical pass ahead, united to prevent the attempt. The ship was
no sooner fairly entered into the pass, be tween Blackwell's and Nassau,
than he issued an order to secure the guns that had been used, and to
clear away the anchors.

"Cock-bill the bowers, Sir," he hastily added, in his orders to Trysail.
"We are in no condition to sport with stock-and-fluke; have every thing
ready to let go at a word; and see the grapnels ready,--we will throw them
aboard the smuggler as we close, and take him alive. Once fast to the
chain, we are yet strong enough to haul him in under our scuppers, and to
capture him with the pumps! Is the signal still abroad, for a pilot?"

"We keep it flying, Sir, but 'twill be a swift boat that overhauls us in
this tide's-way. The Gate begins at yonder bend in the land, Captain
Ludlow!"

"Keep it abroad; the lazy rogues are sometimes loitering in the cove this
side the rocks, and chance may throw one of them aboard us, as we pass.
See to the anchors, Sir; the ship is driving through this channel, like a
race-horse under the whip!"

The men were hurriedly piped to this duty while their young commander took
his station on the poop, now anxiously examining the courses of the tides
and the positions of the eddies, and now turning his eyes towards the
brigantine, whose upper spars and white sails were to be seen, at the
distance of two hundred fathoms, glancing past the trees of the island.
But miles and minutes seemed like rods and moments, in that swift current.
Trysail had just reported the anchors ready, when the ship swept up
abreast of the cove, where vessels often seek an anchorage, to await
favorable moments for entering the Gate. Ludlow saw, at a glance, that the
place was entirely empty. For an instant he yielded to the heavy
responsibility--a responsibility before which a seaman sooner shrinks than
before any other--that of charging himself with the duty of the pilot; and
he thought of running into the anchorage for shelter. But another glimpse
at the spars of the brigantine caused him to waver.

"We are near the Gate, Sir!" cried Trysail, in a voice that was full of
warning.

"Yon daring mariner stands on!"

"The rogue sails his vessel without the Queen's permission, Captain
Ludlow. They tell me, this is a passage that has been well named!"

"I have been through it, and will vouch for its character--he shows no
signs of anchoring!"

"If the woman who points his course can carry him through safely, she
deserves her title. We are passing, the Cove, Captain Ludlow!"

"We are past it!" returned Ludlow, breathing heavily. "Let there be no
whisper in the ship--pilot or no pilot, we now sink or swim!"

Trysail had ventured to remonstrate, while there was a possibility of
avoiding the danger; but, like his commander, he now saw that all depended
on their own coolness and care. He passed busily among the crew; saw that
each brace and bowline was manned; cautioned the few young officers who
continued on board to vigilance, and then awaited the orders of his
superior, with the composure that is so necessary to a seaman in the
moment of trial. Ludlow himself, while he felt the load of responsibility
he had assumed, succeeded equally well in maintaining an outward calm. The
ship was irretrievably in the Gate, and no human power could retrace the
step. At such moments of intense anxiety, the human mind is wont to seek
support in the opinions of others. Notwithstanding the increasing velocity
and the critical condition of his own vessel, Ludlow cast a glance, in
order to ascertain the determination of the 'Skimmer of the Seas.'
Blackwell's was already behind them, and as the two currents were again
united, the brigantine had luffed up into the entrance of the dangerous
passage, and now followed within two hundred feet of the Coquette,
directly in her wake. The bold and manly-looking mariner, who controlled
her, stood between the night-heads, just above the image of his pretended
mistress, where he examined the foaming reefs, the whirling eddies, and
the varying currents, with folded arms and a riveted eye. A glance was
exchanged between the two officers, and the free-trader raised his
sea-cap. Ludlow was too courteous not to return the salutation, and then
all his senses were engrossed by the care of his ship. A rock lay before
them, over which the water broke in a loud and unceasing roar. For an
instant it seemed that the vessel could not avoid the danger, and then it
was already past.

"Brace up!" said Ludlow, in the calm tones that denote a forced
tranquillity.

"Luff!" called out the Skimmer, so quickly as to show that he took the
movements of the cruiser for his guide. The ship came closer to the wind,
but the sudden bend in the stream no longer permitted her to steer in a
direct line with its course. Though drifting to windward with vast
rapidity, her way through the water, which was greatly increased by the
contrary actions of the wind and tide, caused the cruiser to shoot across
the current; while a reef, over which the water madly tumbled, lay
immediately in her course. The danger seemed too imminent for the
observances of nautical etiquette, and Trysail railed aloud that the ship
must be thrown aback, or she was lost.

"Hard-a-lee!" shouted Ludlow, in the strong voice of authority.--"Up with
every thing--tacks and sheets!--main-top-sail haul!"

The ship seemed as conscious of her danger as any on her decks. The bows
whirled away from the foaming reef, and as the sails caught the breeze on
their opposite surfaces, they aided in bringing her head in the contrary
direction. A minute had scarcely passed ere she was aback, and in the
next she was about and full again. The intensity of the brief exertion
kept Trysail fully employed; but no sooner had he leisure to look ahead,
than he again called aloud--

"Here is another roarer under her bows;--luff Sir, luff, or we are upon
it!"

"Hard down your helm!" once again came in deep tones from Ludlow--"Let
fly your sheets--throw all aback, forward and aft--away with the yards,
with a will, men!"

There was need for all of these precautions. Though the ship had so
happily escaped the dangers of the first reef, a turbulent and roaring
caldron in the water, which, as representing the element in ebullition, is
called 'the Pot,' lay so directly before her, as to render the danger
apparently inevitable. But the power of the canvas was not lost on this
trying occasion. The forward motion of the ship diminished, and as the
current still swept her swiftly to windward, her bows did not enter the
rolling waters until the hidden rocks which caused the commotion had been
passed. The yielding vessel rose and fell in the agitated water, as if in
homage to the whirlpool; but the deep keel was unharmed.

"If the ship shoot ahead twice her length more, her bows will touch the
eddy!" exclaimed the vigilant master.

Ludlow looked around him, for a single moment in indecision. The waters
were whirling and roaring on every side, and the sails began to lose their
power, as the ship drew near the bluff which forms the second angle in
this critical pass. He saw, by objects on the land, that he still
approached the shore, and he had recourse to the seaman's last expedient.

"Let go both anchors!" was the final order.

The fall of the massive iron into the water, was succeeded by the rumbling
of the cable. The first effort to check the progress of the vessel,
appeared to threaten dissolution to the whole fabric, which trembled under
the shock from its mast-heads to the keel. But the enormous rope again
yielded, and smoke was seen rising round the wood which held it. The ship
whirled with the sudden check, and sheered wildly in towards the shore.
Met by the helm, and again checked by the efforts of the crew, she
threatened to defy restraint. There was an instant when all on board
expected to hear the cable snap; but the upper sails filled, and as the
wind was now brought over the taffrail, the force of the current was in a
great degree met by that of the breeze.

The ship answered her helm and became stationary, while the water foamed
against her cut-water, as if she were driven ahead with the power of a
brisk breeze.

The time, from the moment when the Coquette entered the Gate, to that when
she anchored below 'the Pot,' though the distance was near a mile, seemed
but a minute. Certain however that his ship was now checked, the thoughts
of Ludlow returned to their other duties with the quickness of lightning.

"Clear away the grapnels!" he eagerly cried--"Stand by to heave, and haul
in!--heave!"

But, that the reader may better comprehend the motive of this sudden
order, he must consent to return to the entrance of the dangerous passage,
and accompany the Water-Witch, also, in her hazardous experiment to get
through without a pilot.

The abortive attempt of the brigantine to stem the tide at the western end
of Blackwell's, will be remembered. It had no other effect than to place
her pursuer more in advance, and to convince her own commander that he had
now no other resource than to continue his course; for, had he anchored,
boats would have insured his capture. When the two vessels appeared off
the eastern end of the island the Coquette was ahead,--a fact that the
experienced free-trader did not at all regret. He profited by the
circumstance to follow her movements, and to make a favorable entrance
into the uncertain currents. To him, Hell-Gate was known only by its
fearful reputation among mariners; and unless he might avail himself of
the presence of the cruiser, he had no other guide than his own general
knowledge of the power of the element.

When the Coquette had tacked, the calm and observant Skimmer was satisfied
with throwing his head-sails flat to the mast. From that instant, the
brigantine lay floating in the current, neither advancing nor receding a
foot, and always keeping her position at a safe distance from the ship,
that was so adroitly made to answer the purposes of a beacon. The sails
were watched with the closest care; and so nicely was the delicate machine
tended, that it would have been, at any moment, in her people's power to
have lessened her way, by turning to the stream. The Coquette was followed
till she anchored, and the call on board the cruiser to heave the grapnels
had been given, because the brigantine was apparently floating directly
down on her broadside.

When the grapnels were hove from the royal cruiser, the free-trader stood
on the low poop of his little vessel, within fifty feet of him who had
issued the order. There was a smile of indifference on his firm mouth,
while he silently waved a hand to his own crew. The signal was obeyed by
bracing round their yards, and suffering all the canvas to fill. The
brigantine shot quickly ahead, and the useless irons fell heavily into the
water.

"Many thanks for your pilotage, Captain Ludlow!" cried the daring and
successful mariner of the shawl, as his vessel, borne on by wind and
current, receded rapidly from the cruiser--"You will find the off Montauk;
for affairs still keep us on the coast. Our lady has, however, put on the
blue mantle; and 'ere many settings of the sun, we shall look for deep
water. Take good care of Her Majesty's ship, I pray thee, for she has
neither a more beautiful nor a faster!"

One thought succeeded another with the tumult of a torrent, in the mind of
Ludlow. As the brigantine lay directly under his broadside, the first
impulse was to use his guns; but at the next moment he was conscious, that
before they could be cleared, distance would render them useless. His lips
had neatly parted with intent to order the cables cut, but he remembered
the speed of the brigantine, and hesitated. A sudden freshening of the
breeze decided his course. Finding that the ship was enabled to keep her
station, he ordered the crew to thrust the whole of the enormous ropes
through the hawseholes; and, freed from the restraint, he abandoned the
anchors, until an opportunity to reclaim them should offer.

The operation of slipping the cables consumed several minutes; and when
the Coquette, with every thing set, was again steering in pursuit, the
Water-Witch was already beyond the reach of her guns. Both vessels,
however, held on their way, keeping as near as possible to the centre of
the stream, and trusting more to fortune, than to any knowledge of the
channel, for safety.

When passing the two small islands that lie at no great distance from the
Gate, a boat was seen moving towards the royal cruiser. A man in it
pointed to the signal, which was still flying, and offered his services.

"Tell me," demanded Ludlow eagerly, "has yonder brigantine taken a pilot?"

"By her movements, I judge not. She brushed the sunken rock, off the mouth
of Flushing-bay; and as she passed, I heard the song of the lead. I
should have gone on board myself, but the fellow rather flies than sails;
and as for signals, he seems to mind none but his own!"

"Bring us up with him, and fifty guineas is thy reward!"

The slow-moving pilot, who in truth had just awoke from a refreshing
sleep, opened his eyes, and seemed to gather a new impulse from the
promise. When his questions were asked and answered, he began deliberately
to count on his fingers all the chances that still existed of a vessel,
whose crew was ignorant of the navigation, falling into their hands.

"Admitting that, by keeping mid-channel, she goes clear of White Stone and
Frogs," he said, giving to Throgmorton's its vulgar name, "he must be a
wizard, to know that the Stepping-Stones lie directly across his course,
and that a vessel must steer away northerly, or bring up on rocks that
will as surely hold him as if he were built there. Then he runs his chance
for the Executioners, which are as prettily placed as needs be, to make
our trade flourish, besides the Middle Ground further east, though I count
but little on that, having often tried to find it myself, without success.
Courage, noble captain! if the fellow be the man you say, we shall get a
nearer look at him before the sun sets; for certainly he who has run the
Gate without a pilot in safety, has had as much good luck as can fall to
his share in one day."

The opinion of the East River Branch proved erroneous. Notwithstanding the
hidden perils by which she was environed, the Water-Witch continued her
course, with a speed that increased as the wind rose with the sun, and
with an impunity from harm that amazed all who were in the secret of her
situation. Off Throgmorton's there was, in truth, a danger that might even
have baffled the sagacity of the followers of the mysterious lady, had
they not been aided by accident. This is the point where the straitened
arm of the sea expands into the basin of the Sound. A broad and inviting
passage lies directly before the navigator, while, like the flattering
prospects of life, numberless hidden obstacles are in wait to arrest the
unheeding and ignorant.

The 'Skimmer of the Seas' was deeply practised in all the intricacies and
dangers of the shoals and rocks. Most of his life had been passed in
threading the one, or in avoiding the other. So keen and quick had his eye
become, in detecting the presence of any of those signs which forewarn the
mariner of danger, that a ripple on the surface, or a deeper shade in the
color of the water, rarely escaped his vigilance. Seated on the
top-sail-yard of his brigantine, he had overlooked the passage from the
moment they were through the Gate, and issued his mandates to those below
with a precision and promptitude that were not surpassed by the trained
conductor of the Coquette himself. But when his sight embraced the wide
reach of water that lay in front, as his little vessel swept round the
head-land of Throgmorton, he believed there no longer existed a reason for
so much care. Still there was a motive for hesitation. A heavily-moulded
and dull-sailing coaster was going eastward not a league ahead of the
brigantine, while one of the light sloops of those waters was coming
westward still further in the distance. Notwithstanding the wind was
favorable to each alike, both vessels had deviated from the direct line,
and were steering towards a common centre, near an island that was placed
more than a mile to the northward of the straight course. A mariner, like
him of the India-shawl, could not overlook so obvious an intimation of a
change in the channel. The Water-Witch was kept away, and her lighter
sails were lowered, in order to allow the royal cruiser, whose lofty
canvas was plainly visible above the land, to draw near. When the
Coquette was seen also to diverge, there no longer remained a doubt of the
direction necessary to be taken; and every thing was quickly set upon the
brigantine, even to her studding-sails. Long ere she reached the island,
the two coasters had met, and each again changed its course, reversing
that on which the other had just been sailing. There was, in these
movements, as plain an explanation as a seaman could desire, that the
pursued were right On reaching the island, therefore, they again luffed
into the wake of the schooner; and having nearly crossed the sheet of
water, they passed the coaster, receiving an assurance, in words, that all
was now plain sailing, before them.

Such was the famous passage of the 'Skimmer of the Seas' through the
multiplied and hidden dangers of the eastern channel. To those who have
thus accompanied him, step by step, though its intricacies and alarms,
there may seem nothing extraordinary in the event; but, coupled as it was
with the character previously earned by that bold mariner, and occurring,
as it did, in an age when men were more disposed than at present to put
faith in the marvellous, the reader will not be surprised to learn that it
greatly increased his reputation for daring, and had no small influence on
an opinion, which was by no means uncommon, that the dealers in contraband
were singularly favored by a power which greatly exceeded that of Queen
Anne and all her servants.




Chapter XXIX.



   "--Thou shalt see me at Philippi."

   Shakspeare.


The commander of Her Britannic Majesty's ship Coquette slept that night in
the hammock-cloths. Before the sun had set, the light and swift
brigantine, by following the gradual bend of the land, had disappeared in
the eastern board; and it was no longer a question of overtaking her by
speed. Still, sail was crowded on the royal cruiser; and, long ere the
period when Ludlow threw himself in his clothes between the ridge-ropes of
the quarter-deck, the vessel had gained the broadest part of the Sound,
and was already approaching the islands that form the 'Race.'

Throughout the whole of that long and anxious day, the young sailor had
held no communication with the inmates of the cabin. The servants of the
ship had passed to and fro; but, though the door seldom opened that he did
not bend his eyes feverishly in its direction, neither the Alderman, his
niece, the captive, nor even Francois or the negress, made their
appearance on the deck. If any there felt an interest in the result of the
chase, it was concealed in a profound and almost mysterious silence.
Determined not to be outdone in indifference, and goaded by feelings which
with all his pride he could not overcome, our young seaman took possession
of the place of rest we have mentioned, without using any measures to
resume the intercourse.

When the first watch of the night was come, sail, was shortened on the
ship, and from that moment till the day dawned again, her captain seemed
buried in sleep. With the appearance of the sun, however, he arose, and
commanded the canvas to be spread, once more, and every exertion made to
drive the vessel forward to her object.

The Coquette reached the Race early in the day, and, shooting through the
passage on an ebb-tide, she was off Montauk at noon. No sooner had the
ship drawn past the cape, and reached a point where she felt the breeze
and the waves of the Atlantic, than men were sent aloft, and twenty eyes
were curiously employed in examining the offing. Ludlow remembered the
promise of the Skimmer to meet him at that spot, and, notwithstanding the
motives which the latter might be supposed to have for avoiding the
interview, so great was the influence of the free-trader's manner and
character, that the young captain entertained secret expectations the
promise would be kept.

"The offing is clear!" said the young captain, in a tone of
disappointment, when he lowered his glass; "and yet that rover does not
seem a man to hide his head in fear----"

"Fear--that is to say, fear of a Frenchman--and a decent respect for Her
Majesty's cruisers, are very different sorts of things," returned the
master. "I never got a bandanna, or a bottle of your Cogniac ashore, in my
life, that I did not think every man that I passed in the street, could
see the spots in the one, or scent the flavor of the other; but then I
never supposed this shyness amounted to more than a certain suspicion in
my own mind, that other people know when a man is running on an illegal
course, I suppose that one of your rectors, who is snugly anchored for
life in a good warm living, would call this conscience; but, for my own
part, Captain Ludlow, though no great logician in matters of this sort, I
have always believed that it was natural concern of mind lest the articles
should be seized. If this 'Skimmer of the Seas' comes out to give us
another chase in rough water, he is by no means as good a judge of the
difference between a large and a small vessel as I had thought him--and I
confess, Sir, I should have more hopes of taking him, were the woman under
his bowsprit fairly burnt."

"The offing is clear!"

"That it is, with a show of the wind holding here at south-half-south.
This bit of water that we have passed, between yon island and the main, is
lined with bays; and while we are here looking out for them on the high
seas, the cunning varlets may be trading in any one of the fifty good
basins that lie between the cape and the place where we lost him. For
aught we know, he may have run westward again in the night-watches, and be
at this moment laughing in his sleeve at the manner in which he dodged a
cruiser."

"There is too much truth in what you say, Trysail; for if the Skimmer be
now disposed to avoid us, he has certainly the means in his power."

"Sail, ho!" cried the look-out on the main-top-gallant-yard.

"Where-a-way?"

"Broad on the weather-beam, Sir; here, in a range with the light cloud
that is just lifting from the water."

"Can you make out the rig?"

"'Fore George, the fellow is right!" interrupted the master. "The cloud
caused her to be unseen; but here she is, sure enough,--a full-rigged
ship, under easy canvas, with her head to the westward!"

The look of Ludlow through the glass was long, attentive, and grave.

"We are weak-handed to deal with a stranger;" he said, when he returned
the instrument to Trysail, "You see he has nothing but his top-sails
set,--a show of canvas that would satisfy no trader, in a breeze like
this!"

