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THE RED ROVER.
By J. Fenimore Cooper.
"Ye speak like honest men: pray God ye prove so"
Complete In One Volume
The Writer felt it necessary, on a former occasion, to state, that, in
sketching his marine life, he did not deem himself obliged to adhere, very
closely, to the chronological order of nautical improvements. It is
believed that no very great violation of dates will be found in the
following pages. If any keen-eyed critic of the ocean, however, should
happen to detect a rope rove through the wrong leading-block, or a term
spelt in such a manner as to destroy its true sound, he is admonished of
the duty of ascribing the circumstances, in charity, to any thing but
ignorance on the part of a brother. It must be remembered that there is an
undue proportion of landsmen employed in the mechanical as well as the
more spiritual part of book-making; a fact which, in itself, accounts for
the numberless imperfections that still embarrass the respective
departments of the occupation. In due time, no doubt, a remedy will be
found for this crying evil; and then the world may hope to see the several
branches of the trade a little better ordered. The true Augustan age of
literature can never exist until works shall be as accurate, in their
typography, as a "log book," and as sententious, in their matter, as a
On the less important point of the materials, which are very possibly used
to so little advantage in his present effort, the Writer does not intend
to be very communicative, if their truth be not apparent, by the manner in
which he has set forth the events in the tale itself, he must be content
to lie under the imputation of having disfigured it, by his own
clumsiness. All testimony must, in the nature of things, resolve itself
into three great classes--the positive, the negative, and the
circumstantial. The first and the last are universally admitted to be
entitled to the most consideration, since the third can only be resorted
to in the absence of the two others. Of the positive evidence of the
verity of its contents, the book itself is a striking proof. It is hoped,
also, that there is no want of circumstance to support this desirable
character. If these two opening points be admitted those who may be still
disposed to cavil are left to the full enjoyment of their negation, with
which the Writer wishes them just as much success as the question may
To W. B. Shubrick, Esquire, U. S. Navy.
In submitting this hastily-composed and imperfect picture of a few scenes,
peculiar to the profession, to your notice, dear Shubrick, I trust much
more to your kind feelings than to any merit in the execution. Such as it
may be, however, the book is offered as another tribute to the constant
esteem and friendship of
The Red Rover.
Par. "Mars dote on you for his novices."
_All's Well that ends Well._
No one, who is familiar with the bustle and activity of an American
commercial town, would recognize, in the repose which now reigns in the
ancient mart of Rhode Island, a place that, in its day, has been ranked
amongst the most important ports along the whole line of our extended
coast. It would seem, at the first glance, that nature had expressly
fashioned the spot to anticipate the wants and to realize the wishes of
the mariner. Enjoying the four great requisites of a safe and commodious
haven, a placid basin, an outer harbour, and a convenient roadstead, with
a clear offing, Newport appeared, to the eyes of our European ancestors,
designed to shelter fleets and to nurse a race of hardy and expert seamen.
Though the latter anticipation has not been entirely disappointed, how
little has reality answered to expectation in respect to the former. A
successful rival has arisen, even in the immediate vicinity of this
seeming favourite of nature, to defeat all the calculations of mercantile
sagacity, and to add another to the thousand existing evidences "that the
wisdom of man is foolishness."
There are few towns of any magnitude, within our broad territories, in
which so little change has been effected in half a century as in Newport.
Until the vast resources of the interior were developed the beautiful
island on which it stands was a chosen retreat of the affluent planters of
the south, from the heats and diseases of their burning climate. Here they
resorted in crowds, to breathe the invigorating breezes of the sea.
Subjects of the same government, the inhabitants of the Carolinas and of
Jamaica met here, in amity, to compare their respective habits and
policies, and to strengthen each other in a common delusion, which the
descendants of both, in the third generation, are beginning to perceive
and to regret.
The communion left, on the simple and unpractised offspring of the
Puritans, its impression both of good and evil. The inhabitants of the
country, while they derived, from the intercourse, a portion of that bland
and graceful courtesy for which the gentry of the southern British
colonies were so distinguished did not fail to imbibe some of those
peculiar notions, concerning the distinctions in the races of men, for
which they are no less remarkable Rhode Island was the foremost among the
New England provinces to recede from the manners and opinions of their
simple ancestors. The first shock was given, through her, to that rigid
and ungracious deportment which was once believed a necessary concomitant
of true religion, a sort of outward pledge of the healthful condition of
the inward man; and it was also through her that the first palpable
departure was made from those purifying principles which might serve as an
apology for even far more repulsive exteriors. By a singular combination
of circumstances and qualities, which is, however, no less true than
perplexing, the merchants of Newport were becoming, at the same time, both
slave-dealers and gentlemen.
Whatever might have been the moral condition of its proprietors at the
precise period of 1759, the island itself was never more enticing and
lovely. Its swelling crests were still crowned with the wood of
centuries; its little vales were then covered with the living verdure of
the north; and its unpretending but neat and comfortable villas lay
sheltered in groves, and embedded in flowers. The beauty and fertility of
the place gained for it a name which, probably, expressed far more than
was, at that early day, properly understood. The inhabitants of the
country styled their possessions the "Garden of America." Neither were
their guests, from the scorching plains of the south, reluctant to concede
so imposing a title to distinction. The appellation descended even to our
own time; nor was it entirely abandoned, until the traveller had the means
of contemplating the thousand broad and lovely vallies which, fifty years
ago, lay buried in the dense shadows of the forest.
The date we have just named was a period fraught with the deepest interest
to the British possessions on this Continent. A bloody and vindictive war,
which had been commenced in defeat and disgrace, was about to end in
triumph. France was deprived of the last of her possessions on the main,
while the immense region which lay between the bay of Hudson and the
territories of Spain submitted to the power of England. The colonists had
shared largely in contributing to the success of the mother country.
Losses and contumely, that had been incurred by the besotting prejudices
of European commanders were beginning to be forgotten in the pride of
success. The blunders of Braddock, the indolence of Loudon, and the
impotency of Abercrombie, were repaired by the vigour of Amherst, and the
genius of Wolfe. In every quarter of the globe the arms of Britain were
triumphant. The loyal provincials were among the loudest in their
exultations and rejoicings; wilfully shutting their eyes to the scanty
meed of applause that a powerful people ever reluctantly bestows on its
dependants, as though love of glory, like avarice, increases by its means
The system of oppression and misrule, which hastened a separation that
sooner or later must have occurred, had not yet commenced. The mother
country, if not just, was still complaisant. Like all old and great
nations, she was indulging in the pleasing, but dangerous, enjoyment of
self-contemplation. The qualities and services of a race, who were
believed to be inferior, were, however, soon forgotten; or, if remembered,
it was in order to be misrepresented and vituperated. As this feeling
increased with the discontent of the civil dissensions, it led to still
more striking injustice, and greater folly. Men who, from their
observations, should have known better, were not ashamed to proclaim, even
in the highest council of the nation, their ignorance of the character of
a people with whom they had mingled their blood. Self-esteem gave value to
the opinions of fools. It was under this soothing infatuation that
veterans were heard to disgrace their noble profession, by boastings that
should have been hushed in the mouth of a soldier of the carpet; it was
under this infatuation that Burgoyne gave, in the Commons of England, that
memorable promise of marching from Quebec to Boston, with a force he saw
fit to name--a pledge that he afterwards redeemed by going over the same
ground, with twice the number of followers, as captives; and it was under
this infatuation that England subsequently threw away her hundred thousand
lives, and lavished her hundred millions of treasure.
The history of that memorable struggle is familiar to every American.
Content with the knowledge that his country triumphed, he is willing to
let the glorious result take its proper place in the pages of history. He
sees that her empire rests on a broad and natural foundation, which needs
no support from venal pens; and, happily for his peace of mind, no less
than for his character, he feels that the prosperity of the Republic is
not to be sought in the degradation of surrounding nations.
Our present purpose leads us back to the period of calm which preceded the
storm of the Revolution. In the early days of the month of October 1759,
Newport, like every other town in America, was filled with the mingled
sentiment of grief and joy. The inhabitants mourned the fall of Wolfe
while they triumphed in his victory. Quebec, the strong-hold of the
Canadas, and the last place of any importance held by a people whom they
had been educated to believe were their natural enemies, had just changed
its masters. That loyalty to the Crown of England, which endured so much
before the strange principle became extinct, was then at its height; and
probably the colonist was not to be found who did not, in some measure,
identify his own honour with the fancied glory of the head of the house of
Brunswick. The day on which the action of our tale commences had been
expressly set apart to manifest the sympathy of the good people of the
town, and its vicinity, in the success of the royal arms. It had opened,
as thousands of days have opened since, with the ringing of bells and the
firing of cannon; and the population had, at an early hour, poured into
the streets of the place, with that determined zeal in the cause of
merriment, which ordinarily makes preconcerted joy so dull an amusement.
The chosen orator of the day had exhibited his eloquence, in a sort of
prosaic monody in praise of the dead hero, and had sufficiently manifested
his loyalty, by laying the glory, not only of that sacrifice, but all that
had been reaped by so many thousands of his brave companions also, most
humbly at the foot of the throne.
Content with these demonstrations of their allegiance the inhabitants
began to retire to their dwellings as the sun settled towards those
immense regions which then lay an endless and unexplored wilderness but
which now are teeming with the fruits and enjoyments of civilized life.
The countrymen from the environs, and even from the adjoining main were
beginning to turn their faces towards their distant homes, with that
frugal care which still distinguishes the inhabitants of the country even
in the midst of their greatest abandonment to pleasures, in order that the
approaching evening might not lead them into expenditures which were not
deemed germain to the proper feelings of the occasion. In short, the
excess of the hour was past, and each individual was returning into the
sober channels of his ordinary avocations, with an earnestness and
discretion which proved he was not altogether unmindful of the time that
had been squandered in the display of a spirit that he already appeared
half disposed to consider a little supererogatory.
The sounds of the hammer, the axe, and the saw were again heard in the
place; the windows of more than one shop were half opened, as if its owner
had made a sort of compromise between his interests and his conscience;
and the masters of the only three inns in the town were to be seen
standing before their doors, regarding the retiring countrymen with eyes
that plainly betrayed they were seeking customers among a people who were
always much more ready to sell than to buy. A few noisy and thoughtless
seamen, belonging to the vessels in the haven, together with some half
dozen notorious tavern-hunters were, however, the sole fruits of all their
nods of recognition, inquiries into the welfare of wives and children,
and, in some instances, of open invitations to alight and drink.
Worldly care, with a constant, though sometimes an oblique, look at the
future state, formed the great characteristic of all that people who then
dwelt in what were called the provinces of New-England. The business of
the day, however, was not forgotten though it was deemed unnecessary to
digest its proceedings in idleness, or over the bottle. The travellers
along the different roads that led into the interior of the island formed
themselves into little knots, in which the policy of the great national
events they had just been commemorating, and the manner they had been
treated by the different individuals selected to take the lead in the
offices of the day, were freely handled, though still with great deference
to the established reputations of the distinguished parties most
concerned. It was every where conceded that the prayers, which had been in
truth a little conversational and historical, were faultless and searching
exercises; and, on the whole, (though to this opinion there were some
clients of an advocate adverse to the orator, who were moderate
dissenters) it was established, that a more eloquent oration had never
issued from the mouth of man, than had that day been delivered in their
presence. Precisely in the same temper was the subject discussed by the
workmen on a ship, which was then building in the harbour, and which, in
the same spirit of provincial admiration that has since immortalized so
many edifices, bridges, and even individuals, within their several
precincts, was confidently affirmed to be the rarest specimen then extant
of the nice proportions of naval architecture!
