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Afloat And Ashore by James Fenimore Cooper

Part 8 out of 10

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proceeded in the least from that narrow selfish feeling, which, under
the blustering pretension of equality, presumes to deny the existence
of a very potent social fact; but simply from the sensitiveness of
feelings, which, on this subject, were somewhat in danger of becoming
morbid, through the agency of the most powerful passion of the human
heart--or, that which has well been called the master-passion.
Nevertheless, Mr. Hardinge was much too honest a man to deny a truth,
and much too sincere to wish even to prevaricate about it, however
unpleasant it might be to acknowledge it, in all its unpleasant
bearings.

"I now understand you, Miles; and it would be idle to pretend that
there is not some justice in what you say, though I attach very little
importance to it, myself. Rupert is not exactly what I could wish him
to be in all things, and possibly _he_ may be coxcomb enough, at
times, to fancy he has this slight advantage over you,--but, as for
Lucy, I'll engage she never thinks of you but as a second brother--
and that she loves you exactly as she loves Rupert."

Mr. Hardinge's simplicity was of proof, and it was idle to think of
making any impression on it. I changed the subject, therefore, and
this was easily enough done, by beginning again to talk about the
potatoes. I was far from being easy, nevertheless; for I could not
avoid seeing that the good divine's restlessness might readily widen
the little breach which had opened between his daughter and myself.

That day, at dinner, I discovered that Grace's winter in town had led
to a sensible melioration of the domestic economy; most especially as
related to the table. My father and mother had introduced some
changes, which rendered the Clawbonny household affairs a little
different from those of most other of the Ulster county families near
our own class; but their innovations, or improvements, or whatever
they might be called, were far from being as decided as those
introduced by their daughter. Nothing, perhaps, sooner denotes the
condition of people, than the habits connected with the table. If
eating and drinking be not done in a certain way, and a way founded in
reason, too, as indeed are nearly all the customs of polished life,
whatever may be the cant of the ultras of reason--but, if eating and
drinking be not done in a certain way, your people of the world
perceive it sooner than almost anything else. There is, also, more of
common sense and innate fitness, in the usages of the table, so long
as they are not dependent on mere caprice, than in almost any other
part of our deportment; for everybody must eat, and most persons
choose to eat decently. I had been a little nervous on the subject of
the Mertons, in connection with the Clawbonny table, I will confess;
and great was my delight when I found the breakfast going off so
well. As for the Major, himself by no means familiar with the higher
classes of his own country, he had that great stamp of a gentleman,
simplicity; and he was altogether above the cockney distinctions of
eating and drinking; those about cheese and malt liquors, and such
vulgar niceties; nor was he a man to care about the silver-forkisms;
but he understood that portion of the finesse of the table which
depended on reason and taste, and was accustomed to observe it. This I
knew from near a twelve month's intercourse, and I had feared we might
turn out to be a little too rustic.

Grace had made provisions against all this, with a tact and judgment
for which I could have worshipped her. I knew the viands, the
vegetables, and the wines would all be good of their kind, for in
these we seldom failed; nor did I distrust the cookery, the
_English_-descended families of the Middle States, of my class,
understanding that to perfection; but I feared we should fail in those
little incidents of style and arrangement, and in the order of the
service, that denote a well-regulated table. This is just what Grace
had seen to; and I found that a great revolution had been quietly
effected in this branch of our domestic economy during my absence;
thanks to Grace's observations while at Mrs. Bradfort's.

Emily seemed pleased at dinner, and Lucy could again laugh and
smile. After the cloth was removed, the Major and Mr. Hardinge
discussed a bottle of Madeira, and that too of a quality of which I
had no reason to be ashamed; while we young people withdrew together
to a little piazza, that was in the shade at that hour, and took
seats, for a chat. Rupert was permitted to smoke, on condition that he
would not approach within fifteen feet of the party. No sooner was
this little group thus arranged, the three girls in a crescent, than I
disappeared.

"Grace, I have not yet spoken to you of a necklace of pearls possessed
by your humble servant," I cried, as my foot again touched the
piazza.--"I would not say a word about it--"

"Yet, Lucy and I heard all about it--" answered Grace with provoking
calmness, "but would not ask to see it, lest you should accuse us of
girlish curiosity. We waited your high pleasure, in the matter."

"You and Lucy heard I had such a necklace!"

"Most unquestionably; I, Grace Wallingford, and she, Lucy Hardinge. I
hope it is no infringement on the rights of Mr. Miles Clawbonny"--so
the girls often called me, when they affected to think I was on my
high-ropes--"I hope it is no infringement on the rights of Mr. Miles
Clawbonny to say as much."

"And pray how _could_ you and Lucy know anything about it?"

"That is altogether another question; perhaps we may accord an answer,
after we have seen the necklace."

"Miss Merton told us, Miles," said Lucy, looking at me with
gentleness, for she saw I really wished an answer; and what could Lucy
Hardinge ever refuse me, that was right in itself when she saw my
feelings were really interested?

"Miss Merton? Then I have been betrayed, and the surprise I
anticipated is lost."

I was vexed, and my manner must have shown it in a slight
degree. Emily coloured, bit her lip, and said nothing; but Grace made
her excuses with more spirit than it was usual for _her_ to show.

"You are rightly punished, Master Miles," she cried; "for you had no
business to anticipate surprises. They are vulgar things at best, and
they are worse than that when they come from a distance of fifteen
thousand miles--from a brother to a sister. Besides, you have
surprised us sufficiently once, already, in connection with Miss
Merton."

"I!" I exclaimed.

"Me!" added Emily.

"Yes, I and me; did you tell us one word about her, in your letters?
and have you not now both surprised and delighted us, by making us
acquainted with so charming a person? I can pardon such a surprise, on
account of its consequences; but nothing so vulgar as a surprise about
pearls."

Emily blushed now; and in her it was possible to tell the difference
between a blush and the suffusion that arose from a different feeling;
but she looked immensely superior to anything like explanations.

"Captain Wallingford"--how I disliked that _Captain_--"Captain
Wallingford can have but little knowledge of young ladies," she said,
coldly, "if he supposes such pearls as he possesses would not form the
subject of their conversation."

I was coxcomb enough to fancy Emily was vexed that I had neglected to
be more particular about her being on the island, and her connection
with the ship. This might have been a mistake; however.

"Let us see the pearls, Miles; and that will plead your apology," said
Lucy.

"There, then--your charming eyes, young ladies, never looked on pearls
like those, before."

Female nature could not suppress the exclamations of belight that
succeeded. Even Rupert, who had a besetting weakness on the subject of
all personal ornaments, laid aside his segar, and came within the
prescribed distance, the better to admire. It was admitted all round,
New York had nothing to compare with them. I then mentioned that they
had been fished up by myself from the depths of the sea.

"How much that adds to their value!" said Lucy, in a low voice, but in
her warm, sincere manner.

"That was getting them _cheap_, was it not, Miss Wallingford?"
inquired Emily, with an emphasis I disliked.

"Very; though I agree with Lucy, it makes them so much the more
valuable."

"If Miss Merton will forget my charge of treason, and condescend to
put on the necklace, you will all see it to much greater advantage
than at present. If a fine necklace embellishes a fine woman, the
advantage is quite reciprocal. I have seen my pearls once already on
her neck, and know the effect."

A wish of Grace's aided my application, and Emily placed the ornaments
around her throat. The dazzling whiteness of her skin gave a lustre to
the pearls that they certainly did not previously possess. One
scarcely knew which to admire the most--the ornaments, or their
setting.

"How very, very beautiful they are _now!_" cried Lucy, in
generous admiration. "Oh! Miss Merton, pearls should ever be your
ornaments."

"_Those_ pearls, you mean, Lucy," put in Rupert, who was always
extremely liberal with other people's means; "the necklace ought never
to be removed."

"Miss Merton knows their destination," I said, gallantly, "and the
terms of ownership."

Emily slowly undid the clasp, placed the string before her eyes, and
looked at it long and silently.

"And what is this destination, Miles? What these terms of ownership?"
my sister asked.

"Of course he means them for you, dear," Lucy remarked in haste. "For
whom else can he intend such an ornament?"

"You are mistaken, Miss Hardinge. Grace must excuse me for being a
little selfish this time, at least. I do not intend those pearls for
Miss Wallingford, but for Mrs. Wallingford, should there ever be such
a person."

"Upon my word, such a double temptation, my boy, I Wonder Miss Merton
ever had the fortitude to remove them from the enviable position they
so lately occupied," cried Rupert, glancing meaningly towards Emily,
who returned the look with a slight smile.

"Of course, Miss Merton understood that my remark was ventured in
pleasantry," I said stiffly, "and not in presumption. It was decided,
however, when in the Pacific, that these pearls ought to have that
destination. It is true, Clawbonny is not the Pacific, and one may be
pardoned for seeing things a little differently _here_, from what
they appeared _there_. I have a few more pearls, however, very
inferior in quality I confess, to those of the necklace; but, such as
they are, I should esteem it a favour, ladies, if you would consent to
divide them equally among you. They would make three very pretty
rings, and as many breast-pins."

I put into Grace's hands a little box containing all the pearls that
had not been placed on the string. There were many fine ones among
them, and some of very respectable size, though most were of the sort
called seed. In the whole, there were several hundreds.

"We will not balk his generosity," said Grace, smiling--"so, Miss
Merton, we will separate the pearls into three parcels, and draw lots
for them. Here are handsome ornaments among them!"

"They will have one value with you, at least, Grace, and quite likely
with Lucy, while they might possibly possess another with Miss
Merton. I fished up every one of those pearls with my own hands."

"Certainly, that will give them value with both Lucy and me, dearest
Miles, as would the simple fact that they are your gift--but what is
to give them their especial value with Miss Merton?"

"They may serve to remind Miss Merton of some of her hair-breadth
escapes, of the weeks passed on the island, and of scenes that, a few
years hence, will probably possess the colours of a dream, in her
recollection."

"_One_ pearl I will take, with this particular object"--said
Emily, with more feeling than I had seen her manifest since she had
got back into the world, "if Miss Wallingford will do me the favour to
select it."

"Let it be enough for a ring, at least," Grace returned, in her own
sweetest manner. "Half a dozen of the finest of these pearls, of which
one shall be on Miles' account, and five on mine."

"On those conditions, let it then be six. I have no occasion for
pearls to remind me how much my father and my self owe to Captain
Wallingford."

"Come, Rupert," added Grace; "you have a taste in these things, let us
have your aid in the selection." Rupert was by no means backward in
complying, for he loved to be meddling in such matters.

"In the first place," he said, "I shall at once direct that the number
be increased to seven; this fine one in the centre, and three on each
side, gradually diminishing in size. We must look to quality, and not
to weight, for the six puisne judges, as we should call them in the
courts. The Chief Justice will be a noble-looking fellow, and the
associates ought to be of good quality to keep his honour's company."

"Why do you not call your judges 'my lords,' as we do in England,
Mr. Hardinge?" inquired Emily, in her prettiest manner.

"_Why,_ sure enough! I wish with all my heart we did, and then a
man would have something worth living for."

"Rupert!" exclaimed Lucy, colouring--"you know it is because our
government is republican, and that we have no nobles among us. Nor do
you say exactly what you think; you would not be 'my lord,' if you
could."

