Part 6 out of 9
uttered. "The passage between the bays of Newburgh and Tappan, has scarce
a rival, as I have heard from travelled men."
"I was indeed speaking of a mountain, but it was of one that weighs me to
the earth. Your inexplicable conduct and cruel indifference have heaped it
on my feelings, Alida. You have said that there is no hope for Oloff Van
Staats; and one syllable, spoken with your native ingenuousness and
sincerity, has had the effect to blow all my apprehensions from that
quarter to the winds. There remains only to account for your absence, to
resume the whole of your power over one who is but too readily disposed to
confide in all you say or do."
La belle Barberie seemed touched. Her glance at the young sailor was
kinder, and her voice wanted some of its ordinary steadiness, in the
"That power has then been weakened?"
"You will despise me, if I say no;--you will distrust me, if I say yes."
"Then silence seems the course best adapted to maintain our present
amity.--Surely I heard a blow struck, lightly, on the shutter of that
"Hope sometimes deceives us. This repeated belief would seem to say that
you expect a visiter?"
A distinct tap on the shutter confirmed the impression of the mistress of
the pavilion. Alida looked at her companion, and appeared embarrassed.
Her color varied, and she seemed anxious to utter something that either
her feelings or her prudence suppressed.
"Captain Ludlow, you have once before been an unexpected witness of an
interview in la Cour des Fees, that has, I fear, subjected me to
unfavorable surmises. But one manly and generous as yourself can have
indulgence for the little vanities of woman. I expect a visit, that
perhaps a Queen's officer should not countenance."
"I am no exciseman, to pry into wardrobes and secret repositories, but one
whose duty it is to act only on the high seas, and against the more open
violators of the law. If you have any without, whose presence you desire,
let them enter without dread of my office. When we meet in a more suitable
place, I shall know how to take my revenge."
His companion looked grateful, and bowed her acknowledgments. She then
made a ringing sound, by using a spoon on the interior of one of the
vessels of the tea equipage. The shrubbery, which shaded a window,
stirred; and presently, the young stranger, already so well known in the
former pages of this work, and in the scenes of the brigantine, appeared
in the low balcony. His person was scarcely seen, before a light bale of
goods was tossed past him, into the centre of the room.
"I send my certificate of character as an avant-courier;" said the gay
dealer in contraband, or Master Seadrift, as he was called by the
Alderman, touching his cap, gallantly, to the mistress of la Cour des
Fees, and then, somewhat more ceremoniously to her companion; after which
he returned the goldbound covering to its seat, on a bed of rich and
glossy curls, and sought his package. Here is one more customer than I
bargained for, and I look to more than common gain! We have met before,
"We have, Sir Skimmer of the Seas, and we shall meet again. Winds may
change, and fortune yet favor the right!"
"We trust to the sea-green lady's care;" returned the extraordinary
smuggler, pointing, with a species of reverence, real or affected, to the
image that was beautifully worked, in rich colors, on the velvet of his
cap. What has been will be, and the past gives a hope for the future. We
meet, here, on neutral ground, I trust."
"I am the commander of a royal cruiser, Sir:" haughtily returned the
"Queen Anne may be proud of her servant!--but we neglect our affairs. A
thousand pardons, lovely mistress of la Cour des Fees. This meeting of two
rude mariners does a slight to your beauty, and little credit to the
fealty due the sex. Having done with all compliments, I have to offer
certain articles that never failed to cause the brightest eyes to grow
more brilliant, and at which duchesses have gazed with many longings."
"You speak with confidence of your associations, Master Seadrift, and rate
noble personages among your customers, as familiarly as if you dealt in
offices of state."
"This skilful servitor of the Queen will tell you, lady, that the wind
which is a gale on the Atlantic, may scarce cool the burning cheek of a
girl on the land, and that the links in life are as curiously interlocked
as the ropes of a ship. The Ephesian temple, and the Indian wigwam, rested
on the same earth."
"From which you infer that rank does not alter nature. We must admit,
Captain Ludlow, that Master Seadrift understands a woman's heart, when he
tempts her with stores of tissues gay as these!"
Ludlow had watched the speakers in silence. The manner of Alida was far
less embarrassed, than when he had before seen her in the smuggler's
company; and his blood fired, when he saw that their eyes met with a
secret and friendly intelligence. He had remained, however, with a
resolution to be calm, and to know the worst. Conquering the expression of
his feelings by a great effort, he answered with an exterior of composure,
though not without some of that bitterness in his emphasis, which he felt
at his heart.
"If Master Seadrift has this knowledge, he may value himself on his good
fortune;" was the reply.
"Much intercourse with the sex, who are my best customers, has something
helped me;" returned the cavalier dealer in contraband. "Here is a
brocade, whose fellow is worn openly in the presence of our royal
mistress, though it came from the forbidden looms of Italy; and the ladies
of the court return from patriotically dancing, in the fabrics of home, to
please the public eye, once in the year, to wear these more agreeable
inventions, all the rest of it, to please themselves. Tell me, why does
the Englishman, with his pale sun, spend thousands to force a sickly
imitation of the gifts of the tropics, but because he pines for forbidden
fruit? or why does your Paris gourmand roll a fig on his tongue, that a
Lazzarone of Naples would cast into his bay, but because he wishes to
enjoy the bounties of a low latitude, under a watery sky? I have seen an
individual feast on the eau sucre of an European pine, that cost a guinea,
while his palate would have refused the same fruit, with its delicious
compound of acid and sweet, mellowed to ripeness under a burning sun,
merely because he could have it for nothing. This is the secret of our
patronage; and as the sex are most liable to its influence, we owe them
"You have travelled, Master Seadrift," returned la Belle smiling, while
she tossed the rich contents of the bale on the carpet, "and treat of
usages as familiarly as you speak of dignities."
"The lady of the sea-green mantle does not permit an idle servant. We
follow the direction of her guiding hand; sometimes it points our course
among the isles of the Adriatic, and at others on your stormy American
coasts. There is little of Europe between Gibraltar and the Cattegat, that
I have not visited."
"But Italy has been the favorite, if one may judge by the number of her
fabrics that you produce."
"Italy, France, and Flanders, divide my custom; though you are right, in
believing the former most in favor. Many years of early life did I pass on
the noble coasts of that romantic region. One who protected and guided my
infancy and youth, even left me for a time, under instruction, on the
little plain of Sorrento."
"And where can this plain be found?--for the residence of so famous a
rover may, one day, become the theme of song, and is likely to occupy the
leisure of the curious."
"The grace of the speaker may well excuse the irony! Sorrento is a village
on the southern shore of the renowned Naples bay. Fire has wrought many
changes in that soft but wild country, and if, as religionists believe,
the fountains of the great deep were ever broken up, and the earth's crust
disturbed, to permit its secret springs to issue on the surface, this may
have been one of the spots chosen by him whose touch leaves marks that are
indelible, in which to show his power. The bed of the earth, itself, in
all that region, appears to have been but the vomitings of volcanoes; and
the Sorrentine passes his peaceable life in the bed of an extinguished
crater. 'Tis curious to see in what manner the men of the middle ages have
built their town, on the margin of the sea, where the element has
swallowed one-half the ragged basin, and how they have taken the yawning
crevices of the tufo, for ditches to protect their walls! I have visited
many lands, and seen nature in nearly every clime; but no spot has yet
presented, in a single view, so pleasant a combination of natural objects,
mingled with mighty recollections, as that lovely abode on the Sorrentine
"Recount me these pleasures, that in memory seem so agreeable, while I
examine further into the contents of the bale."
The gay young free-trader paused, and seemed lost in images of the past.
Then, with a melancholy smile, he soon continued. "Though many years are
gone," he said, "I can recall the beauties of that scene, as vividly as if
they still stood before the eye. Our abode was on the verge of the cliffs.
In front lay the deep-blue water, and on its further shore was a line of
objects such as accident or design rarely assembles in one view. Fancy
thyself, lady, at my side, and follow the curvature of the northern shore,
as I trace the outline of that glorious scene! That high, mountainous, and
ragged island, on the extreme left, is modern Ischia. Its origin is
unknown, though piles of lava lie along its coast, which seems fresh as
that thrown from the mountain yesterday. The long, low bit of land,
insulated like its neighbor, is called Procida, a scion of ancient Greece.
Its people still preserve, in dress and speech, marks of their origin. The
narrow strait conducts you to a high and naked bluff! That is the Misenum,
of old. Here Eneas came to land, and Rome held her fleets, and thence
Pliny took the water, to get a nearer view of the labors of the volcano,
after its awakening from centuries of sleep. In the hollow of the ridge,
between that naked bluff and the next swell of the mountain, lie the
fabulous Styx, the Elysian fields, and the place of the dead, as fixed by
the Mantuan. More on the height and nearer to the sea, lie, buried in the
earth, the vast vaults of the Piscina Mirabile--and the gloomy caverns of
the Hundred Chambers; places that equally denote the luxury and the
despotism of Rome. Nearer to the vast pile of castle, that is visible so
many leagues, is the graceful and winding Baiaen harbor; and against the
side of its sheltering hills, once lay the city of villas. To that
sheltered hill, emperors, consuls, poets, and warriors, crowded from the
capital, in quest of repose, and to breathe the pure air of a spot in
which pestilence has since made its abode. The earth is still covered with
the remains of their magnificence, and ruins of temples and baths are
scattered freely among the olives and fig-trees of the peasant. A fainter
bluff limits the north-eastern boundary of the little bay. On it, once,
stood the dwellings of emperors. There Caesar sought retirement, and the
warm springs on its side are yet called the baths of the bloody Nero. That
small conical hill, which, as you see, possesses a greener and fresher
look than the adjoining land, is a cone ejected by the caldron beneath,
but two brief centuries since. It occupies, in part, the site of the
ancient Lucrine lake. All that remains of that famous receptacle of the
epicure, is the small and shallow sheet at its base, which is separated
from the sea by a mere thread of sand. More in the rear, and surrounded by
dreary hills, lie the waters of Avernus. On their banks still stand the
ruins of a temple, in which rites were celebrated to the infernal deities.
The grotto of the Sybil pierces that ridge on the left, and the Cumaean
passage is nearly in its rear. The town, which is seen a mile to the
right, is Pozzuoli--a port of the ancients, and a spot now visited for its
temples of Jupiter and Neptune, its mouldering amphitheatre, and its
half-buried tombs. Here Caligula attempted his ambitious bridge; and while
crossing thence to Baiae, the vile Nero had the life of his own mother
assailed. It was there, too, that holy Paul came to land, when journeying
a prisoner to Rome. The small but high island, nearly in its front, is
Nisida, the place to which Marcus Brutus retired after the deed at the
foot of Pompey's statue, where he possessed a villa, and whence he and
Cassius sailed to meet the shade and the vengeance of the murdered Caesar,
at Philippi. Then comes a crowd of sites more known in the middle ages;
though just below that mountain, in the back-ground, is the famous
subterranean road of which Strabo and Seneca are said to speak, and
through which the peasant still daily drives his ass to the markets of the
modern city. At its entrance is the reputed tomb of Virgil, and then
commences an amphitheatre of white and terraced dwellings. This is noisy
Napoli itself, crowned with its rocky castle of St. Elmo! The vast plain,
to the right, is that which held the enervating Capua and so many other
cities on its bosom. To this succeeds the insulated mountain of the
volcano, with its summit torn in triple tops. 'Tis said that villas and
villages, towns and cities, lie buried beneath the vineyards and palaces
which crowd its base. The ancient and unhappy city of Pompeii stood on
that luckless plain, which, following the shores of the bay, comes next;
and then we take up the line of the mountain promontory, which forms the
Sorrentine side of the water!"