Of the orator himself it may be necessary to say a word, in order that so
remarkable an intellectual prodigy should fill his proper place in our
frail and short-lived catalogue of the worthies of that day. He was the
usual oracle of his neighbourhood, when a condensation of its ideas on any
great event, like the one just mentioned, became necessary. His learning
was justly computed, by comparison, to be of the most profound and erudite
character; and it was very truly affirmed to have astonished more than one
European scholar, who had been tempted, by a fame which, like heat, was
only the more intense from its being so confined, to grapple with him on
the arena of ancient literature. He was a man who knew how to improve
these high gifts to his exclusive advantage. In but one instance had he
ever been thrown enough off his guard to commit an act that had a tendency
to depress the reputation he had gained in this manner; and that was, in
permitting one of his laboured flights of eloquence to be printed; or, as
his more witty though less successful rival, the only other lawyer in the
place, expressed it, in suffering one of his _fugitive_ essays to be
_caught._ But even this experiment, whatever might have been its effects
abroad, served to confirm his renown at home. He now stood before his
admirers in all the dignity of types; and it was in vain for that
miserable tribe of "animalculae, who live by feeding on the body of
genius," to attempt to undermine a reputation that was embalmed in the
faith of so many parishes. The brochure was diligently scattered through
the provinces, lauded around the tea-pot, openly extolled in the
prints--by some kindred spirit, as was manifest in the striking similarity
of style--and by one believer, more zealous or perhaps more interested
than the rest, actually put on board the next ship which sailed for
"home," as England was then affectionately termed, enclosed in an envelope
which bore an address no less imposing than the Majesty of Britain. Its
effect on the straight-going mind of the dogmatic German, who then filled
the throne of the Conqueror, was never known, though they, who were in the
secret of the trans mission, long looked, in vain, for the signal reward
that was to follow so striking an exhibition of human intellect.
Notwithstanding these high and beneficent gifts, their possessor was now
as unconsciously engaged in that portion of his professional labours which
bore the strongest resemblance to the occupation of a scrivener, as though
nature, in bestowing such rare endowments had denied him the phrenological
quality of self-esteem. A critical observer might, however, have seen, or
fancied that he saw, in the forced humility of his countenance, certain
gleamings of a triumph that should not properly be traced to the fall of
Quebec. The habit of appearing meek had, however, united with a frugal
regard for the precious and irreclaimable minutes, in producing this
extraordinary diligence in a pursuit of a character that was so humble,
when compared with his recent mental efforts.
Leaving this gifted favourite of fortune and nature, we shall pass to an
entirely different individual, and to another quarter of the place. The
spot, to which we wish now to transport the reader, was neither more nor
less than the shop of a tailor, who did not disdain to perform the most
minute offices of his vocation in his own heedful person. The humble
edifice stood at no great distance from the water, in the skirts of the
town, and in such a situation as to enable its occupant to look out upon
the loveliness of the inner basin, and, through a vista cut by the element
between islands, even upon the lake-like scenery of the outer harbour. A
small, though little frequented wharf lay before his door, while a certain
air of negligence, and the absence of bustle, sufficiently manifested that
the place itself was not the immediate site of the much-boasted commercial
prosperity of the port.
The afternoon was like a morning in spring, the breeze which occasionally
rippled the basin possessing that peculiarly bland influence which is so
often felt in the American autumn; and the worthy mechanic laboured at his
calling, seated on his shop board, at an open window, far better satisfied
with himself than many of those whose fortune it is to be placed in state,
beneath canopies of velvet and gold. On the outer side of the little
building, a tall, awkward, but vigorous and well-formed countryman was
lounging, with one shoulder placed against the side of the shop, as if his
legs found the task of supporting his heavy frame too grievous to be
endured with out assistance, seemingly in waiting for the completion of
the garment at which the other toiled, and with which he intended to adorn
the graces of his person, in an adjoining parish, on the succeeding
In order to render the minutes shorter, and, possibly in indulgence to a
powerful propensity to talk, of which he who wielded the needle was
somewhat the subject, but few of the passing moments were suffered to
escape without a word from one or the other of the parties. As the subject
of their discourse had a direct reference to the principal matter of our
tale, we shall take leave to give such portions of it to the reader as we
deem most relevant to a clear exposition of that which is to follow. The
latter will always bear in mind, that he who worked was a man drawing into
the wane of life; that he bore about him the appearance of one who, either
from incompetency or from some fatality of fortune, had been doomed to
struggle through the world, keeping poverty from his residence only by the
aid of great industry and rigid frugality; and that the idler was a youth
of an age and condition that the acquisition of an entire set of
habiliments formed to him a sort of era in his adventures.
"Yes." exclaimed the indefatigable shaper of cloth, with a species of
sigh which might have been equally construed into an evidence of the
fulness of his mental enjoyment, or of the excess of his bodily labours;
"yes, smarter sayings have seldom fallen from the lips of man, than such
as the squire pour'd out this very day. When he spoke of the plains of
father Abraham, and of the smoke and thunder of the battle, Pardon, it
stirred up such stomachy feelings in my bosom, that I verily believe I
could have had the heart to throw aside the thimble, and go forth myself,
to seek glory in battling in the cause of the King."
The youth, whose Christian or 'given' name, as it is even now generally
termed in New-England, had been intended, by his pious sponsors, humbly to
express his future hopes, turned his head towards the heroic tailor, with
an expression of drollery about the eye, that proved nature had not been
niggardly in the gift of humour, however the quality was suppressed by the
restraints of a very peculiar manner, and no less peculiar education.
"There's an opening now, neighbour Homespun, for an ambitious man," he
said, "sin' his Majesty has lost his stoutest general."
"Yes, yes," returned the individual who, either in his youth or in his
age, had made so capital a blunder in the choice of a profession, "a fine
and promising chance it is for one who counts but five-and-twenty; most of
my day has gone by, and I must spend the rest of it here, where you see
me, between buckram and osnaburghs--who put the dye into your cloth,
Pardy? it is the best laid-in bark I've fingered this fall."
"Let the old woman alone for giving the lasting colour to her web; I'll
engage, neighbour Homespun, provided you furnish the proper fit, there'll
not be a better dress'd lad on the island than my own mother's son! But,
sin' you cannot be a general good-man, you'll have the comfort of knowing
there'll be no more fighting without you. Every body agrees the French
won't hold out much longer, and then we must have a peace for want of
"So best, so best, boy; for one, who has seen so much of the horrors of
war as I, knows how to put a rational value on the blessings of
"Then you ar'n't altogether unacquainted, good-man, with the new trade you
thought of setting up?"
"I! I have been through five long and bloody wars, and I've reason to
thank God that I've gone through them all without a scratch so big as this
needle would make. Five long and bloody, ay, and I may say glorious wars,
have I liv'd through in safety!"
"A perilous time it must have been for you, neighbour. But I don't
remember to have heard of more than two quarrels with the Frenchmen in my
"You are but a boy, compared to one who has seen the end of his third
score of years. Here is this war that is now so likely to be soon
ended--Heaven, which rules all things in wisdom, be praised for the same!
Then there was the business of '45, when the bold Warren sailed up and
down our coasts; a scourge to his Majesty's enemies, and a safeguard to
all the loyal subjects. Then, there was a business in Garmany, concerning
which we had awful accounts of battles fou't, in which men were mowed down
like grass falling before the scythe of a strong arm. That makes three.
The fourth was the rebellion of '15, of which I pretend not to have seen
much, being but a youth at the time; and the fifth was a dreadful rumour,
that was spread through the provinces, of a general rising among the
blacks and Indians, which was to sweep all us Christians into eternity at
a minute's warning!"
"Well, I had always reckoned you for a home-staying and a peaceable man,
neighbour;" returned the admiring countryman; "nor did I ever dream that
you had seen such serious movings."
"I have not boasted, Pardon, or I might have added other heavy matters to
the list. There was a great struggle in the East, no longer than the year
'32, for the Persian throne. You have read of the laws of the Medes and
the Persians: Well, for the very throne that gave forth those unalterable
laws was there a frightful struggle, in which blood ran like water; but,
as it was not in Christendom, I do not account it among my own
experiences; though I might have spoken of the Porteous mob with great
reason, as it took place in another portion of the very kingdom in which I
"You must have journeyed much, and been stirring late and early, good-man,
to have seen all these things, and to have got no harm."
"Yes, yes, I've been something of a traveller too, Pardy. Twice have I
been over land to Boston, and once have I sailed through the Great Sound
of Long Island, down to the town of York. It is an awful undertaking the
latter, as it respects the distance, and more especially because it is
needful to pass a place that is likened, by its name, to the entrance of
"I have often heard the spot call'd 'Hell Gate' spoken of, and I may say,
too, that I know a man _well_ who has been through it twice; once in going
to York, and once in coming homeward."
"He had enough of it, as I'll engage! Did he tell you of the pot which
tosses and roars as if the biggest of Beelzebub's fires was burning
beneath, and of the hog's-back over which the water pitches, as it may
tumble over the Great Falls of the West! Owing to reasonable skill in our
seamen, and uncommon resolution in the passengers, we happily made a good
time of it, through ourselves; though I care not who knows it, I will own
it is a severe trial to the courage to enter that same dreadful Strait.
We cast out our anchors at certain islands, which lie a few furlongs this
side the place, and sent the pinnace, with the captain and two stout
seamen, to reconnoitre the spot, in order to see if it were in a peaceful
state or not. The report being favourable, the passengers were landed, and
the vessel was got through, by the blessing of Heaven, in safety. We had
all reason to rejoice that the prayers of the congregation were asked
before we departed from the peace and security of our homes!"
"You journeyed round the 'Gate' on foot?"--demanded the attentive boor.
"Certain! It would have been a sinful and a blasphemous tempting of
Providence to have done otherwise, seeing that our duty called us to no
such sacrifice. But all that danger is gone by, and so I trust will that
of this bloody war, in which we have both been actors; and then I humbly
hope his sacred Majesty will have leisure to turn his royal mind to the
pirates who infest the coast, and to order some of his stout naval
captains to mete out to the rogues the treatment they are so fond of
giving unto others. It would be a joyful sight to my old eyes to see the
famous and long-hunted Red Rover brought into this very port, towing at
the poop of a King's cruiser."
"And is it a desperate villain, he of whom you now make mention?"
"He! There are many he's in that one, lawless ship, and bloody-minded and
nefarious thieves are they, to the smallest boy. It is heart-searching and
grievous, Pardy, to hear of their evil-doings on the high seas of the
"I have often heard mention made of the Rover," returned the countryman;
"but never to enter into any of the intricate particulars of his knavery."
"How should you, boy, who live up in the country, know so much of what is
passing on the great deep, as we who dwell in a port that is so much
resorted to by mariners! I am fearful you'll be making it late home,
Pardon," he added, glancing his eye at certain lines drawn on his
shop-board, by the aid of which he was enabled to note the progress of the
setting sun. "It is drawing towards the hour of five, and you have twice
that number of miles to go, before you can, by any manner of means, reach
the nearest boundary of your father's farm."
