J. Fenimore Cooper
Part 5 out of 9
"How now, long Tom!" cried his officer, "these rocks and cliffs will
shipwreck you on the shoals of poetry yet; you grow sentimental!"
"Them rocks might wrack any vessel that struck them," said the literal
cockswain; "and as for poetry, I wants none better than the good old
song of Captain Kidd; but it's enough to raise solemn thoughts in a Cape
Poge Indian, to see an eighty-barrel whale devoured by shirks--'tis an
awful waste of property! I've seen the death of two hundred of the
creaturs, though it seems to keep the rations of poor old Tom as short
The cockswain walked aft, while the vessel was passing the whale, and
seating himself on the taffrail, with his face resting gloomily on his
bony hand, he fastened his eyes on the object of his solicitude, and
continued to gaze at it with melancholy regret, while it was to be seen
glistening in the sunbeams, as it rolled its glittering side of white
into the air, or the rays fell unreflected on the black and rougher coat
of the back of the monster. In the mean time, the navigators diligently
pursued their way for the haven we have mentioned, into which they
steered with every appearance of the fearlessness of friends, and the
exultation of conquerors.
A few eager and gratified spectators lined the edges of the small bay,
and Barnstable concluded his arrangement for deceiving the enemy, by
admonishing his crew that they were now about to enter on a service that
would require their utmost intrepidity and sagacity.
"Our trumpet called you to this gentle parle."
As Griffith and his companions rushed from the offices of St. Ruth into
the open air, they encountered no one to intercept their flight, or
communicate the alarm. Warned by the experience of the earlier part of
the same night, they avoided the points where they knew the sentinels
were posted, though fully prepared to bear down all resistance, and were
soon beyond the probability of immediate detection. They proceeded, for
the distance of half a mile, with rapid strides, and with the stern and
sullen silence of men who expected to encounter immediate danger,
resolved to breast it with desperate resolution; but, as they plunged
into a copse that clustered around the ruin which has been already
mentioned, they lessened their exertions to a more deliberate pace, and
a short but guarded dialogue ensued "We have had a timely escape," said
Griffith; "I would much rather have endured captivity, than have been
the cause of introducing confusion and bloodshed in the peaceful
residence of Colonel Howard."
"I would, sir, that you had been of this opinion some hours earlier,"
returned the Pilot, with a severity in his tones that even conveyed more
meaning than his words.
"I may have forgotten my duty, sir, in my anxiety to enquire into the
condition of a family in whom I feel a particular interest," returned
Griffith, in a manner in which pride evidently struggled with respect;
"but this is not a time for regrets; I apprehend that we follow you on
an errand of some moment, where actions would be more acceptable than
any words of apology. What is your pleasure now?"
"I much fear that our project will be defeated," said the Pilot,
gloomily; "the alarm will spread with the morning fogs, and there will
be musterings of the yeomen, and consultations of the gentry, that will
drive all thoughts of amusement from their minds. The rumor of a descent
will, at any time, force sleep from the shores of this island, to at
least ten leagues inland."
"Ay, you have probably passed some pleasant nights, with your eyes open,
among them, yourself, Master Pilot," said Manual; "they may thank the
Frenchman, Thurot, in the old business of '56, and our own daredevil,
the bloody Scotchman, as the causes of their quarters being so often
beaten up. After all, Thurot, with his fleet, did no more than bully
them a little, and the poor fellow was finally extinguished by a few
small cruisers, like a drummer's boy under a grenadier's cap; but honest
Paul sang a different tune for his countrymen to dance to, and--"
"I believe you will shortly dance yourself, Manual," interrupted
Griffith, quickly, "and in very pleasure that you have escaped an
"Say, rather, an English gibbet," continued the elated marine; "for had
a court-martial or a court-civil discussed the manner of our entrance
into this island, I doubt whether we should have fared better than the
daredevil himself, honest----"
"Pshaw!" exclaimed the impatient Griffith; "enough of this nonsense,
Captain Manual: we have other matters to discuss now. What course have
you determined to pursue, Mr. Gray?"
The Pilot started, like a man aroused from a deep musing, at this
question, and after a pause of a moment he spoke in a low tone of voice,
as if still under the influence of deep and melancholy feeling:
"The night has already run into the morning watch, but the sun is
backward to show himself in this latitude in the heart of winter.--I
must depart, my friends, to rejoin you some ten hours hence: it will be
necessary to look deeper into our scheme before we hazard anything, and
no one can do the service but myself: where shall we meet again?"
"I have reason to think that there is an unfrequented ruin at no great
distance from us," said Griffith; "perhaps we might find both shelter
and privacy among its deserted walls."
"The thought is good," returned the Pilot, "and 'twill answer a double
purpose. Could you find the place where you put the marines in ambush,
"Has a dog a nose? and can he follow a clean scent?" exclaimed the
marine; "do you think, Signor Pilota, that a general ever puts his
forces in an ambuscade where he can't find them himself? 'Fore God! I
knew well enough where the rascals lay snoring on their knapsacks, some
half an hour ago, and I would have given the oldest majority in
Washington's army to have had them where a small intimation from myself
could have brought them in line ready dressed for a charge. I know not
how you fared, gentlemen, but, with me, the sight of twenty such
vagabonds would have been a joyous spectacle; we would have tossed that
Captain Borroughcliffe and his recruits on the point of our bayonets, as
the devil would pitch----"
"Come, come, Manual," said Griffith, a little angrily, "you constantly
forget our situation and our errand; can you lead your men hither
without discovery, before the day dawns?"
"I want but the shortest half-hour that a bad watch ever traveled over
to do it in."
"Then follow, and I will appoint a place of secret rendezvous," rejoined
Griffith; "Mr. Gray can learn our situation at the same time."
The Pilot was seen to beckon, through the gloom of the night, for his
companions to come forward; when they proceeded, with cautious steps, in
quest of the desired shelter. A short search brought them in contact
with a part of the ruinous walls, which spread over a large surface, and
which, in places, reared their black fragments against the sky, casting
a deeper obscurity across the secret recesses of the wood.
"This will do," said Griffith, when they had skirted for some distance
the outline of the crumbling fabric; "bring up your men to this point,
where I will meet you, and conduct them to some more secret place, for
which I shall search during your absence."
"A perfect paradise, after the cable-tiers of the Ariel!" exclaimed
Manual; "I doubt not but a good spot might be selected among these trees
for a steady drill,--a thing my soul has pined after for six long
"Away, away!" cried Griffith; "here is no place for idle parades; if we
find shelter from discovery and capture until you shall be needed in a
deadly struggle, 'twill be well."
Manual was slowly retracing his steps to the skirts of the wood, when he
suddenly turned, and asked:
"Shall I post a small picket, a mere corporal's guard, in the open
ground in front, and make a chain of sentinels to our works?"
"We have no works--we want no sentinels," returned his impatient
commander; "our security is only to be found in secrecy. Lead up your
men under the cover of the trees, and let those three bright stars be
your landmarks--bring them in a range with the northern corner of the
"Enough, Mr. Griffith," interrupted Manual; "a column of troops is not
to be steered like a ship, by compass, and bearings and distances;--trust
me, sir, the march shall be conducted with proper discretion, though in
a military manner."
Any reply or expostulation was prevented by the sudden disappearance of
the marine, whose retreating footsteps were heard for several moments,
as he moved at a deliberate pace through the underwood. During this
short interval, the Pilot stood reclining against the corner of the
ruins in profound silence; but when the sounds of Manual's march were no
longer audible, he advanced from under the deeper shadows of the wall,
and approached his youthful companion.
"We are indebted to the marine for our escape," he said; "I hope we are
not to suffer by his folly."
"He is what Barnstable calls a rectangular man," returned Griffith, "and
will have his way in matters of his profession, though a daring
companion in a hazardous expedition. If we can keep him from exposing us
by his silly parade, we shall find him a man who will do his work like a
soldier, sir, when need happens."
"'Tis all I ask; until the last moment, he and his command must be
torpid; for if we are discovered, any attempt of ours, with some twenty
bayonets and a half-pike or two, would be useless against the force that
would be brought to crush us."
"The truth of your opinion is too obvious," returned Griffith; "these
fellows will sleep a week at a time in a gale at sea, but the smell of
the land wakes them up, and I fear 'twill be hard to keep them close
during the day."
"It must be done, sir, by the strong hand of force," said the Pilot
sternly, "if it cannot be done by admonition; if we had no more than the
recruits of that drunken martinet to cope with, it would be no hard task
to drive them into the sea; but I learned in my prison that horse are
expected on the shore with the dawn; there is one they call Dillon, who
is on the alert to do us mischief."
"The miscreant!" muttered Griffith; "then you also have had communion,
sir, with some of the inmates of St. Ruth?"
"It behooves a man who is embarked in a perilous enterprise to seize all
opportunities to learn his hazard," said the Pilot, evasively: "if the
report be true, I fear we have but little hopes of succeeding in our
"Nay, then, let us take the advantage of the darkness to regain the
schooner; the coasts of England swarm with hostile cruisers, and a rich
trade is flowing into the bosom of this island from the four quarters of
the world; we shall not seek long for a foe worthy to contend with, nor
for the opportunities to cut up the Englishman in his sinews of war--his
"Griffith," returned the Pilot, in his still, low tones, that seemed to
belong to a man who never knew ambition, nor felt human passion, "I grow
sick of this struggle between merit and privileged rank. It is in vain
that I scour the waters which the King of England boastingly calls his
own, and capture his vessels in the very mouths of his harbors, if my
reward is to consist only of isolated promises, and hollow professions:
but your proposition is useless to me; I have at length obtained a ship
of a size sufficient to convey my person to the shores of honest, plain-
dealing America; and I would enter the hall of Congress, on my return,
attended by a few of the legislators of this learned isle, who think
they possess the exclusive privilege to be wise, and virtuous, and
"Such a retinue might doubtless be grateful both to your own feelings
and those who would receive you," said Griffith, modestly; "but would it
effect the great purposes of our struggle? or is it an exploit, when
achieved, worth the hazard you incur?"
Griffith felt the hand of the Pilot on his own, pressing it with a
convulsive grasp, as he replied, in a voice, if possible, even more
desperately calm than his former tones:
"There is a glory in it, young man; if it be purchased with danger, it
shall be rewarded by fame! It is true, I wear your republican livery,
and call the Americans my brothers; but it is because you combat in
behalf of human nature. Were your cause less holy, I would not shed the
meanest drop that flows in English veins to serve it; but now, it
hallows every exploit that is undertaken in its favor, and the names of
all who contend for it shall belong to posterity. Is there no merit in
teaching these proud islanders that the arm of liberty can pluck them
from the very empire of their corruption and oppression?"
"Then let me go and ascertain what we most wish to know; you have been
seen there, and might attract--"
"You little know me," interrupted the Pilot; "the deed is my own. If I
succeed, I shall claim the honor, and it is proper that I incur the
hazard; if I fail, it will be buried in oblivion, like fifty others of
my schemes, which, had I power to back me, would have thrown this
kingdom in consternation, from the lookouts on the boldest of its
headlands, to those on the turrets of Windsor Castle. But I was born
without nobility of twenty generations to corrupt my blood and deaden my
soul, and am not trusted by the degenerate wretches who rule the French
"'Tis said that ships of two decks are building from our own oak," said
Griffith, "and you have only to present yourself in America, to be
employed most honorably."
