Part 4 out of 9
offered. Such was the state of things when, just as the lugger was
preparing to enter among the shoals, the Proserpine unexpectedly tacked
and seemed to bestow all her attention on the coasters, of which three
or four were so near that two fell into her hands almost without an
effort to escape.
It appeared to Raoul and those with him in his little craft that the
English seized these insignificant vessels solely with a wish for
vengeance, since it was not usual for ships of the force of the
Proserpine to turn aside to molest the poor fishermen and coasters. A
few execrations followed, quite as a matter of course, but the intricacy
of the channel and the necessity of having all his eyes about him soon
drove every other thought from the mind of the dashing privateersman but
such as were connected with the care and safety of his own vessel.
Just as the sun set le Feu-Follet anchored. She had chosen a berth
sufficiently within the shallow water to be safe from the guns of the
frigate, though scarcely within the river. The latter the depth of the
stream hardly permitted, though there was all the shelter that the
season and weather required. The Proserpine manifested no intention to
give up her pursuit; for she, too, came off the outlet and brought up
with one of her bowers about two miles to seaward of the lugger. She
seemed to have changed her mind as to the coasters, having let both
proceed after a short detention, though, it falling calm, neither was
enabled to get any material distance from her until the land-breeze
should rise. In these positions the belligerents prepared to pass the
night, each party taking the customary precautions as to his ground
tackle, and each clearing up the decks and going through the common
routine of duty as regularly as if he lay in a friendly port.
"The human mind, that lofty thing,
The palace and the throne,
Where reason sits, a sceptred king,
And breathes his judgment tone;
Oh! I who with silent step shall trace
The borders of that haunted place,
Nor in his weakness own,
That mystery and marvel bind
That lofty thing--the human mind!"
It is unnecessary to dwell on the glories of the Mediterranean. They are
familiar to every traveler, and books have again and again laid them
before the imaginations of readers of all countries and ages. Still,
there are lights and shades peculiar to every picture, and this of ours
has some of its own that merit a passing notice. A sunset, in midsummer,
can add to the graces of almost any scene. Such was the hour when Raoul
anchored; and Ghita, who had come on deck, now that the chase was over
and the danger was thought to be past, fancied she had never seen her
own Italy or the blue Mediterranean more lovely.
The shadows of the mountains were cast far upon the sea, long ere the
sun had actually gone down, throwing the witchery of eventide over the
whole of the eastern coast, some time before it came to grace its
western. Corsica and Sardinia resemble vast fragments of the Alps, which
have fallen into the sea by some accident of nature, where they stand
in sight of their native beds, resembling, as it might be, outposts to
those great walls of Europe. Their mountains have the same formations,
the same white peaks, for no small portion of the year at least, and
their sides the same mysterious and riven aspect. In addition, however,
to their other charms, they have one that is wanting in most of
Switzerland, though traces of it are to be found in Savoy and on the
southern side of the Alps; they have that strange admixture of the soft
and the severe, of the sublime and beautiful, that so peculiarly
characterize the witchery of Italian nature. Such was now the aspect of
all visible from the deck of le Feu-Follet. The sea, with its dark-blue
tint, was losing every trace of the western wind, and was becoming
glassy and tranquil; the mountains on the other side were solemn and
grand, just showing their ragged outlines along a sky glowing with "the
pomp that shuts the day"; while the nearer valleys and narrow plains
were mysterious, yet soft, under the deep shadows they cast. Pianosa lay
nearly opposite, distant some twenty miles, rising out of the water like
a beacon; Elba was visible to the northeast, a gloomy confused pile of
mountain at that hour; and Ghita once or twice thought she could trace
on the coast of the main the dim outline of her own hill, Monte
Argentaro; though the distance, some sixty or seventy miles, rendered
this improbable. Outside, too, lay the frigate, riding on the glassy
surface of the sea, her sails furled, her yards squared, everything
about her cared for and in its place, until she formed a faultless
picture of nautical symmetry and naval propriety. There are all sorts of
men in a marine, as well as in civil life; these taking things as they
come, content to perform their duties in the most quiet manner, while
others again have some such liking for their vessels as the dandy has
for his own person, and are never happy unless embellishing them. The
truth in this, as in most other matters, lies in a medium; the officer
who thinks too much of the appearance of his vessel, seldom having mind
enough to be stow due attention on the great objects for which she was
constructed and is sailed; while, on the other hand, he who is
altogether indifferent to these appearances is usually thinking of
things foreign to his duty and his profession; if, indeed, he thinks at
all. Cuffe was near the just medium, Inclining a little too much,
perhaps, to the naval dandy. The Proserpine, thanks to the builders of
Toulon, was thought to be the handsomest model then afloat in the
Mediterranean, and, like an established beauty, all who belonged to her
were fond of decorating her and of showing her fine proportions to
advantage. As she now lay at single anchor just out of gun-shot from his
own berth, Raoul could not avoid gazing at her with envy, and a bitter
feeling passed through his mind when he recalled the chances of fortune
and of birth, which deprived him of the hope of ever rising to the
command of such a frigate, but which doomed him, seemingly, to the fate
of a privateersman for life.
Nature had intended Raoul Yvard for a much higher destiny than that
which apparently awaited his career. He had come into active life with
none of the advantages that accompany the accidents of birth, and at a
moment in the history of his great nation when its morals and its
religious sentiments had become unsettled by the violent reaction which
was throwing off the abuses of centuries. They who imagine, however,
that France, as a whole, was guilty of the gross excesses that
disfigured her struggles for liberty know little of the great mass of
moral feeling that endured through all the abominations of the times,
and mistake the crimes of a few desperate leaders and the exaggerations
of misguided impulses for a radical and universal depravity. The France
of the Reign of Terror, even, has little more to answer for than the
compliance which makes bodies of men the instruments of the
enthusiastic, the designing, and the active--our own country often
tolerating error that differs only in the degree, under the same blind
submission to combinations and impulses; this very degree, to,
depending more on the accidents of history and natural causes than any
agencies which are to be imputed to the one party as a fault, or to the
other as a merit. It was with Raoul as it had been with his
country--each was the creature of circumstances; and if the man had some
of the faults, he had also most of the merits of his nation and his age.
The looseness on the subject of religion, which was his principal defect
in the eyes of Ghita, but which could scarcely fail to be a material one
with a girl educated and disposed as was the case with our heroine, was
the error of the day, and with Raoul it was at least sincere; a
circumstance that rendered him, with one so truly pious as the gentle
being he loved, the subject of a holy interest, which, in itself, almost
rivalled the natural tenderness of her sex, in behalf of the object of
While the short engagement with the boats lasted, and during the few
minutes he was under the fire of the frigate, Raoul had been himself;
the excitement of actual war always nerving him to deeds worthy of his
command and the high name he had acquired; but throughout the remainder
of the day he had felt little disposed to strife. The chase, once
assured that his spars were likely to stand, gave him little concern;
and now that he was at anchor within the shallow water, he felt much as
the traveler who has found a comfortable inn after the fatigue of a hard
day's ride. When Ithuel suggested the possibility of a night-attack in
boats, he laughingly reminded the American that "the burnt child dreads
the fire," and gave himself no great concern in the matter. Still no
proper precaution was neglected. Raoul was in the habit of exacting much
of his men in moments of necessity; but at all other times he was as
indulgent as a kind father among obedient and respectful children. This
quality and the never-varying constancy and coolness that he displayed
in danger was the secret of his great influence with them; every seaman
under his orders feeling certain that no severe duty was required at
his hands without a corresponding necessity for it.
On the present occasion, when the people of le Feu-Follet had supped,
they were indulged in their customary dance, and the romantic songs of
Provence were heard on the forecastle. A light-hearted gayety prevailed,
that wanted only the presence of woman to make the scene resemble the
evening amusement of some hamlet on the coast. Nor was the sex absent in
the sentiment of the hour or wholly so in person. The songs were full of
chivalrous gallantry, and Ghita listened, equally touched and amused.
She sat on the taffrail, with her uncle standing at her side, while
Raoul paced the quarter-deck, stopping, in his turn, to utter some
thought or wish, to ears that were always attentive. At length the song
and the dance ended, and all but the few who were ordered to remain on
watch descended to their hammocks. The change was as sudden as it was
striking. The solemn, breathing stillness of a star-lit night succeeded
to the light laugh, melodious song, and spirited merriment of a set of
men whose constitutional gayety seemed to be restrained by a species of
native refinement that is unknown to the mariners of other regions, and
who, unnurtured as they might be deemed, in some respects, seldom or
never offended against the proprieties, as is so common with the
mariners of the boasted Anglo-Saxon race. By this time the cool air from
the mountains began to descend, and, floating over the heated sea, it
formed a light land-breeze that blew in an exactly contrary direction to
that which, about the same hour, came off from the adjacent continent.
There was no moon, but the night could not be called dark. Myriads of
stars gleamed out from the fathomless firmament, filling the atmosphere
with a light that served to render objects sufficiently distinct, while
it left them clad in a semi-obscurity that suited the witchery of the
scene and the hour. Raoul felt the influence of all these circumstances
in an unusual degree. It disposed him to more sobriety of thought than
always attended his leisure moments, and he took a seat on the taffrail
near Ghita, while her uncle went below to his knees and his prayers.
Every footfall in the lugger had now ceased. Ithuel was posted on a
knight-head, where he sat watching his old enemy, the Proserpine; the
proximity of that ship not allowing him to sleep. Two experienced
seamen, who alone formed the regular anchor-watch, as it is termed, were
stationed apart, in order to prevent conversation; one on the starboard
cathead, and the other in the main rigging; both keeping vigilant ward
over the tranquil sea and the different objects that floated on its
placid bosom. In that retired spot these objects were necessarily few,
embracing the frigate, the lugger, and three coasters, the latter of
which had all been boarded before the night set in, by the Proserpine,
and after short detentions dismissed. One of these coasters lay about
half-way between the two hostile vessels, at anchor, having come-to,
after making some fruitless efforts to get to the northward, by means of
the expiring west wind. Although the light land-breeze would now have
sufficed to carry her a knot or two through the water, she preferred
maintaining her position and giving her people a good night's rest to
getting under way. The situation of this felucca and the circumstance
that she had been boarded by the frigate rendered her an object of some
distrust with Raoul through the early part of the evening, and he had
ordered a vigilant eye to be kept on her; but nothing had been
discovered to confirm these suspicions. The movements of her people--the
manner in which she brought-up--the quiet that prevailed on board her,
and even the lubberly disposition of her spars and rigging, went to
satisfy Raoul that she had no man-of-war's men on board her. Still, as
she lay less than a mile outside of the lugger though now dead to
leeward all that distance, she was to be watched; and one of the seamen,
he in the rigging, rarely had his eyes off her a minute at a time. The
second coaster was a little to the southward of the frigate, under her
canvas, hauling in for the land; doubtless with a view to get as much as
possible of the breeze from the mountains, and standing slowly to the
south. She had been set by compass an hour before, and all that time had
altered her bearings but half a point, though not a league off--a proof
how light she had the wind. The third coaster, a small felucca, too, was
to the northward; but ever since the land-breeze, if breeze it could be
called, had come she had been busy turning slowly up to windward, and
seemed disposed either to cross the shoals closer in than the spot where
the lugger lay or to enter the Golo. Her shadowy outline was visible,
though drawn against the land, moving slowly athwart the lugger's hawse,
perhaps half a mile in-shore of her. As there was a current setting out
of the river, and all the vessels rode with their heads to the island,
Ithuel occasionally turned his head to watch her progress, which was so
slow, however, as to produce very little change.
