J. Fenimore Cooper
Part 3 out of 9
"The success of your mad excursion to the seaside, my cousin, has
bewildered your brain," returned Cecilia; "but I know not how to conquer
your disease, unless we prescribe salt water for the remedy, as in some
other cases of madness."
"Ah! I am afraid your nostrum would be useless," cried Katherine; "it
has failed to wash out the disorder from the sedate Mr. Richard
Barnstable, who has had the regimen administered to him through many a
hard gale, but who continues as fair a candidate for Bedlam as ever.
Would you think it, Cicely, the crazy one urged me, in the ten minutes'
conversation we held together on the cliffs, to accept of his schooner
as a shower-bath!"
"I can think that your hardihood might encourage him to expect much, but
surely he could not have been serious in such a proposal!"
"Oh! to do the wretch justice, he did say something of a chaplain to
consecrate the measure, but there was boundless impudence in the
thought. I have not, nor shall I forget it, or forgive him for it, these
six-and-twenty years. What a fine time he must have had of it, in his
little Ariel, among the monstrous waves we saw tumbling in upon the
shore to-day, coz! I hope they will wash his impudence out of him! I do
think the man cannot have had a dry thread about him, from sun to sun. I
must believe it as a punishment for his boldness, and, be certain, I
shall tell him of it. I will form half a dozen signals, this instant, to
joke at his moist condition, in very revenge."
Pleased with her own thoughts, and buoyant with the secret hope that Her
adventurous undertaking would be finally crowned with complete success,
the gay girl shook her black locks, in infinite mirth, and tossed the
mimic flags gaily around her person, as she was busied in forming new
combinations, in order to amuse herself with her lover's disastrous
situation. But the features of her cousin clouded with the thoughts that
were excited by her remarks, and she replied, in a tone that bore some
little of the accents of reproach:
"Katherine! Katherine! can you jest when there is so much to apprehend?
Forget you what Alice Dunscombe told us of the gale, this morning? and
that she spoke of two vessels, a ship and a schooner, that had been seen
venturing with fearful temerity within the shoals, only six miles from
the abbey, and that unless God in his gracious providence had been kind
to them, there was but little doubt that their fate would be a sad one?
Can you, that know so well who and what these daring mariners are, be
merry about the self-same winds that caused their danger?"
The thoughtless, laughing girl was recalled to her recollection by this
remonstrance, and every trace of mirth vanished from her countenance,
leaving a momentary death-like paleness crossing her face, as she
clasped her hands before her, and fastened her keen eyes vacantly on the
splendid pieces of silk that now lay unheeded around her. At this
critical moment the door of the room slowly opened, and Colonel Howard
entered the apartment with an air that displayed a droll mixture of
stern indignation, with a chivalric and habitual respect to the sex.
"I solicit your pardon, young ladies, for the interruption," he said; "I
trust, however, that an old man's presence can never be entirely
unexpected In the drawing-room of his wards."
As he bowed, the colonel seated himself on the end of the couch,
opposite to the place where his niece had been reclining, for Miss
Howard had risen at his entrance, and continued standing until her uncle
had comfortably disposed of himself. Throwing a glance which was not
entirely free from self-commendation around the comfortable apartment,
the veteran proceeded, in the same tone as before:
"You are not without the means of making any guest welcome, nor do I see
the necessity of such constant seclusion from the eyes of the world as
you thus rigidly practise."
Cecilia looked timidly at her uncle, with surprise, before she returned
an answer to his remark.
"We certainly owe much to your kind attention, dear sir," she at length
uttered; "but is our retirement altogether voluntary?"
"How can it be otherwise! are you not mistress of this mansion, madam?
In selecting the residence where your and, permit me to add, my
ancestors so long dwelt in credit and honor, I have surely been less
governed by any natural pride that I might have entertained on such a
subject, than by a desire to consult your comfort and happiness.
Everything appears to my aged eyes as if we ought not to be ashamed to
receive our friends within these walls. The cloisters of St. Ruth, Miss
Howard, are not entirely bare, neither are their tenants wholly unworthy
to be seen."
"Open, then, the portals of the abbey, sir, and your niece will endeavor
to do proper credit to the hospitality of its master."
"That was spoken like Harry Howard's daughter, frankly and generously!"
cried the old soldier, insensibly edging himself nearer to his niece.
"If my brother had devoted himself to the camp, instead of the sea,
Cecilia, he would have made one of the bravest and ablest generals in
his majesty's service--poor Harry! he might have been living at this
very day, and at this moment leading the victorious troops of his
sovereign through the revolted colonies in triumph. But he is gone,
Cecilia, and has left you behind him, as his dear representative, to
perpetuate our family and to possess what little has been left to us
from the ravages of the times."
"Surely, dear sir," said Cecilia, taking his hand, which, had
unconsciously approached her person, and pressing it to her lips, "we
have no cause to complain of our lot in respect to fortune, though it
may cause us bitter regret that so few of us are left to enjoy it."
"No, no, no," said Katherine, in a low, hurried voice; "Alice Dunscombe
is and must be wrong; Providence would never abandon brave men to so
cruel a fate!"
"Alice Dunscombe is here to atone for her error, if she has fallen into
one," said a quiet, subdued voice, in which the accents of a provincial
dialect, however, were slightly perceptible, and which, in its low
tones, wanted that silvery clearness that gave so much feminine
sweetness to the words of Miss Howard, and which even rang melodiously
in the ordinarily vivacious strains of her cousin.
The surprise created by these sudden interruptions caused a total
suspension of the discourse. Katherine Plowden, who had continued
kneeling in the attitude before described, arose, and as she looked
about her in momentary confusion, the blood again mantled her face with
the fresh and joyous springs of life. The other speaker advanced
steadily into the middle of the room; and after returning, with studied
civility, the low bow of Colonel Howard, seated herself in silence on
the opposite couch. The manner of her entrance, her reception, and her
attire, sufficiently denoted that the presence of this female was
neither unusual nor unwelcome. She was dressed with marked simplicity,
though with a studied neatness, that more than compensated for the
absence of ornaments. Her age might not have much exceeded thirty, but
there was an adoption of customs in her attire that indicated she was
not unwilling to be thought older. Her fair flaxen hair was closely
confined by a dark bandeau, such as was worn in a nation farther north
by virgins only, over which a few curls strayed, in a manner that showed
the will of their mistress alone restrained their luxuriance. Her light
complexion had lost much of its brilliancy, but enough still remained to
assert its original beauty and clearness. To this description might be
added, fine, mellow, blue eyes; beautifully white, though large teeth; a
regular set of features, and a person that was clad in a dark lead-
colored silk, which fitted her full, but gracefully moulded form with
the closest exactness.
Colonel Howard paused a moment after this lady was seated, and then
turning himself to Katherine with an air that became stiff and
constrained by attempting to seem extremely easy, he said:
"You no sooner summon Miss Alice, but she appears, Miss Plowden--ready
and (I am bold to say, Miss Alice) able to defend herself against all
charges that her worst enemies can allege against her."
"I have no charges to make against Miss Dunscombe," said Katherine,
pettishly, "nor do I wish to have dissensions created between me and my
friends, even by Colonel Howard."
"Colonel Howard will studiously avoid such offences in future," said the
veteran, bowing; and turning stiffly to the others, he continued: "I was
just conversing with my niece as you entered, Miss Alice, on the subject
of her immuring herself like one of the veriest nuns who ever inhabited
these cloisters. I tell her, madam, that neither her years, nor my
fortune, nor, indeed, her own, for the child of Harry Howard was not
left penniless, require that we should live as if the doors of the world
were closed against us, or there was no other entrance to St. Ruth's but
through those antiquated windows. Miss Plowden, I feel it to be my duty
to inquire why those pieces of silk are provided in such an unusual
abundance, and in so extraordinary a shape?"
"To make a gala dress for the ball you are about to give, sir," said
Katherine, with a saucy smile that was only checked by the reproachful
glance of her cousin. "You have taste In a lady's attire, Colonel
Howard; will not this bright yellow form a charming relief to my brown
face, while this white and black relieve one another, and this pink
contrasts so sweetly with black eyes? Will not the whole form a turban
fit for an empress to wear?"
As the arch maiden prattled on in this unmeaning manner, her rapid
fingers entwined the flags in a confused maze, which she threw over her
head in a form not unlike the ornament for which she intimated it was
intended. The veteran was by far too polite to dispute a lady's taste,
and he renewed the dialogue, with his slightly awakened suspicion
completely quieted by her dexterity and artifice. But although it was
not difficult to deceive Colonel Howard in matters of female dress, the
case was very different with Alice Dunscombe, This lady gazed with a
steady eye and reproving countenance on the fantastical turban, until
Katherine threw herself by her side, and endeavored to lead her
attention to other subjects, by her playful motions and whispered
"I was observing, Miss Alice," continued the colonel, "that although the
times had certainly inflicted some loss on my estate, yet we were not so
much reduced as to be unable to receive our friends in a manner that
would not disgrace the descendants of the ancient possessors of St.
Ruth. Cecilia, here, my brother Harry's daughter, is a young lady that
any uncle might be proud to exhibit, and I would have her, madam, show
your English dames that we rear no unworthy specimens of the parent
stock on the other side of the Atlantic."
"You have only to declare your pleasure, my good uncle," said Miss
Howard, "and it shall be executed."
"Tell us how we can oblige you, sir," continued Katherine, "and if it be
in any manner that will relieve the tedium of this dull residence, I
promise you at least one cheerful assistant to your scheme."
"You speak fair," cried the colonel, "and like two discreet and worthy
girls! Well, then, our first step shall be to send a message to Dillon
and the captain, and invite them to attend your coffee. I see the hour
Cecilia made no reply, but looked distressed, and dropped her mild eyes
to the carpet; Miss Plowden took it upon herself to answer:
"Nay, sir, that would be for them to proceed in the matter; as your
proposal was that the first step should be ours, suppose we all adjourn
to your part of the house, and do the honors of the tea-table in your
drawing-room, instead of our own. I understand, sir, that you have had
an apartment fitted up for that purpose in some style; a woman's taste
might aid your designs, however."
"Miss Plowden, I believe I intimated to you some time since," said the
displeased colonel, "that so long as certain suspicious vessels were
known to hover on this coast, I should desire that you and Miss Howard
would confine yourselves to this wing."
"Do not say that we confine ourselves," said Katherine, "but let it be
spoken in plain English, that you confine us here."
"Am I a jailer, madam, that you apply such epithets to my conduct? Miss
Alice must form strange conclusions of our manners, if she receive her
impressions from your very singular remarks. I----"
"All measures adopted from a dread of the ship and the schooner that ran
within the Devil's Grip, yester-eve, may be dispensed with now,"
interrupted Miss Dunscombe, in a melancholy, reflecting tone. "There are
few living who know the dangerous paths that can conduct even the
smallest craft in safety from the land, with daylight and fair winds;
but when darkness and adverse gales oppose them, the chance for safety
lies wholly in God's kindness."
