Part 4 out of 8
and let him understand that they were already on their way to Hamburg,
whence I hoped, ere long, to send him a good account of their sale.
To Lucy, I was by no means so laconic. On the subject of the pearls of
Grace, I begged her to do just as she pleased; adding a request, however,
that she would select such others of my sister's ornaments, as might be
most agreeable to herself. On this point I was a little earnest, since the
pearls were not worth the sum Grace had mentioned to me; and I felt
persuaded Lucy would not wish me to remain her debtor. There was a pair of
bracelets, in particular, that Grace had highly prized, and which were
very pretty in themselves. My father had purchased the stones--rubies of
some beauty--in one of his voyages, for my mother, who had fancied them
too showy for her to wear. I had caused them to be set for Grace, and they
would make a very suitable ornament for Lucy; and were to be so much the
more prized, from the circumstance, that Grace had once worn them. It is
true, they contained a little, though very little of my hair; for on this
Grace had insisted; but this hair was rather a blemish, and might easily
be removed. I said as much in my letter.
On the subject of my sister's death, I found it impossible to write much.
The little I did say, however, was in full accordance with her own
feelings, I felt persuaded, and I had no difficulty in believing she would
sympathize in all I did express, and in much that I had not words
On the subject of the necklace, I did find language to communicate a
little, though it was done in the part of the letter where a woman is said
to give her real thoughts,--the postscript. In answer to what Lucy had
said on the subject of my own necklace, I wrote as follows, viz:--"You
speak of my reserving the more valuable pearls for one, who, at some
future day, may become my wife. I confess this was my own intention,
originally; and very pleasant was it to me to fancy that one so dear would
wear pearls that had been brought up out of the sea by my own hands. But
dearest Lucy, all these agreeable and delusive anticipations have
vanished. Depend on it, I shall never marry. I know that declarations of
this sort, in young men of three and twenty, like those of maidens of
nineteen, excite a smile oftener than they produce belief; but I do not
say this without reflection, and, I may add, without feeling. She whom I
once did hope to persuade to marry me, although much my friend, is not
accustomed to view me with the eyes that lead to love. We were brought
together under circumstances that have probably induced her to regard me
more as a brother than as a suitor, and while the golden moments have
passed away, her affections have become the property of another. I
resemble, in this particular at least, our regretted Grace, and am not
likely to change. My nature may be sterner, and my constitution stronger,
than those of my poor sister proved to be, but I feel I cannot love twice;
not as I have, and still do love, most certainly. Why should I trouble you
with all this, however? I know you will not accept of the necklace--though
so ready to give me your own last piece of gold, when I went to sea, you
have ever been so fastidious as to refuse every thing from us that had the
least appearance of a pecuniary obligation--and it is useless to say more
about it. I have no right to trouble you with my griefs, especially at a
moment when I know your affectionate heart is suffering so deeply from our
I will confess that, while writing this, I fancied I was making a sort of
half-declaration to Lucy; one that might, at least, give her some faint
insight into the real state of my heart; and I had a melancholy
satisfaction in thinking that the dear girl might, by these means, learn
how much I had prized and still did prize her. It was only a week later,
while pondering over what I had written, the idea occurred to me that
every syllable I had said would apply just as well to Emily Merton as to
Lucy Hardinge. Peculiar circumstances had made me intimately acquainted
with our young English friend, and these circumstances might well have
produced the very results I had mentioned. We all believed Emily's
affections to be engaged to Rupert, who must have succeeded during my
absence at sea. A modest and self-distrusting nature, like that of Lucy's,
would be very apt to turn to any other than herself in quest of the
original of my picture.
These letters occupied me for hours. That to Lucy, in particular, was very
long, and it was not written wholly without care. When all were done, and
sealed, and enveloped to the address of the post-master, I went on deck.
The pilot and Marble had not been idle while I had been below, for I
found the ship just weathering the south-west Spit, a position that
enabled me to make a fair wind of it past the Hook and out to sea.
Certainly I was in no haste to quit home. I was leaving my native land,
Clawbonny, the grave of my sister, and Lucy, dearest Lucy, all behind me;
and, at such an instant, one feels the ties that are about to be
separated. Still, every seaman is anxious for an offing, and glad was I to
see the head of the Dawn pointing in the right direction, with her yards
nearly square, and a fore-top-mast studding-sail set. The pilot was all
activity, and Marble, cool, clear-headed in his duty, and instinctively
acquainted with everything belonging to a vessel, was just the man to
carry out his views to his heart's content.
The ship went, rising and falling on the swells of the ocean, that now
began to make themselves felt, past the light and the low point of the
Hook within a few minutes after we had squared away, and, once more, the
open ocean lay before us. I could not avoid smiling at Neb, just as we
opened the broad waste of waters, and got an unbroken view of the rolling
ocean to the southward. The fellow was on the main-top-sail yard, having
just run out, and lashed the heel of a top-gallant-studding-sail boom, in
order to set the sail. Before he lay in to the mast, he raised his
Herculean frame, and took a look to windward. His eyes opened, his
nostrils dilated, and I fancied he resembled a hound that scented game in
the gale, as he snuffed the sea-air which came fanning his glistening
face, filled with the salts and peculiar flavours of the ocean. I question
if Neb thought at all of Chloe, for the next hour or two!
As soon as we got over the bar, I gave the pilot my package, and he got
into his boat. It was not necessary to shorten sail in order to do this,
for the vessel's way did not exceed five knots.
"Do you see the sail, hereaway in the south-eastern board," said the
pilot, as he went over the side, pointing towards a white speck on the
ocean; "take care of that fellow, and give him as wide a berth as
possible, or he may give you a look at Halifax, or Bermuda."
"Halifax, or Bermuda! I have nothing to do with either and shall not go
there. Why should I fear that sail?"
"On account of your cargo, and on account of your men. That is His
Majesty's ship Leander; she has been off here, now, more than a week. The
inward-bound craft say she is acting under some new orders, and they name
several vessels that have been seen heading north-east after she had
boarded them. This new war is likely to lead to new troubles on the coast,
and it is well for all outward-bound ships to be on the look-out."
"_His Majesty's_ ship" was a singular expression for an American to use,
towards any sovereign, twenty years after the independence of the country
was acknowledged. But, it was common then, nor has it ceased entirely even
among the newspapers of the present hour; so much harder is it to
substitute a new language than to produce a revolution. Notwithstanding
this proof of bad taste in the pilot, I did not disregard his caution.
There had been certain unpleasant rumours, up in town for more than a
month, that the two great belligerents would be apt to push each other
into the old excesses, England and France at that day having such a
monopoly of the ocean as to render them somewhat independent of most of
the old-fashioned notions of the rights of neutrals. As for America, she
was cursed with the cant of economy--an evil that is apt to produce as
many bad consequences as the opposite vice, extravagance. The money paid
as _interest_ on the sums expended in the war of 1812, might have
maintained a navy that would have caused both belligerents to respect her
rights, and thereby saved the principal entirely, to say nothing of all
the other immense losses dependent on an interrupted trade; but demagogues
were at work with their raven throats, and it is not reasonable to expect
that the masses can draw very just distinctions on the subject of remote
interests, when present expenditure is the question immediately before
them. It is true, I remember a modern French logician, who laid down the
dogma that the tendency of democracies being to excesses, if you give a
people the power, they would tax themselves to death; but, however true
this theory may be in the main, it certainly is not true _quoad_ the good
citizens of the great model republic. It was bad enough to be accursed
with a spurious economy; but this was not the heaviest grievance that then
weighed upon the national interests. The demon of faction, party spirit,
was actively at work in the country; and it was almost as rare to find a
citizen who was influenced purely by patriotic and just views, as it would
be to find an honest man in the galleys. The nation, as a rule, was either
English or French. Some swore by the First Consul, and some by Billy Pitt.
As for the commercial towns, taken in connection with the upper classes,
these were little more than so many reflections of English feeling,
exaggerated and rendered still more factitious, by distance. Those who did
not swallow all that the English tories chose to pour down their throats,
took the _pillules Napoleons_ without gagging. If there were exceptions,
they were very few, and principally among travelled men--pilgrims who, by
approaching the respective idols, had discovered they were made by
Impressment at sea, and out of neutral vessels, was revived, as a matter
of course, with the renewal of the war and all American ships felt the
expediency, of avoiding cruisers that might deprive them of their men.
Strange as it may seem, a large and leading class of Americans justified
this claim of the English, as it was practised on board their own
country's vessels! What will not men defend when blinded and excited by
faction? As this practice was to put the mariner on the defensive, and to
assume that every man was an Englishman who could not prove, out on the
ocean, a thousand miles from land perhaps, that he was an American, it
followed that English navy officers exercised a jurisdiction over
foreigners and under a foreign flag, that would not be tolerated in the
Lord High Chancellor himself, in one of the streets of London; that of
throwing the burthen of proving himself innocent, on the accused party!
There was an abundance of other principles that were just as obvious, and
just as unanswerable as this, which were violated by the daily practices
of impressment, but they all produced no effect on the members of Congress
and public writers that sustained the right of the English, who as blindly
espoused one side of the main question as their opponents espoused the
other. Men acting under the guidance of factions are not _compos mentis_.
I think I may say, without boasting unreasonably of my own good sense,
that I have kept myself altogether aloof from the vortex of parties, from
boyhood to the present hour. My father had been a federalist, but a
federalist a good deal cooled off, from having seen foreign countries, and
no attempts had ever been made to make me believe that black was white in
the interest of either faction. I knew that impressment from foreign
vessels, out of the waters of Great Britain at least, could be defended on
no other ground but that of power; and as for colonial produce, and all
the subtleties that were dependent on its transportation, I fancied that a
neutral had a perfect right to purchase of one belligerent and sell to
another, provided he found it his interest so to do, and he violated no
positive--not paper--blockade, or did not convey articles that are called
contraband of war.
With these views, then, it is not surprising that I easily came into the
pilot's opinion, and determined to give the Leander a sufficient berth, as
sailors express it.
The Leander was a fifty, on two decks, a very silly sort of a craft;
though she had manfully played her part at the Nile, and on one or two
other rather celebrated occasions, and was a good vessel of the build.
Still, I felt certain the Dawn could get away from her, under tolerably
favourable circumstances, The Leander afterwards became notorious, on the
American coast, in consequence of a man killed in a coaster by one of her
shot, within twenty miles of the spot where I now saw her; an event that
had its share in awakening the feeling that produced the war of 1812; a
war of which the effects are just beginning to be made manifest in the
policy of the republic: a fact, by-the-way, that is little understood, at
home or abroad. The Leander was a fast ship of her kind, but the Dawn was
a fast ship of any kind; and I had great faith in her. It is true, the
fifty had the advantage of the wind; but she was a long way off, well to
the southward, and might have something in sight that could not be seen
even from our top-gallant yards, whither Neb was sent to take a look at
Our plan was soon laid. The south side of Long Island trending a little to
the north of east, I ordered the ship to be steered east by south, which,
with the wind at south-south-west, gave me an opportunity to carry all
our studding-sails. The soundings were as regular as the ascent on the
roof of a shed, or on that of a graded lawn; and the land in sight less
than two leagues distant. In this manner we ran down the coast, with about
six knots' way on the ship, as soon as we got from under the Jersey shore.
