J. Fenimore Cooper
Part 7 out of 9
by their polite but determined guardian, where he bowed to their
retiring persons, with the exceeding courtesy that he never failed to
use, when in the least excited.
"You appear to know your danger, Mr. Merry," said Borroughcliffe, after
the door was closed; "I trust you also know what duty would dictate to
one in my situation."
"Do it, sir," returned the boy; "you have a king to render an account
to, and I have a country."
"I may have a country also," said Borroughcliffe, with a calmness that
was not in the least disturbed by the taunting air with which the youth
delivered himself. "It is possible for me, however, to be lenient, even
merciful, when the interests of that prince, to whom you allude, are
served--you came not on this enterprise alone, sir?"
"Had I come better attended, Captain Borroughcliffe might have heard
these questions, instead of putting them."
"I am happy, sir, that your retinue has been so small: and yet even the
rebel schooner called the Ariel might have furnished you with a more
becoming attendance. I cannot but think that you are not far distant
from your friends."
"He is near his enemies, your honor," said Sergeant Drill, who had
entered the room unobserved; "for here is a boy who says he has been
seized in the old ruin, and robbed of his goods and clothes; and, by his
description, this lad should be the thief."
Borroughcliffe signed to the boy, who stood in the background, to
advance; and he was instantly obeyed, with all that eagerness which a
sense of injury on the part of the sufferer could excite. The tale of
this unexpected intruder was soon told, and was briefly this:
He had been assaulted by a man and a boy (the latter was in presence),
while arranging his effects, in the ruin, preparatory to exhibiting them
to the ladies of the abbey, and had been robbed of such part of his
attire as the boy had found necessary for his disguise, together with
his basket of valuables. He had been put into an apartment of an old
tower, by the man, for safe keeping; but as the latter frequently
ascended to its turret, to survey the country, he had availed himself of
this remissness, to escape; and, to conclude, he demanded a restoration
of his property, and vengeance for his wrongs.
Merry heard his loud and angry details with scornful composure, and
before the offended peddler was through his narrative, he had divested
himself of the borrowed garments, which he threw to the other with
"We are beleaguered, mine host! beset! besieged!" cried Borroughcliffe,
when the other had ended. "Here is a rare plan to rob us of our laurels!
ay, and of our rewards! but, hark ye, Drill! they have old soldiers to
deal with, and we shall look into the matter. One would wish to triumph
on foot; you understand me?--there was no horse in the battle. Go,
fellow, I see you grow wiser; take this young gentleman--and remember
_he is_ a young gentleman--put him in safe keeping, but see him
supplied with all he wants."
Borroughcliffe bowed politely to the haughty bend of the body with which
Merry, who now began to think himself a martyr to his country, followed
the orderly from the room.
"There is mettle in the lad!" exclaimed the captain; "and if he live to
get a beard, 'twill be a hardy dog who ventures to pluck it. I am glad,
mine host, that this 'wandering Jew' has arrived, to save the poor
fellow's feelings, for I detest tampering with such a noble spirit. I
saw, by his eye, that he had squinted oftener over a gun than through a
"But they have murdered my kinsman!--the loyal, the learned, the
ingenious Mr. Christopher Dillon!"
"If they have done so, they shall be made to answer it," said
Borroughcliffe, reseating himself at the table, with a coolness that
furnished an ample pledge of the impartiality of his judgment; "but let
us learn the facts, before we do aught hastily."
Colonel Howard was fain to comply with so reasonable a proposition, and
he resumed his chair, while his companion proceeded to institute a close
examination of the peddler boy.
We shall defer, until the proper time may arrive, recording the result
of his inquiries; but shall so satisfy the curiosity of our readers, as
to tell them that the captain learned sufficient to convince him a very
serious attempt was meditated on the abbey; and, as he thought, enough
also to enable him to avert the danger.
--"I have not seen
So likely an ambassador of love."
_Merchant of Venice._
Cecilia and Katherine separated from Alice Dunscombe in the lower
gallery of the cloisters; and the cousins ascended to the apartment
which was assigned them as a dressing-room. The intensity of feeling
that was gradually accumulating in the breasts of the ladies, as
circumstances brought those in whom their deepest interests were centred
into situations of extreme delicacy, if not of actual danger, perhaps,
in some measure, prevented them from experiencing all that concern which
the detection and arrest of Merry might be supposed to excite. The boy,
like themselves, was an only child of one of those three sisters, who
caused the close connection of so many of our characters; and his tender
years had led his cousins to regard him with an affection that exceeded
the ordinary interest of such an affinity; but they knew that in the
hands of Colonel Howard his person was safe, though his liberty might be
endangered. When the first emotions, therefore, which were created by
his sudden appearance after so long an absence had subsided, their
thoughts were rather occupied by the consideration of what consequences,
to others, might proceed from his arrest, than by any reflections on the
midshipman's actual condition. Secluded from the observations of any
strange eyes, the two maidens indulged their feelings, without
restraint, according to their several temperaments. Katherine moved to
and fro in the apartment, with feverish anxiety, while Miss Howard, by
concealing her countenance under the ringlets of her luxuriant dark
hair, and shading her eyes with a fair hand, seemed to be willing to
commune with her thoughts more quietly.
"Barnstable cannot be far distant," said the former, after a few minutes
had passed; "for he never would have sent that child on such an errand,
Cecilia raised her mild blue eyes to the countenance of her cousin, as
"All thoughts of an exchange must now be abandoned; and perhaps the
persons of the prisoners will be held as pledges, to answer for the life
"Can the wretch be dead? or is it merely a threat, or some device of
that urchin? He is a forward child, and would not hesitate to speak and
act boldly, on emergency."
"He is dead!" returned Cecilia, veiling her face again in horror; "the
eyes of the boy, his whole countenance, confirmed his words! I fear,
Katherine, that Mr. Barnstable has suffered his resentment to overcome
his discretion, when he learned the treachery of Dillon; surely, surely,
through the hard usages of war may justify so dreadful a revenge on an
enemy, it was unkind to forget the condition of his own friends!"
"Mr. Barnstable has done neither, Miss Howard," said Katherine, checking
her uneasy footsteps, her light form swelling with pride; "Mr.
Barnstable is equally incapable of murdering an enemy or of deserting a
"But retaliation is neither deemed nor called murder, by men in arms."
"Think it what you will, call it what you will, Cecilia Howard, I will
pledge my life, that Richard Barnstable has to answer for the blood of
none but the open enemies of his country."
"The miserable man may have fallen a sacrifice to the anger of that
terrific seaman, who led him hence as a captive!"
"That terrific seaman, Miss Howard, has a heart as tender as your own.
"Nay, Katherine," interrupted Cecilia, "you chide me unkindly; let us
not add to our unavoidable misery, by such harsh contention."
"I do not contend with you, Cecilia; I merely defend the absent and the
innocent from your unkind suspicions, my cousin."
"Say, rather, your sister," returned Miss Howard, their hands
involuntarily closing upon each other, "for we are surely sisters! But
let us strive to think of something less horrible. Poor, poor Dillon!
now that he has met a fate so terrible, I can even fancy him less artful
and more upright than we had thought him! You agree with me, Katherine,
I see by your countenance, and we will dwell no longer on the subject.--
Katherine! my cousin Kate, what see you?"
Miss Plowden, as she relinquished her pressure of the hand of Cecilia,
had renewed her walk with a more regulated step; but she was yet making
her first turn across the room, when her eyes became keenly set on the
opposite window, and her whole frame was held in an attitude of absorbed
attention. The rays of the setting sun fell bright upon her dark
glances, which seemed fastened on some distant object, and gave an
additional glow to the mantling color that was slowly stealing, across
her cheeks, to her temples. Such a sudden alteration in the manner and
appearance of her companion had not failed to catch the attention of
Cecilia, who, in consequence, interrupted herself by the agitated
question we have related. Katherine slowly beckoned her companion to her
side, and, pointing in the direction of the wood that lay in view, she
"See yon tower, in the ruin! Do you observe those small spots of pink
and yellow that are fluttering above its walls?"
"I do. They are the lingering remnants of the foliage of some tree; but
they want the vivid tints which grace the autumn of our own dear
"One is the work of God, and the other has been produced by the art of
man. Cecilia, those are no leaves, but they are my own childish signals,
and without doubt Barnstable himself is on that ruined tower. Merry
cannot, will not, betray him!"
"My life should be a pledge for the honor of our little cousin," said
Cecilia. "But you have the telescope of my uncle at hand, ready for such
an event! one look through it will ascertain the truth--"
Katherine sprang to the spot where the instrument stood, and with eager
hands she prepared it for the necessary observation.
"It is he!" she cried, the instant her eye was put to the glass. "I even
see his head above the stones. How unthinking to expose himself so
"But what says he, Katherine?" exclaimed Cecilia; "you alone can
interpret his meaning."
The little book which contained the explanations of Miss Plowden's
signals was now hastily produced, and its leaves rapidly run over in
quest of the necessary number.
"Tis only a question to gain my attention. I must let him know he is
When Katherine, as much to indulge her secret propensities as with any
hope of its usefulness, had devised this plan for communicating with
Barnstable, she had, luckily, not forgotten to arrange the necessary
means to reply to his interrogatories. A very simple arrangement of some
of the ornamental cords of the window-curtains enabled her to effect
this purpose; and her nimble fingers soon fastened the pieces of silk to
the lines, which were now thrown into the air, when these signals in
miniature were instantly displayed in the breeze.
"He sees them!" cried Cecilia, "and is preparing to change his flags."
"Keep then your eye on him, my cousin, and tell me the colors that he
shows, with their order, and I will endeavor to read his meaning."
"He is as expert as yourself! There are two more of them fluttering
above the stones again: the upper is white, and the lower black."
"White over black," repeated Katherine, rapidly, to herself, as she
turned the leaves of her book.--"'_My messenger: has he been
seen?_'--To that we must answer the unhappy truth. Here it is--
yellow, white, and red--'_He is a prisoner._' How fortunate that I
should have prepared such a question and answer. What says he, Cecilia,
to this news?"
"He is busy making his changes, dear. Nay, Katherine, you shake so
violently as to move the glass! Now he is done; 'tis yellow over black,
"'_Griffith, or who?_' He does not understand us; but I had thought
of the poor boy, in making out the numbers--ah! here it is; yellow,
green, and red--'_My cousin Merry_'--he cannot fail to understand
"He has already taken in his flags. The news seems to alarm him, for he
is less expert than before. He shows them now--they are green, red, and
"The question is, '_Am I safe?_' 'Tis that which made him tardy,
Miss Howard," continued Katherine. "Barnstable is ever slow to consult
his safety. But how shall I answer him? should we mislead him now, how
could we ever forgive ourselves!"
"Of Andrew Merry there is no fear," returned Cecilia; "and I think if
Captain Borroughcliffe had any intimation of the proximity of his
enemies, he would not continue at the table."
"He will stay there while wine will sparkle, and man can swallow," said
Katherine; "but we know, by sad experience, that he is a soldier on an
emergency; and yet, I'll trust to his ignorance this time--here, I have
an answer: '_You are yet safe, but be wary_.'"