The master was silent, but his look was even longer and more critical than
that of his captain. When it had ended, he cast a cautious glance towards
the diminished crew, who were curiously regarding the vessel that had now
become sufficiently distinct-by a change in the position of the cloud, and
then answered, in an under tone:--

"'Tis a Frenchman, or I am a whale' One may see it, by his short yards,
and the hoist of his sails; ay, and 'tis a cruiser, too, for no man who
had a profit to make on his freight, would be lying there under short
canvas, and his port within a day's run."

"Your opinion is my own; would to Heaven our people were all here! This is
but a short complement to take into action with a ship whose force seems
equal to our own. What number can we count?"

"We are short of seventy,--a small muster for four-and-twenty guns, with
yards like these to handle."

"And yet the port may not be insulted! We are known to be on this coast--"

"We are seen!" interrupted the master--"The fellow has worn ship, and he
is already setting his top-gallant-sails."

There no longer remained any choice between downright flight and
preparations for combat. The former would have been easy, for an hour
would have taken the ship within the cape; but the latter was far more in
consonance with the spirit of the service to which the Coquette belonged.
The order was therefore given for "all hands to clear ship for action!" It
was in the reckless nature of sailors, to exalt in this summons; for
success and audacity go hand in hand, and long familiarity with the first
had, even at that early day, given a confidence that often approached
temerity to the seamen of Great Britain and her dependencies. The mandate
to prepare for battle was received by the feeble crew of the Coquette, as
it had often been received before, when her decks were filled with the
number necessary to give full efficiency to her armament; though a few of
the older and more experienced of the mariners, men in whom confidence had
been diminished by time, were seen to shake their heads, as if they
doubted the prudence of the intended contest.

Whatever might have been the secret hesitation of Ludlow when the
character and force of his enemy were clearly established, he betrayed no
signs of irresolution from the moment when his decision appeared to be
taken. The necessary orders were issued calmly, and with the clearness and
readiness that perhaps constitute the greatest merit of a naval captain.
The yards were slung in chains; the booms were sent down; the lofty sails
were furled, and, in short, all the preparations that were then customary
were made with the usual promptitude and skill. Then the drum beat to
quarters, and when the people were at their stations, their young
commander had a better opportunity of examining into the true efficiency
of his ship. Calling to the master, he ascended the poop, in order that
they might confer together with less risk of being overheard, and at the
same time better observe the manoeuvres of the enemy.

The stranger had, as Trysail perceived, suddenly worn round on his heel,
and laid his head to the northward. The change in the course brought him
before the wind, and, as he immediately spread all the canvas that would
draw, he was approaching fast. During the time occupied in preparation on
board the Coquette, his hull had risen as it were from out of the water;
and Ludlow and his companion had not studied his appearance long, from the
poop, before the streak of white paint, dotted with ports which marks a
vessel of war, became visible to the naked eye. As the cruiser of Queen
Anne continued also to steer in the direction of the chase, half an hour
more brought them sufficiently near to each other, to remove all doubts of
their respective characters and force. The stranger then came to the wind,
and made his preparations for combat.

"The fellow shows a stout heart, and a warm battery," observed the master,
when the broadside of their enemy became visible, by this change in his
position. "Six-and-twenty teeth, by my count! though the eye-teeth must be
wanting, or he would never be so fool-hardy as to brave Queen Anne's
Coquette in this impudent fashion! A prettily turned boat, Captain Ludlow,
and one nimble enough in her movements. But look at his top-sails! Just
like his character, Sir, all hoist; and with little or no head to them.
I'll not deny but that the hull is well enough, for that is no more than
carpenter's work; but when it comes to the rig, or trim, or cut of a sail,
how should a l'Orient or a Brest man understand what is comely? There is
no equalling, after all, a good, wholesome, honest English top-sail; which
is neither too narrow in the head, nor too deep in the hoist; with a
bolt-rope of exactly the true size, robands and earings and bowlines that
look as if they grew there, and sheets that neither nature nor art could
alter to advantage. Here are these Americans, now, making innovations in
ship-building, and in the sparring of vessels, as if any thing could be
gained by quitting the customs and opinions of their ancestors! Any man
may see that all they have about them, that is good for any thing, is
English; while all their nonsense, and new-fangled changes, come from
their own vanity."

"They get along, Master Trysail, notwithstanding," returned the captain,
who, though a sufficiently loyal subject, could not forget his
birth-place; "and many is the time this ship, one of the finest models of
Plymouth, has been bothered to overhaul the coasters of these seas. Here
is the brigantine, that has laughed at us, on our best tack, and with our
choice of wind."

"One cannot say where that brigantine was built, Captain Ludlow. It may be
here, it may be there; for I look upon her as a nondescript, as old
Admiral Top used to call the galliots of the north seas--but, concerning
these new American fashions, of what use are they, I would ask, Captain
Ludlow? In the first place, they are neither English nor French, which is
as much as to confess they are altogether outlandish; in the second place,
they disturb the harmony and established usages among wrights and
sail-makers, and, though they may get along well enough now, sooner or
later, take my word for it, they will come to harm. It is unreasonable to
suppose that a new people can discover any thing in the construction of a
ship, that has escaped the wisdom of seamen as old--the Frenchman is
cluing up his top-gallant-sails, and means to let them hang; which is much
the same as condemning them at once,--and, therefore, I am of opinion that
all these new fashions will come to no good."

"Your reasoning is absolutely conclusive, Master Trysail." returned the
captain, whose thoughts were differently employed. "I agree with you, it
would be safer for the stranger to send down his yards."

"There is something manly and becoming in seeing a ship strip herself, as
she comes into action, Sir! It is like a boxer taking off his jacket, with
the intention of making a fair stand-up fight of it.--That fellow is
filling away again, and means to manoeuvre before he comes up fairly to
his work."

The eye of Ludlow had never quitted the stranger. He saw that the moment
for serious action was not distant; and, bidding Trysail keep the vessel
on her course, he descended to the quarter-deck. For a angle instant, the
young commander paused with big hand on the door of the cabin, and then,
overcoming his reluctance, he entered the apartment.

The Coquette was built after a fashion much in vogue a century since, and
which, by a fickleness that influences marine architecture as well as less
important things, is again coming into use, for vessels of her force. The
accommodations of the commander were on the same deck with the batteries
of the ship, and they were frequently made to contain two or even four
guns of the armament. When Ludlow entered his cabin, therefore, he found a
crew stationed around the gun which was placed on the side next the enemy,
and all the customary arrangements made which precede a combat. The
state-rooms abaft, however, as well as the little apartment which lay
between them, were closed. Glancing his eye about him, and observing the
carpenters in readiness, he made a signal for them to knock away the
bulk-heads, and lay the whole of the fighting part of the ship in common.
While this duty was going on, he entered the after-cabin.

Alderman Van Beverout and his companions were found together and evidently
in expectation of the visit they now received. Passing coolly by the
former, Ludlow approached his niece, and, taking her hand, he led her to
the quarter-deck, making a sign for her female attendant to follow.
Descending into the depths of the ship, the captain conducted his charge
into a part of the berth-deck, that was below the water line, and as much
removed from danger as she could well be, without encountering a foul air,
or sights that might be painful to one of her sex and habits.

"Here is as much safety as a vessel of war affords in a moment like this,"
he said, when his companion was silently seated on a mess-chest. "On no
account quit the spot, till I--or some other, advise you it may be done
without hazard."

Alida had submitted to be led thither, without a question. Though her
color went and came, she saw the little dispositions that were made for
her comfort, and without which, even at that moment, the young sailor
could not quit her, in the same silence. But when they were ended, and her
conductor was about to retire, his name escaped her lips, by an
exclamation that seemed hurried and involuntary.

"Can I do aught else to quiet your apprehensions?" the young man inquired,
though he studiously avoided her eye, as he turned to put the question. "I
know your strength of mind, and that you have a resolution which exceeds
the courage of your sex; else I would not venture so freely to point out
the danger which may beset one, even here, without a self-command and
discretion that shall restrain all sudden impulses of fear."

"Notwithstanding your generous interpretation of my character, Ludlow, I
am but woman after all."

"I did not mistake you for an amazon," returned the young man smiling,
perceiving that she checked her words by a sudden effort. "All I expect
from you is the triumph of reason over female terror. I shall not conceal
that the odds--perhaps I may say that the chances, are against us; and yet
the enemy must pay for my ship, ere he has her! She will be none the worse
defended, Alida, from the consciousness that thy liberty and comfort
depend in some measure on our exertions.--Would you say more?"

La belle Barberie struggled with herself, and she became calm, at least in
exterior.

"There has been a singular misconception between us, and yet is this no
moment for explanations! Ludlow, I would not have you part with me, at
such a time as this, with that cold and reproachful eye!"

She paused When the young man ventured to raise his look, he saw the
beautiful girl standing with a hand extended towards him, as if offering a
pledge of amity; while the crimson on her cheek, and her yielding but
half-averted eye, spoke with the eloquence of maiden modesty. Seizing the
hand, he answered, hastily--

"Time was, when this action would have made me happy--"

The young man paused, for his gaze had unconsciously become riveted on the
rings of the hand he held. Alida understood the look, and, drawing one of
the jewels, she offered it with a smile that was as attractive as her
beauty.

"One of these may be spared," she said. "Take it, Ludlow; and when thy
present duty shall be performed, return it, as a gage that I have promised
thee that no explanation which you may have a right to ask shall be
withheld."

The young man took the ring, and forced it on the smallest of his fingers,
in a mechanical manner, and with a bewildered look, that seemed to inquire
if some one of those which remained was not the token of a plighted faith.
It is probable that he might have continued the discourse, had not a gun
been fired from the enemy. It recalled him to the more serious business of
the hour. Already more than half disposed to believe all he could wish, he
raised the fair hand, which had just bestowed the boon, to his lips, and
rushed upon deck.

"The Monsieur is beginning to bluster;" said Trysail, who had witnessed
the descent of his commander, at that moment and on such an errand, with
great dissatisfaction. "Although his shot fell short, it is too much to
let a Frenchman have the credit of first word."

"He has merely given the weather gun, the signal of defiance. Let him
come down, and he will not find us in a hurry to leave him!"

"No, no: as for that, we are snug enough!" returned the master, chuckling
as he surveyed the half-naked spars, and the light top-hamper, to which he
had himself reduced the ship. "If running is to be our play, we have made
a false move at the beginning of the game. These top-sails, spanker, and
jib, make a show that says more for bottom than for speed. Well, come what
will of this affair, it will leave me a master, though it is beyond the
power of the best duke in England to rob me of my share of the honor!"

With this consolation for his perfectly hopeless condition as respects
promotion, the old seaman walked forward, examining critically into the
state of the vessel; while his young commander, having cast a look about
him, motioned to his prisoner and the Alderman to follow to the poop.

"I do not pretend to inquire into the nature of the tie which unites you
with some in this ship," Ludlow commenced, addressing his words to
Seadrift, though he kept his gaze on the recent gift of Alida; "but, that
it must be strong, is evident by the interest they have taken in your
fate. One who is thus esteemed should set a value on himself. How far you
have trifled with the laws, I do not wish to say; but here is an
opportunity to redeem some of the public favor. You are a seaman, and need
not be told that my ship is not as strongly manned as one could wish her
at this moment, and that the services of every Englishman will be welcome.
Take charge of these six guns, and depend on my honor that your devotion
to the flag shall not go unrequited."

"You much mistake my vocation, noble captain;" returned the dealer in
contraband, faintly laughing. "Though one of the seas, I am one more used
to the calm latitudes than to these whirlwinds of war. You have visited
the brigantine of our mistress, and must have seen that her temple
resembles that of Janus more than that of Mars. The deck of the
Water-Witch has none of this frowning garniture of artillery."

Ludlow listened in amazement. Surprise, incredulity, and scorn, were each,
in turn, expressed in his frowning countenance.

"This is unbecoming language for one of your calling," he said, scarce
deeming it necessary to conceal the contempt he felt. "Do you acknowledge
fealty to this ensign--are you an Englishman?"

"I am such as Heaven was pleased to make me--fitter for the zephyr, than
the gale--the jest, than the war-shout--the merry moment, than the angry
mood."

"Is this the man whose name for daring has passed into a proverb?--the
dauntless, reckless, skilful 'Skimmer of the Seas!'"

"North is not more removed from south, than I from him in the qualities
you seek! It was not my duty to undeceive you as to the value of your
captive, while he whose services are beyond price to our mistress was
still on the coast. So far from being him you name, brave captain, I claim
to be no more than one of his agents, who, having some experience in the
caprices of woman, he trusts to recommend his wares to female fancies.
Though so useless in inflicting injuries, I may make bold however to rate
myself as excellent at consolation. Suffer that I appease the fears of la
belle Barberie during the coming tumult, and you shall own that one more
skilful in that merciful office is rare indeed!"

"Comfort whom, where, and what thou wilt, miserable effigy of
manhood!--but hold, there is less of terror than of artifice in that
lurking smile and treacherous eye!"

"Discredit both, generous captain! On the faith of one who can be sincere
at need, a wholesome fear is uppermost, whatever else the disobedient
members may betray. I could fain weep rather than be thought valiant, just
now!"

Ludlow listened in wonder. He had raised an arm to arrest the retreat of
the young mariner, and by a natural movement his hand slid along the limb
it had grasped, until it held that of Seadrift. The instant he touched the
soft and ungloved palm, an idea, as novel as it was sudden, crossed his
brain. Retreating a step or two, he examined the light and agile form of
the other, from head to feet. The frown of displeasure, which had clouded
his brow, changed to a look of unfeigned surprise; and for the first time,
the tones of the voice came over his recollection as being softer and more
melodious than is wont in man.

"Truly, thou art not the 'Skimmer of the Seas!'" he exclaimed, when his
short examination was ended.

"No truth more certain. I am one of little account in this rude encounter,
though, were that gallant seaman here," and the color deepened on the
cheeks of Seadrift as he spoke, "his arm and counsel might prove a host!
Oh! I have seen him in scenes far more trying than this, when the elements
have conspired with other dangers. The example of his steadiness and
spirit has given courage even to the feeblest heart in the brigantine!
Now, suffer me to offer consolation to the timid Alida."

"I should little merit her gratitude, were the request refused," returned
Ludlow. "Go, gay and gallant Master Seadrift! if the enemy fears thy
presence on the deck as little as I dread it with la belle Barberie, thy
services here will be useless!"

Seadrift colored to the temples, crossed his arms meekly on his bosom,
sunk in an attitude of leave-taking, that was so equivocal as to cause the
attentive and critical young captain to smile, and then glided past him
and disappeared through a hatchway.

The eye of Ludlow followed the active and graceful form, while it
continued in sight; and when it was no longer visible, he faced the
Alderman with a look which seemed to inquire how far he might be
acquainted with the true character of the individual who had been the
cause of so much pain to himself.

"Have I done well, Sir, in permitting a subject of Queen Anne to quit us
at this emergency?" he demanded, observing that either the phlegm or the
self-command of Myndert rendered him proof to scrutiny.

"The lad may be termed contraband of war," returned the Alderman, without
moving a muscle; "an article that will command a better price in a quiet
than in a turbulent market. In short, Captain Cornelius Ludlow, this
Master Seadrift will not answer thy purpose at all in combat."

"And is this example of heroism to go any farther, or may I count on the
assistance of Mr. Alderman Van Beverout?--He has the reputation of a loyal
citizen."

"As for loyalty," returned the Alderman, "so far as saying God bless the
Queen, at city feasts, will go, none are more so. A wish is not an
expensive return for the protection of her fleets and armies, and I wish
her and you success against the enemy, with all my heart. But I never
admired the manner in which the States General were dispossessed of their
territories on this continent, Master Ludlow, and therefore I pay the
Stuarts little more than I owe them in law."

"Which is as much as to say, that you will join the gay smuggler, in
administering consolation to one whose spirit places her above the need of
such succor."

"Not so fast, young gentleman.--We mercantile men like to see offsets in
our books, before they are balanced. Whatever may be my opinion of the
reigning family, which I only utter to you in confidence, and not as coin
that is to pass from one to another, my love for the Grand Monarque is
still less. Louis is at loggerheads with the United Provinces, as well as
with our gracious Queen; and I see no harm in opposing one of his
cruisers, since they certainly annoy trade, and render returns for
investments inconveniently uncertain. I have heard artillery in my time,
having in my younger days led a band of city volunteers in many a march
and countermarch around the Bowling-Green; and for the honor of the second
ward of the good town of Manhattan, I am now ready to undertake to show,
that all knowledge of the art has not entirely departed from me."

"That is a manly answer, and, provided it be sustained by a corresponding
countenance, there shall be no impertinent inquiry into motives. 'Tis the
officer that makes the ship victorious; for, when he sets a good example
and understands his duty, there is little fear of the men. Choose your
position among any of these guns, and we will make an effort to disappoint
yon servants of Louis, whether we do it as Englishmen, or only as the
allies of the Seven Provinces."

Myndert descended to the quarter-deck, and having deliberately deposited
his coat on the capstan, replaced his wig by a handkerchief, and tightened
the buckle that did the office of suspenders, he squinted along the guns,
with a certain air that served to assure the spectators he had at least no
dread of the recoil.

Alderman Van Beverout was a personage far too important, not to be known
by most of those who frequented the goodly town of which he was a civic
officer. His presence, therefore, among the men, not a few of whom were
natives of the colony, had a salutary effect; some yielding to the
sympathy which is natural to a hearty and encouraging example, while it is
possible there were a few that argued less of the danger, in consequence
of the indifference of a man who, being so rich, had so many motives to
take good care of his person. Be this as it might, the burgher was
received by a cheer which drew a short but pithy address from him, in
which he exhorted his companions in arms to do their duty, in a manner
which should teach the Frenchmen the wisdom of leaving that coast in
future free from annoyance; while he wisely abstained from all the
commonplace allusions to king and country,--a subject to which he felt his
inability to do proper justice.

"Let every man remember that cause for courage, which may be most
agreeable to his own habits and opinions," concluded this imitator of the
Hannibals and Scipios of old; "for that is the surest and the briefest
method of bringing his mind into an obstinate state. In my own case, there
is no want of motive; and I dare say each one of you may find some
sufficient reason for entering heart and hand into this battle. Protests
and credit! what would become of the affairs of the best house in the
colonies, were its principal to be led a captive to Brest or l'Orient? It
might derange the business of the whole city. I'll not offend your
patriotism with such a supposition, but at once believe that your minds
are resolved, like my own, to resist to the last; for this is an interest
which is general, as all questions of a commercial nature become, through
their influence on the happiness and prosperity of society."

Having terminated his address in so apposite and public-spirited a manner,
the worthy burgher hemmed loudly, and resumed his accustomed silence,
perfectly assured of his own applause. If the matter of Myndert's
discourse wears too much the air of an unvided attention to his own
interests, the reader will not forget it is by this concentration of
individuality that most of the mercantile prosperity of the world is
achieved. The seamen listened with admiration, for they understood no part
of the appeal; and, next to a statement which shall be so lucid as to
induce every hearer to believe it is no more than a happy explanation of
his own ideas, that which is unintelligible is apt to unite most suffrages
in its favor.

