Part 8 out of 9
"One who possesses neither the power nor the inclination to do ye harm,"
answered the solitary female; "'tis Alice Dunscombe, returning, by
permission of your leader, to the place of her birth."
"Ay," muttered Manual, "this is one of Griffith's unmilitary exhibitions
of his politeness! Does the man think that there was ever a woman who
had no tongue! Have you the countersign, madam, that I may know you bear
a sufficient warrant to pass?"
"I have no other warrant besides my sex and weakness, unless Mr.
Griffith's knowledge that I have left him can be so considered."
"The two former are enough," said a voice, that proceeded from a figure
which had hitherto stood unseen, shaded by the trunk of an oak that
spread its wide but naked arms above the spot where the guard was
"Who have we here!" Manual again cried; "come in; yield, or you will be
"What, will the gallant Captain Manual fire on his own rescuer!" said
the Pilot, with cool disdain, as he advanced from the shadow of the
tree. "He had better reserve his bullets for his enemies, than waste
them on his friends."
"You have done a dangerous deed, sir, in approaching, clandestinely, a
guard of marines! I wonder that a man who has already discovered, to-
night, that he has some knowledge of tactics, by so ably conducting a
surprise, should betray so much ignorance in the forms of approaching a
"'Tis now of no moment," returned the Pilot; "my knowledge and my
ignorance are alike immaterial, as the command of the party is
surrendered to other and perhaps more proper hands. But I would talk to
this lady alone, sir; she is an acquaintance of my youth, and I will see
her on her way to the abbey."
"The step would be unmilitary, Mr. Pilot, and you will excuse me if I do
not consent to any of our expedition straggling without the sentries. If
you choose to remain here to hold your discourse, I will march the
picket out of hearing; though I must acknowledge I see no ground so
favorable as this we are on, to keep you within range of our eyes. You
perceive that I have a ravine to retreat into in case of surprise, with
this line of wall on my left flank and the trunk of that tree to cover
my right. A very pretty stand might be made here, on emergency; for even
the oldest troops fight the best when their flanks are properly covered,
and a way to make a regular retreat is open in their rear."
"Say no more, sir; I would not break up such a position on any account,"
returned the Pilot; "the lady will consent to retrace her path for a
Alice followed his steps, in compliance with this request, until he had
led her to a place, at some little distance from the marines, where a
tree had been prostrated by the late gale. She seated herself quietly on
its trunk, and appeared to wait with patience his own time for the
explanation of his motives in seeking the interview. The pilot paced for
several minutes back and forth, in front of the place where she was
seated, in profound silence, as if communing with himself; when suddenly
throwing off his air of absence, he came to her side, and assumed a
position similar to the one which she herself had taken.
"The hour is at hand, Alice, when we must part," he at length commenced;
"it rests with yourself whether it shall be forever."
"Let it then be forever, John," she returned, with a slight tremor in
"That word would have been less appalling had this accidental meeting
never occurred. And yet your choice may have been determined by
prudence--for what is there in my fate that can tempt a woman to wish
that she might share it?"
"If ye mean your lot is that of one who can find but few, or even none,
to partake of his joys, or to share in his sorrows--whose life is a
continual scene of dangers and calamities, of disappointments and
mishaps--then do ye know but little of the heart of woman, if ye doubt
of either her ability or her willingness to meet them with the man of
"Say you thus, Alice? then have I misunderstood your meaning or
misinterpreted your acts. My lot is not altogether that of a neglected
man, unless the favor of princes and the smiles of queens are allowed to
go for nothing. My life is, however, one of many and fearful dangers;
and yet it is not filled altogether with calamities and mishaps; is it,
Alice?" He paused a moment, but in vain, for her answer. "Nay, then, I
have been deceived in the estimation that the world has affixed to my
combats and enterprises! I am not, Alice, the man I would be, or even
the man I had deemed myself."
"You have gained a name, John, among the warriors of the age," she
answered, in a subdued voice; "and it is a name that may be said to be
written in blood!"
"The blood of my enemies, Alice!"
"The blood of the subjects of your natural prince! The blood of those
who breathe the air you first breathed, and who were taught the same
holy lessons of instruction that you were first taught; but, which, I
fear, you have too soon forgotten!"
"The blood of the slaves of despotism!" he sternly interrupted her; "the
blood of the enemies of freedom! You have dwelt so long in this dull
retirement, and you have cherished so blindly the prejudices of your
youth, that the promise of those noble sentiments I once thought I could
see budding in Alice Dunscombe has not been fulfilled."
"I have lived and thought only as a woman, as become my sex and
station," Alice meekly replied; "and when it shall be necessary for me
to live and think otherwise, I should wish to die."
"Ay, there lie the first seeds of slavery! A dependent woman is sure to
make the mother of craven and abject wretches, who dishonor the name of
"I shall never be the mother of children, good or bad," said Alice, with
that resignation in her tones that showed she had abandoned the natural
hopes of her sex. "Singly and unsupported have I lived; alone and
unlamented must I be carried to my grave."
The exquisite pathos of her voice, as she uttered this placid speech,
blended as it was with the sweet and calm dignity of virgin pride,
touched the heart of her listener, and he continued silent many moments,
as if in reverence of her determination. Her sentiments awakened in his
own breast those feelings of generosity and disinterestedness which had
nearly been smothered in restless ambition and the pride of success. He
resumed the discourse, therefore, more mildly, and with a much greater
exhibition of deep feeling, and less of passion, in his manner.
"I know not, Alice, that I ought, situated as I am, and contented, if
not happy, as you are, even to attempt to revive in your bosom those
sentiments which I was once led to think existed there. It cannot, after
all, be a desirable fate, to share the lot of a rover like myself; one
who may be termed a Quixote in the behalf of liberal principles, and who
may be hourly called to seal the truth of those principles with his
"There never existed any sentiment in my breast, in which you are
concerned, that does not exist there still, and unchanged," returned
Alice, with her single-hearted sincerity.
"Do I hear you right? or have I misconceived your resolution to abide in
England? or have I not rather mistaken your early feelings?"
"You have fallen into no error now nor then, The weakness may still
exist, John; but the strength to struggle with it has, by the goodness
of God, grown with my years. It is not, however, of myself, but of you,
that I would speak. I have lived like one of our simple daisies, which
in the budding may have caught your eye; and I shall also wilt like the
humble flower, when the winter of my time arrives, without being missed
from the fields that have known me for a season. But your fall, John,
will be like that of the oak that now supports us, and men shall
pronounce on the beauty and grandeur of the noble stem while standing,
as well as of its usefulness when felled."
"Let them pronounce as they will!" returned the proud stranger. "The
truth must be finally known: and when, that hour shall come, they will
say, he was a faithful and gallant warrior in his day; and a worthy
lesson for all who are born in slavery, but would live in freedom, shall
be found in his example."
"Such may be the language of that distant people, whom ye have adopted
in the place of those that once formed home and kin to ye," said Alice,
glancing her eye timidly at his countenance, as if to discern how far
she might venture, without awakening his resentment; "but what will the
men of the land of your birth transmit to their children, who will be
the children of those that are of your own blood?"
"They will say, Alice, whatever their crooked policy may suggest, or
their disappointed vanity can urge. But the picture must be drawn by the
friends of the hero, as well as by his enemies! Think you, that there
are not pens as well as swords in America?"
"I have heard that America called a land, John, where God has lavished
his favors with an unsparing hand; where he has bestowed many climes
with their several fruits, and where his power is exhibited no less than
his mercy. It is said her rivers are without any known end, and that
lakes are found in her bosom which would put our German Ocean to shame!
The plains, teeming with verdure, are spread over wide degrees; and yet
those sweet valleys, which a single heart can hold, are not wanting. In
short, John, I hear it is a broad land, that can furnish food for each
passion, and contain objects for every affection."
"Ay, you have found those, Alice, in your solitude, who have been
willing to do her justice! It is a country that can form a world of
itself; and why should they who inherit it look to other nations for
"I pretend not to reason on the right of the children of that soil to do
whatever they may deem most meet for their own welfare," returned Alice
--"but can men be born in such a land, and not know the feelings which
bind a human being to the place of his birth?"
"Can you doubt that they should be patriotic?" exclaimed the Pilot, in
surprise. "Do not their efforts in this sacred cause--their patient
sufferings--their long privations--speak loudly in their behalf?"
"And will they who know so well how to love home sing the praises of him
who has turned his ruthless hand against the land of his fathers?"
"Forever harping on that word home!" said the Pilot, who now detected
the timid approaches of Alice to her hidden meaning. "Is a man a stick
or a stone, that he must be cast into the fire, or buried in a wall,
wherever his fate may have doomed him to appear on the earth? The sound
of home is said to feed the vanity of an English man, let him go where
he will; but it would seem to have a still more powerful charm with
"It is the dearest of all terms to every woman, John, for it embraces
the dearest of all ties! If your dames of America are ignorant of its
charm, all the favors which God has lavished on their land will avail
their happiness but little."
"Alice," said the Pilot, rising in his agitation, "I see but too well
the object of your allusions. But on this subject we can never agree;
for not even your powerful influence can draw me from the path of glory
in which I am now treading. But our time is growing brief; let us, then,
talk of other things.--This may be the last time I shall ever put foot
on the island of Britain."
Alice paused to struggle with the feelings excited by this remark,
before she pursued the discourse. But soon shaking off the weakness, she
added, with a rigid adherence to that course which she believed to be
"And now, John, that you have landed, is the breaking up of a peaceful
family, and the violence ye have shown towards an aged man, a fit
exploit for one whose object is the glory of which ye have spoken?"
"Think you that I have landed, and placed my life in the hands of my
enemies, for so unworthy an object! No, Alice: my motive for this
undertaking has been disappointed, and therefore will ever remain a
secret from the world. But duty to my cause has prompted the step which
you so unthinkingly condemn. This Colonel Howard has some consideration
with those in power, and will answer to exchange for a better man. As
for his wards, you forget their home, their magical home is in America;
unless, indeed, they find them nearer at hand, under the proud flag of a
frigate that is now waiting for them in the offing."
"You talk of a frigate!" said Alice, with sudden interest in the
subject. "Is she your only means of escaping from your enemies?"
"Alice Dunscombe has taken but little heed of passing events, to ask
such a question of me!" returned the haughty Pilot. "The question would
have sounded more discreetly had it been, 'Is she the only vessel with
you that your enemies will have to escape from?'"
"Nay, I cannot measure my language at such a moment," continued Alice,
with a still stronger exhibition of anxiety. "It was my fortune to
overhear a part of a plan that was intended to destroy, by sudden means,
those vessels of America that were in our seas."
"That might be a plan more suddenly adopted than easily executed, my
good Alice. And who were these redoubtable schemers?"
"I know not but my duty to the king should cause me to suppress this
information," said Alice, hesitating.
"Well, be it so," returned the Pilot, coolly; "it may prove the means of
saving the persons of some of the royal officers from death or
captivity. I have already said, this may be the last of my visits to
this island, and consequently, Alice, the last of our interviews--"
"And yet," said Alice, still pursuing the train of her own thoughts,
"there can be but little harm in sparing human blood; and least of all
in serving those whom we have long known and regarded!"