"As I never shall be a 'my lord,' and I am afraid never a 'your
honour'--There, Miss Merton--there are numbers two and three--observe
how beautifully they are graduated as to size."

"Well, 'your honour,'" added Grace, who began to be a little uneasy at
the manner Rupert and Emily exhibited towards each other--"well, 'your
honour,' what is to come next?"

"Numbers four and five, of course--and here they are, Miss Merton; as
accurately diminished, as if done by hand. A beautiful ring it will
make--I envy those who will be recalled to mind, by so charming an
object."

"You will now be one of those yourself, Mr. Hardinge"--observed
Emily, with great tact--"for you are fully entitled to it, by the
trouble you are giving yourself, and the taste and judgment you
possess."

Lucy looked petrified. She had so long accustomed herself to think of
Grace as her future sister, that the open admiration expressed in
Rupert's countenance, which was too manifest to escape any of us,
first threw a glimmering of light on suspicions of the most painful
nature. I had long seen that Lucy understood her brother's character
better than any of us--much better, indeed, than his simple-minded
father; and, as for myself, I was prepared to expect anything but
consistency and principle in his conduct. Dearly as I prized Lucy, and
by this time the slight competition that Emily Merton had presented to
my fancy, had entirely given way to the dear creature's heart, and
nature,--but, dearly as I prized Lucy, I would greatly have preferred
that my sister should not marry her brother; and, so far from feeling
resentment on account of his want of fidelity, I was rather disposed
to rejoice at it. I could appreciate his want of merit, and his
unfitness to be the husband of such a woman as Grace, even at my early
age; but, alas! I could not appreciate the effects of his inconstancy
on a heart like that of my sister. Could I have felt as easy on the
subject of Mr. Andrew Drewett, and of my own precise position in
society, I should have cared very little, just then, about Rupert, and
his caprices.

The pearls for the ring were soon selected by Rupert, and approved of
by Grace, after which I assumed the office of dividing the remainder
myself. I drew a chair, took the box from Rupert, and set about the
task.

"I shall make a faithful umpire, girls," I observed, as pearl after
pearl was laid, first on one spot, then on another--"for I feel no
preference between you--Grace is as Lucy; Lucy is as Grace, with me."

"That may be fortunate, Miss Hardinge, since it indicates no
preference of a particular sort, that might require repressing," said
Emily, smiling significantly at Lucy. "When gentlemen treat young
ladies as sisters, it is a subject of rejoicing. These sailors need
severe lessons, to keep them within the rules of the land."

Why this was said, I did not understand; but Rupert laughed at it, as
if it were a capital thing. To mend the matter, he added, a little
boisterously for him--

"You see, Miles, you had better have taken to the law--the ladies
cannot appreciate the merits of you tars."

"So it would seem," I returned, a little drily, "after all Miss Merton
has experienced and seen of the trade."

Emily made no reply, but she regarded her pearls with a steadiness
that showed she was thinking more of their effect than that of either
her own speech or mine. I continued to divide the pearls, and soon had
the work complete.

"What am I to do, now?"--I asked--"Will you draw lots, girls, or will
you trust to my impartiality?"

"We will certainly confide in the last," answered Grace. "The
division is so very equitable that I do not well see how you can
defraud either."

"That being the case, this parcel is for you, Lucy; and, Grace, that
is your's."

Grace rose, put her arms affectionately around my neck, and gave me
one of the hundred kisses that I had received, first and last, for
presents of one sort and another. The deep attachment that beamed in
her saint-like eyes, would of itself have repaid me for fifty such
gifts. At the moment, I was almost on the point of throwing her the
necklace in the bargain; but some faint fancies about Mrs. Miles
Wallingford prevented me from so doing. As for Lucy, not a little to
my surprise, she received the pearls, muttered a few unintelligible
words, but did not even rise from her chair. Emily seemed to tire of
this, so she caught up her gypsy, said the evening was getting to be
delightful, and proposed a walk. Rupert and Grace cheerfully
acquiesced, and the three soon left the place, Lucy preparing to
follow, as soon as a maid could bring her hat, and I excusing myself
on the score of business in my own room.

"Miles"--said Lucy, as I was about to enter the house, she herself
standing on the edge of the piazza on the point of following the
party, but holding towards me the little paper box in which I had
placed her portion of the pearls.

"Do you wish me to put them away for you, Lucy?"

"No, Miles--not for _me_--but for _yourself_--for Grace--
for _Mrs. Miles Wallingford_, if you prefer that."

This was said without the slightest appearance of any other feeling
than a gentle request. I was surprised, and scarce knew what to make
of it; at first, I refused to take the box.

"I hope I have done nothing to merit this, Lucy?" I said,
half-affronted, half-grieved.

"Remember, Miles," the dear girl answered--"we are no longer children,
but have reached an age when it is incumbent on us to respect
appearances a little. These pearls must be worth a good deal of money,
and I feel certain my father, when he came to think of it, would
scarce approve of my receiving them."

"And this from _you_, dear Lucy!"

"This from me, dear Miles," returned the precious girl, tears
glistening in her eyes, though she endeavoured to smile. "Now, take
the box, and we will be just as good friends as ever."

"Will you answer me one question, as frankly and as honestly as you
used to answer all my questions?"

Lucy turned pale and she stood reflecting an instant before she spoke.

"I can answer no question before it is asked," was at length her
answer.

"Have you thought so little of my presents as to have thrown away the
locket I gave you, before I sailed for the North-West coast?"

"No, Miles; I have kept the locket, and shall keep it as long as I
live. It was a memorial of our childish regard for each other; and, in
that sense, is very dear to me. You will let me keep the locket, I am
sure!"

"If it were not you, Lucy Hardinge, whom I know to be truth itself, I
might be disposed to doubt you, so many strange things exist, and so
much caprice, especially in attachments, is manifested here, ashore!"

"You need doubt nothing I tell you, Miles--on no account would I
deceive you."

"That I believe--nay, I see, it is your present object to
_undeceive_ me. I do not doubt anything you tell me, Lucy. I
wish I could see that locket, however; show it to me, if you have it
on your person."

Lucy made an eager movement, as if about to produce the locket; then
she arrested the impetuous indication, while her cheeks fairly burned
with the blushes that suffused them.

"I see how it is, Lucy--the thing is not to be found. It is mislaid,
the Lord knows where, and you do not like to avow it."

The locket, at that moment, lay as near the blessed creature's heart
as it could be placed; and her confusion proceeded from the shame of
letting that fact be known. This I could not see, and consequently did
not know. A very small and further indication of feeling on my part,
might have betrayed the circumstance; but pride prevented it, and I
took the still extended box, I dare say in a somewhat dramatic
manner. Lucy looked at me earnestly; I saw it was with difficulty that
she kept from bursting into tears.

"You are not hurt, Miles?" she said.

"I should not be frank if I denied it. Even Emily Merton, you saw,
consented to accept enough pearls for a ring."

"I did perceive it; and yet, you remember, she felt the impropriety of
receiving such large gifts from gentlemen. Miss Merton has gone
through so much, so much in your company, Miles, that no wonder she is
willing to retain some little memorial of it all, until--"

She hesitated; but Lucy chose not to finish the sentence. She had
been pale; but her cheeks were now like the rose, again.

"When Rupert and I first went to sea, Lucy, you gave me your little
treasure in gold--every farthing you had on earth, I fancy."

"I am glad I did, Miles; for we were very young, then, and you had
been so kind to me, I rejoice I had a little gratitude. But, we are
now in situations," she added, smiling so sweetly, as to render it
difficult for me to refrain from catching her in my arms, and folding
her to my heart; "that place both of us above the necessity of
receiving aid of this sort."

"I am glad to hear this--though _I_ shall never part with the
dear recollection of the half-joes."

"Or I with that of the locket. We will retain these, then, as
keepsakes. My dear Mrs. Bradfort, too, is very particular about Rupert
or myself receiving favours of this sort, from any but herself. She
has adopted us, in a manner; and I owe to her liberality, the means
of making the figure I do. Apart from that, Miles, we are all as poor
as we have ever been."

I wished Rupert had half his sister's self-respect and pride of
character. But he had not; for in spite of his kinswoman's
prohibitions, he had not scrupled to spend nearly three years of the
wages that accrued to me as third-mate of the Crisis. For the money I
cared not a stiver; it was a very different thing as to the feeling.

As for Lucy, she hastened away, as soon as she had induced me to
accept the box; and I had no choice but to place all the pearls
together, and put them in Grace's room, as my sister had desired me to
do with her own property before proceeding on her walk.

I determined I would converse confidentially with Grace, that very
evening, about the state of affairs in general, and if possible, learn
the worst concerning Mr. Andrew Drewett's pretensions. Shall I frankly
own the truth? I was sorry that Mrs. Bradfort had made Lucy so
independent; as it seemed to increase the chasm that I fancied was
opening between us.

CHAPTER XXIV.

"Your name abruptly mentioned, casual words
Of comment on your deeds, praise from your uncle,
News from the armies, talk of your return,
A word let fall touching your youthful passion
Suffused her cheek, called to her drooping eye
A momentary lustre."

I had no difficulty in putting my project of a private interview with
Grace, in execution in my own house. There was one room at Clawbonny,
that, from time immemorial, had been appropriated exclusively to the
use of the heads of the establishment; It was called the "family
room," as one would say "family-pictures" or "family--plate." In my
father's time, I could recollect that I never dreamed of entering it,
unless asked or ordered; and even then, I always did so with some such
feeling as I entered a church. What gave it a particular and
additional sanctity in out eyes, also, was the fact that the
Wallingford dead were always placed in their coffins, in this room,
and thence they were borne to their graves. It was a very small
triangular room, with the fire-place in one corner, and possessing but
a single window, that opened on a thicket of rose-bushes, ceringos,
and lilacs. There was also a light external fence around this
shrubbery, as if purposely to keep listeners at a distance. The
apartment had been furnished when the house was built, being in the
oldest part of the structures, and still retained its ancient
inmates. The chairs, tables, and, most of the other articles, had
actually been brought from England, by Miles the First, as we used to
call the emigrant; though, he was thus only in reference to the
Clawbonny dynasty, having been something like Miles the Twentieth, in
the old country. My mother had introduced a small settee, or some such
seat as the French would call a _causeuse;_ a most appropriate
article, in such a place.

In preparation for the interview I had slipped into Grace's hand a
piece of paper, on which was written "meet me in the family-room,
precisely at six!" This was sufficient; at the hour named, I proceeded
to the room, myself. The house of Clawbonny, in one sense, was large
for an American residence; that is to say, it covered a great deal of
ground, every one of the three owners who preceded me, having built;
the two last leaving entire the labours of the first. My turn had not
yet come, of course; but the reader knows already that I, most
irreverently, had once contemplated abandoning the place, for a "seat"
nearer the Hudson. In such a _suite_ of constructions, sundry
passages became necessary, and we had several more than was usual at
Clawbonny, besides having as many pairs of stairs. In consequence of
this ample provision of stairs, the chambers of the family were
totally separated from those of all the rest of the house.

