Part 6 out of 9
by Wilder, fastened to it, with dexterity, one of the linen cloths that
had been brought from the wreck, and exposed it, far above the diminished
sail, for a couple of minutes, ere her device had caught the eyes of
either of her companions. Then, indeed she lowered the signal, in haste,
before the dark and frowning look of Wilder. But, short as was the triumph
of the negress, it was crowned with complete success.
The restrained silence, which is so apt to succeed a sudden burst of
displeasure, was still reigning in the boat, when a cloud of smoke broke
out of the side of the ship, as she lay on the summit of a wave; and then
came the deadened roar of artillery struggling heavily up against the
"It is now too late to hesitate," said Mrs Wyllys; "we are seen, let the
stranger be friend or enemy."
Wilder did not answer, but continued to profit, by each opportunity, to
watch the movements of the stranger. In another moment, the spars were
seen receding from the breeze, and, in a couple of minutes more, the head
of the ship was changed to the direction in which they lay. Then appeared
four or five broader sheets of canvas in different parts of the
complicated machinery, while the vessel bowed to the gale, as though she
inclined still lower before its power. At moments, as she mounted on a
sea, her bows seemed issuing from the element altogether and high jets of
spray were cast into the air, glittering in the sun, as the white
particles scattered in the breeze, or fell in gems upon the sails and
rigging, "It is now too late, indeed;" murmured our adventurer bearing up
the helm of his own little craft, and letting its sheet glide through his
hands, until the sail was bagging with the breeze nearly to bursting. The
boat, which had so long been labouring through the water, with a wish to
cling as nigh as possible to the Continent, flew over the seas, leaving a
long trail of foam behind it; and, before either of the females had
regained their entire self-possession, she was floating in the comparative
calm that was created by the hull of a large vessel. A light active form
stood in the rigging of the ship, issuing the necessary orders to a
hundred seamen; and, in the midst of the confusion and alarm that such a
scene was likely to cause in the bosom of woman, Gertrude and Mrs Wyllys,
with their two companions, were transferred in safety to the decks of the
stranger. The moment they and their effects were secured the launch was
cut adrift, like useless lumber. Twenty mariners were then seen climbing
among the ropes; and sail after sail was opened still wider, until bearing
the vast folds of all her canvas spread, the vessel was urged along the
trackless course, like a swift cloud drifting through the thin medium of
the upper air.
"Now let it work: Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take then what course thou wilt!"--_Shakspeare_
When the velocity with which the vessel flew before the wind is properly
considered, the reader will not be surprised to learn, that, with the
change of a week in the time from that with which the foregoing incidents
close, we are enabled to open the scene of the present chapter in a very
different quarter of the same sea. It is unnecessary to follow the "Rover"
in the windings of that devious and apparently often uncertain course,
during which his keel furrowed more than a thousand miles of ocean, and
during which more than one cruiser of the King was skilfully eluded, and
sundry less dangerous encounters avoided, as much from inclination as any
other visible cause. It is quite sufficient for our purpose to lift the
curtain, which must conceal her movements for a time, to expose the
gallant vessel in a milder climate, and, when the season of the year is
considered, in a more propitious sea.
Exactly seven days after Gertrude and her governess became the inmates of
a ship whose character it is no longer necessary to conceal from the
reader, the sun rose upon her flapping sails, symmetrical spars, and dark
hull, within sight of a few, low, small and rocky islands. The colour of
the element would have told a seaman, had no mound of blue land been seen
issuing out of the world of waters, that the bottom of the sea was
approaching nigher than common to its surface, and that it was necessary
to guard against the well-known and dreaded dangers of the coast. Wind
there was none; for she vacillating and uncertain air which, from time to
time, distended for an instant the lighter canvas of the vessel, deserved
to be merely termed the breathings of a morning, which was breaking upon
the main, soft, mild, and seemingly so bland as to impart to the ocean the
placid character of a sleeping lake.
Everything having life in the ship was already up and stirring. Fifty
stout and healthy-looking seamen were hanging in different parts of her
rigging, some laughing, and holding low converse with messmates who lay
indolently on the neighbouring spars, and others leisurely performing the
light and trivial duty that was the ostensible employment of the moment.
More than as many others loitered carelessly about the decks below,
somewhat similarly engaged; the whole wearing much the appearance of men
who were set to perform certain immaterial tasks, more to escape the
imputation of idleness than from any actual necessity that the same should
be executed. The quarter-deck, the hallowed spot of every vessel that may
pretend to either discipline or its semblance, was differently occupied
though by a set of beings who could lay no greater claim to activity or
interest. In short, the vessel partook of the character of the ocean and
of the weather, both of which seemed reserving their powers to some more
suitable occasion for their display.
Three or four young (and, considering the nature of their service, far
from unpleasant-looking) men appeared in a sort of undress nautical
uniform, in which the fashion of no people in particular was very
studiously consulted. Notwithstanding the apparent calm that reigned on
all around them, each of these individuals bore a short straight dirk at
his girdle; and, as one of them bent over the side of the vessel, the
handle of a little pistol was discovered through an opening in the folds
of his professional frock. There were, however, no other immediate signs
of distrust, whence an observer might infer that this armed precaution was
more than the usual custom of the vessel. A couple of grim and callous
looking sentinels, who were attired and accoutred like soldiers of the
land, and who, contrary to marine usage, were posted on the line which
separated the resorting place of the officers from the forward part of the
deck, bespoke additional caution. But, still, all these arrangements were
regarded by the seamen with incurious eyes--a certain proof that use had
long rendered them familiar.
The individual who has been introduced to the reader under the
high-sounding title of "General," stood upright and rigid as one of the
masts of the ship, studying, with a critical eye, the equipments of his
two mercenaries, and apparently as regardless of what was passing around
him as though he literally considered himself a fixture in the vessel. One
form, however, was to be distinguished from all around it, by the dignity
of its mien and the air of authority that breathed even in the repose of
its attitude. It was the Rover, who stood alone, none presuming to
approach the spot where he had chosen to plant his light but graceful and
imposing person. There was ever an expression of stern investigation in
his quick wandering eye, as it roved from object to object in the
equipment of the vessel; and at moments, as his look appeared fastened on
some one of the light fleecy clouds that floated in the blue vacuum above
him, there gathered about his brow a gloom like that which is thought to
be the shadowing of intense thought. Indeed, so dark and threatening did
this lowering of the eye become, at times, that the fair hair which broke
out in ringlets from beneath a black velvet sea-cap, from whose top
depended a tassel of gold, could no longer impart to his countenance the
gentleness which it sometimes was seen to express. As though he disdained
concealment, and wished to announce the nature of the power he wielded,
he wore his pistols openly in a leathern belt, that was made to cross a
frock of blue, delicately edged with gold, and through which he had
thrust, with the same disregard of concealment, a light and curved Turkish
yattagan, with a straight stiletto, which, by the chasings of its handle,
had probably originally come from the manufactory of some Italian artisan.
On the deck of the poop, overlooking the rest and retired from the crowd
beneath them, stood Mrs Wyllys and her charge, neither of whom announced
in the slightest degree, by eye or air, that anxiety which might readily
be supposed natural to females who found themselves in a condition so
critical as in the company of lawless freebooters. On the contrary, while
the former pointed out to the latter the hillock of pale blue which rose
from the water, like a dark and strongly defined cloud in the distance,
hope was strongly blended with the ordinarily placid expression of her
features. She also called to Wilder, in a cheerful voice; and the youth,
who had long been standing, with a sort of jealous watchfulness, at the
foot of the ladder which led from the quarter-deck, was at her side in an
"I am telling Gertrude," said the governess, with those tones of
confidence which had been created by the dangers they had incurred
together, "that yonder is her home, and that, when the breeze shall be
felt, we may speedily hope to reach it; but the wilfully timid girl
insists that she cannot believe her senses, after the frightful risks we
have run, until, at least, she shall see the dwelling of her childhood,
and the face of her father. You have often been on this coast before, Mr
"Then, you can tell us what is the distant land we see."
"Land!" repeated our adventurer, affecting a look of surprise; "is there
then land in view?"
"Is there land in view! Have not hours gone by since the same was
proclaimed from the masts?"
"It may be so: We seamen are dull after a night of watching, and often
hear but little of that which passes."
There was a quick, suspicious glance from the eye of the governess, as if
she apprehended, she knew not what, ere she continued,--
"Has the sight of the cheerful, blessed soil of America so soon lost its
charm in your eye, that you approach it with an air so heedless? The
infatuation of men of your profession, in favour of so dangerous and so
treacherous an element, is an enigma I never could explain."
"Do seamen, then, love their calling with so devoted an affection?"
demanded Gertrude, in a haste that she might have found embarrassing to
"It is a folly of which we are often accused," rejoined Wilder, turning
his eye on the speaker, and smiling in a manner that had lost every shade
"I fear, justly."
"Ay!" exclaimed Mrs Wyllys, with an emphasis that was remarkable for the
tone of soft and yet bitter regret with which it was uttered; "often
better than their quiet and peaceful homes!"
Gertrude pursued the idea no further; but her line full eye fell upon the
deck, as though she reflected deeply on a perversity of taste which could
render man so insensible to domestic pleasures, and incline him to court
the wild dangers of the ocean.
"I, at least, am free from the latter charge," exclaimed Wilder: "To me a
ship has always been a home."
"And much of my life, too, has been wasted in one," continued the
governess, who evidently was pursuing, in the recesses of her own mind,
some images of a time long past. "Happy and miserable alike, have been the
hours that I have passed upon the sea! Nor is this the first King's ship
in which it has been my fortune to be thrown. And yet the customs seem
changed since those days I mention, or else memory is beginning to lose
some of the impressions of an age when memory is apt to be most tenacious.
Is it usual, Mr Wilder, to admit an utter stranger, like yourself, to
exercise authority in a vessel of war?"
"And yet have you been acting, as far as my weak judgment teaches, as
second here, since the moment we entered this vessel, wrecked and helpless
fugitives from the waves."
Our adventurer again averted his eye, and evidently searched for words,
ere he replied,--
"A commission is always respected: Mine procured for me the consideration
you have witnessed."
"You are then an officer of the Crown?"
"Would any other authority be respected in a vessel of the Crown? Death
had left a vacancy in the second station of this--cruiser. Fortunately for
the wants of the service, perhaps for myself, I was at hand to fill it."
"But, tell me farther," continued the governess, who appeared disposed to
profit by the occasion to solve more doubts than one, "is it usual for the
officers of a vessel of war to appear armed among their crew, in the
manner I see here?"
"It is the pleasure of our Commander."
"That Commander is evidently a skilful seaman, but one whose caprices and
tastes are as extraordinary as I find his mien. I have surely seen him
before; and, it would seem, but lately."
