Part 7 out of 9
"Of war. I speak plainly, do I not? Those who serve in a vessel that is
constructed expressly for battle, follow the trade of war."
"Oh! yes; war is certainly our trade."
"And have you yet seen any of its horrors? Has this ship been in combat
since your service?"
"Surely this ship: Have you ever sailed in any other?"
"Then, it is of this ship that one must question you. Is prize-money
plenty among your crew?"
"Abundant; they never want."
"Then the vessel and Captain are both favourites. The sailor loves the
ship and Commander that give him an active life."
"Ay, Madam; our lives are active here. And some there are among us, too,
who love both ship and Commander."
"And have you mother, or friend, to profit by your earnings?"
Struck with the tone of stupor with which the boy responded to her
queries, the governess turned her head, to read, in a rapid glance, the
language of his countenance. He stood in a sort of senseless amazement
looking her full in the face, but with an eye far too vacant to prove that
he was sensible of the image that filled it.
"Tell me, Roderick," she continued, careful not to alarm his jealousy by
any sudden allusion to his manner; "tell me of this life of yours. You
find it merry?"
"I find it sad."
"'Tis strange. The young ship-boys are ever among the merriest of mortals.
Perhaps your office! treats you with severity."
No answer was given.
"I am then right: Your Captain is a tyrant?"
"You are wrong: Never has he said harsh or unkind word to me."
"Ah! then he is gentle and kind. You are very happy, Roderick."
"I speak plainly, and in English--happy."
"Oh! yes, we are all very happy here."
"It is well. A discontented ship is no paradise. And you are often in
port, Roderick, to taste the sweets of the land?"
"I care but little for the land, Madam, could I only have friends in the
ship that love me."
"And have you not? Is not Mr Wilder your friend?"
"I know but little of him; I never saw him before"--
"Before we met in Newport."
"Surely you know we both came from Newport, last."
"Ah! I comprehend you. Then, your acquaintance with Mr Wilder commenced at
Newport? It was while your ship was lying off the fort?"
"It was. I carried him the order to take command of the Bristol trader. He
had only joined us the night before."
"So lately! It was a young acquaintance indeed. But I suppose your
Commander knew his merits?"
"It is so hoped among the people. But"--
"You were speaking, Roderick."
"None here dare question the Captain for his reasons. Even _I_ am obliged
to be mute."
"Even _you_!" exclaimed Mrs Wyllys, in a surprise that for the moment
overcame her self-restraint. But the thought in which the boy was lost
appeared to prevent his observing the sudden change in her manner. Indeed,
so little did he know what was passing, that the governess touched the
hand of Gertrude, and silently pointed out the insensible figure of the
lad, without the slightest apprehension that the movement would be
"What think you, Roderick," continued his interrogator "would he refuse to
answer _us_ also?"
The boy started; and, as consciousness shot into his glance, it fell upon
the soft and speaking countenance of Gertrude.
"Though her beauty be so rare," he answered with vehemence, "let her not
prize it too highly. Woman cannot tame his temper!"
"Is he then so hard of heart? Think you that a question from this fair one
would be denied?"
"Hear me, Lady," he said, with an earnestness that was no less remarkable
than the plaintive softness of the tones in which he spoke; "I have seen
more, in the last two crowded years of my life, than many youths would
witness between childhood and the age of man. This is no place for
innocence and beauty. Oh! quit the ship, if you leave it as you came,
without a deck to lay your head under!"
"It may be too late to follow such advice," Mrs Wyllys gravely replied,
glancing her eye at the silent Gertrude as she spoke. "But tell me more of
this extraordinary vessel. Roderick, you were not born to fill the station
in which I find you?"
The boy shook his head, but remained with downcast eyes, apparently not
disposed to answer further on such a subject.
"How is it that I find the 'Dolphin' bearing different hues to-day from
what she did yesterday? and why is it that neither then, nor now, does she
resemble in her paint, the slaver of Newport harbour?"
"And why is it," returned the boy, with a smile in which melancholy
struggled powerfully with bitterness "that none can look into the secret
heart of him who makes those changes at will? If all remained the same,
but the paint of the ship, one might still be happy in her!"
"Then, Roderick, you are not happy: Shall I intercede with Captain
Heidegger for your discharge?"
"I could never wish to serve another."
"How! Do you complain, and yet embrace your fetters?"
"I complain not."
The governess eyed him closely; and, after a moment's pause, she
"Is it usual to see such riotous conduct among the crew as we have this
"It is not. You have little to fear from the people; he who brought them
under knows how to keep them down."
"They are enlisted by order of the King?"
"The King! Yes, he is surely a King who has no equal."
"But they dared to threaten the life of Mr Wilder. Is a seaman, in a
King's ship, usually so bold?"
The boy glanced a look at Mrs Wyllys; as if he would say, he understood
her affected ignorance of the character of the vessel, but again he chose
to continue silent.
"Think you, Roderick," continued the governess, who no longer deemed it
necessary to pursue her covert inquiries on that particular subject;
"think you, Roderick, that the Rov--that is, that Captain Heidegger will
suffer us to land at the first port which offers?"
"Many have been passed since you reached the ship."
"Ay, many that are inconvenient; but, when one shall be gained where his
pursuits will allow his ship to enter?"
"Such places are not common."
"But, should it occur, do you not think he will permit us to land? We have
gold to pay him for his trouble."
"He cares not for gold. I never ask him for it; that he does not fill my
"You must be happy, then. Plenty of gold will compensate for a cold look
"Never!" returned the boy, with quickness and energy. "Had I the ship
filled with the dross, I would give it all to bring a look of kindness
into his eye."
Mrs Wyllys started, no less at the fervid manner of the lad than at the
language. Rising from her seat, she approached nigher to him, and in a
situation where the light of the lamp fell full upon his lineaments. She
saw the large drop that broke out from beneath a long and silken lash, to
roll down a cheek which, though embrowned by the sun, was deepening with a
flush that gradually stole into it, as her own gaze became more settled;
and then her eyes fell slowly and keenly along the person of the lad,
until they reached even the delicate feet, that seemed barely able to
uphold him. The usually pensive and mild countenance of the governess
changed to a look of cold regard, and her whole form appeared to elevate
itself, in chaste matronly dignity, as she sternly asked,--
"Boy, have you a mother?"
"I know not," was the answer that came from lips that scarcely severed to
permit the smothered sounds to escape.
"It is enough; another time I will speak further to you. Cassandra will in
future do the service of this cabin; when I have need of you, the gong
shall be touched."
The head of Roderick fell nearly to his bosom He shrunk from before that
cold and searching eye which followed his form, until it had disappeared
through the hatch, and whose look was then bent rapidly, and not without a
shade of alarm, on the face of the wondering but silent Gertrude.
A gentle tap at the door broke in upon the flood of reflection which was
crowding on the mind of the governess. She gave the customary answer; and,
before time was allowed for any interchange of ideas between her and her
pupil, the Rover entered.
"I melt, and am not of stronger earth than others."--_Coriolanus_
The females received their visiter with a restraint which will be easily
understood when the subject of their recent conversation is recollected.
The sinking of Gertrude's form was deep and hurried, but her governess
maintained the coldness of her air with greater self-composure. Still,
there was a gleaming of powerful anxiety in the watchful glance that she
threw towards her guest, as though she would divine the motive of the
visit by the wanderings of his changeful eye, even before his lips had
parted in the customary salute.
The countenance of the Rover himself was thoughtful to gravity. He bowed
as he came within the influence of the lamp, and his voice was heard
muttering some low and hasty syllables, that conveyed no meaning to the
ears of his listeners. Indeed, so great was the abstraction in which he
was lost, that he had evidently prepared to throw his person on the vacant
divan, without explanation or apology, like one who took possession of his
own; though recollection returned just in time to prevent this breach of
decorum. Smiling, and repeating his bow, with a still deeper inclination,
he advanced with perfect self-possession to the table, where he expressed
his fears that Mrs Wyllys might deem his visit unseasonable or perhaps not
announced with sufficient ceremony. During this short introduction his
voice was bland as woman's, and his mien courteous, as though he actually
felt himself an intruder in the cabin of a vessel in which he was
literally a monarch.
"But, unseasonable as is the hour," he continued, "I should have gone to
my cott with a consciousness of not having discharged all the duties of an
attentive and considerate host, had I forgotten to reassure you of the
tranquillity of the ship, after the scene you have this day witnessed. I
have pleasure in saying, that the humour of my people is already expended,
and that lambs, in their nightly folds, are not more placid than they are
at this minute in their hammocks."
"The authority that so promptly quelled the disturbance is happily ever
present to protect us," returned the cautious governess; "we repose
entirely on your discretion and generosity."
"You have not misplaced your confidence. From the danger of mutiny, at
least, you are exempt."
"And from all others, I trust."
"This is a wild and fickle element we dwell on," he answered, while he
bowed an acknowledgment for the politeness, and took the seat to which the
other invited him by a motion of the hand; "but you know its character,
and need not be told that we seamen are seldom certain of any of our
movements I loosened the cords of discipline myself to-day," he added,
after a moment's pause, "and in some measure invited the broil that
followed: But it is passed, like the hurricane and the squall; and the
ocean is not now smoother than the tempers of my knaves."
"I have often witnessed these rude sports in vessels of the King; but I do
not remember to have known any more serious result than the settlement of
some ancient quarrel, or some odd freak of nautical humour, which has
commonly proved as harmless as it has been quaint."
"Ay; but the ship which often runs the hazards of the shoals gets wrecked
at last," muttered the Rover "I rarely give the quarter-deck up to the
people, without keeping a vigilant watch on their humours;
"You were speaking of to-day."
"Neptune, with his coarse devices, is no stranger to you, Madam."
"I have seen the God in times past."
"'Twas thus I understood it;--under the line?"
"Elsewhere!" repeated the other, in a tone of disappointment. "Ay, the
sturdy despot is to be found in every sea; and hundreds of ships, and
ships of size too, are to be seen scorching in the calms of the equator.