I began to reflect seriously, on _what_ I had to say, and
_how_ it was to be said, as I walked through the long passage
which led to the "family-room," or the "triangle," as my own father
had nicknamed the spot. Grace and I had never yet held what might be
termed a family consultation; I was too young to think of such a
thing, when last at home, and no former occasion had offered since my
return. I was still quite young, and had more diffidence than might
have been expected in a sailor. To me, it was far more embarrassing to
open verbal communications of a delicate nature, than it would have
been to work a ship in action. But for this _mauvaise honte_, I
do think I should have been explicit with Lucy, and not have parted
from her on the piazza, as I did, leaving everything in just as much
doubt as it had been before a word passed between us. Then I
entertained a profound respect for Grace; something more than the
tenderness of a brother for a sister; for, mingled with my strong
affection for her, was a deference, a species of awe of her angel-like
character and purity, that made me far more disposed to receive advice
from her, than to bestow it. In the frame of mind which was natural
to all these blended feelings, I laid my hand on the old-fashioned
brass latch, by which the door of the "triangle" was closed. On
entering the room, I found my sister seated on the "causeuses," the
window open to admit air, the room looking snug but cheerful, and its
occupant's sweet countenance expressive of care, not altogether free
from curiosity. The last time I had been in that room, it was to look
on the pallid features of my mother's corpse, previously to closing
the coffin. All the recollections of that scene rushed upon our minds
at the same instant; and taking a place by the side of Grace, I put an
arm around her waist, drew her to me, and, receiving her head on my
bosom, she wept like a child. My tears could not be altogether
restrained, and several minutes passed in profound silence. No
explanations were needed; I knew what my sister thought and felt, and
she was equally at home as respects my sensations. At length we
regained our self-command, and Grace lifted her head.

"You have not been in this room since, brother?" she observed, half
inquiringly.

"I have not, sister. It is now many years--many for those who are as
young as ourselves."

"Miles, you will think better about that 'seat,' and never abandon
Clawbonny--never destroy this blessed room!"

"I begin to think and feel differently on the subject, from what I
once did. If this house were good enough for our forefathers, why is
it not good enough for me. It is respectable and comfortable, and what
more do I want?

"And so warm in winter, and so cool in summer; with good thick stone
walls; while everything they build now is a shingle palace! Besides,
you can add your portion, and each addition has already been a good
deal modernized. It is so pleasant to have a house that partakes of
the usages of different periods!"

"I hardly think I shall ever abandon Clawbonny, my dear; for I find it
growing more and more precious as other ties and expectations fail
me."

Grace drew herself entirely from my arms, and looked intently, and, as
I fancied, anxiously at me, from the other corner of the settee. Then
she affectionately took one of my hands, in both her own, and pressed
it gently.

"You are young to speak of such things, my dear brother," she said
with a tone and air of sadness, I had never yet remarked in her voice
and manner; "much too young for a man; though I fear we women are born
to know sorrow!"

I could not speak if I would, for I fancied Grace was about to make
some communications concerning Rupert. Notwithstanding the strong
affection that existed between my sister and myself, not a syllable
had ever been uttered by either, that bore directly on our respective
relations with Rupert and Lucy Hardinge. I had long been certain that
Rupert, who was never backward in professions, had years before spoken
explicitly to Grace, and I made no doubt they were engaged, though
probably subject to some such conditions as the approval of his father
and myself; approvals, that neither had any reason for supposing would
be withheld. Still, Grace had never intimated anything of the sort,
and my conclusions were drawn from conjectures founded as I imagined
on sufficient observation. On the other hand, I had never spoken to
Grace, of my love for Lucy. Until within the last month, indeed, when
jealousy and distrust came to quicken the sentiment, I was unconscious
myself with how much passion I did actually love the dear girl; for,
previously to that, my affection had seemed so much a matter of
course, was united with so much that was fraternal, in appearance at
least, that I had never been induced to enter into an inquiry as to
the nature of this regard. We were both, therefore, touching on
hallowed spots in our hearts, and each felt averse to laying bare the
weakness.

"Oh! you know how it is with life, Grace," I answered, with affected
carelessness, after a moment's silence; "now all sun-shine, and now
all clouds--I shall probably never marry, my dear sister, and you, or
your children, will inherit Clawbonny; then you can do as you please
with the house. As a memorial of myself, however, I will leave orders
for stone to be got out this fall, and, next year, I will put up the
south wing, of which we have so much talked, and add three or four
rooms in which one will not be ashamed to see his friends."

"I hope your are ashamed of nothing that is at Clawbonny, now,
Miles--as for your marrying, my dear brother, that remains to be seen;
young men do not often know their own minds on such a subject, at your
age."

This was said, not altogether without pleasantry, though there was a
shade of sadness in the countenance of the beloved speaker, that from
the bottom of my heart I wished were not there. I believe Grace
understood my concern, and that she shrunk with virgin sensitiveness
from touching further on the subject, for she soon added--

"Enough of this desponding talk. Why have you particularly desired to
see me, here, Miles?"

"Why? Oh! you know I am to sail next week, and we have never been
here--and, now we are both of an age to communicate our thoughts to
each other--I supposed--that is--there must be a beginning of all
things, and it is as well to commence now, as any other time. You do
not seem more than half a sister, in the company of strangers like the
Mertons, and Hardinges!"

"Strangers, Miles! How long have you regarded the last as strangers?"

"Certainly not strangers in the way of acquaintance, but strangers to
our blood. There is not the least connection between us and them."

"No, but much love; and love that has lasted from childhood. I cannot
remember the time when I have not loved Lucy Hardinge."

"Quite true--nor I. Lucy is an excellent girl, and one is almost
certain of always retaining a strong regard for _her_. How
singularly the prospects of the Hardinges are changed by this sudden
liking of Mrs. Bradfort!"

"It is not sudden, Miles. You have been absent years, and forget how
much time there has been to become intimate and attached. Mr. Hardinge
and Mrs. Bradfort are sister's children; and the fortune of the last,
which, I am told, exceeds six thousand a-year, in improving real
estate in town, besides the excellent and valuable house in which she
lives, came from their common grandfather, who cut off Mrs. Hardinge
with a small legacy, because she married a clergyman. Mr. Hardinge is
Mrs. Bradfort's heir-at-law, and it is by no means unnatural that she
should think of leaving the property to those who, in one sense, have
as good a right to it as she has herself."

"And is it supposed she will leave Rupert her heir?"

"I believe it is--at least--I think--I am afraid--Rupert himself
imagines it; though doubtless Lucy will come in for a fair share. The
affection of Mrs. Bradfort for Lucy is very strong--so strong, indeed,
that she offered, last winter, openly to adopt her, and to keep her
with her constantly. You know how true and warm-hearted a girl Lucy
is, and how easy it is to love her."

"This is all new to me--why was not the offer accepted?"

"Neither Mr. Hardinge nor Lucy would listen to it. I was present at
the interview in which it was discussed, and our excellent guardian
thanked his cousin for her kind intentions; but, in his simple way, he
declared, as long as life was spared him, he felt it a duty to keep
his girl; or, at least, until he committed her to the custody of a
husband, or death should part them."

"And Lucy?"

"She is much attached to Mrs. Bradfort, who is a good woman in the
main, though she has her weaknesses about the world, and society, and
such things. Lucy wept in her cousin's arms, but declared she never
could leave her father. I suppose you do not expect," added Grace,
smiling, "that _she_ had anything to say about a husband."

"And how did Mrs. Bradfort receive this joint declaration of
resistance to her pleasure, backed, as the last was, by dollars?"

"Perfectly well. The affair terminated by Mr. Hardinge's consenting to
Lucy's passing each winter in town, until she marry. Rupert, you know,
lives there as a student at law, at present, and will become
established there, when admitted to the bar."

"And I suppose the knowledge that Lucy is likely to inherit some of
the old Bleecker estate, has not in the least diminished her chance of
finding a husband to remove her from the paternal custody of her
father?"

"No husband could ever make Lucy anything but Mr. Hardinge's
daughter; but you are right, Miles, in supposing that she has been
sought. I am not in her secrets, for Lucy is a girl of too much
principle to make a parade of her conquests, even under the pretence
of communicating them to her dearest friend--and in that light, beyond
all question, does she regard me; but I feel as morally certain as one
can be, without actually knowing the facts, that Lucy refused
_one_ gentleman, winter before last, and three last winter."

"Was Mr. Andrew Drewett of the number?" I asked, with a precipitation
of which I was immediately ashamed.

Grace started a little at the vivacity of my manner, and then she
smiled, though I still thought sadly.

"Of course not," she answered, after a moment's thought, "or he would
not still be in attendance. Lucy is too frank to leave an admirer in
doubt an instant after his declaration is made, and her own mind made
up; and not one of all those who, I am persuaded, have offered, has
ever ventured to continue more than a distant acquaintance. As Mr.
Drewett never has been more assiduous than down to the last moment of
our remaining in town, it is impossible he should have been
rejected. I suppose you know Mr. Hardinge has invited him here?"

"Here? Andrew Drewett? And why is he coming here?"

"I heard him ask Mr. Hardinge's permission to visit us here; and you
know how it is with our dear, good guardian--the milk of human
kindness himself, and so perfectly guileless that he never sees more
than is said in such matters, it was impossible he could
refuse. Besides, he likes Drewett, who, apart from some fashionable
follies, is both clever and respectable. Mr. Drewett has a sister
married into one of the best families on the other side of the river,
and is in the habit of coming into the neighbourhood every summer;
doubtless he will cross from his sisters house to Clawbonny."

I felt indignant for just one minute, and then reason resumed its
sway. Mr. Hardinge, in the first place, had the written authority, or
request, of my mother that he would invite whom he pleased, during my
minority, to the house; and, on that score, I felt no disapprobation.
But it seemed so much like braving my own passion, to ask an open
admirer of Lucy's to my own house, that I was very near saying
something silly. Luckily I did not, and Grace never knew what I
suffered at this discovery. Lucy had refused several offers--that was
something; and I was dying to know what sort of offers they were. I
thought I might at least venture to ask that question.

"Did you know the four gentlemen that you suppose Lucy to have
refused?" said I, with as indifferent an air as I could assume,
affecting to destroy a cobweb with my rattan, and even carrying my
acting so far as to make an attempt at a low whistle.

"Certainly; how else should I know anything about it? Lucy has never
said a word to me on the subject; and, though Mrs. Bradfort and I have
had our pleasantries on the subject, neither of us is in Lucy's
secrets."

"Ay, your pleasantries on the subject! That I dare say. There is no
better fun to a woman than to see a man make a fool of himself in this
way; little does _she_ care how much a poor fellow suffers!"

Grace turned pale, and I could see that her sweet countenance became
thoughtful and repentant.

"Perhaps there is truth in your remark, and justice n your reproach,
Miles. None of us treat this subject with as much, seriousness as it
deserves, though I cannot suppose any woman can reject a man whom she
believes to be seriously attached to her, without feeling for
him. Still, attachments of this nature affect your sex less than ours,
and I believe few men die of love. Lucy, moreover, never has, and I
believe never would encourage any man whom she did not like; this
principle must have prevented any of that intimate connection, without
which the heart never can get much interested. The passion that is
produced without any exchange of sentiment or feeling, Miles, cannot
be much more than imagination or caprice."