"You see your enemy, and you know your work!" said the clear, deep, manly
voice of Ludlow, who, as he passed among the people of the Coquette, spoke
to them in that steady unwavering tone which, in moments of danger, goes
to the heart. "I shall not pretend that we are as strong as I could wish;
but the greater the necessity for a strong pull, the readier a true seaman
will be to give it. There are no nails in that ensign. When I am dead, you
may pull it down if you please; but, so long as I live, my men, there it
shall fly! And now, one cheer to show your humor, and then let the rest of
your noise come from the guns."

The crew complied, with a full-mouthed and hearty hurrah!--Trysail assured
a young, laughing, careless midshipman, who even at that moment could
enjoy an uproar, that he had seldom heard a prettier piece of
sea-eloquence than that which had just fallen from the captain; it being
both 'neat and gentleman-like.'




Chapter XXX.



                              "Sir, it is
    A charge too heavy for my strength; but yet
    We'll strive to bear it for your worthy sake,
    To the extreme edge of hazard."

    All's Well That End's Well.


The vessel, which appeared so inopportunely for the safety of the
ill-manned British cruiser, was, in truth, a ship that had roved from
among the islands of the Caribean sea, in quest of some such adventure as
that which now presented itself. She was called la belle Fontange, and her
commander, a youth of two-and-twenty, was already well known in the salons
of the Marais, and behind the walls of the Rue Basse des Remparts, as one
of the most gay and amiable of those who frequented the former, and one of
the most spirited and skilful among the adventurers who sometimes trusted
to their address in the latter. Rank, and influence at Versailles, had
procured for the young Chevalier Dumont de la Rocheforte a command to
which he could lay no claim either by his experience or his services. His
mother, a near relative of one of the beauties of the court, had been
commanded to use sea-bathing, as a preventive against the consequences of
the bite of a rabid lap-dog. By way of a suitable episode to the long
descriptions she was in the daily habit of writing to those whose
knowledge of her new element was limited to the constant view of a few
ponds and ditches teeming with carp, or an occasional glimpse of some of
the turbid reaches of the Seine, she had vowed to devote her youngest
child to Neptune! In due time, that is to say, while the poetic sentiment
was at the access, the young chevalier was duly enrolled and, in a time
that greatly anticipated all regular and judicious preferment, he was
placed in command of the corvette in question, and sent to the Indies to
gain glory for himself and his country.

The Chevalier Dumont de la Rocheforte was brave, but his courage was not
the calm and silent self-possession of a seaman. Like himself, it was
lively, buoyant, thoughtless, bustling, and full of animal feeling. He had
all the pride of a gentleman, and, unfortunately for the duty which he had
now for the first time to perform, one of its dictates caught him to
despise that species of mechanical knowledge which it was, just at this
moment, so important to the commander of la Fontange to possess. He could
dance to admiration, did the honors of his cabin with faultless elegance,
and had caused the death of an excellent mariner, who had accidentally
fallen overboard, by jumping into the sea to aid him, without knowing how
to swim a stroke himself,--a rashness that had diverted those exertions
which might have saved the unfortunate sailor, from the assistance of the
subordinate to the safety of his superior. He wrote sonnets prettily, and
had some ideas of the new philosophy which was just beginning to dawn upon
the world; but the cordage of his ship, and the lines of a mathematical
problem, equally presented labyrinths he had never threaded.

It was perhaps fortunate for the safety of all in her, that la belle
Fontange possessed an inferior officer, in the person of a native of
Boulogne-sur-Mer, who was quite competent to see that she kept the proper
course, and that she displayed none of the top-gallants of her pride, at
unpropitious moments. The ship itself was sufficiently and finely moulded
of a light and airy rig, and of established reputation or speed. If it was
defective in any thing, it had the fault, in common with its commander, of
a want of sufficient solidity to resist the vicissitudes and dangers of
the turbulent element on which it was destined to act.

The vessels were now within a mile of each other. The breeze was steady,
and sufficiently fresh for all the ordinary evolutions of a naval combat;
while the water was just quiet enough to permit the ships to be handled
with confidence and accuracy. La Fontange was running with her head to the
eastward, and, as she had the advantage of the wind, her tall tracery of
spars leaned gently in the direction of her adversary. The Coquette was
standing on the other tack, and necessarily inclined from her enemy. Both
vessels were stripped to their top-sails, spankers, and jibs, though the
lofty sails of the Frenchman were fluttering in the breeze, like the
graceful folds of some fanciful drapery. No human being was distinctly
visible in either fabric, though dark clusters around each mast-head
showed that the ready top-men were prepared to discharge their duties,
even in the confusion and dangers of the impending contest. Once or twice,
la Fontange inclined her head more in the direction of her adversary; and
then, sweeping up again to the wind, she stood on in stately beauty The
moment was near when the ships were about to cross each other, at a point
where a musket would readily send its messenger across the waiter that lay
between them. Ludlow, who closely watched each change of position, and
every rise and fall of the breeze, went on the poop, and swept the horizon
with his glass, for the last time before his ship should be enveloped in
smoke. To his surprise, he discovered a pyramid of canvas rising above the
sea, in the direction of the wind. The sail was clearly visible to the
naked eye, and had only escaped earlier observation in the duties of so
urgent a moment. Calling the master to his side, he inquired his opinion
concerning the character of the second stranger. But Trysail confessed it
exceeded even his long-tried powers of observation to say more than that
it was a ship running before the wind, with a cloud of sail spread. After
a second and a longer look, however, the experienced master ventured to
add that the stranger had the squareness and symmetry of a cruiser, but of
what size he would not yet presume to declare.

"It may be a light ship, under her top-gallant and studding-sails, or it
may be, that we see only the lofty duck of some heavier vessel, Captain
Ludlow;--ha! he has caught the eye of the Frenchman, for the corvette has
signals abroad!"

"To your glass!--If the stranger answer, we have no choice but our speed."

There was another keen and anxious examination of the upper spars of the
distant ship, but the direction of the wind prevented any signs of her
communicating with the corvette from being visible. La Fontange appeared
equally uncertain of the character of the stranger, and for a moment there
was some evidence of an intention to change her course. But the moment for
indecision had past. The ships were already sweeping up abreast of each
other, under the constant pressure of the breeze.

"Be ready, men!" said Ludlow, in a low but firm voice, retaining his
elevated post on the poop, while he motioned to his companion to return to
the main-deck. "Fire at his flash!"

Intense expectation succeeded. The two graceful fabrics sailed steadily
on, and came within hail. So profound was the stillness in the Coquette,
that the rushing sound of the water she heaped under her bows was
distinctly audible to all on board, and might be likened to the deep
breathing of some vast animal, that was collecting its physical energies
for some unusual exertion. On the other hand, tongues were loud and
clamorous among the cordage of la Fontange. Just as the ships were fairly
abeam, the voice of young Dumont was heard, shouting through a trumpet,
for his men to fire. Ludlow smiled, in a seaman's scorn. Raising his own
trumpet, with a quiet gesture to his attentive and ready crew, the whole
discharge of their artillery broke out of the dark side of the ship, as if
it had been by the volition of the fabric. The answering broadside was
received almost as soon as their own had been given, and the two vessels
passed swiftly without the line of shot.

The wind had sent back their own smoke upon the English, and for a time it
floated on their decks, wreathed itself in the eddies of the sails, and
passed away to leeward, with the breeze that succeeded to the
counter-current of the explosions. The whistling of shot, and the crash of
wood, had been heard amid the din of the combat. Giving a glance at his
enemy, who still stood on, Ludlow leaned from the poop, and, with all a
sailor's anxiety, he endeavored to scan the gear aloft.

"What is gone, Sir?" he asked of Trysail, whose earnest face just then
became visible through the drifting smoke. "What sail is so heavily
flapping?"

"Little harm done, Sir--little harm--bear a hand with the tackle on that
fore-yard-arm, you lubbers! you move like snails in a minuet! The fellow
has shot away the lee fore-top-sail-sheet, Sir; but we shall soon get our
wings spread again. Lash it down, boys, as if it were butt-bolted;--so;
steady out your bowline, forward.--Meet her, you can; meet her you
may--meet her!"

The smoke had disappeared, and the eye of the captain rapidly scanned the
whole of his ship. Three or four top-men had already caught the flapping
canvas, and were seated on the extremity of the fore-yard, busied in
securing their prize. A hole or two was visible in the other sails, and
here and there an unimportant rope was dangling in a manner to show that
it had been cut by shot. Further than this, the damage aloft was not of a
nature to attract his attention.

There was a different scene on deck. The feeble crew were earnestly
occupied in loading the guns, and rammers and spunges were handled, with
all the intenseness which men would manifest in a moment so exciting. The
Alderman was never more absorbed in his leger than he now appeared in his
duty of a cannoneer; and the youths, to whom the command of the batteries
had necessarily been confided, diligently aided him with their greater
authority and experience. Trysail stood near the capstan, coolly giving
the orders which have been related, and gazing upward with an interest so
absorbed as to render him unconscious of all that passed around his
person. Ludlow saw, with pain, that blood discolored the deck at his feet,
and that a seaman lay dead within reach of his arm. The rent plank and
shattered ceiling showed the spot where the destructive missile had
entered.

Compressing his lips like a man resolved, the commander of the Coquette
bent further forward, and glanced at the wheel. The quarter-master, who
held the spokes, was erect, steady, and kept his eye on the leech of the
head-sail, as unerringly as the needle points to the pole.

These were the observations of a single minute. The different
circumstances related had been ascertained with so many rapid glances of
the eye, and they had even been noted without losing for a moment the
knowledge of the precise situation of la Fontange. The latter was already
in stays. It be came necessary to meet the evolution by another as prompt.

The order was no sooner given, than the Coquette, as if conscious of the
hazard she ran of being raked, whirled away from the wind, and, by the
time her adversary was ready to deliver her other broadside she was in a
position to receive and to return it. Again the ships approached each
other, and once more they exchanged their streams of fire when abeam.

Ludlow now saw, through the smoke, the ponderous yard of la Fontange
swinging heavily against the breeze, and the main-top-sail come flapping
against her mast. Swinging off from the poop by a backstay that had been
shot away a moment before, he alighted on the quarter-deck by the side of
the master.

"Touch all the braces!" he said, hastily, but still speaking low and
clearly; "give a drag upon the bowlines--luff, Sir, luff; jam the ship up
hard against the wind!"

The clear, steady answer of the quarter-master, and the manner in which
the Coquette, still vomiting her sheets of flame, inclined towards the
breeze, announced the promptitude of the subordinates. In another minute,
the vast volumes of smoke which enveloped the two ships joined, and formed
one white and troubled cloud, which was rolling swiftly before the
explosions, over the surface of the sea, but which, as it rose higher in
the air, sailed gracefully to leeward.

Our young commander passed swiftly through the batteries, spoke
encouragingly to his people, and resumed his post on the poop. The
stationary position of la Fontange, and his own efforts to get to
windward, were already proving advantageous to Queen Anne's cruiser. There
was some indecision on the part of the other ship, which instantly caught
the eye of one whose readiness in his profession so much resembled
instinct.

The Chevalier Dumont had amused his leisure by running his eyes over the
records of the naval history of his country, where he had found this and
that commander applauded for throwing their top-sails to the mast,
abreast of their enemies. Ignorant of the difference between a ship in
line and one engaged singly, he had determined to prove himself equal to a
similar display of spirit. At the moment when Ludlow was standing alone on
the poop, watching with vigilant eyes the progress of his own vessel, and
the position of his enemy, indicating merely by a look or a gesture to the
attentive Trysail beneath, what he wished done, there was actually a wordy
discussion on the quarter-deck of the latter, between the mariner of
Boulogne-sur-Mer, and the gay favorite of the salons. They debated on the
expediency of the step which the latter had taken, to prove the existence
of a quality that no one doubted The time lost in this difference of
opinion was of the last importance to the British cruiser. Standing
gallantly on, she was soon out of the range of her adversary's fire; and,
before the Boulognois had succeeded in convincing his superior of his
error, their antagonist was on the other tack, and luffing across the wake
of la Fontange. The top-sail was then tardily filled, but before the
latter ship had recovered her motion, the sails of her enemy overshadowed
her deck. There was now every prospect of the Coquette passing to
windward. At that critical moment, the fair-setting top-sail of the
British cruiser was nearly rent in two by a shot. The ship fell off, the
yards interlocked, and the vessels were foul.

The Coquette had all the advantage of position. Perceiving the important
fact at a glance, Ludlow made sure of its continuance by throwing his
grapnels. When the two ships were thus firmly lashed together, the young
Dumont found himself relieved from a mountain of embarrassment.
Sufficiently justified by the fact that not a single gun of his own would
bear, while a murderous discharge of grape had just swept along his decks,
he issued the order to board. But Ludlow, with his weakened crew, had not
decided on so hazardous an evolution as that which brought him in absolute
contact with his enemy, without foreseeing the means of avoiding all the
consequences. The vessels touched each other only at one point, and this
spot was protected by a row of muskets. No sooner, therefore, did the
impetuous young Frenchman appear on the taffrail of his own ship,
supported by a band of followers, than a close and deadly fire swept them
away to a man. Young Dumont alone remained. For a single moment, his eye
glared wildly; but the active frame, still obedient to the governing
impulse of so impetuous a spirit, leaped onward. He fell, without life, on
the deck of his enemy.

Ludlow watched every movement, with a calmness that neither personal
responsibility, nor the uproar and rapid incidents of the terrible scene,
could discompose.

"Now is our time to bring the matter hand to hand!" he cried, making a
gesture to Trysail to descend from the ladder, in order that he might
pass.

His arm was arrested, and the grave old master pointed to windward.

"There is no mistaking the cut of those sails, or the lofty rise of those
spars! The stranger is another Frenchman!"

One glance told Ludlow that his subordinate was right; another sufficed to
show what was now necessary.

"Cast loose the forward grapnel--cut it--away with it, clear!" was
shouted, through his trumpet, in a voice that rose commanding and clear
amid the roar of the combat.

Released forward, the stern of the Coquette yielded to the pressure of her
enemy, whose sails were all drawing, and she was soon in a position to
enable her head-yards to be braced sharp aback, in a direction opposite to
the one in which she had so lately lain. The whole broadside was then
delivered into the stern of la Fontange, the last grapnel was released and
the ships separated.

The single spirit which presided over the evolutions and exertions of the
Coquette, still governed her movements. The sails were trimmed, the ship
was got in command, and, before the vessels had been asunder five minutes,
the duty of the vessel was in its ordinary active but noiseless train.

Nimble top-men were on the yards, and broad folds of fresh canvas were
flapping in the breeze, as the new sails were bent and set. Ropes were
spliced, or supplied by new rigging, the spars examined, and in fine all
that watchfulness and sedulous care were observed, which are so necessary
to the efficiency and safety of a ship. Every spar was secured, the pumps
were sounded, and the vessel held on her way, as steadily as if she had
never fired nor received a shot.

On the other hand, la Fontange betrayed the indecision and confusion of a
worsted ship. Her torn canvas was blowing about in disorder, many
important ropes beat against her masts unheeded, and the vessel itself
drove before the breeze in the helplessness of a wreck. For several
minutes, there seemed no controlling mind in the fabric; and when, after
so much distance was lost as to give her enemy all the advantage of the
wind, a tardy attempt was made to bring the ship up again, the tallest and
most important of her masts was seen tottering, until it finally fell,
with all its hamper, into the sea.

Notwithstanding the absence of so many of his people, success would now
have been certain, had not the presence of the stranger compelled Ludlow
to abandon his advantage. But the consequences to his own vessel were too
sure, to allow of more than a natural and manly regret that so favorable
an occasion should escape him. The character of the stranger could no
longer be mistaken. The eve of every seaman in the Coquette as well
understood the country of the high and narrow-headed sails, the tall taper
masts and short yards of the frigate whose hull was now distinctly
visible, as a landsman recognizes an individual by the distinguishing
marks of his features or attire. Had there been any lingering doubts on
the subject, they would have all given place to certainty, when the
stranger was seen exchanging signals with the crippled corvette.

It was now time for Ludlow to come to a speedy determination on his future
course. The breeze still held to the southward, but it was beginning to
lessen, with every appearance that it would fail before nightfall. The
land lay a few leagues to the northward, and the whole horizon of the
ocean, with the exception of the two French cruisers, was clear.
Descending to the quarter-deck, he approached the master, who was seated
in a chair, while the surgeon dressed a severe hurt in one of his legs.
Shaking the sturdy veteran cordially by the hand, he expressed his
acknowledgments for his support in a moment so trying.

"God bless you! God bless you! Captain Ludlow;" returned the old sailor,
dashing his hand equivocally across his weatherbeaten brow. "Battle is
certainly the place to try both ship and friends, and Heaven be praised!
Queen Anne has not failed of either this day. No man has forgotten his
duty, so far as my eyes have witnessed; and this is saying no trifle, with
half a crew and an equal enemy. As for the ship, she never behaved better!
I had my misgivings, when I saw the new main-top-sail go, which it did, as
all here know, like a bit of rent muslin between the fingers of a
seamstress. Run forward, Mr. Hopper, and tell the men in the fore rigging
to take another drag on that swifter, and to be careful and bring the
strain equal on all the shrouds.--A lively youth, Captain Ludlow, and one
who only wants a little reflection, with some more experience, and a
small dash of modesty, together with the seamanship he will naturally get
in time, to make a very tolerable officer."

"The boy promises well; but I have come to ask thy advice, my old friend,
concerning our next movements. There is no doubt that the fellow who is
coming down upon us is both a Frenchman and a frigate."

"A man might as well doubt the nature of a fish-hawk, which is to pick up
all the small fry, and to let the big ones go. We might show him our
canvas and try the open sea, but I fear that fore-mast is too weak, with
three such holes in it, to bear the sail we should need!"

"What think you of the wind?" said Ludlow, affecting an indecision he did
not feel, in order to soothe the feelings of his wounded companion.
"Should it hold, we might double Montauk, and return for the rest of our
people; but should it fail, is there no danger that the frigate should tow
within shot!--We have no boats to escape her."

"The soundings on this coast are as regular as the roof of an out-house,"
said the master, after a moment of thought, "and it is my advice, if it is
your pleasure to ask it, Captain Ludlow, that we shoal our water as much
as possible, while the wind lasts. Then, I think, we shall be safe from a
very near visit from the big one:--as for the corvette, I am of opinion,
that, like a man who has eaten his dinner, she has no stomach for another
slice."

Ludlow applauded the advice of his subordinate, for it was precisely what
he had determined on doing; and after again complimenting him on his
coolness and skill, he issued the necessary orders. The helm of the
Coquette was now placed hard a-weather, the yards were squared, and the
ship was put be fore the wind. After running, in this direction for a few
hours, the wind gradually lessening, the lead announced that the keel was
quite as near the bottom as the time of the tide, and the dull heaving and
setting of the element, rendered at all prudent. The breeze soon after
fell, and then our young commander ordered an anchor to be dropped into
the sea.

