J. Fenimore Cooper
Part 6 out of 9
was, however, not aware: and the consideration of the latter was a sort
of reflection to which the cockswain was, in no degree, addicted.
Following, necessarily, the line of the wall, he soon emerged from the
dark and narrow passage in which he had first found himself, and entered
the principal gallery, that communicated with all the lower apartments
of that wing, as well as with the main body of the edifice. An open
door, through which a strong light was glaring, at a distant end of this
gallery, instantly caught his eye, and the old seaman had not advanced
many steps towards it, before he discovered that he was approaching the
very room which had so much excited his curiosity, and by the identical
passage through which he had entered the abbey. To turn, and retrace his
steps, was the most obvious course for any man to take who felt anxious
to escape; but the sounds of high conviviality, bursting from the
cheerful apartment, among which the cockswain thought he distinguished
the name of Griffith, determined Tom to advance and reconnoitre the
scene more closely. The reader will anticipate that when he paused in
the shadow, the doubting old seaman stood once more near the threshold
which he had so lately crossed, when conducted to the room of
Borroughcliffe. The seat of that gentleman was now occupied by Dillon,
and Colonel Howard had resumed his wonted station at the foot of the
table. The noise was chiefly made by the latter, who had evidently been
enjoying a more minute relation of the means by which his kinsman had
entrapped his unwary enemy.
"A noble ruse!" cried the veteran, as Tom assumed his post, in ambush;
"a most noble and ingenious ruse, and such a one as would have baffled
Caesar! He must have been a cunning dog, that Caesar; but I do think,
Kit, you would have been too much for him; hang me, if I don't think you
would have puzzled Wolfe himself, had you held Quebec, instead of
Montcalm! Ah, boy, we want you in the colonies, with the ermine over
your shoulders; such men as you, cousin Christopher, are sadly, sadly
wanted there to defend his majesty's rights."
"Indeed, dear sir, your partiality gives me credit for qualities I do
not possess," said Dillon, dropping his eyes, perhaps with a feeling of
conscious unworthiness, but with an air of much humility; "the little
"Ay! there lies the beauty of the transaction," interrupted the colonel,
shoving the bottle from him, with the free, open air of a man who never
harbored disguise; "you told no lie; no mean deception, that any dog,
however base and unworthy, might invent; but you practised a neat, a
military, a--a--yes, a classical deception on your enemy; a classical
deception, that is the very term for it! such a deception as Pompey, or
Mark Antony, or--or--you know those old fellows' names, better than I
do, Kit; but name the cleverest fellow that ever lived in Greece or
Rome, and I shall say he is a dunce compared to you. 'Twas a real
Spartan trick, both simple and honest."
It was extremely fortunate for Dillon, that the animation of his aged
kinsman kept his head and body in such constant motion, during this
apostrophe, as to intercept the aim that the cockswain was deliberately
taking at his head with one of Borroughcliffe's pistols; and perhaps the
sense of shame which induced him to sink his face on his hands was
another means of saving his life, by giving the indignant old seaman
time for reflection.
"But you have not spoken of the ladies," said Dillon, after a moment's
pause; "I should hope they have borne the alarm of the day like
kinswomen of the family of Howard."
The colonel glanced his eyes around him, as if to assure himself they
were alone, and dropped his voice, as he answered:
"Ah, Kit! they have come to, since this rebel scoundrel, Griffith, has
been brought into the abbey; we were favored with the company of even
Miss Howard, in the dining-room, to-day. There was a good deal of 'dear
uncleing,' and 'fears that my life might be exposed by the quarrels and
skirmishes of these desperadoes who have landed;' as if an old fellow,
who served through the whole war, from '56 to '63, was afraid to let his
nose smell gunpowder any more than if it were snuff! But it will be a
hard matter to wheedle an old soldier out of his allegiance! This
Griffith goes to the Tower, at least, Mr. Dillon."
"It would be advisable to commit his person to the civil authority,
"To the constable of the Tower, the Earl Cornwallis, a good and loyal
nobleman, who is, at this moment, fighting the rebels in my own native
province, Christopher," interrupted the colonel; "that will be what I
call retributive justice; but," continued the veteran, rising with an
air of gentlemanly dignity, "it will not do to permit even the constable
of the Tower of London to surpass the master of St. Ruth in hospitality
and kindness to his prisoners. I have ordered suitable refreshments to
their apartments, and it is incumbent on me to see that my commands have
been properly obeyed. Arrangements must also be made for the reception
of this Captain Barnstable, who will, doubtless, soon be here."
"Within the hour, at farthest," said Dillon, looking uneasily at his
"We must be stirring, boy," continued the colonel, moving towards the
door that led to the apartments of his prisoners; "but there is a
courtesy due to the ladies, as well as to those unfortunate violators of
the laws--go, Christopher, convey my kindest wishes to Cecilia; she
don't deserve them, the obstinate vixen, but then she is my brother
Harry's child! and while there, you arch dog, plead your own cause. Mark
Antony was a fool to you at a 'ruse,' and yet Mark was one of your
successful suitors, too; there was that Queen of the Pyramids--"
The door closed on the excited veteran, at these words, and Dillon was
left standing by himself, at the side of the table, musing, as if in
doubt, whether to venture on the step that his kinsman had proposed, or
The greater part of the preceding discourse was unintelligible to the
cockswain, who had waited its termination with extraordinary patience,
in hopes he might obtain some information that he could render of
service to the captives. Before he had time to decide on what was now
best for him to do, Dillon suddenly determined to venture himself in the
cloisters; and, swallowing a couple of glasses of wine in a breath, he
passed the hesitating cockswain, who was concealed by the opening door,
so closely as to brush his person, and moved down the gallery with those
rapid strides which men who act under the impulse of forced resolutions
are very apt to assume, as if to conceal their weakness from
themselves.--Tom hesitated no longer; but aiding the impulse given to
the door by Dillon, as he passed, so as to darken the passage, he
followed the sounds of the other's footsteps, while he trod in the
manner already described, the stone pavement of the gallery. Dillon
paused an instant at the turning that led to the room of Borroughcliffe,
but whether irresolute which way to urge his steps, or listening to the
incautious and heavy tread of the cockswain, is not known; if the
latter, he mistook them for the echoes of his own footsteps, and moved
forward again without making any discovery.
The light tap which Dillon gave on the door of the withdrawing-room of
the cloisters was answered by the soft voice of Cecilia Howard herself,
who bid the applicant enter. There was a slight confusion evident in the
manner of the gentleman as he complied with the bidding, and in its
hesitancy, the door was, for an instant, neglected.
"I come, Miss Howard," said Dillon, "by the commands of your uncle, and,
permit me to add, by my own--"
"May Heaven shield us!" exclaimed Cecilia, clasping her hands in
affright, and rising involuntarily from her couch, "are we, too, to be
imprisoned and murdered?"
"Surely Miss Howard will not impute to me--" Dillon paused, observing
that the wild looks, not only of Cecilia, but of Katherine and Alice
Dunscombe, also, were directed at some other object, and turning, to his
manifest terror he beheld the gigantic frame of the cockswain,
surmounted by an iron visage fixed in settled hostility, in possession
of the only passage from the apartment.
"If there's murder to be done," said Tom, after surveying the astonished
group with a stern eye, "it's as likely this here liar will be the one
to do it, as another; but you have nothing to fear from a man who has
followed the seas too long, and has grappled with too many monsters,
both fish and flesh, not to know how to treat a helpless woman. None,
who know him, will say that Thomas Coffin ever used uncivil language, or
unseamanlike conduct, to any of his mother's kind."
"Coffin!" exclaimed Katherine, advancing with a more confident air, from
the corner into which terror had driven her with her companions.
"Ay, Coffin," continued the old sailor, his grim features gradually
relaxing, as he gazed on her bright looks; "'tis a solemn word, but it's
a word that passes over the shoals, among the islands, and along the
cape, oftener than any other. My father was a Coffin, and my mother was
a Joy; and the two names can count more flukes than all the rest in the
island together; though the Worths, and the Gar'ners, and the Swaines,
dart better harpoons, and set truer lances, than any men who come from
the weather-side of the Atlantic."
Katherine listened to this digression in honor of the whalers of
Nantucket, with marked complacency; and, when he concluded, she repeated
"Coffin! this, then, is long Tom!"
"Ay, ay, long Tom, and no sham in the name either," returned the
cockswain, suffering the stern indignation that had lowered around his
hard visage to relax into a low laugh as he gazed on her animated
features; "the Lord bless your smiling face and bright black eyes, young
madam! you have heard of old long Tom, then? Most likely, 'twas
something about the blow he strikes at the fish--ah! I'm old and I'm
stiff, now, young madam, but afore I was nineteen, I stood at the head
of the dance, at a ball on the cape, and that with a partner almost as
handsome as yourself--ay! and this was after I had three broad flukes
logg'd against my name."
"No," said Katherine, advancing in her eagerness a step or two nigher to
the old tar, her cheeks flushing while she spoke, "I had heard of you as
an instructor in a seaman's duty, as the faithful cockswain, nay, I may
say, as the devoted companion and friend, of Mr. Richard Barnstable--
but, perhaps, you come now as the bearer of some message or letter from
The sound of his commander's name suddenly revived the recollection of
Coffin, and with it all the fierce sternness of his manner returned.
Bending his eyes keenly on the cowering form of Dillon, he said, in
those deep, harsh tones, that seem peculiar to men who have braved the
elements, until they appear to have imbided some of their roughest
"Liar! how now? what brought old Tom Coffin into these shoals and narrow
channels? was it a letter? Ha! but by the Lord that maketh the winds to
blow, and teacheth the lost mariner how to steer over the wide waters,
you shall sleep this night, villain, on the planks of the Ariel; and if
it be the will of God that beautiful piece of handicraft is to sink at
her moorings, like a worthless hulk, ye shall still sleep in her; ay,
and a sleep that shall not end, till they call all hands, to foot up the
day's work of this life, at the close of man's longest voyage."
The extraordinary vehemence, the language, the attitude of the old
seaman, commanding in its energy, and the honest indignation that shone
in every look of his keen eyes, together with the nature of the address,
and its paralyzing effect on Dillon, who quailed before it like the
stricken deer, united to keep the female listeners, for many moments,
silent through amazement. During this brief period, Tom advanced upon
his nerveless victim, and lashing his arms together behind his back, he
fastened him, by a strong cord, to the broad canvas belt that he
constantly wore around his own body, leaving to himself, by this
arrangement, the free use of his arms and weapons of offence, while he
secured his captive.
"Surely," said Cecilia, recovering her recollection the first of the
astonished group, "Mr. Barnstable has not commissioned you to offer this
violence to my uncle's kinsman, under the roof of Colonel Howard?--Miss
Plowden, your friend has strangely forgotten himself in this
transaction, if this man acts in obedience to his order!"
"My friend, my cousin Howard," returned Katharine, "would never
commission his cockswain, or any one, to do an unworthy deed. Speak,
honest sailor; why do you commit this outrage on the worthy Mr. Dillon,
Colonel Howard's kinsman, and a cupboard cousin of St. Ruth's Abbey?"