"There is truly much reason to believe they are lost," returned the
veteran, in a voice in which no exultation was apparent.
"They are not lost!" exclaimed Katherine, with startling energy, leaving
her seat, and walking across the room to join Cecilia, with an air that
seemed to elevate her little figure to the height of her cousin. "They
are skilful and they are brave, and what gallant sailors can do will
they do, and successfully; besides, in what behalf would a just
Providence sooner exercise its merciful power, than to protect the
daring children of an oppressed country, while contending against
tyranny and countless wrongs?"
The conciliating disposition of the colonel deserted him, as he
listened. His own black eyes sparkled with a vividness unusual for his
years, and his courtesy barely permitted the lady to conclude, ere he
"What sin, madam, what damning crime, would sooner call down the just
wrath of heaven on the transgressors, than the act of foul rebellion? It
was this crime, madam, that deluged England in blood in the reign of the
first Charles; it is this crime that has dyed more fields red than all
the rest of man's offences united; it has been visited on our race as a
condign punishment, from the days of the deservedly devoted Absalom,
down to the present time; in short, it lost heaven forever to some of
the most glorious of its angels, and there is much reason to believe
that it is the one unpardonable sin named in the holy gospels."
"I know that you have authority for believing it to be the heavy
enormity that you mention, Colonel Howard," said Miss Dunscombe,
anticipating the spirited reply of Katherine, and willing to avert it;
she hesitated an instant, and then drawing a heavy shivering sigh, she
continued, in a voice that grew softer as she spoke: "'tis indeed a
crime of magnitude, and one that throws the common blackslidings of our
lives, speaking by comparison, into the sunshine of his favor. Many
there are who sever the dearest ties of this life, by madly rushing into
its sinful vortex; for I fain think the heart grows hard with the sight
of human calamity, and becomes callous to the miseries its owner
inflicts; especially where we act the wrongs on our own kith and kin,
regardless who or how many that are dear to us suffer by our evil deeds.
It is, besides, Colonel Howard, a dangerous temptation, to one little
practiced in the great world, to find himself suddenly elevated into the
seat of power; and if it does not lead to the commission of great
crimes, it surely prepares the way to it, by hardening the heart."
"I hear you patiently, Miss Alice," said Katherine, dancing her little
foot, in affected coolness; "for you neither know of whom nor to whom
you speak. But Colonel Howard has not that apology. Peace, Cecilia, for
I must speak! Believe them not, dear girl; there is not a wet hair on
their heads. For you, Colonel Howard, who must recollect that the
sister's son of the mothers of both your niece and myself is on board
that frigate, there is an appearance of cruelty in using such language."
"I pity the boy! from my soul I pity him!" exclaimed the veteran, "he is
a child, and has followed the current that is sweeping our unhappy
colonies down the tide of destruction. There are others in that vessel
who have no excuse of ignorance to offer. There is a son of my old
acquaintance, and the bosom friend of my brother Harry, Cecilia's
father, dashing Hugh Griffith, as we called him. The urchins left home
together and were rated on board one of his majesty's vessels on the
same day. Poor Harry lived to carry a broad pennant in the service, and
Hugh died in command of a frigate. This boy, too! He was a nurtured on
board his father's vessel, and learned, from his majesty's discipline,
how to turn his arms against his king. There is something shockingly
unnatural in that circumstance. Miss Alice, 'tis the child inflicting a
blow on the parent. 'Tis such men as these, with Washington at their
heads, who maintain the bold front this rebellion wears."
"There are men, who have never won the servile livery of Britain, sir,
whose names are as fondly cherished in America as any that she boasts
of," said Katherine, proudly; "ay, sir, and those who would gladly
oppose the bravest officers in the British fleet."
"I contend not against your misguided reason," said Colonel Howard,
rising with cool respect. "A young lady who ventures to compare rebels
with gallant gentlemen engaged in their duty to their prince, cannot
escape the imputation of possessing a misguided reason. No man--I speak
not of women, who cannot be supposed so well versed in human nature--but
no man who has reached the time of life that entitles him to be called
by that name, can consort with these disorganizers, who would destroy
everything that is sacred--these levellers, who would pull down the
great, to exalt the little--these jacobins, who--who----"
"Nay, sir, if you are at a loss for opprobrious epithets," said
Katherine, with provoking coolness, "call on Mr. Christopher Dillon for
assistance; he waits your pleasure at the door."
Colonel Howard turned in amazement, forgetting his angry declamations at
this unexpected intelligence, and beheld, in reality, the sombre visage
of his kinsman, who stood holding the door in his hand, apparently as
much surprised at finding himself in the presence of the ladies, as they
themselves could be at his unusual visit.
"Prithee, Kate, let's stand aside, and see the end of this controversy."
During the warm discussions of the preceding chapter, Miss Howard had
bowed her pale face to the arm of the couch, and sat an unwilling and
distressed listener to the controversy; but now that another, and one
whom she thought an unauthorized, intruder on her privacy was announced,
she asserted the dignity of her sex as proudly, though with something
more of discretion, than her cousin could possibly have done. Rising
from her seat, she inquired:
"To what are we indebted for so unexpected a visit from Mr. Dillon?
Surely he must know that we are prohibited going to the part of the
dwelling where he resides, and I trust Colonel Howard will tell him that
common justice requires we should be permitted to be private."
The gentleman replied, in a manner in which malignant anger was
sufficiently mingled with calculating humility:
"Miss Howard will think better of my intrusion, when she knows that I am
come on business of importance to her uncle."
"Ah! that may alter the case, Kit; but the ladies must have the respect
that is due to their sex. I forgot, somehow, to have myself announced;
but that Borroughcliffe leads me deeper into my Madeira than I have been
accustomed to go, since the time when my poor brother Harry, with his
worthy friend, Hugh Griffith--the devil seize Hugh Griffith, and all his
race--your pardon, Miss Alice--what is your business with me, Mr.
"I bear a message from Captain Borroughcliffe. You may remember that,
according to your suggestions, the sentinels were to be changed every
"Ay! ay! we practised that in our campaign against Montcalm; 'twas
necessary to avoid the murders of their Indians, who were sure, Miss
Alice, to shoot down a man at his post, if he were placed two nights
running in the same place."
"Well, sir, your prudent precautions have not been thrown away,"
continued Dillon, moving farther into the apartment, as if he felt
himself becoming a more welcome guest as he proceeded; "the consequences
are, that we have already made three prisoners."
"Truly it has been a most politic scheme!" exclaimed Katherine Plowden,
with infinite contempt. "I suppose, as Mr. Christopher Dillon applauds
it so highly, that it has some communion with the law! and that the
redoubtable garrison of St. Ruth are about to reap the high glory of
being most successful thief-takers!"
The sallow face of Dillon actually became livid as he replied, and his
whole frame shook with the rage he vainly endeavored to suppress.
"There may be a closer communion with the law, and its ministers,
perhaps, than Miss Plowden can desire," he said; "for rebellion seldom
finds favor in any Christian code."
"Rebellion!" exclaimed the Colonel; "and what has this detention of
three vagabonds to do with rebellion, Kit? Has the damnable poison found
its way across the Atlantic?--your pardon--Miss Alice--but this is a
subject on which you can feel with me; I know your sentiments on the
allegiance that is due to our anointed sovereign. Speak, Mr. Dillon, are
we surrounded by another set of Demons! if so, we must give ourselves to
the work and rally round our prince; for this island is the main pillar
of his throne."
"I cannot say that there is any appearance at present, of an intention
to rise in this island," said Dillon, with demure gravity; "though the
riots in London warrant any precautionary measures on the part of his
majesty's ministers, even to a suspension of the habeas corpus. But you
have had your suspicions concerning two certain vessels that have been
threatening the coast, for several days past, in a most piratical
The little foot of Katherine played rapidly on the splendid carpet, but
she contented herself with bestowing a glance of the most sovereign
contempt on the speaker, as if she disdained any further reply. With the
Colonel, however, this was touching a theme that lay nearest his heart,
and he answered, in a manner worthy of the importance of the subject:
"You speak like a sensible man, and a loyal subject, Mr. Dillon. The
habeas corpus, Miss Alice, was obtained in the reign of King John, along
with Magna Charta, for the security of the throne, by his majesty's
barons; some of my own blood were of the number, which alone would be a
pledge that the dignity of the crown was properly consulted. As to our
piratical countrymen, Christopher, there is much reason to think that
the vengeance of an offended Providence has already reached them. Those
who know the coast well tell me that without a better pilot than an
enemy would be likely to procure, it would be impossible for any vessel
to escape the shoals among which they entered, on a dark night, and with
an adverse gale; the morning has arrived, and they are not to be seen!"
"But be they friends or be they enemies, sir," continued Dillon,
respectfully, "there is much reason to think that we have now in the
abbey those who can tell us something of their true character; for the
men we have detained carry with them the appearance of having just
landed, and wear not only the dress but the air of seamen."
"Of seamen!" echoed Katherine, a deadly paleness chasing from her cheeks
the bloom which indignation had heightened.
"Of seamen, Miss Plowden," repeated Dillon, with malignant satisfaction,
but concealing it under an air of submissive respect.
"I thank you, sir, for so gentle a term," replied the young lady,
recollecting herself, and recovering her presence of mind in the same
instant; "the imagination of Mr. Dillon is so apt to conjure the worst,
that he is entitled to our praise for so far humoring our weakness, as
not to alarm us with the apprehensions of their being pirates."
"Nay, madam, they may yet deserve that name," returned the other,
coolly; "but my education has instructed me to hear the testimony before
I pronounce sentence."
"Ah! that the boy has found in his Coke upon Littleton," cried the
Colonel; "the law is a salutary corrective to human infirmities, Miss
Alice; and among other things, it teaches patience to a hasty
temperament. But for this cursed, unnatural rebellion, madam, the young
man would at this moment have been diffusing its blessings from a
judicial chair in one of the colonies--ay! and I pledge myself, to all
alike, black and white, red and yellow, with such proper distinctions as
nature has made between the officer and the private. Keep a good heart,
kinsman; we shall yet find a time! the royal arms have many hands and
things look better at the last advices. But come, we will proceed to the
guard-room and put these stragglers to the question; runaways, I'll
venture to predict, from one of his majesty's cruisers, or perhaps
honest subjects engaged in supplying the service with men. Come, Kit,
come, let us go, and----"
"Are we then to lose the company of Colonel Howard so soon?" said
Katherine, advancing to her guardian, with an air of blandishment and
pleasantry. "I know that he too soon forgets the hasty language of our
little disputes, to part in anger, if, indeed, he will even quit us till
he has tasted of our coffee."
The veteran turned to the speaker of this unexpected address, and
listened with profound attention. When she had done, he replied, with a
good deal of softness in his tones:
"Ah! provoking one! you know me too well, to doubt my forgiveness; but
duty must be attended to, though even a young lady's smiles tempt me to
remain. Yes, yes, child, you, too, are the daughter of a very brave and
worthy seaman; but you carry your attachment to that profession too far,
Miss Plowden--you do, indeed you do."