Mrs Wyllys then became silent for several minutes. During the whole time,
her eye never averted its gaze from the form of the calm and motionless
being, who still maintained his attitude of repose, aloof from all that
throng whom he had the address to make so entirely dependant on his
authority. It seemed, for these few minutes, that the organs of the
governess drunk in the smallest peculiarity of his person, and as if they
would never tire of their gaze. Then, drawing a heavy and relieving
breath, she once more remembered that she was not alone, and that others
were silently, but observantly, awaiting the operation of her secret
thoughts. Without manifesting any embarrassment, however, at an absence of
mind that was far too common to surprise her pupil, the governess resumed
the discourse where she had herself dropped it, bending her look again on
"Is Captain Heidegger, then, long of your acquaintance?" she demanded.
"We have met before."
"It should be a name of German origin, by the sound. Certain I am that it
is new to me. The time has been when few officers, of his rank, in the
service of the King, were unknown to me, at least in name. Is his family
of long standing in England?"
"That is a question he may better answer himself," said Wilder, glad to
perceive that the subject of their discourse was approaching them, with
the air of one who felt that none in that vessel might presume to dispute
his right to mingle in any discourse that should please his fancy. "For
the moment, Madam, my duty calls me elsewhere."
Wilder evidently withdrew with reluctance; and, had suspicion been active
in the breasts of either of his companions, they would not have failed to
note the glance of distrust with which he watched the manner that his
Commander assumed in paying the salutations of the morning. There was
nothing, however, in the air of the Rover that should have given ground to
such jealous vigilance. On the contrary his manner, for the moment, was
cold and abstracted he appeared to mingle in their discourse, much more
from a sense of the obligations of hospitality than from any satisfaction
that he might have been thought to derive from the intercourse. Still, his
deportment was kind, and his voice bland as the airs that were wafted from
the healthful islands in view.
"There is a sight"--he said, pointing towards the low blue ridges of the
land--"that forms the lands-man's delight, and the seaman's terror."
"Are, then, seamen thus averse to the view of regions where so many
millions of their fellow creatures find pleasure in dwelling?" demanded
Gertrude, (to whom he more particularly addressed his words), with a
frankness that would, in itself, have sufficiently proved no glimmerings
of his real character had ever dawned on her own spotless and unsuspicious
"Miss Grayson included," he returned, with a slight bow, and a smile, in
which, perhaps, irony was concealed by playfulness. "After the risk you
have so lately run, even I, confirmed and obstinate sea-monster as I am,
have no reason to complain of your distaste for our element. And yet, you
see, it is not entirely without its charms. No lake, that lies within the
limits of yon Continent, can be more calm and sweet than is this bit of
ocean. Were we a few degrees more southward, I would show you landscapes
of rock and mountain--of bays, and hillsides sprinkled with verdure--of
tumbling whales, and lazy fishermen, and distant cottages, and lagging
sails--such as would make a figure even in pages that the bright eye of
lady might love to read."
"And yet for most of this would you be indebted to the land. In return
for your picture, I would take you north, and show you black and
threatening clouds--a green and angry sea--shipwrecks and
shoals--cottages, hillsides, and mountains, in the imagination only of the
drowning man--and sails bleached by waters that contain the voracious
shark, or the disgusting polypus."
Gertrude had answered in his own vein; but it was too evident, by her pale
cheek, and a slight tremour about her full, rich lip, that memory was also
busy with its frightful images. The quick-searching eye of the Rover was
not slow to detect the change. As though he would banish every
recollection that might give her pain, he artfully, but delicately, gave a
new direction to the discourse.
"There are people who think the sea has no amusements," he said. "To a
pining, home-sick, sea-sick miserable, this may well be true; but the man
who has spirit enough to keep down the qualms of the animal may tell a
different tale. We have our balls regularly, for instance; and there are
artists on board this ship, who, though they cannot, perhaps, make as
accurate a right angle with their legs as the first dancer of a leaping
ballet, can go through their figures in a gale of wind; which is more than
can be said of the highest jumper of them all on shore."
"A ball, without females, would, at least, be thought an unsocial
amusement, with us uninstructed people of terra firma."
"Hum! It might be better for a lady or two Then, have we our theatre:
Farce, comedy, and the buskin, take their turns to help along the time.
You fellow, that you see lying on the fore-topsail-yard like an indolent
serpent basking on the branch of a tree, will 'roar you as gently as any
sucking dove!' And here is a votary of Momus, who would raise a smile on
the lips of a sea-sick friar: I believe I can say no more in his
"All this is well in the description," returned Mrs Wyllys; "but
something is due to the merit of the--poet, or, painter shall I term you?"
"Neither, but a grave and veritable chronologer. However, since you doubt,
and since you are so new to the ocean"--
"Pardon me!" the lady gravely interrupted, "I am, on the contrary, one who
has seen much of it."
The Rover, who had rather suffered his unsettled glances to wander over
the youthful countenance of Gertrude than towards her companion, now bent
his eyes on the last speaker, where he kept them fastened so long as to
create some little embarrassment in the subject of his gaze.
"You seem surprised that the time of a female should have been thus
employed," she observed, with a view to arouse his attention to the
impropriety of his observation.
"We were speaking of the sea, if I remember," he continued, like a man
that was suddenly awakened from a deep reverie. "Ay, I know it was of the
sea; for I had grown boastful in my panegyrics: I had told you that this
ship was faster than"--
"Nothing!" exclaimed Gertrude, laughing at his blunder. "You were playing
Master of Ceremonies at a nautical ball!"
"Will you figure in a minuet? Shall I honour my boards with the graces of
"Me, sir? and with whom? the gentleman who knows so well the manner of
keeping his feet in a gale?"
"You were about to relieve any doubts we might have concerning the
amusements of seamen," said the governess, reproving the too playful
spirit of her pupil, by a glance of her own grave eye.
"Ay, it was the humour of the moment, nor will I balk it."
He then turned towards Wilder, who had posted himself within ear-shot of
what was passing, and continued,--
"These ladies doubt our gaiety, Mr Wilder. Let the boatswain give the
magical wind of his call, and pass the word 'To mischief' among the
Our adventurer bowed his acquiescence, and issued the necessary order. In
a few moments, the precise individual who has already made acquaintance
with the reader, in the bar-room of the "Foul Anchor," appeared in the
centre of the vessel, near the main hatchway, decorated, as before, with
his silver chain and whistle, and accompanied by two mates who were
humbler scholars of the same gruff school. Then rose a long, shrill
whistle from the instrument of Nightingale, who, when the sound had died
away on the ear, uttered, in his deepest and least sonorous tones,--
"All hands to mischief, ahoy!"
We have before had occasion to liken these sounds to the muttering of a
bull, nor shall we at present see fit to disturb the comparison, since no
other similitude so apt, presents itself. The example of the boatswain was
followed by each of his mates in turn, and then the summons was deemed
sufficient. However unintelligible and grum the call might sound in the
musical ears of Gertrude, they produced no unpleasant effects on the
organs of a majority of those who heard them. When the first swelling and
protracted note of the call mounted on the still air, each idle and
extended young seaman, as he lay stretched upon a spar, or hung dangling
from a ratling lifted his head, to catch the words that were to follow, as
an obedient spaniel pricks his ears to catch the tones of his master. But
no sooner had the emphatic word, which preceded the long-drawn and
customary exclamation with which Nightingale closed his summons, been
pronounced, than the low murmur of voices, which had so long been
maintained among the men, broke out in a simultaneous and common shout.
In an instant, every symptom of lethargy disappeared in a general and
extraordinary activity. The young and nimble topmen bounded like leaping
animals, into the rigging of their respective masts, and were seen
ascending the shaking ladders of ropes as so many squirrels would hasten
to their holes at the signal of alarm. The graver and heavier seamen of
the forecastle, the still more important quarter-gunners and
quarter-masters, the less instructed and half-startled waisters, and the
raw and actually alarmed after-guard, all hurried, by a sort of instinct,
to their several points; the more practised to plot mischief against their
shipmates, and the less intelligent to concert their means of defence.
In an instant, the tops and yards were ringing with laughter and
loudly-uttered jokes, as each exulting mariner aloft proclaimed his device
to his fellows, or urged his own inventions, at the expense of some less
ingenious mode of annoyance. On the other hand, the distrustful and often
repeated glances that were thrown upward, from the men who had clustered
on the quarter-deck and around the foot of the mainmast sufficiently
proclaimed the diffidence with which the novices on deck were about to
enter into the contest of practical wit that was about to commence. The
steady and more earnest seamen forward, however, maintained their places,
with a species of stern resolution which manifestly proved the reliance
they had on their physical force, and their long familiarity with all the
humours, no less than with the dangers, of the ocean.
There was another little cluster of men, who assembled, in the midst of
the general clamour and confusion, with a haste and steadiness that
announced, at the same time, both a consciousness of the entire necessity
of unity on the present occasion, and habit of acting in concert. These
were the drilled and military dependants of the General, between whom,
and the less artificial seamen, there existed not only an antipathy that
might almost be called instinctive, but which, for obvious reasons had
been so strongly encouraged in the vessel of which we write, as often to
manifest itself in turbulent and nearly mutinous broils. About twenty in
number, they collected quickly; and, although obliged to dispense with
their fire-arms in such an amusement, there was a sternness, in the visage
of each of the whiskered worthies, that showed how readily he could appeal
to the bayonet that was suspended from his shoulder, should need demand
it. Their Commander himself withdrew, with the rest of the officers to the
poop, in order that no incumbrance might be given, by their presence, to
the freedom of the sports to which they had resigned the rest of the
A couple of minutes might have been lost in producing the different
changes we have just related But, so soon as the topmen were sure that no
unfortunate laggard of their party was within reach of the resentment of
the different groupes beneath, they commenced complying literally with the
summons of the boatswain, by plotting mischief.
Sundry buckets, most of which had been provided for the extinction of
fire, were quickly seen pendant from as many whips on the outer extremity
of the different yards descending towards the sea. In spite of the awkward
opposition of the men below, these leathern vessels were speedily filled,
and in the hands of those who had sent them down. Many was the gaping
waister, and rigid marine, who now made a more familiar acquaintance with
the element on which he floated than suited either his convenience or his
humour. So long as the jokes were confined to these semi-initiated
individuals, the top men enjoyed their fun with impunity; but, the in
stant the dignity of a quarter-gunner's person was invaded, the whole
gang of petty officers and forecastle-men rose in a body to meet the
insult, with a readiness and dexterity that manifested how much at home
the elder mariners were with all that belonged to their art. A little
engine was transferred to the head, and was then brought to bear on the
nearest top, like a well-planted battery clearing the way for the opening
battle. The laughing and chattering topmen were soon dispersed: some
ascending beyond the power of the engine, and others retreating into the
neighbouring top, along ropes, and across giddy heights, that would have
seemed impracticable to any animal less agile than a squirrel.