"Ay! the republics cannot doubt the man who has supported their flag,
without lowering it an inch, in so many bloody conflicts! I do go there,
Griffith, but my way lies on this path; my pretended friends have bound
my hands often, but my enemies, never--neither shall they now. Ten hours
will determine all I wish to know, and with you I trust the safety of
the party till my return: be vigilant, but be prudent"
"If you should not appear at the appointed hour," exclaimed Griffith, as
he beheld the Pilot turning to depart, "where am I to seek, and how
"Seek me not, but return to your vessel; my earliest years were passed
on this coast,--and I can leave the island, should it be necessary, as I
entered it, aided by this disguise and my own knowledge: in such an
event, look to your charge, and forget me entirely."
Griffith could distinguish the silent wave of his hand when the Pilot
concluded, and the next instant he was left alone. For several minutes
the young man continued where he had been standing, musing on the
singular endowments and restless enterprise of the being with whom
chance had thus unexpectedly brought him in contact, and with whose fate
and fortune his own prospects had, by the intervention of unlooked-for
circumstances, become intimately connected. When the reflections excited
by recent occurrences had passed away, he entered within the sweeping
circle of the ruinous walls, and, after a very cursory survey of the
state of the dilapidated building, he was satisfied that it contained
enough secret places to conceal his men, until the return of the Pilot
should warn them that the hour had come when they must attempt the
seizure of the devoted sportsmen, or darkness should again facilitate
their return to the Ariel. It was now about the commencement of that
period of deep night which seamen distinguish as the morning watch, and
Griffith ventured to the edge of the little wood, to listen if any
sounds or tumult indicated that they were pursued. On reaching a point
where his eye could faintly distinguish distant objects, the young man
paused, and bestowed a close and wary investigation on the surrounding
The fury of the gale had sensibly abated, but a steady current of sea
air was rushing through the naked branches of the oaks, lending a dreary
and mournful sound to the gloom of the dim prospect. At the distance of
a short half mile, the confused outline of the pile of St. Ruth rose
proudly against the streak of light which was gradually increasing above
the ocean, and there were moments when the young seaman even fancied he
could discern the bright caps that topped the waves of his own disturbed
element. The long, dull roar of the surf, as it tumbled heavily on the
beach or dashed with unbroken violence against the hard boundary of
rocks, was borne along by the blasts distinctly to his ears. It was a
time and a situation to cause the young seaman to ponder deeply on the
changes and chances of his hazardous profession. Only a few short hours
had passed since he was striving with his utmost skill, and with all his
collected energy, to guide the enormous fabric, in which so many of his
comrades were now quietly sleeping on the broad ocean, from that very
shore on which he now stood in cool indifference to the danger. The
recollection of home, America, his youthful and enduring passion, and
the character and charms of his mistress, blended in a sort of wild and
feverish confusion, which was not, however, without its pleasures, in
the ardent fancy of the young man; and he was slowly approaching, step
by step, toward the Abbey, when the sound of footsteps, proceeding
evidently from the measured tread of disciplined men, reached his ears.
He was instantly recalled to his recollection by this noise, which
increased as the party deliberately approached; and in a few moments he
was able to distinguish a line of men, marching in order towards the
edge of the wood, from which he had himself so recently issued. Retiring
rapidly under the deeper shadow of the trees, he waited until it was
apparent the party intended to enter under its cover also, when he
ventured to speak.
"Who comes? and on what errand?" he cried, "A skulker, and to burrow
like a rabbit, or jump from hole to hole, like a wharf-rat!" said
Manual, sulkily; "here have I been marching, within half musket shot of
the enemy, without daring to pull a trigger even on their outposts,
because our muzzles are plugged with that universal extinguisher of
gunpowder, called prudence. 'Fore God ! Mr. Griffith, I hope you may
never feel the temptation to do an evil deed, which I felt just now, to
throw a volley of small shot into that dog-kennel of a place, if it were
only to break its windows and let in the night air upon the sleeping
sot, who is dozing away the fumes of some as good, old south-side--hark
ye, Mr. Griffith, one word in your ear."
A short conference took place between he two officers, apart from the
men, at the close of which, as they rejoined the party, Manual might be
heard urging his plans on the reluctant ears of Griffith in the
"I could carry the old dungeon without waking one of the snorers; and
consider, sir, we might get a stock of as rich cordial from its cellars
as ever oiled the throat of a gentleman!"
"'Tis idle, 'tis idle," said Griffith impatiently; "we are not robbers
of hen-roosts, nor wine-gaugers, to be prying into the vaults of the
English gentry, Captain Manual; but honorable men, employed in the
sacred cause of liberty and our country. Lead your party into the ruin,
and let them seek their rest; we may have work for them with the dawn."
"Evil was the hour when I quitted the line of the army, to place a
soldier under the orders of an awkward squad of tarry jackets!" muttered
Manual, as he proceeded to execute an order that was delivered with an
air of authority that he knew must be obeyed. "As pretty an opportunity
for a surprise and a forage thrown away, as ever crossed the path of a
partisan! but, by all the rights of man! I'll have an encampment in some
order. Here, you sergeant, detail a corporal and three men for a picket,
and station them ii the skirts of this wood. We shall have a sentinel in
advance of our position, and things shall be conducted with some air of
Griffith heard this order with great inward disgust; but as he
anticipated the return of the Pilot before the light could arrive to
render his weak exposure of their situation apparent, he forbore
exercising his power to alter the arrangement. Manual had, therefore,
the satisfaction of seeing his little party quartered, as he thought, in
military manner, before he retired with Griffith and his men into one of
the vaulted apartments of the ruin, which, by its open and broken doors,
invited their entrance. Here the marines disposed themselves to rest,
while the two officers succeeded in passing the tedious hours, without
losing their characters for watchfulness by conversing with each other,
or, at whiles, suffering their thoughts to roam in the very different
fields which fancy would exhibit to men of such differing characters. In
this manner hour after hour passed, in listless quiet or sullen
expectation, until the day had gradually advanced, and it became
dangerous to keep the sentinels and picket in a situation where they
were liable to be seen by any straggler who might be passing near the
wood. Manual remonstrated against any alteration, as being entirely
unmilitary, for he was apt to carry his notions of tactics to extremes
whenever he came in collision with a sea officer: but in this instance
his superior was firm, and the only concession the captain could obtain
was the permission to place a solitary sentinel within a few feet of the
vault, though under the cover of the crumbling walls of the building
itself. With this slight deviation in their arrangements, the uneasy
party remained for several hours longer, impatiently awaiting the period
when they should be required to move.
The guns first fired from the Alacrity had been distinctly audible and
were pronounced by Griffith, whose practised ear detected the metal of
the piece that was used, as not proceeding from the schooner. When the
rapid though distant rumbling of the spirited cannonade became audible,
it was with difficulty that Griffith could restrain either his own
feelings or the conduct of his companions within those bounds that
prudence and their situation required. The last gun was, however, fired,
and not a man had left the vault, and conjectures as to the result of
the fight succeeded to those which had been made on the character of the
combatants during the action. Some of the marines would raise their
heads from the fragments which served them as the pillows on which they
were seeking disturbed and stolen slumbers, and after listening to the
cannon would again compose themselves to sleep, like men who felt no
concern in a contest in which they did not participate. Others, more
alive to events and less drowsy, lavishly expended their rude jokes on
those who were engaged in the struggle, or listened with a curious
interest to mark the progress of the battle, by the uncertain index of
its noise. When the fight had been some time concluded, Manual indulged
his ill-humor more at length:
"There has been a party of pleasure within a league of us, Mr.
Griffith," he said, "at which, but for our present subterraneous
quarters, we might have been guests, and thus laid some claim to the
honor of sharing in the victory. But it is not too late to push the
party on as far as the cliffs, where we shall be in sight of the
vessels, and we may possibly establish a claim to our share of the
"There is but little wealth to be gleaned from the capture of a king's
cutter," returned Griffith; "and there would be less honor were
Barnstable encumbered with our additional and useless numbers."
"Useless!" repeated Manual; "there is much good service to be got out of
twenty-three well-drilled and well-chosen marines: look at those
fellows, Mr. Griffith, and then tell me if you think them an encumbrance
in the hour of need."
Griffith smiled, and glanced his eye over the sleeping group,--for when
the firing had ceased the whole party had again sought their repose,--
and he could not help admiring the athletic and sinewy limbs that lay
scattered around the gloomy vault, in every posture that ease or whim
dictated. From the stout frames of the men, his glance was directed to
the stack of firearms, from whose glittering tubes and polished bayonets
strong rays of light were reflected, even in that dark apartment. Manual
followed the direction of his eyes, and watched the expression of his
countenance with inward exultation; but he had the forbearance to await
his reply before he manifested his feeling more openly.
"I know them to be true men," said Griffith, "when needed, but--hark!
what says he?"
"Who goes there? what noise is that?" repeated the sentinel who was
placed at the entrance of the vault.
Manual and Griffith sprang at the same instant from their places of
rest, and stood, unwilling to create the slightest sounds, listening
with the most intense anxiety to catch the next indications of the cause
of their guardian's alarm. A short stillness, like that of death,
succeeded, during which Griffith whispered:
"'Tis the Pilot! his hour has been long passed."
The words were hardly spoken, when the clashing of steel in fierce and
sudden contact was heard, and at the next instant the body of the
sentinel fell heavily along the stone steps that led to the open air,
and rolled lifelessly to their feet, with the bayonet that had caused
his death projecting from a deep wound in his breast.
"Away, away! sleepers away!" shouted Griffith.
"To arms!" cried Manual in a voice of thunder.
The alarmed marines, suddenly aroused from their slumbers at these
thrilling cries, sprang on their feet in a confused cluster, and at that
fatal moment a body of living fire darted into the vault, which re-
echoed with the reports of twenty muskets. The uproar, the smoke, and
the groans which escaped from many of his party, could not restrain
Griffith another instant: his pistol was fired through the cloud which
concealed the entrance of the vault, and he followed the leaden
messenger, trailing a half-pike, and shouting to his men:
"Come on! follow, my lads; they are nothing but soldiers."
Even while he spoke, the ardent young seaman was rushing up the narrow
passage; but as he gained the open space, his foot struck the writhing
body of the victim of his shot, and he was precipitated headlong into a
group of armed men.
"Fire! Manual, fire!" shouted the infuriated prisoner; "fire, while you
have them in a cluster."
"Ay, fire, Mr. Manual," said Borroughcliffe, with great coolness, "and
shoot your own officer: hold him up, boys! hold him up in front; the
safest place is nighest to him."
"Fire!" repeated Griffith, making desperate efforts to release himself
from the grasp of five or six men; "fire, and disregard me."