After looking around him several minutes in silence Raoul turned his
face upward, and gazed at the stars.
"You probably do not know, Ghita," he said, "the use those stars may be,
and are, to us mariners. By their aid, we are enabled to tell where we
are, in the midst of the broadest oceans--to know the points of the
compass, and to feel at home even when furthest removed from it. The
seaman must go far south of the equator, at least, ere he can reach a
spot where he does not see the same stars that he beheld from the door
of his father's house."
"That is a new thought to me," answered Ghita, quickly, her tender
nature at once struck with the feeling and poetry of such an idea; "that
is a new thought to me, Raoul, and I wonder you never mentioned it
before. It is a great thing to be able to carry home and familiar
objects with you when so distant from those you love."
"Did you never hear that lovers have chosen an hour and a star, by
gazing at which they might commune together, though separated by oceans
"That is a question you might put to yourself, Raoul; all I have ever
heard of lovers and love having come from your own lips."
"Well, then, I tell it you, and hope that we shall not part again
without selecting _our_ star and _our_ hour--if, indeed, we ever part
more. Though I have forgotten to tell you this, Ghita, it is because you
are never absent from my thoughts--no star is necessary to recall Monte
Argentaro and the Towers."
If we should say Ghita was not pleased with this, it would be to raise
her above an amiable and a natural weakness. Raoul's protestations never
fell dead on her heart, and few things were sweeter to her ear than his
words as they declared his devotedness and passion. The frankness with
which he admitted his delinquencies, and most especially the want of
that very religious sentiment which was of so much value in the eyes of
his mistress, gave an additional weight to his language when he affirmed
his love. Notwithstanding Ghita blushed as she now listened, she did not
smile; she rather appeared sad. For near a minute she made no reply; and
when she did answer, it was in a low voice, like one who felt and
"Those stars may well have a higher office," she said. "Look at them,
Raoul;--count them we cannot, for they seem to start out of the depths
of heaven, one after another, as the eye rests upon the space, until
they mock our efforts at calculation. We see they are there in
thousands, and may well believe they are in myriads. Now thou hast been
taught, else couldst thou never be a navigator, that those stars are
worlds like our own, or suns with worlds sailing around them; how is it
possible to see and know this without believing in a God and feeling the
insignificance of our being?"
"I do not deny that there is a power to govern all this, Ghita--but I
maintain that it is a principle; not a being, in our shape and form; and
that it is the reason of things, rather than a deity."
"Who has said that God is a being in our shape and form, Raoul? None
know that--- none _can_ know it; none _say_ it who reverence and worship
him as they ought!"
"Do not your priests say that man has been created in his image? and is
not this creating him in his form and likeness?"
"Nay, not so, dear Raoul, but in the image of his spirit--that man hath
a soul which partakes, though in a small degree, of the imperishable
essence of God; and thus far doth he exist in his image. More than this,
none have presumed to say. But what a being, to be the master of all
those bright worlds!"
"Ghita, thou know'st my way of thinking on these matters, and thou also
know'st that I would not wound thy gentle spirit by a single word that
could grieve thee."
"Nay, Raoul, it is _not_ thy way of _thinking_, but thy fashion of
_talking_, that makes the difference between us. No one who _thinks_ can
ever doubt the existence of a being superior to all of earth and of the
universe; and who is Creator and Master of all."
"Of a _principle_, if thou wilt, Ghita; but of a _being_, I ask for the
proof. That a mighty principle exists, to set all these planets in
motion--to create all these stars, and to plant all these suns in space,
I never doubted; it would be to question a fact which stands day and
night before my eyes; but to suppose a _being_ capable of producing all
these things is to believe in beings I never saw."
"And why not as well suppose that it is a being that does all this,
Raoul, as suppose it what you call a principle?"
"Because I see principles beyond my understanding at work all around me:
in yonder heavy frigate, groaning under her load of artillery, which
floats on this thin water; in the trees of the land that lies so near
us; in the animals, which are born and die; the fishes, the birds, and
the human beings. But I see no being--know no being, that is able to do
"That is because thou know'st not God! He is the creator of the
principles of which thou speak'st, and is greater than thy principles
"It is easy to say this, Ghita--but hard to prove. I take the acorn and
put it in the ground; in due time it comes up a plant; in the course of
years, it becomes a tree. Now, all this depends on a certain mysterious
principle, which is unknown to me, but which I am sure exists, for I can
cause it myself to produce its fruits, by merely opening the earth and
laying the seed in its bosom. Nay, I can do more--so well do I
understand this principle, to a certain extent at least, that, by
choosing the season and the soil, I can hasten or retard the growth of
the plant, and, in a manner, fashion the tree."
"True, Raoul, _to a certain extent_ thou canst; and it is precisely
because thou hast been created after the image of God. The little
resemblance thou enjoyest to that mighty Being enables thee to do this
much more than the beasts of the field: wert thou his equal, thou
couldst create that principle of which thou speakest, and which, in thy
blindness, thou mistakest for his master."
This was said with more feeling than Ghita had ever before manifested,
in their frequent discourses on this subject, and with a solemnity of
tone that startled her listener. Ghita had no philosophy, in the common
acceptation of the term, while Raoul fancied he had much, under the
limitations of a deficient education; and yet the strong religious
sentiment of the girl so quickened her faculties that he had often been
made to wonder why she had seemingly the best of the argument, on a
subject in which he flattered himself with being so strong.
"I rather think, Ghita, we scarcely understand each other," answered
Raoul. "I pretend not to see any more than is permitted to man; or,
rather, more than his powers can comprehend; but this proves nothing, as
the elephant understands more than the horse, and the horse more than
the fish. There is a principle which pervades everything which we call
Nature; and this it is which has produced these whirling worlds and all
the mysteries of creation. One of its laws is, that nothing it produces
shall comprehend its secrets."
"You have only to fancy your principle a spirit, a being with mind,
Raoul, to have the Christian's God. Why not believe in him as easily as
you believe in your unknown principle, as you call it? You know that you
exist--that you can build a lugger--can reason on the sun and stars, so
as to find your way across the widest ocean, by means of your mind; and
why not suppose that some superior being exists who can do even more
than this? Your principles can be thwarted even by yourself--the seed
can be deprived of its power to grow--the tree destroyed; and, if
principles can thus be destroyed, some accident may one day destroy
creation by destroying its principle. I fear to speak to you of
revelation, Raoul, for I know you mock it!"
"Not when it comes from _thy_ lips, dearest. I may not _believe_, but I
never _mock_ at what thou utterest and reverencest."
"I could thank thee for this, Raoul, but I feel it would be taking to
myself a homage that ought to be paid elsewhere. But here is my guitar,
and I am sorry to say that the hymn to the Virgin has not been sung on
board this lugger to-night; thou canst not think how sweet is a hymn
sung upon the waters. I heard the crew that is anchored toward the
frigate, singing that hymn, while thy men were at their light Provencal
songs in praise of woman's beauty, instead of joining in praise of
"Thou mean'st to sing thy hymn, Ghita, else the guitar would not have
"Raoul, I do. I have ever found thy soul the softest after holy music.
Who knows but the mercy of God may one day touch it through the notes of
this very hymn!"
Ghita paused a moment, and then her light fingers passed over the
strings of her guitar in a solemn symphony; after which came the sweet
strains of "Ave Maria," in a voice and melody that might, in sooth, have
touched a heart of stone. Ghita, a Neapolitan by birth, had all her
country's love for music; and she had caught some of the science that
seems to pervade nations in that part of the world. Nature had endowed
her with one of the most touching voices of her sex; one less powerful
than mellow and sweet; and she never used it in a religious office
without its becoming tremulous and eloquent with feeling. While she was
now singing this well-known hymn, a holy hope pervaded her moral system,
that, in some miraculous manner, she might become the agent of turning
Raoul to the love and worship of God; and the feeling communicated
itself to her execution. Never before had she sung so well; as a proof
of which Ithuel left his knight-head and came aft to listen, while the
two French mariners on watch temporarily forgot their duty, in entranced
"If anything could make me a believer, Ghita," murmured Raoul, when the
last strain had died on the lips of his beloved, "it would be to listen
to thy melody! What now, Monsieur Etooell! are you, too, a lover of
"This is rare singing, Captain Rule; but we have different business on
hand. If you will step to the other end of the lugger, you can take a
look at the craft that has been crawling along, in-shore of us, for the
last three hours--there is something about her that is unnat'ral; she
seems to be dropping down nearer to us, while she has no motion through
the water. The last circumstance I hold to be unnat'ral with a vessel
that has all sail set and in this breeze."
Raoul pressed the hand of Ghita, and whispered her to go below, as he
was fearful the air of the night might injure her. He then went forward,
where he could command as good a view of the felucca in-shore, as the
obscurity of the hour permitted; and he felt a little uneasiness, when
he found how near she had got to the lugger. When he last noted her
position, this vessel was quite half a mile distant, and appeared to be
crossing the bows of le Feu-Follet, with sufficient wind to have carried
her a mile ahead in the interval; yet could he not perceive that she had
advanced as far, in that direction, as she had drifted down upon the
lugger the while.
"Have you been examining her long?" he demanded of the New Hampshire
"Ever since she has seemed to stand still; which is now some twenty
minutes. She is dull, I suppose, for she has been several hours getting
along a league; and there is now air enough for such a craft to go three
knots to the hour. Her coming down upon us is easily accounted for,
there being a considerable current out of this river, as you may see by
the ripple at our own cut-water; but I find nothing to keep her from
going ahead at the same time. I set her by the light you see, here, in
the wake of the nearest mountain, at least a quarter of an hour since,
and she has not advanced five times her own length since."
"'Tis nothing but a Corsican coaster, after all, Etooell: I hardly think
the English would risk our canister again, for the pleasure of being
beaten off in another attempt to board!"
"They're a spiteful set, aboard the frigate; and the Lord only knows!
See, here is a good heavy night air, and that felucca is not a cable's
length from us; set her by the jib-stay, and judge for yourself how
slowly she goes ahead! _That_ it is which nonplusses _me!_"
Raoul did as the other desired, and after a short trial he found that
the coaster had no perceptible motion ahead, while it was certain she
was drifting down with the current directly athwart the lugger's hawse.
This satisfied him that she must have drags astern; a circumstance that
at once denoted a hostile intention. The enemy was probably on board
the felucca, in force; and it was incumbent on him to make immediate
preparations for defence.
Still, Raoul was reluctant to disturb his people. Like all firm and cool
men, he was averse to the parade of a false alarm; and it seemed so
improbable that the lesson of the morning was so soon forgotten, that he
could hardly persuade himself to believe his senses. Then the men had
been very hard at work throughout the day; and most of them were
sleeping the sleep of the weary. On the other hand, every minute brought
the coaster nearer, and increased the danger, should the enemy be really
in possession of her. Under all the circumstances, he determined, first,
to hail; knowing that his crew could be got up in a minute, and that
they slept with arms at their sides, under an apprehension that a boat
attack might possibly be attempted in the course of the night.
"Felucca, ahoy!" called out the captain of le Feu-Follet, the other
craft being too near to render any great effort of the voice necessary;
"what felucca is that? and why have you so great a drift?"
"La Bella Corsienne!" was the answer, in a patois, half French, half
Italian, as Raoul expected, if all were right. "We are bound into la
Padulella, and wish to keep in with the land to hold the breeze the
longer. We are no great sailer at the best, and have a drift, because we
are just now in the strength of the current.
