Part 1 out of 8
Produced by Distributed Proofreaders
Sequel to Afloat and Ashore.
By J. Fenimore Cooper.
The conclusion of this tale requires but little preface. Many persons may
think that there is too much of an old man's despondency in a few of the
opinions of this portion of the work; but, after sixty, it is seldom we
view the things of this world _en beau_. There are certain political
allusions, very few in number, but pretty strong in language, that the
signs of the times fully justify, in the editor's judgment; though he does
not profess to give his own sentiments in this work, so much as those of
the subject of the narrative himself. "The anti-rent combination," for
instance, will prove, according to the editor's conjectures, to be one of
two things in this community--the commencement of a dire revolution, or
the commencement of a return to the sounder notions and juster principles
that prevailed among us thirty years since, than certainly prevail to-day.
There is one favourable symptom discoverable in the deep-seated disease
that pervades the social system: men dare, and do, deal more honestly and
frankly with the condition of society in this country, than was done a few
years since. This right, one that ought to be most dear to every freeman,
has been recovered only by painful sacrifices and a stern resolution; but
recovered it has been, in some measure; and, were the pens of the country
true to their owners' privileges, we should soon come to a just view of
the sacred nature of private character, as well as the target-like
vulnerability of public follies and public vice. It is certain that, for a
series of dangerous years, notions just the reverse of this have prevailed
among us, gradually rendering the American press equally the vehicle of
the most atrocious personal calumny, and the most flatulent national
self-adulation. It is under such a state of things that the few evils
alluded to in this work have had their rise. Bodies of men, however
ignorant or small, have come to consider themselves as integral portions
of a community that never errs, and, consequently, entitled to esteem
themselves infallible. When in debt, they have fancied it political
liberty to pay their debts by the strong hand; a very easy transition for
those who believe themselves able to effect all their objects. The disease
has already passed out of New York into Pennsylvania; it will spread, like
any other epidemic, throughout the country; and there will soon be a
severe struggle among us, between the knave and the honest man. Let the
class of the latter look to it. It is to be hoped it is still
sufficiently powerful to conquer.
These few remarks are made in explanation of certain opinions of Mr.
Wallingford, that have been extorted from him by the events of the day, as
he was preparing this work for the press; remarks that might seem out of
place, were it not a part of his original plan, which contemplated
enlarging far more than he has, indeed, on some of the prominent
peculiarities of the state of society in which he has passed the greater
part of his days.
--"But I'll not chide thee;
Let shame come when it will, I do not call it;
I do not bid the thunder-bearer shoot,
Nor tell tales of thee to high-judging Jove;
Mend when thou canst--"
It is almost as impossible to describe minutely what occurred on the
boat's reaching the Wallingford, as to describe all the terrific incidents
of the struggle between Drewett and myself in the water. I had sufficient
perception, however, to see, as I was assisted on board by Mr. Hardinge
and Neb, that Lucy was not on deck. She had probably gone to join Grace,
with a view to be in readiness for meeting the dire intelligence that was
expected. I afterwards learned that she was long on her knees in the
after-cabin, engaged in that convulsive prayer which is apt to accompany
sudden and extreme distress in those who appeal to God in their agony.
During the brief moments, and they were but mere particles of time, if one
can use such an expression, in which my senses could catch anything beyond
the horrid scene in which I was so closely engaged, I had heard shrill
screams from the lungs of Chloe; but Lucy's voice had not mingled in the
outcry. Even now, as we were raised, or aided, to the deck, the former
stood, with her face glistening with tears, half convulsed with terror and
half expanding with delight, uncertain whether to laugh or to weep,
looking first at her master and then at her own admirer, until her
feelings found a vent in the old exclamation of "der feller!"
It was fortunate for Andrew Drewett that a man of Post's experience and
steadiness was with us. No sooner was the seemingly lifeless body on
board, than Mr. Hardinge ordered the water-cask to be got out; and he and
Marble would have soon been rolling the poor fellow with all their might,
or holding him up by the heels, under the notion that the water he had
swallowed must be got out of him, before he could again breathe; but the
authority of one so high in the profession soon put a stop to this.
Drewett's wet clothes were immediately removed, blankets were warmed at
the galley, and the most judicious means were resorted to, in order to
restore the circulation. The physician soon detected signs of life, and,
ordering all but one or two assistants to leave the spot, in ten minutes
Drewett was placed in a warm bed, and might be considered out of danger.
The terrific scene enacted so directly before his eyes, produced an effect
on the _Albon_-ny man, who consented to haul aft his main-sheet, lower his
studding-sail and top-sail, come by the wind, stand across to the
Wallingford, heave-to, and lower a boat. This occurred just as Drewett was
taken below; and, a minute later, old Mrs. Drewett and her two daughters,
Helen and Caroline, were brought alongside of us. The fears of these
tender relatives were allayed by my report; for, by this time, I could
both talk and walk; and Post raised no objection to their being permitted
to go below. I seized that opportunity to jump down into the sloop's hold,
where Neb brought me some dry clothes; and I was soon in a warm,
delightful glow, that contributed in no small degree to my comfort. So
desperate had been my struggles, however, that it took a good night's rest
completely to restore the tone of my nerves and all my strength. My
arrangements were barely completed, when I was summoned to the cabin.
Grace met me with extended arms. She wept on my bosom for many minutes.
She was dreadfully agitated as it was; though happily she knew nothing of
the cause of Chloe's screams, and of the confusion on deck, until I was
known to be safe. Then Lucy communicated all the facts to her in as
considerate a manner as her own kind and gentle nature could dictate. I
was sent for, as just stated, and caressed like any other precious thing
that its owner had supposed itself about to lose. We were still in an
agitated state, when Mr. Hardinge appeared at the door of the cabin, with
a prayer-book in his hand. He demanded our attention, all kneeling in both
cabins, while the good, simple-minded old man read some of the collects,
the Lord's Prayer, and concluded with the thanksgiving for "a safe return
from sea"! He would have given us the marriage ceremony itself, before he
would have gone out of the prayer-book for any united worship whatever.
It was impossible not to smile at this last act of pious simplicity, while
it was equally impossible not to be touched with such an evidence of
sincere devotion. The offering had a soothing influence on all our
feelings, and most especially on those of the excited females. As I came
out into the main-cabin, after this act of devotion, the excellent divine
took me in his arms, kissed me just as he had been used to do when a boy,
and blessed me aloud. I confess I was obliged to rush on deck to conceal
In a few minutes I became sufficiently composed to order sail made on our
course, when we followed the Orpheus up the river, soon passing her, and
taking care to give her a wide berth; a precaution I long regretted not
having used at first. As Mrs. Drewett and her two daughters refused to quit
Andrew, we had the whole family added to our party, as it might be, per
force. I confess to having been sufficiently selfish to complain a little,
to myself only, however, at always finding these people in my way, during
the brief intervals I now enjoyed of being near Lucy. As there was no help
after seeing all the canvass spread, I took a seat in one of the chairs
that stood on the main-deck, and began, for the first time, coolly to
ponder on all that had just passed. While thus occupied, Marble drew a
chair to my side, gave me a cordial squeeze of the hand, and began to
converse. At this moment, neatly tricked out in dry clothes, stood Neb on
the forecastle, with his arms folded, sailor-fashion, as calm as if he had
never felt the wind blow; occasionally giving in, however, under the
influence of Chloe's smiles and unsophisticated admiration. In these
moments of weakness the black would bow his head, give vent to a short
laugh when, suddenly recovering himself, he would endeavour to appear
dignified. While this pantomime was in the course of exhibition forward,
the discourse aft did not flag.
"Providence intends you for something remarkable, Miles," my mate
continued, after one or two brief expressions of his satisfaction at my
safety; "something uncommonly remarkable, depend on it. First, you were
spared in the boat off the Isle of Bourbon; then, in another boat off
Delaware Bay; next, you got rid of the Frenchman so dexterously in the
British Channel; after that, there was the turn-up with the bloody Smudge
and his companions; next comes the recapture of the Crisis; sixthly, as
one might say, you picked me up at sea, a runaway hermit; and now here,
this very day, seventhly and lastly, are you sitting safe and sound, after
carrying as regular a lubber as ever fell overboard, on your head and
shoulders, down to the bottom of the Hudson, no less than three times! I
consider you to be the only man living who ever sank his three times, and
came up to tell of it, with his own tongue."
"I am not at all conscious of having said one word about it, Moses," I
retorted, a little drily.
"Every motion, every glance of your eye, boy, tells the story. No;
Providence intends you for something remarkable, you may rely on _that_.
One of these days you may go to Congress--who knows?"
"By the same rule, you are to be included, then; for in most of my
adventures you have been a sharer, besides having quantities that are
exclusively your own. Remember, you have even been a hermit."
"Hu-s-h--not a syllable about it, or the children would run after me as a
sight. You must have generalized in a remarkable way, Miles, after you
sunk the last time, without much hope of coming up again?"
"Indeed, my friend, you are quite right in your conjecture. So near a view
of death is apt to make us all take rapid and wide views of the past. I
believe it even crossed my mind that _you_ would miss me sadly."
"Ay," returned Marble, with feeling; "them are the moments to bring out
the truth! Not a juster idee passed your brain than _that_, Master Miles,
I can assure you. Missed you! I would have bought a boat and started for
Marble Land, never again to quit it, the day after the funeral. But there
stands your cook, fidgeting and looking this way, as if she had a word to
put in on the occasion. This expl'ite of Neb's will set the niggers up in
the world; and it wouldn't surprise me if it cost you a suit of finery
"A price I will cheerfully pay for my life. It is as you say--Dido
certainly wishes to speak to me, and I must give her an invitation to
Dido Clawbonny was the cook of the family, and the mother of Chloe.
Whatever hypercriticism might object to her colour, which was a black out
of which all the gloss had fairly glistened itself over the fire, no one
could deny her being full blown. Her weight was exactly two hundred, and
her countenance a strange medley of the light-heartedness of her race, and
the habitual and necessary severity of a cook. She often protested that
she was weighed down by "responserbility;" the whole of the discredit of
overdone beef, or under-done fish, together with those which attach
themselves to heavy bread, lead-like buckwheat-cakes, and a hundred other
similar cases, belonging exclusively to her office. She had been twice
married, the last connection having been formed only a twelvemonth before.
In obedience to a sign, this important lady now approached.
"Welcome back, Masser Mile," Dido began with a curtsey, meaning "Welcome
back from being half-drowned;" "ebberybody _so_ grad you isn't hurt!"
"Thank you, Dido--thank you with all my heart. If I have gained nothing
else by the ducking, I have gained a knowledge of the manner in which my
servants love me."
"Lor' bless us all! How we help it, Masser Mile? As if a body can
posserbly help how lub come and go! Lub jest like religion, Masser
Mile--some get him, and some don't. But lub for a young masser and a young
missus, sah--_dat_ jest as nat'ral, as lub for ole masser and ole missus.
I t'ink nut'in' of neider."
Luckily, I was too well acquainted with the Clawbonny dialect to need a
vocabulary in order to understand the meaning of Dido. All she wished to
express was the idea that it was so much a matter of course for the
dependants of the family to love its heads, that she did not think the
mere circumstance, in itself, worthy of a second thought.