"If he do, he deserves to be hung," said Borroughcliffe; "such fine
fellows are not sufficiently plenty to be shot at like wild beasts in
chains. Take him from before the mouth of the vault, boys, and spread
yourselves to your duty."
At the time Griffith issued from the cover, Manual was mechanically
employed in placing his men in order; and the marines, accustomed to do
everything in concert and array, lost the moment to advance. The
soldiers of Borroughcliffe reloaded their muskets, and fell back behind
different portions of the wall, where they could command the entrance to
the vault with their fire, without much exposure to themselves. This
disposition was very coolly reconnoitered by Manual in person, through
some of the crevices in the wall, and he hesitated to advance against
the force he beheld while so advantageously posted. In this situation
several shots were fired by either party, without effect, until
Borroughcliffe, perceiving the inefficacy of that mode of attack,
summoned the garrison of the vault to a parley.
"Surrender to the forces of his majesty, King George the Third," he
cried, "and I promise you quarter."
"Will you release your prisoner, and give us free passage to our
vessels?" asked Manual; "the garrison to march out with all the honors
of war, and officers to retain their side-arms?"
"Inadmissible," returned Borroughcliffe, with great gravity; "the honor
of his majesty's arms, and the welfare of the realm, forbid such a
treaty: but I offer you safe quarters and honorable treatment."
"Officers to retain their side-arms, your prisoner to be released, and
the whole party to return to America, on parole, not to serve until
"Not granted," said Borroughcliffe. "The most that I can yield is a good
potation of the generous south-side; and if you are the man I take you
for, you will know how to prize such an offer."
"In what capacity do you summon us to yield? as men entitled to the
benefit of the laws of arms, or as rebels to your king?"
"Ye are rebels all, gentlemen," returned the deliberate Borroughcliffe,
"and as such ye must yield; though so far as good treatment and good
fare goes, you are sure of it while in my power; in all other respects
you lie at the mercy of his most gracious majesty."
"Then let his majesty show his gracious face, and come and take us, for
The asseveration of the marine was interrupted by Griffith, whose blood
had sensibly cooled, and whose generous feelings were awakened in behalf
of his comrades, now that his own fate seemed decided.
"Hold, Manual," he cried, "make no rash oaths: Captain Borroughcliffe, I
am Edward Griffith, a lieutenant in the navy of the United American
States, and I pledge you my honor to a parole----"
"Release him," said Borroughcliffe.
Griffith advanced between the two parties, and spoke so as to be heard
I propose to descend to the vault, and ascertain the loss and present
strength of Captain Manual's party: if the latter be not greater than I
apprehend, I shall advise him to a surrender on the usual conditions of
"Go," said the soldier; "but stay; is he a half-and-half--an
amphibious--pshaw! I mean a marine?"
"He is, sir, a captain in that corps----"
"The very man," interrupted Borroughcliffe; "I thought I recollected the
liquid sounds of his voice. It will be well to speak to him of the good
fare of St. Ruth; and you may add, that I know my man: I shall besiege,
instead of storming him, with the certainty of a surrender when his
canteen is empty. The vault he is in holds no such beverage as the
cellars of the Abbey."
Griffith smiled, in spite of the occasion and his vexation; and making a
slight inclination of his head he passed into the vault, giving notice
to his friends, by his voice, in order to apprise them who approached.
He found six of the marines, including the sentinel, lying dead on the
ragged pavement, and four others wounded, but stifling their groans, by
the order of their commander, that they might not inform the enemy of
his weakness. With the remainder of his command Manual had entrenched
himself behind the fragment of a wall that intersected the vault, and,
regardless of the dismaying objects before him, maintained as bold a
front, and as momentous an air, as if the fate of a walled town depended
on his resolution and ingenuity.
"You see, Mr. Griffith," he cried, when the young sailor approached this
gloomy but really formidable arrangement, "that nothing short of
artillery can dislodge me: as for that drinking Englishman above, let
him send down his men by platoons of eight or ten, and I'll pile them up
on those steps, four and five deep."
"But artillery can and will be brought, if it should be necessary," said
Griffith; "and there is not the least chance of your eventual escape: it
may be possible for you to destroy a few of the enemy, but you are too
humane to wish to do it unnecessarily."
"No doubt," returned Manual with a grim smile; "and yet methinks I could
find present pleasure in shooting seven of them--yes, just seven, which
is one more than they have struck off my roster."
"Remember your own wounded," added Griffith; "they suffer for want of
aid, while you protract a useless defence."
A few smothered groans from the sufferers seconded this appeal, and
Manual yielded, though with a very ill grace, to the necessity of the
"Go, then, and tell him that we will surrender as prisoners of war," he
said, "on the conditions that he grants me my side-arms, and that
suitable care shall be taken of the sick--be particular to call them
sick--for some lucky accident may yet occur before the compact is
ratified, and I would not have him learn our loss."
Griffith, without waiting for a second bidding, hastened to
Borroughcliffe with his intelligence.
"His side-arms!" repeated the soldier, when the other had done; "what
are they, I pray thee--a marlinespike! For if his equipments be no
better than thine own, my worthy prisoner, there is little need to
quarrel about their ownership."
"Had I but ten of my meanest men, armed with such half-pikes, and
Captain Borroughcliffe and his party were put at deadly strife with us,"
retorted Griffith, "he might find occasion to value our weapons more
"Four such fiery gentlemen as yourself would have routed my command,"
returned Borroughcliffe, with undisturbed composure. "I trembled for my
ranks when I saw you coming out of the smoke like a blazing comet from
behind a cloud! and I shall never think of somersets without returning
inward thanks to their inventor. But our treaty is made; let your
comrades come forth and pile their arms."
Griffith communicated the result to the captain of marines, when the
latter led the remnant of his party out of his sunken fortress into the
The men, who had manifested throughout the whole business that cool
subordination and unyielding front, mixed with the dauntless spirit that
to this day distinguishes the corps of which they were members, followed
their commander in sullen silence, and stacked their arms with as much
regularity and precision as if they had been ordered to relieve
themselves after a march. When this necessary preliminary had been
observed, Borroughcliffe unmasked his forces, and our adventurers found
themselves once more in the power of the enemy, and under circumstances
which rendered the prospect of a speedy release from their captivity
If your father will do me any honor, so;
If not, let him kill the next Percy himself:
I look to be either earl or duke, I can assure you.
Manual cast sundry discontented and sullen looks from his captors to
the remnant of his own command, while the process of pinioning the
latter was conducted, with much discretion, under the directions of
Sergeant Drill, when meeting, in one of his dissatisfied glances, with
the pale and disturbed features of Griffith, he gave vent to his ill-
humor, by saying:
"This results from neglecting the precautions of military discipline.
Had the command been with men, who, I may say, without boasting, have
been accustomed to the duties of the field, proper pickets would have
been posted, and instead of being caught like so many rabbits in a
burrow, to be smoked out with brimstone, we should have had an open
field for the struggle; or we might have possessed ourselves of these
walls, which I could have made good for two hours at least, against the
best regiment that ever wore King George's facings."
"Defend the outworks before retreating to the citadel!" cried
Borroughcliffe; "'tis the game of war, and shows science: but had you
kept closer to your burrow, the rabbits might now have all been frisking
about in that pleasant abode. The eyes of a timid hind were greeted this
morning, while journeying near this wood, with a passing sight of armed
men in strange attire; and as he fled, with an intent of casting himself
into the sea, as fear will sometimes urge one of his kind to do, he
luckily encountered me on the cliffs, who humanely saved his life, by
compelling him to conduct us hither. There is often wisdom in science,
my worthy contemporary in arms; but there is sometimes safety in
"You have succeeded, sir, and have a right to be pleasant," said Manual,
seating himself gloomily on a fragment of the ruin, and fastening his
looks on the melancholy spectacle of the lifeless bodies, as they were
successively brought from the vault and placed at his feet; "but these
men have been my own children, and you will excuse me if I cannot retort
your pleasantries. Ah! Captain Borroughcliffe, you are a soldier, and
know how to value merit. I took those very fellows, who sleep on these
stones so quietly, from the hands of nature, and made them the pride of
our art. They were no longer men, but brave lads, who ate and drank,
wheeled and marched, loaded and fired, laughed or were sorrowful, spoke
or were silent, only at my will. As for soul, there was but one among
them all, and that was in my keeping! Groan, my children, groan freely
now; there is no longer a reason to be silent. I have known a single
musket-bullet cut the buttons from the coats of five of them in a row,
without raising the skin of a man! I could ever calculate, with
certainty, how many it would be necessary to expend in all regular
service; but this accursed banditti business has robbed me of the
choicest of my treasures. You stand at ease now, my children; groan, it
will soften your anguish."
Borroughcliffe appeared to participate, in some degree, in the feelings
of his captive, and he made a few appropriate remarks in the way of
condolence, while he watched the preparations that were making by his
own men to move. At length his orderly announced that substitutes for
barrows were provided to sustain the wounded, and inquired if it were
his pleasure to return to their quarters.
"Who has seen the horse?" demanded the captain; "which way did they
march? Have they gained any tidings of the discovery of this party of
"Not from us, your honor," returned the sergeant; "they had ridden along
the coast before we left the cliffs, and it was said their officer
intended to scour the shore for several miles, and spread the alarm."
"Let him; it is all such gay gallants are good for. Drill, honor is
almost as scarce an article with our arms just now as promotion. We seem
but the degenerate children of the heroes of Poictiers;--you understand
"Some battle fou't by his majesty's troops against the French, your
honor," returned the orderly, a little at a loss to comprehend the
expression of his officer's eye.
"Fellow, you grow dull on victory," exclaimed Borroughcliffe: "come
hither, I would give you orders. Do you think, Mister Drill, there is
more honor, or likely to be more profit, in this little morning's
amusement than you and I can stand under?"
"I should not, your honor: we have both pretty broad shoulders----"
"That are not weakened by undue burdens of this nature," Interrupted his
captain, significantly: "if we let the news of this affair reach the
ears of those hungry dragoons, they would charge upon us open-mouthed,
like a pack of famished beagles, and claim at least half the credit, and
certainly all the profit."
"But, your honor, there was not a man of them even----"
"No matter, Drill; I've known troops that have been engaged, and have
suffered, cheated out of their share of victory by a well-worded
despatch. You know, fellow, that in the smoke and confusion of a battle,
a man can only see what passes near him, and common prudence requires
that he only mention in his official letters what he knows can't be
easily contradicted. Thus your Indians, and, indeed, all allies, are not
entitled to the right of a general order, any more than to the right of
a parade. Now, I dare say, you have heard of a certain battle of
"Lord! your honor, 'tis the pride of the British army, that and the
Culloden! 'Twas when the great Corporal John beat the French king, and
all his lords and nobility, with half his nation in arms to back him."
"Ay! there is a little of the barrack readings in the account, but it is
substantially true; know you how many French were in the field that day,
"I have never seen the totals of their muster, sir, in print; but,
judging by the difference betwixt the nations, I should suppose some
hundreds of thousands."
"And yet, to oppose this vast army, the duke had only ten or twelve
thousand well-fed Englishmen! You look astounded, sergeant!"