The marines were now summoned, by the successful and malicious mariners,
forward, to improve their advantage. Thoroughly drenched already, and
eager to resent their wrongs, a half-dozen of the soldiers, led on by a
corporal, the coating of whose powdered poll had been converted into a
sort of paste by too great an intimacy with a bucket of water, essayed to
mount the rigging; an exploit to them much more arduous than to enter a
breach. The waggish quarter-gunners and quarter-masters, satisfied with
their own success, stimulated them to the enterprise; and Nightingale and
his mates, while they rolled their tongues into their cheeks, gave forth,
with their whistles, the cheering sound of "heave away!" The sight of
these adventurers, slowly and cautiously mounting the rigging, acted very
much, on the scattered topmen, in the manner that the appearance of so
many flies, in the immediate vicinity of a web, is known to act on their
concealed and rapacious enemies. The sailors aloft saw, by expressive
glances from them below, that a soldier was considered legal game. No
sooner, therefore, had the latter fairly entered into the toils, than
twenty topmen rushed out upon them, in order to make sure of their
prizes. In an incredibly short time, this important result was achieved.
Two or three of the aspiring adventurers were lashed where they had been
found, utterly unable to make any resistance in a spot where instinct
itself seemed to urge them to devote both hands to the necessary duty of
holding fast; while the rest were transferred, by the means of whips, to
different spars, very much as a light sail or a yard would have been
swayed into its place.
In the midst of the clamorous rejoicings that attended this success, one
individual made himself conspicuous for the gravity and business-like air
with which he performed his part of the comedy. Seated on the outer end of
a lower yard, with as much steadiness as though he had been placed on an
ottoman, he was intently occupied in examining into the condition of a
captive, who had been run up at his feet, with an order from the waggish
captain of the top, "to turn him in for a jewel-block;" a name that
appears to have been taken from the precious stones that are so often seen
pendant from the ears of the other sex.
"Ay, ay," muttered this deliberate and grave-looking tar, who was no other
than Richard Fid "the stropping you've sent with the fellow is none of the
best; and, if he squeaks so now, what will he do when you come to reeve a
rope through him! By the Lord, masters, you should have furnished the lad
a better outfit, if you meant to send him into good company aloft. Here
are more holes in his jacket than there are cabin windows to a Chinese
junk. Hilloa!--on deck there!--you Guinea, pick me up a tailor, and send
him aloft, to keep the wind out of this waister's tarpauling."
The athletic African, who had been posted on the forecastle for his vast
strength, cast an eye upward, and, with both arms thrust into his bosom,
he rolled along the deck, with just as serious a mien as though he had
been sent on a duty of the greatest import. The uproar over his head had
drawn a most helpless-looking mortal from a retired corner of the
birth-deck, to the ladder of the forward hatch, where, with a body half
above the combings, a skein of strong coarse thread around his neck, a
piece of bees-wax in one hand, and a needle in the other, he stood staring
about him, with just that sort of bewildered air that a Chinese mandarin
would manifest, were he to be suddenly initiated in the mysteries of the
ballet. On this object the eye of Scipio fell. Stretching out an arm, he
cast him upon his shoulder; and, before the startled subject of his attack
knew into whose hands he had fallen, a hook was passed beneath the
waistband of his trowsers, and he was half way between the water and the
spar, on his way to join the considerate Fid.
"Have a care lest you let the man fall into the sea!" cried Wilder
sternly, from his stand on the distant poop.
"He'm tailor, masser Harry," returned the black, without altering a
muscle; "if a clothes no 'trong, he nobody blame but heself."
During this brief parlance, the good-man Homespun had safely arrived at
the termination of his lofty flight. Here he was suitably received by Fid,
who raised him to his side; and, having placed him comfortably between the
yard and the boom, he proceeded to secure him by a lashing that would give
the tailor the proper disposition of his hands.
"Bouse a bit on this waister!" called Richard, when he had properly
secured the good-man; "so; belay all that."
He then put one foot on the neck of his prisoner, and, seizing his lower
member as it swung uppermost, he coolly placed it in the lap of the
"There, friend," he said, "handle your needle and palm now, as if you
were at job-work. Your knowing handicraft always begins with the
foundation wherein he makes sure that his upper gear will stand."
"The Lord protect me, and all other sinful mortals, from an untimely end!"
exclaimed Homespun, gazing at the vacant view from his giddy elevation,
with a sensation a little resembling that with which the aeronaut, in his
first experiment, regards the prospect beneath.
"Settle away this waister," again called Fid; "he interrupts rational
conversation by his noise; and, as his gear is condemned by this here
tailor, why, you may turn him over to the purser for a new outfit."
The real motive, however, for getting rid of his pendant companion was a
twinkling of humanity, that still glimmered through the rough humour of
the tar, who well knew that his prisoner must hang where he did, at some
little expense of bodily ease. As soon as his request was complied with,
he turned to the good-man, to renew the discourse, with just as much
composure as though they were both seated on the deck, or as if a dozen
practical jokes, of the same character, were not in the process of
enactment, in as many different parts of the vessel.
"What makes you open your eyes, brother, in this port-hole fashion?"
commenced the topman. "This is all water that you see about you, except
that hommoc of blue in the eastern board, which is a morsel of upland in
the Bahamas, d'ye see."
"A sinful and presuming world is this we live in!" returned the good-man;
"nor can any one tell at what moment his life is to be taken from him.
Five bloody and cruel wars have I lived to see in safety and yet am I
reserved to meet this disgraceful and profane end at last."
"Well, since you've had your luck in the wars, you've the less reason to
grumble at the bit of a surge you may have felt in your garments, as they
run you up to this here yard-arm. I say, brother, I've known stouter
fellows take the same ride, who never knew when or how they got down
Homespun, who did not more than half comprehend the allusion of Fid, now
regarded him in a way that announced some little desire for an
explanation, mingled with great admiration of the unconcern with which his
companion maintained his position, without the smallest aid from any thing
but his self-balancing powers.
"I say, brother," resumed Fid, "that many a stout seaman has been whipt up
to the end of a yard, who has started by the signal of a gun, and who has
staid there just as long as the president of a court-martial was pleased
to believe might be necessary to improve his honesty!"
"It would be a fearful and frightful trifling with Providence, in the
least offending and conscientious mariner, to take such awful punishments
in vain, by acting them in his sports; but doubly so do I pronounce it in
the crew of a ship on which no man can say at what hour retribution and
compunction are to alight. It seems to me unwise to tempt Providence by
such provocating exhibitions."
Fid cast a glance of far more than usual significance at the good-man, and
even postponed his reply, until he had freshened his ideas by an ample
addition to the morsel of weed which he had kept all along thrust into one
of his cheeks. Then, casting his eyes about him, in order to see that none
of his noisy and riotous companions, of the top, were within ear-shot, he
fastened a still more meaning look on the countenance of the tailor, as he
"Hark ye, brother; whatever may be the other good points of Richard Fid,
his friends cannot say he is much of a scholar. This being the case, he
has not seen fit to ask a look at the sailing orders, on coming aboard
this wholesome vessel. I suppose, howsomever, that they can be forthcoming
at need, and that no honest man need be ashamed to be found cruising under
"Ah! Heaven protect such unoffending innocents as serve here against their
will, when the allotted time of the cruiser shall be filled!" returned
Homespun. "I take it, however, that you, as a sea-faring and understanding
man, have not entered into this enterprise without receiving the bounty,
and knowing the whole nature of the service."
"The devil a bit have I entered at all, either in the 'Enterprise' or in
the 'Dolphin,' as they call this same craft. There is master Harry, the
lad on the poop there, he who hails a yard as soft as a bull-whale roars;
I follow his signals, d'ye see; and it is seldom that I bother him with
questions as to what tack he means to lay his boat on next."
"What! would you sell your soul in this manner to Beelzebub; and that,
too, without a price?"
"I say, friend, it may be as well to overhaul your ideas, before you let
them slip, in this no-man's fashion, from your tongue. I would wish to
treat a gentleman, who has come aloft to pay me a visit, with such
civility as may do credit to my top, though the crew be at mischief, d'ye
see. But an officer like him I follow has a name of his own, without
stopping to borrow one of the person you've just seen fit to name. I scorn
such a pitiful thing as a threat, but a man of your years needn't be told,
that it is just as easy to go down from this here spar as it was to come
up to it."
The tailor cast a glance beneath him into the brine, and hastened to do
away the unfavourable impression which his last unfortunate interrogation
had so evidently left on the mind of his brawny associate.
"Heaven forbid that I should call any one but by their given and family
names, as the law commands," he said; "I meant merely to inquire, if you
would follow the gentleman you serve to so unseemly and pernicious a place
as a gibbet?"
Fid ruminated some little time, before he saw fit to reply to so sweeping
a query. During this unusual process, he agitated the weed, with which his
mouth was nearly gorged, with great industry; and then, terminating both
processes, by casting a jet of the juice nearly to the sprit-sail-yard, he
said, in a very decided tone,--
"If I wouldn't, may I be d--d! After sailing in company for
four-and-twenty years, I should be no better than a sneak, to part
company, because such a trifle as a gallows hove in sight."
"The pay of such a service should be both generous and punctual, and the
cheer of the most encouraging character," the good-man observed, in a way
that manifested he should not be displeased were he to receive a reply.
Fid was in no disposition to balk his curiosity, but rather deemed himself
bound, since he had once entered on the subject, to leave no part of it in
"As for the pay, d'ye see," he said, "it is seaman's wages. I should
despise myself to take less than falls to the share of the best
foremast-hand in a ship, since it would be all the same as owning that I
got my deserts. But master Harry has a way of his own in rating men's
services; and if his ideas get jamm'd in an affair of this sort, it is no
marling-spike that I handle which can loosen them. I once just named the
propriety of getting me a quarter-master's birth; but devil the bit would
he be doing the thing, seeing, as he says himself, that I have a fashion
of getting a little hazy at times, which would only be putting me in
danger of disgrace; since every body knows that the higher a monkey climbs
in the rigging of a ship, the easier every body on deck can see that he
has a tail. Then, as to cheer, it is sea man's fare; sometimes a cut to
spare for a friend and sometimes a hungry stomach."
"But then there are often divisions of the--a--a--the-prize-money, in this
successful cruiser?" demanded the good-man, averting his face as he spoke,
perhaps from a consciousness that it might betray an unseemly interest in
the answer. "I dare say, you receive amends for all your sufferings, when
the purser gives forth the spoils."
"Hark ye, brother," said Fid, again assuming a look of significance, "can
you tell me where the Admiralty Court sits which condemns her prizes?"
The good-man returned the glance, with interest; but an extraordinary
uproar, in another part of the vessel, cut short the dialogue, just as
there was a rational probability it might lead to some consolatory
explanations between the parties.
As the action of the tale is shortly to be set in motion again, we shall
refer the cause of the commotion to the opening of the succeeding chapter.