"One who has had such schooling, should know better how to turn it to a
good account;" said Ludlow, sternly, when the excited smuggler ceased to
"In other lands, men derive their learning from books; in Italy, children
acquire knowledge by the study of visible things:" was the undisturbed
"Some from this country are fond of believing that our own bay, these
summer skies, and the climate in general, should have a strict resemblance
to those of a region which lies precisely in our own latitude;" observed
Alida, so hastily, as to betray a desire to preserve the peace between her
"That your Manhattan and Raritan waters are broad and pleasant, none can
deny, and that lovely beings dwell on their banks, lady," returned
Seadrift, gallantly lifting his cap, "my own senses have witnessed. But
'twere wiser to select some other point of your excellence, for
comparison, than a competition with the glorious waters, the fantastic and
mountain isles, and the sunny hill-sides of modern Napoli! 'Tis certain
the latitude is even in your favor, and that a beneficent sun does not
fail of its office in one region more than in the other. But the forests
of America are still too pregnant of vapors and exhalations, not to impair
the purity of the native air. If I have seen much of the Mediterranean,
neither am I a stranger to these coasts. While there are so many points of
resemblance in their climates, there are also many and marked causes of
"Teach us, then, what forms these distinctions, that, in speaking of our
bay and skies, we may not be led into error."
"You do me honor, lady; I am of no great schooling, and of humble powers
of speech. Still, the little that observation may have taught me, shall
not be churlishly withheld. Your Italian atmosphere, taking the humidity
of the seas, is sometimes hazy. Still water in large bodies, other than in
the two seas, is little known in those distant countries. Few objects in
nature are drier than an Italian river, during those months when the sun
has most influence. The effect is visible in the air, which is in general
elastic, dry, and obedient to the general laws of the climate. There
floats less exhalation, in the form of fine and nearly invisible vapor,
than in these wooded regions. At least, so he of whom I spoke, as one who
guided my youth, was wont to say."
"You hesitate to tell us of our skies, our evening light, and of our
"It shall be said, and said sincerely--Of the bays, each seems to have
been appropriated to that for which nature most intended it.--The one is
poetic, indolent, and full of graceful but glorious beauty; more pregnant
of enjoyment than of usefulness. The other will, one day, be the mart of
"You still shrink from pronouncing on their beauty;" said Alida,
disappointed, in spite of an affected indifference to the subject.
"It is ever the common fault of old communities to overvalue themselves,
and to undervalue new actors in the great drama of nations, as men long
successful disregard the efforts of new aspirants for favor;" said
Seadrift, while he looked with amazement at the pettish eye of the
frowning beauty. "In this instance, however, Europe has not so greatly
erred. They who see much resemblance between the bay of Naples and this of
Manhattan, have fertile brains; since it rests altogether on the
circumstance that there is much water in both, and a passage between an
island and the main-land, in one, to resemble a passage between two
islands in the other. This is an estuary, that a gulf; and while the
former has the green and turbid water of a shelving shore and of tributary
rivers, the latter has the blue and limpid element of a deep sea. In these
distinctions, I take no account of ragged and rocky mountains, with the
indescribable play of golden and rosy light upon their broken surfaces,
nor of a coast that teems with the recollections of three thousand years!"
"I fear to question more. But surely our skies may be mentioned, even by
the side of those you vaunt?"
"Of the skies, truly, you have more reason to be confident. I remember
that standing on the Capo di Monte, which overlooks the little,
picturesque, and crowded beach of the Marina Grande, and Sorrento, a spot
that teems with all that is poetic in the fisher man's life, he of whom I
have spoken, once pointed to the transparent vault above, and said, 'There
is the moon of America!' The colors of the rocket were not more vivid than
the stars that night, for a Tramontana had swept every impurity from the
air, far upon the neighboring sea. But nights like that are rare, indeed,
in any clime! The inhabitants of low latitudes enjoy them occasionally;
those of higher never."
"And then our flattering belief, that these western sunsets rival those of
Italy, is delusion?"
"Not so, lady. They rival, without resembling. The color of the etui, on
which so fair a hand is resting, is not softer than the hues one sees in
the heavens of Italy. But if your evening sky wants the pearly light, the
rosy clouds, and the soft tints which, at that hour, melt into each other,
across the entire vault of Napoli, it far excels in the vividness of the
glow, in the depth of the transitions, and in the richness of colors.
Those are only more delicate, while these are more gorgeous! When there
shall be less exhalation from your forests, the same causes may produce
the same effects. Until then, America must be content to pride herself on
an exhibition of nature's beauty, in a new, though scarcely in a less
"Then they who come among us from Europe, are but half right, when they
deride the pretensions of our bay and heavens?"
"Which is much nearer the truth than they are wont to be, on the subject
of this continent. Speak of the many rivers, the double outlet, the
numberless basins, and the unequalled facilities of your Manhattan harbor;
for in time, they will come to render all the beauties of the unrivalled
bay of Naples vain: but tempt not the stranger to push the comparison
beyond. Be grateful for your skies, lady, for few live under fairer or
more beneficent--But I tire you with these opinions, when here are colors
that have more charms for a young and lively imagination, than even the
tints of nature!"
La belle Barberie smiled on the dealer in contraband, with an interest
that sickened Ludlow; and she was about to reply, in better humor, when
the voice of her uncle announced his near approach.
"There shall be, in England, seven half-penny loaves sold for a penny.
The three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it felony,
to drink small beer."--Jack Cade.
Had Alderman Van Beverout been a party in the preceding dialogue, he could
not have uttered words more apposite, than the exclamation with which he
first saluted the ears of those in the pavilion.
"Gales and climates!" exclaimed the merchant, entering with an open letter
in his hand. "Here are advices received, by way of Curacoa, and the coast
of Africa, that the good ship Musk-Rat met with foul winds off the Azores,
which lengthened her passage home to seventeen weeks--this is too much
precious time wasted between markets, Captain Cornelius Ludlow, and 'twill
do discredit to the good character of the ship, which has hitherto always
maintained a sound reputation, never needing more than the regular seven
months to make the voyage home and out again. If our vessels fall into
this lazy train, we shall never get a skin to Bristol, till it is past
use. What have we here, niece? Merchandise! and of a suspicious
fabric!--who has the invoice of these goods, and in what vessel were they
"These are questions that may be better answered by their owner;" returned
la Belle, pointing gravely, and not without tremor in her voice, towards
the dealer in contraband, who, at the approach of the Alderman, had shrunk
back as far as possible from view.
Myndert cast an uneasy glance at the unmoved countenance of the commander
of the royal cruiser, after having bestowed a brief but understanding look
at the contents of the bale. "Captain Ludlow, the chaser is chased!" he
said. "After sailing about the Atlantic, for a week or more, like a Jew
broker's clerk running up and down the Boom Key at Rotterdam, to get off a
consignment of damaged tea, we are fairly caught ourselves! To what fall
in prices, or change in the sentiments of the Board of Trade, am I
indebted for the honor of this visit, Master a--a--a--gay dealer in green
ladies and bright tissues?"
The confident and gallant manner of the free-trader had vanished. In its
place, there appeared a hesitating and embarrassed air, that the
individual was not wont to exhibit, blended with some apparent indecision,
on the subject of his reply.
"It is the business of those who hazard much, in order to minister to the
wants of life," he said, after a pause that was sufficiently expressive of
the entire change in his demeanor, "to seek customers where there is a
reputation for liberality. I hope my boldness will be overlooked, on
account of its motive, and that you will aid the lady in judging of the
value of my articles, and of their reasonableness as to price, with your
own superior experience."
Myndert was quite as much astonished, by this language, and the subdued
manner of the smuggler, as Ludlow himself. When he expected the heaviest
demand on his address, in order to check the usual forward and reckless
familiarity of Seadrift, in order that his connexion with the 'Skimmer of
the Seas' might be as much as possible involved in ambiguity, to his own
amazement, he found his purpose more than aided by the sudden and
extraordinary respect with which he was treated. Emboldened, and perhaps a
little elevated in his own esteem, by this unexpected deference, which the
worthy Alderman, shrewd as he was in common, did not fail, like other men,
to impute to some inherent quality of his own, he answered with a greater
depth of voice, and a more protecting air, than he might otherwise have
deemed it prudent to assume to one who had so frequently given him proofs
of his own fearless manner of viewing things.
"This is being more eager as a trader, than prudent as one who should know
the value of credit;" he said, making, at the same time, a lofty gesture
to betoken indulgence for so venial an error. "We must overlook the
mistake, Captain Ludlow; since, as the young man truly observes in his
defence, gain acquired in honest traffic is a commendable and wholesome
pursuit. One who appears as if he might not be ignorant of the laws,
should know that our virtuous Queen and her wise counsellors have decided
that Mother England can produce most that a colonist can consume! Ay! and
that she can consume, too, most that the colonist can produce!"
"I pretend not to this ignorance, Sir; but, in pursuing my humble barter, I
merely follow a principle of nature, by endeavoring to provide for my own
interests. We of the contraband do but play at hazard with the
authorities. When we pass the gauntlet unharmed, we gain; and when we
lose, the servants of the crown find their profit. The stakes are equal,
and the game should not be stigmatized as unfair. Would the rulers of the
world once remove the unnecessary shackles they impose on commerce, our
calling would disappear, and the name of free-trader would then belong to
the richest and most esteemed houses."
The Alderman drew a long, low whistle. Motioning to his companions to be
seated, he placed his own compact person in a chair, crossed his legs with
an air of self-complacency, and resumed the discourse.
"These are very pretty sentiments, Master--a--a--a--, you bear a worthy
name, no doubt, my ingenious commentator on commerce?"
"They call me Seadrift, when they spare a harsher term;" returned the
other, meekly declining to be seated.
"These are pretty sentiments, Master Seadrift, and they much become a
gentleman who lives by practical comments on the revenue-laws. This is a
wise world, Captain Cornelius Ludlow, and in it there are many men whose
heads are tilled, like bales of goods, with a general assortment of
ideas.--Hornbooks and primers! Here have Van Bummel, Schoenbroeck, and Van
der Donck, just sent me a very neatly-folded pamphlet, written in good
Leyden Dutch, to prove that trade is an exchange of what the author calls
equivalents, and that nations have nothing to do but to throw open their
ports, in order to make a millennium among the merchants!"
"There are many ingenious men who entertain the same opinions;" observed
Ludlow, steady in his resolution to be merely a quiet observer of all that
"What cannot a cunning head devise, to spoil paper with! Trade is a racer,
gentlemen, and merchants the jockeys who ride. He who carries most weight
may lose; but then nature does not give all men the same dimensions, and
judges are as necessary to the struggles of the mart as to those of the
course. Go, mount your gelding, if you are lucky enough to have one that
has not been melted into a weasel by the heartless blacks, and ride out to
Harlaem Flats, on a fine October day, and witness the manner in which the
trial of speed is made. The rogues of riders cut in here, and over there;
now the whip and now the spur; and though they start fair, which is more
than can always be said of trade, some one is sure to win. When it is neck
and neck, then the neat is to be gone over, until the best bottom gains
"Why is it then that men of deep reflection so often think that commerce
flourishes most when least encumbered?"
"Why is one man born to make laws, and another to break them?--Does not
the horse run faster with his four legs free, than when in hopples? But in
trade, Master Seadrift, and Captain Cornelius Ludlow, each of us is his
own jockey; and putting the aid of custom-house laws out of the question,
just as nature has happened to make him. Fat or lean, big bones or fine
bones, he must get to the goal as well as he can. Therefore your heavy
weights call out for sandbags and belts, to make all even. That the steed
may be crushed with his load, is no proof that his chance of winning will
not be better by bringing all the riders to the same level."