It was idle to give the subject a second thought."
"You have been pleased to observe something that has escaped my ear."
The Rover started; for he had rather muttered than spoken the preceding
sentence aloud. Casting a swift and searching glance around him, as it
might be to assure himself that no impertinent listener had found means to
pry into the mysteries of a mind he seldom saw fit to lay open to the free
examination of his associates, he regained his self-possession on the
instant, and resumed the discourse with a manner as undisturbed as if it
had received no interruption.
"Yes, I had forgotten that your sex is often as timorous as it is fair,"
he added, with a smile so insinuating and gentle, that the governess cast
an involuntary and uneasy glance towards her charge, "or I might have been
earlier with my assurance of safety."
"It is welcome even now."
"And your young and gentle friend," he continued, bowing openly to
Gertrude, though he still addressed his words to the governess; "her
slumbers will not be the heavier for what has passed."
"The innocent seldom find an uneasy pillow."
"There is a holy and unsearchable mystery in that truth: The innocent
pillow their heads in quiet! Would to God the guilty might find some
refuge, too, against the sting of thought! But we live in a world, and a
time, when men cannot be sure even of themselves."
He then paused, and looked about him, with a smile so haggard, that the
anxious governess unconsciously drew nigher to her pupil, like one who
sought, and was willing to yield, protection against the uncertain designs
of a maniac. Her visiter, however, remained in a silence so long and deep,
that she felt the necessity of removing the awkward embarrassment of their
situation, by speaking herself.
"Do you find Mr Wilder as much inclined to mercy as yourself?" she asked.
"There would be merit in his forbearance, since he appeared to be the
particular object of the anger of the mutineers."
"And yet you saw he was not without his friends. You witnessed the
devotion of the men who stood forth in his behalf?"
"I did: and find it remarkable that he should have been able, in so short
a time, to conquer thus completely two so stubborn natures."
"Four-and-twenty years make not an acquaintance of a day!"
"And does their friendship bear so old a date?"
"I have heard that time counted between them. It is very certain the youth
is bound to those uncouth companions of his by some extraordinary tie.
Perhaps this is not the first of their services."
Mrs Wyllys looked grieved. Although prepared to believe that Wilder was a
secret agent of the Rover, she had endeavoured to hope his connexion with
the freebooters was susceptible of some explanation more favourable to his
character. However he might be implicated in the common guilt of those who
pursued the hazards of the reckless fortunes of that proscribed ship, it
was evident he bore a heart too generous to wish to see her, and her young
and guileless charge, the victims of the licentiousness of his associates.
His repeated and mysterious warnings no longer needed explanation. Indeed,
all that had been dark and inexplicable, both in the previous and
unaccountable glimmerings of her own mind, and in the extraordinary
conduct of the inmates of the ship, was at each instant becoming capable
of solution. She now remembered, in the person and countenance of the
Rover, the form and features of the individual who had spoken the passing
Bristol trader, from the rigging of the slaver--a form which had
unaccountably haunted her imagination, during her residence in his ship,
like an image recalled from some dim and distant period. Then she saw at
once the difficulty that Wilder might prove in laying open a secret in
which not only his life was involved, but which, to a mind that was not
hardened in vice, involved a penalty not less severe--that of the loss of
their esteem. In short, a good deal of that which the reader has found no
difficulty in comprehending was also becoming clear to the faculties of
the governess though much still remained obscured in doubts, that she
could neither solve nor yet entirely banish from her thoughts. On all
these several points she had leisure to cast a rapid glance; for her
guest, or host, whichever he might be called, seemed in nowise disposed to
interrupt her short and melancholy reverie.
"It is wonderful," Mrs Wyllys at length resumed, "that beings so uncouth
should be influenced by the same attachments as those which unite the
educated and the refined."
"It is wonderful, as you say," returned the other like one awakening from
a dream. "I would give a thousand of the brightest guineas that ever came
from the mint of George II. to know the private history of that youth."
"Is he then a stranger to you?" demanded Gertrude with the quickness of
The Rover turned an eye on her, that was vacant for the moment, but into
which consciousness and expression began to steal as he gazed, until the
foot of the governess was visibly trembling with the nervous excitement
that pervaded her entire frame.
"Who shall pretend to know the heart of man!" he answered, again inclining
his head as it might be in acknowledgment of her perfect right to far
deeper homage. "All are strangers, till we can read their most secret
"To pry into the mysteries of the human mind, is a privilege which few
possess," coldly remarked the governess. "The world must be often tried,
and thoroughly known, before we may pretend to judge of the motives of any
"And yet it is a pleasant world to those who have the heart to make it
merry," cried the Rover, with one of those startling transitions which
marked his manner. "To him who is stout enough to follow the bent of his
humour, all is easy. Do you know, that the true secret of the philosopher
is not in living for ever, but in living while you may. He who dies at
fifty, after a fill of pleasure, has had more of life than he who drags
his feet through a century, bearing the burden of the world's caprices,
and afraid to speak above his breath, lest, forsooth, his neighbour should
find that his words were evil."
"And yet are there some who find their pleasure in pursuing the practices
"'Tis lovely in your sex to say it," he answered with an air that the
sensitive governess fancied was gleaming with the growing licentiousness
of a free booter. She would now gladly have, dismissed her visiter; but a
certain flashing of the eye, and a manner that was becoming gay by a
species of unnatural effort, admonished her of the danger of offending one
who acknowledged no law but his own will. Assuming a tone and a manner
that were kind, while they upheld the dignity of her sex, and pointing to
sundry instruments of music that formed part of the heterogeneous
furniture of the cabin, she adroitly turned the discourse, by saying,--
"One whose mind can be softened by harmony and whose feelings are so
evidently alive to the in fluence of sweet sounds, should not decry the
pleasures of virtue. This flute, and yon guitar, both call you master."
"And, because of these flimsy evidences about my person, you are willing
to give me credit for the accomplishments you mention! Here is another
mistake of miserable mortality! Seeming is the everyday robe of honesty.
Why not give me credit for kneeling, morning and night, before yon
glittering bauble?" he added, pointing to the diamond crucifix which hung,
as usual, near the door of his own apartment.
"I hope, at least, that the Being, whose memory is intended to be revived
by that image, is not without your homage. In the pride of his strength
and prosperity, man may think lightly of the consolations that can flow
from a power superior to humanity: but those who have oftenest proved
their value feel deepest the reverence which is their due."
The look of the governess had been averted from her companion; but, filled
with the profound sentiment she uttered, her mild reflecting eye turned to
him again, as, in a tone that was subdued, in respect for the mighty Being
whose attributes filled her mind, she uttered the above simple sentiment.
The gaze she met was earnest and thoughtful as her own. Lifting a finger
he laid it on her arm, with a motion so light as to be scarcely
perceptible, while he asked,--
"Think you we are to blame, if our temperaments incline more to evil than
power is given to resist?"
"It is only those who attempt to walk the path of life alone that stumble.
I shall not offend your manhood if I ask, do you never commune with your
"It is long since that name has been heard in this vessel, Lady, except to
aid in that miserable scoffing and profanity which simpler language made
too dull, But what is He, that unknown Deity, more than what man, in his
ingenuity, has seen fit to make him?"
"'The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God,'" she answered, in a
voice so firm, that it startled even the ears of one so long accustomed to
the turbulence and grandeur of his wild profession. "'Gird up now thy
loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where
wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hast
The Rover gazed long and silently on the flushed countenance of the
speaker. Bending his face in an unconscious manner aside, he said aloud,
evidently rather giving utterance to his thoughts than pursuing the
"Now, is there nothing more in this than what I have often heard, and yet
does it come over my feelings with the freshness of native air!" Then
rising, he approached his mild and dignified companion, adding, in tones
but little above a whisper, "Lady repeat those words; change not a
syllable, nor vary the slightest intonation of the voice, I pray thee."
Though amazed, and secretly alarmed at the request, Mrs Wyllys complied;
delivering the holy language of the inspired writers with a fervour that
found its support in the strength of her own emotions. Her auditor
listened like a being enthralled. For near a minute, neither eye nor
attitude was changed, but he stood at the feet of her who had so simply
and so powerfully asserted the majesty of God, as motionless as the mast
that rose behind him through the decks of that vessel which he had so long
devoted to the purposes of his lawless life. It was long after her accents
had ceased to fall on his ear, that he drew a deep respiration, and once
again opened his lips to speak.
"This is re-treading the path of life at a stride." he said, suffering his
hand to fall upon that of his companion. "I know not why pulses, which in
common are like iron, beat so wildly and irregularly now. Lady, this
little and feeble hand might check a temper that has so often braved the
His words suddenly ceased; for, as his eye unconsciously followed his
hand, it rested on the still delicate, but no longer youthful, member of
the governess Drawing a sigh, like one who felt himself awakened from an
agreeable though complete illusion he turned away, leaving his sentence
"You would have music!" he recklessly exclaimed aloud. "Then music shall
be heard, though its symphony be rung upon a gong!"
As he spoke, the wayward and vacillating being we have been attempting to
describe struck the instrument he named three blows, so quick and
powerfully, as to drown all other sensations in the confusion produced by
the echoing din. Though deeply mortified that he had so quickly escaped
from the influence she had partially acquired, and secretly displeased at
the unceremonious manner in which he had seen fit to announce his
independence again, the governess was aware of the necessity of concealing
"This is certainly not the harmony I invited," she said, so soon as the
overwhelming sounds had ceased to fill the ship; "nor do I think it of a
quality to favour the slumbers of those who seek their rest."
"Fear nothing for them. The seaman sleeps with his ear near the port
whence the cannon bellows, and awakes at the call of the boatswain's
whistle. He is too deeply schooled in habit, to think he has heard more
than a note of the flute; stronger and fuller than common, if you will,
but still a sound that has no interest for him. Another tap would have
sounded the alarm of fire; but these three touches say no more than music.
It was the signal for the band. The night is still, and favourable for
their art, and we will listen to sweet sounds awhile."