--"Come, and get thee a sword, though made of a lath:
They have been up these two days."--_King Henry VI._
While the little by-play that we have just related was enacting on the
fore-yard-arm of the Rover scenes, that partook equally of the nature of
tragedy and farce, were in the process of exhibition elsewhere. The
contest between the possessors of the deck and those active tenants of the
top, so often named, was far from having reached its termination. Blows
had, in more than one instance, succeeded to angry words; and, as the
former was a part of the sports in which the marines and waisters were on
an equality with their more ingenious tormentors, the war was beginning to
be waged with some appearances of a very doubtful success. Nightingale,
however, was always ready to recall the combatants to their sense of
propriety, with his well-known wind of the call, and his murmuring voice.
A long, shrill whistle, with the words, "Good humour, ahoy!" had hitherto
served to keep down the rising tempers of the different parties, when the
joke bore too hard on the high-spirited soldier, or the revengeful, though
perhaps less mettlesome, member of the after-guard. But an oversight on
the part of him who in common kept so vigilant an eye on the movements of
all beneath his orders, had nearly led to results of a far more serious
No sooner had the crew commenced the different rough sports we have just
related, than the vein which had induced the Rover to loosen the reins of
discipline, for the moment, seemed suddenly to subside. The gay and
cheerful air that he had maintained in his dialogue with his female guests
(or prisoners, whichever he might be disposed to consider them) had
disappeared, in a thoughtful and clouded brow. His eye no longer lighted
with those glimmerings of wayward and sarcastic humour in which he much
loved to indulge, but its expression became painfully settled and austere.
It was evident that his mind had relapsed into one of those brooding
reveries that so often obscured his playful and vivacious mien, as a
shadow darkens the golden tints of the field of ripe and waving corn.
While most of those who were not actors in the noisy and humorous
achievements of the crew steadily regarded the same, some with wonder,
others with distrust, and all with more or less of the humour of the hour,
the Rover, to all appearance, was quite unconscious of all that was going
on before his face. It is true, that at times he raised his eyes to the
active beings who clung like squirrels to the ropes, or suffered them to
fall on the duller movements of the men below; but it was always with a
vacancy which proved that the image they carried to the brain was dim and
illusory. The looks he cast, from time to time, on Mrs Wyllys and her fail
and deeply interested pupil, betrayed the workings of the temper of the
inward man. It was only in these brief but comprehensive glances that the
feelings by which he was governed might have been, in any manner, traced
to their origin. Still would the nicest observer have been puzzled, if not
baffled, in endeavouring to pronounce on the entire character of the
emotions uppermost in his mind. At instants, it might have been fancied
that some unholy and licentious passion was getting the ascendancy; and
then, as his eye ran rapidly over the chaste and matronly, though still
attractive, countenance of the governess, no imagination was necessary to
read the look of doubt, as well as respect, with which he gazed.
It was while thus occupied that the sports proceeded sometimes humorous,
and forcing smiles even from the lips of the half-terrified Gertrude, but
always tending to that violence, and outbreaking of anger, which might, at
any moment, set at naught the discipline of a vessel in which no other
means to enforce authority existed, than such as its officers could, on
the instant, command. Water had been so lavishly expended, that the decks
were running with the fluid, even more than one flight of spray having
invaded the privileged precincts of the poop. Every ordinary device of
similar scenes had been resorted to, by the men aloft, to annoy their less
advantageously posted shipmates beneath; and such means of retaliation had
been adopted as use or facility rendered obvious. Here, a hog and a
waister were seen swinging against each other, pendant beneath a top;
there, a marine, lashed in the rigging, was obliged to suffer the
manipulation of a pet monkey, which drilled to the duty, and armed with a
comb, was posted on his shoulder, with an air as grave, and an eye as
observant, as though he had been regularly educated in the art of the
perruquier; and, every where, some coarse and practical joke proclaimed
the licentious liberty which had been momentarily accorded to a set of
beings who were, in common, kept in that restraint which comfort, no less
than safety, requires for the well-ordering of an armed ship.
In the midst of the noise and turbulence, a voice was heard, apparently
issuing from the ocean, hailing the vessel by name, with the aid of a
speaking-trumpet that had been applied to the outer circumference of a
"Who speaks the 'Dolphin?'" demanded Wilder in reply, when he perceived
that the summons had fallen on the dull ears of his Commander, without
recalling him to the recollection of what was in action.
"Father Neptune is under your fore-foot."
"What wills' the God?"
"He has heard that certain strangers have come into his dominions, and he
wishes leave to come aboard the saucy 'Dolphin,' to inquire into their
errands, and to overhaul the log-book of their characters."
"He is welcome. Show the old man aboard through the head; he is too
experienced a sailor to wish to come in by the cabin windows."
Here the parlance ceased; for Wilder turned upon his heel, as though he
were already disgusted with his part of the mummery.
An athletic seaman soon appeared, seemingly issuing from the element whose
deity he aspired to personate. Mops, dripping with brine, supplied the
place of hoary locks; gulf-weed, of which acres were floating within a
league of the ship, composed a sort of negligent mantle; and in his hand
he bore a trident made of three marling-spikes properly arranged and borne
on the staff of a half-pike. Thus accoutred, the God of the Ocean, who was
no less a personage than the captain of the forecastle, advanced with a
suitable air of dignity, along the deck attended by a train of bearded
water-nymphs and naiades, in a costume no less grotesque than his own.
Arrived on the quarter-deck, in front of the position occupied by the
officers, the principal personage saluted the groupe with a wave of his
sceptre, and resumed the discourse as follows; Wilder, from the continued
abstraction of his Commander, finding himself under the necessity of
maintaining one portion of the dialogue.
"A wholesome and prettily-rigged boat have you come out in this time, my
son; and one well tilled with a noble set of my children. How long might
it be since you left the land?"
"Some eight days ago."
"Hardly time enough to give the green ones the use of their sea legs. I
shall be able to find them, by the manner in which they hold on in a
calm." [Here the General, who was standing with a scornful and averted
eye, let go his hold of a mizzen-shroud, which he had grasped for no other
visible reason than to render his person utterly immoveable; Neptune
smiled, and continued.] "I sha'n't ask concerning the port you are last
from, seeing that the Newport soundings are still hanging about the flukes
of your anchors. I hope you haven't brought out many fresh hands with you,
for I smell the stock-fish aboard a Baltic-man, who is coming down with
the trades, and who can't be more than a hundred leagues from this; I
shall therefore have but little time to overhaul your people, in order to
give them their papers."
"You see them all before you. So skilful a mariner as Neptune needs no
advice when or how to tell a seaman."
"I shall then begin with this gentleman," continued the waggish head of
the forecastle, turning towards the still motionless chief of the marines.
"There is a strong look of the land about him; and I should like to know
how many hours it is since he first floated over blue water."
"I believe he has made many voyages; and I dare say has long since paid
the proper tribute to your Majesty."
"Well, well; the thing is like enough, tho'f I will say I have known
scholars make better use of their time, if he has been so long on the
water as you pretend. How is it with these ladies?"
"Both have been at sea before, and have a right to pass without a
question," resumed Wilder, a little hastily.
"The youngest is comely enough to have been born in my dominions," said
the gallant Sovereign of the Sea; "but no one can refuse to answer a hail
that comes straight from the mouth of Old Neptune; so, if it makes no
great difference in your Honour's reckoning, I will just beg the young
woman to do her own talking." Then, without paying the least attention to
the angry glance that shot from the eye of Wilder, the sturdy
representative of the God addressed himself directly to Gertrude. "If, as
report goes of you, my pretty damsel, you have seen blue water before this
passage, you may be able to recollect the name of the vessel, and some
other small particulars of the run?"
The face of our heroine changed its colour from red to pale, as rapidly,
and as glowingly, as the evening sky flushes, and returns to its
pearl-like loveliness; but she kept down her feelings sufficiently to
answer, with an air of entire self-possession,--
"Were I to enter into all these little particulars, it would detain you
from more worthy subjects. Perhaps this certificate will convince you that
I am no novice on the sea." As she spoke, a guinea fell from her white
hand into the broad and extended palm of her interrogator.
"I can only account for my not remembering your Ladyship, by the great
extent and heavy nature of my business," returned the audacious freebooter
bowing with an air of rude politeness as he pocketed the offering. "Had I
looked into my books before I came aboard this here ship, I should have
seen through the mistake at once; for I now remember that I ordered one of
my limners to take your pretty face, in order that I might show it to my
wife at home. The fellow did it well enough, in the shell of an East-India
oyster; I will have a copy set in coral, and sent to your husband,
whenever you may see fit to choose one."
Then, repeating his bow, with a scrape of the foot, he turned to the
governess, in order to continue his examination.
"And you, Madam." he said, "is this the first rime you have ever come into
my dominions, or not?"
"Neither the first, nor the twentieth; I have often seen your Majesty
"An old acquaintance! In what latitude might it be that we first fell in
with each other?"
"I believe I first enjoyed that honour, quite thirty years since, under
"Ay, ay, I'm often there, looking out for India-men and your
homeward-bound Brazil traders. I boarded a particularly great number that
very season but can't say I remember your countenance."
"I fear that thirty years have made some changes in it," returned the
governess, with a smile, which, though mournful, was far too dignified in
its melancholy to induce the suspicion that she regretted a loss so vain
as that of her personal charms. "I was in a vessel of the King, and one
that was a little remarkable by its size, since it was of three decks."
The God received the guinea, which was now secretly offered, but it would
seem that success had quickened his covetousness; for, instead of
returning thanks, he rather appeared to manifest a disposition to increase
the amount of the bribe.
"All this may be just as your Ladyship says," he rejoined; "but the
interest of my kingdom, and a large family at home, make it necessary that
I should look sharp to my rights. Was there a flag in the vessel?"
"Then, it is likely they hoisted it, as usual, at the end of the
"It was hoisted, as is usual with a Vice-Admiral, at the fore."
"Well answered, for petticoats!" muttered the Deity, a little baffled in
his artifice. "It is d----d queer, saving your Ladyship's presence, that I
should have forgotten such a ship: Was there any thing of the
extraordinary sort, that one would be likely to remember?"
The features of the governess had already lost their forced pleasantry, in
a shade of grave reflection and her eye was evidently fastened on vacancy
us she answered, to all appearance like one who thought aloud.--
"I can, at this moment, see the arch and roguish manner with which that
wayward boy, who then had but eight years, over-reached the cunning of the
mimic Neptune, and retaliated for his devices, by turning the laugh of all
on board on his own head!"
"Was he but eight?" demanded a deep voice at her elbow.
"Eight in years, but maturer in artifice," returned Mrs Wyllys, seeming to
awake from a trance, as she turned her eyes full upon the face of the
"Well, well," interrupted the captain of the forecastle who cared not to
continue 'an inquiry in which his dreaded Commander saw fit to take a
part, "I dare say it is all right. I will look into my journal if I find
it so, well--if not, why, it's only giving the ship a head-wind, until
I've overhauled the Dane, and then it will be all in good time to receive
the balance of the fee."