"I suppose those four chaps are all famously cured, by this time,
then?" said I, pretending again to whistle.

"I cannot answer for that--it is so easy to love Lucy, and to love her
warmly. I only know they visit her no longer, and, when they meet her
in society, behave just as I think a rejected admirer would behave,
when he has not lost his respect for his late flame. Mrs. Bradfort's
fortune and position may have had their influence on two; but the
others I think were quite sincere."

"Mrs. Bradfort is quite in a high set, Grace--altogether above what we
have been accustomed to?"

My sister coloured a little, and I could see she was not at her
ease. Still, Grace had too much self-respect, and too much character,
ever to feel an oppressive inferiority, where it did not exist in
essentials; and she had never been made to suffer, as the more
frivolous and vain often suffer, by communications with a class
superior to their own; especially when that class, as always happens,
contains those who, having nothing else to be proud of, take care to
make others feel their inferiority.

"This is true, Miles," she answered; "or I might better say, both are
true. Certainly I never have seen as many well-bred persons as I meet
in her circle--indeed, we have little around us at Clawbonny to teach
us any distinctions in such tastes. Mr. Hardinge, simple as he is, is
so truly a gentleman, that he has not left us altogether in the dark
as to what was expected of us; and I fancy the higher people truly are
in the world, the less they lay stress on anything but what is
substantial, in these matters."

"And Lucy's admirers--and Lucy herself--"

"How, Lucy herself?"

"Was she well received--courted--admired? Met as an equal, and treated
as an equal? And you, too?"

"Had you lived more in the world, Miles, you would not have asked the
question. But Lucy has been always received as Mrs. Bradfort's
daughter would have been received; and as for myself, I have never
supposed it was not known exactly who I am."

"_Captain_ Miles Wallingford's daughter, and _Captain_ Miles
Wallingford's sister," said I, with a little bitterness on each
emphasis.

"Precisely; and a girl proud of her connections with both," rejoined
Grace, with strong affection.

"I wish I knew one thing, Grace; and I think I _ought_ to know
it, too."

"If you can make the last appear, Miles, you may rest assured you
shall know it, if it depend on me."

"Did any of these gentry--these soft-handed fellows--ever think of
offering to _you_?"

Grace laughed, and she coloured so deeply--oh! how heavenly was her
beauty, with that roseate tint on her cheek!--but she coloured so
deeply, that I felt satisfied that she, too, had refused her
suitors. The thought appeased some of my bitter feelings, and I had a
sort of semi-savage pleasure in believing that a daughter of Clawbonny
was not to be had for the asking, by one of that set. The only answers
I got were these disclosures by blushes.

"What are the fortune and position of this Mr. Drewett, since you are
resolved to tell me nothing of your own affairs?"

"Both are good, and such as no young lady can object to. He is even
said to be rich."

"Thank God! _He_ then is not seeking Lucy in the hope of getting
some of Mrs. Bradfort's money?"

"Not in the least. It is so easy to love Lucy, for Lucy's sake, that
even a fortune-hunter would be in danger of being caught in his own
trap. But Mr. Drewett is above the necessity of practising so vile a
scheme for making money."

Here, that the present generation may not be misled, and imagine
fortune-hunting has come in altogether within the last twenty years, I
will add that it was not exactly a trade, in this country--a regular
occupation--in 1802, as it has become, in 1844. There were such things
then, certainly, as men, or women, who were ready to marry anybody who
would make them rich; but I do not think theirs was a calling to which
either sex served regular apprenticeships, as is practised
to-day. Still, the business was carried on, to speak in the
vernacular, and sometimes with marked success.

"You have not told me, Grace," I resumed, "whether you think Lucy is
pleased, or not, with the attentions of this gentleman."

My sister looked at me intently, for a moment, as if to ascertain how
far I could, or could not, ask such a question with indifference. It
will be remembered that no verbal explanations had ever taken place
between us, on the subject of our feelings towards the companions of
our childhood, and that all that was known to either was obtained
purely by inference. Between myself and Lucy nothing had ever passed,
indeed, which might not have been honestly referred to our long and
early association, so far as the rules of intercourse were concerned,
though I sometimes fancied I could recall a hundred occasions, on
which Lucy had formerly manifested deep attachment for myself; nor did
I doubt her being able to show similar proofs, by reversing the
picture. This, however, was, or I had thought it to be, merely the
language of the heart; the tongue having never spoken. Of course,
Grace had nothing but conjecture on this subject, and alas! she had
begun to see how possible it was for those who lived near each other
to change their views on such subjects; no wonder, then, if she
fancied it still easier, for those who had been separated for years.

"I have not told you, Miles," Grace answered, after a brief delay,
"because it would not be proper to communicate the secrets of my
friend to a young man, even to you, were it in my power, as it is not,
since Lucy never has made to me the slightest confidential
communication, of any sort or nature, touching love."

"Never!" I exclaimed--reading my fancied doom in the startling fact;
for I conceived it impossible, had she ever really loved me, that the
matter should not have come up in conversation between two so closely
united--"Never! What, no girlish--no childish preference--have you
never had no mutual preferences to reveal?"

"Never"--answered Grace, firmly, though her very temples seemed
illuminated--"Never. We have been satisfied with each other's
affection, and have had no occasion to enter into any unfeminine and
improper secrets, if any such existed."

A long, and I doubt not a mutually painful pause succeeded.

"Grace," said I, at length--"I am not envious of this probable
accession of fortune to the Hardinges, but I think we should all have
been much more united--much happier--without it."

My sister's colour left her face, she trembled all over, and she
became pale as death.

"You may be right, in some respects, Miles," she answered, after a
time. "And, yet, it is hardly generous to think so. Why should we wish
to see our oldest friends; those who are so very dear to us, our
excellent guardian's children, less well off than we are ourselves?
No doubt, no doubt, it may seem better to _us_, that Clawbonny
should be the castle and we its possessors; but others have their
rights and interests as well as ourselves. Give the Hardinges money,
and they will enjoy every advantage known in this country--more than
money can possibly give us--why, then, ought we to be so selfish as to
wish them deprived of this advantage? Place Lucy where you will, she
will always be Lucy; and, as for Rupert, so brilliant a young man
needs only an opportunity, to rise to anything the country possesses!"

Grace was so earnest, spoke with so much feeling, appeared so
disinterested, so holy I had almost said, that I could not find, in my
heart, the courage to try her any farther. That she began to distrust
Rupert, I plainly saw, though it was merely with the glimmerings of
doubt. A nature as pure as her's, and a heart so true, admitted with
great reluctance, the proofs of the unworthiness of one so long
loved. It was evident, moreover, that she shrunk from revealing her
own great secret, while she had only conjectures to offer in regard to
Lucy; and even these she withheld, as due to her sex, and the
obligations of friendship. I forgot that I had not been ingenuous
myself, and that I made no communication to justify any confidence on
the part of my sister. That which would have been treachery in her to
say, under this state of the case, might have been uttered with
greater frankness on my own part. After a pause, to allow my sister to
recover from her agitation, I turned the discourse to our own more
immediate family interests, and soon got off the painful subject
altogether.

"I shall be of age, Grace." I said, in the course of my explanations,
"before you see me again. We sailors are always exposed to more
chances and hazards than people ashore; and, I now tell you, should
anything happen to me, my will may be found in my secretary; signed
and sealed, the day I attain my majority. I have given orders to have
it drawn up by a lawyer of eminence, and shall take it to sea with me,
for that very purpose."

"From which I am to infer that I must not covet Clawbonny," answered
Grace, with a smile that denoted how little she cared for the
fact--"You give it to our cousin, Jack Wallingford, as a male heir,
worthy of enjoying the honour."

"No, dearest, I give it to _you_. It is true, the law would do
this for me; but I choose to let it be known that I wish it to be
so. I am aware my father made that disposition of the place, should I
die childless, before I became of age; but, once of age, the place is
all mine; and that which is all mine, shall be all thine, after I am
no more."

"This is melancholy conversation, and, I trust, useless. Under the
circumstances you mention, Miles, I never should have expected
Clawbonny, nor do I know I ought to possess it. It comes as much from
Jack Wallingford's ancestors, as from our own; and it is better it
should remain with the name. I will not promise you, therefore, I will
not give it to him, the instant I can."

This Jack Wallingford, of whom I have not yet spoken, was a man of
five-and-forty, and a bachelor. He was a cousin-german of my father's,
being the son of a younger brother of my grandfather's, and somewhat
of a favourite. He had gone into what was called the new countries,
in that day, or a few miles west of Cayuga Bridge, which put him into
Western New York. I had never seen him but once and that was on a
visit he paid us on his return from selling quantities of pot and
pearl ashes in town; articles made oh his new lands. He was said to be
a prosperous man, and to stand little in need of the old paternal
property.

After a little more conversation on the subject of my will, Grace and
I separated, each more closely bound to the other, I firmly believed,
for this dialogue in the "family room." Never had my sister seemed
more worthy of all my love; and, certain I am, never did she possess
more of it. Of Clawbonny she was as sure, as my power over it could
make her.

The remainder of the week passed as weeks are apt to pass in the
country, and in summer. Feeling myself so often uncomfortable in the
society of the girls, I was much in the fields; always possessing the
good excuse of beginning to look after my own affairs. Mr. Hardinge
took charge of the Major, an intimacy beginning to spring up between
these two respectable old men. There were, indeed, so many points of
common feeling, that such a result was not at all surprising. They
both loved the church--I beg pardon, the Holy Catholic Protestant
Episcopal Church. They both disliked Bonaparte--the Major hated him,
but my guardian hated nobody--both venerated Billy Pitt, and both
fancied the French Revolution was merely the fulfilment of prophecy,
through the agency of the devils. As we are now touching upon times
likely to produce important results, let me not be misunderstood. As
an old man, aiming, in a new sphere, to keep enlightened the
generation that is coming into active life, it may be necessary to
explain. An attempt has been made to induce the country to think that
Episcopalian and tory were something like synonymous terms, in the
"times that tried men's souls." This is sufficiently impudent, _per
se_, in a country that possessed Washington, Jay, Hamilton, the
Lees, the Morrises, the late Bishop White, and so many other
distinguished patriots of the Southern and Middle States; but men are
not particularly scrupulous when there is an object to be obtained,
even though it be pretended that Heaven is an incident of that
object. I shall, therefore, confine my explanations to what I have
said about Billy Pitt and the French.

The youth of this day may deem it suspicious that an Episcopal
divine--_Protestant_ Episcopal, I mean; but it is so hard to get
the use of new terms as applied to old thoughts, in the decline of
life!--may deem it suspicious that a Protestant Episcopal divine
should care anything about Billy Pitt, or execrate Infidel France; I
will, therefore, just intimate that, in 1802, no portion of the
country dipped more deeply into similar sentiments than the
descendants of those who first put foot on the rock of Plymouth, and
whose progenitors had just before paid a visit to Geneva, where, it is
"said or sung," they had found a "church without a bishop, and a state
without a king." In a word, admiration of Mr. Pitt, and execration of
Bonaparte, were by no means such novelties in America, in that day, as
to excite wonder. For myself, however, I can truly say, that, like
most Americans who went abroad in those stirring times, I was ready to
say with Mercutio, "a plague on both your houses;" for neither was
even moderately honest, or even decently respectful to ourselves.
Party feeling, however, the most inexorable, and the most
unprincipled, of all tyrants, and the bane of American liberty,
notwithstanding all our boasting, decreed otherwise; and, while one
half the American republic was shouting hosannas to the Great
Corsican, the other half was ready to hail Pitt as the "Heaven-born
Minister." The remainder of the nation felt and acted as Americans
should. It was my own private opinion, that France and England would
have been far better off, had neither of these worthies ever had a
being.