"The road is plain, and the people honest," returned the countryman, who
cared not if it were midnight, provided he could be the bearer of tidings
of some dreadful sea robbery to the ears of those whom he well knew would
throng around him, at his return, to hear the tidings from the port. "And
is he, in truth, so much feared and sought for, as people say?"
"Is he sought for! Is Tophet sought by a praying Christian? Few there are
on the mighty deep, let them even be as stout for, battle as was Joshua
the great Jewish captain, that would not rather behold the land than see
the top-gallants of that wicked pirate! Men fight for glory, Pardon, as I
may say I have seen, after living through so many wars, but none love to
meet an enemy who hoists a bloody flag at the first blow, and who is ready
to cast both parties into the air, when he finds the hand of Satan has no
longer power to help him."
"If the rogue is so desperate," returned the youth straightening his
powerful limbs, with a look of rising pride, "why do not the Island and
the Plantations fit out a coaster in order to bring him in, that he might
get a sight of a wholesome gibbet? Let the drum beat on such a message
through our neighbourhood and I'll engage that it don't leave it without
one volunteer at least."
"So much for not having seen war! Of what use would flails and pitch-forks
prove against men who have sold themselves to the devil? Often has the
Rover been seen at night, or just as the sun has been going down, by the
King's cruisers, who, having fairly surrounded the thieves, had good
reason to believe that they had them already in the bilboes; but, when the
morning has come, the prize was vanished, by fair means or by foul!"
"And are the villains so bloody-minded that they are called 'Red?'"
"Such is the title of their leader," returned the worthy tailor, who by
this time was swelling with the importance of possessing so interesting a
legend to communicate; "and such is also the name they give to his vessel;
because no man, who has put foot on board her, has ever come back to say
that she has a better or a worse; that is, no honest mariner or lucky
voyager. The ship is of the size of a King's sloop, they say, and of like
equipments and form; but she has miraculously escaped from the hands of
many a gallant frigate; and once, it is whispered for no loyal subject
would like to say such a scandalous thing openly, Pardon, that she lay
under the guns of a fifty for an hour, and seemingly, to all eyes, she
sunk like hammered lead to the bottom. But, just as every body was shaking
hands, and wishing his neighbour joy at so happy a punishment coming over
the knaves, a West-Indiaman came into port, that had been robbed by the
Rover on the morning after the night in which it was thought they had all
gone into eternity together. And what makes the matter worse, boy, while
the King's ship was careening with her keel out, to stop the holes of
cannon balls, the pirate was sailing up and down the coast, as sound as
the day that the wrights first turned her from their hands!"
"Well, this is unheard of!" returned the countryman, on whom the tale was
beginning to make a sensible impression: "Is she a well-turned and comely
ship to the eye? or is it by any means certain that she is an actual
living vessel at all?"
"Opinions differ. Some say, yes; some say, no. But I am well acquainted
with a man who travelled a week in company with a mariner, who passed
within a hundred feet of her, in a gale of wind. Lucky it was for them,
that the hand of the Lord was felt so powerfully on the deep, and that the
Rover had enough to do to keep his own ship from foundering. The
acquaintance of my friend had a good view of both vessel and captain,
therefore, in perfect safety. He said, that the pirate was a man maybe
half as big again as the tall preacher over on the main, with hair of the
colour of the sun in a fog, and eyes that no man would like to look upon a
second time. He saw him as plainly as I see you; for the knave stood in
the rigging of his ship, beckoning, with a hand as big as a coat-flap, for
the honest trader to keep off, in order that the two vessels might not do
one another damage by coming foul."
"He was a bold mariner, that trader, to go so nigh such a merciless
"I warrant you, Pardon, it was desperately against his will! But it was on
a night so dark--"
"Dark!" interrupted the other; by what contrivance then did he manage to
see so well?"
"No man can say!" answered the tailor, "but see he did, just in the
manner, and the very things I have named to you. More than that, he took
good note of the vessel, that he might know her, if chance, or Providence,
should ever happen to throw her again into his way. She was a long, black
ship, lying low in the water, like a snake in the grass, with a desperate
wicked look, and altogether of dishonest dimensions. Then, every body says
that she appears to sail faster than the clouds above, seeming to care
little which way the wind blows, and that no one is a jot safer from her
speed than her honesty. According to all that I have heard, she is
something such a craft as yonder slaver, that has been lying the week
past, the Lord knows why, in our outer harbour."
As the gossipping tailor had necessarily lost many precious moments, in
relating the preceding history he now set about redeeming them with the
utmost diligence, keeping time to the rapid movement of his needle-hand,
by corresponding jerks of his head and shoulders. In the meanwhile, the
bumpkin, whose wondering mind was by this time charged nearly to bursting
with what he had heard, turned his look towards the vessel the other had
pointed out, in order to get the only image that was now required, to
enable him to do fitting credit to so moving a tale, suitably engraved on
his imagination. There was necessarily a pause, while the respective
parties were thus severally occupied. It was suddenly broken by the
tailor, who clipped the thread with which he had just finished the
garment, cast every thing from his hands, threw his spectacles upon his
forehead, and, leaning his arms on his knees in such a manner as to form a
perfect labyrinth with the limbs, he stretched his body forward so far as
to lean out of the window, riveting his eyes also on the ship, which still
attracted the gaze of his companion.
"Do you know, Pardy," he said, "that strange thoughts and cruel misgivings
have come over me concerning that very vessel? They say she is a slaver
come in for wood and water, and there she has been a week, and not a stick
bigger than an oar has gone up her side, and I'll engage that ten drops
from Jamaica have gone on board her, to one from the spring. Then you may
see she is anchored in such a way that but one of the guns from the
battery can touch her; whereas, had she been a real timid trader, she
would naturally have got into a place where, if a straggling picaroon
should come into the port, he would have found her in the very hottest of
"You have an ingenious turn with you, good-man," returned the wondering
countryman; "now a ship might have lain on the battery island itself, and
I would have hardly noticed the thing."
"'Tis use and experience, Pardon, that makes men of us all. I should know
something of batteries, having seen so many wars, and I served a campaign
of a week, in that very fort, when the rumour came that the French were
sending cruisers from Louisburg down the coast. For that matter, my duty
was to stand sentinel over that very cannon; and, if I have done the thing
once, I have twenty times squinted along the piece, to see in what quarter
it would send its shot, provided such a calamity should arrive as that it
might become necessary to fire it loaded with real warlike balls."
"And who are these?" demanded Pardon, with that species of sluggish
curiosity which had been awakened by the wonders related by the other:
"Are these mariners of the slaver, or are they idle Newporters?"
"Them!" exclaimed the tailor; "sure enough, they are new-comers, and it
may be well to have a closer look at them in these troublesome times!
Here, Nab, take the garment, and press down the seams, you idle hussy; for
neighbour Hopkins is straitened for time, while your tongue is going like
a young lawyer's in a justice court. Don't be sparing of your elbow, girl;
for it's no India muslin that you'll have under the iron, but cloth that
would do to side a house with. Ah! your mother's loom, Pardy, robs the
seamster of many an honest job."
Having thus transferred the remainder of the job from his own hands to
those of an awkward, pouting girl, who was compelled to abandon her gossip
with a neighbour, she went to obey his injunctions, he quickly removed
his own person, notwithstanding a miserable limp with which he had come
into the world, from the shop-board to the open air. As more important
characters are, however, about to be introduced to the reader, we shall
defer the ceremony to the opening of another chapter.
Sir Toby. "Excellent! I smell a device."
The strangers were three in number; for strangers the good-man Homespun,
who knew not only the names but most of the private history of every man
and woman within ten miles of his own residence immediately proclaimed
them to be, in a whisper to his companion; and strangers, too, of a
mysterious and threatening aspect. In order that others may have an
opportunity of judging of the probability of the latter conjecture, it
becomes necessary that a more minute account should be given of the
respective appearances of these individuals, who, unhappily for their
reputations, had the misfortune to be unknown to the gossipping tailor of
The one, by far the most imposing in his general mien, was a youth who had
apparently seen some six or seven-and-twenty seasons. That those seasons
had not been entirely made of sunny days, and nights of repose, was
betrayed by the tinges of brown which had been laid on his features, layer
after layer in such constant succession, as to have changed, to a deep
olive, a complexion which had once been fair, and through which the rich
blood was still mantling with the finest glow of vigorous health. His
features were rather noble and manly, than distingiushed for their
exactness and symmetry; his nose being far more bold and prominent than
regular in its form, with his brows projecting, and sufficiently marked to
give to the whole of the superior parts of his face that decided
intellectual expression which is already becoming so common to American
physiognomy. The mouth was firm and manly; and, while he muttered to
himself, with a meaning smile, as the curious tailor drew slowly nigher,
it discovered a set of glittering teeth, that shone the brighter from
being cased in so dark a setting. The hair was a jet black, in thick and
confused ringlets; the eyes were very little larger than common, gray,
and, though evidently of a changing expression, rather leaning to mildness
than severity. The form of this young man was of that happy size which so
singularly unites activity with strength. It seemed to be well knit, while
it was justly proportioned, and strikingly graceful. Though these several
personal qualifications were exhibited under the disadvantages of the
perfectly simple, though neat and rather tastefully disposed, attire of a
common mariner, they were sufficiently imposing to cause the suspicious
dealer in buckram to hesitate before he would venture to address the
stranger, whose eye appeared riveted, by a species of fascination, on the
reputed slaver in the outer harbour. A curl of the upper lip, and another
strange smile, in which scorn was mingled with his mutterings, decided the
vacillating mind of the good-man. Without venturing to disturb a reverie
that seemed so profound, he left the youth leaning against the head of the
pile where he had long been standing, perfectly unconscious of the
presence of any intruder, and turned a little hastily to examine the rest
of the party.
One of the remaining two was a white man, and the other a negro. Both had
passed the middle age, and both in their appearances, furnished the
strongest proofs of long exposure to the severity of climate, and to
numberless tempests. They were dressed in the plain, weather-soiled, and
tarred habiliments of common seamen, and bore about their several persons
all the other unerring evidences of their peculiar profession. The former
was of a short, thick-set powerful frame, in which, by a happy ordering of
nature, a little confirmed perhaps by long habit, the strength was
principally seated about the broad and brawny shoulders, and strong sinewy
arms, as if, in the construction of the man, the inferior members had been
considered of little other use than to transfer the superior to the
different situations in which the former were to display their energies.
His head was in proportion to the more immediate members; the forehead
low, and nearly covered with hair; the eyes small, obstinate, sometimes
fierce, and often dull; the nose snub, coarse, and vulgar; the mouth large
and voracious; the teeth short, clean, and perfectly sound; and the chin
broad, manly, and even expressive. This singularly constructed personage
had taken his seat on an empty barrel, and, with folded arms, he sat
examining the often-mentioned slaver, occasionally favouring his
companion, the black, with such remarks as were suggested by his
observation and great experience.
The negro occupied a more humble post; one better suited to his subdued
habits and inclinations. In stature, and the peculiar division of animal
force, there was a great resemblance between the two, with the exception
that the latter enjoyed the advantage in height, and even in proportions.
