Part 3 out of 9
concerning the different vessels in the port."
"Then would I, though perfectly disinterested, as you know, sir,
recommend you to make this house your home, while you sojourn in the town.
It is the resort of most of the sea-faring men; and I may say this much of
myself, without conceit--No man can tell you more of what you want to
know, than the landlord of the 'Foul Anchor.'"
"You advise an application to the Commander of this vessel, in the stream,
for a birth: Will she sail so soon as you have named?"
"With the first wind. I know the whole history of the ship, from the day
they laid the blocks for her keel to the minute when she let her anchor go
where you now see her. The great Southern Heiress, General Grayson's fine
daughter, is to be a passenger she, and her overlooker, Government-lady, I
believe they call her--a Mrs Wyllys--are waiting for the signal, up here,
at the residence of Madam de Lacey; she that is the relict of the
Rear-Admiral of that name, who is full-sister to the General; and,
therefore, an aunt to the young lady, according to my reckoning. Many
people think the two fortunes will go together; in which case, he will be
not only a lucky man, but a rich one, who gets Miss Getty Gray son for a
The stranger, who had maintained rather an indifferent manner during the
close of the foregoing dialogue appeared now disposed to enter into it,
with a degree of interest suited to the sex and condition of the present
subject of their discourse. After waiting to catch the last syllable that
the publican chose to expend his breath on, he demanded, a little
"And you say the house near us, on the rising ground, is the residence of
Mrs de Lacey?"
"If I did, I know nothing of the matter. By 'up here,' I mean half a mile
off. It is a place fit for a lady of her quality, and none of your elbowy
dwellings like these crowded about us. One may easily tell the house, by
its pretty blinds and its shades. I'll engage there are no such shades, in
all Europe, as them very trees that stand before the door of Madam de
"It is very probable," muttered the stranger, who, not appearing quite as
sensitive in his provincial admiration as the publican, had already
relapsed into his former musing air. Instead of pushing the discourse, he
suddenly turned the subject, by making some common-place remark; and then,
repeating the probability of his being obliged to return, he walked
deliberately away, taking the direction of the residence of Mrs de Lacey.
The observing publican would, probably, have found sufficient matter for
observation, in this abrupt termination of the interview, had not Desire,
at that precise moment, broken out of her habitation, and diverted his
attention, by the peculiarly piquant manner in which she delineated the
character of her delinquent husband.
The reader has probably, ere this, suspected that the individual who had
conferred with the publican, as a stranger, was not unknown to himself. It
was, in truth, no other than Wilder. But, in the completion of his own
secret purposes, the young mariner left the wordy war in his rear; and,
turning up the gentle ascent, against the side of which the town is built,
he proceeded towards the suburbs.
It was not difficult to distinguish the house he sought, among a dozen
other similar retreats, by its "shades," as the innkeeper, in conformity
to a provincial use of the word, had termed a few really noble elms that
grew in the little court before its door. In order, however, to assure
himself that he was right, he confirmed his surmises by actual inquiry and
then continued thoughtfully on his path. The morning had, by this time,
fairly opened with every appearance of another of those fine bland,
autumnal days for which the climate is, or ought to be, so distinguished.
The little air there was, came from the south, fanning the face of our
adventurer as he occasionally paused, in his ascent, to gaze at the
different vessels in the harbour, like a mild breeze in June. In short, it
was just such a time as one, who is fond of strolling in the fields, is
apt to seize on with rapture, and which a seaman sets down as a day lost
in his reckoning.
Wilder was first drawn from his musings by the sound of a dialogue that
came from persons who were evidently approaching. There was one voice, in
particular, that caused his blood to thrill, he knew not why, and which
appeared unaccountably, even to himself, to set in motion every latent
faculty of his system. Profiting, by the formation of the ground, he
sprang, unseen, up a little bank, and, approaching an angle in a low wall,
he found himself in the immediate proximity of the speakers.
The wall enclosed the garden and pleasure-grounds of a mansion, that he
now perceived was the residence of Mrs de Lacey. A rustic summer-house
which, in the proper season, had been nearly buried in leaves and flowers,
stood at no great distance from the road. By its elevation and position,
it commanded a view of the town, the harbour, the isles of Massachusetts
to the east, those of the Providence Plantations to the west, and, to the
south, an illimitable expanse of ocean. As it had now lost its leafy
covering, there was no difficulty in looking directly into its centre,
through the rude pillars which supported its little dome. Here Wilder
discovered precisely the very party to whose conversation he had been a
listener the previous day, while caged, with the Rover, in the loft of the
ruin. Though the Admiral's widow and Mrs Wyllys were most in advance,
evidently addressing some one who was, like himself, in the public road,
the quick eye of the young sailor soon detected the more enticing person
of the blooming Gertrude, in the background. His observations were,
however, interrupted by a reply from the individual who as yet was unseen.
Directed by the voice, Wilder was next enabled to perceive the person of a
man in a green old age, who, seated on a stone by the way side, appeared
to be resting his weary limbs, while he answered to some interrogations
from the summer-house. Though his head was white, and the hand, which
grasped a long walking-staff, sometimes trembled, as its owner sought
additional support from its assistance, there was that in the costume, the
manner, and the voice of the speaker, which furnished sufficient evidence
of his having once been a veteran of the sea.
"Lord! your Ladyship, Ma'am," he said, in tones that were getting
tremulous, even while they retained the deep characteristic intonations of
his profession, "we old sea-dogs never stop to look into an almanac, to
see which way the wind will come after the next thaw, before we put to
sea. It is enough for us, that the sailing orders are aboard, and that the
Captain has taken leave of his Lady."
"Ah! the very words of the poor lamented Admiral!" exclaimed Mrs de Lacey,
who evidently found great satisfaction in pursuing the discourse with this
superannuated mariner. "And then you are of opinion, honest friend, that,
when a ship is ready, she should sail, whether the wind is"----
"Here is another follower of the sea, opportunely come to lend us his
advice," interrupted Gertrude, with a hurried air, as if to divert the
attention of her aunt from something very like a dogmatical termination of
an argument that had just occurred between her and Mrs Wyllys; "perhaps to
serve as an umpire."
"True," said the latter. "Pray, what think you of the weather to-day,
sir? would it be profitable to sail in such a time, or not?"
The young mariner reluctantly withdrew his eyes from the blushing
Gertrude, who, in her eagerness to point him out, had advanced to the
front, and was now shrinking back, timidly, to the centre of the building
again, like one who already repented of her temerity. He then fastened his
look on her who put the question; and so long and riveted was his gaze,
that she saw fit to repeat it, believing that what she had first said was
not properly understood.
"There is little faith to be put in the weather, Madam," was the dilatory
reply. "A man has followed the sea to but little purpose who is tardy in
making that discovery."
There was something so sweet and gentle, at the same time that it was
manly, in the voice of Wilder, that the ladies, by a common impulse,
seemed struck with its peculiarities. The neatness of his attire, which,
while it was strictly professional, was worn with an air of smartness, and
even of gentility, that rendered it difficult to suppose that he was not
entitled to lay claim to a higher station in society than that in which he
actually appeared, added to this impression. Bending her head, with a
manner that was intended to be polite, a little more perhaps in
self-respect than out of consideration to the other, as if in deference to
the equivocal character of his appearance, Mrs de Lacey resumed the
"These ladies," she said, "are about to embark in yonder ship, for the
province of Carolina, and we were consulting concerning the quarter in
which the wind will probably blow next. But, in such a vessel, it cannot
matter much, I should think, sir, whether the wind were fair or foul."
"I think not," was the reply. "She looks to me like a ship that will not
do much, let the wind be as it may."
"She has the reputation of being a very fast sailer.--Reputation! we know
she is such, having come from home to the Colonies in the incredibly short
passage of seven weeks! But seamen have their favourites and prejudices, I
believe, like us poor mortals ashore. You will therefore excuse me, if I
ask this honest veteran for an opinion on this particular point also. What
do you imagine, friend, to be the sailing qualities of yonder ship--she
with the peculiarly high top-gallant-booms, and such conspicuous
The lip of Wilder curled, and a smile struggled with the gravity of his
countenance; but he continued silent. On the other hand, the old mariner
arose, and appeared to examine the ship, like one who perfectly
comprehended the technical language of the Admiral's widow.
"The ship in the inner harbour, your Ladyship," he answered, when his
examination was finished, "which is, I suppose, the vessel that Madam
means, is just such a ship as does a sailor's eye good to look on. A
gallant and a safe boat she is, as I will swear; and as to sailing, though
she may not be altogether a witch, yet is she a fast craft, or I'm no
judge of blue water, or of those that live on it."
"Here is at once a difference of opinion!" exclaimed Mrs de Lacey. "I am
glad, however, you pronounce her safe; for, although seamen love a
fast-sailing vessel, these ladies will not like her the less for the
security. I presume, sir, you will not dispute her being _safe_."
"The very quality I should most deny," was the laconic answer of Wilder.
"It is remarkable! This is a veteran seaman, sir, and he appears to think
"He may have seen more, in his time, than myself Madam; but I doubt
whether he can, just now see as well. This is something of a distance to
discover the merits or demerits of a ship: I have been higher."
"Then you really think there is danger to be apprehended sir?" demanded
the soft voice of Gertrude whose fears had gotten the better of her
"I do. Had I mother, or sister," touching his hat, and bowing to his fair
interrogator, as he uttered the latter word with much emphasis, "I would
hesitate to let her embark in that ship. On my honour Ladies, I do assure
you, that I think this very vessel in more danger than any ship which has
left, or probably will leave, a port in the Provinces this autumn."
"This is extraordinary!" observed Mrs Wyllys. "It is not the character we
have received of the vessel, which has been greatly exaggerated, or she is
entitled to be considered as uncommonly convenient and safe. May I ask,
sir, on what circumstances you have founded this opinion?"
"They are sufficiently plain. She is too lean in the harping, and too full
in the counter, to steer. Then, she in as wall-sided as a church, and
stows too much above the water-line. Besides this, she carries no
head-sail, but all the press upon her will be aft, which will jam her into
the wind, and, more than likely, throw her aback. The day will come when
that ship will go down stern foremost."
His auditors listened to this opinion, which Wilder delivered in an
oracular and very decided manner, with that sort of secret faith, and
humble dependence, which the uninstructed are so apt to lend to the
initiated in the mysteries of any imposing profession. Neither of them had
certainly a very clear perception of his meaning; but there were,
apparently, danger and death in his very words Mrs de Lacey felt it
incumbent on her peculiar advantages, however, to manifest how well she
comprehended the subject.
"These are certainly very serious evils!" she exclaimed. "It is quite
unaccountable that my agent should have neglected to mention them. Is
there any other particular quality, sir, that strikes your eye at this
distance, and which you deem alarming?"
"Too many. You observe that her top-gallant masts are fidded abaft; none
of her lofty sails set flying; and then, Madam, she has depended on
bobstays and gammonings for the security of that very important part of a
vessel, the bowsprit."