Katherine might have faintly blushed; but the slight smile, which
mingled with the expression of her shame, gave to her countenance a look
of additional archness, and she laid her hand lightly on the sleeve of
her guardian, to detain him, as she replied:
"Yet why leave us, Colonel Howard? It is long since we have seen you in
the cloisters, and you know you come as a father; tarry, and you may yet
add confessor to the title."
"I know thy sins already, girl," said the worthy colonel, unconsciously
yielding to her gentle efforts to lead him back to his seat; "they are,
deadly rebellion in your heart to your prince, a most inveterate
propensity to salt water, and a great disrespect to the advice and
wishes of an old fellow whom your father's will and the laws of the
realm have made the guardian of your person and fortune."
"Nay, say not the last, dear sir," cried Katherine; "for there is not a
syllable you have ever said to me on that foolish subject, that I have
forgotten. Will you resume your seat again? Cecilia, Colonel Howard
consents to take his coffee with us."
"But you forget the three men, honest Kit there, and our respectable
guest, Captain Borroughcliffe."
"Let honest Kit stay there, if he please; you may send a request to
Captain Borroughcliffe to join our party; I have a woman's curiosity to
see the soldier; and as for the three men--" she paused, and affected to
muse a moment, when she continued, as if struck by an obvious thought--
"yes, and the men can be brought in and examined here; who knows but
they may have been wrecked in the gale, and need our pity and
assistance, rather than deserve your suspicions."
"There is a solemn warning in Miss Plowden's conjecture, that should
come home to the breasts of all who live on this wild coast," said Alice
Dunscombe; "I have known many a sad wreck among the hidden shoals, and
when the wind has blown but a gentle gale, compared to last night's
tempest. The wars, and the uncertainties of the times, together with
man's own wicked passions, have made great havoc with those who knew
well the windings of the channels among the 'Ripples.' Some there were
who could pass, as I have often heard, within a fearful distance of the
'Devil's Grip,' the darkest night that ever shadowed England; but all
are now gone of that daring set, either by the hand of death, or, what
is even as mournful, by unnatural banishment from the land of their
"This war has then probably drawn off most of them, for your
recollections must be quite recent, Miss Alice," said the veteran; "as
many of them were engaged in the business of robbing his majesty's
revenue, the country is in some measure requited for the former
depredations, by their present services, and at the same time it is
happily rid of their presence. Ah! madam, ours is a glorious
constitution, where things are so nicely balanced, that, as in the
physical organization of a healthy, vigorous man, the baser parts are
purified in the course of things, by its own wholesome struggles."
The pale features of Alice Dunscombe became slightly tinged with red, as
the colonel proceeded, nor did the faint glow entirely leave her pallid
face, until she had said:
"There might have been some who knew not how to respect the laws of the
land, for such are never wanting: but there were others, who, however
guilty they might be in many respects, need not charge themselves with
that mean crime, and yet who could find the passages that lie hid from
common eyes, beneath the rude waves, as well as you could find the way
through the halls and galleries of the Abbey, with a noonday sun shining
upon its vanes and high chimneys."
"Is it your pleasure, Colonel Howard, that we examine the three men, and
ascertain whether they belong to the number of these gifted pilots?"
said Christopher Dillon, who was growing uneasy at his awkward
situation, and who hardly deemed it necessary to conceal the look of
contempt which he cast at the mild Alice, while he spoke; "perhaps we
may gather information enough from them, to draw a chart of the coast
that may gain us credit with my lords of the Admiralty."
This unprovoked attack on their unresisting and unoffending guest
brought the rich blood to the very temples of Miss Howard, who rose, and
addressed herself to her kinsman, with a manner that could not easily be
mistaken any more than it could be condemned:
"If Mr. Dillon will comply with the wishes of Colonel Howard, as my
cousin has expressed them, we shall not, at least, have to accuse
ourselves of unnecessarily detaining men who probably are more
unfortunate than guilty."
When she concluded, Cecilia walked across the apartment and took a seat
by the side of Alice Dunscombe, with whom she began to converse, in a
low, soothing tone of voice. Mr. Dillon bowed with a deprecating
humility, and having ascertained that Colonel Howard chose to give an
audience, where he sat, to the prisoners, he withdrew to execute his
mission, secretly exulting at any change that promised to lead to a
renewal of an intercourse that might terminate more to his advantage,
than the lofty beauty whose favor he courted was, at present, disposed
"Christopher is a worthy, serviceable, good fellow," said the colonel,
when the door closed, "and I hope to live yet to see him clad in ermine.
I would not be understood literally, but figuratively; for furs would
but ill comport with the climate of the Carolinas. I trust I am to be
consulted by his majesty's ministers when the new appointments shall be
made for the subdued colonies, and he may safely rely on my good word
being spoken in his favor. Would he not make an excellent and
independent ornament of the bench, Miss Plowden?"
Katherine compressed her lips a little as she replied.
"I must profit by his own discreet rules, and see testimony to that
effect, before I decide, sir. But listen!" The young lady's color
changed rapidly, and her eyes became fixed in a sort of feverish gaze on
the door. "He has at least been active; I hear the heavy tread of men
"Ah! it is he certainly; justice ought always to be prompt as well as
certain, to make it perfect; like a drumhead court-martial, which, by
the way, is as summary a sort of government as heart could wish to live
under. If his majesty's ministers could be persuaded to introduce into
the revolted colonies----"
"Listen!" interrupted Katherine, in a voice which bespoke her deep
anxiety; "they draw near!"
The sound of footsteps was in fact now so audible as to induce the
colonel to suspend the delivery of his plan for governing the recovered
provinces. The long, low gallery, which was paved with a stone flagging,
soon brought the footsteps of the approaching party more distinctly to
their ears, and presently a low tap at the door announced their arrival.
Colonel Howard arose, with the air of one who was to sustain the
principal character in the ensuing interview, and bade them enter.
Cecilia and Alice Dunscombe merely cast careless looks at the opening
door, indifferent to the scene; but the quick eye of Katherine embraced,
at a glance, every figure in the group. Drawing a long, quivering
breath, she fell back on the couch, and her eyes again lighted with
their playful expression, as she hummed a low rapid air, with a voice in
which even the suppressed tones were liquid melody.
Dillon entered, preceding the soldier, whose gait had become more
steady, and in whose rigid eye a thoughtful expression had taken the
place of its former vacant gaze. In short, something had manifestly
restored to him a more complete command of his mental powers, although
he might not have been absolutely sobered. The rest of the party
continued in the gallery, while Mr. Dillon presented the renovated
captain to the colonel, when the latter did him the same kind office
with the ladies.
"Miss Plowden," said the veteran, for she offered first in the circle,
"this is my friend, Captain Borroughcliffe: he has long been ambitious
of this honor, and I have no doubt his reception will be such as to
leave him no cause to repent he has been at last successful."
Katherine smiled, and answered with ambiguous emphasis:
"I know not how to thank him sufficiently for the care he has bestowed
on our poor persons."
The soldier looked steadily at her for a moment, with an eye that seemed
to threaten a retaliation in kind, ere he replied:
"One of those smiles, madam, would be an ample compensation for services
that are more real than such as exist only in intention."
Katherine bowed with more complacency than she usually bestowed on those
who wore the British uniform; and they proceeded to the next.
"This is Miss Alice Dunscombe, Captain Borroughcliffe, daughter of a
very worthy clergyman who was formerly the curate of this parish, and a
lady who does us the pleasure of giving us a good deal of her society,
though far less than we all wish for."
The captain returned the civil inclination of Alice, and the colonel
"Miss Howard, allow me to present Captain Borroughcliffe, a gentleman
who, having volunteered to defend St. Ruth in these critical times,
merits all the favor of its mistress."
Cecilia gracefully rose, and received her guest with sweet complacency.
The soldier made no reply to the customary compliments that she uttered,
but stood an instant gazing at her speaking countenance, and then,
laying his hand involuntarily on his breast, bowed nearly to his sword-
These formalities duly observed, the colonel declared his readiness to
receive the prisoners. As the door was opened by Dillon, Katherine cast
a cool and steady look at the strangers, and beheld the light glancing
along the arms of the soldiers who guarded them. But the seamen entered
alone; while the rattling of arms, and the heavy dash of the muskets on
the stone pavement, announced that it was thought prudent to retain a
force at hand, to watch these secret intruders on the grounds of the
"Food for powder; they'll fill a pit as well as better."
The three men who now entered the apartment appeared to be nothing
daunted by the presence into which they were ushered, though clad in the
coarse and weather-beaten vestments of seamen who had been exposed to
recent and severe duty. They silently obeyed the direction of the
soldier's finger, and took their stations in a distant corner of the
room, like men who knew the deference due to rank, at the same time that
the habits of their lives had long accustomed them to encounter the
vicissitudes of the world. With this slight preparation Colonel Howard
began the business of examination.
"I trust ye are all good and loyal subjects," the veteran commenced,
with a considerate respect for innocence, "but the times are such that
even the most worthy characters become liable to suspicion; and,
consequently, if our apprehensions should prove erroneous, you must
overlook the mistake, and attribute it to the awful condition into which
rebellion has plunged this empire. We have much reason to fear that some
project is about to be undertaken on the coast by the enemy, who has
appeared, we know, with a frigate and schooner; and the audacity of the
rebels is only equaled by their shameless and wicked disrespect for the
rights of the sovereign."
While Colonel Howard was uttering his apologetic preamble, the prisoners
fastened their eyes on him with much interest; but when he alluded to
the apprehended attack, the gaze of two of them became more keenly
attentive, and, before he concluded, they exchanged furtive glances of
deep meaning. No reply was made, however, and after a short pause, as if
to allow time for his words to make a proper impression, the veteran
"We have no evidence, I understand, that you are in the smallest degree
connected with the enemies of this country; but as you have been found
out of the king's highway, or, rather, on a by-path, which I must
confess is frequently used by the people of the neighborhood, but which
is nevertheless nothing but a by-path, it becomes no more than what
self-preservation requires of us, to ask you a few such questions as I
trust will be satisfactorily answered. To use your own nautical phrases,
'From whence came ye, pray?' and 'whither are ye bound?'"
A low, deep voice replied:
"From Sunderland, last, and bound, overland, to Whitehaven."
This simple and direct answer was hardly given, before the attention of
the listeners was called to Alice Dunscombe, who uttered a faint shriek,
and rose from her seat involuntarily, while her eyes seemed to roll
fearfully, and perhaps a little wildly, round the room.
"Are you ill, Miss Alice?" said the sweet, soothing tones of Cecilia
Howard; "you are, indeed you are: lean on me, that I may lead you to
"Did you hear it, or was it only fancy?" she answered, her cheek
blanched to the whiteness of death, and her whole frame shuddering as if
in convulsions; "say, did you hear it, too?"