So saying, the God hurried past the officers, and turned his attention to
the marine guard, who had grouped themselves in a body, secretly aware of
the necessity each man might be under of receiving support from his
fellows, in so searching a scrutiny Perfectly familiar with the career
each individual among them had run, in his present lawless profession and
secretly apprehensive that his authority might be forced suddenly from
him, the chief of the forecastle selected a raw landsman from among them,
bidding his attendants to drag the victim forward, where he believed they
might act the cruel revels he contemplated with less danger of
interruption. Already irritated by the laughs which had been created at
their expense, and resolute to defend their comrade the marines resisted.
A long, clamorous, and angry dispute succeeded, during which each party
maintained its right to pursue the course it had adopted. From words the
disputants were not long in passing to the signs of hostilities. It was
while the peace of the ship hung, as it were, suspended by a hair, that
the General saw fit to express the disgust of such an outrage upon
discipline, which had, throughout the whole scene, possessed his mind.
"I protest against this riotous and unmilitary procedure," he said,
addressing himself to his still abstracted and thoughtful superior. "I
have taught my men, I trust, the proper spirit of soldiers, and there is
no greater disgrace can happen to one of them than to lay hands on him,
except it be in the regular and wholesome way of a cat.--I give open
warning to all, that, if a finger is put upon one of my bullies, unless,
as I have said, in the way of discipline, it will be answered with a
As the General had not essayed to smother his voice, it was heard by his
followers, and produced the effect which might have been expected. A
vigorous thrust from the fist of the sergeant drew mortal blood from the
visage of the God of the Sea, and at once established his terrestrial
origin. Thus compelled to support his manhood, in more senses than one,
the stout seaman returned the salutation, with such additional
embellishments as the exigencies of the moment seemed to require. Such an
interchange of civilities, between two so prominent personages, was the
signal of general hostilities among their respective followers. The uproar
that attended the onset, had caught the attention of Fid, who, the instant
he saw the nature of the sports below, abandoned his companion on the
yard, and slid downwards to the deck by the aid of a backstay, with about
as much facility as that caricature of man, the monkey, could have
performed the same manoeuvre. His example was followed by all the topmen;
and in less than a minute, there was every appearance that the audacious
marines would be borne down by the sheer force of numbers. But, stout in
their resolution, and bitter in their hostility, these drilled and
resentful warriors, instead of seeking refuge in flight, fell back upon
each other, for support. Bayonets were seen gleaming in the sun; while
some of the seamen, in the exterior of the crowd, were already laying
their hands on the half-pikes that formed a warlike ornament to the foot
of the mast.
"Hold! stand back, every man of you!" cried Wilder, dashing into the
centre of the throng, and forcing them aside, with a haste that was
possibly quickened by the recollection of the increased danger that would
surround the unprotected females, should the bands of subordination be
once fairly broken among so lawless and desperate a crew. "On your lives,
fall back, and obey. And you, sir, who claim to be so good a soldier, I
call on you to bid your men refrain."
The General, however disgusted he might have been by the previous scene,
had too many important interests involved in the interior peace of the
vessel not to exert himself at this appeal. He was seconded by all the
inferior officers, who well knew that their lives, as well as their
comfort, depended on staying the torrent that had so unexpectedly broken
loose. But they only proved how hard it is to uphold an authority that is
not established on the foundation of legitimate power. Neptune had cast
aside his masquerade; and, backed by all his stout forecastle men, was
evidently preparing for a conflict that might speedily give him greater
pretensions to immortal nature than those he had just rejected. Until now,
the officers, partly by threats and partly by remonstrances, had so far
controlled the outbreaking, that the time had been passed rather in
preparations than in violence. But the marines had seized their arms;
while two crowded masses of the mariners were forming on either side of
the mainmast, abundantly provided with spikes, and such other weapons as
the bars and handspikes of the vessel afforded. One or two of the cooler
heads among the latter had even proceeded so far as to clear away a gun,
which they were pointing inboard in a direction that might have swept a
moiety of the quarter-deck. In short, the broil had just reached that pass
when another blow, struck from either side, must have given up the vessel
to plunder and massacre. The danger of such a crisis was heightened by the
bitter taunts that broke forth from fifty profane lips, which were only
opened to lavish the coarsest revilings on the persons and characters of
their respective enemies.
During the five minutes that might have flown by in such sinister and
threatening symptoms of insubordination the individual who was chiefly
interested in the maintenance of discipline had manifested the most
extraordinary indifference, or rather unconsciousness to all that was
passing so near him. With his arms folded on his breast, and his eyes
fastened on the placid sea, he stood motionless as the mast near which he
had placed his person. Long accustomed to the noise of scenes similar to
the one he had himself provoked, he heard, in the confused sounds which
rose unheeded on his ear, no more than the commotion which ordinarily
attended the license of the hour.
His subordinates in command, however, were far more active. Wilder had
already beaten back the boldest of the seamen, and a space was cleared
between the hostile parties, into which his assistants threw themselves,
with the haste of men who knew how much was required at their hands. This
momentary success might have been pushed too far; for, believing that the
spirit of mutiny was subdued, our adventurer was proceeding to improve his
advantage by seizing the most audacious of the offenders when his prisoner
was immediately torn from his grasp by twenty of his confederates.
"Who's this, that sets himself up for a Commodore aboard the 'Dolphin!'"
exclaimed a voice in the crowd, at a most unhappy moment for the authority
of the new lieutenant. "In what fashion did he come, aboard us? or, in
what service did he learn his trade?"
"Ay, ay," continued another sinister voice, "where is the Bristol trader
he was to lead into our net, and for which we lost so many of the best
days in the season, at a lazy anchor?"
Then broke forth a general and simultaneous murmur which, had such
testimony been wanting, would in itself have manifested that the unknown
officer was scarcely more fortunate in his present than in his recent
service. Both parties united in condemning his interference; and from both
sides were heard scornful opinions of his origin, mingled with certain
fierce denunciations against his person. Nothing daunted by such palpable
evidences of the danger of his situation, our adventurer answered to their
taunts with the most scornful smiles, challenging a single individual of
them all to dare to step forth, and maintain his words by suitable
"Hear him!" exclaimed his auditors.--"He speaks like a King's officer in
chase of a smuggler!" cried one.--"Ay, he's a bold'un in a calm," said a
second.--"He's a Jonah, that has slipp'd into the cabin windows!" cried a
third; "and, while he stays in the 'Dolphin,' luck will keep upon our
weather-beam"--"Into the sea with him! overboard with the upstart! into
the sea with him! where he'll find that a bolder and a better man has gone
before him!" shouted a dozen at once; some of whom immediately gave very
unequivocal demonstrations of an intention to put their threat in
execution. But two forms instantly sprang from the crowd, and threw
themselves, like angry lions, between Wilder and his foes. The one, who
was foremost in the rescue, faced short upon the advancing seamen, and
with a blow from an arm that was irresistible, level led the
representative of Neptune to his feet, as though he had been a mere waxen
image of a man The other was not slow to imitate his example; and, as the
throng receded before this secession from its own numbers, the latter, who
was Fid, flourished a fist that was as big as the head of a sizeable
infant, while he loudly vociferated,--
"Away with ye, ye lubbers! away with ye! Would you run foul of a single
man, and he an officer and such an officer as ye never set eyes on be
fore, except, mayhap, in the fashion that a cat looks upon a king? I
should like to see the man, among ye all, who can handle a heavy ship, in
a narrow channel, as I have seen master Harry here handle the saucy"--
"Stand back," cried Wilder, forcing himself between his defenders and his
foes. "Stand back, I say, and leave me alone to meet the audacious
"Overboard with him! overboard with them all!" cried the seamen, "he and
his knaves together!"
"Will you remain silent, and see murder done before your eyes?" exclaimed
Mrs Wyllys, rushing from her place of retreat, and laying a hand eagerly
on the arm of the Rover.
He started like one who was awakened suddenly from a light sleep, looking
her full and intently in the eye.
"See!" she added, pointing to the violent throng below, where every sign
of an increased commotion was exhibiting itself. "See, they kill your
officer, and there is none to help him!"
The look of faded marble, which had so long been seated on his features,
vanished, as his eye passed quickly over the scene. The organs took in the
whole nature of the action at the glance; and, with the intelligence, the
blood came rushing into every vein and fibre of his indignant face.
Seizing a rope, which hung from the yard above his head, he swung his
person off the poop, and fell lightly into the very centre of the crowd.
Both parties fell back, while a sudden and breathing silence succeeded to
a clamour that a moment before would have drowned the roar of a cataract.
Making a haughty and repelling motion with his arm, he spoke, and in a
voice that, if any change could be noted, was even pitched on a key less
high and threatening than common. But the lowest and the deepest of its
intonations reached the most distant ear, and no one who heard was left to
doubt its meaning.
"Mutiny!" he said, in a tone that strangely balanced between irony and
scorn; "open, violent, and blood-seeking mutiny! Are ye tired of your
lives, my men? Is there one, among ye all, who is willing to make himself
an example for the good of the rest? If there be, let him lift a hand, a
finger, a hair: Let him speak, look me in the eye, or dare to show that
life is in him, by sign, breath, or motion!"
He paused; and so general and absorbing was the spell produced by his
presence and his mien, that, in all that crowd of fierce and excited
spirits, there was not one so bold as to presume to brave his anger
Sailors and marines stood alike, passive, humbled and obedient, as faulty
children, when arraigned before an authority from which they feel, in
every fibre, that escape is impossible. Perceiving that no voice answered,
no limb moved, nor even an eye among them all was bold enough to meet his
own steady but glowing look, he continued, in the same deep and commanding
"It is well: Reason has come of the latest; but, happily for ye all, it
has returned Fall back, fall back, I say; you taint the
quarter-deck."--The men receded a pace or two on every side of him.--"Let
those arms be stacked; it will be time to use them when I proclaim the
need. And you, fellows, who have been so bold as to lift a pike without an
order have a care they do not burn your hands."--A dozen staves fell upon
the deck together.--"Is there a drummer in this ship? let him appear!"
A terrified and cringing-looking being presented himself, having found his
instrument by a sort of desperate instinct.
"Now speak aloud, and let me know at once whether I command a crew of
orderly and obedient men, or a set of miscreants, that require some
purifying before I trust them."