"Too true! too true!" said Mrs de Lacey, in a sort of professional horror.
"These things had escaped me; but I see them all, now they are mentioned.
Such neglect is highly culpable; more especially to rely on bobstays and
gammonings for the security of a bowsprit! Really, Mrs Wyllys, I can never
consent that my niece should embark in such a vessel."
The calm, penetrating eye of Wyllys had been riveted on the countenance of
Wilder while he was speaking, and she now turned it, with undisturbed
serenity, on the Admiral's widow, to reply.
"Perhaps the danger has been a little magnified," she observed. "Let us
inquire of this other seaman what he thinks on these several points.--And
do you see all these serious dangers to be apprehended, friend, in
trusting ourselves, at this season of the year, in a passage to the
Carolinas, aboard of yonder ship?"
"Lord, Madam!" said the gray-headed mariner, with a chuckling laugh,
"these are new-fashioned faults and difficulties, if they be faults and
difficulties at all! In my time, such matters were never heard of; and I
confess I am so stupid as not to understand the half the young gentleman
has been saying."
"It is some time, I fancy, old man, since you were last at sea," Wilder
"Some five or six years since the last time, and fifty since the first,"
was the answer.
"Then you do not see the same causes for apprehension?" Mrs Wyllys once
"Old and worn out as I am, Lady, if her Captain will give me a birth
aboard her, I will thank him for the same as a favour."
"Misery seeks any relief," said Mrs de Lacey, in an under tone, and
bestowing on her companions a significant glance. "I incline to the
opinion of the younger seaman; for he supports it with substantial,
Mrs Wyllys suspended her questions, just as long as complaisance to the
last speaker seemed to require and then she resumed them as follows,
addressing her next inquiry to Wilder.
"And how do you explain this difference in judgment, between two men who
ought both to be so well qualified to decide right?"
"I believe there is a well-known proverb which will answer that question,"
returned the young man, smiling: "But some allowance must be made for the
improvements in ships; and, perhaps, some little deference to the stations
we have respectively filled on board them."
"Both very true. Still, one would think the changes of half a dozen years
cannot be so very considerable, in a profession that is so exceedingly
"Your pardon, Madam. They require constant practice to know them. Now, I
dare say that yonder worthy old tar is ignorant of the manner in which a
ship, when pressed by her canvas, is made to 'cut the waves with her
"Impossible!" cried the Admiral's widow; "the youngest and the meanest
mariner must have been struck with the beauty of such a spectacle."
"Yes, yes," returned the old tar, who wore the air of an offended man, and
who, probably, had he been ignorant of any part of his art, was not just
then in the temper to confess it; "many is the proud ship that I have seen
doing the very same; and, as the lady says, a grand and comely sight it
Wilder appeared confounded. He bit his lip, like one who was over-reached
either by excessive ignorance or exceeding cunning; but the
self-complacency of Mrs de Lacey spared him the necessity of an immediate
"It would have been an extraordinary circumstance truly," she said, "that
a man should have grown white-headed on the seas, and never have been
struck with so noble a spectacle. But then, my honest tar, you appear to
be wrong in overlooking the striking faults in yonder ship, which this,
a--a--this gentleman has just, and so properly, named."
"I do not call them faults, your Ladyship. Such is the way my late brave
and excellent Commander always had his own ship rigged; and I am bold to
say that a better seaman, or a more honest man, never served in his
"And you have served the King! How was your beloved Commander named?"
"How should he be! By us, who knew him well, he was called Fair-weather:
for it was always smooth water, and prosperous times, under his orders;
though, on shore, he was known as the gallant and victorious Rear-Admiral
"And did my late revered and skilful husband cause his ships to be rigged
in this manner?" said the widow, with a tremour in her voice, that bespoke
how much, and how truly, she was overcome by surprise and gratified pride.
The aged tar lifted his bending frame from the stone, and bowed low, as
he answered,--"If I have the honour of seeing my Admiral's Lady, it will
prove a joyful sight to my old eyes. Sixteen years did I serve in his own
ship, and five more in the same squadron. I dare say your Ladyship may
have heard him speak of the captain of his main-top, Bob Bunt."
"I dare say--I dare say--He loved to talk of those who served him
"Ay, God bless him, and make his memory glorious! He was a kind officer,
and one that never forgot a friend, let it be that his duty kept him on a
yard or in the cabin. He was the sailor's friend, that very same Admiral!"
"This is a grateful man," said Mrs de Lacey, wiping her eyes, "and I dare
say a competent judge of a vessel. And are you quite sure, worthy friend,
that my late revered husband had all his ships arranged like the one of
which we have been talking?"
"Very sure, Madam; for, with my own hands, did I assist to rig them."
"Even to the bobstays?"
"And the gammonings, my Lady. Were the Admiral alive, and here, he would
call yon 'a safe and well-fitted ship,' as I am ready to swear."
Mrs de Lacey turned, with an air of great dignity and entire decision, to
Wilder, as she continued,--"I have, then, made a small mistake in memory
which is not surprising, when one recollects, that he who taught me so
much of the profession is no longer here to continue his lessons. We are
much obliged to you, sir, for your opinion; but we must think that you
have over-rated the danger."
"On my honour, Madam," interrupted Wilder laying his hand on his heart,
and speaking with singular emphasis, "I am sincere in what I say. I do
affirm, that I believe there will be great danger in embarking in yonder
ship; and I call Heaven to witness, that, in so saying, I am actuated by
no malice to her Commander, her owners, nor any connected with her."
"We dare say, sir, you are very sincere: We only think you a little in
error," returned the Admiral's widow, with a commiserating, and what she
intended for a condescending, smile. "We are your debtors for your good
intentions, at least. Come, worthy veteran, we must not part here. You
will gain admission by knocking at my door; and we shall talk further of
Then, bowing to Wilder, she led the way up the garden, followed by all her
companions. The step of Mrs de Lacey was proud, like the tread of one
conscious of all her advantages; while that of Wyllys was slow, as if she
were buried in thought. Gertrude kept close to the side of the latter,
with her face hid beneath the shade of a gipsy hat. Wilder fancied that he
could discover the stolen and anxious glance that she threw back towards
one who had excited a decided emotion in her sensitive bosom though it was
a feeling no more attractive than alarm. He lingered until they were lost
amid the shrubbery. Then, turning to pour out his disappointment on his
brother tar, he found that the old man had made such good use of his time,
as to be entering the gate, most probably felicitating himself on the
prospect of reaping the reward of his recent adulation.
"He ran this way, and leap'd this orchard wall."--_Shakspeare._
Wilder retired from the field like a defeated man. Accident, or, as he was
willing to term it, the sycophancy of the old mariner, had counteracted
his own little artifice; and he was now left without the remotest chance
of being again favoured with such another opportunity of effecting his
purpose. We shall not, at this period of the narrative, enter into a
detail of the feelings and policy which induced our adventurer to plot
against the apparent interests of those with whom he had so recently
associated himself; it is enough, for our present object, that the facts
themselves should be distinctly set before the reader.
The return of the disappointed young sailor, towards the town, was moody
and slow. More than once he stopped short in the descent, and fastened his
eyes, for minutes together, on the different vessels in the harbour. But,
in these frequent-halts, no evidence of the particular interest he took in
any one of the ships escaped him. Perhaps his gaze at the Southern trader
was longer, and more earnest, than at any other; though his eye, at times,
wandered curiously, and even anxiously, over every craft that lay within
the shelter of the haven.
The customary hour for exertion had now arrived, and the sounds of labour
were beginning to be heard, issuing from every quarter of the place. The
songs of the mariners were rising on the calm of the morning with their
peculiar, long-drawn intonations. The ship in the inner harbour was among
the first to furnish this proof of the industry of her people, and of her
approaching departure. It was only as these movements caught his eye,
that Wilder seemed to be thoroughly awakened from his abstraction, and to
pursue his observations with an undivided mind. He saw the seamen ascend
the rigging, in that lazy manner which is so strongly contrasted by their
activity in moments of need; and here and there a human form was showing
itself on the black and ponderous yards. In a few moments, the
fore-topsail fell, from its compact compass on the yard, into graceful and
careless festoons. This, the attentive Wilder well knew, was, among all
trading vessels, the signal of sailing. In a few more minutes, the lower
angles of this important sail were drawn to the, extremities of the
corresponding spar beneath; and then the heavy yard was seen slowly
ascending the mast, dragging after it the opening folds of the sail, until
the latter was tightened at all its edges, and displayed itself in one
broad, snow-white sheet of canvas. Against this wide surface the light
currents of air fell, and as often receded; the sail bellying and
collapsing in a manner to show that, as yet, they were powerless. At this
point the preparations appeared suspended, as if the mariners, having thus
invited the breeze, were awaiting to see if their invocation was likely to
be attended with success.
It was perhaps but a natural transition for him, who so closely observed
these indications of departure in the ship so often named, to turn his
eyes on the vessel which lay without the fort, in order to witness the
effect so manifest a signal had produced in her, also. But the closest and
the keenest scrutiny could have detected no sign of any bond of interest
between the two. While the firmer was making the movements just described,
the latter lay at her anchors without the smallest proof that man existed
within the mass of her black and inanimate hull. So quiet and motionless
did she seem, that one, who had never been instructed in the matter,
might readily have believed her a fixture in the sea, some symmetrical and
enormous excrescence thrown up by the waves, with its mazes of lines and
pointed fingers, or one of those fantastic monsters that are believed to
exist in the bottom of the ocean, darkened by the fogs and tempests of
ages. But, to the understanding eye of Wilder, she exhibited a very
different spectacle. He easily saw, through all this apparently drowsy
quietude, those signs of readiness which a seaman only might discover. The
cable, instead of stretching in a long declining line towards the water
was "short," or nearly "up and down," as it is equally termed in technical
language, just "scope" enough being allowed out-board to resist the power
of the lively tide, which acted on the deep keel of the vessel. All her
boats were in the water, and so disposed and prepared, as to convince him
they were in a state to be employed in towing, in the shortest possible
time. Not a sail, nor a yard, was out of its place, undergoing those
repairs and examinations which the mariner is wont to make so often, when
lying within the security of a suitable haven, nor was there a single rope
wanting, amid the hundreds which interlaced the blue sky that formed the
background of the picture, that might be necessary, in bringing every art
of facilitating motion into instant use. In short, the vessel, while
seeming least prepared, was most in a condition to move, or, if necessary,
to resort to her means of offence and defence. The boarding-nettings, it
is true, were triced to the rigging, as on the previous day; but a
sufficient apology was to be found for this act of extreme caution, in the
war, which exposed her to attacks from the light French cruisers, that so
often ranged, from the islands of the West-Indies, along the whole coast
of the Continent, and in the position the ship had taken, without the
ordinary defences of the harbour. In this state, the vessel, to one who
knew her real character, appeared like some beast of prey, or venomous
reptile, that lay in an assumed lethargy, to delude the unconscious victim
within the limits of its leap, or nigh enough to receive the deadly blow
of its fangs.