"At this rate, you will come athwart my hawse. You know I am armed, and
cannot suffer that!"
"Ah, Signore, we are friends of the republic, and would not harm you if
we could. We hope you will not injure poor mariners like us. We will
keep away, if you please, and pass under your stern--"
This proposition was made so suddenly and so unexpectedly that Raoul had
not time to object; and had he been disposed to do so, the execution was
too prompt to allow him the means. The felucca fell broad off, and came
down almost in a direct line for the lugger's bows before the wind and
current, moving fast enough now to satisfy all Ithuel's scruples.
"Call all hands to repel boarders!" cried Raoul, springing aft to the
capstan and seizing his own arms--"Come up lively, _mes enfans!_--here
These words were hardly uttered before Raoul was back on the heel of the
bowsprit, and the most active of his men--some five or six at
most--began to show themselves on deck. In that brief space, the felucca
had got within eighty yards, when, to the surprise of all in the lugger,
she luffed into the wind again and drifted down, until it was apparent
that she was foul of the lugger's cable, her stern swinging round
directly on the latter's starboard bow. At that instant, or just as the
two vessels came in actual contact, and Raoul's men were thronging
around him to meet the expected attack, the sound of oars, pulled for
life or death, were heard, and flames burst upward from the open hatch
of the coaster. Then a boat was dimly seen gliding away in a line with
the hull, by the glowing light.
"Un brulot!--un brulot!--a fire-ship!" exclaimed twenty voices together,
the horror that mingled in the cries proclaiming the extent of a danger
which is, perhaps, the most terrific that seamen can encounter.
But the voice of Raoul Yvard was not among them. The moment his eye
caught the first glimpse of the flames he disappeared from the bowsprit.
He might have been absent about twenty seconds. Then he was seen on the
taffrail of the felucca, with a spare shank-painter, which had been
lying on the forecastle, on his shoulder.
"Antoine!--Francois!--Gregoire!"--he called out, in a voice of
thunder--"follow me!--the rest clear away the cable and bend a hawser to
the better end!"
The people of le Feu-Follet were trained to order and implicit
obedience. By this time, too, the lieutenants were among them; and the
men set about doing as they had been directed. Raoul himself passed into
the felucca, followed by the three men he had selected by name. The
adventurers had no difficulty, as yet, in escaping the flames, though by
this time they were pouring upward from the hatch in a torrent. As Raoul
suspected, his cable had been grappled; and, seizing the rope, he
tightened it to a severe strain, securing the in-board part. Then he
passed down to the cable himself, directing his companions to hand him
the rope-end of the shank-painter, which he fastened to the cable by a
jamming hitch. This took half a minute; in half a minute more he was on
the felucca's forecastle again. Here the chain was easily passed through
a hawse-hole, and a knot tied, with a marlinspike passed through its
centre. To pass the fire on the return was now a serious matter; but it
was done without injury, Raoul driving his companions before him. No
sooner did his foot reach the bows of le Feu-Follet again than
"Veer away!--pay out cable, men, if you would save our beautiful lugger
Nor was there a moment to spare. The lugger took the cable that was
given her fast enough under the pressure of the current and helped by
the breeze; but at first the fire-vessel, already a sheet of flame, her
decks having been saturated with tar, seemed disposed to accompany her.
To the delight of all in the lugger, however, the stern of the felucca
was presently seen to separate from their own bows; and a sheer having
been given to le Feu-Follet, by means of the helm, in a few seconds even
her bowsprit and jib had cleared the danger. The felucca rode
stationary, while the lugger dropped astern fathom after fathom until
she lay more than a hundred yards distant from the fiery mass. As a
matter of course, while the cable was paid out, the portion to which the
lanyard or rope part of the shank-painter was fastened dropped into the
water, while the felucca rode by the chain.
These events occupied less than five minutes; and all had been done
with a steadiness and promptitude that seemed more like instinct than
reason. Raoul's voice was not heard, except in the few orders mentioned;
and when, by the glaring light which illuminated all in the lugger and
the adjacent water to some distance, nearly to the brightness of
noonday, he saw Ghita gazing at the spectacle in awed admiration and
terror, he went to her, and spoke as if the whole were merely a
brilliant spectacle, devised for their amusement.
"Our girandola is second only to that of St. Peter," he said, smiling.
"'Twas a narrow escape, love; but, thanks to thy God, if thou wilt it
shall be so, we have received no harm."
"And you have been the agent of his goodness, Raoul; I have witnessed
all from this spot. The call to the men brought me on deck; and, oh! how
I trembled as I saw you on the flaming mass!"
"It has been cunningly planned on the part of Messieurs les Anglais; but
it has signally failed. That coaster has a cargo of tar and naval stores
on board; and, capturing her this evening, they have thought to
extinguish our lantern by the brighter and fiercer flame of their own.
But le Feu-Follet will shine again when their fire is dead!"
"Is there, then, no danger that the brulot will yet come down upon
us--she is fearfully near!"
"Not sufficiently so to do us harm; more especially as our sails are
damp with dew. Here she cannot come so long as our cable stands; and as
that is under water where she lies, it cannot burn. In half an hour
there will be little of her left, and we will enjoy the bonfire while
And, now the fear of danger was past, it was a sight truly to be
enjoyed. Every anxious and curious face in the lugger was to be seen,
under that brilliant light, turned toward the glowing mass as the
sunflower follows the great source of heat in his track athwart the
heavens; while the spars, sails, guns, and even the smallest object on
board the lugger started out of the obscurity of night into the
brightness of such an illumination, as if composing parts of some
brilliant scenic display. But so fierce a flame soon exhausted itself.
Ere long the felucca's masts fell, and with them a pyramid of fire. Then
the glowing deck tumbled in; and, finally, timber after timber and plank
after plank fell, until the conflagration, in a great measure,
extinguished itself in the water on which it floated. An hour after the
flames appeared little remained but the embers which were glowing in the
hold of the wreck.
"A justice of the peace, for the time being,
They bow to, but may turn him out next year;
They reverence their priest, but, disagreeing
In price or creed, dismiss him without fear;
They have a natural talent for foreseeing
And knowing all things;--and should Park appear
From his long tour in Africa, to show
The Niger's source, they'd meet him with--We know."
Raoul was not mistaken as to the manner in which they were obtained and
the means employed by his enemies. The frigate had found one of the
feluccas loaded with naval stores, including some ten or fifteen barrels
of tar; and it instantly struck Griffin, who was burning to revenge the
defeat of the morning, that the prize might be converted into a
fire-vessel. As the second lieutenant volunteered to carry her in,
always a desperate service, Cuffe gave his consent. Nothing could have
been better managed than the whole duty connected with this exploit,
including the manner in which our hero saved his vessel from
destruction. The frigate kept between her prize and the lugger, to
conceal the fact that a boat remained on board the former, and when all
was ready the felucca was apparently permitted to proceed on her voyage.
The other two prizes were allowed to go free also, as cloaks to the
whole affair. Griffin, as has been seen, kept standing in for the land;
his object being to get up stream from the lugger and as near her as
possible. When he found himself almost as far ahead as was desirable,
drags were used to keep the craft stationary, and in this manner she
drifted down on her intended victim, as has been already described. But
for the sagacity and uneasiness of Ithuel the plan would altogether have
escaped detection; and but for the coolness, courage, and resources of
Raoul, it would infallibly have succeeded, notwithstanding the
suspicions that had been excited.
Cuffe and the people on deck watched the whole affair with the deepest
interest. They were barely able to see the sails of the felucca by means
of a night-glass as she was dropping down on the lugger; and Yelverton
had just exclaimed that the two vessels were foul of each other, when
the flames broke out. As a matter of course, at that distance both craft
seemed on fire; and when le Feu-Follet had dropped a hundred yards
nearer to the frigate, leaving the felucca blazing, the two were so
exactly in a line as to bring them together as seen from the former's
decks. The English expected every moment to hear the explosion of the
lugger's magazine; but, as it did not happen, they came to the
conclusion it had been drowned. As for Griffin, he pulled in-shore, both
to avoid the fire of le Feu-Follet, in passing her broadside, and in the
hope of intercepting Raoul while endeavoring to escape in a boat. He
even went to a landing in the river quite a league from the anchorage,
and waited there until long past midnight, when, finding the night
beginning to cloud over and the obscurity to increase, he returned to
the frigate, giving the smouldering wreck a wide berth for fear of
Such, then, was the state of things when Captain Cuffe appeared on deck
just as the day began to dawn on the following morning. He had given
orders to be called at that hour, and was now all impatience to get a
view of the sea, more particularly in-shore. At length the curtain
began slowly to rise, and his view extended further and further toward
the river, until all was visible, even to the very land. Not a craft of
any sort was in sight. Even the wreck had disappeared, though this was
subsequently discovered in the surf, having drifted out with the current
until it struck an eddy, which carried it in again, when it was finally
stranded. No vestige of le Feu-Follet, however, was to be seen. Not even
a tent on the shore, a wandering boat, a drifting spar, or a rag of a
sail! All had disappeared, no doubt, in the conflagration. As Cuffe went
below he walked with a more erect mien than he had done since the affair
of the previous morning; and as he opened his writing-desk it was with
the manner of one entirely satisfied with himself and his own exertions.
Still, a generous regret mingled with his triumph. It was a great thing
to have destroyed the most pernicious privateer that sailed out of
France; and yet it was a melancholy fate to befall seventy or eighty
human beings--to perish like so many curling caterpillars, destroyed by
fire. Nevertheless, the thing was done; and it must be reported to the
authorities above him. The following letter was consequently written to
the commanding officer in that sea, viz.:
His Majesty's Ship Proserpine, off the mouth of the Golo,
Island of Corsica, July 23, 1799.
My Lord--I have the satisfaction of reporting, for the information of my
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the destruction of the Republican
privateer, the le Few-Folly, commanded by the notorious Raoul Yvard, on
the night of the 22d inst. The circumstances attending this important
success are as follows: Understanding that the celebrated picaroon had
been on the Neapolitan and Roman coasts, doing much mischief, I took his
Majesty's ship close in, following up the peninsula, with the land in
sight, until we got through the Canal of Elba, early on the morning of
the 21st. On opening Porto Ferrajo bay, we saw a lugger lying at anchor
off the town, with English colors flying. As this was a friendly port,
we could not suppose the craft to be the le Few-Folly; but, determined
to make sure, we beat in, signalling the stranger, until he took
advantage of our stretching well over to the eastward to slip round the
rocks and get off to windward. We followed for a short distance and then
ran over under the lee of Capraya, where we remained until the morning
of the 22d, when we again went off the town. We found the lugger in the
offing; and being now well satisfied of her character, and it falling
calm, I sent the boats after her, under Messrs. Winchester and Griffin,
the first and second of this ship. After a sharp skirmish, in which we
sustained some loss, though that of the Republicans was evidently much
greater, Monsieur Yvard succeeded in effecting his escape in consequence
of a breeze's suddenly springing up. Sail was now made on the ship, and
we chased the lugger into the mouth of the Golo. Having fortunately
captured a felucca with a quantity of tar and other combustible
materials on board, as we drew in with the land, I determined to make a
fire-ship of her, and to destroy the enemy by that mode; he having
anchored within the shoals, beyond the reach of shot. Mr. Winchester,
the first, having been wounded in the boat-affair, I intrusted the
execution of this duty to Mr. Griffin, who handsomely volunteered, and
by whom it was effectually discharged about ten last evening in the
coolest and most officer-like manner. I inclose this gentleman's report
of the affair and beg leave to recommend him to the favor of my Lords
Commissioners. With Mr. Winchester's good conduct under a sharp fire in
the morning the service has also every reason to be satisfied. I hope
this valuable officer will soon be able to return to duty.