Nevertheless, the union of opinion between the divine and the Major,
was a great bond of union, in friendship. I saw they were getting on
well together, and let things take their course. As for Emily, I cared
very little about her, except as she might prove to be connected with
Rupert, and through Rupert, with the happiness of my sister. As for
Rupert, himself, I could not get entirely weaned from one whom I had
so much loved in boyhood; and who, moreover, possessed the rare
advantage of being Lucy's brother, and Mr. Hardinge's son. "Sidney's
sister, Pembroke's mother," gave him a value in my eyes, that he had
long ceased to possess on his own account.

"You see, Neb," I said, towards the end of the week, as the black and
I were walking up from the mill in company, "Mr. Rupert has altogether
forgotten that he ever knew the name of a rope in a ship. His hands
are as white as a young lady's!"

"Nebber mind dat, Masser Mile. Masser Rupert nebber feel a
saterfaction to be wracked away, or to be prisoner to Injin! Golly! No
gentleum to be envy, sir, 'em doesn't enjoy _dat!_"

"You have a queer taste. Neb, from all which I conclude you expect to
return to town with me, in the Wallingford, this evening, and to go
out in the Dawn?"

"Sartain, Masser Mile! How you t'ink of goin' to sea and leave nigger
at home?"

Here Neb raised such a laugh that he might have been heard a hundred
rods, seeming to fancy the idea he had suggested was so preposterous
as to merit nothing but ridicule.

"Well, Neb, I consent to your wishes; but this will be the last voyage
in which you will have to consult me on the subject, as I shall make
out your freedom papers, the moment I am of age."

"What dem?" demanded the black, quick as lightning.

"Why, papers to make you your own master--a free man--you surely know
what that means. Did you never hear of free niggers?"

"Sartin--awful poor debble, dey be, too. You catch Neb, one day, at
being a free nigger, gib you leave to tell him of it, Masser Mile!"

Here was another burst of laughter, that sounded like a chorus in
merriment.

"This is a little extraordinary, Neb! I thought, boy, all slaves pined
for freedom?"

"P'rhaps so; p'rhaps not. What good he do, Masser Mile, when heart and
body well satisfy as it is. Now, how long a Wallingford family lib,
here, in dis berry spot?"--Neb always talked more like a "nigger,"
when within hearing of the household gods, than he did at sea.

"How long? About a hundred years, Neb--just one hundred and seven, I
believe; to be accurate."

"And how long a Clawbonny family, at 'e same time, Masser Mile?"

"Upon my word, Neb, your pedigree is a little confused, and I cannot
answer quite as certainly. Eighty or ninety, though, I should think,
at least; and, possibly a hundred, too. Let me see--you called old
Pompey your grand-father; did you not, Neb?"

"Sart'in--berry good grandfader, too, Masser Mile. Ole Pomp a
won'erful black!"

"Oh! I say nothing touching the quality--I dare say he was as good as
another. Well, I think that I have heard old Pompey's grandfather was
an imported Guinea, and that he was purchased by my great-grandfather
about the year 1700."

"Dat just as good as gospel! Who want to make up lie about poor debble
of nigger? Well, den, Masser Mile, in all dem 1700 year, did he ebber
hear of a Clawbonny that want to be a free nigger? Tell me dat, once,
an' I hab an answer."

"You have asked me more than I can answer, boy; for, I am not in the
secret of your own wishes, much less in those of all your ancestors."

Neb pulled off his tarpaulin, scratched his wool, rolled his black
eyes at me, as if he enjoyed the manner in which he had puzzled me;
after which he set off on a tumbling excursion, in the road, going
like a wheel on his hands and feet, showing his teeth like rows of
pearls, and concluding the whole with roar the third, that sounded as
if the hills and valleys were laughing, in the very fatness of their
fertility. The physical _tour de force,_ was one of those feats
of agility in which Neb had been my instructor, ten years before.

"S'pose I free, who do sich matter for you, Masser Mile?" cried Neb,
like one laying down an unanswerable proposition. "No, no, sir,--I
belong to you, you belong to me, and we belong to one anodder."

This settled the matter for the present, and I said no more. Neb was
ordered to be in readiness for the next day; and at the appointed
hour, I met the assembled party to take my leave, on this, my third
departure from the roof of my fathers. It had been settled the Major
and Emily were to remain at the farm until July, when they were to
proceed to the Springs, for the benefit of the water, after living so
long in a hot climate. I had passed an hour with my guardian alone,
and he had no more to say, than to wish me well, and to bestow his
blessing. I did not venture an offer to embrace Lucy. It was the first
time we had parted without this token of affection; but I was shy, and
I fancied she was cold. She offered me her hand, as frankly as ever,
however, and I pressed it fervently, as I wished her adieu. As for
Grace, she wept in my arms, just as she had always done, and the Major
and Emily shook hands cordially with me, it being understood I should
find them in New York, at my return. Rupert accompanied me down to the
sloop.

"If you should find an occasion, Miles, let us hear from you," said my
old friend. "I have a lively curiosity to learn something of the
Frenchmen; nor am I entirely without the hope of soon gratifying the
desire, in person."

"You!--If you have any intention to visit France, what better
opportunity, than to go in my cabin? Is it business, that will take
you there?"

"Not at all; pure pleasure. Our excellent cousin thinks a gentleman of
a certain class ought to travel; and I believe she has an idea of
getting me attached to the legation, in some form or other."

This sounded so odd to me! Rupert Hardinge, who had not one penny to
rub against another, so lately, was now talking of his European tour,
and of legations! I ought to have been glad of his good fortune, and I
fancied I was. I said nothing, this time, concerning his taking up
any portion of my earnings, having the sufficient excuse of not being
on pay myself. Rupert did not stay long in the sloop, and we were soon
under way. I looked eagerly along the high banks of the creek, fringed
as it was with bushes, in hopes of seeing Grace, at least; nor was I
disappointed. She and Lucy had taken a direct path to the point where
the two waters united, and were standing there, as the sloop dropped
past. They both waved their handkerchiefs, in a way to show the
interest they felt in me; and I returned the parting salutations by
kissing my hand again and again. At this instant, a sail-boat passed
our bows, and I saw a gentleman standing up in it, waving his
handkerchief, quite as industriously as I was kissing my hand. A look
told me it was Andrew Drewett, who directed his boat to the point, and
was soon making his bows to the girls in person. His boat ascended the
creek, no doubt with his luggage; while the last I saw of the party it
was walking off in company, taking the direction of the house.

CHAPTER XXV.

"Or feeling--, as the storm increases,
The love of terror nerve thy breast,
Didst venture to the coast:
To see the mighty war-ship leap
From wave to wave upon the deep,
Like chamois goat from steep to steep,
Till low in valley lost."
ALLSTON.

Roger Talcott had not been idle during my absence. Clawbonny was so
dear to me, that I had staid longer than was proposed in the original
plan; and I now found the hatches on the Dawn, a crew shipped, and
nothing remaining but to clear out. I mean the literal thing, and not
the slang phrase, one of those of which so many have crept into the
American language, through the shop, and which even find their way
into print; such as "charter coaches," "on a boat," "on board a
stage," and other similar elegancies. "_On_ a boat" always makes
me--, even at my present time of life. The Dawn was cleared the day I
reached town.

Several of the crew of the Crisis had shipped with us anew, the poor
fellows having already made away with all their wages and prize-money,
in the short space of a month! This denoted the usual improvidence of
sailors, and was thought nothing out of the common way. The country
being at peace, a difficulty with Tripoli excepted, it was no longer
necessary for ships to go armed. The sudden excitement produced by the
brush with the French had already subsided, and the navy was reduced
to a few vessels that had been regularly built for the service; while
the lists of officers had been curtailed of two-thirds of their
names. We were no longer a warlike, but were fast getting to be a
strictly commercial, body of seamen. I had a single six-pounder, and
half a dozen muskets, in the Dawn, besides a pair or two of pistols,
with just ammunition enough to quell a mutiny, fire a few signal-guns,
or to kill a few ducks.

We sailed on the 3rd of July. I have elsewhere intimated that the
Manhattanese hold exaggerated notions of the comparative beauty of the
scenery of their port, sometimes presuming to compare it even with
Naples; to the bay of which it bears some such resemblance as a Dutch
canal bears to a river flowing through rich meadows, in the freedom
and grace of nature. Nevertheless, there _are_ times and seasons
when the bay of New York offers a landscape worthy of any pencil. It
was at one of these felicitous moments that the Dawn cast off from the
wharf, and commenced her voyage to Bordeaux. There was barely air
enough from the southward to enable us to handle the ship, and we
profited by a morning ebb to drop down to the Narrows, in the midst of
a fleet of some forty sail; most of the latter, however, being
coasters. Still, we were a dozen ships and brigs, bound to almost as
many different countries. The little air there was, seemed scarcely to
touch the surface of the water; and the broad expanse of bay was as
placid as an inland lake, of a summer's morning. Yes, yes--there are
moments when the haven of New York does present pictures on which the
artist would seize with avidity; but, the instant nature attempts any
of her grander models, on this, a spot that seems never to rise much
above the level of commercial excellencies, it is found that the
accessaries are deficient in sublimity, or even beauty.

I have never seen our home waters so lovely as on this morning. The
movements of the vessels gave just enough of life and variety to the
scene to destroy the appearance of sameness; while the craft were too
far from the land to prevent one of the most unpleasant effects of the
ordinary landscape scenery of the place--that produced by the
disproportion between the tallness of their spars, and the low
character of the adjacent shores. As we drew near the Narrows, the
wind increased; and forty sail, working through the pass in close
conjunction, terminated the piece with something like the effect
produced by a _finale_ in an overture. The brightness of the
morning, the placid charms of the scenery, and the propitious
circumstances under which I commenced the voyage, in a commercial
point of view, had all contributed to make me momentarily forget my
private griefs, and to enter cheerfully into the enjoyment of the
hour.