Wilder shook his head, in a manner which said plainly enough how well he
understood this treacherous tranquillity, and continued his walk towards
the town, with the same deliberate step as before. He had whiled away many
minutes unconsciously, and would probably have lost the reckoning of as
many more, had not his attention been suddenly diverted by a slight touch
on the shoulder. Starting at this unexpected diversion, he turned, and
saw, that, in his dilatory progress, he had been overtaken by the seaman
whom he had last seen in that very society in which he would have given so
much to have been included himself.
"Your young limbs should carry you ahead, Master," said the latter, when
he had succeeded in attracting the attention of Wilder, "like a 'Mudian
going with a clean full, and yet I have fore-reached upon you with my old
legs, in such a manner as to bring us again within hail."
"Perhaps you enjoy the extraordinary advantage of 'cutting the waves with
your taffrail,'" returned Wilder, with a sneer. "There can be no
accounting for the head-way one makes, when sailing in that remarkable
"I see, brother, you are offended that I followed your motions, though, in
so doing, I did no more than obey a signal of your own setting. Did you
expect an old sea-dog like me, who has stood his watch so long in a
flag-ship, to confess ignorance in any matter that of right belongs to
blue water? How the devil was I to know that there is not some sort of
craft, among the thousands that are getting into fashion, which sails
best stern foremost? They say a ship is modelled from a fish; and, if such
be the case, it is only to make one after the fashion of a crab, or an
oyster, to have the very thing you named."
"It is well, old man. You have had your reward, I suppose, in a handsome
present from the Admiral's widow, and you may now lie-by for a season,
without caring much as to the manner in which they build their ships in
future. Pray, do you intend to shape your course much further down this
"Until I get to the bottom."
"I am glad of it, friend, for it is my especial intention to go up it
again. As we say at sea, when our conversation is ended, 'A good time to
The old seaman laughed, in his chuckling manner, when he saw the young man
turn abruptly on his heel, and begin to retrace the very ground along
which he had just before descended.
"Ah! you have never sailed with a Rear-Admiral," he said, as he continued
his own course in the former direction, picking his way with a care suited
to his age and infirmities. "No, there is no getting the finish, even at
sea, without a cruise or two under a flag, and that at the mizzen, too!"
"Intolerable old hypocrite!" muttered Wilder between his teeth. "The
rascal has seen better days, and is now perverting his knowledge to juggle
a foolish woman, to his profit. I am well quit of the knave, who, I dare
say, has adopted lying for his trade, now labour is unproductive. I will
go back The coast is quite clear, and who can say what may happen next?"
Most of the foregoing paragraph was actually uttered in the suppressed
manner already described, while the rest was merely meditated, which,
considering the fact that our adventurer had no auditor, was quite as
well as if he had spoken it through a trumpet. The expectation thus
vaguely expressed, however, was not likely to be soon realized. Wilder
sauntered up the hill, endeavouring to assume the unconcerned air of an
idler, if by chance his return should excite attention; but, though he
lingered long in open view of the windows of Mrs de Lacey's villa, he was
not able to catch another glimpse of its tenants. There were very evident
symptoms of the approaching journey, in the trunks and packages that left
the building for the town, and in the hurried and busy manner of the few
servants that he occasionally saw; but it would seem that the principal
personages of the establishment had withdrawn into the secret recesses of
the building, probably for the very natural purpose of confidential
communion and affectionate leave-taking. He was turning, vexed and
disappointed, from his anxious and fruitless watch, when he once more
heard female voices on the inner side of the low wall against which he had
been leaning. The sounds approached; nor was it long before his quick ears
again recognized the musical voice of Gertrude.
"It is tormenting ourselves, without sufficient reason, my dear Madam,"
she said, as the speakers drew sufficiently nigh to be distinctly
overheard, "to allow any thing that may have fallen from such a--such an
individual, to make the slightest impression."
"I feel the justice of what you say, my love," returned the mournful voice
of her governess, "and yet am I so weak as to be unable entirely to shake
off a sort of superstitious feeling on this subject. Gertrude, would you
not wish to see that youth again?"
"Me, Ma'am!" exclaimed her eleve, in a sort of alarm. "Why should you, or
I, wish to see an utter stranger again? and one so low--not low
perhaps--but one who is surely not altogether a very suitable companion
"Well-born ladies, you would say. And why do you imagine the young man to
be so much our inferior?"
Wilder thought there was a melody in the intonations of the youthful voice
of the maiden, which in some measure excused the personality, as she
"I am certainly not so fastidious in my notions of birth and station as
aunt de Lacey," she said, laughing; "but I should forget some of your own
instructions, dear Mrs Wyllys, did I not feel that education and manners
make a sensible difference in the opinions and characters of all us poor
"Very true, my child. But I confess I saw or heard nothing that induces me
to believe the young man, of whom we are speaking, either uneducated or
vulgar. On the contrary, his language and pronunciation were those of a
gentleman, and his air was quite suited to his utterance. He had the frank
and simple manner of his profession; but you are not now to learn that
youths of the first families in the provinces, or even in the kingdom, are
often placed in the service of the marine."
"But they are officers, dear Madam: this--this individual wore the dress
of a common mariner."
"Not altogether. It was finer in its quality, and more tasteful in its
fashion, than is customary. I have known Admirals do the same in their
moments of relaxation. Sailors of condition often love to carry about them
the testimonials of their profession, without any of the trappings of
"You then think he was an officer--perhaps in the King's service?"
"He might well have been so, though the fact, that there is no cruiser in
the port, would seem to contradict it. But it was not so trifling a
circumstance that awakened the unaccountable interest that I feel.
Gertrude, my love, it was my fortune to have been much with seamen in
early life. I seldom see one of that age, and of that spirited and manly
mien, without feeling emotion. But I tire you; let us talk of other
"Not in the least, dear Madam," Gertrude hurriedly interrupted. "Since you
think the stranger a gentleman, there can be no harm--that is, it is not
quite so improper, I believe--to speak of him. Can there then be the
danger he would make us think in trusting ourselves in a ship of which we
have so good a report?"
"There was a strange, I had almost said wild, admixture of irony and
concern in his manner, that is inexplicable! He certainly uttered nonsense
part of the time: but, then, he did not appear to do it without a serious
object. Gertrude, you are not as familiar with nautical expressions as
myself: and perhaps you are ignorant that your good aunt, in her
admiration of a profession that she has certainly a right to love,
"I know it--I know it; at least I often think so," the other interrupted,
in a manner which plainly manifested that she found no pleasure in
dwelling on the disagreeable subject. "It was exceedingly presuming Madam,
in a stranger, however, to amuse himself, if he did it, with so amiable
and so trivial a weakness, if indeed weakness it be."
"It was," Mrs Wyllys steadily continued--she having, very evidently, such
other matter in her thoughts as to be a little inattentive to the
sensitive feelings of her companion;--"and yet he did not appear to me
like one of those empty minds that find a pleasure in exposing the follies
of others. You may remember, Gertrude, that yesterday, while at the ruin,
Mrs de Lacey made some remarks expressive of her admiration of a ship
"Yes, yes, I remember them," said the niece, a little impatiently.
"One of her terms was particularly incorrect, as I happened to know from
my own familiarity with the language of sailors."
"I thought as much, by the expression of your eye," returned Gertrude;
"Listen, my love. It certainly was not remarkable that a lady should make
a trifling error in the use of so peculiar a language, but it is singular
that a seaman himself should commit the same fault in precisely the same
words. This did the youth of whom we are speaking; and, what is no less
surprising the old man assented to the same, just as if they had been
"Perhaps," said Gertrude, in a low tone, "they may have heard, that
attachment to this description of conversation is a foible of Mrs de
Lacey. I am sure, after this, dear Madam, you cannot any longer consider
the stranger a gentleman!"
"I should think no more about it, love, were it not for a feeling I can
neither account for nor define. I would I could again see him!"
A slight exclamation from her companion interrupted her words; and, the
next instant, the subject of her thoughts leaped the wall, apparently in
quest of the rattan that had fallen at the feet of Gertrude, and
occasioned her alarm. After apologizing for his intrusion on the private
grounds of Mrs de Lacey, and recovering his lost property, Wilder was
slowly preparing to retire, as if nothing had happened. There was a
softness and delicacy in his manner during the first moment of his
appearance, which was probably intended to convince the younger of the
ladies that he was not entirely without some claims to the title she had
so recently denied him, and which was certainly not without its effect.
The countenance of Mrs Wyllys was pale, and her lip quivered, though the
steadiness of her voice proved it was not with alarm, as she hastily
said,--"Remain a moment, sir, if need does not require your presence
elsewhere. There is something so remarkable in this meeting, that I could
wish to improve it."
Wilder bowed, and again faced the ladies, whom he had just been about to
quit, like one who felt he had no right to intrude a moment longer than
had been necessary to recover that which had been lost by his pretended
awkwardness. When Mrs Wyllys found that her wish was so unexpectedly
realized, she hesitated as to the manner in which she should next proceed.
"I have been thus bold, sir," she said, in some embarrassment, "on account
of the opinion you so lately expressed concerning the vessel which now
lies ready to put to sea, the instant, she is favoured with a wind."
"'The Royal Caroline?'" Wilder carelessly replied.
"That is her name, I believe."
"I hope, Madam, that nothing which I have said," he hastily continued,
"will have an effect to prejudice you against the ship. I will pledge
myself that she is made of excellent materials, and then I have not the
least doubt but she is very ably commanded."
"And yet have you not hesitated to say, that you consider a passage in
this very vessel more dangerous than one in any other ship that will
probably leave a port of the Provinces in many months to come."
"I did," answered Wilder, with a manner not to be mistaken.
"Will you explain your reasons for this opinion?"
"If I remember rightly, I gave them to the lady whom I had the honour to
see an hour ago."
"That individual, sir, is no longer here," was the grave reply of Wyllys;
"neither is she to trust her person in the vessel. This young lady and
myself, with our attendants, will be the only passengers."
"I understood it so," returned Wilder, keeping his thoughtful gaze riveted
on the speaking countenance of the deeply interested Gertrude.
"And, now that there is no apprehension of any mistake, may I ask you to
repeat the reasons why you think there will be danger in embarking in the
Wilder started, and even had the grace to colour, as he met the calm and
attentive look of Mrs Wyllys's searching, but placid eye.
"You would not have me repeat, Madam," he stammered, "what I have already
said on the subject?"
"I would not, sir; once will suffice for such an explanation; still am I
persuaded you have other reasons for your words."
"It is exceedingly difficult for a seaman to speak of ships in any other
than technical language, which must be the next thing to being
unintelligible to one of your sex and condition. You have never been at
"Very often, sir."
