J. Fenimore Cooper
Part 2 out of 9
stranger was heard warning them of the danger, and inciting them to
their duty. The vessel was implicitly yielded to his government; and
during those anxious moments when she was dashing the waters aside,
throwing the spray over her enormous yards, each ear would listen
eagerly for those sounds that had obtained a command over the crew that
can only be acquired, under such circumstances, by great steadiness and
consummate skill. The ship was recovering from the inaction of changing
her course, in one of those critical tacks that she had made so often,
when the pilot, for the first time, addressed the commander of the
frigate, who still continued to superintend the all-important duty of
"Now is the pinch," he said, "and if the ship behaves well, we are safe
--but if otherwise, all we have yet done will be useless."
The veteran seaman whom he addressed left the chains at this portentous
notice, and calling to his first lieutenant, required of the stranger an
explanation of his warning.
"See you yon light on the southern headland?" returned the pilot; "you
may know it from the star near it?--by its sinking, at times, in the
ocean. Now observe the hummock, a little north of it, looking like a
shadow in the horizon--'tis a hill far inland. If we keep that light
open from the hill, we shall do well--but if not, we surely go to
"Let us tack again," exclaimed the lieutenant.
The pilot shook his head, as he replied:
"There is no more tacking or box-hauling to be done tonight. We have
barely room to pass out of the shoals on this course; and if we can
weather the 'Devil's Grip,' we clear their outermost point--but if not,
as I said before, there is but an alternative."
"If we had beaten out the way we entered," exclaimed Griffith, "we
should have done well."
"Say, also, if the tide would have let us do so," returned the pilot,
calmly. "Gentlemen, we must be prompt; we have but a mile to go, and the
ship appears to fly. That topsail is not enough to keep her up to the
wind; we want both jib and mainsail."
"'Tis a perilous thing to loosen canvas in such a tempest!" observed the
"It must be done," returned the collected stranger; "we perish without
it--see the light already touches the edge of the hummock; the sea casts
us to leeward."
"It shall be done," cried Griffith, seizing the trumpet from the hand of
The orders of the lieutenant were executed almost as soon as issued;
and, everything being ready, the enormous folds of the mainsail were
trusted loose to the blast. There was an instant when the result was
doubtful; the tremendous threshing of the heavy sail seemed to bid
defiance to all restraint, shaking the ship to her centre; but art and
strength prevailed, and gradually the canvas was distended, and bellying
as it filled, was drawn down to its usual place by the power of a
hundred men. The vessel yielded to this immense addition of force, and
bowed before it like a reed bending to a breeze. But the success of the
measure was announced by a joyful cry from the stranger, that seemed to
burst from his inmost soul.
"She feels it! she springs her luff! observe," he said, "the light opens
from the hummock already: if she will only bear her canvas we shall go
A report, like that of a cannon, interrupted his exclamation, and
something resembling a white cloud was seen drifting before the wind
from the head of the ship, till it was driven into the gloom far to
"'Tis the jib, blown from the bolt-ropes," said the commander of the
frigate. "This is no time to spread light duck--but the mainsail may
stand it yet."
"The sail would laugh at a tornado," returned the lieutenant; "but the
mast springs like a piece of steel."
"Silence all!" cried the pilot. "Now, gentlemen, we shall soon know our
fate. Let her luff--luff you can!"
This warning effectually closed all discourse, and the hardy mariners,
knowing that they had already done all in the power of man to insure
their safety, stood in breathless anxiety, awaiting the result. At a
short distance ahead of them the whole ocean was white with foam, and
the waves, instead of rolling on in regular succession, appeared to be
tossing about in mad gambols. A single streak of dark billows, not half
a cable's length in width, could be discerned running into this chaos of
water; but it was soon lost to the eye amid the confusion of the
disturbed element. Along this narrow path the vessel moved more heavily
than before, being brought so near the wind as to keep her sails
touching. The pilot silently proceeded to the wheel, and, with his own
hands, he undertook the steerage of the ship. No noise proceeded from
the frigate to interrupt the horrid tumult of the ocean; and she entered
the channel among the breakers, with the silence of a desperate
calmness. Twenty times, as the foam rolled away to leeward, the crew
were on the eve of uttering their joy, as they supposed the vessel past
the danger; but breaker after breaker would still heave up before them,
following each other into the general mass, to check their exultation.
Occasionally, the fluttering of the sails would be heard; and when the
looks of the startled seamen were turned to the wheel, they beheld the
stranger grasping its spokes, with his quick eye glancing from the water
to the canvas. At length the ship reached a point where she appeared to
be rushing directly into the jaws of destruction, when suddenly her
course was changed, and her head receded rapidly from the wind. At the
same instant the voice of the pilot was heard shouting:
"Square away the yards!--in mainsail!"
A general burst from the crew echoed, "Square away the yards!" and,
quick as thought, the frigate was seen gliding along the channel before
the wind. The eye had hardly time to dwell on the foam, which seemed
like clouds driving in the heavens, and directly the gallant vessel
issued from her perils, and rose and fell on the heavy waves of the sea.
The seamen were yet drawing long breaths, and gazing about them like men
recovered from a trance, when Griffith approached the man who had so
successfully conducted them through their perils. The lieutenant grasped
the hand of the other, as he said:
"You have this night proved yourself a faithful pilot, and such a seaman
as the world cannot equal."
The pressure of the hand was warmly returned by the unknown mariner, who
"I am no stranger to the seas, and I may yet find my grave in them. But
you, too, have deceived me; you have acted nobly, young man, and
"What of Congress?" asked Griffith, observing him to pause.
"Why, Congress is fortunate if it has many such ships as this," said the
stranger, coldly, walking away toward the commander.
Griffith gazed after him a moment in surprise; but, as his duty required
his attention, other thoughts soon engaged his mind.
The vessel was pronounced to be in safety. The gale was heavy and
increasing, but there was a clear sea before them; and as she slowly
stretched out into the bosom of the ocean, preparations were made for
her security during its continuance. Before midnight, everything was in
order. A gun from the Ariel soon announced the safety of the schooner
also, which had gone out by another and an easier channel, that the
frigate had not dared to attempt; when the commander directed the usual
watch to be set, and the remainder of the crew to seek their necessary
The captain withdrew with the mysterious pilot to his own cabin.
Griffith gave his last order; and renewing his charge to the officer
instructed with the care of the vessel, he wished him a pleasant watch,
and sought the refreshment of his own cot. For an hour the young
lieutenant lay musing on the events of the day. The remark of Barnstable
would occur to him, in connection with the singular comment of the boy;
and then his thoughts would recur to the pilot, who, taken from the
hostile shores of Britain, and with her accent on his tongue, had served
them so faithfully and so well. He remembered the anxiety of Captain
Munson to procure this stranger, at the very hazard from which they had
just been relieved, and puzzled himself with conjecturing why a pilot
was to be sought at such a risk. His more private feelings would then
resume their sway, and the recollection of America, his mistress, and
his home, mingled with the confused images of the drowsy youth. The
dashing of the billows against the side of the ship, the creaking of
guns and bulkheads, with the roaring of the tempest, however, became
gradually less and less distinct, until nature yielded to necessity, and
the young man forgot even the romantic images of his love, in the deep
sleep of a seaman.
----"The letter! ay! the letter!
'Tis there a woman loves to speak her wishes;
It spares the blushes of the love-sick maiden.
And every word's a smile, each line a tongue."
The slumbers of Griffith continued till late on the following morning,
when he was awakened by the report of a cannon, issuing from the deck
above him. He threw himself, listlessly, from his cot, and perceiving
the officer of marines near him, as his servant opened the door of his
stateroom, he inquired, with some little interest in his manner, if "the
ship was in chase of anything, that a gun was fired?"
"'Tis no more than a hint to the Ariel," the soldier replied, "that
there is bunting abroad for them to read. It seems as if all hands were
asleep on board her, for we have shown her signal, these ten minutes,
and she takes us for a collier, I believe, by the respect she pays it."
"Say, rather, that she takes us for an enemy, and is wary," returned
Griffith. "Brown Dick has played the English so many tricks himself,
that he is tender of his faith."
"Why, they have shown him a yellow flag over a blue one, with a cornet,
and that spells Ariel, in every signal-book we have; surely he can't
suspect the English of knowing how to read Yankee."
"I have known Yankees read more difficult English," said Griffith,
smiling; "but, in truth, I suppose that Barnstable has been, like
myself, keeping a dead reckoning of his time, and his men have profited
by the occasion. She is lying to, I trust."
"Ay! like a cork in a mill-pond, and I dare say you are right. Give
Barnstable plenty of sea-room, a heavy wind, and but little sail, and he
will send his men below, put that fellow he calls long Tom at the
tiller, and follow himself, and sleep as quietly as I ever could at
"Ah! yours is a somniferous orthodoxy, Captain Manual," said the young
sailor, laughing, while he slipped his arms into the sleeves of a
morning round-about, covered with the gilded trappings of his
profession; "sleep appears to come most naturally to all you idlers. But
give me a passage, and I will go up, and call the schooner down to us in
the turning of an hour-glass."
The indolent soldier raised himself from the leaning posture he had
taken against the door of the stateroom, and Griffith proceeded through
the dark wardroom, up the narrow stairs that led him to the principal
battery of the ship, and thence, by another and broader flight of steps
to the open deck.
The gale still blew strong, but steadily; the blue water of the ocean
was rising in mimic mountains, that were crowned with white foam, which
the wind, at times, lifted from its kindred element, to propel in mist,
through the air, from summit to summit. But the ship rode on these
agitated billows with an easy and regular movement that denoted the
skill with which her mechanical powers were directed.
The day was bright and clear, and the lazy sun, who seemed unwilling to
meet the toil of ascending to the meridian, was crossing the heavens
with a southern inclination, that hardly allowed him to temper the moist
air of the ocean with his genial heat. At the distance of a mile,
directly in the wind's eye, the Ariel was seen obeying the signal which
had caused the dialogue we have related. Her low black hull was barely
discernible, at moments, when she rose to the crest of a larger wave
than common; but the spot of canvas that she exposed to the wind was to
be seen, seeming to touch the water on either hand, as the little vessel
rolled amid the seas. At times she was entirely hid from view, when the
faint lines of her raking masts would again be discovered, issuing, as
it were, from the ocean, and continuing to ascend, until the hull itself
would appear, thrusting its bows into the air, surrounded by foam, and
apparently ready to take its flight into another element.
After dwelling a moment on the beautiful sight we have attempted to
describe, Griffith cast his eyes upward to examine, with the keenness of
a seaman, the disposition of things aloft, and then turned his attention
to those who were on the deck of the frigate.