While nature had stamped on his lineaments those distinguishing marks
which characterize the race from which he sprung, she had not done it to
that revolting degree to which her displeasure against that stricken
people is often carried. His features were more elevated than common; his
eye was mild, easily excited to joy, and, like that of his companion,
sometimes humorous. His head was beginning to be sprinkled with gray, his
skin had lost the shining jet colour which had distinguished it in his
youth, and all his limbs and movements bespoke a man whose frame had been
equally indurated and stiffened by unremitted toil. He sat on a low stone,
and seemed intently employed in tossing pebbles into the air, and shewing
his dexterity by catching them in the hand from which they had just been
cast; an amusement which betrayed alike the natural tendency of his mind
to seek pleasure in trifles, and the absence of those more elevating
feelings which are the fruits of education. The process, however,
furnished a striking exhibition of the physical force of the negro. In
order to conduct this trivial pursuit without incumbrance, he had rolled
the sleeve of his light canvas jacket to the elbow, and laid bare an arm
that might have served as a model for the limb of Hercules.
There was certainly nothing sufficiently imposing about the persons of
either of these individuals to repel the investigations of one as much
influenced by curiosity as our tailor. Instead, however, of yielding
directly to the strong impulse, the honest shaper of cloth chose to
conduct his advance in a manner that should afford to the bumpkin a
striking proof of his boasted sagacity. After making a sign of caution and
intelligence to the latter, he approached slowly from behind, with a light
step, that might give him an opportunity of overhearing any secret that
should unwittingly fall from either of the seamen. His forethought was
followed by no very important results, though it served to supply his
suspicions with all the additional testimony of the treachery of their
characters that could be furnished by evidence so simple as the mere sound
of their voices. As to the words themselves, though the good-man they
might well contain treason, he was compelled to acknowledge to himself
that it was so artfully concealed as to escape even his acute capacity We
leave the reader himself to judge of the correctness of both opinions.
"This is a pretty bight of a basin, Guinea," observed the white, rolling
his tobacco in his mouth and turning his eyes, for the first time in many
minutes, from the vessel; "and a spot is it that a man, who lay on a
lee-shore without sticks, might be glad to see his craft in. Now do I call
myself something of a seaman, and yet I cannot weather upon the philosophy
of that fellow, in keeping his ship in the outer harbour, when he might
warp her into this mill-pond in half an hour. It gives his boats hard
duty, dusky S'ip; and that I call making foul weather of fair!"
The negro had been christened Scipio Africanus, by a species of witticism
which was much more common to the Provinces than it is to the States of
America, and which filled so many of the meaner employments of the
country, in name at least, with the counterparts of the philosophers,
heroes, poets, and princes of Rome. To him it was a matter of small
moment, whether the vessel lay in the offing or in the port; and, without
discontinuing his childish amusement, he manifested the same, by replying,
with great indifference of manner,--
"I s'pose he t'ink all the water inside lie on a top."
"I tell you, Guinea," returned the other, in a harsh, positive tone, "the
fellow is a know-nothing! Would any man, who understands the behaviour of
a ship, keep his craft in a roadstead, when he might tie her, head and
stern, in a basin like this?"
"What he call roadstead?" interrupted the negro, seizing at once, with the
avidity of ignorance, on the little oversight of his adversary, in
confounding the outer harbour of Newport with the wilder anchorage below,
and with the usual indifference of all similar people to the more material
matter of whether the objection was at all germain to the point in
controversy; "I never hear 'em call anchoring ground, with land around it,
"Hark ye, mister Gold-coast," muttered the white, bending his head aside
in a threatening manner, though he still disdained to turn his eyes on his
humble adversary, "if you've no wish to wear your shins parcelled for the
next month, gather in the slack of your wit, and have an eye to the manner
in which you let it run again. Just tell me this; isn't a port a port? and
isn't an offing an offing?"
As these were two propositions to which even the ingenuity of Scipio could
raise no objection, he wisely declined touching on either, contenting
himself with shaking his head in great self-complacency, and laughing as
heartily, at his imaginary triumph over his companion, as though he had
never known care, nor been the subject of wrong and humiliation, so long
and so patiently endured.
"Ay, ay," grumbled the white, re-adjusting his person in its former
composed attitude, and again crossing the arms, which had been a little
separated, to give force to the menace against the tender member of the
black, "now you are piping the wind out of your throat like a flock of
long-shore crows, you think you've got the best of the matter. The Lord
made a nigger an unrational animal; and an experienced seaman, who has
doubled both Capes, and made all the head-lands atween Fundy and Horn, has
no right to waste his breath in teaching any of the breed! I tell you,
Scipio, since Scipio is your name on the ship's books, though I'll wager a
month's pay against a wooden boat-hook that your father was known at home
as Quashee, and your mother as Quasheeba--therefore do I tell you, Scipio
Africa--which is a name for all your colour, I believe--that yonder chap,
in the outer harbour of this here sea-port is no judge of an anchorage, or
he would drop a kedge mayhap hereaway, in a line with the southern end of
that there small matter of an island, and hauling his ship up to it,
fasten her to the spot with good hempen cables and iron mud-hooks. Now,
look you here, S'ip, at the reason of the matter," he continued, in a
manner which shewed that the little skirmish that had just passed was like
one of those sudden squalls of which they had both seen so many, and which
were usually so soon succeeded by corresponding seasons of calm; "look you
at the whole rationality of what I say. He has come into this anchorage
either for something or for nothing. I suppose you are ready to admit
that. If for nothing, he might have found that much outside, and I'll say
no more about it; but if for something, he could get it off easier,
provided the ship lay hereaway, just where I told you, boy, not a fathom
ahead or astern, than where she is now riding, though the article was no
heavier than a fresh handful of feathers for the captain's pillow. Now, if
you have any thing to gainsay the reason of this, why, I'm ready to hear
it as a reasonable man, and one who has not forgotten his manners in
learning his philosophy."
"S'pose a wind come out fresh here, at nor-west," answered the other,
stretching his brawny arm towards the point of the compass he named, "and
a vessel want to get to sea in a hurry, how you t'ink he get her far
enough up to lay through the weather reach? Ha! you answer me dat; you
great scholar, misser Dick, but you never see ship go in wind's teeth, or
hear a monkey talk."
"The black is right!" exclaimed the youth, who, it would seem, had
overheard the dispute, while he appeared otherwise engaged; "the slaver
has left his vessel in the outer harbour, knowing that the wind holds so
much to the westward at this season of the year; and then you see he
keeps his light spars aloft, although it is plain enough, by the manner in
which his sails are furled, that he is strong-handed Can you make out,
boys, whether he has an anchor under foot, or is he merely riding by a
"The man must be a driveller, to lie in such a tides-way, without dropping
his stream, or at least a kedge, to steady the ship," returned the white,
with out appearing to think any thing more than the received practice of
seamen necessary to decide the point. "That he is no great judge of an
anchorage, I am ready to allow; but no man, who can keep things so snug
aloft, would think of fastening his ship, for any length of time, by a
single cable, to sheer starboard and port, like that kicking colt, tied to
the tree by a long halter, that we fell in with, in our passage over land
"'Em got a stream down, and all a rest of he anchors stowed," said the
black, whose dark eye was glancing understandingly at the vessel, while he
still continued to east his pebbles into the air: "S'pose he jam a helm
hard a-port, misser Harry, and take a tide on he larboard bow, what you
t'ink make him kick and gallop about! Golly! I like to see Dick, without a
foot-rope, ride a colt tied to tree!"
Again the negro enjoyed his humour, by shaking his head, as if his whole
soul was amused by the whimsical image his rude fancy had conjured, and
indulged in a hearty laugh; and again his white companion muttered certain
exceedingly heavy and sententious denunciations. The young man, who seemed
to enter very little into the quarrels and witticisms of his singular
associates, still kept his gaze intently fastened on the vessel, which to
him appeared for the moment, to be the subject of some extraordinary
interest. Shaking his own head, though in a far graver manner, as if his
doubts were drawing to a close, he added, as the boisterous merriment or
the negro ceased,--
"Yes, Scipio, you are right: he rides altogether by his stream, and he
keeps every thing in readiness for a sudden move. In ten minutes he would
carry his ship beyond the fire of the battery, provided he had but a
capful of wind."
"You appear to be a judge in these matters," said an unknown voice behind
The youth turned suddenly on his heel, and then for the first time, was he
apprised of the presence of any intruders. The surprise, however, was not
confined to himself; for, as there was another newcomer to be added to the
company, the gossipping tailor was quite as much, or even more, the
subject of astonishment, than any of that party, whom he had been so
intently watching as to have prevented him from observing the approach of
still another utter stranger.
The third individual was a man between thirty and forty, and of a mien and
attire not a little adapted to quicken the already active curiosity of the
good-man Homespun. His person was slight, but afforded the promise of
exceeding agility, and even of vigour, especially when contrasted with his
stature which was scarcely equal to the medium height of man. His skin had
been dazzling as that of woman though a deep red, which had taken
possession of the lower lineaments of his face, and which was particularly
conspicuous on the outline of a fine aquiline nose, served to destroy all
appearance of effeminacy. His hair was like his complexion, fair and fell
about his temples in rich, glossy, and exuberant curls; His mouth and chin
were beautiful in their formation; but the former was a little scornful
and the two together bore a decided character of voluptuousness. The eye
was blue, full without being prominent, and, though in common placid and
even soft, there were moments when it seemed a little unsettled and wild.
He wore a high conical hat, placed a little on one side, so as to give a
slightly rakish expression to his physiognomy, a riding frock of light
green, breeches of buck-skin, high boots, and spurs. In one of his hands
he carried a small whip, with which, when first seen, he was cutting the
air with an appearance of the utmost indifference to the surprise
occasioned by his sudden interruption.
"I say, sir, you seem to be a judge in these matters," he repeated, when he
had endured the frowning examination of the young seaman quite as long as
comported with his own patience; "you speak like a man who feels he has a
right to give an opinion!"
"Do you find it remarkable that one should not be ignorant of a profession
that he has diligently pursued for a whole life?"
"Hum! I find it a little remarkable, that one, whose business is that of a
handicraft, should dignify his trade with such a sounding name as
_profession,_ We of the learned science of the law, and who enjoy the
particular smiles of the learned universities, can say no more!"
"Then call it trade; for nothing in common with gentlemen of your craft is
acceptable to a seaman," retorted the young mariner, turning away from the
intruder with a disgust that he did not affect to conceal.
"A lad of some metal!" muttered the other, with a rapid utterance and a
meaning smile. "Let not such a trifle as a word part us, friend. I confess
my ignorance of all maritime matters, and would gladly learn a little from
one as skilful as yourself in the noble--_profession_. I think you said
something concerning the manner in which yonder ship has an chored, and
of the condition in which they keep things alow and aloft?"
"_Alow_ and aloft!" exclaimed the young sailor, facing his interrogator
with a stare that was quite as expressive as his recent disgust.
"Alow and aloft!" calmly repeated the other.
"I spoke of her neatness aloft, but do not affect to judge of things below
at this distance."
"Then it was my error; but you will have pity on the ignorance of one who
is so new to the _profession_. As I have intimated, I am no more than an
unworthy barrister, in the service of his Majesty, expressly sent from
home on a particular errand. It it were not a pitiful pun, I might add, I
am not yet--judge."
"No doubt you will soon arrive at that distinction," returned the other,
"if his Majesty's ministers have any just conceptions of modest merit;
unless, indeed you should happen to be prematurely"----
The youth bit his lip, made a haughty inclination of the head, and walked
leisurely up the wharf, followed with the same appearance of deliberation,
by the two seamen who had accompanied him in his visit to the place. The
stranger in green watched the whole movement with a calm and apparently an
amused eye, tapping his boot with his whip, and seeming to reflect like
one who would willingly find means to continue the discourse.