His words were scarcely uttered before the low chords of wind instruments
were heard without, where the men had probably stationed themselves by
some previous order of their Captain. The Rover smiled, as if he exulted
in this prompt proof of the sort of despotic or rather magical power he
wielded; and, throwing his form on the divan, he sat listening to the
sounds which followed.
The strains which now rose upon the night, and which spread themselves
soft and melodiously abroad upon the water, would in truth have done
credit to far more regular artists. The air was wild and melancholy and
perhaps it was the more in accordance with the present humour of the man
for whose ear it was created. Then, losing the former character the whole
power of the music was concentrated in softer and still gentler sounds, as
if the genius who had given birth to the melody had been pouring out the
feelings of his soul in pathos. The temper of the Rover's mind answered to
the changing expression of the music; and, when the strains were sweetest
and most touching, he even bowed his head like one who wept.
Though secretly under the influence of the harmony themselves, Mrs Wyllys
and her pupil could but gaze on the singularly constituted being into
whose hands their evil fortune had seen fit to cast them. The former was
filled with admiration at the fearful contrariety of those passions which
could reveal themselves, in the same individual, under so very different
and so dangerous forms; while the latter, judging with the indulgence and
sympathy of her years, was willing to believe that a man whose emotions
could be thus easily and kindly excited was rather the victim of
circumstances than the creator of his own luckless fortune.
"There is Italy in those strains," said the Rover, when the last chord had
died upon his ear; "sweet, indolent, luxurious, forgetful Italy! It has
never been your chance, Madam, to visit that land, so mighty in its
recollections, and so impotent in its actual condition?"
The governess made no reply; but, bowing her head, in turn, her companions
believed she was submitting also to the influence of the music. At length,
as though impelled by another changeful impulse, the Rover advanced
towards Gertrude, and, addressing her with a courtesy that would have done
credit to a very different scene, he said, in the laboured language that
characterised the politeness of the age,--
"One who in common speaks music should not have neglected the gifts of
nature. You sing?"
Had Gertrude possessed the power he affected to believe, her voice would
have denied its services at his call. Bending to his compliment, she
murmured her apologies in words that were barely audible. He listened
intently; but, without pressing a point that it was easy to see was
unwelcome, he turned away, gave the gong a light but startling tap.
"Roderick," he continued, when the gentle foot step of the lad was heard
upon the stairs that led into the cabin below, "do you sleep?"
The answer was slow and smothered; and, of course, in the negative.
"Apollo was not absent at the birth of Roderick, Madam. The lad can raise
such sounds as have been known to melt the stubborn feelings of a seaman.
Go, place yourself by the cabin door, good Roderick, and bid the music run
a low accompaniment to your words."
The boy obeyed, stationing his slight form so much in shadow, that the
expression of his working countenance was not visible to those who sat
within the stronger light of the lamp. The instruments then commenced a
gentle symphony, which was soon ended; and twice had they begun the air,
but still no voice was heard to mingle in the harmony.
"Words, Roderick, words; we are but dull interpreters of the meaning of
Thus admonished of his duty, the boy began to sing in a full, rich
contralto voice, which betrayed a tremour, however, that evidently formed
no part of the air. His words, so far as they might be distinguished, ran
"The land was lying broad and fair
Behind the western sea;
And holy solitude was there,
And sweetest liberty.
The lingering sun, at ev'ning, hung
A glorious orb, divinely beaming
On silent lake and tree;
And ruddy light was o'er all streaming,
Mark, man! for thee;
O'er valley, lake, and tree!
And now a thousand maidens stray,
Or range the echoing groves;
While, flutt'ring near, on pinions gay,
Fan twice ten thousand loves,
In that soft clime, at even time,
"Enough of this, Roderick," impatiently interrupted his master. "There is
too much of the Corydon in that song for the humour of a manner. Sing us
of the sea and its pleasures, boy; and roll out the strains in such a
fashion as may suit a sailor's fancy."
The lad continued mute, perhaps in disinclination to the task, perhaps
from utter inability to comply.
"What, Roderick! does the muse desert thee? or is memory getting dull? You
see the child is wilful in his melody, and must sing of loves and sunshine
or he fails. Now touch us a stronger chord my men, and put life into your
cadences, while I troll a sea air for the honour of the ship."
The band took the humour of the moment from their master, (for surely he
well deserved the name), sounding a powerful and graceful symphony, to
prepare the listeners for the song of the Rover. Those treacherous and
beguiling tones which so often stole into his voice when, speaking, did
not mislead expectation as to its powers. It proved to be at the same time
rich, full, deep, and melodious. Favoured by these material advantages,
and aided by an exquisite ear, he rolled out the following stanzas in a
manner that was singularly divided between that of the reveller and the
man of sentiment. The words were probably original; for they both smacked
strongly of his own profession, and were not entirely without a touch of
the peculiar taste of the individual
All hands, unmoor! unmoor
Hark to the hoarse, but welcome sound,
Startling the seaman's sweetest slumbers.
The groaning capstan's labouring round,
The cheerful fife's enliv'ning numbers;.
And ling'ring idlers join the brawl,
And merry ship-boys swell the call,
All hands, unmoor! unmoor!
The cry is, "A sail! a sail!"
Brace high each nerve to dare the fight,
And boldly steer to seek the foeman;
One secret prayer to aid the right,
And many a secret thought to woman
Now spread the flutt'ring canvas wide,
And dash the foaming sea aside;
The cry's, "A sail! a sail!"
Three cheers for victory!
Hush'd be each plaint o'er fallen brave;
Still ev'ry sigh to messmate given;
The seaman's tomb is in the wave;
The hero's latest hope is heaven!
High lift the voice in revelry!
Gay raise the song, the shout, the glee;
Three cheers for victory!
So soon as he had ended this song, and without waiting to listen if any
words of compliment were to succeed an effort that might lay claim to
great excellence both in tones and execution, he arose; and, desiring his
guests to command the services of his band at pleasure, he wished them
"soft repose and pleasant dreams," and then coolly descended into the
lower apartments, apparently for the night. Mrs Wyllys and Gertrude,
notwithstanding both had been amused, or rather seduced, by the interest
thrown around a manner that was so wayward, while it was never gross, felt
a sensation, as he disappeared, like that produced by breathing a freer
air, after having been too long compelled to respire the pent atmosphere
of a dungeon. The former regarded her pupil with eyes in which open
affection struggled with deep inward solicitude; but neither spoke, since
a slight movement near the door of the cabin reminded them they were not
"Would you have further music, Madam?" asked Roderick, in a smothered
voice, stealing timidly out of the shadow as he spoke; "I will sing you to
sleep if you will; but I am choaked when he bids me thus be merry against
The brow of the governess had already contracted, and she was evidently
preparing herself to give a stern and repulsive answer; but, as the
plaintive tones, and shrinking, submissive form of the other, pleaded
strongly to her heart, the frown passed away, leaving in its place a mild
reproving look, like that which chastens the frown of maternal concern.
"Roderick," she said, "I thought we should have seen you no more
"You heard the gong. Although he can be so gay, and can raise such
thrilling sounds in his pleasanter moments, you have never yet listened to
him in anger."
"And is his anger, then, so very fearful?"
"Perhaps to me it is more frightful than to others, but I find nothing so
terrible as a word of his, when his mind is moody."
"He is then harsh to you?"
"You contradict yourself, Roderick. He is, and he is not. Have you not
said how terrible you find his moody language?"
"Yes; for I find it changed. Once he was never thoughtful, or out of
humour, but latterly he is not himself."
Mrs Wyllys did not answer. The language of the boy was certainly much more
intelligible to herself than to her young and attentive, but unsuspecting,
companion; for, while she motioned to the lad to retire, Gertrude
manifested a desire to gratify the curious interest she felt in the life
and manners of the freebooter. The signal, however, was authoritatively
repeated, and the lad slowly, and quite evidently with reluctance,
The governess and her pupil then retired into their own state-room; and,
after devoting many minutes to those nightly offerings and petitions which
neither ever suffered any circumstances to cause them to neglect, they
slept in the consciousness of innocence and in the hope of an
all-powerful protection. Though the bell of the ship regularly sounded the
hours throughout the watches of the night, scarcely another sound arose,
during the darkness, to disturb the calm which seemed to have settled
equally on the ocean and all that floated on its bosom.
--"But, for the miracle,
I mean our preservation, few in millions
Can speak like us."--_Tempest._
The "Dolphin" might well have been likened to a slumbering beast of prey,
during those moments of treacherous calm. But as nature limits the period
of repose to the creatures of the animal world, so it would seem that the
inactivity of the freebooters was not doomed to any long continuance. With
the morning sun a breeze came over the water, breathing the flavour of the
land, to set the sluggish ship again in motion. Throughout all that day,
with a wide reach of canvas spreading along her booms, her course was held
towards the south. Watch succeeded watch, and night came after day, and
still no change was made in her direction. Then the blue islands were seen
heaving up, one after another, out of the sea. The prisoners of the Rover,
for thus the females were now constrained to consider themselves, silently
watched each hillock of green that the vessel glided past, each naked and
sandy key, or each mountain side, until, by the calculations of the
governess, they were already steering amid the western Archipelago.
During all this time no question was asked which in the smallest manner
betrayed to the Rover the consciousness of his guests that he was not
conducting them towards the promised port of the Continent. Gertrude wept
over the sorrow her father would feel, when he should believe her fate
involved in that of the unfortunate Bristol trader; but her tears flowed
in private, or were freely poured upon the sympathizing bosom of her
governess. Wilder she avoided, with an intuitive consciousness that he was
no longer the character she had wished to believe, but to all in the ship
she struggled to maintain an equal air and a serene eye. In this
deportment, far safer than any impotent entreaties might have proved, she
was strongly supported by her governess, whose knowledge of mankind had
early taught her that virtue was never so imposing, in the moments of
trial, as when it knew best how to maintain its equanimity. On the other
hand, both the Commander of the ship and his lieutenant sought no other
communication with the inmates of the cabin, than courtesy appeared
absolutely to require.