His commander stood, in his composed manner, patiently awaiting the
execution of his order by the Ariel, and at his side was placed the
stranger who had so recently acted such a conspicuous part in the
management of the ship. Griffith availed himself of daylight and his
situation to examine the appearance of this singular being more closely
than the darkness and confusion of the preceding night had allowed. He
was a trifle below the middle size in stature, but his form was muscular
and athletic, exhibiting the finest proportions of manly beauty. His
face appeared rather characterized by melancholy and thought, than by
that determined decision which he had so powerfully displayed in the
moments of their most extreme danger; but Griffith well knew that it
could also exhibit looks of the fiercest impatience. At present, it
appeared, to the curious youth, when compared to the glimpses he had
caught by the lights of their lanterns, like the ocean at rest,
contrasted with the waters around him. The eyes of the pilot rested on
the deck, or, when they did wander, it was with uneasy and rapid
glances. The large pea-jacket, that concealed most of his other attire,
was as roughly made, and of materials as coarse, as that worn by the
meanest seaman in the vessel; and yet it did not escape the inquisitive
gaze of the young lieutenant, that it was worn with an air of neatness
and care that was altogether unusual in men of his profession. The
examination of Griffith ended here, for the near approach of the Ariel
attracted the attention of all on the deck of the frigate to the
conversation that was about to pass between their respective commanders.
As the little schooner rolled along under their stern, Captain Munson
directed his subordinate to leave his vessel and repair on board the
ship. As soon as the order was received, the Ariel rounded to, and
drawing ahead into the smooth water occasioned by the huge fabric that
protected her from the gale, the whale-boat was again launched from her
decks, and manned by the same crew that had landed on those shores which
were now faintly discerned far to leeward, looking like blue clouds on
the skirts of the ocean.
When Barnstable had entered his boat, a few strokes of the oars sent it,
dancing over the waves, to the side of the ship. The little vessel was
then veered off to a distance, where it rode in safety under the care of
a boat-keeper, and the officer and his men ascended the side of the
The usual ceremonials of reception were rigidly observed by Griffith and
his juniors, when Barnstable touched the deck; and though every hand was
ready to be extended toward the reckless seaman, none presumed to exceed
the salutations of official decorum, until a short and private dialogue
had taken place between him and their captain.
In the mean time, the crew of the whale-boat passed forward, and mingled
with the seamen of the frigate, with the exception of the cockswain, who
established himself in one of the gangways, where he stood in the utmost
composure, fixing his eyes aloft, and shaking his head in evident
dissatisfaction, as he studied the complicated mass of rigging above
him. This spectacle soon attracted to his side some half-dozen youths,
with Mr. Merry at their head, who endeavored to entertain their guest in
a manner that should most conduce to the indulgence of their own waggish
The conversation between Barnstable and his superior soon ended; when
the former, beckoning to Griffith, passed the wondering group who had
collected around the capstan, awaiting his leisure to greet him more
cordially, and led the way to the wardroom, with the freedom of one who
felt himself no stranger. As this unsocial manner formed no part of the
natural temper or ordinary deportment of the man, the remainder of the
officers suffered their first lieutenant to follow him alone, believing
that duty required that their interview should be private. Barnstable
was determined that it should be so, at all events; for he seized the
lamp from the mess-table, and entered the stateroom of his friend,
closing the door behind them and turning the key. When they were both
within its narrow limits--pointing to the only chair the little
apartment contained, with a sort of instinctive deference to his
companion's rank--the commander of the schooner threw himself carelessly
on a sea-chest; and, placing the lamp on the table, he opened the
discourse as follows:
"What a night we had of it! Twenty times I thought I could see the sea
breaking over you; and I had given you over as drowned men, or, what is
worse, as men driven ashore, to be led to the prison-ships of these
islanders, when I saw your lights in answer to my gun. Had you hoisted
the conscience of a murderer, you wouldn't have relieved him more than
you did me, by showing that bit of tallow and cotton, tipped with flint
and steel. But, Griffith, I have a tale to tell of a different kind----"
"Of how you slept when you found yourself in deep water, and how your
crew strove to outdo their commander, and how all succeeded so well that
there was a gray-head on board here, that began to shake with
displeasure," interrupted Griffith; "truly, Dick, you will get into
lubberly habits on board that bubble in which you float about, where all
hands go to sleep as regularly as the inhabitants of a poultry-yard go
"Not so bad, not half so bad, Ned," returned the other, laughing; "I
keep as sharp a discipline as if we wore a flag. To be sure, forty men
can't make as much parade as three or four hundred; but as for making or
taking in sail, I am your better any day."
"Ay, because a pocket-handkerchief is sooner opened and shut than a
table-cloth. But I hold it to be un-seamanlike to leave any vessel
without human eyes, and those open, to watch whether she goes east or
west, north or south."
"And who is guilty of such a dead man's watch?"
"Why, they say aboard here, that when it blows hard, you seat the man
you call long Tom by the side of the tiller, tell him to keep her head
to sea, and then pipe all hands to their night-caps, where you all
remain, comfortably stowed in your hammocks, until you are awakened by
the snoring of your helmsman."
"'Tis a damned scandalous insinuation," cried Barnstable, with an
indignation that he in vain attempted to conceal. "Who gives currency to
such a libel, Mr. Griffith?"
"I had it of the marine," said his friend, losing the archness that had
instigated him to worry his companion, in the vacant air of one who was
careless of everything; "but I don't believe half of it myself--I have
no doubt you all had your eyes open last night, whatever you might have
been about this morning."
"Ah! this morning! there was an oversight, indeed! But I was studying a
new signal-book, Griffith, that has a thousand times more interest for
me than all the bunting you can show, from the head to the heel of your
"What! have you found out the Englishman's private talk?"
"No, no," said the other, stretching forth his hand, and grasping the
arm of his friend. "I met last night one on those cliffs, who has proved
herself what I always believed her to be, and loved her for, a girl of
quick thought and bold spirit."
"Of whom do you speak?"
Griffith started from his chair involuntarily at the sound of this name,
and the blood passed quickly through the shades of his countenance,
leaving it now pale as death, and then burning as if oppressed by a
torrent from his heart. Struggling to overcome an emotion, which he
appeared ashamed to betray even to the friend he most loved, the young
man soon recovered himself so far as to resume his seat, when he asked,
"Was she alone?"
"She was; but she left with me this paper and this invaluable book,
which is worth a library of all other works."
The eye of Griffith rested vacantly on the treasure that the other
valued so highly, but his hand seized eagerly the open letter which was
laid on the table for his perusal. The reader will at once understand
that it was in the handwriting of a female, and that it was the
communication Barnstable had received from his betrothed on the cliffs.
Its contents were as follows:
"Believing that Providence may conduct me where we shall meet, or whence
I may be able to transmit to you this account, I have prepared a short
statement of the situation of Cecila Howard and myself; not, however, to
urge you and Griffith to any rash or foolish hazards, but that you may
both sit down, and, after due consultation, determine what is proper for
"By this time, you must understand the character of Colonel Howard too
well to expect he will ever consent to give his niece to a rebel. He has
already sacrificed to his loyalty, as he calls it (but I whisper to
Cecilia, 'tis his treason), not only his native country, but no small
part of his fortune also. In the frankness of my disposition (you know
my frankness, Barnstable, but too well!), I confessed to him, after the
defeat of the mad attempt Griffith made to carry off Cecilia, in
Carolina, that I had been foolish enough to enter into some weak promise
to the brother officer who had accompanied the young sailor in his
traitorous visits to the plantation. Heigho! I sometimes think it would
have been better for us all, if your ship had never been chased into the
river, or, after she was there, if Griffith had made no attempt to renew
his acquaintance with my cousin. The colonel received the intelligence
as such a guardian would hear that his ward was about to throw away
thirty thousand dollars and herself on a traitor to his king and
country. I defended you stoutly: said that you had no king, as the tie
was dissolved; that America was your country, and that your profession
was honorable; but it would not all do. He called you rebel; that I was
used to. He said you were a traitor; that, in his vocabulary, amounts to
the same thing. He even hinted that you were a coward; and that I knew
to be false, and did not hesitate to tell him so. He used fifty
opprobrious terms that I cannot remember; but among others were the
beautiful epithets of 'disorganizer,' 'leveller, 'democrat,' and
'jacobin' (I hope he did not mean a monk!). In short, he acted Colonel
Howard in a rage. But as his dominion does not, like that of his
favorite kings, continue from generation to generation, and one short
year will release me from his power, and leave me mistress of my own
actions--that is, if your fine promises are to be believed--I bore it
all very well, being resolved to suffer anything but martyrdom, rather
than abandon Cecilia. She, dear girl, has much more to distress her than
I can have; she is not only the ward of Colonel Howard, but his niece
and his sole heir. I am persuaded this last circumstance makes no
difference in either her conduct or her feelings; but he appears to
think it gives him a right to tyrannize over her on all occasions. After
all, Colonel Howard is a gentleman when you do not put him in a passion,
and, I believe, a thoroughly honest man; and Cecilia even loves him. But
a man who is driven from his country, in his sixtieth year, with the
loss of near half his fortune, is not apt to canonize those who compel
"It seems that when the Howards lived on this island, a hundred years
ago, they dwelt in the county of Northumberland. Hither, then, he
brought us, when political events, and his dread of becoming the uncle
to a rebel, induced him to abandon America, as he says, forever. We have
been here now three months, and for two-thirds of that time we lived in
tolerable comfort; but latterly, the papers have announced the arrival
of the ship and your schooner in France; and from that moment as strict
a watch has been kept over us as if we had meditated a renewal of the
Carolina flight. The colonel, on his arrival here, hired an old
building, that is, part house, part abbey, part castle, and all prison;
because it is said to have once belonged to an ancestor of his. In this
delightful dwelling there are many cages that will secure more uneasy
birds than we are. About a fortnight ago an alarm was given in a
neighboring village which is situated on the shore, that two American
vessels, answering your description, had been seen hovering along the
coast; and, as people in this quarter dream of nothing but that terrible
fellow, Paul Jones, it was said that he was on board one of them. But I
believe that Colonel Howard suspects who you really are. He was very
minute in his inquiries, I hear; and since then has established a sort
of garrison in the house, under the pretence of defending it against
marauders, like those who are said to have laid my Lady Selkirk under
"Now, understand me, Barnstable; on no account would I have you risk
yourself on shore; neither must there be blood spilt, if you love me;
but that you may know what sort of a place we are confined in, and by
whom surrounded, I will describe both our prison and the garrison. The
whole building is of stone, and not to be attempted with slight means.