"I have heard nothing but the voice of my uncle, who is standing near
you, anxious, as we all are, for your recovery from this dreadful
Alice still gazed wildly from face to face. Her eye did not rest
satisfied with dwelling on those who surrounded her, but surveyed, with
a sort of frantic eagerness, the figures and appearance of the three
men, who stood in humble patience, the silent and unmoved witnesses of
this extraordinary scene. At length she veiled her eyes with both her
hands, as if to shut out some horrid vision, and then removing them, she
smiled languidly, as she signed for Cecilia to assist her from the room.
To the polite and assiduous offers of the gentlemen, she returned no
other thanks than those conveyed in her looks and gestures; but when the
sentinels who paced the gallery were passed, and the ladies were alone,
she breathed a long, shivering sigh, and found an utterance.
"'Twas like a voice from the silent grave!" she said, "but it could be
no more than mockery. No, no, 'tis a just punishment for letting the
image of the creature fill the place that should be occupied only with
the Creator. Ah! Miss Howard, Miss Plowden, ye are both young--in the
pride of your beauty and loveliness--but little do ye know, and less do
ye dread, the temptations and errors of a sinful world."
"Her thoughts wander!" whispered Katherine, with anxious tenderness,
"some awful calamity has affected her intellect!"
"Yes, it must be; my sinful thoughts have wandered, and conjured sounds
that it would have been dreadful to hear in truth, and within these
walls," said Alice, more composedly, smiling with a ghastly expression,
as she gazed on the two beautiful, solicitous maidens who supported her
yielding person. "But the moment of weakness is passed, and I am better;
aid me to my room, and return, that you may not interrupt the reviving
harmony between yourselves and Colonel Howard. I am now better--nay, I
am quite restored."
"Say not so, dear Miss Alice," returned Cecilia; "your face denies what
your kindness to us induces you to utter; ill, very ill, you are, nor
shall even your own commands induce me to leave you."
"Remain, then," said Miss Dunscombe, bestowing a look of grateful
affection on her lovely supporter; "and while our Katherine returns to
the drawing-room, to give the gentlemen their coffee, you shall continue
with me, as my gentle nurse."
By this time they had gained the apartment, and Katherine, after
assisting her cousin to place Alice on her bed, returned to do the
honors of the drawing-room.
Colonel Howard ceased his examination of the prisoners, at her entrance,
to inquire, with courtly solicitude, after the invalid; and, when his
questions were answered, he again proceeded, as follows:
"This is what the lads would call plain sailing, Borroughcliffe: they
are out of employment in Sunderland, and have acquaintances and
relatives in Whitehaven, to whom they are going for assistance and
labor. All very probable, and perfectly harmless."
"Nothing more so, my respectable host," returned the jocund soldier;
"but it seemeth a grievous misfortune that a trio of such flesh and
blood should need work wherewithal to exercise their thews and sinews,
while so many of the vessels of his majesty's fleet navigate the ocean
in quest of the enemies of old England."
"There is truth in that; much truth in your remark," cried the colonel.
"What say you, my lads, will you fight the Frenchmen and the Don----ay!
and even my own rebellious and infatuated countrymen? Nay, by heaven, it
is not a trifle that shall prevent his majesty from possessing the
services of three such heroes. Here are five guineas apiece for you the
moment that you put foot on board the Alacrity cutter; and that can
easily be done, as she lies at anchor this very night, only two short
leagues to the south of this, in a small port, where she is riding out
the gale as snugly as if she were in a corner of this room."
One of the men affected to gaze at the money with longing eyes, while he
asked, as if weighing the terms of the engagement:
"Whether the Alacrity was called a good sea-boat, and was thought to
give a comfortable berth to her crew?"
"Comfortable!" echoed Borroughcliffe; "for that matter, she is called
the bravest cutter in the navy. You have seen much of the world, I dare
say; did you ever see such a place as the marine arsenal at Carthagena,
in old Spain?"
"Indeed I have, sir," returned the seaman, in a cool, collected tone.
"Ah! you have! well, did you ever meet with a house in Paris that they
call the Tuileries? because it's a dog-kennel to the Alacrity."
"I have even fallen in with the place you mention, sir," returned the
sailor; "and must own the berth quite good enough for such as I am, if
it tallies with your description."
"The deuce take these blue-jackets," muttered Borroughcliffe, addressing
himself unconsciously to Miss Plowden, near whom he happened to be at
the time; "they run their tarry countenances into all the corners of the
earth, and abridge a man most lamentably in his comparisons. Now, who
the devil would have thought that fellow had ever put his sea-green eyes
on the palace of King Louis?"
Katherine heeded not his speech, but sat eying the prisoners with a
confused and wavering expression of countenance, while Colonel Howard
renewed the discourse, by exclaiming:
"Come, come, Borroughcliffe, let us give the lads no tales for a
recruit, but good, plain, honest English--God bless the language, and
the land for which it was first made, too! There is no necessity to tell
these men, if they are, what they seem to be, practical seamen, that a
cutter of ten guns contains all the room and accommodation of a palace."
"Do you allow nothing for English oak and English comfort, mine host?"
said the immovable captain; "do you think, good sir, that I measure
fitness and propriety by square and compass, as if I were planning
Solomon's temple anew? All I mean to say is, that the Alacrity is a
vessel of singular compactness and magical arrangement of room. Like the
tent of that handsome brother of the fairy, in the Arabian Nights, she
is big or she is little, as occasion needeth; and now, hang me, if I
don't think I have uttered more in her favor than her commander would
say to help me to a recruit, though no lad in the three kingdoms should
appear willing to try how a scarlet coat would suit his boorish figure."
"That time has not yet arrived, and God forbid that it ever should,
while the monarch needs a soldier in the field to protect his rights.
But what say ye, my men? you have heard the recommendation that Captain
Borroughcliffe has given of the Alacrity, which is altogether true--
after making some allowances for language. Will ye serve? shall I order
you a cheering glass a man, and lay by the gold, till I hear from the
cutter that you are enrolled under the banners of the best of kings?"
Katherine Plowden, who hardly seemed to breathe, so close and intent was
the interest with which she regarded the seamen, fancied she observed
lurking smiles on their faces; but if her conjectures were true, their
disposition to be merry went no further, and the one who had spoken
hitherto replied, in the same calm manner as before:
"You will excuse us if we decline shipping in the cutter, sir; we are
used to distant voyages and large vessels, whereas the Alacrity is kept
at coast duty, and is not of a size to lay herself alongside of a Don or
a Frenchman with a double row of teeth."
"If you prefer that sort of sport, you must to the right about for
Yarmouth; there you will find ships that will meet anything that swims,"
said the colonel.
"Perhaps the gentlemen would prefer abandoning the cares and dangers of
the ocean for a life of ease and gayety," said the captain. "The hand
that has long dallied with a marlinspike may be easily made to feel a
trigger, as gracefully as a lady touches the keys of her piano. In
short, there is and there is not a great resemblance between the life of
a sailor and that of a soldier. There are no gales of wind, nor short
allowances, nor reefing topsails, nor shipwrecks, among soldiers; and,
at the same time, there is just as much, or even more, grog-drinking,
jollifying, care-killing fun around a canteen and an open knapsack, than
there is on the end of a mess-chest, with a full can and a Saturday-
night's breeze. I have crossed the ocean several times, and I must own
that a ship, in good weather, is very much the same as a camp or
comfortable barracks; mind, I say only in very good weather."
"We have no doubt that all you say is true, sir," observed the spokesman
of the three; "but what to you may seem a hardship, to us is pleasure.
We have faced too many a gale to mind a capful of wind, and should think
ourselves always in the calm latitudes in one of your barracks, where
there is nothing to do but to eat our grub and to march a little fore
and aft a small piece of green earth. We hardly know one end of a musket
from the other."
"No!" said Borroughcliffe, musing; and then advancing with a quick step
toward them, he cried, in a spirited manner: "Attention! right! dress!"
The speaker, and the seaman next him, gazed at the captain in silent
wonder; but the third individual of the party, who had drawn himself a
little aside, as if willing to be unnoticed, or perhaps pondering on his
condition, involuntarily started at this unexpected order, and erecting
himself, threw his head to the right as promptly as if he had been on a
"Oho! ye are apt scholars, gentlemen, and ye can learn, I see,"
continued Borroughcliffe. "I feel it to be proper that I detain these
men till to-morrow morning, Colonel Howard; and yet I would give them
better quarters than the hard benches of the guard-room."
"Act your pleasure. Captain Borroughcliffe," returned the host, "so you
do but your duty to our royal master. They shall not want for cheer, and
they can have a room over the servants' offices in the south side of the
"Three rooms, my colonel, three rooms must be provided, though I give up
"There are several-small empty apartments there, where blankets might be
taken, and the men placed for safe-keeping, if you deem it necessary;
though, to me, they seem like good, loyal tars, whose greatest glory it
would be to serve their prince, and whose chief pleasure would consist
in getting alongside of a Don or a Monsieur."
"We shall discuss these matters anon," said Borroughcliffe, dryly. "I
see Miss Plowden begins to look grave at our abusing her patience so
long, and I know that cold coffee is, like withered love, but a
tasteless sort of a beverage. Come, gentlemen, _en avant!_ you have
seen the Tuileries, and must have heard a little French. Mr. Christopher
Dillon, know you where these three small apartments are 'situate, lying,
and being,' as your parchments read?"
"I do, sir," said the complying lawyer, "and shall take much pleasure in
guiding you to them. I think your decision that of a prudent and
sagacious officer, and much doubt whether Durham Castle, or some other
fortress, will be thought too big to hold them, ere long."
As this speech was uttered while the men were passing from the room, its
effect on them was unnoticed; but Katherine Plowden, who was left for a
few moments by herself, sat and pondered over what she had seen and
heard, with a thoughtfulness of manner that was not usual to her gay and
buoyant spirits. The sounds of the retiring footsteps, however,
gradually grew fainter, and the return of her guardian alone recalled
the recollection of the young lady to the duties of her situation.
While engaged in the little offices of the tea-table, Katherine threw
many furtive glances at the veteran; but, although he seemed to be
musing, there was nothing austere or suspicious in his frank, open
countenance, "There is much useless trouble taken with these wandering
seamen, sir," said Katherine, at length; "it seems to be the particular
province of Mr. Christopher Dillon to make all that come in contact with
him excessively uncomfortable."
"And what has Kit to do with the detention of the men?"
"What! why, has he not undertaken to stand godfather to their prisons?--
by a woman's patience, I think, Colonel Howard, this business will gain
a pretty addition to the names of St. Ruth. It is already called a
house, an abbey, a place, and by some a castle; let Mr. Dillon have his
way for a month, and it will add jail to the number."
"Kit is not so happy as to possess the favor of Miss Plowden; but still
Kit is a worthy fellow, and a good fellow, and a sensible fellow; ay!
and what is of more value than all these put together, Miss Katherine,
Mr. Christopher Dillon is a faithful and loyal subject to his prince.