The former, as though repenting already of having laid so bare the
capricious humours of his mind, drew gradually into himself, neither
seeking nor permitting familiarity with any; while the latter appeared
perfectly conscious of the constrained mien of the governess, and of the
altered though still pitying eye of her pupil. Little explanation was
necessary to acquaint Wilder with the reasons of this change. Instead of
seeking the means to vindicate his character, however, he rather imitated
their reserve. Little else was wanting to assure his former friends of the
nature of his pursuits; for even Mrs Wyllys admitted to her charge, that
he acted like one in whom depravity had not yet made such progress as to
have destroyed that consciousness which is ever the surest test of
We shall not detain the narrative, to dwell upon the natural regrets in
which Gertrude indulged, as this sad conviction forced itself upon her
understanding, nor to relate the gentle wishes in which she did not think
it wrong to indulge, that one, who certainly was master of so many manly
and generous qualities, might soon be made to see the error of his life,
and to return to a course for which even her cold and nicely judging
governess allowed nature had so eminently endowed him. Perhaps the kind
emotions that had been awakened in her bosom, by the events of the last
fortnight, were not content to exhibit themselves in wishes alone, and
that petitions more personal, and even more fervent than common, mingled
in her prayers; but this is a veil which it is not our province to raise,
the heart of one so pure and so ingenuous being the best repository for
its own gentle feelings.
For several days the ship had been contending with the unvarying winds of
those regions. Instead of struggling, however, like a cumbered trader, to
gain some given port, the "Rover" suddenly altered her course, and glided
through one of the many passages that offered, with the ease of a bird
that is settling swiftly to its nest. A hundred different sails were seen
steering among the islands, but all were avoided alike; the policy of the
freebooters teaching them the necessity of moderation, in a sea so crowded
with vessels of war. After the vessel had shot through one of the straits
which divide the chain of the Antilles, she issued in safety on the more
open sea which separates them from the Spanish Main. The moment the
passage was effected, and a broad and clear horizon was seen stretching on
every side of them, a manifest alteration occurred in the mien of every
individual of the crew. The brow of the Rover himself lost its
contraction; and the look of care, which had wrapped the whole man in a
mantle of reserve, disappeared, leaving him the reckless wayward being we
have more than once described. Even the men, whose vigilance had needed no
quickening in running the gauntlet of the cruisers which were known to
swarm in the narrower seas, appeared to breathe a freer air, and sounds of
merriment and thoughtless gaiety were once more heard in a place over
which the gloom of distrust had been so long and so heavily cast.
On the other hand, the governess saw new ground for uneasiness in the
course the vessel was taking. While the islands were in view, she had
hoped, and surely not without reason, that their captor only awaited a
suitable occasion to place them in safety within the influence of the laws
of some of the colonial governments. Her own observation told her there
was so much of what was once good, if not noble, mingled with the
lawlessness of the two principal individuals in the vessel, that she saw
nothing that was visionary in such an expectation. Even the tales of the
time, which recounted the desperate acts of the freebooter, with not a
little of wild and fanciful exaggeration, did not forget to include
numberless striking instances of marked, and even chivalrous generosity.
In short, he bore the character of one who, while he declared himself the
enemy of all, knew how to distinguish between the weak and the strong, and
who often found as much gratification in repairing the wrongs of the
former, as in humbling the pride of the latter.
But all her agreeable anticipations from this quarter were forgotten when
the last island of the groupe sunk into the sea behind them, and the ship
lay alone on an ocean which showed not another object above its surface.
As if now ready to lay aside the mask the Rover ordered the sails to be
reduced, and, neglecting the favourable breeze, the vessel to be brought
to the wind. In a word, as if no object called for the immediate attention
of her crew, the "Dolphin" came to a stand, in the midst of the water her
officers and people abandoning themselves to their pleasures, or to
idleness, as whim or inclination dictated.
"I had hoped that your convenience would have permitted us to land in some
of his Majesty's islands," said Mrs Wyllys, speaking for the first time
since her suspicions had been awakened on the subject of her quitting the
ship, and addressing her words to the self-styled Captain Heidegger, just
after the order to heave-to the vessel had been obeyed. "I fear you find
it irksome to be so long dispossessed of your cabin."
"It cannot be better occupied," he rather evasively replied; though the
observant and anxious governess fancied his eye was bolder, and his air
under less restraint, than when she had before dwelt on the same topic.
"If custom did not require that a ship should wear the colours of some
people, mine should always sport those of the fair."
"And, as it is?"----
"As it is, I hoist the emblems that belong to the service I am in."
"In fifteen days, that you have been troubled with my presence, it has
never been my good fortune to see those colours set."
"No!" exclaimed the Rover, glancing his eye at her, as if to penetrate her
thoughts: "Then shall the uncertainty cease on the sixteenth.--Who's
"No one better nor worse than Richard Fid," returned the individual in
question, lifting his head from out a locker, into which it had been
thrust, as though its owner searched for some mislaid implement, and who
added a little quickly, when he ascertained by whom he was addressed, "and
always at your Honour's orders."
"Ah! 'Tis the friend of _our_ friend," the Rover observed to Mrs Wyllys,
with an emphasis which the other understood. "He shall be my interpreter.
Come hither, lad; I have a word to exchange with you."
"A thousand at your service, sir," returned Richard unhesitatingly
complying; "for, though no great talker, I have always something uppermost
in my mind, which can be laid hold of at need."
"I hope you find that your hammock swings easily in my ship?"
"I'll not deny it, your Honour; for an easier craft, especially upon a
bow-line, might be hard to find."
"And the cruise?--I hope you also find the cruise such as a seaman loves."
"D'ye see, sir, I was sent from home with little schooling, and so I
seldom make so free as to pretend to read the Captain's orders."
"But still you have your inclinations," said Mrs. Wyllys, firmly, as
though determined to push the investigation even further than her
companion had intended.
"I can't say that I'm wanting in natural feeling, your Ladyship," returned
Fid, endeavouring to manifest his admiration of the sex, by the awkward
bow he made to the governess as its representative, "tho'f crosses and
mishaps have come athwart me as well as better men. I thought as strong a
splice was laid, between me and Kate Whiffle, as was ever turned into a
sheet-cable; but then came the law, with its regulations and shipping
articles, luffing short athwart my happiness, and making a wreck at once
of all the poor girl's hopes, and a Flemish account of my comfort."
"It was proved that she had another husband?" said the Rover, nodding his
"Four, your Honour. The girl had a love of company, and it grieved her to
the heart to see an empty house: But then, as it was seldom more than one
of us could be in port at a time, there was no such need to make the noise
they did about the trifle. But envy did it all, sir; envy, and the
greediness of the land-sharks. Had every woman in the parish as many
husbands as Kate, the devil a bit would they have taken up the precious
time of judge and jury, in looking into the manner in which a wench like
her kept a quiet household."
"And, since that unfortunate repulse, you have kept yourself altogether
out of the hands of matrimony?"
"Ay, ay; _since_, your Honour," returned Fid, giving his Commander another
of those droll looks, in which a peculiar cunning struggled with a more
direct and straight-going honesty, "_since_, as you say rightly, sir;
though they talked of a small matter of a bargain that I had made with
another woman, myself; but, in overhauling the affair, they found, that,
as the shipping articles with poor Kate wouldn't hold together, why, they
could make nothing at all of me; so I was white-washed like a queen's
parlour and sent adrift."
"And all this occurred after your acquaintance with Mr Wilder?"
"Afore, your Honour; afore. I was but a younker in the time of it, seeing
that it is four-and-twenty years, come May next, since I have been towing
at the stern of master Harry. But then, as I have had a sort of family of
my own, since that day, why, the less need, you know, to be birthing
myself again in any other man's hammock."
"You were saying, it is four-and-twenty years," interrupted Mrs Wyllys,
"since you made the acquaintance of Mr Wilder?"
"Acquaintance! Lord, my Lady, little did he know of acquaintances at that
time; though, bless him! the lad has had occasion to remember it often
"The meeting of two men, of so singular merit, must have been somewhat
remarkable," observed the Rover.
"It was, for that matter, remarkable enough, your Honour; though, as to
the merit, notwithstanding master Harry is often for overhauling that part
of the account, I've set it down for just nothing at all."
"I confess, that, in a case where two men, both of whom are so well
qualified to judge, are of different opinions, I feel at a loss to know
which can have the right. Perhaps, by the aid of the facts, I might form a
"Your Honour forgets the Guinea, who is altogether of my mind in the
matter, seeing no great merit in the thing either. But, as you are saying,
sir, reading the log is the only true way to know how fast a ship can go;
and so, if this Lady and your Honour have a mind to come at the truth of
the affair why, you have only to say as much, and I will put it all before
you in creditable language."
"Ah! there is reason in your proposition," returned the Rover, motioning
to his companion to follow to a part of the poop where they were less
exposed to the observations of inquisitive eyes. "Now, place the whole
clearly before us; and then you may consider the merits of the question
disposed of definitively."
Fid was far from discovering the smallest reluctance to enter on the
required detail; and, by the time he had cleared his throat, freshened his
supply of the weed, and otherwise disposed himself to proceed Mrs Wyllys
had so far conquered her reluctance to pry clandestinely into the secrets
of others, as to yield to a curiosity which she found unconquerable and to
take the seat to which her companion invited her by a gesture of his hand.
"I was sent early to sea, your Honour, by my father," commenced Fid, after
these little preliminaries had been duly observed, "who was, like myself,
a man that passed more of his time on the water than on dry ground;
though, as he was nothing more than a fisherman, he generally kept the
land aboard which is, after all, little better than living on it
altogether Howsomever, when I went, I made a broad offing at once,
fetching up on the other side of the Horn, the very first passage I made;
which was no small journey for a new beginner; but then, as I was only
eight years old"----
"Eight! you are now speaking of yourself," interrupted the disappointed
"Certain, Madam; and, though genteeler people might be talked of, it would
be hard to turn the conversation on any man who knows better how to rig or
how to strip a ship. I was beginning at the right end of my story; but, as
I fancied your Ladyship might not choose to waste time in hearing
concerning my father and mother, I cut the matter short, by striking in at
eight years old, overlooking all about my birth and name, and such other
matters as are usually logged, in a fashion out of all reason, in your
everyday sort of narratives."