"Hanged!" he at length uttered, as if to complete the sentence the other
had left unfinished. "It is droll enough that such a fellow should dare to
foretel so elevated a fate for _me_!"
He was evidently preparing to follow the retiring party, when he felt a
hand laid a little unceremoniously on his arm, and his step was arrested.
"One word in your ear, sir," said the attentive tailor, making a
significant sign that he had matters of importance to communicate: "A
single word, sir, since you are in the particular service of his Majesty.
Neighbour Pardon," he continued, with a dignified and patronising air,
"the sun is getting low, and you will make it late home, I fear. The girl
will give you the garment, and--God speed you! Say nothing of what you
have heard and seen, until you have word from me to that effect; for it is
seemly that two men, who have had so much experience in a war like this,
should not lack in discretion. Fare ye well, lad!--pass the good word to
the worthy farmer, your father, not forgetting a refreshing hint of
friendship to the thrifty housewife, your mother. Fare ye well, honest
youth; fare ye well!"
Homespun, having thus disposed of his admiring companion, waited, with
much elevation of mien, until the gaping bumpkin had left the wharf,
before he again turned his look on the stranger in green. The latter had
continued standing in his tracks, with an air of undisturbed composure,
until he was once more addressed by the tailor, whose character and
dimensions he seemed to have taken in, at a single glance of his rapid
"You say, sir, you are a servant of his Majesty?" demanded the latter,
determined to solve all doubts as to the other's claims on his confidence,
before he committed himself by any precipitate disclosure.
"I may say more;--his familiar confident!"
"It is an honour to converse with such a man, that I feel in every bone in
my body," returned the cripple, smoothing his scanty hairs, and bowing
nearly to the earth; "a high and loyal honour do I feel this gracious
privilege to be."
"Such as it is, my friend, I take on myself in his Majesty's name, to bid
"Such munificent condescension would open my whole heart, though treason,
and all other unrighteousness was locked up in it. I am happy, honoured
and I doubt not, honourable sir, to have this opportunity of proving my
zeal to the King, before one who will not fail to report my humble efforts
to his royal ears."
"Speak freely," interrupted the stranger in green, with an air of princely
condescension; though one, less simple and less occupied with his own
budding honours than the tailor, might have easily discovered that he
began to grow weary of the other's prolix loyalty: "Speak without reserve,
friend; it is what we always do at court." Then, switching his boot with
his riding whip, he muttered to himself, as he swung his light frame on
his heel, with an indolent, indifferent air, "If the fellow swallows that,
he is as stupid as his own goose!"
"I shall, sir, I shall; and a great proof of charity is it in one like
your noble self to listen. You see yonder tall ship, sir, in the outer
harbour of this loyal sea-port?"
"I do; she seems to be an object of general attention among the worthy
lieges of the place."
"Therein I conceive, sir, you have over-rated the sagacity of my townsmen.
She has been lying where you now see her for many days, and not a syllable
have I heard whispered against her character from mortal man, except
"Indeed!" muttered the stranger, biting the handle of his whip, and
fastening his glittering eyes intently on the features of the good-man,
which were literally swelling with the importance of his discovery; "and
what may be the nature of _your_ suspicions?"
"Why, sir, I maybe wrong--and God forgive me if I am--but this is no more
nor less than what has arisen in my mind on the subject. Yonder ship, and
her crew, bear the reputation of being innocent and harmless slavers,
among the good people of Newport and as such are they received and
welcomed in the place, the one to a safe and easy anchorage, and the
others among the taverners and shop-dealers. I would not have you imagine
that a single garment has ever gone from my fingers for one of all her
crew; no, let it be for ever remembered that the whole of their dealings
have been with the young tradesman named Tape, who entices customers to
barter, by backbiting and otherwise defiling the fair names of his betters
in the business: not a garment has been made by my hands for even the
"You are lucky," returned the stranger in green, "in being so well quit of
the knaves! and yet have you forgotten to name the particular offence with
which I am to charge them before the face of the King."
"I am coming as fast as possible to the weighty matter. You must know,
worthy and commendable sir, that I am a man that has seen much, and
suffered much, in his Majesty's service. Five bloody and cruel wars have I
gone through, besides other adventures and experiences, such as becomes a
humble subject to suffer meekly and in silence."
"All of which shall be directly communicated to the royal ear. And now,
worthy friend, relieve your mind, by a frank communication of your
"Thanks, honourable sir; your goodness in my behalf cannot be forgotten,
though it shall never be said that any impatience to seek the relief you
mention hurried me into a light and improper manner of unburthening my
mind. You must know, honoured gentleman, that yesterday, as I sat alone,
at this very hour, on my board, reflecting in my thoughts--for the plain
reason that my envious neighbour had enticed all the newly arrived
customers to his own shop--well, sir, the head will be busy when the hands
are idle; there I sat, as I have briefly told you, reflecting in my
thoughts, like any other accountable being, on the calamities of life,
and on the great experiences that I have had in the wars. For you must
know, valiant gentleman, besides the affair in the land of the Medes and
Persians, and the Porteous mob in Edinbro', five cruel and bloody"----
"There is that in your air which sufficiently proclaims the soldier,"
interrupted his listener, who evidently struggled to keep down his rising
impatience; "but, as my time is so precious, I would now more especially
hear what you have to say concerning yonder ship."
"Yes, sir, one gets a military look after seeing numberless wars; and so,
happily for the need of both, I have now come to the part of my secret
which touches more particularly on the character of that vessel. There sat
I, reflecting on the manner in which the strange seamen had been deluded
by my tonguey neighbour--for, as you should know, sir, a desperate talker
is that Tape, and a younker who has seen but one war at the
utmost--therefore, was I thinking of the manner in which he had enticed my
lawful customers from my shop, when, as one thought is the father of
another, the following concluding reasoning, as our pious priest has it
weekly in his reviving and searching discourses, came uppermost in my
mind: If these mariners were honest and conscientious slavers, would they
overlook a labouring man with a large family, to pour their well-earned
gold into the lap of a common babbler? I proclaimed to myself at once,
sir, that they would not. I was bold to say the same in my own mind, and,
thereupon, I openly put the question to all in hearing, If they are not
slavers, what are they? A question which the King himself would, in his
royal wisdom, allow to be a question easier asked than answered; upon
which I replied, If the vessel be no fair-trading slaver, nor a common
cruiser of his Majesty, it is as tangible as the best man's reasoning,
that she may be neither more nor less than the ship of that nefarious
pirate the Red Rover."
"The Red Rover!" exclaimed the stranger in green, with a start so natural
as to evidence that his dying interest in the tailor's narrative was
suddenly and powerfully revived. "That indeed would be a secret worth
having!--but why do you suppose the same?"
"For sundry reasons, which I am now about to name, in their respective
order. In the first place, she is an armed ship, sir. In the second, she
is no lawful cruiser, or the same would be publicly known, and by no one
sooner than myself, inasmuch as it is seldom that I do not finger a penny
from the King's ships. In the third place, the burglarious and unfeeling
conduct of the few seamen who have landed from her go to prove it; and,
lastly, what is well proved may be considered as substantially established
These are what, sir, I should call the opening premises of my inferences,
all of which I hope you will properly lay before the royal mind of his
The barrister in green listened to the somewhat wire-drawn deductions of
Homespun with great attention notwithstanding the confused and obscure
manner in which they were delivered by the aspiring tradesman. His keen
eye rolled quickly, and often, from the vessel to the countenance of his
companion; but several moments elapsed before he saw fit to make any
reply. The reckless gayety with which he had introduced himself, and which
he had hitherto maintained in the discourse, was entirely superseded by a
musing and abstracted air, which sufficiently proved, that, whatever
levity he might betray in common, he was far from being a stranger to deep
and absorbing thought. Suddenly throwing off his air of gravity, however,
he assumed one in which irony and sincerity were singularly blended and,
laying his hand familiarly on the shoulder of the expecting tailor, he
"You have communicated such matter as becometh a faithful and loyal
servant of the King. It is well known that a heavy price is set on the
head of the meanest follower of the Rover, and that a rich, ay, a splendid
reward will be the fortune of him who is the instrument of delivering the
whole knot of miscreants into the hands of the executioner. Indeed I know
not but some marked evidence of the royal pleasure might follow such a
service. There was Phipps, a man of humble origin, who received
"Knighthood!" echoed the tailor, in awful admiration.
"Knighthood," coolly repeated the stranger; "honourable and chivalric
knighthood. What may have been the appellation you received from your
sponsors in baptism?"
"My given name, gracious and grateful sir, is Hector."
"And the house itself?--the distinctive appellation of the family?"
"We have _always_ been called Homespun."
"Sir Hector Homespun will sound as well as another! But to secure these
rewards, my friend, it is necessary to be discreet. I admire your
ingenuity, and am a convert to your logic. You have so entirely
demonstrated the truth of your suspicions, that I have no more doubt of
yonder vessel being the pirate, than I have of your wearing spurs, and
being called sir Hector. The two things are equally established in my
mind: but it is needful that we proceed in the matter with caution. I
understand you to say, that no one else has been enlightened by your
erudition in this affair?"
"Not a soul. Tape himself is ready to swear that the crew are
"So best. We must first render conclusions certain; then to our reward.
Meet me at the hour of eleven this night, at yonder low point, where the
land juts into the outer harbour. From that stand will we make our
observations; and, having removed every doubt, let the morning produce a
discovery that shall ring from the Colony of the Bay to the settlements of
Oglethorpe. Until then we part; for it is not wise that we be longer seen
in conference. Remember silence, punctuality, and the favour of the King.
These are our watch-words."
"Adieu, honourable gentlemen," said his companion making a reverence
nearly to the earth, as the other slightly touched his hat in passing.
"Adieu, sir Hector," returned the stranger in green, with an affable smile
and a gracious wave of the hand. He then walked slowly up the wharf, and
disappeared behind the mansion of the Homespuns; leaving the head of that
ancient family, like many a predecessor and many a successor, so rapt in
the admiration of his own good fortune, and so blinded by his folly, that,
while physically he saw to the right and to the left as well as ever, his
mental vision was completely obscured in the clouds of ambition.
Alonzo. "Good boatswain, have care."--_Tempest._
The instant the stranger had separated from the credulous tailor, he lost
his assumed air in one far more natural and sedate. Still it would seem
that thought was an unwonted, or an unwelcome tenant of his mind; for,
switching his boot with his little riding whip, he entered the principal
street of the place with a light step and a wandering eye. Though his look
was unsettled, few of the individuals, whom he passed, escaped his quick
glances; and it was quite apparent, from the hurried manner in which he
began to regard objects, that his mind was not less active than his body.