I greatly disliked passengers. They appealed to me to lessen the
dignity of my position, and to reduce me to the level of an
inn-keeper, or one who received boarders. I wished to command a ship,
not to take in lodgers; persons whom you are bound to treat with a
certain degree of consideration, and, in one sense, as your
superiors. Still, it had too much of an appearance of surliness, and a
want of hospitality, to refuse a respectable man a passage across the
ocean, when he might not get another chance in a month, and that, too,
when it was important to himself to proceed immediately. In this
particular instance, I became the dupe of a mistaken kindness on the
part of my former owners. These gentlemen brought to me a
Mr. Brigham--Wallace Mortimer Brigham was his whole name, to be
particular--as a person who was desirous of getting to France with his
wife and wife's sister, in order to proceed to Italy for the health of
the married lady, who was believed to be verging on a decline. These
people were from the eastward, and had fallen into the old error of
Americans, that the south of France and Italy had residences far more
favourable for such a disease, than our own country. This was one of
the provincial notions of the day, that were entailed on us by means
of colonial dependency. I suppose the colonial existence is as
necessary to a people, as childhood and adolescence are to the man;
but, as my Lady Mary Wortley Montagu told her friend, Lady Rich--"Nay;
but look you, my dear madam, I grant it a very fine thing to continue
always fifteen; _that_, everybody must approve of--it is quite
fair: but, indeed, indeed, one need not be five years old."

I was prevailed on to take these passengers, and I got a specimen of
their characters even as we dropped down the bay, in the midst of the
agreeable scene to which I have just alluded. They were
_gossips_; and that, too, of the lowest, or personal
cast. Nothing made them so happy as to be talking of the private
concerns of their fellow-creatures; and, as ever must happen where
this propensity exists, nine-tenths of what they said rested on no
better foundation than surmises, inferences drawn from premises of
questionable accuracy, and judgments that were entered up without the
authority, or even the inclination, to examine witnesses. They had
also a peculiarity that I have often remarked in persons of the same
propensity; most of their gossiping arose from a desire to make
apparent their own intimacy with the private affairs of people of
mark--overlooking the circumstance that, in thus making the concerns
of others the subjects of their own comments, they were impliedly
admitting a consciousness of their own inferiority; men seldom
condescending thus to busy themselves with the affairs of any but
those of whom they feel it to be a sort of distinction to converse. I
am much afraid good-breeding has more to do with the suppression of
this vice, than good principles, as the world goes. I have remarked
that persons of a high degree of self-respect, and a good tone of
manners, are quite free from this defect of character; while I regret
to be compelled to say that I have been acquainted with divers very
saintly _professors_, including one or two parsons, who have
represented the very _beau ideal_ of scandal.

My passengers gave me a taste of their quality, as I have said, before
we had got a mile below Governor's Island. The ladies were named
Sarah and Jane; and, between them and Wallace Mortimer, what an
insight did I obtain into the private affairs of sundry personages of
Salem, in Massachusetts, together with certain glimpses in at Boston
folk; all, however, referring to qualities and facts that might be
classed among the real or supposed. I can, at this distant day, recall
Scene 1st, Act 1st, of the drama that continued while we were crossing
the ocean, with the slight interruption of a few days, produced by
sea-sickness.

"Wallace," said Sarah, "did you say, yesterday, that John Viner had
refused to lend his daughter's husband twenty thousand dollars, to get
him out of his difficulties, and that he failed in consequence?"

"To be sure. It was the common talk through Wall Street yesterday, and
everybody believes it"--there was no more truth in the story, than in
one of the forty reports that have killed General Jackson so often, in
the last twenty years. "Yes, no one doubts it--but all the Viners are
just so! All of us, in our part of the world, know what to think of
the Viners."

"Yes, I suppose so," drawled Jane. "I've heard it said this John
Viner's father ran all the way from the Commons in Boston, to the foot
of State Street, to get rid of a dun against this very son, who had
his own misfortunes when he was young."

"The story is quite likely true in part," rejoined Wallace, "though it
can't be _quite_ accurate, as the old gentleman had but one leg,
and _running_ was altogether out of the question with _him_.
It was probably old Tim Viner, who ran like a deer when a young man,
as I've heard people say."

"Well, then, I suppose he ran his horse," added Jane, in the same
quiet, drawling tone. "_Something_ must have run, or they never
would have got up the story."

I wondered if Miss Jane Hitchcox had ever taken the trouble to
ascertain who _they_ were! I happened to know both the Viners,
and to be quite certain there was not a word of truth in the report of
the twenty thousand dollars, having heard all the particulars of the
late failure from one of my former owners, who was an assignee, and a
considerable creditor. Under the circumstances, I thought I would hint
as much.

"Are you quite sure that the failure of Viner & Co. was owing to the
circumstance you mention, Mr. Brigham?" I inquired.

"Pretty certain. I am '_measurably acquainted_' with their
affairs, and think I am tolerably safe in saying so."

Now, "measurably acquainted" meant that he lived within twenty or
thirty miles of those who _did_ know something of the concerns of
the house in question, and was in the way of catching scraps of the
gossip that fell from disappointed creditors. How much of this is
there in this good country of ours! Men who live just near enough to
one another to feel the influence of all that rivalry, envy, personal
strifes and personal malignancies, can generate, fancy they are
acquainted, from this circumstance, with those to whom they have never
even spoken. One-half the idle tales that circulate up and-down the
land, come from authority not one tittle better than this. How much
would men learn, could they only acquire the healthful lesson of
understanding that _nothing_, which is much out of the ordinary
way, and which, circulates as received truths illustrative of
character, is true in _all_ its material parts, and very little
in _any_. But, to return to my passengers, and that portion of
their conversation which most affected myself. They continued
commenting on persons and families by name, seemingly more to keep
their hands in, than for any other discoverable reason, as each
appeared to be perfectly conversant with all the gossip that was
started; when Sarah casually mentioned the name of Mrs. Bradfort, with
some of whose _supposed_ friends, it now came out, they had all a
general visiting acquaintance.

"Dr. Hosack is of opinion she cannot live long, I hear," said Jane,
with a species of fierce delight in killing a fellow-creature,
provided it only led to a gossip concerning her private affairs. "Her
case has been decided to be a cancer, now, for more than a week, and
she made her will last Tuesday."

"Only last Tuesday!" exclaimed Sarah, in surprise. "Well, I heard she
had made her will a twelvemonth since, and that she left all her
property to young Rupert Hardinge; in the expectation, some persons
thought, that he might marry her."

"How could that be, my dear?" asked the husband; "in what would she be
better off for leaving her own property to her husband?"

"Why, by law, would she not? I don't exactly know how it would happen,
for I do not particularly understand these things; but it seems
natural that a woman would be a gainer if she made the man she was
about to marry her heir. She would have her thirds in his estate,
would she not?"

"But, Mrs. Brigham," said I, smiling, "is it quite certain
Mrs. Bradfort wishes to marry Rupert Hardinge, at all?"

"I know so little of the parties, that I cannot speak with certainty
in the matter, I admit, Captain Wallingford."

"Well, but Sarah, dear," interposed the more exacting Jane, "you are
making yourself unnecessarily ignorant. You very well know how
intimate we are with the Greenes, and they know the Winters perfectly
well, who are next-door neighbours to Mrs. Bradfort. I don't see how
you can say we haven't good means of being 'measurably'
well-informed."

Now, I happened to know through Grace and Lucy, that a disagreeable
old person, of the name of Greene did live next door to Mrs. Bradfort;
but, that the latter refused to visit her, firstly, because she did
not happen to like her, and secondly, because the two ladies belonged
to very different social circles; a sufficient excuse for not visiting
in town, even though the parties inhabited the same house. But, the
Brighams, being Salem people, did not understand that families might
reside next door to each other, in a large town, for a long series of
months, or even years, and not know each other's names. It would not
be easy to teach this truth, one of every-day occurrence, to the
inhabitant of one of our provincial towns, who was in the habit of
fancying he had as close an insight into the private affairs of all
his neighbours, as they enjoyed themselves.

"No doubt we are all as well off as most strangers in New York,"
observed the wife; "still, it ought to be admitted that we may be
mistaken. I have heard it said there is an old Mr. Hardinge, a
clergyman, who would make a far better match for the lady, than his
son. However, it is of no great moment, now; for, when our neighbour
Mrs. John Foote, saw Dr. Hosack about her own child, she got all the
particulars out of him about Mrs. Bradfort's case, from the highest
quarter, and I had it from Mrs. Foote, herself."

"I could not have believed that a physician of Dr. Hosack's eminence
and character would speak openly of the diseases of his patients," I
observed, a little tartly, I am afraid.

"Oh! he didn't," said Sarah, eagerly--"he was as cunning as a fox,
Mrs. Foote owned herself, and played her off finely; but Mrs. Foote
was cunninger than any half-dozen foxes, and got it all out of him by
negations."

"Negations!" I exclaimed, wondering what was meant by the term, though
I had understood I was to expect a little more philosophy and
metaphysics, not to say algebra, in my passengers, than usually
accompanied petticoats in our part of the world.

"Certainly, _negations_" answered the matron, with a smile as
complacent as that which usually denotes the consciousness of
intellectual superiority. "One who is a little practised, can
ascertain a fact as well by means of negatives as affirmatives. It
only requires judgment and use."

"Then Mrs. Bradfort's disease is only ascertained by the negative
process?"

"So I suppose--but what does one want more," put in the husband;--"and
that she made her will last week, I feel quite sure, as it was
generally spoken of among our friends."

Here were people who had been in New York only a month, looking out
for a ship, mere passengers as it might be, who knew more about a
family with which I had myself such an intimate connection, than its
own members. I thought it no wonder that such a race was capable of
enlightening mankind, on matters and things in general. But the game
did not end here.

"I suppose Miss Lucy Hardinge will get something by Mrs. Bradfort's
death," observed Miss Jane, "and that she and Mr. Andrew Drewett will
marry as soon as it shall become proper."

Here was a speculation, for a man in my state of mind! The names were
all right; some of the incidents, even, were probable, if not correct;
yet, how could the facts be known to these comparative strangers? Did
the art of gossiping, with all its meannesses, lies, devices,
inventions, and cruelties, really possess so much advantage over the
intercourse of the confiding and honest, as to enable those who
practise it to discover facts hidden from eye-witnesses, and
eye-witnesses, too, that had every inducement of the strongest
interest in the issue, not to be deceived? I felt satisfied, the
moment Mrs. Greene's name was mentioned, that my passengers were not
in the true New York set; and, justly enough, inferred they were not
very good authority for one half they said; and, yet, how could they
know anything of Drewett's attachment to Lucy, unless their
information were tolerably accurate?

I shall not attempt to repeat all that passed while the ship dropped
down the bay; but enough escaped the gossips to render me still more
unhappy than I had yet been, on the subject of Lucy. I could and did
despise these people; that was easy enough; but it was not so easy to
forget all that they said and surmised. This is one of the causes
attendant on the habit of loose talking; one never knowing what to
credit, and what not. In spite of all my disgust, and a firm
determination not to contribute in any manner to the stock in trade of
these people, I found great difficulty in evading their endless
questions. How much they got out of me, by means of the process of
negations, I never knew; but they got no great matter through direct
affirmatives. Something, however, persons so indefatigable, to whom
gossiping was the great aim of life, must obtain, and they ascertained
that Mr. Hardinge was my guardian, that Rupert and I had passed our
boyhoods in each other's company, and that Lucy was even an inmate of
my own house the day we sailed. This little knowledge only excited a
desire for more, and, by the end of a week, I was obliged to submit to
devices and expedients to pump me, than which even the thumbscrew was
scarcely more efficient. I practised on the negative system, myself,
with a good deal of dexterity, however, and threw my inquisitors off,
very handsomely, more than once, until I discovered that Wallace
Mortimer, determined not to be baffled, actually opened communications
with Neb, in order to get a clearer insight into my private affairs.
After this, I presume my readers will not care to hear any more about
these gentry, whose only connection with my life grew out of the
misgivings they contributed largely to create in my mind, touching the
state of Lucy's affections. This much they did effect, and I was
compelled to submit to their power. We are all of us, more or less,
the dupes of knaves and fools.

