Part 8 out of 9
conflict. Even the rawest of their numbers, the luckless waisters and
after-guard, were apparently as confident of victory as those whose
audacity might plead the apology of uniform and often repeated success.
"Count you these for nothing?" asked the Rover, at the elbow of his
lieutenant, after allowing him time to embrace the whole of the grim band
with his eye. "See! here is a Dane, ponderous and steady as the gun at
which I shall shortly place him. You may cut him limb from limb, and yet
will he stand like a tower, until the last stone of the foundation has
been sapped. And, here, we have his neighbours, the, Swede and the Russ,
fit companions for managing the same piece; which, I'll answer, shall not
be silent, while a man of them all is left to apply a match, or handle a
sponge. Yonder is a square-built athletic mariner, from one of the Free
Towns. He prefers our liberty to that of his native city; and you shall
find that the venerable Hanseatic institutions shall give way sooner than
he be known to quit the spot I give him to defend. Here, you see a brace
of Englishmen; and, though they come from the island that I love so
little, better men at need will not be often found. Feed them, and flog
them, and I pledge myself to their swaggering, and their courage. D'ye see
that thought ful-looking, bony miscreant, that has a look of godliness in
the midst of all his villany? That fellow fish'd for herring till he got a
taste of beef, when his stomach revolted at its ancient fare; and then the
ambition of becoming rich got uppermost. He is a Scot, from one of the
lochs of the North."
"Will he fight?"
"For money--the honour of the Macs--and his religion. He is a reasoning
fellow, after all: and I like to have him on my own side in a quarrel. Ah!
yonder is the boy for a charge. I once told him to cut a rope in a hurry,
and he severed it above his head, instead of beneath his feet, taking a
flight from a lower yard into the sea, as a reward for the exploit. But,
then, he always extols his presence of mind in not drowning! Now are his
ideas in a hot ferment; and, if the truth could be known, I would wager a
handsome venture, that the sail in sight is, by some mysterious process,
magnified to six in his fertile fancy."
"He must be thinking, then, of escape."
"Far from it; he is rather plotting the means of surrounding them with the
'Dolphin.' To your true Hibernian, escape is the last idea that gives him
an uneasy moment. You see the pensive-looking, sallow mortal, at his
elbow. That is a man who will fight with a sort of sentiment. There is a
touch of chivalry in him, which might be worked into heroism if one had
but the opportunity and the inclination. As it is, he will not fail to
show a spark of the true Castilian. His companion has come from the Rock
of Lisbon; I should trust him unwillingly, did I not know that little
opportunity of taking pay from the enemy is given here. Ah! here is a lad
for a dance of a Sunday. You see him, at this moment, with foot and tongue
going together. That is a creature of contradictions. He wants for neither
wit nor good-nature, but still he might cut your throat on an occasion.
There is a strange medley of ferocity and bonhommie about the animal. I
shall put him among the boarders; for we shall not be at blows a minute
before his impatience will be for carrying every thing by a coup-de-main."
"And who is the seaman at his elbow, that apparently is occupied in
divesting his person of some superfluous garments?" demanded Wilder,
irresistibly attracted, by the manner of the Rover, to pursue the subject.
"An economical Dutchman. He calculates that it is just as wise to be
killed in an old jacket as in a new one; and has probably said as much to
his Gascon neighbour, who is, however, resolved to die decently, if die he
must. The former has happily commenced his preparations for the combat in
good season, or the enemy might defeat us before he would be in readiness.
Did it rest between these two worthies to decide this quarrel, the
mercurial Frenchman would defeat his neighbour of Holland, before the
latter believed the battle had commenced; but, should he let the happy
moment pass, rely on it, the Dutchman would give him trouble. Forget you,
Wilder, that the day has been when the countrymen of that slow-moving and
heavy-moulded fellow swept the narrow seas with a broom at their
The Rover smiled wildly as he spoke, and what he said he uttered with
bitter emphasis. To his companion however, there appeared no such grounds
of unnatural exultation, in recalling the success of a foreign enemy, and
he was content to assent to the truth of the historical fact with a simple
inclination of his head. As if he even found pain in this confession, and
would gladly be rid of the mortifying reflection altogether, he rejoined,
in some apparent haste,--
"You have overlooked the two tall seamen, who are making out the rig of
the stranger with so much gravity of observation."
"Ay, those are men that came from a land in which we both feel some
interest. The sea is not more unstable than are those rogues in their
knavery. Their minds are but half made up to piracy.--'Tis a coarse word,
Mr Wilder, but I fear we earn it. But these rascals make a reservation of
grace in the midst of all their villainy."
"They regard the stranger as if they saw reason to distrust the wisdom of
letting him approach so near."
"Ah! they are renowned calculators. I fear they have detected the four
supernumerary guns you mentioned; for their vision seems supernatural in
affairs which touch their interests. But you see there is brawn and sinew
in the fellows; and, what is better, there are heads which teach them to
turn those advantages to account."
"You think they fail in spirit?"
"Hum! It might be dangerous to try it on any point they deemed material.
They are no quarrellers about words, and seldom lose sight of certain
musty maxims, which they pretend come from a volume that I fear you and I
do not study too intently. It is not often that they strike a blow for
mere chivalry; and, were they so inclined, the rogues are too much
disposed to logic, to mistake, like your black, the 'Dolphin' for a
church. Still, if they see reason, in their puissant judgments, to engage,
mark me, the two guns they command will do better service than all the
rest of the battery. But, should they think otherwise, it would occasion
no surprise were I to receive a proposition to spare the powder for some
more profitable adventure. Honour, forsooth! the miscreants are too well
grounded in polemics to mistake the point of honour in a pursuit like
ours. But we chatter of trifles, when it is time to think of serious
things. Mr Wilder, we will now show our canvas."
The manner of the Rover changed as suddenly as his language. Losing the
air of sarcastic levity in which he had been indulging, in a mien better
suited to maintain the authority he wielded, he walked aside, while his
subordinate proceeded to issue the orders necessary to enforce his
commands. Nightingale sounded the usual summons, lifting his hoarse voice
in the cry of "All hands make sail, ahoy!"
Until now, the people of the "Dolphin" had made their observations on the
sail, that was growing so rapidly above the waters, according to their
several humours. Some had exulted in the prospect of a capture; others,
more practised in the ways of their Commander, had deemed the probability
of their coming in collision at all with the stranger a point far from
settled; while a few, more accustomed to reflection, shook their heads as
the stranger drew nigher, as if they believed he was already within a
distance that might be attended with too much hazard. Still, as they were
ignorant alike of those secret sources of information which the chief had
so frequently proved he possessed, to an extent that often seemed
miraculous, the whole were content patiently to await his decision. But,
when the cry above mentioned was heard, it was answered by an activity so
general and so cheerful, as to prove it was entirely welcome. Order now
followed order in quick succession, from the mouth of Wilder, who, in
virtue of his station, was the proper executive officer for the moment.
As both lieutenant and crew appeared animated by the same spirit, it was
not long before the naked spars of the "Dolphin" were clothed in vast
volumes of spotless snow-white canvas. Sail had fallen after sail, and
yard after yard had been raised to the summit of its mast, until the
vessel bowed before the breeze, rolling to and fro, but still held
stationary by the position of her yards. When all was in readiness to
proceed, on whichever course might be deemed necessary, Wilder ascended
again to the poop, in order to announce the fact to his superior. He found
the Rover attentively considering the stranger, whose hull had by this
time risen out of the sea, and exhibited a long, dotted, yellow line,
which the eye of every man in the ship well knew to contain the ports
whence the guns that marked her particular force were made to issue. Mrs
Wyllys, accompanied by Gertrude, stood nigh, thoughtful, as usual, but
permitting no occurrence of the slightest moment to escape her vigilance.
"We are ready to gather way on the ship," said Wilder; "we wait merely for
The Rover started, and drew closer to his subordinate before he gave an
answer. Then, looking him full and intently in the eye, he demanded,--
"You are certain that you know yon vessel, Mr Wilder?"
"Certain," was the calm reply.
"It is a royal cruiser," said the governess, with the swiftness of
"It is. I have already pronounced her to be so."
"Mr Wilder," resumed the Rover, "we will try her speed. Let the courses
fall, and fill your forward sails."
The young mariner made an acknowledgment of obedience, and proceeded to
execute the wishes of his Commander. There was an eagerness, and perhaps a
trepidation, in the voice of Wilder, as he issued the necessary orders,
that was in remarkable contrast to the deep-toned calmness which
characterized the utterance of the Rover. The unusual intonations did not
entirely escape the ears of some of the elder seamen; and looks of
peculiar meaning were exchanged among them, as they paused to catch his
words. But obedience followed these unwonted sounds, as it had been
accustomed to succeed the more imposing utterance of their own
long-dreaded chief. The head-yards were swung, the sails were distended
with the breeze, and the mass, which had so long been inert, began to
divide the waters, as it heavily overcame the state of rest in which it
had reposed. The ship soon attained its velocity; and then the contest
between the two rival vessels became one of deep and engrossing interest.
By this time the stranger was within a half league, directly under the lee
of the "Dolphin." Closer and more accurate observation had satisfied every
understanding eye in the latter ship of the force and character of their
neighbour. The rays of a bright sun fell clear upon her broadside, while
the shadow of her sails was thrown far across the waters, in a direction
opposite to their own. There were moments when the eye, aided by the
glass, could penetrate through the open ports into the interior of the
hull, catching fleeting and delusory glimpses of the movements within. A
few human forms were distinctly visible in different parts of her rigging;
but, in all other respects, the repose of high order and perfect
discipline was discernible on all about her.
When the Rover heard the sounds of the parted waters, and saw the little
jets of spray that the bows of his own gallant ship cast before her, he
signed to his lieutenant to ascend to the place which he still occupied on
the poop. For many minutes, his eye was on the strange sail, in close and
intelligent contemplation of her powers.
"Mr Wilder," he at length said, speaking like one whose doubts on some
perplexing point were finally removed, "I have seen that cruiser before."
"It is probable; she has roamed over most of the waters of the Atlantic."
"Ay, this is not the first of our meetings! a little paint has changed her
exterior, but I think I know the manner in which they have stepped her
"They are thought to rake more than is usual."
"They are thought to do it, with reason. Did you serve long aboard her?"
"And you left her"----
"To join you."
"Tell me, Wilder, did they treat you, too, as one of an inferior order?
Ha! was your merit called 'provincial?' Did they read America in all you
"I left her, Captain Heidegger."
"Ay, they gave you reason. For once they have done me an act of kindness.
But you were in her during the equinox of March?"
Wilder made a slight bow of assent.
"I thought as much. And you fought a stranger in the gale? Winds, ocean,
and man were all at work together."
"It is true. We knew you, and thought for a time that your hour had come."