A stranger thus accoutred, and one bearing about his person so many
evidences of his recent acquaintance with the road, did not fail to
attract the attention of the provident publicans we have had occasion to
mention in our opening chapter. Declining the civilities of the most
favoured of the inn-keepers, he suffered his steps to be, oddly enough,
arrested by the one whose house was the usual haunt of the hangers-on of
On entering the bar-room of this tavern, as it was called, but which in
the mother country would probably have aspired to be termed no more than a
pot-house he found the hospitable apartment thronged with its customary
revellers. A slight interruption was produced by the appearance of a guest
who was altogether superior, in mien and attire, to the ordinary customers
of the house, but it ceased the moment the stranger had thrown himself on
a bench, and intimated to the host the nature of his wants. As the latter
furnished the required draught, he made a sort of apology, which was
intended for the ears of all his customers nigh the stranger, for the
manner in which an individual, in the further end of the long narrow room,
not only monopolized the discourse, but appeared to extort the attention
of all within hearing to some portentous legend he was recounting.
"It is the boatswain of the slaver in the outer harbour, squire," the
worthy disciple of Bacchus concluded; "a man who has followed the water
many a day, and who has seen sights and prodigies enough to fill a smart
volume. Old Bor'us the people call him, though his lawful name is Jack
Nightingale. Is the toddy to the squire's relish?"
The stranger assented to the latter query, by smacking his lips, and
bowing, as he put down the nearly untouched draught. He then turned his
head, to examine the individual who might, by the manner in which he
declaimed, have been termed, in the language of the country, the second
"orator of the day."
A stature which greatly exceeded six feet; enormous whiskers, that quite
concealed a moiety of his grim countenance; a scar, which was the memorial
of a badly healed gash, that had once threatened to divide that moiety in
quarters; limbs in proportion; the whole rendered striking by the dress of
a sea man; a long, tarnished silver chain, and a little whistle of the
same metal, served to render the individual in question sufficiently
remarkable. Without appearing to be in the smallest decree aware of the
entrance of one altogether so superior to the class of his usual auditors,
this son of the Ocean continued his narrative as follows, and in a voice
that seemed given to him by nature as if in very mockery of his musical
name; indeed, so very near did his tones approach to the low murmurings of
a bull, that some little practice was necessary to accustom the ear to the
strangely uttered words.
"Well!" he continued, thrusting his brawny arm forth, with the fist
clenched, indicating the necessary point of the compass by the thumb; "the
coast of Guinea might have lain hereaway, and the wind you see, was dead
off shore, blowing in squalls, as a cat spits, all the same as if the old
fellow, who keeps it bagged for the use of us seamen, sometimes let the
stopper slip through his fingers, and was sometimes fetching it up again
with a double turn round the end of his sack.--You know what a sack is,
This abrupt question was put to the gaping bumpkin, already known to the
reader, who, with the nether garment just received from the tailor under
his arm, had lingered, to add the incidents of the present legend to the
stock of lore that he had already obtained for the ears of his kinsfolk in
the country. A general laugh, at the expense of the admiring Pardon
succeeded. Nightingale bestowed a knowing wink on one or two of his
familiars, and, profiting by the occasion, "to freshen his nip," as he
quaintly styled swallowing a pint of rum and water, he continued his
narrative by saying, in a sort of admonitory tone,--
"And the time may come when you will know what a round-turn is, too, if
you let go your hold of honesty. A man's neck was made, brother, to keep
his head above water, and not to be stretched out of shape like a pair of
badly fitted dead-eyes. Therefore have your reckoning worked up in season,
and the lead of conscience going, when you find yourself drifting on the
shoals of temptation." Then, rolling his tobacco in his mouth, he looked
boldly about him, like one who had acquitted himself of a moral
obligation, and continued: "Well, there lay the land, and, as I was
saying, the wind was here, at east-and-by-south or mayhap at
east-and-by-south-half-south, sometimes blowing like a fin-back in a
hurry, and sometimes leaving all the canvas chafing ag'in the rigging and
spars, as if a bolt of duck cost no more nor a rich man's blessing. I
didn't like the looks of the weather, seeing that there was altogether too
much unsartainty for a quiet watch, so I walked aft, in order to put
myself in the way of giving an opinion if-so-be such a thing should be
asked. You must know, brothers, that, according to my notions of religion
and behaviour, a man is not good for much, unless he has a full share of
manners; therefore I am never known to put my spoon into the captain's
mess, unless I am invited, for the plain reason, that my berth is
for'ard, and his'n aft. I do not say in which end of a ship the better man
is to be found; that is a matter concerning which men have different
opinions, though most judges in the business are agreed. But aft I walked,
to put myself in the way of giving an opinion, if one should be asked; nor
was it long before the thing came to pass just as I had foreseen. 'Mister
Nightingale,' says he; for our Captain is a gentleman, and never forgets
his behaviour on deck, or when any of the ship's company are at hand,
'_Mister_ Nightingale,' says he, 'what do you think of that rag of a
cloud, hereaway at the north-west?' says he. 'Why, sir,' says I, boldly,
for I'm never backward in speaking, when properly spoken to, so, 'why,
sir,' says I, 'saving your Honour's better judgment,'--which was all a
flam, for he was but a chicken to me in years and experience, but then I
never throw hot ashes to windward, or any thing else that is warm--so,
'sir,' says I, 'it is my advice to hand the three topsails and to stow the
jib. We are in no hurry; for the plain reason, that Guinea will be
to-morrow just where Guinea is to-night. As for keeping the ship steady in
these matters of squalls, we have the mainsail on her--'"
"You should have furl'd your mainsail too," exclaimed a voice from behind,
that was quite as dogmatical, though a little less grum, than that of the
"What know-nothing says that?" demanded Nightingale fiercely, as if all
his latent ire was excited by so rude and daring an interruption.
"A man who has run Africa down, from Bon to Good-Hope, more than once, and
who knows a white squall from a rainbow," returned Dick Fid, edging his
short person stoutly towards his furious adversary, making his way through
the crowd by which the important personage of the boatswain was environed
by dint of his massive shoulders; "ay, brother, and a man, know-much or
know-nothing, who would never advise his officer to keep so much
after-sail on a ship, when there was the likelihood of the wind taking her
To this bold vindication of an opinion which all present deemed to be so
audacious, there succeeded a general and loud murmur. Encouraged by this
evidence of his superior popularity, Nightingale was not slow, nor very
meek, with his retort; and then followed a clamorous concert, in which the
voices of the company in general served for the higher and shriller notes,
through which the bold and vigorous assertions, contradictions, and
opinions of the two principal disputants were heard running a
For some time, no part of the discussion was very distinct, so great was
the confusion of tongues; and there were certain symptoms of an intention,
on the part of Fid and the boatswain, to settle their controversy by the
last appeal. During this moment of suspense, the former had squared his
firm-built frame in front of his gigantic opponent, and there were very
vehement passings and counter-passings, in the way of gestures from four
athletic arms, each of which was knobbed, like a fashionable rattan, with
a lump of bones, knuckles, and sinews, that threatened annihilation to any
thing that should oppose them. As the general clamour, however, gradually
abated, the chief reasoners began to be heard; and, as if content to rely
on their respective powers of eloquence, each gradually relinquished his
hostile attitude, and appeared disposed to maintain his ground by a member
scarcely less terrible than his brawny arm.
"You are a bold seaman, brother," said Nightingale resuming his seat,
"and, if saying was doing, no doubt you would make a ship talk. But I, who
have seen fleets of two and three deckers--and that of all nations,
except your Mohawks, mayhap, whose cruisers I will confess never to have
fallen in with--lying as snug as so many white gulls, under reefed
mainsails, know how to take the strain off a ship, and to keep my
bulkheads in their places."
"I deny the judgment of heaving-to a boat under her after square-sails,"
retorted Dick. "Give her the stay-sails, if you will, and no harm done;
but a true seaman will never get a bagful of wind between his mainmast and
his lee-swifter, if-so-be he knows his business. But words are like
thunder, which rumbles aloft, without coming down a spar, as I have yet
seen; let us therefore put the question to some one who has been on the
water, and knows a little of life and of ships."
"If the oldest admiral in his Majesty's fleet was here, he wouldn't be
backward in saying who is right and who is wrong. I say, brothers, if
there is a man among you all who has had the advantage of a sea education,
let him speak, in order that the truth of this matter may not be hid, like
a marling-spike jammed between a brace-block and a blackened yard."
"Here, then, is the man," returned Fid; and, stretching out his arm, he
seized Scipio by the collar, and drew him, without ceremony, into the
centre of the circle, that had opened around the two disputants "There is
a man for you, who has made one more voyage between this and Africa than
myself, for the reason that he was born there. Now, answer as if you were
hallooing from a lee-earing, S'ip, under what sail would you heave-to a
ship, on the coast of your native country, with the danger of a white
squall at hand?"
"I no heave-'em-to," said the black, "I make 'em scud."
"Ay, boy; but, to be in readiness for the puff, would you jam her up under
a mainsail, or let her lie a little off under a fore course?"
"Any fool know dat," returned Scipio, grumly and evidently tired already
of being thus catechised.
"If you want 'em fall off, how you'm expect, in reason, he do it under a
main course? You answer me dat, misser Dick."
"Gentlemen," said Nightingale, looking about him with an air of great
gravity, "I put it to your Honours, is it genteel behaviour to bring a
nigger, in this out-of-the-way fashion, to give an opinion in the teeth of
a white man?"
This appeal to the wounded dignity of the company was answered by a common
murmur. Scipio, who was prepared to maintain, and would have maintained,
his professional opinion, after his positive and peculiar manner, against
any disputant, had not the heart to resist so general an evidence of the
impropriety of his presence. Without uttering a word in vindication or
apology, he folded his arms, and walked out of the house, with the
submission and meekness of one who had been too long trained in humility
to rebel. This desertion on the part of his companion was not, however, so
quietly acquiesced in by Fid, who found himself thus unexpectedly deprived
of the testimony of the black. He loudly remonstrated against his retreat;
but, finding it in vain, he crammed the end of several inches of tobacco
into his mouth, swearing, as he followed the African, and keeping his eye,
at the same time, firmly fastened on his adversary, that, in his opinion,
"the lad, if he was fairly skinned, would be found to be the whiter man of
The triumph of the boatswain was now complete; nor was he at all sparing
of his exultation.
"Gentlemen," he said, addressing himself, with an air of increased
confidence, to the motley audience who surrounded him, "you see that
reason is like a ship bearing down with studding-sails on both sides,
leaving a straight wake and no favours. Now, I scorn boasting, nor do I
know who the fellow is who has just sheered off, in time to save his
character, but this I will say, that the man is not to be found, between
Boston and the West Indies, who knows better than myself how to make a
ship walk, or how to make her stand still, provided I"--
The deep voice of Nightingale became suddenly hushed, and his eye was
riveted, by a sort of enchantment on the keen glance of the stranger in
green, whose countenance was now seen blended among the more vulgar faces
of the crowd.
"Mayhap," continued the boatswain, swallowing his words, in the surprise
of seeing himself so unexpectedly confronted by so imposing an eye,
"mayhap this gentleman has some knowledge of the sea, and can decide the
matter in dispute."
"We do not study naval tactics at the universities," returned the other
briskly, "though I will confess, from the little I have heard, I am
altogether in favour of _scudding._"
He pronounced the latter word with an emphasis which rendered it
questionable if he did not mean to pun; the more especially as he threw
down his reckoning and instantly left the field to the quiet possession of
Nightingale. The latter, after a short pause, resumed his narrative,
though, either from weariness or some other cause, it was observed that
his voice was far less positive than before, and that his tale was cut
prematurely short. After completing his narrative and his grog, he
staggered to the beach, whither a boat was shortly after despatched to
convey him on board the ship, which, during all this time, had not ceased
to be the constant subject of the suspicious examination of the good-man
In the mean while, the stranger in green had pursued his walk along the
main street of the town. Fid had given chase to the disconcerted Scipio,
grumbling as he went, and uttering no very delicate remarks on the
knowledge and seamanship of the boatswain. They soon joined company again,
the former changing his attack to the negro, whom he liberally abused, for
abandoning a point which he maintained was as simple, and as true, as
"that yonder bit of a schooner would make more way, going wing-and-wing,
than jammed up on a wind."