His example, in the latter respect, was imitated by the hostile cruisers.
They had soon joined, and boats were seen passing from one to the other,
so long as there was light. When the sun fell behind the western margin of
the ocean, their dusky outlines, distant about a league, gradually grew
less and less distinct, until the darkness of night enveloped sea and land
in its gloom.


Chapter XXXI.



    "Now; the business!"

    Othello.


Three hours later, and every noise was hushed on board the royal cruiser.
The toil of repairing damages had ceased, and most of the living, with the
dead, lay alike in common silence. The watchfulness necessary to the
situation of the fatigued mariners, however, was not forgotten, and though
so many slept, a few eyes were still open, and affecting to be alert. Here
and there, some drowsy seaman paced the deck, or a solitary young officer
endeavored to keep himself awake, by humming a low air, in his narrow
bounds. The mass of the crew slept heavily, with pistols in their belts
and cutlasses at their sides, between the guns. There was one
figure-extended upon the quarter-deck, with the head resting on a
shot-box. The deep breathing of this person denoted the unquiet slumbers
of a powerful frame, in which weariness contended with suffering. It was
the wounded and feverish master, who had placed himself in that position
to catch an hour of the repose that was necessary to his situation. Oh an
arm-chest, which had been emptied of its contents, lay another but a
motionless human form, with the limbs composed in decent order, and with
the face turned towards the melancholy stars. This was the body of the
young Dumont, which had been kept, with the intention of consigning it to
consecrated earth, when the ship should return to port. Ludlow, with the
delicacy of a generous and chivalrous enemy had with his own hands spread
the stainless ensign of his country over the remains of the inexperienced
but gallant young Frenchman.

There was one little group on the raised deck in the stern of the vessel,
in which the ordinary interests of life still seemed to exercise their
influence. Hither Ludlow had led Alida and her companions, after the
duties of the day were over, in order that they might breathe an air
fresher than that of the interior of the vessel. The negress nodded near
her young mistress; the tired Alderman sate with his back supported
against the mizen-mast, giving audible evidence of his situation; and
Ludlow stood erect, occasionally throwing an earnest look on the
surrounding and unruffled waters, and then lending his attention to the
discourse of his companions. Alida and Seadrift were seated near each
other, on chairs. The conversation was low, while the melancholy and the
tremor in the voice of la belle Barberie denoted how much the events of
the day had shaken her usually firm and spirited mind.

"There is a mingling of the terrific and the beautiful, of the grand and
the seducing, in this unquiet profession of yours!" observed, or rather
continued Alida, replying to a previous remark of the young sailor. "That
tranquil sea--the hollow sound of the surf on the shore--and this soft
canopy above us form objects on which even a girl might dwell in
admiration, were not her ears still ringing with the roar and cries of the
combat. Did you say the commander of the Frenchman was but a youth?"

"A mere boy in appearance, and one who doubtless owed his rank to the
advantages of birth and family. We know it to be the captain, by his
dress, no less than by the desperate effort he made to recover the false
step taken in the earlier part of the action."

"Perhaps he has a mother, Ludlow!--a sister--a wife--or----"

Alida paused, for, with maiden diffidence, she hesitated to pronounce the
tie which was uppermost in her thoughts.

"He may have had one, or all! Such are the sailor's hazards, and----"

"Such the hazards of those who feel an interest in their safety!" uttered
the low but expressive voice of Seadrift.

A deep and eloquent silence succeeded. Then the voice of Myndert was heard
muttering indistinctly, "twenty of beaver, and three of marten--as per
invoice." The smile which, spite of the train of his thoughts, rose on the
lips of Ludlow, had scarcely passed away, when the hoarse tones of
Trysail, rendered still hoarser by his sleep, were plainly heard in a
stifled cry, saying, "Bear a hand, there, with your stoppers!--the
Frenchman is coming round upon us, again."

"That is prophetic!" said one, aloud, behind the listening group. Ludlow
turned, quick as the flag fluttering on its vane, and through the darkness
he recognized, in the motionless but manly form that stood near him on the
poop, the fine person of the 'Skimmer of the Seas.'

"Call away----!"

"Call none!"--interrupted Tiller, stopping the hurried order which
involuntarily broke from the lips of Ludlow. "Let thy ship feign the
silence of a wreck, but, in truth, let there be watchfulness and
preparation even to her store-rooms! You have done well, Captain Ludlow,
to be on the alert, though I have known sharper eyes than those of some of
your look-outs."

"Whence come you, audacious man, and what mad errand has brought you again
on the deck of my ship?"

"I come from my habitation on the sea. My business here is warning!"

"The sea!" echoed Ludlow, gazing about him at the narrow and empty view.
"The hour for mockery is past, and you would do well to trifle no more
with those who have serious duties to discharge."

"The hour is indeed one for serious duties--duties, more serious than any
you apprehend. But before I enter on explanation, there must be conditions
between us. You have one of the sea-green lady's servitors, here; I claim
his liberty, for my secret."

"The error into which I had fallen exists no longer;" returned Ludlow,
looking for an instant towards the shrinking form of Seadrift. "My
conquest is worthless, unless you come to supply his place."

"I come for other purposes--here is one who knows I do not trifle when
urgent affairs are on hand. Let thy companions retire, that I may speak
openly."

Ludlow hesitated, for he had not yet recovered from the surprise of
finding the redoubtable free-trader so unexpectedly on the deck of his
ship. But Alida and her companion arose, like those who had more
confidence in their visiter, and, arousing the negress from her sleep,
they descended the ladder and entered the cabin. When Ludlow found
himself alone with Tiller, he demanded an explanation.

"It shall not be withheld, for time presses, and that which is to be done
must be done with a seaman's care and coolness;" returned the other.--"You
have had a close brush with one of Louis's rovers, Captain Ludlow, and
prettily was the ship of Queen Anne handled! Have your people suffered,
and are you still strong enough to make good a defence worthy of your
conduct this morning?"

"These are facts you would have me utter to the ear of one who may be
false;--even a spy!"

"Captain Ludlow--but circumstances warrant thy suspicions!"

"One whose vessel and life I have threatened--an outlaw!"

"This is too true," returned the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' suppressing a
sudden impulse of pride and resentment. "I am threatened and pursued--I am
a smuggler and an outlaw: still am I human! You see that dusky object,
which borders the sea to the northward!"

"It is too plainly land, to be mistaken."

"Land, and the land of my birth!--the earliest, perhaps I may say the
happiest of my days, were passed on that long and narrow island."

"Had I known it earlier, there would have been a closer look among its
bays and inlets."

"The search might have been rewarded. A cannon would easily throw its shot
from this deck to the spot where my brigantine now lies, snug at a single
anchor."

"Unless you have swept her near since the setting of the sun, that is
impossible! When the night drew on, nothing was in view but the frigate
and corvette of the enemy."

"We have not stirred a fathom; and yet, true as the word of a fearless
man, there lies the vessel of the sea-green lady. You see the place where
the beach falls--here, at the nearest point of the land--the island is
nearly severed by the water at that spot, and the Water-Witch is safe in
the depths of the bay which enters from the northward. There is not a mile
between us. From the eastern hill, I witnessed your spirit this day,
Captain Ludlow, and though condemned in person, I felt that the heart
could never be outlawed. There is a fealty here, that can survive even the
persecutions of the custom-houses!"

"You are happy in your terms, Sir. I will not conceal that I think a
seaman, even as skilful as yourself, must allow that the Coquette was kept
prettily in command!"

"No pilot-boat could have been more sure, or more lively. I knew your
weakness, for the absence of all your boats was no secret to me; and I
confess I could have spared some of the profits of the voyage, to have
been on your decks this day with a dozen of my truest fellows!"

"A man who can feel this loyalty to the flag, should find a more honorable
occupation for his usual life."

"A country that can inspire it, should be cautious not to estrange the
affections of its children, by monopolies and injustice. But these are
discussions unsuited to the moment. I am doubly your countryman in this
strait, and all the past is no more than the rough liberties which friends
take with each other. Captain Ludlow, there is danger brooding in that
dark void which lies to seaward!"

"On what authority do you speak thus?"

"Sight.--I have been among your enemies, and have seen their deadly
preparations. I know the caution is given to a brave man, and nothing
shall be extenuated. You have need of all your resolution and of every
arm--for they will be upon you, in overwhelming numbers!"

"True or false, thy warning shall not be neglected."

"Hold!" said the Skimmer, arresting a forward movement of his companion,
with his hand. "Let them sleep to the last moment. You have yet an hour,
and rest will renew their strength. You may trust the experience of a
seaman who has passed half of the life of man on the ocean, and who has
witnessed all its most stirring scenes, from the conflict of the elements
to every variety of strife that man has invented to destroy his fellows.
For another hour, you will be secure.--After that hour, God protect the
unprepared! and God be merciful to him whose minutes are numbered!"

"Thy language and manner are those of one who deals honestly;" returned
Ludlow, struck by the apparent sincerity of the free-trader's
communication "In every event, we shall be ready, though the manner of
your having gained this knowledge is as great a mystery as your appearance
on the deck of my ship."

"Both can be explained," returned the Skimmer, motioning to his companion
to follow to the tanrail. Here he pointed to a small and nearly
imperceptible skiff, which floated at the bottom of a stern-ladder, and
continued--"One who so often pays secret visits to the land, can never be
in want of the means. This nut-shell was easily transported across the
narrow slip of land that separates the bay from the ocean, and though the
surf moans so hoarsely, it is easily passed by a steady and dexterous
oarsman. I have been under the martingale of the Frenchman, and you see
that I am here. If your look-outs are less alert than usual, you will
remember that a low gunwale, a dusky side, and a muffled oar, are not
readily detected, when the eye is heavy and the body wearied. I must now
quit you--unless you think it more prudent to send those who can be of no
service, out of the ship, before the trial shall come?"

Ludlow hesitated. A strong desire to put Alida in a place of safety, was
met by his distrust of the smuggler's faith. He reflected a moment, ere he
answered.

"Your cockle-shell is not sufficiently secure for more than its
owner.--Go, and as you prove loyal, may you prosper!"

"Abide the blow!" said the Skimmer, grasping his hand. He then stepped
carelessly on the dangling ropes, and descended into the boat beneath.
Ludlow watched his movements, with an intense and possibly with a
distrustful curiosity. When seated at the sculls, the person of the
free-trader was nearly indistinct; and as the boat glided noiselessly
away, the young commander no longer felt disposed to censure those who had
permitted its approach without a warning. In less than a minute, the dusky
object was confounded with the surface of the sea.

Left to himself, the young commander of the Coquette seriously reflected
on what had passed. The manner of the Skimmer, the voluntary character of
his communication, its probability, and the means by which his knowledge
had been obtained, united to confirm his truth. Instances of similar
attachment to their flag, in seamen whose ordinary pursuits were opposed
to its interests, were not uncommon. Their misdeeds resemble the errors of
passion, and temptation, while the momentary return to better things is
like the inextinguishable impulses of nature.

The admonition of the free-trader, who had enjoined the captain to allow
his people to sleep, was remembered. Twenty times, within as many minutes,
did our young sailor examine his watch, to note the tardy passage of the
time; and as often did he return it to his pocket, with a determination to
forbear. At length he descended to the quarter-deck, and drew near the
only form that was erect. The watch was commanded by a youth of sixteen,
whose regular period of probationary service had not passed, but who, in
the absence of his superiors, was intrusted with this delicate and
important duty. He stood leaning against the capstan, one hand supporting
his cheek, while the elbow rested against the drum, and the body was
without motion. Ludlow regarded him a moment, and then lifting a lighted
battle-lantern to his face, he saw that he slept. Without disturbing the
delinquent, the captain replaced the lantern and passed forward. In the
gangway there stood a marine, with his musket shouldered, in an attitude
of attention. As Ludlow brushed within a few inches of his eyes, it was
easy to be seen that they opened and shut involuntarily, and without
consciousness of what lay before them. On the top-gallant-forecastle was a
short, square, and well-balanced figure, that stood without support of any
kind, with both arms thrust into the bosom of a jacket, and a head that
turned slowly to the west and south, as if it were examining the ocean in
those directions.

Stepping lightly up the ladder, Ludlow saw that it was the veteran seaman
who was rated as the captain of the forecastle.

"I am glad, at last, to find one pair of eyes open, in my ship," said the
captain. "Of the whole watch, you alone are alert."

"I have doubled cape fifty, your Honor, and the seaman who has made that
voyage, rarely wants the second call of the boatswain. Young heads have
young eyes, and sleep is next to food, after a heavy drag at gun-tackles
and lanyards."

"And what draws your attention so steadily in that quarter? There is
nothing visible but the haze of the sea."

"'Tis the direction of the Frenchmen, Sir--does your Honor hear nothing?"

"Nothing;" said Ludlow, after intently listening for half a minute.
"Nothing, unless it be the wash of the surf on the beach."

"It may be only fancy, but there came a sound like the fall of an
oar-blade on a thwart, and 'tis but natural, your Honor, to expect the
mounsheer will be out, in this smooth water, to see what has become of
us.--There went the flash of a light, or my name is not Bob Cleet!"

Ludlow was silent. A light was certainly visible in the quarter where the
enemy was known to be anchored, and it came and disappeared like a moving
lantern. At length it was seen to descend slowly, and vanish as if it were
extinguished in the water.

"That lantern went into a boat, Captain Ludlow, though a lubber carried
it!" said the positive old forecastle-man, shaking his head and beginning
to pace across the deck, with the air of a man who needed no further
confirmation of his suspicions.

Ludlow returned towards the quarter-deck, thoughtful but calm. He passed
among his sleeping crew, without awaking a man, and even forbearing to
touch the still motionless midshipman, he entered his cabin without
speaking.

The commander of the Coquette was absent but a few minutes. When he again
appeared on deck, there was more of decision and of preparation in his
manner.

"'Tis time to call the watch, Mr. Reef;" he whispered at the elbow of the
drowsy officer of the deck, without betraying his consciousness of the
youth's forgetfulness of duty. "The glass is out."

"Ay, ay, Sir.--Bear a hand, and turn the glass!" muttered the young man.
"A fine night, Sir, and very smooth water.--I was just thinking of----"

"Home and thy mother! 'Tis the way with us all in youth. Well, we have
now something else to occupy the thoughts. Muster all the gentlemen, here,
on the quarter-deck, Sir."

"When the half-sleeping midshipman quitted his captain to obey this order,
the latter drew near the spot where Trysail still lay in an unquiet sleep.
A light touch of a single finger was sufficient to raise the master on his
feet. The first look of the veteran tar was aloft, the second at the
heavens, and the last at his captain.

"I fear thy wound stiffens, and that the night air has added to the pain?"
observed the latter, speaking in a kind and considerate tone.

"The wounded spar cannot be trusted like a sound stick, Captain Ludlow;
but as I am no foot-soldier on a march, the duty of the ship may go on
without my calling for a horse."

"I rejoice in thy cheerful spirit, my old friend, for here is serious work
likely to fall upon our hands. The Frenchmen are in their boats, and we
shall shortly be brought to close quarters, or prognostics are false."

"Boats!" repeated the master. "I had rather it were under our canvas, with
a stiff breeze! The play of this ship is a lively foot, and a touching
leech but, when, it comes to boats, a marine is nearly as good a man as a
quarter-master!"

"We must take fortune as it offers.--Here is our council!--It is composed
of young heads, but of hearts that might do credit to gray hairs."

Ludlow joined the little group of officers that was by this time assembled
near the capstan. Here, in a few words, he explained the reason why he had
summoned them from their sleep. When each of the youths understood his
orders, and the nature of the new danger that threatened the ship, they
separated, and began to enter with activity, but in guarded silence, on
the necessary preparations. The sound of footsteps awoke a dozen of the
older seamen, who immediately joined their officers.

Half an hour passed like a moment, in such an occupation. At the end of
that time, Ludlow deemed his ship ready. The two forward guns had been run
in, and the shot having been drawn, their places were supplied with double
charges of grape and canister. Several Swivels, a species of armament much
used in that age, were loaded to the muzzles, and placed in situations to
rake the deck, while the fore-top was plentifully stored with arms and
ammunition. The matches were prepared, and then the whole of the crew was
mustered, by a particular call of each man. Five minutes sufficed to issue
the necessary orders, and to see each post occupied. After this, the low
hum ceased in the ship, and the silence again became so deep and general,
that the wash of the receding surf was nearly as audible as the plunge of
the wave on the sands.

Ludlow stood on the forecastle, accompanied by the master. Here he lent
all his senses to the appearance of the elements, and to the signs of the
moment. Wind there was none, though occasionally a breath of hot air came
from the land, like the first efforts of the night-breeze. The heavens
were clouded, though a few thoughtful stars glimmered between the masses
of vapor.

"A calmer night never shut in the Americas!" said the veteran Trysail,
shaking his head doubtingly and speaking in a suppressed and cautious
tone. "I am one of those, Captain Ludlow, who think more than half the
virtue is out of a ship when her anchor is down!"

"With a weakened crew, it may be better for us that the people have no
yards to handle, nor any bowlines to steady. All our care can be given to
defence."

"This is much like telling the hawk he can fight the better with a
clipped wing, since he has not the trouble of flying! The nature of a ship
is motion, and the merit of a seaman is judicious and lively
handling;--but of what use is complaining, since it will neither lift an
anchor nor fill a sail? What is your opinion, Captain Ludlow, concerning
an after life, and of all those matters one occasionally hears of it he
happens to drift in the way of a church?"

"The question is broad as the ocean, my good friend, and a fitting answer
might lead us into abstrusities deeper than any problem in our
trigonometry.--Was that the stroke of an oar?"

"'Twas a land noise. Well, I am no great navigator among the crooked
channels of religion. Every new argument is a sand-bar, or a shoal, that
obliges me to tack and stand off again; else I might have been a bishop,
for any thing the world knows to the contrary. 'Tis a gloomy night,
Captain Ludlow, and one that is sparing of its stars. I never knew luck
come of an expedition on which a natural light did not fall!"

"So much the worse for those who seek to harm us.--I surely heard an oar
in the row-lock!"

"It came from the shore, and had the sound of the land about it;" quietly
returned the master, who still kept his look riveted on the heavens. "This
world, in which we live, Captain Ludlow, is one of extraordinary uses; but
that, to which we are steering, is still more unaccountable. They say that
worlds are sailing above us, like ships in a clear sea; and there are
people who believe, that when we take our departure from this planet, we
are only bound to another, in which we are to be rated according to our
own deeds here; which is much the same as being drafted for a new ship,
with a certificate of service in one's pocket."

"The resemblance is perfect;" returned the other leaning far over a
timber-head, to catch the smallest sound that might come from the ocean.
"That was no more than the blowing of a porpoise!"

"It was strong enough for the puff of a whale. There is no scarcity of big
fish on the coast of this island, and bold harpooners are the men who are
scattered about on the sandy downs, here-away, to the northward. I once
sailed with an officer who knew the name, of every star in the heavens,
and often have I passed hours in listening to his history of their
magnitude and character, during the middle watches. It was his opinion,
that there is but one navigator for all the rovers of the air, whether
meteors, comets, or planets."

"No doubt he must be right, having been there."