His mother was my cousin-german, madam, and I cannot say how soon I may
call him my nephew. The Dillons are of good Irish extraction, and I
believe that even Miss Plowden will admit that the Howards have some
pretensions to a name."
"Ah! it is those very things called names that I most allude to," said
Katherine, quickly, "But an hour since you were indignant, my dear
guardian, because you suspected that I insinuated you ought to write
jailer behind the name of Howard, and even now you submit to have the
office palmed upon you."
"You forget, Miss Katherine Plowden, that it is the pleasure of one of
his majesty's officers to detain these men."
"But I thought that the glorious British constitution, which you so
often mention," interrupted the young lady, spiritedly, "gives liberty
to all who touch these blessed shores; you know, sir, that out of twenty
blacks that you brought with you, how few remain; the rest having fled
on the wings of the spirit of British liberty!"
This was touching a festering sore in the colonel's feelings, and his
provoking ward well knew the effects her observation was likely to
produce. Her guardian did not break forth in a violent burst of rage, or
furnish those manifestations of his ire that he was wont to do on less
important subjects; but he arose, with all his dignity concentred in a
look, and, after making a violent effort to restrain his feelings within
the bounds necessary to preserve the decorum of his exit, he ventured a
"That the British constitution is glorious, madam, is most true. That
this island is the sole refuge where liberty has been able to find a
home, is also true. The tyranny and oppression of the Congress, which
are grinding down the colonies to the powder of desolation and poverty,
are not worthy the sacred name. Rebellion pollutes all that it touches,
madam. Although it often commences under the sanction of holy liberty,
it ever terminates in despotism. The annals of the world, from the time
of the Greeks and Romans down to the present day, abundantly prove it.
There was that Julius Caesar--he was one of your people's men, and he
ended a tyrant. Oliver Cromwell was another--a rebel, a demagogue, and a
tyrant. The gradations, madam, are as inevitable as from childhood to
youth, and from youth to age. As for the little affair that you have
been pleased to mention, of the--of the--of my private concerns, I can
only say that the affairs of nations are not to be judged of by domestic
incidents, any more than domestic occurrences are to be judged of by
national politics." The colonel, like many a better logician, mistook
his antithesis for argument, and paused a moment to admire his own
eloquence; but the current of his thoughts, which always flowed in
torrents on this subject, swept him along in its course, and he
continued: "Yes, madam, here, and here alone, is true liberty to be
found. With this solemn asseveration, which is not lightly made, but
which is the result of sixty years' experience, I leave you. Miss
Plowden; let it be a subject of deep reflection with you, for I too well
understand your treacherous feelings not to know that your political
errors encourage your personal foibles; reflect, for your own sake, if
you love not only your own happiness, but your respectability and
standing in the world. As for the black hounds that you spoke of, they
are a set of rebellious, mutinous, ungrateful rascals; and if ever I
meet one of the damned----"
The colonel had so far controlled his feelings, as to leave the presence
of the lady before he broke out into the bitter invectives we have
recorded, and Katherine stood a minute, pressing her forefinger on her
lips, listening to his voice as it grumbled along the gallery, until the
sounds were finally excluded by the closing of a distant door. The
willful girl then shook her dark locks, and a smile of arch mischief
blended with an expression of regret in her countenance, as she spoke to
herself, while with hurried hands she threw her tea equipage aside in a
"It was perhaps a cruel experiment, but it has succeeded. Though
prisoners ourselves, we are at least left free for the remainder of this
night. These mysterious sailors must be examined more closely. If the
proud eye of Edward Griffith was not glaring under the black wig of one
of them, I am no judge of features; and where has Master Barnstable
concealed his charming visage? for neither of the others could be he.
But now for Cecilia."
Her light form glided from the room, while she was yet speaking; and
flitting along the dimly lighted passages, it disappeared in one of
those turnings that led to the more secret apartments of the abbey.
"How! Lucia, wouldst them have me sink away
In pleasing dreams, and lose myself in love?"
The reader must not imagine that the world stood still during the
occurrence of the scenes we have related. By the time the three seamen
were placed in as many different rooms, and a sentinel was stationed in
the gallery common to them all, in such a manner as to keep an eye on
his whole charge at once, the hour had run deep into the night. Captain
Borroughcliffe obeyed a summons from the colonel, who made him an
evasive apology for the change in their evening's amusement, and
challenged his guest to a renewal of the attack on the Madeira. This was
too grateful a theme to be lightly discussed by the captain; and the
abbey clock had given forth as many of its mournful remonstrances as the
division of the hours would permit, before they separated. In the mean
time, Mr. Dillon became invisible; though a servant, when questioned by
the host on the subject, announced that "he believed Mr. Christopher had
chosen to ride over to----, to be in readiness to join the hunt, on the
morning, with the dawn." While the gentlemen were thus indulging
themselves in the dining-parlor, and laughing over the tales of other
times and hard campaigns, two very different scenes occurred in other
parts of the building.
When the quiet of the abbey was only interrupted by the howling of the
wind, or by the loud and prolonged laughs which echoed through the
passages from the joyous pair, who were thus comfortably established by
the side of the bottle, a door was gently opened on one of the galleries
of the "cloisters," and Katherine Plowden issued from it, wrapped in a
close mantle, and holding in her hand a chamber-lamp, which threw its
dim light faintly along the gloomy walls in front, leaving all behind
her obscured in darkness. She was, however, soon followed by two other
female figures, clad in the same manner, and provided with similar
lights. When all were in the gallery, Katherine drew the door softly to,
and proceeded in front to lead the way.
"Hist!" said the low, tremulous voice of Cecilia, "they are yet up in
the other parts of the house; and if it be as you suspect, our visit
would betray them, and prove the means of their certain destruction."
"Is the laugh of Colonel Howard in his cups so singular and unknown to
your ear, Cecilia, that you know it not?" said Katherine with a little
spirit; "or do you forget that on such occasions he seldom leaves
himself ears to hear, or eyes to see with? But follow me; it is as I
suspect--it must be as I suspect; and unless we do something to rescue
them, they are lost, unless they have laid a deeper scheme than is
"It is a dangerous road ye both journey," added the placid tones of
Alice Dunscombe; "but ye are young, and ye are credulous."
"If you disapprove of our visit," said Cecilia, "it cannot be right, and
we had better return."
"No, no: I have said nought to disapprove of your present errand. If God
has put the lives of those in your custody whom ye have taught
yourselves to look up to with love and reverence, such as woman is bound
to yield to one man, he has done it for no idle purpose. Lead us to
their doors, Katherine; let us relieve our doubts, at least."
The ardent girl did not wait for a second bidding, but she led them,
with light and quick steps, along the gallery, until they reached its
termination, where they descended to the basement floor by a flight of
narrow steps; and carefully opening a small door, emerged into the open
air. They now stood on a small plat of grass, which lay between the
building and the ornamental garden, across which they moved rapidly,
concealing their lights, and bending their shrinking forms before the
shivering blasts that poured their fury upon them from the ocean. They
soon reached a large but rough addition to the buildings, that concealed
its plain architecture behind the more labored and highly finished parts
of the edifice, into which they entered through a massive door that
stood ajar, as if to admit them.
"Chloe has been true to my orders," whispered Katherine, as they passed
out of the chilling air; "now, if all the servants are asleep, our
chance to escape unnoticed amounts to certainty."
It became necessary to go through the servants' hall, which they
effected unobserved, as it had but one occupant, an aged black man, who,
being posted with his ear within two feet of a bell, in this attitude
had committed himself to a deep sleep. Gliding through this hall, they
entered divers long and intricate passages, all of which seemed as
familiar to Katherine as they were unknown to her companions, until they
reached another flight of steps, which they ascended. They were now near
their goal, and stopped to examine whether any or what difficulties were
likely to be opposed to their further progress.
"Now, indeed, our case seems hopeless," whispered Katherine, as they
stood, concealed by the darkness, in one end of an extremely long,
narrow passage; "here is the sentinel in the building, instead of being,
as I had supposed, under the windows; what is to be done now?"
"Let us return," said Cecilia, in the same manner; "my influence with my
uncle is great, even though he seems unkind to us at times. In the
morning I will use it to persuade him to free them, on receiving their
promise to abandon all such attempts in future."
"In the morning it will be too late," returned Katherine; "I saw that
demon, Kit Dillon, mount his horse, under the pretence of riding to the
great hunt of to-morrow, but I know his malicious eye too well to be
deceived in his errand. He is silent that he may be sure; and if to-
morrow comes, and finds Griffith within these walls, he will be
condemned to a scaffold."
"Say no more," said Alice Dunscombe, with singular emotion; "some lucky
circumstance may aid us with this sentinel."
As she spoke, she advanced: they had not proceeded far, before the stern
voice of the soldier challenged the party.
"'Tis no time to hesitate," whispered Katherine: "we are the ladies of
the abbey, looking to our domestic affairs," she continued aloud, "and
think it a little remarkable that we are to encounter armed men, while
going through our own dwelling."
The soldier respectfully presented his musket, and replied:
"My orders are to guard the doors of these three rooms, ladies; we have
prisoners in them, and as for anything else, my duty will be to serve
you all in my power."
"Prisoners!" exclaimed Katherine, in affected surprise; "does Captain
Borroughcliffe make St. Ruth's Abbey a jail! Of what offences are the
poor men guilty?"
"I know not, my lady; but, as they are sailors, I suppose they have run
from his majesty's service."
"This is singular, truly! and why are they not sent to the county
"This must be examined into," said Cecilia, dropping the mantle from
before her face. "As mistress of this house, I claim a right to know
whom its walls contain; you will oblige me by opening the doors, for I
see you have the keys suspended from your belt."
The sentinel hesitated. He was greatly awed by the presence and beauty
of the speakers, but a still voice reminded him of his duty. A lucky
thought, however, interposed to relieve him from his dilemma, and at the
same time to comply with the request, or rather order, of the lady. As
he handed her the keys, he said:
"Here they are, my lady; my orders are to keep the prisoners in, not to
keep any one out. When you are done with them, you will please to return
them to me, if it be only to save a poor fellow's eye; for unless the
door is kept locked, I shall not dare to look about me for a moment."
Cecilia promised to return the keys, and she had applied one of them to
a lock with a trembling hand, when Alice Dunscombe arrested her arm, and
addressed the soldier.
"Say you there are three?--are they men in years?"
"No, my lady, all good serviceable lads, who couldn't do better than to
serve his majesty, or, as it may prove, worse than to run from their
"But are their years and appearance similar? I ask; for I have a friend
who has been guilty of some boyish tricks, and has tried the seas, I
hear, among other foolish hazards."
"There is no boy here. In the far room on the left is a smart, soldier-
looking chap, of about thirty, who the captain thinks has carried a
musket before now; on him I am charged to keep a particular eye. Next to
him is as pretty a looking youth as eyes could wish to see, and it makes
one feel mournful to think what he must come to, if he has really
deserted his ship. In the room near you, is a smaller, quiet little
body, who might make a better preacher than a sailor, or a soldier
either, he has such a gentle way with him."