"Then may I hope, possibly, to make myself understood. You must be
conscious, Madam, that no small part of the safety of a ship depends on
the very material point of keeping her right side uppermost sailors call
it 'making her stand up.' Now I need not say, I am quite sure, to a lady
of your intelligence, that, if the 'Caroline' fall on her beam there will
be imminent hazard to all on board."
"Nothing can be clearer; but would not the same risk be incurred in any
"Without doubt, if any other vessel should trip. But I have pursued my
profession for many years, without meeting with such a misfortune, but
once. Then, the fastenings of the bowsprit"--
"Are good as ever came from the hand of rigger," said a voice behind
The whole party turned; and beheld, at a little distance, the old seaman
already introduced, mounted on some object on the other side of the wall,
against which he was very coolly leaning, and whence he overlooked the
whole of the interior of the grounds.
"I have been at the water side to look at the boat, at the wish of Madam
de Lacey, the widow of my late noble Commander and Admiral; and, let other
men think as they may, I am ready to swear that the 'Royal Caroline' has
as well secured a bowsprit as any ship that carries the British flag! Ay,
nor is that all I will say in her favour; she is throughout neatly and
lightly sparred, and has no more of a wall-side than the walls of yonder
church tumble-home. I am an old man, and my reckoning has got to the last
leaf of the log-book; therefore it is little interest that I have, or can
have, in this brig or that schooner, but this much will I say, which is,
that it is just as wicked, and as little likely to be forgiven, to speak
scandal of a wholesome and stout ship, as it is to talk amiss of mortal
The old man spoke with energy, and a great show of honest indignation,
which did not fail to make an impression on the ladies, at the same time
that it brought certain ungrateful admonitions to the conscience of the
"You perceive, sir," said Mrs Wyllys, after waiting in vain for the reply
of the young seaman, "that it is very possible for two men, of equal
advantages, to disagree on a professional point. Which am I to believe?"
"Whichever your own excellent sense should tell you is most likely to be
correct. I repeat, and in a sincerity to whose truth I call Heaven to
witness, that no mother or sister of mine should, with my consent, embark
in the 'Caroline.'"
"This is incomprehensible!" said Mrs Wyllys, turning to Gertrude, and
speaking only for her ear. "My reason tells me we have been trifled with
by this young man; and yet are his protestations so earnest, and
apparently so sincere, that I cannot shake off the impression they have
made. To which of the two, my love, do you feel most inclined to yield
"You know how very ignorant I am, dear Madam, of all these things," said
Gertrude, dropping her eyes to the faded sprig she was plucking; "but, to
me, that old wretch has a very presuming and vicious look."
"You then think the younger most entitled to our belief?"
"Why not; since you, also, think he is a gentleman?"
"I know not that his superior situation in life entitles him to greater
credit. Men often obtain such advantages only to abuse them.--I am afraid,
sir," continued Mrs Wyllys, turning to the expecting Wilder, "that unless
you see fit to be more frank, we shall be compelled to refuse you our
faith, and still persevere in our intention to profit, by the opportunity
of the 'Royal Caroline,' to get to the Carolinas."
"From the bottom of my heart, Madam, do I regret the determination."
"It may still be in your power to change it, by being explicit."
Wilder appeared to muse, and once or twice his lips moved, as if he were
about to speak. Mrs Wyllys and Gertrude awaited his intentions with
intense interest; but, after a long and seemingly hesitating pause, he
disappointed both, by saying,--
"I am sorry that I have not the ability to make myself better understood.
It can only be the fault of my dullness; for I again affirm that the
danger is as apparent to my eyes as the sun at noon day."
"Then we must continue blind, sir," returned Mrs Wyllys, with a cold
salute. "I thank you for your good and kind intentions, but you cannot
blame us for not consenting to follow advice which is buried in so much
obscurity. Although in our own grounds, we shall be pardoned the rudeness
of leaving you. The hour appointed for our departure has now arrived."
Wilder returned the grave bow of Mrs Wyllys with one quite as formal as
her own; though he bent with greater grace, and with more cordiality, to
the deep but hurried curtesy of Gertrude Grayson. He remained in the
precise spot, however, in which they left him, until he saw them enter the
villa; and he even fancied he could catch the anxious expression of
another timid glance which the latter threw in his direction, as her light
form appeared to float from before his sight. Placing one hand on the
wall, the young sailor then leaped into the highway. As his feet struck
the ground, the slight shock seemed to awake him from his abstraction, and
he became conscious that he stood within six feet of the old mariner, who
had now twice stepped so rudely between him and the object he had so much
at heart, The latter did not allow him time to give utterance to his
disappointment; for he was the first himself to speak.
"Come, brother," he said, in friendly, confidential tones, and shaking his
head, like one who wished to show to his companion that he was aware of
the deception he had attempted to practise; "come, brother, you have stood
far enough on this tack, and it is time to try another. Ay, I've been
young myself in my time, and I know what a hard matter it is to give the
devil a wide birth, when there is fun to be found in sailing in his
company: But old age brings us to our reckonings; and, when the life is
getting on short allowance with a poor fellow, he begins to think of being
sparing of his tricks, just as water is saved in a ship, when the calms
set in, after it has been spilt about decks like rain, for weeks and
months on end. Thought comes with gray hairs, and no one is the worse for
providing a little of it among his other small stores."
"I had hoped, when I gave you the bottom of the hill, and took the top
myself," returned Wilder, without even deigning to look at his
disagreeable companion, "that we had parted company for ever. As you seem,
however, to prefer the high ground, I leave you to enjoy it at your
leisure; I shall descend into the town."
The old man shuffled after him, with a gait that rendered it difficult for
Wilder, who was by this time in a fast walk, to outstrip him, without
resorting to the undignified expedient of an actual flight. Vexed alike
with himself and his tormentor, he was tempted to offer some violence to
the latter; and then, recalled to his reccollection by the dangerous
impulse he moderated his pace, and continued his route with a calm
determination to be superior to any emotions that such a pitiful object
"You were going under such a press of sail, young Master," said the
stubborn old mariner, who still kept a pace or two in his rear, "that I
had to set every thing to hold way with you; but you now seem to be
getting reasonable, and we may as well lighten the passage by a little
profitable talk. You had nearly made the oldish lady believe the good ship
'Royal Caroline' was the flying Dutchman!"
"And why did you see fit to undeceive her?" bluntly demanded Wilder.
"Would you have a man, who has followed blue water fifty years,
scandalize wood and iron after so wild a manner? The character of a ship
is as dear to an old sea-dog, as the character of his wife or his
"Hark ye, friend; you live, I suppose, like other people, by eating and
"A little of the first, and a good deal of the last," returned the other,
with a chuckle.
"And you get both, like most seaman, by hard work, great risk, and the
"Hum! 'Making our money like horses, and spending it like asses!'--that is
said to be the way with us all."
"Now, then, have you an opportunity of making some with less labour; you
may spend it to suit your own fancy. Will you engage in my service for a
few hours, with this for your bounty, and as much more for wages, provided
you deal honestly?"
The old man stretched out a hand, and took the guinea which Wilder had
showed over his shoulder, without appearing to deem it at all necessary to
face his recruit.
"It's no sham!" said the latter, stopping to ring the metal on a stone.
"'Tis gold, as pure as ever came from the Mint."
The other very coolly pocketed the coin; and then, with a certain hardened
and decided way, as if he were now ready for any thing, he demanded,--
"What hen-roost am I to rob for this?"
"You are to do no such pitiful act; you have only to perform a little of
that which, I fancy, you are no stranger to: Can you keep a false log?"
"Ay; and swear to it, on occasion. I understand you. You are tired of
twisting the truth like a new laid rope, and you wish to turn the job over
"Something so. You must unsay all you have said concerning yonder ship;
and, as you have had running enough to get on the weather-side of Mrs de
Lacey, you must improve your advantage, by making matters a little worse
than I have represented them to be. Tell me, that I may judge of your
qualifications, did you in truth, ever sail with the worthy Rear-Admiral?"
"As I am an honest and religious Christian, I never heard of the honest
old man before yesterday. Oh! you may trust me in these matters! I am no
likely to spoil a history for want of facts."
"I think you will do. Now listen to my plan."--
"Stop, worthy messmate," interrupted the other: "'Stones can hear,' they
say on shore: we sailors know that the pumps have ears on board a ship;
have you ever seen such a place as the 'Foul Anchor' tavern, in this
"I have been there."
"I hope you like it well enough to go again. Here we will part. You shall
haul on the wind, being the lightest sailer, and make a stretch or two
among these houses, until you are well to windward of yonder church. You
will then have plain sailing down upon hearty Joe Joram's, where is to be
found as snug an anchorage, for an honest trader, as at any inn in the
Colonies. I will keep away down this hill, and, considering the difference
in our rate of sailing, we shall not be long after one another in port."
"And what is to be gained by so much manoeuvring? Can you listen to
nothing which is not steeped in rum?"
"You offend me by the word. You shall see what it is to send a sober
messenger on your errands, when the time comes. But, suppose we are seen
speaking to each other on the highway--why, as you are in such low repute
just now, I shall lose my character with the ladies altogether."
"There may be reason in that. Hasten, then to meet me; for, as they spoke
of embarking soon, there is not a minute to lose."
"No fear of their breaking ground so suddenly," returned the old man,
holding the palm of his hand above his head to catch the wind. "There is
not yet air enough to cool the burning cheeks of that young beauty; and,
depend on it, the signal will not be given to them until the sea breeze is
fairly come in."
Wilder waved his hand, and stepped lightly along the road the other had
indicated to him, ruminating on the figure which the fresh and youthful
charms of Gertrude had extorted from one even as old and as coarse as his
new ally. His companion followed his person for a moment, with an amused
look, and an ironical cast of the eye; and then he also quickened his
pace, in order to reach the place of rendezvous in sufficient season.
"Forewarn him, that he use no scurrilous words."
As Wilder approached the "Foul Anchor," he beheld every symptom of some
powerful excitement existing within the bosom of the hitherto peaceful
town. More than half the women, and perhaps one fourth of all the men,
within a reasonable proximity to that well known inn, were assembled
before its door, listening to one of the former sex, who declaimed in
tones so shrill and penetrating as not to leave the proprietors of the
curious and attentive countenances, in the outer circle of the crowd, the
smallest rational ground of complaint on the score of impartiality. Our
adventurer hesitated, with the sudden consciousness of one but newly
embarked in such enterprises as that in which he had so recently enlisted,
when he first saw these signs of commotion; nor did he determine to
proceed until he caught a glimpse of his aged confederate, elbowing his
way through the mass of bodies, with a perseverance and energy that
promised to bring him right speedily into the very presence of her who
uttered such loud and piercing plaints. Encouraged by this example, the
young man advanced, but was content to take his position, for a moment, in
a situation that left him entire command of his limbs and, consequently,
in a condition to make a timely retreat, should the latter measure prove
at all expedient.