It has windings and turnings, both internally and externally, that would
require more skill than I possess to make intelligible; but the rooms we
inhabit are in the upper or third floor of a wing, that you may call a
tower, if you are in a romantic mood, but which, in truth, is nothing
but a wing. Would to God I could fly with it! If any accident should
bring you in sight of the dwelling, you will know our rooms by the three
smoky vanes that whiffle about its pointed roof, and also, by the
windows in that story being occasionally open. Opposite to our windows,
at the distance of half a mile, is a retired unfrequented ruin,
concealed, in a great measure, from observation by a wood, and affording
none of the best accommodations, it is true, but shelter in some of its
vaults or apartments. I have prepared, according to the explanations you
once gave me on this subject, a set of small signals, of differently
colored silks, and a little dictionary of all the phrases that I could
imagine as useful to refer to, properly numbered to correspond with the
key and the flags, all of which I shall send you with this letter. You
must prepare your own flags, and of course I retain mine, as well as a
copy of the key and book. If opportunity should ever offer, we can have,
at least, a pleasant discourse together; you from the top of the old
tower in the ruins, and I from the east window of my dressing-room! But
now for the garrison. In addition to the commandant, Colonel Howard, who
retains all the fierceness of his former military profession, there is,
as his second in authority, that bane of Cecilia's happiness, Kit
Dillon, with his long Savannah face, scornful eyes of black, and skin of
the same color. This gentleman, you know, is a distant relative of the
Howards, and wishes to be more nearly allied. He is poor, it is true,
but then, as the colonel daily remarks, he is a good and loyal subject,
and no rebel. When I asked why he was not in arms in these stirring
times, contending for the prince he loves so much, the colonel answers
that it is not his profession, that he has been educated for the law,
and was destined to fill one of the highest judicial stations in the
colonies, and that he hoped he should yet live to see him sentence
certain nameless gentlemen to condign punishment. This was consoling, to
be sure; but I bore it. However, he left Carolina with us, and here he
is, and here he is likely to continue, unless you can catch him, and
anticipate his judgment on himself. The colonel has long desired to see
this gentleman the husband of Cecilia, and since the news of your being
on the coast, the siege has nearly amounted to a storm. The consequences
are, that my cousin at first kept her room, and then the colonel kept
her there, and even now she is precluded from leaving the wing we
inhabit. In addition to these two principal jailers, we have four men-
servants, two black and two white; and an officer and twenty soldiers
from the neighboring town are billeted on us, by particular desire,
until the coast is declared free from pirates! yes, that is the musical
name they give you--and when their own people land, and plunder, and
rob, and murder the men and insult the women, they are called heroes!
It's a fine thing to be able to invent names and make dictionaries--and
it must be your fault, if mine has been framed for no purpose. I
declare, when I recollect all the insulting and cruel things I hear in
this country of my own and her people, it makes me lose my temper and
forget my sex; but do not let my ill humor urge you to anything rash;
remember your life, remember their prisons, remember your reputation,
but do not, do not forget your
"P.S. I had almost forgotten to tell you, that in the signal-book you
will find a more particular description of our prison, where it stands,
and a drawing of the grounds, etc."
When Griffith concluded this epistle, he returned it to the man to whom
it was addressed, and fell back in his chair, in an attitude that
denoted deep reflection.
"I knew she was here, or I should have accepted the command offered to
me by our commissioners in Paris," he at length uttered; "and I thought
that some lucky chance might throw her in my way; but this is bringing
us close, indeed! This intelligence must be acted on, and that promptly.
Poor girl, what does she not suffer in such a situation!"
"What a beautiful hand she writes!" exclaimed Barnstable; "'tis as
clear, and as pretty, and as small, as her own delicate fingers. Griff,
what a log-book she would keep!"
"Cecilia Howard touch the coarse leaves of a log-book!" cried the other
in amazement; but perceiving Barnstable to be poring over the contents
of his mistress' letter, he smiled at their mutual folly, and continued
silent. After a short time spent in cool reflection, Griffith inquired
of his friend the nature and circumstances of his interview with
Katherine Plowden. Barnstable related it, briefly, as it occurred, in
the manner already known to the reader.
"Then," said Griffith, "Merry is the only one, besides ourselves, who
knows of this meeting, and he will be too chary of the reputation of his
kinswoman to mention it."
"Her reputation needs no shield, Mr. Griffith," cried her lover; "'tis
as spotless as the canvas above your head, and----"
"Peace, dear Richard; I entreat your pardon; my words may have conveyed
more than I intended; but it is important that our measures should be
secret, as well as prudently concerted."
"We must get them both off," returned Barnstable, forgetting his
displeasure the moment it was exhibited, "and that, too, before the old
man takes it into his wise head to leave the coast. Did you ever get a
sight of his instructions, or does he keep silent?"
"As the grave. This is the first time we have left port, that he has not
conversed freely with me on the nature of the cruise; but not a syllable
has been exchanged between us on the subject, since we sailed from
"Ah! that is your Jersey bashfulness," said Barnstable; "wait till I
come alongside him, with my eastern curiosity, and I pledge myself to
get it out of him in an hour."
"'Twill be diamond cut diamond, I doubt," said Griffith, laughing; "you
will find him as acute at evasion, as you can possibly be at a cross-
"At any rate, he gives me a chance to-day; you know, I suppose, that he
sent for me to attend a consultation of his officers on important
"I did not," returned Griffith, fixing his eyes intently on the speaker;
"what has he to offer?"
"Nay, that you must ask your pilot; for while talking to me, the old man
would turn and look at the stranger, every minute, as if watching for
signals how to steer."
"There is a mystery about that man, and our connection with him, that I
cannot fathom," said Griffith. "But I hear the voice of Manual calling
for me; we are wanted in the cabin. Remember, you do not leave the ship
without seeing me again."
"No, no, my dear fellow; from the public we must retire to another
The young men arose, and Griffith, throwing off the roundabout in which
he had appeared on deck, drew on a coat of more formal appearance, and
taking a sword carelessly in his hand, they proceeded together along the
passage already described, to the gun-deck, where they entered, with the
proper ceremonials, into the principal cabin of the frigate.
The arrangements for the consultation were brief and simple. The
veteran commander of the frigate received his officers with punctilious
respect; and pointing to the chairs that were placed around the table,
which was a fixture in the centre of his cabin, he silently seated
himself, and his example was followed by all without further ceremony.
In taking their stations, however, a quiet but rigid observance was paid
to the rights of seniority and rank. On the right of the captain was
placed Griffith, as next in authority; and opposite to him was seated
the commander of the schooner. The officer of marines, who was included
in the number, held the next situation in point of precedence, the same
order being observed to the bottom of the table, which was occupied by a
hard-featured, square-built, athletic man, who held the office of
sailing-master. When order was restored, after the short interruption of
taking their places, the officer who had required the advice of his
inferiors opened the business on which he demanded their opinions.
"My instructions direct me, gentlemen," he said, "after making the coast
of England, to run the land down----"
The hand of Griffith was elevated respectfully for silence, and the
veteran paused, with a look that inquired the reason of his
"We are not alone," said the lieutenant, glancing his eye toward the
part of the cabin where the pilot stood, leaning on one of the guns, in
an attitude of easy indulgence.
The stranger moved not at this direct hint; neither did his eye change
from its close survey of a chart that lay near him on the deck. The
captain dropped his voice to tones of cautious respect, as he replied:
"'Tis only Mr. Gray. His services will be necessary on the occasion, and
therefore nothing need be concealed from him."
Glances of surprise were exchanged among the young men; but Griffith
bowing his silent acquiescence in the decision of his superior, the
"I was ordered to watch for certain signals from the headlands that we
made, and was furnished with the best of charts, and such directions as
enabled us to stand into the bay we entered last night. We have now
obtained a pilot, and one who has proved himself a skilful man; such a
one, gentlemen, as no officer need hesitate to rely on, in any
emergency, either on account of his integrity or his knowledge."
The veteran paused, and turned his looks on the countenances of the
listeners, as if to collect their sentiments on this important point.
Receiving no other reply than the one conveyed by the silent
inclinations of the heads of his hearers, the commander resumed his
explanations, referring to an open paper in his hand:
"It is known to you all, gentlemen, that the unfortunate question of
retaliation has been much agitated between the two governments, our own
and that of the enemy. For this reason, and for certain political
purposes, it has become an object of solicitude with our commissioners
in Paris to obtain a few individuals of character from the enemy, who
may be held as a check on their proceedings, while at the same time it
brings the evils of war, from our own shores, home to those who have
caused it. An opportunity now offers to put this plan in execution, and
I have collected you, in order to consult on the means."
A profound silence succeeded this unexpected communication of the object
of their cruise. After a short pause, their captain added, addressing
himself to the sailing-master:
"What course would you advise me to pursue, Mr. Boltrope?"
The weather beaten seaman who was thus called on to break through the
difficulties of a knotty point with his opinion, laid one of his short,
bony hands on the table, and began to twirl an inkstand with great
industry, while with the other he conveyed a pen to his mouth, which was
apparently masticated with all the relish that he could possibly have
felt had it been a leaf from the famous Virginian weed. But perceiving
that he was expected to answer, after looking first to his right hand
and then to his left, he spoke as follows, in a hoarse, thick voice, in
which the fogs of the ocean seemed to have united with sea-damps and
colds to destroy everything like melody:
"If this matter is ordered, it is to be done, I suppose," he said; "for
the old rule runs, 'obey orders, if you break owners'; though the maxim
which says, 'one hand for the owner, and t'other for yourself,' is quite
as good, and has saved many a hearty fellow from a fall that would have
balanced the purser's books. Not that I mean a purser's books are not as
good as any other man's; but that when a man is dead, his account must
be closed, or there will be a false muster. Well, if the thing is to be
done, the next question is, how is it to be done? There is many a man
that knows there is too much canvas on a ship, who can't tell how to
shorten sail. Well, then, if the thing is really to be done, we must
either land a gang to seize them, or we must show false lights and sham
colors, to lead them off to the ship. As for landing, Captain Munson, I
can only speak for one man, and that is myself; which is to say, that if
you run the ship with her jib-boom into the king of England's parlor-
windows, why, I'm consenting, nor do I care how much of his crockery is
cracked in so doing; but as to putting the print of my foot on one of
his sandy beaches, if I do, that is always speaking for only one man,
and saving your presence, may I hope to be d--d."
The young men smiled as the tough old seaman uttered his sentiments so
frankly, rising with his subject, to that which with him was the climax
of all discussion; but his commander, who was but a more improved
scholar from the same rough school, appeared to understand his arguments
entirely, and without altering a muscle of his rigid countenance, he
required the opinion of the junior lieutenant.
The young man spoke firmly, but modestly, though the amount of what he
said was not much more distinct than that uttered by the master, and was
very much to the same purpose, with the exception that he appeared to
entertain no personal reluctance to trusting himself on dry ground.
The opinions of the others grew gradually more explicit and clear, as
they ascended in the scale of rank, until it came to the turn of the
captain of marines to speak. There was a trifling exhibition of
professional pride about the soldier, in delivering his sentiments on a
subject that embraced a good deal more of his peculiar sort of duty than
ordinarily occurred in the usual operations of the frigate.
"It appears to me, sir, that the success of this expedition depends
altogether upon the manner in which it is conducted." After this lucid
opening, the soldier hesitated a moment, as if to collect his ideas for
a charge that should look down all opposition, and proceeded. "The
landing, of course, will be effected on a fair beach, under cover of the
frigate's guns, and could it be possibly done, the schooner should be
anchored in such a manner as to throw in a flanking fire on the point of
debarkation. The arrangements for the order of march must a good deal
depend on the distance to go over; though I should think, sir, an
advanced party of seamen, to act as pioneers for the column of marines,
should be pushed a short distance in front, while the baggage and
baggage-guard might rest upon the frigate, until the enemy was driven
into the interior, when it could advance without danger. There should be
flank-guards, under the orders of two of the oldest midshipmen; and a
light corps might be formed of the topmen to co-operate with the
marines. Of course, sir, Mr. Griffith will lead, in person, the musket-
men and boarders, armed with their long pikes, whom I presume he will
hold in reserve, as I trust my military claims and experience entitle me
to the command of the main body."