The first few taps of the drum sufficed to tell the men they heard the
"beat to quarters." Without hesitating a reluctant moment, the crowd
dissolved, and each of the delinquents stole silently to his station; the
crew of the gun that had been turned inward managing to thrust it through
its port again, with a dexterity that might have availed them greatly in
time of combat. Throughout the whole affair, the Rover had manifested
neither anger nor impatience. Deep and settled scorn, with a high reliance
on himself had, indeed, been exhibited in the proud curl of his lip, and
in the spelling of his form, but not, for an instant, did it seem that he
had suffered his ire to get the mastery of his reason. And, now that he
had recalled his crew to their duty, he appeared no more elated with his
success than he had been daunted by the storm which, a minute before, had
threatened the utter dissolution of his authority. Instead of pursuing his
further purpose in haste, he awaited the observance of the minutest form
which etiquette, as well as use, had rendered customary on such occasions.
The officers approached, and reported their several divisions in readiness
to engage, with exactly the same regularity as if an enemy had been in
sight. The topmen and sail-trimmers were enumerated, and found prepared;
shot-plugs and stoppers were handled: the magazine was even opened; the
arm chests emptied of their contents; and, in short, far more than the
ordinary preparations of an every day exercise was observed.
"Let the yards be slung; the sheets and halyards stoppered," he said to
the first lieutenant, who now displayed as intimate an acquaintance with
the military as he had hitherto discovered with the nautical part of his
profession; "Give the boarders their pikes and boarding-axes, sir; we will
now show these fellows that we dare to trust them with arms!"
These several orders were obeyed to the letter, and then succeeded that
deep and grave silence which renders a crew, at quarters, a sight so
imposing even to those who have witnessed it from their boyhood. In this
manner, the skilful leader of this band of desperate marauders knew how to
curb their violence with the fetters of discipline. When he believed their
minds brought within the proper limits, by the situation of restraint in
which he had placed them, where they well knew that a word, or even a
look, of offence would be met by an instant as well as an awful
punishment, he walked apart with Wilder, of whom he demanded an
explanation of what had passed.
Whatever might have been the natural tendency of our adventurer to mercy,
he had not been educated on the sea to look with lenity on the crime of
mutiny. Had his recent escape from the wreck of the Bristol trader been
already banished from his mind, the impressions of a whole life still
remained to teach the necessity of keeping tight those cords which
experience has so often proved are absolutely necessary to quell such
turbulent bands, when removed from the pale of society, the influence of
woman, and when excited by the constant collision of tempers rudely
provoked, and equally disposed to violence Though he "set down naught in
malice," it is certain that he did "nothing; extenuate," in the account
he rendered. The whole of the facts were laid before the Rover in the
direct, unvarnished language of truth.
"One cannot keep these fellows to their duty by preaching," returned the
irregular chief, when the other had done. "We have no 'Execution Dock for
our delinquents, no 'yellow flag' for fleets to gaze at, no grave and
wise-looking courts to thumb a book or two, and end by saying, 'Hang
him.'--The rascals knew my eye was off them. Once before, they turned my
vessel into a living evidence of that passage in the Testament which
teaches humility to all, by telling us, 'that the last shall be first, and
the first last.' I found a dozen roundabouts drinking and making free with
the liquors of the cabin, and all the officers prisoners forward--a state
of things, as you will allow, a little subversive of decency as well as
"I am amazed you should have succeeded in restoring discipline!"
"I got among them single-handed, and with no other aid than a boat from
the shore; but I ask no more than a place for my foot, and room for an
arm, to keep a thousand such spirits in order. Now they know me, it is
rare we misunderstand each other."
"You must have punished severely!"
"There was justice done.--Mr Wilder, I fear you find our service a little
irregular; but a month of experience will put you on a level with us, and
remove all danger of such another scene." As the Rover spoke, he faced his
recruit, with a countenance that endeavoured to be cheerful, but whose
gaiety could force itself no further than a frightful smile. "Come," he
quickly added, "this time, I set the mischief afoot myself; and, as you
see we are completely masters, we may afford to be lenient. Besides," he
continued, glancing his eyes towards the place where Mrs Wyllys and
Gertrude still remained in deep suspense awaiting his decision, "it may be
well to consult the sex of our guests at such a moment."
Then, leaving his subordinate, the Rover advanced to the centre of the
quarter-deck, whither he immediately summoned the principal offenders. The
men listened to his rebukes, which were not altogether free from
admonitory warnings of what might be the consequences of a similar
transgression, like creatures who stood in presence of a being of a nature
superior to their own. Though he spoke in his usual quiet tone, the lowest
of his syllables went into the ears of the most distant of the crew; and,
when his brief lesson was ended, the men stood before him not only like
delinquents who had been reproved though pardoned, but with the air of
criminals who were as much condemned by their own consciousness as by the
general voice. Among them all was only one seaman who, perhaps from past
service was emboldened to venture a syllable in his own justification.
"As for the matter with the marines," he said "your Honour knows there is
little love between us, though certain it is a quarter-deck is no place to
settle our begrudgings; but, as to the gentleman who has seen fit to step
into the shoes of"----
"It is my pleasure that he should remain there," hastily interrupted his
Commander. "Of his merit I alone can judge."
"Well, well, since it is your pleasure, sir, why, no man can dispute it.
But no account has been rendered of the Bristol-man, and great
expectations were had aboard here from that very ship. Your Honour is a
reasonable gentleman, and will not be surprised that people, who are on
the look-out for an outward-bound West-Indiaman, should be unwilling to
take up with a battered and empty launch, in her stead."
"Ay, sir, if I will it, you shall take an oar, a tiler a thole, for your
portion. No more of this You saw the condition of his ship with your own
eyes; and where is the seaman who has not, on some evil day, been
compelled to admit that his art is nothing, when the elements are against
him? Who saved this ship, in the very gust that has robbed us of our
prize? Was it your skill? or was it that of a man who has often done it
before, and who may one day leave you to your ignorance to manage your own
interests? It is enough that I believe him faithful. There is no time to
convince your dulness of the propriety of all that's done. Away, and send
me the two men who so nobly stepped between their officer and mutiny."
Then came Fid, followed by the negro, rolling along the deck, and thumbing
his hat with one hand, while the other sought an awkward retreat in a part
of his vestments.
"You have done well, my lad; you and your messmate"----
"No messmate, your Honour, seeing that he is a nigger," interrupted Fid.
"The chap messes with the other blacks, but we take a pull at the can, now
and then, in company."
"Your friend, then, if you prefer that term."
"Ay, ay, sir; we are friendly enough at odd times, though a breeze often
springs up between us. Guinea has a d--d awkward fashion of luffing up in
his talk; and your Honour knows it isn't always comfortable to a white man
to be driven to leeward by a black. I tell him it is inconvenient. He is a
good enough fellow in the main, howsomever, sir; and, as he is just an
African bred and born, I hope you'll be good enough to overlook his little
"Were I otherwise disposed," returned the Rover, "his steadiness and
activity to-day would plead in his favour."
"Yes, yes, sir, he is somewhat steady, which is more than I can always
say in my own behalf. Then as for seamanship, there are few men who are
his betters; I wish your Honour would take the trouble to walk forward,
and look at the heart he turned in the mainstay, no later than the last
calm; it takes the strain as easy as a small sin sits upon a rich man's
"I am satisfied with your description; you call him Guinea?"
"Call him by any thing along that coast; for he is noway particular,
seeing he was never christened, and knows nothing at all of the bearings
and distances of religion. His lawful name is S'ip, or Shipio Africa,
taken, as I suppose, from the circumstance that he was first shipp'd from
that quarter of the world. But, as respects names, the fellow is as meek
as a lamb; you may call him any thing, provided you don't call him too
late to his grog."
All this time, the African stood, rolling his large dark eyes in every
direction except towards the speakers, perfectly content that his
long-tried shipmate should serve as his interpreter. The spirit which had,
so recently, been awakened in the Rover seemed already to be subsiding;
for the haughty frown, which had gathered on his brow, was dissipating in
a look which bore rather the character of curiosity than any fiercer
"You have sailed long in company, my lads," he carelessly continued,
addressing his words to neither of them in particular.
"Full and by, in many a gale, and many a calm, your Honour. 'Tis
four-and-twenty years the last equinox, Guinea, since master Harry fell
across our hawse; and, then, we had been together three years n the
'Thunderer,' besides the run we made round the Horn, in the 'Bay'
"Ah! you have been four-and-twenty years with Mr Wilder? It is not so
remarkable that you should set a value on his life."
"I should as soon think of setting a price on the King's crown!"
interrupted the straight-going seaman "I overheard the lads, d'ye see,
sir, just plotting to throw the three of us overboard, and so we thought
it time to say something in our own favour and, words not always being at
hand, the black saw fit to fill up the time with something that might
answer the turn quite as well. No, no, he is no great talker, that Guinea;
nor, for that matter, can I say much in my own favour in this particular;
but, seeing that we clapp'd a stopper on their movements, your Honour will
allow that we did as well as if we had spoken as smartly as a young
midshipman fresh from college, who is always for hailing a top in Latin,
you know, sir, for want of understanding the proper language."
The Rover smiled, and he glanced his eye aside, apparently in quest of the
form of our adventurer. Not seeing him at hand, he was tempted to push his
covert inquiries a little further, though too much governed, by
self-respect, to let the intense curiosity by which he was influenced
escape him in any direct and manifest interrogation. But an instant's
recollection recalled him to himself, and he discarded the idea as
unworthy of his character.
"Your services shall not be forgotten. Here is gold," he said, offering a
handful of the metal to the negro, as the one nearest his own person. "You
will divide it, like honest shipmates; and you may ever rely on my
Scipio drew back, and, with a motion of his elbow, replied,--
"His Honour will give 'em masser Harry."
"Your master Harry has it of his own, lad; he has no need of money."
"A S'ip no need 'em eider."
"You will please to overlook the fellow's manners sir," said Fid, very
coolly interposing his own hand, and just as deliberately pocketing the
offering "but I needn't tell as old a seaman as your Honour, that Guinea
is no country to scrape down the seams of a man's behaviour in.
Howsomever, I can say this much for him, which is, that he thanks your
Honour just as heartily as if you had given him twice the sum. Make a bow
to his Honour, boy, and do some credit to the company you have kept. And
now, since this little difficulty about the money is gotten over, by my
presence of mind, with your Honour's leave, I'll just step aloft, and cast
loose the lashings of that bit of a tailor on the larboard fore-yard-arm.
The chap was never made for a topman as you may see, sir, by the fashion
in which he crosses his lower stanchions. That fellow will make a carrick
bend with his legs as easily as I could do the same with a yarn of white
The Rover signed for him to retire; and, turning where he stood, he found
himself confronted by Wilder. The eyes of the confederates met; and a
slight colour bespoke the consciousness of the former Regaining his
self-possession on the instant, however, he smilingly alluded to the
character of Fid; and then, with an air of authority, he directed his
lieutenant to have the "retreat from quarters" beat.
The guns were secured, the stoppers loosened, the magazine closed, the
ports lashed, and the crew withdrew to their several ordinary duties, like
men whose violence had been completely subdued by the triumphant influence
of a master spirit. The Rover then disappeared from the deck, which, for a
time, was left to the care of an officer of the proper station.