"Nay, Cecilia, be patient, and let the stranger have utterance; he may
solve the difficulty altogether."
The cockswain, understanding that an explanation was expected from his
lips, addressed himself to the task with an energy suitable both to the
subject and to his own feelings. In a very few words, though a little
obscured by his peculiar diction, he made his listeners understand the
confidence that Barnstable had reposed in Dillon, and the treachery of
the latter. They heard him with increased astonishment, and Cecilia
hardly allowed him time to conclude, before she exclaimed:
"And did Colonel Howard, could Colonel Howard listen to this treacherous
"Ay, they spliced it together among them," returned Tom; "though one
part of this cruise will turn out but badly."
"Even Borroughcliffe, cold and hardened as he appears to be by habit,
would spurn at such dishonor," added Miss Howard.
"But Mr. Barnstable?" at length Katherine succeeded in saying, when her
feelings permitted her utterance, "said you not that soldiers were in
quest of him?"
"Ay, ay, young madam," the cockswain replied, smiling with grim
ferocity, "they are in chase, but he has shifted his anchorage, and even
if they should find him, his long pikes would make short work of a dozen
redcoats. The Lord of tempests and calms have mercy, though, on the
schooner! Ah, young madam she, is as lovely to the eyes of an old
seafaring man as any of your kind can be to human nature!"
"But why this delay?--away then, honest Tom, and reveal the treachery to
your commander; you may not yet be too late--why delay a moment?"
"The ship tarries for want of a pilot.--I could carry three fathom over
the shoals of Nantucket, the darkest night that ever shut the windows of
heaven, but I should be likely to run upon breakers in this navigation.
As it was, I was near getting into company that I should have had to
fight my way out of."
"If that be all, follow me," cried the ardent Katherine; "I will conduct
you to a path that leads to the ocean, without approaching the
Until this moment, Dillon had entertained a secret expectation of a
rescue, but when he heard this proposal he felt his blood retreating to
his heart, from every part of his agitated frame, and his last hope
seemed wrested from him. Raising himself from the abject shrinking
attitude, in which both shame and dread had conspired to keep him as
though he had been fettered to the spot, he approached Cecilia, and
cried, in tones of horror:
"Do not, do not consent, Miss Howard, to abandon me to the fury of this
man! Your uncle, your honorable uncle, even now applauded and united
with me in my enterprise, which is no more than a common artifice in
"My uncle would unite, Mr. Dillon, in no project of deliberate treachery
like this," said Cecilia, coldly.
"He did, I swear by----"
"Liar!" interrupted the deep tones of the cockswain.
Dillon shivered with agony and terror, while the sounds of this
appalling voice sunk into his inmost soul; but as the gloom of the
night, the secret ravines of the cliffs, and the turbulence of the ocean
flashed across his imagination, he again yielded to a dread of the
horrors to which he should be exposed, in encountering them at the mercy
of his powerful enemy, and he continued his solicitations:
"Hear me, once more hear me--Miss Howard, I beseech you, hear me! Am I
not of your own blood and country? will you see me abandoned to the
wild, merciless, malignant fury of this man, who will transfix me with
that--oh, God! if you had but seen the sight I beheld in the Alacrity!
--hear me. Miss Howard; for the love you bear your Maker, intercede for
me! Mr. Griffith shall be released----"
"Liar!" again interrupted the cockswain.
"What promises he?" asked Cecilia, turning her averted face once more at
the miserable captive.
"Nothing at all that will be fulfilled," said Katherine; "follow, honest
Tom, and I, at least, will conduct you in good faith."
"Cruel, obdurate Miss Plowden; gentle, kind Miss Alice, you will not
refuse to raise your voice in my favor; your heart is not hardened by
any imaginary dangers to those you love."
"Nay, address not me," said Alice, bending her meek eyes to the floor;
"I trust your life is in no danger; and I pray that he who has the power
will have the mercy to see you unharmed."
"Away," said Tom, grasping the collar of the helpless Dillon, and rather
carrying than leading him into the gallery: "if a sound, one-quarter as
loud as a young porpoise makes when he draws his first breath, comes
from you, villain, you shall see the sight of the Alacrity over again.
My harpoon keeps its edge well, and the old arm can yet drive it to the
This menace effectually silenced even the hard, perturbed breathings of
the captive, who, with his conductor, followed the light steps of
Katherine through some of the secret mazes of the building, until, in a
few minutes, they issued through a small door into the open air. Without
pausing to deliberate, Miss Plowden led the cockswain through the
grounds, to a different wicket from the one by which he had entered the
paddock, and pointing to the path, which might be dimly traced along the
faded herbage, she bade God bless him, in a voice that discovered her
interest in his safety, and vanished from his sight like an aerial
Tom needed no incentive to his speed, now that his course lay so plainly
before him, but loosening his pistols in his belt, and poising his
harpoon, he crossed the fields at a gait that compelled his companion to
exert his utmost powers, in the way of walking, to equal. Once or twice,
Dillon ventured to utter a word or two; but a stern "silence" from the
cockswain warned him to cease, until perceiving that they were
approaching the cliffs, he made a final effort to obtain his liberty, by
hurriedly promising a large bribe. The cockswain made no reply, and the
captive was secretly hoping that his scheme was producing its wonted
effects, when he unexpectedly felt the keen cold edge of the barbed iron
of the harpoon pressing against his breast, through the opening of his
ruffles, and even raising the skin.
"Liar!" said Tom; "another word, and I'll drive it through your heart!"
From that moment, Dillon was as silent as the grave. They reached the
edge of the cliffs, without encountering the party that had been sent in
quest of Barnstable, and at a point near where they had landed. The old
seaman paused an instant on the verge of the precipice, and cast his
experienced eyes along the wide expanse of water that lay before him.
The sea was no longer sleeping, but already in heavy motion, and rolling
its surly waves against the base of the rocks on which he stood,
scattering their white crests high in foam. The cockswain, after bending
his looks along the whole line of the eastern horizon, gave utterance to
a low and stifled groan; and then, striking the staff of his harpoon
violently against the earth, he pursued his way along the very edge of
the cliffs, muttering certain dreadful denunciations, which the
conscience of his appalled listener did not fail to apply to himself. It
appeared to the latter, that his angry and excited leader sought the
giddy verge of the precipice with a sort of wanton recklessness, so
daring were the steps that he took along its brow, notwithstanding the
darkness of the hour, and the violence of the blasts that occasionally
rushed by them, leaving behind a kind of reaction, that more than once
brought the life of the manacled captive in imminent jeopardy. But it
would seem the wary cockswain had a motive for this apparently
inconsiderate desperation. When they had made good quite half the
distance between the point where Barnstable had landed and that where he
had appointed to meet his cockswain, the sounds of voices were brought
indistinctly to their ears, in one of the momentary pauses of the
rushing winds, and caused the cockswain to make a dead stand in his
progress. He listened intently for a single minute, when his resolution
appeared to be taken. He turned to Dillon and spoke; though his voice
was suppressed and low, it was deep and resolute.
"One word, and you die; over the cliffs! You must take a seaman's
ladder: there is footing on the rocks, and crags for your hands. Over
the cliff, I bid ye, or I'll cast ye into the sea, as I would a dead
"Mercy, mercy!" implored Dillon; "I could not do it in the day; by this
light I shall surely perish."
"Over with ye!" said Tom, "or----"
Dillon waited for no more, but descended, with trembling steps, the
dangerous precipice that lay before him. He was followed by the
cockswain, with a haste that unavoidably dislodged his captive from the
trembling stand he had taken on the shelf of a rock, who, to his
increased horror found himself dangling in the air, his body impending
over the sullen surf, that was tumbling in with violence upon the rocks
beneath him. An involuntary shriek burst from Dillon, as he felt his
person thrust from the narrow shelf; and his cry sounded amidst the
tempest, like the screechings of the spirit of the storm.
"Another such a call, and I cut your tow-line, villain," said the
determined seaman, "when nothing short of eternity will bring you up."
The sounds of footsteps and voices were now distinctly audible, and
presently a party of armed men appeared on the edges of the rocks,
directly above them.
"It was a human voice," said one of them, "and like a man in distress."
"It cannot be the men we are sent in search of," returned Sergeant
Drill; "for no watchword that I ever heard sounded like that cry."
"They say that such cries are often heard in storms along this coast,"
said a voice that was uttered with less of military confidence than the
two others: "and they are thought to come from drowned seamen."
A feeble laugh arose among the listeners, and one or two forced jokes
were made at the expense of their superstitious comrade; but the scene
did not fail to produce its effect on even the most sturdy among the
unbelievers in the marvelous; for, after a few more similar remarks, the
whole party retired from the cliffs, at a pace that might have been
accelerated by the nature of their discourse. The cockswain, who had
stood all this time, firm as the rock which supported him, bearing up
not only his own weight, but the person of Dillon also, raised his head
above the brow of the precipice, as they withdrew, to reconnoitre, and
then, drawing up the nearly insensible captive, and placing him in
safety on the bank, he followed himself. Not a moment was wasted in
unnecessary explanations, but Dillon found himself again urged forward,
with the same velocity as before. In a few minutes they gained the
desired ravine, down which Tom plunged with a seaman's nerve, dragging
his prisoner after him, and directly they stood where the waves rose to
their feet, as they flowed far and foaming across the sands.--The
cockswain stooped so low as to bring the crest of the billows in a line
with the horizon, when he discovered the dark boat, playing in the outer
edge of the surf.
"What hoa! Ariels there!" shouted Tom, in a voice that the growing
tempest carried to the ears of the retreating soldiers, who quickened
their footsteps, as they listened to sounds which their fears taught
them to believe supernatural.
"Who hails?" cried the well-known voice of Barnstable.
"Once your master, now your servant," answered the cockswain with a
watchword of his own invention.
"'Tis he," returned the lieutenant; "veer away, boys, veer away. You
must wade into the surf."
Tom caught Dillon in his arms; and throwing him, like a cork, across his
shoulder, he dashed into the streak of foam that was bearing the boat on
its crest, and before his companion had time for remonstrance or
entreaty, he found himself once more by the side of Barnstable.
"Who have we here?" asked the lieutenant; "this is not Griffith!"
"Haul out and weigh your grapnel," said the excited cockswain; "and
then, boys, if you love the Ariel, pull while the life and the will is
left in you."
Barnstable knew his man, and not another question was asked, until the
boat was without the breakers, now skimming the rounded summits of the
waves, or settling into the hollows of the seas, but always cutting the
waters asunder, as she urged her course, with amazing velocity, towards
the haven where the schooner had been left at anchor. Then, in a few but
bitter sentences, the cockswain explained to his commander the treachery
of Dillon, and the danger of the schooner.
"The soldiers are slow at a night muster," Tom concluded; "and from what
I overheard, the express will have to make a crooked course, to double
the head of the bay, so that, but for this northeaster, we might weather
upon them yet; but it's a matter that lies altogether in the will of
Providence. Pull, my hearties, pull--everything depends on your oars to-
Barnstable listened in deep silence to this unexpected narration, which
sounded in the ears of Dillon like his funeral knell. At length, the
suppressed voice of the lieutenant was heard, also, uttering:
"Wretch! if I should cast you into the sea, as food for the fishes, who
could blame me? But if my schooner goes to the bottom, she shall prove
"Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth, ere
It should the good ship so have swallowed."