"Well done, field-marshal!" cried Barnstable, with a glee that seldom
regarded time or place; "you should never let salt-water mould your
buttons; but in Washington's camp, ay! and in Washington's tent, you
should swing your hammock in future. Why, sir, do you think we are about
to invade England?"
"I know that every military movement should be executed with precision,
Captain Barnstable," returned the marine. "I am too much accustomed to
hear the sneers of the sea-officers, to regard what I know proceeds from
ignorance. If Captain Munson is disposed to employ me and my command in
this expedition, I trust he will discover that marines are good for
something more than to mount guard and pay salutes." Then, turning
haughtily from his antagonist, he continued to address himself to their
common superior, as if disdaining further intercourse with one who, from
the nature of the case, must be unable to comprehend the force of what
he said. "It will be prudent, Captain Munson, to send out a party to
reconnoitre, before we march; and as it may be necessary to defend
ourselves in case of a repulse, I would beg leave to recommend that a
corps be provided with entrenching tools, to accompany the expedition.
They would be extremely useful, sir, in assisting to throw up field-
works; though, I doubt not, tools might be found in abundance in this
country, and laborers impressed for the service, on an emergency."
This was too much for the risibility of Barnstable, who broke forth in a
fit of scornful laughter, which no one saw proper to interrupt; though
Griffith, on turning his head to conceal the smile that was gathering on
his own face, perceived the fierce glance which the pilot threw at the
merry seaman, and wondered at its significance and impatience. When
Captain Munson thought that the mirth of the lieutenant was concluded,
he mildly desired his reasons for amusing himself so exceedingly with
the plans of the marine.
"'Tis a chart for a campaign!" cried Barnstable, "and should be sent off
express to Congress, before the Frenchmen are brought into the field!"
"Have you any better plan to propose, Mr. Barnstable?" inquired the
"Better! ay, one that will take no time, and cause no trouble, to
execute it," cried the other; "'tis a seaman's job, sir, and must be
done with a seaman's means."
"Pardon me, Captain Barnstable," interrupted the marine, whose jocular
vein was entirely absorbed in his military pride; "if there be service
to be done on shore, I claim it as my right to be employed."
"Claim what you will, soldier; but how will you carry on the war with a
parcel of fellows who don't know one end of a boat from the other?"
returned the reckless sailor. "Do you think that a barge or a cutter is
to be beached in the same manner you ground firelock, by word of
command? No, no, Captain Manual--I honor your courage, for I have seen
it tried, but d--e if----"
"You forget, we wait for your project, Mr. Barnstable," said the
"I crave your patience, sir; but no project is necessary. Point out the
bearings and distance of the place where the men you want are to be
found, and I will take the heel of the gale, and run into the land,
always speaking for good water and no rocks. Mr. Pilot, you will
accompany me, for you carry as true a map of the bottom of these seas in
your head as ever was made of dry ground. I will look out for good
anchorage; or if the wind should blow off shore, let the schooner stand
off and on, till we should be ready to take the broad sea again. I
would land, out of my whaleboat, with long Tom and a boat's crew, and
finding out the place you will describe, we shall go up, and take the
men you want, and bring them aboard. It's all plain sailing; though, as
it is a well-peopled country, it may be necessary to do our shore work
in the dark."
"Mr. Griffith, we only wait for your sentiments," proceeded the captain,
"when, by comparing opinions, we may decide on the most prudent course."
The first lieutenant had been much absorbed in thought during the
discussion of the subject, and might have been, on that account, better
prepared to give his opinion with effect. Pointing to the man who yet
stood behind him, leaning on a gun, he commenced by asking:
"Is it your intention that man shall accompany the party?"
"And from him you expect the necessary information, sir, to guide our
"You are altogether right."
"If, sir, he has but a moiety of the skill on the land that he possesses
on the water, I will answer for his success," returned the lieutenant,
bowing slightly to the stranger, who received the compliment by a cold
inclination of his head. "I must desire the indulgence of both Mr.
Barnstable and Captain Manual," he continued, "and claim the command as
of right belonging to my rank."
"It belongs naturally to the schooner," exclaimed the impatient
"There may be enough for us all to do," said Griffith, elevating a
finger to the other, in a manner and with an impressive look that was
instantly comprehended. "I neither agree wholly with the one nor the
other of these gentlemen. 'Tis said that, since our appearance on the
coast, the dwellings of many of the gentry are guarded by small
detachments of soldiers from the neighboring towns."
"Who says it?" asked the pilot, advancing among them with a suddenness
that caused a general silence.
"I say it, sir," returned the lieutenant, when the momentary surprise
had passed away.
"Can you vouch for it?"
"Name a house, or an individual, that is thus protected?"
Griffith gazed at the man who thus forgot himself in the midst of a
consultation like the present, and yielding to his native pride,
hesitated to reply. But mindful of the declarations of his captain and
the recent services of the pilot, he at length said, with a little
embarrassment of manner:
"I know it to be the fact, in the dwelling of a Colonel Howard, who
resides but a few leagues to the north of us."
The stranger started at the name, and then raising his eye keenly to the
face of the young man, appeared to study his thoughts in his varying
countenance. But the action, and the pause that followed, were of short
continuance. His lip slightly curled, whether in scorn or with a
concealed smile, would have been difficult to say, so closely did it
resemble both, and as he dropped quietly back to his place at the gun,
"'Tis more than probable you are right, sir; and if I might presume to
advise Captain Munson, it would be to lay great weight on your opinion."
Griffith turned, to see if he could comprehend more meaning in the
manner of the stranger than his words expressed, but his face was again
shaded by his hand, and his eyes were once more fixed on the chart with
the same vacant abstraction as before.
"I have said, sir, that I agree wholly neither with Mr. Barnstable nor
Captain Manual," continued the lieutenant, after a short pause. "The
command of this party is mine, as the senior officer, and I must beg
leave to claim it. I certainly do not think the preparation that Captain
Manual advises necessary; neither would I undertake the duty with as
little caution as Mr. Barnstable proposes. If there are soldiers to be
encountered, we should have soldiers to oppose them; but as it must be
sudden boat-work, and regular evolutions must give place to a seaman's
bustle, a sea-officer should command. Is my request granted, Captain
The veteran replied, without hesitation:
"It is, sir; it was my intention to offer you the service, and I rejoice
to see you accept it so cheerfully."
Griffith with difficulty concealed the satisfaction with which he
listened to his commander, and a radiant smile illumined his pale
features, when he observed:
"With me then, sir, let the responsibility rest. I request that Captain
Manual, with twenty men, may be put under my orders, if that gentleman
does not dislike the duty." The marine bowed, and cast a glance of
triumph at Barnstable. "I will take my own cutter, with her tried crew,
go on board the schooner, and when the wind lulls, we will run in to the
land, and then be governed by circumstances."
The commander of the schooner threw back the triumphant look of the
marine, and exclaimed, in his joyous manner:
'"Tis a good plan, and done like a seaman, Mr. Griffith. Ay, ay, let the
schooner be employed; and if it be necessary, you shall see her anchored
in one of their duck-ponds, with her broadside to bear on the parlor-
windows of the best house in the island! But twenty marines! they will
cause a jam in my little craft."
"Not a man less than twenty would be prudent," returned Griffith. "More
service may offer than that we seek."
Barnstable well understood his allusion, but still he replied:
"Make it all seamen, and I will give you room for thirty. But these
soldiers never know how to stow away their arms and legs, unless at a
drill. One will take the room of two sailors; they swing their hammocks
athwart-ships, heads to leeward, and then turn out wrong end uppermost
at the call. Why, damn it, sir, the chalk and rottenstone of twenty
soldiers will choke my hatches!"
"Give me the launch, Captain Munson!" exclaimed the indignant marine,
"and we will follow Mr. Griffith in an open boat, rather than put
Captain Barnstable to so much inconvenience."
"No, no, Manual," cried the other, extending his muscular arm across the
table, with an open palm, to the soldier; "you would all become so many
Jonahs in uniform, and I doubt whether the fish could digest your
cartridge-boxes and bayonet-belts. You shall go with me, and learn, with
your own eyes, whether we keep the cat's watch aboard the Ariel that you
The laugh was general, at the expense of the soldier, if we except the
pilot and the commander of the frigate. The former was a silent, and
apparently an abstracted, but in reality a deeply interested listener to
the discourse; and there were moments when he bent his looks on the
speakers, as if he sought more in their characters than was exhibited by
the gay trifling of the moment. Captain Munson seldom allowed a muscle
of his wrinkled features to disturb their repose; and if he had not the
real dignity to repress the untimely mirth of his officers, he had too
much good nature to wish to disturb their harmless enjoyments. He
expressed himself satisfied with the proposed arrangements, and beckoned
to his steward to place before them the usual beverage, with which all
their consultations concluded.
The sailing-master appeared to think that the same order was to be
observed in their potations as in council, and helping himself to an
allowance which retained its hue even in its diluted state, he first
raised it to the light, and then observed:
"This ship's water is nearly the color of rum itself; if it only had its
flavor, what a set of hearty dogs we should be! Mr. Griffith, I find you
are willing to haul your land-tacks aboard. Well, it's natural for youth
to love the earth; but there is one man, and he is sailing-master of
this ship, who saw land enough last night, to last him a twelvemonth.
But if you will go, here's a good land-fall, and a better offing to you.
Captain Munson, my respects to you. I say, sir, if we should keep the
ship more to the south'ard, it's my opinion, and that's but one man's,
we should fall in with some of the enemy's homeward bound West-Indiamen,
and find wherewithal to keep the life in us when we see fit to go ashore
As the tough old sailor made frequent application of the glass to his
mouth with one hand, and kept a firm hold of the decanter with the
other, during this speech, his companions were compelled to listen to
his eloquence, or depart with their thirst unassuaged. Barnstable,
however, quite coolly dispossessed the tar of the bottle, and mixing for
himself a more equal potation, observed, in the act:
"That is the most remarkable glass of grog you have, Boltrope, that I
ever sailed with; it draws as little water as the Ariel, and is as hard
to find the bottom. If your spirit-room enjoys the same sort of engine
to replenish it, as you pump out your rum, Congress will sail this
The other officers helped themselves with still greater moderation,
Griffith barely moistening his lips, and the pilot rejecting the offered
glass altogether. Captain Munson continued standing, and his officers,
perceiving that their presence was no longer necessary, bowed, and took
their leave. As Griffith was retiring last, he felt a hand laid lightly
on his shoulder, and turning, perceived that he was detained by the
"Mr. Griffith," he said, when they were quite alone with the commander
of the frigate, "the occurrences of the last night should teach us
confidence in each other; without it, we go on a dangerous and fruitless
"Is the hazard equal?" returned the youth. "I am known to all to be the
man I seem--am in the service of my country--belong to a family, and
enjoy a name, that is a pledge for my loyalty to the cause of America--
and yet I trust myself on hostile ground, in the midst of enemies, with
a weak arm, and under circumstances where treachery would prove my ruin.