Permit me to congratulate you, my lord, on the complete destruction of
this most pernicious cruiser of the enemy. So effectual has it been,
that not a spar or a fragment of wreck remains. We have reason to think
every soul on board perished; and though this fearful loss of human life
is to be deeply deplored, it has been made in the service of good
government and religion. The lugger was filled with loose women; our
people hearing them singing their philosophical and irreligious songs,
as they approached with the fire-vessel. I shall search the coast for
any rafts that may be drifting about, and then proceed to Leghorn for
I have the honor to be, my lord,
Your lordship's most obedient servant, RICHARD CUFFE.
To Rear Admiral the Right Hon. Lord Nelson, Duke of Bronte, &c., &c.,
Cuffe read this report over twice; then he sent for Griffin, to whom he
read it aloud, glancing his eye meaningly at his subordinate, when he
came to the part where he spoke of the young man's good conduct.
"So much for that d----d Jack-o'-Lantern, Griffin! I fancy it will lead
no one else on a wild-goose chase."
"I trust not, sir. Will you allow me to suggest a slight alteration in
the spelling of the lugger's name, Captain Cuffe; the clerk can make it
when he writes out the letter fairly."
"Aye--I dare say it is different from what _we_ would have it; French
spelling being no great matter in general. Put it as you please; though
Nelson has as great a contempt for their boasted philosophy and learning
as I have myself. I fancy you will find all the English spelt right. How
do _you_ write their confounded gibberish?"
"Feu-Follet, sir, pronouncing the last part of it fol-_lay_; not
fol-_ly_. I was thinking of asking leave, Captain Cuffe, to take one of
the cutters and pull up to the lugger's anchorage and see if anything
can be found of her wreck. The ship will hardly get under way until the
westerly wind comes."
"No; probably not. I will order my gig manned, and we'll go together.
Poor Winchester must keep house awhile; so there is no use in asking
him. I saw no necessity for putting Nelson into a passion by saying
anything about the exact amount of our loss in that boat
"I agree with you, sir, that it is best as it is. 'Some loss' covers
everything--it means 'more or less.'"
"That was just my notion. I dare say there may have been twenty women in
"I can't answer for the number, sir; but I heard female singing as we
got near in the fire-ship, and think it likely there may have been that
number. The lugger was full-manned; for they were like bees swarming on
her forecastle when we were dropping foul. I saw Raoul Yvard by the
light of the fire as plainly as I now see you, and might have picked him
off with a musket; but that would hardly have been honorable."
To this Cuffe assented, and then he led the way on deck, having
previously ordered the boats manned. The two officers proceeded to the
spot where they supposed the Feu-Follet had been anchored, and rowed
round for near an hour, endeavoring to find some traces of her wreck on
the bottom. Griffin suggested that, when the magazine was drowned, in
the hurry and confusion of the moment, the cock may have been left
open--a circumstance that might very well have carried down the bottom
of so small a vessel in two or three hours; more especially after her
hull had burnt to the water's edge. The next thing was to find this
bottom, by no means a hopeless task, as the waters of the Mediterranean
are usually so clear that the eye can penetrate several fathoms, even
off the mouth of the Golo--a stream that brought more or less debris
from the mountains. It is scarcely necessary to say that the search was
not rewarded with success, the Feu-Follet being, just at that time, snug
at anchor at Bastia, where her people had already taken out her wounded
mainmast, with a view to step a new one in its place. At that very
moment, Carlo Giuntotardi, his niece, and Raoul Yvard were walking up
the principal street of the town, the place standing on a hill, like
Porto Ferrajo, perfectly at their ease as regards fire-ships, English
frigates, and the dangers of the seas. But all this was a profound
mystery to Cuffe and his companions, who had long been in the habit of
putting the most favorable constructions on the results of their
professional undertakings, and certainly not altogether without reason;
and who nothing doubted that le Feu-Follet had, to use their own
language, "laid her bones somewhere along-shore here."
After two or three hours passed in fruitless search Cuffe determined to
return to his ship. He was a keen sportsman and had brought a
fowling-piece with him in his gig, with a half-formed design of landing
and whiling away the time, until the westerly wind came, among some
marshes that he saw near the shore, but had been persuaded by Griffin
not to venture.
"There must be woodcock in that wet ground, Griffin," he said, as he
reluctantly yielded a little in his intention; "and Winchester would
fancy a bird exceedingly in a day or two. I never was hit in my life
that I did not feel a desire for game after the fever was gone. Snipe,
too, must live on the banks of that stream. Snipe are coming in season
"It's more likely, sir, that some of the privateersmen have got ashore
on planks and empty casks, and are prowling about in the weeds, watching
our boats. Three or four of them would be too much for you, Captain
Cuffe, as the scoundrels all carry knives as long as ship's cutlasses."
"I suppose your notion may be true; and I shall have to give it up. Pull
back to the frigate, Davy, and we'll be off after some more of these
This settled the matter. In half an hour the boats were swinging at the
Proserpine's quarters; and three hours later the ship was under her
canvas, standing slowly off the land. That day, however, the zephyr was
exceedingly light, and the sun set just as the ship got the small island
of Pianosa abeam; when the air came from the northward, and the ship's
head was laid in to the eastward; the course lying between the land just
mentioned and that of Elba. All night the Proserpine was slowly fanning
her way along the south side of the latter island, when, getting the
southerly air again in the morning, she reappeared in the Canal of
Piombino as the day advanced, precisely as she had done before, when
first introduced to the acquaintance of the reader. Cuffe had given
orders to be called, as usual, when the light was about to return; it
being a practice with him, in that active and pregnant war, to be on
deck at such moments, in order to ascertain, with his own eyes, what the
fortunes of the night had brought within his reach.
"Well, Mr. Griffin," he said, as soon as he had received the salutation
of the officer of the watch, "you have had a still night of it. Yonder
is the Point of Piombino, I see; and here we have got Elba and this
little rocky island again on our larboard hand. One day is surprisingly
like another about these times, for us mariners in particular."
"Do you really think so, Captain Cuffe?--Now, to my notion, this day
hasn't had its equal on the Proserpine's log, since we got hold of
l'Epervier and her convoy. You forget, sir, that we destroyed le
Feu-Follet last night!"
"Aye--that is something--especially for _you_, Griffin. Well, Nelson
will hear of it by mail as soon as we can get into Leghorn, which will
be immediately after I have had an opportunity of communicating with
these people in Porto Ferrajo. After all that has passed, the least we
can do is to let your veechy-govern-the-tories know of our success."
"Sail, ho!" shouted the lookout, on the foretopsail-yard.
The two officers turned, and gazed round them in every direction, when
the captain made the customary demand of "Where-away?"
"Here, sir, close aboard of us, on our larboard hand, and on our
"On our weather quarter! D--n me if that _can_ be true, Griffin. There
is nothing but the island there. The fellow cannot have mistaken this
little island for the hull of a ship?"
"If he has, sir," answered Griffin, laughing, "it must be for a
twenty-decker. That is Ben Brown aloft, and he is as good a lookout as
we have in the ship."
"Do you see her, sir?" demanded Ben Brown, looking over his shoulder to
put the question.
"Not a bit of her," cried Cuffe. "You must be dreaming, fellow. What
does she look like?"
"There, this small island shuts her in from the deck, sir. She is a
lugger; and looks as much like the one we burnt last night, sir, as one
of our catheads is like t'other."
"A lugger!" exclaimed Cuffe. "What, another of the blackguards! By Jove!
I'll go aloft and take a look for myself. It's ten to one that I see her
from the maintop."
In three minutes more, Captain Cuffe was in the top in question; having
passed through the lubber-hole, as every sensible man does, in a
frigate, more especially when she stands up for want of wind. That was
an age in which promotion was rapid, there being few gray-bearded
lieutenants, then, in the English marine; and even admirals were not
wanting who had not cut all their wisdom-teeth. Cuffe, consequently, was
still a young man; and it cost him no great effort to get up his ship's
ratlins in the manner named. Once in the top, he had all his eyes about
him. For quite a minute he stood motionless, gazing in the direction
that had been pointed out by Ben Brown. All this time Griffin stood on
the quarter-deck, looking quite as intently at his superior as the
latter gazed at the strange sail. Then Cuffe deigned to cast a glance
literally beneath him, in order to appease the curiosity which, he well
understood, it was so natural for the officer of the watch to feel.
Griffin did not dare to ask his _captain_ what he saw; but he looked a
volume of questions on the interesting subject.
"A sister corsair, by Jupiter Ammon!" cried Cuffe; "a _twin_ sister,
too; for they _are_ as much alike as one cathead is like another. More
too, by Jove, if I am any judge."
"What will you have us do, Captain Cuffe?" inquired the lieutenant. "We
are now going to leeward, all the while, I don't know, sir, that there
is positively a current here, but--"
"Very well, sir--very well--haul up on the larboard tack, as soon as
possible, and get the larboard batteries clear. We may have to cripple
the chap in order to get hold of him."
As this was said, Cuffe descended through the same lubber-hole and soon
appeared on deck. The ship now became a scene of activity and bustle.
All hands were called, and the guns were cleared away by some, while
others braced the yards, according to the new line of sailing.
The reader would be greatly aided, in understanding what is to follow,
could he, perchance, cast a look at a map of the coast of Italy. He will
there see that the eastern side of the Island of Elba runs in a nearly
north and south direction, Piombino lying off about north-northeast from
its northern extremity. Near this northern extremity lies the little
rocky islet so often mentioned, or the spot which Napoleon, fifteen
years later, selected as the advanced redoubt of his insular empire. Of
course the Proserpine was on one side of this islet and the strange
lugger on the other. The first had got so far through the Canal as to be
able to haul close upon the wind, on the larboard tack, and yet to clear
the islet; while the last was just far enough to windward, or
sufficiently to the southward, to be shut out from view from the
frigate's decks by the intervening rocks. As the distance from the islet
to the island did not much exceed a hundred or two yards, Captain Cuffe
hoped to inclose his chase between himself and the land, never dreaming
that the stranger would think of standing through so narrow and rocky a
pass. He did not know his man, however, who was Raoul Yvard; and who had
come this way from Bastia, in the hope of escaping any further collision
with his formidable foe. He had seen the frigate's lofty sails above the
rock as soon as it was light; and, being under no hallucination on the
subject of _her_ existence, he knew her at a glance. His first order was
to haul everything as flat as possible; and his great desire was to get
from under the lee of the mountains of Elba into this very pass, through
which the wind drew with more force than it blew anywhere near by.
As the Proserpine was quite a league off in the Canal, le Feu-Follet,
which sailed so much the fastest in light winds, had abundance of time
to effect her object. Instead of avoiding the narrow pass between the
two islands, Raoul glided boldly into it; and by keeping vigilant eyes
on his fore-yard, to apprise him of danger, he succeeded in making two
stretches in the strait itself, coming out to the southward on the
starboard tack, handsomely clearing the end of the islet at the very
instant the frigate appeared on the other side of the pass. The lugger
had now an easy task of it; for she had only to watch her enemy, and
tack in season, to keep the islet between them, since the English did
not dare to carry so large a ship through so narrow an opening. This
advantage Raoul did not overlook, and Cuffe had gone about twice,
closing each time nearer and nearer to the islet, before he was
satisfied that his guns would be of no service until he could at least
weather the intervening object, after which they would most probably be
useless in so light a wind by the distance between them and their enemy.