In less than an hour, or when we were about four leagues from Sandy Hook
Light, the Englishman wore short round, and made sail to cut us off. By
this time, he was just forward of our weather beam, a position that did
not enable him to carry studding-sails on both sides; for, had he kept off
enough for this, he would have fallen into our wake; while, by edging away
to close with us, his after-sails becalmed the forward, and this at the
moment when every thing of ours pulled like a team of well-broken
cart-horses. Notwithstanding all this, we had a nervous afternoon's and
night's work of it. These old fifties are great travellers off the wind;
and more than once I fancied the Leander was going to lay across my bows,
as she did athwart those of the Frenchman, at the Nile. The Dawn, however,
was not idle, and, as the wind stood all that day, throughout the night,
and was fresher, though more to the southward, than it had hitherto been,
next morning, I had the satisfaction of seeing Montauk a little on my
lee-bow, at sunrise, while my pursuer was still out of gun-shot on my
Marble and I now held a consultation on the subject of the best mode of
proceeding. I was half disposed to let the Leander come up, and send a
boat on board us. What had we to fear? We were bound to Hamburg, with a
cargo, one half of which came from the English, while the other half came
from French islands.--But what of that? Marble, however, would not listen
to such a project. He affirmed that he was a good pilot in all the sounds,
and that it would be better to risk everything, rather than let that fifty
close with us.
"Keep the ship away, for Montauk, sir," exclaimed the mate--"keep her away
for Montauk, and let that chap follow us if he dare! There's a reef or
two, inside, that I'll engage to lead him on, should he choose to try the
game, and that will cure him of his taste for chasing a Yankee."
"Will you engage, Moses, to carry the ship over the shoals, if I will do
as you desire, and go inside?"
"I'll carry her into any port, east of Block Island, Cap tain
Wallingford. Though New York born, as it now turns out, I'm 'down east'
edicated, and have got a 'coasting pilot' of my own in my head."
This settled the matter, and I came to the resolution to stand on.
"The wind blows fair, the vessel feels
The pressure of the rising breeze,
And, swiftest of a thousand keels
She leaps to the careering seas--"
Half an hour later, things drew near a crisis. We had been obliged to luff
a little, in order to clear a reef that even Marble admitted lay off
Montauk, while the Leander had kept quite as much away, with a view to
close. This brought the fifty so near us, directly on our weather beam, as
to induce her commander to try the virtue of gunpowder. Her bow-gun was
fired, and its shot, only a twelve-pounder, richoched until it fairly
passed our fore-foot, distant a hundred yards, making its last leap from
the water precisely in a line with the stem of the Dawn. This was
unequivocal evidence that the game could not last much longer, unless the
space between the two vessels should be sensibly widened. Fortunately, we
now opened Montauk fort, and the option was offered us of doubling that
point, and entering the sound, or of standing oh towards Block Island, and
putting the result on our heels. After a short consultation with Marble, I
decided on the first.
One of the material advantages possessed by a man-of-war in a chase with a
merchant vessel, is in the greater velocity with which her crew can make
or take in sail. I knew that the moment we began to touch our braces,
tacks and sheets, that the Leander would do the same, and that she would
effect her objects in half the time in which we could effect ours.
Nevertheless, the thing was to be done, and we set about the preparations
with care and assiduity. It was a small matter to round in our weather
braces, until the yards were nearly square, but the rigging out of her
studding-sail booms, and the setting of the sails, was a job to occupy the
Dawn's people several minutes. Marble suggested that by edging gradually
away, we should bring the Leander so far on our quarter as to cause the
after-sails to conceal what we were about forward, and that we might steal
a march on our pursuers by adopting this precaution. I thought the
suggestion a good one, and the necessary orders were given to carry
Any one might be certain that the Englishman's glasses were levelled on us
the whole time. Some address was used, therefore, in managing to get our
yards in without showing the people at the braces. This was done by
keeping off first, and then by leading the ropes as far forward as
possible, and causing the men to haul on them, seated on deck. In this
manner we got our yards nearly square, or as much in as our new course
required, when we sent hands aloft, forward, to get out the lee booms. But
we reckoned without our host. John Bull was not to be caught in that way.
The hands were hardly in the lee fore rigging, before I saw the fifty
falling off to our course, her yards squared, and signs aboard her that
she had larboard studding sails as well as ourselves. The change of course
had one good effect, however: it brought our pursuer so far on our
quarter, that, standing at the capstan, I saw him through the mizen
rigging. This took the Dawn completely from under the Leander's broadside,
leaving us exposed to merely four or five of her forward guns, should she
see fit to use them. Whether the English were reluctant to resort to such
very decided means of annoyance, so completely within the American waters,
as we were clearly getting to be, or whether they had so much confidence
in their speed, as to feel no necessity for firing, I never knew; but they
did not have any further recourse to shot.
As might have been foreseen, the fifty had her extra canvass spread some
time before we could open ours, and I fancied she showed the advantage
thus obtained in her rate of sailing. She certainly closed with us, though
we closed much faster with the land: still, there was imminent danger of
her overhauling us before we could round the point, unless some decided
step were promptly taken to avoid it.
"On the whole, Mr. Marble," I said, after my mates and myself had taken a
long and thoughtful look at the actual state of things--"On the whole, Mr.
Marble, it may be well to take in our light sails, haul our wind, and let
the man-of-war come up with us. We are honest folk, and there is little
risk in his seeing all we have to show him."
"Never think of it!" cried the mate. "After this long pull, the fellow
will be as savage as a bear with a sore head. He'd not leave a hand on
board us, that can take his trick at the wheel; and it's ten chances to
one that he would send the ship to Halifax, under some pretence or other,
that the sugars are not sweet enough, or that the coffee was grown in a
French island, and tastes French. No--no--Captain Wallingford--here's
the wind at sou'-sou'-west, and we're heading nothe-east,
and-by-nothe-half-nothe already, with that fellow abaft the mizen riggin';
as soon as we get a p'int more to the nor'ard, we'll have him fairly in
"Ay, that will do very well as a theory, but what can we make of it in
practice? We are coming up towards Montauk at the rate of eight knots, and
you have told me yourself there is a reef off that point, directly towards
which we must this moment be standing. At this rate, fifteen minutes might
break us up into splinters."
I could see that Marble was troubled, by the manner in which he rolled his
tobacco about, and the riveted gaze he kept on the water ahead. I had the
utmost confidence in his seaman-like prudence and discretion, while I knew
he was capable of suggesting anything a ship could possibly perform, in an
emergency that called for such an exercise of decision. At that moment, he
forgot our present relations, and went back, as he often did when excited,
to the days of our greater equality, and more trying scenes.
"Harkee, Miles," he said, "the reef is dead ahead of us, but, there is a
passage between it and the point. I went through that passage in the
revvylution-war, in chase of an English West Injyman, and stood by the
lead the whole way, myself. Keep her away, Neb--keep her away, another
pint: so--steady--very well, dyce (anglice, thus)--keep her so, and let
John Bull follow us, if he dare."
"You should be very sure of your channel, Mr. Marble," I said gravely, "to
take so much responsibility on yourself. Remember my all is embarked in
this ship, and the insurance will not be worth a sixpence, if we are lost
running through such a place as this in broad daylight. Reflect a moment,
I beg of you, if not certain of what you do."
"And what will the insurance be worth, ag'in Halifax, or Bermuda? I'll put
my life on the channel, and would care more for _your_ ship, Miles, than
my own. If you love me, stand on, and let us see if that lubberly
make-believe two-decker dare follow."
I was fain to comply, though I ran a risk that I find impossible, now, to
justify to myself. I had my cousin John Wallingford's property in charge,
as well as my own, or what was quite as bad, I placed Clawbonny in
imminent jeopardy. Still, my feelings were aroused, and to the excitement
of a race, was added the serious but vague apprehensions all American
seamen felt, in that day, of the great belligerents. It is a singular
proof of human justice, that the very consequences of these apprehensions
are made matter of reproach against them.
It is not my intention to dwell further on the policy of England and
France, during their great contest for superiority, than is necessary to
the narrative of events connected with my own adventures; but a word in
behalf of American seamen in passing, may not be entirely out of place or
season. Men are seldom wronged without being calumniated, and the body of
men of which I was then one, did not escape that sort of reparation for
all the grievances they endured, which is dependent on demonstrating that
the injured deserve their sufferings. We have been accused of misleading
English cruisers by false information, of being liars to an unusual
degree, and of manifesting a grasping love of gold, beyond the ordinary
cupidity of man. Now, I will ask our accusers, if it were at all
extraordinary that they who felt themselves daily aggrieved, should resort
to the means within their power to avenge themselves? As for veracity, no
one who has reached my present time of life, can be ignorant that truth is
the rarest thing in the world, nor are those who have been the subjects
of mystifications got up in payment for wrongs, supposed or real, the most
impartial judges of character or facts. As for the charge of an undue love
of money, it is unmerited. Money will do less in America than in any other
country of my acquaintance, and infinitely less than in either France or
England. There is truth in this accusation, as applied either to a
particular class, or to the body of the American people, only in one
respect. It is undeniable that, as a new nation, with a civilization that
is wanting in so many of its higher qualities, while it is already so far
advanced in those which form the basis of national greatness, money does
not meet with the usual competition among us. The institutions, too, by
dispensing with hereditary consideration, do away with a leading and
prominent source of distinction that is known to other systems, thus
giving to riches an exclusive importance, that is rather apparent,
however, than real. I acknowledge, that little or no consideration is yet
given among us to any of the more intellectual pursuits, the great bulk of
the nation regarding literary men, artists, even professional men, as so
many public servants, that are to be used like any other servants,
respecting them and their labours only as they can contribute to the great
stock of national wealth and renown. This is owing, in part, to the youth
of a country in which most of the material foundation was so recently to
be laid, and in part to the circumstance that men, being under none of the
factitious restraints of other systems, coarse and vulgar-minded
declaimers make themselves heard and felt to a degree that would not be
tolerated elsewhere. Notwithstanding all these defects, which no
intelligent, and least of all, no travelled American should or can justly
deny, I will maintain that gold is not one tittle more the goal of the
American, than it is of the native of other active and energetic
communities. It is true, there is little _besides_ gold, just now, to aim
at in this country, but the great number of young men who devote
themselves to letters and the arts, under such unfavourable circumstances,
a number greatly beyond the knowledge of foreign nations, proves it is
circumstances, and not the grovelling propensities of the people
themselves, that give gold a so nearly undisputed ascendency. The great
numbers who devote themselves to politics among us, certainly any thing
but a money-making pursuit, proves that it is principally the want of
other avenues to distinction that renders gold apparently the sole aim of
American existence. To return from this touch of philosophy to our ships.
The progress of the Dawn soon left us no choice in the course to be
steered. We could see by the charts that the reef was already outside of
us, and there was now no alternative between going ashore, or going
through Marble's channel. We succeeded in the last, gaining materially on
the Leander by so doing, the Englishman hauling his wind when he thought
himself as near to the danger as was prudent, and giving up the chase. I
ran on to the northward an hour longer, when, finding our pursuer was hull
down to the southward and westward, I took in our larboard studding-sails,
and brought the ship by the wind, passing out to sea again, to the
eastward of Block Island.
Great was the exultation on board the Dawn at this escape; for escape it
proved to be. Next morning, at sunrise, we saw a sail a long distance to
the westward, which we supposed to be the Leander; but she did not give
chase. Marble and the people were delighted at having given John Bull the
slip; while I learned caution from the occurrence; determining not to let
another vessel of war get near enough to trouble me again, could I
possibly prevent it.
From this time, for twenty days, the passage of the Dawn had nothing
unusual. We crossed the Banks in forty-six, and made as straight a course
for the western extremity of England, as the winds would allow. For
several days, I was uncertain whether to go north-about, or not, believing
that I should fall in with fewer cruisers by doubling Scotland, than by
running up channel. The latter was much the nearest route; though so much
depends on the winds, that I determined to let these last govern. Until we
had made two-thirds of our distance across the ocean, the winds had stood
very much at south-west; and, though we had no heavy weather, our progress
was good; but in 20 deg. east from Greenwich, we got north-easters, and our
best tack being the larboard, I stood for ten days to the southward and
eastward. This brought us into the track of every thing going to, or
coming from, the Mediterranean; and, had we stood on far enough, we
should have made the land somewhere in the Bay of Biscay. I knew we should
find the ocean dotted with English cruisers, however, as soon as we got
into the European waters, and we tacked to the north-west, when about a
hundred leagues from the land.