Who and what is the man who thus enjoys your confidence, Captain Munson?
I ask the question less for myself than for the gallant men who will
fearlessly follow wherever I lead."
A shade of dark displeasure crossed the features of the stranger, at one
part of this speech, and at its close he sank into deep thought. The
commander, however, replied:
"There is a show of reason in your question, Mr. Griffith--and yet you
are not the man to be told that implicit obedience is what I have a
right to expect. I have not your pretensions, sir, by birth or
education, and yet Congress have not seen proper to overlook my years
and services. I command this frigate----"
"Say no more," interrupted the pilot "There is reason in his doubts, and
they shall be appeased. I like the proud and fearless eye of the young
man, and while he dreads a gibbet from my hands, I will show him how to
repose a noble confidence. Read this, sir, and tell me if you distrust
While the stranger spoke, he thrust his hand into the bosom of his
dress, and drew forth a parchment, decorated with ribands, and bearing a
massive seal, which he opened, and laid on the table before the youth.
As he pointed with his finger impressively to different parts of the
writing, his eye kindled with a look of unusual fire, and there was a
faint tinge discernible on his pallid features when he spoke.
"See!" he said, "royalty itself does not hesitate to bear witness in my
favor, and that is not a name to occasion dread to an American."
Griffith gazed with wonder at the fair signature of the unfortunate
Louis, which graced the bottom of the parchment; but when his eye obeyed
the signal of the stranger, and rested on the body of the instrument, he
started back from the table, and fixing his animated eyes on the pilot,
he cried, while a glow of fiery courage flitted across his countenance:
"Lead on! I'll follow you to death!"
A smile of gratified exultation struggled around the lips of the
stranger, who took the arm of the young man and led him into a
stateroom, leaving the commander of the frigate standing, in his unmoved
and quiet manner, a spectator of, but hardly an actor in, the scene.
"Fierce bounding, forward sprang the ship
Like a greyhound starting from the slip,
To seize his flying prey."
_Lord of the Isles_.
Although the subject of the consultation remained a secret with those
whose opinions were required, yet enough of the result leaked out among
the subordinate officers, to throw the whole crew into a state of eager
excitement. The rumor spread itself along the decks of the frigate, with
the rapidity of an alarm, that an expedition was to attempt the shore on
some hidden service, dictated by the Congress itself; and conjectures
were made respecting its force and destination, with all that interest
which might be imagined would exist among the men whose lives or
liberties were to abide the issue. A gallant and reckless daring,
mingled with the desire of novelty, however, was the prevailing
sentiment among the crew, who would have received with cheers the
intelligence that their vessel was commanded to force the passage of the
united British fleet. A few of the older and more prudent of the sailors
were exceptions to this thoughtless hardihood, and one or two, among
whom the cockswain of the whale-boat was the most conspicuous, ventured
to speak doubtingly of all sorts of land service, as being of a nature
never to be attempted by seamen.
Captain Manual had his men paraded in the weather-gangway, and after a
short address, calculated to inflame their military ardor and
patriotism, acquainted them that he required twenty volunteers, which
was in truth half their number, for a dangerous service. After a short
pause, the company stepped forward, like one man, and announced
themselves as ready to follow him to the end of the world. The marine
cast a look over his shoulder, at this gratifying declaration, in quest
of Barnstable; but observing that the sailor was occupied with some
papers on a distant part of the quarter-deck, he proceeded to make a
most impartial division among the candidates for glory; taking care at
the same time to cull his company in such a manner as to give himself
the flower of his men, and, consequently, to leave the ship the refuse.
While this arrangement was taking place, and the crew of the frigate was
in this state of excitement, Griffith ascended to the deck, his
countenance flushed with unusual enthusiasm, and his eyes beaming with a
look of animation and gayety that had long been strangers to the face of
the young man. He was giving forth the few necessary orders to the
seamen he was to take with him from the ship, when Barnstable again
motioned him to follow, and led the way once more to the stateroom.
"Let the wind blow its pipe out," said the commander of the Ariel, when
they were seated; "there will be no landing on the eastern coast of
England till the sea goes down. But this Kate was made for a sailor's
wife! See, Griffith, what a set of signals she has formed, out of her
own cunning head."
"I hope your opinion may prove true, and that you may be the happy
sailor who is to wed her," returned the other. "The girl has indeed
discovered surprising art in this business! Where could she have learnt
the method and system so well?"
"Where! why, where she learnt better things; how to prize a whole-
hearted seaman, for instance. Do you think that my tongue was jammed in
my mouth, all the time we used to sit by the side of the river in
Carolina, and that we found nothing to talk about!"
"Did you amuse your mistress with treatises on the art of navigation,
and the science of signals?" said Griffith, smiling.
"I answered her questions, Mr. Griffith, as any civil man would to a
woman he loved. The girl has as much curiosity as one of my own
townswomen who has weathered cape forty without a husband, and her
tongue goes like a dog-vane in a calm, first one way and then another.
But here is her dictionary. Now own, Griff, in spite of your college
learning and sentimentals, that a woman of ingenuity and cleverness is a
very good sort of a helpmate."
"I never doubted the merits of Miss Plowden," said the other, with a
droll gravity that often mingled with his deeper feelings, the result of
a sailor's habits, blended with native character. "But this indeed
surpasses all my expectations! Why, she has, in truth, made a most
judicious selection of phrases. 'No. 168. **** indelible;' '169. ****
end only with life;' '170. **** I fear yours misleads me;' '171. ----'"
"Pshaw!" exclaimed Barnstable, snatching the book from before the
laughing eyes of Griffith; "what folly, to throw away our time now on
such nonsense! What think you of this expedition to the land?"
"That it may be the means of rescuing the ladies, though it fail in
making the prisoners we anticipate."
"But this pilot! you remember that he holds us by our necks, and can run
us all up to the yard-arm of some English ship, whenever he chooses to
open his throat at their threats or bribes."
"It would have been better that he should have cast the ship ashore,
when he had her entangled in the shoals; it would have been our last
thought to suspect him of treachery then," returned Griffith, "I follow
him with confidence, and must believe that we are safer with him than we
should be without him."
"Let him lead to the dwelling of his fox-hunting ministers of state,"
cried Barnstable, thrusting his book of signals into his bosom: "but
here is a chart that will show us the way to the port we wish to find.
Let my foot once more touch terra firma, and you may write craven
against my name, if that laughing vixen slips her cable before my eyes,
and shoots into the wind's eye again like a flying-fish chased by a
dolphin. Mr. Griffith, we must have the chaplain with us to the shore."
"The madness of love is driving you into the errors of the soldier.
Would you lie by to hear sermons, with a flying party like ours?"
"Nay, nay, we must lay to for nothing that is not unavoidable; but there
are so many tacks in such a chase, when one has time to breathe, that we
might as well spend our leisure in getting that fellow to splice us
together. He has a handy way with a prayer book, and could do the job as
well as a bishop; and I should like to be able to say, that this is the
last time these two saucy names, which are written at the bottom of this
letter, should ever be seen sailing in the company of each other."
"It will not do," said his friend, shaking his head, and endeavoring to
force a smile which his feelings suppressed; "it will not do, Richard;
we must yield our own inclinations to the service of our country; nor is
this pilot a man who will consent to be led from his purpose."
"Then let him follow his purpose alone," cried Barnstable. "There is no
human power, always saving my superior officer, that shall keep me from
throwing abroad these tiny signals, and having a private talk with my
dark-eyed Kate. But for a paltry pilot! he may luff and bear away as he
pleases, while I shall steer as true as a magnet for that old ruin,
where I can bring my eyes to bear on that romantic wing and three smoky
vanes. Not that I'll forget my duty? no, I'll help you catch the
Englishman; but when that is done, hey! for Katherine Plowden and my
"Hush, madcap! the wardroom holds long ears, and our bulkheads grow thin
by wear. I must keep you and myself to our duty. This is no children's
game that we play; it seems the commissioners at Paris have thought
proper to employ a frigate in the sport."
Barnstable's gayety was a little repressed by the grave manner of his
companion; but after reflecting a moment, he started on his feet, and
made the usual movements for departure.
"Whither?" asked Griffith, gently detaining his impatient friend.
"To old Moderate; I have a proposal to make that may remove every
"Name it to me, then; I am in his council, and may save you the trouble
and mortification of a refusal."
"How many of those gentry does he wish to line his cabin with?"
"The pilot has named no less than six, all men of rank and consideration
with the enemy. Two of them are peers, two more belong to the commons'
house of parliament, one is a general, and the sixth, like ourselves, is
a sailor, and holds the rank of captain. They muster at a hunting-seat
near the coast, and, believe me, the scheme is not without its
"Well, then, there are two apiece for us. You follow the pilot, if you
will; but let me sheer off for this dwelling of Colonel Howard, with my
cockswain and boat's crew. I will surprise his house, release the
ladies, and on my way back, lay my hands on two of the first lords I
fall in with. I suppose, for our business, one is as good as another."
Griffith could not repress a faint laugh, while he replied:
"Though they are said to be each other's peers, there is, I believe,
some difference even in the quality of lords. England might thank us for
ridding her of some among them. Neither are they to be found like
beggars, under every hedge. No, no, the men we seek must have something
better than their nobility to recommend them to our favor. But let us
examine more closely into this plan and map of Miss Plowden; something
may occur that shall yet bring the place within our circuit, like a
contingent duty of the cruise."
Barnstable reluctantly relinquished his own wild plan to the more sober
judgment of his friend, and they passed an hour together, inquiring into
the practicability, and consulting on the means, of making their public
duty subserve the purpose of their private feelings.
The gale continued to blow heavily during the whole of that morning; but
toward noon the usual indications of better weather became apparent.
During these few hours of inaction in the frigate, the marines, who were
drafted for service on the land, moved through the vessel with a busy
and stirring air, as if they were about to participate in the glory and
danger of the campaign their officer had planned, while the few seamen
who were to accompany the expedition steadily paced the deck, with their
hands thrust into the bosoms of their neat blue jackets, or occasionally
stretched toward the horizon, as their fingers traced, for their less
experienced shipmates, the signs of an abatement in the gale among the
driving clouds. The last lagger among the soldiers had appeared, with
his knapsack on his back, in the lee gangway, where his comrades were
collected, armed and accoutered for the strife, when Captain Munson
ascended to the quarter-deck, accompanied by the stranger and his first
lieutenant. A word was spoken by the latter in a low voice to a
midshipman, who skipped gayly along the deck, and presently the shrill
call of the boatswain was beard, preceding the hoarse cry of:
"Away there, you Tigers, away!"