All this, however, was the fruits of several weeks' intercourse, and I
have anticipated events a little, in order to make the statements in
connection. Meeting a breeze, as has been said already, the Dawn got
over the bar, about two o'clock, and stood off the land, on an easy
bowline, in company with the little fleet of square-rigged vessels
that went out at the same time. By sunset, Navesink again dipped, and
I was once more fairly at sea.

This was at the period when the commerce of America was at its
height. The spirit shown by the young Republic in the French affair
had commanded a little respect, though the supposed tendencies of the
new administration was causing anything but a cordial feeling towards
the country to exist in England. That powerful nation, however, had
made a hollow peace with France the previous March, and the highway of
nations was temporarily open to all ships alike; a state of things
that existed for some ten months after we sailed. Nothing to be
apprehended, consequently, lay before me, beyond the ordinary dangers
of the ocean. For these last, I was now prepared by the experience of
several years passed almost entirely on board ship, during which time
I had encircled the earth itself in my peregrinations.

Our run off the coast was favourable, and the sixth day out, we were
in the longitude of the tail of the Grand Bank. I was delighted with
my ship, which turned out to be even more than I had dared to hope
for. She behaved well under all circumstances, sailing even better
than she worked. The first ten days of our passage were prosperous,
and we were mid-ocean by the 10th of the month. During this time I had
nothing to annoy me but the ceaseless _cancans_ of my passengers.
I had heard the name of every individual of note in Salem; with
certain passages in his or her life, and began to fancy I had lived a
twelvemonth in the place. At length, I began to speculate on the
reason why this morbid propensity should exist so much stronger in
that part of the world than in any other I had visited. There was
nothing new in the disposition of the people of small places to
gossip, and it was often done in large towns; more especially those
that did not possess the tone of a capital. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
and Horace Walpole wrote gossip, but it was spiced with wit, as is
usual with the scandal of such places as London and Paris; whereas
this, to which I was doomed to listen, was nothing more than downright
impertinent, vulgar, meddling with the private affairs of all those
whom the gossips thought of sufficient importance to talk about. At
Clawbonny, we had our gossip too, but it was innocent, seldom
infringed much on the truth, and usually respected the right of every
person to possess certain secrets that might remain inviolate to the
world. No such rules prevailed with my passengers. Like a certain
editor of a newspaper of my acquaintance, who acts as if he fancied
all things in heaven and earth were created expressly to furnish
materials for "paragraphs," they appeared to think that everybody of
their acquaintance existed for no other purpose than to furnish them
food for conversation. There must have been some unusual cause for so
much personal _espionnage_, and, at length, I came to the
following conclusion on the subject. I had heard that church
government, among the puritans, descended into all the details of
life; that it was a part of their religious duty to watch over each
other, jog the memories of the delinquents, and serve God by ferreting
out vice. This is a terrible inducement to fill the mind with the
motes of a neighbourhood, and the mind thus stowed, as we sailors say,
will be certain to deliver cargo. Then come the institutions, with
their never-ending elections, and the construction that has been put
on the right of the elector to inquire into all things; the whole
consummated by the journals, who assume a power to penetrate the
closet, ay, even the heart,--and lay bare its secrets. Is it any
wonder, if we should become, in time, a nation of mere gossips? As for
my passengers, even Neb got to consider them as so many nuisances.

From some cause or other, whether it was having these loose-tongued
people on board or not, is more than I can say, but certain it is,
about the time Salem was handsomely cleaned out, and a heavy inroad
had been made upon Boston, that the weather changed. It began to blow
in gusts, sometimes from one point of the compass, sometimes from
another, until the ship was brought to very short canvass, from a
dread of being caught unprepared. At length, these fantasies of the
winds terminated in a tremendous gale, such as I had seldom then
witnessed; and such, indeed, as I have seldom witnessed since. It is a
great mistake to suppose that the heaviest weather occurs in the
autumnal, spring, or winter months. Much the strongest blows I have
ever known, have taken place in the middle of the warm weather. This
is the season of the hurricanes; and, out of the tropics, I think it
is also the season of _the_ gales. It is true; these gales do not
return annually, a long succession of years frequently occurring
without one; but, when they do come, they may be expected, in our own
seas, in July, August, or September.

The wind commenced at south-west, on this occasion, and it blew fresh
for several hours, sending us ahead on our course, at the rate of
eleven knots. As the sea got up, and sail was reduced, our speed was a
little diminished perhaps; but we must have made more than a hundred
miles in the first ten hours. The day was bright, cloudless, genial,
and even bland; there being nothing unpleasant in the feeling of the
swift currents of the air, that whirled past us. At sunset I did not
quite like the appearance of the horizon; and we let the ship wade
through it, under her three top-sails, single-reefed, her fore-course,
and fore-top-mast staysail. This was short canvass, for a vessel that
had the wind nearly over her taffrail. At nine o'clock, second reefs
were taken in, and at ten, the mizen-top-sail was furled. I then
turned in, deeming the ship quite snug, leaving orders with the mates
to reduce the sail, did they find the ship straining, or the spars in
danger, and to call me should anything serious occur. I was not called
until daylight, when Talcott laid his hand on my shoulder, and said,
"You had better turn out, Captain Wallingford; we have a peeler, and I
want a little advice."

It was a peeler, indeed, when I reached the deck. The ship was under a
fore-course and a close-reefed main-top-sail, canvass that can be
carried a long time, while running off; but which, I at once saw, was
quite too much for us. An order was given immediately, to take in the
top-sail. Notwithstanding the diminutive surface that was exposed,
the surges given by this bit of canvass, as soon as the clews were
eased off sufficiently to allow the cloth to jerk, shook the vessel's
hull. It was a miracle that we saved the mast, or that we got the
cloth rolled up at all. At one time, I thought it would be necessary
to cut it from the yard. Fortunately the gale was steady, this day
proving bright and clear, like that which had preceded.

The men aloft made several attempts to hail the deck, but the wind
blew too heavily to suffer them to be heard. Talcott had gone on the
yard himself, and I saw him gesticulating, in a way to indicate there
was something ahead. The seas were running so high that it was not
easy to obtain much of a look at the horizon; but, by getting into the
mizen-rigging, I had a glimpse of a vessel's spars, to the eastward of
us, and directly on our course. It was a ship under bare poles,
running as nearly before us as she could, but making most fearful
yaws; sometimes sheering away off to starboard, in a way to threaten
her with broaching-to; then taking a yaw to port, in which I could see
all three of her masts, with their yards pointed nearly at us. I got
but one glimpse of her hull, as it rose on a sea, at the same instant
with the Dawn, and it actually appeared as if about to be blown away,
though I took the stranger to be a vessel at least as large as we were
ourselves. We were evidently approaching her fast, though both vessels
were going the same way.

The Dawn steered beautifully, one of the greatest virtues in a ship,
under the circumstances in which we were then placed. A single man was
all that we had at the wheel, and he controlled it with ease. I could
see it was very different with the ship ahead, and fancied they had
made a mistake on board her, by taking in all their canvass. Talcott
and the gang aloft, had not got out of the top, however, before we had
a hint that it would be well to imitate the stranger's prudence.
Though our vessel steered so much better than another, no ship can
keep on a direct line, while running before the wind, in a heavy
sea. The waves occasionally fly past a vessel, like the scud glancing
through the air; then, they seem to pause, altogether, as if to permit
the ship to overtake them. When a vessel is lifted aft by one of these
torrents of rushing waters, the helm loses a portion of its power; and
the part of the vast machine that first receives the impulse, seems
intent on exchanging places with the bows, vessels often driving
sideways before the surges, for spaces of time that are exceedingly
embarrassing to the mariner. This happens to the best-steering ships,
and is always one source of danger in very heavy weather, to those
that are running off. The merit of the Dawn was in coming under
command again, quickly, and in not losing so much of the influence of
her helm, as is frequently the case with wild-steering craft. I
understand there is a sloop-of-war now in the navy, that is difficult
to get through a narrow passage, in a blow, in consequence of her
having this propensity to turn her head first one way, then another,
like a gay horse that breaks his bridle.

The hint given, just as Talcott was quitting the top, and to which
there has been allusion, was given under the impulsion of one of these
driving seas. The Dawn still carried her fore-topmast stay-sail, a
small triangular piece of stout canvass, and which was particularly
useful, as leading from the end of the bowsprit towards the head of
the fore-top-mast, in preventing her from broaching-to, or pressing up
with her bows so near the wind, as to produce the danger of seas
breaking over the mass of the hull, and sweeping the decks. The
landsman will understand this is the gravest of the dangers that occur
at sea, in very heavy weather. When the ship is thrown broadside to
the sea, or comes up so as to bring the wind abeam, or even forward of
the beam, as in lying-to, there is always risk from this
source. Another clanger, which is called pooping, is of a character
that one who is ignorant of the might of the ocean when aroused, would
not be apt to foresee. It proceeds from the impetuous velocity of the
waves, which, rushing ahead so much faster than the vessel that is
even driving before the gale, breaks against the quarter, or stern,
and throws its masses of water along the deck, in a line with its
keel. I suppose the President steamer to have been lost by the first
of these two dangers, as will appear in the following little theory.

There is no doubt that well-constructed steamers are safer craft, the
danger from fire excepted, than the ordinary ship, except in very
heavy weather. With an ordinary gale, they can contend with sufficient
power; but, it is an unfortunate consequence of their construction,
that exactly as the danger increases, their power of meeting it
diminishes. In a very heavy swell, one cannot venture to resort to a
strong head of steam, since one wheel may be nearly out of water,
while the other is submerged, and thus endanger the machinery. Now,
the great length of these vessels renders it difficult to keep them up
to the wind, or head to sea, the safest of all positions for a vessel
in heavy weather, while it exposes them to the additional risk of
having the water break aboard them near the waist, in running dead
before it. In a word, I suppose a steamer difficult to be kept out of
the trough, in very heavy weather; and no vessel can be safe in the
trough of the seas, under such circumstances; one of great length less
so than others. This is true, however, only in reference to those
steamers which carry the old-fashioned wheel; Erricson's screw, and
Hunter's submerged wheels, rendering steam-ships, in my poor judgment,
the safest craft in the world.

The Dawn was overtaken by the seas, from time to time; and, then, like
everything else that floats, she yawed, or rather, had her stern urged
impetuously round, as if it were in a hurry to get ahead of the
bows. On these occasions, the noise made by the fore-top-mast
stay-sail, as it collapsed and filled, resembled the report of a small
gun. We had similar reports from the fore-sail, which, for moments at
a time, was actually becalmed, as the ship settled into the trough;
and then became distended with a noise like that of the shaking of a
thousand carpets, all filled with Sancho Panzas, at the same
instant. As yet, the cloth and gear had stood these violent shocks
admirably; but, just as Talcott was leading his party down, the ship
made one of her side-long movements; the stay-sail filled with a
tremendous report, and away it flew to leeward, taken out--of the
bolt-rope as if it had been cut by shears, and then used by the furies
of the tempest. Talcott smiled, as he gazed at the driving canvass,
which went a quarter of a mile before it struck the water, whirling
like a kite that has broken its string, and then he shook his head. I
disliked, too, the tremendous surges of the fore-sail, when it
occasionally collapsed and as suddenly filled, menacing to start every
bolt, and to part every rope connected with block or spar.