"But to quit these similies," continued Ludlow, "if trade be but an
exchange of equivalents----"
"Beggary and stoppages!" interrupted the Alder man, who was far more
dogmatical than courteous in argument. "This is the language of men who
have read all sorts of books, but legers. Here have advices from Tongue
and Twaddle, of London, which state the nett proceeds of a little
adventure, shipped by the brig Moose, that reached the river on the 16th
of April, ultimo. The history of the whole transaction can be put in a
child's muff--you are a discreet youth, Captain Cornelius; and as to you,
Master Seadrift, the affair is altogether out of your line--therefore, as
I was observing, here are the items, made out only a fortnight since, in
the shape of a memorandum;" while speaking, the Alderman had placed his
spectacles and drawn his tablets from a pocket. Adjusting himself to the
light, he continued: "Paid bill of Sand, Furnace, and Glass, for beads, L.
3. 2. 6.--Package and box, 1. 101/2--Shipping charges, and freight, 11.
4.--Insurance, averaged at, 1. 5.--Freight, charges, and commission of
agent among Mohawks, L. 10.--Do. do. do. of shipment and sale of furs, in
England, L. 7. 2 Total of costs and charges, L. 20. 18. 81/2, all in
sterling money. Note, sale of furs, to Frost and Rich, nett avails, L.
196. 11. 3.--Balance, as per contra, L. 175. 12. 51/2.--a very satisfactory
equivalent this, Master Cornelius, to appear on the books of Tongue and
Twaddle, where I stand charged with the original investment of L. 20. 19.
81/2! How much the Empress of Germany may pay the firm of Frost and Rich for
the articles, does not appear."
"Nor does it appear that more was got for your beads, in the Mohawk
country, than they were valued at there, or was paid for the skins than
they were worth where they were produced."
"Whe--w--w--w!" whistled the merchant, as he returned the tablets to his
"One would think that thou hadst been studying the Leyden pamphleteer, son
of my old friend! If the savage thinks so little of his skins, and so much
of my beads, I shall never take, the pains to set him right; else, always
by permission of the Board of Trade, we shall see him, one day, turning
his bark canoe into a good ship, and going in quest of his own ornaments.
Enterprise and voyages! Who knows but that the rogue would see fit to stop
at London, even; in which case the Mother Country might lose the profit
of the sale at Vienna, and the Mohawk set up his carriage, on the
difference in the value of markets! Thus, you see, in order to run a fair
race, the horses must start even, carry equal weights, and, after all, one
commonly wins. Your metaphysics are no better than so much philosophical
gold leaf, which a cunning reasoner beats out into a sheet as large as the
broadest American lake, to make dunces believe the earth can be transmuted
into the precious material; while a plain practical man puts the value of
the metal into his pocket, in good current coin."
"And yet I hear you complain that Parliament has legislated more than is
good for trade, and speak in a manner of the proceedings at home, that,
you will excuse me for saying, would better become a Hollander than a
subject of the crown."
"Have I not told you, that the horse will run faster without a rider, than
with a pack-saddle on his back? Give your own jockey as little, and your
adversary's as much weight as you can, if you wish to win. I complain of
the borough-men, because they make laws for us, and not for themselves. As
I often tell my worthy friend, Alderman Gulp, eating is good for life, but
a surfeit makes a will necessary."
"From all which I infer, that the opinions of your Leyden correspondent
are not those of Mr. Van Beverout."
The Alderman laid a finger on his nose, and looked at his companions, for
a moment, without answering.
"Those Leydeners are a sagacious breed! If the United Provinces had but
ground to stand on, they would, like the philosopher who boasted of his
lever, move the world! The sly rogues think that the Amsterdammers have
naturally an easy seat, and they wish to persuade all others to ride
bare-back. I shall send the pamphlet up into the Indian country, and pay
some scholar to have it translated into the Mohawk tongue, in order that
the famous chief Schendoh, when the missionaries shall have taught him to
read, may entertain right views of equivalents! I am not certain that I
may not make the worthy divines a present, to help the good fruits to
The Alderman leered round upon his auditors, and, folding his hands meekly
on his breast, he appeared to leave his eloquence to work its own effects.
"These opinions favor but little the occupation of the--the gentleman--who
now honors us with his company," said Ludlow, regarding the gay-looking
smuggler with an eye that showed how much he was embarrassed to find a
suitable appellation for one whose appearance was so much at variance with
his pursuits. "If restrictions are necessary to commerce, the lawless
trader is surely left without an excuse for his calling."
"I as much admire your discretion in practice, as the justice of your
sentiments in theory, Captain Ludlow;" returned the Alderman. "In a
rencontre on the high seas, it would be your duty to render captive the
brigantine of this person; but, in what may be called the privacy of
domestic retirement, you are content to ease your mind in moralities! I
feel it my duty, too, to speak on this point, and shall take so favorable
an occasion, when all is pacific, to disburthen myself of some sentiments
that suggest themselves, very naturally, under the circumstances." Myndert
then turned himself towards the dealer in contraband, and continued, much
in the manner of a city magistrate, reading a lesson of propriety to some
disturber of the peace of society. "You appear here, Master Seadrift," he
said, "under what, to borrow a figure from your profession, may be called
false colors. You bear the countenance of one who might be a useful
subject, and yet are you suspected of being addicted to certain practices
which--I will not say they are dishonest, or even discreditable--for on
that head the opinions of men are much divided, but which certainly have
no tendency to assist Her Majesty, in bringing her wars to a glorious
issue, by securing to her European dominions that monopoly of trade, by
which it is her greatest desire to ease us of the colonies of looking any
further after our particular interests, than beyond the doors of her own
custom-houses. This is an indiscretion, to give the act its gentlest
appellation; and I regret to add, it is accompanied by certain
circumstances which rather heighten than lessen the delinquency." The
Alderman paused a moment, to observe the effect of his admonition, and to
judge, by the eye of the free-trader, how much farther he might push his
artifice; but perceiving, to his own surprise, that the other bent his
face to the floor, and stood like one rebuked, he took courage to proceed.
"You have introduced into this portion of my dwelling, which is
exclusively inhabited by my niece, who is neither of a sex nor of years to
be legally arraigned for any oversight of this nature, sundries of which
it is the pleasure of the Queen's advisers that her subjects in the
colonies should not know the use, since, in the nature of fabrications,
they cannot be submitted to the supervising care of the ingenious artisans
of the mother island. Woman, Master Seadrift, is a creature liable to the
influence of temptation, and in few things is she weaker than in her
efforts to resist the allurements of articles which may aid in adorning
her person. My niece, the daughter of Etienne Barberie, may also have an
hereditary weakness on this head, since the females of France study these
inventions more than those of some other countries. It is not my
intention, however, to manifest any unreasonable severity; since, if old
Etienne has communicated any hereditary feebleness on the subject of
fancy, he has also left his daughter the means of paying for it. Hand in
your account, therefore, and the debt shall be discharged, if debt has
been incurred. And this brings me to the last and the gravest of your
"Capital is no doubt the foundation on which a merchant builds his edifice
of character," continued Myndert, after taking another jealous survey of
the countenance of him he addressed; "but credit is the ornament of its
front. This is a corner-stone; that the pilasters and carvings, by which
the building is rendered pleasant; sometimes, when age has undermined the
basement, it is the columns on which the superstructure rests, or even the
roof by which the occupant is sheltered. It renders the rich man safe, the
dealer of moderate means active and respectable, and it causes even the
poor man to hold up his head in hope: though I admit that buyer and seller
need both be wary, when it stands unsupported by any substantial base.
This being the value of credit, Master Seadrift, none should assail it
without sufficient cause, for its quality is of a nature too tender for
rude treatment. I learned, when a youth, in my travels in Holland, through
which country, by means of the Trekschuyts, I passed with sufficient
deliberation to profit by what was seen, the importance of avoiding, on
all occasions, bringing credit into disrepute. As one event that occurred
offers an apposite parallel to what I have now to advance, I shall make a
tender of the facts in the way of illustration. The circumstances show the
awful uncertainty of things in this transitory life, Captain Ludlow, and
forewarn the most vigorous and youthful, that the strong of arm may be cut
down, in his pride, like the tender plant of the fields! The banking-house
of Van Gelt and Van Stopper, in Amsterdam, had dealt largely in securities
issued by the Emperor for the support of his wars. It happened, at the
time, that Fortune had favored the Ottoman, who was then pressing the city
of Belgrade, with some prospects of success. Well, Sirs, a headstrong and
ill-advised laundress had taken possession of an elevated terrace in the
centre of the town, in order to dry her clothes. This woman was in the act
of commencing the distribution of her linens and muslins, with the break
of day, when the Mussulmans awoke the garrison by a rude assault. Some,
who had been posted in a position that permitted of retreat, having seen
certain bundles of crimson, and green, and yellow, on an elevated parapet,
mistook them for the heads of so many Turks; and they spread the report,
far and near, that a countless band of the Infidels, led on by a vast
number of sherriffes in green turbans, had gained the heart of the place,
before they were induced to retire. The rumor soon took the shape of a
circumstantial detail, and, having reached Amsterdam, it caused the funds
of the Imperialists to look down. There was much question, on the
Exchange, concerning the probable loss of Van Gelt and Van Stopper in
consequence. Just as speculation was at its greatest height on this head,
the monkey of a Savoyard escaped from its string, and concealed himself in
a nut-shop, a few doors distant from the banking-house of the firm, where
a crowd of Jew boys collected to witness its antics. Men of reflection,
seeing what they mistook for a demonstration on the part of the children
of the Israelites, began to feel uneasiness for their own property. Drafts
multiplied; and the worthy bankers, in order to prove their solidity,
disdained to shut their doors at the usual hour. Money was paid throughout
the night; and before noon, on the following day, Van Gelt had cut his
throat, in a summer-house that stood on the banks of the Utrecht canal;
and Van Stopper was seen smoking a pipe, among strong boxes that were
entirely empty. At two o'clock, the post brought the intelligence that
the Mussulmans were repulsed, and that the laundress was hanged; though I
never knew exactly for what crime, as she certainly was not a debtor of
the unhappy firm. These are some of the warning events of life, gentlemen;
and as I feel sure of addressing those who are capable of making the
application, I shall now conclude by advising all who hear me to great
discretion of speech on every matter connected with commercial character."
When Myndert ceased speaking, he threw another glance around him, in order
to note the effect his words had produced, and more particularly to
ascertain whether he had not drawn a draft on the forbearance of the
free-trader, which might still meet with a protest. He was at a loss to
account for the marked and unusual deference with which he was treated, by
one who, while he was never coarse, seldom exhibited much complaisance for
the opinions of a man he was in the habit of meeting so familiarly, on
matters of pecuniary interest. During the whole of the foregoing harangue,
the young mariner of the brigantine had maintained the same attitude of
modest attention; and when his eyes were permitted to rise, it was only to
steal uneasy looks at the face of Alida. La belle Barberie had also
listened to her uncle's eloquence, with a more thoughtful air than common.
She met the occasional glances of the dealer in contraband, with answering
sympathy; and, in short, the most indifferent observer of their deportment
might have seen that circumstances had created between them a confidence
and intelligence which, if it were not absolutely of the most tender, was
unequivocally of the most intimate, character. Ail this Ludlow plainly
saw, though the burgher had been too much engrossed with the ideas he had
so complacently dealt out, to note the fact.
"Now that my mind is so well stored with maxims on commerce, which I
shall esteem as so many commentaries on the instructions of my Lords of
the Admiralty," observed the Captain, after a brief interval of silence,
"it may be permitted to turn our attention to things less metaphysical.
The present occasion is favorable to inquire after the fate of the
shipmate we lost in the last cruise; and it ought not to be neglected."