"Ay, that is a simple doctrine, and one that is easily maintained," he
added, with much apparent indifference; "and yet King George might well
spare some of his servants--the list of his abject minions is so long!"
"There was a man named Dillon, who lately dwelt in the abbey, but who
has mysteriously disappeared," continued Alice; "or rather, who was
captured by your companions: know you aught of him, John?"
"I have heard there was a miscreant of that name, but we have never met.
Alice, if it please Heaven that this should be the last--"
"He was a captive in the schooner called the Ariel," she added, still
unheeding his affected indifference to her communication; "and when
permitted to return to St. Ruth, he lost sight of his solemn promise,
and of his plighted honor, to wreak his malice. Instead of effecting the
exchange that he had conditioned to see made, he plotted treason against
his captors. Yes, it was most foul treason! for his treatment was
generous and kind, and his liberation certain."
"He was a most unworthy scoundrel! But, Alice----"
"Nay, listen, John," she continued, urged to even a keener interest in
his behalf by his apparent inattention; "and yet I should speak tenderly
of his failings, for he is already numbered with the dead! One part of
his scheme must have been frustrated; for he intended to destroy that
schooner which you call the Ariel, and to have taken the person of the
"In both of which he has failed! The person of Barnstable I have
rescued, and the Ariel has been stricken by a hand far mightier than any
of this world!--she is wrecked."
"Then is the frigate your only means of escape! Hasten, John, and seem
not so proud and heedless; for the hour may come when all your daring
will not profit ye against the machinations of secret enemies. This
Dillon had also planned that expresses should journey to a seaport at
the south, with the intelligence that your vessels were in these seas,
in order that ships might be dispatched to intercept your retreat."
The Pilot lost his affected indifference as she proceeded; and before
she ceased speaking, his eye was endeavoring to anticipate her words, by
reading her countenance through the dusky medium of the starlight.
"How know you this, Alice?" he asked quickly--"and what vessel did he
"Chance made me an unseen listener to their plan, and--I know not but I
forget my duty to my prince! but, John, 'tis asking too much of a weak
woman, to require that she shall see the man whom she once viewed with
eyes of favor sacrificed, when a word of caution, given in season, might
enable him to avoid the danger!"
"Once viewed with an eye of favor! Is it then so?" said the Pilot,
speaking in a vacant manner. "But, Alice, heard ye the force of the
ships, or their names? Give me their names, and the first lord of your
British admiralty shall not give so true an account of their force as I
will furnish from this list of my own."
"Their names were certainly mentioned," said Alice, with tender
melancholy; "but the name of one far nearer to me was ringing in my
ears, and has driven them from my mind."
"You are the same good Alice I once knew! And my name was mentioned?
What said they of the Pirate? Had his arm stricken a blow that made them
tremble in their abbey? Did they call him coward, girl?"
"It was mentioned in terms that pained my heart as I listened; for it is
never too easy a task to forget the lapse of years, nor are the feelings
of youth to be easily eradicated."
"Ay, there is luxury in knowing that, with all their affected abuse, the
slaves dread me in their secret holds!" exclaimed the Pilot, pacing in
front of his listener with quick steps. "This it is to be marked, among
men, above all others in your calling! I hope yet to see the day when
the third George shall start at the sound of that name, even within the
walls of his palace."
Alice Dunscombe heard him in deep and mortified silence. It was too
evident that a link in the chain of their sympathies was broken, and
that the weakness in which she had been unconsciously indulging was met
by no correspondent emotions in him. After sinking her head for a moment
on her bosom, she arose with a little more than her usual air of
meekness, and recalled the Pilot to a sense of her presence, by saying,
in a yet milder voice:
"I have now communicated all that it can profit you to know, and it is
meet that we separate."
"What, thus soon?" he cried, starting and taking her hand. "This is but
a short interview, Alice, to precede so long a separation."
"Be it short, or be it long, it must now end," she replied. Your
companions are on the eve of departure, and I trust you would be one of
the last who would wish to be deserted. If ye do visit England again, I
hope it may be with altered sentiments, so far as regards her interests.
I wish ye peace, John, and the blessings of God, as ye may be found to
"I ask no farther, unless it may be the aid of your gentle prayers! But
the night is gloomy, and I will see you in safety to the abbey."
"It is unnecessary," she returned, with womanly reserve. "The innocent
can be as fearless, on occasion, as the most valiant among your
warriors. But here is no cause for fear. I shall take a path that will
conduct me in a different way from that which is occupied by your
soldiers, and where I shall find none but Him who is ever ready to
protect the helpless. Once more, John, I bid ye adieu." Her voice
faltered as she continued--"Ye will share the lot of humanity, and have
your hours of care and weakness; at such moments ye can remember those
ye leave on this despised island, and perhaps among them ye may think of
some whose interest in your welfare has been far removed from
"God be with you, Alice!" he said, touched with her emotion, and losing
all vain images in more worthy feelings--"but I cannot permit you to go
"Here we part, John," she said firmly, "and forever! 'Tis for the
happiness of both, for I fear we have but little in common." She gently
wrested her hand from his grasp, and once more bidding him adieu, in a
voice that was nearly inaudible, she turned and slowly disappeared,
moving, with lingering steps, in the direction of the abbey.
The first impulse of the pilot was certainly to follow, and insist on
seeing her on the way; but the music of the guard on the cliffs at that
moment sent forth its martial strains, and the whistle of the boatswain
was heard winding Its shrill call among the rocks, in those notes that
his practised ear well understood to be the last signal for embarking.
Obedient to the summons, this singular man, in whose breast the natural
feelings, that were now on the eve of a violent eruption, had so long
been smothered by the visionary expectations of a wild ambition, and
perhaps of fierce resentments, pursued his course, in deep abstraction,
towards the boats. He was soon met by the soldiers of Borroughcliffe,
deprived of their arms, it is true, but unguarded, and returning
peacefully to their quarters. The mind of the Pilot, happily for the
liberty of these men, was too much absorbed in his peculiar reflections,
to note this act of Griffith's generosity, nor did he arouse from his
musing until his steps were arrested by suddenly encountering a human
figure in the pathway. A light tap on his shoulder was the first mark of
recognition he received, when Borroughcliffe, who stood before him,
"It is evident, sir, from what has passed this evening, that you are not
what you seem. You may be some rebel admiral or general, for aught that
I know, the right to command having been strangely contested among ye
this night. But let who will own the chief authority, I take the liberty
of whispering in your ear that I have been scurvily treated by you--I
repeat, most scurvily treated by you all, generally, and by you in
The Pilot started at this strange address, which was uttered with all
the bitterness that could be imparted to it by a disappointed man; but
he motioned with his hand for the captain to depart, and turned aside to
pursue his own way.
"Perhaps I am not properly understood," continued the obstinate soldier:
"I say, sir, you have treated me scurvily: and I would not be thought to
say this to any gentleman, without wishing to give him an opportunity to
vent his anger."
The eye of the Pilot, as he moved forward, glanced at the pistols which
Borroughcliffe held in his hands, the one by the handle, and the other
by its barrel, and the soldier even fancied that his footsteps were
quickened by the sight. After gazing at him until his form was lost in
the darkness, the captain muttered to himself:
"He is no more than a common pilot, after all! No true gentleman would
have received so palpable a hint with such a start. Ah! here comes the
party of my worthy friend whose palate knows a grape of the north side
of Madeira from one of the south. The dog has the throat of a gentleman;
we will see how he can swallow a delicate allusion to his faults!"
Borroughcliffe stepped aside to allow the marines, who were also in
motion for the boats, to pass, and watched with keen looks for the
person of the commander. Manual, who had been previously apprised of the
intention of Griffith to release the prisoners, had halted to see that
none but those who had been liberated by authority were marching into
the country. This accidental circumstance gave Borroughcliffe an
opportunity of meeting the other at some little distance from either of
their respective parties.
"I greet you, sir," said Borroughcliffe, "with all affection. This has
been a pleasant forage for you, Captain Manual."
The marine was far from being disposed to wrangle, but there was that in
the voice of the other which caused him to answer:
"It would have been far pleasanter, sir, if I had met an opportunity of
returning to Captain Borroughcliffe some of the favors that I have
received at his hands."
"Nay, then, dear sir, you weigh my modesty to the earth! Surely you
forget the manner in which my hospitality has already been requited--by
some two hours mouthing of my sword-hilt; with a very unceremonious
ricochet into a corner; together with a love-tap received over the
shoulders of one of my men, by so gentle an instrument as the butt of a
musket! Damme, sir, but I think an ungrateful man only a better sort of
"Had the love-tap been given to the officer instead of the man,"
returned Manual, with all commendable coolness, "it would have been
better justice; and the ramrod might have answered as well as the butt,
to floor a gentleman who carried the allowance of four thirsty fiddlers
under one man's jacket."
"Now, that is rank ingratitude to your own cordial of the south side,
and a most biting insult! I really see but one way of terminating this
wordy war, which, if not discreetly ended, may lead us far into the
"Elect your own manner of determining the dispute, sir; I hope, however,
it will not be by your innate knowledge of mankind, which has already
mistaken a captain of marines in the service of Congress, for a runaway
lover, bound to some green place or other."
"You might just as well tweak my nose, sir!" said Borroughcliffe.
"Indeed, I think it would be the milder reproach of the two! will you
make your selection of these, sir? They were loaded for a very different
sort of service, but I doubt not will answer on occasion."
"I am provided with a pair, that are charged for any service," returned
Manual, drawing a pistol from his own belt, and stepping backward a few
"You are destined for America, I know," said Borroughcliffe, who stood
his ground with consummate coolness; "but it would be more convenient
for me, sir, if you could delay your march for a single moment."
"Fire and defend yourself!" exclaimed Manual, furiously, retracing his
steps towards his enemy.
The sounds of the two pistols were blended in one report, and the
soldiers of Borroughcliffe and the marines all rushed to the place on
the sudden alarm. Had the former been provided with arms, it is probable
that a bloody fray would have been the consequence of the sight that
both parties be held on arriving at the spot, which they did
simultaneously. Manual lay on his back, without any signs of life, and
Borroughcliffe had changed his cool, haughty, upright attitude for a
recumbent posture, which was somewhat between lying and sitting.
"Is the poor fellow actually expended?" said the Englishman, in
something like the tones of regret; "well, he had a soldier's mettle in
him, and was nearly as great a fool as myself!"
The marines had, luckily for the soldiers and their captain, by this
time discovered the signs of life in their own commander, who had been
only slightly stunned by the bullet, which had grazed his crown, and
who, being assisted on his feet, stood a minute or two rubbing his head,
as if awaking from a dream. As Manual came gradually to his senses, he
recollected the business in which he had just been engaged, and, in his
turn, inquired after the fate of his antagonist.
"I am here, my worthy incognito," cried the other, with the voice of
perfect good nature; "lying in the lap of mother earth, and all the
better for opening a vein or two in my right leg;--though I do think that
the same effect might have been produced without treating the bone so
roughly!--But I opine that I saw you also reclining on the bosom of our
"I was down for a few minutes, I do believe," returned Manual; "there is
the path of a bullet across my scalp."