"Proceed," she rejoined, with a species of compelled resignation.
"My mind is pretty much like a ship that is about to slip off its ways,"
resumed Fid. "If she makes a fair start, and there is neither jam nor
dry-rub, smack see goes into the water, like a sail let run in a calm;
but, if she once brings up, a good deal of labour is to be gone through to
set her in motion again. Now, in order to wedge up my ideas, and to get
the story slushed, so that I can slip through it with ease, it is needful
to overrun the part which I have just let go; which is, how my father was
a fisherman, and how I doubled the Horn--Ah! here I have it again, clear
of kinks, fake above fake, like a well-coiled cable; so that I can pay it
out as easily as the boatswain's yeoman can lay his hand on a bit of
ratling stuff. Well, I doubled the Horn, as I was saying, and might have
been the matter of four years cruising about among the islands and seas of
those parts, which were none of the best known then, or for that matter,
now. After this, I served in his Majesty's fleet a whole war, and got as
much honour as I could stow beneath hatches. Well, then, I fell in with
the Guinea--the black, my Lady, that you see turning in a new
clue-garnet-block for the starboard clue of the fore-course."
"Ay; then you fell in with the African," said the Rover.
"Then we made our acquaintance; and, although his colour is no whiter than
the back of a whale, I care not who knows it, after master Harry, there is
no man living who has an honester way with him, or in whose company I take
greater satisfaction. To be sure, your Honour, the fellow is something
contradictory and has a great opinion of his strength and thinks his equal
is not to be found at a weather-earing or in the bunt of a topsail; but
then he is no better than a black, and one is not to be too particular in
looking into the faults of such as are not actually his fellow creatures."
"No, no; that would be uncharitable in the extreme."
"The very words the chaplain used to let fly aboard the 'Brunswick!' It is
a great thing to have schooling, your Honour; since, if it does nothing
else, it fits a man for a boatswain, and puts him in the track of steering
the shortest course to heaven. But, as I was saying, there was I and
Guinea shipmates and in a reasonable way friends, for five years more; and
then the time arrived when we met with the mishap of the wreck in the
"What wreck?" demanded his officer.
"I beg your Honour's pardon; I never swing my head-yards till I'm sure
the ship won't luff back into the wind; and, before I tell the particulars
of the wreck, I will overrun my ideas, to see that nothing is forgotten
that should of right be first mentioned."
The Rover, who saw, by the uneasy glances that she cast aside, and by the
expression of her countenance how impatient his companion was becoming for
a sequel that approached so tardily, and how much she dreaded an
interruption, made a significant sign to her to permit the straight-going
tar to take his own course, as the best means of coming at the facts they
both longed so much to hear. Left to himself, Fid soon took the necessary
review of the transactions, in his own quaint manner; and, having happily
found that nothing which he considered as germain to the present relation
was omitted, he proceeded at once to the more material, and what was to
his auditors by far the most interesting, portion of his narrative.
"Well, as I was telling your Honour," he continued, "Guinea was then a
maintopman, and I was stationed in the same place aboard the 'Proserpine,'
a quick-going two-and-thirty, when we fell in with a bit of a smuggler,
between the islands and the Spanish Main; and so the Captain made a prize
of her, and ordered her into port; for which I have always supposed, as he
was a sensible man, he had his orders. But this is neither here nor there,
seeing that the craft had got to the end of her rope, and foundered in a
heavy hurricane that came over us, mayhap a couple of days' run to leeward
of our haven. Well, she was a small boat; and, as she took it into her
mind to roll over on her side before she went to sleep, the master's mate
in charge, and three others, slid off her decks to the bottom of the sea,
as I have always had reason to believe, never having heard any thing to
the contrary. It was here that Guinea first served me the good turn; for,
though we had often before shared hunger and thirst together, this was
the first time he ever jumped overboard to keep me from taking in salt
water like a fish."
"He kept you from drowning with the rest?"
"I'll not say just that much, your Honour; for there is no knowing what
lucky accident might have done the same good turn for me. Howsomever,
seeing that I can swim no better nor worse than a double-headed shot, I
have always been willing to give the black credit for as much, though
little has ever been said between us on the subject; for no other reason,
as I can see, than that settling-day has not yet come. Well, we contrived
to get the boat afloat, and enough into it to keep soul and body together,
and made the best of our way for the land, seeing that the cruise was, to
all useful purposes, over in that smuggler. I needn't be particular in
telling this lady of the nature of boat-duty, as she has lately had some
experience in that way herself; but I can tell her this much: Had it not
been for that boat in which the black and myself spent the better part of
ten days, she would have fared but badly in her own navigation."
"Explain your meaning."
"My meaning is plain enough, your Honour, which is, that little else than
the handy way of master Harry in a boat could have kept the Bristol
trader's launch above water, the day we fell in with it."
"But in what manner was your own shipwreck connected with the safety of Mr
Wilder?" demanded the governess, unable any longer to await the dilatory
explanation of the prolix seaman.
"In a very plain and natural fashion, my Lady, as you will say yourself,
when you come to hear the pitiful part of my tale. Well, there were I and
Guinea, rowing about in the ocean, on short allowance of all things but
work, for two nights and a day, heading-in for the islands; for, though no
great navigators, we could smell the land, and so we pulled away lustily,
when you consider it was a race in which life was the wager, until we
made, in the pride of the morning, as it might be here, at
east-and-by-south a ship under bare poles; if a vessel can be called bare
that had nothing better than the stumps of her three masts standing, and
they without rope or rag to tell one her rig or nation. Howsomever, as
there were three naked sticks left, I have always put her down for a
full-rigged ship; and, when we got nigh enough to take a look at her hull,
I made bold to say she was of English build."
"You boarded her," observed the Rover.
"A small task that, your Honour, since a starved dog was the whole crew
she could muster to keep us off. It was a solemn sight when we got on her
decks, and one that bears hard on my manhood," continued Fid, with an air
that grew more serious as he proceeded, "whenever I have occasion to
overhaul the log-book of memory."
"You found her people suffering of want!"
"We found a noble ship, as helpless as a halibut in a tub. There she lay,
a craft of some four hundred tons, water-logged, and motionless as a
church. It always gives me great reflection, sir, when I see a noble
vessel brought to such a strait; for one may liken her to a man who has
been docked of his fins, and who is getting to be good for little else
than to be set upon a cat-head to look out for squalls."
"The ship was then deserted?"
"Ay, the people had left her, sir, or had been washed away in the gust
that had laid her over. I never could come at the truth of them
particulars. The dog had been mischievous, I conclude, about the decks;
and so he had been lashed to a timber head, the which saved his life,
since, happily for him he found himself on the weather-side when the hull
righted a little, after her spars gave way. Well, sir there was the dog,
and not much else, as we could see, though we spent half a day in
rummaging round, in order to pick up any small matter that might be
useful; but then, as the entrance to the hold and cabin was full of water,
why, we made no great affair of the salvage, after all."
"And then you left the wreck?"
"Not yet, your Honour. While knocking about among the bits of rigging and
lumber above board, says Guinea, says he, 'Mister Dick, I hear some one
making their plaints below.' Now, I had heard the same noises myself, sir;
but had set them down as the spirits of the people moaning over their
losses, and had said nothing of the same, for fear of stirring up the
superstition of the black; for the best of them are no better than
superstitious niggers, my Lady; so I said nothing of what I had heard,
until he saw fit to broach the subject himself. Then we both turned-to to
listening with a will; and sure enough the groans began to take a human
sound. It was a good while, howsomever, before I could make up whether it
was any thing more than the complaining of the hulk itself; for you know,
my Lady, that a ship which is about to sink makes her lamentations just
like any other living thing."
"I do, I do," returned the governess, shuddering. "I have heard them, and
never will my memory lose the recollection of the sounds."
"Ay, I thought you might know something of the same, and solemn groans
they are: But, as the hulk kept rolling on the top of the sea, and no
further signs of her going down, I began to think it best to cut into her
abaft, in order to make sure that some miserable wretch had not been
caught in his hammock at the time she went over. Well, good will, and an
axe, soon let us into the secret of the moans."
"You found a child?"
"And its mother, my Lady. As good luck would have it, they were in a
birth on the weather-side and as yet the water had not reached them. But
pent air and hunger had nearly proved as bad as the brine. The lady was in
the agony when we got her out; and as to the boy, proud and strong as you
now see him there on yonder gun, my Lady, he was just so miserable, that
it was no small matter to make him swallow the drop of wine and water that
the Lord had left us, in order, as I have often thought since, to bring
him up to be, as he at this moment is, the pride of the ocean!"
"But, the mother?"
"The mother had given the only morsel of biscuit she had to the child, and
was dying, in order that the urchin might live. I never could get rightly
into the meaning of the thing, my Lady, why a woman, who is no better than
a Lascar in matters of strength, nor any better than a booby in respect of
courage, should be able to let go her hold of life in this quiet fashion,
when many a stout mariner would be fighting for each mouthful of air the
Lord might see fit to give. But there she was, white as the sail on which
the storm has long beaten, and limber as a pennant in a calm, with her
poor skinny arm around the lad, holding in her hand the very mouthful that
might have kept her own soul in the body a little longer."
"What did she, when you brought her to the light?"
"What did she!" repeated Fid, whose voice was getting thick and husky,
"why, she did a d----d honest thing; she gave the boy the crumb, and
motioned as well as a dying woman could, that we should have an eye over
him, till the cruise of life was up."
"And was that all?"
"I have always thought she prayed; for something passed between her and
one who was not to be seen, if a man might judge by the fashion in which
her eyes were turned aloft, and her lips moved. I hope, among others, she
put in a good word for one Richard Fid; for certain she had as little need
to be asking for herself as any body. But no man will ever know what she
said, seeing that her mouth was shut from that time for ever after."