The thirty-third day out proved one of great importance to me. The wind
had shifted to south-west, and it was blowing fresh, with very thick
weather--rain, mingled with a fine mist, that often prevented one's seeing
a quarter of a mile from the ship. The change occurred at midnight, and
there was every prospect of the wind's standing until it shoved us into
the chops of the channel, from which we were then distant about four
hundred miles, according to my own calculation. Marble had the watch at
four o'clock, and he sent for me, that I might decide on the course to be
steered and the sail to be carried. The course was N. N. East; but, as for
the sail, I determined to stand on under our top-sails and fore-course,
spanker and jib, until I could get a look by daylight. When the sun was
fairly up, there was no change, and I gave orders to get along some of the
larger studding-sails, and to set the main-top-gallant sail, having my
doubts whether the spars would bear any more canvass, under the stiff
breeze that was blowing.
"This is no great distance from the spot where we surprised the Lady of
Nantes, Captain Wallingford," Marble observed to me, as I stood
overlooking the process of bending a fore-top-mast studding-sail, in which
he was engaged with his own hands; "nor was the weather any thicker then
than it is now, though that was a haze, and this is a mist."
"You are out of your longitude a few hundred miles, Master Moses, but the
comparison is well enough, otherwise. We have twice the wind and sea we
had then, moreover, and that was dry weather, while this is, to speak more
gingerly, a little moist."
"Ay, ay, sir; there is just that difference. Them were pleasant days,
Captain Wallingford--I say nothing ag'in these--but them 'ere _were_
pleasant times, as all in the Crisis must allow."
"Perhaps we shall think the same of these some five or six years hence."
"Well, that's natur', I must confess. It's amazing how the last v'yge
hangs in a man's memory, and how little we think of the present! I suppose
the Lord made us all of this disposition, for it's sartain we all manifest
it. Come, bear a hand Neb, on that fore-yard, and let us see the length of
the stun-sail boom."
But, Neb, contrary to his habits, stood upright on the yard, holding on by
the lift, and looking over the weather leach of the top-sail, apparently at
some object that either was just then visible, or which had just before
"What is it?" cried Marble, struck with the black's attitude and manner.
"What d'ye see?"
"I don't see him now, sir; nuttin' now; but dere _was_ a ship."
"Where-away?" I demanded.
"Off, here, Masser Mile--larboard bow, well forrard; look sharp and soon
see him, yourself, sir."
Sharp enough we did look, all hands of us on deck, and, in less than a
minute, we caught a pretty good view of the stranger from the forecastle.
He might have been visible to us half a minute, in one of those momentary
openings in the mist, that were constantly occurring, and which enabled
the eye to command a range around the ship of half a mile, losing it
again, however, almost as soon as it was obtained. Notwithstanding the
distance of time, I can perfectly recall the appearance of that vessel,
seen as she was, for a moment only, and seen too so unexpectedly. It was a
frigate, as frigates then were; or a ship of that medium size between a
heavy sloop-of-war and a two-decker, which, perhaps, offers the greatest
proportions for activity and force. We plainly saw her cream-coloured, or
as it is more usual to term it, her _yellow_ streak, dotted with fourteen
ports, including the bridle, and gleaming brightly in contrast to the dark
and glistening hull, over which the mist and the spray of the ocean cast a
species of sombre lustre. The stranger was under his three top-sails,
spanker and jib, each of the former sails being double reefed. His courses
were in the brails. As the wind did not blow hard enough to bring a vessel
of any size to more than one reef, even on a bow-line, this short canvass
proved that the frigate was on her cruising ground, and was roaming about
in quest of anything that might offer. This was just the canvass to give a
cruiser a wicked look, since it denoted a lazy preparation, which might,
in an instant, be improved into mischief. As all cruising vessels, when on
their stations doing nothing, reef at night, and the hour was still early,
it was possible we had made this ship before her captain, or
first-lieutenant, had made his appearance on deck. There she was, at all
events, dark, lustrous, fair in her proportions, her yards looming square
and symmetrical, her canvass damp, but stout and new, the copper bright as
a tea-kettle, resembling a new cent, her hammock-cloths with the undress
appearance this part of a vessel of war usually offers at night, and her
quarter-deck and forecastle guns frowning through the lanyards of her
lower rigging like so many slumbering bull-dogs muzzled in their kennels.
The frigate was on an easy bow-line, or, to speak more correctly, was
standing directly across our fore-foot, with her yards nearly square. In a
very few minutes, each keeping her present course, the two ships would
have passed within pistol-shot of each other. I scarce knew the nature of
the sudden impulse which induced me to call out to the man at the wheel to
starboard his helm. It was probably from instinctive apprehension that it
were better for a neutral to have as little to do with a belligerent as
possible, mingled with a presentiment that I might lose some of my people
by impressment. Call out I certainly did, and the Dawn's bows came up to
the wind, looking to the westward, or in a direction contrary to that in
which the frigate was running, as her yards were square, or nearly so. As
soon as the weather leeches touched, the helm was righted, and away we
went with the wind abeam, with about as much breeze as we wanted for the
sail we carried.
The Dawn might have been half a mile to windward of the frigate when this
manoeuvre was put in execution. We were altogether ignorant whether our
own ship had been seen; but the view we got of the stranger satisfied us
that he was an Englishman. Throughout the whole of the long wars that
succeeded the French Revolution, the part of the ocean which lay off the
chops of the channel was vigilantly watched by the English, and it was
seldom, indeed, a vessel could go over it, without meeting more or less of
I was not without a hope that the two ships would pass each other,
without our being seen. The mist became very thick just as we hauled up,
and, had this change of course taken place after we were shut in, the
chances were greatly in favour of its being effected. Once distant a mile
from the frigate, there was little danger of her getting a glimpse of us,
since, throughout all that morning, I was satisfied we had not got an
horizon with that much of diameter.
As a matter of course, the preparations with the studding-sails were
suspended. Neb was ordered to lay aloft, as high as the cross-trees, and
to keep a vigilant look-out, while all eyes on deck were watching as
anxiously, in the mist, as we had formerly watched for the shadowy outline
of _la Dame de Nantes_. Marble's long experience told him best where to
look, and he caught the next view of the frigate. She was directly under
our lee, gliding easily along under the same canvass; the reefs still in,
the courses in the brails, and the spanker rolled up, as it had been for
"By George," cried the mate, "all them Johnny Bulls are still asleep, and
they haven't seen us! If we can give this fellow the slip, as we did the
old Leander, Captain Wallingford, the Dawn will become as famous as the
Flying Dutchman! See, there he jogs on, as if going to mill, or to church,
and no more stir aboard him than there is in a Quaker meetin'! How my good
old soul of a mother would enjoy this!"
There the frigate went, sure enough, without the smallest sign of any
alarm having been given on board her. The vessels had actually passed each
other, and the mist was thickening again. Presently, the veil was drawn,
and the form of that beautiful ship was entirely hid from sight. Marble
rubbed his hands with delight; and all our people began to joke at the
expense of the Englishman. 'If a merchantman could see a man-of-war,' it
was justly enough said, 'a man-of-war ought certainly to see a
merchantman.' Her look-outs must have all been asleep, or it would not
have been possible for us to pass so near, under the canvass we carried,
and escape undiscovered. Most of the Dawn's crew were native Americans,
though there were four or five Europeans among them. Of these last, one
was certainly an Englishman, and (as I suspected) a deserter from a
public ship; and the other, beyond all controversy, was a plant of the
Emerald Isle. These two men were particularly delighted, though well
provided with those veracious documents called protections, which, like
beggars' certificates, never told anything but truth; though, like
beggars' certificates, they not unfrequently fitted one man as well as
another. It was the well-established laxity in the character of this
testimony, that gave the English officers something like a plausible
pretext for disregarding all evidence in the premises. Their mistake was
in supposing they had a right to make a man prove anything on board a
foreign ship; while that of America was, in permitting her citizens to be
arraigned before foreign judges, under any conceivable circumstances. If
England wanted her own men, let her keep them within her own jurisdiction;
not attempt to follow them into the jurisdiction of neutral states.
Well, the ship had passed; and I began myself to fancy that we were quit
of a troublesome neighbour, when Neb came down the rigging, in obedience
to an order from the mate.
"Relieve the wheel, Master Clawbonny," said Marble, who often gave the
negro his patronymic, "we may want some of your touches, before we reach
the foot of the danse. Which way was John Bull travelling when you
last saw him?"
"He goin' eastward, sir."--Neb was never half as much "nigger" at sea, as
when he was on shore,--there being something in his manly calling that
raised him nearer to the dignity of white men.--"But, sir, he was gettin'
his people ready to make sail."
"How do you know that?--No such thing, sir; all hands were asleep, taking
their second naps."
"Well, you see, Misser Marble; den you _know_, sir."
Neb grinned as he said this; and I felt persuaded he had seen something
that he understood, but which very possibly he could not explain; though
it clearly indicated that John Bull was not asleep. We were not left long
in doubt on this head. The mist opened again, and, distant from us about
three-quarters of a mile, bearing on our lee quarter, we got another look
at the frigate, and a look that satisfied everybody what she was about.
The Englishman was in stays, in the very act of hauling his head-yards, a
certain sign he was a quick and sure-working fellow, since this manoeuvre
had been performed against a smart sea, and under double-reefed top-sails.
He must have made us, just as we lost sight of him, and was about to shake
out his reefs.
On this occasion, the frigate may have been visible from our decks three
minutes. I watched all her movements, as the cat watches the mouse. In the
first place her reefs were shaken out, as the ship's bows fell off far
enough to get the sea on the right side of them, and her top-sails appeared
to me to be mast-headed by instinct, or as the bird extends its wings. The
fore and main-top-gallant sails were fluttering in the breeze at this very
moment,--it blew rather too fresh for the mizen,--and then their bosoms
were distended, and their bow-lines hauled. How the fore and main-tacks got
aboard I could not tell, though it was done while my eyes were on the
upper sails. I caught a glimpse of the fore-sheet, however, as the clew
was first flapping violently, and then was brought under the restraint of
its own proper, powerful purchase. The spanker had been hauled out
previously, to help the ship in tacking.
There was no mistaking all this. We were seen, and chased; everything on
board the frigate being instantly and accurately trimmed, "full and by."
She looked up into our wake, and I knew must soon overtake a heavily-laden
ship like the Dawn, in the style in which she was worked and handled.
Under the circumstances, therefore, I motioned Marble to follow me aft,
where we consulted together, touching our future proceedings. I confess I
was disposed to shorten sail, and let the cruiser come alongside; but
Marble, as usual, was for holding on.
"We are bound to Hamburg," said the mate, "which lies, hereaway, on our
lee-beam, and no man has a right to complain of our steering our course.
The mist has shut the frigate in again, and, it being very certain he will
overhaul us on a bow-line, I advise you, Miles, to lay the yards perfectly
square, edge away two points more, and set the weather stun'-sails. If we
do not open John very soon again, we may be off three or four miles to
leeward before he learns where we are, and then, you know, a
'starn-chase' is always a 'long-chase.'"
This was good advice, and I determined to follow it. It blew rather fresh
at the instant, and the Dawn began to plunge through the seas at a famous
rate as soon as she felt the drag of the studding-sails. We were now
running on a course that made an obtuse angle with that of the frigate,
and there was the possibility of so far increasing our distance as to get
beyond the range of the openings of the mist, ere our expedient were
discovered. So long did the density of the atmosphere continue, indeed,
that my hopes were beginning to be strong, just as one of our people
called out "the frigate!" This time she was seen directly astern of us,
and nearly two miles distant! Such had been our gain, that ten minutes
longer would have carried us clear. As we now saw her, I felt certain she
would soon see us, eyes being on the look-out on board her, beyond a
question. Nevertheless, the cruiser was still on a bow-line, standing on
the course on which we had been last seen.