"He reads your meaning with a quick eye, Katherine; and he is ready with
his answer too: he shows green over white, this time. Well! do you not
hear me? 'tis green over white. Why, you are dumb--what says he, dear?"
Still Katherine answered not, and her cousin raised her eyes from the
glass, and beheld her companion gazing earnestly at the open page, while
the glow which excitement had before brought to her cheek was increased
to a still deeper bloom.
"I hope your blushes and his signals are not ominous, Kate," added
Cecilia; "can green imply his jealousy, as white does your purity? what
says he, coz?"
"He talks, like yourself, much nonsense," said Katherine, turning to her
flags, with a pettish air, that was singularly contradicted by her
gratified countenance; "but the situation of things requires that I
should talk to Barnstable more freely."
"I can retire," said Cecilia, rising from her chair with a grave manner.
"Nay, Cecilia, I do not deserve these looks--'tis you who exhibit levity
now! But you can perceive for yourself that evening is closing in, and
that some other medium for conversation, besides the eyes, may be
adopted.--Here is a signal, which will answer: _'When the abbey clock
strikes nine, come with care to the wicket, which opens, at the east
side of the paddock, on the road: until then, keep secret.'_ I had
prepared this very signal, in case an interview should be necessary."
"Well, he sees it," returned Cecilia, who had resumed her place by the
telescope, "and seems disposed to obey you, for I no longer discern his
flags or his person."
Miss Howard now arose from before the glass, her observations being
ended; but Katherine did not return the instrument to its corner,
without fastening one long and anxious look through it, on what now
appeared to be the deserted tower. The interest and anxiety produced by
this short and imperfect communication between Miss Plowden and her
lover did not fail to excite reflections in both the ladies, that
furnished materials to hold them in earnest discourse, until the
entrance of Alice Dunscombe announced that their presence was expected
below. Even the unsuspecting Alice, on entering, observed a change in
the countenances and demeanor of the two cousins, which betrayed that
their secret conference had not been entirely without contention. The
features of Cecilia were disturbed and anxious, and their expression was
not unlike melancholy; while the dark flashing eye, flushed temples, and
proud, determined step of Katherine exhibited in an equal, if not a
greater degree, a very different emotion. As no reference to the subject
of their conversation was, however, made by either of the young ladies
after the entrance of Alice, she led the way, in silence, to the
The ladies were received, by Colonel Howard and Borroughcliffe, with
marked attention. In the former there were moments when a deep gloom
would, in spite of his very obvious exertions to the contrary, steal
over his open, generous countenance; but the recruiting officer
maintained an air of immovable coolness and composure. Twenty times did
he detect the piercing looks of Katherine fastened on him, with an
intentness that a less deliberative man might have had the vanity to
misinterpret; but even this flattering testimonial of his power to
attract failed to disturb his self-possession. It was in vain that
Katherine endeavored to read his countenance, where everything was fixed
in military rigidity, though his deportment appeared more than usually
easy and natural. Tired at length with her fruitless scrutiny, the
excited girl turned her gaze upon the clock: to her amazement, she
discovered that it was on the stroke of nine, and, disregarding a
deprecating glance from her cousin, she arose and quitted the apartment.
Borroughcliffe opened the door for her exit, and, while the lady civilly
bowed her head in acknowledgment of his attention, their eyes once more
met; but she glided quickly by him, and found herself alone in the
gallery. Katherine hesitated, more than a minute, to proceed, for she
thought she had detected in that glance a lurking expression, that
manifested conscious security mingled with secret design. It was not her
nature, however, to hesitate, when circumstances required that she
should be both prompt and alert; and, throwing over her slight person a
large cloak, that was in readiness for the occasion, she stole warily
from the building.
Although Katherine suspected most painfully that Borroughcliffe had
received intelligence that might prove dangerous to her lover, she
looked around her in vain, on gaining the open air, to discover any
alteration in the arrangements for the defence of the abbey, which might
confirm her suspicions, or the knowledge of which might enable her to
instruct Barnstable how to avoid the secret danger. Every disposition
remained as it had been since the capture of Griffith and his companion.
She heard the heavy, quick steps of the sentinel, who was posted beneath
their windows, endeavoring to warm himself on his confined post; and as
she paused to listen, she also detected the rattling of arms from the
soldier who, as usual, guarded the approach of that part of the building
where his comrades were quartered. The night had set in cloudy and dark,
although the gale had greatly subsided towards the close of the day;
still the wind swept heavily, and, at moments, with a rushing noise,
among the irregular walls of the edifice; and it required the utmost
nicety of ear to distinguish even these well-known sounds, among such
accompaniments. When Katherine, however, was satisfied that her organs
had not deceived her, she turned an anxious eye in the direction of what
Borroughcliffe called his "barracks." Everything in that direction
appeared so dark and still as to create a sensation of uneasiness, by
its very quiet. It might be the silence of sleep that now pervaded the
ordinarily gay and mirthful apartment! or it might be the stillness of a
fearful preparation! There was no time, however, for further hesitation,
and Katherine drew her cloak more closely about her form, and proceeded
with light and guarded steps to the appointed spot. As she approached
the wicket the clock struck the hour, and she again paused, while the
mournful sounds were borne by her on the wind, as if expecting that each
stroke on the bell would prove a signal to unmask some secret design of
Borroughcliffe. As the last vibration melted away, she opened the little
gate, and issued on the highway. The figure of a man sprang forward from
behind an angle of the wall, as she appeared; and while her heart was
still throbbing with the suddenness of the alarm, she found herself in
the arms of Barnstable. After the first few words of recognition and
pleasure which the young sailor uttered, he acquainted his mistress with
the loss of his schooner, and the situation of the survivors.
"And now, Katherine," he concluded, "you have come, I trust, never to
quit me; or, at most, to return no more to that old abbey, unless it be
to aid in liberating Griffith, and then to join me again forever."
"Why, truly, there is so much to tempt a young woman to renounce her
home and friends, in the description you have just given of your
condition, that I hardly know how to refuse your request, Barnstable.
You are very tolerably provided with a dwelling in the ruin; and I
suppose certain predatory schemes are to be adopted to make it
habitable! St. Ruth is certainly well supplied with the necessary
articles, but whether we should not be shortly removed to the Castle at
York, or the jail at Newcastle, is a question that I put to your
"Why yield your thoughts to such silly subjects, lovely trifler!" said
Barnstable, "when the time and the occasion both urge us to be in
"It is a woman's province to be thrifty, and to look after the comforts
of domestic life," returned his mistress; "and I would discharge my
functions with credit. But I feel you are vexed, for to see your dark
countenance is out of the question, on such a night. When do you propose
to commence housekeeping, if I should yield to your proposals?"
"I have not concluded relating my plans, and your provoking wit annoys
me! The vessel I have taken will unquestionably come into the land, as
the gale dies; and I intend making my escape in her, after beating this
Englishman, and securing the liberty of Miss Howard and yourself. I
could see the frigate in the offing, even before we left the cliffs."
"This certainly sounds better!" rejoined Katherine, in a manner that
indicated she was musing on their prospects; "and yet there may exist
some difficulties in the way that you little suspect."
"Difficulties there are none--there can be none."
"Speak not irreverently of the mazes of love, Mr. Barnstable. When was
it ever known to exist unfettered or unembarrassed? Even I have an
explanation to ask of you, that I would much rather let alone.
"Of me! ask what you will, or how you will; I am a careless, unthinking
fellow, Miss Plowden; but to you I have little to answer for--unless a
foolish sort of adoration be an offence against your merits."
Barnstable felt the little hand that was supported on his arm, pressing
the limb, as Katharine replied, in a tone so changed from its former
forced levity, that he started as the first sounds reached his ears.
"Merry has brought in a horrid report!" she said; "I would I could
believe it untrue! but the looks of the boy, and the absence of Dillon,
both confirm it."
"Poor Merry! he too has fallen into the trap! but they shall yet find
one who is too cunning for them. Is it to the fate of that wretched
Dillon that you allude?"
"He _was_ a wretch," continued Katherine, in the same voice, "and
he deserved much punishment at your hands, Barnstable; but life is the
gift of God, and is not to be taken whenever human vengeance would
appear to require a victim."
"His life was taken by Him who bestowed it," said the sailor. "Is it
Katherine Plowden who would suspect me of the deed of a dastard!"
"I do not suspect you--I did not suspect you," cried Katherine; "I will
never suspect any evil of you again. You are not, you cannot be angry
with me, Barnstable? Had you heard the cruel suspicions of my cousin
Cecilia, and had your imagination been busy in portraying your wrongs
and the temptations to forget mercy, like mine, even while my tongue
denied your agency in the suspected deed, you would--you would at least
have learned how much easier it is to defend those we love against the
open attacks of others, than against our own jealous feelings."
"Those words, love and jealousy, will obtain your acquittal," cried
Barnstable, in his natural voice; and, after uttering a few more
consoling assurances to Katherine, whose excited feelings found vent in
tears, he briefly related the manner of Dillon's death.
"I had hoped I stood higher in the estimation of Miss Howard than to be
subjected to even her suspicions," he said, when he had ended his
explanation. "Griffith has been but a sorry representative of our trade,
if he has left such an opinion of its pursuits."
"I do not know that Mr. Griffith would altogether have escaped my
conjectures, had he been the disappointed commander, and you the
prisoner," returned Katherine; "you know not how much we have both
studied the usages of war, and with what dreadful pictures of hostages,
retaliations, and military executions our minds are stored! but a
mountain is raised off my spirits, and I could almost say that I am now
ready to descend the valley of life in your company."
"It is a discreet determination, my good Katherine, and God bless you
for it; the companion may not be so good as you deserve, but you will
find him ambitious of your praise. Now let us devise means to effect our
"Therein lies another of my difficulties. Griffith, I much fear, will
not urge Cecilia to another flight, against her--her--what shall I call
it, Barnstable--her caprice, or her judgment? Cecilia will never consent
to desert her uncle, and I cannot muster the courage to abandon my poor
cousin, in the face of the world, in order to take shelter with even Mr.
"Speak you from the heart now, Katherine?"
"Very nearly--if not exactly."
"Then have I been cruelly deceived! It is easier to find a path in the
trackless ocean, without chart or compass, than to know the windings of
a woman's heart!"
"Nay, nay, foolish man; you forget that I am but small, and how very
near my head is to my heart; too nigh, I fear, for the discretion of
their mistress! but is there no method of forcing Griffith and Cecilia
to their own good, without undue violence?"
"It cannot be done; he is my senior in rank, and the instant I release
him he will claim the command. A question might be raised, at a leisure
moment, on the merits of such a claim--but even my own men are, as you
know, nothing but a draft from the frigate, and they would not hesitate
to obey the orders of the first lieutenant, who is not a man to trifle
on matters of duty."