"I call on you, Earthly Potter, and you, Preserved Green, and you,
Faithful Wanton," cried Desire, as he came within hearing, pausing to
catch a morsel of breath, before she proceeded in her affecting appeal to
the neighbourhood; "and you too, Upright Crook, and you too, Relent Flint,
and you, Wealthy Poor, to be witnesses and testimonials in my behalf. You,
and all and each of you, can qualify if need should be, that I have ever
been a slaving and loving consort of this man who has deserted me in my
age, leaving so many of his own children on my hands, to feed and to rear,
"What certainty is it," interrupted the landlord of the "Foul Anchor" most
inopportunely, "that the good-man has absconded? It was a merry day the
one that is just gone, and it is quite in reason to believe your husband
was, like some others I can name--a thing I shall not be so unwise as to
do--a little of what I call how-come-ye-so, and that his nap holds on
longer than common. I'll engage we shall all see the honest tailor
creeping out of some of the barns shortly, as fresh and as ready for his
bitters as if he had not wet his throat with cold water since the last
time of general rej'icing."
A low but pretty general laugh followed this effort of tavern wit, though
it failed in exciting even a smile on the disturbed visage of Desire,
which, by its doleful outline, appeared to have taken leave of all its
risible properties for ever.
"Not he, not he," exclaimed the disconsolate consort of the good-man; "he
has not the heart to get himself courageous, in loyal drinking, on such an
occasion as a merry-making on account of his Majesty's glory; he was a man
altogether for work; and it is chiefly for his hard labour that I have
reason to complain. After being so long used to rely on his toil, it is a
sore cross to a dependant woman to be thrown suddenly and altogether on
herself for support. But I'll be revenged on him, if there's law to be
found in Rhode Island, or in the Providence Plantations! Let him dare to
keep his pitiful image out of my sight the lawful time, and then, when he
returns, he shall find himself, as many a vagabond has been before him,
without wife, as he will be without house to lay his graceless head
in." Then, catching a glimpse of the inquiring face of the old seaman,
who by this time had worked his way to her very side, she abruptly added,
"Here is a stranger in the place, and one who has lately arrived! Did you
meet a straggling runaway, friend, in your journey hither?"
[Footnote 1: It would seem, from this declaration, that certain legal
antiquarians, who have contended that the community is indebted to
Desire for the unceremonious manner of clipping the nuptial knot, which
is so well known to exist, even to this hour, in the community of which
she was a member, are entirely in the wrong. It evidently did not take
its rise in her example, since she clearly alludes to it, as a means
before resorted to by me injured innocents of her own sex.]
"I had too much trouble in navigating my old hulk on dry land, to log the
name and rate of every craft I fell in with," returned the other, with
infinite composure; "and yet, now you speak of such a thing, I do remember
to have come within hail of a poor fellow, just about the beginning of the
morning-watch somewhere hereaway, up in the bushes between this town and
the bit of a ferry that carries one on to the main."
"What sort of a man was he?" demanded five or six anxious voices, in a
breath; among which the tones of Desire, however, maintained their
supremacy rising above those of all the others, like the strains of a
first-rate artist flourishing a quaver above the more modest thrills of
the rest of the troupe.
"What sort of a man! Why a fellow with his arms rigged athwart ship, and
his legs stepped like those of all other Christians, to be sure: but, now
you speak of it, I remember that he had a bit of a sheep-shank in one of
his legs, and rolled a good deal as he went ahead."
"It was he!" added the same chorus of voices. Five or six of the speakers
instantly stole slyly out of the throng, with the commendable intention of
hurrying after the delinquent, in order to secure the payment of certain
small balances of account, in which the unhappy and much traduced good-man
stood indebted to the several parties. Had we leisure to record the manner
in which these praiseworthy efforts, to save an honest penny, were
conducted the reader might find much subject of amusement in the secret
diligence with which each worthy tradesman endeavoured to outwit his
neighbour, on the occasion, as well as in the cunning subterfuges which
were adopted to veil their real designs, when all met at the ferry,
deceived and disappointed in their object As Desire, however, had neither
legal demand on, nor hope of favour from, her truant husband, she was
content to pursue, on the spot, such further inquiries in behalf of the
fugitive as she saw fit to make. It is possible the pleasures of freedom,
in the shape of the contemplated divorce, were already floating before her
active mind, with the soothing perspective of second nuptials, backed by
the influence of such another picture as might be drawn from the
recollections of her first love; the whole having a manifest tendency to
pacify her awakened spirit, and to give a certain portion of directness
and energy to her subsequent interrogatories.
"Had he a thieving look?" she demanded, without attending to the manner in
which she was so suddenly deserted by all those who had just expressed the
strongest sympathy in her loss. "Was he a man that had the air of a
"As for his head-piece, I will not engage to give very true account,"
returned the old mariner though he had the look of one who had been kept a
good deal of his time, in the lee scuppers. If should give an opinion, the
poor devil has had too much"--
"Idle time, you would say; yes, yes; it has been his misfortune to be out
of work a good deal latterly and wickedness has got into his head, for
want of something better to think of. Too much"--
"Wife," interrupted the old man, emphatically. Another general, and far
less equivocal laugh, at the expense of Desire, succeeded this blunt
declaration Nothing intimidated by such a manifest assent to the opinion
of the hardy seaman, the undaunted virago resumed,--
"Ah! you little know the suffering and forbearance I have endured with the
man in so many long years. Had the fellow you met the look of one who had
left an injured woman behind him?"
"I can't say there was any thing about him which said, in so many words,
that the woman he had left at her moorings was more or less injured;"
returned the tar, with commendable discrimination, "but there was enough
about him to show, that, however and wherever he may have stowed his wife,
if wife she was, he had not seen fit to leave all her outfit at home. The
man had plenty of female toggery around his neck; I suppose he found it
more agreeable than her arms."
"What!" exclaimed Desire, looking aghast; "has he dared to rob me! What
had he of mine? not the gold beads!"
"I'll not swear they were no sham."
"The villain!" continued the enraged termagant, catching her breath like a
person that had just been submerged in water longer than is agreeable to
human nature, and forcing her way through the crowd, with such vigour as
soon to be in a situation to fly to her secret hordes, in order to
ascertain the extent of her misfortune; "the sacrilegious villain! to rob
the wife of his bosom, the mother of his own children, and"--
"Well, well," again interrupted the landlord of the 'Foul Anchor,' with
his unseasonable voice, "I never before heard the good-man suspected of
roguery, though the neighbourhood was ever backward in calling him
The old seaman looked the publican full in the face, with much meaning in
his eye, as he answered,--
"If the honest tailor never robbed any but that virago, there would be no
great thieving sin to be laid to his account; for every bead he had about
him wouldn't serve to pay his ferryage. I could carry all the gold on his
neck in my eye, and see none the worse for its company. But it is a shame
to stop the entrance into a licensed tavern, with such a mob, as if it
were an embargoed port; and so I nave sent the woman after her valuables,
and all the idlers, as you see, in her wake."
Joe Joram gazed on the speaker like a man enthralled by some mysterious
charm; neither answering nor altering the direction of his eye, for near a
minute. Then, suddenly breaking out in a deep and powerful laugh, as if he
were not backward in enjoying the artifice, which certainly had produced
the effect of removing the crowd from his own door to that of the absent
tailor, he flourished his arm in the way of greeting, and
exclaimed,--"Welcome, tarry Bob; welcome, old boy, welcome! From what
cloud have you fallen? and before what wind have you been running, that
Newport is again your harbour?"
"Too many questions to be answered in an open roadstead, friend Joram; and
altogether too dry a subject for a husky conversation. When I am birthed
in one of your inner cabins, with a mug of flip and a kid of good Rhode
Island beef within grappling distance, why, as many questions as you
choose, and as many answers, you know, as suits my appetite."
"And who's to pay the piper, honest Bob? whose ship's purser will pay your
check now?" continued the publican, showing the old sailor in, however,
with a readiness that seemed to contradict the doubt, expressed by his
words, of any reward for such extraordinary civility.
"Who?" interrupted the other, displaying the money so lately received from
Wilder, in such a manner that it might be seen by the few by-standers who
remained, as though he would himself furnish a sufficient apology for the
distinguished manner in which he was received; "who but this gentleman? I
can boast of being backed by the countenance of his Sacred Majesty
himself, God bless him!"
"God bless him!" echoed several of the loyal lieges; and that too in a
place which has since heard such very different cries, and where the
words would now excite nearly as much surprise, though far less alarm,
than an earthquake.
"God bless him!" repeated Joram, opening the door of an inner room, and
pointing the way to his customer, "and all that are favored with his
countenance! Walk in, old Bob, and you shall soon grapple with half an
Wilder, who had approached the outer door of the tavern as the mob
receded, witnessed the retreat of the two worthies into the recesses of
the house, and immediately entered the bar-room himself. While
deliberating on the manner in which he should arrive at a communication
with his new confederate, without attracting too much attention to so odd
an association, the landlord returned in person to relieve him. After
casting a hasty glance around the apartment, his look settled on our
adventurer, whom he approached in a manner half-doubting, half-decided.
"What success, sir, in looking for a ship?" he demanded now recognizing,
for the first time, the stranger with whom he had before held converse
that morning. "More hands than places to employ them?"
"I am not sure it will so prove. In my walk on the hill, I met an old
"Hum!" interrupted the publican, with an intelligible though stolen, sign
to follow. "You will find it more convenient, sir, to take your breakfast
in another room." Wilder followed his conductor, who left the public
apartment by a different door from that by which he had led his other
guest into the interior of the house, wondering at the air of mystery that
the innkeeper saw fit to assume on the occasion. After leading him by a
circuitous passage. The latter showed Wilder, in profound silence, up a
private stair-way, into the very attic of the building. Here he rapped
lightly at a door, and was bid to enter, by a voice that caused our
adventurer to start by its deepness and severity. On finding him self,
however, in a low and confined room, he saw no other occupant than the
seaman who had just been greeted by the publican as an old acquaintance
and by a name to which he might, by his attire, well lay claim to be
entitled--that of tarry Bob. While Wilder was staring about him, a good
deal surprised at the situation in which he was placed, the landlord
retired, and he found himself alone with his confederate. The latter was
already engaged in discussing the fragment of the ox, just mentioned, and
in quaffing of some liquid that seemed equally adapted to his taste,
although sufficient time had not certainly been allowed to prepare the
beverage he had seen fit to order. Without allowing his visiter leisure
for much further reflection, the old mariner made a motion to him to take
the only vacant chair in the room, while he continued his employment on
the surloin with as much assiduity as though no interruption had taken
"Honest Joe Joram always makes a friend of his butcher," he said, after
ending a draught that threatened to drain the mug to the bottom. "There is
such a flavour about his beef, that one might mistake it for the fin of a
halibut. You have been in foreign parts, shipmate, or I may call you
'messmate,' since we are both anchored nigh the same kid--but you have
doubtless been in foreign countries?"