This lasted but a moment, however. Presently the Englishman's bow fell
off, and by the time he was dead before the wind, we could see his
studding-sails flapping in the air, as they were in the act of being
distended, by means of halyards, tacks and sheets, all going at once. The
mist shut in the ship again before all this could be executed. What was to
be done next? Marble said, as we were not on our precise course, it might
serve a good turn to bring the wind on our starboard quarter, set all the
studding-sails we could carry on the same side, and run off
east-north-east: I inclined to this opinion, and the necessary changes
were made forthwith. The wind and mist increased, and away we went, on a
diverging line from the course of the Englishman, at the rate of quite ten
knots in the hour. This lasted fully forty minutes, and all hands of us
fancied we had at last given the cruiser the slip. Jokes and chuckling
flew about among the men, as usual, and everybody began to feel as happy
as success could make us, when the dark veil lifted at the south-west; the
sun was seen struggling through the clouds, the vapour dispersed, and
gradually the whole curtain which had concealed the ocean throughout that
morning arose, extending the view around the ship, little by little,
until nothing limited it but the natural horizon.
The anxiety with which we watched this slow rising of the curtain need
scarcely be described. Every eye was turned eagerly in the direction in
which its owner expected to find the frigate, and great was our
satisfaction as mile after mile opened in the circle around us, without
bringing her beautiful proportions within its range. But this could not
last for ever, there not being sufficient time to carry so large a vessel
over the curvature of the ocean's surface. As usual, Marble saw her first.
She had fairly passed to leeward of us, and was quite two leagues distant,
driving ahead with the speed of a race-horse. With a clear horizon, an
open ocean, a stiff breeze, and hours of daylight, it was hopeless to
attempt escape from as fast a vessel as the stranger, and I now determined
to put the Dawn on her true course, and trust altogether to the goodness
of my cause: heels being out of the question. The reader who will do me
the favour to peruse the succeeding chapter, will learn the result of this
"Whom have we here? Buckingham, to disturb
The King hath sent him, sure: I must dissemble."
_King Henry VI_.
At first, the frigate took single reefs in her top-sails, set
topgallant-sails over them, and hauled up on taut bow-lines. But seeing no
signs of our studding-sails coming down, she shook out her reefs, squared
her yards, set top-mast studding-sails, and kept off to a course that would
be certain to intercept us. She was up on our line of sailing some little
time before we got down to her, and she kept standing off and on, hauling
up her courses, and furling her topgallant-sails and hauling down all of
her light sails, the jib excepted As for the Dawn, she kept steadily on,
carrying everything she could bear. We had top-mast and lower
studding-sails, and not a tack or sheet had been touched when we got
within a quarter of a mile of the frigate. The Englishman now showed his
colours, when we let him see the stars and stripes. Still no sail was
touched on board us. As if surprised at our obstinacy, John Bull let fly a
chase-gun, taking good care not to send the shot very near us. I thought
it time, now, to shorten sail and to pretend to see him. We began to haul
down our studding-sails, merchant-fashion, and were fairly alongside of
the frigate before even this preliminary step to heaving-to was effected.
As we approached, the frigate bore up, and ran off in company with us,
keeping a hundred fathoms distance from us, and watching us closely. At
this instant, I ordered the topgallant-sails settled on the caps, as a
sign we intended to let him board us.
At length, having reduced the sail to the three top-sails, reefed, I
hove-to the Dawn, and waited for a visit from the Englishman's boat. As
soon as the frigate saw us fairly motionless, she shot up on our weather
quarter, half a cable's length distant, swung her long, saucy-looking
yards, and lay-to herself. At the same instant her lee-quarter boat
dropped into the water, with the crew in it, a boy of a mid-shipman
scrambled down the ship's side and entered it also, a lieutenant followed,
when away the cockle of a thing swept on the crest of a sea, and was soon
pulling round under our stern. I stood on the lee quarter, examining my
visiters, as they struggled against the swell, in order to get a boat-hook
into our main chains. The men were like any other man-of-war's men, neat,
sturdy, and submissive in air. The reefer was a well-dressed boy,
evidently a gentleman's son; but the lieutenant was one of those old
weather-beaten sea-dogs, who are seldom employed in boats, unless
something more than common is to be done. He was a man of forty,
hard-featured, pock-marked, red-faced, and scowling. I afterwards
ascertained he was the son of some underling about the Portsmouth
dock-yard, who had worked his way up to a lieutenancy, and owed his
advancement principally to his readiness in impressing seamen. His name
We threw Mr. Sennit a rope, as a matter of course, and Marble met him at
the gangway with the usual civilities. I was amused with the meeting
between these men, who had strictly that analogy to each other which is
well described as "diamond cut diamond." Each was dogmatical, positive,
and full of nautical conceit, in his own fashion; and each hated the
other's country as heartily as man could hate, while both despised
Frenchmen. But Sennit knew a mate from a master, at a glance; and, without
noticing Marble's sea-bow, a slight for which Marble did not soon forgive
him, he walked directly aft to me, not well pleased, as I thought, that a
ship-master had neglected to be at the gangway to meet a sea lieutenant.
"Your servant, sir," commenced Mr. Sennit, condescending to notice my bow;
"your servant, sir; I suppose we owe the pleasure of your company, just
now, to the circumstance of the weather's clearing."
This sounded hostile from the go off; and I was determined to give as good
as I received.
"Quite likely, sir," was my answer, uttered as coolly as I could speak--"I
do not think you got much the advantage, as long as there was
"Ay, you 're a famous fellow at hide and go seek, and I do not doubt would
make a long chase in a dark night. But his Majesty's ship, Speedy, is not
to be dodged by a Yankee."
"So it would seem, sir, by your present success."
"Men seldom run away without there is a cause for it. It's my business to
find out the reason why you have attempted it; so, sir, I will thank you
for the name of your ship, to begin with?"
"The Dawn, of New York."
"Ay, full-blooded Yankee--I knew you were New England, by your tricks."
"New York is not in New England; nor do _we_ call a New York ship, a
Yankee," put in Marble.
"Ay, ay--if one were to believe all you mates from the t' other side, say,
he would soon fancy that King George held his throne by virtue of a
commission from President Washington."
"President Washington is dead, Heaven bless him!" retorted Marble--"and
if one were to believe half of what you English say, he would soon fancy
that President Jefferson held his office as one of King George's
I made a sign for Marble to be silent, and intimated to the lieutenant I
was ready to answer any further inquiries he wished to make. Sennit did
not proceed, however, without giving a significant look at the mate, which
to me, seemed to say, "I have pressed a mate in my time."
"Well, sir, the Dawn, of New York," he continued, noting the name in his
pocket-book--"How are you called yourself?"
"The Dawn, of New York, Miles Wallingford, master."
"Miles Wallingford, master. Where from, whither bound, and with what
"From New York; bound to Hamburg; cargo sugars, coffee, and cochineal."
"A very valuable cargo, sir," observed Mr. Sennit, a little drily. "I
wish for your sake, it had been going to any other part of the world, as
this last war has sent the French into that part of Germany, and Hamburg
is suspected of being rather too much under Boney's influence."
"And were we bound to Bordeaux, sir, what power have you to stop a
neutral, at this distance at sea?"
"If you put it on _power_, Mr. Wallingford, you depend on a crutch that
will betray you. We have power enough to eat you, should that be
necessary--I suppose you mean _right."_
"I shall not dispute with you, sir, about words."
"Well, to prove to you that I am as amicably disposed as yourself, I will
say no more on the subject. With your permission, I will now examine your
papers; and to show you that I feel myself among friends, I will first
send my own boat back to the Speedy."
I was infinitely disgusted with this man's manner. It had the vulgar sort
of witticism about even his air, that he so much affected in his speech;
the whole being deformed by a species of sly malignancy, that rendered him
as offensive as he seemed to me to be dangerous. I could not refuse to let
a belligerent look at my papers, however, and went below to get them,
while Sennit gave some private orders to his reefer, and sent him away to
While on this subject, the reader must excuse an old man's propensity to
gossip, if I say a word on the general question of the right of search. As
for the pretence that was set up by some of the advocates of impressment
out of neutral ships, which laid down the position, that the belligerent
being on board in the exercise of an undoubted right to inquire into the
character of the ship and cargo, he took with him the right to lay hands
on all the subjects of his own sovereign he might happen to find there, it
is not worthy of a serious reply. Because a man has a right to take the
step preliminary to the discharge of an admitted power, as an incident of
that power, it does not follow that he can make the incident a principle,
and convert it into a justification of acts, unlawful in themselves. On
this head, therefore, I shall say nothing, holding it to be beyond dispute
among those who are competent to speak on the subject at all. But the
abuse of that admitted power to board and ascertain the character of a
ship, has created so lively a feeling in us Americans, as to induce us to
forego some of the wholesome principles that are necessary to the
well-being of all civilized nations. It is thus, in my judgment, that we
have quite recently and erroneously laid down the doctrine that foreign
vessels of war shall not board American ships on the coast of Africa, in a
time of peace, in order to ascertain their character.
On this subject I intend to speak plainly. In the first place, I lay no
claim to that spurious patriotism which says, "our country, right or
wrong." This may do for the rabble; but it will not do for God, to whom
our first and highest obligations are due. Neither country, nor man, can
justify that which is wrong; and I conceive it to be wrong, in a political
if not in a moral sense, to deny a vessel of war the privilege which
England here claims. I can see but one plausible argument against it, and
that is founded on the abuses which may arise from the practice. But it
will not do to anticipate abuses in this instance, more than in any other.
Every right, whether national or international, may be abused in its
exercise; and the argument, if good for anything, is as good against every
other right of international law, as it is against this. Abuse, after it
has occurred, might be a justifiable reason for suspending the exercise of
an admitted right, until some remedies were applied to prevent their
recurrence, but it can never be urged as a proper argument against the
right itself. If abuses occur, we can get them remedied by proper
representations; and, if these last fail, we have the usual appeal of
nations. As well might it be said, the law of the land shall not be
administered, because the sheriff's officers are guilty of abuses, as to
say the law of nations shall cease because we apprehend that certain
commercial rivalries may induce others to transcend them. When the wrong
is done, it will be time enough to seek the remedy.
That it is the right of a vessel of war to ascertain the character of a
ship at sea, is dependent on her right to arrest a pirate, for instance.
In what manner can this be done, if a pirate can obtain impunity, by
simply hoisting the flag of some other country, which the cruiser is
obliged to respect? All that the latter asks is the power to ascertain if
that flag is not an imposition; and this much every regularly commissioned
public ship should be permitted to do, in the interests of civilization,
and in maintenance of the police of the seas.
The argument on the other side goes the length of saying, that a public
cruiser is in the situation of a sheriff's officer on shore, who is
compelled to arrest his prisoner on his own responsibility. In the first
place, it may be questioned if the dogma of the common law which asserts
the privilege of the citizen to conceal his name, is worthy of a truly
enlightened political freedom. It must not be forgotten that liberty first
took the aspect of franchises, in which men sought protection from the
abuses of power in any manner they could, and often without regarding the
justness of the general principles with which they were connected;
confusion in these principles arising as a consequence. But, admitting the
dogma of the common law to be as inherently wise, as it is confessedly a
practice, there is no parallel in the necessity of the case of an arrest
on shore and of an arrest at sea. In the former instance the officer may
apply to witnesses;--he has the man before him, and compares him with the
description of the criminal; and, should he make an erroneous arrest,
under misleading circumstances, his punishment would be merely nominal--in
many cases, nothing. But the common law, whilst it gives the subject this
protection, does not deny the right of the officer to arrest. It only
punishes the abuse of this power, and that is precisely what nations
ought to do, in a case of the abuse of the right to examine a merchantman.