"You speak truth, Mr. Cornelius--The Patroon of Kinderhook is not a man to
fall into the sea, like an anker of forbidden liquor, and no questions
asked. Leave this matter to my discretion, Sir; and trust me, the tenants
of the third best estate in the colony shall not long be without tidings
of their landlord. If you will accompany Master Seadrift into the other
part of the villa for a reasonable time, I shall possess myself of all the
facts that are at all pertinent to the right understanding of the case."
The commander of the royal cruiser, and the young mariner of the
brigantine, appeared to think that a compliance with this invitation would
bring about a singular association. The hesitation of the latter, however,
was far the most visible, since Ludlow had coolly determined to maintain
his neutral character, until a proper moment to act, as a faithful
servitor of his royal mistress, should arrive. He knew, or firmly
believed, that the Water-Witch again lay in the Cove, concealed by the
shadows of the surrounding wood; and as he had once before suffered by the
superior address of the smugglers, he was now resolved to act with so much
caution, as to enable him to return to his ship in time to proceed against
her with decision, and, as he hoped, with effect. In addition to this
motive for artifice, there was that in the manner and language of the
contraband dealer to place him altogether above the ordinary men of his
pursuit, and indeed to create in his favor a certain degree of interest,
which the officer of the crown was compelled to admit. He therefore bowed
with sufficient courtesy, and professed his readiness to follow the
suggestions of the Alderman.
"We have met on neutral ground, Master Seadrift," said Ludlow to his gay
companion, as they quitted the saloon of la Cour des Fees; "and though
bent on different objects, we may discourse amicably of the past. The
'Skimmer of the Seas' has a reputation in his way, that almost raises him
to the level of a seaman distinguished in a better service. I will ever
testify to his skill and coolness as a mariner, however much I may lament
that those fine qualities have received so unhappy a direction."
"This is speaking with a becoming reservation for the rights of the crown,
and with meet respect for die Barons of the Exchequer!" retorted Seadrift,
whose former, and we may say natural, spirit seemed to return, as he left
the presence of the burgher. "We follow the pursuit, Captain Ludlow, in
which accident has cast our fortunes. You serve a Queen you never saw, and
a nation who will use you in her need and despise you in her prosperity;
and I serve myself. Let reason decide between us."
"I admire this frankness, Sir, and have hopes of a better understanding
between us, now that you have done with the mystifications of your
sea-green woman. The farce has been well enacted; though, with the
exception of Oloff Van Staats and those enlightened spirits you lead about
the ocean, it has not made many converts to necromancy."
The free-trader permitted his handsome mouth to relax in a smile.
"We have our mistress, too," he said; "but she exacts no tribute. All that
is gained goes to enrich her subjects, while all that she knows is
cheerfully imparted for their use. If we are obedient, it is because we
have experienced her justice and wisdom I hope Queen Anne deals as kindly
by those who risk life and limb in her cause?"
"Is it part of the policy of her you follow, to reveal the fate of the
Patroon; for though rivals in one dear object--or rather I should say,
once rivals in that object--I cannot see a guest quit my ship with so
little ceremony, without an interest in his welfare."
"You make a just distinction," returned Seadrift, smiling still more
meaningly--"Once rivals is indeed the better expression. Mr. Van Staats is
a brave man, however ignorant he may be of the seaman's art. One who has
showed so much spirit will be certain of protection from personal injury,
in the care of the 'Skimmer of the Seas.'"
"I do not constitute myself the keeper of Mr. Van Staats; still, as the
commander of the ship whence he has been--what shall I term the manner of
his abduction?--for I would not willingly use, at this moment, a term that
may prove disagreeable--"
"Speak freely, Sir, and fear not to offend. We of the brigantine are
accustomed to divers epithets that might startle less practised ears. We
are not to learn, at this late hour, that, in order to become respectable,
roguery must have the sanction of government. You were pleased, Captain
Ludlow, to name the mystifications of the Water-Witch; but you seem
indifferent to those that are hourly practised near you in the world, and
which, without the pleasantry of this of ours, have not half its
"There is little novelty in the expedient of seeking to justify the
delinquency of individuals, by the failings of society."
"I confess it is rather just than original. Triteness and Truth appear to
be sisters! And yet do we find ourselves driven to this apology, since the
refinement of us of the brigantine has not yet attained to the point of
understanding all the excellence of novelty in morals."
"I believe there is a mandate of sufficient antiquity, which bids us to
render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's."
"A mandate which our modern Caesars have most liberally construed! I am a
poor casuist, Sir; nor do I think the loyal commander of the Coquette
would wish to uphold all that sophistry can invent on such a subject. If
we begin with potentates, for instance, we shall find the Most Christian
King bent on appropriating as many of his neighbors' goods to his own use,
as ambition, under the name of glory, can covet; the Most Catholic,
covering with the mantle of his Catholicity, a greater multitude of
enormities on this very continent, than even charity itself could conceal;
and our own gracious Sovereign, whose virtues and whose mildness are
celebrated in verse and prose, causing rivers of blood to run, in order
that the little island over which she rules may swell out, like the frog
in the fable, to dimensions that nature has denied, and which will one day
inflict the unfortunate death that befell the ambitious inhabitant of the
pool. The gallows awaits the pickpocket; but your robber under a pennant
is dubbed a knight! The man who amasses wealth by gainful industry is
ashamed of his origin; while he who has stolen from churches, laid
villages under contribution, and cut throats by thousands, to divide the
spoils of a galleon or a military chest, has gained gold on the highway of
glory! Europe has reached an exceeding pass of civilization, it may not be
denied; but before society inflicts so severe censure on the acts of
individuals, notwithstanding the triteness of the opinion, I must say it
is bound to look more closely to the example it sets, in its collective
"These are points on which our difference of opinion is likely to be
lasting;" said Ludlow, assuming the severe air of one who had the world
on his side "We will defer the discussion to a moment of greater leisure,
Sir. Am I to learn more of Mr. Van Staats, or is the question of his fate
to become the subject of a serious official inquiry?"
"The Patroon of Kinderhook is a bold boarder!" returned the free-trader,
laughing. "He has carried the residence of the lady of the brigantine by a
coup-de-main; and he reposes on his laurels! We of the contraband are
merrier in our privacy than is thought, and those who join our mess seldom
wish to quit it."
"There may be occasion to look further into its mysteries--until when, I
wish you adieu."
"Hold!" gaily cried the other, observing that Ludlow was about to quit the
room--"Let the time of our uncertainty be short, I pray thee. Our mistress
is like the insect, which takes the color of the leaf on which it dwells.
You have seen her in her sea-green robe, which she never fails to wear
when roving over the soundings of your American coast: but in the deep
waters, her mantle vies with the blue of the ocean's depths. Symptoms of a
change, which always denote an intended excursion far beyond the influence
of the land, have been seen!"
"Harkee, Master Seadrift! This foolery may do while you possess the power
to maintain it. But remember, that though the law only punishes the
illegal trader by confiscation of his goods when taken, it punishes the
kidnapper with personal pains, and sometimes with--death!--And,
more--remember that the line which divides smuggling from piracy is easily
past, while the return becomes impossible."
"For this generous counsel, in my mistress's name I thank thee;" the gay
mariner replied, bowing with a gravity that rather heightened than
concealed his irony--"Your Coquette is broad in the reach of her booms,
and swift on the water, Captain Ludlow, but let her be capricious,
wilful, deceitful, nay powerful, as she may, she shall find a woman in the
brigantine equal to all her arts, and far superior to all her threats!"
With this prophetic warning on the part of the Queen's officer, and cool
reply on that of the dealer in contraband, the two sailors separated. The
latter took a book, and threw himself into a chair, with a well-maintained
indifference; while the other left the house, in a haste that was not
In the mean time, the interview between Alderman Van Beverout and his
niece still continued. Minute passed after minute, and yet there was no
summons to the pavilion. The gay young seaman of the brigantine had
continued his studies for some time after the disappearance of Ludlow, and
he now evidently awaited an intimation that his presence was required in
la Cour des Fees. During these moments of anxiety, the air of the
free-trader was sorrowful rather than impatient; and when a footstep was
heard at the door of the room, he betrayed symptoms of strong and
uncontrollable agitation. It was the female attendant of Alida, who
entered, presented a slip of paper, and retired. The eager expectant read
the following words, hastily written in pencil:--
"I have evaded all his questions, and he is more than half-disposed to
believe in necromancy. This is not the moment to confess the truth, for he
is not in a condition to hear it, being already much disturbed by the
uncertainty of what may follow the appearance of the brigantine on the
coast, and so near his own villa. But, be assured, he shall and will
acknowledge claims that I know how to support, and which, should I fail of
establishing, he would not dare to refuse to the redoubtable 'Skimmer of
the Seas.' Come hither, the moment you hear his foot in the passage."
The last injunction was soon obeyed. The Alderman entered by one door, as
the active fugitive retreated by another; and where the weary burgher
expected to see his guests, he found an empty apartment. This last
circumstance, however, gave Myndert Van Beverout but little surprise and
no concern, as would appear by the indifference with which he noted the
"Vagaries and womanhood!" thought, rather than muttered, the Alderman.
"The jade turns like a fox in his tracks, and it would be easier to
convict a merchant who values his reputation, of a false invoice, than
this minx of nineteen of an indiscretion! There is so much of old Etienne
and his Norman blood in her eye, that one does not like to provoke
extremities; but here, when I expected Van Staats had profited by his
opportunity, the girl looks like a nun, at the mention of his name. The
Patroon is no Cupid, we must allow; or, in a week at sea, he would have
won the heart of a mermaid!--Ay--and here are more perplexities, by the
return of the Skimmer and his brig, and the notions that young Ludlow has
of his duty. Life and mortality! One must quit trade, at some time or
other, and begin to close the books of life. I must seriously think of
striking a final balance. If the sum-total was a little more in my favor
it should be gladly done to-morrow!"
"--Thou, Julia, thou hast metamorphosed me;
Made me neglect my studies, lose my time,
War with good counsel, set the world at nought."
Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Ludlow quitting the Lust in Rust with a wavering purpose. Throughout the
whole of the preceding interview, he had jealously watched the eye and
features of la belle Barberie; and he had not failed to draw his
conclusions from a mien that too plainly expressed a deep interest in the
free-trader. For a time, only, had he been induced, by the calmness and
self-possession with which she received her uncle and himself, to believe
that she had not visited the Water-Witch at all; but when the gay and
reckless being who governed the movements of that extraordinary vessel,
appeared, he could no longer flatter himself with this hope. He now
believed that her choice for life had been made; and while he deplored the
infatuation which could induce so gifted a woman to forget her station and
character, he was himself too frank not to see that the individual who had
in so short a time gained this ascendency over the feelings of Alida, was,
in many respects, fitted to exercise a powerful influence over the
imagination of a youthful and secluded female.