"Never mind, Mr. Griffin; let this scamp go," said the captain, when he
made this material discovery; "it is pretty well to have cleared the
seas of one of them. Besides, we do not know that this _is_ an enemy at
all. He showed no colors, and seems to have just come out of Porto
Ferrajo, a friendly haven."
"Raoul Yvard did _that_, sir, not once, but twice," muttered Yelverton,
who, from the circumstance that he had not been employed in the
different attempts on le Feu-Follet, was one of the very few
dissentients in the ship touching her fate, "These twins _are_
exceedingly alike; especially _Pomp_, as the American negro said of his
This remark passed unheeded; for so deep was the delusion, in the ship,
touching the destruction of the privateer, it would have been as
hopeless an attempt to try to persuade her officers, and people
generally, that le Feu-Follet was not burned, as it would be to induce a
"great nation" to believe that it had any of the weaknesses and foibles
that confessedly beset smaller communities. The Proserpine was put about
again, and, setting her ensign, she stood into the bay of Porto Ferrajo,
anchoring quite near the place that Raoul had selected for the same
purpose on two previous occasions. The gig was lowered, and Cuffe,
accompanied by Griffin as an interpreter, landed to pay the usual visit
of ceremony to the authorities.
The wind being so light, several hours were necessary to effect all
these changes; and by the time the two officers were ascending the
terraced street the day had advanced sufficiently to render the visit
suitable as to time. Cuffe appearing in full uniform, with epaulettes
and sword, his approach attracted notice; and Vito Viti hurried off to
apprise his friend of the honor he was about to receive. The
vice-governatore was not taken by surprise, therefore, but had some
little time to prepare his excuses for being the dupe of a fraud as
impudent as that which Raoul Yvard had so successfully practised on him.
The reception was dignified, though courteous; and it had none the less
of ceremony, from the circumstance that all which was said by the
respective colloquists had to be translated before it could be
understood. This circumstance rendered the few first minutes of the
interview a little constrained; but each party having something on his
mind, of which it was his desire to be relieved, natural feeling soon
got the better of forms.
"I ought to explain to you, Sir Cuffe, the manner in which a recent
event occurred in our bay here," observed the vice-governatore; "since,
without such explanation, you might be apt to consider us neglectful of
our duties, and unworthy of the trust which the Grand Duke reposes in
us. I allude, as you will at once understand, to the circumstance that
le Feu-Follet has twice been lying peaceably under the guns of our
batteries, while her commander, and, indeed, some of her crew, have been
hospitably entertained on shore."
"Such things must occur in times like these, Mr. Veechy-Governatory; and
we seamen set them down to the luck of war," Cuffe answered graciously,
being much too magnanimous, under his own success, to think of judging
others too harshly. "It might not be so easy to deceive a
man-of-war's-man like myself; but I dare say, Veechy-Governatory, had it
been anything relating to the administration of your little island here,
even Monsieur Yvard would have found you too much for him!"
The reader will perceive that Cuffe had got a new way of pronouncing the
appellation of the Elban functionary; a circumstance that was owing to
the desire we all have, when addressing foreigners, to speak in their
own language rather than in our own. The worthy captain had no more
precise ideas of what a _vice_-governor means than the American people
just now seem to possess of the signification of _vice_-president; but,
as he had discovered that the word was pronounced "veechy" in Italian,
he was quite willing to give it its true sound; albeit a smile struggled
round the mouth of Griffin while he listened.
"You do me no more than justice, Signor Kooffe, or Sir Kooffe, as I
presume I ought to address you," answered the functionary; "for, in
matters touching our duties on shore here, we are by no means as
ignorant as on matters touching your honorable calling. This Raoul
Yvard presented himself to me in the character of a British officer, one
I esteem and respect; having audaciously assumed the name of a family of
high condition and of great power, I believe, among your people--"
"Ah--the barone!" exclaimed Cuffe, who, having discovered by his
intercourse with the southern Italians that this word meant a "rascal"
as well as a "baron," was fond of using it on suitable occasions. "Pray,
Veechy-Governatory, what name did he assume? Ca'endish, or Howard, or
Seymour, or some of those great nobs, Griffin, I'll engage! I wonder
that he spared Nelson!"
"No, Signore, he took the family appellation of another illustrious
race. The republican corsair presented himself before me as a Sir
Smees--the son of a certain Milordo Smees."
"Smees--Smees--Smees!--I've no recollection of any such name in the
peerage. It can't be Seymour that the Veechy means!--_That_ is a great
name, certainly; and some of them have been in the service; it is
possible this barone may have had the impudence to hail for a Seymour!"
"I rather think not, Captain Cuffe. 'Smees' is very much as an Italian
would pronounce 'Smith,' as, you know, the French call it 'Smeet.' It
will turn out that this Mr. Raoul has seized upon the first English name
he fell in with, as a man overboard clutches at a spar adrift or a
life-buoy; and that happened to be 'Smith.'"
"Who the devil ever heard of a my lord Smith! A pretty sort of
aristocracy we should have, Griffin, if it were made up of
"Why, sir, the _name_ can make no great difference; the deeds and the
antiquity forming the essentials."
"And he assumed a title, too--_Sir_ Smees!--I dare say he was ready to
swear His Majesty made him a Knight Banneret, under the royal ensign and
on the deck of his own ship, as was done with some of the old admirals.
The veechy, however, has forgotten a part of the story, as it must have
been sir _John_, or Sir _Thomas_ Smees, at least."
"No, sir; that is the way with the French and the Italians, who do not
understand our manner of using Christian names with titles, as in our
Sir Edwards and Lord Harries and Lady Betties."
"Blast the French! I can believe anything of _them,_ though I should
have thought that these _Italians_ knew better. However, it may be well
to give the veechy a hint of what we have been saying, or it may seem
rude--and, hark'ye, Griffin, while you _are_ about it, rub him down a
little touching books and that sort of thing; for the surgeon tells me
he has heard of him in Leghorn as a regular leaf-cutter."
The lieutenant did as ordered, throwing in an allusion to Andrea's
reputation for learning, that, under the circumstances, was not
ill-timed, and which, as it was well enough expressed, was exceedingly
grateful to his listener just at that awkward moment.
"My claims to literature are but small, Signore," answered Andrea, with
humility, "as I beg you will inform Sir Kooffe; but they were sufficient
to detect certain assumptions of this corsair; a circumstance that came
very near bringing about an exposure at a most critical moment. He had
the audacity, Signore, to wish to persuade _me_ that there was a certain
English orator of the same name and of equal merit of him of Roma and
Pompeii--one Sir Cicero!"
"The barone!" again exclaimed Cuffe, when this new offence of Raoul's
was explained to him. "I believe the rascal was up to anything. But
there is an end of him now, with all his Sir Smees and Sir Ciceros into
the bargain. Just let the veechy into the secret of the fellow's
Griffin then related to the vice-governatore the manner in which it was
supposed that le Feu-Follet, Raoul Yvard, and all his associates had
been consumed like caterpillars on a tree. Andrea Barrofaldi listened,
with a proper degree of horror expressed in his countenance; but Vito
Viti heard the tale with signs of indifference and incredulity that he
did not care to conceal. Nevertheless, Griffin persevered, until he had
even given an account of the manner in which he and Cuffe examined the
lugger's anchorage, in the bootless attempt to discover the wreck.
To all this the two functionaries listened with profound attention and a
lively surprise. After looking at each other several times, and
exchanging significant gestures, Andrea assumed the office of
"There is some extraordinary mistake in this, Signor Tenente," he said;
"for Raoul Yvard still lives. He passed this promontory just as day
dawned, in his lugger, this very morning!"
"Aye, he has got that notion from having seen the fellow we fell in with
off the harbor here," answered Cuffe, when this speech was translated to
him; "and I don't wonder at it, for the two vessels were surprisingly
alike. But the barone that we saw burned with our own eyes, Griffin, can
never float again. I say barone; for, in my opinion, the Few-Folly was
just as much of a rascal as her commander and all who sailed in her."
Griffin explained this; but it met with no favor from the two Italians.
"Not so, Signor Tenente--not so," returned the vice-governatore; "the
lugger that passed this morning, we _know_ to be le Feu-Follet, inasmuch
as she took one of our own feluccas, in the course of the night, coming
from Livorno and Raoul Yvard permitted her to come in, as he said to her
padrone, on account of the civil treatment he had received while lying
in our port. Nay, he even carried his presumption so far as to send me,
by means of the same man, the compliments of 'Sir Smees,' and his hopes
of being able some day to make his acknowledgments in person."
The English Captain received this intelligence as might be expected; and
unpleasant as it was, after putting various questions to the
vice-governatore and receiving the answers, he was obliged, unwillingly
enough, to believe it all. He had brought his official report in his
pocket; and as the conversation proceeded, he covertly tore it into
fragments so small that even a Mahommedan would reject them as not large
enough to write the word "Allah" on.
"It's d--d lucky, Griffin, that letter didn't get to Leghorn this
morning," he said, after a long pause. "Nelson would have Bronted me
famously had he got it! Yet I never believed half as devoutly in the
twenty-nine articles as--"
"I believe there are _thirty_-nine of them, Captain Cuffe," modestly put
"Well, _thirty_-nine, if you will--what signifies ten, more or less, in
such matters? A man is ordered to believe them _all_, if there were a
hundred. But I never believed in _them_ as devoutly as I believed in the
destruction of that infernal picaroon. My faith is unsettled for life!"
Griffin offered a few words of condolence, but he was also too much
mortified to be very able to administer consolation. Andrea Barrofaldi,
understanding the state of the case, now interposed with his courtesies,
and the two officers were invited to share his bachelor's breakfast.
What followed, in consequence of this visit, and the communications to
which it gave rise, will appear in the course of the narrative.
"If ever you have looked on better days,
If ever been where bells have knolled to church;
If ever sat at any good man's feast!
If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear,
And know what 'tis to pity, and be pitied,
Let gentleness my strong enforcement be."