The arms of Dillon were released from their confinement by the
cockswain, as a measure of humane caution against accidents, when they
entered the surf; and the captive now availed himself of the
circumstance to bury his features in the folds of his attire, when he
brooded over the events of the last few hours with that mixture of
malignant passion and pusillanimous dread of the future, that formed the
chief ingredients in his character. From this state of apparent quietude
neither Barnstable nor Tom seemed disposed to rouse him by their
remarks, for both were too much engaged with their own gloomy
forebodings, to indulge in any unnecessary words. An occasional
ejaculation from the former, as if to propitiate the spirit of the
storm, as he gazed on the troubled appearance of the elements, or a
cheering cry from the latter to animate his crew, alone were heard amid
the sullen roaring of the waters, and the mournful whistling of the
winds that swept heavily across the broad waste of the German Ocean.
There might have been an hour consumed thus, in a vigorous struggle
between the seamen and the growing billows, when the boat doubled the
northern headland of the desired haven, and shot, at once, from its
boisterous passage along the margin of the breakers into the placid
waters of the sequestered bay, The passing blasts were still heard
rushing above the high lands that surrounded, and, in fact, formed, the
estuary; but the profound stillness of deep night pervaded the secret
recesses, along the unruffled surface of its waters. The shadows of the
hills seemed to have accumulated, like a mass of gloom, in the centre of
the basin, and though every eye involuntarily turned to search, it was
in vain that the anxious seamen endeavored to discover their little
vessel through its density. While the boat glided into this quiet scene,
Barnstable anxiously observed:
"Everything is as still as death."
"God send it is not the stillness of death!" ejaculated the cockswain.
"Here, here," he continued, speaking in a lower tone, as if fearful of
being overheard, "here she lies, sir, more to port; look into the streak
of clear sky above the marsh, on the starboard hand of the wood, there;
that long black line is her maintopmast; I know it by the rake; and
there is her night-pennant fluttering about that bright star; ay, ay,
sir, there go our own stars aloft yet, dancing among the stars in the
heavens! God bless her! God bless her! she rides as easy and as quiet as
a gull asleep!"
"I believe all in her sleep too," returned his commander. "Ha! by
heaven, we have arrived in good time: the soldiers are moving!"
The quick eye of Barnstable had detected the glimmering of passing
lanterns, as they flitted across the embrasures of the battery, and at
the next moment the guarded but distinct sounds of an active bustle on
the decks of the schooner were plainly audible. The lieutenant was
rubbing his hands together, with a sort of ecstasy, that probably will
not be understood by the great majority of our readers, while long Tom
was actually indulging in a paroxysm of his low spiritless laughter, as
these certain intimations of the safety of the Ariel, and of the
vigilance of her crew, were conveyed to their ears; when the whole hull
and taper spars of their floating home became unexpectedly visible, and
the sky, the placid basin, and the adjacent hills, were illuminated by a
flash as sudden and as vivid as the keenest lightning. Both Barnstable
and his cockswain seemed instinctively to strain their eyes towards the
schooner, with an effort to surpass human vision; but ere the rolling
reverberations of the report of a heavy piece of ordnance from the
heights had commenced, the dull, whistling rush of the shot swept over
their heads, like the moaning of a hurricane, and was succeeded by the
plash of the waters, which was followed, in a breath, by the rattling of
the mass of iron, as it bounded with violent fury from rock to rock,
shivering and tearing the fragments that lined the margin of the bay.
"A bad aim with the first gun generally leaves your enemy clean decks,"
said the cockswain, with his deliberate sort of philosophy; "smoke makes
but dim spectacles; besides, the night always grows darkest as you call
off the morning watch."
"That boy is a miracle for his years!" rejoined the delighted
lieutenant. "See, Tom, the younker has shifted his berth in the dark,
and the Englishmen have fired by the day-range they must have taken, for
we left him in a direct line between the battery and yon hummock! What
would have become of us, if that heavy fellow had plunged upon our
decks, and gone out below the water-line?"
"We should have sunk into English mud, for eternity, as sure as our
metal and kentledge would have taken us down," responded Tom; "such a
point-blanker would have torn off a streak of our wales, outboard, and
not even left the marines time to say a prayer!--tend bow there!"
It is not to be supposed that the crew of the whale-boat continued idle
during this interchange of opinions between the lieutenant and his
cockswain; on the contrary, the sight of their vessel acted on them like
a charm, and, believing that all necessity for caution was now over,
they had expended their utmost strength in efforts that had already
brought them, as the last words of Tom indicated, to the side of the
Ariel. Though every nerve of Barnstable was thrilling with the
excitement produced by his feelings passing from a state of the most
doubtful apprehension to that of a revived and almost confident hope of
effecting his escape, he assumed the command of his vessel with all that
stern but calm authority, that seamen find is most necessary to exert in
the moments of extremest danger. Any one of the heavy shot that their
enemies continued to hurl from their heights into the darkness of the
haven he well knew must prove fatal to them, as it would, unavoidably,
pass through the slight fabric of the Ariel, and open a passage to the
water that no means he possessed could remedy.--His mandates were,
therefore, issued with a full perception of the critical nature of the
emergency, but with that collectedness of manner, and intonation of
voice, that were best adapted to enforce a ready and animated obedience.
Under this impulse, the crew of the schooner soon got their anchor freed
from the bottom, and, seizing their sweeps, they forced her by their
united efforts directly in the face of the battery, under that shore
whose summit was now crowned with a canopy of smoke, that every
discharge of the ordnance tinged with dim colors, like the faintest
tints that are reflected from the clouds towards a setting sun. So long
as the seamen were enabled to keep their little bark under the cover of
the hill, they were, of course, safe; but Barnstable perceived, as they
emerged from its shadow, and were drawing nigh the passage which led
into the ocean, that the action of his sweeps would no longer avail them
against the currents of air they encountered, neither would the darkness
conceal their movements from his enemy, who had already employed men on
the shore to discern the position of the schooner. Throwing off at once,
therefore, all appearance of disguise, he gave forth the word to spread
the canvas of his vessel, in his ordinary cheerful manner.
"Let them do their worst now, Merry," he added; "we have brought them to
a distance that I think will keep their iron above water, and we have no
dodge about us, younker!"
"It must be keener marksmen than the militia, or volunteers, or
fencibles, or whatever they call themselves, behind yon grass-bank, to
frighten the saucy Ariel from the wind," returned the reckless boy; "but
why have you brought Jonah aboard us again, sir? Look at him by the
light of the cabin lamp; he winks at every gun, as if he expected the
shot would hull his own ugly yellow physiognomy. And what tidings have
we, sir, from Mr. Griffith and the marine?"
"Name him not," said Barnstable, pressing the shoulder on which he
lightly leaned, with a convulsive grasp, that caused the boy to yield
with pain; "name him not, Merry; I want my temper and my faculties at
this moment undisturbed, and thinking of the wretch unfits me for my
duty. But, there will come a time! Go forward, sir; we feel the wind,
and have a narrow passage to work through."
The boy obeyed a mandate which was given in the usual prompt manner of
their profession, and which, he well understood, was intended to
intimate that the distance which years and rank had created between
them, but which Barnstable often chose to forget while communing with
Merry, was now to be resumed. The sails had been loosened and set; and,
as the vessel approached the throat of the passage, the gale, which was
blowing with increasing violence, began to make a very sensible
impression on the light bark. The cockswain, who, in the absence of most
of the inferior officers, had been acting, on the forecastle, the part
of one who felt, from his years and experience, that he had some right
to advise, if not to command, at such a juncture, now walked to the
station which his commander had taken, near the helmsman, as if willing
to place himself in the way of being seen.
"Well, Master Coffin," said Barnstable, who well understood the
propensity his old shipmate had to commune with him on all important
occasions, "what think you of the cruise now? Those gentlemen on the
hill make a great noise, but I have lost even the whistling of their
shot; one would think they could see our sails against the broad band of
light which is opening to seaward."
"Ay, ay, sir, they see us, and mean to hit us too; but we are running
across their fire, and that with a ten-knot breeze; but, when we heave
in stays, and get in a line with their guns, we shall see, and it may be
feel, more of their work than we do now; a thirty-two an't trained as
easily as a fowling-piece or a ducking-gun."
Barnstable was struck with the truth of this observation; but as there
existed an immediate necessity for placing the schooner in the very
situation to which the other alluded, he gave his orders at once, and
the vessel came about, and ran with her head pointing towards the sea,
in as short a time as we have taken to record it.
"There, they have us now, or never," cried the lieutenant, when the
evolution was completed. "If we fetch to windward off the northern
point, we shall lay out into the offing, and in ten minutes we might
laugh at Queen Anne's pocket-piece, which, you know, old boy, sent a
ball from Dover to Calais."
"Ay, sir, I've heard of the gun," returned the grave seaman, "and a
lively piece it must have been, if the straits were always of the same
width they are now. But I see that, Captain Barnstable, which is more
dangerous than a dozen of the heaviest cannon that were ever cast can
be, at half a league's distance. The water is bubbling through our lee
scuppers, already, sir."
"And what of that? hav'n't I buried her guns often, and yet kept every
spar in her without crack or splinter?"
"Ay, ay, sir, you have done it, and can do it again, where there is sea-
room, which is all that a man wants for comfort in this life. But when
we are out of these chops, we shall be embayed, with a heavy northeaster
setting dead into the bight; it is that which I fear, Captain
Barnstable, more than all the powder and ball in the whole island."
"And yet, Tom, the balls are not to be despised, either; those fellows
have found out their range, and send their iron within hail again: we
walk pretty fast, Mr. Coffin; but a thirty-two can cut-travel us, with
the best wind that ever blew."
Tom threw a cursory glance towards the battery, which had renewed its
fire with a spirit that denoted they saw their object, as he answered:
"It is never worth a man's while to strive to dodge a shot; for they are
all commissioned to do their work, the same as a ship is commissioned to
cruise in certain latitudes: but for the winds and the weather, they are
given for a seafaring man to guard against, by making or shortening
sail, as the case may be. Now, the headland to the southward stretches
full three leagues to windward, and the shoals lie to the north; among
which God keep us from ever running this craft again!"
"We will beat her out of the bight, old fellow," cried the lieutenant;
"we shall have a leg of three leagues in length to do it in."
"I have known longer legs too short," returned the cockswain, shaking
his head; "a tumbling sea, with a lee-tide, on a lee-shore, makes a sad
The lieutenant was in the act of replying to this saying with a cheerful
laugh, when the whistling of a passing shot was instantly succeeded by a
crash of splintered wood; and at the next moment the head of the
mainmast, after tottering for an instant in the gale, fell towards the
deck, bringing with it the mainsail, and the long line of topmast, that
had been bearing the emblems of America, as the cockswain had expressed
it, among the stars of the heavens.