Alice covered her eyes with her hand a moment, and then recovering
"Gentleness may do more with the unfortunate men than fear; here is a
guinea; withdraw to the far end of the passage, where you can watch them
as well as here, while we enter, and endeavor to make them confess who
and what they really are."
The soldier took the money, and after looking about him in a little
uncertainty, he at length complied, as it was obviously true they could
only escape by passing him, near the flight of steps. When he was beyond
hearing, Alice Dunscombe turned to her companions, and a slight glow
appeared in feverish spots on her cheeks, as she addressed them:
"It would be idle to attempt to hide from you, that I expect to meet the
individual whose voice I must have heard in reality to-night, instead of
only imaginary sounds, as I vainly, if not wickedly, supposed. I have
many reasons for changing my opinion, the chief of which is, that he is
leagued with the rebellious Americans in this unnatural war. Nay, chide
me not, Miss Plowden; you will remember that I found my being on this
island. I come here on no vain or weak errand, Miss Howard, but to spare
human blood." She paused, as if struggling to speak calmly. "But no one
can witness the interview except our God."
"Go, then," said Katherine, secretly rejoicing at her determination,
"while we inquire into the characters of the others."
Alice Dunscombe turned the key; and gently opening the door, she desired
her companions to tap for her, as they returned, and then instantly
disappeared in the apartment.
Cecilia and her cousin proceeded to the next door, which they opened in
silence, and entered cautiously into the room. Katherine Plowden had so
far examined into the arrangements of Colonel Howard, as to know that at
the same time he had ordered blankets to be provided for the prisoners,
he had not thought it necessary to administer any further to the
accommodations of men who had apparently made their beds and pillows of
planks for the greater part of their lives.
The ladies accordingly found the youthful sailor whom they sought, with
his body rolled in the shaggy covering, extended at his length along the
naked boards, and buried in a deep sleep. So timid were the steps of his
visitors, and so noiseless was their entrance, that they approached even
to his side without disturbing his slumbers. The head of the prisoner
lay rudely pillowed on a billet of wood, one hand protecting his face
from its rough surface, and the other thrust in his bosom, where it
rested, with a relaxed grasp, on the handle of a dirk. Although he
slept, and that heavily, yet his rest was unnatural and perturbed. His
breathing was hard and quick, and something like the low, rapid
murmurings of a confused utterance mingled with his respiration. The
moment had now arrived when the character of Cecilia Howard appeared to
undergo an entire change. Hitherto she had been led by her cousin, whose
activity and enterprise seemed to qualify her so well for the office of
guide; but now she advanced before Katherine, and, extending her lamp in
such a manner as to throw the light across the face of the sleeper, she
bent to examine his countenance, with keen and anxious eyes.
"Am I right?" whispered her cousin.
"May God, in His infinite compassion, pity and protect him!" murmured
Cecilia, her whole frame involuntarily shuddering, as the conviction
that she beheld Griffith flashed across her mind. "Yes, Katherine, it is
he, and presumptuous madness has driven him here. But time presses; he
must be awakened, and his escape effected at every hazard."
"Nay, then, delay no longer, but rouse him from his sleep."
"Griffith! Edward Griffith!" said the soft tones of Cecilia, "Griffith,
"Your call is useless, for they sleep nightly among tempests and
boisterous sounds," said Katherine; "but I have heard it said that the
smallest touch will generally cause one of them to stir."
"Griffith!" repeated Cecilia, laying her fair hand timidly on his own.
The flash of lightning is not more nimble than the leap that the young
man made to his feet, which he no sooner gained, than his dirk gleamed
in the light of the lamps, as he brandished it fiercely with one hand,
while with the other he extended a pistol, in a menacing attitude,
towards his disturbers.
"Stand back!" he exclaimed; "I am your prisoner only as a corpse."
The fierceness of his front, and the glaring eyeballs, that tolled
wildly around, him, appalled Cecilia, who shrank back in fear, dropping
her mantle from her person, but still keeping her mild eyes fastened on
his countenance with a confiding gaze, that contradicted her shrinking
attitude, as she replied:
"Edward, it is I; Cecilia Howard, come to save you from destruction; you
are known even through your ingenious disguise."
The pistol and the dirk fell together on the blanket of the young
sailor, whose looks instantly lost their disturbed expression in a glow
"Fortune at length favors me!" he cried. "This is kind, Cecilia; more
than I deserve, and much more than I expected. But you are not alone."
"'Tis my cousin Kate; to her piercing eyes you owe your detection, and
she has kindly consented to accompany me, that we might urge you to--
nay, that we might, if necessary, assist you to fly. For 'tis cruel
folly, Griffith, thus to tempt your fate."
"Have I tempted it, then, in vain! Miss Plowden, to you I must appeal
for an answer and a justification."
Katherine looked displeased; but after a moment's hesitation she
"Your servant, Mr. Griffith; I perceive that the erudite Captain
Barnstable has not only succeeded in spelling through my scrawl, but he
has also given it to all hands for perusal."
"Now you do both him and me injustice," said Griffith; "it surely was
not treachery to show me a plan in which I was to be a principal actor."
"Ah! doubtless your excuses are as obedient to your calls as your men,"
returned the young lady; "but how comes it that the hero of the Ariel
sends a deputy to perform a duty that is so peculiarly his own? Is he
wont to be second in rescues?"
"Heaven forbid that you should think so meanly of him for a moment! We
owe you much, Miss Plowden; but we may have other duties. You know that
we serve our common country, and have a superior with us, whose beck is
"Return, then, Mr. Griffith, while you may, to the service of our
bleeding country," said Cecilia, "and, after the joint efforts of her
brave children have expelled the intruders from her soil, let us hope
there shall come a time when Katherine and myself may be restored to our
"Think you, Miss Howard, to how long a period the mighty arm of the
British king may extend that time? We shall prevail; a nation fighting
for its dearest rights must ever prevail; but 'tis not the work of a
day, for a people, poor, scattered, and impoverished as we have been, to
beat down a power like that of England; surely you forget, that in
bidding me to leave you with such expectations, Miss Howard, you doom me
to an almost hopeless banishment!"
"We must trust to the will of God," said Cecilia; "if he ordain that
America is to be free only after protracted sufferings, I can aid her
but with my prayers; but you have an arm and an experience, Griffith,
that might do her better service; waste not your usefulness, then, in
visionary schemes for private happiness, but seize the moments as they
offer, and return to your ship, if indeed it is yet in safety, and
endeavor to forget this mad undertaking, and, for a time, the being who
has led you to the adventure."
"This is a reception that I had not anticipated," returned Griffith;
"for though accident, and not intention, has thrown me into your
presence this evening, I did hope that, when I again saw the frigate, it
would be in your company, Cecilia."
"You cannot justly reproach me, Mr. Griffith, with your disappointment;
for I have not uttered or authorized a syllable that could induce you or
any one to believe that I would consent to quit my uncle."
"Miss Howard will not think me presumptuous, if I remind her that there
was a time when she did not think me unworthy to be entrusted with her
person and happiness."
A rich bloom mantled on the face of Cecilia, as she replied:
"Nor do I now, Mr. Griffith; but you do well to remind me of my former
weakness, for the recollection of its folly and imprudence only adds to
my present strength."
"Nay," interrupted her eager lover, "if I intended a reproach, or
harbored a boastful thought, spurn me from you forever, as unworthy of
"I acquit you of both much easier than I can acquit myself of the charge
of weakness and folly," continued Cecilia; "but there are many things
that have occurred, since we last met, to prevent a repetition of such
inconsiderate rashness on my part. One of them is," she added, smiling
sweetly, "that I have numbered twelve additional months to my age, and a
hundred to my experience. Another, and perhaps a more important one, is,
that my uncle then continued among the friends of his youth, surrounded
by those whose blood mingles with his own; but here he lives a stranger;
and, though he finds some consolation in dwelling in a building where
his ancestors have dwelt before him, yet he walks as an alien through
its gloomy passages, and would find the empty honor but a miserable
compensation for the kindness and affection of one whom he has loved and
cherished from her infancy."
"And yet he is opposed to you in your private wishes, Cecilia, unless my
besotted vanity has led me to believe what it would now be madness to
learn was false; and in your opinions of public things, you are quite as
widely separated. I should think there could be but little happiness
dependent on a connection where there is no one feeling entertained in
"There is, and an all-important one," said Miss Howard; "'tis our love.
He is my kind, my affectionate, and, unless thwarted by some evil cause,
my indulgent uncle and guardian,--and I am his brother Harry's child.
This tie is not easily to be severed, Mr. Griffith; though, as I do not
wish to see you crazed, I shall not add, that your besotted vanity has
played you false; but surely, Edward, it is possible to feel a double
tie, and so to act as to discharge our duties to both. I never, never
can or will consent to desert my uncle, a stranger as he is in the land
whose rule he upholds so blindly. You know not this England, Griffith;
she receives her children from the colonies with cold and haughty
distrust, like a jealous stepmother, who is wary of the favors that she
bestows on her fictitious offspring."
"I know her in peace, and I know her in war," said the young sailor,
proudly, "and can add, that she is a haughty friend, and a stubborn foe;
but she grapples now with those who ask no more of her than an open sea
and an enemy's favors. But this determination will be melancholy tidings
for me to convey to Barnstable."
"Nay," said Cecilia, smiling, "I cannot vouch for others who have no
uncles, and who have an extra quantity of ill humor and spleen against
this country, its people, and its laws, although profoundly ignorant of
"Is Miss Howard tired of seeing me under the tiles of St. Ruth?" asked
Katherine. "But hark! are there not footsteps approaching along the
They listened, in breathless silence, and soon heard distinctly the
approaching tread of more than one person. Voices were quite audible,
and before they had time to consult on what was best to be done, the
words of the speakers were distinctly heard at the door of their own
"Ay! he has a military air about him, Peters, that will make him a
prize; come, open the door."
"This is not his room, your honor," said the alarmed soldier; "he
quarters in the last room in the gallery."
"How know you that, fellow? come, produce the key, and open the way for
me; I care not who sleeps here; there is no saying but I may enlist them
A single moment of dreadful incertitude succeeded, when the sentinel was
heard saying, in reply to this peremptory order:
"I thought your honor wanted to see the one with the black stock, and so
left the rest of the keys at the other end of the passage; but----"
"But nothing, you loon; a sentinel should always carry his keys about
him, like a jailer; follow, then, and let me see the lad who dresses so
well to the right."
As the heart of Katherine began to beat less vehemently, she said:
"'Tis Borroughcliffe, and too drunk to see that we have left the key in
the door; but what is to be done? we have but a moment for
"As the day dawns," said Cecilia, quickly, I shall send here, under the
pretence of conveying you food, my own woman----"
"There is no need of risking anything for my safety," interrupted
Griffith; "I hardly think we shall be detained, and if we are,
Barnstable is at hand with a force that would scatter these recruits to
the four winds of heaven."