"Well, Dido," I said, "how does matrimony agree with you, in your old
age? I hear you took a second partner to yourself, while I was last
Dido let her eyes fall on the deck, according to the custom of all brides,
let their colour be what it may; manifested a proper degree of confusion,
then curtsied, turned her full moon-face so as to resemble a half-moon,
and answered, with a very suspicious sort of a sigh--
"Yes, Masser Mile, dat jest so. I did t'ink to wait and ask 'e young
masser's consent; but Cupid say"--not the god of love, but an old negro of
that name, Dido's second partner--"but Cupid say, 'what odd he make to
Masser Mile; he long way off, and he won't care:' and so, sah, rader than
be tormented so by Cupid, one had altogedder better be married at
once--dat all, sah."
"And that is quite enough, my good woman; that everything may be in rule,
I give my consent now, and most cheerfully."
"T'ankee, sah!" dropping a curtsey, and showing her teeth.
"Of course the ceremony was performed by our excellent rector, good Mr.
"Sartain, sah--no Clawbonny nigger t'ink he marry at all, 'less Masser
Hardinge bless him and say Amen. Ebberybody say 'e marriage is as good as
ole Masser and Missusses. Dis make two time Dido got married; and both
time good, lawful ceremunny, as ebber was. Oh! yes, sah!"
"And I hope your change of condition has proved to your mind, Dido, now
the thing is done. Old Cupid is no great matter in the way of beauty,
certainly; but he is an honest, sober fellow enough."
"Yes, sah, he _dat_, no one _can_ deny. Ah! Masser Mile, em 'ere
step-husband, after all, nebber jest like a body own husband! Cupid
_berry_ honest, and _berry_ sober; but he only step-husband; and _dat_ I
tell him twenty time already, I do t'ink, if trut' was said."
"Perhaps you have now said it often enough--twenty times are quite
sufficient to tell a man such a fact."
"Yes, sah," dropping another curtsey, "if Masser Mile please."
"I do please, and think you have told him _that_ often enough. If a man
won't learn a thing in twenty lessons, he is not worth the trouble of
teaching. So tell him he's a step-husband no more, but try something else.
I hope he makes Chloe a good father?"
"Lor', sah, he no Chloe's fadder, at all--_her_ fadder dead and gone, and
nebber come back. I want to say a word to young Masser, 'bout Chloe and
dat 'ere fellow, Neb--yes, sah."
"Well, what is it, Dido? I see they like each other, and suppose _they_
wish to get married, too. Is that the object of your visit? if so, I
consent without waiting to be asked. Neb will make no step-husband, I can
"Don't be in a hurry, Masser Mile," said Dido, with an eagerness that
showed this ready consent was anything but what she wanted. "Dere many
'jection to Neb, when he ask to marry a young gal in Chloe sitiation. You
know, sah, Chloe now Miss Grace's own waitin'-maid. Nobody else help her
dress, or do anything in 'e young missus's room, dan Chloe, sheself--my
darter, Chloe Clawbonny!"
Here was a new turn given to the affair! It was "like master, like man."
Neb's love (or _lub_, for that was just the word, and just the idea, too)
was no more fated to run smooth than my own; and the same objection lay
against us both, viz., want of gentility! I determined to say a good word
for the poor fellow, however; while it would have been exceeding the usage
of the family to interfere in any other manner than by advice, in an
affair of the heart.
"If Chloe is my sister's favourite servant, Dido," I remarked, "you are to
remember that Neb is mine."
"Dat true, sah, and so Chloe say; but dere great difference, Masser Mile,
atween Clawbonny and a ship. Neb own, himself, young Masser, he doesn't
even lib in cabin, where you lib, sah."
"All that is true, Dido; but there is a difference of another sort between
a ship and a house. The house-servant may be more liked and trusted than
the out-door servant; but we think, at sea, it is more honourable to be a
foremast-hand than to be in the cabin, unless as an officer. I was a
foremast Jack some time, myself; and Neb is only in such a berth as his
master once filled."
"Dat a great deal--quite won'erful, sah--berry great deal, and more dan
Chloe can say, or I can wish her to say. But, sah, dey say now Neb has
save 'e young masser's life, young masser must gib him free-paper; and no
gal of mine shall ebber be free nigger's wife. No, sah; 'scuse me from dat
disgrace, which too much for fait'ful ole servant to bear!"
"I am afraid, Dido, Neb is the same way of thinking. I offered him his
freedom, the other day, and he refused to receive it. Times are changing
in this country; and it will be thought, soon, it is more creditable for a
black to be free, than to be any man's slave. The law means to free all
hands of you, one of these days."
"Nebber tell me dat, Masser Mile--dat day nebber come for me or mine; even
ole Cupid know better dan _dat_. Now, sah, Misser Van Blarcum's Brom want
to have Chloe, dreadful; but I nebber consent to sich a uner"--(Dido meant
union)--"nebber. Our family, sah, altogedder too good to marry in among
the Van Blarcums. Nebber has been, and never shall be uner atween 'em."
"I was not aware, Dido, that the Clawbonny slaves were so particular about
"Won'erful particular, sah, and ebber hab been, and ebber will be. Don't
t'ink, Masser Mile, I marry ole Cupid, myself, if anoder prop'r connection
offer in 'e family; but I prefar him, to marry into any oder family
"Neb is Clawbonny, and my great friend; so I hope you will think better of
his suit. Some day Chloe may like to be free; and Neb will always have it
in his power to make his wife free, as well as himself."
"Sah, I t'ink, as you say, Masser Miles, sah--when I hab done t'inkin',
sah, hope young masser and young missus hear what ole cook got to say,
afore 'ey gives consent."
"Certainly; Chloe is your daughter, and she shall pay you all due
respect--for that, I will answer for my sister as well as for myself. We
will never encourage disrespect for parents."
Dido renewed and redoubled her thanks, made another profound curtsey, and
withdrew with a dignity that, I dare say, in Neb's and Chloe's eyes, boded
little good. As for myself, I now mused on the character of the things of
this world. Here were people of the very humblest class known in a
nation--nay, of a class sealed by nature itself, and doomed to
inferiority--just as tenacious of the very distinctions that were making
me so miserable, and against which certain persons, who are wiser than the
rest of the world, declaim without understanding them, and even go so far,
sometimes, as to deny their existence. My cook reasoned, in her sphere,
much as I knew that Rupert reasoned, as the Drewetts reasoned, as the
world reasoned, and, as I feared, even Lucy reasoned in my own case! The
return of Marble, who had left my side as soon as Dido opened her budget,
prevented my dwelling long on this strange--I had almost said,
uncouth--coincidence, and brought my mind back to present things.
"As the old woman has spun her yarn, Miles," the mate resumed, "we will go
on with matters and things. I have been talking with the mother of the
youngster that fell overboard, and giving her some advice for the benefit
of her son in time to come; and what do you think she gives as the reason
for the silly thing he did?"
"It is quite out of my power to say--that he was a silly fellow naturally,
"Love. It seems the poor boy is in love with this sweet friend of yours,
Rupert's sister; and it was nothing more nor less than love which made him
undertake to play rope-dancer on our main-boom!"
"Did Mrs. Drewett tell you this, with her own mouth, Marble?"
"That did she, Captain Wallingford; for, while you were discussing Neb and
Chloe with old Dido, we, that is, the doctor, the mother and myself, were
discussing Andrew and Lucy between ourselves. The good old lady gave me to
understand it was a settled thing, and that she looked on Miss Hardinge,
already, as a third daughter."
This was a strange subject for Mrs. Drewett to discuss with a man like
Marble, or even with Post; but some allowances were to be made for
Marble's manner of viewing his own connection with the dialogue, and more
for the excited condition of the mother's feelings. She was scarcely yet
in possession of all her faculties, and might very well commit an
indiscretion of this nature, more especially in her conversation with a
man in Post's position, overlooking or disregarding the presence of the
mate. The effect of all that had passed was to leave a strong impression
on my mind that I was too late. Lucy must be engaged, and waited only to
become of age, in order to make the settlements she intended in favour of
her brother, ere she was married. Her manner to myself was merely the
result of habit and sincere friendship; a little increased in interest and
gentleness, perhaps, on account of the grievous wrong she felt we had
received from Rupert. What right had I to complain, admitting all this to
be true? I had scarcely been aware of my own passion for the dear girl for
years, and had certainly never attempted to make her acquainted with it.
She had made me no pledges, plighted no faith, received no assurances of
attachment, was under no obligation to wait my pleasure. So sincere was my
affection for Lucy, that I rejoiced, even in my misery, when I remembered
that not the slightest imputation could be laid on her deportment, truth,
or frankness. On the whole, it was perhaps the more natural that she
should love Andrew Drewett, one she met for the first time after she
became of an age to submit to such impressions, than to love me, whom she
had been educated to treat with the familiarity and confidence of a
brother. Yes; I was even just enough to admit this.
The scene of the morning, and the presence of Mrs. Drewett and her
daughters, produced an entire change in the spirits and intercourse of our
party. The ladies remained below most of the time; and as for Drewett
himself, he was advised by Post not to quit his berth until he found his
strength restored. Mr. Hardinge passed much time by Andrew Drewett's side,
offering such attentions as might be proper from a father to a son. At
least it so seemed to me. This left Marble and myself in possession of the
quarter-deck, though we had occasional visits from all below--Grace, Lucy,
and old Mrs. Drewett, excepted.
In the mean time, the Wallingford continued to ascend the river, favoured
until evening by a light southerly breeze. She outsailed everything; and,
just as the sun was sinking behind the fine termination of the Cattskill
range of mountains, we were some miles above the outlet of the stream that
has lent it its name.
A lovelier landscape can scarce be imagined than that which presented
itself from the deck of the sloop. It was the first time I had ascended
the river, or indeed that any of the Clawbonny party had been up it so
high, Mr. Hardinge excepted; and everybody was called on deck to look at
the beauties of the hour. The sloop was about a mile above Hudson, and the
view was to be gazed at towards the south. This is perhaps the finest
reach of this very beautiful stream, though it is not the fashion to think
so; the Highlands being the part usually preferred. It is easy enough for
me, who have since lived among the sublimity of the Swiss and Italian
lakes, to understand that there is nothing of a very sublime character,
relatively considered, in any of the reaches of the Hudson; but it would
be difficult to find a river that has so much which is exquisitely
beautiful; and this, too, of a beauty which borders on the grand. Lucy was
the first person to create any doubts in my mind concerning the perfection
of the Highlands. Just as the cockney declaims about Richmond Hill--the
_inland_ view from Mont-Martre, of a clouded day, is worth twenty of
it--but just as the provincial London cockney declaims about Richmond
Hill, so has the provincial American been in the habit of singing the
praises of the Highlands of the Hudson. The last are sufficiently
striking, I will allow; but they are surpassed in their own kind by a
hundred known mountain landscapes; while the softer parts of the river
have scarcely a rival. Lucy, I repeat, was the first person to teach me
this distinction--Lucy, who then had never seen either Alps or Apennines.
But her eye was as true as her principles, her tongue, or her character.
All was truth about this dear girl--truth unadulterated and unalloyed.
"Certainly, my dear Mrs. Drewett," the dear girl said, as she stood
supporting the old lady, who leaned on her arm, gazing at the glorious
sunset, "the Highlands have nothing to equal this! To me this seems all
that art could achieve; while I confess the views in the mountains have
ever appeared to want something that the mind can imagine."
Mrs. Drewett, though a respectable, was a common-place woman. She belonged
to the vast class that do most of their thinking by proxy; and it was a
sort of heresy in her eyes to fancy anything could surpass the Highlands.