"Why, your honor, that does seem rather an over-match for an old soldier
to swallow; the random shot would sweep away so small a force."
"And yet the battle was fought, and the victory won! but the Duke of
Marlborough had a certain Mr. Eugene, with some fifty or sixty thousand
High-Dutchers, to back him. You never heard of Mr. Eugene?"
"Not a syllable, your honor; I always thought that Corporal John----"
"Was a gallant and great general; you thought right, Mister Drill. So
would a certain nameless gentleman be also, if his majesty would sign a
commission to that effect. However, a majority is on the high road to a
regiment, and with even a regiment a man is comfortable! In plain
English, Mister Drill, we must get our prisoners into the abbey with as
little noise as possible, in order that the horse may continue their
gambols along the coast, without coming to devour our meal. All the fuss
must be made at the war-office: for that trifle you may trust me; I
think I know who holds a quill that is as good in its way as the sword
he wears. Drill is a short name, and can easily be written within the
folds of a letter."
"Lord, your honor!" said the gratified halberdier, "I'm sure such an
honor is more--but your honor can ever command me!"
"I do; and it is to be close, and to make your men keep close, until it
shall be time to speak, when I pledge myself there shall be noise
enough." Borroughcliffe shook his head, with a grave air, as he
continued: "It has been a devil of a bloody fight, sergeant! look at the
dead and wounded; a wood on each flank--supported by a ruin in the
centre. Oh! ink--ink can be spilt on the details with great effect. Go,
fellow, and prepare to march."
Thus enlightened on the subject of his commander's ulterior views, the
non-commissioned agent of the captain's wishes proceeded to give
suitable instructions to the rest of the party, and to make the more
immediate preparations for a march. The arrangements were soon
completed. The bodies of the slain were left unsheltered, the seclusion
of the ruin being deemed a sufficient security against the danger of any
discovery, until darkness should favor their removal, In conformity with
Borroughcliffe's plan to monopolize the glory. The wounded were placed
on rude litters composed of the muskets and blankets of the prisoners,
when the conquerors and vanquished moved together in a compact body from
the ruin, in such a manner as to make the former serve as a mask to
conceal the latter from the curious gaze of any casual passenger. There
was but little, indeed, to apprehend on this head, for the alarm and
terror, consequent on the exaggerated reports that flew through the
country, effectually prevented any intruders on the usually quiet and
retired domains of St. Ruth.
The party was emerging from the wood, when the cracking of branches, and
rustling of dried leaves, announced, however, that an interruption of
some sort was about to occur.
"If it should be one of their rascally patrols!" exclaimed
Borroughcliffe, with very obvious displeasure; "they trample like a
regiment of cavalry! but, gentlemen, you will acknowledge yourselves,
that we were retiring from the field of battle when we met the
reinforcement, if it should prove to be such."
"We are not disposed, sir, to deny you the glory of having achieved your
victory single-handed," said Griffith, glancing his eyes uneasily in the
direction of the approaching sounds, expecting to see the Pilot issue
from the thicket in which he seemed to be entangled, instead of any
detachment of his enemies.
"Clear the way, Caesar!" cried a voice at no great distance from them;
"break through the accursed vines on my right, Pompey!--press forward,
my fine fellows, or we may be too late to smell even the smoke of the
"Hum!" ejaculated the captain, with his philosophic indifference of
manner entirely re-established, "this must be a Roman legion just awoke
from a trance of some seventeen centuries, and that the voice of a
centurion. We will halt, Mister Drill, and view the manner of an ancient
While the captain was yet speaking, a violent effort disengaged the
advancing party from the thicket of brambles in which they had been
entangled, when two blacks, each bending under a load of firearms,
preceded Colonel Howard, into the clear space where Borroughcliffe had
halted his detachment. Some little time was necessary to enable the
veteran to arrange his disordered dress, and to remove the perspiring
effects of the unusual toil from his features, before he could observe
the addition to the captain's numbers.
"We heard you fire," cried the old soldier, making, at the same time,
the most diligent application of his bandana, "and I determined to aid
you with a sortie, which, when judiciously timed, has been the means of
raising many a siege; though, had Montcalm rested quietly within his
walls, the plains of Abr'am might never have drunk his blood."
"Oh! his decision was soldierly, and according to all rules of war,"
exclaimed Manual; "and had I followed his example, this day might have
produced a different tale!"
"Why, who have we here!" cried the colonel, in astonishment; "who is it
that pretends to criticise battles and sieges, dressed in such a garb?"
"Tis a dux incognitorum, my worthy host," said Borroughcliffe; "which
means, in our English language, a captain of marines in the service of
the American Congress."
"What! have you then met the enemy? ay! and by the fame of the immortal
Wolfe, you have captured them!" cried the delighted veteran. "I was
pressing on with a part of my garrison to your assistance, for I had
seen that you were marching in this direction, and even the report of a
few muskets was heard."
"A few!" interrupted the conqueror; "I know not what you call a few, my
gallant and ancient friend: you may possibly have shot at each other by
the week in the days of Wolfe, and Abercrombie, and Braddock; but I too
have seen smart firing, and can hazard an opinion in such matters There
was as pretty a roll made by firearms at the battles on the Hudson as
ever rattled from a drum; it is all over, and many live to talk of it,
but this has been the most desperate affair, for the numbers, I ever was
engaged in! I speak always with a reference to the numbers. The wood is
pretty well sprinkled with dead; and we have contrived to bring off a
few of the desperately wounded with us, as you may perceive."
"Bless me!" exclaimed the surprised veteran, "that such an engagement
should happen within musket-shot of the abbey, and I know so little of
it! My faculties are on the wane, I fear, for the time has been when a
single discharge would rouse me from the deepest sleep."
"The bayonet is a silent weapon," returned the composed captain, with a
significant wave of his hand; "'tis the Englishman's pride, and every
experienced officer knows that one thrust from it is worth the fire of a
"What, did you come to the charge!" cried the colonel; "by the Lord,
Borroughcliffe, my gallant young friend, I would have given twenty
tierces of rice, and two able-bodied negroes, to have seen the fray!"
"It would have been a pleasant spectacle to witness, sans disputation,"
returned the captain; "but victory is ours without the presence of
Achilles, this time. I have them, all that survive the affair; at least,
all that have put foot on English soil."
"Ay! and the king's cutter has brought in the schooner!" added Colonel
Howard. "Thus perish all rebellion for ever more! Where's Kit? my
kinsman, Mr. Christopher Dillon; I would ask him what the laws of the
realm next prescribe to loyal subjects. Here will be work for the jurors
of Middlesex, Captain Borroughcliffe, if not for a secretary of state's
warrant. Where is Kit, my kinsman; the ductile, the sagacious, the loyal
"The Cacique 'non est,' as more than one bailiff has said of sundry
clever fellows in our regiment, when there has been a pressing occasion
for their appearance," said the soldier; "but the cornet of horse has
given me reason to believe that his provincial lordship, who repaired on
board the cutter to give intelligence of the position of the enemy,
continued there to share the dangers and honors of naval combat."
"Ay, 'tis like him!" cried the colonel, rubbing his hands with glee;
"'tis like him! he has forgotten the law and his peaceful occupations,
at the sounds of military preparation, and has carried the head of a
statesman into the fight, with the ardor and thoughtlessness of a boy."
"The Cacique is a man of discretion," observed the captain, with all his
usual dryness of manner, "and will, doubtless, recollect his obligations
to posterity and himself, though he be found entangled in the mazes of a
combat. But I marvel that he does not return, for some time has now
elapsed since the schooner struck her flag, as my own eyes have
"You will pardon me, gentlemen," said Griffith, advancing towards them
with uncontrollable interest; "but I have unavoidably heard part of your
discourse, and cannot think you will find it necessary to withhold the
whole truth from a disarmed captive: say you that a schooner has been
captured this morning?"
"It is assuredly true," said Borroughcliffe, with a display of nature
and delicacy in his manner that did his heart infinite credit; "but I
forbore to tell you, because I thought your own misfortunes would be
enough for one time. Mr. Griffith, this gentleman is Colonel Howard, to
whose hospitality you will be indebted for some favors before we
"Griffith!" echoed the colonel, in quick reply, "Griffith! what a sight
for my old eyes to witness!--the child of worthy, gallant, loyal Hugh
Griffith a captive, and taken in arms against his prince! Young man,
young man, what would thy honest father, what would his bosom friend, my
own poor brother Harry, have said, had it pleased God that they had
survived to witness this burning shame and lasting stigma on thy
"Had my father lived, he would now have been upholding the independence
of his native land," said the young man, proudly. "I wish to respect
even the prejudices of Colonel Howard, and beg he will forbear urging a
subject on which I fear we never shall agree."
"Never, while thou art to be found in the ranks of rebellion!" cried the
colonel. "Oh! boy! boy! how I could have loved and cherished thee, if
the skill and knowledge obtained in the service of thy prince were now
devoted to the maintenance of his unalienable rights! I loved thy
father, worthy Hugh, even as I loved my own brother Harry."
"And his son should still be dear to you," interrupted Griffith, taking
the reluctant hand of the colonel into both his own.
"Ah, Edward, Edward!" continued the softened veteran, "how many of my
day-dreams have been destroyed by thy perversity! nay, I know not that
Kit, discreet and loyal as he is, could have found such a favor in my
eyes as thyself; there is a cast of thy father in that face and smile,
Ned, that might have won me to anything short of treason--and then
Cicely, provoking, tender, mutinous, kind affectionate, good Cicely,
would have been a link to unite us forever."
The youth cast a hasty glance at the deliberate Borroughcliffe, who, if
he had obeyed the impatient expression of his eye, would have followed
the party that was slowly bearing the wounded towards the abbey, before
he yielded to his feelings, and answered:
"Nay, sir; let this then be the termination of our misunderstanding--
your lovely niece shall be that link, and you shall be to me as your
friend Hugh would have been had he lived, and to Cecilia twice a
"Boy, boy," said the veteran, averting his face to conceal the working
of his muscles, "you talk idly; my word is now plighted to my kinsman
Kit, and thy scheme is impracticable."
"Nothing is impracticable, sir, to youth and enterprise, when aided by
age and experience like yours," returned Griffith; "this war must soon
"This war!" echoed the colonel, shaking loose the grasp which Griffith
held on his arm; "ay! what of this war, young man? Is it not an accursed
attempt to deny the rights of our gracious sovereign, and to place
tyrants, reared in kennels, on the throne of princes! a scheme to
elevate the wicked at the expense of the good! a project to aid
unrighteous ambition, under the mask of sacred liberty and the popular
cry of equality! as if there could be liberty without order! or equality
of rights, where the privileges of the sovereign are not as sacred as
those of the people!"
"You judge us harshly, Colonel Howard," said Griffith.