"No, that is more than I can say for him, though few men have gone deeper
into the high latitudes on both sides of our own equator, than he. One
surely spoke--here, in a line with yonder low star!"

"Was it not a water-fowl?"

"No gull--ha! here we have the object, just within the starboard
jib-boom-guy. There comes the Frenchman in his pride, and 'twill be lucky
for him who lives to count the slain, or to boast of his deeds!"

The master descended from the forecastle, and passed among the crew, with
every thought recalled from its excursive flight to the duty of the
moment. Ludlow continued on the forecastle, alone. There was a low,
whispering sound in the ship, like that which is made by the murmuring of
a rising breeze,--and then all was still as death.

The Coquette lay with her head to seaward, the stern necessarily pointing
towards the land. The distance from the latter was less than a mile, and
the direction of the ship's hull was caused by the course of the heavy
ground-swell, which incessantly rolled the waters on the wide beach of the
island. The head-gear lay in the way of the dim _view_, and Ludlow walked
out on the bowsprit, in order that nothing should lie between him and the
part of the ocean he wished to study. Here he had not stood a minute, when
he caught, first a confused and then a more distinct glimpse of a line of
dark objects, advancing slowly towards the ship. Assured of the position
of his enemy, he returned in-board, and descended among his people. In
another moment he was again on the forecastle, across which he paced
leisurely, and, to all appearance, with the calmness of one who enjoyed
the refreshing coolness of the night.

At the distance of a hundred fathoms, the dusky line of boats paused, and
began to change its order. At that instant the first puffs of the land
breeze were felt, and the stern of the ship made a gentle inclination
seaward.

"Help her with the mizen! Let fall the top-sail!" whispered the young
captain to those beneath him. Ere another moment, the flap of the loosened
sail was heard. The ship swung still further, and Ludlow stamped on the
deck.

A round fiery light shot beyond the martingale, and the smoke rolled along
the sea, outstripped by a crowd of missiles that were hissing across the
water. A shout, in which command was mingled with shrieks, followed, and
then oar-blades were heard dashing the water aside, regardless of
concealment. The ocean lighted, and three or four boat-guns returned the
fatal discharge from the ship. Ludlow had not spoken. Still alone on his
elevated and exposed post, he watched the effects of both fires, with a
commander's coolness. The smile that struggled about his compressed mouth,
when the momentary confusion among the boats betrayed the success of his
own attack, had been wild and exulting; but when he heard the rending of
the plank beneath him, the heavy groans that succeeded, and the rattling
of lighter objects that were scattered by the shot, as it passed with
lessened force along the deck of his ship, it became fierce and resentful.

"Let them have it!" he shouted, in a clear animating voice, that assured
the people of his presence and his care. "Show them the humor of an
Englishman's sleep, my lads! Speak to them, tops and decks!"

The order was obeyed. The remaining bow-gun was fired, and the discharge
of all the Coquette's musketry and blunderbusses followed. A crowd of
boats came sweeping under the bowsprit of the ship at the same moment, and
then arose the clamor and shouts of the boarders.

The succeeding minutes were full of confusion, and of devoted exertion.
Twice were the head and bowsprit of the ship filled with dark groups of
men, whose grim visages were only visible by the pistol's flash, and as
often were they cleared by the pike and bayonet. A third effort was more
successful, and the tread of the assailants was heard on the deck of the
forecastle. The struggle was but momentary, though many fell, and the
narrow arena was soon slippery with blood. The Boulognese mariner was
foremost among his countrymen, and at that desperate emergency Ludlow and
Trysail fought in the common herd. Numbers prevailed, and it was fortunate
for the commander of the Coquette, that the sudden recoil of a human body
that fell upon him, drove him from his footing to the deck beneath.

Recovering from the fall, the young captain cheered his men by his voice,
and was answered by the deep-mouthed shouts, which an excited seaman is
ever ready to deliver, even to the death.

"Rally in the gangways, and defy them!" was the animated cry--"Rally in
the gangways, hearts of oak." was returned by Trysail, in a ready but
weakened voice. The men obeyed, and Ludlow saw that he could still muster
a force capable of resistance.

Both parties for a moment paused. The fire of the top annoyed the
boarders, and the defendants hesitated to advance. But the rush from both
was common, and a fierce encounter occurred at the foot of the fore-mast.
The crowd thickened in the rear of the French, and one of their number no
sooner fell than another filled his place. The English receded, and
Ludlow, extricating himself from the mass, retired to the quarter-deck.

"Give way, men!" he again shouted, so clear and steady, as to be heard
above the cries and execrations of the fight. "Into the wings;
down,--between the guns--down--to your covers!"

The English disappeared, as if by magic. Some leaped upon the ridge-ropes,
others sought the protection of the guns, and many went through the
hatches. At that moment Ludlow made his most desperate effort. Aided by
the gunner, he applied matches to the two swivels, which had been placed
in readiness for a last resort. The deck was enveloped in smoke, and, when
the vapor lifted, the forward part of the ship was as clear as if man had
never trod it. All who had not fallen, had vanished.

A shout, and a loud hurrah! brought back the defendants, and Ludlow headed
a charge upon the top-gallant-forecastle, again, in person. A few of the
assailants showed themselves from behind covers on the deck, and the
struggle was renewed. Glaring balls of fire sailed over the heads of the
combatants, and fell among the throng in the rear. Ludlow saw the danger,
and he endeavored to urge his people on to regain the bow-guns, one of
which was known to be loaded. But the explosion of a grenade on deck, and
in his rear, was followed by a shock in the hold, that threatened to force
the bottom out of the vessel. The alarmed and weakened crew began to
waver, and as a fresh attack of grenades was followed by a fierce rally,
in which the assailants brought up fifty men in a body from their boats,
Ludlow found himself compelled to retire amid the retreating mass of his
own crew.

The defence now assumed the character of hopeless but desperate
resistance. The cries of the enemy were more and more clamorous; and they
succeeded in nearly silencing the top, by a heavy fire of musketry
established on the bowsprit and sprit-sail-yard.

Events passed much faster than they can be related. The enemy were in
possession of all the forward part of the ship to her fore-hatches, but
into these young Hopper had thrown himself, with half-a-dozen men, and,
aided by a brother midshipman in the launch, backed by a few followers,
they still held the assailants at bay. Ludlow cast an eye behind him, and
began to think of selling his life as dearly as possible in the cabins.
That glance was arrested by the sight of the malign smile of the sea-green
lady, as the gleaming face rose above the taffrail. A dozen dark forms
leaped upon the poop, and then arose a voice that sent every tone it
uttered to his heart.

"Abide the shock!" was the shout of those who came to the succor; and
"abide the shock!" was echoed by the crew. The mysterious image glided
along the deck, and Ludlow knew the athletic frame that brushed through
the throng at its side.

There was little noise in the onset, save the groans of the sufferers. It
endured but a moment, but it was a moment that resembled the passage of a
whirlwind. The defendants knew that they were succored, and the assailants
recoiled before so unexpected a foe. The few that were caught beneath the
forecastle were mercilessly slain, and those above were swept from their
post like chaff drifting in a gale. The living and the dead were heard
falling alike into the sea, and in an unconceivably short space of time,
the decks of the Coquette were free. A solitary enemy still hesitated on
the bowsprit. A powerful and active frame leaped along the spar, and
though the blow was not seen, its effects were visible, as the victim
tumbled helplessly into the ocean.

The hurried dash of oars followed, and before the defendants had time to
assure themselves of the completeness of their success, the gloomy void of
the surrounding ocean had swallowed up the boats.



Chapter XXXII.



    "That face of his I do remember well;
    Yet, when I saw it last, it was besmear'd
    As black as Vulcan, in the smoke of war."

    What You Will.


From the moment when the Coquette fired her first gun, to the moment when
the retiring boats became invisible, was just twenty minutes. Of this
time, less than half had been occupied by the incidents related, in the
ship. Short as it was in truth, it seemed to all engaged but an instant.
The alarm was over, the sound of the oars had ceased, and still the
survivors stood at their posts, as if expecting the attack to be renewed.
Then came those personal thoughts, which had been suspended in the fearful
exigency of such a struggle. The wounded began to feel their pain, and to
be sensible of the danger of their injuries; while the few, who had
escaped unhurt, turned a friendly care on their shipmates. Ludlow as often
happens with the bravest and most exposed, had escaped without a scratch;
but he saw by the drooping forms around him, which were no longer
sustained by the excitement of battle, that his triumph was dearly
purchased.

"Send Mr. Trysail to me;" he said, in a tone that had little of a victor's
exultation. "The land breeze has made, and we will endeavor to improve it,
and get inside the cape, lest the morning light give us more of these
Frenchmen."

The order for 'Mr. Trysail!' 'the captain calls the master!' passed in a
low call from mouth to mouth, but it was unanswered. A seaman told the
expecting young commander, that the surgeon desired his presence forward.
A gleaming of lights and a little group at the foot of the fore-mast, was
a beacon not to be mistaken. The weatherbeaten master was in the agony;
and his medical attendant had just risen from a fruitless examination of
his wounds, as Ludlow approached.

"I hope the hurt is not serious?" hurriedly whispered the alarmed young
sailor to the surgeon, who was coolly collecting his implements, in order
to administer to some more promising subject. "Neglect nothing that your
art can suggest."

"The case is desperate, Captain Ludlow," returned the phlegmatic surgeon;
"but if you have a taste for such things, there is as beautiful a case
for amputation promised in the fore-topman whom I have had sent below, as
offers once in a whole life of active practice!"

"Go, go--" interrupted Ludlow, half pushing the unmoved man of blood away,
as he spoke; "go, then, where your services are needed."

The other cast a glance around him, reproved his attendant, in a sharp
tone, for unnecessarily exposing the blade of some ferocious-looking
instrument to the dew, and departed.

"Would to God, that some portion of these injuries had befallen those who
are younger and stronger!" murmured the captain, as he leaned over the
dying master. "Can I do aught to relieve thy mind, my old and worthy
shipmate?"

"I have had my misgivings, since we have dealt with witchcraft!" returned
Trysail, whose voice the rattling of the throat had already nearly
silenced "I have had misgivings--but no matter. Take care of the ship--I
have been thinking of our people--you'll have to cut--they can never lift
the anchor--the wind is here at north."

"All this is ordered. Trouble thyself no further about the vessel; she
shall be taken care of, I promise you.--Speak of thy wife, and of thy
wishes in England."

"God bless Mrs. Trysail! She'll get a pension, and I hope contentment! You
must give the reef a good, berth, in rounding Montauk--and you'll
naturally wish to find the anchors again, when the coast is clear--if you
can find it in your conscience, say a good word of poor old Ben Trysail,
in the dispatches--"

The voice of the master sunk to a whisper, and became inaudible. Ludlow
thought he strove to speak again, and he bent his ear to his mouth.

"I say--the weather-main-swifter and both backstays are gone; Look to the
spars, for--for--there are sometimes--heavy puffs at night--in the
Americas!"

The last heavy respiration succeeded, after which came the long silence of
death. The body was removed to the poop, and Ludlow, with a saddened
heart, turned to duties that this accident rendered still more imperative.

Notwithstanding the heavy loss, and the originally weakened state of her
crew, the sails of the Coquette were soon spread, and the ship moved away
in silence; as if sorrowing for those who had fallen at her anchorage.
When the vessel was fairly in motion, her captain ascended to the poop, in
order to command a clearer view of all around him, as well as to profit
by the situation to arrange his plans for the future. He found he had
been anticipated by the free-trader.

"I owe my ship--I may say my life, since in such a conflict they would
have gone together, to thy succor!" said the young commander, as he
approached the motionless form of the smuggler. "Without it, Queen Anne
would have lost a cruiser, and the flag of England a portion of its
well-earned glory."

"May thy royal mistress prove as ready to remember her friends, in
emergencies, as mine. In good truth, there was little time to lose, and
trust me, we well understood the extremity. If we were tardy, it was
because whale-boats were to be brought from a distance; for the land lies
between my brigantine and the sea."

"He who came so opportunely, and acted so well, needs no apology."

"Captain Ludlow, are we friends?"

"It cannot be otherwise. All minor considerations must be lost in such a
service. If it is your intention to push this illegal trade further, on
the coast, I must seek another station."

"Not so.--Remain, and do credit to your flag, and the land of your birth.
I have long thought that this is the last time the keel of the Water-Witch
will ever plow the American seas. Before I quit you, I would have an
interview with the merchant. A worse man might have fallen, and just now
even a better man might be spared. I hope no harm has come to him?"

"He has shown the steadiness of his Holland lineage, to-day. During the
boarding, he was useful and cool."

"It is well. Let the Alderman be summoned to the deck, for my time is
limited, and I have much to say,-----"

The Skimmer paused, for at that moment a fierce light glared upon the
ocean, the ship, and all in it. The two seamen gazed at each other in
silence and both recoiled, as men recede before an unexpected and fearful
attack. But a bright and wavering light, which rose out of the forward
hatch of the vessel explained all. At the same moment, the deep stillness
which, since the bustle of making sail had ceased, pervaded the ship, was
broken by the appalling cry of "Fire!"

The alarm which brings the blood in the swiftest current to a seaman's
heart, was now heard in the depths of the vessel. The smothered sounds
below, the advancing uproar, and the rush on deck, with the awful summons
in the open air, succeeded each other with the rapidity of lightning. A
dozen voices repeated the word 'the grenade!' proclaiming in a breath both
the danger and the cause. But an instant before, the swelling canvas, the
dusky spars, and the faint lines of the cordage, were only to be traced by
the glimmering light of the stars; and now the whole hamper of the ship
was the more conspicuous, from the obscure back-ground against which it
was drawn in distinct lines. The sight was fearfully beautiful;--beautiful,
for it showed the symmetry and fine outlines of the vessel's rig,
resembling the effect of a group of statuary seen by torch-light,--and
fearful, since the dark void beyond seemed to declare their isolated and
helpless state.

There was one breathless, eloquent moment, in which all were seen gazing
at the grand spectacle in mute awe,--and then a voice rose, clear,
distinct, and commanding, above the sullen sound of the torrent of fire,
which was roaring among the avenues of the ship.

"Call all hands to extinguish fire! Gentlemen, to your stations. Be cool,
men; and be silent!"

There was a calmness and an authority in the tones of the young commander,
that curbed the impetuous feelings of the startled crew. Accustomed to
obedience, and trained to order, each man broke out of his trance, and
eagerly commenced the discharge of his allotted duty. At that instant, an
erect and unmoved form stood on the combings of the main hatch. A hand was
raised in the air, and the call, which came from the deep chest, was like
that of one used to speak in the tempest.

"Where are my brigantines?" it said--"Come away there, my sea-dogs; wet
the light sails, and follow!"

A group of grave and submissive mariners gathered about the 'Skimmer of
the Seas,' at the sound of his voice. Glancing an eye over them, as if to
scan their quality and number, he smiled, with a look in which high daring
and practised self-command was blended with a constitutional gaite de
coeur.

"One deck, or two!"--he added; "what avails a plank, more or less, in an
explosion?--Follow!"

The free-trader and his people disappeared in the interior of the ship. An
interval of great and resolute exertion succeeded. Blankets, sails, and
everything which offered, and which promised to be of use, were wetted and
cast upon the flames. The engine was brought to bear, and the ship was
deluged with water. But the confined space, with the heat and smoke,
rendered it impossible to penetrate to those parts of the vessel where the
conflagration raged. The ardor of the men abated as hope lessened, and
after half an hour of fruitless exertion, Ludlow saw, with pain, that his
assistants began to yield to the inextinguishable principle of nature. The
appearance of the Skimmer on deck, followed by all his people, destroyed
hope, and every effort ceased as suddenly as it had commenced.

"Think of your wounded;" whispered the free-trader, with a steadiness no
danger could disturb. "We stand on a raging volcano!"

"I have ordered the gunner to drown the magazine."

"He was too late. The hold of the ship is a fiery furnace. I heard him
fall among the store-rooms, and it surpassed the power of man to give the
wretch succor. The grenade has fallen near some combustibles, and, painful
as it is to part with a ship so loved Ludlow, thou wilt meet the loss like
a man! Think of thy wounded; my boats are still hanging at the stern."

Ludlow reluctantly, but firmly, gave the order to bear the wounded to the
boats. This was an arduous and delicate duty. The smallest boy in the ship
knew the whole extent of the danger, and that a moment, by the explosion
of the powder, might precipitate them all into eternity. The deck forward
was getting too hot to be endured, and there were places even in which the
beams had given symptoms of yielding.

But the poop, elevated still above the fire, offered a momentary refuge.
Thither all retired, while the weak and wounded were lowered, with the
caution circumstances would permit, into the whale-boats of the smugglers.

Ludlow stood at one ladder and the free-trader at the other, in order to
be certain that none proved recreant in so trying a moment. Near them were
Alida, Seadrift, and the Alderman, with the attendants of the former.

It seemed an age, before this humane and tender duty was performed. At
length the cry of "all in!" was uttered, in a manner to betray the extent
of the self-command that had been necessary to effect it.

"Now, Alida, we may think of thee!" said Ludlow, turning to the spot
occupied by the silent heiress.

"And you!" she said, hesitating to move.

"Duty demands that I should be the last--"

A sharp explosion beneath, and fragments of fire flying upwards through a
hatch, interrupted his words. Plunges into the sea, and a rush of the
people to the boats, followed. All order and authority were completely
lost, in the instinct of life. In vain did Ludlow call on his men to be
cool, and to wait for those who were still above. His words were lost, in
the uproar of clamorous voices. For a moment, it seemed, however, as if
the Skimmer of the Seas would overcome the confusion. Throwing himself on
a ladder, he glided into the bows of one of the boats, and, holding by the
ropes with a vigorous arm, he resisted the efforts of all the oars and
boat-hooks, while he denounced destruction on him who dared to quit the
ship. Had not the two crews been mingled, the high authority and
determined mien of the free-trader would have prevailed; but while some
were disposed to obey, others raised the cry of "throw the dealer in
witchcraft into the sea!"--Boat-hooks were already pointed at his breast,
and the horrors of the fearful moment were about to be increased by the
violence of a mutinous contention, when a second explosion nerved the arms
of the rowers to madness. With a common and desperate effort, they
overcame all resistance. Swinging off upon the ladder, the furious seaman
saw the boat glide from his grasp, and depart. The execration that was
uttered, beneath the stern of the Coquette, was deep and powerful; but, in
another moment, the Skimmer stood on the poop, calm and undejected, in the
centre of the deserted group.

"The explosion of a few of the officers' pistols has frightened the
miscreants;" he said, cheerfully "But hope is not yet lost!--they linger
in the distance, and may return!"

The sight of the helpless party on the poop, and the consciousness of
being less exposed themselves, had indeed arrested the progress of the
fugitives. Still, selfishness predominated; and while most regretted
their danger, none but the young and unheeded midshipmen, who were neither
of an age nor of a rank to wield sufficient authority, proposed to return.
There was little argument necessary to show that the perils increased at
each moment; and, finding that no other expedient remained, the gallant
youths encouraged the men to pull towards the land; intending themselves
to return instantly to the assistance of their commander and his friends.
The oars dashed into the water again, and the retiring boats were soon
lost to view in the body of darkness.