"Humph! on the head!" said Borroughcliffe, dryly; "the hurt is not
likely to be mortal, I see.--Well, I shall offer to raffle with the
first poor devil I can find that has but one good leg, for who shall
have both; and that will just set up a beggar and a gentleman!--Manual,
give me your hand; we have drunk together, and we have fought; surely
there is nothing now to prevent our being sworn friends."
"Why," returned Manual, continuing to rub his head, "I see no
irremovable objections--but you will want a surgeon? Can I order
anything to be done? There go the signals again to embark--march the
fellows down at quick time, sergeant; my own man may remain with me, or,
I can do altogether without assistance."
"Ah! you are what I call a well-made man, my dear friend!" exclaimed
Borroughcliffe; "no weak points about your fortress! Such a man is
worthy to be the _head_ of a whole corps, instead of a solitary
company.--Gently, Drill, gently; handle me as if I were made of potter's
clay.--I will not detain you longer, my friend Manual, for I hear signal
after signal; they must be in want of some of your astonishing reasoning
faculties to set them afloat."
Manual might have been offended at the palpable allusions that his new
friend made to the firmness of his occiput, had not his perception of
things been a little confused by a humming sound that seemed to abide
near the region of thought. As it was, he reciprocated the good wishes
of the other, whom he shook most cordially by the hand, and once more
renewed his offers of service, after exchanging sundry friendly
"I thank you quite as much as if I were not at all indebted to you for
letting blood, thereby saving me a fit of apoplexy; but Drill has
already dispatched a messenger to B---- for a leech, and the lad may
bring the whole depot down upon you.--Adieu, once more, and remember
that if you ever visit England again as a friend, you are to let me see
"I shall do it without fail; and I shall keep you to your promise if you
once more put foot in America."
"Trust me for that: I shall stand in need of your excellent head to
guide me safely among those rude foresters. Adieu; cease not to bear me
in your thoughts."
"I shall never cease to remember you, my good friend," returned Manual,
again scratching the member which was snapping in a manner that caused
him to fancy he heard it. Once more these worthies shook each other by
the hand, and again they renewed their promises of future intercourse;
after which they separated like two reluctant lovers--parting in a
manner that would have put to shame the friendship of Orestes and
"Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself."
During the time occupied by the incidents that occurred after the Pilot
had made his descent on the land, the Alacrity, now under the orders of
Mr. Boltrope, the master of the frigate, lay off and on, in readiness to
receive the successful mariners. The direction of the wind had been
gradually changing from the northeast to the south, during the close of
the day; and long before the middle watches of the night, the wary old
seaman, who, it may be remembered, had expressed, in the council of war,
such a determined reluctance to trust his person within the realm of
Britain, ordered the man who steered the cutter to stand in boldly for
the land. Whenever the lead told them that it was prudent to tack, the
course of the vessel was changed: and in this manner the seamen
continued to employ the hours in patient attendance on the adventurers.
The sailing-master, who had spent the early years of his life as the
commander of divers vessels employed in trading, was apt, like many men
of his vocation and origin, to mistake the absence of refinement for the
surest evidence of seamanship; and, consequently, he held the little
courtesies and punctilios of a man-of-war in high disdain. His peculiar
duties of superintending the expenditure of the ship's stores, in their
several departments; of keeping the frigate's log-book; and of making
his daily examinations into the state of her sails and rigging--brought
him so little in collision with the gay, laughing, reckless young
lieutenants, who superintended the ordinary management of the vessel,
that he might be said to have formed a distinct species of the animal,
though certainly of the same genus with his more polished messmates.
Whenever circumstances, however, required that he should depart from the
dull routine of his duty, he made it a rule, as far as possible, to
associate himself with such of the crew as possessed habits and opinions
the least at variance with his own.
By a singular fatality, the chaplain of the frigate was, as respects
associates, in a condition nearly assimilated to that of this veteran
An earnest desire to ameliorate the situation of those who were doomed
to meet death on the great deep had induced an experienced and simple-
hearted divine to accept this station, in the fond hope that he might be
made the favored instrument of salvation to many, who were then existing
in a state of the most abandoned self-forgetfulness. Neither our limits,
nor our present object, will permit the relation of the many causes that
led, not only to an entire frustration of all his visionary
expectations, but to an issue which rendered the struggle of the good
divine with himself both arduous and ominous, in order to maintain his
own claims to the merited distinctions of his sacred office. The
consciousness of his backsliding had so far lessened the earthly, if not
the spiritual, pride of the chaplain, as to induce him to relish the
society of the rude master, whose years had brought him, at times, to
take certain views of futurity that were singularly affected by the
peculiar character of the individual. It might have been that both found
themselves out of their places--but it was owing to some such secret
sympathy, let its origin be what it would, that the two came to be fond
of each other's company. On the night in question, Mr. Boltrope had
invited the chaplain to accompany him in the Alacrity; adding, in his
broad, rough language, that as there was to be fighting on shore, "his
hand might come in play with some poor fellow or other." This singular
invitation had been accepted, as well from a desire to relieve the
monotony of a sea-life by any change, as perhaps with a secret yearning
in the breast of the troubled divine to get as nigh to terra firma as
possible. Accordingly, after the Pilot had landed with his boisterous
party, the sailing-master and the chaplain, together with a boatswain's
mate and some ten or twelve seamen, were left in quiet possession of the
cutter. The first few hours of this peaceable intercourse had been spent
by the worthy messmates, in the little cabin of the vessel, over a can
of grog; the savory relish of which was much increased by a
characteristic disquisition on polemical subjects, which our readers
have great reason to regret it is not our present humor to record. When,
however, the winds invited the near approach to the hostile shores
already mentioned, the prudent sailing-master adjourned the discussion
to another and more suitable time, removing himself and the can, by the
same operation, to the quarter-deck.
"There," cried the honest tar, placing the wooden vessel, with great
self-contentment, by his side on the deck, "this is ship's comfort!
There is a good deal of what I call a lubber's fuss, parson, kept up on
board a ship that shall be nameless, but which bears, about three
leagues distant, broad off in the ocean, and which is lying to under a
close-reefed maintopsail, a foretopmast-staysail, and foresail--I call
my hand a true one in mixing a can--take another pull at the halyards!--
'twill make your eye twinkle like a lighthouse, this dark morning! You
won't? well, we must give no offence to the Englishman's rum."--After a
potent draught had succeeded this considerate declaration, he added:
"You are a little like our first lieutenant, parson, who drinks, as I
call it, nothing but the elements--which is, water stiffened with air."
"Mr. Griffith may indeed be said to set a wholesome example to the
crew," returned the chaplain, perhaps with a slight consciousness that
it had not altogether possessed its due weight with himself.
"Wholesome!" cried Boltrope; "let me tell you, my worthy leaf-turner,
that if you call such a light diet wholesome, you know but little of
salt water and sea-fogs! However, Mr. Griffith is a seaman; and if he
gave his mind less to trifles and gimcracks, he would be, by the time he
got to about our years, a very rational sort of a companion.--But you
see, parson, just now, he thinks too much of small follies; such as man-
of-war discipline.--Now there is rationality in giving a fresh nip to a
rope, or in looking well at your mats, or even in crowning a cable; but
damme, priest, if I see the use--luff, luff, you lubber; don't ye see,
sir, you are steering for Garmany!--If I see the use, as I was saying,
of making a rumpus about the time when a man changes his shirt; whether
it be this week, or next week, or, for that matter, the week after,
provided it be bad weather. I sometimes am mawkish about attending
muster (and I believe I have as little to fear on the score of behavior
as any man), lest it should be found I carried my tobacco in the wrong
"I have indeed thought it somewhat troublesome to myself, at times; and
it is in a striking degree vexatious to the spirit, especially when the
body has been suffering under seasickness."
"Why, yes, you were a little apt to bend your duds wrong for the first
month or so," said the master; "I remember you got the marine's scraper
on your head, once, in your hurry to bury a dead man! Then you never
looked as if you belonged to the ship, so long as those cursed black
knee-breeches lasted! For my part, I never saw you come up the quarter-
deck ladder, but I expected to see your shins give way across the
combing of the hatch--a man does look like the devil, priest, scudding
about a ship's decks in that fashion, under bare poles! But now the
tailor has found out the articles ar'n't seaworthy, and we have got your
lower stanchions cased in a pair of purser's slops, I am puzzled often
to tell your heels from those of a maintopman!"
"I have good reason to be thankful for the change," said the humbled
priest, "if the resemblance you mention existed, while I was clad in the
usual garb of one of my calling."
"What signifies a calling?" returned Boltrope, catching his breath after
a most persevering draught: "a man's shins are his shins, let his upper
works belong to what sarvice they may. I took an early prejudyce against
knee-breeches, perhaps from a trick I've always had of figuring the
devil as wearing them. You know, parson, we seldom hear much said of a
man, without forming some sort of an idea concerning his rigging and
fashion-pieces--and so, as I had no particular reason to believe that
Satan went naked--keep full, ye lubber; now you are running into the
wind's eye, and be d----d to ye!--But as I was saying, I always took a
conceit that the devil wore knee-breeches and a cock'd hat. There's some
of our young lieutenants, who come to muster on Sundays in cock'd hats,
just like soldier-officers; but, d'ye see, I would sooner show my nose
under a nightcap than under a scraper!"
"I hear the sound of oars!" exclaimed the chaplain, who, finding this
image more distinct than even his own vivid conceptions of the great
father of evil, was quite willing to conceal his inferiority by changing
the discourse. "Is not one of our boats returning?"
"Ay, ay, 'tis likely; if it had been me, I should have been land-sick
before this--ware round, boys, and stand by to heave to on the other
The cutter, obedient to her helm, fell off before the wind; and rolling
an instant in the trough of the sea, came up again easily to her oblique
position, with her head towards the cliffs; and gradually losing her
way, as her sails were brought to counteract each other, finally became
stationary. During the performance of this evolution, a boat had hove up
out of the gloom, in the direction of the land; and by the time the
Alacrity was in a state of rest, it had approached so nigh as to admit
"Boat, ahoy!" murmured Boltrope, through a trumpet, which, aided by his
lungs, produced sounds not unlike the roaring of a bull.
"Ay, ay," was thrown back from a clear voice, that swept across the
water with a fullness that needed no factitious aid to render it
"Ay, there comes one of the lieutenants, with his ay, ay," said
Boltrope--"pipe the side, there, you boatswain's mate! But here's
another fellow more on our quarter! Boat ahoy!"
"Alacrity"--returned another voice, in a direction different from the
"Alacrity! There goes my commission of captain of this craft, in a
whiff," returned the sailing-master. "That is as much as to say, here
comes one who will command when he gets on board. Well, well, it is Mr.
Griffith, and I can't say, notwithstanding his love of knee-buckles and
small wares, but I'm glad he's out of the hands of the English! Ay, here
they all come upon us at once! here is another fellow, that pulls like
the jolly-boat, coming up on our lee-beam, within hail--let us see if he
is asleep--boat ahoy!"
"Flag," answered a third voice from a small, light-rowing boat, which
had approached very near the cutter, in a direct line from the cliffs,
without being observed.
"Flag!" echoed Boltrope, dropping his trumpet in amazement--"that's a
big word to come out of a jolly-boat! Jack Manly himself could not have
spoken it with a fuller mouth; but I'll know who it is that carries such
a weather helm, with a Yankee man-of-war's prize! Boat ahoy! I say."