There was a struggle in the mind of the young commander, between his duty
and his feelings. Remembering the artifice by which he had formerly fallen
into the power of the smugglers, he had taken his precautions so well in
the present visit to the villa, that he firmly believed he had the person
of his lawless rival at his mercy. To avail himself of this advantage, or
to retire and leave him in possession of his mistress and his liberty, was
the point mooted in his thoughts. Though direct and simple in his habits,
like most of the seamen of that age, Ludlow had all the loftier sentiments
that become a gentleman. He felt keenly for Alida, and he shrunk, with
sensitive pride, from incurring the imputation of having acted under the
impulses of disappointment. To these motives of forbearance, was also to
be added the inherent reluctance which, as an officer of rank, he felt to
the degradation of being employed in a duty that more properly belongs to
men of less elevated ambition. He looked on himself as a defender of the
rights and glory of his sovereign, and not as a mercenary instrument of
those who collected her customs; and though he would not have hesitated to
incur any rational hazard, in capturing the vessel of the smuggler, or in
making captives of all or any of her crew on their proper element, he
disliked the appearance of seeking a solitary individual on the land. In
addition to this feeling, there was his own pledge that he met the
proscribed dealer in contraband on neutral ground. Still the officer of
the Queen had his orders, and he could not shut his eyes to the general
obligations of duty. The brigantine was known to inflict so much loss on
the revenue of the crown, more particularly in the other hemisphere, that
an especial order had been issued by the Admiral of the station, for her
capture. Here then was an opportunity of depriving the vessel of that
master-spirit which, notwithstanding the excellence of its construction,
had alone so long enabled it to run the gauntlet of a hundred cruisers
with impunity. Agitated by these contending feelings and reflections, the
young sailor left the door of the villa, and came upon its little lawn, in
order to reflect with less interruption, and, indeed, to breathe more
The night had advanced into the first watch of the seaman. The shadow of
the mountain, however, still covered the grounds of the villa, the river,
and the shores of the Atlantic, with a darkness that was deeper than the
obscurity which dimmed the surface of the rolling ocean beyond. Objects
were so indistinct as to require close and steady looks to ascertain their
character, while the setting of the scene might be faintly traced by its
hazy and indistinct outlines. The curtains of la Cour des Fees had been
drawn, and, though the lights were still shining within, the eye could not
penetrate the pavilion. Ludlow gazed about him, and then held his way
reluctantly towards the water.
In endeavoring to conceal the interior of her apartment from the eyes of
those without, Alida had suffered a corner of the drapery to remain open.
When Ludlow reached the gate that led to the landing, he turned to take a
last look at the villa; and, favored by his new position, he caught a
glimpse, through the opening, of the person of her who was still uppermost
in his thoughts.
La belle Barberie was seated at the little table, by whose side she had
been found, earlier in the evening. An elbow rested on the precious wood,
and one fair hand supported a brow that was thoughtful far beyond the
usual character of its expression, if not melancholy. The commander of the
Coquette felt the blood rushing to his heart, for he fancied that the
beautiful and pensive countenance was that of a penitent. It is probable
that the idea quickened his drooping hopes; for Ludlow believed it might
not yet be too late to rescue the woman, he so sincerely loved, from the
precipice over which she was suspended. The seemingly irretrievable step,
already taken, was forgotten; and the generous young sailor was about to
rush back to la Cour des Fees, to implore its mistress to be just to
herself, when the hand fell from her polished brow, and Alida raised her
face, with a look which denoted that she was no longer alone. The captain
drew back, to watch the issue.
When Alida lifted her eyes, it was in kindness, and with that frank
ingenuousness with which an unperverted female greets the countenance of
those who have her confidence. She smiled, though still in sadness rather
than in pleasure; and she spoke, but the distance prevented her words from
being audible. At the next instant, Seadrift moved into the space visible
through the half-drawn drapery, and took her hand. Alida made no effort to
withdraw the member; but, on the contrary, she looked up into his face
with still less equivocal interest, and appeared to listen to his voice
with an absorbed attention. The gate was swung violently open, and Ludlow
had reached the margin of the river before he again paused.
The barge of the Coquette was found where her commander had ordered his
people to lie concealed, and he was about to enter it, when the noise of
the little gate, again shutting with the wind, induced him to cast a look
behind. A human form was distinctly to be seen, against the light walls of
the villa, descending towards the river. The men were commanded to keep
close, and, withdrawing within the shadow of a fence, the captain waited
the approach of the new-comer.
As the unknown person passed, Ludlow recognized the agile form of the
free-trader. The latter advanced to the margin of the river, and gazed
warily about him for several minutes. A low but distinct note, on a common
ship's-call, was then heard. The summons was soon succeeded by the
appearance of a small skiff, which glided out of the grass on the opposite
side of the stream, and approached the spot where Seadrift awaited its
arrival. The free-trader sprang lightly into the little boat, which
immediately began to glide out of the river. As the skiff passed the spot
where he stood, Ludlow saw that it was pulled by a single seaman; and, as
his own boat was manned by six lusty rowers, he felt that the person of
the man whom he so much envied was at length fairly and honorably in his
power. We shall not attempt to analyze the emotion that was ascendant in
the mind of the young officer. It is enough for our purpose to add, that
he was soon in his boat and in full pursuit.
As the course to be taken by the barge was diagonal rather than direct, a
few powerful strokes of the oars brought it so near the skiff, that
Ludlow, by placing his hand on the gunwale of the latter, could arrest its
"Though so lightly equipped, fortune favors you less in boats than in
larger craft, Master Seadrift;" said Ludlow, when, by virtue of a strong
arm, he had drawn his prize so near, as to find himself seated within a
few feet of his prisoner. "We meet on our proper element, where there can
be no neutrality between one of the contraband and a servant of the
The start, the half-repressed exclamation, and the momentary silence,
showed that the captive had been taken completely by surprise.
"I admit your superior dexterity," he at length said, speaking low and not
without agitation. "I am your prisoner, Captain Ludlow; and I would now
wish to know your intentions in disposing of my person."
"That is soon answered. You must be content to take the homely
accommodations of the Coquette, for the night, instead of the more
luxurious cabin of your Water-Witch. What the authorities of the Province
may decide, to-morrow, it exceeds the knowledge of a poor commander in the
navy to say."
"The lord Cornbury has retired to----?"
"A gaol," said Ludlow, observing that the other spoke more like one who
mused than like one who asked a question. "The kinsman of our gracious
Queen speculates on the chances of human fortune, within the walls of a
prison. His successor, the brigadier Hunter, is thought to have less
sympathy for the moral infirmities of human nature!"
"We deal lightly with dignities!" exclaimed the captive, with all his
former gaiety of tone and manner. "You have your revenge for some personal
liberties that were certainly taken, not a fortnight since, with this boat
and her crew; still, I have much mistaken your character, if unnecessary
severity forms one of its features. May I communicate with the
"Freely--when she is once in the care of a Queen's officer."
"Oh, Sir, you disparage the qualities of my mistress, in supposing there
exists a parallel with your own! The Water-Witch will go at large, till a
far different personage shall become your captive.--May I communicate with
"To that there exists no objection--if you will point out the means."
"I have one, here, who will prove a faithful messenger."
"Too faithful to the delusion which governs all your followers! Your man
must be your companion in the Coquette, Master Seadrift, though;" and
Ludlow spoke in melancholy, "if there be any on the land, who take so near
an interest in your welfare as to find more sorrow in uncertainty than in
the truth, one of my own crew, in any of whom confidence may be placed,
shall do your errand."
"Let it be so;" returned the free-trader, as if satisfied that he could,
in reason, expect no more. "Take this ring to the lady of yonder
dwelling," he continued, when Ludlow had selected the messenger, "and say
that he who sends it is about to visit the cruiser of Queen Anne in
company with her commander. Should there be question of the motive, you
can speak to the manner of my arrest."
"And, mark me, fellow--" added his captain; "that duty done, look to the
idlers on the shore, and see that no boat quits the river, to apprize the
smugglers of their loss."
The man, who was armed in the fashion of a seaman on boat duty, received
these orders with the customary deference; and the barge having drawn to
the shore for that purpose, he landed.
"And now, Master Seadrift, having thus far complied with your wishes, I
may expect you will not be deaf to mine. Here is a seat at your service in
my barge, and I confess it will please me to see it occupied."
As the captain spoke, he reached forth an arm, partly in natural
complaisance, and partly with a carelessness that denoted some
consciousness of the difference in their rank, both to aid the other to
comply with his request, and, at need, to enforce it. But the free-trader
seemed to repel the familiarity; for he drew back, at first, like one who
shrunk sensitively from the contact, and then, without touching the arm
that was extended with a purpose so equivocal, he passed lightly from the
skiff into the barge, declining assistance. The movement was scarcely
made, before Ludlow quitted the latter, and occupied the place which
Seadrift had just vacated. He commanded one of his men to exchange with
the seaman of the brigantine; and, having made these preparations, he
again addressed his prisoner.
"I commit you to the care of my cockswain and these worthy tars, Master
Seadrift. We shall steer different ways. You will take possession of my
cabin, where all will be at your disposal; ere the middle watch is called
I shall be there to prevent the pennant from coming down, and your
sea-green flag turning the people's heads from their allegiance."
Ludlow then whispered his orders to his cockswain, and they separated. The
barge proceeded to the mouth of the river, with the long and stately sweep
of the oars, that marks the progress of a man-of-war's boat; while the
skiff followed, noiselessly and, aided by its color and dimensions, nearly
When the two boats entered the waters of the bay, the barge held on its
course towards the distant ship; while the skiff inclined to the right,
and steered directly for the bottom of the Cove. The precaution of the
dealer in contraband had provided his little boat with muffled sculls; and
Ludlow, when he was enabled to discover the fine tracery of the lofty and
light spars of the Water-Witch, as they rose above the tops of the dwarf
trees that lined the shore, had no reason to think his approach was known.
Once assured of the presence and position of the brigantine, he was
enabled to make his advances with all the caution that might be necessary.
Some ten or fifteen minutes were required to bring the skiff beneath the
bowsprit of the beautiful craft, without giving the alarm to those who
doubtless were watching on her decks. The success of our adventurer,
however, appeared to be complete; for he was soon holding by the cable,
and not the smallest sound, of any kind, had been heard in the brigantine.
Ludlow now regretted he had not entered the Cove with his barge; for, so
profound and unsuspecting was the quiet of the vessel, that he doubted not
of his ability to have carried her by a coup-de-main. Vexed by his
oversight, and incited by the prospects of success, he began to devise
those expedients which would naturally suggest themselves to a seaman in
The wind was southerly, and, though not strong it was charged with the
dampness and heaviness of the night air. As the brigantine lay protected
from the influence of the tides, she obeyed the currents of the other
element; and, while her bows looked outward, her stern pointed towards the
bottom of the basin. The distance from the land was not fifty fathoms, and
Ludlow did not fail to perceive that the vessel rode by a kedge, and that
her anchors, of which there was a good provision, were all snugly stowed.
These facts induced the hope that he might separate the hawser that alone
held the brigantine, which, in the event of his succeeding, he had every
reason to believe would drift ashore, before the alarm could be given to
her crew, sail set, or an anchor let go. Although neither he nor his
companion possessed any other implement to effect this object, than the
large seaman's knife of the latter, the temptation was too great not to
make the trial. The project was flattering; for, though the vessel in that
situation would receive no serious injury, the unavoidable delay of
heaving her off the sands would enable his boats, and perhaps the ship
herself, to reach the place in time to secure their prize. The bargeman
was asked for his knife, and Ludlow himself made the first cut upon the
solid and difficult mass. The steel had no sooner touched the compact
yarns, than a dazzling glare of light shot into the face of him who held
it. Recovering from the shock, and rubbing his eyes, our startled
adventurer gazed upwards, with that consciousness of wrong which assails
us when detected in any covert act, however laudable may be its motive;--a
sort of homage that nature, under every circumstance, pays to loyal
Though Ludlow felt, at the instant of this interruption, that he stood in
jeopardy of his life, the concern it awakened was momentarily lost in the
spectacle before him. The bronzed and unearthly features of the image were
brightly illuminated; and, while her eyes looked on him steadily, as if
watching his smallest movement, her malign and speaking smile appeared to
turn his futile effort into scorn! There was no need to bid the seaman at
the oars to do his duty. No sooner did he catch the expression of that
mysterious face, than the skiff whirled away from the spot, like a
sea-fowl taking wing under alarm. Though Ludlow, at each moment, expected
a shot, even the imminence of the danger did not prevent him from gazing,
in absorbed attention, at the image. The light by which it was illumined,
though condensed, powerful, and steadily cast, wavered a little, and
exhibited her attire. Then the captain saw the truth of what Seadrift had
asserted; for, by some process of the machine into which he had not
leisure to inquire, the sea-green mantle had been changed for a slighter
robe of the azure of the deep waters. As if satisfied with having betrayed
the intention of the sorceress to depart, the light immediately vanished.