The vessel of war cannot apply to witnesses, and cannot judge of national
character by mere external appearances, since an American-built ship can
be sailed by Portuguese. The actual necessities of the case are in favour
of the present English claim, as well as that great governing principle,
which says that no great or principal right can exist, in international
law, without carrying with it all the subordinate privileges which are
necessary to its discreet exercise.
Thus much I could not refrain from saying, not that I think John Bull is
very often right in his controversies with ourselves, but because I think,
in this case, he is; and because I believe it far safer, in the long run,
for a nation, or an individual, to have justice on his side, than always
to carry his point.
I was soon on deck, carrying my writing-desk under my arm, Mr. Sennit
preferring to make his examination in the open air, to making it below. He
read the clearance and manifest with great attention. Afterwards he asked
for the shipping articles. I could see that he examined the names of the
crew with eagerness, for the man was in his element when adding a new hand
to his frigate's crew.
"Let me see this Nebuchadnezzar Clawbonny, Mr. Wallingford," he said,
chuckling. "The name has an alias in its very absurdity, and I doubt not
I shall see a countryman--perhaps a townsman."
"By turning your head, sir, you can easily see the man. He is at the
"A black!--umph--yes; those fellows do sometimes sail under droll titles.
I do not think the lad was born at Gosport."
"He was born in my father's house, sir, and is my slave."
"Slave! A pretty word in the mouth of a free and independent son of
liberty, Mr. Wallingford. It is lucky you are not bound to that land of
despotism, old England, or you might see the fetters fall from about the
I was nettled, for I felt there was some justice in this sarcasm, and
this, too, at the very moment I felt it was only half-merited: and not at
all, perhaps, from an Englishman. But Sennit knew as much of the history
of my country as he did of his own, having obtained all he had learned of
either out of newspapers. Nevertheless, I succeeded in keeping silent.
"Nathan Hitchcock; this chap has a suspiciously Yankee name; will you let
me see _him_, sir," observed the lieutenant.
"The chap's name, then, does him no more than justice, for I believe he is
strictly what _we_ call a Yankee."
Nathan came aft at the call of the second-mate, and Sennit no sooner saw
him than he told him to go forward again. It was easy to see that the man
was perfectly able to distinguish, by means of the eye alone, between the
people of the two countries, though the eye would sometimes deceive even
the most practised judges. As the Speedy was not much in want of men, he
was disposed not to lay his hands on any but his own countrymen.
"I shall have to ask you, sir, to muster all your people in the gangway,"
said Sennit, rising, as he passed me the ship's papers. "I am only a
supernumerary of the Speedy, and I expect we shall soon have the pleasure
of seeing her first on board, the Honourable Mr. Powlett. We are a nob
ship, having Lord Harry Dermond for our captain, and lots of younger sons
in the cock-pit."
I cared little who commanded or officered the Speedy, but I felt all the
degradation of submitting to have my crew mustered by a foreign officer,
and this, too, with the avowed object of carrying away such portions of
them as he might see fit to decide were British subjects. In my judgment
it would have been much more creditable and much wiser for the young
Hercules to have made an effort to use his club, in resisting such an
offensive and unjustifiable assumption of power, than to be setting up
doubtful claims to establish principles of public law that will render the
exercise of some of the most useful of all international rights perfectly
nugatory. I felt a disposition to refuse compliance with Sennit's request,
and did the result only affect myself I think I should have done so; but,
conscious that my men would be the sufferers, I thought it more prudent to
comply. Accordingly, all the Dawn's people were ordered to muster near the
While I endeavour to do justice to principles, I wish to do no injustice
to Sennit. To own the truth, this man picked out the Englishman and
Irishman as soon as each had answered his first questions. They were
ordered to get their things ready to go on hoard the Speedy, and I was
coolly directed to pay them any wages that might be due. Marble was
standing near when this command was given; and seeing disgust, most
likely, in my countenance, he took on himself the office of replying:
"You think accounts should be balanced, then, before these men quit the
ship?" he asked, significantly.
"I do, sir; and it's my duty to see it done. I will thank you to attend to
it at once," returned the lieutenant.
"Well, sir, that being the case, we shall be receivers, instead of payers.
By looking at the shipping articles, you will see that each of these men
received fifty dollars, or two months' advance," [seamen's wages were as
high, frequently, in that day, as twenty or thirty dollars;] "and quite
half of the 'dead-horse' remains to be worked out. We will, therefore,
thank His Majesty to pay us the odd twenty-five dollars for each of
"What countryman are _you_?" demanded the lieutenant, with a menacing
look. "Cornish, by your impudence: have a care, sir; I have carried off
mates, before now, in my day."
"I came from the land of tombstones, which is an advantage; as I know the
road we all must travel, sooner or later. My name is Marble, at your
service; and there's a hard natur' under it, as you'll find on trial."
Just at this moment, the frigate's boat came round her stern, carrying the
Hon. Mr. Powlett, or the gentleman whom Sennit had announced as her
first-lieutenant. I thought the rising anger of the last was a little
subdued by the appearance of his senior officers: social position and
private rank making even a greater difference between the two, than mere
date of commission. Sennit suppressed his wrath, therefore; though I make
no doubt the resentment he felt at the contumelious manner of my mate, had
no little influence on what subsequently occurred. As things were, he
waited, before he proceeded any further, for the Speedy's boat to come
Mr. Powlett turned out to be a very different sort of person from his
brother lieutenant. There was no mistaking him for anything but a
gentleman, or for a sailor. Beyond a question, he owed his rank in his
ship to family influence, and he was one of those scions of aristocracy
(by no means the rule, however, among the high-born of England) who never
was fit for anything but a carpet-knight, though trained to the seas. As I
afterwards learned, his father held high ministerial rank; a circumstance
that accounted for his being the first-lieutenant of a six-and-thirty, at
twenty, with a supernumerary lieutenant under him who had been a sailor
some years before he was born. But, the captain of the Speedy, himself,
Lord Harry Dermond, was only four-and-twenty; though he had commanded his
ship two years, and fought one very creditable action in her.
After making my best bow to Mr. Powlett, and receiving a very
gentleman-like salutation in return, Sennit led his brother officer aside,
and they had a private conference of some little length together.
"I shall not meddle with the crew, Sennit," I overheard Powlett say, in a
sort of complaining tone, as he walked away from his companion. "Really, I
cannot become the master of a press-gang, though the Speedy had to be
worked by her officers. You are used to this business, and I leave it
all to you."
I understood this to be a _carte blanche_ to Sennit to carry off as many
of my people as he saw fit; there being nothing novel or surprising in
men's tolerating in others, acts they would disdain to perform in person.
As soon as he left his junior in rank, the youthful first-lieutenant
approached me. I call him youthful, for he appeared even younger than he
was, though I myself had commanded a ship when only of his own age. It was
easy to see that this young man felt he was employed on an affair of some
"It is reported to us, on board the Speedy, sir," the Hon. Mr. Pewlett
commenced, "that you are bound to Hamburg?"
"To Hamburg, sir, as my papers will show."
"Our government regards all trade with that part of the continent with
great distrust, particularly since the late movements of the French. I
really wish, sir, you had not been bound to Hamburg."
"I believe Hamburg is still a neutral port, sir; and, if it were not, I do
not see why an American should not enter it, until actually blockaded."
"Ah! these are some of your very peculiar American ideas on such subjects!
I cannot agree with you, however, it being my duty to obey my orders. Lord
Harry has desired us to be very rigorous in our examination, and I trust
you will understand we must comply, however unpleasant it may be, sir. I
understand, now, sugar and coffee are exceedingly suspicious!"
"They are very innocent things rightly used, as I hope mine will be."
"Have you any particular interest in the cargo, Captain Wallingford?"
"Only that of owner, sir. Both ship and cargo are my own private
"And you seem to be English, or American--for, I confess myself unable to
tell the difference between the people of the two countries, though I dare
say there is a very great difference."
"I am an American by birth, as have been my ancestors for generations."
"I declare that is remarkable! Well, I can see no difference. But, if
_you_ are American, I do not see why the sugar and coffee are not
American, too. Lord Harry, however, desired us to be very particular about
these things, for some reason or other. Do you happen to know, now, where
this sugar grew?"
"The canes of which it was made grew, I believe, in St. Domingo."
"St. Domingo!--Is not that a French Island?"
"Certainly, in part, sir; though the Spaniards and the negroes dispute the
possession with the French."
"I declare I must send Lord Harry word of this! I am exceedingly sorry,
Captain Wallingford, to detain your ship, but my duty requires me to send
a young gentleman on board the Speedy for orders."
As I could urge no plausible objection, the young gentleman was again sent
back to the frigate. In the mean time, Sennit had not been idle. Among my
crew were a Swede and a Prussian, and both these men having acquired their
English in London or Liverpool, he affected to believe they were natives
of the old island, ordering them to get their dunnage ready to go under
the pennant. Neither of the men, however, was disposed to obey him, and
when I joined the group, leaving the Hon. Mr. Powlett waiting the return
of his boat, on the quarter-deck, I found the three in a warm discussion
on the subject.
"I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Wallingford," Sennit cried, as I
approached, "we will compromise matters. Here are two fellows who are
Lancashire men, if the truth were known, that pretend to be Norwegians, or
Fins, or to come from some other outlandish country or other, and I wish
to place them under His Majesty's pennant, where they properly belong; as
they are so reluctant to receive this honour, I will consent to take that
fine-looking Kentish man, who is worth them both put together."
As this was said, Sennit pointed to Tom Voorhees, an athletic, handsome
young North River man, of Dutch extraction, a fellow who had not a drop of
English blood in his veins, and the ablest-bodied and the best seaman in
the Dawn; a fact that the lieutenant's nautical tact had not been slow
"You are asking me to let you have a man who was born within ten miles of
myself," I answered, "and whose family I know to be American, for near two
"Ay, ay; you're all of _old_ families in America, as everybody knows. The
chap is English born, for a hundred guineas; and I could name a spot in
Kent, not ten miles distant from that where he first saw the light. I do
not say, however, you were not his neighbour--for you have a Dover look,
"You might be less disposed to pleasantry, sir, were this a thirty-six, or
were you and I on shore."
Sennit gave me a disdainful look, and terminated the affair by ordering
Voorhees to get his chest ready, and to join the two other men he had
pressed. Taking example, however, from the Swede and the Prussian,
Voorhees walked away, using no measures to obey. As for myself, thoroughly
disgusted with this man, a vulgar rogue, I walked aft to the other
lieutenant, who was only a gentleman-like dunce.
Mr. Powlett now began to converse of London; and he told me how often he
had been at the opera when last in town,--and remarked what an exceedingly
delightful _fete champetre_ was lady somebody's entertainment of that
sort. This occupied us until the boat returned, with a very civil request
from the captain of the Speedy, that I would do him the favour to pay him
a visit, bringing with me the ship's papers. As this was what no
belligerent had a right to demand, though privateersmen constantly did it,
I could comply or not. Fancying it might expedite matters, regarding the
civility of the request as a good omen, and feeling a desire to deal with
principals, in an affair that was very needlessly getting to be serious, I
consented to go. Marble was called, and formally told to take charge of
the ship. I could see a smile of contempt on Sennit's face, at this little
ceremony, though he made no objection in terms. I had expected that the
first-lieutenant would go to the frigate with me, but, after a short
consultation with his junior, the last was deputed to do me this honour.