This last call was uttered in those short menacing tones, that are
intended to be understood as intimating that the party hailing is in
earnest; and it caused the men who were rowing, and who were now quite
close to the cutter, to suspend their strokes, simultaneously, as if
they dreaded that the cry would be instantly succeeded by some more
efficient means of ascertaining their character. The figure that was
seated by itself in the stern of the boat started at this second
summons, and then, as if with sudden recollection, a quiet voice
"'No--no,' and 'flag,' are very different answers," grumbled Boltrope;
"what know-nothing have we here?"
He was yet muttering his dissatisfaction at the ignorance of the
individual that was approaching, whoever it might be, when the jolly-
boat came slowly to their side, and the Pilot stepped from her stern-
sheets on the decks of the prize.
"Is it you, Mr. Pilot?" exclaimed the sailing-master, raising a battle-
lantern within a foot of the other's face, and looking with a sort of
stupid wonder at the proud and angry eye he encountered--"Is it you!
Well, I should have rated you for a man of more experience than to come
booming down upon a man-of-war in the dark, with such a big word in your
mouth, when every boy in the two vessels knows that we carry no swallow-
tailed bunting abroad! Flag! Why you might have got a shot, had there
The Pilot threw him a still fiercer glance, and turning away with a look
of disgust, he walked along the quarterdeck towards the stern of the
vessel, with an air of haughty silence, as if disdaining to answer.
Boltrope kept his eyes fastened on him for a moment longer, with some
appearance of scorn; but the arrival of the boat first hailed, which
proved to be the barge, immediately drew his attention to other matters.
Barnstable had been rowing about in the ocean for a long time, unable to
find the cutter; and as he had been compelled to suit his own demeanor
to those with whom he was associated, he reached the Alacrity in no very
good-humored mood. Colonel Howard and his niece had maintained during
the whole period the most rigid silence, the former from pride, and the
latter touched with her uncle's evident displeasure; and Katherine,
though secretly elated with the success of all her projects, was content
to emulate their demeanor for a short time, in order to save
appearances. Barnstable had several times addressed himself to the
latter, without receiving any other answer than such as was absolutely
necessary to prevent the lover from taking direct offence, at the same
time that she intimated by her manner her willingness to remain silent.
Accordingly, the lieutenant, after aiding the ladies to enter the
cutter, and offering to perform the same service to Colonel Howard,
which was coldly declined, turned, with that sort of irritation that is
by no means less rare in vessels of war than with poor human nature
generally, and gave vent to his spleen where he dared.
"How's this! Mr. Boltrope!" he cried, "here are boats coming alongside
with ladies in them, and you keep your gaft swayed up till the leach of
the sail is stretched like a fiddle-string--settle away your peak-
halyards, sir, settle away!"
"Ay, ay, sir," grumbled the master; "settle away that peak there; though
the craft wouldn't forge ahead a knot in a month, with all her jibs
hauled over!" He walked sulkily forward among the men, followed by the
meek divine; and added, "I should as soon have expected to see Mr.
Barnstable come off with a live ox in his boat as a petticoat! The Lord
only knows what the ship is coming to next, parson! What between cocked
hats and epaulettes, and other knee-buckle matters, she was a sort of
no-man's land before; and now, what with the women and their bandboxes,
they'll make another Noah's ark of her. I wonder they didn't all come
aboard in a coach and six, or a one-horse shay!"
It was a surprising relief to Barnstable to be able to give utterance to
his humor, for a few moments, by ordering the men to make sundry
alterations in every department of the vessel, in a quick, hurried
voice, that abundantly denoted, not only the importance of his
improvements, but the temper in which they were dictated. In his turn,
however, he was soon compelled to give way, by the arrival of Griffith
in the heavily rowing launch of the frigate, which was crowded with a
larger body of the seamen who had been employed in the expedition. In
this manner, boat after boat speedily arrived, and the whole party were
once more happily embarked in safety under their national flag.
The small cabin of the Alacrity was relinquished to Colonel Howard and
his wards, with their attendants. The boats were dropped astern, each
protected by its own keeper; and Griffith gave forth the mandate to fill
the sails and steer broad off into the ocean. For more than an hour the
cutter held her course in this direction, gliding gracefully through the
glittering waters, rising and settling heavily on the long, smooth
billows, as if conscious of the unusual burden that she was doomed to
carry; but at the end of that period her head was once more brought near
the wind, and she was again held at rest, awaiting the appearance of the
dawn, in order to discover the position of the prouder vessel on which
she was performing the humble duty of a tender. More than a hundred and
fifty living men were crowded within her narrow limits; and her decks
presented, in the gloom, as she moved along, the picture of a mass of
As the freedom of a successful expedition was unavoidably permitted,
loud jokes, and louder merriment, broke on the silent waters from the
reckless seamen, while the exhilarating can passed from hand to hand,
strange oaths and dreadful denunciations breaking forth at times from
some of the excited crew against their enemy. At length the bustle of
re-embarking gradually subsided, and many of the crew descended to the
hold of the cutter, in quest of room to stretch their limbs, when a
clear, manly voice was heard rising above the deep in those strains that
a seaman most loves to hear. Air succeeded air, from different voices,
until even the spirit of harmony grew dull with fatigue, and verses
began to be heard where songs were expected, and fleeting lines
succeeded stanzas. The decks were soon covered with prostrate men,
seeking their natural rest under the open heavens, and perhaps dreaming,
as they yielded heavily to the rolling of the vessel, of scenes of other
times in their own hemisphere. The dark glances of Katherine were
concealed beneath her falling lids: and even Cecilia, with her head
bowed on the shoulder of her cousin, slept sweetly in innocence and
peace. Boltrope groped his way into the hold among the seamen, where,
kicking one of the most fortunate of the men from his berth, he
established himself in his place with all that cool indifference to the
other's comfort that had grown with his experience, from the time when
he was treated thus cavalierly in his own person to the present moment.
In this manner head was dropped after head on the planks, the guns, or
on whatever first offered for a pillow, until Griffith and Barnstable,
alone, were left pacing the different sides of the quarter-deck in
Never did a morning watch appear so long to the two young sailors, who
were thus deprived, by resentment and pride, of that frank and friendly
communion that had for so many years sweetened the tedious hours of
their long and at times dreary service. To increase the embarrassment of
their situation, Cecilia and Katherine, suffering from the confinement
of the small and crowded cabin, sought the purer air of the deck, about
the time when the deepest sleep had settled on the senses of the wearied
mariners. They stood, leaning against the taffrail, discoursing with
each other in low and broken sentences; but a sort of instinctive
knowledge of the embarrassment which existed between their lovers caused
a guarded control over every look or gesture which might be construed
into an encouragement for one of the young men to advance at the expense
of the other. Twenty times, however, did the impatient Barnstable feel
tempted to throw off the awkward restraint, and approach his mistress;
but in each instance was he checked by the secret consciousness of
error, as well as by that habitual respect for superior rank that forms
a part of the nature of a sea-officer. On the other hand, Griffith
manifested no intention to profit by this silent concession in his
favor, but continued to pace the short quarter-deck, with strides more
hurried than ever; and was seen to throw many an impatient glance
towards that quarter of the heavens where the first signs of the
lingering day might be expected to appear. At length Katherine, with a
ready ingenuity, and perhaps with some secret coquetry, removed the
embarrassment by speaking first, taking care to address the lover of her
"How long are we condemned to these limited lodgings, Mr. Griffith?" she
asked; "truly, there is a freedom in your nautical customs, which, to
say the least, is novel to us females, who have been accustomed to the
division of space!"
"The instant that there is light to discover the frigate, Miss Plowden,"
he answered, "you shall be transferred from a vessel of an hundred to
one of twelve hundred tons. If your situation there be less comfortable
than when within the walls of St. Ruth, you will not forget that they
who live on the ocean claim it as a merit to despise the luxuries of the
"At least, sir," returned Katherine, with a sweet grace, which she well
knew how to assume on occasion, "what we shall enjoy will be sweetened
by liberty and embellished by a sailor's hospitality. To me, Cicely, the
air of this open sea is as fresh and invigorating as if it were wafted
from our own distant America!"
"If you have not the arm of a patriot, you at least possess a most loyal
imagination, Miss Plowden," said Griffith, laughing; "this soft breeze
blows in the direction of the fens of Holland, instead of the broad
plains of America.--Thank God, there come the signs of day, at last!
unless the currents have swept the ship far to the north, we shall
surely see her with the light."
This cheering intelligence drew the eyes of the fair cousins towards the
east, where their delighted looks were long fastened, while they watched
the glories of the sun rising over the water. As the morning had
advanced, a deeper gloom was spread across the ocean, and the stars were
gleaming in the heavens like balls of twinkling fire. But now a streak
of pale light showed itself along the horizon, growing brighter, and
widening at each moment, until long fleecy clouds became visible, where
nothing had been seen before but the dim base of the arch that overhung
the dark waters. This expanding light, which, in appearance, might be
compared to a silvery opening in the heavens, was soon tinged with a
pale flush, which quickened with sudden transitions into glows yet
deeper, until a belt of broad flame bounded the water, diffusing itself
more faintly towards the zenith, where it melted into the pearl-colored
sky, or played on the fantastic volumes of a few light clouds with
inconstant glimmering. While these beautiful transitions were still
before the eyes of the youthful admirers of their beauties, a voice was
heard above them, crying as if from the heavens:
"Sail-ho! The frigate lies broad off to the seaward, sir!"
"Ay, ay; you have been watching with one eye asleep, fellow," returned
Griffith, "or we should have heard you before! Look a little north of
the place where the glare of the sun is coming, Miss Plowden, and you
will be able to see our gallant vessel."
An involuntary cry of pleasure burst from the lips of Katherine, as she
followed his directions, and first beheld the frigate through the medium
of the fluctuating colors of the morning. The undulating outline of the
lazy ocean, which rose and fell heavily against the bright boundary of
the heavens, was without any relief to distract the eye as it fed
eagerly on the beauties of the solitary ship. She was riding sluggishly
on the long seas, with only two of her lower and smaller sails spread,
to hold her in command; but her tall masts and heavy yards were painted
against the fiery sky in strong lines of deep black, while even the
smallest cord in the mazes of her rigging might be distinctly traced,
stretching from spar to spar, with the beautiful accuracy of a picture.
At moments, when her huge hull rose on a billow and was lifted against
the background of the sky, its shape and dimensions were brought into
view; but these transient glimpses were soon lost, as it settled into
the trough, leaving the waving spars bowing gracefully towards the
waters, as if about to follow the vessel into the bosom of the deep. As
a clearer light gradually stole on the senses, the delusion of colors
and distance vanished together, and when a flood of day preceded the
immediate appearance of the sun, the ship became plainly visible within
a mile of the cutter, her black hull checkered with ports, and her high,
tapering masts exhibiting their proper proportions and hues.