"That was a most unlucky hit!" Barnstable suffered to escape him in the
concern of the moment; but, instantly resuming all his collectedness of
manner and voice, he gave his orders to clear the wreck, and secure the
The mournful forebodings of Tom seemed to vanish with the appearance of
a necessity for his exertions, and he was foremost among the crew in
executing the orders of their commander. The loss of all the sail on the
mainmast forced the Ariel so much from her course, as to render it
difficult to weather the point, that jutted, under her lee, for some
distance into the ocean. This desirable object was, however, effected by
the skill of Barnstable, aided by the excellent properties of his
vessel; and the schooner, borne down by the power of the gale, from
whose fury she had now no protection, passed heavily along the land,
heading as far as possible from the breakers, while the seamen were
engaged in making their preparations to display as much of their
mainsail as the stump of the mast would allow them to spread. The firing
from the battery ceased, as the Ariel rounded the little promontory; but
Barnstable, whose gaze was now bent intently on the ocean, soon
perceived that, as his cockswain had predicted, he had a much more
threatening danger to encounter, in the elements. When their damages
were repaired, so far as circumstances would permit, the cockswain
returned to his wonted station near the lieutenant; and after a
momentary pause, during which his eyes roved over the rigging with a
seaman's scrutiny, he resumed the discourse.
"It would have been better for us that the best man in the schooner
should have been dubb'd of a limb, by that shot, than that the Ariel
should have lost her best leg; a mainsail close-reefed may be prudent
canvas as the wind blows, but it holds a poor luff to keep a craft to
"What would you have, Tom Coffin?" retorted his commander. "You see she
draws ahead, and off-shore; do you expect a vessel to fly in the very
teeth of the gale? or would you have me ware and beach her at once?"
"I would have nothing, nothing, Captain Barnstable," returned the old
seaman, sensibly touched at his commander's displeasure; "you are as
able as any man that ever trod a plank to work her into an offing; but,
sir, when that soldier-officer told me of the scheme to sink the Ariel
at her anchor, there were such feelings come athwart my philosophy as
never crossed it afore. I thought I saw her a wrack, as plainly, ay, as
plainly as you may see the stump of that mast; and, I will own it, for
it's as natural to love the craft you sail in as it is to love one's
self, I will own that my manhood fetched a heavy lee-lurch at the
"Away with ye, ye old sea-croaker! forward with ye, and see that the
head-sheets are trimmed flat. But hold! Come hither, Tom; if you have
sights of wrecks, and sharks, and other beautiful objects, keep them
stowed in your own silly brain; don't make a ghost-parlor of my
forecastle. The lads begin to look to leeward, now, oftener than I would
have them. Go, sirrah, go, and take example from Mr. Merry, who is
seated on your namesake there, and is singing as if he were a chorister
in his father's church."
"Ah, Captain Barnstable, Mr. Merry is a boy, and knows nothing, so fears
nothing. But I shall obey your orders, sir; and if the men fall astarn
this gale, it sha'n't be for anything they'll hear from old Tom Coffin."
The cockswain lingered a moment, notwithstanding his promised obedience,
and then ventured to request that:
"Captain Barnstable would please call Mr. Merry from the gun; for I
know, from having followed the seas my natural life, that singing in a
gale is sure to bring the wind down upon a vessel the heavier; for He
who rules the tempests is displeased that man's voice shall be heard
when he chooses to send his own breath on the water."
Barnstable was at a loss whether to laugh at his cockswain's infirmity,
or to yield to the impression which his earnest and solemn manner had a
powerful tendency to produce, amid such a scene. But making an effort to
shake off the superstitious awe that he felt creeping around his own
heart, the lieutenant relieved the mind of the worthy old seaman so far
as to call the careless boy from his perch, to his own side; where
respect for the sacred character of the quarter-deck instantly put an
end to the lively air he had been humming. Tom walked slowly forward,
apparently much relieved by the reflection that he had effected so
important an object.
The Ariel continued to struggle against the winds and ocean for several
hours longer, before the day broke on the tempestuous scene, and the
anxious mariners were enabled to form a more accurate estimate of their
real danger. As the violence of the gale increased, the canvas of the
schooner had been gradually reduced, until she was unable to show more
than was absolutely necessary to prevent her driving helplessly on the
land. Barnstable watched the appearance of the weather, as the light
slowly opened upon them, with an intense anxiety, which denoted that the
presentiments of the cockswain were no longer deemed idle. On looking to
windward, he beheld the green masses of water that were rolling in
towards the land, with a violence that seemed irresistible, crowned with
ridges of foam; and there were moments when the air appeared filled with
sparkling gems, as the rays of the rising sun fell upon the spray that
was swept from wave to wave. Towards the land the view was still more
appalling. The cliffs, but a short half-league under the lee of the
schooner, were, at all times, nearly hid from the eye by the pyramids of
water, which the furious element, so suddenly restrained in its
violence, cast high into the air, as if seeking to overleap the
boundaries that nature had fixed to its dominion. The whole coast, from
the distant headland at the south to the well-known shoals that
stretched far beyond their course in the opposite direction, displayed a
broad belt of foam, into which it would have been certain destruction
for the proudest ship that ever swam to enter. Still the Ariel floated
on the billows, lightly and in safety, though yielding to the impulses
of the waters, and, at times, appearing to be engulfed in the yawning
chasm which apparently opened beneath her to receive the little fabric.
The low rumor of acknowledged danger had found its way through the
schooner, and the seamen, after fastening their hopeless looks on the
small spot of canvas that they were still able to show to the tempest,
would turn to view the dreary line of coast, that seemed to offer so
gloomy an alternative. Even Dillon, to whom the report of their danger
had found its way, crept from his place of concealment in the cabin, and
moved about the decks unheeded, devouring, with greedy ears, such
opinions as fell from the lips of the sullen mariners.
At this moment of appalling apprehension, the cockswain exhibited the
calmest resignation. He knew all had been done that lay in the power of
man, to urge their little vessel from the land, and it was now too
evident to his experienced eyes that it had been done in vain; but,
considering himself as a sort of fixture in the schooner, he was quite
prepared to abide her fate, be it for better or for worse. The settled
look of gloom that gathered around the frank brow of Barnstable was in
no degree connected with any considerations of himself; but proceeded
from that sort of parental responsibility, from which the sea-commander
is never exempt. The discipline of the crew, however, still continued
perfect and unyielding. There had, it is true, been a slight movement
made by one or two of the older seamen, which indicated an intention to
drown the apprehensions of death in ebriety; but Barnstable had called
for his pistols, in a tone that checked the procedure instantly, and,
although the fatal weapons were, untouched by him, left to lie exposed
on the capstan, where they had been placed by his servant, not another
symptom of insubordination appeared among the devoted crew. There was
even what to a landsman might seem an appalling affectation of attention
to the most trifling duties of the vessel; and the men who, it should
seem, ought to be devoting the brief moments of their existence to the
mighty business of the hour, were constantly called to attend to the
most trivial details of their profession. Ropes were coiled, and the
slightest damages occasioned by the waves, which, at short intervals,
swept across the low decks of the Ariel, were repaired, with the same
precision and order as if she yet lay embayed in the haven from which
she had just been driven. In this manner the arm of authority was kept
extended over the silent crew, not with the vain desire to preserve a
lingering though useless exercise of power, but with a view to maintain
that unity of action that now could alone afford them even a ray of
"She can make no head against this sea, under that rag of canvas," said
Barnstable, gloomily, addressing the cockswain, who, with folded arms
and an air of cool resignation, was balancing his body on the verge of
the quarter-deck, while the schooner was plunging madly into waves that
nearly buried her in their bosom: "the poor little thing trembles like a
frightened child, as she meets the water."
Tom sighed heavily, and shook his head, before he answered:
"If we could have kept the head of the mainmast an hour longer, we might
have got an offing, and fetched to windward of the shoals; but as it is,
sir, mortal man can't drive a craft to windward--she sets bodily in to
land, and will be in the breakers in less than an hour, unless God wills
that the wind shall cease to blow."
"We have no hope left us, but to anchor; our ground tackle may yet bring
Tom turned to his commander, and replied, solemnly, and with that
assurance of manner that long experience only can give a man in moments
of great danger:
"If our sheet-cable was bent to our heaviest anchor, this sea would
bring it home, though nothing but her launch was riding by it. A
northeaster in the German Ocean must and will blow itself out; nor shall
we get the crown of the gale until the sun falls over the land. Then,
indeed, it may lull; for the winds do often seem to reverence the glory
of the heavens too much to blow their might in its very face!"
"We must do our duty to ourselves and the country," returned Barnstable.
"Go, get the two bowers spliced, and have a kedge bent to a hawser:
we'll back our two anchors together, and veer to the better end of two
hundred and forty fathoms; it may yet bring her up. See all clear there
for anchoring and cutting away the mast! we'll leave the wind nothing
but a naked hull to whistle over."
"Ay, if there was nothing but the wind, we might yet live to see the sun
sink behind them hills," said the cockswain; "but what hemp can stand
the strain of a craft that is buried, half the time, to her foremast in
The order was, however, executed by the crew, with a sort of desperate
submission to the will of their commander; and when the preparations
were completed, the anchors and kedge were dropped to the bottom, and
the instant that the Ariel tended to the wind, the axe was applied to
the little that was left of her long, raking masts. The crash of the
falling spars, as they came, in succession, across the decks of the
vessel, appeared to produce no sensation amid that scene of complicated
danger; but the seamen proceeded in silence to their hopeless duty of
clearing the wrecks. Every eye followed the floating timbers, as the
waves swept them away from the vessel, with a sort of feverish
curiosity, to witness the effect produced by their collision with those
rocks that lay so fearfully near them; but long before the spars entered
the wide border of foam, they were hid from view by the furious element
in which they floated. It was now felt by the whole crew of the Ariel,
that their last means of safety had been adopted; and, at each desperate
and headlong plunge the vessel took into the bosom of the seas that
rolled upon her forecastle, the anxious seamen thought that they could
perceive the yielding of the iron that yet clung to the bottom, or could
hear the violent surge of the parting strands of the cable, that still
held them to their anchors. While the minds of the sailors were agitated
with the faint hopes that had been excited by the movements of their
schooner, Dillon had been permitted to wander about the deck unnoticed:
his rolling eyes, hard breathing, and clenched hands excited no
observation among the men, whose thoughts were yet dwelling on the means
of safety. But now, when, with a sort of frenzied desperation, he would
follow the retiring waters along the decks, and venture his person nigh
the group that had collected around and on the gun of the cockswain,
glances of fierce or of sullen vengeance were cast at him, that conveyed
threats of a nature that he was too much agitated to understand.
"If ye are tired of this world, though your time, like my own, is
probably but short in it," said Tom to him, as he passed the cockswain
in one of his turns, "you can go forward among the men; but if ye have
need of the moments to foot up the reck'ning of your doings among men,
afore ye're brought to face your Maker, and hear the log-book of Heaven,
I would advise you to keep as nigh as possible to Captain Barnstable or
"Will you promise to save me if the vessel is wrecked?" exclaimed
Dillon, catching at the first sounds of friendly interest that had
reached his ears since he had been recaptured; "Oh! If you will, I can
secure your future ease, yes, wealth, for the remainder of your days!"
