Part 4 out of 9
The countenance of Captain Borroughcliffe, when the sentinel admitted
him to the apartment he had selected, was in that state of doubtful
illumination, when looks of peculiar cunning blend so nicely with the
stare of vacancy, that the human face is rendered not unlike an April
day, now smiling and inviting, and at the next moment clouded and
dreary. It was quite apparent that the soldier had an object for his
unexpected visit, by the importance of his air and the solemnity of the
manner with which he entered on the business. He waved his hand for the
sentinel to retire, with lofty dignity, and continued balancing his
body, during the closing of the door, and while a sound continued
audible to his confused faculties, with his eyes fixed in the direction
of the noise, with that certain sort of wise look that in many men
supplies the place of something better. When the captain felt himself
secure from interruption, he moved round with quick military precision,
in order to face the man of whom he was in quest. Griffith had been
sleeping, though uneasily and with watchfulness; and the Pilot had been
calmly awaiting the visit which it seemed he had anticipated; but their
associate, who was no other than Captain Manual, of the marines, was
discovered in a very different condition from either. Though the weather
was cool and the night tempestuous, he had thrown aside his pea-jacket,
with most of his disguise, and was sitting ruefully on his blanket,
wiping, with one hand, the large drops of sweat from his forehead, and
occasionally grasping his throat with the other, with a kind of
convulsed mechanical movement. He stared wildly at his visitor, though
his entrance produced no other alteration in these pursuits than a more
diligent application of his handkerchief and a more frequent grasping of
his naked neck, as if he were willing to ascertain, by actual
experiment, what degree of pressure the part was able to sustain,
without exceeding a given quantity of inconvenience.
"Comrade, I greet ye!" said Borroughcliffe, staggering to the side of
his prisoner, where he seated himself with an entire absence of
ceremony: "Comrade, I greet ye! Is the kingdom in danger, that gentlemen
traverse the island in the uniform of the regiment of incognitus,
incognitii, 'torum--damme, how I forget my Latin! Say, my fine fellow,
are you one of these 'torums?"
Manual breathed a little hard, which, considering the manner he had been
using his throat, was a thing to be expected; but, swallowing his
apprehensions, he answered with more spirit than his situation rendered
prudent or the occasion demanded.
"Say what you will of me, and treat me as you please, I defy any man to
call me Tory with truth."
"You are no 'torum! Well, then, the war-office has got up a new dress!
Your regiment must have earned their facings in storming some water
battery, or perhaps it has done duty as marines. Am I right?"
"I'll not deny it," said Manual, more stoutly; "I have served as a
marine for two years, though taken from the line of----"
"The army," said Borroughcliffe, interrupting a most damning confession
of which "state line" the other had belonged to. "I kept a dog-watch,
myself, once, on board the fleet of my Lord Howe; but it is a service
that I do not envy any man. Our afternoon parades were dreadfully
unsteady, for it's a time, you know, when a man wants solid ground to
stand on. However, I purchased my company with some prize-money that
fell in my way, and I always remember the marine service with gratitude.
But this is dry work. I have put a bottle of sparkling Madeira in my
pocket, with a couple of glasses, which we will discuss while we talk
over more important matters. Thrust your hand into my right pocket; I
have been used to dress to the front so long, that it comes mighty
awkward to me to make this backward motion, as if it were into a
Manual, who had been at a loss how to construe the manner of the other,
perceived at once a good deal of plain English in this request, and he
dislodged one of Colonel Howard's dusty bottles, with a dexterity that
denoted the earnestness of his purpose. Borroughcliffe had made a
suitable provision of glasses; and extracting the cork in a certain
scientific manner, he tendered to his companion a bumper of the liquor,
before another syllable was uttered by either of the expectants. The
gentlemen concluded their draughts with a couple of smacks, that sounded
not unlike the pistols of two practised duellists, though certainly a
much less alarming noise, when the entertainer renewed the discourse.
"I like one of your musty-looking bottles, that is covered with dust and
cobwebs, with a good southern tan on it," he said. "Such liquor does not
abide in the stomach, but it gets into the heart at once, and becomes
blood in the beating of a pulse. But how soon I knew you! That sort of
knowledge is the freemasonry of our craft. I knew you to be the man you
are, the moment I laid eyes on you in what we call our guard-room; but I
thought I would humor the old soldier who lives here, by letting him
have the formula of an examination, as a sort of deference to his age
and former rank. But I knew you the instant I saw you. I have seen you
The theory of Borroughcliffe, in relation to the incorporation of wine
with the blood, might have been true in the case of the marine, whose
whole frame appeared to undergo a kind of magical change by the
experiment of drinking, which, the reader will understand, was
diligently persevered in while a drop remained in the bottle. The
perspiration no longer rolled from his brow, neither did his throat
manifest that uneasiness which had rendered such constant external
applications necessary; but he settled down into an air of cool but
curious interest, which, in some measure, was the necessary concomitant
of his situation.
"We may have met before, as I have been much in service, and yet I know
not where you could have seen me," said Manual. "Were you ever a
prisoner of war?"
"Hum! not exactly such an unfortunate devil; but a sort of conventional
non-combatant. I shared the hardships, the glory, the equivocal
victories (where we killed and drove countless numbers of rebels--who
were not), and, woe is me! the capitulation of Burgoyne. But let that
pass-which was more than the Yankees would allow us to do. You know not
where I could have seen you? I have seen you on parade, in the field, in
battle and out of battle, in camp, in barracks; in short, everywhere but
in a drawing-room. No, no; I have never seen you before this night in a
Manual stared in a good deal of wonder and some uneasiness at these
confident assertions, which promised to put his life in no little
jeopardy; and it is to be supposed that the peculiar sensation about the
throat was revived, as he made a heavy draught, before he said:
"You will swear to this--Can you call me by name?"
"I will swear to it in any court in Christendom," said the dogmatical
soldier; "and your name is--is--Fugleman!"
"If it is, I'll be damn'd!" exclaimed the other, with exulting
"Swear not!" said Borroughcliffe, with a solemn air; "for what mattereth
an empty name! Call thyself by what appellation thou wilt, I know thee.
Soldier is written on thy martial front; thy knee bendeth not; nay, I
even doubt if the rebellious member bow in prayer----"
"Come, sir," interrupted Manual, a little sternly; "no more of this
trifling, but declare your will at once. Rebellious member, indeed!
These fellows will call the skies of America rebellious heavens
"I like thy spirit, lad," returned the undisturbed Borroughcliffe; "it
sits as gracefully on a soldier as his sash and gorget; but it is lost
on an old campaigner. I marvel, however, that thou takest such umbrage
at my slight attack on thy orthodoxy. I fear the fortress must be weak,
where the outworks are defended with such a waste of unnecessary
"I know not why or wherefore you have paid me this visit, Captain
Borroughcliffe," said Manual, with a laudable discretion, which prompted
him to reconnoitre the other's views a little, before he laid himself
more open; "if captain be your rank, and Borroughcliffe be your name.
But this I do know, that if it be only to mock me in my present
situation, it is neither soldier like nor manly; and it is what, in
other circumstances, might be attended by some hazard."
"Hum!" said the other, with his immovable coolness; "I see you set the
wine down as nothing, though the king drinks not as good; for the plain
reason that the sun of England cannot find its way through the walls of
Windsor Castle as easily as the sun of Carolina can warm a garret
covered with cedar shingles. But I like your spirit more and more. So
draw yourself up in battle array, and let us have another charge at this
black bottle, when I shall lay before your military eyes a plan of the
Manual first bestowed an inquiring glance on his companion; when,
discovering no other expression than foolish cunning, which was fast
yielding before the encroaching footsteps of stupid inebriety, he
quietly placed himself in the desired position. The wine was drunk, when
Borroughcliffe proceeded to open his communications more unreservedly.
"You are a soldier, and I am a soldier. That you are a soldier, my
orderly could tell; for the dog has both seen a campaign, and smelt
villanous saltpetre, when compounded according to a wicked invention;
but it required the officer to detect the officer. Privates do not wear
such linen as this, which seemeth to me an unreasonably cool attire for
the season; nor velvet stocks, with silver buckles; nor is there often
the odorous flavor of sweet-scented pomatum to be discovered around
their greasy locks. In short, thou art both soldier and officer."
"I confess it," said Manual; "I hold the rank of captain, and shall
expect the treatment of one."
"I think I have furnished you with wine fit for a general," returned
Borroughcliffe; "but have your own way. Now, it would be apparent to
men, whose faculties had not been rendered clear by such cordials as
this dwelling aboundeth with, that when you officers journey through the
island, clad in the uniform incognitorum, which in your case means the
marine corps, that something is in the wind of more than usual moment.
Soldiers owe their allegiance to their prince, and next to him to war,
women, and wine. Of war, there is none in the realm; of women, plenty;
but wine, I regret to say, that is, good wine, grows both scarce and
dear. Do I speak to the purpose, comrade?"
"Proceed," said Manual, whose eyes were not less attentive than his
ears, in a hope to discover whether his true character were understood.
"En avant! in plain English, forward march! Well, then, the difficulty
lies between women and wine; which, when the former are pretty, and the
latter rich, is a very agreeable sort of an alternative. That it is not
wine of which you are in quest, I must believe, my comrade captain, or
you would not go on the adventure in such shabby attire. You will excuse
me, but who would think of putting anything better than their Port
before a man in a pair of tarred trousers? No! no! Hollands, green-and-
yellow Hollands, is a potation good enough to set before one of the
"And yet I have met with him who has treated me to the choicest of the
"Know you the very side from which the precious fluid comes! That looks
more in favor of the wine. But, after all, woman, dear capricious woman,
who one moment fancies she sees a hero in regimentals, and the next a
saint in a cassock; and who always sees something admirable in a suitor,
whether he be clad in tow or velvet--woman is at the bottom of this
mysterious masquerading. Am I right, comrade!"
By this time Manual had discovered that he was safe, and he returned to
the conversation with a revival of all his ready wits, which had been
strangely paralyzed by his previous disorder in the region of the
throat. First bestowing a wicked wink on his companion, and a look that
would have outdone the wisest aspect of Solomon, he replied;
"Ah! woman has much to answer for!"
"I knew it," exclaimed Borroughcliffe; "and this confession only
confirms me in the good opinion I have always entertained of myself. If
his majesty has any particular wish to close this American business, let
him have a certain convention burnt, and a nameless person promoted, and
we shall see! But, answer as you love truth; is it a business of holy
matrimony, or a mere dalliance with the sweets of Cupid?"
"Of honest wedlock," said Manual, with an air as serious as if Hymen
already held him in his fetters.
"'Tis honest! Is there money?"
"Is there money?" repeated Manual, with a sort of contemptuous echo.
"Would a soldier part with his liberty, but with his life, unless the
chains were made of gold?"
"That's the true military doctrine!" cried the other; "faith, you have
some discretion in your amphibious corps, I find! But why this disguise?
are the 'seniors grave,' as well as 'potent and reverend?' Why this
disguise, I again ask?"