"Tis vexatious, truly," said Katherine, "that all my well-concerted
schemes in behalf of this wayward pair should be frustrated by their own
willful conduct! But after all, have you justly estimated your strength,
Barnstable? are you certain that you would be successful, and that
without hazard, too, if you should make the attempt?"
"Morally, and what is better, physically certain. My men are closely
hid, where no one suspects an enemy to lie; they are anxious for the
enterprise, and the suddenness of the attack will not only make the
victory sure, but it will be rendered bloodless. You will aid us in our
entrance, Katherine; I shall first secure this recruiting officer, and
his command will then surrender without striking a blow. Perhaps, after
all, Griffith will hear reason; if he do not, I will not yield my
authority to a released captive, without a struggle."
"God send that there shall be no fighting!" murmured his companion, a
little appalled at the images his language had raised before her
imagination; "and, Barnstable, I enjoin you, most solemnly, by all your
affection for me, and by everything you deem most sacred, to protect the
person of Colonel Howard at every hazard. There must be no excuse, no
pretence, for even an insult to my passionate, good, obstinate, but kind
old guardian. I believe I have given him already more trouble than I am
entitled to give any one, and Heaven forbid that I should cause him any
"He shall be safe, and not only he, but all that are with him, as you
will perceive, Katherine, when you hear my plan. Three hours shall not
pass over my head before you will see me master of that old abbey.
Griffith, ay, Griffith, must be content to be my inferior, until we get
"Attempt nothing unless you feel certain of being able to maintain your
advantage, not only against your enemies, but also against your
friends," said the anxious Katherine. "Rely on it, both Cecilia and
Griffith are refining so much on their feelings, that neither will be
"This comes of passing the four best years of his life within walls of
brick, poring over Latin grammars and syntaxes, and such other nonsense,
when he should have been rolling them away in a good box of live-oak,
and studying, at most, how to sum up his day's work, and tell where his
ship lies after a blow. Your college learning may answer well enough for
a man who has to live by his wits, but it can be of little use to one
who is never afraid to read human nature, by looking his fellow-
creatures full in the face, and whose hand is as ready as his tongue. I
have generally found the eye that was good at Latin was dull at a
compass, or in a night squall: and yet, Griff is a seaman; though I have
heard him even read the Testament in Greek! Thank God, I had the wisdom
to run away from school the second day they undertook to teach me a
strange tongue, and I believe I am the more honest man, and the better
seaman, for my ignorance!"
"There is no telling what you might have been, Barnstable, under other
circumstances," retorted his mistress, with a playfulness of manner that
she could not always repress, though it was indulged at the expense of
him she most loved; "I doubt not but, under proper training, you would
have made a reasonably good priest."
"If you talk of priests, Katherine, I shall remind you that we carry one
in the ship. But listen to my plan: we may talk further of priestcraft
when an opportunity may offer."
Barnstable then proceeded to lay before his mistress a project he had
formed for surprising the abbey that night, which was so feasible that
Katharine, notwithstanding her recent suspicions of Borroughcliffe's
designs, came gradually to believe it would succeed. The young seaman
answered her objections with the readiness of an ardent mind, bent on
executing its purposes, and with a fertility of resources that proved he
was no contemptible enemy, in matters that required spirited action. Of
Merry's remaining firm and faithful he had no doubt; and although he
acknowledged the escape of the peddler boy, he urged that the lad had
seen no other of his party besides himself, whom he mistook for a common
As the disclosure of these plans was frequently interrupted by little
digressions, connected with the peculiar motions of the lovers, more
than an hour flew by, before they separated. But Katherine at length
reminded him how swiftly the time was passing, and how much remained to
be done, when he reluctantly consented to see her once more through the
wicket, where they parted.
Miss Plowden adopted the same precaution in returning to the house she
had used on leaving it; and she was congratulating herself on its
success, when her eye caught a glimpse of the figure of a man, who was
apparently following at some little distance, in her footsteps, and
dogging her motions. As the obscure form, however, paused also when she
stopped to give it an alarmed, though inquiring look, and then slowly
retired towards the boundary of the paddock, Katherine, believing it to
be Barnstable watching over her safety, entered the abbey, with every
idea of alarm entirely lost in the pleasing reflection of her lover's
"He looks abroad, and soon appears,
O'er Horncliffe-hill, a plump of spears,
Beneath a pennon gay."
The sharp sounds of the supper-bell were ringing along the gallery, as
Miss Plowden gained the gloomy passage; and she quickened her steps to
join the ladies, in order that no further suspicions might be excited by
her absence.--Alice Dunscombe was already proceeding to the dining
parlor, as Katherine passed through the door of the drawing-room; but
Miss Howard had loitered behind, and was met by her cousin alone.
"You have then been so daring as to venture, Katherine!" exclaimed
"I have," returned the other, throwing herself into a chair, to recover
her agitation--"I have, Cecilia; and I have met Barnstable, who will
soon be in the abbey, and its master."
The blood which had rushed to the face of Cecilia on first seeing her
cousin now retreated to her heart, leaving every part of her fine
countenance of the whiteness of her polished temples, as she said:
"And we are to have a night of blood!"
"We are to have a night of freedom, Miss Howard; freedom to you, and to
me: to Andrew Merry, to Griffith and to his companion!"
"What freedom more than we now enjoy Katherine, is needed by two young
women? Think you I can remain silent, and see my uncle betrayed before
my eyes? his life perhaps endangered!"
"Your own life and person will not be held more sacred, Cecilia Howard,
than that of your uncle. If you will condemn Griffith to a prison, and
perhaps to a gibbet, betray Barnstable, as you have threatened--an
opportunity will not be wanting at the supper-table, whither I shall
lead the way, since the mistress of the house appears to forget her
Katharine arose, and with a firm step and proud eye she moved along the
gallery to the room where their presence was expected by the rest of the
family. Cecilia followed in silence, and the whole party immediately
took their several places at the board.
The first few minutes were passed in the usual attentions of the
gentlemen to the ladies, and the ordinary civilities of the table;
during which Katherine had so far regained the equanimity of her
feelings, as to commence a watchful scrutiny of the manners and looks of
her guardian and Borroughcliffe, in which she determined to persevere
until the eventful hour when she was to expect Barnstable should arrive.
Colonel Howard had, however, so far got the command of himself, as no
longer to betray his former abstraction. In its place Katherine fancied,
at moments, that she could discover a settled look of conscious
security, mingled a little with an expression of severe determination;
such as, in her earlier days, she had learned to dread as sure
indications of the indignant, but upright, justice of an honorable mind.
Borroughcliffe, on the other hand, was cool, polite, and as attentive to
the viands as usual, with the alarming exception of discovering much
less devotion to the Pride of the Vineyards than he commonly manifested
on such occasions. In this manner the meal passed by, and the cloth was
removed, though the ladies appeared willing to retain their places
longer than was customary. Colonel Howard, filling up the glasses of
Alice Dunscombe and himself, passed the bottle to the recruiting
officer, and, with a sort of effort that was intended to rouse the
dormant cheerfulness of his guests, cried:
"Come Borroughcliffe, the ruby lips of your neighbors would be still
more beautiful, were they moistened with this rich cordial, and that,
too, accompanied by some loyal sentiment. Miss Alice is ever ready to
express her fealty to her sovereign; in her name, I can give the health
of his most sacred majesty, with defeat and death to all traitors!"
"If the prayers of an humble subject, and one of a sex that has but
little need to mingle in the turmoil of the world, and that has less
right to pretend to understand the subtleties of statesmen, can much
avail a high and mighty prince like him who sits on the throne, then
will he never know temporal evil," returned Alice, meekly; "but I cannot
wish death to any one, not even to my enemies, if any I have, and much
less to a people who are the children of the same family with myself."
"Children of the same family!" the colonel repeated, slowly, and with a
bitterness of manner that did not fail to attract the painful interest
of Katherine: "children of the same family! Ay! even as Absalom was the
child of David, or as Judas was of the family of the holy Apostles! But
let it pass unpledged--let it pass. The accursed spirit of rebellion has
invaded my dwelling, and I no longer know where to find one of my
household that has not been assailed by its malign influence!"
"Assailed I may have been among others," returned Alice; "but not
corrupted, if purity, in this instance, consists in loyalty--"
"What sound is that?" interrupted the colonel, with startling
suddenness. "Was it not the crash of some violence, Captain
"It may have been one of my rascals who has met with a downfall in
passing from the festive board--where you know I regale them to-night,
in honor of our success--to his blanket," returned the captain, with
admirable indifference; "or it may be the very spirit of whom you have
spoken so freely, my host, that has taken umbrage at your remarks, and
is passing from the hospitable walls of St. Ruth into the open air,
without submitting to the small trouble of ascertaining the position of
doors. In the latter case there may be some dozen perches or so of wall
to replace in the morning."
The colonel, who had risen, glanced his eyes uneasily from the speaker
to the door, and was evidently but little disposed to enter into the
pleasantry of his guest.
"There are unusual noises, Captain Borroughcliffe, in the grounds of the
abbey, if not in the building itself," he said advancing with a fine
military air from the table to the centre of the room, "and as master of
the mansion I will inquire who it is that thus unseasonably disturbs
these domains. If as friends, they shall have welcome, though their
visit be unexpected; and if enemies, they shall also meet with such a
reception as will become an old soldier!"
"No, no," cried Cecilia, entirely thrown off her guard by the manner and
language of the veteran and rushing into his arms. "Go not out, my
uncle; go not into the terrible fray, my kind, my good uncle! you are
old, you have already done more than your duty; why should you be
exposed to danger?"
"The girl is mad with terror, Borroughcliffe," cried the colonel,
bending his glistening eyes fondly on his niece, "and you will have to
furnish my good-for-nothing, gouty old person with a corporal's guard,
to watch my nightcap, or the silly child will have an uneasy pillow,
till the sun rises once more. But you do not stir, sir?"
"Why should I?" cried the captain; "Miss Plowden yet deigns to keep me
company, and it is not in the nature of one of the --th to desert his
bottle and his standard at the same moment. For, to a true soldier, the
smiles of a lady are as imposing in the parlor as the presence of his
colors in the field."
"I continue undisturbed, Captain Borroughcliffe," said Katherine,
"because I have not been an inhabitant, for so many months, of St. Ruth,
and not learned to know the tunes which the wind can play among its
chimneys and pointed roofs. The noise which has taken Colonel Howard
from his seat, and which has so unnecessarily alarmed my cousin Cicely,
is nothing but the Aolian harp of the abbey sounding a double bass."
The captain fastened on her composed countenance, while she was
speaking, a look of open admiration, that brought, though tardily, the
color more deeply to her cheeks: and he answered with something
extremely equivocal, both in his emphasis and his air:
"I have avowed my allegiance, and I will abide by it. So long as Miss
Plowden will deign to bestow her company, so long will she find me among
her most faithful and persevering attendants, come who may, or what
"You compel me to retire," returned Katherine, rising, "whatever may
have been my gracious intentions in the matter; for even female vanity
must crimson, at an adoration so profound as that which can chain
Captain Borroughcliffe to a supper-table! As your alarm has now
dissipated, my cousin, will you lead the way? Miss Alice and myself
"But not into the paddock, surely, Miss Plowden," said the captain; "the
door, the key of which you have just turned, communicates with the
vestibule. This is the passage to the drawing-room."