Poor Mrs. Drewett! She was exceedingly cockney, without having the
slightest suspicion of it. _Her_ best ought to be everybody else's best.
She combated Lucy's notion warmly, therefore, protesting that the
Highlands _could_ not have a superior. This is a sort of argument it is
not easy to overcome; and her companion was content to admire the scene
before her, in silence, after urging one or two reasons, in support of her
opinion, in her own quiet, unpretending manner.
I overheard this little argument, and was a close observer of the manner
of the parlies. Mrs. Drewett was extremely indulgent, even while warmest,
seeming to me to resist Lucy's opinion as an affectionate mother would
contend with the mistaken notions of a very favourite child. On the other
hand, Lucy appeared confiding, and spoke as the young of her sex are most
apt to do, when they utter their thoughts to ears they feel must be
A sunset cannot last for ever; and even this, sweet as it had been, soon
became tame and tasteless to me. As the ladies now disappeared, I
determined to anchor, the wind failing, and the tide coming ahead. Marble
and myself had a sort of state-room fitted up for us in the hold; and
thither I was glad to retire, standing really in need of rest, after the
terrible exertions of that day. What passed in the cabins that evening, I
had no opportunity of knowing, though I heard laughing, and happy female
voices, through the bulkheads, hours after my own head was on its pillow.
When Marble came down to turn in, he told me the cabin party had revived,
and that there had been much pleasant discourse among the young people;
and this in a way to cause even him to derive great satisfaction as
Neb gave us a call at daylight. The wind was fresh at west-north-west,
but the tide was just beginning to run on the flood. I was so impatient to
be rid of my guests, that all hands were called immediately, and we got
the sloop under-way. The pilot professed himself willing to beat up
through the narrow passages above, and, the Wallingford's greatest
performance being on the wind, I was determined to achieve my deliverance
that very tide. The sloop drew more water than was usual for the up-river
craft, it is true, but she was light, and, just at the moment, could go
wherever the loaded Albany vessels went. Those were not the days of vast
public works; and as for sea-going craft, none had ever crossed the
Overslaugh, so far as had come to my knowledge. Times have changed
greatly, since; but the reader will remember I am writing of that remote
period in American history, the year of our Lord 1803.
The anchor was no sooner aweigh, than the deck became a scene of activity.
The breeze was stiff, and it enabled me to show the Wallingford off to
advantage among the dull, flat-bottomed craft of that day. There were
reaches in which the wind favoured us, too; and, by the time the ladies
reappeared, we were up among the islands, worming our way through the
narrow channels with rapidity and skill. To me, and to Marble also, the
scene was entirely novel; and between the activity that our evolutions
required, and the constant change of scene, we had little leisure to
attend to those in the cabin. Just as breakfast was announced, indeed, the
vessel was approaching the more difficult part of the river; and all we
got of that meal, we took on deck, at snatches, between the many tacks we
made. As good-luck would have it, however, the wind backed more to the
westward about eight o'clock; and we were enabled to stem the ebb that
began to make at the same time. This gave us the hope of reaching the end
of our passage without again anchoring.
At length we reached the Overslaugh, which, as was apt to be the case, was
well sprinkled with vessels aground. The pilot carried us through them
all, however; if not literally with flying colours, which would have been
regarded as an insult by the less fortunate, at least with complete
success. Then Albany came into view, leaning against its sharp acclivity,
and spreading over its extensive bottom-land. It was not the town it is
to-day, by quite three-fourths less in dwellings and people; but it was
then, as now, one of the most picturesque-looking places in America. There
is no better proof, in its way, how much more influence the talking and
writing part of mankind have than the mere actors, than is to be found in
the relative consideration of Albany, on the scale of appearance and
position, as compared with those enjoyed by a hundred other towns, more
especially in the Eastern States. Almost without a competitor, as to
beauty of situation, or at least on a level with Richmond and Burlington,
among the inland towns, it was usually esteemed a Dutch place that every
pretender was at liberty to deride, in my younger days. We are a people by
no means addicted to placing our candle under the bushel and yet I cannot
recall a single civil expression in any native writer touching the
beauties of Albany. It may have been owing to the circumstance that so
much of the town was under the hill at the beginning of the century, and
that strangers had few opportunities of seeing it to advantage; but I
rather think its want of the Anglo-Saxon origin was the principal reason
it was so little in favour.
Glad enough was I to reach the wharves, with their line of storehouses,
that then literally spouted wheat into the sloops that crowded the quays,
on its way to feed the contending armies of Europe. Late as it was in the
season, wheat was still pouring outward through all the channels of the
country, enriching the farmers with prices that frequently rose as high as
two dollars and a half the bushel, and sometimes as high as three. Yet no
one was so poor in America as to want bread! The dearer the grain, the
higher the wages of the labourer, and the better he lived.
It was not at all late when the Wallingford was slowly approaching the
wharf where it was intended to bring-up. There was a sloop ahead of us,
which we had been gradually approaching for the last two hours, but which
was enabled to keep in advance in consequence of the lightness of the
wind. This dying away of the breeze rendered the approaching noon-tide
calm and pleasant; and everybody in-board, even to Grace, came on deck, as
we moved slowly past the dwellings on the eastern bank, in order to get a
view of the town. I proposed that the Clawbonny party should land,
contrary to our original intention, and profit by the opportunity to see
the political capital of the State at our leisure. Both Grace and Lucy
were inclined to listen favourably; and the Drewetts, Andrew and his
sisters, were delighted at this prospect of our remaining together a
little longer. Just at this moment, the Wallingford, true to her
character, was coming up with the sloop ahead, and was already doubling on
her quarter. I was giving some orders, when Lucy and Chloe, supporting
Grace, passed me on their way to the cabin. My poor sister was pale as
death, and I could see that she trembled so much she could hardly walk. A
significant glance from Lucy bade me not to interfere, and I hid
sufficient self-command to obey. I turned to look at the neighbouring
sloop, and found at once an explanation of my sister's agitation. The
Mertons and Rupert were on her quarter-deck, and so near as to render it
impossible to avoid speaking, at least to the former. At this embarrassing
instant Lucy returned to my side, with a view, as I afterwards learned, to
urge me to carry the Wallingford to some place so distant, as to remove
the danger of any intercourse. This accident rendered the precaution
useless, the whole party in the other vessel catching sight of my
companion at the same moment.
"This is an agreeable surprise!" called out Emily, in whose eyes Rupert's
sister could not be an object of indifference. "By your brother's and Mrs.
Drewett's account, we had supposed you at Clawbonny, by the bed-side of
"Miss Wallingford is here, as are my father, and Mrs. Drewett, and--"
Lucy never let it be known who that other "and" was intended to include.
"Well, this is altogether surprising!" put in Rupert, with a steadiness of
voice that really astounded me. "At the very moment we were giving you
lots of credit for your constancy in friendship, and all that sort of
thing, here you are, Mademoiselle Lucie, trotting off to the Springs, like
all the rest of us, bent on pleasure."
"No, Rupert," answered Lucy, in a tone which I thought could not fail to
bring the heartless coxcomb to some sense of the feeling he ought to
manifest; "I am going to no Springs. Dr. Post has advised a change of
scene and air for Grace; and Miles has brought us all up in his sloop,
that we may endeavour to contribute to the dear sufferer's comfort, in one
united family. We shall not land in Albany."
I took my cue from these last words, and understood that I was not even to
bring the sloop alongside the wharf.
"Upon my word, it is just as she says, Colonel!" cried Rupert. "I can see
my father on the forecastle, with Post, and divers others of my
acquaintance. Ay--and there's Drewett, as I live! Wallingford, too! How
fare you, noble captain, up in this fresh-water stream? You must be
strangely out of your latitude."
"How do you do, Mr. Hardinge?" I coldly returned the salutation; and then
I was obliged to speak to the Major and his daughter. But Neb was at the
helm, and I had given him a sign to sheer further from our companion. This
soon reduced the intercourse to a few wavings of handkerchiefs, and
kissings of the hand, in which all the Drewetts came in for a share. As
for Lucy, she walked aside, and I seized the occasion to get a word
"What am I to do with the sloop?" I asked. "It will soon be necessary to
come to some decision."
"By no means go to the wharf. Oh! this has been most cruel. The
cabin-windows are open, and Grace _must_ have heard every syllable. Not
even a question as to her health! I dread to go below and witness
I wished not to speak of Rupert to his sister, and avoided the subject.
The question, therefore, was simply repeated. Lucy inquired if it were not
possible to land our passengers without bringing-up, and, hearing the
truth on the subject, she renewed her entreaties not to land. Room was
taken accordingly, and the sloop, as soon as high enough, was rounded-to,
and the boat lowered. The portmanteau of Post was placed in it, and the
Drewetts were told that everything was ready to put them ashore.
"Surely we are not to part thus!" exclaimed the old lady. "You intend to
land, Lucy, if not to accompany us to Ballston? The waters might prove of
service to Miss Wallingford."
"Dr. Post thinks not, but advises us to return tranquilly down the river.
We may yet go as far as Sandy Hook, or even into the Sound. It all depends
on dear Grace's strength and inclinations."
Protestations of regret and disappointment followed, for everybody
appeared to think much of Lucy, and very little of my poor sister. Some
attempts were even made at persuasion; but the quiet firmness of Lucy soon
convinced her friends that she was not to be diverted from her purpose.
Mr. Hardinge, too, had a word to say in confirmation of his daughter's
decision; and the travellers reluctantly prepared to enter the boat. After
he had assisted his mother over the sloop's side, Andrew Drewett turned to
me, and in fair, gentleman-like, manly language, expressed his sense of the
service I had rendered him. After this acknowledgment, the first he had
made, I could do no less than shake his hand; and we parted in the manner
of those who have conferred and received a favour.
I could perceive that Lucy's colour heightened, and that she looked
exceedingly gratified, while this little scene was in the course of being
acted, though I was unable to comprehend the precise feeling that was
predominant in her honest and truthful heart. Did that increased colour
proceed from pleasure at the handsome manner in which Drewett acquitted
himself of one of the most embarrassing of all our duties--the admission
of a deep obligation? or was it in any manner connected with her interest
in me? I could not ask, and of course did not learn. This scene, however,
terminated our intercourse with the Drewetts, for the moment; the boat
pulling away immediately after.
"----Misplaced in life,
I know not what I could have been, but feel
I am not what I should be--let it end."
Glad enough was I to find the quiet and domestic character of my vessel
restored. Lucy had vanished as soon as it was proper; but, agreeably to
her request, I got the sloop's head down-stream, and began our
return-passage, without even thinking of putting a foot on the then
unknown land of Albany. Marble was too much accustomed to submit without
inquiry to the movements of the vessel he was in, to raise any objections;
and the Wallingford, her boat in tow, was soon turning down with the tide,
aided by a light westerly wind, on her homeward course. This change kept
all on deck so busy, that it was some little time ere I saw Lucy again.
When we did meet, however, I found her sad, and full of apprehension.
Grace had evidently been deeply hurt by Rupert's deportment. The effect on
her frame was such, that it was desirable to let her be as little
disturbed as possible. Lucy hoped she might fall asleep; for, like an
infant, her exhausted physical powers sought relief in this resource,
almost as often as the state of her mind would permit. Her existence,
although I did not then know it, was like that of the flame which flickers
in the air, and which is endangered by the slightest increase of the
current to which the lamp may be exposed.