"Why this disguise!" repeated Manual, coolly: "Is there any such thing
as love in your regiment without disguise? With us, it is a regular
symptom of the disease."
"A most just and discreet description of the passion, my amphibious
comrade!" said the English officer; "and yet the symptoms in your case
are attended by some very malignant tokens. Does your mistress love
"No; but she loveth me; and, of course, whatever attire I choose to
"Still discreet and sagacious! and yet only a most palpable feint to
avoid my direct attack. You have heard of such a place as Gretna Green,
a little to the north of this, I dare say, my aquatic comrade. Am I
"Gretna Green!" said Manual, a little embarrassed by his ignorance;
"some parade-ground, I suppose?"
"Ay, for those who suffer under the fire of Master Cupid. A parade-
ground! well, there is some artful simplicity in that! But all will not
do with an old campaigner. It is a difficult thing to impose on an old
soldier, my water-battery. Now listen and answer; and you shall see what
it is to possess a discernment--therefore deny nothing. You are in
"I deny nothing," said Manual, comprehending at once that this was his
"Your mistress is willing, and the money is ready, but the old people
"I am still mute!"
"Tis prudent. You say march--Gretna Green is the object; and your flight
is to be by water!"
"Unless I can make my escape by water, I shall never make it," said
Manual, with another sympathetic movement with his hand to his throat.
"Keep mute; you need tell me nothing. I can see into a mystery that is
as deep as a well, to-night. Your companions are hirelings; perhaps your
shipmates; or men to pilot you on this expedition!"
"One is my shipmate, and the other is our pilot," said Manual, with more
truth than usual.
"You are well provided. One thing more, and I shall become mute in my
turn. Does she whom you seek lie in this house?"
"She does not; she lies but a short distance from this place; and I
should be a happy fellow could I but once more put foot----"
"Eyes on her. Now listen, and you shall have your wish. You possess the
ability to march yet, which, considering the lateness of the hour, is no
trifling privilege; open that window--is it possible to descend from
Manual eagerly complied, but he turned from the place in disappointment.
"It would be certain death to attempt the leap. The devil only could
escape from it."
"So I should think," returned Borroughcliffe, dryly. "You must be
content to pass for that respectable gentleman for the rest of your
days, in St. Ruth's Abbey. For through that identical hole must you wing
your flight on the pinions of love."
"But how! The thing is impossible."
"In imagination only. There is some stir, a good deal of foolish
apprehension, and a great excess of idle curiosity, among certain of
the tenants of this house, on your account. They fear the rebels, who,
we all know, have not soldiers enough to do their work neatly at home,
and who, of course, would never think of sending any here. You wish to
be snug--I wish to serve a brother in distress. Through that window you
must be supposed to fly--no matter how; while by following me you can pass
the sentinel, and retire peaceably, like any other mortal, on your own
two stout legs."
This was a result that exceeded all that Manual had anticipated from
their amicable but droll dialogue; and the hint was hardly given, before
he threw on the garments that agitation had before rendered such
encumbrances; and in less time than we have taken to relate it, the
marine was completely equipped for his departure. In the mean time,
Captain Borroughcliffe raised himself to an extremely erect posture,
which he maintained with the inflexibility of a rigid martinet. When he
found himself established on his feet, the soldier intimated to his
prisoner that he was ready to proceed. The door was instantly opened by
Manual, and together they entered the gallery.
"Who comes there?" cried the sentinel, with a vigilance and vigor that
he intended should compensate for his previous neglect of duty.
"Walk straight, that he may see you," said Borroughcliffe, with much
"Who goes there?" repeated the sentinel, throwing his musket to a poise,
with a rattling sound that echoed along the naked walls.
"Walk crooked," added Borroughcliffe, "that if he fire he may miss."
"We shall be shot at, with this folly," muttered Manual.
"We are friends, and your officer is one of us."
"Stand, friends--advance, officer, and give the counter-sign," cried the
"That is much easier said than done," returned his captain; "forward,
Mr. Amphibious, you can walk like a postman--move to the front, and
proclaim the magical word, 'loyalty;' 'tis a standing countersign, ready
furnished to my hands by mine hosts the colonel; your road is then clear
before you--but hark----"
Manual made an eager step forward, when, recollecting himself, he
turned, and added: "My assistants, the seamen! I can do nothing without
"Lo! the keys are in the doors, ready for my admission," said the
Englishman; "turn them, and bring out your forces."
Quick as thought, Manual was in the room of Griffith, to whom he briefly
communicated the situation of things, when he reappeared in the passage,
and then proceeded on a similar errand to the room of the Pilot.
"Follow, and behave as usual," he whispered; "say not a word, but trust
all to me."
The Pilot arose, and obeyed these instructions without asking a
question, with the most admirable coolness.
"I am now ready to proceed," said Manual, when they had joined
During the short time occupied in these arrangements, the sentinel and
his captain had stood looking at each other with great military
exactitude, the former ambitious of manifesting his watchfulness, the
latter awaiting the return of the marine. The captain now beckoned to
Manual to advance and give the countersign.
"Loyalty," whispered Manual, when he approached the sentinel. But the
soldier had been allowed time to reflect; and as he well understood the
situation of his officer, he hesitated to allow the prisoner to pass,
After a moment's pause, he said:
"Advance, friends." At this summons the whole party moved to the point
of his bayonet; when the man continued: "The prisoners have the
countersign, Captain Borroughcliffe, but I dare not let them pass."
"Why not?" asked the captain; "am I not here, sirrah? do you not know
"Yes, sir, I know your honor, and respect your honor; but I was posted
here by my sergeant, and ordered not to let these men pass out on any
"That's what I call good discipline," said Borroughcliffe, with an
exulting laugh; "I knew the lad would not mind me any more than that he
would obey the orders of that lamp. Here are no slaves of the lamp, my
amphibious comrade; drill ye your marines in this consummate style to
"What means this trifling?" said the Pilot, sternly.
"Ah! I thought I should turn the laugh on you," cried Manual, affecting
to join in the mirth; "we know all these things well, and we practise
them in our corps; but though the sentinel cannot know you, the sergeant
will; so let him be called and orders be given through him to the man on
post, that we may pass out."
"Your throat grows uneasy, I see," said Borroughcliffe; "you crave,
another bottle of the generous fluid. Well, it shall be done. Sentinel,
you can throw up yon window, and give a call to the sergeant."
"The outcry will ruin us," said the Pilot, in a whisper to Griffith.
"Follow me," said the young sailor. The sentinel was turning to execute
the orders of his captain as Griffith spoke, when springing forward, in
an instant he wrenched the musket from his hands; a heavy blow with its
butt felled the astonished soldier to the floor; then, poising his
weapon, Griffith exclaimed:
"Forward! we can clear our own way now!"
"On!" said the Pilot, leaping lightly over the prostrate soldier, a
dagger gleaming in one hand and a pistol presented in the other.
Manual was by his side in an instant, armed in a similar manner; and the
three rushed together from the building, without meeting any one to
oppose their flight.
Borroughcliffe was utterly unable to follow; and so astounded was he by
this sudden violence, that several minutes passed before he was restored
to the use of his speech, a faculty which seldom deserted him. The man
had recovered his senses and his feet, however; and the two stood gazing
at each other in mute condolence. At length the sentinel broke the
"Shall I give the alarm, your honor?"
"I rather think not, Peters. I wonder if there be any such thing as
gratitude or good-breeding in the marine corps!"
"I hope your honor will remember that I did my duty, and that I was
disarmed while executing your orders."
"I can remember nothing about it, Peters, except that it is rascally
treatment, and such as I shall yet make this amphibious aquatic
gentleman answer for. But lock the door-look as if nothing had happened,
"Ah! your honor, that is not so easily done as your honor may please to
think. I have not any doubt but there is the print of the breech of a
musket stamped on my back and shoulders, as plainly to be seen as that
"Then look as you please; but hold your peace, sirrah. Here is a crown
to buy a plaster. I heard the dog throw away your musket on the stairs--
go seek it, and return to your post; and when you are relieved, act as
if nothing had happened. I take the responsibility on myself."
The man obeyed; and when he was once more armed, Borroughcliffe, a good
deal sobered by the surprise, made the best of his way to his own
apartment, muttering threats and execrations against the "corps of
marines and the whole race," as he called them, "of aquatic amphibii."
"Away! away! the covey's fled the cover;
Put forth the dogs, and let the falcon fly--
I'll spend some leisure in the keen pursuit,
Nor longer waste my hours in sluggish quiet."
The soldier passed the remainder of the night in the heavy sleep of a
bacchanalian, and awoke late on the following morning, only when aroused
by the entrance of his servant. When the customary summons had induced
the captain to unclose his eyelids, he arose in his bed, and after
performing the usual operation of a diligent friction on his organs of
vision, he turned sternly to his man, and remarked with an ill-humor
that seemed to implicate the innocent servant in the fault which his
"I thought, sirrah, that I ordered Sergeant Drill not to let a drumstick
touch a sheepskin while we quartered in the dwelling of this hospitable
old colonel! Does the fellow despise my commands? or does he think the
roll of a drum, echoing through the crooked passages of St. Ruth, a
melody that is fit to disturb the slumbers of its inmates?"
"I believe, sir," returned the man, "it was the wish of Colonel Howard
himself, that on this occasion the sergeant should turn out the guard by
the roll of the drum."
"The devil it was!--I see the old fellow loves to tickle the drum of his
own ear now and then with familiar sounds; but have you had a muster of
the cattle from the farmyard too, as well as a parade of the guard? I
hear the trampling of feet, as if the old abbey were a second ark, and
all the beasts of the field were coming aboard of us!"
"'Tis nothing but the party of dragoons from----, who are wheeling into
the courtyard, sir, where the colonel has gone out to receive them."
"Courtyard! light dragoons!" repeated Borroughcliffe, in amazement; "and
has it come to this, that twenty stout fellows of the ----th are not
enough to guard such a rookery as this old abbey, against the ghosts and
northeast storms, but we must have horse to reinforce us? Hum! I suppose
some of these booted gentlemen have heard of this South Carolina
"Oh, no, sir!" cried his man; "it is only the party that Mr. Dillon went
to seek last evening, after you saw fit, sir, to put the three pirates
"Pirates in irons," said Borroughcliffe, again passing his hands over
his eyes, though in a more reflecting manner than before: "ha! oh! I
remember to have put three suspicious looking rascals in the black-hole,
or some such place; but what can Mr. Dillon, or the light dragoons, have
to do with these fellows?"
"That we do not know, sir; but it is said below, sir, as some suspicions
had fallen on their being conspirators and rebels from the colonies, and
that they were great officers and Tories in disguise; some said that one
was General Washington, and others that it was only three members of the
Yankee parliament, come over to get our good old English fashions to set
themselves up with."
"Washington! Members of Congress! Go--go, simpleton, and learn how many
these troopers muster, and what halt they make; but stay, place my
clothes near me. Now, do as I bid you, and if the dragoon officer
enquire for me, make my respects, and tell him I shall be with him soon.