"Sorry am I to say it. But the poor lady was past swallowing when she came
into our hands, and then it was but little we had to offer her. A quart of
water, with mayhap a gill of wine, a biscuit, and a handful of rice, was
no great allowance for two hearty men to pull a boat some seventy leagues
within the tropics. Howsomever, when we found no more was to be got from
the wreck, and that, since the air had escaped by the hole we had cut, she
was settling fast, we thought it best to get out of her: and sure enough
we were none too soon, seeing that she went under just as we had twitched
our jolly-boat clear of the suction."
"And the boy--the poor deserted child!" exclaimed the governess, whose
eyes had now filled to over-flowing.
"There you are all aback, my Lady. Instead of deserting him, we brought
him away with us, as we did the only other living creature to be found
about the wreck. But we had still a long journey before us, and, to make
the matter worse, we were out of the track of the traders. So I put it
down as a case for a council of all hands, which was no more than I and
the black, since the lad was too weak to talk and little could he have
said otherwise in our situation. So I begun myself, saying, says I,
'Guinea, we must eat either this here dog, or this here boy. If we eat the
boy, we shall be no better than the people in your own country, who, you
know, my Lady, are cannibals; but if we eat the dog, poor as he is we may
make out to keep soul and body together, and to give the child the other
matters.'--So Guinea, he says, says he, 'I've no occasion for food at all;
give 'em to the boy,' says he, 'seeing that he is little, and has need of
strength.' Howsomever, master Harry took no great fancy to the dog, which
we soon finished between us; for the plain reason that he was so thin.
After that, we had a hungry time of it ourselves; for, had we not kept up
the life in the lad, you know, it would have slipt through our fingers."
"And you fed the child, though fasting yourselves?"
"No, we wer'n't altogether idle, my Lady, seeing that we kept our teeth
jogging on the skin of the dog, though I will not say that the food was
over savoury. And then, as we had no occasion to lose time in eating, we
kept the oars going so much the livelier. Well, we got in at one of the
islands after a time, though neither I nor the nigger had much to boast of
as to strength or weight when we made the first kitchen we fell in with."
"And the child?"
"Oh! he was doing well enough; for, as the doctors afterwards told us, the
short allowance on which he was put did him no harm."
"You sought his friends?"
"Why, as for that matter, my Lady, so far as I have been able to discover,
he was with his best friends already. We had neither chart nor bearings by
which we knew how to steer in search of his family. His name he called
master Harry, by which it is clear he was a gentleman born, as indeed any
one may see by looking at him; but not another word could I learn of his
relations or country, except that, as he spoke the English language, and
was found in an English ship, there is a natural reason to believe he is
of English build himself."
"Did you not learn the name of the ship?" demanded the attentive Rover,
in whose countenance the traces of a lively interest were very distinctly
"Why, as to that matter, your Honour, schools were scarce in my part of
the country; and in Africa, you know, there is no great matter of
learning; so that, had her name been out of water, which it was not, we
might have been bothered to read it. Howsomever, there was a horse-bucket
kicking about her decks, and which, as luck would have it, got jammed-in
with the pumps in such a fashion that it did not go overboard until we
took it with us. Well, this bucket had a name painted on it; and, after we
had leisure for the thing, I got Guinea, who has a natural turn at
tattooing, to rub it into my arm in gunpowder, as the handiest way of
logging these small particulars. Your Honour shall see what the black has
made of it."
So saying, Fid very coolly doffed his jacket, and laid bare, to the elbow,
one of his brawny arms, on which the blue impression was still very
plainly visible Although the letters were rudely imitated, it was not
difficult to read, in the skin, the words "Ark, of Lynnhaven."
"Here, then, you had a clue at once to find the relatives of the boy,"
observed the Rover, after he had deciphered the letters.
"It seems not, your Honour; for we took the child with us aboard the
'Proserpine,' and our worthy Captain carried sail hard after the people;
but no one could give any tidings of such a craft as the 'Ark, of
Lynnhaven;' and, after a twelvemonth, or more, we were obliged to give up
"Could the child give no account of his friends?" demanded the governess.
"But little, my Lady; for the reason he knew but little about himself. So
we gave the matter over altogether; I, and Guinea, and the Captain, and
all of us, turning-to to educate the boy. He got his seamanship of the
black and myself, and mayhap some little of his manners also; and his
navigation and Latin of the Captain, who proved his friend till such a
time as he was able to take care of himself, and, for that matter, some
"And how long did Mr Wilder continue in a King's ship?" asked the Rover,
in a careless and apparently indifferent manner.
"Long enough to learn all that is taught there, your Honour," was the
"He came to be an officer, I suppose?"
"If he didn't, the King had the worst of the bargain.--But what is this I
see hereaway, atween the backstay and the vang? It looks like a sail; or
is it only a gull flapping his wings before he rises?"
"Sail, ho!" called the look-out from the mast head. "Sail, ho!" was echoed
from a top and from the deck; the glittering though distant object having
struck a dozen vigilant eyes at the same instant. The Rover was compelled
to lend his attention to a summons so often repeated; and Fid profited by
the circumstance to quit the poop, with the hurry of one who was not sorry
for the interruption. Then the governess arose too, and, thoughtful and
melancholy she sought the privacy of her cabin.
"Their preparation is to-day by sea." _--Anthony and Cleopatra._
"Sail, ho!" in the little frequented sea in which the "Rover" lay, was a
cry that quickened every dull pulsation in the bosoms of her crew. Many
weeks had now, according to their method of calculation, been entirely
lost in the visionary and profitless plans of their chief. They were not
of a temper to reason on the fatality which had forced the Bristol trader
from their toils; it was enough, for their rough natures, that the rich
spoil had escaped them. Without examining for the causes of this loss, as
has been already seen, they had been but too well disposed to visit their
disappointment on the head of the innocent officer who was charged with
the care of a vessel that they already considered a prize. Here, then, was
at length an opportunity to repair their loss. The stranger was about to
encounter them in a part of the ocean where succour was nearly hopeless,
and where time might be afforded to profit, to the utmost, by any success
that the freebooters should obtain. Every man in the ship seemed sensible
of these advantages; and, as the words sounded from mast to yard, and from
yard to deck, they were taken up in cheerful echos from fifty mouths,
which repeated the cry, until it was heard issuing from the inmost
recesses of the vessel.
The Rover himself manifested more than usual satisfaction at this prospect
of a capture. He was quite aware of the necessity of some brilliant or of
some profitable exploit, to curb the rising tempers of his men; and long
experience had taught him that he could ever draw the cords of discipline
the tightest in moments that appeared the most to require the exercise of
his own high courage and consummate skill. He walked forward, therefore,
among his people, with a countenance that was no longer buried in reserve,
speaking to several, whom he addressed by name, and of whom he did not
even disdain to ask opinions concerning the character of the distant sail.
When a sort of implied assurance that their recent offences were
overlooked had thus been given, he summoned Wilder, the General, and one
or two others of the superior officers, to the poop, where they all
disposed themselves, to make more particular and more certain observations,
by the aid of a half-dozen excellent glasses.
Many minutes were now passed in silent and intense scrutiny. The day was
cloudless, the wind fresh, without being heavy, the sea long, even, and
far from high, and, in short, all things combined, as far as is ever seen
on the restless ocean, not only to aid their examination, but to favour
those subsequent evolutions which each instant rendered more probable
would become necessary.
"It is a ship!" exclaimed the Rover, lowering his glass, the first to
proclaim the result of his long and close inspection.
"It is a ship!" echoed the General, across whose disciplined features a
ray of something like animated satisfaction was making an effort to
"A full-rigged ship!" continued a third, relieving his eye in turn, and
answering to the grim smile of the soldier.
"There must be something to hold up all those lofty spars," resumed their
Commander. "A hull of price is beneath.--But you say nothing, Mr Wilder!
You make her out"----
"A ship of size," returned our adventurer, who, though hitherto silent,
had been far from the least interested in his investigations. "Does my
glass deceive me--or"----
"Or what, sir?"
"I see her to the heads of her courses."
"You see her as I do. It is a tall ship on an easy bow-line, with every
thing set that will draw. And she is standing hitherward. Her lower sails
have lifted within five minutes."
"I thought as much. But"----
"But what, sir? There can be little doubt but she is heading
north-and-east. Since she is so kind as to spare us the pains of a chase,
we will not hurry our movements. Let her come on. How like you the manner
of the stranger's advance, General?"
"Unmilitary, but enticing! There is a look of the mines about her very
"And you, gentlemen, do you also see the fashion of a galleon in her upper
"'Tis not unreasonable to believe it," answered one of the inferiors. "The
Dons are said to run this passage often, in order to escape speaking us
gentlemen, who sail with roving commissions."
"Ah! your Don is a prince of the earth! There is charity in lightening his
golden burden, or the man would sink under it, as did the Roman matron
under the pressure of the Sabine shields. I think you see no such gilded
beauty in the stranger, Mr Wilder."
"It is a heavy ship!"
"The more likely to bear a noble freight. You are new, sir, to this merry
trade of ours, or you would know that size is a quality we always esteem
in our visitors. If they carry pennants, we leave them to meditate on the
many 'slips which exist between the cup and the lip;' and, if stored with
metal no more dangerous than that of Potosi, they generally sail the
faster after passing a few hours in our company."
"Is not the stranger making signals?" demanded Wilder, thoughtfully.
"Is he so quick to see us! A good look-out must be had, when a vessel,
that is merely steadied by her stay-sails, can be seen so far. Vigilance
is a never-failing sign of value!"
A pause succeeded, during which all the glasses, in imitation of that of
Wilder, were again raised in the direction of the stranger. Different
opinions were given; some affirming, and some doubting, the fact of the
signals. The Rover himself was silent, though his observation was keen,
and long continued.
"We have wearied oar eyes till sight is getting dim," he said. "I have
found the use of trying fresh organs when my own have refused to serve me.