"Your promises have been too ill kept afore this, for the peace of your
soul," returned the cockswain, without bitterness, though sternly; "but
it is not in me to strike even a whale that is already spouting blood."
The intercessions of Dillon were interrupted by a dreadful cry, that
arose among the men forward, and which sounded with increased horror,
amid the roarings of the tempest. The schooner rose on the breast of a
wave at the same instant, and, falling off with her broadside to the
sea, she drove in towards the cliffs, like a bubble on the rapids of a
"Our ground-tackle has parted," said Tom, with his resigned patience of
manner undisturbed; "she shall die as easy as man can make her!"--While
he yet spoke, he seized the tiller, and gave to the vessel such a
direction as would be most likely to cause her to strike the rocks with
her bows foremost.
There was, for one moment, an expression of exquisite anguish betrayed
in the dark countenance of Barnstable; but, at the next, it passed away,
and he spoke cheerfully to his men:
"Be steady, my lads, be calm; there is yet a hope of life for
_you_--our light draught will let us run in close to the cliffs,
and it is still falling water--see your boats clear, and be steady."
The crew of the whale-boat, aroused by this speech from a sort of
stupor, sprang into their light vessel, which was quickly lowered into
the sea, and kept riding on the foam, free from the sides of the
schooner, by the powerful exertions of the men. The cry for the
cockswain was earnest and repeated, but Tom shook his head, without
replying, still grasping the tiller, and keeping his eyes steadily bent
on the chaos of waters into which they were driving. The launch, the
largest boat of the two, was cut loose from the "gripes," and the bustle
and exertion of the moment rendered the crew insensible to the horror of
the scene that surrounded them. But the loud hoarse call of the
cockswain, to "look out--secure yourselves!" suspended even their
efforts, and at that instant the Ariel settled on a wave that melted
from under her, heavily on the rocks. The shock was so violent, as to
throw all who disregarded the warning cry from their feet, and the
universal quiver that pervaded the vessel was like the last shudder of
animated nature. For a time long enough to breathe, the least
experienced among the men supposed the danger to be past; but a wave of
great height followed the one that had deserted them, and raising the
vessel again, threw her roughly still farther on the bed of rocks, and
at the same time its crest broke over her quarter, sweeping the length
of her decks with a fury that was almost resistless. The shuddering
seamen beheld their loosened boat driven from their grasp, and dashed
against the base of the cliffs, where no fragment of her wreck could be
traced, at the receding of the waters. But the passing billow had thrown
the vessel into a position which, in some measure, protected her decks
from the violence of those that succeeded it.
"Go, my boys, go," said Barnstable, as the moment of dreadful
uncertainty passed; "you have still the whale-boat, and she, at least,
will take you nigh the shore. Go into her, my boys. God bless you, God
bless you all! You have been faithful and honest fellows, and I believe
he will not yet desert you; go, my friends, while there is a lull."
The seamen threw themselves, in a mass, into the light vessel, which
nearly sank under the unusual burden; but when they looked around them,
Barnstable and Merry, Dillon and the cockswain, were yet to be seen on
the decks of the Ariel. The former was pacing, in deep and perhaps
bitter melancholy, the wet planks of the schooner, while the boy hung,
unheeded, on his arm, uttering disregarded petitions to his commander to
desert the wreck. Dillon approached the side where the boat lay, again
and again, but the threatening countenances of the seamen as often drove
him back in despair. Tom had seated himself on the heel of the bowsprit,
where he continued, in an attitude of quiet resignation, returning no
other answers to the loud and repeated calls of his shipmates, than by
waving his hand towards the shore.
"Now hear me," said the boy, urging his request, to tears; "if not for
my sake, or for your own sake, Mr. Barnstable, or for the hope of God's
mercy, go into the boat, for the love of my cousin Katherine."
The young lieutenant paused in his troubled walk, and for a moment he
cast a glance of hesitation at the cliffs; but, at the next instant, his
eyes fell on the ruin of his vessel, and he answered:
"Never, boy, never; if my hour has come, I will not shrink from my
"Listen to the men, dear sir; the boat will be swamped, alongside the
wreck, and their cry is, that without you they will not let her go."
Barnstable motioned to the boat, to bid the boy enter it, and turned
away in silence.
"Well," said Merry, with firmness, "if it be right that a lieutenant
shall stay by the wreck, it must also be right for a midshipman; shove
off; neither Mr. Barnstable nor myself will quit the vessel."
"Boy, your life has been entrusted to my keeping, and at my hands will
it be required," said his commander, lifting the struggling youth, and
tossing him into the arms of the seamen. "Away with ye, and God be with
you; there is more weight in you now than can go safe to land."
Still the seamen hesitated, for they perceived the cockswain moving,
with a steady tread, along the deck, and they hoped he had relented, and
would yet persuade the lieutenant to join his crew. But Tom, imitating
the example of his commander, seized the latter suddenly in his powerful
grasp, and threw him over the bulwarks with an irresistible force. At
the same moment he cast the fast of the boat from the pin that held it,
and, lifting his broad hands high into the air, his voice was heard in
"God's will be done with me," he cried. "I saw the first timber of the
Ariel laid, and shall live just long enough to see it turn out of her
bottom; after which I wish to live no longer."
But his shipmates were swept far beyond the sounds of his voice, before
half these words were uttered. All command of the boat was rendered
impossible, by the numbers it contained, as well as the raging of the
surf; and, as it rose on the white crest of a wave, Tom saw his beloved
little craft for the last time. It fell into a trough of the sea, and in
a few moments more its fragments were ground into splinters on the
adjacent rocks. The cockswain still remained where he had cast off the
rope, and beheld the numerous heads and arms that appeared rising, at
short intervals, on the waves; some making powerful and well-directed
efforts to gain the sands, that were becoming visible as the tide fell,
and others wildly tossed in the frantic movements of helpless despair.
The honest old seaman gave a cry of joy, as he saw Barnstable issue from
the surf, bearing the form of Merry in safety to the sands, where, one
by one, several seamen soon appeared also, dripping and exhausted. Many
others of the crew were carried, in a similar manner, to places of
safety; though, as Tom returned to his seat on the bowsprit, he could
not conceal from his reluctant eyes the lifeless forms that were, in
other spots, driven against the rocks with a fury that soon left them
but few of the outward vestiges of humanity.
Dillon and the cockswain were now the sole occupants of their dreadful
station. The former stood in a kind of stupid despair, a witness of the
scene we have related; but as his curdled blood began again to flow more
warmly through his heart, he crept close to the side of Tom, with that
sort of selfish feeling that makes even hopeless misery more tolerable,
when endured in participation with another.
"When the tide falls," he said, in a voice that betrayed the agony of
fear, though his words expressed the renewal of hope, "we shall be able
to walk to land."
"There was One and only One to whose feet the waters were the same as a
dry dock," returned the cockswain; "and none but such as have his power
will ever be able to walk from these rocks to the sands." The old seaman
paused, and turning his eyes, which exhibited a mingled expression of
disgust and compassion, on his companion, he added, with reverence: "Had
you thought more of Him in fair weather, your case would be less to be
pitied in this tempest."
"Do you still think there is much danger?" asked Dillon.
"To them that have reason to fear death. Listen! do you hear that hollow
noise beneath ye?"
"'Tis the wind driving by the vessel!"
"'Tis the poor thing herself," said the affected cockswain, "giving her
last groans. The water is breaking up her decks, and, in a few minutes
more, the handsomest model that ever cut a wave will be like the chips
that fell from her timbers in framing!"
"Why then did you remain here!" cried Dillon, wildly.
"To die in my coffin, if it should be the will of God," returned Tom.
"These waves, to me, are what the land is to you; I was born on them,
and I have always meant that they should be my grave."
"But I--I," shrieked Dillon, "I am not ready to die!--I cannot die!--I
will not die!"
"Poor wretch!" muttered his companion; "you must go, like the rest of
us; when the death-watch is called, none can skulk from the muster."
"I can swim," Dillon continued, rushing with frantic eagerness to the
side of the wreck. "Is there no billet of wood, no rope, that I can take
"None; everything has been cut away, or carried off by the sea. If ye
are about to strive for your life, take with ye a stout heart and a
clean conscience, and trust the rest to God!"
"God!" echoed Dillon, in the madness of his frenzy; "I know no God!
there is no God that knows me!"
"Peace!" said the deep tones of the cockswain, in a voice that seemed to
speak in the elements; "blasphemer, peace!"
The heavy groaning, produced by the water in the timbers of the Ariel,
at that moment added its impulse to the raging feelings of Dillon, and
he cast himself headlong into the sea.
The water, thrown by the rolling of the surf on the beach, was
necessarily returned to the ocean, in eddies, in different places
favorable to such an action of the element. Into the edge of one of
these countercurrents, that was produced by the very rocks on which the
schooner lay, and which the watermen call the "undertow," Dillon had,
unknowingly, thrown his person; and when the waves had driven him a
short distance from the wreck, he was met by a stream that his most
desperate efforts could not overcome. He was a light and powerful
swimmer, and the struggle was hard and protracted. With the shore
immediately before his eyes, and at no great distance, he was led, as by
a false phantom, to continue his efforts, although they did not advance
him a foot. The old seaman, who at first had watched his motions with
careless indifference, understood the danger of his situation at a
glance; and, forgetful of his own fate, he shouted aloud, in a voice
that was driven over the struggling victim to the ears of his shipmates
on the sands:
"Sheer to port, and clear the undertow! Sheer to the southward!"
Dillon heard the sounds, but his faculties were too much obscured by
terror to distinguish their object; he, however, blindly yielded to the
call, and gradually changed his direction, until his face was once more
turned towards the vessel. The current swept him diagonally by the
rocks, and he was forced into an eddy, where he had nothing to contend
against but the waves, whose violence was much broken by the wreck. In
this state, he continued still to struggle, but with a force that was
too much weakened to overcome the resistance he met. Tom looked around
him for a rope, but all had gone over with the spars, or been swept away
by the waves. At this moment of disappointment, his eyes met those of
the desperate Dillon. Calm and inured to horrors as was the veteran
seaman, he involuntarily passed his hand before his brow, to exclude the
look of despair he encountered; and when, a moment afterwards, he
removed the rigid member, he beheld the sinking form of the victim as it
gradually settled in the ocean, still struggling, with regular but
impotent strokes of the arms and feet, to gain the wreck, and to
preserve an existence that had been so much abused in its hour of
"He will soon know his God, and learn that his God knows him!" murmured
the cockswain to himself. As he yet spoke, the wreck of the Ariel
yielded to an overwhelming sea, and, after an universal shudder, her
timbers and planks gave way, and were swept towards the cliffs, bearing
the body of the simple-hearted cockswain among the ruins.