Go, fellow; go."
When the man left the room, the captain, while he proceeded with the
business of the toilet, occasionally gave utterance to the thoughts that
crowded on his recollection, after the manner of a soliloquy.
"Ay! my commission to a half-pay ensigncy, that some of these lazy
fellows, who must have a four-legged beast to carry them to the wars,
have heard of the 'south side.' South side! I believe I must put an
advertisement in the London Gazette, calling that amphibious soldier to
an account If he be a true man, he will not hide himself under his
incognito, but will give me a meeting. If that should fail, damme, I'll
ride across to Yarmouth, and call out the first of the mongrel breed
that I fall in with. 'Sdeath! Was ever such an insult practised on a
gentleman and a soldier before? Would that I only knew his name! Why,
if the tale should get abroad, I shall be the standing joke of the mess-
table, until some greater fool than myself can be found. It would cost
me at least six duels to get rid of it. No, no; not a trigger will I
pull in my own regiment about the silly affair: but I'll have a crack at
some marine in very revenge; for that is no more than reasonable. That
Peters! if the scoundrel should dare whisper anything of the manner in
which he was stamped with the breech of the musket! I can't flog him for
it; but if I don't make it up to him the first time he gives me a
chance, I am ignorant of the true art of balancing regimental accounts."
By the time the recruiting officer had concluded this soliloquy, which
affords a very fair exposition of the current of his thoughts, he was
prepared to meet the new comers, and he accordingly descended to the
courtyard, as in duty bound, to receive them in his proper person.
Boroughcliffe encountered his host, in earnest conversation with a young
man in a cavalry uniform, in the principal entrance of the abbey, and
was greeted by the former with:
"A good morning to you, my worthy guard and protector! here is rare news
for your loyal ears. It seems that our prisoners are enemies to the king
in disguise; and, Cornet Fitzgerald--Captain Borroughcliffe, of the
--th, permit me to make you acquainted with Mr. Fitzgerald of the --th
light dragoons." While the soldiers exchanged their salutations, the old
man continued: "The cornet has been kind enough to lead down a
detachment of his troop to escort the rogues up to London, or some other
place, where they will find enough good and loyal officers to form a
court-martial, that can authorize their execution as spies. Christopher
Dillon, my worthy kinsman, Kit, saw into their real characters at a
glance; while you and I, like two unsuspecting boys, thought the rascals
would have made fit men to serve the king. But Kit has an eye and a head
that few enjoy like him, and I would that he might receive his dues at
the English bar."
"It is to be desired, sir," said Borroughcliffe, with a grave aspect,
that was produced chiefly by his effort to give effect to his sarcasm,
but a little, also, by the recollection of the occurrences that were yet
to be explained; "but what reason has Mr. Christopher Dillon to believe
that the three seamen are more or less than they seem?"
"I know not what; but a good and sufficient reason, I will venture my
life," cried the colonel; "Kit is a lad for reasons, which you know is
the foundation of his profession, and knows how to deliver them manfully
in the proper place; but you know, gentlemen, that the members of the
bar cannot assume the open and bold front that becomes a soldier,
without often endangering the cause in which they are concerned. No, no;
trust me, Kit has his reasons, and in good time will he deliver them."
"I hope, then," said the captain carelessly, "that it may be found that
we have had a proper watch on our charge, Colonel Howard; I think you
told me the windows were too high for an escape in that direction, for I
had no sentinel outside of the building."
"Fear nothing, my worthy friend," cried his host; "unless your men have
slept, instead of watching, we have them safe; but, as it will be
necessary to convey them away before any of the civil authority can lay
hands on them, let us proceed to the rear, and unkennel the dogs. A
party of the horse might proceed at once with them to----, while we are
breaking our fasts. It would be no very wise thing to allow the
civilians to deal with them, for they seldom have a true idea of the
nature of the crime."
"Pardon me, sir," said the young officer of horse; "I was led to
believe, by Mr. Dillon, that we might meet with a party of the enemy in
some little force, and that I should find a pleasanter duty than that of
a constable; besides, sir, the laws of the realm guarantee to the
subject a trial by his peers, and it is more than I dare do to carry the
men to the barracks, without first taking them before a magistrate."
"Ay! you speak of loyal and dutiful subjects," said the colonel; "and,
as respects them, doubtless, you are right; but such privileges are
withheld from enemies and traitors."
"It must be first proved that they are such, before they can receive the
treatment or the punishment that they merit," returned the young man, a
little positively, who felt the more confidence, because he had only
left the Temple the year before. "If I take charge of the men at all, it
will be only to transfer them safely to the civil authority."
"Let us go and see the prisoners," cried Borroughcliffe, with a view to
terminate a discussion that was likely to wax warm, and which he knew to
be useless; "perhaps they may quietly enroll themselves under the
banners of our sovereign, when all other interference, save that of
wholesome discipline, will become unnecessary."
"Nay, if they are of a rank in life to render such a step probable,"
returned the cornet, "I am well content that the matter should be thus
settled. I trust, however, that Captain Borroughcliffe will consider
that the --th light dragoons has some merit in this affair, and that we
are far short of our numbers in the second squadron."
"We shall not be difficult at a compromise," returned the captain;
"there is one apiece for us, and a toss of a guinea shall determine who
has the third man. Sergeant! follow, to deliver over your prisoners, and
relieve your sentry."
As they proceeded in compliance with this arrangement, to the building
in the rear, Colonel Howard, who made one of the party, observed:
"I dispute not the penetration of Captain Borroughcliffe, but I
understand Mr. Christopher Dillon that there is reason to believe one of
these men, at least, to be of a class altogether above that of a common
soldier; in which case, your plans may fall to the ground."
"And who does he deem the gentleman to be?" asked Borroughcliffe--"a
Bourbon in disguise, or a secret representative of the rebel congress?"
"Nay, nay: he said nothing more; my kinsman Kit keeps a close mouth
whenever Dame Justice is about to balance her scales. There are men who
may be said to have been born to be soldiers; of which number I should
call the Earl Cornwallis, who makes such head against the rebels in the
two Carolinas; others seem to be intended by nature for divines, and
saints on earth, such as their graces of York and Canterbury; while
another class appears as if it were impossible for them to behold things
unless with discriminating, impartial, and disinterested eyes; to which
I should say, belong my Lord Chief Justice Mansfield, and my kinsman,
Mr. Christopher Dillon. I trust, gentlemen, that when the royal arms
have crushed this rebellion, his majesty's ministers will see the
propriety of extending the dignity of the peerage to the colonies, as a
means of reward to the loyal, and a measure of policy to prevent further
disaffection; in which case I hope to see my kinsman decorated with the
ermine of justice bordering the mantle of a peer."
"Your expectations, my excellent sir, are right reasonable; as I doubt
not your kinsman will become, at some future day, that which he is not
at present, unhappily for his deserts, right honorable," said
Borroughcliffe. "But be of good heart, sir; from what I have seen of his
merits, I doubt not that the law will yet have its revenge in due
season, and that we shall be properly edified and instructed how to
attain elevation in life, by the future exaltation of Mr. Christopher
Dillon; though by what title he is to be then known, I am at a loss to
Colonel Howard was too much occupied with his own ex-parte views of the
war and things in general, to observe the shrewd looks that were
exchanged between the soldiers; but he answered with perfect simplicity:
"I have reflected much on that point, and have come to the opinion, that
as he has a small estate on that river, he should, cause his first
barony to be known by the title of 'Pedee.'"
"Barony!" echoed Borroughcliffe; "I trust the new nobles of a new world
will disdain the old worn-out distinctions of a hackneyed universe--
eschew all baronies, mine host, and cast earldoms and dukedoms to the
shades. The immortal Locke has unlocked his fertile mind to furnish you
with appellations suited to the originality of your condition and the
nature of your country. Ah! here comes the Cacique of Pedee, in his
As Borroughcliffe spoke, they were ascending the flight of stone steps
which led to the upper apartments, where the prisoners were still
supposed to be confined; and, at the same moment, the sullen, gloomy
features of Dillon were seen as he advanced along the lower passage,
with an expression of malicious exultation hovering above his dark brow,
that denoted his secret satisfaction. As the hours passed away the
period had come round when the man who had been present at the escape of
Griffith and his friends was again posted to perform the duty of
sentinel. As this soldier well knew the situation of his trust, he was
very coolly adjusted, with his back against the wall, endeavoring to
compensate himself for his disturbed slumbers during the night, when the
sounds of the approaching footsteps warned him to assume the appearance
"How, now, fellow!" cried Borroughcliffe; "what have you to say to your
"I believe the men sleep, your honor; for I have heard no noises from
the rooms since I relieved the last sentinel."
"The lads are weary, and are right to catch what sleep they can in their
comfortable quarters," returned the captain. "Stand to your arms,
sirrah! and throw back your shoulders; and do not move like a crab, or a
train-band corporal; do you not see an officer of horse coming up? Would
you disgrace your regiment?"
"Ah! your honor, Heaven only knows whether I shall ever get my shoulders
"Buy another plaster," said Borroughcliffe, slipping a shilling into his
hand; "observe, you know nothing but your duty."
"Which is, your honor----"
"To mind me, and be silent. But here comes the sergeant with his guard:
he will relieve you."
The rest of the party stopped at the other end of the gallery, to allow
the few files of soldiers who were led by the orderly to pass them, when
they all moved towards the prison in a body. The sentinel was relieved
in due military style; when Dillon placed his hand on one of the doors,
and said, with a malicious sneer:
"Open here first, Mr. Sergeant; this cage holds the man we most want."
"Softly, softly, my Lord Chief Justice, and most puissant Cacique," said
the captain; "the hour has not yet come to empanel a jury of fat yeomen,
and no man must interfere with my boys but myself."
"The rebuke is harsh, I must observe, Captain Borroughcliffe," said the
colonel, "but I pardon it because it is military. No, no, Kit these nice
points must be left to martial usages. Be not impatient, my cousin; I
doubt not the hour will come, when you shall hold the scales of justice
and satisfy your loyal longings on many a traitor. Zounds! I could
almost turn executioner myself in such a cause!"
"I can curb my impatience, sir," returned Dillon, with hypocritical
meekness, and great self-command, though his eyes were gleaming with
savage exultation. "I beg pardon of Captain Borroughcliffe, if, in my
desire to render the civil authority superior to the military, I have
trespassed on your customs."
"You see, Borroughcliffe!" exclaimed the colonel, exultingly, "the lad
is ruled by an instinct in all matters of law and justice. I hold it to
be impossible that a man thus endowed can ever become a disloyal
subject. But our breakfast waits, and Mr. Fitzgerald has breathed his
horse this cool morning; let us proceed at once to the examination."
Borroughcliffe motioned to the sergeant to open the door, when the whole
party entered the vacant room.
"Your prisoner has escaped!" cried the cornet, after a single moment
employed in making sure of the fact.
"Never! it must not, shall not be!" cried Dillon, quivering with rage,
as he glanced his eyes furiously around the apartment; "here has been
treachery! and foul treason to the king!"