"I judge you!" interrupted the old soldier, who, by this time, thought
the youth resembled any one rather than his friend Hugh; "it is not my
province to judge you at all; if it were!--but the time will come, the
time will come. I am a patient man, and can wait the course of things;
yes, yes, age cools the blood, and we learn to suppress the passions and
impatience of youth: but if the ministry would issue a commission of
justice for the colonies, and put the name of old George Howard in it, I
am a dog, if there should be a rebel alive in twelve months. Sir,"
turning sternly to Borroughcliffe, "in such a case, I could prove a
Roman, and hang--hang--yes, I do think, sir, I could hang my kinsman,
Mr. Christopher Dillon!"
"Spare the Cacique such unnatural elevation before his time," returned
the captain with a grave wave of the hand: "behold," pointing towards
the wood, "there is a more befitting subject for the gallows! Mr.
Griffith, yonder man calls himself your comrade?"
The eyes of Colonel Howard and Griffith followed the direction of his
finger, and the latter instantly recognized the Pilot, standing in the
skirts of the wood, with his arms folded, apparently surveying the
condition of his friends.
"That man," said Griffith, in confusion, and hesitating to utter even
the equivocal truth that suggested itself, "that man does not belong to
our ship's company."
"And yet he has been seen in _your_ company," returned the
incredulous Borroughcliffe; "he was the spokesman in last night's
examination, Colonel Howard, and, doubtless, commands the rear-guard of
"You say true," cried the veteran; "Pompey! Caesar! present! fire!"
The blacks started at the sudden orders of their master, of whom they
stood in the deepest awe; and, presenting their muskets, they averted
their faces, and, shutting their eyes, obeyed the bloody mandate.
"Charge!" shouted the colonel, flourishing the ancient sword with which
he had armed himself, and pressing forward with all the activity that a
recent fit of the gout would allow, "charge, and exterminate the dogs
with the bayonet! push on, Pompey--dress, boys, dress."
"If your friend stands this charge," said Borroughcliffe to Griffith,
with unmoved composure, "his nerves are made of iron; such a charge
would break the Coldstreams; with Pompey in the ranks!"
"I trust in God," cried Griffith, "he will have forbearance enough to
respect the weakness of Colonel Howard!--he presents a pistol!"
"But he will not fire; the Romans deem it prudent to halt; nay, by
heaven, they countermarch to the rear. Holla! Colonel Howard, my worthy
host, fall back on your reinforcements; the wood is full of armed men;
they cannot escape us; I only wait for the horse to cut off the
The veteran, who had advanced within a short distance of the single man
who thus deliberately awaited the attack, halted at this summons; and by
a glance of his eye, ascertained that he stood alone. Believing the
words of Borroughcliffe to be true, he slowly retired, keeping his face
manfully towards his enemy, until he gained the support of the captain.
"Recall the troops, Borroughcliffe!" he cried, "and let us charge into
the wood; they will fly before his majesty's arms like guilty
scoundrels, as they are. As for the negroes, I'll teach the black
rascals to desert their master at such a moment. They say Fear is pale,
but, damme, Borroughcliffe, if I don't believe his skin is black."
"I have seen him of all colors; blue, white, black, and particolored,"
said the captain. "I must take the command of matters on myself,
however, my excellent host; let us retire into the abbey, and trust me
to cut off the remainder of the rebels."
In this arrangement the colonel reluctantly acquiesced, and the three
followed the soldier to the dwelling, at a pace that was adapted to the
infirmities of its master. The excitement of the onset, and the current
of his ideas, had united, however, to banish every amicable thought from
the breast of the colonel, and he entered the abbey with a resolute
determination of seeing justice dealt to Griffith and his companions,
even though it should push them to the foot of the gallows.
As the gentlemen disappeared from his view, among the shrubbery of the
grounds, the Pilot replaced the weapon that was hanging from his hand,
in his bosom, and, turning with a saddened and thoughtful brow, he
slowly re-entered the wood.
----"When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say.
These are their reasons,--They are natural,
For, I believe they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon."
The reader will discover, by referring to the time consumed in the
foregoing events, that the Ariel, with her prize, did not anchor in the
bay already mentioned, until Griffith and his party had been for several
hours in the custody of their enemies. The supposed capture of the rebel
schooner was an incident that excited but little interest, and no
surprise, among a people who were accustomed to consider their seamen as
invincible; and Barnstable had not found it a difficult task to practise
his deception on the few rustics whom curiosity induced to venture
alongside the vessels during the short continuance of daylight. When,
however, the fogs of evening began to rise along the narrow basin, and
the curvatures of its margin were lost in the single outline of its dark
and gloomy border, the young seaman thought it time to apply himself in
earnest to his duty. The Alacrity, containing all his own crew, together
with the Ariel's wounded, was gotten silently under way; and driving
easily before the heavy air that swept from the land, she drifted from
the harbor, until the open sea lay before her, when her sails were
spread, and she continued to make the best of her way in quest of the
frigate. Barnstable had watched this movement with breathless anxiety;
for on an eminence that completely commanded the waters to some
distance, a small but rude battery had been erected for the purpose of
protecting the harbor against the depredations and insults of the
smaller vessels of the enemy; and a guard of sufficient force to manage
the two heavy guns it contained was maintained in the work at all times.
He was ignorant how far his stratagem had been successful, and it was
only when he heard the fluttering of the Alacrity's canvas, as she
opened it to the breeze, he felt that he was yet secure.
"'Twill reach the Englishmen's ears," said the boy Merry, who stood on
the forecastle of the schooner, by the side of his commander, listening
with breathless interest to the sounds; "they set a sentinel on the
point, as the sun went down, and if he is a trifle better than a dead
man, or a marine asleep, he will suspect something is wrong."
"Never!" returned Barnstable, with a long breath, that announced all his
apprehensions were removed; "he will be more likely to believe it a
mermaid fanning herself this cool evening, than to suspect the real
fact. What say you, Master Coffin? will the soldier smell the truth?"
"They're a dumb race," said the cockswain, casting his eyes over his
shoulders, to ascertain that none of their own marine guard was near
him; "now, there was our sergeant, who ought to know something, seeing
that he has been afloat these four years, maintained, dead in the face
and eyes of what every man, who has ever doubled Good Hope, knows to be
true, that there was no such vessel to be fallen in with in them seas,
as the Flying Dutchman! and then, again, when I told him that he was a
'know-nothing,' and asked him if the Dutchman was a more unlikely thing
than that there should be places where the inhabitants split the year
into two watches, and had day for six months, and night the rest of the
time, the greenhorn laughed in my face, and I do believe he would have
told me I lied, but for one thing."
"And what might that be?" asked Barnstable, gravely.
"Why, sir," returned Tom, stretching his bony fingers, as he surveyed
his broad palm, by the little light that remained, "though I am a
peaceable man, I can be roused."
"And you have seen the Flying Dutchman?"
"I never doubled the east cape; though I can find my way through Le
Maire in the darkest night that ever fell from the heavens; but I have
seen them that have seen her, and spoken her, too."
"Well, be it so; you must turn flying Yankee, yourself, to-night, Master
Coffin. Man your boat at once, sir, and arm your crew."
The cockswain paused a moment before he proceeded to obey this
unexpected order, and, pointing towards the battery, he inquired, with
"For shore-work, sir? Shall we take the cutlashes and pistols? or shall
we want the pikes?"
"There may be soldiers in our way, with their bayonets," said
Barnstable, musing; "arm as usual, but throw a few long pikes into the
boat; and harkye, Master Coffin, out with your tub and whale-line: for I
see you have rigged yourself anew in that way."
The cockswain, who was moving from the forecastle, turned short at this
new mandate, and with an air of remonstrance, ventured to say:
"Trust an old whaler, Captain Barnstable, who has been used to these
craft all his life. A whale-boat is made to pull with a tub and line in
it, as naturally as a ship is made to sail with ballast, and----"
"Out with it, out with it," interrupted the other, with an impatient
gesture, that his cockswain knew signified a positive determination.
Heaving a sigh at what he deemed his commander's prejudice, Tom applied
himself without further delay to the execution of the orders. Barnstable
laid his hand familiarly on the shoulder of the boy, and led him to the
stern of his little vessel, in profound silence. The canvas hood that
covered the entrance to the cabin was thrown partly aside; and by the
light of the lamp that was burning in the small apartment, it was easy
to overlook, from the deck, what was passing beneath them. Dillon sat
supporting his head with his two hands, in a manner that shaded his
face, but in an attitude that denoted deep and abstracted musing.
"I would that I could see the face of my prisoner," said Barnstable, in
an undertone, that was audible only to his companion. "The eye of a man
is a sort of lighthouse, to tell one how to steer into the haven of his
"And sometimes a beacon, sir, to warn you there is no safe anchorage
near him," returned the ready boy.
"Rogue!" muttered Barnstable, "your cousin Kate spoke there."
"If my cousin Plowden were here, Mr. Barnstable, I know that her opinion
of yon gentleman would not be at all more favorable."
"And yet, I have determined to trust him! Listen, boy, and tell me if I
am wrong; you have a quick wit, like some others of your family, and may
suggest something advantageous." The gratified midshipman swelled with
the conscious pleasure of possessing his commander's confidence, and
followed to the taffrail, over which Barnstable leaned, while he
delivered the remainder of his communication. "I have gathered from the
'longshoremen who have come off this evening, to stare at the vessel
which the rebels have been able to build, that a party of seamen and
marines have been captured in an old ruin near the Abbey of St. Ruth,
this very day."
"'Tis Mr. Griffith!" exclaimed the boy.
"Ay! the wit of your cousin Katherine was not necessary to discover
that. Now, I have proposed to this gentleman with the Savannah face,
that he should go into the abbey, and negotiate an exchange. I will give
him for Griffith, and the crew of the Alacrity for Manual's command and
"The Tigers!" cried the lad, with emotion; "have they got my Tigers,
too? Would to God that Mr. Griffith had permitted me to land!"
"It was no boy's work they were about, and room was scarcer in their
boat than live lumber. But this Mr. Dillon has accepted my proposition,
and has pledged himself that Griffith shall return within an hour after
he is permitted to enter the Abbey; will he redeem his honor from the
"He may," said Merry, musing a moment; "for I believe he thinks the
presence of Mr. Griffith under the same roof with Miss Howard a thing to
be prevented, if possible; he may be true in this instance, though he
has a hollow look."
"He has bad-looking lighthouses, I will own," said Barnstable; "and yet
he is a gentleman, and promises fair; 'tis unmanly to suspect him in
such a matter, and I will have faith! Now listen, sir. The absence of
older heads must throw great responsibility on your young shoulders;
watch that battery as closely as if you were at the mast-head of your
frigate, on the lookout for an enemy; the instant you see lights moving
in it, cut, and run into the offing; you will find me somewhere under
the cliffs, and you will stand off and on, keeping the abbey in sight,
until you fall in with us."
Merry gave an attentive ear to these and divers other solemn injunctions
that he received from his commander, who, having sent the officer next
to himself in authority in charge of the prize (the third in command
being included in the list of the wounded), was compelled to entrust his
beloved schooner to the vigilance of a lad whose years gave no promise
of the experience and skill that he actually possessed.
When his admonitory instructions were ended, Barnstable stepped again to
the opening in the cabin-hood, and, for a single moment before he spoke,
once more examined the countenance of his prisoner, with a keen eye.