The lady faintly laughed, as if in derision of her own forgetfulness,
while she bowed her acknowledgment, and moved towards the proper
passage: she observed:
"The madness of fear has assailed some, I believe, who have been able to
affect a better disguise than Miss Howard."
"Is it the fear of present danger, or of that which is in reserve?"
asked the captain; "but, as you have stipulated so generously in behalf
of my worthy host here, and of one, also, who shall be nameless, because
he has not deserved such a favor at your hands, your safety shall be one
of my especial duties in these times of peril."
"There is peril, then!" exclaimed Cecilia; "your looks announce it.
Captain Borroughcliffe! The changing countenance of my cousin tells me
that my fears are too true!"
The soldier had now risen also, and, casting aside the air of badinage,
which he so much delighted in, he came forward into the centre of the
apartment, with the manner of one who felt it was time to be serious.
"A soldier is ever in peril, when the enemies of his king are at hand,
Miss Howard," he answered: "and that such is now the case, Miss Plowden
can testify, if she will. But you are the allies of both parties--
retire, then, to your own apartments, and await the result of the
struggle which is at hand."
"You speak of danger and hidden perils," said Alice Dunscombe; "know ye
aught that justifies your fears?"
"I know all," Borroughcliffe coolly replied.
"All!" exclaimed Katherine.
"All!" echoed Alice, in tones of horror, "If, then, you know all, you
must know his desperate courage, and powerful hand, when opposed--yield
in quiet, and he will not harm ye. Believe me, believe one who knows his
very nature, that no lamb can be more gentle than he would be with
unresisting women; nor any lion more fierce, with his enemies!"
"As we happen not to be of the feminine gender," returned
Borroughcliffe, with an air somewhat splenetic, "we must abide the fury
of the king of beasts. His paw is, even now, at the outer door; and, if
my orders have been obeyed, his entrance will be yet easier than that of
the wolf to the respectable female ancestor of the little Red-riding-
"Stay your hand for one single moment!" said Katherine, breathless with
interest; "you are the master of my secret, Captain Borroughcliffe, and
bloodshed may be the consequence. I can yet go forward, and, perhaps,
save many inestimable lives. Pledge to me your honor, that they who come
hither as your enemies, this night, shall depart in peace, and I will
pledge to you my life for the safety of the abbey,"
"Oh! hear her, and shed not human blood!" cried Cecilla.
A loud crash interrupted further speech, and the sounds of heavy
footsteps were heard in the adjoining room, as if many men were
alighting on its floor, in quick succession. Borroughcliffe drew back,
with great coolness, to the opposite side of the large apartment, and
took a sheathed sword from the table where it had been placed; at the
same moment the door was burst open, and Barnstable entered alone, but
"You are my prisoners, gentlemen," said the sailor, as he advanced;
"resistance is useless, and without it you shall receive favor. Ha, Miss
Plowden! my advice was that you should not be present at this scene."
"Barnstable, we are betrayed!" cried the agitated Katherine. "But it is
not yet too late. Blood has not yet been spilt, and you can retire,
without that dreadful alternative, with honor. Go, then, delay not
another moment; for should the soldiers of Captain Borroughcliffe come
to the rescue of their commander, the abbey would be a scene of horror!"
"Go you away; go, Katherine," said her lover, with impatience; "this is
no place for such as you. But, Captain Borroughcliffe, if such be your
name, you must perceive that resistance is in vain. I have ten good
pikes in this outer room, in twenty better hands, and it will be madness
to fight against such odds."
"Show me your strength," said the captain, "that I may take counsel with
"Your honor shall be appeased, my brave soldier, for such is your
bearing, though your livery is my aversion, and your cause most unholy!
Heave ahead, boys! but hold your hands for orders."
The party of fierce-looking sailors whom Barnstable led, on receiving
this order, rushed into the room in a medley; but, notwithstanding the
surly glances, and savage characters of their dress and equipments, they
struck no blow, nor committed any act of hostility. The ladies shrank
back appalled, as this terrific little band took possession of the hall;
and even Borroughcliffe was seen to fall back towards a door which, in
some measure, covered his retreat. The confusion of this sudden movement
had not yet subsided, when sounds of strife were heard rapidly
approaching from a distant part of the building, and presently one of
the numerous doors of the apartment was violently opened, when two of
the garrison of the abbey rushed into the hall, vigorously pressed by
twice their number of seamen, seconded by Griffith, Manual, and Merry,
who were armed with such weapons of offence as had presented themselves
to their hands, at their unexpected liberation. There was a movement on
the part of the seamen who were already in possession of the room, that
threatened instant death to the fugitives; but Barnstable beat down
their pikes with his sword, and sternly ordered them to fall back.
Surprise produced the same pacific result among the combatants; and as
the soldiers hastily sought a refuge behind their own officers, and the
released captives, with their liberators, joined the body of their
friends, the quiet of the hall, which had been so rudely interrupted,
was soon restored.
"You see, sir," said Barnstable, after grasping the hands of Griffith
and Manual in a warm and cordial pressure, "that all my plans have
succeeded. Your sleeping guard are closely watched in their barracks by
one party; our officers are released and your sentinels cut off by
another; while, with a third, I hold the centre of the abbey, and am,
substantially, in possession of your own person. In consideration,
therefore, of what is due to humanity, and to the presence of these
ladies, let there be no struggle! I shall impose no difficult terms, nor
any long imprisonment."
The recruiting officer manifested a composure throughout the whole scene
that would have excited some uneasiness in his invaders, had there been
opportunity for minute observation; but his countenance now gradually
assumed an appearance of anxiety, and his head was frequently turned, as
if listening for further and more important interruptions. He answered,
however, to this appeal with his ordinary deliberation.
"You speak of conquests, sir, before they are achieved. My venerable
host and myself are not so defenceless as you may chose to imagine."
While speaking he threw aside the cloth of a side table, from beneath
which the colonel and himself were instantly armed with a brace of
pistols each. "Here are the death-warrants of four of your party, and
these brave fellows at my back can account for two more. I believe, my
transatlantic warrior, that we are now something in the condition of
Cortes and the Mexicans, when the former overran part of your continent
--I being Cortes, armed with artificial thunder and lightning, and you
the Indians, with nothing but your pikes and sling, and such other
antediluvian inventions. Shipwrecks and seawater are fatal dampers of
"That we are unprovided with firearms, I will not deny," said
Barnstable; "but we are men who are used, from infancy, to depend on our
good right arms for life and safety, and we know how to use them, though
we should even grapple with death! As for the trifles in your hands,
gentlemen, you are not to suppose that men who are trained to look in at
one end of a thirty-two pounder, loaded with grape, while the match is
put to the other, will so much as wink at their report, though you fired
them by fifties. What say you, boys, is a pistol a weapon to repel
The discordant and disdainful laughs that burst from the restrained
seamen were a sufficient pledge of their indifference to so trifling a
danger. Borroughcliffe noted their hardened boldness, and taking the
supper bell, which was lying near him, he rang it, for a minute, with
great violence. The heavy tread of trained footsteps soon followed this
extraordinary summons; and presently the several doors of the apartment
were opened, and filled with armed soldiers, wearing the livery of the
"If you hold these smaller weapons in such vast contempt," said the
recruiting officer, when he perceived that his men had possessed
themselves of all the avenues, "it is in my power to try the virtue of
some more formidable. After this exhibition of my strength, gentlemen, I
presume you cannot hesitate to submit as prisoners of war."
The seamen had been formed in something like military array, by the
assiduity of Manual, during the preceding dialogue; and as the different
doors had discovered fresh accessions to the strength of the enemy, the
marine industriously offered new fronts, until the small party was
completely arranged in a hollow square, that might have proved
formidable in a charge, bristled as it was with the deadly pikes of the
"Here has been some mistake," said Griffith, after glancing his eye at
the formidable array of the soldiers; "I take precedence of Mr.
Barnstable, and I shall propose to you, Captain Borroughcliffe, terms
that may remove this scene of strife from the dwelling of Colonel
"The dwelling of Colonel Howard," cried the veteran, "is the dwelling of
his king, or of the meanest servant of the crown! so, Borroughcliffe,
spare not the traitors on my behalf; accept no other terms than such
unconditional submission as is meet to exact from the rebellious
subjects of the anointed of the Lord."
While Griffith spoke, Barnstable folded his arms, in affected composure,
and glanced his eyes expressively at the shivering Katherine, who, with
her companions, still continued agitated spectators of all that passed,
chained to the spot by their apprehensions; but to this formidable
denunciation of the master of the abbey he deemed proper to reply:
"Now, by every hope I have of sleeping again on salt water, old
gentleman if it were not for the presence of these three trembling
females, I should feel tempted to dispute, at once, the title of his
majesty. You may make such a covenant as you will with Mr. Griffith, but
if it contain one syllable about submission to your king, or of any
other allegiance than that which I owe to the Continental Congress, and
the State of Massachusetts, you may as well consider the terms violated
at once; for not an article of such an agreement will I consider as
binding on me, or on any that shall choose to follow me as leader."
"Here are but two leaders, Mr. Barnstable," interrupted the haughty
Griffith; "the one of the enemy, and the other of the arms of America.
Captain Borroughclffe, to you, as the former, I address myself. The
great objects of the contest which now unhappily divides England from
her ancient colonies can be, in no degree, affected by the events of
this night; while, on the other hand, by a rigid adherence to military
notions, much private, evil and deep domestic calamity must follow any
struggle in such a place. We have but to speak, sir, and these rude men,
who already stand impatiently handling their instruments of death, will
aim them at each other's lives; and who can say that he shall be able to
stay their hands when and where he will. I know you to be a soldier, and
that you are not yet to learn how much easier it is to stimulate to
blood than to glut vengeance."
Borroughcliffe, unused to the admission of violent emotions, and secure
in the superiority of his own party, both in numbers and equipments,
heard him with the coolest composure to the end, and then answered in
his customary manner:
"I honor your logic, sir. Your premises are indisputable, and the
conclusion most obvious. Commit then these worthy tars to the good
keeping of honest Drill, who will see their famished natures revived by
divers eatables and a due proportion of suitable fluids; while we can
discuss the manner in which you are to return to the colonies, around a
bottle of liquor, which my friend Manual there assures me has come from
the sunny side of the island of Madeira, to be drunk in a bleak corner
of that of Britain. By my palate! but the rascals brighten at the
thought. They know by instinct, sir, that a shipwrecked mariner is a
fitter companion to a ration of beef and a pot of porter than to such
unsightly things as bayonets and boarding-pikes!"
"Trifle, not unseasonably!" exclaimed the impatient young sailor. "You
have the odds in numbers, but whether it will avail you much in a deadly
struggle of hand to hand, is a question you must put to your prudence:
we stand not here to ask terms, but to grant them. You must be brief,
sir; for the time is wasting while we delay."