"By whom committed, Mr. Christopher Dillon?" said Borroughcliffe,
knitting his brow, and speaking in a suppressed tone: "dare you, or any
man living, charge treason to the --th!"
A very different feeling from rage appeared now to increase the
shivering propensities of the future judge, who at once perceived it was
necessary to moderate his passion; and he returned, as it were by magic,
to his former plausible and insinuating manner, as he replied:
"Colonel Howard will understand the cause of my warm feelings, when I
tell him that this very room contained, last night, that disgrace to his
name and country, as well as traitor to his king, Edward Griffith, of
the rebel navy."
"What!" exclaimed the colonel, starting, "has that recreant youth dared
to pollute the threshold of St. Ruth with his footstep? but you dream,
Kit; there would be too much hardihood in the act."
"It appears not, sir," returned the other; "for though in this very
apartment he most certainly was, he is here no longer. And yet from this
window, though open, escape would seem to be impossible, even with much
"If I thought that the contumelious boy had dared to be guilty of such
an act of gross impudence," cried the colonel, "I should be tempted to
resume my arms, in my old age, to punish his effrontery. What! is it not
enough that he entered my dwelling in the colony, availing himself of
the distraction of the times, with an intent to rob me of my choicest
jewel--ay! gentlemen, even of my brother Harry's daughter--but that he
must also invade this hallowed island with a like purpose, thus
thrusting his treason, as it were, into the presence of his abused
prince! No, no, Kit, thy loyalty misleads thee; he has never dared to do
"Listen, sir, and you shall be convinced," returned the pliant
Christopher, "I do not wonder at your unbelief; but as a good testimony
is the soul of justice, I cannot resist its influence. You know, that
two vessels, corresponding in appearance to the two rebel cruisers that
annoyed us so much in the Carolinas, have been seen on the coast for
several days, which induced us to beg the protection of Captain
Borroughcliffe. Three men are found, the day succeeding that on which we
hear that these vessels came within the shoals, stealing through the
grounds of St. Ruth, in sailors' attire. They are arrested, and in the
voice of one of them, sir, I immediately detected that of the traitor
Griffith. He was disguised, it is true, and cunningly so; but when a man
has devoted his whole life to the business of investigating truth," he
added, with an air of much modesty, "it is difficult to palm any
disguise on his senses,"
Colonel Howard was strongly impressed with the probability of these
conjectures, and the closing appeal confirmed him immediately in his
kinsman's opinion, while Borroughcliffe listened with deep interest to
the speakers, and more than once bit his lip with vexation. When Dillon
concluded, the soldier exclaimed:
"I'll swear there was a man among them who has been used to the drill."
"Nothing more probable, my worthy friend," said Dillon; "for as the
landing was never made without some evil purpose, rely on it, he came
not unguarded or unprotected. I dare say, the three were all officers,
and one of them might have been of the marines. That they had assistance
is certain, and it was because I felt assured they had a force secreted
at hand, that I went in quest of the reinforcement."
There was so much plausibility, and, in fact, so much truth in all this,
that conviction was unwillingly admitted by Borroughcliffe, who walked
aside a moment to conceal the confusion which, in spite of his ordinary
inflexibility of countenance, he felt was manifesting itself in his
rubric visage, while he muttered:
"The amphibious dog! he was a soldier, but a traitor and an enemy. No
doubt he will have a marvelous satisfaction in delighting the rebellious
ears of his messmates, by rehearsing the manner in which he poured cold
water down the back of one Borroughcliffe, of the --th, who was amusing
him, at the same time, by pouring good, rich, south-side Madeira down
his own rebellious throat. I have a good mind to exchange my scarlet
coat for a blue jacket, on purpose to meet the sly rascal on the other
element, where we can discuss the matter over again. Well, sergeant, do
you find the other two?"
"They are gone together, your honor," returned the orderly, who just
then re-entered from an examination of the other apartments; "and unless
the evil one helped them off, it's a mysterious business to me."
"Colonel Howard," said Borroughcliffe, gravely, "your precious south-
side cordial must be banished from the board, regularly with the cloth,
until I have my revenge; for satisfaction of this insult is mine to
claim, and I seek it this instant Go, Drill; detail a guard for the
protection of the house, and feed the rest of your command, then beat
the general, and we will take the field. Ay! my worthy veteran host, for
the first time since the days of the unlucky Charles Stuart, there shall
be a campaign in the heart of England."
"Ah! rebellion, rebellion! accursed, unnatural, unholy rebellion, caused
the calamity then and now!" exclaimed the colonel.
"Had I not better take a hasty refreshment for my men and their horses?"
asked the cornet; "and then make a sweep for a few miles along the
coast?" It may be my luck to encounter the fugitives, or some part of
"You have anticipated my very thoughts," returned Borroughcliffe. "The
Cacique of Pedee may close the gates of St. Ruth, and, by barring the
windows, and arming the servants, he can make a very good defence
against an attack, should they think proper to assail our fortress;
after he has repulsed them, leave it to me to cut off their retreat."
Dillon but little relished this proposal; for he thought an attempt to
storm the abbey would be the most probable course adopted by Griffith,
in order to rescue his mistress; and the jurist had none of the spirit
of a soldier in his composition. In truth, it was this deficiency that
had induced him to depart in person, the preceding night, in quest of
the reinforcement, instead of sending an express on the errand, But the
necessity of devising an excuse for a change in this dangerous
arrangement was obviated by Colonel Howard, who exclaimed, as soon as
Borroughcliffe concluded his plan:
"To me, Captain Borroughcliffe, belongs, of right, the duty of defending
St. Ruth, and it shall be no boy's play to force my works; but Kit would
rather try his chance in the open field, I know, Come, let us to our
breakfast, and then he shall mount, and act as a guide to the horse,
along the difficult passes of the seashore."
"To breakfast then let it be," cried the captain; "I distrust not my new
commander of the fortress; and in the field the Cacique forever! We
follow you, my worthy host."
This arrangement was hastily executed in all its parts. The gentlemen
swallowed their meal in the manner of men who ate only to sustain
nature, and as a duty; after which the whole house became a scene of
bustling activity. The troops were mustered and paraded; Borroughcliffe,
setting apart a guard for the building, placed himself at the head of
the remainder of his little party, and they moved out of the courtyard
in open order, and at quick time. Dillon joyfully beheld himself mounted
on one of the best of Colonel Howard's hunters, where he knew that he
had the control, in a great measure, of his own destiny; his bosom
throbbing with a powerful desire to destroy Griffith, while he
entertained a lively wish to effect his object without incurring any
personal risk. At his side was the young cornet, seated with practised
grace in his saddle, who, after giving time for the party of foot-
soldiers to clear the premises, glanced his eye along the few files he
led, and then gave the word to move. The little division of horse
wheeled briskly into open column, and the officer touching his cap to
Colonel Howard, they dashed through the gateway together, and pursued
their route towards the seaside at a hand-gallop.
The veteran lingered a few minutes, while the clattering of hoofs was to
be heard, or the gleam of arms was visible, to hear and gaze at sounds
and sights that he still loved; after which, he proceeded, in person,
and not without a secret enjoyment of the excitement, to barricade the
doors and windows, with an undaunted determination of making, in case of
need, a stout defence.
St. Ruth lay but a short two miles from the ocean; to which numerous
roads led, through the grounds of the abbey, which extended to the
shore. Along one of these paths Dillon conducted his party, until, after
a few minutes of hard riding, they approached the cliffs, when, posting
his troopers under cover of a little copse, the cornet rode in advance
with his guide, to the verge of the perpendicular rocks, whose bases
were washed by the foam that still whitened the waters from the surges
of the subsiding sea.
The gale had broken before the escape of the prisoners; and as the power
of the eastern tempest had gradually diminished, a light current from
the south, that blew directly along the land, prevailed; and, though the
ocean still rolled in fearful billows, their surfaces were smooth, and
they were becoming, at each moment, less precipitous and more regular.
The eyes of the horsemen were cast in vain over the immense expanse of
water that was glistening brightly under the rays of the sun, which had
just risen from its bosom, in quest of some object or distant sail that
might confirm their suspicions, or relieve their doubts. But everything
of that description appeared to have avoided the dangerous navigation
during the violence of the late tempest, and Dillon, was withdrawing his
eyes in disappointment from the vacant view, when, as they fell towards
the shore, he beheld that which caused him to exclaim:
"There they go! and, by heaven, they will escape!"
The cornet looked in the direction of the other's finger, when he
beheld, at a short distance from the land, and apparently immediately
under his feet, a little boat that looked like a dark shell upon the
water, rising and sinking amid the waves, as if the men it obviously
contained were resting on their oars in idle expectation.
"'Tis they!" continued Dillon; "or, what is more probable, it is their
boat waiting to convey them to their vessel; no common business would
induce seamen to lie in this careless manner, within such a narrow
distance of the surf."
"And what is to be done? They cannot be made to feel horse where they
are; nor would the muskets of the foot be of any use. A light three-
pounder would do its work handsomely on them!"
The strong desire which Dillon entertained to intercept, or rather to
destroy, the party, rendered him prompt at expedients. After a moment of
musing, he replied:
"The runaways must yet be on the land; and by scouring the coast, and
posting men at proper intervals, their retreat can easily be prevented;
in the mean time I will ride under the spur to----bay, where one of his
majesty's cutters now lies at anchor. It is but half an hour of hard
riding, and I can be on board of her. The wind blows directly in her
favor; and if we can once bring her down behind that headland, we shall
infallibly cut off or sink these midnight depredators."
"Off, then!" cried the cornet, whose young blood was boiling for a
skirmish; "you will at least drive them to the shore, where I can deal
The words were hardly uttered, before Dillon, after galloping furiously
along the cliffs, and turning short into a thick wood that lay in his
route, was out of sight. The loyalty of this gentleman was altogether of
a calculating nature, and was intimately connected with what he
considered his fealty to himself. He believed that the possession of
Miss Howard's person and fortune were advantages that would much more
than counterbalance any elevation that he was likely to obtain by the
revolution of affairs in his native colony. He considered Griffith as
the only natural obstacle to his success; and he urged his horse forward
with a desperate determination to work the ruin of the young sailor
before another sun had set. When a man labors in an evil cause, with
such feelings, and with such incentives, he seldom slights or neglects
his work; and Mr. Dillon, accordingly, was on board the Alacrity several
minutes short of the time in which he had promised to perform the
The plain old seaman, who commanded the cutter, listened to his tale
with cautious ears; and examined into the state of the weather, and
other matters connected with his duty, with the slow and deliberate
decision of one who had never done much to acquire a confidence in
himself, and who had been but niggardly rewarded for the little he had
As Dillon was urgent, however, and the day seemed propitious, he at
length decided to act as he was desired, and the cutter was accordingly
gotten under way.
A crew of something less than fifty men moved with no little of their
commander's deliberation; but as the little vessel rounded the point
behind which she had been anchored, her guns were cleared, and the usual
preparations were completed for immediate and actual service.