Dillon had removed his hands from before his sallow features; and, as if
conscious of the scrutiny his looks were to undergo, had concentrated
the whole expression of his forbidding aspect in a settled gaze of
hopeless submission to his fate. At least, so thought his captor, and
the idea touched some of the finer feelings in the bosom of the generous
young seaman. Discarding, instantly, every suspicion of his prisoner's
honor, as alike unworthy of them both, Barnstable summoned him, in a
cheerful voice, to the boat. There was a flashing of the features of
Dillon, at this call, which gave an indefinable expression to his
countenance, that again startled the sailor; but it was so very
transient, and could so easily be mistaken for a smile of pleasure at
his promised liberation, that the doubts it engendered passed away
almost as speedily as the equivocal expression itself. Barnstable was in
the act of following his companion into the boat, when he felt himself
detained by a slight hold of his arm.
"What would you have?" he asked of the midshipman, who had given him the
"Do not trust too much to that Dillon, sir," returned the anxious boy,
in a whisper; "if you had seen his face, as I did, when the binnacle
light fell upon it, as he came up the cabin ladder, you would put no
faith in him."
"I should have seen no beauty," said the generous lieutenant, laughing;
"but there is long Tom, as hard-featured a youth of two score and ten as
ever washed in brine, who has a heart as big, ay, bigger than that of a
kraaken. A bright watch to you, boy, and remember a keen eye on the
battery." As he was yet speaking, Barnstable crossed the gunwale of his
little vessel, and it was not until he was seated by the side of his
prisoner that he continued, aloud: "Cast the stops off your sails, Mr.
Merry, and see all clear to make a run of everything; recollect, you are
short-handed, sir. God bless ye! and d'ye hear? if there is a man among
you who shuts more than one eye at a time, I'll make him, when I get
back, open both wider than if Tom Coffin's friend, the Flying Dutchman,
was booming down upon him. God bless ye, Merry, my boy; give 'em the
square-sail, if this breeze off-shore holds on till morning:--shove
As Barnstable gave the last order, he fell back on his seat, and,
drawing back his boat-cloak around him maintained a profound silence,
until they had passed the two small headlands that fanned the mouth of
the harbor. The men pulled, with muffled oars, their long, vigorous
strokes, and the boat glided with amazing rapidity past the objects that
could be yet indistinctly seen along the dim shore. When, however, they
had gained the open ocean, and the direction of their little bark was
changed to one that led them in a line with the coast, and within the
shadows of the cliffs, the cockswain, deeming that the silence was no
longer necessary to their safety, ventured to break it, as follows:
"A square-sail is a good sail to carry on a craft, dead afore it, and in
a heavy sea; but if fifty years can teach a man to know the weather,
it's my judgment that should the Ariel break ground after the night
turns at eight bells, she'll need her mainsail to hold her up to her
The lieutenant started at this sudden interruption, and casting his
cloak from his shoulders, he looked abroad on the waters, as if seeking
those portentous omens which disturbed the imagination of his cockswain.
"How now, Tom," he said, sharply, "have ye turned croaker in your old
age? what see you, to cause such an old woman's ditty?"
"'Tis no song of an old woman," returned the cockswain with solemn
earnestness, "but the warning of an old man; and one who has spent his
days where there were no hills to prevent the winds of heaven from
blowing on him, unless they were hills of salt water and foam. I judge,
sir, there'll be a heavy northeaster setting in upon us afore the
morning watch is called."
Barnstable knew the experience of his old messmate too well not to feel
uneasiness at such an opinion, delivered in so confident a manner; but
after again surveying the horizon, the heavens, and the ocean, he said,
with a continued severity of manner:
"Your prophecy is idle, this time, Master Coffin; everything looks like
a dead calm. This swell is what is left from the last blow; the mist
overhead is nothing but the nightly fog, and you can see, with own eyes,
that it is driving seaward; even this land-breeze is nothing but the air
of the ground mixing with that of the ocean; it is heavy with dew and
fog, but it's as sluggish as a Dutch galliot."
"Ay, sir, it is damp, and there is little of it," rejoined Tom; "but as
it comes only from the shore, so it never goes far on the water, It is
hard to learn the true signs of the weather, Captain Barnstable, and
none get to know them well, but such as study little else or feel but
little else. There is only One who can see the winds of heaven, or who
can tell when a hurricane is to begin, or where it will end. Still, a
man isn't like a whale or a porpoise, that takes the, air in his
nostrils, and never knows whether it is a southeaster or a northwester
that he feeds upon. Look, broad-off to leeward, sir; see the streak of
clear sky shining under the mists; take an old seafaring man's word for
it, Captain Barnstable, that whenever the light shines out of the
heavens in that fashion, 'tis never done for nothing; besides, the sun
set in a dark bank of clouds, and the little moon we had was dry and
Barnstable listened attentively, and with increasing concern, for he
well knew that his cockswain possessed a quick and almost unerring
judgment of the weather, notwithstanding the confused medley of
superstitious omens and signs with which it was blended; but again
throwing himself back in his boat, he muttered:
"Then let it blow; Griffith is worth a heavier risk, and if the battery
can't be cheated, it can be carried."
Nothing further passed on the state of the weather. Dillon had not
ventured a single remark since he entered the boat, and the cockswain
had the discretion to understand that his officer was willing to be left
to his own thoughts. For nearly an hour they pursued their way with
diligence; the sinewy seamen, who wielded the oars, urging their light
boat along the edge of the surf with unabated velocity, and apparently
with untired exertions. Occasionally, Barnstable would cast an inquiring
glance at the little inlets that they passed, or would note, with a
seaman's eye, the small portions of sandy beach that were scattered here
and there along the rocky boundaries of the coast. One in particular, a
deeper inlet than common, where a run of fresh water was heard gurgling
as it met the tide, he pointed out to his cockswain, by significant but
silent gestures, as a place to be especially noted. Tom, who understood
the signal as intended for his own eye alone, made his observations on
the spot with equal taciturnity, but with all the minuteness that would
distinguish one long accustomed to find his way, whether by land or
water, by landmarks and the bearings of different objects. Soon after
this silent communication between the lieutenant and his cockswain, the
boat was suddenly turned, and was in the act of dashing upon the spit of
sand before it, when Barnstable checked the movement by his voice:
"Hold water!" he said; "'tis the sound of oars!"
The seamen held their boat at rest, while a deep attention was given to
the noise that had alarmed the ears of their commander.
"See, sir," said the cockswain, pointing towards the eastern horizon;
"it is just rising into the streak of light to seaward of us--now it
settles in the trough--ah! here you have it again!"
"By heavens!" cried Barnstable, "'tis a man-of-war's stroke it pulls; I
saw the oar-blades as they fell! and, listen to the sound! neither your
fisherman nor your smuggler pulls such a regular oar."
Tom had bowed his head nearly to the water, in the act of listening, and
now raising himself, he spoke with confidence:
"That is the Tiger; I know the stroke of her crew as well as I do of my
own. Mr. Merry has made them learn the new-fashioned jerk, as they dip
their blades, and they feather with such a roll in their rullocks! I
could swear to the stroke."
"Hand me the night-glass," said his commander, impatiently. "I can catch
them, as they are lifted into the streak. You are right, by every star
in our flag, Tom!--but there is only one man in her stern-sheets. By my
good eyes, I believe it is that accursed Pilot, sneaking from the land,
and leaving Griffith and Manual to die in English prisons. To shore with
you--beach her at once!"
The order was no sooner given than it was obeyed, and in less than two
minutes the impatient Barnstable, Dillon, and the cockswain, were
standing together on the sands.
The impression he had received, that his friends were abandoned to their
fate by the Pilot, urged the generous young seaman to hasten the
departure of his prisoner, as he was fearful every moment might
interpose some new obstacle to the success of his plans.
"Mr. Dillon," he said, the instant they were landed, "I exact no new
promise--your honor is already plighted----"
"If oaths can make it stronger," interrupted Dillon, "I will take them."
"Oaths cannot--the honor of a gentleman is, at all times, enough. I
shall send my cockswain with you to the abbey, and you will either
return with him, in person, within two hours, or give Mr. Griffith and
Captain Manual to his guidance. Proceed, sir, you are conditionally
free; there is an easy opening by which to ascend the cliffs."
Dillon once more thanked his generous captor, and then proceeded to
force his way up the rough eminence.
"Follow, and obey his instructions," said Barnstable to his cockswain,
Tom, long accustomed to implicit obedience, handled his harpoon, and was
quietly following in the footsteps of his new leader, when he felt the
hand of the lieutenant on his shoulder.
"You saw where the brook emptied over the hillock of sand?" said
Barnstable, in an undertone.
Tom nodded assent.
"You will find us there riding without the surf--'Twill not do to trust
too much to an enemy."
The cockswain made a gesture of great significance with his weapon, that
was intended to indicate the danger their prisoner would incur should he
prove false; when, applying the wooden end of the harpoon to the rocks,
he ascended the ravine at a rate that soon brought him to the side of
"Ay marry, let me have him to sit under;
He's like to be a cold soldier."
Barnstable lingered on the sands for a few minutes, until the footsteps
of Dillon and the cockswain were no longer audible, when he ordered his
men to launch their boat once more into the surf. While the seamen
pulled leisurely towards the place he had designated as the point where
he would await the return of Tom, the lieutenant first began to
entertain serious apprehensions concerning the good faith of his
prisoner. Now that Dillon was beyond his control, his imagination
presented, in very vivid colors, several little circumstances in the
other's conduct, which might readily excuse some doubts of his good
faith; and, by the time they had reached the place of rendezvous, and
had cast a light grapnel into the sea, his fears had rendered him
excessively uncomfortable. Leaving the lieutenant to his reflections on
this unpleasant subject, we shall follow Dillon and his fearless and
unsuspecting companion in their progress towards St. Ruth.
The mists to which Tom had alluded in his discussion with his commander
on the state of the weather appeared to be settling nearer to the earth,
and assuming more decidedly the appearance of a fog, hanging above them
in sluggish volumes, but little agitated by the air. The consequent
obscurity added deeply to the gloom of the night, and it would have been
difficult for one less acquainted than Dillon with the surrounding
localities to find the path which led to the dwelling of Colonel Howard.
After some little search, this desirable object was effected; and the
civilian led the way, with rapid strides, towards the abbey.
"Ay, ay!" said Tom, who followed his steps, and equaled his paces,
without any apparent effort, "you shore people have an easy way to find
your course and distance, when you get into the track. I was once left
by the craft I belonged to, in Boston, to find my way to Plymouth, which
is a matter of fifteen leagues, or thereaway; and so, finding nothing
was bound up the bay, after lying-by for a week, I concluded to haul
aboard my land tacks. I spent the better part of another week in a
search for some hooker, on board which I might work my passage across
the country, for money was as scarce then with old Tom Coffin as it is
now, and is likely to be, unless the fisheries get a good luff soon; but
it seems that nothing but your horse-flesh, and horned cattle, and
jackasses, are privileged to do the pulling and hauling in your shore-
hookers; and I was forced to pay a week's wages for a berth, besides
keeping a banyan on a mouthful of bread and cheese, from the time we
hove up in Boston, till we came to in Plymouth town."