We succeeded in getting across the Overslaugh without touching, and had
got down among the islands below Coejiman's, when we were met by the
new flood. The wind dying away to a calm, we were compelled to select a
berth, and anchor. As soon as we were snug, I sought an interview with
Lucy; but the dear girl sent me word by Chloe that Grace was dozing, and
that she could not see me just at that moment, as her presence in the
cabin was necessary in order to maintain silence. On receiving this
message, I ordered the boat hauled up alongside; Marble, myself and Neb
got in; when the black sculled us ashore--Chloe grinning at the latter's
dexterity, as with one hand, and a mere play of the wrist, he caused the
water to foam under the bows of our little bark.
[Footnote 1: Queemans, as pronounced. This is a Dutch, not an Indian
name, and belongs to a respectable New York family.]
The spot where we landed was a small but lovely gravelly cove, that was
shaded by three or four enormous weeping-willows, and presented the very
picture of peace and repose. It was altogether a retired and rural bit,
there being near it no regular landing, no reels for seines, nor any of
those signs that denote a place of resort. A single cottage stood on a
small natural terrace, elevated some ten or twelve feet above the rich
bottom that sustained the willows. This cottage was the very _beau ideal_
of rustic neatness and home comfort. It was of stone, one story in height,
with a high pointed roof, and had a Dutch-looking gable that faced the
river, and which contained the porch and outer door. The stones were
white as the driven snow, having been washed a few weeks before. The
windows had the charm of irregularity; and everything about the dwelling
proclaimed a former century, and a regime different from that under which
we were then living. In fact, the figures 1698, let in as iron braces to
the wall of the gable, announced that the house was quite as old as the
second structure at Clawbonny.
The garden of this cottage was not large, but it was in admirable order.
It lay entirely in the rear of the dwelling; and behind it, again, a small
orchard, containing about a hundred trees, on which the fruit began to
show itself in abundance, lay against the sort of amphitheatre that almost
enclosed this little nook against the intrusion and sight of the rest of
the world. There were also half a dozen huge cherry trees, from which the
fruit had not yet altogether disappeared, near the house, to which they
served the double purpose of ornament and shade. The out-houses seemed to
be as old as the dwelling, and were in quite as good order.
As we drew near the shore, I directed Neb to cease sculling, and sat
gazing at this picture of retirement, and, apparently, of content, while
the boat drew towards the gravelly beach, under the impetus
"This is a hermitage I think I could stand, Miles," said Marble, whose
look had not been off the spot since the moment we left the sloop's side.
"This is what I should call a human hermitage, and none of your out and
out solitudes Room for pigs and poultry; a nice gravelly beach for your
boat; good fishing in the offing, I'll answer for it; a snug
shoulder-of-mutton sort of a house; trees as big as a two-decker's lower
masts; and company within hail, should a fellow happen to take it into his
head that he was getting melancholy. This is just the spot I would like to
fetch-up in, when it became time to go into dock. What a place to smoke a
segar in is that bench up yonder, under the cherry tree; and grog must
have a double flavour alongside of that spring of fresh water!"
"You could become the owner of this very place, Moses, and then we should
be neighbours, and might visit each other by water. It cannot be much more
than fifty miles from this spot to Clawbonny."
"I dare say, now, that they would think of asking, for a place like this,
as much money as would buy a good wholesome ship--a regular A. No. 1."
"No such thing; a thousand or twelve hundred dollars would purchase the
house, and all the land we can see--some twelve or fifteen acres, at the
most. You have more than two thousand salted away, I know, Moses, between
prize-money, wages, adventures, and other matters."
"I could hold my head up under two thousand, of a sartainty. I wish the
place was a little nearer Clawbonny, say eight or ten miles off; and then
I do think I should talk to the people about a trade."
"It's quite unnecessary, after all. I have quite as snug a cove, near the
creek bluff at Clawbonny, and will build a house for you there, you shall
not tell from a ship's cabin; that would be more to your fancy."
"I've thought of that, too, Miles, and at one time fancied it would be a
prettyish sort of an idee; but it won't stand logarithms, at all. You may
build a room that shall have its cabin _look_, but you can't build one
that'll have a cabin _natur_' You may get carlins, and transoms, and
lockers and bulkheads all right; but where are you to get your motion?
What's a cabin without motion? It would soon be like the sea in the calm
latitudes, offensive to the senses. No! none of your bloody motionless
cabins for me. If I'm afloat, let me be afloat; if I'm ashore, let me be
Ashore we were by this time, the boat's keel grinding gently on the
pebbles of the beach. We landed and walked towards the cottage, there
being nothing about the place to forbid our taking this liberty. I told
Marble we would ask for a drink of milk, two cows being in sight, cropping
the rich herbage of a beautiful little pasture. This expedient at first
seemed unnecessary, no one appearing about the place to question our
motives, or to oppose our progress. When we reached the door of the
cottage, we found it open, and could look within without violating any of
the laws of civilization. There was no vestibule, or entry; but the door
communicated directly with a room of some size, and which occupied the
whole front of the building. I dare say this single room was twenty feet
square, besides being of a height a little greater than was then customary
in buildings of that class. This apartment was neatness itself. It had a
home-made, but really pretty, carpet on the floor; contained a dozen
old-fashioned, high-back chairs, in some dark wood; two or three tables,
in which one might see his face; a couple of mirrors of no great size, but
of quaint gilded ornaments; a beaufet with some real china in it; and the
other usual articles of a country residence that was somewhat above the
ordinary farm-houses of the region, and yet as much below the more modest
of the abodes of the higher class. I supposed the cottage to be the
residence of some small family that had seen more of life than was
customary with the mere husbandman, and yet not enough to raise it much
above the level of the husbandman's homely habits.
We were looking in from the porch, on this scene of rural peace and
faultless neatness, when an inner door opened in the deliberate manner
that betokens age, and the mistress of the cottage-appeared. She was a
woman approaching seventy, of middle size, a quiet but firm step, and an
air of health. Her dress was of the fashion of the previous century,
plain, but as neat as everything around her--a spotless white apron
seeming to bid defiance to the approach of anything that could soil its
purity. The countenance of this old woman certainly did not betoken any of
the refinement which is the result of education and good company; but it
denoted benevolence, a kind nature, and feeling. We were saluted without
surprise, and invited in, to be seated.
"It isn't often that sloops anchor here," said the old woman-lady, it
would be a stretch of politeness to call her--their favour_yte_ places
being higher up, and lower down, the river."
"And how do you account for that, mother?" asked Marble, who seated
himself and addressed the mistress of the cottage with a seaman's
frankness. "To my fancy, this is the best anchorage I 've seen in many a
day; one altogether to be coveted. One might be as much alone as he liked,
in a spot like this, without absolutely turning your bloody hermit."
The old woman gazed at Marble like one who scarce know what to make of
such an animal; and yet her look was mild and indulgent.
"I account for the boatmen's preferring other places to this," she said,
"by the circumstance that there is no tavern here; while there is one two
miles above, and another two miles below us."
"Your remark that there is no tavern here, reminds me of the necessity of
apologizing for coming so boldly to your door," I answered; "but we
sailors mean no impertinence, though we are so often guilty of it
"You are heartily welcome. I am glad to see them that understand how to
treat an old woman kindly, and know how to pity and pardon them that do
not. At my time of life we get to learn the value of fair words and good
treatment, for it's only a short time it will be in our power to show
either to our fellow-creatures."
"Your favourable disposition to your fellows comes from living all your
days in a spot as sweet as this."
"I would much rather think that it comes from God. He alone is the source
of all that is good within us."
"Yet a spot like this must have its influence on a character. I dare say
you have lived long in this very house, which, old us you profess to be,
seems to be much older than yourself. It has probably been your abode ever
since your marriage?"
"And long before, sir. I was born in this house, as was my father before
me. You are right in saying that I have dwelt in it ever since my
marriage, for I dwelt in it long before."
"This is not very encouraging for my friend here, who took such a fancy to
your cottage, as we came ashore, as to wish to own it; but I scarce think
he will venture to purchase, now he knows how dear it must be to you."
"And has your friend no home--no place in which to put his family?"
"Neither home nor family, my good mother." answered Marble for himself;
"and so much the greater reason, you will think, why I ought to begin to
think of getting both as soon as possible. I never had father or mother,
to my knowledge; nor house, nor home of any sort, but a ship. I forgot; I
was a hermit once, and set myself up in that trade, with a whole island to
myself; but I soon gave up all to natur', and got out of that scrape as
fast as I could. The business didn't suit me."
The old woman looked at Marble intently. I could see by her countenance
that the off-hand, sincere, earnest manner of the mate had taken some
unusual hold of her feelings.
"Hermit!" the good woman repeated with curiosity; "I have often heard and
read of such people; but you are not at all like them I have fancied to
"Another proof I undertook a business for which I was not fit. I suppose a
man before he sets up for a hermit ought to know something of his
ancestors, as one looks to the pedigree of a horse in order to find out
whether he is fit for a racer. Now, as I happen to know nothing of mine,
it is no wonder I fell into a mistake. It's an awkward thing, old lady,
for a man to be born without a name."
The eye of our hostess was still bright and full of animation, and I never
saw a keener look than she fastened on the mate, as he delivered himself
in this, one of his usual fits of misanthropical feeling.
"And were _you_ born without a name?" she asked, after gazing intently at
"Sartain. Everybody is born with only one name; but I happened to be born
without any name at all."
"This is so extr'or'nary, sir," added our old hostess, more interested
than I could have supposed possible for a stranger to become in Marble's
rough bitterness, "that I should like to hear how such a thing could be."
"I am quite ready to tell you all about it, mother; but, as one good turn
deserves another, I shall ask you first to answer me a few questions about
the ownership of this house, and cove, and orchard. When you have told
your story, I am ready to tell mine."
"I see how it is," said the old woman, in alarm. "You are sent here by Mr.
Van Tassel, to inquire about the money due on the mortgage, and to learn
whether it is likely to be paid or not."
"We are not sent here at all, my good old lady," I now thought it time to
interpose, for the poor woman was very obviously much alarmed, and in a
distress that even her aged and wrinkled countenance could not entirely
conceal. "We are just what you see--people belonging to that sloop, who
have come ashore to stretch their legs, and have never heard of any Mr.
Van Tassel, or any money, or any mortgage."
"Thank Heaven for that!" exclaimed the old woman, seeming to relieve her
mind, as well as body, by a heavy sigh. "'Squire Van Tassel is a hard man;
and a widow woman, with no relative at hand but a grand-darter that is
just sixteen, is scarce able to meet him. My poor old husband always
maintained that the money had been paid; but, now he is dead and gone,
'Squire Van Tassel brings forth the bond and mortgage, and says, 'If you
can prove that these are paid, I'm willing to give them up.'"
"This is so strange an occurrence, my dear old lady," I observed, "that
you have only to make us acquainted with the facts, to get another
supporter in addition to your grand-daughter. It is true, I am a stranger,
and have come here purely by accident; but Providence sometimes appears to
work in this mysterious manner, and I have a strong presentiment we may be
of use to you. Relate your difficulties, then; and you shall have the best
legal advice in the State, should your case require it."
The old woman seemed embarrassed; but, at the same time, she seemed
touched. We were utter strangers to her, it is true; yet there is a
language in sympathy which goes beyond that of the tongue, and which,
coming _from_ the heart, goes _to_ the heart. I was quite sincere in my
offers, and this sincerity appears to have produced its customary fruits.
I was believed; and, after wiping away a tear or two that forced
themselves into her eyes, our hostess answered me as frankly as I had
offered my aid.