Dillon, sorely against his will, was compelled to continue on board, in
order to point out the place where the suspecting boatmen were expected,
to be entrapped. Everything being ready, when they had gained a safe
distance from the land, the Alacrity was kept away before the wind, and
glided along the shore with a swift and easy progress that promised a
speedy execution of the business in which her commander had embarked.
"_Pol_. Very like a whale."
Notwithstanding the object of their expedition was of a public nature,
the feelings which had induced both Griffith and Barnstable to accompany
the Pilot with so much willingness, it will easily be seen, were
entirely personal. The short intercourse that he had maintained with his
associates enabled the mysterious leader of their party to understand
the characters of his two principal officers so thoroughly, as to induce
him, when he landed, with the purpose of reconnoitering to ascertain
whether the objects of his pursuit still held their determination to
assemble at the appointed hour, to choose Griffith and Manual as his
only associates, leaving Barnstable in command of his own vessel, to
await their return, and to cover their retreat. A good deal of argument,
and some little of the authority of his superior officer, was necessary
to make Barnstable quietly acquiesce in this arrangement; but as his
good sense told him that nothing should be unnecessarily hazarded, until
the moment to strike the final blow had arrived, he became gradually
more resigned; taking care, however, to caution Griffith to reconnoiter
the abbey while his companion was reconnoitering ---- house. It was the
strong desire of Griffith to comply with this injunction, which carried
them a little out of their proper path, and led to the consequences that
we have partly related. The evening of that day was the time when the
Pilot intended to complete his enterprise, thinking to entrap his game
while enjoying the festivities that usually succeed their sports; and an
early hour in the morning was appointed, when Barnstable should appear
at the nearest point to the abbey, to take off his countrymen, in order
that they might be as little as possible subjected to the gaze of their
enemies by daylight. If they failed to arrive at the appointed time, his
instructions were to return to his schooner, which lay snugly embayed in
a secret and retired haven, that but few ever approached, either by land
While the young cornet still continued gazing at the whale-boat (for it
was the party from the schooner that he saw), the hour expired for the
appearance of Griffith and his companions; and Barnstable reluctantly
determined to comply with the letter of his instructions, and leave them
to their own sagacity and skill to regain the Ariel. The boat had been
suffered to ride in the edge of the surf, since the appearance of the
sun; and the eyes of her crew were kept anxiously fixed on the cliffs,
though in vain, to discover the signal that was to call them to the
place of landing. After looking at his watch for the twentieth time, and
as often casting glances of uneasy dissatisfaction towards the shore,
the lieutenant exclaimed:
"A charming prospect, this, Master Coffin, but rather too much poetry in
it for your taste; I believe you relish no land that is of a harder
consistency than mud!"
"I was born on the waters, sir," returned the cockswain, from his snug
abode, where he was bestowed with his usual economy of room, "and it's
according to all things for a man to love his native soil. I'll not
deny, Captain Barnstable, but I would rather drop my anchor on a bottom
that won't broom a keel, though, at the same time, I harbor no great
malice against dry land."
"I shall never forgive it, myself, if any accident has befallen Griffith
in this excursion," rejoined the lieutenant; "his Pilot may be a better
man on the water than on terra firma, long Tom."
The cockswain turned his solemn visage, with an extraordinary meaning,
towards his commander, before he replied:
"For as long a time as I have followed the waters, sir, and that has
been ever since I've drawn my rations, seeing that I was born while the
boat was crossing Nantucket shoals, I've never known a pilot come off in
greater need, than the one we fell in with, when we made that stretch of
two on the land, in the dog-watch of yesterday."
"Ay! the fellow has played his part like a man; the occasion was great,
and it seems that he was quite equal to his work."
"The frigate's people tell me, sir, that he handled the ship like a
top," continued the cockswain; "but she is a ship that is a nateral
inimy of the bottom!"
"Can you say as much for this boat, Master Coffin?" cried Barnstable:
"keep her out of the surf, or you'll have us rolling in upon the beach,
presently, like an empty water-cask; you must remember that we cannot
all wade, like yourself in two-fathom water."
The cockswain cast a cool glance at the crests of foam that were
breaking over the tops of the billows, within a few yards of where their
boat was riding, and called aloud to his men:
"Pull a stroke or two; away with her into dark water."
The drop of the oars resembled the movements of a nice machine, and the
light boat skimmed along the water like a duck that approaches to the
very brink of some imminent danger, and then avoids it, at the most
critical moment, apparently without an effort. While this necessary
movement was making, Barnstable arose, and surveyed the cliffs with keen
eyes, and then turning once more in disappointment from his search, he
"Pull more from the land, and let her run down at an easy stroke to the
schooner. Keep a lookout at the cliffs, boys; it is possible that they
are stowed in some of the holes in the rocks, for it's no daylight
business they are on."
The order was promptly obeyed, and they had glided along for nearly a
mile in this manner, in the most profound silence, when suddenly the
stillness was broken by a heavy rush of air, and a dash of the water,
seemingly at no great distance from them.
"By heaven, Tom," cried Barnstable, starting, "there is the blow of a
"Ay, ay, sir," returned the cockswain with undisturbed composure; "here
is his spout not half a mile to seaward; the easterly gale has driven
the creatur to leeward, and he begins to find himself in shoal water.
He's been sleeping, while he should have been working to windward!"
"The fellow takes it coolly, too! he's in no hurry to get an offing!"
"I rather conclude, sir," said the cockswain, rolling over his tobacco
in his mouth very composedly, while his little sunken eyes began to
twinkle with pleasure at the sight, "the gentleman has lost his
reckoning, and don't know which way to head to take himself back into
"Tis a finback!" exclaimed the lieutenant; "he will soon make headway,
and be off."
"No, sir, 'tis a right-whale," answered Tom; "I saw his spout; he threw
up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to look at.
He's a raal oil-butt, that fellow!"
Barnstable laughed, turned himself away from the tempting sight, and
tried to look at the cliffs; and then unconsciously bent his longing
eyes again on the sluggish animal, who was throwing his huge carcass, at
times, for many feet from the water, in idle gambols. The temptation for
sport, and the recollection of his early habits, at length prevailed
over his anxiety in behalf of his friends, and the young officer
inquired of his cockswain:
"Is there any whale-line in the boat, to make fast to that harpoon which
you bear about with you in fair weather or foul?"
"I never trust the boat from the schooner without part of a shot, sir,"
returned the cockswain; "there if something nateral in the sight of a
tub to my old eyes."
Barnstable looked at his watch, and again at the cliffs, when he
exclaimed, in joyous tones:
"Give strong way, my hearties! There seems nothing better to be done;
let us have a stroke of a harpoon at that impudent rascal."
The men shouted spontaneously, and the old cockswain suffered his solemn
visage to relax into a small laugh, while the whale-boat sprang forward
like a courser for the goal. During the few minutes they were pulling
towards their game, long Tom arose from his crouching attitude in the
stern-sheets, and transferred his huge form to the bows of the boat,
where he made such preparations to strike the whale as the occasion
required. The tub, containing about half of a whale-line, was placed at
the feet of Barnstabie, who had been preparing an oar to steer with in
place of the rudder, which was unshipped, in order that, if necessary,
the boat might be whirled round when not advancing.
Their approach was utterly unnoticed by the monster of the deep, who
continued to amuse himself with throwing the water in two circular
spouts high into the air, occasionally flourishing the broad flukes of
his tail with a graceful but terrific force, until the hardy seamen were
within a few hundred feet of him, when he suddenly cast his head
downward and, without an apparent effort, reared his immense body for
many feet above the water, waving his tail violently, and producing a
whizzing noise, that sounded like the rushing of winds.
The cockswain stood erect, poising his harpoon, ready for the blow; but
when he beheld the creature assume this formidable attitude, he waved
his hand to his commander, who instantly signed to his men to cease
rowing. In this situation the sportsmen rested a few moments, while the
whale, struck several blows on the water in rapid succession, the noise
of which re-echoed along the cliffs, like the hollow reports of so many
cannon. After this wanton exhibition of his terrible strength, the
monster sank again into his native element, and slowly disappeared from
the eyes of his pursuers.
"Which way did he head, Tom?" cried Barnstable, the moment the whale was
out of sight.
"Pretty much up and down, sir," returned the cockswain, whose eye was
gradually brightened with the excitement of the sport; "he'll soon run
his nose against the bottom if he stands long on that course, and will
be glad to get another snuff of pure air; send her a few fathoms to
starboard, sir, and I promise we shall not be out of his track."
The conjecture of the experienced old seaman proved true; for in a few
moments the water broke near them, and another spout was cast into the
air, when the huge animal rushed for half his length in the same
direction, and fell on the sea with a turbulence and foam equal to that
which is produced by the launching of a vessel, for the first time, into
its proper element. After this evolution the whale rolled heavily, and
seemed to rest for further efforts.
His slightest movements were closely watched by Barnstable and his
cockswain, and when he was in a state of comparative rest, the former
gave a signal to his crew to ply their oars once more. A few long and
vigorous strokes sent the boat directly up to the broadside of the
whale, with its bows pointing towards one of the fins, which was, at
times, as the animal yielded sluggishly to the action of the waves,
exposed to view. The cockswain poised his harpoon with much precision,
and then darted it from him with a violence that buried the iron in the
blubber of their foe. The instant the blow was made, long Tom shouted,
with singular earnestness:
"Stern all!" echoed Barnstable; when the obedient seamen, by united
efforts, forced the boat in a backward direction beyond the reach of any
blow from their formidable antagonist. The alarmed animal, however,
meditated no such resistance; ignorant of his own power, and of the
insignificance of his enemies, he sought refuge in flight. One moment of
stupid surprise succeeded the entrance of the iron, when he cast his
huge tail into the air, with a violence that threw the sea around him
into increased commotion, and then disappeared with the quickness of
lightning, amid a cloud of foam.
"Snub him!" shouted Barnstable; "hold on, Tom; he rises already."
"Ay, ay, sir," replied the composed cockswain, seizing the line, which
was running out of the boat with a velocity that rendered such a
manoeuvre rather hazardous, and causing it to yield more gradually round
the large loggerhead that was placed in the bows of the boat for that
purpose. Presently the line stretched forward, and rising to the surface
with tremulous vibrations, it indicated the direction in which the
animal might be expected to reappear. Barnstable had cast the bows of
the boat towards that point, before the terrified and wounded victim
rose once more to the surface, whose time was, however, no longer wasted
in his sports, but who cast the waters aside as he forced his way, with
prodigious velocity, along the surface. The boat was dragged violently
in his wake, and cut through the billows with a terrific rapidity, that
at moments appeared to bury the slight fabric in the ocean. When long
Tom beheld his victim throwing his spouts on high again, he pointed with
exultation to the jetting fluid, which was streaked with the deep red of
blood, and cried:
"Ay! I've touched the fellow's life! it must be more than two foot of
blubber that stops my iron from reaching the life of any whale that ever
sculled the ocean!"