It is now necessary to advance the time, and to transfer the scene of
our tale to another, but not a distant, part of the same sea. Let the
reader fancy himself standing at the mouth of a large bay of some
sixteen or eighteen miles in diameter, in nearly every direction; though
the shores must be indented with advancing promontories and receding
curvatures, while the depth of the whole might possibly a little exceed
the greatest width. He will then occupy the spot of which we wish to
present to him one of the fairest panoramas of earth. On his right
stands a high, rocky island of dark tufa, rendered gay, amid all its
magnificent formations, by smiling vineyards and teeming villages, and
interesting by ruins that commemorate events as remote as the Caesars. A
narrow passage of the blue Mediterranean separates this island from a
bold cape on the main, whence follows a succession of picturesque,
village-clad heights and valleys, relieved by scenery equally bold and
soft, and adorned by the monkish habitations called in the language of
the country Camaldolis, until we reach a small city which stands on a
plain that rises above the water between one and two hundred feet, on a
base of tufa, and the houses of which extend to the very verge of the
dizzy cliffs that limit its extent on the north. The plain itself is
like a hive, with its dwellings and scenes of life, while the heights
behind it teem with cottages and the signs of human labor. Quitting this
smiling part of the coast, we reach a point, always following the
circuit of the bay, where the hills or heights tower into ragged
mountains, which stretch their pointed peaks upward to some six or seven
thousand feet toward the clouds, having sides now wild with precipices
and ravines, now picturesque with shooting-towers, hamlets, monasteries,
and bridle-paths; and bases dotted, or rather lined, with towns and
villages. Here the mountain formation quits the margin of the bay,
following the coast southward or running into the interior of the
country; and the shore, sweeping round to the north and west, offers a
glimpse into a background of broad plain ere it meets a high, insulated,
conical mountain, which properly forms the head of the coast
indentation. The human eye never beheld a more affluent scene of
houses, cities, villages, vineyards, and country residences than was
presented by the broad breast of this isolated mountain, passing which a
wider view is obtained of the rich plain that seems to lie behind it,
bounded as it is by a wall of a distant and mysterious-looking, yet bold
range of the Apennines. Returning to the shore, which now begins to
incline more westwardly, we come to another swell of tufa, which has all
the characteristic fertility and abruptness of that peculiar formation,
a vast and populous town of near half a million of souls being seated,
in nearly equal parts, on the limits of the plain and along the margin
of the water, or on the hill-sides, climbing to their summits. From this
point the northern side of the bay is a confused mass of villages,
villas, ruins, palaces, and vines, until we reach its extremity, a low
promontory, like its opposite neighbor. A small island comes next, a
sort of natural sentinel; then the coast sweeps northward into another
and a smaller bay, rich to satiety with relics of the past, terminating
at a point some miles further seaward, with a high, reddish, sandy
bluff, which almost claims to be a mountain. After this we see two more
islands lying westward, one of which is flat, fertile, and more
populous, as is said, than any other part of Europe of the same extent;
while the other is a glorious combination of pointed mountains, thronged
towns, fertile valleys, castles, country houses, and the wrecks of
long-dormant volcanoes, thrown together in a grand yet winning
confusion. If the reader will to this description add a shore that has
scarce a foot that is not interesting with some lore of the past,
extending from yesterday into the darkest recesses of history, give life
to the water-view with a fleet of little latine-rigged craft, rendered
more picturesque by an occasional ship, dot the bay with countless boats
of fishermen, and send up a wreath of smoke from the summit of the
cone-like mountain that forms the head of the bay, he will get an
outline of all that strikes the eye as the stranger approaches Naples
from the sea.
The zephyr was again blowing, and the daily fleet of sparanaras, or
undecked feluccas, that passes every morning at this season, from the
south shore to the capital, and returns at this hour, was stretching out
from under Vesuvius; some looking up as high as Massa; others heading
toward Sorrento or Vico or Persano, and many keeping more before the
wind, toward Castel-a-Mare, or the landings in that neighborhood. The
breeze was getting to be so fresh that the fishermen were beginning to
pull in toward the land, breaking up their lines, which in some places
had extended nearly a league, and this, too, with the boats lying within
speaking distance of each other. The head of the bay, indeed, was alive
with craft moving in different directions, while a large fleet of
English, Russians, Neapolitans, and Turks, composed of two-deckers,
frigates, and sloops, lay at their anchors in front of the town. On
board of one of the largest of the former was flying the flag of a
rear-admiral at the mizzen, the symbol of the commander's rank. A
corvette alone was under-way. She had left the anchorage an hour before,
and, with studding-sails on her starboard side, was stretching
diagonally across the glorious bay, apparently heading toward the
passage between Capri and the Point of Campanella, bound to Sicily. This
ship might easily have weathered the island; but her commander, an easy
sort of person, chose to make a fair wind of it from the start, and he
thought, by hugging the coast, he might possibly benefit by the
land-breeze during the night, trusting to the zephyr that was then
blowing to carry him across the Gulf of Salerno. A frigate, too, shot
out of the fleet, under her staysails, as soon as the westerly wind
made; but she had dropped an anchor under-foot, and seemed to wait some
preparation, or orders, before taking her departure; her captain being
at that moment on board the flag-ship, on duty with the rear-admiral.
This was the Proserpine thirty-six, Captain Cuffe, a vessel and an
officer that are already both acquaintances of the reader. About an hour
before the present scene opens, Captain Cuffe, in fact, had been called
on board the Foudroyant by signal, where he had found a small,
sallow-looking, slightly-built man, with his right arm wanting, pacing
the deck of the fore-cabin, impatient for his appearance.
"Well, Cuffe," said this uninviting-looking personage, twitching the
stump of the maimed arm, "I see you are out of the flock; are you all
ready for sailing?"
"We have one boat ashore after letters, my lord; as soon as she comes
off we shall lift our anchor, which is only under-foot."
"Very well--I have sent the Ringdove to the southward on the same
errand, and I see she is half a league from the anchorage on her way
already. This Mr. Griffin appears to be a fine young man--I like his
account of the way he handled his fire-ship; though the French scoundrel
did contrive to escape! After all, this Rowl E--E--how do you pronounce
the fellow's name, Cuffe? I never can make anything out of their
"Why, to own the truth, Sir Horatio--I beg pardon--my lord--there is
something in the English grain of my feelings that would prevent my ever
learning French, had I been born and brought up in Paris. There is too
much Saxon in me to swallow words that half the time have no meaning."
"I like you all the better for that, Cuffe," answered the admiral,
smiling, a change that converted a countenance that was almost ugly when
in a state of rest into one that was almost handsome--a peculiarity that
is by no means of rare occurrence, when a strong will gives expression
to the features, and the heart, at bottom, is really sound. "An
Englishman has no business with any Gallic tendencies. This young Mr.
Griffin seems to have spirit; and I look upon it always as a good sign
when a young man _volunteers_ for a desperate thing of this sort--but he
tells me he is only second; where was your first all the while?"
"Why, my lord, he got a little hurt in the brush of the morning; and I
would not let him go, as a matter of course. His name is Winchester; I
think you must remember him as junior of the Captain, at the affair off
St. Vincent. Miller had a good opinion of him; and when I went from
the Arrow to the Proserpine he got him sent as my second. The death of
poor Drury made him first in the natural way."
 Ralph Willet Miller, the officer who commanded the ship to which
Nelson shifted his pennant, at the battle of Cape St. Vincent. This
gentleman was an American, and a native Manhattanese; his near relatives
of the same name still residing in New York. It is believed that he got
the name of _Willet_ from the first English Mayor, a gentleman from whom
are descended many of the old families of the lower part of the state,
more particularly those on Long Island.
"I have some recollection of him, Cuffe. That was a brilliant day, and
all its events should be impressed on my mind. You tell me Mr. Griffin
fairly grappled the lugger's cable?"
"Of that there can be no manner of doubt. I saw the two vessels foul of
each other with my night-glass--and seemingly both were on fire--as
plainly as I ever saw Vesuvius in a dark night."
"And yet this Few-Folly has escaped! Poor Griffin has run a desperate
risk for little purpose."
"He has, indeed, my lord."
Here, Nelson, who had been pacing the cabin with quick steps, while
Cuffe stood, respectfully declining the gesture to be seated at the
table in its centre, suddenly stopped and looked the Captain steadily in
the face. The expression of his countenance was now mild and earnest,
and the pause which preceded his words gave the latter solemnity
"The day will come, Cuffe," he said, "when this young man will rejoice
that his design on these picaroons, Frenchmen as they are, failed. Yes,
from the bottom of his heart will he be glad."
"I know you think this strange, Captain Cuffe; but no man sleeps the
sounder for having burnt or blown up a hundred of his fellow-creatures
like so many widows at a suttee. But we are not the less to commend
those who did what was certainly their duty."
"Am I to understand, Lord Nelson, that the Proserpine is _not_ to
destroy the Few-Folly at every hazard, should we again have the luck to
fall in with her?"
"By no means, sir. Our orders are to burn, sink, and destroy. Such is
England's policy in this desperate war; and it must be carried out. You
know what we are contending for as well as I do; and it is a struggle
that is not to be carried on with courtesies; still, one would not wish
to see a glorious and sacred cause tarnished by inhumanity. Men that
fall in fair, manly combat are to be envied rather than pitied, since it
is only paying the great debt of nature a little sooner than might
otherwise have happened; but there is something revolting to humanity in
burning up our fellow-creatures as one would burn rags after the plague.
Nevertheless, this lugger must be had at any price; for English commerce
and English power are not to be cut up and braved in this audacious
manner with impunity. The career of these French tigers must be stopped
at every sacrifice, Captain Cuffe."
"I know that, my lord, and I like a republican as little as you can do,
or His Majesty himself, for that matter; and, I take it, _he_ has as
little relish for the animal as flesh and blood can give."
"I know you do, Cuffe--I'm _sure_ you do; and I esteem you all the more
for it. It is a part of an Englishman's religion, in times like these,
to hate a Frenchman. I went across the Channel after the peace of '83 to
learn their language, but had so little sympathy with them, even in
peaceable times, as never to be able to make out to write a letter in
it, or even to ask intelligibly for the necessaries of life."
"If you can ask for anything, it far surpasses my efforts; I never can
tell head from stern in their dialect."
"It is an infernal jargon, Cuffe, and has got to be so confused by their
academies, and false philosophy and infidelity, that they will shortly
be at a loss to understand it themselves. What sort of names they give
their ships, for instance, now they have beheaded their king and
denounced their God! Who ever heard of christening a craft, as you tell
me this lugger is named, the 'Few-Folly'? I believe I've got the
picaroon's title right?"
"Quite right--Griffin _pronounces_ it so, though he has got to be a
little queerish in his own English, by using so much French and Italian.
The young man's father was a consul; and he has half a dozen foreign
lingoes stowed away in his brain. He pronounces Folly something
broadish--like Fol-_lay_, I believe; but it means all the same thing.
Folly is folly, pronounce it as you will."
Nelson continued to pace his cabin, working the stump of his arm, and
smiling half-bitterly; half in a sort of irony that inclined him to be
in a good-humor with himself.
"Do you remember the ship, Cuffe, we had that sharp brush with off
Toulon, in old Agamemnon?" he said, after making a turn or two in
silence. "I mean the dismasted eighty-four that was in tow of the
frigate, and which we peppered until their Gallic soup had some taste to
it! Now, do you happen to know _her_ real name in good honest English?"
"I do not, my lord. I remember, they said she was called the Ca Ira; and
_I_ always supposed that it was the name of some old Greek or Roman--or,
perhaps, of one of their new-fangled republican saints."
"They!--D--n 'em, they've _got_ no saints to name, my good fellow, since
they cashiered all the old ones! There _is_ something respectable in the
names of a _Spanish_ fleet; and one feels that he is flogging gentlemen,
at least, while he is at work on them. No, sir, Ca Ira means neither
more nor less than 'That'll Do'; and I fancy, Cuffe, they thought of
their own name more than once while the old Greek was hanging on their
quarter, smashing their cabin windows for them! A pretty sound it would
have been had we got her and put her into our own service--His Majesty's
ship 'That'll Do,' 84, Captain Cuffe!"
"I certainly should have petitioned my Lords Commissioners to change her
"You would have done quite right. A man might as well sail in a
man-of-war called the 'Enough.' Then, there was the three-decker that
helped her out of the scrape, the Sans-Culottes, as the French call her;
I suppose you know what _that_ means?"
"Not I, my lord; to own the truth, I'm no scholar, and am entirely
without ambition in that way. 'Sans,' I suppose, is the French for
'saint'; but who 'Culottes' was, I've not the least notion."
Nelson smiled, and the turn the conversation had taken appeared to give
him secret satisfaction. If the truth were known, something lay heavily
on his mind; and, with one of his strong impulses, his feelings disposed
him to rush from one extreme to the other, as is often the case with men
who are controlled by such masters; more especially if their general
disposition is to the right.