While the fire had been raging within, another element, without, had aided
to lessen hope for those who were abandoned. The wind from the land had
continued to rise, and, during the time lost in useless exertion, the ship
had been permitted to run nearly before it. When hope was gone, the helm
had been deserted, and as all the lower sails had been hauled up to avoid
the flames, the vessel had drifted, many minutes, nearly dead to leeward.
The mistaken youths, who had not attended to these circumstances, were
already miles from that beach they hoped to reach so soon; and ere the
boats had separated from the ship five minutes, they were hopelessly
asunder. Ludlow had early thought of the expedient of stranding the
vessel, as the means of saving her people; but his better knowledge of
their position, soon showed him the utter futility of the attempt.

Of the progress of the flames beneath, the mariners could only judge by
circumstances. The Skimmer glanced his eye about him, on regaining the
poop, and appeared to scan the amount and quality of the physical force
that was still at their disposal. He saw that the Alderman, the faithful
Francois, and two of his own seamen, with four of the petty officers of
the ship, remained. The six latter, even in that moment of desperation,
had calmly refused to desert their officers.

"The flames are in the state-rooms!" he whispered to Ludlow.

"Not further aft, I think, than the berths of the midshipmen--else we
should hear more pistols."

"True--they are fearful signals to let us know the progress of the
fire!--our resource is a raft."

Ludlow looked as if he despaired of the means but, concealing the
discouraging fear, he answered cheerfully in the affirmative. The orders
were instantly given, and all on board gave themselves to the task, heart
and hand. The danger was one that admitted of no ordinary or
half-conceived expedients; but, in such an emergency, it required all the
readiness of their art, and even the greatness of that conception which is
the property of genius. All distinctions of rank and authority had ceased,
except as deference was paid to natural qualities and the intelligence of
experience. Under such circumstances, the 'Skimmer of the Seas' took the
lead; and though Ludlow caught his ideas with professional quickness, it
was the mind of the free-trader that controlled, throughout, the
succeeding exertions of that fearful night.

The cheek of Alida was blanched to a deadly paleness; but there rested
about the bright and wild eyes of Seadrift, an expression of supernatural
resolution.

When the crew abandoned the hope of extinguishing the flames, they had
closed all the hatches, to retard the crisis as much as possible. Here and
there, however, little torch-like lights were beginning to show themselves
through the planks, and the whole deck, forward of the main-mast, was
already in a critical and sinking state. One or two of the beams had
failed, but, as yet, the form of the construction was preserved. Still the
seamen distrusted the treacherous footing, and, had the heat permitted the
experiment, they would have shrunk from a risk which at any unexpected
moment might commit them to the fiery furnace beneath.

The smoke ceased, and a clear, powerful light illuminated the ship to her
trucks. In consequence of the care and exertions of her people, the sails
and masts were yet untouched; and as the graceful canvas swelled with the
breeze, it still urged the blazing hull through the water.

The forms of the Skimmer and his assistants were visible, in the midst of
the gallant gear, perched on the giddy yards. Seen by that light, with his
peculiar attire, his firm and certain step, and his resolute air, the
free-trader resembled some fancied sea-god, who, secure in his immortal
immunities, had come to act his part in that awful but exciting trial of
hardihood and skill. Seconded by the common men, he was employed in
cutting the canvas from the yards. Sail after sail fell upon the deck,
and, in an incredibly short space of time, the whole of the fore-mast was
naked to its spars and rigging.

In the mean time, Ludlow, assisted by the Alderman and Francois, had not
been idle below. Passing forward between the empty ridge-ropes, lanyard
after lanyard parted under the blows of their little boarding-axes. The
mast now depended on the strength of the wood and the support of a single
back-stay.

"Lay down!" shouted Ludlow. "All is gone aft, but this stay!"

The Skimmer leaped upon the firm rope, followed by all aloft, and, gliding
downwards, he was instantly in the hammock-cloths. A crash followed their
descent, and an explosion, which caused the whole of the burning fabric to
tremble to its centre, seemed to announce the end of all. Even the
free-trader recoiled before the horrible din; but when he stood near
Seadrift and the heiress again, there was cheerfulness in his tones, and a
look of high, and even of gay resolution, in his firm countenance.

"The deck has failed forwards," he said, "and our artillery is beginning
to utter fearful signal-guns! Be of cheer!--the magazine of a ship-lies
deep, and many sheathed bulk-heads still protect us."

Another discharge from a heated gun, however proclaimed the rapid progress
of the flames. The fire broke out of the interior anew, and the fore mast
kindled.

"There must be an end of this!" said Alida, clasping her hands in a terror
that could not be controlled. "Save yourselves, if possible, you who have
strength and courage, and leave us to the mercy of him whose eye is over
all!"

"Go;" added Seadrift, whose sex could no longer be concealed. "Human
courage can do no more: leave us to die!"

The looks, that were returned to these sad requests, were melancholy but
unmoved. The Skimmer caught a rope, and still holding it in his hand, he
descended to the quarter-deck, on which he at first trusted his weight
with jealous caution. Then looking up, he smiled encouragingly, and
said,--"Where a gun still stands, there is no danger for the weight of a
man!"

"It is our only resource;" cried Ludlow, imitating his example. "On, my
men, while the beams will still hold us."

In a moment, all were on the quarter-deck, though the excessive heat
rendered it impossible to remain stationary an instant. A gun on each side
was run in, its tackles loosened, and its muzzle pointed towards the
tottering, unsupported, but still upright fore-mast.

"Aim at the cleets!" said Ludlow to the Skimmer who pointed one gun, while
he did the same office at the other.

"Hold!" cried the latter "Throw in shot--it is out the chance between a
bursting gun and a lighted magazine!"

Additional balls were introduced into each piece; and then, with steady
hands, the gallant mariners applied burning brands to the priming. The
discharges were simultaneous and, for an instant, volumes of smoke rolled
along the deck and seemed to triumph over the conflagration. The rending
of wood was audible. It was followed by a sweeping noise in the air, and
the fall of the fore-mast, with all its burden of spars, into the sea. The
motion of the ship was instantly arrested, and, as the heavy timbers were
still attached to the bowsprit by the forward stays, her head came to the
wind, when the remaining top-sails flapped, shivered, and took aback.

The vessel was now, for the first time during the fire, stationary. The
common mariners profited by the circumstance, and, darting past the
mounting flame along the bulwarks, they gained the top-gallant-forecastle,
which though heated was yet untouched. The Skimmer glanced an eye about
him, and seizing Seadrift by the waist, as if the mimic seaman had been a
child, he pushed forward between the ridge-ropes. Ludlow followed with
Alida, and the others intimated their example in the best manner they
could. All reached the head of the ship in safety; though Ludlow had been
driven by the flames into the fore-channels, and thence nearly into the
sea.

The petty officers were already on the floating spars, separating them
from each other, cutting away the unnecessary weight of rigging, bringing
the several parts of the wood in parallel lines, and lashing them anew.
Ever and anon, these rapid movements were quickened by one of those
fearful signals from the officers' berths, which, by announcing the
progress of the flames beneath, betrayed their increasing proximity to
the still-slumbering volcano. The boats had been gone an hour, and yet it
seemed, to all in the ship, but a minute. The conflagration had, for the
last ten minutes, advanced with renewed fury; and the whole of the
confined flame, which had been so long pent in the depths of the vessel
now glared high in the open air.

"This heat can no longer be borne," said Ludlow; "we must to our raft, for
breath."

"To the raft then!" returned the cheerful voice of the free-trader. "Haul
in upon your fasts, men, and stand by to receive the precious freight."

The seamen obeyed. Alida and her companions were lowered safely to the
place prepared for then reception. The fore-mast had gone over the side,
with all its spars aloft; for preparation had been made, before the fire
commenced, to carry sail to the utmost, in order to escape the enemy. The
skilful and active seamen, directed and aided by Ludlow and the Skimmer,
had made a simple but happy disposition of those boy ant materials on
which their all now depended. In settling in the water, the yards, still
crossed, had happily fallen uppermost. The booms and all the light spars
had been floated near the top, and laid across, reaching from the lower to
the top-sail-yard. A few light spars, stowed outboard, had been cut away
and added to the number, and the whole were secured with the readiness and
ingenuity of seamen. On the first alarm of fire, some of the crew had
seized a few light articles that would float, and rushed to the head, as
the place most remote from the magazine, in the blind hope of saving life
by swimming. Most of these articles had been deserted, when the people
were rallied to exertion by their officers. A couple of empty shot-boxes
and a mess-chest were among them, and on the latter were seated the
females, while the former served to keep their feet from the water. As the
arrangement of the spars forced the principal mast entirely beneath the
element, and the ship was so small as to need little artificial work in
her masting, the part around the top, which contained the staging, was
scarcely submerged. Although a ton in weight was added to the inherent
gravity of the wood, still as the latter was of the lightest description,
and freed as much as possible of every thing that was unnecessary to the
safety of those it supported, the spars floated sufficiently, buoyant for
the temporary security of the fugitives.

"Cut the fast!" said Ludlow, involuntarily starting at several explosions
in the interior, which followed each other in quick succession, and which
were succeeded by one which sent fragments of burning wood into the air.
"Cut, and bear the raft off the ship!--God knows, we have need to be
further asunder!"

"Cut not!" cried the half-frantic Seadrift--"My brave!--my devoted!--"

"Is safe;--" calmly said the Skimmer, appearing in the rattlings of the
main-rigging, which was still untouched by the fire--"Cut off all! I stay
to brace the mizen-top-sail more firmly aback."

The duty was done, and for a moment the fine figure of the free-trader was
seen standing on the edge of the burning ship, looking with regret at the
glowing mass.

"'Tis the end of a lovely craft!" he said, loud enough to be heard by
those beneath. Then he appeared in the air, and sunk into the sea--"The
last signal was from the ward-room," added the dauntless and dexterous
mariner, as he rose from the water, and, shaking the brine from his head,
he took his place on the stage--"Would to God the wind would blow, for we
have need of greater distance!"

The precaution the free-trader had taken, in adjusting the sails, was not
without its use. Motion the raft had none, but as the top-sails of the
Coquette were still aback, the naming mass, no longer arrested by the
clogs in the water, began slowly to separate from the floating spars,
though the tottering and half-burnt masts threatened, at each moment, to
fall.

Never did moments seem so long, as those which succeeded. Even the Skimmer
and Ludlow watched in speechless interest, the tardy movements of the
ship. By little and little, she receded; and, after ten minutes of intense
expectation, the seamen, whose anxiety had increased as their exertions
ended, began to breathe more freely. They were still fearfully near the
dangerous fabric, but destruction from the explosion was no longer
inevitable. The flames began to glide upwards, and then the heavens
appeared on fire, as one heated sail after another kindled and flared
wildly in the breeze.

Still the stern of the vessel was entire. The body of the master was
seated against the mizen-mast, and even the stern visage of the old seaman
was distinctly visible, under the broad light of the conflagration. Ludlow
gazed at it in melancholy, and for a time he ceased to think of his ship,
while memory dwelt, in sadness, on those scenes of boyish happiness, and
of professional pleasures, in which his ancient shipmate had so largely
participated. The roar of a gun, whose stream of fire flashed nearly to
their faces, and the sullen whistling of its shot, which crossed the raft,
failed to awaken him from his trance.

"Stand firm to the mess-chest!" half-whispered the Skimmer, motioning to
his companions to place themselves in attitudes to support the weaker of
their party, while, with sedulous care, he braced his own athletic person
in a manner to throw all of its weight and strength against the seat.
"Stand firm, and be ready!"

Ludlow complied, though his eye scarce changed its direction. He saw the
bright flame that was rising above the arm-chest, and he fancied that it
came from the funeral pile of the young Dumont, whose fate, at that
moment, he was almost disposed to envy. Then his look returned to the grim
countenance of Trysail. At moments, it seemed as if the dead master spoke;
and so strong did the illusion become, that our young sailor more than
once bent forward to listen. While under this delusion, the body rose,
with the arms stretched upwards. The air was filled with a sheet of
streaming fire, while the ocean and the heavens glowed with one glare of
intense and fiery red. Notwithstanding the precaution of the 'Skimmer of
the Seas,' the chest was driven from its place, and those by whom it was
held were nearly precipitated into the water. A deep, heavy detonation
proceeded as it were from the bosom of the sea, which, while it wounded
the ear less than the sharp explosion that had just before issued from the
gun, was audible at the distant capes of the Delaware. The body of Trysail
sailed upward for fifty fathoms, in the centre of a flood of flame, and,
describing a short curve, it came towards the raft, and cut the water
within reach of the captain's arm. A sullen plunge of a gun followed, and
proclaimed the tremendous power of the explosion; while a ponderous yard
fell athwart a part of the raft, sweeping away the four petty officers of
Ludlow, as if they had been dust driving before a gale. To increase the
wild and fearful grandeur of the dissolution of the royal cruiser, one of
the cannon emitted its fiery contents while sailing in the void.

The burning spars, the falling fragments, the blazing and scattered canvas
and cordage, the glowing shot, and all the torn particles of the ship,
were seen descending. Then followed the gurgling of water, as the ocean
swallowed all that remained of the cruiser which had so long been the
pride of the American seas. The fiery glow disappeared, and a gloom like
that which succeeds the glare of vivid lightning, fell on the scene.




Chapter XXXIII.



    "--Please you, read."

    Cymbeline.


"It is past!" said the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' raising himself from the
attitude of great muscular exertion, which he had assumed in order to
support the mess-chest, and walking out along the single mast, towards the
spot whence the four seamen of Ludlow had just been swept. "It is past!
and those who are called to the last account, have met their fate in such
a scene as none but a seaman may witness; while those who are spared, have
need of all a seaman's skill and resolution for that which remains!
Captain Ludlow, I do not despair; for, see, the lady of the brigantine has
still a smile for her servitors!"

Ludlow, who had followed the steady and daring free-trader to the place
where the spar had fallen, turned and cast a look in the direction that
the other stretched his arm. Within a hundred feet of him, he saw the
image of the sea-green lady, rocking in the agitated water, and turned
towards the raft, with its usual expression of wild and malicious
intelligence. This emblem of their fancied mistress had been borne in
front of the smugglers, when they mounted the poop of the Coquette; and
the steeled staff on which the lantern was perched, had been struck into a
horse-bucket by the standard-bearer of the moment, ere he entered the
melee of the combat. During the conflagration, this object had more than
once met the eye of Ludlow; and now it appeared floating quietly by him,
in a manner almost to shake even his contempt for the ordinary
superstitions of seamen. While he hesitated in what manner he should reply
to his companion's remark, the latter plunged into the sea, and swam
towards the light. He was soon by the side of the raft again bearing aloft
the symbol of his brigantine. There are none so firm in the dominion of
reason, as to be entirely superior to the secret impulses which teach us
all to believe in the hidden agency of a good or an evil fortune. The
voice of the free-trader was more cheerful, and his step more sure and
elastic, as he crossed the stage and struck the armed end of the staff
into that part of the top-rim of the Coquette, which floated uppermost.

"Courage!" he gaily cried. "While this light burns, my star is not set!
Courage, lady of the land; for here is one of the deep waters, who still
looks kindly on her followers! We are at sea, on a frail craft it is
certain, but a dull sailer may make a sure passage.--Speak, gallant Master
Seadrift: thy gaiety and spirit should revive under so goodly an omen!"

But the agent of so many pleasant masquerades, and the instrument of so
much of his artifice, had not a fortitude equal to the buoyant temper of
the smuggler. The counterfeit bowed his head by the side of the silent
Alida, without reply. The 'Skimmer of the Seas' regarded the group, a
moment, with manly interest; and then touching the arm of Ludlow, he
walked, with a balancing step, along the spars, until they had reached a
spot where they might confer without causing unnecessary alarm to their
companions.

Although so imminent and so pressing a danger as that of the explosion had
passed, the situation of those who had escaped was scarcely better than
that of those who had been lost. The heavens showed a few glimmering
stars in the openings of the clouds; and now, that the first contrast of
the change had lessened, there was just enough light to render all the
features of their actual state gloomily imposing.

It has been said, that the fore-mast of the Coquette went by the board,
with most of its hamper aloft. The sails, with such portion of the rigging
as might help to sustain it, had been hastily cut away as related; and
after its fall, until the moment of the explosion, the common men had been
engaged, either in securing the staging, or in clearing the wreck of those
heavy ropes which, useless as fastenings, only added to the weight of the
mass. The whole wreck lay upon the sea, with the yards crossed and in
their places, much as the spars had stood. The large booms had been
unshipped, and laid in such a manner around the top, with the ends resting
on the lower and top-sail yards, as to form the foundation of the staging.
The smaller booms, with the mess-chest and shot-boxes, were all that lay
between the group in the centre, and the depths of the ocean. The upper
part of the top-rim rose a few feet above the water, and formed an
important protection against the night-breeze and the constant washing of
the waves. In this manner were the females seated, cautioned not to trust
their feet on the frail security of the booms, and supported by the
unremitting care of the Alderman. Francois had submitted to be lashed to
the top by one of the brigantine's seamen, while the latter, all of the
common herd who remained, encouraged by the presence of their
standard-light, began to occupy themselves in looking to the fastenings
and other securities of the raft.

"We are in no condition for a long or an active cruise, Captain Ludlow,"
said the Skimmer, when he and his companion were out of hearing. "I have
been at sea in all weathers, and in every description of craft; but this
is the boldest of my experiments on the water.--I hope it may not be the
last!"

"We cannot conceal from ourselves the frightful hazards we run," returned
Ludlow, "however much we may wish them to be a secret to some among us."

"This is truly a deserted sea, to be abroad in, on a raft! Were we in the
narrow passages between the British islands and the Main, or even in the
Biscay waters, there would be hope that some trader or roving cruiser
might cross our track; but our chance here lies much between the Frenchman
and the brigantine."

"The enemy has doubtless seen and heard the explosion, and, as the land is
so near, they will infer that the people are saved in the boats. Our
chance of seeing more of them is much diminished by the accident of the
fire, since there will no longer be a motive for remaining on the coast."

"And will your young officers abandon their captain without a search?"

"Hope of aid from that quarter is faint. The ship ran miles while in
flames, and, before the light returns, these spars will have drifted
leagues, with the ebbing tide, to seaward."

"Truly, I have sailed with better auguries!" observed the Skimmer--"What
are the bearings and distance of the land?"

"It still lies to the north, but we are fast setting east and southerly.
Ere morning we shall be abeam of Montauk, or even beyond it; we must
already be some leagues in the offing."

"That is worse than I had imagined!--but there is hope on the flood?"

"The flood will bear us northward again--but--what think you of the
heavens?"

"Unfavorable, though not desperate. The sea-breeze will return with the
sun."

"And with it will return the swell! How long will these ill-secured spars
hold together, when agitated by the heave of the water? Or, how long will
those with us bear up against the wash of the sea, unsupported by
nourishment?"

"You paint in gloomy colors, Captain Ludlow," said the free-trader,
drawing a heavy breath, in spite of all his resolution. "My experience
tells me you are right, though my wishes would fain contradict you. Still,
I think we have the promise of a tranquil night."