"I believe you have saved yourself the trouble of using the bayonet you
have rigged for a lance," said his commander, who entered into the sport
with all the ardor of one whose youth had been chiefly passed in such
pursuits: "feel your line, Master Coffin; can we haul alongside of our
enemy? I like not the course he is steering, as he tows us from the
"'Tis the creatur's way, sir," said the cockswain; "you know they need
the air in their nostrils, when they run, the same as a man; but lay
hold, boys, and let's haul up to him."
The seamen now seized the whale-line, and slowly drew their boat to
within a few feet of the tail of the fish, whose progress became
sensibly less rapid, as he grew weak with the loss of blood. In a few
minutes he stopped running, and appeared to roll uneasily on the water,
as if suffering the agony of death.
"Shall we pull in, and finish him, Tom?" cried Barnstable; "a few sets
from your bayonet would do it."
The cockswain stood examining his game with cool discretion, and replied
to this interrogatory:
"No, sir, no--he's going into his flurry; there's no occasion for
disgracing ourselves by using a soldier's weapon in taking a whale.
Starn off, sir, starn off! the creater's in his flurry!"
The warning of the prudent cockswain was promptly obeyed, and the boat
cautiously drew off to a distance, leaving to the animal a clear space,
while under its dying agonies. From a state of perfect rest, the
terrible monster threw its tail on high, as when in sport, but its blows
were trebled in rapidity and violence, till all was hid from view by a
pyramid of foam, that was deeply dyed with blood. The roarings of the
fish were like the bellowing of a herd of bulls; and to one who was
ignorant of the fact, it would have appeared as if a thousand monsters
were engaged in deadly combat behind the bloody mist that obscured the
view. Gradually, these effects subsided, and when the discolored water
again settled down to the long and regular swell of the ocean, the fish
was seen, exhausted, and yielding passively to its fate. As life
departed, the enormous black mass rolled to one side; and when the white
and glistening skin of the belly became apparent, the seamen well knew
that their victory was achieved.
"What's to be done now?" said Barnstable, as he stood and gazed with a
diminished excitement at their victim; "he will yield no food, and his
carcass will probably drift to land, and furnish our enemies with the
"If I had but that creatur in Boston Bay," said the cockswain, "it would
prove the making of me; but such is my luck forever! Pull up, at any
rate, and let me get my harpoon and line--the English shall never get
them while old Tom Coffin can blow."
"Don't speak too fast," said the strokesman of the boat; "whether he get
your iron or not, here he comes in chase!"
"What mean you, fellow?" cried Barnstable.
"Captain Barnstable can look for himself," returned the seaman, "and
tell whether I speak truth."
The young sailor turned, and saw the Alacrity bearing down before the
wind, with all her sails set, as she rounded a headland, but a short
half-league to windward of the place where the boat lay.
"Pass that glass to me," said the captain, with steady composure. "This
promises us work in one of two ways: if she be armed, it has become our
turn to run; if not, we are strong enough to carry her."
A very brief survey made the experienced officer acquainted with the
true character of the vessel in sight; and, replacing the glass with
much coolness, he said:
"That fellow shows long arms, and ten teeth, besides King George's
pennant from his topmast-head. Now, my lads, you are to pull for your
lives; for whatever may be the notions of Master Coffin on the subject
of his harpoon, I have no inclination to have my arms pinioned by John
Bull, though his majesty himself put on the irons."
The men well understood the manner and meaning of their commander; and,
throwing aside their coats, they applied themselves in earnest to their
task. For half an hour a profound silence reigned in the boat, which
made an amazing progress. But many circumstances conspired to aid the
cutter; she had a fine breeze, with smooth water, and a strong tide in
her favor; and, at the expiration of the time we have mentioned, it was
but too apparent that the distance between the pursued and the pursuers
was lessened nearly by half. Barnstable preserved his steady
countenance, but there was an expression of care gathering around his
dark brow, which indicated that he saw the increasing danger of their
"That fellow has long legs, Master Coffin," he said, in a cheerful tone;
"your whale-line must go overboard, and the fifth oar must be handled by
your delicate hands."
Tom arose from his seat, and proceeding forward, he cast the tub and its
contents together into the sea, when he seated himself at the bow oar,
and, bent his athletic frame with amazing vigor to the task.
"Ah! there is much of your philosophy in that stroke, long Tom," cried
his commander; "keep it up, boys; and if we gain nothing else, we shall
at least gain time for deliberation. Come, Master Coffin, what think
you! We have three resources before us, let us hear which is jour
choice; first, we can turn and fight and be sunk; secondly, we can pull
to the land, and endeavor to make good our retreat to the schooner in
that manner; and thirdly, we can head to the shore, and possibly, by
running under the guns of that fellow, get the wind of him, and keep the
air in our nostrils, after the manner of the whale. Damn the whale! but
for the tow the black rascal gave us, we should have been out of sight
of this rover!"
"If we fight," said Tom, with quite as much composure as his commander
manifested, "we shall be taken or sunk; if we land, sir, I shall be
taken for one man, as I never could make any headway on dry ground; and
if we try to get the wind of him by pulling under the cliffs, we shall
be cut off by a parcel of lubbers that I can see running along their
edges, hoping, I dare say, that they shall be able to get a skulking
shot at a boat's crew of honest seafaring men."
"You speak with as much truth as philosophy, Tom," said Barnstable, who
saw his slender hopes of success curtailed by the open appearance of the
horse and foot on the cliffs. "These Englishmen have not slept the last
night, and I fear Griffith and Manual will fare but badly. That fellow
brings a capful of wind down with him--'tis just his play, and he walks
like a race-horse. Ha! he begins to be in earnest!"
While Barnstable was speaking, a column of white smoke was seen issuing
from the bows of the cutter; and as the report of a cannon was wafted to
their ears, the shot was seen skipping from wave to wave, tossing the
water in spray, and flying to a considerable distance beyond them. The
seamen cast cursory glances in the direction of the passing ball, but it
produced no manifest effect in either their conduct or appearance. The
cockswain, who scanned its range with an eye of more practice than the
rest, observed, "That's a lively piece for its metal, and it speaks with
a good clear voice; but if they hear it aboard the Ariel, the man who
fired it will be sorry it wasn't born dumb."
"You are the prince of philosophers, Master Coffin!" cried Barnstable;
"there is some hope in that; let the Englishmen talk away, and, my life
on it, the Ariels don't believe it is thunder; hand me a musket--I'll
draw another shot."
The piece was given to Barnstable, who discharged it several times, as
if to taunt their enemies; and the scheme was completely successful.
Goaded by the insults, the cutter discharged gun after gun at the little
boat, throwing the shot frequently so near as to wet her crew with the
spray, but without injuring them in the least. The failure of these
attempts of the enemy excited the mirth of the reckless seamen, instead
of creating any alarm; and whenever a shot came nearer than common, the
cockswain would utter some such expression as:
"A ground swell, a long shot, and a small object, make a clean target;"
or, "A man must squint straight to hit a boat."
As, notwithstanding their unsuccessful gunnery, the cutter was
constantly gaining on the whale-boat, there was a prospect of a speedy
termination of the chase, when the report of a cannon was thrown back
like an echo from one of the Englishman's discharges, and Barnstable and
his companions had the pleasure of seeing the Ariel stretching slowly
out of the little bay where she had passed the night, with the smoke of
the gun of defiance curling above her taper masts.
A loud and simultaneous shout of rapture was given by the lieutenant and
all his boat's crew, at this cheering sight, while the cutter took in
all her light sails, and, as she hauled up on a wind, she fired a whole
broadside at the successful fugitives. Many stands of grape, with
several round shot, flew by the boat and fell upon the water near them,
raising a cloud of foam, but without doing any injury.
"She dies in a flurry," said Tom, casting his eyes at the little vortex
into which the boat was then entering.
"If her commander be a true man," cried Barnstable, "he'll not leave us
on so short an acquaintance. Give way, my souls! give way! I would see
more of this loquacious cruiser."
The temptation for exertion was great, and it was not disregarded by the
men; in a few minutes the whale-boat reached the schooner, when the crew
of the latter received their commander and his companions with shouts
and cheers that rang across the waters, and reached the ears of the
disappointed spectators on the verge of the cliffs.
"Thus guided on their course they bore,
Until they near'd the mainland shore;
When frequent on the hollow blast,
Wild shouts of merriment were cast."
_Lord of the Isles_.
The joyful shouts and hearty cheers of the Ariel's crew continued for
some time after her commander had reached her deck. Barnstable answered
the congratulations of his officers by cordial shakes of the hand; and
after waiting for the ebullition of delight among the seamen to subside
a little, he beckoned with an air of authority for silence.
"I thank you, my lads, for your good-will," he said, when all were
gathered around him in deep attention; "they have given us a tough
chase, and if you had left us another mile to go, we had been lost. That
fellow is a king's cutter; and though his disposition to run to leeward
is a good deal mollified, yet he shows signs of fight. At any rate, he
is stripping off some of his clothes, which looks as if he were game.
Luckily for us, Captain Manual has taken all the marines ashore with
him, (though what he has done with them, or himself, is a mystery,) or
we should have had our decks lumbered with live cattle; but, as it is,
we have a good working breeze, tolerably smooth water, and a dead match!
There is a sort of national obligation on us to whip that fellow; and
therefore, without more words about the matter, let us turn to and do
it, that we may get our breakfasts."
To this specimen of marine eloquence the crew cheered as usual, the
young men burning for the combat, and the few old sailors who belonged
to the schooner shaking their heads with infinite satisfaction, and
swearing by sundry strange oaths that their captain "could talk, when
there was need of such thing, like the best dictionary that ever was
During this short harangue and the subsequent comments, the Ariel had
been kept, under a cloud of canvas, as near to the wind as she could
lie; and as this was her best sailing, she had stretched swiftly out
from the land, to a distance whence the cliffs and the soldiers, who
were spread along their summits, became plainly visible. Barnstable
turned his glass repeatedly from the cutter to the shore, as different
feelings predominated in his breast, before he again spoke.
"If Mr. Griffith is stowed away among those rocks," he at length said,
"he shall see as pretty an argument discussed, in as few words, as he
ever listened to, provided the gentlemen in yonder cutter have not
changed their minds as to the road they intend to journey--what think
you, Mr. Merry?"
"I wish with all my heart and soul, sir," returned the fearless boy,
"that Mr. Griffith was safe aboard us; it seems the country is alarmed,
and God knows what will happen if he is taken! As to the fellow to
windward, he'll find it easier to deal with the Ariel's boat than with
her mother; but he carries a broad sail; I question if he means to show
"Never doubt him, boy," said Barnstable, "he is working off the shore,
like a man of sense, and besides, he has his spectacles on, trying to
make out what tribe of Yankee Indians we belong to. You'll see him come
to the wind presently, and send a few pieces of iron down this way, by
way of letting us know where to find him. Much as I like your first
lieutenant, Mr. Merry, I would rather leave him on the land this day,
than see him on my decks. I want no fighting captain to work this boat
for me! But tell the drummer, sir, to beat to quarters."