Come hither, lad," he continued, addressing a man who was executing some
delicate job in seamanship on the poop, at no great distance from the spot
where the groupe of officers had placed themselves; "come hither: Tell me
what you make of the sail in the south-western board."
The man proved to be Scipio, who had been chosen for his expertness, to
perform the task in question. Placing his cap on the deck, in a reverence
even deeper than that which the seaman usually manifests toward his
superior, he lifted the glass in one hand, while with the other he covered
the eye that had at the moment no occasion for the use of its vision. But
no sooner did the wandering instrument fall on the distant object, than he
dropped it again, and fastened his look, in a sort of stupid admiration,
"Did you see the sail?" demanded the Rover.
"Masser can see him wid he naked eye."
"Ay, but what make you of him by the aid of the glass?"
"He'm ship, sir."
"True. On what course?"
"He got he starboard tacks aboard, sir."
"Still true. But has he signals abroad?"
"He'm got t'ree new cloths in he maintop-gallant royal, sir."
"His vessel is all the better for the repairs. Did you see his flags?"
"He'm show no flag, masser."
"I thought as much myself. Go forward, lad--stay--one often gets a true
idea by seeking it where it is not thought to exist. Of what size do you
take the stranger to be?"
"He'm just seven hundred and fifty tons, masser."
"How's this! The tongue of your negro, Mr. Wilder, is as exact as a
carpenter's rule. The fellow speaks of the size of a vessel, that is hull
down, with an air as authoritative as a runner of the King's customs could
pronounce on the same, after she had been submitted to the office
"You will have consideration for the ignorance of the black; men of his
unfortunate state are seldom skilful in answering interrogatories."
"Ignorance!" repeated the Rover, glancing his eye uneasily, and with a
rapidity peculiar to himself, from one to the other, and from both to the
rising object in the horizon: "Skilful! I know not: The man has no air of
doubt.--You think her tonnage to be precisely that which you have said?"
The large dark eyes of Scipio roiled, in turn, from his new Commander to
his ancient master, while, for a moment, his faculties appeared to be lost
in inextricable confusion. But the uncertainty continued only for a
moment. He no sooner read the frown that was gathering deeply over the
brow of the latter, than the air of confidence with which he had
pronounced his former opinion vanished in a look of obstinacy so settled,
that one might well have despaired of ever driving, or enticing, him again
to seem to think.
"I ask you, if the stranger may not be a dozen tons larger or smaller than
what you have named?" continued the Rover, when he found his former
question was not likely to be soon answered.
"He'm just as masser wish 'em," returned Scipio.
"I wish him a thousand; since he will then prove the richer prize."
"I s'pose he'm quite a t'ousand, sir."
"Or a snug ship of three hundred, if lined with gold, might do."
"He look berry like a t'ree hundred."
"To me it seems a brig."
"I t'ink him brig too, masser."
"Or possibly, after all, the stranger may prove a schooner, with many
lofty and light sails."
"A schooner often carry a royal," returned the black, resolute to
acquiesce in all the other said.
"Who knows it is a sail at all! Forward there! It may be well to have more
opinions than one on so weighty a matter. Forward there! send the
foretop-man that is called Fid upon the poop. Your companions are so
intelligent and so faithful, Mr. Wilder, that you are not to be surprised
if I shew an undue desire for their information."
Wilder compressed his lips, and the rest of the groupe manifested a good
deal of amazement; but the latter had been too long accustomed to the
caprice of their Commander, and the former was too wise, to speak at a
moment when his humour seemed at the highest. The topman, however, was not
long in making his appearance, and then the chief saw fit again to break
"And you think it questionable whether it be a sail at all?" he continued.
"He'm sartain nothing but a fly-away," returned the obstinate black.
"You hear what your friend the negro says, master Fid; he thinks that
yonder object, which is lifting so fast to leeward, is not a sail."
As the topman saw no sufficient reason for concealing his astonishment at
this wild opinion, it was manifested with all the embellishments with
which the individual in question usually set forth any of his more visible
emotions. After casting a short glance in the direction of the sail, in
order to assure himself there had been no deception, he turned his eyes in
great disgust on Scipio, as if he would vindicate the credit of the
association at the expense of some little contempt for the ignorance of
"What the devil do you take it for, Guinea? a church?"
"I t'ink he'm church," responded the acquiescent black.
"Lord help the dark-skinned fool! Your Honour knows that conscience is
d----nab-y overlooked in Africa, and will not judge the nigger hardly for
any little blunder he may make in the account of his religion. But the
fellow is a thorough seaman, and should know a top-gallant-sail from a
weathercock. Now, look you, S'ip, for the credit of your friends, if
you've no great pride on your own behalf, just tell his"----
"It is of no account," interrupted the Rover. "Take you this glass, and
pass an opinion on the sail in sight yourself."
Fid scraped his foot, and made a low bow, in acknowledgment of the
compliment; and then, depositing his little tarpaulin hat on the deck of
the poop, he very composedly, and, as he flattered himself, very
understandingly, disposed of his person to take the desired view. The gaze
of the topman was far longer than had been that of his black companion;
and it is to be presumed, in consequence, much more accurate. Instead,
however, of venturing any sudden opinion, when his eye was wearied, he
lowered the glass, and with it his head, standing long in the attitude of
one whose thoughts had received some subject of deep cogitation. During
the process of thinking, the weed was diligently rolled over his tongue,
and one hand was stuck a-kimbo into his side, as if he would brace all his
faculties to support some extraordinary mental effort.
"I wait your opinion," resumed his attentive Commander, when he thought
sufficient time had been allowed to mature the opinion even of Richard
"Will your Honour just tell me what day of the month this here may be,
and mayhap, at the same time, the day of the week too, if it shouldn't be
giving too much trouble?"
His two questions were directly answered.
"We had the wind at east-with-southing, the first day out, and then it
chopped in the night, and blew great guns at north-west, where it held for
the matter of a week. After which there was an Irishman's hurricane, right
up and down, for a day; then we got into these here trades, which have
stood as steady as a ship's chaplain over a punch bowl, ever since."----
Here the topman closed his soliloquy, in order to agitate the tobacco
again, it being impossible to conduct the process of chewing and talking
at one and the same time.
"What of the stranger?" demanded the Rover, a little impatiently.
"It's no church, that's certain, your Honour," said Fid, very decidedly.
"Has he signals flying?"
"He may be speaking with his flags, but it needs a better scholar than
Richard Fid to know what he would say. To my eye, there are three new
cloths in his main-top-gallant-royal, but no bunting abroad."
"The man is happy in having so good a sail. Mr Wilder, do _you_ too see
the darker cloths in question?"
"There is certainly something which might be taken for canvas newer than
the rest. I believe I first mistook the same, as the sun fell brightest on
the sail, for the signals I named."
"Then we are not seen, and may lie quiet for a while, though we enjoy the
advantage of measuring the stranger, foot by foot--even to the new cloths
in his royal!"
The Rover spoke in a tone that was strangely divided between sarcasm and
thought. He then made an impatient gesture to the seamen to quit the poop.
When they were alone, he turned to his silent and respectful officers,
continuing, in a manner that was grave, while it was conciliatory,----
"Gentlemen," he said, "our idle time is past, and fortune has at length
brought activity into our track. Whether the ship in sight be of just
seven hundred and fifty tons, is more than I can pretend to pronounce, but
something there is which any seaman may know. But the squareness of her
upper-yards, the symmetry with which they are trimmed, and the press of
canvass she bears on the wind, I pronounce her to be a vessel of war. Do
any differ from my opinion? Mr. Wilder, speak."
"I feel the truth of all your reasons, and think with you."
A shade of gloomy distrust, which had gathered over the brow of the Rover
during the foregoing scene, lighted a little as he listened to the direct
and frank avowal of his lieutenant.
"You believe she bears a pennant? I like this manliness of reply. Then
comes another question. Shall we fight her?"
To this interrogatory it was not so easy to give a decisive answer. Each
officer consulted the opinions of his comrades, in their eyes, until their
leader saw fit to make his application still more personal.
"Now, General, this is a question peculiarly fitted for your wisdom," he
resumed: "Shall we give battle to a pennant? or shall we spread our wings,
"My bullies are not drilled to the retreat. Give them any other work to
do, and I will answer for their steadiness."
"But shall we venture, without a reason?"
"The Spaniard often sends his bullion home under cover of a cruiser's
guns," observed one of the inferiors, who rarely found pleasure in any
risk that did not infer its correspondent benefit. "We may feel the
stranger; if he carries more than his guns, he will betray it by his
reluctance to speak, but if poor, we shall find him fierce as a half-fed
"There is sense in your counsel, Brace, and it shall be regarded. Go then,
gentlemen, to your several duties. We'll pass the half hour that may be
needed, before his hull shall rise, in looking to our gear, and
overhauling the guns. As it is not decided to fight, let what is done be
done without display. My people must see no receding from a resolution
The groupe then separated, each man preparing to undertake the task that
more especially belonged to the situation that he filled in the ship.
Wilder was about to retire with the rest, but a significant sign drew him
to the side of his chief, who continued on the poop alone with his new
"The monotony of our lives is now likely to be interrupted, Mr Wilder,"
commenced the former, first glancing his eye around, to make sure they
were alone. "I have seen enough of your spirit and steadiness, to be sure,
that, should accident disable me to conduct the fortunes of these people,
my authority will fall into firm and able hands."
"Should such a calamity befall us, I hope it may be found that your
expectations shall not be deceived."
"I have confidence, sir; and, where a brave man reposes his confidence, he
has a right to hope it will not be abused. I speak in reason."
"I acknowledge the justice of your words."
"I would, Wilder, that we had known each other earlier. But what matters
vain regrets! These fellows of yours are keen of sight to note those
cloths so soon!"
"'Tis just the observation of people of their class. The nicer
distinctions which marked the cruiser came first from yourself!"
"And then the 'seven hundred and fifty tons of the black!--It was giving
an opinion with great decision."
"It is the quality of ignorance to be positive."
"You say truly. Cast an eye at the stranger, and tell me how he comes on."