"I like your frankness. We have sought each other's lives like men, and we
shall prove the truer friends, now that amity is established between us. I
will not ask you further of that adventure, Wilder; for favour, in my
service, is not to be bought by treachery to that you have quitted. It is
sufficient that you now sail under my flag."
"What is that flag?" demanded a mild but firm voice, at his elbow.
The Rover turned suddenly, and again met the riveted, calm, and searching
eye of the governess. The gleamings of some strangely contradictory
passions crossed his features, and then his whole countenance changed to
that look of bland courtesy which he most affected when addressing his
"Here speaks a female, to remind two mariners of their duty!" he
exclaimed. "We have forgotten the civility of showing the stranger our
bunting. Let it be set, Mr Wilder, that we may omit none of the
observances of nautical etiquette."
"The ship in sight carries a naked gaft."
"No matter; we shall be foremost in courtesy, Let the colours be shown."
Wilder opened the little locker which contained the flags most in use, but
hesitated which to select, out of a dozen that lay in large rolls within
the different compartments.
"I hardly know which of these ensigns it is your pleasure to show," he
said, in a manner that appeared sufficiently like putting a question.
"Try him with the heavy-moulded Dutchman. The Commander of so noble a ship
should understand all Christian tongues."
The lieutenant made a sign to the quarter-master on duty; and, in another
minute, the flag of the United Provinces was waving at the peak of the
"Dolphin." The two officers narrowly watched its effect on the stranger,
who refused, however, to make any answering sign to the false signal they
had just exhibited.
"The stranger sees we have a hull that was never made for the shoals of
Holland. Perhaps he knows us?" said the Rover, glancing at the same time a
look of inquiry at his companion.
"I think not. Paint is too freely used in the 'Dolphin,' for even her
friends to be certain of her countenance."
"She is a coquettish ship, we will allow," returned the Rover, smiling.
"Try him with the Portuguese: Let us see if Brazil diamonds have favour in
The colours already set were lowered, and, in their place, the emblem of
the house of Braganza was loosened to the breeze. Still the stranger
pursued his course in sullen inattention, eating closer and closer to the
wind, as it is termed in nautical language, in order to lessen the
distance between him and his chase as much as possible.
"An ally cannot move him," said the Rover "Now let him see the taunting
Wilder complied in silence. The flag of Portugal was hauled to the deck,
and the white field of France was given to the air. The ensign had hardly
fluttered in its elevated position, before a broad glossy blazonry, rose,
like some enormous bird taking wing from the deck of the stranger, and
opened its folds in graceful waves at his gaft. The same instant, a column
of smoke issued from his bows, and had sailed backward through his
rigging, ere the report of the gun of defiance found its way, against the
fresh breeze of the trades, to the ears of the "Dolphin's" crew.
"So much for national amity!" dryly observed the Rover. "He is mute to the
Dutchman, and to the crown of Braganza; but the very bile is stirred
within him at the sight of a table-cloth! Let him contemplate the colours
he loves so little, Mr Wilder when we are tired of showing them, our
lockers may furnish another."
It would seem, however, that the sight of the flag; which the Rover now
chose to bear, produced some such effect on his neighbour as the moleta of
the nimble banderillo is known to excite in the enraged bull. Sundry
smaller sails, which could do but little good, but which answered the
purpose of appearing to wish to quicken his speed, were instantly set
aboard the stranger; and not a brace, or a bow-line, was suffered to
escape without an additional pull. In short, he wore the air of the
courser who receives the useless blows of the jockey, when already at the
top of his speed, and when any further excitement is as fruitless as his
own additional exertions. Still there seemed but little need of such
supererogatory efforts. By this time, the two vessels were fairly trying
there powers of sailing, and with no visible advantage in favour of
either. Although the "Dolphin" was renowned for her speed, the stranger
manifested no inferiority that the keenest scrutiny might detect. The ship
of the freebooter was already bending to the breeze, and the jets of spray
before her were cast still higher and further in advance; but each impulse
of the wind was equally felt by the stranger, and her movement over the
heaving waters seemed to be as rapid and as graceful as that of her rival.
"Yon ship parts the water as a swallow cuts the air," observed the chief
of the freebooters to the youth, who still kept at his elbow, endeavouring
to conceal an uneasiness which was increasing at each instant. "Has she a
name for speed?"
"The curlew is scarcely faster. Are we not already nigh enough, for men
who cruise with commissions no better than our own pleasure?"
The Rover glanced a look of impatient suspicion at the countenance of his
companion; but its expression changed to a smile of haughty audacity, as
"Let him equal the eagle in his highest and swiftest flight, he shall find
us no laggards on the wing! Why this reluctance to be within a mile of a
vessel of the Crown?"
"Because I know her force, and the hopeless character of a contest with an
enemy so superior," returned Wilder, firmly. "Captain Heidegger, you
cannot fight yon ship with success; and, unless instant use be made of the
distance which still exists between us, you cannot escape her. Indeed, I
know not but it is already too late to attempt the latter."
"Such, sir, is the opinion of one who overrates the powers of his enemy,
because use, and much talking, have taught him to reverence it as
something more than human. Mr Wilder, none are so daring or so modest, as
those who have long been accustomed to place their dependence on their
own exertions. I have been nigher to a flag even, and yet you see I
continue to keep on this mortal coil."
"Hark! 'Tis a drum. The stranger is going to his guns."
The Rover listened a moment, and was able to catch the well-known beat
which calls the people of a vessel of war to quarters. First casting a
glance upward at his sails, and then throwing a general and critical look
on all and every thing which came within the influence of his command, he
"We will imitate his example, Mr Wilder. Let the order be given."
Until now, the crew of the "Dolphin" had either been occupied in such
necessary duties as had been assigned them, or were engaged in gazing with
curious eyes at the ship which so eagerly sought to draw as near as
possible to their own dangerous vessel. The low but continued hum of
voices, sounds such alone as discipline permitted, had afforded the only
evidence of the interest they took in the scene; but, the instant the
first tap on the drum was heard, each groupe severed, and every man
repaired, with bustling activity, to his well-known station. The stir
among the crew was but of a moment's continuance, and it was succeeded by
the breathing stillness which has already been noticed in our pages on a
similar occasion. The officers, however, were seen making hasty, but
strict, inquiries into the conditions of their several commands; while the
munitions of war, that were quickly drawn from their places of deposit,
announced a preparation more serious than ordinary. The Rover himself had
disappeared; but it was not long before he was again seen at his elevated
look-out accoutred for the conflict that appeared to approach, employed,
as ever, in studying the properties, the force, and the evolutions of his
advancing antagonist. Those who knew him best, however, said that the
question of combat was not yet decided in his mind; and hundreds of eager
glances were thrown in the direction of his contracting eye, as if to
penetrate the mystery in which he still chose to conceal his purpose. He
had thrown aside the sea-cap, and stood with the fair hair blowing about a
brow that seemed formed to give birth to thoughts far nobler than those
which apparently had occupied his life, while a species of leathern helmet
lay at his feet, the garniture of which was of a nature to lend an
unnatural fierceness to the countenance of its wearer. Whenever this
boarding-cap was worn, all in the ship were given to understand that the
moment of serious strife was at hand; but, as yet, that never-failing
evidence of the hostile intention of their leader was unnoticed.
In the mean time, each officer had examined into, and reported, the state
of his division; and then, by a sort of implied permission on the part of
their superiors, the death-like calm, which had hitherto reigned among the
people, was allowed to be broken by suppressed but earnest discourse; the
calculating chief permitting this departure from the usual rules of more
regular cruisers, in order to come at the temper of the crew, on which so
much of the success of his desperate enterprises so frequently depended.
----"For he made me mad,
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,
And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman."----
_King Henry IV_
The moment was now one of high and earnest excitement. Each individual,
who was charged with a portion of the subordinate authority of the ship,
had examined into the state of his command, with that engrossing care
which always deepens as responsibility draws nigher to the proofs of its
being worthily bestowed. The voice of the harsh master had ceased to
inquire into the state of those several ropes and chains that were deemed
vital to the safety of the vessel; each chief of a battery had assured and
re-assured himself that his artillery was ready for instant, and the most
effective, service; extra ammunition had already issued from its dark and
secret repository; and even the hum of dialogue had ceased, in the more
engrossing and all-absorbing interest of the scene. Still the quick and
ever-changing glance of the Rover could detect no reason to distrust the
firmness of his people. They were grave, as are ever the bravest and
steadiest in the hour of trial; but their gravity was mingled with no
signs of concern. It seemed rather like the effect of desperate and
concentrated resolution, such as braces the human mind to efforts which
exceed the ordinary daring of martial enterprise. To this cheering
exhibition of the humour of his crew the wary and sagacious leader saw but
three exceptions; they were found in the persons of his lieutenant and his
two remarkable associates.
It has been seen that the bearing of Wilder was not altogether such as
became one of his rank in a moment of great trial. The keen, jealous
glances of the Rover had studied and re-studied his manner, without
arriving at any satisfactory conclusion as to its real cause. The colour
was as fresh on the cheeks of the youth, and his limbs were as firm as in
the hours of entire security; but the unsettled wandering of his eye, and
an air of doubt and indecision which pervaded a mien that ought to display
qualities so opposite, gave his Commander cause for deep reflection. As if
to find an explanation of the enigma in the deportment of the associates
of Wilder, his look sought the persons of Fid and the negro. They were
both stationed at the piece nearest to the place he himself occupied, the
former filling the station of captain of the gun.
The ribs of the ship itself were not firmer in their places than was the
attitude of the topman, as he occasionally squinted along the massive iron
tube over which he was placed in command; nor was that familiar and
paternal care, which distinguishes the seaman's interest in his particular
trust, wanting in his manner. Still, an air of broad and inexplicable
surprise had possession of his rugged lineaments; and ever, as his look
wandered from the countenance of Wilder to their adversary, it was not
difficult to discover that he marvelled to find the two in opposition. He
neither commented on, nor complained, however, of an occurrence he
evidently found so extraordinary, but appeared perfectly disposed to
pursue the spirit of that well-known maxim of the mariner which teaches
the obedient tar "to obey orders, though he break owners." Every portion
of the athletic form of the negro was motionless, except his eyes. These
large, jet-black orbs, however rolled incessantly, like the more dogmatic
organs of the topman, from Wilder to the strange sail, seeming to drink in
fresh draughts of astonishment at each new look.
Struck by these evident manifestations of some extraordinary and yet
common sentiment between the two, the Rover profited by his own position,
and the distance of the lieutenant, to address them. Leaning over the
slight rail that separated the break of the poop from the quarter-deck, he
said, in that familiar manner which the Commander is most wont to use to
his inferiors when their services are becoming of the greatest
"I hope, master Fid, they have put you at a gun that knows how to speak."