A smart roll of the drum followed, and the marines paraded, while the
six seamen who belonged to the cutter that owned so fierce a name made
their preparations for lowering their little bark from the quarter of
the frigate into the troubled sea. Everything was conducted in the most
exact order, and with a coolness and skill that bade defiance to the
turbulence of the angry elements. The marines were safely transported
from the ship to the schooner, under the favoring shelter of the former,
though the boat appeared, at times, to be seeking the cavities of the
ocean, and again to be riding in the clouds, as she passed from one
vessel to the other.
At length it was announced that the cutter was ready to receive the
officers of the party. The pilot walked aside and held private
discourse, for a few moments, with the commander, who listened to his
sentences with marked and singular attention. When their conference was
ended, the veteran bared his gray head to the blasts, and offered his
hand to the other, with a seaman's frankness, mingled with the deference
of an inferior. The compliment was courteously returned by the stranger,
who turned quickly on his heel, and directed the attention of those who
awaited his movements, by a significant gesture, to the gangway.
"Come, gentlemen, let us go," said Griffith, starting from a reverie,
and bowing his hasty compliments to his brethren in arms.
When it appeared that his superiors were ready to enter the boat, the
boy, who, by nautical courtesy, was styled Mr. Merry, and who had been
ordered to be in readiness, sprang over the side of the frigate, and
glided into the cutter, with the activity of a squirrel. But the captain
of marines paused, and cast a meaning glance at the pilot, whose place
it was to precede him. The stranger, as he lingered on the deck, was
examining the aspect of the heavens, and seemed unconscious of the
expectations of the soldier, who gave vent to his impatience, after a
moment's detention, by saying:
"We wait for you, Mr. Gray."
Aroused by the sound of his name, the pilot glanced his quick eye on the
speaker, but instead of advancing, he gently bent his body, as he again
signed toward the gangway with his hand. To the astonishment not only of
the soldier, but of all who witnessed this breach of naval etiquette,
Griffith bowed low, and entered the boat with the same promptitude as if
he were preceding an admiral. Whether the stranger became conscious of
his want of courtesy, or was too indifferent to surrounding objects to
note occurrences, he immediately followed himself, leaving to the marine
the post of honor. The latter, who was distinguished for his skill in
all matters of naval or military etiquette, thought proper to apologize,
at a fitting time, to the first lieutenant for suffering his senior
officer to precede him into a boat, but never failed to show a becoming
exultation, when he recounted the circumstance, by dwelling on the
manner in which he had brought down the pride of the haughty pilot.
Barnstable had been several hours on board his little vessel, which was
every way prepared for their reception; and as soon as the heavy cutter
of the frigate was hoisted on her deck, he announced that the schooner
was ready to sail. It has been already intimated that the Ariel belonged
to the smallest class of sea-vessels; and as the symmetry of her
construction reduced even that size in appearance, she was peculiarly
well adapted to the sort of service in which she was about to be
employed. Notwithstanding her lightness rendered her nearly as buoyant
as a cork, and at times she actually seemed to ride on the foam, her low
decks were perpetually washed by the heavy seas that dashed against her
frail sides, and she tossed and rolled in the hollows of the waves, In a
manner that compelled even the practised seamen who trod her decks to
move with guarded steps. Still she was trimmed and cleared with an air
of nautical neatness and attention that afforded the utmost possible
room for her dimensions; and, though in miniature, she wore the
trappings of war as proudly as if the metal she bore was of a more fatal
and dangerous character. The murderous gun, which, since the period of
which we are writing, has been universally adopted in all vessels of
inferior size, was then in the infancy of its invention, and was known
to the American mariner only by reputation, under the appalling name of
a "smasher." Of a vast calibre, though short and easily managed, its
advantages were even in that early day beginning to be appreciated, and
the largest ships were thought to be unusually well provided with the
means of offence, when they carried two or three cannon of this
formidable invention among their armament. At a later day, this weapon
has been improved and altered, until its use has become general in
vessels of a certain size, taking its appellation from the Carron, on
the banks of which river it was first moulded. In place of these
carronades, six light brass cannon were firmly lashed to the bulwarks of
the Ariel, their brazen throats blackened by the sea-water, which so
often broke harmlessly over these engines of destruction. In the centre
of the vessel, between her two masts, a gun of the same metal, but of
nearly twice the length of the other, was mounted on a carriage of a new
and singular construction, which admitted of its being turned in any
direction, so as to be of service in most of the emergencies that occur
in naval warfare.
The eye of the pilot examined this armament closely and then turned to
the well-ordered decks, the neat and compact rigging, and the hardy
faces of the fine young crew, with manifest satisfaction. Contrary to
what had been his practice during the short time he had been with them,
he uttered his gratification freely and aloud.
"You have a tight boat, Mr. Barnstable," he said, "and a gallant-looking
crew. You promise good service, sir, in time of need, and that hour may
not be far distant."
"The sooner the better," returned the reckless sailor; "I have not had
an opportunity of scaling my guns since we quitted Brest, though we
passed several of the enemy's cutters coming up channel, with whom our
bulldogs longed for a conversation. Mr. Griffith will tell you, pilot,
that my little sixes can speak, on occasion, with a voice nearly as loud
as the frigate's eighteens."
"But not to as much purpose," observed Griffith; "'vox et praeterea
nihil,' as we said at school."
"I know nothing of your Greek and Latin, Mr. Griffith," retorted the
commander of the Ariel; "but if you mean that those seven brass
playthings won't throw a round-shot as far as any gun of their size and
height above the water, or won't scatter grape and canister with any
blunderbuss in your ship, you may possibly find an opportunity that will
convince you to the contrary, before we part company."
"They promise well," said the pilot, who was evidently, ignorant of the
good understanding that existed between the two officers, and wished to
conciliate all under his directions; "and I doubt not they will argue
the leading points of a combat with good discretion. I see that you have
christened them--I suppose for their respective merits. They are indeed
"'Tis the freak of an idle moment," said Barnstable, laughing, as he
glanced his eye to the cannon, above which were painted the several
quaint names of "boxer," "plumper," "grinder," "scatterer,"
"exterminator" and nail-driver."
"Why have you thrown the midship gun without the pale of your baptism?"
asked the pilot; "or do you know it by the usual title of the 'old
"No, no, I have no such petticoat terms on board me," cried the other;
"but move more to starboard, and you will see its style painted on the
cheeks of the carriage; it's a name that need not cause them to blush
"'Tis a singular epithet, though not without some meaning!"
"It has more than you, perhaps, dream of, sir. That worthy seaman whom
you see leaning against the foremast, and who would serve, on occasion,
for a spare spar himself, is the captain of that gun, and more than once
has decided some warm disputes with John Bull, by the manner in which he
has wielded it. No marine can trail his musket more easily than my
cockswain can train his nine-pounder on an object; and thus from their
connection, and some resemblance there is between them in length, it has
got the name which you perceive it carries--that of 'long Tom.'"
The pilot smiled as he listened, but turning away from the speaker, the
deep reflection that crossed his brow but too plainly showed that he
trifled only from momentary indulgence; and Griffith intimated to
Barnstable, that as the gale was sensibly abating they would pursue the
object of their destination.
Thus recalled to his duty, the commander of the schooner forgot the
delightful theme of expatiating on the merits of his vessel, and issued
the necessary orders to direct their movements. The little schooner
slowly obeyed the impulse of her helm, and fell off before the wind,
when the folds of her square-sail, though limited by a prudent reef,
were opened to the blasts, and she shot away from her consort, like a
meteor dancing across the waves. The black mass of the frigate's hull
soon sunk in distance; and long before the sun had fallen below the
hills of England, her tall masts were barely distinguishable by the
small cloud of sail that held the vessel to her station. As the ship
disappeared, the land seemed to issue out of the bosom of the deep; and
so rapid was their progress, that the dwellings of the gentry, the
humbler cottages, and even the dim lines of the hedges, became gradually
more distinct to the eyes of the bold mariners, until they were beset
with the gloom of evening, when the whole scene faded from their view in
the darkness of the hour, leaving only the faint outline of the land
visible in the tract before them, and the sullen billows of the ocean
raging with appalling violence in their rear.
Still the little Ariel held on her way, skimming the ocean like a water-
fowl seeking its place of nightly rest, and shooting in towards the land
as fearlessly as if the dangers of the preceding night were already
forgotten. No shoals or rocks appeared to arrest her course, and we must
leave her gliding into the dark streak that was thrown from the high and
rocky cliffs, that lined a basin of bold entrance, where the mariners
often sought and found a refuge from the dangers of the German Ocean.
"Sirrah! how dare you leave your barley-broth
To come in armor thus, against your king?"
The large irregular building inhabited by Colonel Howard well deserved
the name it had received from the pen of Katherine Plowden.
Notwithstanding the confusion in its orders, owing to the different ages
in which its several parts had been erected, the interior was not
wanting in that appearance of comfort which forms the great
characteristic of English domestic life. Its dark and intricate mazes of
halls, galleries, and apartments were all well provided with good and
substantial furniture; and whatever might have been the purposes of
their original construction, they were now peacefully appropriated to
the service of a quiet and well-ordered family.
There were divers portentous traditions of cruel separations and
blighted loves, which always linger, like cobwebs, around the walls of
old houses, to be heard here also, and which, doubtless, in abler hands,
might easily have been wrought up into scenes of high interest and
delectable pathos. But our humbler efforts must be limited by an attempt
to describe man as God has made him, vulgar and unseemly as he may
appear to sublimated faculties, to the possessors of which enviable
qualifications we desire to say, at once, that we are determined to
eschew all things supernaturally refined, as we would the devil. To all
those, then, who are tired of the company of their species we would
bluntly insinuate, that the sooner they throw aside our pages, and seize
upon those of some more highly gifted bard, the sooner will they be in
the way of quitting earth, if not of attaining heaven. Our business is
solely to treat of man, and this fair scene on which he acts, and that
not in his subtleties, and metaphysical contradictions, but in his
palpable nature, that all may understand our meaning as well as
ourselves--whereby we may manifestly reject the prodigious advantage of
being thought a genius, by perhaps foolishly refusing the mighty aid of
incomprehensibility to establish such a character.
Leaving the gloomy shadows of the cliffs, under which the little Ariel
had been seen to steer, and the sullen roaring of the surf along the
margin of the ocean, we shall endeavor to transport the reader to the
dining parlor of St. Ruth's Abbey, taking the evening of the same day as
the time for introducing another collection of those personages, whose
acts and characters it has become our duty to describe.
The room was not of very large dimensions, and every part was glittering
with the collected light of half a dozen Candles, aided by the fierce
rays that glanced from the grate, which held a most cheerful fire of
sea-coal. The mouldings of the dark oak wainscoting threw back upon the
massive table of mahogany streaks of strong light, which played among
the rich fluids that were sparkling on the board in mimic haloes. The
outline of this picture of comfort was formed by damask curtains of a
deep red, and enormous oak chairs with leathern backs and cushioned
seats, as if the apartment were hermetically sealed against the world
and its chilling cares.