At the first cry of "A sail!" the crew of the Alacrity had been aroused
from their slumbers by the shrill whistle of the boatswain, and long
before the admiring looks of the two cousins had ceased to dwell on the
fascinating sight of morning chasing night from the hemisphere, the
cutter was again in motion to join her consort. It seemed but a moment
before their little vessel was in, what the timid females thought, a
dangerous proximity to the frigate, under whose lee she slowly passed,
in order to admit of the following dialogue between Griffith and his
"I rejoice to see you, Mr. Griffith!" cried the captain, who stood in
the channel of his ship, waving his hat in the way of cordial greeting.
"You are welcome back, Captain Manual, welcome, welcome, all of you, my
boys! as welcome as a breeze in the calm latitudes." As his eye,
however, passed along the deck of the Alacrity, it encountered the
shrinking figures of Cecilia and Katherine; and a dark shade of
displeasure crossed his decent features, while he added: "How's this,
gentlemen? The frigate of Congress is neither a ballroom nor a church,
that is to be thronged with women!"
"Ay, ay," muttered Boltrope to his friend the chaplain, "now the old man
has hauled out his mizzen, you'll see him carry a weather-helm! He wakes
up about as often as the trades shift their points, and that's once in
six months. But when there has been a neap-tide in his temper for any
time, you're sure to find it followed by a flood with a vengeance. Let
us hear what the first lieutenant can say in favor of his petticoat
The blushing sky had not exhibited a more fiery glow than gleamed in the
fine face of Griffith for a moment; but, struggling with his disgust, he
answered with bitter emphasis:
"'Twas the pleasure of Mr. Gray, sir, to bring off the prisoners."
"Of Mr. Gray!" repeated the captain, instantly losing every trace of
displeasure in an air of acquiescence. "Come-to, sir, on the same tack
with the ship, and I will hasten to order the accommodation-ladder
rigged, to receive our guests!"
Boltrope listened to this sudden alteration in the language of his
commander with sufficient wonder; nor was it until he had shaken his
head repeatedly, with the manner of one who saw deeper than his
neighbors into a mystery, that he found leisure to observe:
"Now, parson, I suppose if you held an almanac in your fist, you'd think
you could tell which way we shall have the wind to-morrow! but damn me,
priest, if better calculators than you haven't failed! Because a
lubberly--no, he's a thorough seaman, I'll say that for the fellow!--
because a pilot chooses to say, 'Bring me off these here women,' the
ship is to be so cluttered with she-cattle, that a man will be obligated
to spend half his time in making his manners! Now mind what I tell you,
priest, this very frolic will cost Congress the price of a year's wages
for an able-bodied seaman in bunting and canvas for screens; besides the
wear and tear of running-gear in shortening sail, in order that the
women need not be 'stericky in squalls!"
The presence of Mr. Boltrope being required to take charge of the
cutter, the divine was denied an opportunity of dissenting from the
opinions of his rough companion; for the loveliness of their novel
shipmates had not failed to plead loudly in their favor with every man
in the cutter whose habits and ideas had not become rigidly set in
By the time the Alacrity was hove-to, with her head towards the frigate,
the long line of boats that she had been towing during the latter part
of the night were brought to her side, and filled with men. A wild scene
of unbridled merriment and gayety succeeded, while the seamen were
exchanging the confinement of the prize for their accustomed lodgings in
the ship, during which the reins of discipline were slightly relaxed.
Loud laughter was echoed from boat to boat, as they glided by each
other; and rude jests, interlarded with quaint humors and strange oaths,
were freely bandied from mouth to mouth. The noise, however, soon
ceased, and the passage of Colonel Howard and his wards was then
effected with less precipitancy and due decorum. Captain Munson, who had
been holding a secret dialogue with Griffith and the Pilot, received his
unexpected guests with plain hospitality, but with an evident desire to
be civil. He politely yielded to their service his two convenient
staterooms, and invited them to partake, in common with himself, of the
comforts of the great cabin.
"Furious press the hostile squadron,
Furious he repels their rage.
Loss of blood at length enfeebles;
Who can war with thousands wage?"
_Spanish War Song._
We cannot detain the narrative to detail the scenes which busy wonder,
aided by the relation of divers marvelous feats, produced among the
curious seamen who remained in the ship, and their more fortunate
fellows who had returned in glory from an expedition to the land. For
nearly an hour the turbulence of a general movement was heard, issuing
from the deep recesses of the frigate, and the boisterous sounds of
hoarse merriment were listened to by the officers in indulgent silence;
but all these symptoms of unbridled humor ceased by the time the morning
repast was ended, when the regular sea-watch was set, and the greater
portion of those whose duty did not require their presence on the
vessel's deck, availed themselves of the opportunity to repair the loss
of sleep sustained in the preceding night. Still no preparations were
made to put the ship in motion, though long and earnest consultations,
which were supposed to relate to their future destiny, were observed by
the younger officers to be held between their captain, the first
lieutenant, and the mysterious Pilot. The latter threw many an anxious
glance along the eastern horizon, searching it minutely with his glass,
and then would turn his impatient looks at the low, dense bank of fog,
which, stretching across the ocean like a barrier of cloud, entirely
intercepted the view towards the south. To the north and along the land
the air was clear, and the sea without a spot of any kind; but in the
east a small white sail had been discovered since the opening of day,
which was gradually rising above the water, and assuming the appearance
of a vessel of some size. Every officer on the quarter-deck in his turn
had examined this distant sail, and had ventured an opinion on its
destination and character; and even Katherine, who with her cousin was
enjoying, in the open air, the novel beauties of the ocean, had been
tempted to place her sparkling eye to a glass, to gaze at the stranger.
"It is a collier," Griffith said, "who has hauled from the land in the
late gale, and who is luffing up to his course again. If the wind holds
here in the south, and he does not get into that fog-bank, we can stand
off for him and get a supply of fuel before eight bells are struck."
"I think his head is to the northward, and that he is steering off the
wind," returned the Pilot, in a musing manner, "If that Dillon succeeded
in getting his express far enough along the coast, the alarm has been
spread, and we must be wary. The convoy of the Baltic trade is in the
North Sea, and news of our presence could easily have been taken off to
it by some of the cutters that line the coast, I could wish to get the
ship as far south as the Helder!"
"Then we lose this weather tide!" exclaimed the impatient Griffith;
"surely we have the cutter as a lookout! besides, by beating into the
fog, we shall lose the enemy, if enemy it be, and it is thought meet for
an American frigate to skulk from her foes!"
The scornful expression that kindled the eye of the Pilot, like a gleam
of sunshine lighting for an instant some dark dell and laying bare its
secrets, was soon lost in the usually quiet look of his glance, though
he hesitated like one who was struggling with his passions before he
"If prudence and the service of the States require it, even this proud
frigate must retreat and hide from the meanest of her enemies. My
advice, Captain Munson, is, that you make sail, and beat the ship to
windward, as Mr. Griffith has suggested, and that you order the cutter
to precede us, keeping more in with the land."
The aged seaman, who evidently suspended his orders only to receive an
intimation of the other's pleasure, immediately commanded his youthful
assistant to issue the necessary mandates to put these measures in
force. Accordingly, the Alacrity, which vessel had been left under the
command of the junior lieutenant of the frigate, was quickly under way;
and, making short stretches to windward, she soon entered the bank of
fog, and was lost to the eye. In the mean time the canvas of the ship
was loosened, and spread leisurely, in order not to disturb the portion
of the crew who were sleeping; and, following her little consort, she
moved heavily through the water, bearing up against the dull breeze.
The quiet of regular duty had succeeded to the bustle of making sail;
and, as the rays of the sun fell less obliquely on the distant land,
Katherine and Cecilia were amusing Griffith by vain attempts to point
out the rounded eminences which they fancied lay in the vicinity of the
deserted mansion of St. Ruth. Barnstable, who had resumed his former
station in the frigate as her second lieutenant, was pacing the opposite
side of the quarter-deck, holding under his arm the speaking-trumpet,
which denoted that he held the temporary control of the motions of the
ship, and inwardly cursing the restraint that kept him from the side of
his mistress. At this moment of universal quiet, when nothing above low
dialogues interrupted the dashing of the waves as they were thrown
lazily aside by the bows of the vessel, the report of a light cannon
burst out of the barrier of fog, and rolled by them on the breeze,
apparently vibrating with the rising and sinking of the waters.
"There goes the cutter!" exclaimed Griffith, the instant the sound was
"Surely," said the captain, "Somers is not so indiscreet as to scale his
guns, after the caution he has received!"
"No idle scaling of guns is intended there," said the Pilot, straining
his eyes to pierce the fog, but soon turning away in disappointment at
his inability to succeed--"that gun is shotted, and has been fired in
the hurry of a sudden signal!--can your lookouts see nothing, Mr.
The lieutenant of the watch hailed the man aloft, and demanded if
anything were visible in the direction of the wind, and received for
answer that the fog intercepted the view in that quarter of the heavens,
but that the sail in the east was a ship, running large, or before the
wind. The Pilot shook his head doubtingly at this information, but still
he manifested a strong reluctance to relinquish the attempt of getting
more to the southward. Again he communed with the commander of the
frigate, apart from all other ears; and while they yet deliberated, a
second report was heard, leaving no doubt that the Alacrity was firing
signal-guns for their particular attention.
"Perhaps," said Griffith, "he wishes to point out his position, or to
ascertain ours; believing that we are lost like himself in the mist"
"We have our compasses!" returned the doubting captain; "Somers has a
meaning in what he says!"
"See!" cried Katherine, with girlish delight, "see, my cousin! see,
Barnstable! how beautifully that vapor is wreathing itself in clouds
above the smoky line of fog! It stretches already into the very heavens
like a lofty pyramid!"
Barnstable sprang lightly on a gun, as he repeated her words:
"Pyramids of fog! and wreathing clouds! By heaven!" he shouted, "'tis a
tall ship! Royals, skysails, and stud-dingsails all abroad! She is
within a mile of us, and comes down like a racehorse, with a spanking
breeze, dead before it! Now know we why Somers is speaking in the mist!"
"Ay," cried Griffith, "and there goes the Alacrity, just breaking out of
the fog, hovering in for the land!"
"There is a mighty hull under all that cloud of canvas, Captain Munson,"
said the observant but calm Pilot: "it is time, gentlemen, to edge away
"What, before we know from whom we run!" cried Griffith; "my life on it,
there is no single ship King George owns but would tire of the sport
before she had played a full game of bowls with--"
The haughty air of the young man was daunted by the severe look he
encountered in the eye of the Pilot, and he suddenly ceased, though
inwardly chafing with impatient pride.
"The same eye that detected the canvas above the fog might have seen the
flag of a vice-admiral fluttering still nearer the heavens," returned
the collected stranger; "and England, faulty as she may be, is yet too
generous to place a flag-officer in time of war in command of a frigate,
or a captain in command of a fleet. She knows the value of those who
shed their blood in her behalf, and it is thus that she is so well
served! Believe me, Captain Munson, there is nothing short of a ship of
the line under that symbol of rank and that broad show of canvas!"
"We shall see, sir, we shall see," returned the old officer, whose
manner grew decided, as the danger appeared to thicken; "beat to
quarters, Mr. Griffith, for we have none but enemies to expect on this
The order was instantly issued, when Griffith remarked, with a more
"If Mr. Gray be right, we shall have reason to thank God that we are so
light of heel!"