"Let us think of them that sleep
Full many a fathom deep,
By the wild and stormy steep,
Long and dreary did the hours appear to Barnstable, before the falling
tide had so far receded as to leave the sands entirely exposed to his
search for the bodies of his lost shipmates. Several had been rescued
from the wild fury of the waves themselves; and one by one, as the
melancholy conviction that life had ceased was forced on the survivors,
they had been decently interred in graves dug on the very margin of that
element on which they had passed their lives. But still the form longest
known and most beloved was missing, and the lieutenant paced the broad
space that was now left between the foot of the cliffs and the raging
ocean, with hurried strides and a feverish eye, watching and following
those fragments of the wreck that the sea still continued to cast on the
beach. Living and dead, he now found that of those who had lately been
in the Ariel, only two were missing. Of the former he could muster but
twelve, besides Merry and himself, and his men had already interred more
than half that number of the latter, which, together, embraced all who
had trusted their lives to the frail keeping of the whale-boat.
"Tell me not, boy, of the impossibility of his being safe," said
Barnstable, in deep agitation, which he in vain struggled to conceal
from the anxious youth, who thought it unnecessary to follow the uneasy
motions of his commander, as he strode along the sands. "How often have
men been found floating on pieces of wreck, days after the loss of their
vessel? and you can see, with your own eyes, that the falling water has
swept the planks this distance; ay, a good half-league from where she
struck. Does the lookout from the top of the cliffs make no signal of
seeing him yet?"
"None, sir, none; we shall never see him again. The men say that he
always thought it sinful to desert a wreck, and that he did not even
strike out once for his life, though he has been known to swim an hour,
when a whale has stove his boat. God knows, sir," added the boy, hastily
dashing a tear from his eye, by a stolen movement of his hand, "I loved
Tom Coffin better than any foremast man in either vessel. You seldom
came aboard the frigate but we had him in the steerage among us reefers,
to hear his long yarns, and share our cheer. We all loved him, Mr.
Barnstable; but love cannot bring the dead to life again."
"I know it, I know it," said Barnstable, with a huskiness in his voice
that betrayed the depth of his emotion. "I am not so foolish as to
believe in impossibilities; but while there is a hope of his living, I
will never abandon poor Tom Coffin to such a dreadful fate. Think, boy,
he may, at this moment, be looking at us, and praying to his Maker that
he would turn our eyes upon him; ay, praying to his God, for Tom often
prayed, though he did it in his watch, standing, and in silence."
"If he had clung to life so strongly," returned the midshipman, "he
would have struggled harder to preserve it."
Barnstable stopped short in his hurried walk, and fastened a look of
opening conviction on his companion; but, as he was about to speak in
reply, the shouts of the seamen reached his ears, and, turning, they saw
the whole party running along the beach, and motioning, with violent
gestures, to an intermediate point in the ocean. The lieutenant and
Merry hurried back, and, as they approached the men, they distinctly
observed a human figure, borne along by the waves, at moments seeming to
rise above them, and already floating in the last of the breakers. They
had hardly ascertained so much, when a heavy swell carried the inanimate
body far upon the sands, where it was left by the retiring waters.
"'Tis my cockswain!" cried Barnstable, rushing to the spot. He stopped
suddenly, however, as he came within view of the features, and it was
some little time before he appeared to have collected his faculties
sufficiently to add, in tones of deep horror: "What wretch is this, boy!
His form is unmutilated, and yet observe the eyes! they seem as if the
sockets would not contain them, and they gaze as wildly as if their
owner yet had life--the hands are open and spread, as though they would
still buffet the waves!"
"The Jonah! the Jonah!" shouted the seamen, with savage exultation, as
they successively approached the corpse; "away with his carrion into the
sea again! give him to the sharks! let him tell his lies in the claws of
Barnstable had turned away from the revolting sight, in disgust; but
when he discovered these indications of impotent revenge in the remnant
of his crew, he said, in that voice which all respected and still
"Stand back! back with ye, fellows! Would you disgrace your manhood and
seamanship, by wreaking your vengeance on him whom God has already in
judgment!" A silent, but significant, gesture towards the earth
succeeded his words, and he walked slowly away.
"Bury him in the sands, boys," said Merry, when his commander was at
some little distance; "the next tide will unearth him."
The seamen obeyed his orders, while the midshipman rejoined his
commander, who continued to pace along the beach, occasionally halting
to throw his uneasy glances over the water, and then hurrying onward, at
a rate that caused his youthful companion to exert his greatest power to
maintain the post he had taken at his side. Every effort to discover the
lost cockswain was, however, after two hours' more search, abandoned as
fruitless; and with reason, for the sea was never known to give up the
body of the man who might be emphatically called its own dead.
"There goes the sun, already dropping behind the cliffs," said the
lieutenant, throwing himself on a rock; "and the hour will soon arrive
to set the dog-watches; but we have nothing left to watch over, boy; the
surf and rocks have not even left us a whole plank that we may lay our
heads on for the night."
"The men have gathered many articles on yon beach, sir," returned the
lad; "they have found arms to defend ourselves with, and food to give us
strength to use them."
"And who shall be our enemy?" asked Barnstable, bitterly; "shall we
shoulder our dozen pikes, and carry England by boarding?"
"We may not lay the whole island under contribution," continued the boy,
anxiously, watching the expression of his commander's eye; "but we may
still keep ourselves in work until the cutter returns from the frigate.
I hope, sir, you do not think our case so desperate, as to intend
yielding as prisoners."
"Prisoners!" exclaimed the lieutenant; "no, no, lad, it has not got to
that, yet! England has been able to wreck my craft, I must concede; but
she has, as yet, obtained no other advantage over us. She was a precious
model, Merry! the cleanest run, and the neatest entrance, that art ever
united on the stem and stern of the same vessel! Do you remember the
time, younker, when I gave the frigate my top-sails, in beating out of
the Chesapeake? I could always do it, in smooth water, with a whole-sail
breeze. But she was a frail thing! a frail thing, boy, and could bear
"A mortar-ketch would have thumped to pieces where she lay," returned
"Ay, it was asking too much of her, to expect she could hold together on
a bed of rocks. Merry, I loved her; dearly did I love her; she was my
first command, and I knew and loved every timber and bolt in her
"I believe it is as natural, sir, for a seaman to love the wood and iron
in which he has floated over the depths of the ocean for so many days
and nights," rejoined the boy, "as it is for a father to love the
members of his own family."
"Quite, quite, ay, more so," said Barnstable, speaking as if he were
choked by emotion. Merry felt the heavy grasp of the lieutenant on his
slight arm, while his commander continued, in a voice that gradually
increased in power, as his feelings predominated; "and yet, boy, a human
being cannot love the creature of his own formation as he does the works
of God. A man can never regard his ship as he does his shipmates. I
sailed with him, boy, when everything seemed bright and happy, as at
your age; when, as he often expressed it, I knew nothing and feared
nothing. I was then a truant from an old father and a kind mother, and
he did that for me which no parents could have done in my situation--he
was my father and mother on the deep!--hours, days, even months, has he
passed in teaching me the art of our profession; and now, in my manhood,
he has followed me from ship to ship, from sea to sea, and has only
quitted me to die, where I should have died--as if he felt the disgrace
of abandoning the poor Ariel to her fate, by herself!"
"No--no--no--'twas his superstitious pride!" interrupted Merry, but
perceiving that the head of Barnstable had sunk between his hands, as if
he would conceal his emotion, the boy added no more; but he sat
respectfully watching the display of feeling that his officer in vain
endeavored to suppress. Merry felt his own form quiver with sympathy at
the shuddering which passed through Barnstable's frame; and the relief
experienced by the lieutenant himself was not greater than that which
the midshipman felt, as the latter beheld large tears forcing their way
through the other's fingers, and falling on the sands at his feet. They
were followed by a violent burst of emotion, such as is seldom exhibited
in the meridian of life; but which, when it conquers the nature of one
who has buffeted the chances of the world with the loftiness of his sex
and character, breaks down every barrier, and seems to sweep before it,
like a rushing torrent, all the factitious defences which habit and
education have created to protect the pride of manhood. Merry had often
beheld the commanding severity of the lieutenant's manner in moments of
danger, with deep respect; he had been drawn towards him by kindness and
affection, in times of gayety and recklessness: but he now sat for many
minutes profoundly silent, regarding his officer with sensations that
were nearly allied to awe. The struggle with himself was long and severe
in the bosom of Barnstable; but, at length, the calm of relieved
passions succeeded to his emotion. When he arose from the rock, and
removed his hands from his features, his eye was hard and proud, his
brow lightly contracted, and he spoke in a voice so harsh, that it
startled his companion:
"Come, sir; why are we here and idle? are not yon poor fellows looking
up to us for advice and orders how to proceed in this exigency? Away,
away, Mr. Merry; it is not a time to be drawing figures, in the sand
with your dirk; the flood-tide will soon be in, and we may be glad to
hide our heads in some cavern among these rocks. Let us be stirring,
sir, while we have the sun, and muster enough food and arms to keep life
in us, and our enemies off us, until we can once more get afloat."
The wondering boy, whose experience had not yet taught him to appreciate
the reaction of the passions, started at this unexpected summons to his
duty, and followed Barnstable towards the group of distant seamen. The
lieutenant, who was instantly conscious how far pride had rendered him
unjust, soon moderated his long strides, and continued in milder tones,
which were quickly converted into his usual frank communications, though
they still remained tinged with a melancholy, that time only could
"We have been unlucky, Mr. Merry, but we need not despair--these lads
have gotten together abundance of supplies, I see; and, with our arms,
we can easily make ourselves masters of some of the enemy's smaller
craft, and find our way back to the frigate, when this gale has blown
itself out. We must keep ourselves close, though, or we shall have the
redcoats coming down upon us, like so many sharks around a wreck. Ah!
God bless her, Merry! There is not such a sight to be seen on the whole
beach as two of her planks holding together."
The midshipman, without adverting to this sudden allusion to their
vessel, prudently pursued the train of ideas in which his commander had
"There is an opening into the country, but a short distance south of us,
where a brook empties into the sea," he said. "We might find a cover in
it, or in the wood above, into which it leads, until we can have a
survey of the coast, or can seize some vessel to carry us off."
"There would be a satisfaction in waiting till the morning watch, and
then carrying that accursed battery, which took off the better leg of
the poor Ariel!" said the lieutenant--"the thing might be done, boy, and
we could hold the work, too, until the Alacrity and the frigate draw in
"If you prefer storming works to boarding vessels, there is a fortress
of stone, Mr. Barnstable, which lies directly on our beam. I could see
it through the haze, when I was on the cliffs, stationing the lookout--
"And what, boy? speak without a fear; this is a time for free
"Why, sir, the garrison might not all be hostile--we should liberate Mr.
Griffith and the marines; besides----"
"Besides what, sir?"
"I should have an opportunity, perhaps, of seeing my cousin Cecilia and
my cousin Katherine."
The countenance of Barnstable grew animated as he listened, and he
answered with something of his usual cheerful manner:
"Ay, that, indeed, would be a work worth carrying! And the rescuing of
our shipmates, and the marines, would read like a thing of military
discretion--ha! boy! all the rest would be incidental, younker; like the
capture of the fleet, after you have whipped the convoy."
"I do suppose, sir, that if the abbey be taken, Colonel Howard will own
himself a prisoner of war."
"And Colonel Howard's wards! now there is good sense in this scheme of
thine, Master Merry, and I will give it proper reflection. But here are
our poor fellows; speak cheeringly to them, sir, that we may hold them
in temper for our enterprise."