"Ah! that would lead to bloodshed, and scenes of horror!" exclaimed
"Listen!" cried Katherine, "they approach again!"
A man now stopped, once more, at their door, which was opened softly,
and the face of the sentinel was thrust into the apartment.
"Captain Borroughcliffe is on his rounds, and for fifty of your guineas
I would not leave you here another minute."
"But one word more," said Cecilia.
"Not a syllable, my lady, for my life," returned the man; "the lady from
the next room waits for you, and in mercy to a poor fellow go back where
you came from."
The appeal was unanswerable, and they complied, Cecilia saying, as they
left the room:
"I shall send you food in the morning, young man, and directions how to
take the remedy necessary to your safety."
In the passage they found Alice Dunscombe, with her face concealed in
her mantle; and, it would seem, by the heavy sighs that escaped from
her, deeply agitated by the interview which she had just encountered.
But as the reader may have some curiosity to know what occurred to
distress this unoffending lady so sensibly, we shall detain the
narrative, to relate the substance of that which passed between her and
the individual whom she sought.
"As when a lion in his den,
Hath heard the hunters' cries,
And rushes forth to meet his foes,
So did the Douglas rise--"
Alice Dunscombe did not find the second of the prisoners buried, like
Griffith, in sleep, but he was seated on one of the old chairs that were
in the apartment, with his back to the door, and apparently looking
through the small window, on the dark and dreary scenery over which the
tempest was yet sweeping in its fury. Her approach was unheeded, until
the light from her lamp glared across his eyes, when he started from his
musing posture, and advanced to meet her. He was the first to speak.
"I expected this visit," he said, "when I found that you recognized my
voice; and I felt a deep assurance in my breast, that Alice Dunscombe
would never betray me."
His listener, though expecting this confirmation of her conjectures, was
unable to make an immediate reply, but she sank into the seat he had
abandoned, and waited a few moments, as if to recover her powers.
"It was, then, no mysterious warning! no airy voice that mocked my ear;
but a dread reality!" she at length said. "Why have you thus braved the
indignation of the laws of your country? On what errand of fell mischief
has your ruthless temper again urged you to embark?"
"This is strong and cruel language, coming from you to me, Alice
Dunscombe," returned the stranger, with cool asperity, "and the time has
been when I should have been greeted, after a shorter absence, with
"I deny it not; I cannot, if I would, conceal my infirmity from myself
or you; I hardly wish it to continue unknown to the world. If I have
once esteemed you, if I have plighted to you my troth, and in my
confiding folly forgot my higher duties, God has amply punished me for
the weakness in your own evil deeds."
"Nay, let not our meeting be embittered with useless and provoking
recriminations," said the other; "for we have much to say before you
communicate the errand of mercy on which you have come hither. I know
you too well, Alice, not to see that you perceive the peril in which I
am placed, and are willing to venture something for my safety. Your
mother--does she yet live?"
"She is gone in quest of my blessed father," said Alice, covering her
pale face with her hands; "they have left me alone, truly; for he, who
was to have been all to me, was first false to his faith, and has since
become unworthy of my confidence."
The stranger became singularly agitated, his usually quiet eye glancing
hastily from the floor to the countenance of his companion, as he paced
the room with hurried steps; at length he replied:
"There is much, perhaps, to be said in explanation, that you do not
know. I left the country, because I found in it nothing but oppression
and injustice, and I could not invite you to become the bride of a
wanderer, without either name or fortune. But I have now the opportunity
of proving my truth. You say you are alone; be so no longer, and try how
far you were mistaken in believing that I should one day supply the
place to you of both father and mother."
There is something soothing to a female ear in the offer of even
protracted justice, and Alice spoke with less of acrimony in her tones,
during the remainder of their conference, if not with less of severity
in her language.
"You talk not like a man whose very life hangs but on a thread that the
next minute may snap asunder. Whither would you lead me? Is it to the
Tower at London?"
"Think not that I have weakly exposed my person without a sufficient
protection," returned the stranger with cool indifference; "there are
many gallant men who only wait my signal, to crush the paltry force of
this officer like a worm beneath my feet."
"Then has the conjecture of Colonel Howard been true I and the manner in
which the enemy's vessels have passed the shoals is no longer a mystery!
you have been their pilot!"
"What! would ye pervert the knowledge gained in the springtime of your
guileless youth to the foul purpose of bringing desolation to the doors
of those you once knew and respected! John! John! is the image of the
maiden whom in her morning of beauty and simplicity I believe you did
love, so faintly impressed, that it cannot soften your hard heart to the
misery of those among whom she has been born, and who compose her little
"Not a hair of theirs shall be touched, not a thatch shall blaze, nor
shall a sleepless night befall the vilest among them--and all for your
sake, Alice! England comes to this contest with a seared conscience, and
bloody hands, but all shall be forgotten for the present, when both
opportunity and power offer to make her feel our vengeance, even in her
vitals. I came on no such errand."
"What, then, has led you blindly into snares, where all your boasted aid
would avail you nothing? for, should I call aloud your name, even here,
in the dark and dreary passages of this obscure edifice, the cry would
echo through the country ere the morning, and a whole people would be
found in arms to punish your audacity."
"My name has been sounded, and that in no gentle strains," returned the
Pilot, scornfully, "when a whole people have quailed at it, the craven
cowardly wretches flying before the man they had wronged. I have lived
to bear the banners of the new republic proudly in sight of the three
kingdoms, when practised skill and equal arms have in vain struggled to
pluck it down. Ay! Alice, the echoes of my guns are still roaring among
your eastern hills, and would render my name more appalling than
inviting to your sleeping yeomen."
"Boast not of the momentary success that the arm of God has yielded to
your unhallowed efforts," said Alice; "for a day of severe and heavy
retribution must follow: nor flatter yourself with the idle hope that
your name, terrible as ye have rendered it to the virtuous, is
sufficient, of itself, to drive the thoughts of home, and country, and
kin, from all who hear it.--Nay, I know not that even now, in listening
to you, I am not forgetting a solemn duty, which would teach me to
proclaim your presence, that the land might know that her unnatural son
is a dangerous burden in her bosom."
The Pilot turned quickly in his short walk; and, after reading her
countenance, with the expression of one who felt his security, he said
in gentler tones:
"Would that be Alice Dunscombe? would that be like the mild, generous
girl whom I knew in my youth? But I repeat, the threat would fail to
intimidate, even if you were capable of executing it. I have said that
it is only to make the signal, to draw around me a force sufficient to
scatter these dogs of soldiers to the four winds of heaven."
"Have you calculated your power justly, John?" said Alice, unconsciously
betraying her deep interest in his safety. "Have you reckoned the
probability of Mr. Dillon's arriving, accompanied by an armed band of
horsemen, with the morning's sun? for it's no secret in the abbey that
he is gone in quest of such assistance."
"Dillon!" exclaimed the Pilot, starting; "who is he? and on what
suspicion does he seek this addition to your guard?"
"Nay, John, look not at me, as if you would know the secrets of my
heart. It was not I who prompted him to such a step; you cannot for a
moment think that I would betray you! But too surely he has gone; and,
as the night wears rapidly away, you should be using the hour of grace
to effect our own security."
"Fear not for me, Alice," returned the Pilot proudly, while a faint
smile struggled around his compressed lip: "and yet I like not this
movement either. How call you his name? Dillon! is he a minion of King
"He is, John, what you are not, a loyal subject of his sovereign lord
the king; and, though a native of the revolted colonies, he has
preserved his virtue uncontaminated amid the corruptions and temptations
of the times."
"An American! and disloyal to the liberties of the human race! By
Heaven, he had better not cross me; for if my arm reach him, it shall
hold him forth as a spectacle of treason to the world."
"And has not the world enough of such a spectacle in yourself? Are ye
not, even now, breathing your native air, though lurking through the
mists of the island, with desperate intent against its peace and
A dark and fierce expression of angry resentment flashed from the eyes
of the Pilot, and even his iron frame seemed to shake with emotion, as
"Call you his dastardly and selfish treason, aiming, as it does, to
aggrandize a few, at the expense of millions, a parallel case to the
generous ardor that impels a man to fight in the defence of sacred
liberty? I might tell you that I am armed in the common cause of my
fellow-subjects and countrymen; that though an ocean divided us in
distance, yet are we a people of the same blood, and children of the
same parents, and that the hand which oppresses one inflicts an injury
on the other. But I disdain all such narrow apologies. I was born on
this orb, and I claim to be a citizen of it. A man with a soul not to be
limited by the arbitrary boundaries of tyrants and hirelings, but one
who has the right as well as the inclination to grapple with oppression,
in whose name so ever it is exercised, or in whatever hollow and
specious shape it founds its claim to abuse our race."
"Ah! John, John, though this may sound like reason to rebellious ears,
to mine it seemeth only as the ravings of insanity. It is in vain ye
build up your new and disorganizing systems of rule, or rather misrule,
which are opposed to all that the world has ever yet done, or ever will
see done in peace and happiness. What avail your subtleties and false
reasonings against the heart? It is the heart which tells us where our
home is, and how to love it."
"You talk like a weak and prejudiced woman, Alice," said the Pilot, more
composedly; "and one who would shackle nations with the ties that bind
the young and feeble of your own sex together."
"And by what holier or better bond can they be united?" said Alice. "Are
not the relations of domestic life of God's establishing, and have not
the nations grown from families, as branches spread from the stem, till
the tree overshadows the land? 'Tis an ancient and sacred tie that binds
man to his nation; neither can it be severed without infamy."
The Pilot smiled disdainfully, and throwing open the rough exterior of
his dress, he drew forth, in succession, several articles, while a
glowing pride lighted his countenance, as he offered them singly to her
"See, Alice!" he said, "call you this infamy! This broad sheet of
parchment is stamped with a seal of no mean importance, and it bears the
royal name of the princely Louis also! And view this cross! decorated as
it is with jewels, the gift of the same illustrious hand; it is not apt
to be given to the children of infamy, neither is it wise or decorous to
stigmatize a man who has not been thought unworthy to consort with
princes and nobles by the opprobrious name of the 'Scotch Pirate.'"
"And have ye not earned the title, John, by ruthless deeds and bitter
animosity? I could kiss the baubles ye show me, if they were a thousand
times less splendid, had they been laid upon your breast by the hands of
your lawful prince; but now they appear to my eyes as indelible blots
upon your attainted name. As for your associates, I have heard of them;
and it seemeth that a queen might be better employed than encouraging by
her smiles the disloyal subjects of other monarchs, though even her
enemies. God only knows when His pleasure may suffer a spirit of
disaffection to rise up among the people of her own nation, and then the
thought that she has encouraged rebellion may prove both bitter and
"That the royal and lovely Antoinette has deigned to repay my services
with a small portion of her gracious approbation is not among the least
of my boasts," returned the Pilot, in affected humility, while secret
pride was manifested even in his lofty attitude. "But venture not a
syllable in her dispraise, for you know not whom you censure. She is
less distinguished by her illustrious birth and elevated station, than
by her virtues and loveliness. She lives the first of her sex in Europe
--the daughter of an emperor, the consort of the most powerful king, and
the smiling and beloved patroness of a nation who worship at her feet.