Wilder obeyed, seemingly glad to be relieved from a discourse that he
might have found embarrassing. Many moments were passed before he dropped
the glass, during which time not a syllable fell from the lips of his
companion. When he turned, however, to deliver the result of his
observations, he met an eye, that seemed to pierce his soul, fastened on
his countenance. Colouring highly, as if he resented the suspicion
betrayed by the act, Wilder closed his half-open lips, and continued
"And the ship?" deeply demanded the Rover.
"The ship has already raised her courses; in a few more minutes we shall
see the hull."
"It is a swift vessel! She is standing directly for us."
"I think not. Her head is lying more at east."
"It may be well to make certain of that fact. You are right," he
continued, after taking a look himself at the approaching cloud of canvas;
"you are very right. As yet we are not seen. Forward there! haul down that
head stay-sail; we will steady the ship by her yards. Now let him look
with all his eyes; they must be good to see these naked spars at such a
Our adventurer made no reply, assenting to the truth of what the other had
said by a simple inclination of his head. They then resumed the walk to
and fro in their narrow limits, neither manifesting, however, any anxiety
to renew the discourse.
"We are in good condition for the alternative of flight or combat," the
Rover at length observed, while he cast a rapid look over the preparations
which had been unostentatiously in progress from the moment when the
officers dispersed. "Now will I confess, Wilder, a secret pleasure in the
belief that yonder audacious fool carries the boasted commission of the
German who wears the Crown of Britain. Should he prove more than man may
dare attempt, I will flout him; though prudence shall check any further
attempts; and, should he prove an equal, would it not gladden your eyes to
see St. George come drooping to the water?"
"I thought that men in our pursuit left honour to silly heads, and that we
seldom struck a blow that was not intended to ring on a metal more
precious than iron."
"'Tis the character the world gives; but I, for one, would rather lower
the pride of the minions of King George than possess the power of
unlocking his treasury! Said I well, General?" he added, as the individual
he named approached; "said I well, in asserting there was glorious
pleasure in making a pennant trail upon the sea?"
"We fight for victory," returned the martinet. "I am ready to engage at a
"Prompt and decided, as a soldier.--Now tell me, General, if Fortune, or
Chance, or Providence, whichever of the powers you may acknowledge for a
leader were to give you the option of enjoyments, in what would you find
your deepest satisfaction?"
The soldier seemed to ruminate, ere he answered,----
"I have often thought, that, were I commander of things on earth, I
should, backed by a dozen of my stoutest bullies, charge at the door of
that cave which was entered by the tailor's boy, him they call Aladdin."
"The genuine aspirations of a freebooter! In such case, the magic trees
would soon be disburdened of their fruit. Still it might prove an
inglorious victory, since incantations and charms are the weapons of the
combatants. Call you honour nothing?"
"Hum! I fought for honour half of a reasonably long life, and found myself
as light at the close of all my dangers as at the beginning. Honour and I
have shaken hands, unless it be the honour of coming off conqueror. I have
a strong disgust of defeat, but am always ready to sell the mere honour of
the victory cheap."
"Well, let it pass. The quality of the service is much the same, find the
motive where you will.--How now! who has dared to let yonder
The startling change in the voice of the Rover caused all within hearing
of his words to tremble. Deep, anxious, and threatening displeasure was in
all its tones, and each man cast his eyes upwards, to see on whose devoted
head the weight of the dreaded indignation of their chief was about to
fall. As there was little but naked spars and tightened ropes to obstruct
the view, all became, at the same instant, apprized of the truth. Fid was
standing on the head of that topmast which belonged to the particular
portion of the vessel where he was stationed, and the sail in question was
fluttering, with all its gear loosened far and high in the wind. His
hearing had probably been drowned by the heavy flapping of the canvas;
for, instead of lending his ears to the deep powerful call just mentioned,
he rather stood contemplating his work, than exhibiting any anxiety as to
the effect it might produce on the minds of those beneath him. But a
second warning came in tones too terrible to be any longer disregarded by
ears even as dull as those of the offender.
"By whose order have you dared to loosen the sail?" demanded the Rover.
"By the order of King Wind, your Honour. The best seaman must give in,
when a squall gets the upper hand."
"Furl it! away aloft, and furl it!" shouted the excited leader. "Roll it
up; and send the fellow down who has been so bold as to own any authority
but my own in this ship, though it were that of a hurricane."
A dozen nimble topmen ascended to the assistance of Fid. In another
minute, the unruly canvas was secured, and Richard himself was on his way
to the poop. During this brief interval, the brow of the Rover was dark
and angry as the surface of the element on which he lived, when blackened
by the tempest. Wilder, who had never before seen his new Commander thus
excited, began to tremble for the fate of his ancient comrade, and drew
nigher, as the latter approached, to intercede in his favour, should the
circumstances seem to require such an interposition.
"And why is this?" the still stern and angry leader demanded of the
offender. "Why is it that you, whom I have had such recent reason to
applaud, should dare to let fly a sail, at a moment when it is important
to keep the ship naked?"
"Your Honour will admit that his rations sometimes slips through the best
man's fingers, and why not a bit of canvas?" deliberately returned the
delinquent "If I took a turn too many of the gasket off the yard, it is a
fault I am ready to answer for."
"You say true, and dearly shall you pay the forfeit Take him to the
gangway, and let him make acquaintance with the cat."
"No new acquaintance, your Honour, seeing that we have met before, and
that, too, for matters which I had reason to hide my head for; whereas,
here, it may be many blows, and little shame."
"May I intercede in behalf of the offender?" interrupted Wilder, with
earnestness and haste. "He is often blundering, but rarely would he err,
had he as much knowledge as good-will."
"Say nothing about it, master Harry," returned the topman, with a peculiar
glance of his eye. "The sail has been flying finely, and it is now too
late to deny it: and so, I suppose, the fact must be scored on the back of
Richard Fid, as you would put any other misfortune into the log."
"I would he might be pardoned. I can venture to promise, in his name,
'twill be the last offence"--
"Let it be forgotten," returned the Rover, struggling powerfully to
conquer his passion. "I will not disturb our harmony at such a moment, Mr
Wilder, by refusing so small a boon: but you need not be told to what evil
such negligence might lead. Give me the glass again; I will see if the
fluttering canvas has escaped the eye of the stranger."
The topman bestowed a stolen but exulting glance on Wilder, and then the
latter motioned the other hastily away, turning himself to join his
Commander in the examination.
"As I am an honest man, he looks pale: Art thou sick, or angry?"
_Much ado about Nothing._
The approach of the strange sail was becoming rapidly more and more
visible to the naked eye. The little speck of white, which had first been
seen on the margin of the sea, resembling some gull floating on the summit
of a wave, had gradually arisen during the last half hour, until a tall
pyramid of canvas was reared on the water. As Wilder bent his look again
on this growing object, the Rover put a glass into his hands, with an
expression of feature which the other understood to say, "You may perceive
that the carelessness of your dependant has already betrayed us!" Still
the look was one rather of regret than of reproach; nor did a single
syllable of the tongue confirm the meaning language of the eye. On the
contrary, it would seem that his Commander was anxious to preserve their
recent amicable compact inviolate; for, when the young mariner attempted
an awkward explanation of the probable causes of the blunder of Fid, he
was met by a quiet gesture, which said, in a sufficiently intelligible
language, that the offence was already pardoned.
"Our neighbour keeps a good look-out, as you may see," observed the other.
"He has tacked, and is laying boldly up across our fore-foot. Well, let
him come on; we shall soon get a look at his battery, and then may we come
to our conclusion as to the nature of the intercourse we are to hold."
"If you permit the stranger to near us, it might be difficult to throw him
off the chase, should we be glad to get rid of him."
"It must be a fast-going vessel to which the 'Dolphin' cannot spare a
"I know not, sir. The sail in sight is swift on the wind, and it is to be
believed that she is no duller off. I have rarely known a vessel rise so
rapidly as she has done since first we made her."
The youth spoke with such earnestness, as to draw the attention of his
companion from the object he was studying to the countenance of the
"Mr Wilder," he said quickly, and with an air of decision, "you know the
"I'll not deny it. If my opinion be true, she will be found too heavy for
the 'Dolphin,' and a vessel that offers little inducement for us to
attempt to carry."
"You heard it from the black."
"Your followers know her also?"
"It would be difficult to deceive a topman in the cut and trim of sails
among which he has passed months, nay years."
"I understand the 'new cloths' in her top-gallant-royal! Mr Wilder, your
departure from that vessel has been recent?"
"As my arrival in this."
The Rover continued silent for several minutes communing with his own
thoughts. His companion made no offer to disturb his meditations; though
the furtive glances, he often cast in the direction of the other's musing
eye, betrayed some little anxiety to learn the result of his
"And her guns?" at length his Commander abruptly demanded.
"She numbers four more than the 'Dolphin.'"
"Is still heavier. In every particular is she a ship a size above your
"Doubtless she is the property of the King?"
"Then shall she change her masters. By heaven she shall be mine!"
Wilder shook his head, answering only with an incredulous smile.
"You doubt it," resumed the Rover. "Come hither, and look upon that deck.
Can he whom you so lately quitted muster fellows like these, to do his
The crew of the 'Dolphin' had been chosen, by one who thoroughly
understood the character of a seaman, from among all the different people
of the Christian world. There was not a maritime nation in Europe which
had not its representative among; that band of turbulent and desperate
spirits. Even the descendant of the aboriginal possessors of America had
been made to abandon the habits and opinions of his progenitors, to become
a wanderer on that element which had laved the shores of his native land
for ages, without exciting a wish to penetrate its mysteries in the
bosoms of his simple-minded ancestry. All had been suited, by lives of
wild adventure, on the two elements, for their present lawless pursuits
and, directed by the mind which had known how to obtain and to continue
its despotic ascendancy over their efforts, they truly formed a most
dangerous and (considering their numbers) resistless crew. Their Commander
smiled in exultation, as he watched the evident reflection with which his
companion contemplated the indifference, or fierce joy, which different
individuals among them exhibited at the appearance of an approaching