"This mummery is well maintained!" muttered Ludlow, when the skiff had
reached a distance that assured him of safety. "Here is a symptom that the
rover means soon to quit the coast. The change of dress is some signal to
his superstitious and deluded crew. It is my task to disappoint his
mistress, as he terms her, though it must be confessed that she does not
sleep at her post."
During the ten succeeding minutes, our foiled adventurer had leisure, no
less than motive, to feel how necessary is success to any project whose
means admit of dispute. Had the hawser been cut and the brigantine
stranded, it is probable that the undertaking of the captain would have
been accounted among those happy expedients which, in all pursuits, are
thought to distinguish the mental efforts of men particularly gifted by
Nature; while, under the actual circumstances, he who would have reaped
all the credit of so felicitous an idea, was mentally chafing with the
apprehension that his unlucky design might become known. His companion was
no other than Robert Yarn, the fore-top-man, who, on a former occasion,
had been heard to affirm, that he had already enjoyed so singular a view
of the lady of the brigantine, while assisting to furl the fore-top-sail
of the Coquette.
"This has been a false board, Master Yarn," observed the captain, when the
skiff was past the entrance of the Cove, and some distance down the bay;
"for the credit of our cruise, we will not enter the occurrence in the
log. You understand me, Sir: I trust a word is sufficient for so shrewd a
"I hope I know my duty, your Honor, which is to obey orders, though it may
break owners," returned the top-man. "Cutting a hawser with a knife is but
slow work in the best of times; but though one who has little right to
speak in the presence of a gentleman so well taught, it is my opinion that
the steel is not yet sharpened which is to part any rope aboard yon rover,
without the consent of the black-looking woman under her bowsprit."
"And what is the opinion of the berth-deck concerning this strange
brigantine, that we have so long been following without success?"
"That we shall follow her till the last biscuit is eaten, and the
scuttle-butt shall be dry, with no better fortune. It is not my business
to teach your Honor; but there is not a man in the ship, who ever expects
to be a farthing the better for her capture. Men are of many minds
concerning the 'Skimmer of the Seas;' but all are agreed that, unless
aided by some uncommon luck, which may amount to the same thing as being
helped by him who seldom lends a hand to any honest undertaking, that he
is altogether such a seaman as another like him does not sail the ocean!"
"I am sorry that my people should have reason to think so meanly of our
own skill. The ship has not yet had a fair chance. Give her an open sea,
and a cap-full of wind, and she'll defy all the black women that the
brigantine can stow. As to your 'Skimmer of the Seas,' man or devil, he is
"And does your Honor believe that the trim-built and light-sailing
gentleman we overhauled in this skiff, is in truth that renowned rover?"
asked Yarn, resting on his sculls, in the interest of the moment. "There
are some on board the ship, who maintain that the man in question is
taller than the big tide-waiter at Plymouth, with a pair of shoulders----"
"I have reason to know they are mistaken. If we are more enlightened than
our shipmates, Master Yarn, let us be close-mouthed, that others do not
steal our knowledge--hold, here is a crown with the face of King Louis; he
is our bitterest enemy, and you may swallow him whole, if you please, or
take him in morsels, as shall best suit your humor. But remember that our
cruise in the skiff is under secret orders, and the less we say about the
anchor-watch of the brigantine, the better."
Honest Bob took the piece of silver, with a gusto that no opinions of the
marvellous could diminish; and, touching his hat, he did not fail to make
the usual protestations of discretion. That night the messmates of the
fore-top-man endeavored, in vain, to extract from him the particulars of
his excursion with the captain; though the direct answers to their home
questions were only evaded by allusions so dark and ambiguous, as to give
to that superstitious feeling of the crew, which Ludlow had wished to
lull, twice its original force.
Not long after this short dialogue, the skiff reached the side of the
Coquette. Her commander found his prisoner in possession of his own cabin,
and, though grave if not sad in demeanor, perfectly self-possessed. His
arrival had produced a deep effect on the officers and men, though, like
Yarn, most of both classes refused to believe that the handsome and
gayly-attired youth they had been summoned to receive, was the notorious
dealer in contraband.
Light observers of the forms under which human qualities are exhibited,
too often mistake their outward signs. Though it is quite in reason to
believe, that he who mingles much in rude and violent scenes should imbibe
some of their rough and repelling aspects, still it would seem that, as
the stillest waters commonly conceal the deepest currents, so the powers
to awaken extraordinary events are not unfrequently cloaked under a
chastened, and sometimes under a cold, exterior. It has often happened,
that the most desperate and self-willed men are those whose mien and
manners would give reason to expect the mildest and most tractable
dispositions; while he who has seemed a lion sometimes proves, in his real
nature, to be little better than a lamb.
Ludlow had reason to see that the incredulity of his top-man had extended
to most on board; and, as he could not conquer his tenderness on the
subject of Alida and all that concerned her, while on the other hand there
existed no motive for immediately declaring the truth, he rather favored
the general impression by his silence. First giving some orders of the
last importance at that moment, he passed into the cabin, and sought a
private interview with his captive.
"That vacant state-room is at your service, Master Seadrift," he observed,
pointing to the little apartment opposite to the one he occupied himself.
"We are likely to be shipmates several days, unless you choose to shorten
the time, by entering into a capitulation for the Water-Witch; in which
"You had a proposition to make."
Ludlow hesitated, cast an eye behind him, to be certain they were alone,
and drew nearer to his captive.
"Sir, I will deal with you as becomes a seaman. La belle Barberie is
dearer to me than ever woman was before;--dearer, I fear, than ever woman
will be again. You need not learn that circumstances nave occurred,--Do
you love the lady?"
"And she--fear not to trust the secret to one who will not abuse the
trust--returns she your affection?"
The mariner of the brigantine drew back with dignity; and then, instantly
recovering his ease, as if fearful he might forget himself, he said with
"This trifling with woman's weakness is the besetting sin of man! None may
speak of her inclinations, Captain Ludlow, but herself. It never shall be
said, that any of the sex had aught but fitting reverence for their
dependent state, their constant and confiding love, their faithfulness in
all the world's trials, and their singleness of heart, from me."
"These sentiments do you honor; and I could wish, for your own sake, as
well as that of others, there was less of contrariety in your character.
One cannot but grieve----"
"You had a proposition, for the brigantine?"
"I would have said, that were the vessel yielded without further pursuit,
means might be found to soften the blow to those who will otherwise be
most wounded by her capture."
The face of the dealer in contraband had lost some of its usual brightness
and animation; the color of the cheek was not as rich, and the eye was
less at ease, than in his former interviews with Ludlow. But a smile of
security crossed his fine features, when the other spoke of the fate of
"The keel of the ship that is to capture the Water-Witch is not yet laid,"
he said, firmly; "nor is the canvas that is to drive her through the
water, wove! Our mistress is not so heedless as to sleep, when there is
most occasion for her services."
"This mummery of a supernatural aid may be of use in holding the minds of
the ignorant beings who follow your fortunes, in subjection, but it is
lost when addressed to me. I have ascertained the position of the
brigantine--nay, I have been under her very bowsprit, and so near her
cut-water, as to have examined her moorings. Measures are now taking to
improve my knowledge, and to secure the prize."
The free-trader heard him without exhibiting alarm, though he listened
with an attention that rendered his breathing audible.
"You found my people vigilant?" he rather carelessly observed, than asked.
"So much so, that I have said the skiff was pulled beneath her martingale,
without a hail! Had there been means, it would not have required many
moments to cut the hawser by which she rides, and to have laid your
beauteous vessel ashore!"
The gleam of Seadrift's eye was like the glance of an eagle. It seemed to
inquire, and to resent, in the same instant. Ludlow shrunk from the
piercing look, and reddened to the brow,--whether with his recollections,
or not, it is unnecessary to explain.
"The worthy device was thought of!--nay, it was attempted!" exclaimed the
other, gathering confirmation in the consciousness of his companion.--"You
did not--you could not succeed!"
"Our success will be proved in the result."
"The lady of the brigantine forgot not her charge! You saw her bright
eye--her dark and meaning face! Light shone on that mysterious
countenance--my words are true, Ludlow, thy tongue is silent, but that
honest countenance confesses all!"
The gay dealer in contraband turned away, and laughed in his merriest
"I knew it would be so," he continued, "what is the absence of one humble
actor from her train. Trust me, you will find her coy as ever, and
ill-disposed to hold converse with a cruiser who speaks so rudely through
his cannon. Ha!--here are auditors!"
An officer, to announce the near approach of a boat, entered. Both Ludlow
and his prisoner started at this intelligence, and it was not difficult to
fancy both believed that a message from the Water-Witch might be expected.
The former hastened on deck; while the latter, notwithstanding a
self-possession that was so much practised, could not remain entirely at
his ease. He passed into the state-room, and it is more than probable that
he availed himself of the window of its quarter-gallery, to reconnoitre
those who were so unexpectedly coming to the ship.
But after the usual hail and reply, Ludlow no longer anticipated any
proposal from the brigantine. The answer had been what a seaman would call
lubberly; or it wanted that attic purity that men of the profession rarely
fail to use on all occasions, and by the means of which they can tell a
pretender to their mysteries, with a quickness that is almost instinctive.
When the short, quick "boat-ahoy!" of the sentinel on the gangway, was
answered by the "what do you want?" of a startled respondent in the boat,
it was received among the crew of the Coquette with such a sneer as the
tyro, who has taken two steps in any particular branch of knowledge, is
apt to bestow on the blunders of him who has taken but one.
A deep silence reigned, while a party consisting of two men and as many
females mounted the side of the ship, leaving a sufficient number of forms
behind them in the boat to man its oars. Notwithstanding more than one
light was held in such a manner as would have discovered the faces of the
strangers had they not all been closely muffled, the party passed into
the cabin without recognition.
"Master Cornelius Ludlow, one might as well put on the Queen's livery at
once, as to be steering in this uncertain manner, between the Coquette and
the land, like a protested note sent from endorser to endorser, to be
paid," commenced Alderman Van Beverout, uncasing himself in the great
cabin with the coolest deliberation, while his niece sunk into a chair
unbidden, her two attendants standing near in submissive silence. "Here is
Alida, who has insisted on paying so unseasonable a visit, and, what is
worse still, on dragging me in her train, though I am past the day of
following a woman about, merely because she happens to have a pretty face.
The hour is unseasonable, and as to the motive--why, if Master Seadrift
has got a little out of his course, no great harm can come of it, while
the affair is in the hands of so discreet and amiable an officer as
The Alderman became suddenly mute; for the door of the state-room opened,
and the individual he had named entered in person.
Ludlow needed no other explanation than a knowledge of the persons of his
guests, to understand the motive of their visit. Turning to Alderman Van
Beverout, he said, with a bitterness he could not repress--
"My presence may be intrusive. Use the cabin as freely as your own house,
and rest assured that while it is thus honored, it shall be sacred to its
present uses. My duty calls me to the deck."
The young man bowed gravely, and hurried from the place. As he passed
Alida, he caught a gleam of her dark and eloquent eye, and he construed
the glance into an expression of gratitude.