"You're wrong this time, my dear Cuffe," he said; "for 'sans' means
'without' in French, and 'culottes' means 'breeches.' Think of naming a
three-decker the 'Without Breeches'! I do not see how any respectable
flag-officer can mention such names in his despatches without a feeling
of awkwardness that must come near to capsizing all his philosophy. The
line was formed by the Republic's ship, the 'That'll Do,' leading,
supported by the 'Without Breeches,' as her second astern!--Ha!
Cuffe--D--e, sir, if I'd serve in a marine that had such names to the
ships! It's a thousand times worse than all those saints the Spaniards
tack on to their vessels--like a line of boats towing a ship up to her
Here the conversation was interrupted by the appearance of a midshipman,
who came down to say that a man and a woman from the shore wished to
see the rear-admiral on pressing business.
"Let them come down, sir," answered Nelson; "I've a hard life of it,
Cuffe; there is not a washerwoman or a shopkeeper in Naples who does not
treat me exactly as if I were a podesta, and it were my duty to hear all
the contentions about lost clothes and mislaid goods. His Majesty must
appoint a Lord Chief Justice of the Steerage, to administer the law for
the benefit of the young gentlemen, or he'll soon get no officer to
serve with a flag at his mast-head."
"Surely, my lord, the captains can take this weight off your shoulders!"
"Aye, there are men in the fleet that _can_, and there are men who _do_;
but there are men who do _not_. But here comes the plaintiff, I
suppose--you shall hear the case, and act as a puisne judge in
This was said as the cabin-door opened, and the expected guests entered.
They were a man turned of fifty and a girl of nineteen. The former was a
person of plain exterior, abstracted air, and downcast look; but the
latter had all the expression, beauty, nature, and grace of mien that so
singularly marked the deportment and countenance of Ghita Caraccioli.
In a word, the two visitors were Carlo Giuntotardi and his gentle niece.
Nelson was struck with the modesty of mien and loveliness of the latter,
and he courteously invited her to be seated, though he and Cuffe both
continued standing. A few efforts at making himself understood, however,
soon satisfied this renowned admiral that he had need of an interpreter,
his guests speaking no English, and his own Italian being too imperfect
to carry on anything like a connected conversation. He hesitated an
instant, and then went to the door of the inner cabin, an apartment in
which voices had occasionally been heard the whole time, one of the
speakers being a female. Here he stood, leaning against the bulkhead,
as if in doubt; and then he uttered his wishes.
 It may aid the reader who is ignorant of Italian, to tell him that
this name is pronounced Ca-rach-cho-li. The same is true of
Gwee-cho-li--or Guiccioli--Byron's mistress.
"I must ask a service of you, which I would not think of doing in any
ordinary case," he said, with a gentleness of voice and manner that
showed he addressed one who had habitual influence over him. "I want an
interpreter between myself and the second handsomest woman in the
kingdom of Naples: I know no one so fit for the office as the first."
"With all my heart, dear Nelson," answered a full, rich female voice
from within. "Sir William is busied in his antiquities, and I was really
getting to be ennuied for want of an occupation. I suppose you have the
wrongs of some injured lady to redress in your capacity of Lord High
Chancellor of the Fleet."
"I am yet ignorant of the nature of the complaint; but it is not
unlikely it will turn out to be something like that which you suspect.
Even in such a case no better intercessor can be required than one who
is so much superior to the frailties and weaknesses of her sex
The lady who now made her appearance from the inner cabin, though
strikingly handsome, had not that in her appearance which would justify
the implied eulogium of the British admiral's last speech. There was an
appearance of art and worldliness in the expression of her countenance
that was only so much the more striking when placed in obvious contrast
to the ingenuous nature and calm purity that shone in every lineament of
the face of Ghita. One might very well have passed for an image of the
goddess Circe; while the other would have made no bad model for a
vestal, could the latter have borne the moral impression of the sublime
and heart-searching truths that are inculcated by the real oracles of
God. Then the lady was a woman in the meridian of her charms, aided by
all the cunning of the toilet and a taste that was piquant and peculiar,
if not pure; while the other stood in her simple, dark Neapolitan bodice
and a head that had no other ornament than its own silken tresses; a
style of dress, however, that set off her faultless form and winning
countenance more than could have been done by any of the devices of the
mantua-maker or the milliner. The lady betrayed a little surprise, and
perhaps a shade of uneasiness, as her glance first fell on Ghita; but,
much too good an actress to be disconcerted easily, she smiled and
immediately recovered her ease.
"Is _this_ the being, Nelson, who comes with _such_ a petition?" she
demanded, with a touch of natural womanly sensibility in her voice; "and
that poor old man, I dare say, is the heart-stricken father."
"As to the errand, you will remember, I know nothing as yet, and pledge
myself to nothing."
"Captain Cuffe, I hope I have the pleasure to see you well. Sir William
joins the admiral in hoping you will make one of our little family party
to-day at dinner, and--"
"And what says the mistress--not of the house, but of the _ship_?" put
in Nelson, whose eyes had scarce turned an instant from the face of the
siren since she entered the fore-cabin.
"That she--always disclaiming the title, honorable though it be--that
she unites with all the rest in inviting Captain Cuffe to honor us with
his company. Nelson tells me you were one of his old Agamemnons, as he
calls you all, aged and young, men and boys, little and big; and I love
even the sound of the name. What a glorious title for a ship--
Agamemnon!--A Greek, led on by a true English heart!"
"Aye, it _is_ somewhat better than 'That'll Do,' and the other affair,
ha! Cuffe!" returned the admiral, smiling and glancing at his
subordinate; "but all this time we are ignorant of the errand of this
honest-looking Italian and his exceedingly innocent-looking companion."
"Well, then, in this matter, gentlemen, I am only to be regarded as a
mere mouthpiece," put in the lady--"an echo, to repeat what reaches mine
ear, though it be an Irish echo, which repeats in a different tongue
from that in which the sounds first reach it. Put your questions, my
lord; they shall be faithfully rendered, with all the answers that may
be given. I only hope Captain Cuffe will come out of this affair as
innocent as he now looks."
The two gentlemen smiled; but the trifling could not disturb its
subject, as he was profoundly ignorant of the existence of the two
strangers five minutes before; while the boldness of the allusion rather
suited the freedom of a ship and the habits of the part of the world in
which they happened to be.
"We will first inquire the name of this worthy man, if you will
condescend to ask it," observed Nelson to his fair friend.
"Carlo Giuntotardi, noble lady--once a poor scholar, in Napoli, here,
and now a keeper of the prince's watch-towers on the heights of
Argentaro," was the quiet but respectful answer of the man, who, like
his niece, had declined taking a seat, a circumstance that left the
whole party standing. "Carlo Giuntotardi, illustrious lady."
"A very good name, Signore, and one of which you have no need to be
ashamed. And thine?" turning to the girl.
"Ghita Caraccioli, Eccellenza; the sister's daughter of this honest
tower-keeper of the prince."
Had a bomb exploded over the Foudroyant, Nelson certainly would not have
been as much startled; while the lady's beautiful face assumed a look of
dark resentment, not unmingled with fear. Even Cuffe understood enough
of the sounds to catch the name, and he advanced a step with lively
curiosity and an anxious concern expressed on his ruddy face. But these
emotions soon subsided, the lady first regaining her self-possession,
though Nelson paced the cabin five or six times, working the stump of
his arm before he even looked up again.
"I was about to ask if there _never_ is to be an end to these
annoyances," observed the lady in English; "but there must be some
mistake in this. The house of Caraccioli is one of the most illustrious
of Italy, and can scarcely have any of this class, who feel an interest
in him of whom we are thinking. I will, therefore, inquire further into
this matter. Signorina,"--changing the language to Italian and speaking
with severity, like one who questioned what she heard--"Caraccioli is a
noble name, and is not often borne by the daughter of any prince's
Ghita trembled, and she looked abashed. But she was sustained by too
high a principle and was too innocent herself to stand long rebuked in
the presence of guilt; and, as the flush which resembled that which so
often passes over her native skies at even left her countenance, she
raised her eyes to the dark-looking face of the lady and gave
"I know what your Eccellenza means," she said, "and feel its justice.
Still it is cruel to the child not to bear the name of her parent. My
father was called Caraccioli, and he left me his name as my sole
inheritance. What may have been _his_ right to it, let my uncle say."
"Speak, then, Signor Giuntotardi. First give us the history of this
_name_; then tell us what has brought you here."
"Noble lady, my sister, as pious and innocent a woman as ever lived in
Italy, and now blessed in heaven, married Don Francesco Caraccioli, the
son of Don Francesco of that illustrious family, who now stands
condemned to death for having led the fleet against the king; and Ghita
here is the only fruit of the union. It is true that the church did not
authorize the connection which brought my niece's father into being; but
the noble admiral never hesitated to acknowledge his son, and he gave
him his name, until love bound him in wedlock with a poor scholar's
sister. Then, indeed, his father turned his face from him, and death
soon removed both husband and wife from the reach of all earthly
displeasure. This is our simple story, noble and illustrious signora,
and the reason why my poor niece, here, bears the name as great as that
"You mean us to understand, Signor Giuntotardi, that your niece is the
grand-daughter of Don Francesco Caraccioli, through a natural son of
that unfortunate admiral?"
"Such is the fact, Signora. As _my_ sister was honestly married, I could
do no less than bring up her daughter to bear a name that her father was
permitted to bear before her."
"Such things are common and require no apology. One question more before
I explain to the English admiral what you have said. Does Prince
Caraccioli know of the existence of this grand-daughter?"
"Eccellenza, I fear not. Her parents died so soon--I loved the child so
well--and there was so little hope that one illustrious as he would wish
to acknowledge a connection through the holy church with persons humble
as we, that I have never done more to make my niece known than to let
her bear the same name as her father."
The lady seemed relieved by this; and she now briefly explained to
Nelson the substance of what the other had said.
"It may be," she added, "they are here on that errand, concerning which
we have already heard so much, and so uselessly; but I rather think not,
from this account; for what interest _can_ they feel in one who is
absolutely a stranger to them? It may be some idle conceit, however,
connected with this same affair. What is your wish, Ghita? This is Don
Horatio Nelsoni, the illustrious English admiral, of whom you have
heard so much."
"Eccellenza, I am sure of it," answered Ghita, earnestly; "my good
uncle, here, has told you who we are; and you may well guess our
business. We came from St. Agata, on the other side of the bay, only
this morning, and heard from a relation in the town that Don Francesco
had been seized that very hour. Since, we are told that he has been
condemned to die, for treason against the king; and that by officers who
met in this very ship. Some even say, Signora, that he is to meet his
fate ere the sun set."
"If this should be so, what reason is it that thou shouldst give
"Eccellenza, he was my father's father; and, though I never saw him, I
know that the same blood runs in our veins. When this is so, there
should be the same feelings in our hearts."
"This is well, Ghita, in appearance at least; but thou canst hardly feel
much for one thou never saw'st and who has even refused to own thee for
a child. Thou art young, too, and of a sex that should ever be cautious;
it is unwise for men, even, to meddle with politics in these
"Signora, it is not politics that brings me here, but nature, and duty,
and pious love for my father's father."