Sennit now appeared disposed to show me every slight and indignity it was
in his power to manifest. Like all vulgar-minded men, he could not refrain
from maltreating those whom he designed to injure. He made me precede him
into the boat, and went up the Speedy's side first, himself, on reaching
that vessel. His captain's conduct was very different. Lord Harry was not
a very noble _looking_ personage, as your worshippers of rank imagine
nobility to appear, but he was decidedly well-mannered; and it was easy
enough to see he commanded his own ship, and was admirably fitted so to
do. I have had occasion to learn that there is a vast deal of aristocratic
and democratic cant, on the subject of the appearance, abilities,
qualities and conduct of Europeans of birth and station. In the first
place, nature has made them very much as she makes other people; and the
only physical difference there is proceeds from habit and education. Then,
as to the enervating effects of aristocracy, and noble effeminacy, I have
seen ten times as much of it among your counter-jumpers and dealers in bob
binet, as I have seen in the sons of dukes and princes; and, in my later
days, circumstances have brought me much in contact with many of these
last. Manliness of character is far more likely to be the concomitant of
aristocratic birth, than of democratic, I am afraid; for, while those who
enjoy the first feel themselves above popular opinion, those who possess
the last bow to it, as the Asiatic slave bows to his master. I wish I
could think otherwise; but experience has convinced me of these facts, and
I have learned to feel the truth of an axiom that is getting to be
somewhat familiar among ourselves, viz.--"that it takes an aristocrat to
make a true democrat." Certain I am, that all the real, manly, independent
democrats, I have ever known in America, have been accused of aristocracy,
and this simply because they were disposed to carry out their principles,
and not to let that imperious sovereign, "the neighbourhood," play the
tyrant over them. As for personal merit, quite as fair a proportion of
talent is found among the well-born as among the low; and he is but an _ad
captandum vulgus_ sort of a philosopher who holds the contrary doctrine.
Talleyrand was of one of the most ancient and illustrious houses of
Europe, as was Turenne; while Mansfield, Erskine, Grey, Wellington, and a
host of Englishmen of mark of our time, come of noble blood. No--no--The
cause of free institutions has much higher and much juster distinctions to
boast of, than this imaginary superiority of the humbly born over those
who come of ancient stock.
Lord Harry Dermond received me just as one of his station ought to receive
one of mine; politely, without in the least compromising his own dignity.
There was a good-natured smile on his face, of which, at first, I did not
know what to make. He had a private conversation with Sennit, too; but the
smile underwent no change. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it
was habitual with him and meant nothing. But, though so much disposed to
smile Lord Harry Dermond was equally disposed to listen to every
suggestion of Sennit, that was likely to favour the main chance.
Prize-money is certainly a great stain on the chivalry of all navies, but
it is a stain with which the noble wishes to be as deeply dyed as the
plebeian. Human nature is singularly homogeneous on the subject of money;
and younger-son nature, in the lands of _majorats_ and entails, enjoys a
liveliness of longing on the subject, that is quite as conspicuous as the
rapacity of the veriest plebeian who ever picked a pocket.
"I am very sorry, Captain Wallingford," Captain Lord Harry Dermond
observed to me, when his private conference with Sennit was ended, and
altogether superior to the weakness of Powlett, who would have discussed
the point, "that it is my duty to send your ship into Plymouth. The French
have got such an ascendency on the continent, that we are obliged to use
every act of vigilance to counteract them: then, your cargo is of
"As for the ascendency, my lord, you will see we Americans have nothing to
do with it; and my cargo, being necessarily of last year's crops, must
have been grown and manufactured in a time of general peace. If it were
not, I do not conceive it would legalize my capture."
"We must leave Sir William Scott to decide that, my good sir," answered
the captain,'with his customary smile; "and there is no use in our
discussing the matter. An unpleasant duty"--as if he thought the chance of
putting two or three thousand pounds in his pocket, unpleasant!--"an
unpleasant duty, however, need not be performed in a disagreeable manner.
If you will point out what portion of your people you could wish to keep
in your ship, it shall be attended to. Of course, you remain by your
property your self; and I confess, whatever may be done with the cargo, I
think the ship will be liberated. As the day is advancing, and it will
require some little time to exchange the people, I should be exceedingly
happy if you would do me the favour to lunch in my cabin."
This was gentlemanly conduct, if it were not lawful. I could foresee a
plenty of evil consequences to myself in the delay, though I own I had no
great apprehensions of a condemnation. There was my note to John
Wallingford to meet, and two months' detention might keep me so long from
home, as to put the payment at maturity quite out of the question. Then
came the mortgage on Clawbonny, with its disquieting pictures; and I was
in anything but a good humour to enjoy Lord Harry Dermond's hospitality.
Still, I knew the uselessness of remonstrances, and the want of dignity
there would be in repining, and succeeded in putting a good face on the
matter. I simply requested that my chief mate, the cook, and Neb, might be
left in the Dawn, submitting it to the discretion of my captors to take
out of her as many of the remainder of her people as they saw fit. Lord
Harry remarked it was not usual to leave a mate, but to oblige me, he
would comply. The frigate would go in for water, in the course of a
fortnight, when I might depend on having the entire crew, His Majesty's
subjects excepted, restored to my command.
_1st Gent_. What is my ransom, master? Let me know.
_Mast_. A thousand crowns, or else lay down your head.
_Mate_. And so much shall you give, or off goes yours.
King Henry VI.
I never saw a man more astounded, or better disposed to fly into a
passion, than was the case with Mr. Moses Oloff Van Duzen Marble, when he
was told that the Dawn was to be sent into England, for adjudication.
Nothing kept his tongue within the bounds of moderation, and I am far from
certain I might not add his fists, but my assurances he would be sent on
board the Speedy, unless he behaved with prudence. As our people were sent
out of the ship, I thought, several times, he would break out in open
hostilities; and he did actually propose to me to knock Sennit down, and
throw him overboard. With a significant look, I told him it was not time
for this. The mate now laid a finger on his nose, winked, and from that
moment he not only seemed cheerful, but he assisted in hoisting in and out
the different articles that were exchanged, in shifting the crews.
When all was ready, it appeared that Sennit was to be our prize-master.
Although a lieutenant in commission, he had only been lent to Lord Harry
Dermond by the admiral, in order to fill up the crew of that favoured
officer; the Speedy having her regular complement of lieutenants without
him. As the cruise was so nearly up, and the ship had experienced great
success in impressing since she sailed, Sennit could be spared; and, if
the truth were said, I make no doubt his mess-mates in the frigate were
glad to be rid of him, now they had no further occasion for his peculiar
skill and services.
Mr. Sennit brought on board with him, as a prize-crew, ten foremast men,
besides a master's-mate, of the name of Diggens. Under ordinary
circumstances, this last dignitary would have been of sufficient skill to
take the ship in: but this was the first prize Lord Harry had taken; she
promised to be valuable if condemned; and I suppose he and his young,
gentleman-like luffs were desirous of getting rid of their vulgar
associate. At any rate, Messrs. Sennit and Diggens both came on board us,
bag and baggage.
The various changes, the lunch, and the chase of the morning, had so far
worn away the day, that the two vessels did not make sail until four
o'clock, P.M., when both ships filled at the same time; the Speedy on a
wind, with two reefs in her top-sails, as when first seen, to play about
for more prizes, and the Dawn under studding-sails, with the wind nearly
over the taffrail. When all was ready, each ship started away from the
vacant point on the ocean, where they had been lying for hours, moving on
diverging lines, at a rate that soon put a wide expanse of water
I felt the circumstance of being left under the command of such a man as
Sennit almost as sensibly as I felt the loss of my ship. He and the mate
established themselves in my cabin, within the first hour, in a way that
would have brought about an explosion, had not policy forbade it, on my
part. Sennit even took possession of my state-room, in which he ordered
his own cot to be swung, and from which he coolly directed my mattress to
be removed. As the lockers were under locks and keys, I permitted him to
take possession without a remonstrance. Diggens stowed his bedding in
Marble's berth, leaving my mate and myself to shift for ourselves. At a
suggestion from Marble, I affected great indignation at this treatment,
directing Neb to clear away a place in the steerage, in which to live, and
to swing hammocks there for Marble and myself. This movement had some
effect on Sennit, who was anxious to get at the small-stores; all of which
were under good locks, and locks that he did not dare violate, under an
order from the admiralty. It was, therefore, of much importance to him to
belong to my mess; and the necessity of doing something to appease my
resentment became immediately apparent to him. He made some apologies for
his cavalier conduct, justifying what he had done on the score of his rank
and the usages of navies, and I thought it prudent to receive his excuses
in a way to avoid an open rupture. Sennit was left in possession of the
state-room, but I remained in the steerage; consenting, however, to mess
in the cabin. This arrangement, which was altogether premeditated on my
part, gave me many opportunities of consulting privately with Marble; and
of making sundry preparations for profiting by the first occasion that
should offer to re-take the ship. In that day, re-captures were of pretty
frequent occurrence; and I no sooner understood the Dawn was to be sent
in, than I began to reflect on the means of effecting my purpose. Marble
had been kept in the ship by me, expressly with this object.
I suppose the reader to have a general idea of the position of the vessel,
as well as of the circumstances in which she was placed. We were just
three hundred and fifty-two miles to the southward and westward of Scilly,
when I observed at meridian, and the wind blowing fresh from the
south-south-west, there was no time to lose, did I meditate anything
serious against the prize crew. The first occasion that presented to speak
to my mate offered while we were busy together in the steerage, stowing
away our effects, and in making such dispositions as we could to be
"What think you, Moses, of this Mr. Sennit and his people?" I asked, in a
low voice, leaning forward on a water-cask, in order to get my head nearer
to that of the mate. "They do not look like first-rate man-of-war's-men;
by activity and surprise, could we not handle them?"
Marble laid a finger on his nose, winked, looked as sagacious as he knew
how, and then went to the steerage door, which communicated with the
companion-way, to listen if all were safe in that quarter. Assured that
there was no one near, he communicated his thoughts as follows:
"The same idee has been at work here," he said, tapping his forehead with
a fore-finger, "and good may come of it This Mr. Sennit is a cunning chap,
and will want good looking after, but his mate drinks like a coal-heaver;
I can see that in his whole face; a top-lantern is not lighter. _He_ must
be handled by brandy. Then, a more awkward set of long-shore fellows were
never sent to manage a square-rigged craft, than these which have been
sent from the Speedy. They must have given us the very sweepings of
"You know how it is with these dashing young man-of-war captains; they
keep all their best materials for a fight. French frigates are tolerably
plenty, they tell me, and this Lord Harry Dermond, much as he loves sugar
and coffee, would like to fall in with a la Vigilante, or a la Diane, of
equal force, far better. This is the secret of his giving Sennit such a
set of raw ones. Besides, he supposes the Dawn will be at Plymouth in
eight-and-forty hours, as will certainly be the case should this
"The fellows are just so many London loafers. (I have always thought
Marble had the merit of bringing this word into fashion.) There are but
three seamen among them, and _they_ are more fit for a hospital than for a
lowyer-yard or a jib-boom."
There was a good deal of truth, blended with some exaggeration, mixed up
with this statement of tire mate. As a matter of course, the captain of
the Speedy had not sent away his best men, though they were not quite as
bad as Marble, in his desire to overcome them, was disposed to fancy. It
is true, there were but three of their number whom the quick, nautical
instinct of the mate had recognised as real seamen, though all had been on
board ship long enough to render them more or less useful.
"Whatever we do must be done at once," I rejoined. "We are four athletic
men, to act against twelve. The odds are heavy, but we shall have the
advantage of being picked men, and of attacking by surprise."
"I wish you had thought of asking to keep Voorhees in the ship, Miles;
that fellow would be worth three ordinary men to us."
"I did think of it, but the request would never have been granted. One
could ask for a cook, or a mate, or a servant like Neb, but to ask for an
able seaman or two would have been to declare our object."
"I believe you're right, and we must be thankful for the good stuff we
have, as it is. How far will the law bear us out in knocking men on the
head in such an undertaking? It's peace for America, and we must steer
clear of piracy!"