Thief. "'Tis in the malice of mankind, that he thus advises us not to
have us thrive in our mystery."--_Timon of Athens._
Throughout the whole of that day, no change occurred in the weather. The
sleeping ocean lay like a waving and glittering mirror, smooth and
polished on its surface, though, as usual, the long rising and falling of
a heavy ground-swell announced the commotion that was in action within
some distant horizon. From the time that he left the deck, until the sun
laved its burnished orb in the sea, the individual, who so well knew how
to keep alive his authority among the untamed tempers that he governed,
was seen no more. Satisfied with his victory, he no longer seemed to
apprehend that it was possible any should be bold enough to dare to plot
the overthrow of his power. This apparent confidence in himself did not
fail to impress his people favourably. As no neglect of duty was
overlooked, nor any offence left to go unpunished, an eye, that was not
seen, was believed by the crew to be ever on them, and an invisible hand
was thought to be at all times uplifted, ready to strike or to reward. It
was by a similar system of energy in moments of need, and of forbearance
when authority was irksome, that this extraordinary man had so long
succeeded, as well in keeping down domestic treason, as in eluding the
utmost address and industry of his open enemies.
When the watch was set for the night, however, and the ship lay in the
customary silence of the hour, the form of the Rover was again seen
walking swiftly to and fro across the poop, of which he was now the
solitary occupant. The vessel had drifted in the stream of the Gulf so far
to the northward, that the little mound of blue had long sunk below the
edge of the ocean; and she was again surrounded, so far as human eye
might see, by an interminable world of water. As not a breath of air was
stirring, the sails had been handed, the tall and naked spars rearing
themselves, in the gloom of the evening, like those of a ship which rested
at her anchors. In short, it was one of those hours of entire repose that
the elements occasionally grant to such adventurers as trust their
fortunes to the capricious government of the treacherous and unstable
Even the men, whose duty it was to be on the alert, were emboldened, by
the general tranquillity, to become careless on their watch, and to cast
their persons between the guns, or on different portions of the vessel,
seeking that rest which the forms of discipline and good order prohibited
them from enjoying in their hammocks. Here and there, indeed, the head of
a drowsy officer was seen nodding with the lazy heaving of the ship, as he
leaned against the bulwarks, or rested his person on the carriage of some
gun that was placed beyond the sacred limits of the quarter-deck One form
alone stood erect, vigilant, and evidently maintaining a watchful eye over
the whole This was Wilder, whose turn to keep the deck had again arrived,
in the regular division of the service of the officers.
For two hours, not the slightest communication occurred between the Rover
and his lieutenant. Both rather avoided than sought the intercourse; for
each had his own secret sources of serious meditation At the end of that
period of silence, the former stopped short in his walk, and looked long
and steadily at the still motionless figure on the deck beneath him.
"Mr Wilder," he at length said, "the air is fresher on this poop, and more
free from the impurities of the vessel: Will you ascend?"
The other complied; and, for several minutes they walked silently, and
with even steps, together, as seamen are wont to move in the hours of
"We had a troublesome morning, Wilder," the Rover resumed, unconsciously
betraying the subject of his thoughts, and speaking always in a voice so
guarded, that no ears, but his to whom he addressed himself, might embrace
the sound: "Were you ever so near that pretty precipice, a mutiny,
"The man who is hit is nigher to danger than he who feels the wind of the
"Ah! you have then been bearded in your ship! Give yourself no uneasiness
on account of the personal animosity which a few of the fellows saw fit to
manifest against yourself. I am acquainted with their most secret
thoughts, as you shall shortly know."
"I confess, that, in your place, I should sleep on a thorny pillow, with
such evidences of the temper of my men before my mind. A few hours of
disorder might deliver the vessel, on any day, into the hands of the
Government, and your own life to"----
"The executioner! And why not yours?" demandeded the Rover, so quickly, as
to give, in a slight degree, an air of distrust to his manner. "But the
eye that has often seen battles seldom winks. Mine has too often, and too
steadily, looked danger in the face to be alarmed at the sight of a King's
pennant. Besides it is not usual for us to be much on this ticklish coast;
the islands, and the Spanish Main, are less dangerous cruising grounds."
"And yet have yon ventured here at a time when success against the enemy
has given the Admiral leisure to employ a powerful force in your pursuit."
"I had a reason for it. It is not always easy to separate the Commander
from the man. If I have temporarily forgotten the obligations of the
former in the wishes of the latter, so far, at least, harm has not come of
it. I may have tired of chasing your indolent Don, and of driving guarda
costas into port. This life of ours is full of excitement which I love to
me, there is interest even in a mutiny!"
"I like not treason. In this particular, I confess myself like the boor
who loses his resolution in the dark. While the enemy is in view, I hope
you will find me true as other men; but sleeping over a mine is not an
amusement to my taste."
"So much for want of practice! Hazard is hazard come in what shape it may;
and the human mind can as readily be taught to be indifferent to secret
machinations as to open risk. Hush! Struck the bell six, or seven?"
"Seven. You see the men slumber, as before. Instinct would wake them, were
their hour at hand."
"'Tis well. I feared the time had passed. Yes, Wilder, I love suspense; it
keeps the faculties from dying, and throws a man upon the better
principles of his nature. Perhaps I owe it to a wayward spirit, but, to
me, there is enjoyment in an adverse wind.'"
"And, in a calm?"
"Calms may have their charms for your quiet spirits; but in them there is
nothing to be overcome. One cannot stir the elements, though one may
counteract their workings."
"You have not entered on this trade of yours "--
"I might, now, have said 'of ours,' since I too have become a Rover."
"You are still in your noviciate," resumed the other, whose quick mind had
already passed the point at which the conversation had arrived; "and high
enjoyment had I in being the one who shrived you in your wishes. You
manifested a skill in playing round your subject, without touching it,
which gives me hopes of an apt scholar."
"But no penitent, I trust."
"That as it may be; we are all liable to our moments of weakness, when we
look on life as book men paint it, and think of being probationers where
we are put to enjoy. Yes, I angled for you as the fisherman plays with the
trout. Nor did I overlook the danger of deception. You were faithful on
the whole; though I protest against your ever again acting so much against
my interests as to intrigue to keep the game from coming to my net."
"When, and how, have I done this? You have yourself admitted"----
"That the 'Royal Caroline' was prettily handled, and wrecked by the will
of Heaven. I speak of nobler quarries, now, than such as any hawk may fly
at. Are you a woman-hater, that you would fain have frightened the
noble-minded woman, and the sweet girl, who are beneath our feet at this
minute, from enjoying the high privilege of your company?"
"Was it treacherous, to wish to save a woman from a fate like that, for
instance, which hung over them both this very day? For, while your
authority exists in this ship, I do not think there can be danger, even to
her who is so lovely."
"By heavens, Wilder, you do me no more than justice. Before harm should
come to that fair innocent with this hand would I put the match into the
magazine, and send her, all spotless as she is, to the place from which
she seems to have fallen."
Our adventurer listened greedily to these words, though he little liked
the strong language of admiration with which the Rover was pleased to
clothe his generous sentiment.
"How knew you of my wish to serve them?" he demanded, after a pause, which
neither seemed in any hurry to break.
"Could I mistake your language? I thought it enough when spoken."
"Spoken!" exclaimed Wilder, in surprise. "Perhaps part of my confession
was then made when I least believed it."
The Rover did not answer; but his companion saw, by the meaning smile
which played about his lip, that he had been the dupe of an audacious and
completely successful masquerade. Startled, perhaps at discovering how
intricate were the toils into which he had rushed, and possibly vexed at
being so thoroughly over-reached, he made several turns across the deck
before he again spoke.
"I confess myself deceived," he at length said, "and henceforth I shall
submit to you as a master from whom one may learn, but who can never be
surpassed. The landlord of the 'Foul Anchor,' at least, acted in his
proper person, whoever might have been the aged seaman?"
"Honest Joe Joram! An useful man to a distressed mariner, you must allow.
How liked you the Newport pilot?"
"Was he an agent too?"
"For the job merely. I trust such knaves no further than their own eyes
can see. But, hist! Heard you nothing?"
"I thought a rope had fallen in the water."
"Ay, it is so. Now you shall find how thoroughly I overlook these
The Rover then cut short the dialogue, which was growing deeply
interesting to his companion, and moved, with a light step, to the stern,
over which he hung, for a few moments, by himself, like a man who found a
pleasure in gazing at the dark surface of the sea. But a slight noise,
like that produced by agitated ropes, caught the ear of his companion, who
instantly placed himself at the side of his Commander, where he did not
wait long without gaining another proof of the manner in which he, as well
as all the rest of the crew, were circumvented by the devices of their
A man was guardedly, and, from his situation, with some difficulty, moving
round the quarter of the ship by the aid of the ropes and mouldings,
which afforded him sufficient means to effect his object. He, however,
soon reached a stern ladder, where he stood suspended, and evidently
endeavouring to discern which of the two forms, that were overlooking his
proceedings, was that of the individual he sought.
"Are you there, Davis?" said the Rover, in a voice but little above a
whisper, first laying his hand lightly on Wilder, as though he would tell
him to attend. "I fear you have been seen or heard."
"No fear of that, your Honour. I got out at the port by the cabin
bulkhead; and the after-guard are all as sound asleep as if they had the
"It is well. What news bring you from the people?"
"Lord! your Honour may tell them to go to church, and the stoutest sea-dog
of them all wouldn't dare to say he had forgotten his prayers."
"You think them in a better temper than they were?"
"I know it, sir: Not but what the will to work mischief is to be found in
two or three of the men, but they dare not trust each other. Your Honour
has such winning ways with you, that one never knows when he is on safe
grounds in setting up to be master."
"Ay, this is ever the way with your disorganizers," muttered the Rover,
just loud enough to be heard by Wilder. "A little more honesty, than they
possess, is just wanted, in order that each may enjoy the faith of his
neighbour. And how did the fellows receive the lenity? Did I well? or must
the morning bring its punishment?"
"It is better as it stands, sir. The people know whose memory is good, and
they talk already of the danger of adding another reckoning to this they
feel certain you have not forgotten. There is the captain of the
forecastle, who is a little bitter, as usual, and the more so just now,
on account of the knock-down he got from the list of the black."
"Ay, he is ever troublesome; a settling day must come at last with the
"It will be a small matter to expend him in boat-service sir; and the
ship's company will be all the better for his absence."
"Well, well; no more of him," interrupted the Rover, a little impatiently,
as if he liked not that his companion should look too deeply into the
policy of his government, so early in his initiation. "I will see to him.
If I mistake not, fellow, you over-acted your own part to-day, and were a
little too forward in leading on the trouble."
"I hope your Honour will remember that the crew had been piped to
mischief; besides, there could be no great harm in washing the powder off
a few marines."