"There is not a smoother bore, nor a wider mouth, in the ship, your
Honour, than these of 'Blazing Billy,'" returned the topman, giving the
subject of his commendations an affectionate slap. "All I ask is a clean
spunge and a tight wad. Guinea score a foul anchor, in your own fashion,
on a half dozen of the shot; and, after the matter is all over, they who
live through it may go aboard the enemy, and see in what manner Richard
Fid has planted his seed."
"You are not new in action, master Fid?"
"Lord bless your Honour! gunpowder is no more than dry tobacco in my
nostrils! tho'f I will say"
"You were going to add"----
"That sometimes I find myself shifted over, in these here affairs,"
returned the topman, glancing his eye first at the flag of France, and
then at the distant emblem of England, "like a jib-boom rigged, abaft, for
a jury to the spanker. I suppose master Harry has it all in his pocket, in
black and white; but this much I will say, that, if I must throw stones, I
should rather see them break a neighbour's crockery than that of my own
mother.--I say, Guinea, score a couple more of the shot; since, if the
play is to be acted, I've a mind the 'Blazing Billy' should do something
creditable for the honour of her good name."
The Rover drew back, thoughtful and silent. He then caught a look from
Wilder, whom he again beckoned to approach.
"Mr Wilder," he said, in a tone of kindness, "I comprehend your feelings.
All have not offended alike in yonder vessel, and you would rather your
service against that haughty flag should commence with some other ship.
There is little else but empty honour to be gained in the conflict--in
tenderness to your feelings, I will avoid it."
"It is too late," said Wilder, with a melancholy shake of the head.
"You shall see your error. The experiment may cost us a broadside, but it
shall succeed. Go, descend with our guests to a place of safety; and, by
the time you return, the scene shall have undergone a change."
Wilder eagerly disappeared in the cabin, whither Mrs Wyllys had already
withdrawn; and, after communicating the intentions of his Commander to
avoid an action, he conducted them into the depths of the vessel, in order
that no casualty might arrive to imbitter his recollections of the hour.
This grateful duty promptly and solicitously performed, our adventurer
again sought the deck, with the velocity of thought.
Notwithstanding his absence had seemed but of a moment, the scene had
indeed changed in all its hostile images. In place of the flag of France,
he found the ensign of England floating at the peak of the "Dolphin," and
a quick and intelligible exchange of lesser signals in active operation
between the two vessels. Of all that cloud of canvas which had so lately
borne down the vessel of the Rover, her top sails alone remained distended
to the yards; the remainder was hanging in festoons, and fluttering
loosely before a favourable breeze. The ship itself was running directly
for the stranger, who, in turn, was sullenly securing his lofty sails,
like one who was disappointed in a high-prized and expected object.
"Now is yon fellow sorry to believe him a friend whom he had lately
supposed an enemy," said the Rover, directing the attention of his
lieutenant to the confiding manner with which their neighbour suffered
himself to be deceived by his surreptitiously obtained signals. "It is a
tempting offer; but I pass it, Wilder for your sake."
The gaze of the lieutenant seemed bewildered, but he made no reply.
Indeed, but little time was given for deliberation or discourse. The
"Dolphin" rolled swiftly along her path, and each moment dissipated the
mist in which distance had enveloped the lesser objects on board the
stranger. Guns, blocks, ropes, bolts, men, and even features, became
plainly visible, in rapid succession, as the water that divided them was
parted by the bows of the lawless ship. In a few short minutes, the
stranger, having secured most of his lighter canvas, came sweeping up to
the wind; and then, as his after-sails, squared for the purpose, took the
breeze on their outer surface, the mass of his hull became stationary.
The people of the "Dolphin" had so far imitated the confiding credulity of
the deceived cruiser of the Crown, as to furl all their loftiest duck,
each man employed in the service trusting implicitly to the discretion and
daring of the singular being whose pleasure it was to bring their ship
into so hazardous a proximity to a powerful enemy--qualities that had been
known to avail them in circumstances of even greater delicacy than those
in which they were now placed. With this air of audacious confidence, the
dreaded Rover came gliding down upon her unsuspecting neighbour, until
within a few hundred feet of her weather-beam, when she too, with a
graceful curve in her course, bore up against the breeze, and came to a
state of rest. But Wilder, who regarded all the movements of his superior
in silent amazement, was not slow in observing that the head of the
"Dolphin" was laid a different way from that of the other, and that her
progress had been arrested by the counteracting position of her
head-yards; a circumstance that afforded the advantage of a quicker
command of the ship, should need require a sudden recourse to the guns.
The "Dolphin" was still drifting slowly under the last influence of her
recent motion, when the customary hoarse and nearly unintelligible summons
came over the water, demanding her appellation and character. The Rover
applied his trumpet to his lips, with a meaning glance that was directed
towards his lieutenant, and returned the name of a ship, in the service of
the King, that was known to be of the size and force of his own vessel.
"Ay, ay," returned a voice from out of the other ship, "'twas so I made
out your signals."
The hail was then reciprocated, and the name of the royal cruiser given in
return, followed by an invitation from her Commander, to his brother in
authority to visit his superior.
Thus far, no more had occurred than was usual between seamen in the same
service; but the affair was rapidly arriving at a point that most men
would have found too embarrassing for further deception. Still the
observant eye of Wilder detected no hesitation or doubt in the manner of
his chief. The beat of the drum was heard from the cruiser, announcing the
"retreat from quarters;" and, with perfect composure, he directed the same
signal to be given for his own people to retire from their guns. In short,
five minutes established every appearance of entire confidence and amity
between two vessels which would have soon been at deadly strife, had the
true character of one been known to the other. In this state of the
doubtful game he played, and with the invitation still ringing in the
ears of Wilder, the Rover motioned his lieutenant to his side.
"You hear that I am desired to visit my senior in the service of his
Majesty," he said, with a smile of irony playing about his scornful lip.
"Is it your pleasure to be of the party?"
The start with which Wilder received this hardy proposal was far too
natural to proceed from any counterfeited emotion.
"You are not so mad as to run the risk!" he exclaimed when words were at
"If you fear for yourself, I can go alone."
"Fear!" echoed the youth, a bright flush giving an additional glow to the
flashing of his kindling eye. "It is not fear, Captain Heidegger, but
prudence, that tells me to keep concealed. My presence would betray the
character of this ship. You forget that I am known to all in yonder
"I had indeed forgotten that portion of the plot. Then remain, while I go
to play upon the credulity of his Majesty's Captain."
Without waiting for an answer, the Rover led the way below, signing for
his companion to follow. A few moments sufficed to arrange the fair golden
locks that imparted such a look of youth and vivacity to the countenance
of the former. The undress, fanciful frock he wore in common was exchanged
for the attire of one of his assumed rank and service, which had been made
to fit his person with the nicest care, and with perhaps a coxcomical
attention to the proportions of his really fine person; and in all other
things was he speedily equipped for the disguise he chose to affect. No
sooner were these alterations in his appearance completed, (and they were
effected with a brevity and readiness that manifested much practice in
similar artifices,) than he disposed himself to proceed on the intended
"Truer and quicker eyes have been deceived," he coolly observed, turning
his glance from a mirror to the countenance of his lieutenant, as he
spoke, "than those which embellish the countenance of Captain Bignall."
"You know him, then?"
"Mr Wilder, my business imposes the necessity of knowing much that other
men overlook. Now is this adventure, which, by your features, I perceive
you deem so forlorn in its hopes of success, one of easy achievement. I am
convinced that not an officer or man on board the 'Dart' has ever seen the
ship whose name I have chosen to usurp. She is too fresh from the stocks
to incur that risk. Then is there little probability that I, in my other
self, shall be compelled to acknowledge acquaintance with any of her
officers; for you well know that years have passed since your late ship
has been in Europe; and, by running your eye over these books, you will
perceive I am that favoured mortal, the son of a Lord, and have not only
grown into command, but into manhood, since her departure from home."
"These are certainly favouring circumstances, and such as I had not the
sagacity to detect.--But why incur the risk at all?"
"Why! Perhaps there is a deep-laid scheme to learn if the prize would
repay the loss of her capture; perhaps----it is my humour. There is
fearful excitement in the adventure."
"And there is fearful danger."
"I never count the price of these enjoyments.--Wilder," he added, turning
to him with a look of frank and courteous confidence, "I place life and
honour in your keeping; for to me it would be dishonour to desert the
interests of my crew."
"The trust shall be respected," repeated our adventurer in a tone so deep
and choaked as to be nearly unintelligible.
Regarding the still ingenuous countenance of his companion intently for
an instant, the Rover smiled as if he approved of the pledge, waved his
hand in adieu, and, turning, was about to leave the cabin but a third
form, at that moment, caught his wandering glance. Laying a hand lightly
on the shoulder of the boy, whose form was placed somewhat obtrusively in
his way, he demanded, a little sternly.
"Roderick, what means this preparation?"
"To follow my master to the boat."
"Boy, thy service is not needed."
"It is rarely wanted of late."
"Why should I add unnecessarily to the risk of lives, where no good can
attend the hazard?"
"In risking your own, you risk all to me," was the answer, given in a tone
so resigned, and yet so faltering that the tremulous and nearly smothered
sounds caught no ears but those for whom they were intended.
The Rover for a time replied not. His hand still kept its place on the
shoulder of the boy, whose working features his riveted eye read, as the
organ is sometimes wont to endeavour to penetrate the mystery of the human
"Roderick," he at length said, in a milder and a a kinder voice, "your lot
shall be mine; we go together."
Then, dashing his hand hastily across his brow the wayward chief ascended
the ladder, attended by the lad, and followed by the individual in whose
faith he reposed so great a trust. The step with which the Rover trod his
deck was firm, and the bearing of his form as steady as though he felt no
hazard in his undertaking. His look passed, with a seaman's care, from
sail to sail; and not a brace, yard, or bow-line escaped the quick
understanding glances he cast about him, before he proceeded to the side,
in order to enter a boat which he had already ordered to be in waiting. A
glimmering of distrust and hesitation was now, for the first time,
discoverable through the haughty and bold decision of his features. For a
moment his foot lingered on the ladder. "Davis," he said sternly to the
individual whom, by his own experience he knew to be so long practised in
treachery "leave the boat. Send me the gruff captain of the forecastle in
his place. So bold a talker, in common, should know how to be silent at
The exchange was instantly made; for no one, there, was ever known to
dispute a mandate that was uttered with the air of authority he then wore.
A deeply intent attitude of thought succeeded, and then every shadow of
care vanished from that brow, on which a look of high and generous
confidence was seated, as he added,--
"Wilder, adieu! I leave you Captain of my people and master of my fate:
Certain I am that both trusts are reposed in worthy hands."