Barnstable and the midshipman joined their shipwrecked companions, with
that air of authority which is seldom wanting between the superior and
the inferior, in nautical intercourse, but at the same time with a
kindness of speech and looks, that might have been a little increased by
their critical situation. After partaking of the food which had been
selected from among the fragments that still lay scattered, for more
than a mile, along the beach, the lieutenant directed the seamen to arm
themselves with such weapons as offered, and also to make sufficient
provision, from the schooner's stores, to last them for four-and-twenty
hours longer. These orders were soon executed; and the whole party, led
by Barnstable and Merry, proceeded along the foot of the cliffs, in
quest of the opening in the rocks, through which the little rivulet
found a passage to the ocean. The weather contributed, as much as the
seclusion of the spot to prevent any discovery of the small party, which
pursued its object with a disregard of caution that might, under other
circumstances, have proved fatal to its safety. Barnstable paused in his
march when they had all entered the deep ravine, and ascended nearly to
the brow of the precipice, that formed one of its sides, to take a last
and more scrutinizing survey of the sea. His countenance exhibited the
abandonment of all hope, as his eye moved slowly from the northern to
the southern boundary of the horizon, and he prepared to pursue his
march, by moving, reluctantly, up the stream, when the boy, who still
clung to his side, exclaimed joyously:
"Sail ho!--It must be the frigate in the offing!"
"A sail!" repeated his commander; "where away do you see a sail in this
tempest? Can there be another as hardy and unfortunate as ourselves!"
"Look to the starboard hand of the point of rock to windward!" cried the
boy; "now you lose it--ah! now the sun falls upon it! 'tis a sail, sir,
as sure as canvas can be spread in such a gale!"
"I see what you mean," returned the other, "but it seems a gull,
skimming the sea! nay, now it rises, indeed, and shows itself like a
bellying topsail: pass up that glass, lads; here is a fellow in the
offing who may prove a friend."
Merry waited the result of the lieutenant's examination with youthful
impatience, and did not fail to ask immediately:
"Can you make it out, sir? is it the ship or the cutter?"
"Come, there seemeth yet some hope left for us, boy," returned
Barnstable, closing the glass; "'tis a ship lying-to under her
maintopsail. If one might but dare to show himself on these heights, he
would raise her hull, and make sure of her character! But I think I know
her spars, though even her topsail dips, at times, when there is nothing
to be seen but her bare poles; and they shortened by her top-
"One would swear," said Merry, laughing, as much through the excitement
produced by this intelligence, as at his conceit, "that Captain Munson
would never carry wood aloft, when he can't carry canvas. I remember,
one night, Mr. Griffith was a little vexed, and said, around the
capstan, he believed the next order would be to rig in the bowsprit, and
"Ay, ay, Griffith is a lazy dog, and sometimes gets lost in the fogs of
his own thoughts," said Barnstable; "and I suppose old Moderate was in a
breeze. However, this looks as if he were in earnest; he must have kept
the ship away, or she would never have been where she is; I do verily
believe the old gentleman remembers that he has a few of his officers
and men on this accursed island. This is well, Merry; for should we take
the abbey, we have a place at hand in which to put our prisoners."
"We must have patience till the morning," added the boy, "for no boat
would attempt to land in such a sea."
"No boat could land! The best boat that ever floated, boy, has sunk in
these breakers! But the wind lessens, and before morning the sea will
fall. Let us on, and find a berth for our poor lads, where they can be
made more comfortable."
The two officers now descended from their elevation, and led the way
still farther up the deep and narrow dell, until, as the ground rose
gradually before them, they found themselves in a dense wood, on a level
with the adjacent country.
"Here should be a ruin at hand, if I have a true reckoning, and know my
courses and distances," said Barnstable; "I have a chart about me that
speaks of such a landmark."
The lieutenant turned away from the laughing expression of the boy's
eye, as the latter archly inquired:
"Was it made by one who knows the coast well, sir? Of was it done by
some schoolboy, to learn his maps, as the girls work samplers?"
"Come, younker, no sampler of your impudence. But look ahead; can you
see any habitation that has been deserted?"
"Ay, sir, here is a pile of stones before us, that looks as dirty and
ragged as if it was a soldier's barrack; can this be what you seek?"
"Faith, this has been a whole town in its day! we should call it a city
in America, and furnish it with a mayor, aldermen, and recorder--you
might stow old Faneuil Hall in one of its lockers."
With this sort of careless dialogue, which Barnstable engaged in, that
his men might discover no alteration in his manner, they approached the
mouldering walls that had proved so frail a protection to the party
A short time was passed in examining the premises, when the wearied
seamen took possession of one of the dilapidated apartments, and
disposed themselves to seek that rest of which they had been deprived by
the momentous occurrences of the past night.
Barnstable waited until the loud breathing of the seamen assured him
that they slept, when he aroused the drowsy boy, who was fast losing his
senses in the same sort of oblivion, and motioned him to follow. Merry
arose, and they stole together from the apartment, with guarded steps,
and penetrated more deeply into the gloomy recesses of the place.
_Mercury_. "I permit thee to be Sosia again."
We must leave the two adventurers winding their way among the broken
piles, and venturing boldly beneath the tottering arches of the ruin, to
accompany the reader, at the same hour, within the more comfortable
walls of the abbey; where, it will be remembered, Borroughcliffe was
left in a condition of very equivocal ease. As the earth had, however,
in the interval, nearly run its daily round, circumstances had
intervened to release the soldier from his confinement--and no one,
ignorant of the fact, would suppose that the gentleman who was now
seated at the hospitable board of Colonel Howard, directing, with so
much discretion, the energies of his masticators to the delicacies of
the feast, could read, in his careless air and smiling visage, that
those foragers of nature had been so recently condemned, for four long
hours, to the mortification of discussing the barren subject of his own
sword-hilt. Borroughcliffe, however, maintained not only his usual post,
but his well-earned reputation at the table, with his ordinary coolness
of demeanor; though at times there were fleeting smiles that crossed his
military aspect, which sufficiently indicated that he considered the
matter of his reflection to be of a particularly ludicrous character. In
the young man who sat by his side, dressed in the deep-blue jacket of a
seaman, with the fine white linen of his collar contrasting strongly
with the black silk handkerchief that was tied with studied negligence
around his neck, and whose easy air and manner contrasted still more
strongly with this attire, the reader will discover Griffith. The
captive paid much less devotion to the viands than his neighbor, though
he affected more attention to the business of the table than he actually
be stowed, with a sort of consciousness that it would relieve the
blushing maiden who presided. The laughing eyes of Katherine Plowden
were glittering by the side of the mild countenance of Alice Dunscombe,
and, at times, were fastened in droll interest on the rigid and upright
exterior that Captain Manual maintained, directly opposite to where she
was seated. A chair had, also, been placed for Dillon--of course it was
"And so, Borroughcliffe," cried Colonel Howard, with a freedom of voice,
and a vivacity in his air, that announced the increasing harmony of the
repast, "the sea-dog left you nothing to chew but the cud of your
"That and my sword-hilt," returned the immovable recruiting officer.
"Gentlemen, I know not how your Congress rewards military achievements;
but if that worthy fellow were in my company, he should have a halberd
within a week--spurs I would not offer him, for he affects to spurn
Griffith smiled, and bowed in silence to the liberal compliment of
Borroughcliffe; but Manual took on himself the task of replying:
"Considering the drilling the man has received, the conduct has been
well enough, sir; though a well-trained soldier would not only have made
prisoners, but he would have secured them."
"I perceive, my good comrade, that your thoughts are running on the
exchange," said Borroughcliffe, good-humoredly; "we will fill, sir, and,
by permission of the ladies, drink to a speedy restoration of rights to
both parties--the status quo ante bellum!"
"With all my heart!" cried the colonel; "and Cicely and Miss Katherine
will pledge the sentiment in a woman's sip; will ye not, my fair wards?
--Mr. Griffith, I honor this proposition of yours, which will not only
liberate yourself, but restore to us my kinsman, Mr. Christopher Dillon.
Kit had imagined the thing well; ha! Borroughcliffe! 'twas ingeniously
contrived, but the fortune of war interposed itself to his success; and
yet it is a deep and inexplicable mystery to me, how Kit should have
been conveyed from the abbey with so little noise, and without raising
"Christopher is a man who understands the philosophy of silence, as well
as that of rhetoric," returned Borroughcliffe, "and must have learned in
his legal studies, that it is sometimes necessary to conduct matters sub
silentio. You smile at my Latin, Miss Plowden; but really, since I have
become an inhabitant of this monkish abode, my little learning is
stimulated to unwonted efforts--nay, you are pleased to be yet more
merry! I used the language, because silence is a theme in which you
ladies take but little pleasure."
Katherine, however, disregarded the slight pique that was apparent in
the soldier's manner; but, after following the train of her own thoughts
in silent enjoyment for a moment longer, she seemed to yield to their
drollery, and laughed until her dark eyes flashed with merriment.
Cecilia did not assume the severe gravity with which she sometimes
endeavored to repress, what she thought, the unseasonable mirth of her
cousin; and the wondering Griffith fancied, as he glanced his eye from
one to the other, that he could discern a suppressed smile playing among
the composed features of Alice Dunscombe. Katherine, however, soon
succeeded in repressing the paroxysm, and, with an air of infinitely
comic gravity, she replied to the remark of the soldier:
"I think I have heard of such a process in nautical affairs as towing;
but I must appeal to Mr. Griffith for the correctness of the term."
"You could not speak with more accuracy," returned the young sailor,
with a look that sent the conscious blood to the temples of the lady,
"though you had made marine terms your study."
"The profession requires less thought, perhaps, than you imagine, sir;
but is this towing often done, as Captain Borroughcliffe--I beg his
pardon--as the monks have it, sub silentio?"
"Spare me, fair lady," cried the captain, "and we will establish a
compact of mutual grace; you to forgive my learning, and I to suppress
"Suspicions, sir, is a word that a lady must defy."
"And defiance a challenge that a soldier can never receive; so I must
submit to talk English, though the fathers of the church were my
companions. I suspect that Miss Plowden has it in her power to explain
the manner of Mr. Christopher Dillon's departure."
The lady did not reply, but a second burst of merriment succeeded, of a
liveliness and duration quite equal to the former.
"How's this?" exclaimed the colonel; "permit me to say, Miss Plowden,
your mirth is very extraordinary! I trust no disrespect has been offered
to my kinsman? Mr. Griffith, our terms are, that the exchange shall only
be made on condition that equally good treatment has been extended to
"If Mr. Dillon can complain of no greater evil than that of being
laughed at by Miss Plowden, sir, he has reason to call himself a happy
"I know not, sir; God forbid that I should forget what is due to my
guests, gentlemen!--but ye have entered my dwelling as foes to my
"But not to Colonel Howard, sir."
"I know no difference, Mr. Griffith. King George or Colonel Howard--
Colonel Howard or King George. Our feelings, our fortunes, and our fate,
are as one; with the mighty odds that Providence has established between
the prince and his people! I wish no other fortune than to share, at an
humble distance, the weal or woe of my sovereign!"