"I've thought of all that, Moses, and see no great cause of apprehension.
A man has certainly a right to recover that by the strong hand which he
lost by the strong hand. Should blood be spilt, which I hope to avert, the
English courts might judge us harshly, while the American would acquit us.
The law would be the same in both cases, though its administration would
be very different. I am ready to cast my own fortune on the issue, and I
wish no man to join me who will not do so, heart and hand. I see no reason
to suppose it will be necessary to take life, to which I have as strong
reluctance as you can have yourself."
"There's my hand!" exclaimed Marble, "and as for its owner's heart, you
well know where that is to be found, Miles. Enough has been said for a
beginning. We will look about us this afternoon, and talk further
"Good. Do you say a word to Billings, the cook, and I will open the matter
to Neb. Of the last we are certain, but it may be well to make some
promises to your man."
"Leave that to me, Miles. I know my chap, and will deal with him as I
would with an owner."
Marble and myself now separated, and I went on deck to observe how things
promised in that quarter. By this time, the Speedy's top-sails were
beginning to dip, and the Dawn was driving forward on her course, with
everything drawing that she could carry. All the English were on deck,
Sennit included. The last gave me a sufficiently civil salute as I put my
foot on the quarter-deck, but I avoided falling into any discourse with
him. My cue was to note the men, and to ascertain all I could concerning
their distribution during the approaching night. Diggens, I could see, was
a red-faced fellow who probably had lost his promotion through love of the
bottle, though, as often happens with such persons, a prime seaman and a
thorough man-of-war's-man. Of him, I thought I could make sure by means
of brandy. Sennit struck me as being a much more difficult subject to get
along with. There were signs of cogniac about his face too, but he had
more rank, more at stake, and brighter hopes than the master's-mate. Then
he was evidently better practised in the ways of the world than his
companion, and had constantly a sort of uneasy vigilance about his eye and
manner that gave me no little concern.
It was my wish to strike a blow, if possible, that very night, every
minute carrying us fast towards the chops of the channel, where the
English had so many cruisers in general, as to render ultimate escape next
to impossible, should we even be so lucky as to regain command of our own
ship. I was afraid, moreover, Sennit might take it into his head to have
all hands all night, under the pretext of drawing in with the land. Should
he actually adopt this course, our case was nearly hopeless.
"Your mate seems to love the cupboard, Mr. Wallingford," Sennit remarked
to me, in a good-natured manner, with an evident wish to establish still
more amicable relations between us than had yet existed; "he has been in
and about that galley these ten minutes, fidgeting with his tin-pot, like
a raw hand who misses his mother's tea!"
Sennit laughed at his own humour, and I could hardly answer with a smile,
for I knew my mate had adopted this experiment to open communications
with the cook.
"Mr. Marble is famous for his love of slops," I answered, evasively.
"Well, he does not _look_ it. I have seldom seen a more thorough-looking
sea-dog than your mate, Captain Wallingford,"--this was the first time
Sennit had dignified me with this title,--"and I took a fancy to him on
that account, as soon as I saw him. You will do me the favour to sup with
us in the cabin, I hope, for I see signs at the galley that it will soon
"I shall expect to join your mess, sir, now explanations have passed
between us. I suppose _my_ mate is to be one of my party, as well
"Certainly. I shall ask the favour of you to let Mr. Marble relieve
Diggens, for half an hour or so, while the poor fellow gets a bite. We'll
do as much for you another time."
This was said in a dry, laughing, sort of a way, which showed that Mr.
Sennit was fully aware he was making a request a little out of rule, to
ask a man to aid in carrying his own ship into port, as a prize; but I
took it, as it was meant, for a rough joke that had convenience at
It was not long ere Neb came to announce that supper was ready. Sennit had
made but an indifferent dinner, it would seem, and he appeared every way
disposed to take his revenge on the present occasion. Calling out to me to
follow, he led the way, cheerfully, into the cabin, professing great
satisfaction at finding we were to make but one mess of it. Strictly
speaking, a prize crew, under circumstances like those in which the Dawn
was now placed, had no right to consume any portion of the vessel's own
stores, condemnation being indispensable to legalize Lord Harry Dermond's
course, even according to the laws of his own country. But I had ordered
Neb to be liberal with my means, and a very respectable entertainment was
spread before our eyes, when we reached the cabin. Sennit was soon hard at
work; but, under pretence of looking for some better sugar than had been
placed on the table, I got three bottles of brandy privately into Neb's
hands, whispering him to give one to the master's-mate on deck, and the
other two to the crew. I knew there were too many motives for such a
bribe, connected with our treatment, the care of our private property, and
other things of that nature, to feel any apprehension that the true object
of this liberality would be suspected by those who were to reap its
Sennit, Marble, and myself, sate quite an hour at table. The former drank
freely of wine; though he declined having anything to do with the brandy.
As he had taken two or three glasses of the rejected liquor in my presence
before the two ships parted, I was convinced his present forbearance
proceeded from a consciousness of the delicate circumstances in which he
was placed, and I became rather more wary in my own movements. At length
the lieutenant said something about the "poor devil on deck," and Marble
was sent up, to look out for the ship, while Diggens came below to eat.
The instant the master's-mate appeared, I could see the brandy had been
doing its work on him, and I was fearful his superior might notice it. He
did not, however, being too well pleased with the Madeira I had set before
him, to trouble himself about a few drams, more or less, that might have
fallen to the share of his subordinate.
At length this memorable supper, like everything else of earth, came to an
end, and all of us went on deck in a body: leaving Neb and the cook to
clear away the fragments. It was now night, though a soft star-light was
diffused over the surface of the rolling water. The wind had moderated a
little, and the darkness promised to pass without any extra labour to the
people, several of the studding-sails having been taken in by Diggens'
orders, when he first went below.
When seamen first come on deck at sea, there is usually a pause in the
discourse, while each notes the weather, the situation of the ship, and
the signs of the hour. Sennit and myself did this, almost as a matter of
course, separating, in order that each might make his observations at
leisure. As for Marble, he gave up the command of the deck to Diggens,
walking forward by himself. Neb and the cook were keeping up the customary
clattering with plates, knives, and forks.
"Have the people had their suppers yet, Mr. Diggens?" demanded the
"Not yet, sir. We have no cook of our own, you know, sir, and so have been
obliged to wait, sir."
"The King's men wait for nobody. Order that black fellow to let them have
their suppers at once; while that is doing, we'll tell off the watches for
Diggens was evidently getting more and more under the influence of brandy,
keeping the bottle hid somewhere near him, by which means he took frequent
draughts unperceived. He gave the necessary orders, notwithstanding; and
presently the men were mustered aft, to be told off into the two watches
that were required for the service of the ship. This was soon done. Sennit
choosing five, and Diggens his five.
"It's past eight o'clock," said Sennit, when the selections were made. "Go
below the watch, and all but the man at the wheel of the watch on deck can
go below to the lights, to eat. Bear a hand with your suppers, my lads;
this is too big a craft to be left without look-outs forward, though I
dare say the Yankees will lend us a hand while you are swallowing a
"To be sure we will, sir," cried Marble, who had come to the gangway to
witness the proceedings. "Here, you Neb--come out of that galley and play
forecastle-man, while John Bull gets his supper. He's always cross when
he's hungry, and we'll feed him well to make a good neighbourhood."
This caused some who heard it to laugh, and others to swear and mutter.
Every one, nevertheless, appeared willing to profit by the arrangement,
the Englishmen being soon below, hard at work around the kids. It now
struck me that Marble intended to clap the forecastle-hatch down suddenly,
and make a rush upon the prize officers and the man at the wheel. Leaving
one hand to secure the scuttle, we should have been just a man apiece for
those on deck; and I make no doubt the project would have succeeded, had
it been attempted in that mode. I was, by nature, a stronger man than
Sennit, besides being younger and in my prime; while Diggens would not
have been more than a child in Marble's hands. As for the man at the
wheel, Neb could have thrown him half-way up to the mizen-top, on an
emergency. But it seemed that my mate had a deeper project in view; nor
was the other absolutely certain, as I afterwards learned, one of the
Englishmen soon coming out of the forecastle, to eat on deck, quite likely
aware that there might be some risk in letting all hands remain below.
It was now sufficiently dark for our purposes, and I began to reflect
seriously on the best mode of proceeding, when, all at once, a heavy
splash in the water was heard, and Marble was heard shouting, "Man
Sennit and I ran to the lee main-rigging, where we just got a glimpse of
the hat of the poor fellow, who seemed to be swimming manfully, as the
ship foamed past him.
"Starboard, your helm!" shouted Marble.--"Starboard, your helm! Come to
these fore-braces, Neb--bear a hand this a-way, you cook. Captain
Wallingford, please lend us a pull. Look out for the boat, Mr. Sennit;
we'll take care of the head-yards."
Now all this had been regularly concocted in the mate's mind in advance.
By these means he not only managed to get all our people together, but he
got them away from the boat. The whole was done so naturally, as to
prevent the smallest suspicion of any design. To do Sennit justice, I must
acknowledge that he behaved himself particularly well on this sudden
appeal to his activity and decision. The loss of a _man_ was, to him, a
matter of deep moment; all his habits and propensities inclining him to be
solicitous about the manning of ships. A man saved was as good as a man
impressed; and he was the first person in the boat. By the time the ship
had lost her way, the boat was ready; and I heard Sennit call out the
order to lower. As for us Americans, we had our hands full, to get the
head-yards braced up in time, and to settle away the top-gallant halyards,
aft, in order to save the spars. In two minutes, however, the Dawn
resembled a steed that had suddenly thrown his rider, diverging from his
course, and shooting athwart the field at right angles to his former
track, scenting and snuffing the air. Forward all was full, but the
after-yard having been square from the first, their sails lay aback, and
the ship was slowly forging ahead, with the seas slapping against her
bows, as if the last were admonishing her to stop.
I now walked aft to the taffrail, in order to make certain of the state of
things. Just as I reached the stern, Sennit was encouraging the men to
"give way" with the oar. I saw that he had six of his people with him, and
no doubt six of his best men--the boldest and most active being always the
most forward on such occasions. There was no time to be lost; and I turned
to look for Marble. He was at my elbow, having sought me with the same
object. We walked away from the man at the wheel together, to get out
"Now's your time, Miles," the mate muttered, slipping one of my own
pistols into my hands, as he spoke.--"That master's-mate is as muzzy as a
tapster at midnight, and I can make him do what I please. Neb has his
orders, and the cook is ready and willing. You have only to say the word,
"There seems little necessity for bloodshed," I answered "If you have the
other pistol, do not use it unnecessarily; we may want it for
"Boat!" interrupted Marble. "What more have we to do with the boat?
No--no--Miles; let this Mr. Sennit go to England where he belongs. Now,
see how I'll manage Diggens," he added; "I want to get a luff purchase up
out of the forecastle;--will you just order two or three of your fellows
forward, to go down and pass it up for me?"
"D'ye hear there, forward," called out Diggens, with a very thick
tongue.--"Tumble down into that forecastle, three or four of you, and pass
up the tackle for Mr. Marble."
Now, there were but three of the Englishmen left in the ship, exclusively
of the master's-mate himself, and the man at the wheel. This order,
consequently, sent all three immediately into the forecastle. Marble
coolly drew over the hatch, secured it, ordered the cook to keep a general
look-out forward, and walking aft, as if nothing occurred, said in his
"The ship's yours, again, Captain Wallingford."
"Mr. Diggens," I said, approaching the master's-mate, "as I have a
necessity for this vessel, which is my property, if you please, sir, I'll
now take charge of her in person. You had better go below, and make
yourself comfortable; there is good brandy to be had for the asking, and
you may pass an agreeable evening, and turn in whenever it suits you."