"Tranquil for a ship, or even for a boat; but hazardous to a raft like
this. You see that this top-mast already works in the cap, at each heave
of the water, and as the wood loosens, our security lessens."

"Thy council is not flattering!--Captain Ludlow, you are a seaman and a
man, and I shall not attempt to trifle with your knowledge. With you, I
think the danger imminent, and almost our only hope dependent on the good
fortune of my brigantine."

"Will those in her think it their duty to quit their anchorage, to come in
quest of a raft whose existence is unknown to them?"

"There is hope in the vigilance of her of the sea-green mantle! You may
deem this fanciful, or even worse, at such a moment; but I, who have run
so many gauntlets under her favor, have faith in her fortunes. Surely, you
are not a seaman, Captain Ludlow, without a secret dependence on some
unseen and potent agency!"

"My dependence is placed in the agency of him who is all-potent, but never
visible. If he forget us, we may indeed despair!"

"This is well, but it is not the fortune I would express. Believe me,
spite of an education which teaches all you have said, and of a reason
that is often too clear for folly, there is a secret reliance on hidden
chances, that has been created by a life of activity and hazard, and
which, if it should do nothing better, does not abandon me to despair. The
omen of the light and the smile of my mistress would cheer me, spite of a
thousand philosophers!"

"You are fortunate in purchasing consolation so cheaply;" returned the
commander of Queen Anne, who felt a latent hope in his companion's
confidence that he would have hesitated to acknowledge. "I see but little
that we can do to aid our chances, except it be to clear away all
unnecessary weight, and to secure the raft as much as possible by
additional lashings."

The 'Skimmer of the Seas' assented to the proposal. Consulting a moment
longer, on the details of their expedients, they rejoined the group near
the top, in order to see them executed. As the seamen on the raft were
reduced to the two people of the brigantine, Ludlow and his companion were
obliged to assist in the performance of the duty.

Much useless rigging, that added to the pressure without aiding the
buoyancy of the raft, was cut away; and all the boom-irons were knocked
off the yards, and suffered to descend to the bottom of the ocean. By
these means a great weight was taken from the raft, which in consequence
floated with so much additional power to sustain those who depended on it
for life. The Skimmer, accompanied by his two silent but obedient seamen,
ventured along the attenuated and submerged spars to the extremity of the
tapering masts, and after toiling, with the dexterity of men accustomed to
deal with the complicated machinery of a ship in the darkest nights, they
succeeded in releasing the two smaller masts with their respective yards,
and in floating them down to the body of the wreck, or the part around the
top. Here the sticks were crossed in a manner to give great additional
strength and footing to the stage.

There was an air of hope, and a feeling of increased security, in this
employment. Even the Alderman and Francois aided in the task, to the
extent of their knowledge and force. But when these alterations were made,
and additional lashings had been applied to keep the top-mast and the
larger yards in their places, Ludlow, by joining those who were around the
mast-head, tacitly admitted that little more could be done to avert the
chances of the elements.

During the few hours occupied in this important duty, Alida and her
companion addressed themselves to God, in long and fervent petitions. With
woman's faith in that divine being who alone could avail them, and with
woman's high mental fortitude in moments of protracted trial, they had
both known how to control the exhibition of their terrors, and had sought
their support in the same appeal to a power superior to all of earth.
Ludlow was therefore more than rewarded by the sound of Alida's voice,
speaking to him cheerfully, as she thanked him for what he had done, when
he admitted that he could now do no more.

"The rest is with Providence!" added Alida. "All that bold and skilful
seamen can do, have ye done; and all that woman in such a situation can
do, have we done in your behalf!"

"Thou hast thought of me in thy prayers, Alida! It is an intercession that
the stoutest needs, and which none but the fool derides."

"And thou, Eudora! thou hast remembered him who quiets the waters!" said a
deep voice, near the bending form of the counterfeit Seadrift.

"I have."

"'Tis well.--There are points to which manhood and experience may pass,
and there are those where all is left to one mightier than the elements!"

Words like these, coming from the lips of one of the known character of
the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' were not given to the winds. Even Ludlow cast
an uneasy look at the heavens, when they came upon his ear, as if they
conveyed a secret notice of the whole extremity of the danger by which
they were environed. None answered; and a long silence succeeded, during
which some of the more fatigued slumbered uneasily, spite of their fearful
situation.

In this manner did the night pass, in weariness and anxiety. Little was
said, and for hours scarce a limb was moved, in the group that clustered
around the mess-chest. As the signs of day appeared, however, every
faculty was keenly awake, to catch the first signs of what they had to
hope, or the first certainty of what they had to fear.

The surface of the ocean was still smooth, though the long swells in which
the element was heaving and setting, sufficiently indicated that the raft
had floated far from the land. This fact was rendered sure, when the
light, which soon appeared along the eastern margin of the narrow view,
was shed gradually over the whole horizon. Nothing was at first visible,
but one gloomy and vacant waste of water. But a cry of joy from Seadrift,
whose senses had long been practised in ocean sights, soon drew all eyes
in the direction opposite to that of the rising sun, and it was not long
before all on the low raft had a view of the snowy surfaces of a ship's
sails, as the glow of morning touched the canvas.

"It is the Frenchman!" said the free-trader. "He is charitably looking for
the wreck of his late enemy!"

"It may be so, for our fate can be no secret to him;" was the answer of
Ludlow. "Unhappily, we had run some distance from the anchorage, before
the flames broke out. Truly, those with whom we so lately struggled for
life, are bent on a duty of humanity."

"Ah, yonder is his crippled consort!--to leeward many a league. The gay
bird has been too sadly stripped of its plumage, to fly so near the wind!
This is man's fortune! He uses his power, at one moment, to destroy the
very means that become necessary to his safety, the next."

"And what think you of our hopes?" asked Alida, searching in the
countenance of Ludlow a clue to their fate. "Does the stranger move in a
direction favorable to our wishes?"

Neither Ludlow nor the Skimmer replied. Both regarded the frigate
intently, and then, as objects became more distinct, both answered, by a
common impulse, that the ship was steering directly towards them. The
declaration excited general hope, and even the negress was no longer
restrained by her situation from expressing her joy in vociferous
exclamations of delight.

A few minutes of active and ready exertion succeeded. A light boom was
unlashed from the raft, and raised on its end, supporting a little signal,
made of the handkerchiefs of the party, which fluttered in the light
breeze, at the elevation of some twenty feet above the surface of the
water. After this precaution was observed, they were obliged to await the
result in such patience as they could assume. Minute passed after minute,
and, at each moment, the form and proportions of the ship became more
distinct, until all the mariners of the party declared they could
distinguish men on her yards. A cannon would have readily sent its shot
from the ship to the raft, and yet no sign betrayed the consciousness of
those in the former of the proximity of the latter.

"I do not like his manner of steering!" observed the Skimmer to the silent
and attentive Ludlow. "He yaws broadly, as if disposed to give up the
search. God grant him the heart to continue on his course ten minutes
longer!"

"Have we no means of making ourselves heard?" demanded the Alderman.
"Methinks the voice of a strong man might be sent thus far across the
water when life is the stake."

The more experienced shook their heads; but, not discouraged, the burgher
raised his voice with a power that was sustained by the imminency of the
peril. He was joined by the seamen, and even Ludlow lent his aid, until
all were hoarse with the fruitless efforts. Men were evidently aloft, and
in some numbers, searching the ocean with their eyes, but still no
answering signal came from the vessel.

The ship continued to approach, and the raft was less than half a mile
from her bows, when the vast fabric suddenly receded from the breeze,
showed the whole of its glittering broadside, and, swinging its yards,
betrayed by its new position that the search in that direction was
abandoned. The instant Ludlow saw the filling-off of the frigate's bows,
he cried--

"Now, raise your voices together;--this is the final chance!"

They united in a common shout, with the exception of the 'Skimmer of the
Seas.' The latter leaned against the top with folded arms, listening to
their impotent efforts with a melancholy smile.

"It is well attempted," said the calm and extraordinary seaman when the
clamor had ceased, advancing along the raft and motioning for all to be
silent; "but it has failed. The swinging of the yards, and the orders
given in waring ship, would prevent a stronger sound from being audible to
men so actively employed. I flatter none with hope, but this is truly the
moment for a final effort."

He placed his hands to his mouth, and, disregarding words, he raised a cry
so clear, so powerful, and yet so full, that it seemed impossible those in
the vessel should not hear. Thrice did he repeat the experiment, though it
was evident that each successive exertion was feebler than the last.

"They hear!" cried Alida. "There is a movement in the sails!"

"'Tis the beeeze freshening;" answered Ludlow in sadness, at her side.
"Each moment takes them away!"

The melancholy truth was too apparent for denial, and for half an hour the
retiring ship was watched in the bitterness of disappointment. At the end
of that time, she fired a gun, spread additional canvas on her wide booms,
and stood away before the wind, to join her consort, whose upper sails
were already dipping to the surface of the sea, in the southern board.
With this change in her movements, vanished all expectation of succor from
the cruiser of the enemy.

Perhaps, in every situation of life, it is necessary that hope should be
first lessened by disappointment, before the buoyancy of the human mind
will permit it to descend to the level of an evil fortune. Until a
frustrated effort teaches him the difficulty of the attempt, he who has
fallen may hope to rise again; and it is only when an exertion has been
made with lessened means, that we learn the value of advantages, which
have perhaps been long enjoyed, with a very undue estimate of their
importance. Until the stern of the French frigate was seen retiring from
the raft, those who were on it had not been fully sensible of the extreme
danger of their situation. Hope had been strongly excited by the return of
dawn; for while the shadows of night lay on the ocean, their situation
resembled that of one who strove to pierce the obscurity of the future, in
order to obtain a presage of better fortunes. With the light had come the
distant sail. As the day advanced, the ship had approached, relinquished
her search, and disappeared, without a prospect of her return.

The stoutest heart among the group on the raft began to sink at the
gloomy fate which now seemed inevitable.

"Here is an evil omen!" whispered Ludlow, directing his companion's eyes
to the dark and pointed fins of three or four sharks, that were gliding
above the surface of the water, and in so fearful a proximity to their
persons, as to render their situation on the low spars, over which the
water was washing and retiring at each rise and fall of the waves, doubly
dangerous.--"The creature's instinct speaks ill for our hopes!"

"There is a belief among seamen, that these animals feel a secret impulse,
which directs them to their prey;" returned the Skimmer. "But fortune may
yet balk them.--Rogerson!" calling to one of his followers;--"thy pockets
are rarely wanting in a fisherman's tackle. Hast thou, haply, line and
hook, for these hungry miscreants? The question is getting narrowed to
one, in which the simplest philosophy is the wisest. When eat or to be
eaten, is the mooted point, most men will decide for the former."

A hook of sufficient size was soon produced, and a line was quietly
provided from some of the small cordage that still remained about the
masts. A piece of leather, torn from a spar, answered for the bait; and
the lure was thrown. Extreme hunger seemed to engross the voracious
animals, who darted at the imaginary prey with the rapidity of lightning.
The shock was so sudden and violent, that the hapless mariner was drawn
from his slippery and precarious footing, into the sea. The whole passed
with a frightful and alarming rapidity. A common cry of horror was heard,
and the last despairing glance of the fallen man was witnessed. The
mutilated body floated for an instant in its blood, with the look of agony
and terror still imprinted on the conscious countenance. At the next
moment, it had become food for the monsters of the sea.

All had passed away, but the deep dye on the surface of the ocean. The
gorged fish disappeared; but the dark spot remained near the immovable
raft, as if placed there to warn the survivors of their fate.

"This is horrible!" said Ludlow.

"A sail!" shouted the Skimmer, whose voice and tone, breaking in on that
moment of intense horror and apprehension, sounded like a cry from the
heavens. "My gallant brigantine!"

"God grant she come with better fortune than those who have so lately left
us!"

"God grant it, truly! If this hope fail, there is none left. Few pass
here, and we have had sufficient proof that our top-gallants are not so
lofty as to catch every eye."

All attention was now bestowed on the white speck which was visible on the
margin of the ocean, and which the 'Skimmer of the Seas' confidently
pronounced to be the Water-Witch. None but a seaman could have felt this
certainty; for, seen from the low raft, there was little else to be
distinguished but the heads of the upper sails. The direction too was
unfavorable, as it was to leeward; but both Ludlow and the free-trader
assured their companions, that the vessel was endeavoring to beat in with
the land.

The two hours that succeeded lingered like days of misery. So much
depended on a variety of events, that every circumstance was noted by the
seamen of the party, with an interest bordering on agony. A failure of the
wind might compel the vessel to remain stationary, and then both
brigantine and raft would be at the mercy of the uncertain currents of the
ocean; a change of wind might cause a change of course, and render a
meeting impossible; an increase of the breeze might cause destruction,
even before the succor could come. In addition to these obvious hazards,
there were all the chances which were dependent on the fact that the
people of the brigantine had every reason to believe the fate of the party
was already sealed.

Still, fortune seemed propitious; for the breeze, though steady, was
light, the intention of the vessel was evidently to pass somewhere near
them, and the hope that their object was search, so strong and plausible,
as to exhilarate every bosom.

At the expiration of the time named, the brigantine passed the raft to
leeward, and so near as to render the smaller objects in her rigging
distinctly visible.

"The faithful fellows are looking for us!" exclaimed the free-trader, with
strong emotion in his voice. "They are men to scour the coast, ere they
abandon us!"

"They pass us--wave the signal--it may catch their eyes!"

The little flag was unheeded, and, after so long and so intense
expectation, the party on the raft had the pain to see the swift-moving
vessel glide past them, and drawing so far ahead as to leave little hope
of her return. The heart of even the 'Skimmer of the Seas' appeared to
sink within him, at the disappointment.

"For myself, I care not;" said the stout mariner mournfully. "Of what
consequence is it, in what sea, or on what voyage, a seaman goes into his
watery tomb?--but for thee, my hapless and playful Eudora, I could wish
another fate--ha!--she tacks!--the sea-green lady has an instinct for her
children, after all!"

The brigantine was in stays.--In ten or fifteen minutes more, the vessel
was again abeam of the raft, and to windward.

"If she pass us now, our chance is gone, without a shadow of hope;" said
the Skimmer, motioning solemnly for silence. Then, applying his hands to
his mouth, he shouted, as if despair lent a giant's volume to his lungs--

"Ho! The Water-Witch!--ahoy!"

The last word issued from his lips with the clear, audible cry, that the
peculiar sound is intended to produce. It appeared as if the conscious
little bark knew its commander's voice; for its course changed slightly,
as if the fabric were possessed of the consciousness and faculties of
life.

"Ho! The Water-Witch!--ahoy!" shouted the Skimmer, with a still mightier
effort.

"--Hilloa!" came down faintly on the breeze, and the direction of the
brigantine again altered.

"The Water-Witch!--the Water-Witch!--ahoy!" broke out of the lips of the
mariner of the shawl, with a supernatural force,--the last cry being drawn
out, till he who uttered it sunk back exhausted with the effort.

The words were still ringing in the ears of the breathless party on the
raft, when a heavy shout swept across the water. At the next moment the
boom of the brigantine swung off, and her narrow bows were seen pointing
towards the little beacon of white that played above the sea. It was but a
moment, but it was a moment pregnant with a thousand hopes and fears,
before the beautiful craft was gliding within fifty feet of the top. In
less than five minutes, the spars of the Coquette were floating on the
wide ocean, unpeopled and abandoned.

The first sensation of the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' when his foot touched
the deck of his brigantine might have been one of deep and intense
gratitude. He was silent, and seemingly oppressed at the throat. Stepping
along the planks, he cast an eye aloft, and struck his hand powerfully on
the capstan, in a manner that was divided between convulsion and
affection. Then he smiled grimly on his attentive and obedient crew,
speaking with all his wonted cheerfulness and authority.

"Fill away the top-sail--brace up and haul aft! Trim every thing flat as
boards, boys;--jam the hussy in with the coast!"




Chapter XXXIV.



    "Beseech you, Sir, were you present at this relation?"

    Winter's Tale.


On the following morning, the windows of the Lust in Rust denoted the
presence of its owner. There was an air of melancholy, and yet of
happiness, in the faces of many who were seen about the buildings and the
grounds, as if a great good had been accompanied by some grave and
qualifying circumstances of sorrow. The negroes wore an air of that love
of the extraordinary which is the concomitant of ignorance, while those of
the more fortunate class resembled men who retained a recollection of
serious evils that were past.

In the private apartment of the burgher, however, an interview took place
which was characterized by an air of deep concern. The parties were only
the free-trader and the Alderman. But it was apparent, in the look of
each, that they met like men who had interesting and serious matters to
discuss. Still, one accustomed to the expressions of the human countenance
might have seen, that while the former was about to introduce topics in
which his feelings were powerfully enlisted, the other looked only to the
grosser interests of his commerce.

"My minutes are counted;" said the mariner, stepping into the centre of
the room, and facing his companion. "That which is to be said, must be
said briefly. The inlet can only be passed on the rising water, and it
will ill consult your opinions of prudence, were I to tarry, till the hue
and cry, that will follow the intelligence of that which has lately
happened in the offing, shall be heard in the Province."

"Spoken with a rover's discretion! This reserve will perpetuate
friendship, which is nought weakened by your activity in our late
uncomfortable voyage on the yards and masts of Queen Anne's late cruiser.
Well! I wish no ill-luck to any loyal gentleman in Her Majesty's service;
but it is a thousand pities that thou wert not ready, now the coast is
clear, with a good heavy inward cargo! The last was altogether an affair
of secret drawers, and rich laces; valuable in itself, and profitable in
the exchange: but the colony is sadly in want of certain articles that can
only be landed at leisure."

"I come on other matters. There have been transactions between us,
Alderman Van Beverout, that you little understand."

"You speak of a small mistake in the last invoice?--'Tis all explained,
Master Skimmer, on a second examination; and thy accuracy is as well
established as that of the bank of England."

"Established or not, let him who doubts cease to deal.--I have no other
motto than 'confidence,' nor any other rule but 'justice.'"

"You overrun my meaning, friend of mine. I intimate no suspicions; but
accuracy is the soul of commerce, as profit is its object. Clear accounts,
with reasonable balances, are the surest cements of business intimacies. A
little frankness operates, in a secret trade, like equity in the courts;
which reestablishes the justice that the law has destroyed.--What is thy
purpose?"

"It is now many years, Alderman Van Beverout, since this secret trade was
commenced between you and my predecessor,--he, whom you have thought my
father, but who only claimed that revered appellation by protecting the
helplessness and infancy of the orphan child of a friend."

"The latter circumstance is new to me;" returned the burgher, slowly
bowing his head. "It may explain certain levities which have not been
without their embarrassment. 'Tis five-and-twenty years, come August,
Master Skimmer, and twelve of them have been under thy auspices. I will
not say that the adventures might not have been better managed; as it is,
they are tolerable. I am getting old, and think of closing the risks and
hazards of life--two or three, or, at the most, four or five, lucky
voyages, must, I think, bring a final settlement between us."