"You are not called upon, dear sir, to do either, by the thoughtlessness
of us ladies," said Cecilia, rising; "but here comes one who should turn
our thoughts to a more important subject--our dress."
Politeness induced Colonel Howard, who both loved and respected his
niece, to defer his remarks to another time: and Katherine, springing
from her chair with childish eagerness, flew to the side of her cousin,
who was directing a servant that had announced the arrival of one of
those erratic venders of small articles, who supply, in remote districts
of the country, the places of more regular traders, to show the lad into
the dining-parlor. The repast was so far ended as to render this
interruption less objectionable; and as all felt the object of Cecilia
to be the restoration of harmony, the boy was ushered into the room
without further delay. The contents of his small basket, consisting
chiefly of essences, and the smaller articles of female economy, were
playfully displayed on the table by Katherine, who declared herself the
patroness of the itinerant youth, and who laughingly appealed to the
liberality of the gentlemen in behalf of her protege.
"You perceive, my dear guardian, that the boy must be loyal; for he
offers, here, perfume, that is patronized by no less than two royal
dukes: do suffer me to place a box aside, for your especial use: you
consent; I see it in your eye. And, Captain Borroughcliffe, as you
appear to be forgetting the use of your own language, here is even a
hornbook for you! How admirably provided he seems to be. You must have
had St. Ruth in view, when you laid in your stock, child?"
"Yes, my lady," the boy replied, with a bow that was studiously awkward;
"I have often heard of the grand ladies that dwell in the old abbey, and
I have journeyed a few miles beyond my rounds, to gain their custom."
"And surely they cannot disappoint you. Miss Howard, that is a palpable
hint to your purse; and I know not that even Miss Alice can escape
contribution, in these troublesome times. Come, aid me, child; what have
you to recommend, in particular, to the favor of these ladies?"
The lad approached the basket, and rummaged its contents, for a moment,
with the appearance of deep mercenary interest; and then, without
lifting his hand from the confusion he had caused, he said, while he
exhibited something within the basket to the view of his smiling
"This, my lady."
Katharine started, and glanced her eyes, with a piercing look, at the
countenance of the boy, and then turned them uneasily from face to face,
with conscious timidity. Cecilia had effected her object, and had
resumed her seat in silent abstraction--Alice was listening to the
remarks of Captain Manual and the host, as they discussed the propriety
of certain military usages--Griffith seemed to hold communion with his
mistress, by imitating her silence; but Katharine, in her stolen
glances, met the keen look of Borroughcliffe, fastened on her face, in a
manner that did not fail instantly to suspend the scrutiny.
"Come, Cecilia," she cried, after a pause of a moment, "we trespass too
long on the patience of the gentlemen; not only to keep possession of
our seats, ten minutes after the cloth has been drawn! but even to
introduce our essences, and tapes, and needles, among the Madeira, and--
shall I add, cigars, colonel?"
"Not while we are favored with the company of Miss Plowden, certainly."
"Come, my coz; I perceive the colonel is growing particularly polite,
which is a never-failing sign that he tires of our presence."
Cecilia rose, and was leading the way to the door, when Katherine turned
to the lad, and added:
"You can follow us to the drawing-room, child, where we can make our
purchases, without exposing the mystery of our toilets."
"Miss Plowden has forgotten my hornbook, I believe," said
Borroughcliffe, advancing from the standing group who surrounded the
table; "possibly I can find some work in the basket of the boy, better
fitted for the improvement of a grown-up young gentleman than this
Cecilia, observing him to take the basket from the lad, resumed her
seat, and her example was necessarily followed by Katherine; though not
without some manifest indications of vexation.
"Come hither, boy, and explain the uses of your wares. This is soap, and
this a penknife, I know; but what name do you affix to this?"
"That? that is tape," returned the lad, with an impatience that might
very naturally be attributed to the interruption that was thus given to
"That?" repeated the stripling, pausing, with a hesitation between
sulkiness and doubt; "that?--"
"Come, this is a little ungallant!" cried Katherine; "to keep three
ladies dying with impatience to possess themselves of their finery,
while you detain the boy, to ask the name of a tambouring-needle!"
"I should apologize for asking questions that are so easily answered;
but perhaps he will find the next more difficult to solve," returned
Borroughcliffe, placing the subject of his inquiries in the palm of his
hand, in such a manner as to conceal it from all but the boy and
himself, "This has a name too; what is it?"
"That?--that--is sometimes called--white-line."
"Perhaps you mean a white lie?"
"How, sir!" exclaimed the lad, a little fiercely, "a lie!"
"Only a white one," returned the captain. "What do you call this. Miss
"We call it bobbin, sir, generally, in the north," said the placid
"Ay, bobbin, or white-line; they are the same thing," added the young
"They are? I think, now, for a professional man, you know but little of
the terms of your art," observed Borroughcliffe, with an affectation of
irony; "I never have seen a youth of your years who knew less. What
names, now, would you affix to this, and this, and this?"
While the captain was speaking he drew from his pockets the several
instruments that the cockswain had made use of the preceding night to
secure his prisoner.
"That," exclaimed the lad, with the eagerness of one who would vindicate
his reputation, "is rattlin-stuff; and this is marline; and that is
"Enough, enough," said Borroughcliffe; "you have exhibited sufficient
knowledge to convince me that you _do_ know something of your
_trade_, and nothing of these articles. Mr. Griffith, do you claim
"I believe I must, sir," said the young sea-officer, who had been
intently listening to the examination. "On whatever errand you have now
ventured here, Mr. Merry, it is useless to affect further concealment."
"Merry!" exclaimed Cecilia Howard; "is it you, then, my cousin? Are you,
too, fallen into the power of your enemies! was it not enough that--"
The young lady recovered her recollection in time to suppress the
remainder of the sentence, though the grateful expression of Griffith's
eye sufficiently indicated that he had, in his thoughts, filled the
sentence with expressions abundantly flattering to his own feelings.
"How's this, again!" cried the colonel; "my two wards embracing and
fondling a vagrant, vagabond peddler, before my eyes! Is this treason,
Mr. Griffith? Or what means the extraordinary visit of this young
"Is it extraordinary, sir," said Merry himself, losing his assumed
awkwardness in the ease and confidence of one whose faculties had been
early exercised, "that a boy like myself, destitute of mother and
sisters, should take a like risk on himself, to visit the only two
female relatives he has in the world?"
"Why this disguise, then? surely, young gentleman, it was unnecessary to
enter the dwelling of old George Howard on such an errand clandestinely,
even though your tender years have been practised on, to lead you astray
from your allegiance. Mr. Griffith and Captain Manual must pardon me, if
I express sentiments, at my own table, that they may find unpleasant;
but this business requires us to be explicit."
"The hospitality of Colonel Howard is unquestionable," returned the boy;
"but he has a great reputation for his loyalty to the crown."
"Ay, young gentleman; and, I trust, with some justice."
"Would it, then, be safe, to entrust my person in the hands of one who
might think it his duty to detain me?"
"This is plausible enough, Captain Borroughcliffe, and I doubt not the
boy speaks with candor. I would, now, that my kinsman, Mr. Christopher
Dillon, were here, that I might learn if it would be misprision of
treason to permit this youth to depart, unmolested, and without
"Inquire of the young gentleman, after the Cacique," returned the
recruiting officer, who, apparently satisfied in producing the exposure
of Merry, had resumed his seat at the table; "perhaps he is, in verity,
an ambassador, empowered to treat on behalf of his highness."
"How say you?" demanded the colonel; "do you know anything of my
The anxious eyes of the whole party were fastened on the boy for many
moments, witnessing the sudden change from careless freedom to deep
horror expressed in his countenance. At length he uttered in an
undertone the secret of Dillon's fate.
"He is dead."
"Dead!" repeated every voice in the room.
"Yes, dead!" said the boy, gazing at the pallid faces of those who
A long and fearful silence succeeded the announcement of this
intelligence, which was only interrupted by Griffith, who said:
"Explain the manner of his death, sir, and where his body lies."
"His body lies interred in the sands," returned Merry, with a
deliberation that proceeded from an opening perception that, if he
uttered too much, he might betray the loss of the Ariel, and,
consequently, endanger the liberty of Barnstable.
"In the sands?" was echoed from every part of the room.
"Ay, in the sands; but how he died, I cannot explain."
"He has been murdered!" exclaimed Colonel Howard, whose command of
utterance was now amply restored to him; "he has been treacherously, and
dastardly, and basely murdered!"
"He has _not_ been murdered," said the boy, firmly; "nor did he
meet his death among those who deserve the name either of traitors or of
"Said you not that he was dead? that my kinsman was buried in the sands
of the seashore?"
"Both are true, sir--"
"And you refuse to explain how he met his death, and why he has been
thus ignominiously interred?"
"He received his interment by my orders, sir; and if there be ignominy
about his grave, his own acts have heaped it on him. As to the manner of
his death, I cannot, and will not speak."
"Be calm, my cousin," said Cecilia, in an imploring voice; "respect the
age of my uncle, and remember his strong attachment to Mr. Dillon."
The veteran had, however, so far mastered his feelings, as to continue
the dialogue with more recollection.
"Mr. Griffith," he said, "I shall not act hastily--you and your
companions will be pleased to retire to your several apartments. I will
so far respect the son of my brother Harry's friend as to believe your
parole will be sacred. Go, gentlemen; you are unguarded."
The two prisoners bowed low to the ladies and their host, and retired.
Griffith, however, lingered a moment on the threshold, to say:
"Colonel Howard, I leave the boy to your kindness and consideration. I
know you will not forget that his blood mingles with that of one who is
most dear to you."
"Enough, enough, sir," said the veteran, waving his hand to him to
retire: "and you, ladies; this is not a place for you, either."
"Never will I quit this child," said Katherine, "while such a horrid
imputation lies on him. Colonel Howard, act your pleasure on us both,
for I suppose you have the power; but his fate shall be my fate."
"There is, I trust, some misconception in this melancholy affair," said
Borroughcliffe, advancing into the centre of the agitated group; "and I
should hope, by calmness and moderation, all may yet be explained; young
gentleman, you have borne arms, and must know, notwithstanding your
youth, what it is to be in the power of your enemies?"
"Never," returned the proud boy; "I am a captive for the first time."
"I speak, sir, in reference to our power."
"You may order me to a dungeon; or, as I have entered the abbey in
disguise, possibly to a gibbet."
"And is that a fate to be met so calmly by one so young?"
"You dare not do it, Captain Borroughcliffe," cried Katherine,
involuntarily throwing an arm around the boy, as if to shield him from
harm; "you would blush to think of such a cold-blooded act of vengeance,
"If we could examine the young man, where the warmth of feeling which
these ladies exhibit might not be excited," said the captain, apart to
his host, "we should gain important intelligence."
"Miss Howard, and you, Miss Plowden," said the veteran, in a manner that
long habit had taught his wards to respect, "your young kinsman is not
in the keeping of savages, and you can safely confide him to my custody.
I am sorry that we have so long kept Miss Alice standing, but she will
find relief on the couches of your drawing-room, Cecilia."
Cecilia and Katherine permitted themselves to be conducted to the door
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