"You do not look like 'Squire Van Tassel's men, for they seem to me to
think the place is theirs already. Such craving, covetous creatur's I
never before laid eyes on! I hope I may trust you?"
"Depend on us, mother," cried Marble, giving the old woman a cordial
squeeze of the hand. "My heart is in this business, for my mind was half
made up, at first sight, to own this spot myself--by honest purchase,
you'll understand me, and not by any of your land-shark tricks--and, such
being the case, you can easily think I'm not inclined to let this Mr.
Tassel have it,"
"It would be almost as sorrowful a thing to _sell_ this place," the good
woman answered, her countenance confirming all she said in words, "as to
have it torn from me by knaves. I have told you that even my father was
born in this very house. I was his only child; and when God called him
away, which he did about twelve years after my marriage, the little farm
came to me, of course. Mine it would have been at this moment, without let
or hindrance of any sort, but for a fault committed in early youth. Ah! my
friends, it is hopeless to do evil, and expect to escape the
"The evil _you_ have done, my good mother," returned Marble, endeavouring
to console the poor creature, down whose cheeks the tears now fairly began
to run; "the evil you have done, my good mother, can be no great matter.
If it was a question about a rough tar like myself, or even of Miles
there, who's a sort of sea-saint, something might be made of it, I make no
doubt; but your account must be pretty much all credit, and no debtor."
"That is a state that befalls none of earth, my young friend,"--Marble
_was_ young, compared to his companion, though a plump fifty,--"My sin was
no less than to break one of God's commandments."
I could see that my mate was a good deal confounded at this ingenuous
admission; for, in his eyes, breaking the commandments was either killing,
stealing, or blaspheming. The other sins of the decalogue he had come by
habit to regard as peccadilloes.
"I think this must be a mistake, mother," he said, in a sort of consoling
tone. "You may have fallen into some oversights, or mistakes; but this
breaking of the commandments is rather serious sort of work."
"Yet I broke the fifth; I forgot to honour my father and mother.
Nevertheless, the Lord has been gracious; for my days have already reached
threescore-and-ten. But this is His goodness--not any merit of my own!"
"Is it not a proof that the error has been forgiven?" I ventured to
remark. "If penitence can purchase peace, I feel certain you have earned
"One never knows! I think this calamity of the mortgage, and the danger I
run of dying without a roof to cover my head, may be all traced up to that
one act of disobedience, I have been a mother myself--may say I am a
mother now, for my grand-daughter is as dear to me as was her blessed
mother--and it is when we look _down_, rather than when we look _up_, as
it might be, that we get to understand the true virtue of this
"If it were impertinent curiosity that instigates the question, my old
friend," I added, "it would not be in my power to look you in the face, as
I do now, while begging you to let me know your difficulties. Tell them in
your own manner, but tell them with confidence; for, I repeat, we have the
power to assist you, and can command the best legal advice of
Again the old woman looked at me intently through her spectacles; then, as
if her mind was made up to confide in our honesty, she disburthened it of
"It would be wrong to tell you a part of my story, without telling you
all," she began; "for you might think Van Tassel and his set are alone to
blame, while my conscience tells me that little has happened that is not a
just punishment for my great sin. You'll have patience, therefore, with an
old woman, and hear her whole tale; for mine is not a time of life to
mislead any. The days of white-heads are numbered; and, was it not for
Kitty, the blow would not be quite so hard on me. You must know, we are
Dutch by origin--come of the ancient Hollanders of the colony--and were
Van Duzers by name. It's like, friends," added the good woman, hesitating,
"that you are Yankees by birth?"
"I cannot say I am," I answered, "though of English extraction. My family
is long of New York, but it does not mount back quite as far as the time
of the Hollanders."
"And your friend? He is silent; perhaps he is of New England? I would not
wish to hurt his feelings, for my story will bear a little hard, perhaps,
on his love of home."
"Never mind me, mother, but rowse it all up like entered cargo," said
Marble, in his usual bitter way when alluding to his own birth. "There's
not the man breathing that one can speak more freely before on such
matters, than Moses Marble."
"Marble!--that's a _hard_ name," returned the woman slightly smiling; "but
a _name_ is not a _heart_. My parents were Dutch; and you may have heard
how it was before the Revolution, between the Dutch and the Yankees. Near
neighbours, they did not love each other. The Yankees said the Dutch were
fools, and the Dutch said the Yankees were knaves. Now, as you may easily
suppose, I was born before the Revolution, when King George II. was on the
throne and ruled the country; and though it was long after the English got
to be our masters, it was before our people had forgotten their language
and their traditions. My father himself was born after the English
governors came among us, as I've heard him say; but it mattered not--he
loved Holland to the last, and the customs of his fathers."
"All quite right, mother," said Marble, a little impatiently; "but what of
all that? It's as nat'ral for a Dutchman to love Holland, as it is for an
Englishman to love Hollands. I've been in the Low Countries, and must say
it's a muskrat sort of a life the people lead; neither afloat nor ashore."
The old woman regarded Marble with more respect after this declaration;
for in that day, a travelled man was highly esteemed among us. In her
eyes, it was a greater exploit to have seen Amsterdam, than it would now
be to visit Jerusalem. Indeed, it is getting rather discreditable to a man
of the world not to have seen the Pyramids, the Red Sea, and the Jordan.
"My father loved it not the less, though he never saw the land of his
ancestors," resumed the old woman. "Notwithstanding the jealousy of the
Yankees, among us Dutch, and the mutual dislike, many of the former came
among us to seek their fortunes. They are not a home-staying people, it
would seem; and I cannot deny that cases have happened in which they have
been known to get away the farms of some of the Netherlands stock, in a
way that it would have been better not to have happened."
"You speak considerately, my dear woman," I remarked, "and like one that
has charity for all human failing."
"I ought to do so for my own sins, and I ought to do so to them of New
England; for my own husband was of that race."
"Ay, now the story is coming round regularly, Miles," said Marble, nodding
his head in approbation. "It will touch on love next, and, if trouble do
not follow, set me down as an ill-nat'red old bachelor. Love in a man's
heart is like getting heated cotton, or shifting ballast, into a
"I must confess to it," continued our hostess, smiling in spite of her
real sorrows--sorrows that were revived by thus recalling the events of
her early life--"a young man of Yankee birth came among us as a
schoolmaster, when I was only fifteen. Our people were anxious enough to
have us all taught to read English, for many had found the disadvantage of
being ignorant of the language of their rulers, and of the laws. I was
sent to George Wetmore's school, like most of the other young people of
the neighbourhood, and remained his scholar for three years. If you were
on the hill above the orchard yonder, you might see the school-house at
this moment; for it is only a short walk from our place, and a walk that I
made four times a day for just three years."
"One can see how the land lies now," cried Marble, lighting a segar, for
he thought no apology necessary for smoking under a Dutch roof. "The
master taught his scholar something more than he found in the
spelling-book, or the catechism. We'll take your word about the
school-house, seeing it is out of view."
"It was out of sight, truly, and that may have been the reason my parents
took it so hard when George Wetmore asked their leave to marry me. This
was not done until he had walked home with me, or as near home as the brow
on yon hill, for a whole twelvemonth, and had served a servitude almost as
long, and as patient, as that of Jacob for Rachel."
"Well, mother, how did the old people receive the question? Like
good-natured parents, I hope, for George's sake."
"Rather say like the children of Holland, judging of the children of New
England. They would not hear of it, but wished me to marry my own cousin,
Petrus Storm, who was not greatly beloved even in his own family."
"Of course you down anchor, and said you never would quit the moorings of
"If I rightly understand you, sir, I did something very different. I got
privately married to George, and he kept school near a twelvemonth longer,
up behind the hill, though most of the young women were taken away from
"Ay, the old way; the door was locked after the horse was stolen! Well,
you were married, mother----"
"After a time, it was necessary for me to visit a kinswoman who lived a
little down the river. There my first child was born, unknown to my
parents; and George gave it in charge to a poor woman who had lost her own
babe, for we were still afraid to let our secret be known to my parents.
Now commenced the punishment for breaking the fifth commandment."
"How's that, Miles?" demanded Moses. "Is it ag'in the commandments for a
married woman to have a son?"
"Certainly not, my friend; though it is a breach of the commandments not
to honour our parents. This good woman alludes to her marrying contrary to
the wishes of her father and mother."
"Indeed I do, sir, and dearly have I been punished for it. In a few weeks
I returned home, and was followed by the sad news of the death of my
first-born. The grief of these tidings drew the secret from me; and nature
spoke so loud in the hearts of my poor parents, that they forgave all,
took George home, and ever afterwards treated him as if he also had been
their own child. But it was too late; had it happened a few weeks earlier,
my own precious babe might have been saved to me."
"You cannot know that, mother; we all die when our time comes."
"His time had not come. The miserable wretch to whom George trusted the
boy, exposed him among strangers, to save herself trouble, and to obtain
twenty dollars at as cheap a rate as possible----"
"Hold!" I interrupted. "In the name of Heaven, my good woman, in what year
did this occur?"
Marble looked at me in astonishment, though he clearly had glimpses of the
object of my question.
"It was in the month of June, 17--. For thirty long, long years, I
supposed my child had actually died; and then the mere force of conscience
told me the truth. The wretched woman could not carry the secret with her
into the grave, and she sent for me to hear the sad revelation."
"Which was to say that she left the child in a basket, on a tombstone,
in a marble-worker's yard, in town; in the yard of a man whose name was
Durfee?" I said, as rapidly as I could speak.
"She did, indeed! though it is a marvel to me that a stranger should know
this. What will be God's pleasure next?"
Marble groaned. He hid his face in his hands, while the poor woman looked
from one of us to the other, in bewildered expectation of what was to
follow. I could not leave her long in doubt; but, preparing her for what
was to follow, by little and little I gave her to understand that the man
she saw before her was her son. After half a century of separation, the
mother and child had thus been thrown together by the agency of an
inscrutable Providence! The reader will readily anticipate the character
of the explanations that succeeded. Of the truth of the circumstances
there could not be a shadow of doubt, when everything was related and
compared. Mrs. Wetmore had ascertained from her unfaithful nurse the
history of her child as far as the alms-house; but thirty years had left a
gap in the information she received, and it was impossible for her to
obtain the name under which he had left that institution. The Revolution
was just over when she made her application, and it was thought that some
of the books had been taken away by a refugee. Still, there were a plenty
of persons to supply traditions and conjecture; and so anxious were she
and her husband to trace these groundless reports to their confirmation or
refutation, that much money and time were thrown away in the fruitless
attempts. At length, one of the old attendants of the children's
department was discovered, who professed to know the whole history of the
child brought from the stone-cutter's yard. This woman doubtless was
honest, but her memory had deceived her. She said that the boy had been
called Stone, instead of Marble; a mistake that was natural enough in
itself, but which was probably owing to the fact that another child of the
first name had really left the institution a few months before Moses took
his leave. This Aaron Stone had been traced, first, as an apprentice to a
tradesman; thence into a regiment of foot in the British army, which
regiment had accompanied the rest of the forces, at the evacuation,
November 25th, 1783.
The Wetmores fancied they were now on the track of their child. He was
traced down to a period within a twelvemonth of that of the search, and
was probably to be found in England, still wearing the livery of the king.