The cry of "a strange vessel close aboard the frigate" having already
flown down the hatches, the ship was in an uproar at the first tap of
the drum. The seamen threw themselves from their hammocks, and lashing
them rapidly into long, hard bundles, they rushed to the decks, where
they were dexterously stowed in the netting, to aid the defences of the
upper part of the vessel. While this tumultuous scene was exhibiting,
Griffith gave a secret order to Merry, who disappeared, leading his
trembling cousins to a place of safety in the inmost depths of the ship.
The guns were cleared of their lumber and loosened. The bulkheads were
knocked down, and the cabin relieved of its furniture; and the gun-deck
exhibited one unbroken line of formidable cannon, arranged in all the
order of a naval battery ready to engage. Arm-chests were thrown open,
and the decks strewed with pikes, cutlasses, pistols, and all the
various weapons for boarding. In short, the yards were slung, and every
other arrangement was made with a readiness and dexterity that were
actually wonderful, though all was performed amid an appearance of
disorder and confusion that rendered the ship another Babel during the
continuance of the preparations. In a very few minutes everything was
completed, and even the voices of the men ceased to be heard answering
to their names, as they were mustered at their stations, by their
respective officers. Gradually the ship became as quiet as the grave;
and when even Griffith or his commander found it necessary to speak,
their voices were calmer, and their tones more mild than usual. The
course of the vessel was changed to an oblique line from that in which
their enemy was approaching, though the appearance of flight was to be
studiously avoided to the last moment. When nothing further remained to
be done, every eye became fixed on the enormous pile of swelling canvas
that was rising, in cloud over cloud, far above the fog, and which was
manifestly moving, like driving vapor, swiftly to the north. Presently
the dull, smoky boundary of the mist which rested on the water was
pushed aside in vast volumes, and the long taper spars that projected
from the bowsprit of the strange ship issued from the obscurity, and
were quickly followed by the whole of the enormous fabric to which they
were merely light appendages. For a moment, streaks of reluctant vapor
clung to the huge floating pile; but they were soon shaken off by the
rapid vessel, and the whole of her black hull became distinct to the
"One, two, three rows of teeth!" said Boltrope, deliberately counting
the tiers of guns that bristled along the sides of the enemy; "a three-
decker! Jack Manly would show his stern to such a fellow t, and even the
bloody Scotchman would run!"
"Hard up with your helm, quartermaster!" cried Captain Munson; "there is
indeed no time to hesitate, with such an enemy within a quarter of a
mile! Turn the hands up, Mr. Griffith, and pack on the ship from her
trucks to her lower studdingsail-booms. Be stirring, sir, be stirring!
Hard up with your helm! Hard up, and be damn'd to you!"
The unusual earnestness of their aged commander acted on the startled
crew like a voice from the deep, and they waited not for the usual
signals of the boatswain and drummer to be given, before they broke away
from their guns, and rushed tumultuously to aid in spreading the desired
canvas. There was one minute of ominous confusion, that to an
inexperienced eye would have foreboded the destruction of all order in
the vessel, during which every hand, and each tongue, seemed in motion;
but it ended in opening the immense folds of light duck which were
displayed along the whole line of the masts, far beyond the ordinary
sails, overshadowing the waters for a great distance, on either side of
the vessel. During the moment of inaction that succeeded this sudden
exertion, the breeze, which had brought up the three-decker, fell
fresher on the sails of the frigate, and she started away from her
dangerous enemy with a very perceptible advantage in point of sailing.
"The fog rises!" cried Griffith; "give us but the wind for an hour, and
we shall run her out of gunshot!"
"These nineties are very fast off the wind," returned the captain, in a
low tone, that was intended only for the ears of his first lieutenant
and the Pilot; "and we shall have a struggle for it."
The quick eye of the stranger was glancing over the movements of his
enemy, while he answered:
"He finds we have the heels of him already! he is making ready, and we
shall be fortunate to escape a broadside! Let her yaw a little, Mr.
Griffith; touch her lightly with the helm; if we are raked, sir, we are
The captain sprang on the taffrail of his ship with the activity of a
younger man, and in an instant he perceived the truth of the other's
Both vessels now ran for a few minutes, keenly watching each other's
motions like two skilful combatants; the English ship making slight
deviations from the line of her course, and then, as her movements were
anticipated by the other, turning as cautiously in the opposite
direction, until a sudden and wide sweep of her huge bows told the
Americans plainly on which tack to expect her. Captain Munson made a
silent but impressive gesture with his arm, as if the crisis were too
important for speech, which indicated to the watchful Griffith the way
he wished the frigate sheered, to avoid the weight of the impending
danger. Both vessels whirled swiftly up to the wind, with their heads
towards the land; and as the huge black side of the three-decker,
checkered with its triple batteries, frowned full upon her foe, it
belched forth a flood of fire and smoke, accompanied by a bellowing roar
that mocked the surly moanings of the sleeping ocean. The nerves of the
bravest man in the frigate contracted their fibres, as the hurricane of
iron hurtled by them, and each eye appeared to gaze in stupid wonder, as
if tracing the flight of the swift engines of destruction. But the voice
of Captain Munson was heard in the din, shouting while he waved his hat
earnestly in the required direction:
"Meet her! meet her with the helm, boy! meet her, Mr. Griffith, meet
Griffith had so far anticipated this movement as to have already ordered
the head of the frigate to be turned in its former course, when, struck
by the unearthly cry of the last tones uttered by his commander, he bent
his head, and beheld the venerable seaman driven through the air, his
hat still waving, his gray hair floating in the wind, and his eye set in
the wild look of death.
"Great God!" exclaimed the young man, rushing to the side of the ship,
where he was just in time to see the lifeless body disappear in the
waters that were dyed in its blood; "he has been struck by a shot! Lower
away the boat, lower away the jolly-boat, the barge, the tiger, the----"
"'Tis useless," interrupted the calm, deep voice of the Pilot; "he has
met a warrior's end, and he sleeps in a sailor's grave! The ship is
getting before the wind again, and the enemy is keeping his vessel
The youthful lieutenant was recalled by these words to his duty, and
reluctantly turned his eyes away from the bloody spot on the waters,
which the busy frigate had already passed, to resume the command of the
vessel with a forced composure.
"He has cut some of our running-gear," said the master, whose eye had
never ceased to dwell on the spars and rigging of the ship; "and there's
a splinter out of the maintopmast that is big enough for a fid! He has
let daylight through some of our canvas too; but, taking it by-and-
large, the squall has gone over and little harm done. Didn't I hear
something said of Captain Munson getting jammed by a shot?"
"He is killed!" said Griffith, speaking in a voice that was yet husky
with horror--"he is dead, sir, and carried overboard; there is more need
that we forget not ourselves, in this crisis."
"Dead!" said Boltrope, suspending the operation of his active jaws for a
moment, in surprise; "and buried in a wet jacket! Well, it is lucky 'tis
no worse; for damme if I did not think every stick in the ship would
have been cut out of her!"
With this consolatory remark on his lips, the master walked slowly
forward, continuing his orders to repair the damages with a singleness
of purpose that rendered him, however uncouth as a friend, an invaluable
man in his station.
Griffith had not yet brought his mind to the calmness that was so
essential to discharge the duties which had thus suddenly and awfully
devolved on him, when his elbow was lightly touched by the Pilot, who
had drawn closer to his side.
"The enemy appear satisfied with the experiment," said the stranger;
"and as we work the quicker of the two, he loses too much ground to
repeat it, if he be a true seaman."
"And yet as he finds we leave him so fast," returned Griffith, "he must
see that all his hopes rest in cutting us up aloft. I dread that he will
come by the wind again, and lay us under his broadside; we should need a
quarter of an hour to run without his range, if he were anchored!"
"He plays a surer game--see you not that the vessel we made in the
eastern board shows the hull of a frigate? 'Tis past a doubt that they
are of one squadron, and that the expresses have sent them in our wake.
The English admiral has spread a broad clew, Mr. Griffith; and, as he
gathers in his ships, he sees that his game has been successful."
The faculties of Griffith had been too much occupied with the hurry of
the chase to look at the ocean; but, startled at the information of the
Pilot, who spoke coolly, though like a man sensible of the existence of
approaching danger, he took the glass from the other, and with his own
eye examined the different vessels in sight. It is certain that the
experienced officer, whose flag was flying above the light sails of the
three-decker, saw the critical situation of his chase, and reasoned much
in the same manner as the Pilot, or the fearful expedient apprehended by
Griffith would have been adopted. Prudence, however, dictated that he
should prevent his enemy from escaping by pressing so closely on his
rear as to render it impossible for the American to haul across his bows
and run into the open sea between his own vessel and the nearest frigate
of his squadron. The unpractised reader will be able to comprehend the
case better by accompanying the understanding eye of Griffith, as it
glanced from point to point, following the whole horizon. To the west
lay the land, along which the Alacrity was urging her way industriously,
with the double purpose of keeping her consort abeam, and of avoiding a
dangerous proximity to their powerful enemy. To the east, bearing off
the starboard bow of the American frigate, was the vessel first seen,
and which now began to exhibit the hostile appearance of a ship of war,
steering in a line converging towards themselves, and rapidly drawing
nigher; while far in the northeast was a vessel as yet faintly
discerned, whose evolutions could not be mistaken by one who understood
the movements of nautical warfare.
"We are hemmed in effectually," said Griffith, dropping the glass from
his eye; "and I know not but our wisest course would be to haul in to
the land, and, cutting everything light adrift, endeavor to pass the
broadside of the flag-ship."
"Provided she left a rag of canvas to do it with!" returned the Pilot.
"Sir, 'tis an idle hope! She would strip your ship in ten minutes, to her
plankshears. Had it not been for a lucky wave on which so many of her
shot struck and glanced upwards, we should have nothing to boast of left
from the fire she has already given; we must stand on, and drop the
three-decker as far as possible."
"But the frigates?" said Griffith, "What are we to do with the
"Fight them!" returned the Pilot, in a low determined voice; "fight
them! Young man, I have borne the stars and stripes aloft in greater
straits than this, and even with honor! Think not that my fortune will
desert me now."
"We shall have an hour of desperate battle!"
"On that we may calculate; but I have lived through whole days of
bloodshed! You seem not one to quail at the sight of an enemy."
"Let me proclaim your name to the men!" said Griffith; "'twill quicken
their blood, and at such a moment be a host in itself."
"They want it not," returned the Pilot, checking the hasty zeal of the
other with his hand. "I would be unnoticed, unless I am known as becomes
me. I will share your Danger, but would not rob you of a tittle of your
glory. Should we come to grapple," he continued, while a smile of
conscious pride gleamed across his face, "I will give forth the word as
a war-cry, and, believe me, these English will quail before it!"
Griffith submitted to the stranger's will; and, after they had
deliberated further on the nature of their evolutions, he gave his
attention again to the management of the vessel. The first object which
met his eye on turning from the Pilot was Colonel Howard, pacing the
quarter-deck with a determined brow and a haughty mien, as if already in
the enjoyment of that triumph which now seemed certain.