Without waiting for reply, as if he scorned the vain ceremony of idle
assurances, he descended swiftly to the boat, which at the next instant
was pulling boldly towards the King's cruiser. The brief interval which
succeeded, between the departure of the adventurers and their arrival at
the hostile ship, was one of intense and absorbing suspense on the part of
all whom they had left behind. The individual most interested in the
event, however, betrayed neither in eye nor movement any of the anxiety
which so intently beset the minds of his followers. He mounted the side of
his enemy amid the honours due to his imaginary rank, with a
self-possession and ease that might readily have been mistaken, by those
who believe these fancied qualities have a real existence, for the grace
and dignity of lofty recollections and high birth. His reception, by the
honest veteran whose long and hard services had received but a meager
reward in the vessel he commanded, was frank, manly, and seaman-like. No
sooner had the usual greetings passed, than the latter conducted his guest
into his own apartments.
"Find such a birth, Captain Howard, as suits your inclination," said the
unceremonious old seaman, seating himself as frankly as he invited his
companion to imitate his example. "A gentleman of your extraordinary merit
must be reluctant to lose time in useless words, though you are so
young--young for the pretty command it is your good fortune to enjoy!"
"On the contrary, I do assure you I begin to feel myself quite an
antediluvian," returned the Rover coolly placing himself at the opposite
side of the table, where he might, from time to time, look his
half-disgusted companion full in the eye: "Would you imagine it, sir? I
shall have reached the age of three-and-twenty, if I live through the
"I had given you a few more years, young gentleman; but London can ripen
the human face as speedily as the Equator."
"You never said truer words, sir. Of all cruising grounds, Heaven defend
me from that of St. James's! I do assure you, Bignall, the service is
quite sufficient to wear out the strongest constitution. There were
moments when I really thought I should have died that humble, disagreeable
"Your disease would then have been a galloping consumption!" muttered the
indignant old seaman. "They have sent you out in a pretty boat at last,
"She's bearable, Bignall, but frightfully small. I told my father, that,
if the First Lord didn't speedily regenerate the service, by building more
comfortable vessels, the navy would get altogether into vulgar hands.
Don't you find the motion excessively annoying in these single-deck'd
"When a man has been tossing up and down for five-and-forty years,
Captain Howard," returned his host, stroking his gray locks, for want of
some other manner of suppressing his ire, "he gets to be indifferent
whether his ship pitches a foot more or a foot less."
"Ah! that, I dare say, is what one calls philosophical equanimity, though
little to my humour. But, after this cruise, I am to be posted; and then I
shall make interest for a guard-ship in the Thames; every thing goes by
interest now-a-days, you know, Big-nail."
The honest old tar swallowed his displeasure as well as he could; and, as
the most effectual means of keeping himself in a condition to do credit to
his own hospitality, he hastened to change the subject.
"I hope, among other new fashions, Captain Howard," he said, "the flag of
Old England continues to fly over the Admiralty. You wore the colours of
Louis so long this morning, that another half hour might have brought us
"Oh! that was an excellent military ruse! I shall certainly write the
particulars of that deception home."
"Do so; do so, sir; you may get knighthood for the exploit."
"Horrible, Bignall! my Lady mother would faint at the suggestion. Nothing
so low has been in the family, I do assure you, since the time when
chivalry was genteel."
"Well, well, Captain Howard, it was happy for us both that you got rid of
your Gallic humour so soon; for a little more time would have drawn a
broadside from me. By heavens, sir, the guns of this ship would have gone
off of themselves, in another five minutes!"
"It is quite happy as it is.--What do you find to amuse you (yawning) in
this dull quarter of the world, Bignall?"
"Why, sir, what between his Majesty's enemies, the care of my ship, and
the company of my officers, I find few heavy moments."
"Ah! your officers: True, you _must_ have officers on board; though, I
suppose, they are a little oldish to be agreeable to _you_. Will you
favour me with a sight of the list?"
The Commander of the 'Dart' did as he was requested, putting the
quarter-bill of his ship into the hands of his unknown enemy, with an eye
that was far too honest to condescend to bestow even a look on a being so
"What a list of thorough 'mouthers! All Yarmouth, and Plymouth, and
Portsmouth, and Exmouth names, I do affirm. Here are Smiths enough to do
the iron-work of the whole ship. Ha! here is a fellow that might do good
service in a deluge. Who may be this Henry Ark, that I find rated as your
"A youth who wants but a few drops of your blood, Captain Howard, to be
one day at the head of his Majesty's fleet."
"If he be then so extraordinary for his merit, Captain Bignall, may I
presume on your politeness to ask him to favour us with his society. I
always give my lieutenant half an hour of a morning--if he be genteel."
"Poor boy! God knows where he is to be found at this moment. The noble
fellow has embarked, of his own accord, on a most dangerous service, and I
am as ignorant as yourself of his success. Remonstrance and even
entreaties, were of no avail. The Admiral had great need of a suitable
agent, and the good of the nation demanded the risk; then, you know, men
of humble birth must earn their preferment in cruising elsewhere than at
St. James's; for the brave lad is indebted to a wreck, in which he was
found an infant, for the very name you find so singular."
"He is, however, still borne upon your books as first lieutenant?"
"And I hope ever will be, until he shall get the ship he so well
merits.--Good Heaven! are you ill Captain Howard? Boy, a tumbler of grog
"I thank you, sir," returned the Rover, smiling calmly, and rejecting the
offered beverage, as the blood returned into his features, with a violence
that threatened to break through the ordinary boundaries of its currents.
"It is no more than an ailing I inherit from my mother. We call it, in our
family, the 'de Vere ivory;' for no other reason, that I could ever learn,
than that one of my female ancestors was particularly startled, in a
delicate situation, you know, by an elephant's tooth. I am told it has
rather an amiable look, while it lasts."
"It has the look of a man who is fitter for his mother's nursery than a
gale of wind. But I am glad it is so soon over."
"No one wears the same face long now-a-days, Bignall.--And so this Mr Ark
is not any body, after all.
"I know not what you call 'any body,' sir; but, if sterling courage, great
professional merit, and stern loyalty, count for any thing on your late
cruising grounds, Captain Howard, Henry Ark will soon be in command of a
"Perhaps, if one only knew exactly on what to found his claims," continued
the Rover, with a smile so kind, and a voice so insinuating, that they
half counteracted the effect of his assumed manner, "a word might be
dropped, in a letter home, that should do the youth no harm."
"I would to Heaven I dare but reveal the nature of the service he is on!"
eagerly returned the warm-hearted old seaman, who was as quick to forget,
as he was sudden to feel, disgust. "You may, however, safely say, from his
general character, that it is honourable, hazardous, and has the entire
good of his Majesty's subjects in view. Indeed, an hour has scarcely gone
by since I thought that, it was completely successful.--Do you often set
your lofty sails, Captain Howard, while the heavier canvas is rolled upon
the yards? To me, a ship clothed in that style looks something like a man
with his coat on, before he has cased his legs in the lower garment."
"You allude to the accident of my maintop-gallant-sail getting loose when
you first made me?"
"I mean no other. We had caught a glimpse of your spars with the glass;
but had lost you altogether, when the flying duck met the eye of a
look-out. To say the least, it, was remarkable, and it might have proved
an awkward circumstance."
"Ah! I often do things in that way, in order to be odd. It is a sign of
cleverness to be odd, you know.--But I, too, am sent into these seas on a
"Such as what?" bluntly demanded his companion with an uneasiness about
his frowning eye that he was far too simple-minded to conceal.
"To look for a ship that will certainly give me a famous lift, should I
have the good luck to fall in with her. For some time, I took you for the
very gentle man I was in search of; and I do assure you, if your signals
had not been so very unexceptionable, something serious might have
happened between us."
"And pray, sir, for whom did you take me?"
"For no other than that notorious knave the Red Rover."
"The devil you did! And do yon suppose, Captain Howard, there is a pirate
afloat who carries such hamper above his head as is to be found aboard the
Dart?' Such a set to her sails--such a step to her masts--and such a trim
to her hull? I hope, for the honour of your vessel, sir, that the mistake
went no further than the Captain?"
"Until we got within leading distance of the signals, at least a moiety
of the better opinions in my ship was dead against you, Bignall, I give
you my declaration. You've really been so long from home, that the 'Dart'
is getting quite a roving look. You may not be sensible of it, but I
assure you of the fact merely as a friend."
"And, perhaps, since you did me the honour to mistake my vessel for a
freebooter," returned the old tar, smothering his ire in a look of
facetious irony, which changed the expression of his mouth to a grim grin,
"you might have conceited this honest gentleman here to be no other than
As he spoke, the Commander of the ship, which had borne so odious an
imputation, directed the eyes of his companion to the form of a third
individual, who had entered the cabin with the freedom of a privileged
person, but with a tread so light as to be inaudible. As this unexpected
form met the quick, impatient glance of the pretended officer of the
Crown, he arose involuntarily, and, for half a minute, that admirable
command of muscle and nerve, which had served him so well in maintaining
his masquerade, appeared entirely to desert him. The loss of
self-possession, however, was but for a time so short as to attract no
notice; and he coolly returned the salutations of an aged man, of a meek
and subdued look, with that air of blandness and courtesy which he so well
knew how to assume.
"This gentleman is your chaplain, sir, I presume, by his clerical attire,"
he said, after he had exchanged bows with the stranger.
"He is, sir--a worthy and honest man, whom I am not ashamed to call my
friend. After a separation of thirty years, the Admiral has been good
enough to lend him to me for the cruise; and, though my ship is none of
the largest, I believe he finds himself as comfortable in her as he would
aboard the flag.--This gentleman, Doctor, is the _honourable_ Captain
Howard, of his Majesty's ship 'Antelope.' I need not expatiate on his
remarkable merit, since the command he bears, at his years, is a
sufficient testimony on that important particular."
There was a look of bewildered surprise in the gaze of the divine, when
his glance first fell upon the features of the pretended scion of
nobility; but it was far less striking than had been that of the subject
of his gaze, and of much shorter continuance. He again bowed meekly, and
with that deep reverence which long use begets, even in the
best-intentioned minds, when brought in contact with the fancied
superiority of hereditary rank; but he did not appear to consider the
occasion one that required he should say more than the customary words of
salutation. The Rover turned calmly to his veteran companion, and
continued the discourse.
"Captain Bignall," he said, again wearing that grace of manner which
became him so well, "it is my duty to follow your motions in this
interview. I will now return to my ship; and if, as I begin to suspect we
are in these seas on a similar errand, we can concert at our leisure a
system of co-operation, which, properly matured by your experience, may
serve to bring about the common end we have in view."