"Often; I should else be but a miserable seaman."
"Then, tell me frankly, have you ever been in the kingdom that can furnish
such rations--fish, flesh, fowl, and fruits--as this very noble land of
America, in which we are now both moored? and in which I suppose we both
of us were born?"
"It would be carrying the love of home a little too far, to believe in
such universal superiority," returned Wilder, willing to divert the
conversation from his real object, until he had time to arrange his ideas,
and assure himself he had no other auditor but his visible companion. "It
is generally admitted that England excels us in all these articles."
"By whom? by your know-nothings and bold talkers. But I, a man who has
seen the four quarters of the earth, and no small part of the water
besides, give the lie to such empty boasters. We are colonies, friend, we
are colonies; and it is as bold in a colony to tell the mother that it has
the advantage, in this or that particular, as it would be in a foremast
Jack to tell his officer he was wrong, though he knew it to be true. I am
but a poor man, Mr--By what name may I call your Honour?"
"Me! my name?--Harris."
"I am but a poor man, Mr Harris; but I have had charge of a watch in my
time, old and rusty as I seem, nor have I spent so many long nights on
deck without keeping thoughts at work, though I may not have overhaul'd as
much philosophy, in so doing, as a paid parish priest, or a fee'd lawyer.
Let me tell you, it is a disheartening thing to be nothing but a dweller
in a colony. It keeps down the pride and spirit of a man, and lends a hand
in making him what his masters would be glad to have him. I shall say
nothing of fruits, and meats, and other eatables, that come from the land
of which both you and I have heard and know too much, unless it be to
point to yonder sun, and then to ask the question, whether you think King
George has the power to make it shine on the bit of an island where he
lives, as it shines here in his broad provinces of America?"
"Certainly not: and yet you know that every one allows that the
productions of England are so much superior"--
"Ay, ay; a colony always sails under the lee of its mother. Talk does it
all, friend Harris. Talk, talk, talk; a man can talk himself into a fever,
or set a ship's company by the ears. He can talk a cherry into a peach, or
a flounder into a whale. Now here is the whole of this long coast of
America, and all her rivers, and lakes, and brooks, swarming with such
treasures as any man might fatten on, and yet his Majesty's servants, who
come among us, talk of their turbots, and their sole, and their carp, as
if the Lord had only made such fish, and the devil had let the others slip
through his fingers, without asking leave."
Wilder turned, and fastened a look of surprise on the old man, who
continued to eat, however, as if he had uttered nothing but what might be
considered as a matter of course opinion.
"You are more attached to your birth-place than loyal, friend," said the
young mariner, a little austerely.
"I am not fish-loyal at least. What the Lord made, one may speak of, I
hope, without offence. As to the Government, that is a rope twisted by the
hands of man, and"--
"And what?" demanded Wilder, perceiving that the other hesitated.
"Hum! Why, I fancy man will undo his own work, when he can find nothing
better to busy himself in. No harm in saying that either, I hope?"
"So much, that I must call your attention to the business that has brought
us together. You have not go soon forgotten the earnest-money you
The old sailor shoved the dish from before him, and, folding his arms, he
looked his companion full in the eye, as he calmly answered,--
"When I am fairly enlisted in a service, I am a man to be counted on. I
hope you sail under the same colors, friend Harris?"
"It would be dishonest to be otherwise. There is one thing you will
excuse, before I proceed to detail my plans and wishes: I must take
occasion to examine this closet, in order to be sure that we are actually
"You will find little there except the toggery of some of honest Joe's
female gender. As the door is not fastened with any extraordinary care,
you have only to look for yourself, since seeing is believing."
Wilder did not seem disposed to wait for this permission; he opened the
door, even while the other was speaking, and, finding that the closet
actually contained little else than the articles named by his companion,
he turned away, like a man who was disappointed.
"Were you alone when I entered?" he demanded, after a thoughtful pause of
"Honest Joram, and yourself."
"But no one else?"
"None that I saw," returned the other, with a manner that betrayed a
slight uneasiness; "if you think otherwise, let us overhaul the room.
Should my hand fall on a listener, the salute will not be light."
"Hold--answer me one question; who bade me enter?"
Tarry Bob, who had arisen with a good deal of alacrity, now reflected in
his turn for an instant, and then he closed his musing, by indulging in a
"Ah! I see that you have got your ideas a little jammed. A man cannot talk
the same, with a small portion of ox in his mouth, as though his tongue
had as much sea-room as a ship four-and-twenty hours out."
"Then, you spoke?"
"I'll swear to that much," returned Bob, resuming his seat like one who
had settled the whole affair to his entire satisfaction; "and now, friend
Harris, if you are ready to lay bare your mind, I'm just as ready to look
Wilder did not appear to be quite as well content with the explanation as
his companion, but he drew a chair, and prepared to open his subject.
"I am not to tell you, friend, after what you have heard and seen, that I
have no very strong desire that the lady with whom we have both spoken
this morning, and her companion, should, sail in the 'Royal Caroline.' I
suppose it is enough for our purposes that you should know the fact; the
reason why I prefer they should remain where they are, can be of no moment
as to the duty you are to undertake."
"You need not tell an old seaman how to gather in the slack of a running
idea!" cried Bob, chuckling and winking at his companion in a way that
displeased the latter by its familiarity; "I have not lived fifty years on
blue water, to mistake it for the skies."
"You then fancy, sir, that my motive is no secret to you?"
"It needs no spy-glass to see, that, while the old people say, 'Go,' the
young people would like to stay where they are."
"You do both of the young people much injustice then; for, until
yesterday, I never laid eyes on the person you mean."
"Ah! I see how it is; the owners of the 'Caroline' have not been so civil
as they ought, and you are paying them a small debt of thanks!"
"That is possibly a means of retaliation that might suit your taste," said
Wilder, gravely; "but which is not much in accordance with mine. The whole
of the parties are utter strangers to me."
"Hum! Then I suppose you belong to the vessel in the outer harbour; and,
though you don't hate your enemies, you love your friends. We must
contrive the means to coax the ladies to take passage in the slaver."
"God forbid! Now I think, friend Harris, you set up the backstays of your
conscience a little too taught. Though I cannot, and do not, agree with
you in all you have said concerning the 'Royal Caroline,' I see no reason
to doubt but we shall have but one mind about the other vessel. I call her
a wholesome looking and well proportioned craft, and one that a King might
sail in with comfort."
"I deny it not; still I like her not."
"Well, I am glad of that; and, since the matter is fairly before us,
master Harris, I have a word or two to say concerning that very ship. I am
an old sea-dog, and one not easily blinded in matters of the trade. Do you
not find something, that is not in character for an honest trader, in the
manner in which they have laid that vessel at her anchors, without the
fort, and the sleepy look she bears, at the same time that any one may see
she is not built to catch oysters, or to carry cattle to the islands?"
"As you have said, I think her a wholesome and a tight-built ship. Of what
evil practice, however, do you suspect her?--perhaps she robs the
"Hum! I am not sure it would be pleasant to smuggle in such a vessel,
though your contraband is a merry trade, after all. She has a pretty
battery, as well as one can see from this distance."
"I dare say her owners are not tired of her yet and would gladly keep her
from falling into the hands of the French."
"Well, well, I may be wrong; but, unless sight is going with my years, all
is not as it would be on board that slaver, provided her papers were true,
and she had the lawful name to her letters of marque. What think you,
honest Joe, in this matter?"
Wilder turned, impatiently, and found that the landlord had entered the
room, with a step so as to have escaped his attention, which had been
drawn to his companion with a force that the reader will readily
comprehend. The air of surprise, with which Joram regarded the speaker,
was certainly not affected; for the question was repeated, and in still
more definite terms, before he saw fit to reply.
"I ask you, honest Joe, if you think the slaver, in the outer harbour of
this port, a true man?"
"You come across one, Bob, in your bold way, with such startling
questions," returned the publican, casting his eyes obliquely around him,
as if he would fain make sure of the character of the audience to which he
spoke, "such stirring opinions, that really I am often non-plushed to know
how to get the ideas together, to make a saving answer."
"It is droll enough, truly, to see the landlord of the 'Foul Anchor'
dumb-foundered," returned the old man, with perfect composure in mien and
eye. "I ask you, if you do not suspect something wrong about that slaver?"
"Wrong! Good heavens, mister Robert, recollect what you are saying. I
would not, for the custom of his Majesty's Lord High Admiral, have any
discouraging words be uttered in my house against the reputation of any
virtuous and fair-dealing slavers! The Lord protect me from blacking the
character of any honest subject of the King!"
"Do you see nothing wrong, worthy and tender Joram, about the ship in the
outer harbour?" repeated mister Robert, without moving eye, limb, or
"Well, since you press me so hard for an opinion and seeing that you are a
customer who pays freely for what he orders, I will say, that, if there is
any thing unreasonable, or even illegal, in the deportment of the
"You sail so nigh the wind, friend Joram," coolly interrupted the old
man, "as to keep every thing shaking. Just bethink you of a plain answer:
Have you seen any thing wrong about the slaver?"
"Nothing, on my conscience, then," said the publican, puffing not unlike a
cetaceous fish that had come to the surface to breathe; "as I am an
unworthy sinner, sitting under the preaching of good and faithful Dr
"No! Then are you a duller man than I had rated you at! Do you _suspect_
"Heaven protect me from suspicions! The devil besets all our minds with
doubts; but weak, and evil inclined, is he who submits to them. The
officers and crew of that ship are free drinkers, and as generous as
princes: Moreover, as they never forget to clear the score before they
leave the house, I call them--honest!"
"And I call them--pirates!"
"Pirates!" echoed Joram, fastening his eye, with marked distrust, on the
countenance of the attentive Wilder. "'Pirate' is a harsh word, mister
Robert, and should not be thrown in any gentleman's face without testimony
enough to clear one in an action of defamation, should such a thing get
fairly before twelve sworn and conscientious men. But I suppose you know
what you say, and before whom you say it."
"I do; and now, as it seems that your opinion in this matter amounts to
just nothing at all, you will please"
"To do any thing you order," cried Joram, very evidently delighted to
change the subject.
"To go and ask the customers below if they are dry," continued the other,
beckoning for the publican to retire by the way he entered, with the air
of one who felt certain of being obeyed. As soon as the door was closed on
the retiring landlord, he turned to his remaining companion, and
continued, "You seem as much struck aback as unbelieving Joe himself, at
what you have just heard."
"It is a harsh suspicion, and should be well supported, old man, before
you venture to repeat it. What pirate has lately been heard of on this
"There is the well-known Red Rover," returned the other, dropping his
voice, and casting a furtive look around him, as if even he thought
extraordinary caution was necessary in uttering the formidable name.
'But he is said to keep chiefly in the Caribbean Sea."
"He is a man to be any where, and every where. The King would pay him well
who put the rogue into the hands of the law."