"I have offered to you the means of obtaining, in perfection, the
enjoyment of the three most ancient of the numerous family of the arts--
eating, drinking, and sleeping! What more do you require?"
"That you order these men, who fill the pass to the outer door, to fall
back and give us room. I would take, in peace, these armed men from
before the eyes of those who are unused to such sights. Before you
oppose this demand, think how easily these hardy fellows could make a
way for themselves, against your divided force."
"Your companion, the experienced Captain Manual, will tell you that such
a manoeuvre would be very unmilitary with a superior body in your rear!"
"I have not leisure, sir, for this folly," cried the indignant Griffith.
"Do you refuse us an unmolested retreat from the abbey?"
Griffith turned with a look of extreme emotion to the ladies, and
beckoned to them to retire, unable to give utterance to his wishes in
words. After a moment of deep silence, however, he once more addressed
Borroughcliffe in the tones of conciliation.
"If Manual and myself will return to our prisons, and submit to the will
of your government," he said, "can the rest of the party return to the
"They cannot," replied the soldier, who, perceiving that the crisis
approached, was gradually losing his artificial deportment in the
interest of the moment. "You, and all others who willingly invade the
peace of these realms, must abide the issue!"
"Then God protect the innocent and defend the right!"
"Give way, villains!" cried Griffith, facing the party that held the
outer door; "give way, or you shall be riddled with our pikes!"
"Show them your muzzles, men!" shouted Borroughcliffe, "but pull no
trigger till they advance."
There was an instant of bustle and preparation, in which the rattling of
firearms blended with the suppressed execrations and threats of the
intended combatants; and Cecilia and Katherine had both covered their
faces to veil the horrid sight that was momentarily expected, when Alice
Dunscombe advanced, boldly, between the points of the threatening
weapons, and spoke in a voice that stayed the hands that were already
"Hear me, men! if men ye be, and not demons, thirsting for each other's
blood; though ye walk abroad in the semblance of Him who died that ye
might be elevated to the rank of angels! Call ye this war? Is this the
glory that is made to warm the hearts of even silly and confiding women?
Is the peace of families to be destroyed to gratify your wicked lust for
conquest, and is life to be taken in vain, in order that ye may boast of
the foul deed in your wicked revels? Fall back, then, ye British
soldiers! if ye be worthy of that name, and give passage to a woman; and
remember that the first shot that is fired will be buried in her bosom!"
The men, thus enjoined, shrank before her commanding mien, and a way was
made for her exit through that very door which Griffith had, in vain,
solicited might be cleared for himself and party. But Alice, instead of
advancing, appeared to have suddenly lost the use of those faculties
which had already effected so much. Her figure seemed rooted to the spot
where she had spoken, and her eyes were fixed in a Settled gaze, as if
dwelling on some horrid object, While she yet stood in this attitude of
unconscious helplessness, the doorway became again darkened, and the
figure of the Pilot was seen on its threshold, clad, as usual, in the
humble vestments of his profession, but heavily armed with the weapons
of naval war. For an instant, he stood a silent spectator of the scene;
and then advanced calmly, but with searching eyes, into the centre of
"_Don Pedro_. Welcome, Signior: you are almost come to part almost a fray."
_Much Ado About Nothing._
"Down with your arms, you Englishmen!" said the daring intruder; "and
you, who fight in the cause of sacred liberty, stay your hands, that no
unnecessary blood may flow. Yield yourself, proud Briton, to the power
of the Thirteen Republics!"
"Ha!" exclaimed Borroughcliffe, grasping a pistol, with an air of great
resolution, "the work thickens--I had not included this man in my
estimate of their numbers. Is he a Samson, that his single arm can
change the face of things so suddenly! Down with your own weapon, you
masquerader! or, at the report of this pistol, your body shall be made a
target for twenty bullets."
"And thine for a hundred!" returned the Pilot.--"Without there! wind
your call, fellow, and bring in our numbers. We will let this confident
gentleman feel his weakness."
He had not done speaking, before the shrill whistle of a boatswain rose
gradually on the ears of the listeners, until the sense of hearing
became painfully oppressed by the piercing sounds that rang under the
arched roof of the hall, and penetrated even to the most distant
recesses of the abbey. A tremendous rush of men followed, who drove in
before them the terrified fragment of Borroughcliffe's command, that had
held the vestibule; and the outer room became filled with a dark mass of
"Let them hear ye, lads!" cried their leader; "the abbey is your own!"
The roaring of a tempest was not louder than the shout that burst from
his followers, who continued their cheers, peal on peal, until the very
roof of the edifice appeared to tremble with their vibrations. Numerous
dark and shaggy heads were seen moving around the passage; some cased in
the iron-bound caps of the frigate's boarders, and others glittering
with the brazen ornaments of her marine guard. The sight of the latter
did not fail to attract the eye of Manual, who rushed among the throng,
and soon reappeared, followed by a trusty band of his own men, who took
possession of the post held by the soldiers of Borroughcliffe, while the
dialogue was continued between the leaders of the adverse parties.
Thus far Colonel Howard had yielded to his guest, with a deep reverence
for the principles of military subordination, the functions of a
commander; but, now that affairs appeared to change so materially, he
took on himself the right to question these intruders into his dwelling.
"By what authority, sir," the colonel demanded, "is it that you dare
thus to invade the castle of a subject of this realm? Do you come
backed by the commission of the lord lieutenant of the county, or has
your warrant the signature of his majesty's secretary for the home
"I bear no commission from any quarter," returned the Pilot; "I rank
only an humble follower of the friends of America; and having led these
gentlemen into danger, I have thought it my duty to see them extricated.
They are now safe; and the right to command all that hear me rests with
Mr. Griffith, who is commissioned by the Continental Congress for such
When he had spoken, he fell back from the position he occupied in the
centre of the room, to one of its sides, where, leaning his body against
the wainscot, he stood a silent observer of what followed.
"It appears, then, that it is to you, degenerate son of a most worthy
father, that I must repeat my demand," continued the veteran. "By what
right is my dwelling thus rudely assailed? and why is my quiet and the
peace of those I protect so daringly violated?"
"I might answer you, Colonel Howard, by saying that it is according to
the laws of arms, or rather in retaliation for the thousand evils that
your English troops have inflicted between Maine and Georgia; but I wish
not to increase the unpleasant character of this scene, and I therefore
will tell you that our advantage shall be used with moderation. The
instant that our men can be collected, and our prisoners properly
secured, your dwelling shall be restored to your authority. We are no
freebooters, sir; and you will find it so after our departure. Captain
Manual, draw off your guard into the grounds, and make your dispositions
for a return march to our boats--let the boarders fall back, there! out
with ye! out with ye--tumble out, you boarders!"
The amicable order of the young lieutenant, which was delivered after
the stern, quick fashion of his profession, operated on the cluster of
dark figures that were grouped around the door like a charm; and as the
men whom Barnstable had led followed their shipmates into the courtyard,
the room was now left to such only as might be termed the gentlemen of
the invading party, and the family of Colonel Howard.
Barnstable had continued silent since his senior officer had assumed the
command, listening most attentively to each syllable that fell from
either side; but now that so few remained, and the time pressed, he
"If we are to take boat so soon, Mr. Griffith, it would be seemly that
due preparations should be made to receive the ladies, who are to honor
us with their presence; shall I take that duty on myself?"
The abrupt proposal produced a universal surprise in his hearers; though
the abashed and conscious expression of Katherine Plowden's features
sufficiently indicated that to her, at least, it was not altogether
unexpected. The long silence that succeeded the question was interrupted
by Colonel Howard.
"Ye are masters, gentlemen; help yourselves to whatever best suits your
inclinations. My dwelling, my goods, and my wards, are alike at your
disposal--or, perhaps Miss Alice here, good and kind Miss Alice
Dunscombe, may suit the taste of some among ye! Ah! Edward Griffith!
Edward Griffith! little did I ever--"
"Breathe not that name in levity again, thou scoffer, or even your years
may prove a feeble protection!" said a stern, startling voice from
behind. All eyes turned involuntarily at the unexpected sounds, and the
muscular form of the Pilot was seen resuming its attitude of repose
against the wall, though every fibre of his frame was working with
When the astonished looks of Griffith ceased to dwell on this
extraordinary exhibition of interest in his companion, they were turned
imploringly towards the fair cousins, who still occupied the distant
corner, whither fear had impelled them.
"I have said that we are not midnight marauders, Colonel Howard," he
replied: "but if any there be here, who will deign to commit themselves
to our keeping, I trust it will not be necessary to say, at this hour,
what will be their reception."
"We have not time for unnecessary compliments," cried the impatient
Barnstable; "here is Merry, who, by years and blood, is a suitable
assistant for them, in arranging their little baggage--what say you,
urchin, can you play the lady's maid on emergency?"
"Ay, sir, and better than I acted the peddler boy," cried the gay
youngster; "to have my merry cousin Kate and my good cousin Cicely for
shipmates, I could play our common grandmother! Come, coz, let us be
moving; you will have to allow a little leeway in time, for my
"Stand back, young man," said Miss Howard, repulsing his familiar
attempt to take her arm; and then advancing, with a maidenly dignity,
nigher to her guardian, she continued, "I cannot know what stipulations
have been agreed to by my cousin Plowden, in the secret treaty she has
made this night with Mr. Barnstable: this for myself, Colonel Howard, I
would have you credit your brother's child when she says, that to her,
the events of the hour have not been more unexpected than to yourself."
The veteran gazed at her, for a moment, with an expression of his eye
that denoted reviving tenderness; but gloomy doubts appeared to cross
his mind again, and he shook his head, as he walked proudly away.
"Nay, then," added Cecilia, her head dropping meekly on her bosom, "I
may be discredited by my uncle, but I cannot be disgraced without some
act of my own."
She slowly raised her mild countenance again, and bending her eyes on
her lover, she continued, while a rich rush of blood passed over her
"Edward Griffith, I will not, I cannot say how humiliating it is to
think that you can, for an instant, believe I would again forget myself
so much as to wish to desert him whom God has given me for a protector,
for one chosen by my own erring passions. And you, Andrew Merry! Learn
to respect the child of your mother's sister, if not for her own sake,
at least for that of her who watched your cradle!"
"Here appears to be some mistake." said Barnstable, who participated,
however, in no trifling degree, in the embarrassment of the abashed boy;
"but, like all other mistakes on such subjects, it can be explained
away, I suppose. Mr. Griffith, it remains for you to speak--damn it,
man," he whispered, "you are as dumb as a codfish--I am sure so fine a
woman is worth a little fair-weather talk:--you are muter than a four-
footed beast--even an ass can bray!"
"We will hasten our departure, Mr. Barnstable," said Griffith, sighing
heavily, and rousing himself, as if from a trance. "These rude sights
cannot but appall the ladies. You will please, sir, to direct the order
of our march to the shore. Captain Manual has charge of our prisoners,
who must all be secured, to answer for an equal number of our own
"And our countrywomen!" said Barnstable, "are they to be forgotten, in
the selfish recollection of our own security?"