"'Twill be made sooner. I believe the history of my predecessor was no
secret to you. The manner in which he was driven from the marine of the
Stuarts, on account of his opposition to tyranny; his refuge with an only
daughter, in the colonies; and his final recourse to the free-trade for a
livelihood, have often been alluded to between us."

"Hum--I have a good memory for business, Master Skimmer, but I am as
forgetful as a new-made lord of his pedigree, on all matters that should
be overlooked. I dare say, however, it was as you have stated."

"You know, that when my protector and predecessor abandoned the land, he
took his all with him upon the water."

"He took a wholesome and good-going schooner, Master Skimmer, with an
assorted freight of chosen tobacco, well ballasted with stones from off
the seashore. He was no foolish admirer of sea-green women, and flaunting
brigantines. Often did the royal cruisers mistake the worthy dealer for an
industrious fisherman!"

"He had his humors, and I have mine. But you forget a part of the freight
he carried;--a part that was not the least valuable."

"There might have been a bale of marten's furs--for the trade was just
getting brisk in that article."

"There was a beautiful, an innocent, and an affectionate girl------"

The Alderman made an involuntary movement which nearly hid his countenance
from his companion.

"There was, indeed, a beautiful, and, as you say, a most warm-hearted
girl, in the concern!" he uttered, in a voice that was subdued and hoarse.
"She died, as I have heard from thyself, Master Skimmer, in the Italian
seas. I never saw the father, after the last visit of his child to this
coast."

"She did die, among the islands of the Mediterranean. But the void she
left in the hearts of all who knew her, was filled, in time, by
her--daughter."

The Alderman started from his chair, and, looking the free-trader intently
and anxiously in the face, he slowly repeated the word--

"Daughter!"

"I have said it.--Eudora is the daughter of that injured woman--need I
say, who is the father?"

The burgher groaned, and, covering his face with his hands, he sunk back
into his chair, shivering convulsively.

"What evidence have I of this?" he at length muttered--"Eudora is thy
sister!"

The answer of the free-trader was accompanied by a melancholy smile.

"You have been deceived. Save the brigantine my being is attached to
nothing. When my own brave father fell by the side of him who protected my
youth, none of my blood were left. I loved him as a father, and he called
me son, while Eudora was passed upon you as the child of a second marriage
But here is sufficient evidence of her birth."

The Alderman took a paper, which his companion put gravely into his hand,
and his eyes ran eagerly over its contents. It was a letter to himself
from the mother of Eudora, written after the birth of the latter, and with
the endearing affection of a woman. The love between the young merchant
and the fair daughter of his secret correspondent had been less criminal
on his part than most similar connexions. Nothing but the peculiarity of
their situation, and the real embarrassment of introducing to the world
one whose existence was unknown to his friends, and their mutual awe of
the unfortunate but still proud parent, had prevented a legal marriage.
The simple forms of the colony were easily satisfied, and there was even
some reason to raise a question whether they had not been sufficiently
consulted to render the offspring legitimate. As Myndert Van Beverout,
therefore, read the epistle of her whom he had once so truly loved, and
whose loss had, in more senses than one, been to him an irreparable
misfortune, since his character might have yielded to her gentle and
healthful influence, his limbs trembled, and his whole frame betrayed the
violence of extreme agitation. The language of the dying woman was kind
and free from reproach, but it was solemn and admonitory. She communicated
the birth of their child; but she left it to the disposition of her own
father, while she apprized the author of its being of its existence; and,
in the event of its ever being consigned to his care, she earnestly
recommended it to his love. The close was a leave-taking, in which the
lingering affections of this life were placed in mournful contrast to the
hopes of the future.

"Why has this so long been hidden from me?" demanded the agitated
merchant--"Why, oh reckless and fearless man! have I been permitted to
expose the frailties of nature to my own child?"

The smile of the free-trader was bitter, and proud.

"Mr. Van Beverout, we are no dealers of the short voyage. Our trade is
the concern of life;--our world, the Water-Witch. As we have so little of
the interests of the land, our philosophy is above its weaknesses. The
birth of Eudora was concealed from you, at the will of her grandfather. It
might have been resentment;--it might have been pride.--Had it been
affection, the girl has that to justify the fraud."

"And Eudora, herself?--Does she--or has she long known the truth?"

"But lately. Since the death of our common friend, the girl has been
solely dependent on me for counsel and protection. It is now a year since
she first learned she was not my sister. Until then, like you, she
supposed us equally derived from one who was the parent of neither.
Necessity has compelled me, of late, to keep her much in the brigantine."

"The retribution is righteous!" groaned the Alderman, "I am punished for
my pusillanimity, in the degradation of my own child!"

The step of the free-trader, as he advanced nearer to his companion, was
full of dignity; and his keen eye glowed with the resentment of an
offended man.

"Alderman Van Beverout," he said, with stern rebuke in his voice, "you
receive your daughter, stainless as was her unfortunate mother, when
necessity compelled him whose being was wrapped up in hers, to trust her
beneath your roof. We of the contraband have our own opinions, of right
and wrong, and my gratitude, no less than my principles, teaches me that
the descendant of my benefactor is to be protected, not injured. Had I, in
truth, been the brother of Eudora, language and conduct more innocent
could not have been shown her, than that she has both heard and witnessed
while guarded by my care."

"From my soul, I thank thee!" burst from the lips the Alderman. "The girl
shall be acknowledged; and with such a dowry as I can give, she may yet
hope for a suitable and honorable marriage."

"Thou may'st bestow her on thy favorite Patroon;" returned the Skimmer,
with a calm but sad eye. "She is more than worthy of all he can return.
The man is willing to take her, for he is not ignorant of her sex and
history. That much I thought due to Eudora herself, when fortune placed
the young man in my power."

"Thou art only too honest for this wicked world, Master Skimmer! Let me
see the loving pair, and bestow my blessing, on the instant!"

The free-trader turned slowly away, and, opening a door, he motioned for
those within to enter. Alida instantly appeared, leading the counterfeit
Seadrift, clad in the proper attire of her sex. Although the burgher had
often seen the supposed sister of the Skimmer in her female habiliments,
she never before had struck him as a being of so rare beauty as at that
moment. The silken whiskers had been removed, and in their places were
burning cheeks, that were rather enriched than discolored by the warm
touches of the sun. The dark glossy ringlets, that were no longer artfully
converted to the purposes of the masquerade, fell naturally in curls about
the temples and brows, shading a countenance which in general was
playfully arch, though at that moment it was shadowed by reflection and
feeling. It is seldom that two such beings are seen together, as those who
now knelt at the feet of the merchant. In the breast of the latter, the
accustomed and lasting love of the uncle and protector appeared, for an
instant, to struggle with the new-born affection of a parent. Nature was
too strong for even his blunted and perverted sentiments; and, calling his
child aloud by name, the selfish and calculating Alderman sunk upon the
neck of Eudora, and wept. It would have been difficult to trace the
emotions of the stern but observant free-trader, as he watched the
progress of this scene. Distrust, uneasiness, and finally melancholy, were
in his eye. With the latter expression predominant, he quitted the room,
like one who felt a stranger had no right to witness emotions so sacred.

Two hours later, and the principal personages of the narrative were
assembled on the margin of the Cove, beneath the shade of an oak that
seemed coeval with the continent. The brigantine was aweigh; and, under a
light show of canvas, she was making easy stretches in the little basin,
resembling, by the ease and grace of her movements, some beautiful swan
sailing up and down in the enjoyment of its instinct. A boat had just
touched the shore, and the 'Skimmer of the Seas' stood near, stretching
out a hand to aid the boy Zephyr to land.

"We subjects of the elements are slaves to superstition;" he said, when
the light foot of the child touched the ground. "It is the consequence of
lives which ceaselessly present dangers superior to our powers. For many
years have I believed that some great good, or some greater evil, would
accompany the first visit of this boy to the land. For the first time, his
foot now stands on solid earth. I await the fulfilment of the augury!"

"It will be happy;" returned Ludlow--"Alida and Eudora will instruct him
in the opinions of this simple and fortunate country, and he seemeth one
likely to do early credit to his schooling."

"I fear the boy will regret the lessons of the sea-green lady!--Captain
Ludlow, there is yet a duty to perform, which, as a man of more feeling
than you may be disposed to acknowledge, I cannot neglect. I have
understood that you are accepted by la belle Barberie?"

"Such is my happiness."

"Sir, in dispensing with explanation of the past you have shown a noble
confidence, that merits a return. When I came upon this coast, it was with
a determination of establishing the claims of Eudora to the protection and
fortune of her father. If i distrusted the influence and hostility of one
so placed, and so gifted to persuade, as this lady, you will remember it
was before acquaintance had enabled me to estimate more than her beauty.
She was seized in her pavilion by my agency, and transported as a captive
to the brigantine."

"I had believed her acquainted with the history of her cousin, and willing
to aid in some fantasy which was to lead to the present happy restoration
of the latter to her natural friends."

"You did her disinterestedness no more than justice. As some atonement for
the personal wrong, and as the speediest and surest means of appeasing her
alarm, I made my captive acquainted with the facts. Eudora then heard,
also for the first time, the history of her origin. The evidence was
irresistible, and we found a generous and devoted friend where we had
expected a rival."

"I knew that Alida could not prove less generous!" cried the admiring
Ludlow, raising the hand of the blushing girl to his lips. "The loss of
fortune is a gain, by showing her true character!"

"Hist--hist--" interrupted the Alderman--"there is little need to proclaim
a loss of any kind. What must be done in the way of natural justice, will
doubtless be submitted to; but why let all in the colony know how much, or
how little, is given with a bride?"

"The loss of fortune will be amply met;" returned the free-trader. "These
bags contain gold. The dowry of my charge is ready at a moment's warning,
whenever she shall make known her choice."

"Success and prudence!" exclaimed the burgher. "There is no less than a
most commendable forethought in thy provision, Master Skimmer; and
whatever may be the opinion of the Exchequer Judges of thy punctuality and
credit, it is mine that there are less responsible men about the bank of
England itself!--This money is, no doubt, that which the girl can lawfully
claim in right of her late grand father!"

"It is."

"I take this to be a favorable moment to speak plainly on a subject which
is very near my heart, and which may as well be broached under such
favorable auspices as under any other. I understand, Mr. Van Staats, that,
on a further examination of your sentiments towards an old friend, you are
of opinion that a closer alliance than the one we had contemplated will
most conduce to your happiness?"

"I will acknowledge that the coldness of la belle Barberie has damped my
own warmth;" returned the Patroon of Kinderhook, who rarely delivered
himself of more, at a time, than the occasion required.

"And, furthermore, I have been told, Sir, that an intimacy of a fortnight
has given you reason to fix your affections on my daughter, whose beauty
is hereditary, and whose fortune is not likely to be diminished by this
act of justice on the part of that upright and gallant mariner."

"To be received into the favor of your family, Mr. Van Beverout, would
leave me little to desire in this life."

"And as for the other world, I never heard of a Patroon of Kinderhook who
did not leave us with comfortable hopes for the future; as in reason they
should, since few families in the colony have done more for the support of
religion than they. They gave largely to the Dutch churches in Manhattan;
have actually built, with their own means, three very pretty brick
edifices on the Manor, each having its Flemish steeple and suitable
weather-cocks besides having done something handsome towards the venerable
structure in Albany. Eudora, my child, this gentleman is a particular
friend, and as such I can presume to recommend him to thy favor. You are
not absolutely strangers; but, in order that you may have every occasion
to decide impartially, you will remain here together for a month longer,
which will enable you to choose without distraction and confusion. More
than this, for the present, it is unnecessary to say; for it is my
practice to leave all matters of this magnitude entirely to Providence."

The daughter, on whose speaking face the color went and came like lights
changing in an Italian sky, continued silent.

"You have happily put aside the curtain which concealed a mystery that no
longer gave me uneasiness;" interrupted Ludlow, addressing the
free-trader. "Can you do more, and say whence came this letter?"

The dark eye of Eudora instantly lighted. She looked at the 'Skimmer of
the Seas,' and laughed.

"'Twas another of those womanly artifices which have been practised in my
brigantine. It was thought that a young commander of a royal cruiser would
be less apt to watch our movements, were his mind bent on the discovery of
such a correspondent."

"And the trick has been practised before?"

"I confess it.--But I can linger no longer. In a few minutes, the tide
will turn, and the inlet become impassable. Eudora, we must decide on the
fortunes of this child. Shall he to the ocean again?--or shall he remain,
to vary his life with a landsman's chances?"

"Who and what is the boy?" gravely demanded the Alderman.

"One dear to both," rejoined the free-trader "His father was my nearest
friend, and his mother long watched the youth of Eudora. Until this
moment, he has, been our mutual care,--he must now choose between us."

"He will not quit me!" hastily interrupted the alarmed Eudora--"Thou art
my adopted son, and none can guide thy young mind like me. Thou hast need
of woman's tenderness, Zephyr, and wilt not quit me?"

"Let the child be the arbiter of his own fate. I am credulous on the point
of fortune, which is, at least, a happy belief for the contraband."

"Then let him speak. Wilt remain here, amid these smiling fields, to
ramble among yonder gay and sweetly-scented flowers?--or wilt thou back to
the water, where all is vacant and without change?"

The boy looked wistfully into her anxious eye, and then he bent his own
hesitating glance on the calm features of the free-trader.

"We can put to sea," he said; "and when we make the homeward passage
again, there will be many curious things for thee, Eudora!"

"But this may be the last opportunity to know the land of thy ancestors.
Remember how terrible is the ocean in its anger, and how often the
brigantine has been in danger of shipwreck!"

"Nay, that is womanish!--I have been on the royal-yard in the squalls, and
it never seemed to me that there was danger."

"Thou hast the unconsciousness and reliance of a ship-boy! But those who
are older, know that the life of a sailor is one of constant and imminent
hazard.--Thou hast been among the islands in the hurricane, and hast seen
the power of the elements!"

"I was in the hurricane, and so was the brigantine; and there you see how
taut and neat she is aloft, as if nothing had happened!"

"And you saw us yesterday floating on the open sea, while a few
ill-fastened spars kept us from going into its depths!"

"The spars floated, and you were not drowned; else, I should have wept
bitterly, Eudora."

"But thou wilt go deeper into the country, and see more of its
beauties--its rivers, and its mountains--its caverns, and its woods. Here
all is change, while the water is ever the same."

"Surely, Eudora, you forget strangely!--Here it is all America. This
mountain is America; yonder land across the bay is America, and the
anchorage of yesterday was America. When we shall run off the coast, the
next land-fall will be England, or Holland, or Africa; and with a good
wind, we may run down the shores of two or three countries in a day."

"And on them, too, thoughtless boy! If you lose this occasion, thy life
will be wedded to hazard!"

"Farewell, Eudora!" said the urchin, raising his mouth to give and receive
the parting kiss.

"Eudora, adieu!" added a deep and melancholy voice, at her elbow. "I can
delay no longer, for my people show symptoms of impatience. Should this be
the last of my voyages to the coast, thou wilt not forget those with whom
thou hast so long shared good and evil!"

"Not yet--not yet--you will not quit us yet! Leave me the boy--leave me
some other memorial of the past, besides this pain!"

"My hour has come. The wind is freshening, and I trifle with its favor.
'Twill be better for thy happiness that none know the history of the
brigantine; and a few hours will draw a hundred curious eyes, from the
town, upon us."

"What care I for their opinions?--thou wilt not--cannot--leave me, yet!"

"Gladly would I stay, Eudora, but a seaman's home is his ship. Too much
precious time is already wasted. Once more, adieu!"

The dark eye of the girl glanced wildly about her. It seemed, as if in
that one quick and hurried look, it drank in all that belonged to the
land and its enjoyments.

"Whither go you?" she asked, scarce suffering her voice to rise above a
whisper. "Whither do you sail, and when do you return?"

"I follow fortune. My return may be distant--never!--Adieu then,
Eudora--be happy with the friends that Providence hath given thee!"

The wandering eyes of the girl of the sea became still more unsettled. She
grasped the offered hand of the free-trader in both her own, and wrung it
in an impassioned and unconscious manner. Then releasing her hold, she
opened wide her arms, and cast them convulsively about his unmoved and
unyielding form.

"We will go together!--I am thine, and thine only!"

"Thou knowest not what thou sayest, Eudora!" gasped the Skimmer--"Thou
hast a father--friend--husband--"

"Away, away!" cried the frantic girl, waving her hand wildly towards Alida
and the Patroon, who advanced as if hurrying to rescue her from a
precipice--"Thine, and thine only!"

The smuggler released himself from her frenzied grasp, and, with the
strength of a giant, he held the struggling girl at the length of his arm,
while he endeavored to control the tempest of passion that struggled
within him.

"Think, for one moment, think!" he said. "Thou wouldst follow an
outcast--an outlaw--one hunted and condemned of men!"

"Thine, and thine only!"

"With a ship for a dwelling--the tempestuous ocean for a world!--"

"Thy world is my world!--thy home, my home!--thy danger, mine!"

The shout which burst out of the chest of the 'Skimmer of the Seas' was
one of uncontrollable exultation.

"Thou art mine!" he cried. "Before a tie like this, the claim of such a
father is forgotten! Burgher, adieu!--I will deal by thy daughter more
honestly than thou didst deal by my benefactor's child!"

Eudora was lifted from the ground as if her weight had been that of a
feather; and, spite of a sudden and impetuous movement of Ludlow and the
Patroon, she was borne to the boat. In a moment, the bark was afloat, with
the gallant boy tossing his sea-cap upward in triumph. The brigantine, as
if conscious of what had passed, wore round like a whirling chariot; and,
ere the spectators had recovered from their confusion and wonder, the boat
was hanging at the tackles. The free-trader was seen on the poop, with an
arm cast about the form of Eudora, waving a hand to the motionless group
on the shore, while the still half-unconscious girl of the ocean signed
her faint adieus to Alida and her father. The vessel glided through the
inlet, and was immediately rocking on the billows of the surf. Then,
taking the full weight of the southern breeze, the fine and attenuated
spars bent to its force, and the progress of the swift-moving craft was
apparent by the bubbling line of its wake.

The day had begun to decline, before Alida and Ludlow quitted the lawn of
the Lust in Rust. For the first hour, the dark hull of the brigantine was
seen supporting the moving cloud of canvas. Then the low structure
vanished, and sail after sail settled into the water, until nothing was
visible but a speck of glittering white. It lingered for a minute, and was
swallowed in the void.

The nuptials of Ludlow and Alida were touched with a shade of melancholy.
Natural affection in one, and professional sympathy in the other, had
given them a deep and lasting interest in the fate of the adventurers.

Years passed away, and months were spent at the villa, in which a thousand
anxious looks were cast upon the ocean. Each morning, during the early
months of summer, did Alida hasten to the windows of her pavilion, in the
hope of seeing the vessel of the contraband anchored in the Cove:--but
always without success. It never returned;--and though the rebuked and
disappointed Alderman caused many secret inquiries to be made along the
whole extent of the American coast, he never again heard of the renowned
'SKIMMER OF THE SEAS' or of his matchless WATER-WITCH.



The End








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