"What wouldst thou say, then?" answered the lady impatiently; "remember
thou occupiest one whose time is precious and of high importance to
"Eccellenza, I believe it, and will try to be brief. I wish to beg my
grandfather's life of this illustrious stranger. They tell me the king
will refuse him nothing, and he has only to ask it of Don Ferdinando to
Many would have thought the matured charms of the lady superior to the
innocent-looking beauty of the girl; but no one could have come to such
an opinion who saw them both at that moment. While Ghita's face was
radiant with a holy hope and the pious earnestness which urged her on, a
dark expression lowered about the countenance of the English beauty that
deprived it of one of its greatest attractions by depriving it of the
softness and gentleness of her sex. Had there not been observers of what
passed, it is probable the girl would have been abruptly repulsed; but
management formed no small part of the character of this woman, and she
controlled her feelings in order to effect her purposes.
"This admiral is not a Neapolitan, but an Englishman," she answered,
"and can have no concern with the justice of your king. He would
scarcely think it decent to interfere with the execution of the laws
"Signora, it is always decent to interfere to save life; nay, it is
more--it is merciful in the eyes of God."
"What canst thou know of this? A conceit that thou hast the blood of the
Caraccioli has made thee forget thy sex and condition, and placed a
romantic notion of duty before thine eyes."
"No, Signora, it is not so. For eighteen years have I been taught that
the unfortunate admiral was my grandfather; but, as it has been his
pleasure to wish not to see me, never have I felt the desire to intrude
on his time. Before this morning never has the thought that I have the
blood of the Caraccioli crossed my mind, unless it was to mourn for the
sin of my grandmother; and even now it has come to cause me to mourn for
the cruel fate that threatens the days of her partner in guilt."
"Thou art bold to speak thus of thy parents, girl, and they, too, of the
noble and great!"
This was said with a flushed brow and still more lowering look; for,
haply, there were incidents in the past life of that lady which made the
simple language of a severe morality alike offensive to her ears and her
"It is not I, Eccellenza, but God, that speaketh thus. The crime, too,
is another reason why this great admiral should use his influence to
save a sinner from so hurried an end. Death is terrible to all but to
those who trust, with heart and soul, to the mediation of the Son of
God; but it is doubly so when it comes suddenly and unlooked for. It is
true, Don Francesco is aged; but have you not remarked, signora, that it
is these very aged who become hardened to their state, and live on, as
if never to die?--I mean those aged who suffer youth to pass, as if the
pleasures of life are never to have an end."
"Thou art too young to set up for a reformer of the world, girl; and
forgettest that this is the ship of one of the greatest officers of
Europe, and that he has many demands on his time. Thou canst now go; I
will repeat what thou hast said."
"I have another request to ask, Eccellenza--permission to see Don
Francesco; that I may at least receive his blessing."
"He is not in this ship. Thou wilt find him on board the Minerva
frigate; no doubt he will not be denied. Stop--these few lines will aid
thy request. Addio, signorina."
"And may I carry hope with me, Eccellenza? Think how sweet life is to
those who have passed their days so long in affluence and honor. It
would be like a messenger from heaven for a grand-child to bring but a
ray of hope."
"I authorize none. The matter is in the hands of the Neapolitan
authorities, and we English cannot meddle. Go, now, both of you--the
illustrious admiral has business of importance that presses."
Ghita turned, and slowly and sorrowfully she left the cabin. At the very
door she met the English lieutenant, who was in charge of the unhappy
prisoner, coming with a last request that he might not be suspended like
a thief, but might at least die the death of a soldier. It would exceed
the limits set to our tale were we to dwell on the conversation which
ensued; but every intelligent reader knows that the application failed.
"Like other tyrants, Death delights to smite
What smitten most proclaims the pride of power,
And arbitrary nod."
It is probable that Nelson never knew precisely what passed between
Ghita and the lady mentioned in the last chapter. At all events, like
every other application that was made to the English admiral in
connection with this sad affair, that of Ghita produced no results.
Even the mode of execution was unchanged; an indecent haste accompanying
the whole transaction, as in the equally celebrated trial and death of
the unfortunate Duc d'Enghien. Cuffe remained to dine with the
commander-in-chief, while Carlo Giuntotardi and his niece got into their
boat and took their way through the crowded roadstead toward the
Neapolitan frigate that now formed the prison of the unfortunate
A request at the gangway was all that was necessary to procure an
admission on board the ship. As soon as the Signor Giuntotardi reached
the quarter-deck he let his errand be known, and a messenger was sent
below to ascertain if the prisoner would see two visitors, the name of
the uncle being alone given. Francesco Caraccioli, of the Princes
Caraccioli, or, as he was more commonly called in English, Prince
Caraccioli, was now a man approaching seventy; and, being a member of
one of the most illustrious houses of lower Italy, he had long been
trusted in employments of high dignity and command. On his offence--its
apology--the indecent haste of his trial and execution, and the
irregularity of the whole proceedings, it is now unnecessary to dwell;
they have all passed into history, and are familiarly known to the
world. That very morning had he been seized and sent on board the
Foudroyant; in the cabin of that vessel had a court of his own
countrymen convened; and there had he been hastily condemned to death.
The hour of doom was near, and he was already in the ship where the
execution was to take place.
The messenger of Carlo Giuntotardi found this unfortunate man with his
confessor, by whom he had just been shrived. He heard the request with
cold indifference, but granted it on the instant, under the impression
that it came from some dependent of his family or estates, who had a
last favor to ask, or an act of justice to see performed.
"Remain here, father, I beseech you." said the prisoner, perceiving
that the priest was about to retire; "it is some contadino, or some
tradesman, whose claims have been overlooked. I am happy that he has
come: one would wish to stand acquitted of injustice before he dies. Let
them come in, my friend."
A sign was given with these words, the door of the cabin was opened, and
Ghita, with her uncle, entered. A pause of quite a minute followed,
during which the parties regarded each other in silence, the prisoner
endeavoring in vain to recall the countenances of his guests, and the
girl trembling, equally with grief and apprehension. Then the last
advanced to the feet of the condemned man, knelt, bowed her head,
"Grandfather, your blessing on the child of your only son."
"Grandfather!--Son!--and his child!" repeated Don Francesco. "I _had_ a
son, to my shame and contrition be it now confessed, but he has long
been dead, I never knew that he left a child!"
"This is his daughter, Signore," replied Carlo Giuntotardi; "her mother
was my sister. You thought us then too humble to be received into so
illustrious a connection, and we have never wished to bring ourselves
before your eyes until we thought our presence might be welcome."
"And thou comest now, good man, to claim affinity with a condemned
"Not so, grandfather," answered a meek voice at his feet, "it is your
son's daughter that craves a blessing from her dying parent. The boon
shall be well requited in prayers for your soul!"
"Holy father! I deserve not this! Here has this tender plant lived,
neglected in the shade, until it raises its timid head to offer its
fragrance in the hour of death! I deserve not this!"
"Son, if heaven offered no mercies until they are merited, hopeless,
truly, would be the lot of man. But we must not admit illusions at such
a moment. Thou art not a husband, Don Francesco; hadst thou ever a son?"
"That, among other sins, have I long since confessed; and as it has been
deeply repented of, I trust it is forgiven. I had a son--a youth who
bore my name, even; though he never dwelt in my palace, until a hasty
and indiscreet marriage banished him from my presence. I ever intended
to pardon him, and to make provision for his wants; but death came too
soon to both husband and wife to grant the time. This much I _did_ know,
and it grieved me that it was so; but of his child, never before this
instant have I heard! 'Tis a sweet countenance, father; it seems the
very abode of truth!"
"Why should we deceive you, grandfather?" rejoined Ghita, stretching her
arms upward, as if yearning for an embrace; "most of all at a time like
this! We come not for honors, or riches, or your great name; we come
simply to crave a blessing, and to let you know that a child of your own
blood will be left on earth to say aves in behalf of your soul"!
"Holy priest, there can be no deception here! This dear child even looks
like her wronged grandmother! and my heart tells me she is mine. I know
not whether to consider this discovery a good or an evil at this late
hour, coming as it does to a dying man!"
"Grandfather, your blessing. Bless Ghita once, that I may hear the sound
of a parent's benediction."
"Bless thee!--bless thee, daughter!" exclaimed the admiral, bending over
the weeping girl to do the act she solicited, and then raising her to
his arms and embracing her tenderly; "this _must_ be my child--I feel
that she is no other."
"Eccellenza," said Carlo, "she is the daughter of your son, Don
Francesco, and of my sister, Ghita Giuntotardi, born in lawful wedlock.
I would not deceive any--least of all a dying man."
"I have no estate to bequeathe--no honors to transmit--no name to boast
of. Better the offspring of the lazzaroni than a child of Francesco
Caraccioli, at this moment."
"Grandfather, we think not of this--care not for this. I have come only
to ask the blessing you have bestowed, and to offer the prayers of
believers, though we are so lowly. More than this we ask not--wish
not--seek not. Our poverty is familiar to us, and we heed it not. Riches
would but distress us, and we care not for them."
"I remember, holy father, that one great reason of displeasure at my
son's marriage was distrust of the motive of the family which received
him; yet here have these honest people suffered me to live on unmolested
in prosperity, while they now first claim the affinity in my disgrace
and ignominy! I have not been accustomed to meet with wishes and hearts
"You did not know us, grandfather," said Ghita simply, her face nearly
buried in the old man's bosom. "We have long prayed for you, and
reverenced you, and thought of you as a parent whose face was turned
from us in anger; but we never sought your gold and honors."
"Gold and honors!" repeated the admiral, gently placing his
grand-daughter in a chair. "These are things of the past for me. My
estates are sequestered--my name disgraced; and, an hour hence, I shall
have suffered an ignominious death. No selfish views _can_ have brought
these good people, father, to claim affinity with me at a moment
"It comes from the goodness of God, son. By letting you feel the
consolation of this filial love, and by awakening in your own bosom the
spark of parental affection, he foreshadows the fruits of his own mercy
and tenderness to the erring but penitent. Acknowledge his bounty in
your soul; it may bring a blessing on your last moment."
"Holy priest, I hope I do. But what says this?--"
Don Francesco took a note from the hand of a servant and read its
contents eagerly; the world and its feelings having too much hold on
his heart to be plucked out in an instant. Indeed so sudden had been his
arrest, trial, and conviction, that it is not surprising the priest
found in him a divided spirit, even at an instant like that. His
countenance fell, and he passed a hand before his eyes, as if to conceal
a weakness that was unbecoming.
"They have denied my request, father," he said, "and I must die like a
"The Son of God suffered on the cross suspended between thieves."
"I believe there is far less in these opinions than we are accustomed to
think--yet it is cruel for one who has filled so high employments--a
prince--a Caraccioli, to die like a lazzarone!"
"Did you speak, child? I wonder not that this indignity should fill thee
"It is not _that_, grandfather," resumed Ghita, shaking off her doubts
and looking up with flushed cheeks and a face radiant with holy
feelings--"Oh! it is not _that_. If my life could save thine, gladly
would I give it up for such a purpose; but do not--do not--at this awful
moment mistake the shadow for the substance. What matters it how death
is met when it opens the gates of heaven? Pain, I am sure, _you_ cannot
fear;--even I, weak and feeble girl that I am, can despise _that_--what
other honor can there be in the hour of death than to be thought worthy
of the mercy and care of God? Caraccioli or lazzarone--prince or
beggar--it will matter not two hours hence; and let me reverently beg of
you to humble your thoughts to the level which becomes all sinners."
"Thou say'st thou art my grand-child, Ghita--the daughter of my son
"Signore, I am, as all tell me--as my heart tells me--and as I believe."