"A thing easier planned than executed," Wilder thoughtfully answered.
"That is as it may be. I am an old fellow, and fitter to point out the way
than to go ahead. But you are like a newly fitted ship, with all your
rigging tight, and your spars without a warp in them. What say you to make
your fortune by selling the knaves to the King? It is only giving the
devil his own a few months sooner or later."
Wilder started, and turned away from his companion like one who was little
pleased by the manner in which he expressed himself. Perceiving the
necessity of a reply, however, he demanded,--
"And what reason have you for believing your suspicions true? or what
means have you for effecting your object, if true, in the absence of the
"I cannot swear that I am right; but, if sailing on the wrong tack, we can
only go about, when we find out the mistake. As to means, I confess they
are easier named than mustered."
"Go, go; this is idle talk; a mere whim of your old brain," said Wilder,
coldly; "and the less said the soonest mended. All this time we are
forgetting our proper business. I am half inclined to think, mister
Robert, you are holding out false lights, in order to get rid of the duty
for which you are already half paid."
There was a look of satisfaction in the countenance of the old tar, while
Wilder was speaking, that might have struck his companion, had not the
young man risen, while speaking, to pace the narrow room, with a
thoughtful and hurried step.
"Well, well," the former rejoined, endeavouring to disguise his evident
contentment, in his customary selfish, but shrewd expression, "I am an old
dreamer, and often have I thought myself swimming in the sea when I have
been safe moored on dry land! I believe there must soon be a reckoning
with the devil, in order that each may take his share of my poor carcass,
and I be left the Captain of my own ship. Now for your Honour's orders."
Wilder returned to his seat, and disposed himself to give the necessary
instructions to his confederate, in order that he might counteract all he
had already said in favour of the outward-bound vessel.
----"The man is, notwithstanding, sufficient;--three thousand,
ducats;--I think I may take his bond."--_Merchant of Venice._
As the day advanced, the appearances of a fresh sea breeze setting in
gradually grew stronger; and, with the increase of the wind, were to be
seen all the symptoms of an intention to leave the harbour on the part of
the Bristol trader. The sailing of a large ship was an event of much more
importance in an American port, sixty years ago, than at the present
hour, when a score is frequently seen to arrive and depart from one haven
in a single day. Although claiming to be inhabitants of one of the
principal towns of the colony, the good people of Newport did not witness
the movements on board the "Caroline" with that species of indolent regard
which is the fruit of satiety in sights as well as in graver things, and
with which, in the course of time, the evolutions of even a fleet come to
be contemplated On the contrary, the wharves were crowded with boys, and
indeed with idlers of every growth. Even many of the more considerate and
industrious of the citizens were seen loosening the close grasp they
usually kept on the precious minutes, and allowing them to escape
uncounted, though not entirely unheeded, as they yielded to the ascendency
of curiosity over interest, and strayed from their shops, and their
work-yards, to gaze upon the noble spectacle of a moving ship.
The tardy manner in which the crew of the "Caroline" made their
preparations, however, exhausted the patience of more than one time-saving
citizen. Quite as many of the better sort of the spectators had left the
wharves as still remained, and yet the vessel spread to the breeze but the
solitary sheet of canvas which has been already named. Instead of
answering the wishes of hundreds of weary eyes, the noble ship was seen
sheering about her anchor, inclining from the passing wind, as her bows
were alternately turned to the right and to the left, like a restless
courser restrained by the grasp of the groom, chafing his bit, and with
difficulty keeping those limbs upon the earth with which he is shortly to
bound around the ring. After more than an hour of unaccountable delay, a
rumour was spread among the crowd that an accident had occurred, by which
some important individual, belonging to the complement of the vessel, was
severely injured. But this rumour passed away also, and was nearly
forgotten, when a sheet of flame was seen issuing from a bow-port of the
"Caroline," driving before it a cloud of curling and mounting smoke, and
which was succeeded by the instant roar of a discharge of artillery. A
bustle, like that which usually precedes the immediate announcement of any
long attended event, took place among the weary expectants on the land,
and every one now felt certain, that, what ever might have occurred, it
was settled that the ship should proceed.
Of all this delay, the several movements on board, the subsequent signal
of sailing, and of the impatience in the crowd, Wilder had been a grave
and close observer. Posted with his back against the upright fluke of a
condemned anchor, on a wharf a little apart from that occupied by most of
the other spectators, he had remained an hour in the same position
scarcely bending his look to his right hand or to his left. When the gun
was fired he started, not with the nervous impulse which had made a
hundred others do precisely the same thing, but to turn an anxious and
rapid glance along the streets that came within the range of his eye. From
this hasty and uneasy examination, he soon returned into his former
reclining posture, though the wandering of his glances and the whole
expression of his meaning countenance would have told an observer that
some event, to which the young manner looked forward with excessive
interest, was on the eve of its consummation As minute after minute,
however, rolled by, his composure was gradually restored, and a smile of
satisfaction lighted his features, while his lips moved like those of a
man who expressed his pleasure in a soliloquy. It was in the midst of
these agreeable meditations, that the sound of many voices met his ears;
and, turning, he saw a large party within a few yards of where he stood.
He was not slow to detect among them the forms of Mrs Wyllys and
Gertrude, attired in such a manner as to leave no doubt that they were at
length on the eve of embarking.
A cloud, driving before the sun, does not produce a greater change in the
aspect of the earth, than was wrought in the expression of Wilder's
countenance by this unexpected sight. He was just implicitly relying on
the success of an artifice, which though sufficiently shallow, he
flattered himself was deep enough to act on the timidity and credulity of
woman; and, now, was he suddenly awoke from his self-gratulation, to prove
the utter disappointment of his hopes. Muttering a suppressed but deep
execration against the perfidy of his confederate, he shrunk as much as
possible behind the fluke of the anchor, and fastened his eyes sullenly on
The party which accompanied the travellers to the water side was, like all
other parties made to take leave of valued friends, taciturn and restless.
Those who spoke, did so with a rapid and impatient utterance, as though
they wished to hurry the very separation they regretted; and the features
of those who said nothing looked full of meaning. Wilder heard several
affectionate and warm-hearted wishes given, and promises extorted, from
youthful voices, all of which were answered in the soft and mournful tones
of Gertrude, and yet he obstinately refused to bend even a stolen look in
the direction of the speakers.
At length, a footstep, within a few feet of him, induced a hasty glance
aside. His eye met that of Mrs Wyllys. The lady started, as well as our
young mariner, at the sudden recognition; but, recovering her
self-possession, she observed, with admirable coolness,--
"You perceive, sir, that we are not to be deterred from an enterprise
once undertaken, by ordinary dangers."
"I hope you may not have reason, Madam, to repent your courage."
A short, but painfully thoughtful pause succeeded, on the part of Mrs
Wyllys. Casting a look behind her, in order to ascertain that she was not
overheard, she drew a step nigher to the youth, and said, in a voice even
lower than before,--
"It is not yet too late: Give me but the shadow of a reason for what you
have said, and I will wait for another ship. My feelings are foolishly
inclined to believe you, young man, though my judgment tells me there is
but too much probability that you trifle with our womanish fears."
"Trifle! On such a matter I would trifle with none of your sex; and least
of all with you!"
"This is extraordinary! For a stranger it is inexplicable Have you a fact,
or a reason, which I can plead to the friends of my young charge?"
"You know them already."
"Then, sir, am I compelled, against my will, to believe your motive is one
that you have some powerful considerations for wishing to conceal," coolly
returned the disappointed and even mortified governess "For your own sake,
I hope it is not unworthy I thank you for all that is well intended; if
you have spoken aught which is otherwise, I forgive it."
They parted, with the restraint of people who feel that distrust exists
between them. Wilder again shrunk behind his cover, maintaining a proud
position and a countenance that was grave to austerity. His situation,
however, compelled him to become an auditor of most of what was now said.
The principal speaker, as was meet on such an occasion was Mrs de Lacey,
whose voice was often raised in sage admonitions and professional opinions
blended in a manner that all would admire, though none of her sex, but
they who had enjoyed the singular good fortune of sharing in the intimate
confidence of a flag-officer, might ever hope to imitate.
"And now, my dearest niece," concluded the relict of the Rear-Admiral,
after exhausting her breath, and her store of wisdom, in numberless
exhortations to be careful of her health, to write often to repeat the
actual words of her private message to her brother the General, to keep
below in gales of wind, to be particular in the account of any
extraordinary sight she might have the good fortune to behold in the
passage, and, in short, in all other matters likely to grow out of such a
leave-taking "and now, my dearest niece, I commit you to the mighty deep,
and One far mightier--to Him who made it. Banish from your thoughts all
recollections of any thing you may have heard concerning the imperfections
of the 'Royal Caroline;' for the opinion of the aged seaman, who sailed
with the lamented Admiral, assures me they are all founded in mistake."
["The treacherous villain!" muttered Wilder.] "Who spoke?" said Mrs de
Lacey; but, receiving no reply, she continued; "His opinion is also
exactly in accordance with my own, on more mature reflection. To be sure,
it is a culpable neglect to depend on bobstays and gammonings for the
security of the bowsprit, but still even this is an oversight which, as my
old friend has just told me, may be remedied by 'preventers and lashings.'
I have written a note to the Master,--Gertrude, my dear, be careful ever
to call the Master of the ship _Mister_ Nichols; for none, but such as
bear his Majesty's commission, are entitled to be termed _Captains;_ it is
an honourable station, and should always be treated with reverence, it
being, in fact, next in rank to a flag-officer,--I have written a note to
the Master on the subject, and he will see the neglect repaired and so, my
love, God bless you; take the best possible care of yourself; write me by
even opportunity; remember my kindest love to your father and be very
minute in your description of the whales."
The eyes of the worthy and kind-hearted widow were filled with tears as
she ended; and there was a touch of nature, in the tremour of her voice,
that produced a sympathetic feeling in all who heard her words. The final
parting took place under the impression of these kind emotions; and,
before another minute, the oars of the boat, which bore the travellers to
the ship, were heard in the water.
Wilder listened to the well-known sounds with a feverish interest, that he
possibly might have found it difficult to explain even to himself. A light
touch on the elbow first drew his attention from the disagreeable subject.
Surprised at the circumstance, he faced the intruder, who appeared to be a
lad of apparently some fifteen years. A second look was necessary to tell
the abstracted young mariner that he again saw the attendant of the Rover;
he who has already been introduced in our pages under the name of
"Your pleasure?" he demanded, when his amazement at being thus interrupted
in his meditations, had a little subsided.
"I am directed to put these orders into your own hands," was the answer.
"Orders!" repeated the young man, with a curling lip. "The authority
should be respected which issues its mandates through such a messenger."
"The authority is one that it has ever proved dangerous to disobey,"
gravely returned the boy.
"Indeed! Then will I look into the contents with out delay, lest I fall
into some fatal negligence. Are you bid to wait an answer?"