The boy, who was staggering under the weight of his melodious
instrument, had been expecting this command, and, without waiting for
the midshipman to communicate the order, he commenced that short rub-a-
dub air, that will at any time rouse a thousand men from the deepest
sleep, and cause them to fly to their means of offence with a common
soul. The crew of the Ariel had been collected in groups studying the
appearance of the enemy, cracking their jokes, and waiting only for this
usual order to repair to the guns; and at the first tap of the drum,
they spread with steadiness to the different parts of the little vessel,
where their various duties called them. The cannon were surrounded by
small parties of vigorous and athletic young men; the few marines were
drawn up in array with muskets; the officers appeared in their boarding-
caps, with pistols stuck in their belts, and naked sabres in their
hands. Barnstable paced his little quarter-deck with a firm tread,
dangling a speaking-trumpet by its lanyard on his forefinger, or
occasionally applying the glass to his eye, which, when not in use, was
placed under one arm, while his sword was resting against the foot of
the mainmast; a pair of heavy ship's pistols were thrust into his belt
also; and piles of muskets, boarding-pikes, and naked sabres were placed
on different parts of the deck. The laugh of the seamen was heard no
longer, and those who spoke uttered their thoughts only in low and
The English cutter held her way from the land, until she got an offing
of more than two miles, when she reduced her sails to a yet smaller
number; and, heaving into the wind, she fired a gun in a direction
opposite to that which pointed to the Ariel.
"Now I would wager a quintal of codfish, Master Coffin," said
Barnstable, "against the best cask of porter that was ever brewed in
England, that fellow believes a Yankee schooner can fly in the wind's
eye! If he wishes to speak to us, why don't he give his cutter a little
sheet, and come down?"
The cockswain had made his arrangements for the combat, with much more
method and philosophy than any other man in the vessel. When the drum
beat to quarters, he threw aside his jacket, vest, and shirt, with as
little hesitation as if he stood under an American sun, and with all the
discretion of a man who had engaged in an undertaking that required the
free use of his utmost powers. As he was known to be a privileged
individual in the Ariel, and one whose opinions, in all matters of
seamanship, were regarded as oracles by the crew, and were listened to
by his commander with no little demonstration of respect, the question
excited no surprise. He was standing at the breech of his long gun, with
his brawny arms folded on a breast that had been turned to the color of
blood by long exposure, his grizzled locks fluttering in the breeze, and
his tall form towering far above the heads of all near him.
"He hugs the wind, sir, as if it was his sweetheart," was his answer;
"but he'll let go his hold soon; and if he don't, we can find a way to
make him fall to leeward."
"Keep a good full!" cried the commander, in a stern voice; "and let the
vessel go through the water. That fellow walks well, long Tom; but we
are too much for him on a bowline; though, if he continue to draw ahead
in this manner, it will be night before we can get alongside him."
"Ay, ay, sir," returned the cockswain; "them cutters carries a press of
canvas when they seem to have but little; their gafts are all the same
as young booms, and spread a broad head to their mainsails. But it's no
hard matter to knock a few cloths out of their bolt-ropes, when she will
both drop astarn and to leeward."
"I believe there is good sense in your scheme, this time," said
Barnstable; "for I am anxious about the frigate's people--though I hate
a noisy chase; speak to him, Tom, and let us see if he will answer."
"Ay, ay, sir," cried the cockswain, sinking his body in such a manner as
to let his head fall to a level with the cannon that he controlled,
when, after divers orders and sundry movements to govern the direction
of the piece, he applied a match, with a rapid motion, to the priming.
An immense body of white smoke rushed from the muzzle of the cannon,
followed by a sheet of vivid fire, until, losing its power, it yielded
to the wind, and, as it rose from the water, spread like a cloud, and,
passing through the masts of the schooner, was driven far to leeward,
and soon blended in the mists which were swiftly scudding before the
fresh breezes of the ocean.
Although many curious eyes were watching this beautiful sight from the
cliffs, there was too little of novelty in the exhibition to attract a
single look of the crew of the schooner from the more important
examination of the effect of the shot on their enemy. Barnstable sprang
lightly on a gun, and watched the instant when the ball would strike,
with keen interest, while long Tom threw himself aside from the line of
the smoke with a similar intention; holding one of his long arms
extended toward his namesake, with a finger on the vent, and supporting
his frame by placing the hand of the other on the deck, as his eyes
glanced through an opposite port-hole, in an attitude that most men
might have despaired of imitating with success.
"There go the chips!" cried Barnstable. "Bravo! Master Coffin, you never
planted iron in the ribs of an English man with more judgment. Let him
have another piece of it; and if he like the sport, we'll play a game of
long bowls with him!"
"Ay, ay, sir," returned the cockswain, who, the instant he witnessed the
effects of his shot, had returned to superintend the reloading of his
gun; "if he holds on half an hour longer, I'll dub him down to our own
size, when we can close, and make an even fight of it."
The drum of the Englishman was now, for the first time, heard rattling
across the waters, and echoing the call to quarters, that had already
proceeded from the Ariel.
"Ay! you have sent him to his guns!" said Barnstable; "we shall now hear
more of it; wake him up, Tom--wake him up."
"We shall start him on end, or put him to sleep altogether, shortly,"
said the deliberate cockswain, who never allowed himself to be at all
hurried, even by his commander. My shot are pretty much like a shoal of
porpoises, and commonly sail in each other's wake. Stand by--heave her
breech forward--so; get out of that, you damned young reprobate, and let
my harpoon alone!"
"What are you at, there, Master Coffin?" cried Barnstable; "are you
"Here's one of the boys skylarking with my harpoon in the lee-scuppers,
and by and by, when I shall want it most, there'll be a no-man's land to
hunt for it in."
"Never mind the boy, Tom; send him aft here to me, and I'll polish his
behavior; give the Englishman some more iron."
"I want the little villain to pass up my cartridges," returned the angry
old seaman; "but if you'll be so good, sir, as to hit him a crack or
two, now and then, as he goes by you to the magazine, the monkey will
learn his manners, and the schooner's work will be all the better done
for it. A young herring-faced monkey! to meddle with a tool ye don't
know the use of. If your parents had spent more of their money on your
edication, and less on your outfit, you'd ha' been a gentleman to what
ye are now."
"Hurrah! Tom, hurrah!" cried Barnstable, a little impatiently; "is your
namesake never to open his throat again!"
"Ay, ay, sir; all ready," grumbled the cockswain; "depress a little; so
--so; a damned young baboon-behaved curmudgeon; overhaul that forward
fall more; stand by with your match--but I'll pay him!--fire!" This was
the actual commencement of the fight; for as the shot of Tom Coffin
traveled, as he had intimated, very much in the same direction, their
enemy found the sport becoming too hot to be endured in silence, and the
report of the second gun from the Ariel was instantly followed by that
of the whole broadside of the Alacrity. The shot of the cutter flew in a
very good direction, but her guns were too light to give them efficiency
at that distance; and as one or two were heard to strike against the
bends of the schooner, and fall back, innocuously, into the water, the
cockswain, whose good-humor became gradually restored as the combat
thickened, remarked with his customary apathy:
"Them count for no more than love-taps--does the Englishman think that
we are firing salutes!"
"Stir him up, Tom! every blow you give him will help to open his eyes,"
cried Barnstable, rubbing his hands with glee, as he witnessed the
success of his efforts to close.
Thus far the cockswain and his crew had the fight, on the part of the
Ariel, altogether to themselves, the men who were stationed at the
smaller and shorter guns standing in perfect idleness by their sides;
but in ten or fifteen minutes the commander of the Alacrity, who had
been staggered by the weight of the shot that had struck him, found that
it was no longer in his power to retreat, if he wished it; when he
decided on the only course that was left for a brave man to pursue, and
steered boldly in such a direction as would soonest bring him in contact
with his enemy, without exposing his vessel to be raked by his fire.
Barnstable watched each movement of his foe with eagle eyes, and when
the vessel had got within a lessened distance, he gave the order for a
general fire to be opened. The action now grew warm and spirited on both
sides. The power of the wind was counteracted by the constant explosion
of the cannon; and, instead of driving rapidly to leeward, a white
canopy of curling smoke hung above the Ariel, or rested on the water,
lingering in her wake, so as to mark the path by which she was
approaching to a closer and still deadlier struggle. The shouts of the
young sailors, as they handled their instruments of death, became more
animated and fierce, while the cockswain pursued his occupation with the
silence and skill of one who labored in a regular vocation. Barnstable
was unusually composed and quiet, maintaining the grave deportment of a
commander on whom rested the fortunes of the contest, at the same time
that his dark eyes were dancing with the fire of suppressed animation.
"Give it them!" he occasionally cried, in a voice that might be heard
amid the bellowing of the cannon; "never mind their cordage, my lads;
drive home their bolts, and make your marks below their ridge-ropes."
In the mean time the Englishman played a manful game.
He had suffered a heavy loss by the distant cannonade, which no metal he
possessed could retort upon his enemy; but he struggled nobly to repair
the error in judgment with which he had begun the contest. The two
vessels gradually drew nigher to each other, until they both entered
into the common cloud created by their fire, which thickened and spread
around them in such a manner as to conceal their dark hulls from the
gaze of the curious and interested spectators on the cliffs. The heavy
reports of the cannon were now mingled with the rattling of muskets and
pistols, and streaks of fire might be seen glancing like flashes of
lightning through the white cloud which enshrouded the combatants; and
many minutes of painful uncertainty followed, before the deeply
interested soldiers, who were gazing at the scene, discovered on whose
banners victory had alighted.
We shall follow the combatants into their misty wreath, and display to
the reader the events as they occurred.
The fire of the Ariel was much the most quick and deadly, both because
she had suffered less, and her men were less exhausted; and the cutter
stood desperately on to decide the combat, after grappling, hand to
hand. Barnstable anticipated her intention and well understood her
commander's reason for adopting this course; but he was not a man to
calculate coolly his advantages, when pride and daring invited him to a
more severe trial. Accordingly, he met the enemy half-way, and, as the
vessels rushed together, the stern of the schooner was secured to the
bows of the cutter, by the joint efforts of both parties. The voice of
the English commander was now plainly to be heard, in the uproar,
calling to his men to follow him.
"Away there, boarders! repel boarders on the starboard quarter!" shouted
Barnstable, through his trumpet.
This was the last order that the gallant young sailor gave with this
instrument; for, as he spoke, he cast it from him, and, seizing his
sabre, flew to the spot where the enemy was about to make his most
desperate effort. The shouts, execrations, and tauntings of the
combatants, now succeeded to the roar of the cannon, which could be used
no longer with effect, though the fight was still maintained with
spirited discharges of the small-arms.
"Sweep him from his decks!" cried the English commander, as he appeared
on his own bulwarks, surrounded by a dozen of his bravest men; "drive
the rebellious dogs into the sea!"
"Away there, marines!" retorted Barnstable, firing his pistol at the
advancing enemy; "leave not a man of them to sup his grog again."