After a long consultation between the disconsolate parents, it was
determined that George Wetmore should sail for England in the hope of
recovering their son. But, by this time, money was scarce. These worthy
people were enabled to live in comfort on their little farm, but they were
not rich in cash. All the loose coin was gone in the previous search, and
even a small debt had been contracted to enable them to proceed as far as
they had. No alternative remained but to mortgage their home. This was
done with great reluctance; but what will not a parent do for his child? A
country lawyer, of the name of Van Tassel, was ready enough to advance
five hundred on a place that was worth quite three thousand dollars. This
man was one of the odious class of country usurers, a set of cormorants
that is so much worse than their town counterparts, because their victims
are usually objects of real, and not speculative distress, and as ignorant
and unpractised as they are necessitous. It is wonderful with what
far-sighted patience one of these wretches will bide his time, in order to
effect a favourite acquisition. Mrs. Wetmore's little farm was very
desirable to this 'Squire Van Tassel, for reasons in addition to its
intrinsic value; and for years nothing could be kinder and more
neighbourly than his indulgence. Interest was allowed to accumulate, until
the whole debt amounted to the sum of a thousand dollars. In the mean time
the father went to England, found the soldier after much trouble and
expense, ascertained that Stone knew his parents, one of whom had died in
the alms-house, and spent all his money.
Years of debt and anxiety succeeded, until the father sunk under his
misfortunes. An only daughter also died, leaving Kitty a legacy to her
widowed mother, the other parent having died even before her birth. Thus
was Katharine Van Duzer, our old hostess, left to struggle on nearly
alone, at the decline of life, with a poverty that was daily increasing,
years, and this infant grand-daughter. Just before his death, however,
George Wetmore had succeeded in selling a portion of his farm, that which
was least valuable to himself, and with the money he paid off Van Tassel's
mortgage. This was his own account of the matter, and he showed to his
wife Van Tassel's receipt, the money having been paid at the county town,
where the bond and mortgage could not be then produced. This was shortly
before Wetmore's last illness. A twelvemonth after his death, the widow
was advised to demand the bond, and to take the mortgage off record. But
the receipt was not to be found. With a woman's ignorance of such matters,
the widow let this fact leak out; and her subsequent demand for the
release was met with a counter one for evidence of payment. This was the
commencement of Van Tassel's hostile attitude; and things had gone as far
as a foreclosure, and an advertisement for a sale, when the good woman
thus opportunely discovered her son!
I charge you by the law,
Whereof you are a well-deserving pillar,
Proceed to judgment: by my soul I swear
There is no power in the tongue of man
To alter me: I stay here on my bond.
It is not easy to describe the immediate effect of this discovery on
either of the parties most concerned. Not a doubt remained on the mind of
either, after the facts were explained, of the reality of the
relationship; for that was so simply proved, as to place the circumstance
beyond all dispute. Mrs. Wetmore thought of her lost son as of an innocent
smiling babe; and here she found him a red-faced, hard-featured,
weather-beaten tar, already verging towards age, and a man of manners that
were rough, if not rude. She could not at first possess any knowledge of
the better points in his character, and was compelled to receive this boon
from Providence as it was offered. Nevertheless, a mother's love is not
easily dissatisfied, or smothered; and, ere I left the house, I could see
the old woman's eyes fixed on Marble with an expression of interest and
tenderness they had not manifested previously to the revelations.
As for the mate himself, now that the fondest wish of his life was so
unexpectedly gratified, he was taken so much by surprise that he appeared
to think something was wanting. He found his mother the reputable widow of
a reputable man, of a class in life quite equal to his own, living on a
property that was small, certainly, and involved, but property that had
been long in her family. The truth was, Marble felt so much at this
unlooked-for appeal to his gentler feelings, that one of his stern nature
did not know how to answer it on the emergency; and the obstinacy of his
temperament rather induced him to resist, than to yield to such unwonted
sentiments, I could see he was satisfied with his mother, while he was
scarcely satisfied with himself; and, with a view to place both parties in
truer positions, I desired Moses to walk down and look at the boat, while
I remained alone with his new-found parent. This was not done, however,
until all the explanations had been made, and the mother had both blessed
and wept over her child. It was done, indeed, principally to relieve
Marble from the oppression of feeling created by this very scene.
As soon as alone with Mrs. Wetmore, I explained to her my own connection
with Marble, and gave her a sort of apologetic account of his life and
character, keeping down the weak points, and dwelling on the strong. I set
her mind at ease, at once, on the subject of the farm; for, should the
worst happen, her son had double the amount of money that would be
necessary to discharge the mortgage.
"The debt was incurred, my dear Mrs. Wetmore, in his behalf; and he will
be happy to discharge it on the spot. I would advise you to pay the money
at once. Should the receipt ever be found, this Van Tassel will be obliged
to refund; for, though the law winks at many wrongs, it will not wink at
one so atrocious as this, provided you can satisfy it with proof. I shall
"His name is Oloff, or Oliver," interrupted the old woman easerly "I named
him after my own father, and had him duly christened, before he was
entrusted to the nurse, in the hope it might soften his grandfather's
heart, when he came to know of my marriage. Oloff Van Duzer Wetmore is his
I smiled to think of Marble's sailing under such an appellation, and was
about to suggest a compromise, when the subject of our discourse returned.
The mate had regained his composure during the half-hour he had been
absent; and I saw by the kind glance he threw on his mother, whose look
answered his own more naturally than I could have hoped, that things were
getting right; and, by way of removing the awkwardness of excessive
sensibility, I pursued the discourse.
"We were talking of your true name, Moses, as you came in," I said. "It
will never do for you to hail by one name, while your mother hails by
another. You'll have to cut adrift from Moses Marble altogether."
"If I do, may I be----"
"Hush, hush--you forget where you are, and in whose presence you stand."
"I hope my son will soon learn that he is always in the presence of his
God," observed the mother, plaintively.
"Ay, ay--that's all right, mother, and you shall do with me just what you
please in any of them matters; but as for not being Moses Marble, you
might as well ask me not to be myself. I should be another man, to change
my name. A fellow might as well go without clothes, as go without a name;
and mine came so hard, I don't like to part with it. No, no--had it come
to pass, now, that my parents had been a king and a queen, and that I was
to succeed 'em on the throne, I should reign as King Moses Marble, or not
reign at all."
"You'll think better of this, and take out a new register under your
"I'll tell you what I'll do, mother, and that will satisfy all parties.
I'll bend on the old name to the new one, and sail under both."
"I care not how you are called, my son, so long as no one has need to
blush for the name you bear. This gentleman tells me you are an honest and
true-hearted man; and those are blessings for which I shall never cease
to thank God."
"Miles has been singing my praises, has he! I can tell you, mother, you
had need look out for Miles's tongue Natur' intended him for a lawyer, and
it's mere accident his being a sailor, though a capital one he is. But
what may be my name, according to law?"
"Oloff Van Duser Wetmore Moses Marble, according to your own expedient of
sailing under all your titles. You can ring the changes, however, and call
yourself Moses Oloff Marble Van Duser Wetmore, if you like that better."
Moses laughed, and as I saw that both he and his new-found mother were in
a fit state to be left together, and that the sun now wanted but an hour
or two of setting, I rose to take my leave.
"You will remain with your mother to-night, Marble," I observed. "I will
keep the sloop at an anchor until I can see you in the morning, when we
will settle the future a little more deliberately."
"I should not like to lose my son so soon after finding him," the old
woman anxiously remarked.
"No fear of me, mother--I berth under your roof to-night, and so many more
in the bargain, that you'll be glad enough to be rid of me in the end."
I then left the house, followed by Marble, towards the boat. As we reached
the little piece of bottom-land, I heard a sort of suppressed sob from the
mate, and, turning round, was surprised to see the tears running down his
sun-burned cheeks. His wrought-up feelings had at last obtained the
mastery; and this rude, but honest creature, had fairly given in, under
the excitement of this strange admixture of joy, wonder, shame, and
natural emotion. I took his hand, gave it a hearty squeeze, but said
nothing; though I stopped, unwilling to go nearer to Neb until my
companion had regained his composure. This he did, sufficiently to speak,
in the course of a minute or two.
"It's all like a dream-to me, Miles," Moses at length muttered--"more out
of natur' like, than setting up for a hermit."
"You'll soon get accustomed to the change, Marble; then everything will
seem in the ordinary way, and natural."
"To think of my being a son, and having a real, living mother!"
"You must have known that you had parents once, though you are fortunate
in finding one of them alive at your time of life."
"And she an honest woman! A mother the President of the United States, or
the first commodore in the navy, needn't be ashamed of!"
"All that is fortunate, certainly; especially the first."
"She's a bloody good-looking old woman in the bargain. I'll have her
dressed up and carry her down to town, the first opportunity."
"What would you give an old woman that trouble for? You'll think better of
these matters, in the long run."
"Better! Yes, I'll take her to Philadelphia, and perhaps to Baltimore.
There's the gardens, and the theatres, and the museums, and lots of things
that I dare say the dear old soul never laid eyes on."
"I'm mistaken in your mother, if she would not prefer a church to all of
them put together."
"Well, there's churches in all of them towns. Put it on a religious
footing, if you will, and I ought to take my mother as soon as possible
down to York. She's old, you see, and cannot live for ever, just to oblige
me; and here has she been tied down to one church all her days, giving her
no ch'ice nor opportunity. I dare say, now, variety is just as agreeable
in religion, as in anything else."
"You are nearer right there, Moses, than you think yourself, possibly. But
we can talk of all these things to-morrow. A good night's rest will give
us cooler heads in the morning."
"I shall not sleep a wink for thinking of it. No, no--I'll make the old
lady pack up before breakfast, and we'll sail in the sloop. I'll take her
aboard the Dawn with me in town, and a comfortable time we'll have of it
in her cabins. She has as good state-rooms as a yacht."
There were no liners in those days; but a ship with two cabins was a
miracle of convenience.
"Your mother will hardly suit a ship, Moses; and a ship will hardly suit
"How can any of us know that till we try? If I'm a chip of the old block,
they'll take to each other like rum and water. If I'm to go out in the
ship, I'm far from certain I'll not take the old woman to sea with me."
"You'll probably remain at home, now that you _have_ a home, and a mother,
and other duties to attend to. I and my concerns will be but secondary
objects with you hereafter, Mr. Wetmore."
"Wetmore be d----d! D'ye mean, Miles, that I'm to give up my calling,
give up the sea, give up _you_?"
"You wished to be a hermit once, and found it a little too solitary; had
you a companion or two, you would have been satisfied, you said. Well,
here is everything you can wish; a mother, a niece, a house, a farm,
barns, out-houses, garden and orchard; and, seated on that porch, you can
smoke segars, take your grog, look at the craft going up and down the
"Nothing but so many bloody sloops," growled the mate. "Such in-and-in
fore-and-afters that their booms won't stay guyed-out, even after you've
been at the pains to use a hawser."
"Well, a sloop is a pleasant object to a sailor, when he can set nothing
better. Then there is this Mr. Van Tassel to settle with--you may have a
ten years' law-suit on your hands, to amuse you."
"I'll make short work with that scamp, when I fall in with him. You're
right enough, Miles; that affair must be settled before I can lift an
anchor. My mother tells me he lives hard by, and can be seen, at any
moment, in a quarter of an hour. I'll pay him a visit this very night."
This declaration caused me to pause. I knew Marble too well, not to
foresee trouble if he were left to himself in a matter of this nature, and
thought it might be well to inquire further into the affair. Sailors do
everything off-hand. Mrs. Wetmore telling me that her son's statement was
true, on my going back to the house to question her in the matter, and
offering us the use of an old-fashioned one-horse chaise, that the only
farm-labourer she employed was just then getting ready to go in, in quest
of Kitty, I availed myself of the opportunity, took the printed
advertisement of the sale to read as we went along, obtained our
directions, and off Marble and I went in quest of the usurer.