Greatly mollified by this concession to his years and to his rank, the
Commander of the "Dart" pressed his hospitalities warmly on his guest,
winding up his civilities by an invitation to join in a marine feast at an
hour somewhat later in the day. All the former offers were politely
declined, while the latter was accepted; the invited making the invitation
itself an excuse that he should return to his own vessel in order that he
might select such of his officers as he should deem most worthy of
participating in the dainties of the promised banquet. The veteran and
really meritorious Bignall, notwithstanding the ordinary sturdy blustering
of his character, had served too long in indigence and comparative
obscurity not to feel some of the longings of human nature for his
hard-earned and protracted preferment. He consequently kept, in the midst
of all his native and manly honesty, a saving-eye on the means of
accomplishing this material object. It is to occasion no surprise,
therefore, that his parting from the supposed son of a powerful champion
at Court was more amicable than had been the meeting. The Rover was bowed,
from the cabin to the deck, with at least an appearance of returning
good-will. On reaching the latter, a hurried, suspicious, and perhaps an
uneasy glance was thrown from his restless eyes on all those faces that
were grouped around the gangway, by which he was about to leave the ship;
but their expression instantly became calm again, and a little
supercilious withal, in order to do no discredit to the part in the comedy
which it was his present humour to enact. Then, shaking the worthy and
thoroughly-deceived old seaman heartily by the hand, he touched his hat,
with an air half-haughty, half-condescending to his inferiors. He was in
the act of descending into the boat, when the chaplain was seen to whisper
something, with great earnestness, in the ear of his Captain. The
Commander hastened to recall his departing guest, desiring him, with
startling gravity to lend him his private attention for another moment
Suffering himself to be led apart by the two the Rover stood awaiting
their pleasure, with a coolness of demeanour that, under the peculiar
circumstances of his case, did signal credit to his nerves.
"Captain Howard," resumed the warm-hearted Bignall, "have you a gentleman
of the cloth in your vessel?"
"Two, sir," was the ready answer.
"Two! It is rare to find a supernumerary priest in a man of war! But, I
suppose, Court influence could give the fellow a bishop," muttered the
other. "You are fortunate in this particular, young gentle man, since I am
indebted to inclination, rather than to custom, for the society of my
worthy friend here he has, however, made a point that I should include the
reverend gentleman--I should say gentle_men_--in the invitation."
"You shall have all the divinity of _my_ ship, Big nail, on my faith."
"I believe I was particular in naming your first lieutenant."
"Oh! dead or alive, he shall surely be of your party," returned the Rover,
with a suddenness and vehemence of utterance that occasioned both his
auditors to start with surprise. "You may not find him an ark to rest your
weary foot on; but, such as he is, he is entirely at your service. And
now, once more, I salute you."
Bowing again, he proceeded, with his former deliberate air, over the
gangway, keeping his eye riveted on the lofty gear of the "Dart," as he
descended her side, with much that sort of expression with which a
petit-maitre is apt to regard the fashion of the garments of one newly
arrived from the provinces. His superior repeated his invitation with
warmth, and waved his hand in a frank but temporary adieu; thus
unconsciously suffering the man to escape him whose capture would have
purchased the long postponed and still distant advantages for whose
possession he secretly pined, with all the withering longings his hope
----"Let them accuse me by invention; I will answer in mine
"Yes!" muttered the Rover, with bitter irony, as his boat rowed under the
stern of the cruiser of the Crown; "yes! I, and my officers, will taste of
your banquet! But the viands shall be such as these hirelings of the King
shall little relish!--Pull with a will, my men, pull; in an hour, you
shall rummage the store-rooms of that fool, for your reward!"
The greedy freebooters who manned the oars could scarcely restrain their
shouts, in order to maintain that air of moderation which policy still
imposed but they gave vent to their excitement, in redoubled efforts in
propelling the pinnace. In another minute the adventurers were all in
safety again under the sheltering guns of the "Dolphin."
His people gathered, from the haughty gleamings that were flashing from
the eyes of the Rover, as his foot once more touched the deck of his own
ship, that the period of some momentous action was at hand. For an
instant, he lingered on the quarter-deck surveying, with a sort of stern
joy, the sturdy materials of his lawless command; and then, without
speaking, he abruptly entered his proper cabin either forgetful that he
had conceded its use to others or, in the present excited state of his
mind, utterly indifferent to the change. A sudden and tremendous blow on
the gong announced to the alarmed females, who had ventured from their
secret place, under the present amicable appearances between the two
ships, not only his presence, but his humour.
"Let the first lieutenant be told I await him," was the stern order that
followed the appearance of the attendant he had summoned.
During the short period which elapsed before his mandate could be obeyed,
the Rover seemed struggling with an emotion that choaked him. But when the
door of the cabin was opened, and Wilder stood before him, the most
suspicious and closest observer might have sought in vain any evidence of
the fierce passion which in reality agitated the inward man. With the
recovery of his self-command, returned a recollection of the manner of his
intrusion into a place which he had himself ordained should be privileged.
It was then that he first sought the shrinking forms of the females, and
hastened to relieve the terror that was too plainly to be seen in their
countenances, by words of apology and explanation.
"In the hurry of an interview with a friend," he said, "I may have
forgotten that I am host to even such guests as it is my happiness to
entertain, though it be done so very indifferently."
"Spare your civilities, sir," said Mrs Wyllys, with dignity: "In order to
make us less sensible of any intrusion, be pleased to act the master
The Rover first saw the ladies seated; and then, like one who appeared to
think the occasion might excuse any little departure from customary forms,
he signed, with a smile of high courtesy, to his lieutenant to imitate
"His Majesty's artisans have sent worse ships than the 'Dart' upon the
ocean, Wilder," he commenced, with a significant look, as if he intended
that the other should supply all the meaning that his words did not
express; "but his ministers might have selected a more observant
individual for the command."
"Captain Bignall has the reputation of a brave and an honest man."
"Ay! He should deserve it; for, strip him of these qualities, and little
would remain. He gives me to understand that he is especially sent into
this latitude in quest of a ship that we have all heard of, either in
good or in evil report; I speak of the Red Rover!'"
The involuntary start of Mrs Wyllys, and the sudden manner in which
Gertrude grasped the arm of her governess, were certainly seen by the last
speaker but in no degree did his manner betray the consciousness of such
an observation. His self-possession was admirably emulated by his male
companion, who answered, with a composure that no jealousy could have seen
"His cruise will be hazardous, not to say without success."
"It may prove both. And yet he has lofty expectations of the results."
"He probably labours under the common error as to the character of the man
"In what does he mistake?"
"In supposing that he will encounter an ordinary freebooter--one coarse,
rapacious, ignorant, and inexorable like others of"----
"Of what, sir?"
"I would have said, of his class; but a mariner like him we speak of forms
the head of his own order."
"We will call him, then, by his popular name, Mr Wilder--a rover. But,
answer me, is it not remarkable that so aged and experienced a seaman
should come to this little frequented sea in quest of a ship whose
pursuits should call her into more bustling scenes?"
"He may have traced her through the narrow passages of the islands, and
followed on the course she has last been seen steering."
"He may indeed," returned the Rover, musing intently "Your thorough
mariner knows how to calculate the chances of winds and currents, as the
bird finds its way in air. Still a description of the ship should be
needed for a clue."
The eyes of Wilder, not withstanding every effort to the contrary, sunk
before the piercing gaze they encountered, as he answered,--
"Perhaps he is not without that knowledge, too."
"Perhaps not. Indeed, he gave me reason to believe he has an agent in the
secrets of his enemy. Nay, he expressly avowed the same, and acknowledged
that his prospects of success depended on the skill and information of
that individual, who no doubt has his private means of communicating what
he learns of the movements of those with whom he serves."
"Did he name him?"
"Henry--Ark, _alias_ Wilder."
"It is vain to attempt denial," said our adventurer rising, with an air of
pride that he intended should conceal the uneasy sensation that in truth
beset him; "I find you know me."
"For a false traitor, sir."
"Captain Heidegger, you are safe, here, in using these reproachful terms."
The Rover struggled, and struggled successfully, to keep down the risings
of his temper; but the effort lent to his countenance gleamings of fierce
and bitter scorn.
"You will communicate that fact also to your superiors," he said, with
taunting irony. "The monster of the seas, he who plunders defenceless
fishermen ravages unprotected coasts, and eludes the flag of King George,
as other serpents steal into their caves at the footstep of man, is safe
in speaking his mind, backed by a hundred and fifty freebooters, and in
the security of his own cabin. Perhaps he knows too, that he is breathing
in the atmosphere of peaceful and peace-making woman."
But the first surprise of the subject of his scorn had passed, and he was
neither to be goaded into retort nor terrified into entreaties. Folding
his arms with calmness, Wilder simply replied,--
"I have incurred this risk, in order to drive a scourge from the ocean,
which had baffled all other attempts at its extermination. I knew the
hazard, and shall not shrink from its penalty."
"You shall not, sir!" returned the Rover, striking the gong again with a
finger that appeared to carry in its touch the weight of a giant. "Let the
negro, and the topman his companion, be secured in irons, and, on no
account, permit them to communicate, by word or signal, with the other
ship."--When the agent of his punishments, who had entered at the
well-known summons, had retired, he again turned to the firm and
motionless form that stood before him, and continued: "Mr Wilder, there is
a law which binds this community, into which you have so treacherously
stolen, together, that would consign you, and your miserable confederates,
to the yard-arm the instant your true character should be known to my
people. I have but to open that door, and to pronounce the nature of your
treason, in order to give you up to the tender mercies of the crew."
"You will not! no, you will not!" cried a voice at his elbow, which
thrilled on even all his iron nerves. "You have forgotten the ties which
bind man to his fellows, but cruelty is not natural to your heart. By all
the recollections of your earliest and happiest days; by the tenderness
and pity which watched your childhood; by that holy and omniscient Being
who suffers not a hair of the innocent to go unrevenged, I conjure you to
pause, before you forget your own awful responsibility. No! you will
not--cannot--dare not be so merciless!"
"What fate did he contemplate for me and my followers, when he entered on
this insidious design?" hoarsely demanded the Rover.
"The laws of God and man are with him," you continued the governess,
quailing not, as her own contracting eye met the stern gaze which she
confronted. "'Tis reason that speaks in my voice; 'tis mercy which I know
is pleading at your heart. The cause, the motive, sanctify his acts; while
your career can find justification in the laws neither of heaven nor
"This is bold language to sound in the ears of a blood-seeking,
remorseless pirate!" said the other, looking about him with a smile so
proud and conscious that it seemed to proclaim how plainly he saw that the
speaker relied on the very reverse of the qualities he named.
"It is the language of truth; and ears like yours cannot be deaf to the
"Lady, cease," interrupted the Rover, stretching his arm towards her with
calmness and dignity. "My resolution was formed on the instant; and no
remonstrance nor apprehension of the consequence, can change it. Mr
Wilder, you are free. If you have not served me as faithfully as I once
expected, you have taught me a lesson in the art of physiognomy, which
shall leave me a wiser man for tho rest of my days."
The conscious Wilder stood self-condemned and humbled. The strugglings
which stirred his inmost soul were easily to be read in the workings of a
countenance that was no longer masked in artifice, but which was deeply
charged with shame and sorrow The conflict lasted, however, but for a
"Perhaps you know not the extent of my object, Captain Heidegger," he
said; "it embraced the forfeit of your life, and the destruction, or
dispersion, of your crew."