Diggens was a sot and a fool, but he did not want for pluck. His first
disposition was to give battle, beginning to call out for his men to come
to his assistance, but I put an end to this, by seizing him by the collar,
and dropping him, a little unceremoniously, down the companion-way. Half
an hour later, he was dead drunk, and snoring on the cabin floor.
There remained only the man at the wheel to overcome He was a seaman, of
course, and one of those quiet, orderly men, who usually submit to the
powers that be. Approaching him, I said--
"You see how it is, my lad; the ship has again changed owners. As for you,
you shall be treated as you behave. Stand to the wheel, and you'll get
good treatment and plenty of grog, but, by becoming fractious, you'll find
yourself in irons before you know where you are."
"Ay--ay, sir--" answered the man, touching his hat, and contenting
himself with this brief and customary reply.
"Now, Mr. Marble," I continued, "it is time to have an eye on the boat,
which will soon find the man, or give him up. I own, that I wish we had
recovered the ship without tossing the poor fellow overboard."
"Fellow overboard!" cried Marble, laughing--"I'd ha' thrown all England
into the sea had it been necessary and in my power, but it wasn't
necessary to throw overboard so much as a child. The chap they're arter is
nothing but one of the fenders, with the deep sea lashed to its smaller
end, and a tarpaulin stopped on the larger! Mr. Sennit need be in no great
hurry, for I'll engage his 'man overboard' will float as long as
The whole of Marble's expedient was thus explained, and I confess I was
much relieved by a knowledge of the truth. Apart from the general relief
that accompanied the consciousness of not having taken human life, should
we again fall into English hands, a thing by no means improbable, in the
situation in which we were placed, this circumstance might be of the last
importance to us. In the mean time, however, I had to look to the boat
and the ship.
The first thing we did was to clew up the three top-gallant-sails. This
gave us a much easier command of the vessel, short-handed as we were, and
it rendered it less hazardous to the spars to keep the Dawn on a wind.
When this was done, I ordered the after-braces manned, and the leaches
brought as near as possible to touching. It was time; for the oars were
heard, and then I got a view of the boat as it came glancing down on our
weather quarter. I instantly gave the order to fill the after sails, and
to keep the ship full and by. The braces were manned, as well as they
could be, by Marble, Neb and the cook, while I kept an eye on the boat,
with an occasional glance at the man at the wheel.
"Boat ahoy!" I hailed, as soon as the lieutenant got near enough for
"Ay, boat ahoy!" sure enough, growled Sennit; "some gentleman's back will
pay for this trick. The 'man overboard' is nothing but a d----d paddy
made out of a fender with a tarpaulin truck! I suspect your mate of this,
"My mate owns the offence, sir; it was committed to get you out of the
ship, while we took charge of her, again. The Dawn is under my orders once
more, Mr. Sennit; and before I permit you to come on board her, again, we
must have an understanding on the subject."
A long, meaning, whistle, with a muttered oath or two, satisfied me that
the lieutenant had not the slightest suspicion of the truth, until it was
thus abruptly announced to him. By this time the boat was under our stern,
where she was brought in order to be hooked on, the men intending to come
up by the tackles. For this, I cared not, however, it being an easy matter
for me, standing on the taffrail, to knock any one on the head, who should
attempt to board us, in that fashion. By way of additional security,
however, Neb was called to the wheel, Marble taking the English sailor
forward to help haul the bow-lines, and trim the yards. The ship beginning
to gather way, too, I threw Sennit the end of a lower-studding-sail
halyards, that were brought aft for the purpose, ordered his bowman to let
go his hold of the tackle, and dropped the boat a safe towing distance
astern. Neb being ordered to keep the weather leaches touching, just way
enough was got on the ship to carry out the whole of this plan, without
risk to anybody.
"You'll not think of leaving us out here, on the Atlantic, Mr.
Wallingford, five hundred miles from the Land's End," Sennit at length
called out, time having been taken to chew the cud of reflection.
"That's as you behave, sir. I wish you no harm personally, Mr. Sennit,
though I much wish my own ship. The night promises to be good and the wind
is moderating, so that the boat will be perfectly safe. I will have you
hauled up, and we will throw you a spare sail for a covering, and you will
have the consolation of knowing that _we_ shall have to keep watch, while
you are sleeping."
"Ay, sir, I understand it all; Job's comfort that will be. As I do not
suppose you are to be coaxed out of the advantage you have obtained, we
have no choice but compliance. Give us some food and water in addition,
and, for God's sake! don't cast us adrift in this boat, so far
I gave Sennit an assurance that we would take care of him, and orders were
issued to comply with his wishes. We passed the sail into the boat, and
lowered a bread-bag, a kid full of beef and pork, and a breaker of fresh
water. I took all these precautions the more readily, as I did not know
but we might be compelled to cast the boat adrift, and one would not wish
to resort to such a step, without desiring to leave his crew the best
possible chance for their lives. I will do Marble the justice to say, he
was active in making these arrangements, though, had the question of
destroying the entire prize-crew presented itself, on one side, and that
of losing the ship on the other, he would not have hesitated about sinking
Great Britain itself, were it possible to achieve the last. I was more
human, and felt exceedingly relieved when I again found myself in command
of the Dawn, after an interregnum of less than ten hours, without a drop
of blood having been spilled.
As soon as everything required was passed into the boat, she was dropped
astern, nearly to the whole length of the studding-sail halyards. This
would make her tow more safely to both parties: to those in her, because
there was less risk of the ship's dragging her under; and to ourselves,
because it removed all danger of the Englishmen's returning our favour, by
effecting a surprise in their turn. At such a distance from the ship,
there would always be time for us to rally and defeat any attempt to get
_Capt._ "And as for these whose ransome we have set,
It is our pleasure, one of them depart:--
Therefore come you with us, and let him go."
King Henry VI.
By such simple means, and without resistance, as it might be, did I
recover the possession of my ship, the Dawn. But, now that the good vessel
was in my power, it was by no means an easy thing to say what was to be
done with her. We were just on the verge of the ground occupied by the
channel cruisers, and it was preposterous to think of running the gauntlet
among so many craft, with the expectation of escaping. It is true, we
might fall in with twenty English man-of-war vessels, before we met with
another Speedy, to seize us and order us into Plymouth, had everything
been in order and in the usual state; but no cruiser would or could board
us, and not demand the reasons why so large a ship should be navigated by
so small a crew. It was over matters like these that Marble and I now
consulted, no one being on the quarter-deck but the mate, who stood at the
wheel, and myself. The cook was keeping a look-out on the forecastle. The
Englishman had lain down, in full view, by my orders, at the foot of the
main-mast; while Neb, ever ready to sleep when not on duty, was catching a
nap on the booms.
"We have got the ship, Moses," I commenced, "and the question next arises,
what we are to do with her?"
"Carry her to her port of destination, Captain Wallingford, to be sure.
What else _can_ we do with her, sir?"
"Ay, that is well enough, if it can be done. But, in addition to the
difficulty of four men's taking care of a craft of five hundred tons, we
have a sea before us that is covered with English cruisers."
"As for the four men, you may safely set us down as eight. I'll engage we
do as much in a blow, as eight such fellows as are picked up now-a-days
'long shore. The men of the present time are mere children to those one
met with in my youth, Miles!"
"Neither Neb, nor the cook, nor I, am a man of other times, but are all
men of to-day; so you must call us but three, after all. I know we can do
much; but a gale may come that would teach us our insignificance. As it
is, we are barely able to furl the main-top-gallant-sail in a squall,
leaving one hand at the wheel, and another to let go rigging. No, no,
Moses; we must admit we are rather short-handed, putting the best face on
"If you generalize in that mode, Miles, my dear boy, I must allow that we
are. We can go up channel, and ten chances to one but we fall in with
some Yankee, who will lend us a hand or two."
"We shall be twice as likely to meet with King George's ships, who will
overhaul our articles, and want to know what has become of the rest of
"Then we'll tell 'em that the rest of the crew has been pressed; they know
their own tricks too well, not to see the reasonableness of such an idee."
"No officer would leave a vessel of this size with only her master, mate,
cook, and one man, to take care of her, even had he found a crew of
deserters from his own ship in her. In such a case, and admitting a right
to impress from a foreigner at all, it would be his duty to send a party
to carry the craft into port. No, no, Moses--we must give all the English
a wide berth, now, or they will walk us into Plymouth, yet."
"Blast the hole! I was in it, a prisoner, during the revvylushun, and
never want to see its face ag'in. They've got what they call the Mill
Prison there, and it's a mill that does grinding less to my taste, than
the thing of your'n at Clawbonny. Why not go north-about, Miles? There
must be few cruisers up that-a-way."
"The road is too long, the weather is apt to be too thick, and the coast
is too dangerous for us, Moses. We have but two expedients to choose
between--to turn our heads to the westward, and try to get home, trusting
to luck to bring us up with some American who will help us, or steer due
east and run for a French port--Bordeaux for instance--where we might
either dispose of the cargo, or ship a new crew, and sail for our port of
"Then try the last, by all means. With this wind, we might shove the ship
in with the land in the course of two or three days, and go clear of
everything! I like the idee, and think it can be carried out. Burdux is
always full of Americans, and there must be men enough, to be had for the
asking, knocking about the quays."
After a little further conversation, we determined on this plan, and set
about carrying it into execution on the spot. In rounding-to, the ship had
been brought by the wind on the larboard tack, and was standing to the
northward and westward, instead of to the eastward, the course we now
wished to steer. It was necessary, therefore, to ware round and get the
ship's head in the right direction. This was not a difficult manoeuvre at
all, and the Englishman helping us, with seeming good-will, it was soon
successfully executed. When this was accomplished, I sent the English
sailor into the cabin to keep Diggens company, and we set a watch on deck
of two and two, Marble and myself taking charge four hours and four hours,
in the old mode.
I acknowledge that I slept little that night. Two or three limes we
detected Sennit attempting to haul close up under the ship's stern, out of
all question with a view to surprise us, but as often would he drop to the
length of his tow-rope, us he saw Marble's head, or mine, watching him
above the taffrail. When the day dawned I was called, and was up and on
the look-out as our horizon enlarged and brightened round the ship. The
great object was to ascertain, as early as possible, what vessels might be
in our neighbourhood.
But a solitary sail was visible. She appeared to be a ship of size,
close-hauled, heading to the southward and eastward: by steering on our
proper course, or certainly by diverging a little to the northward, it
would be an easy matter to speak her. As I could plainly see she was not a
ship of war, my plan was formed in a moment. On communicating it to
Marble, it met with his entire approbation. Measures were taken,
accordingly, to carry it into immediate execution.
In the first place, I ordered Sennit, who was awake, and had been, I
believe, the whole night, to haul the boat up and to lay hold of one of
the boat-tackles. This he did willingly enough, no doubt expecting that he
was to be received into the ship, under a treaty. I stood on the look-out
to prevent an attack, one man being abundantly able to keep at bay a dozen
who could approach only by ascending a rope hand over hand, while Marble
went below to look after the two worthies who had been snoring all night
in the cabin. In a minute my mate reappeared, leading up the seaman, who
was still more asleep than awake. This man was directed to lay hold of the
tackle and slide down into the boat. There being no remedy, and descending
being far easier than ascending, this exploit was soon performed, and we
were well rid of one of our enemies. Sennit now began to remonstrate, and
to point out the danger there was of being towed under, the ship going
through the water the whole time at the rate of five or six knots. I knew,
however, that the English were too skilful to run the risk of being
drowned, unnecessarily, and that they would let go of the tackle before
they would suffer the boat to be swamped. It was ticklish work, I allow;
but they succeeded surprisingly well in taking care of themselves.
We had more difficulty with Diggens. This fellow had been so beastly
drunk, that he scarce knew what he was about when awoke; and Marble rather