Her life is above all reproach, as it is above all earthly punishment,
were she so lost as to merit it; and it has been the will of Providence
to place her far beyond the reach of all human misfortunes."
"Has it placed her above human errors, John? Punishment is the natural
and inevitable consequence of sin; and unless she can say more than has
ever fallen to the lot of humanity to say truly, she may yet be made to
feel the chastening arm of One, to whose eyes all her pageantry and
power are as vacant as the air she breathes--so insignificant must it
seem when compared to his own just rule! But if you vaunt that you have
been permitted to kiss the hem of the robes of the French queen, and
have been the companion of high-born and flaunting ladies, clad in their
richest array, can ye yet say to yourself, that amid them all ye have
found one whose tongue has been bold to tell you the truth, or whose
heart has sincerely joined in her false professions?"
"Certainly none have met me with the reproaches that I have this night
received from Alice Dunscombe, after a separation of six long years,"
returned the Pilot.
"If I have spoken to you the words of holy truth, John, let them not be
the less welcome, because they are strangers to your ears. Oh! think
that she who has thus dared to use the language of reproach to one whose
name is terrible to all who live on the border of this island, is led to
the rash act by no other motive than interest in your eternal welfare."
"Alice! Alice! you madden me with these foolish speeches! Am I a monster
to frighten unprotected women and helpless children? What mean these
epithets, as coupled with my name? Have you, too, lent a credulous ear
to the vile calumnies with which the policy of your rulers has ever
attempted to destroy the fair fame of those who oppose them, and those
chiefly who oppose them with success? My name may be terrible to the
officers of the royal fleet, but where and how have I earned a claim to
be considered formidable to the helpless and unoffending?"
Alice Dunscombe cast a furtive and timid glance at the Pilot, which
spoke even stronger than her words, as she replied:
"I know not that all which is said of you and your deeds is true. I have
often prayed, in bitterness and sorrow, that a tenth part of that which
is laid to your charge may not be heaped on your devoted head at the
great and final account. But, John, I have known you long and well, and
Heaven forbid, that on this solemn occasion, which may be the last, the
last of our earthly interviews, I should be found wanting in Christian
duty, through a woman's weakness. I have often thought, when I have
heard the gall of bitter reproach and envenomed language hurled against
your name, that they who spoke so rashly, little understood the man they
vituperated. But, though ye are at times, and I may say almost always,
as mild and even as the smoothest sea over which ye have ever sailed,
yet God has mingled in your nature a fearful mixture of fierce passions,
which, roused, are more like the southern waters when troubled with the
tornado. It is difficult for me to say how far this evil spirit may lead
a man, who has been goaded by fancied wrongs to forget his country and
home, and who is suddenly clothed with power to show his resentments."
The Pilot listened with rooted attention, and his piercing eye seemed to
reach the seat of those thoughts which she but half expressed; still he
retained the entire command of himself, and answered, more in sorrow
than in anger:
"If anything could convert me to your own peaceful and unresisting
opinions, Alice, it would be the reflections that offer themselves at
this conviction, that even you have been led by the base tongues of my
dastardly enemies, to doubt my honor and conduct. What is fame, when a
man can be thus traduced to his nearest friends? But no more of these
childish reflections! they are unworthy of myself, my office, and the
sacred cause in which I have enlisted!"
"Nay, John, shake them not off," said Alice, unconsciously laying her
hand on his arm; "they are as the dew to the parched herbage, and may
freshen the feelings of your youth, and soften the heart that has grown
hard, if hard it be, more by unnatural indulgence than its own base
"Alice Dunscombe," said the Pilot, approaching her with solemn
earnestness, "I have learnt much this night, though I came not in quest
of such knowledge. You have taught me how powerful is the breath of the
slanderer, and how frail is the tenure by which we hold our good names.
Full twenty times have I met the hirelings of your prince in open
battle, fighting ever manfully under that flag which was first raised to
the breeze by my own hands, and which, I thank my God, I have never yet
seen lowered an inch; but with no one act of cowardice or private wrong
in all that service can I reproach myself; and yet, how am I rewarded!
The tongue of the vile calumniator is keener than the sword of the
warrior, and leaves a more indelible scar!"
"Never have ye uttered a truer sentiment, John, and God send that ye may
encourage such thoughts to your own eternal advantage," said Alice, with
engaging interest "You say that you have risked your precious life in
twenty combats, and observe how little of Heaven's favor is bestowed on
the abettors of rebellion! They tell me that the world has never
witnessed a more desperate and bloody struggle than this last, for which
your name has been made to sound to the furthermost ends of the isle."
"'Twill be known wherever naval combats are spoken of!" interrupted the
Pilot, the melancholy which had begun to lower in his countenance giving
place to a look of proud exultation.
"And yet its fancied glory cannot shield your name from wrong, nor are
the rewards of the victor equal, in a temporal sense, to those which the
vanquished has received. Know you that our gracious monarch, deeming
your adversary's cause so sacred, has extended to him his royal favor?"
"Ay! he has dubbed him knight!" exclaimed the Pilot. with a scornful and
bitter laugh: "let him be again furnished with a ship, and me with
another opportunity, and I promise him an earldom, if being again
vanquished can constitute a claim!"
"Speak not so rashly, nor vaunt yourself of possessing a protecting
power that may desert you, John, when you most need it, and least expect
the change," returned his companion; "the battle is not always to the
strong, neither is the race to the swift."
"Forget you, my good Alice, that your words will admit of a double
meaning? Has the battle been to the strong! Though you say not well in
denying the race to the swift. Yes, yes, often and again have the
dastards escaped me by their prudent speed! Alice Dunscombe, you know
not a thousandth part of the torture that I have been made to feel, by
high-born miscreants, who envy the merit they cannot equal, and detract
from the glory of deeds that they dare not attempt to emulate. How have
I been cast upon the ocean, like some unworthy vessel that is
commissioned to do a desperate deed, and then to bury itself in the ruin
it has made! How many malignant hearts have triumphed as they beheld my
canvas open, thinking that it was spread to hasten me to a gibbet, or to
a tomb in the bosom of the ocean! but I have disappointed them!"
The eyes of the Pilot no longer gazed with their piercing and settled
meaning; but they flashed with a fierce and wild pleasure, as he
continued, in a louder voice:
"Yes, bitterly have I disappointed them! Oh! the triumph over my fallen
enemies has been tame to this heartfelt exultation which places me
immeasurably above those false and craven hypocrites! I begged, I
implored, the Frenchmen, for the meanest of their craft, which possessed
but the common qualities of a ship of war; I urged the policy and
necessity of giving me such a force, for even then I promised to be
found in harm's way; but envy and jealousy robbed me of my just dues,
and of more than half my glory. They call me pirate! If I have claim to
the name, it was furnished more by the paltry outfit of my friends, than
by any act towards my enemies!"
"And do not these recollections prompt you to return to your allegiance,
to your prince and native land, John?" said Alice, in a subdued voice.
"Away with the silly thought!" interrupted the Pilot, recalled to
himself as if by a sudden conviction of the weakness he had betrayed;
"it is ever thus where men are made conspicuous by their works--but to
your visit--I have the power to rescue myself and companions from this
paltry confinement, and yet I would not have it done with violence, for
your sake. Bring you the means of doing it in quiet?"
"When the morning arrives, you will all be conducted to the apartment
where we first met.--This will be done at the solicitation of Miss
Howard, under the plea of compassion and justice, and with the professed
object of inquiring into your situations. Her request will not be
refused; and while your guard is stationed at the door, you will be
shown, by another entrance, through the private apartments of the wing,
to a window, whence you can easily leap to the ground, where a thicket
is at hand; afterwards we shall trust your safety to your own
"And if this Dillon, of whom you have spoken, should suspect the truth,
how will you answer to the law for aiding our escape?"
"I believe he little dreams who is among the prisoners," said Alice,
musing, "though he may have detected the character of one of your
companions. But it is private feeling, rather than public spirit, that
urges him on."
"I have suspected something of this," returned the Pilot, with a smile,
that crossed those features where ungovernable passions that had so
lately been exhibited, with an effect that might be likened to the last
glimmering of an expiring conflagration, serving to render the
surrounding ruin more obvious. "This young Griffith has led me from my
direct path with his idle imprudence, and it is right that his mistress
should incur some risk. But with you, Alice, the case is different; here
you are only a guest, and it is unnecessary that you should be known in
the unfortunate affair. Should my name get abroad, this recreant
American, this Colonel Howard, will find all the favor he has purchased
by advocating the cause of tyranny necessary to protect him from the
displeasure of the ministry."
"I fear to trust so delicate a measure to the young discretion of my
amiable friend," said Alice, shaking her head.
"Remember, that she has her attachment to plead in her excuse; but dare
you say to the world that you still remember, with gentle feelings, the
man whom you stigmatize with such opprobrious epithets?"
A slight color gleamed over the brow of Alice Dunscombe, as she uttered,
in a voice that was barely audible:
"There is no longer a reason why the world should know of such a
weakness, though it did exist." And, as the faint glow passed away,
leaving her face pale nearly as the hue of death, her eyes kindled with
unusual fire, and she added: "They can but take my life, John; and that
I am ready to lay down in your service!"
"Alice!" exclaimed the softened Pilot, "my kind, my gentle Alice--"
The knock of the sentinel at the door was heard at this critical moment.
Without waiting for a reply to his summons, the man entered the
apartment; and, in hurried language, declared the urgent necessity that
existed for the lady to retire. A few brief remonstrances were uttered
by both Alice and the Pilot, who wished to comprehend more clearly each
other's intentions relative to the intended escape: but the fear of
personal punishment rendered the soldier obdurate, and a dread of
exposure at length induced the lady to comply. She arose, and was
leaving the apartment with lingering steps, when the Pilot, touching her
hand, whispered to her impressively:
"Alice, we meet again before I leave this island forever?"
"We meet in the morning, John," she returned in the same tone of voice,
"in the apartments of Miss Howard."
He dropped her hand, and she glided from the room, when the impatient
sentinel closed the door, and silently turned the key on his prisoner.
The Pilot remained in a listening attitude, until the light footsteps of
the retiring pair were no longer audible, when he paced his confined
apartment with perturbed steps, occasionally pausing to look out at the
driving clouds and the groaning oaks that were trembling and rocking
their broad arms in the fitful gusts of the gale. In a few minutes the
tempest in his own passions had gradually subsided to the desperate and
still calmness that made him the man he was; when he again seated
himself where Alice had found him, and began to muse on the events of
the times, from which the transition to projecting schemes of daring
enterprise and mighty consequences was but the usual employment of his
active and restless mind.
"_Sir And._. I have no exquisite reason for't, but I've reason
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