Probably diverted with the touches of peculiar character he had detected
in this singular pair of confederates, or possibly led by his own wayward
humour, the stranger followed their footsteps. After turning from the
water, they mounted a hill, the latter a little in the rear of his pilots,
until he lost sight of them in a bend of the street, or rather road; for
by this time, they were past even the little suburbs of the town.
Quickening his steps, the barrister, as he had announced himself to be,
was glad to catch a glimpse of the two worthies, seated under a fence
several minutes after he had believed them lost. They were making a frugal
meal, off the contents of a little bag which the white had borne under his
arm and from which he now dispensed liberally to his companion, who had
taken his post sufficiently nigh to proclaim that perfect amity was
restored, though still a little in the back ground, in deference to the
superior condition which the other enjoyed through favour of his colour.
Approaching the spot, the stranger observed,--
"If you make so free with the bag, my lads, your third man may have to go
supperless to bed."
"Who hails?" said Dick, looking up from his bone, with an expression much
like that of a mastiff when engaged at a similar employment.
"I merely wished to remind you that you had another messmate," cavalierly
returned the other.
"Will you take a cut, brother?" said the seaman, offering the bag, with
the liberality of a sailor, the moment he fancied there was an indirect
demand made on its contents.
"You still mistake my meaning; on the wharf you had another companion."
"Ay, ay; he is in the offing there, overhauling that bit of a light-house,
which is badly enough moored unless they mean it to shew the channel to
your ox-teams and inland traders; hereaway, gentlemen, where you see that
pile of stones which seems likely to be coming down shortly by-the-run."
The stranger looked in the direction indicated by the other, and saw the
young mariner, to whom he had alluded, standing at the foot of a ruined
tower, which was crumbling under the slow operations of time, at no great
distance from the place where he stood. Throwing a handful of small change
to the seamen, he wished them a better meal, and crossed the fence, with
an apparent intention of examining the ruin also.
"The lad is free with his coppers," said Dick, suspending the movements of
his teeth, to give the stranger another and a better look; "but, as they
will not grow where he has planted them, S'ip, you may turn them over to
my pocket. An off-handed and a free-handed chap that, Africa; but then
these law-dealers get all their pence of the devil, and they are sure of
more, when the shot begins to run low in the locker."
Leaving the negro to collect the money, and to transfer it, as in duty
bound, to the hands of him who, if not his master, was at all times ready
and willing to exercise the authority of one, we shall follow the stranger
in his walk toward, the tottering edifice. There was little about the ruin
itself to attract the attention of one who, from his assertions, had
probably often enjoyed the opportunities of examining far more imposing
remains of former ages, on the other side of the Atlantic. It was a small
circular tower, which stood on rude pillars, connected by arches, and
might have been constructed, in the infancy of the country, as a place of
defence, though it is far more probable that it was a work of a less
warlike nature. More than half a century after the period of which we are
writing, this little edifice, peculiar in its form, its ruinous condition,
and its materials, has suddenly become the study and the theme of that
very learned sort of individual the American antiquarian. It is not
surprising that a ruin thus honoured should have become the object of many
a hot and erudite discussion. While the chivalrous in the arts and in the
antiquities of the country have been gallantly breaking their lances
around the mouldering walls, the less instructed and the less zealous have
regarded the combatants with the same species of wonder as they would have
manifested had they been present when the renowned knight of La Mancha
tilted against those other wind-mills so ingeniously described by the
On reaching the place, the stranger in green gave his boot a smart blow
with the riding whip, as if to attract the attention of the abstracted
young sailor, and freely remarked,--
"A very pretty object this would be, if covered with ivy, to be seen
peeping through an opening in a wood. But I beg pardon; gentlemen of your
_profession_ have little to do with woods and crumbling stones. Yonder is
the tower," pointing to the tail masts of the ship in the outer harbour,
"you love to look on; and your only ruin is a wreck!"
"You seem familiar with our tastes, sir," coldly returned the other.
"It is by instinct, then; for it is certain I have had but little
opportunity of acquiring my knowledge by actual communion with any of
the--cloth; nor do I perceive that I am likely to be more fortunate at
present. Let us be frank, my friend, and talk in amity: What do you see
about this pile of stones, that can keep you so long from your study of
yonder noble and gallant ship?"
"Did it then surprise you that a seaman out of employment should examine a
vessel that he finds to his mind, perhaps with an intention to ask for
"Her commander must be a dull fellow, if he refuse it to so proper a lad!
But you seem to be too well instructed for any of the meaner births."
"Births!" repeated the other, again fastening his eyes, with a singular
expression, on the stranger in green.
"Births! It is your nautical word for 'situation, or; station;' is it not?
We know but little of the marine vocabulary, we barristers; but I think I
may venture on that as the true Doric. Am I justified by your authority?"
"The word is certainly not yet obsolete; and, by a figure, it is as
certainly correct in the sense you used it."
"Obsolete!" repeated the stranger in green, returning the meaning look he
had just received: "Is that the name of any part of a ship? Perhaps, by
_figure_, you mean figure-head; and, by _obsolete_, the long-boat!"
The young seaman laughed; and, as if this sally had broken through the
barrier of his reserve, his manner lost much of its cold restraint during
the remainder of their conference.
"It is just as plain," he said, "that you have been at sea, as it is that
I have been at school. Since we have both been so fortunate, we may afford
to be generous and cease speaking in parables. For instance, what think
you has been the object and use of this ruin, when it was in good
"In order to judge of that," returned the stranger in green, "it may be
necessary to examine it more closely. Let us ascend."
As he spoke, the barrister mounted, by a crazy ladder, to the floor which
lay just above the crown of the arches, through which he passed by an open
trapdoor His companion hesitated to follow; but, observing that the other
expected him at the summit of the ladder, and that he very kindly pointed
out a defective round, he sprang forward, and went up the ascent with the
agility and steadiness peculiar to his calling.
"Here we are!" exclaimed the stranger in green, looking about at the naked
walls, which were formed of such small and irregular stones as to give the
building the appearance of dangerous frailty, "with good oaken plank for
our deck, as you would say, and the sky for our roof, as we call the upper
part of a house at the universities. Now let us speak of things on the
lower world. A--a--; I forget what you said was your usual appellation--"
"That might depend on circumstances. I have been known by different names
in different situations However, if you call me Wilder, I shall not fail
"Wilder!" a good name; though, I dare say, it would have been as true were
it Wildone. You young ship-boys have the character of being a little
erratic in your humours at times. How many tender hearts have you left to
sigh for your errors, amid shady bowers, while you have been
ploughing--that is the word, I believe--ploughing the salt-sea ocean?"
"Few sigh for me," returned Wilder, thoughtfully, though he evidently
began to chafe a little under this free sort of catechism. "Let us now
return to our study of the tower. What think you has been its object?"
"Its present use is plain, and its former use can be no great mystery. It
holds at this moment two light hearts; and, if I am not mistaken, as many
light heads, not overstocked with the stores of wisdom. Formerly it had
its granaries of corn, at least, and, I doubt not, certain little
quadrupeds, who were quite as light of fingers as we are of head and
heart. In plain English, it has been a mill"
"There are those who think it had been a fortress."
"Hum! The place might do, at need," returned he in green, casting a rapid
and peculiar glance around him. "But mill it has been, notwithstanding one
might wish it a nobler origin. The windy situation the pillars to keep off
the invading vermin, the shape, the air, the very complexion, prove it.
Whir-r-r, whir-r-r; there has been clatter enough here in time past, I
warrant you. Hist! It is not done yet!"
Stepping lightly to one of the little perforations which had once served
as windows to the tower, he cautiously thrust his head through the
opening; and, after gazing there half a minute, he withdrew it again,
making a gesture to the attentive Wilder to be silent. The latter
complied; nor was it long before the nature of the interruption was
The silvery voice of woman was first heard at a little distance; and then,
as the speakers drew nigher the sounds arose directly from beneath, within
the very shadow of the tower. By a sort of tacit consent, Wilder and the
barrister chose spots favourable to the execution of such a purpose; and
each continued, during the time the visiters remained near the ruin,
examining their persons, unseen themselves, and we are sorry we must do so
much violence to the breeding of two such important characters in our
legend, amused and attentive listeners also to their conversation.
"They fool me to the top of my bent."--_Hamlet._
The party below consisted of four individuals all of whom were females.
One was a lady in the decline of her years; another was past the middle
age the third was on the very threshold of what is called "life," as it is
applied to intercourse with the world; and the fourth was a negress, who
might have seen some five-and-twenty revolutions of the seasons. The
latter, at that time, and in that country, of course appeared only in the
character of a humble, though perhaps favoured domestic.
"And now, my child, that I have given you all the advice which
circumstances and your own excellent heart need," said the elderly lady,
among the first words that were distinctly intelligible to the listeners,
"I will change the ungracious office to one more agreeable. You will tell
your father of my continued affection, and of the promise he has given,
that you are to return once again, before we separate for the last time."
This speech was addressed to the younger female, and was apparently
received with as much tenderness and sincerity as it was uttered. The one
who was addressed raised her eyes, which were glittering with tears she
evidently struggled to conceal, and answered in a voice that sounded in
the ears of the two youthful listeners like the notes of the Syren, so
very sweet and musical were its tones.
"It is useless to remind me of a promise, my beloved aunt, which I have so
much interest in remembering," she said. "I hope for even more than you
have perhaps dared to wish; if my father does not return with me in the
spring, it shall not be for want of urging on my part."
"Our good Wyllys will lend her aid," returned the aunt, smiling and
bowing to the third female, with that mixture of suavity and form which
was peculiar to the stately manners of the time, and which was rarely
neglected, when a superior addressed an inferior. "She is entitled to
command some interest with General Grayson, from her fidelity and
"She is entitled to everything that love and heart can give!" exclaimed
the niece, with a haste and earnestness that proclaimed how willingly she
would temper the formal politeness of the other by the warmth of her own
affectionate manner; "my father will scarcely refuse _her_ any thing."
"And have we the assurance of Miss Wyllys that she will be in our
interests?" demanded the aunt, without permitting her own sense of
propriety to be overcome by the stronger feelings of her niece; "with so
powerful an ally, our league will be invincible."
"I am so entirely of opinion, that the salubrious air of this healthful
island is of great importance to my young charge, Madam, that, were all
other considerations wanting, the little I can do to aid your wishes shall
be sure to be done."
Wyllys spoke with dignity, and perhaps with some portion of that reserve
which distinguished all the communications between the wealthy and
high-born aunt and the salaried and dependent governess of her brother's
heiress. Still her manner was gentle, and the voice, like that of her
pupil, soft and strikingly feminine.