There would be sufficient time for all our purposes. It is true that the
horse, like the house, its owner, the labourer, the chaise, and all we had
yet seen about Willow Cove, as we had learned the place was called, was
old; but he was the more safe and sure. The road led up the ascent by a
ravine, through which it wound its way very prettily; the labourer walking
by our side to point out the route, after we should reach the elevation of
the country that stretched inland.
The view from the height, as it might be termed in reference to the river,
though it was merely on the level of the whole region in that portion of
the State, was both extensive and pretty. Willow Grove, as Marble called
his mother's place three or four times, while our horse was working his
way up the ascent, looked more invitingly than ever, with its verdant
declivities, rich orchards, neat cottage, all ensconced behind the
sheltering cover of the river heights. Inland, we saw a hundred farms,
groves without number, divers roads, a hamlet within a mile of us, an
old-fashioned extinguisher-looking church-spire, and various houses of
wood painted white, with here and there a piece of rustic antiquity in
bricks, or stone, washed with lime; or some livelier paint; for the Dutch
of New York had brought the habits of Holland with them, delighting in
colours. This relief may be desirable in a part of the world where the
eternal green of the meadows in a manner fatigues the eye; but certainly
the grey of nature has no just competitor in the tints of the more
artificial portions of the ordinary landscape. White may make a scene look
gay; but it can never lend it dignity, or the solemn hues that so often
render the loveliness of a view impressive, as well as sweet. When this
glaring colour reaches the fences, it gives the prettiest landscape the
air of a bleaching-yard, or of a great laundry, with the clothes hung
out to dry!
The guide pointed out to us the house of Van Tassel, and another at which
we should find Kitty, who was to be brought home by us on our return.
Understanding the course and distance, we put to sea without any
misgivings. The horse was no flyer, and Marble and I had plenty of leisure
to arrange preliminaries before reaching the door to which we were bound.
After some consultation, and a good of discussion, I succeeded in
persuading my companion it would not be wisest to break ground by flogging
the attorney--a procedure to which he was strongly inclined. It was
settled, however, he was at once to declare himself to be Mrs. Wetmore's
son, and to demand his explanations in that character; one that would
clearly give him every claim to be heard.
"I know what these usurers, as you call 'em, Miles, must be," said the
mate. "They are a sort of in-shore pawn-brokers; and the Lord have mercy
on them, for I'll have none. I've had occasion to pawn a watch, or a
quadrant, in my time; and bloody poor prices does a fellow get for his
goods and chattels. Yes, yes; I'll let the old gentleman know, at once,
I'm Van Duzer Oloff Marble Wetmore Moses, or whatever's my name; and will
stand up for the right in a fashion that will surprise him: but what are
you to do in the mean time?"
It struck me, if I could get Marble to attempt practising a sort of
_ruse_, it would have the effect to prevent his resorting to club-law,
towards which I knew he had a strong natural disposition, and of which I
was still a little afraid. With this object, then, I conceived the
"You shall simply introduce me as Mr. Miles Wallingford," I said, "but in
a formal manner, that may induce this Mr. Van Tassel to-imagine I'm a sort
of lawyer; and this may have the effect to awe him, and bring him to terms
the easier. Do not _say_ I am a lawyer, for that will not be true, and it
will also be awkward falling back when the truth comes to be known."
Marble took the idea, and seemed pleased with it, though he affirmed that
there could be no such thing as acting lawyer without lying a little, and
that "the truth was too good for one of your bloody usurers." I got him
trained, however, by the time we reached the door; and we alighted as well
prepared for our task as could be expected.
There was nothing about the residence of 'Squire Van Tassel to denote the
grasping money-dealer, unless a certain negligence of the exterior might
be supposed to betray the abode of such a man. His friends wished to
ascribe this to an indifference to appearances; but the multitude, more
accurately imputed it to parsimony. When the very soul gets to be
absorbed in the process of rolling gold over and over, in order to make it
accumulate, the spirit grudges the withdrawal of the smallest fraction
from the gainful pursuit; and here lies the secret of the disdain of
appearances that is so generally to be met with in this description of
persons. Beyond this air of negligence, however, the dwelling of Van
Tassel was not to be distinguished from those of most of the better houses
of that part of the country. Our application for admission was favourably
received, and, in a minute, we were shown into the attorney's office.
'Squire Van Tassel, as this man was universally termed, eyed us keenly as
we entered, no doubt with a view to ascertain if we were borrowers. I
might possibly have passed for one of that character, for I aimed at
looking serious and thoughtful; but I would defy any man to mistake Moses
for one who came on such an errand. He looked more like a messenger sent
by the Father of Sin, to demand the payment of a certain bond that had
been signed in blood, and of which the fatal pay-day had at length
arrived. I had to give the skirt of his coat a pull, in order to recall
him to our agreement, else I do think the first salutation received by the
attorney, would have been a broadside in anything but words. The hint
succeeded, and Marble permitted our host to open the communications.
Squire Van Tassel had a very miserly exterior. He even looked ill fed;
though doubtless this appearance was more a consequence of habit of body,
than of short-feeding. He wore spectacles with black rims, and had the
common practice of looking over them at objects at a distance, which gave
him an air still more watchful than that which he imbibed from character.
His stature was small, and his years about sixty, an age when the
accumulation of money begins to bring as much pain as pleasure; for it is
a period of life when men cannot fail to see the termination of their
earthly schemes. Of all the passions, however, avarice is notoriously that
which the latest loosens its hold on the human heart.
"Your servant, gentlemen," commenced the attorney, in a manner that was
civil enough; "your servant; I beg you to help yourselves to chairs." We
all three took seats, at this invitation. "A pleasant evening," eyeing us
still more keenly over his glasses, "and weather that is good for the
crops. If the wars continue much longer in Europe," another look over the
glasses, "we shall sell all the substance out of our lands, in order to
send the belligerents wheat. I begin to look on real estate security as
considerably less valuable than it was, when hostilities commenced in
1793, and as daily growing less and less so."
"Ay, you may say that," Marble bluntly answered; "particularly the farms
of widows and orphans."
The "'Squire" was a little startled at this unexpected reply. He looked
intently at each of us again, over the spectacles; and then asked, in a
manner divided between courtesy and authority--
"May I inquire your names, and the object of this visit?"
"Sartain," said Marble. "That's reasonable and your right. We are not
ashamed of our names, nor of our errand. As for the last, Mr. Van Tassell,
you'll know it sooner than you will wish to know it; but, to begin at the
right end, this gentleman with me, is Mr. Miles Wallingford, a partic'lar
friend of old Mrs. Wetmore, who lives a bit down the road yonder, at a
farm called Willow Grove; 'Squire Wallingford, sir, is _her_ friend, and
_my_ friend, and I've great pleasure in making you acquainted with him."
"I am happy to see the gentleman," answered Van Tassel, taking another
look, while at the same time he glanced his eye at an alphabetical list of
the attorneys and counsellors, to see what place I occupied among them.
"Very happy to see the gentleman, who has quite lately commenced practice,
I should think by his age, and my not remembering the name."
"There must be a beginning to all things, Mr. Van Tassel," I replied, with
a calmness that I could see the old usurer did not like.
"Very true, sir, and I hope your future success will be in proportion to
the lateness of your appearance at the bar. Your companion has much more
the air of a sailor than of a lawyer."--This was true enough, there being
no mistaking Marble's character, though I had put on a body-coat to come
ashore in;--"I presume _he_ is not in the practice."
"That remains to be seen, sir." answered Marble. "Having told you my
friend's name, Mr. Van Tassel, I will now tell you my own. I am called
Moses Marble Wetmore Van Duser Oloff, sir, or some such bloody thing; and
you're welcome to take your pick out of the whole list. I'll answer to
either of them aliases."
"This is so extraordinary and unusual, gentlemen, I scarce know what to
make of it. Has this visit any connection with Mrs. Wetmore, or her farm,
or the mortgage I have been foreclosing on the last?"
"It has, sir; and I am that Mrs. Wetmore's son--yes sir, the only child of
that dear, good, old soul."
"The son of Mrs. Wetmore!" exclaimed Van Tassel, both surprised and
uneasy. "I knew there _was_ a son; but I have been always told it was
impossible to find him. I see no resemblance, sir, in you to either George
Wetmore, or Kitty Van Duser."
Now this was not altogether true. As for George Wetmore, they who had
known him in middle age, afterwards declared that Moses did resemble him
greatly; while I, myself, could trace in the mouth and milder expression
of the mate's features, a strong likeness to the subdued character of his
aged mother's face. This resemblance would not have been observed, in all
probability, without a knowledge of the affinity that existed between the
parties; but, with that knowledge, it was not easy to overlook.
"Resemblance!" repeated Marble, much in the tone of one who is ready to
quarrel on the slightest provocation; "how should there be any
resemblance, after the life I've led. In the first place, I was carried
out of my mother's sight in less than ten days after I was born. Then I
was placed on a tombstone, by way of encouragement; after which, they sent
me to live among paupers. I ran away at ten years old, and went to sea,
where I've played the part of man-of-war's-man, privateer's-man, smuggler,
mate, master, and all hands; everything, in short, but a pirate and
mutineer. I've been a bloody hermit, Mr. Van Tassel, and if that won't
take the resemblance to anything human out of a fellow, his face is as
unchangeable as that on a gold coin."
"All this, Mr. Wallingford, is so unintelligible to me, that I shall have
to ask you to explain it."
I can only add to it, sir, my belief that every word you hear is true. I
am satisfied that this is, in a legal sense, Oloff Van Duser Wetmore, the
only surviving child of George Wetmore and Catharine Van Duser. He has
come to see you in relation to a claim you are said to hold against the
farm his mother inherited from her parents."
"_Said_ to hold!--I certainly do hold George Wetmore's bond, secured by a
mortgage signed by his wife, balance due, including interest and costs,
$963.42; and I am proceeding to sell, under the statute. One sale has been
postponed, to oblige the widow; for a merciful man would not wish to press
a single and aged woman, though I've lain out of my money a very long
time. You are aware, sir, that I lose all my interest on interest, and
must take up with just what the law will give; hardship enough in active
times like these, when not a day passes that something good does not offer
in the way of purchasing the best of securities, at liberal discounts.
Trade is so lively, now, Mr. Wallingford, that men will almost sell their
souls for money."
"I rather think, sir, that some men will do this at all times; nay, do it
hourly, daily. But, I am instructed"--I could not help acting the counsel
a little, on the occasion--"I am instructed that the bond of George
Wetmore is paid in full."
"How can that be, sir, while I still hold bond and mortgage? As a business
man, you must understand the value to be attached to the idle tales of
women, and can see the danger of taking _their_ gossip for authority.
George Wetmore had some knowledge of business, and would not be likely to
pay his bond without taking it up, or at least of obtaining a receipt;
much less leave the mortgage on record."
"I am informed he did take your receipt, though he presumes he must have
lost it with a missing pocket-book, which his widow supposes to have been
dropped from his coat, the very day he returned from the court where he
met you, and where he says he paid you the money, being anxious to stop
interest as soon as possible."
"A very idle story, and one you do not suppose the chancellor will
believe, confirmed by the _hearsay_ of the party interested in preserving
the property. You are aware, sir, that the sale can be stopped only by an
injunction from the Court of Chancery."