"According to the established usages of that portion of the world which,
having the power, oppresses the remainder, it did. Go, sir; rejoin your
proper ship; I repeat, you are free."
"I cannot leave you, Captain Heidegger without one word of
"What! can the hunted, denounced, and condemned freebooter command an
explanation! Is even his good opinion necessary to a virtuous servant of
"Use such terms of triumph and reproach as suit your pleasure, sir,"
returned the other, reddening to the temples as he spoke; "to me your
language can now convey no offence; still would I not leave you without
removing part of the odium which you think I merit."
"Speak freely. Sir, you are my guest."
Although the most cutting revilings could not have wounded the repentant
Wilder so deeply as this generous conduct, he so far subdued his feelings
as to continue,--
"You are not now to learn," he said, "that vulgar rumour has given a
colour to your conduct and character which is not of a quality to command
the esteem of men."
"You may find leisure to deepen the tints," hastily interrupted his
listener, though the emotion which trembled in his voice plainly denoted
how deeply he felt the wound which was given by a world he affected to
"If called upon to speak at all, my words shall be those of truth, Captain
Heidegger. But is it surprising, that, filled with the ardour of a service
that you once thought honourable yourself, I should be found willing to
risk life, and even to play the hypocrite in order to achieve an object
that would not only have been rewarded, but approved, had it been
successful? With such sentiments I embarked on the enterprise; but, as
Heaven is my judge, your manly confidence had half disarmed me before my
foot had hardly crossed your threshold."
"And yet you turned not back?"
"There might have been powerful reasons to the contrary," resumed the
defendant, unconsciously glancing his eyes at the females as he spoke. "I
kept my faith at Newport; and, had my two followers then been released
from your ship, foot of mine should never have entered her again,"
"Young man, I am willing to believe you. I think I penetrate your motives.
You have played a delicate game; and, instead of repining, you will one
day rejoice that it has been fruitless. Go, sir; a boal shall attend you
to the 'Dart'."
"Deceive not yourself, Captain Heidegger, in believing that any generosity
of yours can shut my eyes to my proper duty. The instant I am seen by the
Commander of the ship you name, your character will be betrayed."
"I expect it."
"Nor will my hand be idle in the struggle that must follow. I may die,
here, a victim to my mistake if you please; but, the moment I am released,
I become your enemy."
"Wilder!" exclaimed the Rover, grasping his hand, with a smile that
partook of the wild peculiarity of the action, "we should have been
acquainted earlier! But regret is idle. Go; should my people learn the
truth, any remonstrances of mine would be like whispers in a whirlwind."
"When last I joined the 'Dolphin,' I did not come alone."
"Is it not enough," rejoined the Rover, coldly recoiling for a step, "that
I offer liberty and life?"
"Of what service can a being, fair, helpless, and unfortunate as this, be
in a ship devoted to pursuits like those of the 'Dolphin?'"
"Am I to be cut off for ever from communion with the best of my kind! Go,
sir; leave me the image of virtue, at least, though I may be wanting in
"Captain Heidegger, once, in the warmth of your better feelings, you
pronounced a pledge in favour of these females, which I hope came deep
from the heart."
"I understand you, sir. What I then said is not, and shall not, be
forgotten. But whither would you lead your companions? Is not one vessel
on the high seas as safe as another? Am I to be deprived of every means of
making friends unto myself? Leave me sir--go--you may linger until my
permission to depart cannot avail you."
"I shall never desert my charge," said Wilder, firmly.
"Mr. Wilder--or I should rather call you Lieutenant Ark, I
believe"--returned the Rover, "you may trifle with my good nature till the
moment of your own security shall be past."
"Act your will on me: I die at my post, or go accompanied by those with
whom I came."
"Sir, the acquaintance of which you boast is not older than my own. How
know you that they prefer you for their protector? I have deceived myself,
and done poor justice to my own intentions, if they have found cause for
complaints, since their happiness or comfort has been in my keeping.
Speak, fair one; which will you for a protector?"
"Leave me, leave me!" exclaimed Gertrude, veiling her eyes, in terror,
from the insidious smile with which he approached her, as she would have
avoided the attractive glance of a basilisk. "Oh! if you have pity in your
heart, let us quit your ship!"
Notwithstanding the vast self-command which the being she so ungovernably
and spontaneously repelled had in common over his feelings, no effort
could repress the look of deep and humiliating mortification with which he
heard her. A cold and haggard smile gleamed over his features, as he
murmured, in a voice which he in vain endeavoured to smother,--
"I have purchased this disgust from all my species and dearly must the
penalty be paid!--Lady, you and your lovely ward are the mistresses of
your own acts. This ship, and this cabin, are at your command; or, if you
elect to quit both, others will receive you."
"Safety for our sex is only to be found beneath the fostering protection
of the laws," said Mrs Wyllys "Would to God!"----
"Enough!" he interrupted, "you shall accompany your friend. The ship will
not be emptier than my heart, when all have left me."
"Did you call?" asked a low voice at his elbow, in tones so plaintive and
mild, that they could not fail to catch his ear.
"Roderick," he hurriedly replied, "you will find occupation below. Leave
us, good Roderick. For a while, leave me."
Then, as if anxious to close the scene as speedily as possible, he gave
another of his signals on the gong. An order was given to convey Fid and
the black into a boat, whither he also sent the scanty baggage of his
female guests. So soon as these brief arrangements were completed, he
handed the governess with studied courtesy, through his wondering people,
to the side, and saw her safely seated, with her ward and Wilder, in the
pinnace. The oars were manned by the two seamen, and a silent adieu was
given by a wave of his hand; after which he disappeared from those to whom
their present release seemed as imaginary and unreal as had appeared their
The threat of the interference of the crew of the "Dolphin" was, however,
still ringing in the ears of Wilder. He made an impatient gesture to his
attendants to ply their oars, cautiously steering the boat on such a
course as should soonest lead her from beneath the guns of the
freebooters. While passing under the stern of the "Dolphin," a hoarse
hail was sent across the waters, and the voice of the Rover was heard
speaking to the Commander of the "Dart."
"I send you a party of your guests," he said; "and, among them, all the
divinity of my ship."
The passage was short; nor was time given for any of the liberated to
arrange their thoughts, before it became necessary to ascend the side of
the cruiser of the Crown.
"Heaven help us!" exclaimed Bignall, catching a glimpse of the sex of his
visiters through a port "Heaven help us both, Parson! That young hair
brained fellow has sent us a brace of petticoats aboard; and these the
profane reprobate calls his divinities! One may easily guess where he has
picked up such quality; but cheer up, Doctor; one may honestly forget the
cloth in five fathom water, you know."
The facetious laugh of the old Commander of the "Dart" betrayed that he
was more than half disposed to overlook the fancied presumption of his
audacious inferior; furnishing a sort of pledge, to all who heard it, that
no undue scruples should defeat the hilarity of the moment. But when
Gertrude, flushed with the excitement of the scene through which she had
just passed, and beaming with a loveliness that derived so much of its
character from its innocence, appeared on his deck, the veteran rubbed
his-eyes in an amazement which could not have been greatly surpassed, had
one of that species of beings the Rover had named actually fallen at his
feet from the skies.
"The heartless scoundrel!" cried the worthy tar, "to lead astray one so
young and so lovely! Ha! as I live, my own lieutenant! How's this, Mr Ark!
have we fallen on the days of miracles?"
An exclamation, which came deep from the heart the governess, and a low
and mournful echo from the lips of the divine, interrupted the further
expression of his indignation and his wonder.
"Captain Bignall," observed the former, pointing to the tottering form
which was leaning on Wilder for support, "on my life, you are mistaken in
the character of this lady. It is more than twenty years since we last
met, but I pledge my own character for the purity and truth of hers."
"Lead me to the cabin," murmured Mrs Wyllys. "Gertrude, my love, where are
we? Lead me to some secret place."
Her request was complied with; the whole group retiring in a body from
before the sight of the spectators who thronged the deck. Here the deeply
agitated governess regained a portion of her self-command, and then her
wandering gaze sought the meek, concerned countenance of the chaplain.
"This is a tardy and heart-rending meeting," she said, pressing the hand
he gave her to her lips. "Gertrude, in this gentleman you see the divine
that united me to the man who once formed the pride and happiness of my
"Mourn not his loss," whispered the reverend priest, bending over her
chair, with the interest of a parent. "He was taken from you at an early
hour; but he died as all who loved him might have wished.
"And none was left to bear, in remembrance of his qualities, his proud
name to posterity! Tell me, good Merton, is not the hand of Providence
visible in this dispensation? Ought I not to humble myself before it, as a
just punishment of my disobedience to an affectionate, though too
"None may presume to pry into the mysteries of he righteous government
that orders all things. Enough for us, that we learn to submit to the will
of Him who rules, without questioning his justice."
"But," continued the governess, in tones so husky as to betray how
powerfully she felt the temptation to forget his admonition, "would not
one life have sufficed? was I to be deprived of all?"
"Madam, reflect! What has been done was done in wisdom, as I trust it was
"You say truly. I will forget all of the sad events, but their application
to myself And you, worthy and benevolent Merton, where and how have been
passed your days, since the time of which we speak?"
"I am but a low and humble shepherd of a truant flock," returned the meek
chaplain, with a sigh. "Many distant seas have I visited, and many strange
faces, and stranger natures, has it been my lot to encounter in my
pilgrimage. I am but lately returned, from the east, into the hemisphere
where I first drew breath; and, by permission of our superiors, I came to
pass a month in the vessel of a companion, whose friendship bears even an
older date than our own."
"Ay, ay, Madam," returned the worthy Bignall, whose feelings had been not
a little disturbed by the previous scene; "it is near half a century since
the Parson and I were boys together, and we have been rubbing up old
recollections on the cruise. Happy am I that a lady of so commendable
qualities has come to make one of our party."
"In this lady you see the daughter of the late Captain----, and the relict
of the son of our ancient Commander, Rear-Admiral de Lacey," hastily
resumed the divine, as though he knew the well-meaning honesty of his
friend was more to be trusted than his discretion.
"I knew them both; and brave men and thorough seamen were the pair! The
lady was welcome as your friend, Merton; but she is doubly so, as the
widow and child of the gentlemen you name."
"De Lacey!" murmured an agitated voice in the ear of the governess.
"The law gives me a title to bear that name," returned she whom we shall
still continue to call by her assumed appellation, folding her weeping
pupil long and affectionately to her bosom. "The veil is unexpectedly
withdrawn, my love, nor shall concealment be longer affected. My father
was the Captain of the flag-ship. Necessity compelled him to leave me more
in the society of your young relative than he would have done, could he
have foreseen the consequences. But I knew both his pride and his poverty
too well, to dare to make him arbiter of my fate, after the alternative
became, to my inexperienced imagination worse than even his anger. We were
privately united by this gentleman, and neither of our parents knew of the
The voice of the widow became choaked, and she made a sign to the
chaplain, as if she would have him continue the tale.