On raising his eyes from the note the other had given him, after breaking
its seal, the young man found that the messenger had already vanished.
Perceiving how useless it would be to pursue so light a form, amid the
mazes of lumber that loaded the wharf, and most of the adjacent shore, he
opened the letter and read as follows:--
"An accident has disabled the Master of the outward-bound ship called
the 'Royal Caroline!' Her consignee is reluctant to intrust her to the
officer next in rank; but sail she must. I find she has credit for her
speed. If you have any credentials of _character_ and _competency_,
profit by the occasion, and earn the station you are finally destined to
fill. You have been named to some who are interested, and you have been
sought diligently. If this reach you in season, be on the alert, and be
decided. Show no surprise at any co-operation you may unexpectedly meet.
My agents are more numerous than you had believed. The reason is
obvious; gold is yellow, though I am
The signature, the matter, and the style of this letter, left Wilder in no
doubt as to its author. Casting a glance around him, he sprang into a
skiff; and, before the boat of the travellers had reached the ship, that
of Wilder had skimmed the water over half the distance between her and the
land. As he plied his skulls with vigorous and skilful arms, he soon stood
upon her decks. Forcing his way among the crowd of attendants from the
shore, that are apt to cumber a departing ship, he reached the part of the
vessel where a circle of busy and anxious faces told him he should find
those most concerned in her fate. Until now, he had hardly breathed
clearly, much less reflected on the character of his sudden enterprise. It
was too late, however, to retreat, had he been so disposed, or to abandon
his purpose, without incurring the hazard of exciting dangerous
suspicions A single instant served to recal his thoughts, ere he
"Do I see the owner of the 'Caroline?'"
"The ship is consigned to our house," returned a sedate, deliberate, and
shrewd-looking individual, in the attire of a wealthy, but also of a
"I have heard that you have need of an experienced officer."
"Experienced officers are comfortable things to an owner in a vessel of
value," returned the merchant. "I hope the 'Caroline' is not without her
"But I had heard, one to supply her Commander's place, for a time, was
"If her Commander were incapable of doing his duty, such a thing might
certainly come to pass. Are you seeking a birth?"
"I have come to apply for the vacancy."
"It would have been wiser, had you first ascertained there existed a
vacancy to fill. But you have not come to ask authority, in such a ship as
this, without sufficient testimony of your ability and fitness?"
"I hope these documents may prove satisfactory," said Wilder, placing in
his hands a couple of unsealed letters.
During the time the other was reading the certificates for such they
proved to be, his shrewd eye was looking over his spectacles at the
subject of their contents, and returning to the paper, in alternate
glances, in such a way as to render it very evident that he was
endeavouring to assure himself of the fidelity of the words he read, by
"Hum! This is certainly very excellent testimony in your favour, young
gentleman; and--coming, as it does, from two so respectable and affluent
houses as Spriggs, Boggs and Tweed, and Hammer and Hacket--entitled to
great credit. A richer and broader bottomed firm than the former, is not
to be found in all his Majesty's colonies; and I have great respect for
the latter, though envious people do say that they over-trade a little."
"Since, then, you esteem them so highly, I shall not be considered hasty
in presuming on their friendship."
"Not at all, not at all, Mr a--a"--glancing his eye again into one of the
letters; "ay--Mr Wilder; there is never any presumption in a fair offer,
in a matter of business. Without offers to sell and offers to buy, our
property would never change hands, sir, ha! ha! ha! never change to a
profit, you know, young gentleman."
"I am aware of the truth of what you say, and therefore I beg leave to
repeat my offer."
"All perfectly fair and perfectly reasonable. But you cannot expect us, Mr
Wilder, to make a vacancy expressly for you to fill, though it must be
admitted that your papers are excellent--as good as the note of Spriggs,
Boggs and Tweed themselves--not to make a vacancy expressly"
"I had supposed the Master of the ship so seriously injured"--
"Injured, but not seriously," interrupted the wary consignee, glancing his
eye around at sundry shippers, and one or two spectators, who were within
ear-shot; "injured certainly, but not so much as to quit the vessel. No,
no, gentlemen; the good ship 'Royal Caroline' proceeds on her voyage, as
usual, under the care of that old and well-tried mariner, Nicholas
"Then, sir, am I sorry to have intruded on your time at so busy a moment,"
said Wilder, bowing with a disappointed air, and falling back a step, as
if about to withdraw.
"Not so hasty--not so hasty; bargains are not to be concluded, young man,
as you let a sail fall from the yard. It is possible that your services
may be of use, though not perhaps in the responsible situation of Master.
At what rate do you value the title of 'Captain?'"
"I care little for the name, provided the trust and the authority are
"A very sensible youth!" muttered the discreet merchant; "and one who
knows how to distinguish between the shadow and the substance! A gentleman
of your good sense and character must know, however, that the reward is
always proportioned to the nominal dignity. If I were acting for myself,
in this business, the case would be materially changed, but, as an agent,
it is a duty to consult the interest of my principal."
"The reward is of no account," said Wilder, with an eagerness that might
have over-reached itself, had not the individual with whom he was
bargaining fastened his thoughts on the means of cheapening the other's
services, with a steadiness from which they rarely swerved, when bent on
so commendable an object as saving: "I seek for service."
"Then service you shall have; nor will you find us niggardly in the
operation. You cannot expect an advance, for a run of no more than a
month; nor any perquisites in the way of stowage, since the ship is now
full to her hatches; nor, indeed, any great price in the shape of wages,
since we take you chiefly to accommodate so worthy a youth, and to honour
the recommendations of so respectable a house as Spriggs, Boggs and Tweed;
but you will find us liberal, excessive liberal. Stay--how know we that
you are the person named in the invoi--I should say, recommendation?"
"Does not the fact of possessing the letters establish my character?"
"It might in peaceable times; when the realm was not scourged by war. A
description of the person should have accompanied the documents, like a
letter of advice with the bill. As we take you at some risk in this
matter, you are not to be surprised that the price will be affected by the
circumstance. We are liberal; I believe no house in the colonies pays more
liberally; but then we have a character for prudence to lose."
"I have already said, sir, that the price shall not interrupt our
"Good: There is pleasure in transacting business on such liberal and
honourable views! And yet I wish a notarial seal, or a description of the
person, had accompanied the letters. This is the signature of Robert
Tweed; I know it well, and would be glad to see it at the bottom of a
promissory note for ten thousand pounds; that is, with a responsible
endorser; but the uncertainty is much against your pecuniary interest,
young man, since we become, as it were, underwriters that you are the
"In order that your mind may be at ease on the subject, Mr Bale," said a
voice from among the little circle that was listening, with characteristic
interest, to the progress of the bargain, "I can testify, or, should it be
necessary, qualify to the person of the gentleman."
Wilder turned in some haste, and in no little astonishment, to discover
the acquaintance whom chance had thrown in so extraordinary, and possibly
in so disagreeable a manner, across his path; and that, too, in a portion
of the country where he wished to believe himself an entire stranger. To
his utter amazement, he found that the new speaker was no other than the
landlord of the "Foul Anchor."--Honest Joe stood with a perfectly composed
look, and with a face that might readily have been trusted to confront a
far more imposing tribunal, awaiting the result of his testimony on the
seemingly wavering mind of the consignee.
"Ah! you have lodged the gentleman for a time and you can testify that he
is a punctual paymaster and a civil inmate. But I want documents fit to be
filed with the correspondence of the owners _at home_".
"I know not what sort of testimony you think fit for such good company,"
returned the unmoved publican holding up his hand with an air of admirable
innocence; "but, if the sworn declaration of a housekeeper is of the sort
you need, you are a magistrate and may begin to say over the words at
"Not I, not I, man. Though a magistrate, the oath is informal, and would
not be binding in law. But what do you know of the person in question?"
"That he is as good a seaman, for his years, as any in the colonies. There
may be some of more practice and greater experience; I dare say such are
to be found; but as to activity, watchfulness, and prudence, it would be
hard to find his equal--especially for prudence."
"You then are quite certain that this person is the individual named in
Joram received the certificates with the same admirable coolness he had
maintained from the commencement and prepared to read them with the most
scrupulous care. In order to effect this necessary operation, he had to
put on his spectacles, (for the landlord of the "Foul Anchor" was in the
wane of life), and Wilder fancied that he stood, during the process, a
notable example of how respectable depravity may become, in appearance,
when supported by a reverend air.
"This is all very true, Mr Bale," continued the publican, removing his
glasses, and returning the papers. "They have forgotten to say any thing
of the manner in which he saved the 'Lively Nancy,' off Hatteras, and how
he run the 'Peggy and Dolly' over the Savannah bar, without a pilot,
blowing great guns from the northward and eastward at the time; but I, who
followed the water, as you know, in my younger days, have often heard both
circumstances mentioned among sea-faring men, and I am a judge of the
difficulty. I have an interest in this ship, neighbour Bale, (for though a
rich man, and I a poor one, we are nevertheless neighbours)--I say I have
an interest in this ship; since she is a vessel that seldom quits Newport
without leaving something to jingle in my pocket, or I should not be here
to-day, to see her lift her anchor."
As the publican concluded, he gave audible evidence that his visit had not
gone unrewarded, by raising a music that was no less agreeable to the ears
of the thrifty merchant than to his own. The two worthies laughed in an
understanding way, and like two men who had found a particular profit in
their intercourse with the "Royal Caroline." The latter then beckoned
Wilder apart, and, after a little further preliminary discourse, the terms
of the young mariner's engagement were finally settled. The true Master of
the ship was to remain on board, both as a security for the insurance, and
in order to preserve her reputation; but it was frankly admitted that his
hurt, which was no less than a broken leg, and which the surgeons were
then setting, would probably keep him below for a month to come. During
the time he was kept from his duty, his functions were to be filled, in
effect, by our adventurer. These arrangements occupied another hour of
time, and then the consignee left the vessel, perfectly satisfied with the
prudent and frugal manner in which he had discharged his duty towards his
principal. Before stepping into the boat, however, with a view to be
equally careful of his own interests, he took an opportunity to request
the publican to make a proper and legal affidavit of all that he knew, "of
his own knowledge," concerning the officer just engaged Honest Joram was
liberal of his promises; but, as he saw no motive, now that all was so
happily effected, for incurring useless risks, he contrived to evade their
fulfilment, finding, no doubt, his apology for this breach of faith in the
absolute poverty of his information, when the subject came to be duly
considered, and construed literally by the terms required.
It is unnecessary to relate the bustle, the reparation of half-forgotten,
and consequently neglected business, the duns, good wishes, injunctions to
execute commissions in some distant port, and all the confused, and
seemingly interminable, duties that crowd themselves into the last ten
minutes that precede the sailing of a merchant vessel, more especially if
she is fortunate, or rather unfortunate enough to have passengers. A
certain class of men quit a vessel, in such a situation, with the