Around the table, which still stood in the centre of the floor, were
seated three gentlemen, in the easy enjoyment of their daily repast. The
cloth had been drawn, and the bottle was slowly passing among them, as
if those who partook of its bounty well knew that neither the time nor
the opportunity would be wanting for their deliberate indulgence in its
At one end of the table an elderly man was seated, who performed
whatever little acts of courtesy the duties of a host would appear to
render necessary, in a company where all seemed to be equally at their
ease and at home. This gentleman was in the decline of life, though his
erect carriage, quick movements, and steady hand, equally denoted that
it was an old age free from the usual infirmities. In his dress, he
belonged to that class whose members always follow the fashions of the
age anterior to the one in which they live, whether from disinclination
to sudden changes of any kind, or from the recollections of a period
which, with them, has been hallowed by scenes and feelings that the
chilling evening of life can neither revive nor equal. Age might
possibly have thrown its blighting frosts on his thin locks, but art had
labored to conceal the ravages with the nicest care. An accurate outline
of powder covered not only the parts where the hair actually remained,
but wherever nature had prescribed that hair should grow. His
countenance was strongly marked in features, if not in expression,
exhibiting, on the whole, a look of noble integrity and high honor,
which was a good deal aided in its effect by the lofty receding
forehead, that rose like a monument above the whole, to record the
character of the aged veteran. A few streaks of branching red mingled
with a swarthiness of complexion, that was rendered more conspicuous by
the outline of unsullied white, which nearly surrounded his prominent
Opposite to the host, who it will at once be understood was Colonel
Howard, was the thin yellow visage of Mr. Christopher Dillon, that bane
to the happiness of her cousin, already mentioned by Miss Plowden.
Between these two gentlemen was a middle-aged hard-featured man, attired
in the livery of King George, whose countenance emulated the scarlet of
his coat, and whose principal employment, at the moment, appeared to
consist in doing honor to the cheer of his entertainer.
Occasionally, a servant entered or left the room in silence, giving
admission, however, through the opened door, to the rushing sounds of
the gale, as the wind murmured amid the angles and high chimneys of the
A man, in the dress of a rustic, was standing near the chair of Colonel
Howard, between whom and the master of the mansion a dialogue had been
maintained which closed as follows. The colonel was the first to speak,
after the curtain is drawn from between the eyes of the reader and the
"Said you, farmer, that the Scotchman beheld the vessels with his own
The answer was a simple negative.
"Well, well," continued the colonel, "you can withdraw."
The man made a rude attempt at a bow, which being returned by the old
soldier with formal grace, he left the room. The host turning to his
companions, resumed the subject.
"If those rash boys have really persuaded the silly dotard who commands
the frigate, to trust himself within the shoals on the eve of such a
gale as this, their case must have been hopeless indeed! Thus may
rebellion and disaffection ever meet with the just indignation of
Providence! It would not surprise me, gentleman, to hear that my native
land had been engulfed by earthquakes, or swallowed by the ocean, so
awful and inexcusable has been the weight of her transgressions! And yet
it was a proud and daring boy who held the second station in that ship!
I knew his father well, and a gallant gentleman he was, who, like my own
brother, the parent of Cecilia, preferred to serve his master on the
ocean rather than on the land. His son inherited the bravery of his high
spirit, without its loyalty. One would not wish to have such a youth
This speech, which partook much of the nature of a soliloquy, especially
toward its close, called for no immediate reply; but the soldier, having
held his glass to the candle, to admire the rosy hue of its contents,
and then sipped of the fluid so often that nothing but a clear light
remained to gaze at, quietly replaced the empty vessel on the table,
and, as he extended an arm toward the blushing bottle, he spoke, in the
careless tones of one whose thoughts were dwelling on another theme:
"Ay, true enough, sir; good men are scarce, and, as you say, one cannot
but mourn his fate, though his death be glorious; quite a loss to his
majesty's service, I dare say, it will prove."
"A loss to the service of his majesty!" echoed the host--"his death
glorious! no, Captain Borroughcliffe, the death of no rebel can be
glorious; and how he can be a loss to his majesty's service, I myself am
quite at a loss to understand."
The soldier, whose ideas were in that happy state of confusion that
renders it difficult to command the one most needed, but who still, from
long discipline, had them under a wonderful control for the disorder of
his brain, answered, with great promptitude:
"I mean the loss of his example, sir. It would have been so appalling to
others to have seen the young man executed instead of shot in battle."
"He is drowned, sir."
"Ah! that is the next thing to being hanged; that circumstance had
"It is by no means certain, sir, that the ship and schooner that the
drover saw are the vessels you take them to have been," said Mr. Dillon,
in a harsh, drawling tone of voice. "I should doubt their daring to
venture so openly on the coast, and in the direct track of our vessels
"These people are our countrymen, Christopher, though they are rebels,"
exclaimed the colonel. "They are a hardy and brave nation. When I had
the honor of serving his majesty, some twenty years since, it was my
fortune to face the enemies of my king in a few small affairs, Captain
Borroughcliffe; such as the siege of Quebec, and the battle before its
gates, a trifling occasion at Ticonderoga, and that unfortunate
catastrophe of General Braddock--with a few others. I must say, sir, in
favor of the colonists that they played a manful game on the latter day;
and this gentleman who now heads the rebels sustained a gallant name
among us for his conduct in that disastrous business. He was a discreet,
well-behaved young man, and quite a gentleman. I have never denied that
Mr. Washington was very much of a gentleman."
"Yes!" said the soldier, yawning, "he was educated among his majesty's
troops, and he could hardly be other wise. But I am quite melancholy
about this unfortunate drowning, Colonel Howard. Here will be an end of
my vocation, I suppose; and I am far from denying that your hospitality
has made these quarters most agreeable to me."
"Then, sir, the obligation is only mutual," returned the host, with a
polite inclination of his head: "but gentlemen who, like ourselves, have
been made free of the camp, need not bandy idle compliments about such
trifles. If it were my kinsman Dillon, now, whose thoughts ran more on
Coke upon Littleton than on the gayeties of a mess-table and a soldier's
life, he might think such formalities as necessary as his hard words are
to a deed. Come, Borroughcliffe, my dear fellow, I believe we have given
an honest glass to each of the royal family (God bless them all!), let
us swallow a bumper to the memory of the immortal Wolfe."
"An honest proposal, my gallant host, and such a one as a soldier will
never decline," returned the captain, who roused himself with the
occasion. "God bless them all! say I, in echo; and if this gracious
queen of ours ends as famously as she has begun, 'twill be such a family
of princes as no other army of Europe can brag of around a mess-table."
"Ay, ay, there is some consolation in that thought, in the midst of this
dire rebellion of my countrymen. But I'll vex myself no more with the
unpleasant recollections; the arms of my sovereign will soon purge that
wicked land of the foul stain."
"Of that there can be no doubt," said Borroughcliffe, whose thoughts
still continued a little obscured by the sparkling Madeira that had long
lain ripening under a Carolinian sun; "these Yankees fly before his
majesty's regulars, like so many dirty clowns in a London mob before a
charge of the horse-guards."
"Pardon me, Captain Borroughcliffe," said his host, elevating his person
to more than its usually erect attitude; "they may be misguided,
deluded, and betrayed, but the comparison is unjust. Give them arms and
give them discipline, and he who gets an inch of their land from them,
plentiful as it is, will find a bloody day on which to take possession."
"The veriest coward in Christendom would fight in country where wine
brews itself into such a cordial as this," returned the cool soldier. "I
am a living proof that you mistook my meaning; for had not those loose-
flapped gentlemen they call Vermontese and Hampshire-granters (God grant
them his blessing for the deed) finished two-thirds of my company, I
should not have been at this day under your roof, a recruiting instead
of a marching officer; neither should I have been bound up in a
covenant, like the law of Moses, could Burgoyne have made head against
their long-legged marchings and countermarchings. Sir, I drink their
healths, with all my heart; and with such a bottle of golden sunshine
before me, rather than displease so good a friend, I will go through
Gates' whole army, regiment by regiment, company by company, or, if you
insist on the same, even man by man, in a bumper."
"On no account would I tax your politeness so far," returned the
colonel, abundantly mollified by this ample concession; "I stand too
much your debtor, Captain Borroughcliffe, for so freely volunteering to
defend my house against the attacks of my piratical, rebellious, and
misguided countrymen, to think of requiring such a concession."
"Harder duty might be performed, and no favors asked, my respectable
host," returned the soldier. "Country quarters are apt to be dull, and
the liquor is commonly execrable; but in such a dwelling as this, a man
can rock himself in the very cradle of contentment. And yet there is one
subject of complaint, that I should disgrace my regiment did I not speak
of--for it is incumbent on me, both as a man and a soldier, to be no
"Name it, sir, freely, and its cause shall be as freely redressed," said
the host in some amazement.
"Here we three sit, from morning to night," continued the soldier;
"bachelors all, well provisioned and better liquored, I grant you, but
like so many well-fed anchorites, while two of the loveliest damsels in
the island pine in solitude within a hundred feet of us, without tasting
the homage of our sighs. This, I will maintain, is a reproach both to
your character, Colonel Howard, as an old soldier and to mine as a young
one. As to our old friend, Coke on top of Littleton here, I leave him to
the quiddities of the law to plead his own cause."
The brow of the host contracted for a moment, and the sallow cheek of
Dillon, who had sat during the dialogue in a sullen silence, appeared to
grow even livid; but gradually the open brow of the veteran resumed its
frank expression, and the lips of the other relaxed into a Jesuitical
sort of a smile, that was totally disregarded by the captain, who amused
himself with sipping his wine while he waited for an answer, as if he
analyzed each drop that crossed his palate.
After an embarrassing pause of a moment, Colonel Howard broke the
"There is reason in Borroughcliffe's hint, for such I take it to be----"
"I meant it for a plain, matter-of-fact complaint," interrupted the
"And you have cause for it," continued the colonel. "It is unreasonable,
Christopher, that the ladies should allow their dread of these piratical
countrymen of ours to exclude us from their society, though prudence may
require that they remain secluded in their apartments. We owe the
respect to Captain Borroughcliffe, that at least we admit him to the
sight of the coffee-urn in an evening."
"That is precisely my meaning," said the captain: "as for dining with
them, why, I am well provided for here; but there is no one knows how to
set hot water a hissing in so professional a manner as a woman. So
forward, my dear and honored colonel, and lay your injunctions on them,
that they command your humble servant and Mr. Coke unto Littleton to
advance and give the countersign of gallantry."
Dillon contracted his disagreeable features into something that was
intended for a satirical smile, before he spoke as follows:
"Both the veteran Colonel Howard and the gallant Captain Borroughcliffe
may find it easier to overcome the enemies of his majesty in the field
than to shake a woman's caprice. Not a day has passed these three weeks,
that I have not sent my inquiries to the door of Miss Howard as became
her father's kinsman, with a wish to appease her apprehensions of the
pirates; but little has she deigned me In reply, more than such thanks
as her sex and breeding could not well dispense with."