"We must get in that fore-course, Mr. Talcott," I said, "or we shall
lose something. I see the ship ahead is under bare-poles, and it were
better we were as snug. If I did not dislike losing such a wind, it
would be wiser to heave-to the ship; man the buntlines and
clew-garnets, at once, and wait for a favourable moment."

We had held on to our canvass too long; the fault of youth. As I had
determined to shorten sail, however, we now set about it in earnest,
and with all the precautions exacted by the circumstances. Everybody
that could be mustered, was placed at the clew-lines and buntlines,
with strict orders to do his best at the proper moments. The
first-mate went to the tack, and the second to the sheet. I was to
take in the sail myself. I waited for a collapse; and then, while the
ship was buried between two mounds of water, when it was impossible to
see a hundred yards from her in any direction, and the canvass was
actually dropping against the mast I gave the usual orders. Every man
hauled, as if for life, and we had got the clews pretty well up, when
the vessel came out of the cavern into the tempest, receiving the
whole power of the gale, with a sudden surge, into the bellying
canvass. Away went everything, as if the gear were cobwebs. At the
next instant, the sail was in ribands. I was deeply mortified, as well
as rendered uneasy, by this accident, as the ship ahead unquestionably
was in full view of all that happened.

It was soon apparent, however, that professional pride must give place
to concern for the safety of the vessel. The wind had been steadily
increasing in power, and had now reached a pass when it became
necessary to look things steadily in the face. The strips of canvass
that remained attached to the yard, with the blocks and gear attached,
threshed about in a way to threaten the lives of all that
approached. This was only at the intervals when the ship settled into
the troughs; for, while under the full influence of the gale, pennants
never streamed more directly from a mast, than did these heavy
fragments from the fore-yard. It was necessary to get rid of them;
and Talcott had just volunteered to go on the yard with this end, when
Neb sprang into the rigging without an order, and was soon beyond the
reach of the voice. This daring black had several narrow escapes, more
especially from the fore-sheet blocks; but he succeeded in cutting
everything adrift, and in leaving nothing attached to the spar, but
the bolt-rope of the head of the sail. It is true, little effected
this object, when the knife could be applied, the threads of the stout
canvass snapping at the touch.

As soon as the ship was under bare poles, though at the sacrifice of
two of her sails, I had leisure to look out for the other
vessel. There she was, more than half a mile ahead of us, yawing
wildly, and rolling her lower yard-arm, to the water's edge. As we
drew nearer, I got better glimpses of this vessel, which was a ship,
and as I fancied, an English West Indiaman, deep-loaded with the
produce of the islands. Deep-loaded as I fancied, for it was only at
instants that she could be seen at all, under circumstances to judge
of this fact; sometimes her hull appearing to be nearly smothered in
the brine, and then, again, her copper glistening in the sun,
resembling a light vessel, kept under the care of some thrifty
housewife.

The Dawn did not fly, now all her canvass was gone, as fast as she had
previously done. She went through the water at a greater rate than the
vessel ahead; but it required an hour longer to bring the two ships
within a cable's length of each other. Then, indeed, we got a near
view of the manner in which the elements can play with such a mass of
wood and iron as a ship, when in an angry mood. There were instants
when I fancied I could nearly see the keel of the stranger for half
its length, as he went foaming up on the crest of a wave, apparently
ready to quit the water altogether; then again, he would settle away
into the blue abyss, hiding everything beneath his tops. When both
vessels sunk together, no sign of our neighbour was visible, though so
near. We came up after one of these deep plunges into the valleys of
the ocean, and, to our alarm, saw the English ship yawing directly
athwart our course, and within fifty fathoms of us. This was about the
distance at which I intended to pass, little dreaming of finding the
other ship so completely in our way. The Englishman must have intended
to come a little nearer, and got one of those desperate sheers that so
often ran away with him. There he was, however; and a breathless
minute followed, when he was first seen. Two vehicles dashing along a
highway, with frightened and run-away teams, would not present a sight
one-half as terrific as that which lay directly before our eyes.

The Dawn was plunging onward with a momentum to dash in splinters, did
she strike any resisting object, and yawing herself sufficiently to
render the passage hazardous. But the stranger made the matter
ten-fold worse. When I first saw him, in this fearful proximity, his
broadside was nearly offered to the seas, and away he was flying, on
the summit of a mountain of foam, fairly crossing our fore-foot. At
the next moment, he fell off before the wind, again, and I could just
see his tops directly ahead. His sheer had been to-port, our intention
having been to pass him on his starboard side; but, perceiving him to
steer so wild, I thought it might be well to go in the other
direction. Quick as the words could be uttered, therefore, I called
out to port the helm. This was done, of course; and just as the Dawn
felt the new influence, the other vessel took the same sheer, and away
we both went to starboard, at precisely the same instant. I shouted to
right our helm to "hard a-starboard," and it was well I did; a minute
more would have brought us down headlong on the Englishman. Even now
we could only see his hull, at instants; but the awful proximity of
his spars denoted the full extent of the danger. Luckily, we hit on
opposite directions, or our common destruction would have been
certain. But, it was one thing, in that cauldron of a sea, to
determine on a course, and another to follow it. As we rose on the
last wave that alone separated us from the stranger, he was nearly
ahead; and as we glanced onward, I saw that we should barely clear his
larboard quarter. Our helm being already a starboard, no more could be
done. Should he take another sheer to port, we must infallibly cut him
in twain. As I have said, he had jammed his helm to-port, and slowly,
and with a species of reluctance, he inclined a little aside. Then we
came up, both ships rolling off, or our yards must have interlocked,
and passing his quarter with our bows, we each felt the sheer at the
same instant, and away we went asunder, the sterns of the ships
looking at each other, and certainly not a hundred feet apart. A shout
from Talcott drew me to our taffrail, and standing on that of our
neighbour, what or whom should I see waving his hat, but the red
countenance of honest Moses Marble!

CHAPTER XXVI.

"At the piping of all hands,
When the judgment signal's spread--
When the islands and the lands,
And the seas give up the dead,
And the south and the north shall come;
When the sinner is dismay'd,
And the just man is afraid,
Then heaven be thy aid,
Poor _Tom_.'"
BRAINARD.

The two ships, in the haste of their respective crews to get clear of
each other, were now running in the troughs; and the same idea would
seem to have suggested itself to me and the other master, at the same
instant. Instead of endeavouring to keep away again, one kept his helm
hard a-port, the other as hard a-starboard, until we both came by the
wind, though on opposite tacks. The Englishman set his mizen-stay-sail,
and though he made bad weather of it, he evidently ran much less risk
than in scudding. The seas came on board him constantly; but not in a
way to do any material damage. As for the Dawn, she lay-to, like a
duck, under bare poles. I had a spare stay-sail, stopped up in her
mizen-rigging, from the top down, and after that the ship was both
easy and dry. Once in a while, it is true, her bows would meet some
fellow heavier than common, and then we got a few hogsheads of water
forward; but it went out to leeward as fast as it came in to
windward. At the turn of the day, however, the gale broke, and the
weather moderated sensibly; both sea and wind beginning to go down.

Had we been alone, I should not have hesitated about bearing up,
getting some sail on the ship, and running off on my course, again;
but, the desire to speak the stranger, and have some communication
with Marble, was so strong, that I could not make up my mind to do
so. Including myself, Talcott, Neb, the cabin-steward, and six of the
people forward, there were ten of us on board, who knew the ex-mate;
and, of the whole ten, there was not a dissenting voice concerning his
identity. I determined, therefore, to stick by the Englishman, and at
least have some communication with my old friend. As for myself, I own
I loved Marble, uncouth and peculiar as he sometimes was. I owed him
more than any other man living, Mr. Hardinge excepted; for he had made
me a seaman, having been of use to me professionally, in a hundred
ways. Then we had seen so much in company, that I regarded him as a
portion of my experience, and as, in some measure, identified with my
own nautical career.

I was afraid at one moment, that the Englishman intended to remain as
he was, all night; but, about an hour before sunset, I had the
gratification to see him set his fore-sail, and keep off. I had wore
round, two hours before, to get the Dawn's head on the same tack with
him, and followed under bare poles. As the stranger soon set his
main-top-sail close reefed, and then his fore, it enabled us to make a
little sail also, in order to keep up with him. This we did all that
night; and, in the morning, both ships were under everything that
would draw, with a moderate breeze from the northward, and no great
matter of sea going. The English vessel was about a league to leeward
of us, and a little ahead. Under such circumstances, it was easy to
close. Accordingly, just as the two ships' companies were about to go
to breakfast, the Dawn ranged up under the lee-quarter of the
stranger.

"What ship's that?" I hailed, in the usual manner.

"The Dundee; Robert Ferguson, master--what ship's that?"

"The Dawn; Miles Wallingford. Where are you from?"

"From Rio de Janeiro, bound to London. Where are _you_ from?"

"From New York, to Bordeaux. A heavy blow we have just had of it."

"Quite; the like of it, I've not seen in many a day. You've a pratty
sea-boat, yon!"

"She made capital weather, in the late gale, and I've every reason to
be satisfied with her. Pray, haven't you an American on board, of the
name of Marble? We fancied that we saw the face of an old shipmate on
your taffrail, yesterday, and have kept you company in order to
inquire after his news."

"Ay, ay," answered the Scotch master, waving his hand. "The chiel
will be visiting you prasently. He's below, stowing away his dunnage;
and will be thanking you for a passage home, I'm thinking."

As these words were uttered, Marble appeared on deck, and waved his
hat, again, in recognition. This was enough; as we understood each
other, the two ships took sufficient room, and hove-to. We lowered our
boat, and Talcott went alongside of the Dundee, in quest of our old
shipmate. Newspapers and news were exchanged; and, in twenty minutes,
I had the extreme gratification of grasping Marble once more by the
hand.

My old friend was too much affected to speak, for some little time. He
shook hands with everybody, and seemed as much astonished as he was
delighted at finding so many of us together again; but not a syllable
did he utter for several minutes. I had his chest passed into the
cabin, and then went and took my seat alongside of him on the
hen-coops, intending to hear his story, as soon as he was disposed to
give it. But, it was no easy matter to get out of ear-shot of my
passengers. During the gale, they had been tongue-tied, and I had a
little peace; but, no sooner did the wind and sea go down, than they
broke out in the old spot, and began to do Boston, in the way they had
commenced. Now, Marble had come on board, in a manner so unusual, and
it was evident a secret history was to be revealed, that all three
took post in the companion-way, in a manner to render it impossible
anything material could escape them. I knew the folly of attempting a
change of position on deck; we should certainly be followed up; and,
people of this class, so long as they can make the excuse of saying
they heard any part of a secret, never scruple about inventing the

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