"It was certainly an unreasonable exaction on the part of the wagoners,
from a man in your situation," said Dillon, in a friendly, soothing tone
of voice, that denoted a willingness to pursue the conversation.
"My situation was that of a cabin passenger," returned the cockswain;
"for there was but one hand forward, besides the cattle I mentioned--
that was he who steered--and an easy berth he had of it; for there his
course lay atween walls of stone and fences: and, as for his reckoning,
why, they had stuck up bits of stone on an end, with his day's work
footed up, ready to his hand, every half league or so. Besides, the
landmarks were so plenty, that a man with half an eye might steer her,
and no fear of getting to leeward,"
"You must have found yourself as it were in a new world," observed
"Why, to me it was pretty much the same as if I had been set afloat in a
strange country, though I may be said to be a native of those parts,
being born on the coast. I had often heard shoremen say, that there was
as much 'arth as water in the world, which I always set down as a rank
lie, for I've sailed with a flowing sheet months an-end without falling
in with as much land or rock as would answer a gull to lay its eggs on;
but I will own, that atween Boston and Plymouth, we were out of sight of
water for as much as two full watches!"
Dillon pursued this interesting subject with great diligence; and by the
time they reached the wall, which enclosed the large paddock that
surrounded the abbey, the cockswain was deeply involved in a discussion
of the comparative magnitude of the Atlantic Ocean and the continent of
Avoiding the principal entrance to the building, through the great gates
which communicated with the court in front, Dillon followed the windings
of the wall until it led them to a wicket, which he knew was seldom
closed for the night until the hour for general rest had arrived. Their
way now lay in the rear of the principal edifice, and soon conducted
them to the confused pile which contained the offices. The cockswain
followed his companion with a confiding reliance on his knowledge and
good faith, that was somewhat increased by the freedom of communication
that had been maintained during their walk from the cliffs. He did not
perceive anything extraordinary in the other's stopping at the room,
which had been provided as a sort of barracks for the soldiers of
Captain Borroughcliffe. A conference which took place between Dillon and
the sergeant was soon ended, when the former beckoned to the cockswain
to follow, and taking a circuit round the whole of the offices, they
entered the abbey together, by the door through which the ladies had
issued when in quest of the three prisoners, as has been already
related.--After a turn or two among the narrow passages of that part of
the edifice, Tom, whose faith in the facilities of land navigation began
to be a little shaken, found himself following his guide through a long,
dark gallery, that was terminated at the end toward which they were
approaching, by a half-open door, that admitted a glimpse into a well-
lighted and comfortable apartment. To this door Dillon hastily advanced,
and, throwing it open, the cockswain enjoyed a full view of the very
scene that we described in introducing Colonel Howard to the
acquaintance of the reader, and under circumstances of great similitude.
The cheerful fire of coal, the strong and glaring lights, the tables of
polished mahogany, and the blushing fluids, were still the same in
appearance, while the only perceptible change was in the number of those
who partook of the cheer. The master of the mansion and Borroughcliffe
were seated opposite to each other, employed in discussing the events of
the day, and diligently pushing to and fro the glittering vessel, that
contained a portion of the generous liquor they both loved so well; a
task which each moment rendered lighter.
"If Kit would but return," exclaimed the veteran, whose back was to the
opening door, "bringing with, him his honest brows encircled, as they
will be or ought to be, with laurel, I should be the happiest old fool,
Borroughcliffe, in his majesty's realm of Great Britain!"
The captain, who felt the necessity for the unnatural restraint he had
imposed on his thirst to be removed by the capture of his enemies,
pointed towards the door with one hand, while he grasped the sparkling
reservoir of the "south side" with the other, and answered:
"Lo! the Cacique himself! his brow inviting the diadem--ha! who have we
in his highness' train? By the Lord, sir Cacique, if you travel with a
body-guard of such grenadiers, old Frederick of Prussia himself will
have occasion to envy you the corps! a clear six-footer in nature's
stockings! and the arms as unique as the armed!"
The colonel did not, however, attend to half of his companion's
exclamations, but turning, he beheld the individual he had so much
desired, and received him with a delight proportioned to the
unexpectedness of the pleasure. For several minutes, Dillon was
compelled to listen to the rapid questions of his venerable relative, to
all of which he answered with a prudent reserve, that might, in some
measure, have been governed by the presence of the cockswain. Tom stood
with infinite composure, leaning on his harpoon, and surveying, with a
countenance where wonder was singularly blended with contempt, the
furniture and arrangements of an apartment that was far more splendid
than any he had before seen. In the mean time, Borroughcliffe entirely
disregarded the private communications that passed between his host and
Dillon, which gradually became more deeply interesting, and finally drew
them to a distant corner of the apartment, but taking a most undue
advantage of the absence of the gentleman, who had so lately been his
boon companion, he swallowed one potation after another, as if a double
duty had devolved on him, in consequence of the desertion of the
veteran. Whenever his eye did wander from the ruby tints of his glass,
it was to survey with unrepressed admiration the inches of the
cockswain, about whose stature and frame there were numberless excellent
points to attract the gaze of a recruiting officer. From this double
pleasure, the captain was, however, at last summoned, to participate in
the councils of his friends.
Dillon was spared the disagreeable duty of repeating the artful tale he
had found it necessary to palm on the colonel, by the ardor of the
veteran himself, who executed the task in a manner that gave to the
treachery of his kinsman every appearance of a justifiable artifice and
of unshaken zeal in the cause of his prince. In substance, Tom was to be
detained as a prisoner, and the party of Barnstable were to be
entrapped, and of course to share a similar fate. The sunken eye of
Dillon cowered before the steady gaze which Borroughcliffe fastened on
him, as the latter listened to the plaudits the colonel lavished on his
cousin's ingenuity; but the hesitation that lingered in the soldier's
manner vanished when he turned to examine their unsuspecting prisoner,
who was continuing his survey of the apartment, while he innocently
imagined the consultations he witnessed were merely the proper and
preparatory steps to his admission into the presence of Mr. Griffith.
"Drill," said Borroughcliffe, aloud, "advance, and receive your orders."
The cockswain turned quickly at this sudden mandate, and, for the first
time, perceived that he had been followed into the gallery by the
orderly and two files of the recruits, armed. "Take this man to the
guard-room, and feed him, and see that he dies not of thirst."
There was nothing alarming in this order; and Tom was following the
soldiers, in obedience to a gesture from their captain, when their steps
were arrested in the gallery, by the cry of "Halt!"
"On recollection, Drill," said Borroughcliffe, in a tone from which all
dictatorial sounds were banished, "show the gentleman into my own room,
and see him properly supplied."
The orderly gave such an intimation of his comprehending the meaning of
his officer, as the latter was accustomed to receive, when
Borroughcliffe returned to his bottle, and the cockswain followed his
guide, with an alacrity and good will that were not a little increased
by the repeated mention of the cheer that awaited him.
Luckily for the impatience of Tom, the quarters of the captain were at
hand, and the promised entertainment by no means slow in making its
appearance. The former was an apartment that opened from a lesser
gallery, which communicated with the principal passage already
mentioned; and the latter was a bountiful but ungarnished supply of that
staple of the British Isles, called roast beef; of which the kitchen of
Colonel Howard was never without a due and loyal provision,--The
sergeant, who certainly understood one of the signs of his captain to
imply an attack on the citadel of the cockswain's brain, mingled, with
his own hands, a potation that he styled a rummer of grog, and which he
thought would have felled the animal itself that Tom was so diligently
masticating, had it been alive and in its vigor. Every calculation that
was made on the infirmity of the cockswain's intellect, under the
stimulus of Jamaica, was, however, futile. He swallowed glass after
glass, with prodigious relish, but, at the same time, with immovable
steadiness; and the eyes of the sergeant, who felt it incumbent to do
honor to his own cheer, were already glistening in his head, when,
happily for the credit of his heart, a tap at the door announced the
presence of his captain, and relieved him from the impending disgrace of
being drunk blind by a recruit.
As Borroughcliffe entered the apartment, he commanded his orderly to
"Mr. Dillon will give you instructions, which you are implicitly to
Drill, who had sense enough remaining to apprehend the displeasure of
his officer, should the latter discover his condition, quickened his
departure, and the cockswain soon found himself alone with the captain.
The vigor of Tom's attacks on the remnant of the sirloin was now much
abated, leaving in its stead that placid quiet which is apt to linger
about the palate long after the cravings of the appetite have been
appeased. He had seated himself on one of the trunks of Borroughcliffe,
utterly disdaining the use of a chair; and, with the trencher in his
lap, was using his own jack-knife on the dilapidated fragment of the ox,
with something of that nicety with which the female ghoul of the Arabian
Tales might be supposed to pick her rice with the point of her bodkin.
The captain drew a seat nigh the cockswain; and, with a familiarity and
kindness infinitely condescending, when the difference in their several
conditions is considered, he commenced the following dialogue:
"I hope you have found your entertainment to your liking, Mr. a-a-I must
own my ignorance of your name."
"Tom," said the cockswain, keeping his eyes roaming over the contents of
the trencher; "commonly called long Tom, by my shipmates."
"You have sailed with discreet men, and able navigators, it will seem,
as they understood longitude so well," rejoined the captain; "but you
have a patronymic--I would say another name?"
"Coffin," returned the cockswain; "I'm called Tom, when there is any
hurry, such as letting go the haulyards, or a sheet; long Tom, when they
want to get to windward of an old seaman, by fair weather; and long Tom
Coffin, when they wish to hail me, so that none of my cousins of the
same name, about the islands, shall answer; for I believe the best man
among them can't measure much over a fathom, taking him from his
headworks to his heel."
"You are a most deserving fellow," cried Borroughcliffe, "and it is
painful to think to what a fate the treachery of Mr. Dillon has
The suspicions of Tom, if he ever entertained any, were lulled to rest
too effectually by the kindness he had received, to be awakened by this
equivocal lament; he therefore, after renewing his intimacy with the
rummer, contented himself by saying, with a satisfied simplicity:
"I am consigned to no one, carrying no cargo but this Mr. Dillon, who is
to give me Mr. Griffith in exchange, or go back to the Ariel himself, as
"Ah! my good friend, I fear you will find, when the time comes to make
this exchange, that he will refuse to do either."
"But, I'll be d----d if he don't do one of them! My orders are to see it
done, and back he goes; or Mr. Griffith, who is as good a seaman, for
his years, as ever trod a deck, slips his cable from this here
Borroughcliffe affected to eye his companion with great commiseration;
an exhibition of compassion that was, however, completely lost on the
cockswain, whose nerves were strung to their happiest tension by his
repeated libations, while his wit was, if anything, quickened by the
same cause, though his own want of guile rendered him slow to comprehend
its existence in others. Perceiving it necessary to speak plainly, the
captain renewed the attack in a more direct manner:
"I am sorry to say that you will not be permitted to return to the
Ariel; and that your commander, Mr. Barnstable, will be a prisoner
within the hour; and, in fact, that your schooner will be taken before
the morning breaks."