"With them we have no right to interfere, unless at their request."
"By heaven! Mr. Griffith, this may smack of learning," cried the other,
"and it may plead bookish authority as its precedent; but let me tell
you, sir, it savors but little of a sailor's love."
"Is it unworthy of a seaman, and a gentleman, to permit the woman he
calls his mistress to be so, other than in name?"
"Well, then, Griff, I pity you, from my soul. I would rather have had a
sharp struggle for the happiness that I shall now obtain so easily, than
that you should be thus cruelly disappointed. But you cannot blame me,
my friend, that I avail myself of fortune's favor. Miss Plowden, your
fair hand. Colonel Howard, I return you a thousand thanks for the care
you have taken, hitherto, of this precious charge; and believe me, sir,
that I speak frankly, when I say, that, next to myself, I should choose
to entrust her with you in preference to any man on earth."
The colonel turned to the speaker, and bowed low, while he answered with
"Sir, you repay my slight services with too much gratitude. If Miss
Katherine Plowden has not become under my guardianship all that her good
father, Captain John Plowden, of the Royal Navy, could have wished a
daughter of his to be, the fault, unquestionably, is to be attributed to
my inability to instruct, and to no inherent quality in the young lady
herself. I will not say, Take her, sir, since you have her in your
possession already, and it would be out of my power to alter the
arrangement; therefore, I can only wish that you may find her as dutiful
as a wife as she has been, hitherto, as a ward and a subject."
Katherine had yielded her hand, passively, to her lover, and suffered
him to lead her more into the circle than she had before been; but now
she threw off his arm, and shaking aside the dark curls which she had
rather invited to fall in disorder around her brow, she raised her face
and looked proudly up, with an eye that sparkled with the spirit of its
mistress, and a face that grew pale with emotion at each moment, as she
"Gentlemen, the one may be as ready to receive as the other is to
reject; but has the daughter of John Plowden no voice in this cool
disposal of her person? If her guardian tires of her presence, other
habitations may be found, without inflicting so severe a penalty on this
gentleman as to compel him to provide for her accommodation in a vessel
which must be already straitened for room!"
She turned, and rejoined her cousin with such an air of maidenly
resentment as a young woman would be apt to discover, who found herself
the subject of matrimonial arrangement without her own feelings being at
all consulted. Barnstable, who knew but little of the windings of the
female heart, or how necessary to his mistress, notwithstanding her
previous declarations, the countenance of Cecilia, was to any decided
and open act in his favor, stood in stupid wonder at her declaration. He
could not conceive that a woman who had already ventured so much in
secret in his behalf, and who had so often avowed her weakness, should
shrink to declare it again at such a crisis, though the eyes of a
universe were on her! He looked from one of the party to the other, and
met in every face an expression of delicate reserve, except in those of
the guardian of his mistress, and of Borroughcliffe.
The colonel had given a glance of returning favor at her whom he now
conceived to be his repentant ward, while the countenance of the
entrapped captain exhibited a look of droll surprise, blended with the
expression of bitter ferocity it had manifested since the discovery of
his own mishap.
"Perhaps, sir," said Barnstable, addressing the latter, fiercely, "you
see something amusing about the person of this lady, to divert you thus
unseasonably. We tolerate no such treatment of our women in America!"
"Nor do we quarrel before ours in England," returned the soldier,
throwing back the fierce glance of the sailor with interest; "but I was
thinking of the revolutions that time can produce; nothing more, I do
assure you. It is not half an hour since I thought myself a most happy
fellow; secure in my plans for overreaching the scheme you had laid to
surprise me; and now I am as miserable a dog as wears a single
epaulette, and has no hope of seeing its fellow!"
"And in what manner, sir, can this sudden change apply to me?" asked
Katherine, with all her spirit.
"Certainly not to your perseverance in the project to assist my enemies,
madam," returned the soldier, with affected humility; "nor to your zeal
for their success, or your consummate coolness at the supper-table! But
I find it is time that I should be superannuated--I can no longer serve
my king with credit, and should take to serving my God, like all other
worn-out men of the world! My hearing is surely defective, or a paddock-
wall has a most magical effect in determining sounds!"
Katherine waited not to hear the close of this sentence, but walked to a
distant part of the room to conceal the burning blushes that covered her
countenance. The manner in which the plans of Barnstable had become
known to his foe was no longer a mystery. Her conscience also reproached
her a little with some unnecessary coquetry, as she remembered that
quite one-half of the dialogue between her lover and herself, under the
shadow of that very wall to which Borroughcliffe alluded, had been on a
subject altogether foreign to contention and tumults. As the feelings of
Barnstable were by no means so sensitive as those of his mistress, and
his thoughts much occupied with the means of attaining his object, he
did not so readily comprehend the indirect allusion of the soldier, but
turned abruptly away to Griffith, and observed with a serious air:
"I feel it my duty, Mr. Griffith, to suggest that we have standing
instructions to secure all the enemies of America, wherever they may be
found, and to remind you that the States have not hesitated to make
prisoners of females in many instances."
"Bravo!" cried Borroughcliffe; "if the ladies will not go as your
mistresses, take them as your captives!"
"'Tis well for you, sir, that you are a captive yourself, or you should
be made to answer for this speech," retorted the irritated Barnstable.
"It is a responsible command, Mr. Griffith, and must not be
"To your duty, Mr. Barnstable," said Griffith, again rousing from deep
abstraction; "you have your orders, sir; let them be executed promptly."
"I have also the orders of our common superior, Captain Munson, Mr.
Griffith; and I do assure you, sir, that in making out my instructions
for the Ariel--poor thing! there are no two of her timbers hanging
together--but my instructions were decidedly particular on that head."
"And my orders now supersede them."
"But am I justifiable in obeying a verbal order from an inferior, in
direct opposition to a written instruction?"
Griffith had hitherto manifested in his deportment nothing more than a
cold determination to act, but the blood now flew to every vessel in his
cheeks and forehead, and his dark eyes flashed fire, as he cried
"How, sir! do you hesitate to obey?"
"By heaven, sir, I would dispute the command of the Continental Congress
itself, should they bid me so far to forget my duty to--to--"
"Add yourself, sir!--Mr. Barnstable, let this be the last of it. To your
"My duty calls me here, Mr. Griffith."
"I must act, then, or be bearded by my own officers. Mr. Merry, direct
Captain Manual to send in a sergeant and a file of marines."
"Bid him come on himself!" cried Barnstable, maddened to desperation by
his disappointment; "'tis not his whole corps that can disarm me--let
them come on! Hear, there, you Ariels! rally around your captain."
"The man among them who dares to cross that threshold without my order,
dies," cried Griffith, menacing with a naked hanger the seamen who had
promptly advanced at the call of their old commander. "Yield your sword,
Mr. Barnstable, and spare yourself the disgrace of having it forced from
you by a common soldier."
"Let me see the dog who dare attempt it!" exclaimed Barnstable,
flourishing his weapon in fierce anger. Griffith had extended his own
arm in the earnestness of his feelings, and their hangers crossed each
other. The clashing of the steel operated on both like the sound of the
clarion on a war-horse, and there were sudden and rapid blows, and as
rapid parries, exchanged between the flashing weapons.
"Barnstable! Barnstable!" cried Katherine, rushing into his arms, "I
will go with you to the ends of the earth!"
Cecilia Howard did not speak; but when Griffith recovered his coolness,
he beheld her beautiful form kneeling at his feet, with her pale face
bent imploringly on his own disturbed countenance. The cry of Miss
Plowden had separated the combatants, before an opportunity for shedding
blood had been afforded; but the young men exchanged looks of keen
resentment, notwithstanding the interference of their mistresses. At
this moment Colonel Howard advanced, and raising his niece from her
humble posture, said:
"This is not a situation for a child of Harry Howard, though she knelt
in the presence, and before the throne, of her sovereign. Behold, my
dear Cecilia, the natural consequences of this rebellion! It scatters
discord in their ranks; and, by its damnable leveling principles,
destroys all distinction of rank among themselves; even these rash boys
know not where obedience is due!"
"It is due to me," said the Pilot, who now stepped forward among the
agitated group, "and it is time that I enforce it. Mr. Griffith, sheathe
your sword. And you, sir, who have defied the authority of your senior
officer, and have forgotten the obligation of your oath, submit, and
return to your duty."
Griffith started at the sounds of his calm voice, as if with sudden
recollection; and then, bowing low, he returned the weapon to its
scabbard. But Barnstable still encircled the waist of his mistress with
one arm, while with the other he brandished his hanger, and laughed with
scorn at this extraordinary assumption of authority.
"And who is this," he cried, "who dare give such an order to me!"
The eyes of the Pilot flashed with a terrible fire, while a fierce glow
seemed to be creeping over his whole frame, which actually quivered with
passion. But, suppressing this exhibition of his feelings, by a sudden
and powerful effort, he answered in an emphatic manner:
"One who has a right to order, and who _will_ be obeyed!"
The extraordinary manner of the speaker contributed as much as his
singular assertion to induce Barnstable, in his surprise, to lower the
point of his weapon, with an air that might easily have been mistaken
for submission. The Pilot fastened his glowing eyes on him, for an
instant, and then turning to the rest of the listeners, he continued
"It is true that we came not here as marauders, and that our wish is to
do no unnecessary acts of severity to the aged and the helpless. But
this officer of the crown, and this truant American in particular, are
fairly our prisoners; as such, they must be conducted on board our
"But the main object of our expedition?" said Griffith.
"'Tis lost," returned the Pilot, hastily--"'tis sacrificed to more
private feelings; 'tis like a hundred others, ended in disappointment,
and is forgotten, sir, forever. But the interests of the Republics must
not be neglected, Mr. Griffith.--Though we are not madly to endanger the
lives of those gallant fellows, to gain a love-smile from one young
beauty, neither are we to forget the advantages they may have obtained
for us, in order to procure one of approbation from another. This
Colonel Howard will answer well in a bargain with the minions of the
Crown, and may purchase the freedom of some worthy patriot who is
deserving of his liberty. Nay, nay, suppress that haughty look, and turn
that proud eye on any, rather than me; he goes to the frigate, sir, and
"Then," said Cecilia Howard, timidly approaching the spot where her
uncle stood, a disdainful witness of the dissensions among his captors;
"then will I go with him! He shall never be a resident among his enemies
"It would be more ingenuous, and more worthy of my brother's daughter,"
said her uncle, coldly, "if she ascribed her willingness to depart to
its proper motive." Disregarding the look of deep distress with which
Cecilia received this mortifying rejection of her tender attention, the
old man on receiving this order, rushed into the room in a medley; but,
notwithstanding the surly glances, and savage characters of their dress
and equipments, they struck no blow, nor committed any act of hostility.