"If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly--"
The words of the immortal poet, with which, in deference to an ancient
usage in the literature of the language, we have prefaced the incidents to
be related in this chapter, are in perfect conformity with that governing
maxim of a vessel, which is commonly found embodied in its standing
orders, and which prescribes the necessity of exertion and activity in the
least of its operations. A strongly-manned ship, like a strong-armed man,
is fond of showing its physical power, for it is one of the principal
secrets of its efficiency. In a profession in which there is an unceasing
contest with the wild and fickle winds, and in which human efforts are to
be manifested in the control of a delicate and fearful machinery on an
inconstant element, this governing principle becomes of the last
importance. Where 'delay may so easily be death,' it soon gets to be a
word that is expunged from the language; and there is perhaps no truth
more necessary to be known to all young aspirants for naval success, than
that, while nothing should be attempted in a hurry, nothing should be done
without the last degree of activity that is compatible with precision.
The commander of the Coquette had early been impressed with the truth of
the foregoing rule, and he had not neglected its application in the
discipline of his crew. When he reached the deck, therefore, after
relinquishing the cabin to his visiters, he found those preparations which
he had ordered to be commenced when he first returned to the ship, already
far advanced towards their execution. As these movements are closely
connected with the future events it is our duty to explain, we shall
relate them with some particularity.
Ludlow had no sooner given his orders to the officer in charge of the
deck, than the whistle of the boatswain was heard summoning all hands to
their duty. When the crew had been collected, tackles were hooked to the
large boats stowed in the centre of the ship, and the whole of them were
lowered into the water. The descent of those suspended on the quarters,
was of course less difficult and much sooner effected. So soon as all the
boats, with the exception of one at the stern, were out, the order was
given to 'cross top-gallant-yards.' This duty had been commenced while
other things were in the course of performance, and a minute had scarcely
passed before the upper masts were again in possession of their light
sails. Then was heard the usual summons of, 'all hands up anchor, ahoy!'
and the rapid orders of the young officers to 'man capstan-bars,' to
'nipper,' and finally to 'heave away.' The business of getting the anchor
on board a cruiser and on board a ship engaged in commerce, is of very
different degrees of labor, as well as of expedition. In the latter, a
dozen men apply their powers to a slow-moving and reluctant windlass,
while the untractable cable, as it enters, is broken into coils by the
painful efforts of a grumbling cook, thwarted, perhaps, as much as he is
aided by the waywardness of some wilful urchin who does the service of the
cabin. On the other hand, the upright and constantly-moving capstan knows
no delay. The revolving 'messenger' is ever ready to be applied, and
skilful petty officers are always in the tiers, to dispose of the massive
rope, that it may not encumber the decks.
Ludlow appeared among his people, while they were thus employed. Ere he
had made one hasty turn on the quarter-deck, he was met by the busy
"We are short, Sir," said that agent of all work.
"Set your top-sails."
The canvas was instantly permitted to fall, and it was no sooner stretched
to the yards, than force was applied to the halyards, and the sails were
"Which way, Sir, do you wish the ship cast?" demanded the attentive Luff.
The head-yards were accordingly braced aback in the proper direction, and
it was then reported to the captain that all was ready to get the ship
"Trip the anchor at once, Sir; when it is stowed, and the decks are
cleared, report to me."
This sententious and characteristic communication between Ludlow and his
second in command, was sufficient for all the purposes of that moment. The
one was accustomed to issue his orders without explanation, and the other
never hesitated to obey, and rarely presumed to inquire into their motive.
"We are aweigh and stowed, Sir; every thing clear," said Mr. Luff, after a
few minutes had been allowed to execute the preceding commands.
Ludlow then seemed to arouse himself from a deep reverie. He had hitherto
spoken mechanically, rather than as one conscious of what he uttered, or
whose feelings had any connexion with his words. But it was now necessary
to mingle with his officers and to issue mandates that, as they were less
in routine, required both thought and discretion. The crews of the
different boats were 'called away,' and arms were placed in their hands.
When nearly or quite one-half of the ship's company were in the boats, and
the latter were all reported to be ready, officers were assigned to each,
and the particular service expected at their hands was distinctly
A master's mate in the captain's barge, with the crew strengthened by
half-a-dozen marines, was ordered to pull directly for the Cove, into
which he was to enter with muffled oars, and where he was to await a
signal from the first-lieutenant, unless he met the brigantine endeavoring
to escape, in which case his orders were imperative to board and carry her
at every hazard. The high-spirited youth no sooner received this charge,
than he quitted the ship and steered to the southward, keeping inside the
tongue of land so often named.
Luff was then told to take command of the launch. With this heavy and
strongly-manned boat, he was ordered to proceed to the inlet, where he was
to give the signal to the barge, and whence he was to go to the assistance
of the latter, so soon as he was assured the Water-Witch could not again
escape by the secret passage.
The two cutters were intrusted to the command of the second-lieutenant,
with orders to pull into the broad passage between the end of the cape, or
the 'Hook,' and that long narrow island which stretches from the harbor of
New-York for more than forty leagues to the eastward, sheltering the whole
coast of Connecticut from the tempests of the ocean. Ludlow knew, though
ships of a heavy draught were obliged to pass close to the cape, in order
to gain the open sea, that a light brigantine, like the Water-Witch, could
find a sufficient depth of water for her purposes further north. The
cutters were, therefore, sent in that direction, with orders to cover as
much of the channel as possible, and to carry the smuggler should an
occasion offer. Finally, the yawl was to occupy the space between the two
channels, with orders to repeat signals, and to be vigilant in
While the different officers intrusted with these duties were receiving
their instructions, the ship, under the charge of Trysail, began to move
towards the cape. When off the point of the Hook, the two cutters and the
yawl 'cast off,' and took to their oars, and when fairly without the
buoys, the launch did the same, each boat taking its prescribed direction.
If the reader retains a distinct recollection of the scene described in
one of the earlier pages of this work, he will understand the grounds on
which Ludlow based his hopes of success. By sending the launch into the
inlet, he believed he should inclose the brigantine on every side; since
her escape through either of the ordinary channels would become
impossible, while he kept the Coquette in the offing. The service he
expected from the three boats sent to the northward, was to trace the
movement of the smuggler, and, should a suitable opportunity offer, to
attempt to carry him by surprise.
When the launch parted from the ship, the Coquette came slowly up to the
wind, and with her fore-top-sail thrown to the mast, she lay, waiting to
allow her boats the time necessary to reach their several stations. The
different expeditions had reduced the force of the crew quite one-half,
and as both the lieutenants were otherwise employed, there now remained on
board no officer of a rank between those of the captain and Trysail. Some
time after the vessel had been stationary, and the men had been ordered to
keep close, or, in other words, to dispose of their persons as they
pleased, with a view to permit them to catch 'cat's naps,' as some
compensation for the loss of their regular sleep, the latter approached
his superior, who stood gazing over the hammock-cloths in the direction of
the Cove, and spoke.
"A dark night, smooth water, and fresh hands make boating agreeable duty!"
he said. "The gentlemen are in fine heart, and full of young men's hopes;
but he who lays that brigantine aboard, will, in my poor judgment, have
more work to do than merely getting up her side. I was in the foremost
boat that boarded a Spaniard in the Mona, last war; and though we went
into her with light heels, some of us were brought out with broken
heads.--I think the fore-top-gallant-mast has a better set, Captain
Ludlow, since we gave the last pull at the rigging?"
"It stands well;" returned his half-attentive commander. "Give it the
other drag, if you think best."
"Just as you please, Sir; 'tis all one to me. I care not if the mast is
hove all of one side, like the hat on the head of a country buck; but when
a thing is as it ought to be, reason would tell us to let it alone. Mr.
Luff was of opinion, that by altering the slings of the main-yard, we
should give a better set to the top-sail sheets; but it was little that
could be done with the stick aloft, and I am ready to pay Her Majesty the
difference between the wear of the sheets as they stand now, and as Mr.
Luff would have them, out of my own pocket, though it is often as empty as
a parish church in which a fox-hunting parson preaches. I was present,
once, when a real tally-ho was reading the service, and one of your
godless squires got in the wake of a fox, with his hounds, within hail of
the church-windows! The cries had some such effect on my roarer, as a puff
of wind would have on this ship; that is to say, he sprung his luff, and
though he kept on muttering something I never knew what, his eyes were in
the fields the whole time the pack was in view. But this wasn't the worst
of it; for when he got fairly back to his work again, the wind had been
blowing the leaves of his book about, and he plumped us into the middle of
the marriage ceremony. I am no great lawyer, but there were those who said
it was a god-send that half the young men in the parish weren't married
to their own grandmothers!"
"I hope the match was agreeable to the family," said Ludlow, relieving one
elbow by resting the weight of his head on the other.
"Why, as to that, I will not take upon me to say since the clerk corrected
the parson's reckoning before the mischief was entirely done. There has
been a little dispute between me and the first-lieutenant, Captain Ludlow,
concerning the trim of the ship. He maintains that we have got too much in
forward of what he calls the centre of gravity; and he is of opinion that
had we been less by the head, the smuggler would never have had the heels
of us, in the chase; whereas I invite any man to lay a craft on her
"Show our light!" interrupted Ludlow. "Yonder goes the signal of the
Trysail ceased speaking, and, stepping on a gun, he also began to gaze in
the direction of the Cove. A lantern, or some other bright object, was
leisurely raised three times, and as often hid from view. The signal came
from under the land, and in a quarter that left no doubt of its object.
"So far, well;" cried the Captain, quitting his stand, and turning, for
the first time, with consciousness, to his officer. "'Tis a sign that they
are at the inlet, and that the offing is clear. I think, Master Trysail,
we are now sure of our prize. Sweep the horizon thoroughly with the
night-glass, and then we will close upon this boasted brigantine."
Both took glasses, and devoted several minutes to this duty. A careful
examination of the margin of the sea, from the coast of New-Jersey to that
of Long-Island, gave them reason to believe that nothing of any size was
lying without the cape. The sky was more free from clouds to the eastward
than under the land and it was not difficult to make certain of this
important fact. It gave them the assurance that the Water-Witch had not
escaped by the secret passage, during the time lost in their own
"This is still well;" continued Ludlow. "Now he cannot avoid us--show the
Three lights, disposed in the form just named were then hoisted at the
gaff-end of the Coquette. It was an order for the boats in the Cove to
proceed. The signal was quickly answered from the launch, and then a small
rocket was seen sailing over the trees and shrubbery of the shore. All on
board the Coquette listened intently, to catch some sound that should
denote the tumult of an assault. Once Ludlow and Trysail thought the
cheers of seamen came on the thick air of the night; and once, again,
either fancy or their senses told them they heard the menacing hail which
commanded the outlaws to submit. Many minutes of intense anxiety
succeeded. The whole of the hammock-cloths on the side of the ship nearest
to the land were lined with curious faces, though respect left Ludlow to
the sole occupation of the short and light deck which covered the
accommodations; whither he had ascended, to command a more perfect view of
"'Tis time to hear their musketry, or to see the signal of success!" said
the young man to himself, so intently occupied by his interest in the
undertaking, as to be unconscious of having spoken.
"Have you forgotten to provide a signal for failure?" said one at his
"Ha! Master Seadrift;--I would have spared you this spectacle."
"'Tis one too often witnessed, to be singular. A life passed on the ocean
has not left me ignorant of the effect of night, with a view seaward, a
dark coast, and a back-ground of mountain!"
"You have confidence in him left in charge of your brigantine! I shall
have faith in your sea-green lady, myself, if he escape my boats, this
"See!--there is a token of her fortune;" returned the other, pointing
towards three lanterns that were shown at the inlet's mouth, and over
which many lights were burnt in rapid succession.
"'Tis of failure! Let the ship fall-of, and square away the yards! Round
in, men, round in. We will run down to the entrance of the bay, Mr.