"Well, you have been, as fortunate as myself, and why you should be more
so, I see no reason," cried the soldier, throwing a glance of cool
contempt at the other: "fear whitens the cheek, and ladies best love to
be seen when the roses flourish rather than the lilies."
"A woman is never so interesting, Captain Borroughcliffe, said the
gallant host," as when she appears to lean on man for support; and he
who does not feel himself honored by the trust is a disgrace to his
"Bravo! my honored sir, a worthy sentiment, and spoken like a true
soldier; but I have heard much of the loveliness of the ladies of the
abbey since I have been in my present quarters, and I feel a strong
desire to witness beauty encircled by such loyalty as could induce them
to flee their native country, rather than to devote their charms to the
rude keeping of the rebels."
The colonel looked grave, and for a moment fierce, but the expression of
his displeasure soon passed away in a smile of forced gayety, and, as he
cheerfully rose from his seat, he cried:
"You shall be admitted this very night, and this instant, Captain
Borroughcliffe, We owe it, sir, to your services here, as well as in the
field, and those forward girls shall be humored no longer. Nay, it is
nearly two weeks since I have seen my ward myself; nor have I laid my
eyes on my niece but twice in all that time, Christopher, I leave the
captain under your good care while I go seek admission into the
cloisters, we call that part of, the building the cloisters, because it
holds our nuns, sir! You will pardon my early absence from the table,
"I beg it may not be mentioned; you leave an excellent representative
behind you, sir," cried the soldier, taking in the lank figure of Mr.
Dillon in a sweeping glance, that terminated with a settled gaze on his
decanter. "Make my devoirs to the recluses, and say all that your own
excellent wit shall suggest as an apology for my impatience, Mr. Dillon,
I meet you in a bumper to their healths and in their honor."
The challenge was coldly accepted; and while these gentlemen still held
their glasses to their lips, Colonel Howard left the apartment, bowing
low, and uttering a thousand excuses to his guest, as he proceeded, and
even offering a very unnecessary apology of the same effect to his
habitual inmate, Mr. Dillon.
"Is fear so very powerful within these old walls," said the soldier,
when the door closed behind their host, "that your ladies deem it
necessary to conceal themselves before even an enemy is known to have
Dillon coldly replied:
"The name of Paul Jones is terrific to all on this coast, I believe; nor
are the ladies of St. Ruth singular in their apprehensions."
"Ah! the pirate has bought himself a desperate name since the affair of
Flamborough Head. But let him look to't, if he trusts himself in another
Whitehaven expedition, while there is a detachment of the ----th in the
neighborhood, though the men should be nothing better than recruits."
"Our last accounts leave him safe in the court of Louis," returned his
companion; "but there are men as desperate as himself, who sail the
ocean under the rebel flag, and from one or two of them we have had much
reason to apprehend the vengeance of disappointed men. It is they that
we hope we lost in this gale."
"Hum! I hope they were dastards, or your hopes are a little unchristian,
He would have proceeded, but the door opened, and his orderly entered,
and announced that a sentinel had detained three men, who were passing
along the highway, near the abbey, and who, by their dress, appeared to
"Well, let them pass," cried the captain; "what, have we nothing to do
better than to stop passengers, like footpads on the king's highway!
Give them of your canteens, and let the rascals pass. Your orders were
to give the alarm if any hostile party landed on the coast, not to
detain peaceable subjects on their lawful business."
"I beg your honor's pardon," returned the sergeant; "but these men
seemed lurking about the grounds for no good, and as they kept carefully
aloof from the place where our sentinel was posted, until to-night,
Downing thought it looked suspiciously and detained them."
"Downing is a fool, and it may go hard with him for his officiousness.
What have you done with the men?"
"I took them to the guardroom in the east wings your honor."
"Then feed them; and hark ye, sirrah! liquor them well, that we hear no
complaints, and let them go."
"Yes, sir, yes, your honor shall be obeyed; but there is a straight,
soldierly-looking fellow among them, that I think might be persuaded to
enlist, if he were detained till morning. I doubt, sir, by his walk, but
he has served already."
"Ha! what say you!" cried the captain, pricking up his ears like a hound
who hears a well-known cry; "served, think ye, already?"
"There are signs about him, your honor, to that effect An old soldier is
seldom deceived in such a thing; and considering his disguise, for it
can be no other, and the place where we took him, there is no danger of
a have-us corpses until he is tied to us by the laws of the kingdom."
"Peace, you knave!" said Borroughcliffe, rising, and making a devious
route toward the door; "you speak in the presence of my lord chief
justice that is to be, and should not talk lightly of the laws. But
still you say reason: give me your arm, sergeant, and lead the way to
the east wing; my eyesight is good for nothing in such a dark night. A
soldier should always visit his guard before the tattoo beats."
After emulating the courtesy of their host, Captain Borroughcliffe
retired on this patriotic errand, leaning on his subordinate in a style
of most familiar condescension. Dillon continued at the table,
endeavoring to express the rancorous feelings of his breast by a
satirical smile of contempt, that was necessarily lost on all but
himself, as a large mirror threw back the image of his morose and
But we must precede the veteran colonel in his visits to the
----"And kindness like their own
Inspired those eyes, affectionate and glad,
That seem'd to love whate'er they looked upon;
Whether with Hebe's mirth her features shone,
Or if a shade more pleasing them o'ercast--
Yet so becomingly th' expression past,
That each succeeding look was lovelier than the last."
_Gertrude of Wyoming_.
The western wing of St. Ruth house or abbey, as the building was
indiscriminately called, retained but few vestiges of the uses to which
it had been originally devoted. The upper apartments were small and
numerous, extending on either side of a long, low, and dark gallery, and
might have been the dormitories of the sisterhood who were said to have
once inhabited that portion of the edifice; but the ground-floor had
been modernized, as it was then called, about a century before, and
retained just enough of its ancient character to blend the venerable
with what was thought comfortable in the commencement of the reign of
the third George. As this wing had been appropriated to the mistress of
the mansion, ever since the building had changed its spiritual character
for one of a more carnal nature, Colonel Howard continued the
arrangement, when he became the temporary possessor of St. Ruth, until,
in the course of events, the apartments which had been appropriated for
the accommodation and convenience of his niece were eventually converted
into her prison. But as the severity of the old veteran was as often
marked by an exhibition of his virtues as of his foibles, the
confinement and his displeasure constituted the sole subjects of
complaint that were given to the young lady. That our readers may be
better qualified to judge of the nature of their imprisonment, we shall
transport them, without further circumlocution, into the presence of the
two females, whom they must be already prepared to receive.
The withdrawing-room of St. Ruth's was an apartment which, tradition
said, had formerly been the refectory of the little bevy of fair sinners
who sought a refuge within its walls from the temptations of the world.
Their number was not large, nor their entertainments very splendid, or
this limited space could not have contained them. The room, however, was
of fair dimensions, and an air of peculiar comfort, mingled with
chastened luxury, was thrown around it, by the voluminous folds of the
blue damask curtains that nearly concealed the sides where the deep
windows were placed, and by the dark leathern hangings, richly stamped
with cunning devices in gold, that ornamented the two others. Massive
couches in carved mahogany, with chairs of a similar material and
fashion, all covered by the same rich fabric that composed the curtains,
together with a Turkey carpet, over the shaggy surface of which all the
colors of the rainbow were scattered in bright confusion, united to
relieve the gloomy splendor of the enormous mantel, deep heavy cornices,
and the complicated carvings of the massive woodwork which cumbered the
walls. A brisk fire of wood was burning on the hearth, in compliment to
the willful prejudice of Miss Plowden, who had maintained, in her most
vivacious manner, that sea-coal was "only tolerable for blacksmiths and
Englishmen." In addition to the cheerful blaze from the hearth, two
waxen lights, in candlesticks of massive silver, were lending their aid
to enliven the apartment. One of these was casting its rays brightly
along the confused colors of the carpet on which it stood, flickering
before the active movements of the form that played around it with light
and animated inflections. The posture of this young lady was infantile
in grace, and, with one ignorant of her motives, her employment would
have been obnoxious to the same construction. Divers small square pieces
of silk, strongly contrasted to each other in color, lay on every side
of her, and were changed, as she kneeled on the floor, by her nimble
hands, into as many different combinations as if she was humoring the
fancies of her sex, or consulting the shades of her own dark but rich
complexion in the shop of a mercer. The close satin dress of this young
female served to display her small figure in its true proportions, while
her dancing eyes of jet black shamed the dyes of the Italian
manufacturer by their superior radiance. A few ribbons of pink, disposed
about her person with an air partly studied, and yet carelessly
coquettish, seemed rather to reflect than lend the rich bloom that
mantled around her laughing countenance, leaving to the eye no cause to
regret that she was not fairer.
Another female figure, clad in virgin white, was reclining on the end of
a distant couch. The seclusion in which they lived might have rendered
this female a little careless of her appearance, or, what was more
probable, the comb had been found unequal to its burden; for her
tresses, which rivaled the hue and gloss of the raven, had burst from
their confinement, and, dropping over her shoulders, fell along her
dress in rich profusion, finally resting on the damask of the couch, in
dark folds, like glittering silk. A small hand, which seemed to blush at
its own naked beauties, supported her head, embedded in the volumes of
her hair, like the fairest alabaster set in the deepest ebony. Beneath
the dark profusion of her curls, which, notwithstanding the sweeping
train that fell about her person, covered the summit of her head, lay a
low spotless forehead of dazzling whiteness, that was relieved by two
arches so slightly and truly drawn that they appeared to have been
produced by the nicest touches of art. The fallen lids and long silken
lashes concealed the eyes that rested on the floor, as if their mistress
mused in melancholy. The remainder of the features of this maiden were
of a kind that is most difficult to describe, being neither regular nor
perfect in their several parts, yet harmonizing and composing a whole
that formed an exquisite picture of female delicacy and loveliness.
There might or there might not have been a tinge of slight red in her
cheeks, but it varied with each emotion of her bosom, even as she mused
in quiet, now seeming to steal insidiously over her glowing temples, and
then leaving on her face an almost startling paleness. Her stature, as
she reclined, seemed above the medium height of womanhood, and her
figure was rather delicate than full, though the little foot that rested
on the damask cushion before her displayed a rounded outline that any of
her sex might envy.
"Oh! I'm as expert as if I were signal officer to the lord high admiral
of this realm!" exclaimed the laughing female on the floor, clapping her
hands together in girlish exultation. "I do long, Cecilia, for an
opportunity to exhibit my skill."
While her cousin was speaking, Miss Howard raised her head, with a faint
smile, and as she turned her eyes toward the other, a spectator might
have been disappointed, but could not have been displeased, by the
unexpected change the action produced in the expression of her
Instead of the piercing black eyes that the deep color of her tresses
would lead him to expect, he would have beheld two large, mild, blue
orbs, that seemed to float in a liquid so pure as to be nearly invisible
and which were more remarkable for their tenderness and persuasion, than
for the vivid flashes that darted from the quick glances of her
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