"I fear, sir," said the young man, approaching him with respect, "that
you will soon find the deck unpleasant and dangerous; your wards
"Mention not the unworthy term!" interrupted the colonel. "What greater
pleasure can there be than to inhale the odor of loyalty that is wafted
from yonder floating tower of the king?--And danger! you know but little
of old George Howard, young man, if you think he would for thousands
miss seeing that symbol of rebellion leveled before the flag of his
"If that be your wish, Colonel Howard," returned Griffith, biting his
lip as he looked around at the wondering seamen who were listeners, "you
will wait in vain; but I pledge you my word that when that time arrives
you shall be advised, and that your own hands shall do the ignoble
"Edward Griffith, why not this moment? This is your moment of probation
--submit to the clemency of the crown, and yield your crew to the royal
mercy! In such a case I would remember the child of my brother Harry's
friend; and believe me, my name is known to the ministry. And you,
misguided and ignorant abettors of rebellion! Cast aside your useless
weapons, or prepare to meet the vengeance of yonder powerful and
victorious servant of your prince."
"Fall back! back with ye, fellows!" cried Griffith, fiercely, to the men
who were gathering around the colonel, with looks of sullen vengeance.
"If a man of you dare approach him, he shall be cast into the sea."
The sailors retreated at the order of their commander; but the elated
veteran had continued to pace the deck for many minutes before stronger
interests diverted the angry glances of the seamen to other objects.
Notwithstanding the ship of the line was slowly sinking beneath the
distant waves, and in less than an hour from the time she had fired the
broadside, no more than one of her three tiers of guns was visible from
the deck of the frigate, she yet presented an irresistible obstacle
against retreat to the south. On the other hand, the ship first seen
drew so nigh as to render the glass no longer necessary in watching her
movements. She proved to be a frigate, though one so materially lighter
than the American as to have rendered her conquest easy, had not her two
consorts continued to press on for the scene of battle with such
rapidity. During the chase, the scene had shifted from the point
opposite to St. Ruth, to the verge of those shoals where our tale
commenced. As they approached the latter, the smallest of the English
ships drew so nigh as to render the combat unavoidable. Griffith and his
crew had not been idle in the intermediate time, but all the usual
preparations against the casualties of a sea-fight had been duly made,
when the drum once more called the men to their quarters, and the ship
was deliberately stripped of her unnecessary sails, like a prize-fighter
about to enter the arena, casting aside the encumbrances of dress. At
the instant she gave this intimation of her intention to abandon flight,
and trust the issue to the combat, the nearest English frigate also took
in her light canvas in token of her acceptance of the challenge.
"He is but a little fellow," said Griffith to the Pilot, who hovered at
his elbow with a sort of fatherly interest in the other's conduct of the
battle, "though he carries a stout heart."
"We must crush him at a blow," returned the stranger; "not a shot must
be delivered until our yards are locking."
"I see him training his twelves upon us already; we may soon expect his
"After standing the brunt of a ninety-gun ship," observed the collected
Pilot, "we shall not shrink from the broadside of a two-and-thirty."
"Stand to your guns, men!" cried Griffith, through his trumpet--"not a
shot is to be fired without the order."
This caution, so necessary to check the ardor of the seamen, was hardly
uttered, before their enemy became wrapped in sheets of fire and volumes
of smoke, as gun after gun hurled its iron missiles at their vessel in
quick succession. Ten minutes might have passed, the two vessels
sheering close to each other every foot they advanced, during which time
the crew of the American were compelled, by their commander, to suffer
the fire of their adversary, without returning a shot. This short
period, which seemed an age to the seamen, was distinguished in their
vessel by deep silence. Even the wounded and dying, who fell in every
part of the ship, stifled their groans, under the influence of the
severe discipline, which gave a character to every man, and each
movement of the vessel; and those officers who were required to speak
were heard only in the lowest tones of resolute preparation. At length
the ship slowly entered the skirts of the smoke that enveloped their
enemy; and Griffith heard the man who stood at his side whisper the word
"Let them have it!" cried Griffith, in a voice that was heard in the
remotest parts of the ship.
The shout that burst from the seamen appeared to lift the decks of the
vessel, and the affrighted frigate trembled like an aspen with the
recoil of her own massive artillery, that shot forth a single sheet of
flame, the sailors having disregarded, in their impatience, the usual
order of firing. The effect of the broadside on the enemy was still more
dreadful; for a death-like silence succeeded to the roar of the guns,
which was only broken by the shrieks and execrations that burst from
her, like the moanings of the damned. During the few moments in which
the Americans were again loading their cannon, and the English were
recovering from their confusion, the vessel of the former moved slowly
past her antagonist, and was already doubling across her bows, when the
latter was suddenly, and, considering the inequality of their forces, it
may be added desperately, headed into her enemy. The two frigates
grappled. The sudden and furious charge made by the Englishman, as he
threw his masses of daring seamen along his bowsprit, and out of his
channels, had nearly taken Griffith by surprise; but Manual, who had
delivered his first fire with the broadside, now did good service, by
ordering his men to beat back the intruders, by a steady and continued
discharge. Even the wary Pilot lost sight of their other foes, in the
high daring of that moment, and smiles of stern pleasure were exchanged
between him and Griffith as both comprehended, at a glance, their
"Lash his bowsprit to our mizzenmast," shouted the lieutenant, "and we
will sweep his decks as he lies!"
Twenty men sprang eagerly forward to execute the order, among the
foremost of whom were Boltrope and the stranger.
"Ay, now he's our own!" cried the busy master, "and we will take an
owner's liberties with him, and break him up--for by the eternal----"
"Peace, rude man," said the Pilot, in a voice of solemn remonstrance;
"at the next instant you may face your God; mock not his awful name!"
The master found time, before he threw himself from the spar on the deck
of the frigate again, to cast a look of amazement at his companion, who,
with a steady mien, but with an eye that lighted with a warrior's ardor,
viewed the battle that raged around him, like one who marked its
progress to control the result.
The sight of the Englishmen rushing onward with shouts and bitter
menaces warmed the blood of Colonel Howard, who pressed to the side of
the frigate, and encouraged his friends, by his gestures and voice, to
"Away with ye, old croaker!" cried the master, seizing him by the
collar; "away with ye to the hold, or I'll order you fired from a gun."
"Down with your arms, rebellious dog!" shouted the colonel, carried
beyond himself by the ardor of the fray; "down to the dust, and implore
the mercy of your injured prince!"
Invigorated by a momentary glow, the veteran grappled with his brawny
antagonist; but the issue of the short struggle was yet suspended, when
the English, driven back by the fire of the marines, and the menacing
front that Griffith with his boarders presented, retreated to the
forecastle of their own ship, and attempted to return the deadly blows
they were receiving, in their hull, from the cannon that Barnstable
directed. A solitary gun was all they could bring to bear on the
Americans; but this, loaded with cannister, was fired so near as to send
its glaring flame into the very faces of their enemies. The struggling
colonel, who was already sinking beneath the arm of his foe, felt the
rough grasp loosen from his throat at the flash, and the two combatants
sunk powerless on their knees facing each other.
"How, now, brother!" exclaimed Boltrope, with a smile of grim
fierceness; "some of that grist has gone to your mill, ha!"
No answer could, however, be given before the yielding forms of both
fell to the deck, where they lay helpless, amid the din of the battle
and the wild confusion of the eager combatants.
Notwithstanding the furious struggle they witnessed, the elements did
not cease their functions; and, urged by the breeze, and lifted
irresistibly on a wave, the American ship was forced through the water
still further across the bows of her enemy. The idle fastenings of hemp
and iron were snapped asunder like strings of tow, and Griffith saw his
own ship borne away from the Englishman at the instant that the bowsprit
of the latter was torn from its lashings, and tumbled into the sea,
followed by spar after spar, until nothing of all her proud tackling was
remaining, but the few parted and useless ropes that were left dangling
along the stumps of her lower masts. As his own stately vessel moved
from the confusion she had caused, and left the dense cloud of smoke in
which her helpless antagonist lay, the eye of the young man glanced
anxiously toward the horizon, where he now remembered he had more foes
to contend against.
"We have shaken off the thirty-two most happily!" he said to the Pilot,
who followed his motions with singular interest; "but here is another
fellow sheering in for us, who shows as many ports as ourselves, and who
appears inclined for a closer interview; besides, the hull of the ninety
is rising again, and I fear she will be down but too soon!"
"We must keep the use of our braces and sails," returned the Pilot, "and
on no account close with the other frigate; we must play a double game,
sir, and fight this new adversary with our heels as well as with our
"'Tis time then that we were busy, for he is shortening sail, and as he
nears so fast we may expect to hear from him every minute; what do you
"Let him gather in his canvas," returned the Pilot; "and when he thinks
himself snug, we can throw out a hundred men at once upon our yards, and
spread everything alow and aloft; we may then draw ahead of him by
surprise; if we can once get him in our wake, I have no fears of
dropping them all."
"A stern chase is a long chase," cried Griffith, "and the thing may do!
Clear up the decks, here, and carry down the wounded; and, as we have
our hands full, the poor fellows who have done with us must go overboard
This melancholy duty was instantly attended to, while the young seaman
who commanded the frigate returned to his duty with the absorbed air of
one who felt its high responsibility. These occupations, however, did
not prevent his hearing the sounds of Barnstable's voice calling eagerly
to young Merry. Bending his head towards the sound, Griffith beheld his
friend looking anxiously up the main hatch, with a face grimed with
smoke, his coat off, and his shirt bespattered with human blood. "Tell
me, boy," he said, "is Mr. Griffith untouched? They say that a shot came
in upon the quarter-deck that tripped up the heels of half a dozen."
Before Merry could answer, the eyes of Barnstable, which even while he
spoke was scanning the state of the vessel's rigging, encountered the
kind looks of Griffith, and from that moment perfect harmony was
restored between the friends.
"Ah! you are there, Griff, and with a whole skin, I see," cried
Barnstable, smiling with pleasure; "they have passed poor Boltrope down
into one of his own storerooms! If that fellow's bowsprit had held on
ten minutes longer, what a mark I should have made on his face and
"'Tis perhaps best as it is," returned Griffith; "but what have you done
with those whom we are most bound to protect?"
Barnstable made a significant gesture towards the depths of the vessel,
as he answered:
"On the cables; safe as wood, iron, and water can keep them--though
Katherine has had her head up three times to----"
A summons from the Pilot drew Griffith away; and the young officers were
compelled to forget their individual feelings, in the pressing duties of
their stations. The ship which the American frigate had now to oppose
was a vessel of near her own size and equipage; and when Griffith looked
at her again, he perceived that she had made her preparations to assert
her equality in manful fight.
Her sails had been gradually reduced to the usual quantity, and, by
certain movements on her decks the lieutenant and his constant
attendant, the Pilot, well understood that she only wanted to lessen her
distance a few hundred yards to begin the action.
"Now spread everything," whispered the stranger.
Griffith applied the trumpet to his mouth, and shouted in a voice that
was carried even to his enemy: "Let fall-out with your booms--sheet
home--hoist away of everything!"