"Mr de Lacey and his father-in-law fell in the same battle, within a short
month of the ceremony," add ed the subdued voice of Merton. "Even you,
dearest Madam, never knew the melancholy particulars of their end. I was a
solitary witness of their deaths for to me were they both consigned, amid
the confusion of the battle. Their blood was mingled; and your parent, in
blessing the young hero, unconsciously blessed his son."
"Oh! I deceived his noble nature, and dearly have I paid the penalty!"
exclaimed the self-abased widow. "Tell me, Merton, did he ever know of my
"He did not. Mr de Lacey died first, and upon his bosom, for he loved him
ever as a child; but other thoughts than useless explanations were then
uppermost in their minds."
"Gertrude," said the governess, in hollow, repentant tones, "there is no
peace for our feeble sex but in submission; no happiness but in
"It is over now," whispered the weeping girl; "all over, and forgotten. I
am your child--your own Gertrude--the creature of your formation."
"Harry Ark!" exclaimed Bignall, clearing his throat with a hem so vigorous
as to carry the sound to the outer deck, seizing the arm of his entranced
lieutenant, and dragging him from the scene while he spoke. "What the
devil besets the boy! You forget that, all this time, I am as ignorant of
your own adventures as is his Majesty's prime minister of navigation Why
do I see you, here, a visitor from a royal cruiser, when I thought you
were playing the mock pirate? and how came that harum-scarum twig of
nobility in possession of so goodly a company, as well as of so brave a
Wilder drew a long and deep breath, like one that awakes from a pleasing
dream, reluctantly suffering himself to be forced from a spot where he
fondly felt that he could have continued, without weariness, for ever.
"Let them achieve me, and then sell my bones."--_Henry V._
The Commander of the "Dart," and his bewildered lieutenant, had gained the
quarter-deck before either spoke again. The direction first taken by the
eyes of the latter was in quest of the neighbouring ship; nor was the look
entirely without that unsettled and vague expression which seems to
announce a momentary aberration of the faculties. But the vessel of the
Rover was in view, in all the palpable and beautiful proportions of her
admirable construction Instead of lying in a state of rest, as when he
left her, her head-yards had been swung, and, as the sails filled with the
breeze, the stately fabric had he gun to Marve gracefully, though with no
great velocity along the water. There was not the slightest appearance
however, of any attempt at escape in the evolution. On the contrary, the
loftier and lighter sails had all been furled, and men were at the moment
actively employed in sending to the deck those smaller spars which were
absolutely requisite in spreading the canvas that would be needed in
facilitating her flight. Wilder turned from the sight with a sickening
apprehension; for he well knew that these were the preparations that
skillful mariners are wont to make, when bent on desperate combat.
"Ay, yonder goes your St. James's seaman, with his three topsails full,
and his mizzen out, as if he had already forgotten he is to dine with me,
and that his name is to be found at one end of the list of Commanders and
mine at the other," grumbled the displeased Bignall. "But we shall have
him coming round all in good time, I suppose, when his appetite tells him
the dinner hour. He might wear his colours in presence of a senior, too,
and no disgrace to his nobility. By the Lord, Harry Ark, he handles those
yards beautifully! I warrant you, now, some honest man's son is sent
aboard his ship for a dry nurse, in the shape of a first lieutenant, and
we shall have him vapouring, all dinner time, about 'how my ship does
this,' and 'I never suffer that.' Ha! is it not so, sir? He has a thorough
seaman for his First?"
"Few men understand the profession better than does the Captain of yonder
vessel himself," returned Wilder.
"The devil he does! You have been talking with him, Mr Ark, about these
matters, and he has got some of the fashions of the 'Dart.' I see into a
mystery as quick as another!"
"I do assure you, Captain Bignall, there is no safety in confiding in the
ignorance of yonder extra ordinary man."
"Ay, ay, I begin to overhaul his character. The young dog is a quiz, and
has been amusing himself with a sailor of what he calls the old school. Am
I right, sir? He has seen salt water before this cruise?"
"He is almost a native of the seas; for more than thirty years has he
passed his time on them."
"There, Harry Ark, he has done you handsomely. Now, I have his own
assertion for it, that he will not be three-and-twenty until to-morrow."
"On my word, he has deceived you, sir."
"I don't know, Mr Ark; that is a task much easier attempted than
performed. Threescore and four years add as much weight to a man's head as
to his heels! I may have undervalued the skill of the younker but, as to
his years, there can be no great mistake. But where the devil is the
fellow steering to? Has he need of a pinafore from his lady mother to come
on board of a man-of-war for his dinner?"
"See! he is indeed standing from us!" exclaimed Wilder, with a rapidity
and delight that would have excited the suspicions of one more observant
than his Commander.
"If I know the stern from the bows of a ship, what you say is truth,"
returned the other, with some austerity. "Hark ye, Mr Ark, I've a mind to
furnish the coxcomb a lesson in respect for his superiors and give him a
row to whet his appetite. By the Lord, I will; and he may write home an
account of this manoeuvre, too, in his next despatches. Fill away the
after-yards, sir; fill away. Since this _honourable_ youth is disposed to
amuse himself with a sailing-match, he can take no offence that others are
in the same humour."
The lieutenant of the watch, to whom the order was addressed, complied;
and, in another minute, the "Dart" was also beginning to move a-head,
though in a direction directly opposite to that taken by the "Dolphin."
The old man highly enjoyed his own decision, manifesting his
self-satisfaction by the infinite glee and deep chuckling of his manner.
He was too much occupied with the step he had just taken, to revert
immediately to the subject that had so recently been uppermost in his
mind; nor did the thought of pursuing the discourse occur to him, until
the two ships had left a broad field of water between them, as each moved,
with ease and steadiness, on its proper course.
"Let him note that in his log-book, Mr Ark," the irritable old seaman then
resumed, returning to the spot which Wilder had not left during the
intervening time. "Though my cook has no great relish for a frog, they who
would taste of his skill must seek him. By the Lord, boy, he will have a
pull of it, if he undertake to come-to on that tack.--But how happens it
that you got into his ship? All that part of the cruise remains untold."
"I have been wrecked, sir, since you received my last letter."
"What! has Davy Jones got possession of the red gentleman at last?"
"The misfortune occurred in a ship from Bristol, aboard which I was placed
as a sort of prize-master.--He certainly continues to stand slowly to the
"Let the young coxcomb go! he will have all the better appetite for his
supper. And so you were picked up by his Majesty's ship the 'Antelope.'
Ay, I see into the whole affair. You have only to give an old sea-dog his
course and compass, and he will find his way to port in the darkest night.
But how happened it that this Mr Howard affected to be ignorant of your
name, sir, when he saw it on the list of my officers?"
"Ignorant! Did he seem ignorant? perhaps"--
"Say no more, my brave fellow, say no more," interrupted Wilder's
considerate but choleric Commander. "I nave met with such rebuffs myself;
but we are above them, sir, far above them and their impertinences
together. No man need be ashamed of having earned his commission, as you
and I have done, in fair weather and in foul. Zounds, boy, I have fed one
of the upstarts for a week, and then had him stare at a church across the
way, when I have fallen in with him in the streets of London, in a fashion
that might make a simple man believe the puppy knew for what it had been
built. Think no more of it, Harry; worse things have happened to myself, I
do assure you."
"I went by my assumed name while in yonder ship," Wilder forced himself to
add. "Even the ladies who were the companions of my wreck, know me by no
"Ah! that was prudent; and, after all, the young sprig was not pretending
genteel ignorance. How now, master Fid; you are welcome back to the
"I've taken the liberty to say as much already to myself, your Honour,"
resumed the topman, who was busying himself, near his two officers, in a
manner that seemed to invite their attention. "A wholesome craft is
yonder, and boldly is she commanded, and stoutly is she manned; but, for
my part, having a character to lose, it is more to my taste to sail in a
ship that can shew her commission, when properly called on for the same."
The colour on Wilder's cheeks went and came like the flushings of the
evening sky, and his eyes were turned in every direction but that which
would have encountered the astonished gaze of his veteran friend.
"I am not quite sure that I understand the meaning of the lad, Mr Ark.
Every officer, from the Captain to the boatswain, in the King's fleet,
that is, every man of common discretion, carries his authority to act as
such with him to sea, or he might find himself in a situation as awkward
as that of a pirate."
"That is just what I said, sir; but schooling and long use have given your
Honour a better outfit in words. Guinea and I have often talked the matter
over together, and serious thoughts has it given to us both, more than
once, Captain Bignall. 'Suppose,' says I to the black, 'suppose one of his
Majesty's boats should happen to fall in with this here craft, and we
should come to loggerheads and matches,' says I, 'what would the like of
us two do in such a god-send?'--'Why,' says the black, 'we would stand to
our guns on the side of master Harry,' says he; nor did I gainsay the
same; but, saving his presence and your Honour's, I just took the liberty
to add, that, in my poor opinion, it would be much more comfortable to be
killed in an honest ship than on the deck of a buccaneer."
"A buccaneer!" exclaimed his Commander, with eyes distended, and an open
"Captain Bignall," said Wilder, "I may have offended past forgiveness, in
remaining so long silent; but, when you hear my tale, there may be found
some passages that shall plead my apology. The vessel in sight is the ship
of the renowned Red Rover--nay listen, I conjure you by all that kindness
you have so long shewn me, and then censure as you will."
The words of Wilder, aided as they were by an earnest and manly manner,
laid a restraint on the mounting indignation of the choleric old seaman.
He listened gravely and intently to the rapid but clear tale which his
lieutenant hastened to recount; and, ere the latter had done, he had more
than half entered into those grateful, and certainly generous, feelings
which had made the youth so reluctant to betray the obnoxious character of
a man who had dealt so liberally by himself. A few strong, and what might
be termed professional, exclamations of surprise and admiration,
occasionally interrupted the narrative; but, on the whole, he curbed his
impatience and his feelings, in a manner that was sufficiently remarkable,
when the temperament of the individual is duly considered.
"This is wonderful indeed!" he exclaimed, as the other ended; "and a
thousand pities is it that so honest a fellow should be so arrant a knave.
But, Harry, we can never let him go at large after all, our loyalty and
our religion forbid it. We must tack ship, and stand after him; if fair
words won't bring him to reason, I see no other remedy than blows."
"I fear it is no more than our duty, sir," returned the young man, with a
"It is a matter of religion.--And then the prating puppy, that he sent on
board me, is no Captain, after all! Still it was impossible to deceive me
as to the air and manner of a gentleman. I warrant me, some young
reprobate of a good family, or he would never have acted the sprig so
well. We must try to keep his name a secret, Mr Ark, in order that no
discredit should fall upon his friends. Our aristocratic columns, though
they get a little cracked and defaced, are, after all, the pillars of the
throne, and it does not become us to let vulgar eyes look too closely into
"The individual who visited the 'Dart' was the Rover himself."