The ladies shrank back appalled, as this terrific little band took
possession of the hall; and even Borroughcliffe was seen to fall back
towards a door which, in some measure, covered his retreat. The
confusion of this sudden movement had not yet subsided, when sounds of
strife were heard rapidly approaching from a distant part of the
building, and presently one of the numerous doors of the apartment was
violently opened, when two of the garrison of the abbey rushed into the
hall, vigorously pressed by twice their number of seamen, seconded by
Griffith, Manual, and Merry, who were armed with such weapons of offence
as had presented themselves to their hands, at their unexpected
liberation. There was a movement on the part of the seamen who were
already in possession of the room, that threatened instant death to the
fugitives; but Barnstable beat down their pikes with his sword, and
sternly ordered them to fall back. Surprise produced the same pacific
result among the combatants; and as the soldiers hastily sought a refuge
behind their own officers, and the released captives, with their
liberators, joined the body of their friends, the quiet of the hall,
which had been so rudely interrupted, was soon restored.
"You see, sir," said Barnstable, after grasping the hands of Griffith
and Manual in a warm and cordial pressure, "that all my plans have
succeeded. Your sleeping guard are closely watched in their barracks by
one party; our officers are released and your sentinels cut off by
another; while, with a third, I hold the centre of the abbey, and am,
substantially, in possession of your own person. In consideration,
therefore, of what is due to humanity, and to the presence of these
ladies, let there be no struggle. I shall impose no difficult terms, nor
any long imprisonment."
The recruiting officer manifested a composure throughout it, and the
latter laughing, and indulging those buoyant spirits that a boy of his
years and reflection might be supposed to feel even in such a scene. It
was fortunate for her cousin that Katherine had possessed so much
forethought; for the attention of Cecilia Howard was directed much more
to the comforts of her uncle than to those which were necessary for
herself. Attended by Alice Dunscombe, the young mistress of St. Ruth
moved through the solitary apartments of the building, listening to the
mild religious consolation of her companion in silence, at times
yielding to those bursts of mortified feeling, that she could not
repress, or again as calmly giving her orders to her maids, as if the
intended movement was one of but ordinary interest. All this time the
party in the dining-hall remained stationary. The Pilot, as if satisfied
with what he had already done, sank back to his reclining attitude
against the wall, though his eyes keenly watched every movement of the
preparations, in a manner which denoted that his was the master spirit
that directed the whole. Griffith had, however, resumed, in appearance,
the command, and the busy seamen addressed themselves for orders to him
alone. In this manner an hour was consumed, when Cecilia and Katherine
appearing in succession attired in a suitable manner for their
departure, and the baggage of the whole party having been already
entrusted to a petty officer and a party of his men, Griffith gave forth
the customary order to put the whole in motion. The shrill, piercing
whistle of the boatswain once more rang among the galleries and ceilings
of the abbey, and was followed by the deep, hoarse cry of:
"Away, there, you shore-draft! away, there, you boarders! ahead, heave
This extraordinary summons was succeeded by the roll of a drum and the
strains of a fife, from without, when the whole party moved from the
building in the order that had been previously prescribed by Captain
Manual, who acted as the marshal of the forces on the occasion.
The Pilot had conducted his surprise with so much skill and secrecy as
to have secured every individual about the abbey, whether male or
female, soldier or civilian; and as it might be dangerous to leave any
behind who could convey intelligence into the country, Griffith had
ordered that every human being found in the building should be conducted
to the cliffs; to be held in durance at least until the departure of the
last boat to the cutter, which, he was informed, lay close in to the
land, awaiting their re-embarkation. The hurry of the departure had
caused many lights to be kindled in the abbey, and the contrast between
the glare within and the gloom without attracted the wandering looks of
the captives, as they issued into the paddock. One of those indefinable
and unaccountable feelings which so often cross the human mind induced
Cecilia to pause at the great gate of the grounds, and look back at the
abbey, with a presentiment that she was to behold it for the last time.
The dark and ragged outline of the edifice was clearly delineated
against the northern sky, while the open windows and neglected doors
permitted a view of the solitude within. Twenty tapers were shedding
their useless light in the empty apartments, as if in mockery of the
deserted walls; and Cecilia turned shuddering from the sight, to press
nigher to the person of her indignant uncle, with a secret impression
that her presence would soon be more necessary than ever to his
The low hum of voices in front, with the occasional strains of the fife,
and the stern mandates of the sea-officers, soon recalled her, however,
from these visionary thoughts to the surrounding realities, while the
whole party pursued their way with diligence to the margin of the ocean.
"A chieftain to the Highlands bound
Cries, 'Boatman, do not tarry!
And I'll give thee a silver pound,
To row us o'er the ferry.'"
_Lord Ullin's Daughter_.
The sky had been without a cloud during the day, the gale having been
dry and piercing, and thousands of stars were now shining through a
chill atmosphere. As the eye, therefore, became accustomed to the change
of light, it obtained a more distinct view of surrounding objects. At
the head of the line that was stretched along the narrow pathway marched
a platoon of the marines, who maintained the regular and steady front of
trained warriors. They were followed at some little distance by a large
and confused body of seamen, heavily armed, whose disposition to
disorder and rude merriment, which became more violent from their
treading on solid ground, was with difficulty restrained by the presence
and severe rebukes of their own officers. In the centre of this confused
mass the whole of the common prisoners were placed, but were not
otherwise attended to by their nautical guard than as they furnished the
subjects of fun and numberless quaint jokes. At some distance in their
rear marched Colonel Howard and Borroughcliffe, arm in arm, both
maintaining the most rigid and dignified silence, though under the
influence of very bitter feelings. Behind these again, and pressing as
nigh as possible to her uncle, was Miss Howard, leaning on the arm of
Alice Dunscombe, and surrounded by the female domestics of the
establishment of St. Ruth. Katherine Plowden moved lightly, by herself,
in the shadow of this group, with elastic steps but with a maiden
coyness that taught her to veil her satisfaction with the semblance of
captivity. Barnstable watched her movements with delight, within six
feet of her, but submitted to the air of caprice in his mistress, which
seemed to require that he should come no nearer. Griffith, avoiding the
direct line of the party, walked on its skirts in such a situation that
his eye could command its whole extent, in order, if necessary, to
direct the movements. Another body of the marines marched at the close
of the procession, and Manual, in person, brought up the rear. The music
had ceased by command, and nothing was now audible but the regular tread
of the soldiers, with the sighs of the dying gale, interrupted
occasionally by the voice of an officer, or the hum of low dialogue.
"This has been a Scotch prize that we've taken," muttered a surly old
seaman; "a ship without head-money or cargo! There was kitchen-timber
enough in the old jug of a place to have given an outfit in crockery and
knee-buckles to every lad in the ship; but, no! let a man's mouth water
ever so much for food and raiment, damme, if the officers would give him
leave to steal even so good a thing as a spare Bible."
"You may say all that, and then make but a short yarn of the truth,"
returned the messmate who walked by his side: "if there had been such a
thing as a ready-made prayer handy, they would have choused a poor
fellow out of the use of it.--I say, Ben, I'll tell ye what; it's my
opinion that if a chap is to turn soldier and carry a musket, he should
have soldier's play, and leave to plunder a little--now the devil a
thing have I laid my hands on to-night, except this firelock and my
cutlash--unless you can call this bit of a table-cloth something of a
"Ay! you have fallen in there with a fresh bolt of duck, I see!" said
the other, in manifest admiration of the texture of his companion's
prize--"why, it would spread as broad a clew as our mizzen-royal, if it
was loosened! Well, your luck hasn't been every man's luck--for my part,
I think this here hat was made for some fellow's great toe: I've rigged
it on my head both fore and aft, and athwart-ships; but curse the inch
can I drive it down--I say, Sam! you'll give us a shirt off that table-
"Ay, ay, you can have one corner of it; or for that matter, ye can take
the full half, Nick; but I don't see that we go off to the ship any
richer than we landed, unless you may muster she-cattle among your
"No richer!" interrupted a waggish young sailor, who had been hitherto a
silent listener to the conversation between his older and more
calculating shipmates; "I think we are set up for a cruise in them seas
where the day watches last six months; don't you see we have caught a
double allowance of midnight!"
While speaking, he laid his hands on the bare and woolly heads of
Colonel Howard's two black slaves, who were moving near him, both
occupied in mournful forebodings on the results that were to flow from
this unexpected loss of their liberty. "Slew your faces this way,
gentlemen," he added; "there; don't you think that a sight to put out
the binnacle lamps? there's darkness visible for ye!"
"Let the niggers alone," grumbled one of the more aged speakers; "what
are ye skylarking with the like of them for? The next thing they'll sing
out, and then you'll hear one of the officers in your wake. For my part,
Nick, I can't see why it is that we keep dodging along shore here, with
less than ten fathoms under us, when, by stretching into the broad
Atlantic, we might fall in with a Jamaicaman every day or two, and have
sugar hogsheads and rum puncheons as plenty aboard us as hard fare is
"It is all owing to that Pilot," returned the other; "for, d'ye see, if
there was no bottom, there would be no pilots. This is dangerous
cruising-ground, where we stretch into five fathoms, and then drop our
lead on a sand-pit or a rock! Besides, they make night-work of it, too!
If we had daylight for fourteen hours instead of seven, a man might
trust to feeling his way for the other ten."
"Now, a'n't ye a couple of old horse-marines!" again interrupted the
young sailor; "don't you see that Congress wants us to cut up Johnny
Bull's coasters, and that old Blow-Hard has found the days too short for
his business, and so he has landed a party to get hold of night. Here we
have him! and when we get off to the ship, we shall put him under
hatches, and then you'll see the face of the sun again! Come, my lilies!
let these two gentlemen look into your cabin windows--what? you won't!
Then I must squeeze your woolen nightcaps for ye!"
The negroes, who had been submitting to his humors with the abject
humility of slavery, now gave certain low intimations that they were
suffering pain, under the rough manipulation of their tormentor.
"What's that!" cried a stern voice, whose boyish tones seemed to mock
the air of authority that was assumed by the speaker--"who's that, I
say, raising that cry among ye?"
The willful young man slowly removed his two hands from the woolly polls
of the slaves, but as he suffered them to fall reluctantly along their
sable temples, he gave the ear of one of the blacks a tweak that caused
him to give vent to another cry, that was uttered with a much greater
confidence of sympathy than before.
"Do ye hear there!" repeated Merry--"who's skylarking with those
"'Tis no one, sir," the sailor answered with affected gravity; "one of
the palefaces has hit his shin against a cobweb, and it has made his
"Harkye, you Mr. Jack Joker! how came you in the midst of the
prisoners?--Did not I order you to handle your pike, sir, and to keep in
the outer line?"
"Ay, ay, sir, you did; and I obeyed orders as long as I could; but these
niggers have made the night so dark that I lost my way!"
A low laugh passed through the confused crowd of seamen; and even the
midshipman might have been indulging himself in a similar manner at this
specimen of quaint humor from the fellow, who was one of those licensed
men that are to be found in every ship. At length:
"Well, sir," he said, "you have found out your false reckoning now; so
get you back to the place where I bid you stay."
"Ay, ay, sir, I'm going. By all the blunders in the purser's book, Mr.