Trysail. The knaves have been aided by their lucky star!"
Ludlow spoke with deep vexation in his tones, but always with the
authority of a superior and the promptitude of a seaman. The motionless
being, near him, maintained a profound silence. No exclamation of triumph
escaped him, nor did he open his lips either in pleasure or in surprise.
It appeared as if confidence in his vessel rendered him as much superior
to exultation as to apprehension.
"You look upon this exploit of your brigantine, Master Seadrift, as a
thing of course;" Ludlow observed, when his own ship was steering towards
the extremity of the cape, again. "Fortune has not deserted you, yet; but
with the land on three sides, and this ship and her boats on the fourth, I
do not despair yet of prevailing over your bronzed goddess!"
"Our mistress never sleeps;" returned the dealer in contraband, drawing a
long breath, like one who had struggled long to repress his interest.
"Terms are still in your power. I shall not conceal that the Commissioners
of Her Majesty's customs set so high a price on the possession of the
Water-Witch, as to embolden me to assume a responsibility from which I
might, on any other occasion, shrink. Deliver the vessel, and I pledge you
the honor of an officer that the crew shall land without question.--Leave
her to us, with empty decks and a swept hold, if you will,--but, leave the
swift boat in our hands."
"The lady of the brigantine thinks otherwise. She wears her mantle of the
deep waters, and, trust me, spite of all your nets, she will lead her
followers beyond the offices of the lead, and far from soundings;--ay!
spite of all the navy of Queen Anne!"
"I hope that others may not repent this obstinacy! But this is no time to
bandy words; the duty of the ship requires my presence."
Seadrift took the hint, and reluctantly retired to the cabin. As he left
the poop, the moon rose above the line of water in the eastern board, and
shed its light along the whole horizon. The crew of the Coquette were now
enabled to see, with sufficient distinctness, from the sands of the Hook
to the distance of many leagues to seaward. There no longer remained a
doubt that the brigantine was still within the bay. Encouraged by this
certainty, Ludlow endeavored to forget all motives of personal feeling, in
the discharge of a duty that was getting to be more and more interesting,
as the prospect of its successful accomplishment grew brighter.
It was not long before the Coquette reached the channel which forms the
available mouth of the estuary. Here the ship was again brought to the
wind, and men were sent upon the yards and all her more lofty spars, in
order to overlook, by the dim and deceitful light, as much of the inner
water as the eye could reach; while Ludlow, assisted by the master, was
engaged in the same employment on the deck. Two or three midshipmen were
included, among the common herd, aloft.
"There is nothing visible within," said the captain after a long and
anxious search, with a glass. "The shadow of the Jersey mountains prevents
the sight in that direction, while the spars of a frigate might be
confounded with the trees of Staten Island, here, in the northern
The shrill voice of a midshipman answered to the hail.
"What do you make within the Hook, Sir?"
"Nothing visible. Our barge is pulling along the land, and the launch
appears to be lying off the inlet; ay--here is the yawl, resting on its
oars without the Romar; but we can find nothing which looks like the
cutter, in the range of Coney."
"Take another sweep of the glass more westward, and look well into the
mouth of the Raritan,--mark you any thing in that quarter?"
"Ha!--here is a speck on our lee quarter!"
"What do you make of it?"
"Unless sight deceives me greatly, Sir, there is a light boat pulling in
for the ship, about three cables' length distant"
Ludlow raised his own glass, and swept the water in the direction named.
After one or two unsuccessful trials, his eye caught the object; and as
the moon had now some power, he was at no loss to distinguish its
character. There was evidently a boat, and one that, by its movements, had
a design of holding communication with the cruiser.
The eye of a seaman is acute on his element, and his mind is quick in
forming opinions on all things that properly appertain to his profession.
Ludlow saw instantly, by the construction, that the boat was not one of
those sent from the ship; that it approached in a direction which enabled
it to avoid the Coquette, by keeping in a part of the bay where the water
was not sufficiently deep to admit of her passage; and that its movements
were so guarded as to denote great caution, while there was an evident
wish to draw as near to the cruiser as prudence might render advisable.
Taking a trumpet, he hailed in the well-known and customary manner.
The answer came up faintly against the air, but it was uttered with much
practice in the implement, and with an exceeding compass of voice.
"Ay, ay!" and, "a parley from the brigantine!" were the only words that
were distinctly audible.
For a minute or two, the young man paced the deck in silence. Then he
suddenly commanded the only boat which the cruiser now possessed, to be
lowered and manned.
"Throw an ensign into the stern-sheets," he said when these orders were
executed; "and let there be arms beneath it. We will keep faith while
faith is observed, but there are reasons for caution in this interview."
Trysail was directed to keep the ship stationary, and after giving to his
subordinate private instructions of importance in the event of treachery,
Ludlow went into the boat in person. A very few minutes sufficed to bring
the jolly-boat and the stranger so near each other, that the means of
communication were both easy and sure. The men of the former were then
commanded to cease rowing, and, raising his glass, the commander of the
cruiser took a more certain and minute survey of those who awaited his
coming. The strange boat was dancing on the waves, like a light shell that
floated so buoyantly as scarce to touch the element which sustained it,
while four athletic seamen leaned on the oars which lay ready to urge it
ahead. In the stern-sheets stood a form, whose attitude and mien could not
readily be mistaken. In the admirable steadiness of the figure, the folded
arms, the fine and manly proportions, and the attire, Ludlow recognized
the mariner of the India-shawl. A wave of the hand induced him to venture
"What is asked of the royal cruiser?" demanded the captain of the vessel
named, when the two boats were as near each other as seemed expedient.
"Confidence!" was the calm reply.--"Come nearer Captain Ludlow; I am here
with naked hands! Our conference need not be maintained with trumpets."
Ashamed that a boat belonging to a ship of war should betray doubts, the
people of the yawl were ordered to go within reach of the oars.
"Well, Sir, you have your wish. I have quitted my ship, and come to the
parley, with the smallest of my boats."
"It is unnecessary to say what has been done with the others!" returned
Tiller, across the firm muscles of whose face there passed a smile that
was scarcely perceptible. "You hunt us hard, Sir, and give but little rest
to the brigantine. But again are you foiled!"
"We have a harbinger of better fortune, in a lucky blow that has been
"You are understood, Sir; Master Seadrift has fallen into the hands of the
Queen's servants--but take good heed! if injury, in word or deed, befall
that youth, there live those who well know how to resent the wrong!"
"These are lofty expressions, to come from a proscribed man; but we will
overlook them, in the motive. Your brigantine, Master Tiller, lost its
master spirit in the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' and it may be wise to listen
to the suggestions of moderation. If you are disposed to treat, I am here
with no disposition to extort."
"We meet in a suitable spirit, then; for I come prepared to offer terms of
ransom, that Queen Anne, if she love her revenue, need not despise;--but,
as in duty to Her Majesty, I will first listen to her royal pleasure."
"First, then, as a seaman, and one who is not ignorant of what a vessel
can perform, let me direct your attention to the situation of the parties.
I am certain that the Water-Witch, though for the moment concealed by the
shadows of the hills, or favored perhaps by distance and the feebleness
of this light, is in the waters of the bay. A force, against which she has
no power of resistance, watches the inlet; you see the cruiser in
readiness to meet her off the Hook. My boats are so stationed as to
preclude the possibility of escape, without sufficient notice, by the
northern channel; and, in short, the outlets are all closed to your
passage. With the morning light, we shall know your position, and act
"No chart can show the dangers of rocks and shoals more clearly!--and to
avoid these dangers----?"
"Yield the brigantine, and depart. Though outlawed, we shall content
ourselves with the possession of the remarkable vessel in which you do
your mischief, and hope that, deprived of the means to err, you will
return to better courses."
"With the prayers of the church for our amendment! Now listen, Captain
Ludlow, to what I offer. You have the person of one much loved by all who
follow the lady of the sea-green mantle, in your power; and we have a
brigantine that does much injury to Queen Anne's supremacy in the waters
of this hemisphere;--yield you the captive, and we promise to quit this
coast, never to return."
"This were a worthy treaty, truly, for one whose habitation is not a
mad-house! Relinquish my right over the principal doer of the evil, and
receive the unsupported pledge of a subordinate's word! Your happy
fortune, Master Tiller, has troubled your reason. What I offer, was
offered because I would not drive an unfortunate and remarkable man, like
him we have, to extremities, and--there may be other motives, but do not
mistake my lenity. Should force become necessary to put your vessel into
our hands, the law may view your offences with a still harsher eye. Deeds
which the lenity of our system now considers as venial, may easily turn to
"I ought not to take your distrust, as other than excusable," returned
the smuggler, evidently suppressing a feeling of haughty and wounded
pride. "The word of a free-trader should have little weight in the ears of
a queen's officer. We have been trained in different schools, and the same
objects are seen in different colors. Your proposal has been heard, and,
with some thanks for its fair intentions, it is refused without a hope of
acceptation. Our brigantine is, as you rightly think, a remarkable vessel!
Her equal, Sir, for beauty or speed, floats not the ocean. By heaven! I
would sooner slight the smiles of the fairest woman that walks the earth,
than entertain a thought which should betray the interest I feel in that
jewel of naval skill! You have seen her, at many times, Captain Ludlow--in
squalls and calms; with her wings abroad, and her pinions shut; by day and
night; near and far; fair and foul;--and I ask you, with a seaman's
frankness, is she not a toy to fill a seaman's heart?"
"I deny not the vessel's merits, nor her beauty--'tis a pity she bears no
"I knew you could not withhold this praise! But I grow childish when there
is question of that brigantine! Well Sir, each has been heard, and now
comes the conclusion. I part with the apple of my eye, ere a stick of that
lovely fabric is willingly deserted. Shall we make other ransom for the
youth?--What think you of a pledge in gold, to be forfeited should we
forget our word."
"You ask impossibilities. In treating thus at all, I quit the path of
proud authority, because, as has been said, there is that about the
'Skimmer of the Seas' that raises him above the coarse herd who in common
traffic against the law. The brigantine, or nothing!"
"My life, before that brigantine! Sir, you forget our fortunes are
protected by one who laughs at the efforts of your fleet; You think that
we are inclosed and that, when light shall return, there will remain
merely the easy task to place your iron-mounted cruiser on our beam, and
drive us to seek mercy. Here are honest mariners, who could tell you of
the hopelessness of the expedient. The Water-Witch has run the gauntlet of
all your navies, and shot has never yet defaced her beauty."
"And yet her limbs have been known to fall before a messenger from my
"The stick wanted the commission of our mistress," interrupted the other,
glancing his eye at the credulous and attentive crew of the boat. "In a
thoughtless moment, 'twas taken up at sea, and fashioned to our purpose
without counsel from the book. Nothing that touches our decks, under
fitting advice, comes to harm.--You look incredulous, and 'tis in
character to seem so. If you refuse to listen to the lady of the
brigantine, at least lend an ear to your own laws. Of what offence can you
charge Master Seadrift, that you hold him captive?"
"His redoubted name of 'Skimmer of the Seas' were warranty to force him
from a sanctuary," returned Ludlow, smiling. "Though proof should fail of
any immediate crime, there is impunity for the arrest, since the law
refuses to protect him."
"This is your boasted justice! Rogues in authority combine to condemn an
absent and a silent man. But if you think to do your violence with
impunity, know there are those who take deep interest in the welfare of
"This is foolish bandying of menaces," said the captain, warmly. "If you
accept my offers, speak; and if you reject them, abide the consequences."
"I abide the consequences. But since we cannot come to terms, as victor
and the submitting party, we may part in amity. Touch my hand, Captain
Ludlow, as one brave man should salute another, though the next minute