The inspiring cry was answered by a universal bustle; fifty men flew out
on the dizzy heights of the different spars, while broad sheets of
canvas rose as suddenly along the masts as if some mighty bird were
spreading its wings. The Englishman instantly perceived his mistake, and
he answered the artifice by a roar of artillery. Griffith watched the
effects of the broadside with an absorbing interest, as the shot
whistled above his head; but when he perceived his masts untouched, and
the few unimportant ropes only that were cut, he replied to the uproar
with a burst of pleasure. A few men were, however, seen clinging with
wild frenzy to the cordage, dropping from rope to rope like wounded
birds fluttering through a tree, until they fell heavily into the ocean,
the sullen ship sweeping by them in cold indifference. At the next
instant the spars and masts of their enemy exhibited a display of men
similar to their own, when Griffith again placed the trumpet to his
mouth, and shouted aloud:
"Give it to them; drive them from their yards, boys; scatter them with
your grape--unreeve their rigging!"
The crew of the American wanted but little encouragement to enter on
this experiment with hearty good will, and the close of his cheering
words were uttered amid the deafening roar of his own cannon. The Pilot
had, however, mistaken the skill and readiness of their foe; for,
notwithstanding the disadvantageous circumstances under which the
Englishman increased his sail, the duty was steadily and dexterously
The two ships were now running rapidly on parallel lines, hurling at
each other their instruments of destruction with furious industry, and
with severe and certain loss to both, though with no manifest advantage
in favor of either. Both Griffith and the Pilot witnessed with deep
concern this unexpected defeat of their hopes; for they could not
conceal from themselves that each moment lessened their velocity through
the water, as the shot of their enemy stripped the canvas from the
yards, or dashed aside the lighter spars in their terrible progress.
"We find our equal here!" said Griffith to the stranger. "The ninety is
heaving up again like a mountain; and if we continue to shorten sail at
this rate, she will soon be down upon us!"
"You say true, sir," returned the Pilot, musing; "the man shows judgment
as well as spirit: but--"
He was interrupted by Merry, who rushed from the forward part of the
vessel, his whole face betokening the eagerness of his spirit, and the
importance of his intelligence.
"The breakers!" he cried, when nigh enough to be heard amid the din: "we
are running dead on a ripple, and the sea is white not two hundred yards
The Pilot jumped on a gun, and bending to catch a glimpse through the
smoke, he shouted, in those clear, piercing tones that could be even
heard among the roaring of the cannon: "Port, port your helm! we are on
the Devil's Grip! pass up the trumpet, sir; port your helm, fellow; give
it them, boys--give it to the proud English dogs!" Griffith
unhesitatingly relinquished the symbol of his rank, fastening his own
firm look on the calm but quick eye of the Pilot, and gathering
assurance from the high confidence he read in the countenance of the
stranger. The seamen were too busy with their cannon and their rigging
to regard the new danger; and the frigate entered one of the dangerous
passes of the shoals, in the heat of a severely contested battle. The
wondering looks of a few of the older sailors glanced at the sheets of
foam that flew by them, in doubt whether the wild gambols of the waves
were occasioned by the shot of the enemy, when suddenly the noise of
cannon was succeeded by the sullen wash of the disturbed element, and
presently the vessel glided out of her smoky shroud, and was boldly
steering in the centre of the narrow passages. For ten breathless
minutes longer the Pilot continued to hold an uninterrupted sway, during
which the vessel ran swiftly by ripples and breakers, by streaks of foam
and darker passages of deep water, when he threw down his trumpet, and
"What threatened to be our destruction has proved our salvation! Keep
yonder hill crowned with wood one point open from the church tower at
its base, and steer east by north; you will run through these shoals on
that course in an hour, and by so doing you will gain five leagues of
your enemy, who will have to double their tail."
The moment he stepped from the gun, the Pilot lost the air of authority
that had so singularly distinguished his animated form, and even the
close interest he had manifested in the incidents of the day became lost
in the cold, settled reserve he had affected during his intercourse with
his present associates. Every officer in the ship, after the breathless
suspense of uncertainly had passed, rushed to those places where a view
might be taken of their enemies. The ninety was still steering bol'ly
onward, and had already approached the two-and-thirty, which lay a
helpless wreck, rolling on the unruly seas that were rudely tossing her
on their wanton billows. The frigate last engaged was running along the
edge of the ripple, with her torn sails flying loosely in the air, her
ragged spars tottering in the breeze, and everything above her hull
exhibiting the confusion of a sudden and unlooked-for check to her
progress. The exulting taunts and mirthful congratulations of the
seamen, as they gazed at the English ships, were, however, soon
forgotten in the attention that was required to their own vessel. The
drums beat the retreat, the guns were lashed, the wounded again removed,
and every individual able to keep the deck was required to lend his
assistance in repairing the damages of the frigate and securing her
The promised hour carried the ship safely through all the dangers, which
were much lessened by daylight; and by the time the sun had begun to
fall over the land, Griffith, who had not quitted the deck during the
day, beheld his vessel once more cleared of the confusion of the chase
and battle, and ready to meet another foe. At this period he was
summoned to the cabin, at the request of the ship's chaplain Delivering
the charge of the frigate to Barnstable, who had been his active
assistant, no less in their subsequent labors than in the combat, he
hastily divested himself of the vestiges of the fight, and proceeded to
obey the repeated and earnest call.
"Whither, 'midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?"
When the young seaman who now commanded the frigate descended from the
quarter-deck in compliance with the of ten-repeated summons, he found
the vessel restored to the same neatness as if nothing had occurred to
disturb its order. The gun-deck had been cleansed of its horrid stains,
and the smoke of the fight had long since ascended through the hatches
and mingled with the clouds that flitted above the ship. As he walked
along the silent batteries, even the urgency of his visit could not
prevent him from glancing his eyes towards the splintered sides, those
terrible vestiges, by which the paths of the shot of their enemy might
be traced; and by the time he tapped lightly at the door of the cabin,
his quick look had embraced every material injury the vessel had
sustained in her principal points of defence. The door was opened by the
surgeon of the frigate, who, as he stepped aside to permit Griffith to
enter, shook his head with that air of meaning, which, in one of his
profession, is understood to imply the abandonment of all hopes, and
then immediately quitted the apartment, in order to attend to those who
might profit by his services.
The reader is not to imagine that Griffith had lost sight of Cecilia and
her cousin during the occurrences of that eventful day: on the contrary,
his troubled fancy had presented her terror and distress, even in the
hottest moments of the fight; and the instant that the crew were called
from their guns he had issued an order to replace the bulkheads of the
cabin, and to arrange its furniture for their accommodation, though the
higher and imperious duties of his station had precluded his attending
to their comfort in person. He expected, therefore, to find the order of
the rooms restored; but he was by no means prepared to encounter the
scene he was now to witness.
Between two of the sullen cannon, which gave such an air of singular
wildness to the real comfort of the cabin, was placed a large couch, on
which the colonel was lying, evidently near his end. Cecilia was weeping
by his side, her dark ringlets falling in unheeded confusion around her
pale features, and sweeping in their rich exuberance the deck on which
she kneeled. Katherine leaned tenderly over the form of the dying
veteran, while her dark, tearful eyes seemed to express self-accusation
blended with deep commiseration. A few attendants of both sexes
surrounded the solemn scene, all of whom appeared to be under the
influence of the hopeless intelligence which the medical officer had but
that moment communicated. The servants of the ship had replaced the
furniture with a care that mocked the dreadful struggle that so recently
disfigured the warlike apartment, and the stout square frame of Boltrope
occupied the opposite settee, his head resting on the lap of the
captain's steward, and his hand gently held in the grasp of his friend
the chaplain. Griffith had heard of the wound of the master, but his own
eyes now conveyed the first intelligence of the situation of Colonel
Howard. When the shock of this sudden discovery had a little subsided,
the young man approached the couch of the latter, and attempted to
express his regret and pity, in a voice that afforded an assurance of
"Say no more, Edward Griffith," interrupted the colonel, waving his hand
feebly for silence; "it seemeth to be the will of God that this
rebellion should triumph, and it is not for vain man to impeach the acts
of Omnipotence. To my erring faculties, it wears an appearance of
mystery, but doubtless it Is to answer the purpose of his own
inscrutable providence. I have sent for you, Edward, on a business that
I would fain see accomplished before I die, that it may not be said that
old George Howard neglected his duty, even in his last moments. You see
this weeping child at my side; tell me, young man, do you love the
"Am I to be asked such a question?" exclaimed Griffith.
"And will you cherish her--will you supply to her the places of father
and mother--will you become the fond guardian of her innocence and
Griffith could give no other answer than a fervent pressure of the hand
he had clasped.
"I believe you," continued the dying man; "for however he may have
forgotten to inculcate his own loyalty, worthy Hugh Griffith could never
neglect to make his son a man of honor. I had weak and perhaps evil
wishes in behalf of my late unfortunate kinsman, Mr. Christopher Dillon;
but, they have told me that he was false to his faith. If this be true,
I would refuse him the hand of the girl, though he claimed the fealty of
the British realms. But he has passed away, and I am about to follow him
into a world where we shall find but one Lord to serve; and it may have
been better for us both had we more remembered our duty to him, while
serving the princes of the earth. One thing further--know you this
officer of your Congress well--this Mr. Barnstable?"
"I have sailed with him for years," returned Griffith, "and can answer
for him as myself."
The veteran made an effort to rise, which in part succeeded, and he
fastened on the youth a look of keen scrutiny, that gave to his pallid
features an expression of solemn meaning, as he continued:
"Speak not now, sir, as the Companion of his idle pleasures, and as the
unthinking associate commends his fellow, but remember that your opinion
is given to a dying man who leans on your judgment for advice. The
daughter of John Plowden is a trust not to be neglected, nor will my
death prove easy, if a doubt of her being worthily bestowed shall
"He is a gentleman," returned Griffith, "and one whose heart is not less
kind than gallant--he loves your ward, and great as may be her merit, he
is deserving of it all.--Like myself, he has also loved the land that
gave him birth, before the land of his ancestors, but----"
"That is now forgotten," interrupted the colonel; "after what I have
this day witnessed, I am forced to believe that it is the pleasure of
Heaven that you are to prevail! But sir, a disobedient inferior will be
apt to make an unreasonable commander. The recent contention between
"Remember it not, dear sir," exclaimed Griffith with generous zeal;
"'twas unkindly provoked, and it is already forgotten and pardoned. He
has sustained me nobly throughout the day, and my life on it, that he
knows how to treat a woman as a brave man should!"
"Then am I content!" said the veteran, sinking back on his couch; "let
him be summoned."
The whispering message, which Griffith gave requesting Mr. Barnstable to
enter the cabin, was quickly conveyed, and he had appeared before his
friend deemed it discreet to disturb the reflections of the veteran by
again addressing him. When the entrance of the young sailor was
announced, the colonel again roused himself, and addressed his wondering
listener, though in a manner much less confiding and familiar than that
which he had adopted towards Griffith.
"The declarations you made last night relative to my ward, the daughter
of the late Captain John Plowden, sir, have left me nothing to learn on
the subject of your wishes. Here, then, gentlemen, you both obtain the
reward of your attentions! Let that reverend divine hear you pronounce
the marriage vows, while I have strength to listen, that I may be a
witness against ye, in heaven, should ye forget their tenor!"
"Not now, not now," murmured Cecilia; "oh, ask it not now, my uncle!"
Katherine spoke not; but, deeply touched by the tender interest her
guardian manifested in her welfare, she bowed her face to her bosom, in