Merry, but that cobweb has made one of these niggers shed tears! Do let
me stay to catch a little ink, sir, to write a letter with to my poor
old mother-devil the line has she had from me since we sailed from the
"If ye don't mind me at once, Mr. Jack Joker, I'll lay my cutlass over
your head," returned Merry, his voice now betraying a much greater
sympathy in the sufferings of that abject race, who are still in some
measure, but who formerly were much more, the butts of the unthinking
and licentious among our low countrymen; "then ye can write your letter
in red ink if ye will!"
"I wouldn't do it for the world," said Joker, sneaking away towards his
proper station--"the old lady wouldn't forget the hand, and swear it was
a forgery--I wonder, though, if the breakers on the coast of Guinea be
black! as I've heard old seamen say who have cruised in them latitudes."
His idle levity was suddenly interrupted by a voice that spoke above the
low hum of the march, with an air of authority, and a severity of tone,
that could always quell, by a single word, the most violent ebullition
of merriment in the crew.
The low buzzing sounds of "Ay, there goes Mr. Griffith!" and of "Jack
has woke up the first lieutenant, he had better now go to sleep
himself," were heard passing among the men. But these suppressed
communications soon ceased, and even Jack Joker himself pursued his way
with diligence on the skirts of the party, as mutely as if the power of
speech did not belong to his organization.
The reader has too often accompanied us over the ground between the
abbey and the ocean, to require any description of the route pursued by
the seamen during the preceding characteristic dialogue; and we shall at
once pass to the incidents which occurred on the arrival of the party at
the cliffs. As the man who had so unexpectedly assumed a momentary
authority within St. Ruth had unaccountably disappeared from among them,
Griffith continued to exercise the right of command, without referring
to any other for consultation. He never addressed himself to Barnstable,
and it was apparent that both the haughty young men felt that the tie
which had hitherto united them in such close intimacy was, for the
present at least, entirely severed. Indeed, Griffith was only restrained
by the presence of Cecilia and Katherine from arresting his refractory
inferior on the spot; and Barnstable, who felt all the consciousness of
error, without its proper humility, with difficulty so far repressed his
feelings as to forbear exhibiting in the presence of his mistress such a
manifestation of his spirit as his wounded vanity induced him to imagine
was necessary to his honor. The two, however, acted in harmony on one
subject, though it was without concert or communication. The first
object with both the young men was to secure the embarkation of the fair
cousins; and Barnstable proceeded instantly to the boats, in order to
hasten the preparations that were necessary before they could receive
these unexpected captives: the descent of the Pilot having been made in
such force as to require the use of all the frigate's boats, which were
left riding in the outer edge of the surf, awaiting the return of the
expedition. A loud call from Barnstable gave notice to the officer in
command, and in a few moments the beach was crowded with the busy and
active crews of the "cutters," "launches," "barges," "jolly-boats,"
"pinnaces," or by whatever names the custom of the times attached to the
different attendants of vessels of war. Had the fears of the ladies
themselves been consulted, the frigate's launch would have been selected
for their use, on account of its size; but Barnstable, who would have
thought such a choice on his part humiliating to his guests, ordered the
long, low barge of Captain Munson to be drawn upon the sand, it being
peculiarly the boat of honor. The hands of fifty men were applied to the
task, and it was soon announced to Colonel Howard and his wards that the
little vessel was ready for their reception. Manual had halted on the
summit of the cliffs with the whole body of the marines, where he was
busily employed in posting pickets and sentinels, and giving the
necessary instructions to his men to cover the embarkation of the
seamen, in a style that he conceived to be altogether military. The mass
of the common prisoners, including the inferior domestics of the abbey,
and the men of Borroughcliffe, were also held in the same place, under a
suitable guard: but Colonel Howard and his companion, attended by the
ladies and their own maids, had descended the rugged path to the beach,
and were standing passively on the sands, when the intelligence that the
boat waited for them was announced.
"Where is he?" asked Alice Dunscombe, turning her head, as if anxiously
searching for some other than those around her.
"Where is who?" inquired Barnstable; "we are all here, and the boat
"And will he tear me--even me, from the home of my infancy! the land of
my birth and my affections!"
"I know not of whom you speak, madam, but if it be of Mr. Griffith, he
stands there, just without that cluster of seamen."
Griffith, hearing himself thus named, approached the ladies, and, for
the first time since leaving the abbey, addressed them: "I hope I am
already understood," he said, "and that it is unnecessary for me to say
that no female here is a prisoner; though, should any choose to trust
themselves on board our ship, I pledge them to the honor of an officer
that they shall find themselves protected, and safe."
"Then will I not go," said Alice.
"It is not expected of you," said Cecilia; "you have no ties to bind you
to any here." (The eyes of Alice were still wandering over the
listeners.) "Go, then, Miss Alice, and be the mistress of St. Ruth,
until my return; or," she added, timidly, "until Colonel Howard may
declare his pleasure."
"I obey you, dear child; but the agent of Colonel Howard, at B----, will
undoubtedly, be authorized to take charge of his effects."
While no one but his niece alluded to his will, the master of the abbey
had found, in his resentment, a sufficient apology for his rigid
demeanor; but he was far too well bred to bear, in silence, such a
modest appeal to his wishes, from so fair and so loyal a subject as
"To relieve you, madam, and for no other reason, will I speak on this
subject," he said; "otherwise, I should leave the doors and windows of
St. Ruth open, as a melancholy monument of rebellion, and seek my future
compensation from the Crown, when the confiscated estates of the leaders
of this accursed innovation on the rights of princes shall come to the
hammer. But you, Miss Alice, are entitled to every consideration that a
lady can expect from a gentleman. Be pleased, therefore, to write to my
agent, and request him to seal up my papers, and transmit them to the
office of his majesty's Secretary of State. They breathe no treason,
madam, and are entitled to official protection. The house, and most of
the furniture, as you know, are the property of my landlord, who, in due
time, will doubtless take charge of his own interest. I kiss your hand,
Miss Alice, and I hope we shall yet meet at St. James's--depend on it,
madam, that the royal Charlotte shall yet honor your merits; I know she
cannot but estimate your loyalty."
"Here I was born, in humble obscurity--here I have lived, and here I
hope to die in quiet," returned the meek Alice; "if I have known any
pleasure, in late years, beyond that which every Christian can find in
our daily duties, it has been, my sweet friends, in your accidental
society.--Such companions, in this remote corner of the kingdom, has
been a boon too precious to be enjoyed without alloy, it seems; and I
have now to exchange the past pleasure for present pain. Adieu! my young
friend; let your trust be in Him, to whose eyes both prince and peasant,
the European and the American, are alike, and we shall meet again,
though it be neither in the island of Britain nor on your own wide
"That," said Colonel Howard, advancing, and taking her hand with
kindness, "that is the only disloyal sentiment I have ever heard fall
from the lips of Miss Alice Dunscombe! Is it to be supposed that Heaven
has established orders among men, and that it does not respect the works
of its own formation! But adieu; no doubt, if time was allowed us for
suitable explanations, we should find but little or no difference of
opinion on this subject."
Alice did not appear to consider the matter as worthy of further
discussion at such a moment; for she gently returned the colonel's
leave-taking, and then gave her undivided attention to her female
friends. Cecilia wept bitterly on the shoulder of her respected
companion, giving vent to her regret at parting, and her excited
feelings, at the same moment; and Katherine pressed to the side of
Alice, with the kindliness prompted by her warm but truant heart, Their
embraces were given and received in silence, and each of the young
ladies moved towards the boat, as she withdrew herself from the arms of
Miss Dunscombe. Colonel Howard would not precede his wards, neither
would he assist them into the barge. That attention they received from
Barnstable, who, after seeing the ladies and their attendants seated,
turned to the gentlemen, and observed:
"The boat waits,"
"Well, Miss Alice," said Borroughcliffe, in bitter irony, "you are
entrusted by our excellent host with a message to his agent; will you do
a similar service to me, and write a report to the commander of the
district, and just tell him what a dolt--ay, use the plainest terms, and
say what an ass one Captain Borroughcliffe has proved himself in this
affair? You may throw in, by way of episode, that he has been playing
bo-peep with a rebellious young lady from the Colonies, and, like a
great boy, has had his head broken for his pains! Come, my worthy host,
or rather fellow-prisoner, I follow you, as in duty bound."
"Stay," cried Griffith; "Captain Borroughcliffe does not embark in that
"Ha! sir; am I to be herded with the common men? Forget you that I have
the honor to bear the commission of his Britannic Majesty, and that--"
"I forget nothing that a gentleman is bound to remember, Captain
Borroughcliffe; among other things, I recollect the liberality of your
treatment to myself, when a prisoner. The instant the safety of my
command will justify such a step, not only you, but your men, shall be
set at liberty."
Borroughcliffe started in surprise, but his feelings were too much
soured by the destruction of those visions of glory, in which he had
been luxuriously indulging for the last day or two, to admit of his
answering as became a man. He swallowed his emotions, therefore, by a
violent effort, and walked along the beach, affecting to whistle a low
but lively air.
"Well, then," cried Barnstable, "all our captives are seated. The boat
waits only for its officers!"
In his turn, Griffith walked away, in haughty silence, as if disdaining
to hold communion with his former friend. Barnstable paused a moment,
from a deference that long habit had created for his superior officer,
and which was not to be shaken off by every burst of angry passion; but
perceiving that the other had no intention to return, he ordered the
seamen to raise the boat from the sand, and bear it bodily into the
water. The command was instantly obeyed; and, by the time the young
lieutenant was in his seat, the barge was floating in the still heavy
though no longer dangerous surf, and the crew sprang into their places.
"Bear her off, boys!" he cried; "never mind a wet jacket. I've seen many
a worthy fellow tumbling on this beach in a worse time than this! Now
you have her head to sea; give way, my souls, give way."
The seamen rose simultaneously at their oars, and by an united effort
obtained the command of their boat; which, after making a few sudden
ascents, and as many heavy pitches in the breakers, gained the smoother
seas of the swelling ocean, and stemmed the waters in a direction for
the place where the Alacrity was supposed to be in waiting.
"His only plot was this--that, much provoked.
He raised his vengeful arm against his country."
Alice Duncombe remained on the sands, watching the dark spot that was
soon hid amid the waves in the obscurity of night, and listening, with
melancholy interest, to the regulated sounds of the oars, which were
audible long after the boat had been blended with the gloomy outline of
the eastern horizon. When all traces of her departed friends were to be
found only in her own recollections, she slowly turned from the sea, and
hastening to quit the bustling throng that were preparing for the
embarkation of the rest of the party, she ascended the path that
conducted her once more to the summit of those cliffs along which she
had so often roved, gazing at the boundless element that washed their
base, with sensations that might have been peculiar to her own
The soldiers of Borroughcliffe, who were stationed at the head of the
pass, respectfully made way; nor did any of the sentinels of Manual heed
her retiring figure, until she approached the rear guard of the marines,
who were commanded by their vigilant captain in person.
"Who goes there?" cried Manual, advancing without the dusky group of
soldiers, as she approached them.
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