"We may then consider the victory as achieved, as my late husband the
Rear-Admiral was accustomed to say. Admiral de Lacey, my dear Mrs Wyllys,
adopted it in early life as a maxim, by which all his future conduct was
governed, and by adhering to which he acquired no small share of his
professional reputation, that, in order to be successful, it was only
necessary to be determined one would be so;--a noble and inspiriting rule,
and one that could not fail to lead to those signal results which, as we
all know them, I need not mention."
Wyllys bowed her head, in acknowledgment of the truth of the opinion, and
in testimony of the renown of the deceased Admiral; but did not think it
necessary to make any reply. Instead of allowing the subject to occupy her
mind any longer, she turned to her young pupil, and observed, speaking in
a voice and with a manner from which every appearance of restraint was
"Gertrude, my love, you will have pleasure in returning to this charming
island, and to these cheering sea breezes."
"And to my aunt!" exclaimed Gertrude. "I wish my father could be persuaded
to dispose of his estates in Carolina, and come northward, to reside the
"It is not quite as easy for an affluent proprietor to remove as you may
imagine, my child," returned Mrs de Lacey. "Much as I wish that some such
plan could be adopted, I never press my brother on the subject. Besides, I
am not certain, that, if we were ever to make another change in the
family, it would not be to return _home_ altogether. It is now more than a
century, Mrs Wyllys, since the Graysons came into the colonies, in a
moment of dissatisfaction with the government in England. My
great-grandfather sir Everard, was displeased with his second son, and the
dissension led my grandfather to the province of Carolina. But, as the
breach has long since been healed, I often think my brother and myself may
yet return to the halls of our ancestors. Much will, however, depend on
the manner in which we dispose of our treasure on this side of the
As the really well-meaning, though, perhaps, a little too much
self-satisfied lady concluded her remark, she glanced her eye at the
perfectly unconscious subject of the close of her speech. Gertrude had, as
usual, when her aunt chose to favour her governess with any of her family
reminiscences, turned her head aside, and was now offering her cheek,
burning with health, and perhaps a little with shame, to the cooling
influence of the evening breeze. The instant the voice of Mrs de Lacey had
ceased, she turned hastily to her companions; and, pointing to a
noble-looking ship, whose masts, as it lay in the inner harbour, were seen
rising above the roofs of the town, she exclaimed, as if glad to change
the subject in any manner,--
"And yonder gloomy prison is to be our home, dear Mrs Wyllys, for the next
"I hope your dislike to the sea has magnified the time," mildly returned
her governess; "the passage between this place and Carolina has been often
made in a shorter period."
"That it has been so done, I can testify," resumed the Admiral's widow,
adhering a little pertinaciously to a train of thoughts, which, once
thoroughly awakened in her bosom, was not easily diverted into another
channel, "since my late estimable and (I feel certain all who hear me will
acquiesce when I add) gallant husband once conducted a squadron of his
Royal Master, from one extremity of his Majesty's American dominions to
the other, in a time less than that named by my niece: It may have made
some difference in his speed that he was in pursuit of the enemies of his
King and country, but still the fact proves that the voyage can be made
within the month."
"There is that dreadful Henlopen, with its sandy shoals and shipwrecks on
one hand, and that stream they call the Gulf on the other!" exclaimed
Gertrude, with a shudder, and a burst of natural female terror, which
makes timidity sometimes attractive, when exhibited in the person of youth
and beauty. "If it were not for Henlopen, and its gales, and its shoals,
and its gulfs, I could think only of the pleasure of meeting my father."
Mrs Wyllys, who never encouraged her pupil in those, natural weaknesses,
however pretty and be coming they might appear to other eyes, turned with
a steady mien to the young lady, as she remarked, with a brevity and
decision that were intended to put the question of fear at rest for
"If all the dangers you appear to apprehend existed in reality, the
passage would not be made daily or even hourly, in safety. You have often,
Madam, come from the Carolinas by sea, in company with Admiral de Lacey?"
"Never," the widow promptly and a little drily remarked. "The water has
not agreed with my constitution, and I have never neglected to journey by
land. But then you know, Wyllys, as the consort and relict of a
flag-officer, it was not seemly that I should be ignorant of naval
science. I believe there are few ladies in the British empire who are more
familiar with ships, either singly or in squadron particularly the latter,
than myself. This in formation I have naturally acquired, as the companion
of an officer, whose fortune it was to lead fleets. I presume these are
matters of which you are profoundly ignorant."
The calm, dignified countenance of Wyllys, on which it would seem as if
long cherished and painful recollections had left a settled, but mild
expression of sorrow, that rather tempered than destroyed the traces of
character which were still remarkable in her firm collected eye, became
clouded, for a moment, with a deeper shade of melancholy. After
hesitating, as if willing to change the subject, she replied,--
"I have not been altogether a stranger to the sea. It has been my lot to
have made many long, and some perilous voyages."
"As a mere passenger. But we wives of sailors only, among our sex, can lay
claim to any real knowledge of the noble profession! What natural object
is there, or can there be," exclaimed the nautical dowager, in a burst of
professional enthusiasm, "finer than a stately ship breasting the billows,
as I have heard the Admiral say a thousand times, its taffrail ploughing
the main, and its cut-water gliding after, like a sinuous serpent pursuing
its shining wake, as a living creature choosing its path on the land, and
leaving the bone under its fore-foot, a beacon for those that follow? I
know not, my dear Wyllys, if I make myself intelligible to you, but, to my
instructed eye, this charming description conveys a picture of all that is
grand and beautiful!"
The latent smile, on the countenance of the governess might have betrayed
that she was imagining the deceased Admiral had not been altogether devoid
of the waggery of his vocation, had not a slight noise, which sounded like
the rustling of the wind, but which in truth was suppressed laughter,
proceeded from the upper room of the tower. The words, "It is lovely!"
were still on the lips of the youthful Gertrude, who saw all the beauty of
the picture her aunt had essayed to describe, without descending to the
humble employment of verbal criticism. But her voice became hushed, and
her attitude that of startled attention:--
"Did you hear nothing?" she said.
"The rats have not yet altogether deserted the mill," was the calm reply
"Mill! my dear Mrs Wyllys, will you persist in calling this picturesque
ruin _a mill_?"
"However fatal it may be to its charms, in the eyes of eighteen, I must
call it _a mill_."
"Ruins are not so plenty in this country, my dear governess," returned her
pupil, laughing, while the ardour of her eye denoted how serious she was
in defending her favourite opinion, "as to justify us in robbing them of
any little claims to interest they may happen to possess."
"Then, happier is the country! Ruins in a land are, like most of the signs
of decay in the human form, sad evidences of abuses and passions, which
have hastened the inroads of time. These provinces are like yourself, my
Gertrude, in their freshness and their youth, and, comparatively, in their
innocence also. Let us hope for both a long, an useful, and a happy
"Thank you for myself, and for my country; but still I can never admit
this picturesque ruin has been _a mill_."
"Whatever it may have been, it has long occupied its present place, and
has the appearance of continuing where it is much longer, which is more
than can be said of our prison, as you call yonder stately ship, in which
we are so soon to embark. Unless my eyes deceive me, Madam, those masts
are moving slowly past the chimnies of the town."
"You are very right, Wyllys. The seamen are towing the vessel into the
outer harbour, where they will warp her fast to the anchors, and thus
secure her, until they shall be ready to unmake their sails, in order to
put to sea in the morning. This is a manoeuvre often performed, and one
which the Admiral has so clearly explained, that I should find little
difficulty in superintending it in my own person, were it suitable to my
sex and station."
"This is, then, a hint that all our own preparations are not completed.
However lovely this spot may seem, Gertrude, we must now leave it, for
some months at least."
"Yes," continued Mrs de Lacey, slowly following the footsteps of the
governess, who had already moved from beneath the ruin; "whole fleets have
often been towed to their anchors, and there warped, waiting for wind and
tide to serve. None of our sex know the dangers of the Ocean, but we who
have been bound in the closest of all ties to officers of rank and great
service; and none others can ever truly enjoy the real grandeur of the
ennobling profession. A charming object is a vessel cutting the waves with
her taffrail, and chasing her wake on the trackless waters, like a courser
that ever keeps in his path, though dashing madly on at the very top of
The reply of Mrs Wyllys was not audible to the covert listeners. Gertrude
had followed her companions; but, when at some little distance from the
tower, she paused, to take a parting look at its mouldering walls. A
profound stillness succeeded for more than a minute.
"There is something in that pile of stones, Cassandra," she said to the
jet-black maiden at her elbow, "that could make me wish it had been
something more than a mill."
"There rat in 'em," returned the literal and simple-minded black; "you
hear what Misse Wyllys say?"
Gertrude turned, laughed, patted the dark cheek of her attendant with
fingers that looked like snow by the contrast, as if to chide her for
wishing to destroy the pleasing illusion she would so gladly harbour and
then bounded down the hill after her aunt and governess, like a joyous and
The two singularly consorted listeners in the tower stood gazing, at
their respective look-outs, so long as the smallest glimpse of the flowing
robe of her light form was to be seen and then they turned to each other,
and stood confronted, the eyes of each endeavouring to read the expression
of his neighbour's countenance.
"I am ready to make an affidavit before my Lord High Chancellor," suddenly
exclaimed the barrister, "that this has never been a mill!"
"Your opinion has undergone a sudden change!"
"I am open to conviction, as I hope to be a judge. The case has been
argued by a powerful advocate, and I have lived to see my error."
"And yet there are rats in the place."
"Land rats, or water rats?" quickly demanded the other, giving his
companion one of those startling and searching glances, which his keen eye
had so freely at command.
"Both, I believe," was the dry and caustic reply; "certainly the former,
or the gentlemen of the long robe are much injured by report."
The barrister laughed; nor did his temper appear in the slightest degree
ruffled at so free an allusion at his learned and honourable profession.
"You gentlemen of the Ocean have such an honest and amusing frankness
about you," he said, "that I vow to God you are overwhelming. I am a
downright admirer of your noble calling, and something skilled in its
terms. What spectacle, for instance, can be finer than a noble ship
'stemming the waves with her taffrail,' and chasing her wake, like a racer
on the course!"
"Leaving the 'bone in her mouth' under her stern, as a light-house for all
that come after!"
Then, as if they found singular satisfaction in dwelling on these images
of the worthy relict of the gallant Admiral, they broke out simultaneously
into a fit of clamorous merriment, that caused the old ruin to ring, as
in its best days of windy power. The barrister was the first to regain his
self-command, for the mirth of the young mariner was joyous, and without
the least restraint.
"But this is dangerous ground for any but a seaman's widow to touch," the
former observed, as suddenly causing his laughter to cease as he had
admitted of its indulgence. "The younger, she who is no lover of a mill,
is a rare and lovely creature! it would seem that she is the niece of the
The young manner ceased laughing in his turn, as though he were suddenly
convinced of the glaring impropriety of making so near a relative of the
fair vision he had seen the subject of his merriment. Whatever might have
been his secret thoughts, he was content with replying,--
"She so declared herself."
"Tell me," said the barrister, walking close to the other, like one who
communicated an important secret in the question, "was there not something
remarkable searching, extraordinary, heart-touching, in the voice of her
they called Wyllys?"
"Did you note it?"
"It sounded to me like the tones of an oracle--the whisperings of
fancy--the very words of truth! It was a strange and persuasive voice!"
"I confess I felt its influence, and in a way for which I cannot account!"
"It amounts to infatuation!" returned the barrister pacing up and down the
little apartment, every trace of humour and irony having disappeared in a