"Ha! the Red Rover in my ship, nay, in my very presence!" exclaimed the
old tar, in a species of honest horror. "You are now pleased, sir, to
trifle with my good nature."
"I should forget a thousand obligations, ere I could be so bold. On my
solemn asseveration, sir, it was no other."
"This is unaccountable! extraordinary to a miracle! His disguise was very
complete, I will confess to deceive one so well skilled in the human
countenance. I saw nothing, sir, of his shaggy whiskers heard nothing of
his brutal voice, nor perceived any of those monstrous deformities which
are universally acknowledged to distinguish the man."
"All of which are no more than the embellishments of vulgar rumour, I fear
me, sir, that the boldest and most dangerous of all our vices are often
found under the most pleasing exteriors."
"But this is not even a man of inches, sir."
"His body is not large, but it contains the spirit of a giant."
"And do you believe yonder ship, Mr Ark, to be the vessel that fought us
in the equinox of March?"
"I know it to be no other."
"Hark ye, Harry, for your sake, I will deal generously by the rogue. He
once escaped me, by the loss of a topmast, and stress of weather; but we
have here a good working breeze, that a man may safely count on, and a
fine regular sea. He is therefore mine, so soon as I choose to make him
so;--for I do not think he has any serious intention to run."
"I fear not," returned Wilder, unconsciously betraying his wishes in the
"Fight he cannot, with any hopes of success; and, as he seems to be
altogether a different sort of personage from what I had supposed, we will
try the merits of negotiation. Will you undertake to be the bearer of my
propositions?--or, perhaps, he might repent of his moderation."
"I pledge myself for his faith," eagerly exclaimed Wilder "Let a gun be
fired to leeward. Mind, sir, all the tokens must be amicable--a flag of
truce set out at our main, and I will risk every hazard to lead him back
into the bosom of society."
"By George, it would at least be acting a Christian part," returned the
Commander, after a moment's thought; "and, though we miss knighthood
below, lad, for our success, there will be better birth cleared for us
No sooner had the warm-hearted, and perhaps a little visionary, Captain of
the "Dart," and his lieutenant, determined on this measure, than they both
set eagerly about the means of insuring its success. The helm of the ship
was put a-lee; and, as her head came sweeping up into the wind, a sheet of
flame flashed from her leeward bow-port, sending the customary amicable
intimation across the water, that those who governed her movements would
communicate with the possessors of the vessel in sight. At the same
instant, a small flag, with a spotless field was seen floating at the
topmost elevation of all her spars, whilst the flag of England was lowered
from the gaff. A half minute of deep inquietude succeeded these signals,
in the bosoms of those who had ordered them to be made. Their suspense was
however speedily terminated. A cloud of smoke drove before the wind from
the vessel of the Rover, and then the smothered explosion of the answering
gun came dull upon their ears. A flag, similar to their own, was seen
floating, as it might be, like a dove fanning its wings, far above her
tops; but no emblem of any sort was borne at the spar, where the colours
which distinguish the national character of a cruiser are usually seen.
"The fellow has the modesty to carry a naked gaff in our presence," said
Bignall, pointing out the circumstance to his companion, as an augury
favourable to their success. "We will stand for him until within a
reasonable distance, and then you shall take to the boat."
In conformity with this determination, the "Dart" was brought on the other
tack, and several sails were set, in order to quicken her speed. When at
the distance of half cannon shot, Wilder suggested to his superior the
propriety of arresting their further progress in order to avoid the
appearance of hostilities. The boat was immediately lowered into the sea,
and manned; a flag of truce set in her bows: and the whole was reported
ready to receive the bearer of the message.
"You may hand him this statement of our force, Mr Ark; for, as he is a
reasonable man, he will see the advantage it gives us," said the Captain,
after having exhausted his manifold and often repeated instructions. "I
think you may promise him indemnity for the past, provided he comply with
all my conditions; at all events, you will say that no influence shall be
spared to get a complete whitewashing for himself at least. God bless you,
boy! Take care to say nothing of the damages we received in the affair of
March last; for--ay--for the equinox was blowing heavy at the time, you
know. Adieu! and success attend you!"
The boat shoved off from the side of the vessel as he ended, and in a few
moments the listening Wilder was borne far beyond the sound of any further
words of advisement. Our adventurer had sufficient time to reflect on the
extraordinary situation in which he now found himself, during the row to
the still distant ship. Once or twice, slight and uneasy glimmerings of
distrust, concerning the prudence of the step he was taking, beset his
mind; though a recollection of the lofty feeling of the man in whom he
confided ever presented itself in sufficient season to prevent the
apprehension from gaining any undue ascendency. Notwithstanding the
delicacy of his situation, that characteristic interest in his profession,
which is rarely dormant in the bosom of a thorough-bred seaman, was
strongly stimulated as he approached the vessel of the Rover. The perfect
symmetry of her spars the graceful heavings and settings of the whole
fabric is it rode, like a marine bird, on the long, regular swells of the
trades, and the graceful inclinations of the tapering masts, as they waved
across the blue canopy, which was interlaced by all the tracery of her
complicated tackle, was not lost on an eye that knew no less how to prize
the order of the whole than to admire the beauty of the object itself.
There is a high and exquisite taste, which the seaman attains in the study
of a machine that all have united to commend, which may be likened to the
sensibilities that the artist acquires by close and long contemplation of
the noblest monuments of antiquity. It teaches him to detect those
imperfections which would escape any less instructed eye; and it heightens
the pleasure with which a ship at sea is gazed at, by enabling the mind to
keep even pace with the enjoyment of the senses. It is this powerful (and
to a landsman incomprehensible) charm that forms the secret tie which
binds the mariner so closely to his vessel, and which often leads him to
prize her qualities as one would esteem the virtues of a friend, and
almost to be equally enamoured of the fair proportions of his ship and of
those of his mistress. Other men may have their different inanimate
subjects of admiration; but none of their feelings so thoroughly enter
into the composition of the being as the affection which the mariner
comes, in time, to feel for his vessel. It is his home, his theme of
constant and frequently of painful interest, his tabernacle and often his
source of pride and exultation. As she gratifies or disappoints his
high-wrought expectations in her speed or in the fight, mid shoals and
hurricanes, a character for good or luckless qualities is earned, which
are as often in reality due to the skill or ignorance of those who guide
her, as to any inherent properties of the fabric. Still does the ship
itself, in the eyes of the seaman, bear away the laurel of success, or
suffer the ignominy of defeat and misfortune; and, when the reverse
arrives, the result is merely regarded as some extraordinary departure
from the ordinary character of the vessel, as if the construction
possessed the powers of entire self-command and perfect volition.
Though not so deeply imbued with that species of superstitious credulity,
on this subject, as the inferiors of his profession, Wilder was keenly
awake to most of the sensibilities of a mariner. So strongly, indeed, was
he alive to this feeling, on the present occasion, that for a moment he
forgot the critical nature of his errand, as he drew within plainer view
of a vessel that, with justice, might lay claim to be a jewel of the
"Lay on your oars, lads," he said, signing to his people to arrest the
progress of the boat; "lay on your oars! Did you ever see masts more
beautifully in line than those, master Fid, or sails that had a fairer
The topman, who rowed the stroke-oar of the pinnace cast a look over his
shoulder, and, stowing into one of his cheeks a lump that resembled a wad
laid by the side of its gun, he was not slow to answer, on an occasion
where his opinion was so directly demanded.
"I care not who knows it," he said, "for, done by honest men or done by
knaves, I told the people on the forecastle of the; 'Dart,' in the first
five minutes after I got among them again, that they might be at Spithead
a month, and not see hamper so light, and yet so handy, as is seen aboard
that flyer. Her lower rigging is harpened-in, like the waist of Nell Dale
after she has had a fresh pull upon her stay-lanyards, and there isn't a
block, among them all, that seems bigger in its place than do the eyes of
the girl in her own good-looking countenance. That bit of a set that you
see to her fore-brace-block, was given by the hand of one Richard Fid; and
the heart on her main-stay was turned-in by Guinea, here; and, considering
he is a nigger, I call it ship-shape."
"She is beautiful in every part!" said Wilder, drawing a long breath.
"Give way, my men, give way! Do you think I have come here to take the
soundings of the ocean?"
The crew started at the hurried tones of their lieutenant and in another
minute the boat was at the side of the vessel. The stern and threatening
glances that Wilder encountered, as his foot touched the planks, caused
him to pause an instant, ere he advanced further amid the crew. But the
presence of the Rover himself, who stood, with his peculiar air of high
and imposing authority, on the quarter-deck, encouraged him to proceed,
after permitting a delay that was too slight to attract attention. His
lips were in the act of parting, when a sign from the other induced him to
remain silent, until they were both in the privacy of the cabin.
"Suspicion is awake among my people, Mr Ark," commenced the Rover, when
they were thus retired, laying a marked and significant emphasis on the
name he used. "Suspicion is stirring, though, as yet, they hardly know
what to credit. The manoeuvres of the two ships have not been such as they
are wont to see, and voices are not wanting to whisper in their ears
matter that is somewhat injurious to your interests. You have not done
well, sir, in returning among us."
"I came by the order of my superior, and under the sanction of a flag."
"We are small reasoners in the legal distinction of the world, and may
mistake your rights in so novel a character. But," he immediately added,
with dignity, "if you bear a message, I may presume it is intended for my
"And for no other. We are not alone, Captain Heidegger."
"Heed not the boy; he is deaf at my will."
"I could wish to communicate to you only the offers that I bear."
"That mast is not more senseless than Roderick," said the other calmly,
but with decision.
"Then must I speak at every hazard.--The Commander of yon ship, who bears
the commission of our royal master George the Second, has ordered me to
say thus much for your consideration: On condition that you will surrender
this vessel, with all her stores, armament, and warlike munitions,
uninjured he will content himself with taking ten hostages from your crew,
to be decided by lot, yourself, and one other of your officers, and either
to receive the remainder into the service of the King, or to suffer them
to disperse in pursuit of a calling more creditable, and, as it would now
appear, more safe."
"This is the liberality of a prince! I should kneel and kiss the deck
before one whose lips utter such sounds of mercy!"
"I repeat but the words of my superior," Wilder resumed. "For yourself, he
further promises, that his interest shall be exerted to procure a pardon,
on condition that you quit the seas, and renounce the name of Englishman
"The latter is done to his hands: But may I know the reason that such
lenity is shewn to one whose name has been so long proscribed of men?"
"Captain Bignall has heard of your generous treatment of his officer, and
the delicacy that the daughter and widow of two ancient brethren in arms
have received at your hands. He confesses that rumour has not done entire
justice to your character."
A mighty effort kept down the gleam of exultation that flashed across the
features of the listener, who, however, succeeded in continuing utterly
calm and immovable.