Now, I was certainly no lawyer; but, like almost every American, I knew
something of that branch of the jurisprudence of the country, which
touched my own interests. As a land-holder, I had a little knowledge of the
law of real estate, and was not absolutely ignorant of the manner in which
matters were managed in that most searching of all tribunals, the Court of
Chancery. A lucky thought suggested itself to my mind on the instant, and
I made use of it on the spur of the moment.
"It is quite true, sir," I answered, "that any prudent judge might
hesitate about entering a decree on authority no better than the oath of
Mrs. Wetmore that she had heard her husband say he had paid the money; but
you will remember that the party replying has to swear to his answer. All
of us might be better satisfied in this affair, were you to make oath that
the money was never paid."
This hit told; and from that moment I did not entertain a doubt that
Wetmore had paid the money, and that Van Tassel retained a perfect
recollection of the whole affair. This much I could read in the man's
altered countenance and averted eye, though my impressions certainly were
not proof. If not proof, however, for a court of justice, they served to
enlist me earnestly in the pursuit of the affair, into which I entered
warmly from that moment. In the meantime, I waited for Van Tassel's
answer, watching his countenance the whole time, with a vigilance that I
could easily see caused him great embarrassment.
"Kitty Wetmore and I were born neighbours' children," he said; "and this
mortgage has given me more trouble than all the rest of my little
possessions. That I have been in no hurry to foreclose is plain by the
length of time I've suffered to go by, without claiming my dues. I could
wait no longer, without endangering my rights, as there would be a
presumption of payment after twenty years, and a presumption that would
tell harder against me than old Kitty's oath. We are neighbours' children,
as I've said, nevertheless, and rather than push matters to extremities I
will consent to some sort of a compromise."
"And what sort of a compromise will be agreeable to your notions of
justice, Mr. Van Tassel?"
"Why, sir, as Kitty is old, it would be a sad thing to drive her from the
roof under which she was born. This I've said and thought from the first,
and say, _now_. Still, I cannot part with my property without a
compensation; though I'm willing to wait. I told Mrs. Wetmore, before
advertising, that if she would give a new bond, making all clear, and
giving me interest on the whole sum now due, I should be willing to grant
her time. I now propose, however, as the simplest way of settling the
affair, to accept from her a release of the equity of redemption, and to
grant her a lease, for her own life, on a nominal rent."
Even Marble knew enough to see the rank injustice of such an offer. In
addition to conceding the non-payment of the debt, it was securing to Van
Tassel, at no distant day, the quiet possession of the farm, for somewhat
less than one-third its value. I detected symptoms of an outbreak in the
mate, and was obliged to repress it by a sign, while I kept the discussion
in my own hands.
"Under such an arrangement, sir," I answered, "my friend here would be
literally selling his birthright for a mess of porridge."
"You will remember, Mr. Wallingford, that a mortgage sale, legally made,
is a ticklish thing, and the courts do not like to disturb one. This sale
will take place, this day week; and the title once passed, it will not be
so easy a matter to get it repassed. Mr. Wetmore, here, does not look like
a man ready to pay down a thousand dollars."
"We shall not run the risk of letting the title pass. I will buy the
property, myself, if necessary; and should it afterwards appear that the
money has been actually paid, we believe you are sufficiently secure for
principal, interest, and costs."
"You are young in the profession, Mr. Wallingford, and will come to learn
the folly of advancing money for your clients."
"I am not in the profession at all, sir, as you have erroneously supposed,
but am a ship-master; and Mr. Wetmore, or Marble, as he has hitherto been
called, is my mate. Still, we are none the worse provided with the means
of paying a thousand dollars--or twenty of them, should it be necessary."
"No lawyer!" cried Van Tassel, smiling grimly. "A couple of sailors about
to dispute the foreclosure of a mortgage! Famous justice we should get at
your hands, gentlemen! Well, well; I now see how it is, and that this has
only been an attempt to work on my sympathies for an old woman who has
been living on my money these twenty years. I rather think your $963.42,
will prove to be of the same quality as your law."
"And, yet, it struck me, Mr. Van Tassel, that you rather disliked the idea
of swearing to the truth of an answer to a certain bill in Chancery,
which, if I cannot draw, one Abraham Van Vechten, of Albany, can!"
"Abraham Van Vechten is skilful counsel, and an honest man, and is riot
likely to be employed in a cause that rests only on an old woman's
_hearsays_--and all to save her own farm!"
Marble could keep silence no longer. He told me afterwards, that, during
the dialogue, he had been taking the measure of the old usurer's foot, and
felt it would be a disgrace to strike so feeble a creature; but, to sit
and hear his newly-found mother sneered at, and her just rights derided,
was more than his patience could endure. Rising abruptly, therefore, he
broke out at once in one of the plainest philippics of the sea. I shall
not repeat all he said; for, to render it justly, might be to render it
offensive; but, in addition to calling old Van Tassel by a great many
names that were as unusual as they were quaint, he called him by several
that would be familiar to the ears of most of my readers, besides being
perfectly well merited. I allowed his humour to find vent; and, giving the
attorney to understand he should hear further from us, I succeeded in
getting my companion to the wagon, without coming to blows. I could see
that Van Tassel was very far from being at his ease, and that he would
still gladly keep us, if he could, in the hope of bringing about some sort
of a compromise, if possible; but I thought it wisest to let matters rest
awhile, after the decided demonstration we had already made.
It was not an easy matter to get Marble into the vehicle; but this was no
sooner effected, than I trotted him off, down the road, taking the
direction of the house where we had been told to seek Kitty Huguenin, old
Mrs. Wetmore's grand-daughter, who would be waiting the appearance of the
chaise, in order to return home.
"You must put on a more amicable look," said I to the mate, as we went on
our way, "or you'll frighten your niece; with whom, you will remember, you
are about to make an acquaintance."
"The cheating vagabond, to take advantage of a poor, lonely, old woman,
whose only husband was in the grave, and only son at sea!" the mate
continued to mutter. "Talk about the commandments! I should like to know
what commandment this was breaking. The whole six, in a batch."
"The tenth, I am inclined to think, my friend; and that is a commandment
broken all day, and every day."
The denunciations of the mate continued for some time longer, and then
went off like the rumbling of distant thunder in the heavens after the
passage of the gust.
"No Moorish maid might hope to vie
With Laila's cheek, or Laila's eye;
No maiden loved with purer truth,
Or ever loved a lovelier youth."
"Miles," said Moses, suddenly, after riding a short distance in silence,
"I must quit the old lady, this very night, and go down with you to town.
We must have that money up at the place of sale, in readiness for the
vagabond; for, as to letting him have the smallest chance at Willow Grove,
that is out of the question."
"As you please, Marble; but, now, get yourself in trim to meet another
relation; the second you have laid eyes on in this world."
"Think of that, Miles! Think of my having _two_ relations! A mother and a
niece! Well, it is a true saying that it never rains but it pours."
"You probably have many more, uncles, aunts, and cousins in scores. The
Dutch are famous for counting cousins; and no doubt you'll have calls on
you from half the county."
I saw that Marble was perplexed, and did not know, at first, but he was
getting to be embarrassed by this affluence of kindred. The mate, however,
was not the man long to conceal his thoughts from me; and in the strength
of his feelings he soon let his trouble be known.
"I say, Miles," he rejoined, "a fellow may be bothered with felicity, I
find. Now, here, in ten minutes perhaps, I shall have to meet my sister's
darter--my own, born, blood niece; a full-grown, and I dare say, a comely
young woman; and, hang me if I know exactly what a man ought to say in
such a state of the facts. Generalizing wont do with these near relations;
and I suppose a sister's darter is pretty much the same to a chap as his
own darter would be, provided he had one."
"Exactly; had you reasoned a month, you could not have hit upon a better
solution of the difficulty than this. Treat this Kitty Huguenin just as
you would treat Kitty Marble."
"Ay, ay; all this is easy enough aforehand, and to such scholars as you;
but it comes hard on a fellow like myself to heave his idees out of him,
as it might be, with a windlass. I managed the old woman right well, and
could get along with a dozen mothers, better than with one sister's
darter. Suppose she should turn out a girl with black eyes, and red
cheeks, and all that sort of thing; I dare say she would expect me to
"Certainly; she will expect that, should her eyes even be white, and her
cheeks black. Natural affection expects this much even among the least
enlightened of the human race."
"I am disposed to do everything according to usage," returned Marble,
quite innocently, and more discomposed by the situation in which he so
unexpectedly found himself, than he might have been willing to own;
"while, at the same time, I do not wish to do anything that is not
expected from a son and an uncle. If these relations had only come one
at a time."
"Poh, poh, Moses--do not be quarrelling with your good luck, just as it's
at its height. Here is the house, and I'll engage one of those four girls
is your niece--that with the bonnet, for a dollar; she being ready to go
home, and the whole having come to the door, in consequence of seeing the
chaise driving down the road. They are puzzled at finding us in it,
however, instead of the usual driver."
Marble hemmed, attempted to clear his throat, pulled down both sleeves of
his jacket, settled his black handkerchief to his mind, slily got rid of
his quid, and otherwise "cleared ship for action," as he would have been
very apt to describe his own preparations. After all, his heart failed
him, at the pinch; and just as I was pulling up the horse, he said to me,
in a voice so small and delicate, that it sounded odd to one who had heard
the man's thunder, as he hailed yards and tops in gales of wind--
"Miles, my dear boy, I do not half like this business; suppose you get
out, and open the matter to the ladies. There's four of them, you see, and
that's three too many. Go, now, Miles, that's a good fellow, and I'll do
the same for you another time. I can't have _four_ nieces here, you'll own
"And while I am telling your story to your niece, your own sister's
daughter, what will you be doing here, pray?"
"Doing?--Why anything, my dear Miles, that can be useful--I say, boy, do
you think she looks anything like me? When you get nearer, if you should
think so, just hold up a hand as a signal, that I may not be taken by
surprise. Yes, yes; you go first, and I'll follow; and as for 'doing,'
why, you know, I can hold this bloody horse."
I laughed, threw the reins to Marble, who seized them with both hands, as
if the beast required holding, while I alighted, and walked to the cluster
of girls, who awaited my movements in surprise and silence. Since that
day; I have seen more of the world than might have been expected in one of
my early career; and often have I had occasion to remark the tendency
there exists to extremes in most things; in manners as well as in every
other matter connected with human feelings. As we become sophisticated,
acting takes the place of nature, and men and women often affect the
greatest indifference in cases in which they feel the liveliest interest.
This is the source of the ultra _sang froid_ of what is termed high
breeding, which would have caused the four young women, who then stood in
the door-yard of the respectable farm-house at which I had alighted, to
assume an air as cold, and as marble-like, at the sudden appearance of
Mrs. Wetmore's chaise, containing two strange faces, as if they had been
long expecting our arrival, and were a little displeased it had not
occurred an hour sooner. Such, however, was not my reception. Though the
four girls were all youthful, blooming, pretty, delicate in appearance,
according to the fashion of American women, and tolerably well attired,
they had none of the calm exterior of conventional manner. One would speak
quick to another; looks of surprise were often exchanged; there were not a
few downright giggles, and then each put on as dignified an air to meet
the stranger as, under the circumstances, she could assume.
"I presume Miss Kitty Huguenin is among you, young ladies," I commenced,
bowing as civilly as was necessary; "for this appears to be the house to
which we were directed."