"Who'll take her?" asked the cockswain with a grim smile, on whose
feelings, however, this combination of threatened calamities was
beginning to make some impression.
"You must remember that she lies immediately under the heavy guns of a
battery that can sink her in a few minutes; an express has already been
sent to acquaint the commander of the work with the Ariel's true
character; and as the wind has already begun to blow from the ocean, her
escape is impossible."
The truth, together with its portentous consequences, now began to glare
across the faculties of the cockswain. He remembered his own prognostics
on the weather, and the helpless situation of the schooner, deprived of
more than half her crew, and left to the keeping of a boy, while her
commander himself was on the eve of captivity. The trencher fell from
his lap to the floor, his head sunk on his knees, his face was concealed
between his broad palms, and, in spite of every effort the old seaman
could make to conceal his emotion, he fairly groaned aloud.
For a moment, the better feelings of Borroughcliffe prevailed, and he
paused as he witnessed this exhibition of suffering in one whose head
was already sprinkled with the marks of time; but his habits, and the
impressions left by many years passed in collecting victims for the
wars, soon resumed their ascendency, and the recruiting officer
diligently addressed himself to an improvement of his advantage.
"I pity from my heart the poor lads whom artifice or mistaken notions of
duty may have led astray, and who will thus be taken in arms against
their sovereign; but as they are found in the very island of Britain,
they must be made examples to deter others. I fear that, unless they can
make their peace with government, they will all be condemned to death."
"Let them make their peace with God, then; your government can do but
little to clear the log-account of a man whose watch is up for this
"But, by making their peace with those who have the power, their lives
may be spared," said the captain, watching, with keen eyes, the effect
his words produced on the cockswain.
"It matters but little, when a man hears the messenger pipe his hammock
down for the last time; he keeps his watch in another world, though he
goes below in this. But to see wood and iron, that has been put together
after such moulds as the Ariel's, go into strange hands, is a blow that
a man may remember long after the purser's books have been squared
against his name for ever! I would rather that twenty shot should strike
my old carcass, than one should hull the schooner that didn't pass out
above her water-line."
Borroughcliffe replied, somewhat carelessly, "I may be mistaken, after
all; and, instead of putting any of you to death, they may place you all
on board the prison-ships, where you may yet have a merry time of it
these ten or fifteen years to come."
"How's that, shipmate!" cried the cockswain, with a start; "a prison-
ship, d'ye say? you may tell them they can save the expense of one man's
rations by hanging him, if they please, and that is old Tom Coffin."
"There is no answering for their caprice: to-day they may order a dozen
of you to be shot for rebels; to-morrow they may choose to consider you
as prisoners of war, and send you to the hulks for a dozen years."
"Tell them, brother, that I'm a rebel, will ye? and ye'll tell 'em no
lie--one that has fou't them since Manly's time, in Boston Bay, to this
hour. I hope the boy will blow her up! it would be the death of poor
Richard Barnstable to see her in the hands of the English!"
"I know of one way," said Borroughcliffe, affecting to muse, "and but
one, that will certainly avert the prison-ship; for, on second thoughts,
they will hardly put you to death."
"Name it, friend," cried the cockswain, rising from his seat in evident
perturbation, "and if it lies in the power of man, it shall be done."
"Nay," said the captain, dropping his hand familiarly on the shoulder of
the other, who listened with the most eager attention, "'tis easily
done, and no dreadful thing in itself; you are used to gunpowder, and
know its smell from otto of roses!"
"Ay, ay," cried the impatient old seaman; "I have had it flashing under
my nose by the hour; what then?"
"Why, then, what I have to propose will be nothing to a man like you--
you found the beef wholesome, and the grog mellow!"
"Ay, ay, all well enough; but what is that to an old sailor?" asked the
cockswain, unconsciously grasping the collar of Borroughcliffe's coat,
in his agitation; "what then?"
The captain manifested no displeasure at this unexpected familiarity,
but with suavity as he unmasked the battery, from behind which he had
hitherto carried on his attacks.
"Why, then, you have only to serve your king as you have before served
the Congress--and let me be the man to show you your colors."
The cockswain stared at the speaker intently, but it was evident he did
not clearly comprehend the nature of the proposition, and the captain
pursued the subject:
"In plain English, enlist in my company, my fine fellow, and your life
and liberty are both safe."
Tom did not laugh aloud, for that was a burst of feeling in which he was
seldom known to indulge; but every feature of his weatherbeaten visage
contracted into an expression of bitter, ironical contempt.
Borroughcliffe felt the iron fingers, that still grasped his collar,
gradually tightening about his throat, like a vice; and, as the arm
slowly contracted, his body was drawn, by a power that it was in vain to
resist, close to that of the cockswain, who, when their faces were
within a foot of each other, gave vent to his emotions in words:
"A messmate, before a shipmate; a shipmate, before a stranger; a
stranger, before a dog--but a dog before a soldier!"
As Tom concluded, his nervous arm was suddenly extended to the utmost,
the fingers relinquishing their grasp at the same time; and, when
Borroughcliffe recovered his disordered faculties, he found himself in a
distant corner of the apartment, prostrate among a confused pile of
chairs, tables, and wearing-apparel. In endeavoring to rise from this
humble posture, the hand of the captain fell on the hilt of his sword,
which had been included in the confused assemblage of articles produced
by his overthrow.
"How now, scoundrel!" he cried, baring the glittering weapon, and
springing on his feet; "you must be taught your distance, I perceive."
The cockswain seized the harpoon which leaned against the wall, and
dropped its barbed extremity within a foot of the breast of his
assailant, with an expression of the eye that denoted the danger of a
nearer approach. The captain, however, wanted not for courage, and stung
to the quick by the insult he had received, he made a desperate parry,
and attempted to pass within the point of the novel weapon of his
adversary. The slight shock was followed by a sweeping whirl of the
harpoon, and Borroughchffe found himself without arms, completely at the
mercy of his foe. The bloody intentions of Tom vanished with his
success; for, laying aside his weapon, he advanced upon his antagonist,
and seized him with an open palm. One more struggle, in which the
captain discovered his incompetency to make any defence against the
strength of a man who managed him as if he had been a child, decided the
matter. When the captain was passive in the hands of his foe, the
cockswain produced sundry pieces of sennit, marline, and ratlin-stuff,
from his pockets, which appeared to contain as great a variety of small
cordage as a boatswain's storeroom, and proceeded to lash the arms of
the conquered soldier to the posts of his bed, with a coolness that had
not been disturbed since the commencement of hostilities, a silence that
seemed inflexible, and a dexterity that none but a seaman could equal.
When this part of his plan was executed, Tom paused a moment, and gazed
around him as if in quest of something. The naked sword caught his eye,
and, with this weapon in his hand, he deliberately approached his
captive, whose alarm prevented his observing that the cockswain had
snapped the blade asunder from the handle, and that he had already
encircled the latter with marline.
"For God's sake," exclaimed Borroughcliffe, "murder me not in cold
The silver hilt entered his mouth as the words issued from it, and the
captain found, while the line was passed and repassed in repeated
involutions across the back of his neck, that he was in a condition to
which he often subjected his own men, when unruly, and which is
universally called being "gagged." The cockswain now appeared to think
himself entitled to all the privileges of a conqueror; for, taking the
light in his hand, he commenced a scrutiny into the nature and quality
of the worldly effects that lay at his mercy. Sundry articles, that
belonged to the equipments of a soldier, were examined, and cast aside
with great contempt, and divers garments of plainer exterior were
rejected as unsuited to the frame of the victor. He, however, soon
encountered two articles, of a metal that is universally understood. But
uncertainty as to their use appeared greatly to embarrass him. The
circular prongs of these curiosities were applied to either hand, to the
wrists, and even to the nose, and the little wheels at their opposite
extremity were turned and examined with as much curiosity and care as a
savage would expend on a watch, until the idea seemed to cross the mind
of the honest seaman, that they formed part of the useless trappings of
a military man; and he cast them aside also, as utterly worthless.
Borroughcliffe, who watched every movement of his conqueror, with a
good-humor that would have restored perfect harmony between them, could
he but have expressed half what he felt, witnessed the safety of a
favorite pair of spurs with much pleasure, though nearly suffocated by
the mirth that was unnaturally repressed. At length, the cockswain found
a pair of handsomely mounted pistols, a sort of weapon with which he
seemed quite familiar. They were loaded, and the knowledge of that fact
appeared to remind Tom of the necessity of departing, by bringing to his
recollection the danger of his commander and of the Ariel. He thrust the
weapons into the canvas belt that encircled his body, and, grasping his
harpoon, approached the bed, where Borroughcliffe was seated in duresse.
"Harkye, friend," said the cockswain, "may the Lord forgive you, as I
do, for wishing to make a soldier of a seafaring man, and one who has
followed the waters since he was an hour old, and one who hopes to die
off soundings, and to be buried in brine. I wish you no harm, friend;
but you'll have to keep a stopper on your conversation till such time as
some of your messmates call in this way, which I hope will be as soon
after I get an offing as may be."
With these amicable wishes, the cockswain departed, leaving
Borroughcliffe the light, and the undisturbed possession of his
apartment, though not in the most easy or the most enviable situation
imaginable. The captain heard the bolt of his lock turn, and the key
rattle as the cockswain withdrew it from the door--two precautionary
steps, which clearly indicated that the vanquisher deemed it prudent to
secure his retreat, by insuring the detention of the vanquished for at
least a time.
"Whilst vengeance, in the lurid air,
Lifts her red arm, exposed and bare--
Who, Fear, this ghastly train can see;
And look not madly wild, like thee!"
It is certain that Tom Coffin had devised no settled plan of
operations, when he issued from the apartment of Borroughcliffe, if we
except a most resolute determination to make the best of his way to the
Ariel, and to share her fate, let it be either to sink or swim. But this
was a resolution much easier formed by the honest seaman than executed,
in his present situation. He would have found it less difficult to
extricate a vessel from the dangerous shoals of the "Devil's Grip," than
to thread the mazes of the labyrinth of passages, galleries, and
apartments, in which he found himself involved. He remembered, as he
expressed it to himself, in a low soliloquy, "to have run into a narrow
passage from the main channel, but whether he had sheered to the
starboard or larboard hand" was a material fact that had entirely
escaped his memory. Tom was in that part of the building that Colonel
Howard had designated as the "cloisters," and in which, luckily for him,
he was but little liable to encounter any foe, the room occupied by
Borroughcliffe being the only one in the entire wing that was not
exclusively devoted to the service of the ladies. The circumstance of
the soldier's being permitted to invade this sanctuary was owing to the
necessity, on the part of Colonel Howard, of placing either Griffith,
Manual, or the recruiting officer, in the vicinity of his wards, or of
subjecting his prisoners to a treatment that the veteran would have
thought unworthy of his name and character. This recent change in the
quarters of Borroughcliffe operated doubly to the advantage of Tom, by
lessening the chance of the speedy release of his uneasy captive, as
well as by diminishing his own danger. Of the former circumstance he
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