"Ay, but you pressed the point after your officer had seen fit to
interfere. Be wary in future, lest you make the acting too true to nature,
and you get applauded in a manner quite as well performed."
The fellow promised caution and amendment; and then he was dismissed, with
his reward in gold, and with an injunction to be secret in his return. So
soon as the interview was ended, the Rover and Wilder resumed their walk;
the former having made sure that no evesdropper had been at hand to steal
into his mysterious connexion with the spy. The silence was again long,
thoughtful, and deep.
"Good ears" (recommenced the Rover) "are nearly as important, in a ship
like this, as a stout heart. The rogues forward must not be permitted to
eat of the fruit of knowledge, lest we, who are in the cabins, die."
"This is a perilous service in which we are embarked," observed his
companion, by a sort of involuntary exposure of his secret thoughts.
The Rover remained silent, making many turns across the deck, before he
again opened his lips. When he spoke, it was in a voice so bland and
gentle, that his words sounded more like the admonitory tones of a
considerate friend, than like the language of a man who had long been
associated with a set of beings so rude and unprincipled as those with
whom he was now seen.
"You are still on the threshold of your life, Mr Wilder," he said, "and it
is all before you to choose the path on which you will go. As yet, you
have been present at no violation of what the world calls its laws; nor is
it too late to say you never will be. I may have been selfish in my wish
to gain you; but try me; and you will find that self, though often active,
cannot, nor does not, long hold its dominion over my mind. Say but the
word, and you are free; it is easy to destroy the little evidence which
exists of your having made one of my crew. The land is not far beyond that
streak of fading light; before to-morrow's sun shall set, your foot may
"Then, why not both? If this irregular life be evil for me, it is the same
for you. Could I hope"--
"What would you say?" calmly demanded the Rover, after waiting
sufficiently long to be sure his companion hesitated to continue. "Speak
freely; your words are for the ears of a friend."
"Then, as a friend will I unbosom myself. You say, the land is here in the
west. It would be easy for you and I, men nurtured on the sea, to lower
this boat into the water; and, profiting by the darkness, long ere our
absence could be known, we should be lost to the eye of any who might seek
"Whither would you steer?"
"To the shores of America, where shelter and peace might be found in a
thousand secret places."
"Would you have a man, who has so long lived a prince among his
followers, become a beggar in a land of strangers?"
"But you have gold. Are we not masters here? Who is there that might dare
even to watch our movements, until we were pleased ourselves to throw off
the authority with which we are clothed? Ere the middle watch was set, all
might be done."
"Alone! Would you go alone?"
"No--not entirely--that is--it would scarcely become us, as men, to desert
the females to the brutal power of those we should leave behind."
"And would it become us, as men, to desert those who put faith in our
fidelity? Mr Wilder, your proposal would make me a villain! Lawless, in
the opinion of the world, have I long been; but a traitor to my faith and
plighted word, never! The hour may come when the beings whose world is in
this ship shall part; but the separation must be open, voluntary, and
manly. You never knew what drew me into the haunts of man, when we first
met in the town of Boston?"
"Never," returned Wilder, in a tone of deep disappointment
"Listen, and you shall hear. A sturdy follower had fallen into the hands
of the minions of the law. It was necessary to save him. He was a man I
little loved, but he was one who had ever been honest, after his opinions.
I could not desert the victim; nor could any but I effect his escape. Gold
and artifice succeeded; and the fellow is now here, to sing the praises of
his Commander to the crew. Could I forfeit a good name, obtained at so
"You would forfeit the good opinions of knaves, to gain a reputation among
those whose commendations are an honour."
"I know not. You little understand the nature of man, if you are now to
learn that he has pride in maintaining a reputation for even vice, when
he has once purchased notoriety by its exhibition. Besides, I am not
fitted for the world, as it is found among your dependant colonists."
"You claim your birth, perhaps, in the mother country?"
"I am no better than a poor provincial, sir; an humble satellite of the
mighty sun. You have seen my flags, Mr Wilder:--but there was one wanting
among them all; ay, and one which, had it existed, it would have been my
pride, my glory, to have upheld with my heart's best blood!"
"I know not what you mean."
"I need not tell a seaman, like you, how many noble rivers pour their
waters into the sea along this coast of which we have been speaking--how
many wide and commodious havens abound there--or how many sails whiten the
ocean, that are manned by men who first drew breath on that spacious and
"Surely I know the advantages of the country you mean."
"I fear not!" quickly returned the Rover. "Were they known, as they should
be, by you and others like you, the flag I mentioned would soon be found
in every sea; nor would the natives of our country have to succumb to the
hirelings of a foreign prince.
"I will not affect to misunderstand your meaning for I have known others
as visionary as yourself in fancying that such an event may arrive."
"May!--As certain as that star will settle in the ocean, or that day is to
succeed to night, it _must._ Had that flag been abroad, Mr Wilder, no man
would have ever heard the name of the Red Rover."
"The King has a service of his own, and it is open to all his subjects
"I could be a subject of a King; but to be the subject of a subject,
Wilder, exceeds the bounds of my poor patience. I was educated, I might
almost have said born, in one of his vessels; and how often have I been
made to feel, in bitterness, that an ocean separated my birth-place from
the footstool of his throne! Would you think it, sir? one of his
Commanders dared to couple the name of my country with an epithet I will
not wound your ear by repeating!"
"I hope you taught the scoundrel manners."
The Rover faced his companion, and there was a ghastly smile on his
speaking features, as he answered--
"He never repeated the offence! 'Twas his blood or mine; and dearly did he
pay the forfeit of his brutality!"
"You fought like men, and fortune favoured the injured party?"
"We fought, sir.--But I had dared to raise my hand against a native of the
holy isle!--It is enough, Mr Wilder; the King rendered a faithful subject
desperate, and he has had reason to repent it. Enough for the present;
another time I may say more.--Good night."
Wilder saw the figure of his companion descend the ladder to the
quarter-deck; and then was he left to pursue the current of his thoughts,
alone, during the remainder of a watch which to his impatience seemed
without an end.
"She made good view of me; indeed so much,
That sure, methought, her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts, distractedly."
Though most of the crew of the "Dolphin" slept, either in their hammocks
or among the guns, there were bright and anxious eyes still open in a
different part of the vessel. The Rover had relinquished his cabin to Mrs
Wyllys and Gertrude, from the moment they entered the ship; and we shall
shift the scene to that apartment, (already sufficiently described to
render the reader familiar with the objects it contained), resuming the
action of the tale at an early part of the discourse just related in the
It will not be necessary to dwell upon the feelings with which the female
inmates of the vessel had witnessed the disturbances of that day; the
conjectures and suspicions to which they gave rise may be apparent in what
is about to follow. A mild, soft light fell from the lamp of wrought and
massive silver that was suspended from the upper deck, obliquely upon the
painfully pensive countenance of the governess, while a few of its
strongest rays lighted the youthful bloom, though less expressive because
less meditative lineaments, of her companion. The background was occupied,
like a dark shadow in a picture, by the dusky form of the slumbering
Cassandra. At the moment when we see fit to lift the curtain on this quiet
scene of our drama, the pupil was speaking, seeking, in the averted eyes
of her instructress, that answer to her question which the tongue of the
latter appeared reluctant to accord.
"I repeat, my dearest Madam," said Gertrude, "that the fashion of these
ornaments, no less than their materials, is extraordinary in a ship."
"And what would you infer from the same?"
"I know not. Still I would that we were safe in the house of my father."
"God grant it! It may be imprudent to be longer silent.--Gertrude,
frightful, horrible suspicions have been engendered in my mind by what we
have this day witnessed."
The cheek of the maiden blanched, and the pupil of her soft eye
contracted, with alarm, while she seemed to demand an explanation with
every disturbed lineament of her countenance.
"I have long been familiar with the usages of a vessel of war," continued
the governess, who had only paused in order to review the causes of her
suspicions in her own mind; "but never have I seen such customs as, each
hour, unfold themselves in this vessel."
"Of what do you suspect her?"
The look of deep, engrossing, maternal anxiety, that the lovely
interrogator received in reply to this question, might have startled one
whose mind had been more accustomed to muse on the depravity of human
nature than the spotless being who received it; but to Gertrude it
conveyed no more than a general and vague sensation of alarm.
"Why do you thus regard me, my governess--my mother?" she exclaimed,
bending forward, and laying a hand imploringly on the arm of the other, as
if she would arouse her from a trance.
"Yes, I will speak: It is safer that you know the worst, than that your
innocence should be liable to be abused. I distrust the character of this
ship, and of all that belong to her."
"All!" repeated her pupil, gazing fearfully, and a little wildly, around.
"Yes; of all"
"There may be wicked and evil-intentioned men n his Majesty's fleet; but
we are surely safe from them, since fear of punishment, if not fear of
disgrace will be our protector."
"I dread lest we find that the lawless spirits, who harbour here, submit
to no laws except those of their own enacting, nor acknowledge any
authority but that which exists among themselves."
"This would make them pirates!"
"And pirates, I fear, we shall find them."
"Pirates? What! all?"
"Even all. Where one is guilty of such a crime, it is clear that the
associates cannot be free from suspicion."
"But, dear Madam, we know that one among them, at least, is innocent;
since he came with ourselves and under circumstances that will not admit
"I know not. There are different degrees of turpitude, as there are
different tempers to commit it! I fear that all who may lay claim to be
honest, in this vessel, are here assembled."
The eyes of Gertrude sunk to the floor, and her lips quivered, partly in a
tremour she could not control and perhaps in part through an emotion that
she found inexplicable to herself.
"Since we know whence our late companion came," she said, in an under
tone, "I think you do him wrong, however right your suspicions may prove
as to the rest."
"I may be wrong as to him, but it is important that we know the worst.
Command yourself, my love; our attendant ascends; some knowledge of the
truth may be gained from him."
Mrs Wyllys gave her pupil an expressive sign to compose her features,
while she herself resumed her usual, pensive air, with a calmness of mien
that might have deceived one far more practised than the boy, who now
came slowly into the cabin. Gertrude buried her face in a part of her
attire, while the former addressed the individual who had just entered in
a tone equally divided between kindness and concern.
"Roderick, child," she commenced, "your eyelids are getting heavy. This
service of a ship must be new to you?"
"It is so old as to keep me from sleeping on my watch," coldly returned
"A careful mother would be better for one of your years, than the school
of the boatswain. What is your age, Roderick?"
"I have seen years enough to be both wiser and better," he answered, not
without a shade of thought settling on his brow. "Another month will make
"Twenty! you trifle with my curiosity, urchin."
"Did I say twenty, Madam! Fifteen would be nearer to the truth."
"I believe you well. And how many of those years have you passed upon the
"But two, in truth; though I often think them ten; and yet there are times
when they seem but a day!"
"You are romantic early, boy. And how like you the trade of war?"