The tremendous and close volley that succeeded this order nearly
accomplished the command of Barnstable to the letter, and the commander
of the Alacrity, perceiving that he stood alone, reluctantly fell back
on the deck of his own vessel, in order to bring on his men once more.
"Board her! graybeards and boys, idlers and all!" shouted Barnstable,
springing in advance of his crew--a powerful arm arrested the movement
of the dauntless seaman, and before he had time to recover himself, he
was drawn violently back to his own vessel by the irresistible grasp of
"The fellow's in his flurry," said Tom, "and it wouldn't be wise to go
within reach of his flukes; but I'll just step ahead and give him a set
with my harpoon."
Without waiting for a reply, the cockswain reared his tall frame on the
bulwarks, and was in the attitude of stepping on board of his enemy,
when a sea separated the vessels, and he fell with a heavy dash of the
waters into the ocean. As twenty muskets and pistols were discharged at
the instant he appeared, the crew of the Ariel supposed his fall to be
occasioned by his wounds, and were rendered doubly fierce by the sight,
and the cry of their commander to:
"Revenge long Tom! board her! long Tom or death!"
They threw themselves forward in irresistible numbers, and forced a
passage, with much bloodshed, to the forecastle of the Alacrity. The
Englishman was overpowered, but still remained undaunted--he rallied his
crew, and bore up most gallantly to the fray. Thrusts of pikes and blows
of sabres were becoming close and deadly, while muskets and pistols were
constantly discharged by those who were kept at a distance by the
pressure of the throng of closer combatants.
Barnstable led his men in advance, and became a mark of peculiar
vengeance to his enemies, as they slowly yielded before his vigorous
assaults. Chance had placed the two commanders on opposite sides of the
cutter's deck, and the victory seemed to incline towards either party,
whenever these daring officers directed the struggle in person. But the
Englishman, perceiving that the ground he maintained in person was lost
elsewhere, made an effort to restore the battle, by changing his
position, followed by one or two of his best men. A marine, who preceded
him, leveled his musket within a few feet of the head of the American
commander, and was about to fire, when Merry glided among the
combatants, and passed his dirk into the body of the man, who fell at
the blow; shaking his piece, with horrid imprecations, the wounded
soldier prepared to deal his vengeance on his youthful assailant, when
the fearless boy leaped within its muzzle, and buried his own keen
weapon in his heart.
"Hurrah!" shouted the unconscious Barnstable, from the edge of the
quarter-deck, where, attended by a few men, he was driving all before
him. "Revenge!--long Tom and victory!"
"We have them!" exclaimed the Englishman; "handle your pikes! we have
them between two fires."
The battle would probably have terminated very differently from what
previous circumstances had indicated, had not a wild-looking figure
appeared in the cutter's channels at that moment, issuing from the sea,
and gaining the deck at the same instant. It was long Tom, with his iron
visage rendered fierce by his previous discomfiture, and his grizzled
locks drenched with the briny element from which he had risen, looking
like Neptune with his trident. Without speaking, he poised his harpoon,
and, with a powerful effort, pinned the unfortunate Englishman to the
mast of his own vessel.
"Starn all!" cried Tom by a sort of instinct, when the blow was struck;
and catching up the musket of the fallen marine, he dealt out terrible
and fatal blows with its butt on all who approached him, utterly
disregarding the use of the bayonet on its muzzle. The unfortunate
commander of the Alacrity brandished his sword with frantic gestures,
while his eyes rolled in horrid wildness, when he writhed for an instant
in his passing agonies, and then, as his head dropped lifeless upon his
gored breast, he hung against the spar, a spectacle of dismay to his
crew, A few of the Englishmen stood chained to the spot in silent horror
at the sight, but most of them fled to their lower deck, or hastened to
conceal themselves in the secret parts of the vessel, leaving to the
Americans the undisputed possession of the Alacrity.
Two-thirds of the cutter's crew suffered either in life or limbs, by
this short struggle; nor was the victory obtained by Barnstable without
paying the price of several valuable lives. The first burst of conquest
was not, however, the moment to appreciate the sacrifice, and loud and
reiterated shouts proclaimed the exultation of the conquerors. As the
flush of victory subsided, however, recollection returned, and
Barnstable issued such orders as humanity and his duty rendered
necessary. While the vessels were separating, and the bodies of the dead
and wounded were removing, the conqueror paced the deck of his prize, as
if lost in deep reflection. He passed his hand, frequently, across his
blackened and blood-stained brow, while his eyes would rise to examine
the vast canopy of smoke that was hovering above the vessels, like a
dense fog exhaling from the ocean. The result of his deliberations was
soon announced to the crew.
"Haul down all your flags," he cried; "set the Englishman's colors
again, and show the enemy's jack above our ensign in the Ariel."
The appearance of the whole channel-fleet within half gunshot would not
have occasioned more astonishment among the victors than this
extraordinary mandate. The wondering seamen suspended their several
employments, to gaze at the singular change that was making in the
flags, those symbols that were viewed with a sort of reverence; but none
presumed to comment openly on the procedure except long Tom, who stood
on the quarter-deck of the prize, straightening the pliable iron of the
harpoon which be had recovered with as much care and diligence as if it
were necessary to the maintenance of their conquest. Like the others,
however, he suspended his employment when he heard this order, and
manifested no reluctance to express his dissatisfaction at the measure.
"If the Englishmen grumble at the fight, and think it not fair play,"
muttered the old cockswain, "let us try it over again, sir; as they are
somewhat short of hands, they can send a boat to the land, and get off a
gang of them lazy riptyles, the soldiers, who stand looking at us, like
so many red lizards crawling on a beach, and we'll give them another
chance; but damme, if I see the use of whipping them, if this is to be
the better end of the matter."
"What's that you're grumbling there, like a dead northeaster, you horse-
mackerel?" said Barnstable; "where are our friends and countrymen who
are on the land? Are we to leave them to swing on gibbets or rot in
The cockswain listened with great earnestness, and when his commander
had spoken, he struck the palm of his broad hand against his brawny
thigh, with a report like a pistol, and answered:
"I see how it is, sir; you reckon the red-coats have Mr. Griffith in
tow. Just run the schooner into shoal water, Captain Barnstable, and
drop an anchor, where we can get the long gun to bear on them, and give
me the whale-boat and five or six men to back me--they must have long
legs if they get an offing before I run them aboard!"
"Fool! do you think a boat's crew could contend with fifty armed
"Soldiers!" echoed Tom, whose spirits had been strongly excited by the
conflict, snapping his fingers with ineffable disdain; "that for all the
soldiers that were ever rigged: one whale could kill a thousand of them!
and here stands the man that has killed his round hundred of whales!"
"Pshaw, you grampus, do you turn braggart in your old age?"
"It's no bragging, sir, to speak a log-book truth! but if Captain
Barnstable thinks that old Tom Coffin carries a speaking-trumpet for a
figure-head, let him pass the word forrard to man the boats."
"No, no, my old master at the marlinspike," said Barnstable, kindly, "I
know thee too well, thou brother of Neptune! but shall we not throw the
bread-room dust in those Englishmen's eyes, by wearing their bunting a
while, till something may offer to help our captured countrymen."
The cockswain shook his head and cogitated a moment, as if struck with
sundry new ideas, when he answered:
"Ay, ay, sir; that's blue-water philosophy: as deep as the sea! Let the
riptyles clew up the corners of their mouths to their eyebrows, now!
when they come to hear the ra'al Yankee truth of the matter, they will
sheet them down to their leather neckcloths!"
With this reflection the cockswain was much consoled, and the business
of repairing damages and securing the prize proceeded without further
interruption on his part. The few prisoners who were unhurt were rapidly
transferred to the Ariel. While Barnstable was attending to this duty,
an unusual bustle drew his eyes to one of the hatchways, where he beheld
a couple of his marines dragging forward a gentleman, whose demeanor and
appearance indicated the most abject terror. After examining the
extraordinary appearance of this individual, for a moment, in silent
amazement, the lieutenant exclaimed:
"Who have we here? some amateur in fights! an inquisitive, wonder-
seeking non-combatant, who has volunteered to serve his king, and
perhaps draw a picture, or write a book, to serve himself! Pray, sir, in
what capacity did you serve in this vessel?"
The captive ventured a sidelong glance at his interrogator, in whom he
expected to encounter Griffith, but perceiving that it was a face he did
not know, he felt a revival of confidence that enabled him to reply:
"I came here by accident; being on board the cutter at the time her late
commander determined to engage you. It was not in his power to land me,
as I trust you will not hesitate to do; your conjecture of my being a
"Is perfectly true," interrupted Barnstable; "it requires no spyglass to
read that name written on you from stem to stern: but for certain
He paused to turn at a signal given him by young Merry, who whispered
eagerly, in his ear:
"'Tis Mr. Dillon, kinsman of Colonel Howard; I've seen him often,
sailing in the wake of my cousin Cicely."
"Dillon!" exclaimed Barnstable, rubbing his hands with pleasure; "what,
Kit of that name! he with 'the Savannah face, eyes of black, and skin of
the same color?' he's grown a little whiter with fear; but he's a prize,
at this moment, worth twenty Alacrities!"
These exclamations were made in a low voice, and at some little distance
from the prisoner, whom he now approached and addressed:
"Policy, and consequently duty, require that I should detain you for a
short time, sir; but you shall have a sailor's welcome to whatever we
possess, to lessen the weight of captivity."
Barnstable precluded any reply, by bowing to his captive, and turning
away to superintend the management of his vessels. In a short time it
was announced that they were ready to make sail, when the Ariel and her
prize were brought close to the wind, and commenced beating slowly along
the land, as if intending to return to the bay whence the latter had
sailed that morning. As they stretched in to the shore on the first
tack, the soldiers on the cliffs rent the air with their shouts and
acclamations, to which Barnstable, pointing to the assumed symbols that
were fluttering in the breeze from his masts, directed his crew to
respond in the most cordial manner. As the distance, and the want of
boats, prevented any further communication, the soldiers, after gazing
at the receding vessels for a time, disappeared from the cliffs, and
were soon lost from the sight of the adventurous mariners. Hour after
hour was consumed in the tedious navigation, against an adverse tide,
and the short day was drawing to a close, before they approached the
mouth of their destined haven. While making one of their numerous
stretches to and from the land, the cutter, in which Barnstable
continued, passed the victim of their morning's sport, riding on the
water, the waves curling over his huge carcass as on some rounded rock,
and already surrounded by the sharks, who were preying on his
"See! Master Coffin," cried the lieutenant, pointing out the object to
his cockswain as they glided by it, "the shovel-nosed gentlemen are
regaling daintily: you have neglected the Christian's duty of burying
The old seaman cast a melancholy look at the dead whale and replied:
"If I had the creatur in Boston Bay, or on the Sandy Point of Munny-Moy,
'twould be the making of me! But riches and honor are for the great and
the larned, and there's nothing left for poor Tom Coffin to do but to
veer and haul on his own rolling-tackle, that he may ride out on the
rest of the gale of life without springing any of his old spars."