The Water-Witch or, The Skimmer of the Seas
James Fenimore Cooper
Part 2 out of 9
having a city in the view," remarked Alida, with an emphasis that showed
she meant even more than she expressed.
"We are by ourselves, niece of mine," returned the Alderman, rubbing his
hands as if he secretly felicitated himself that the fact were so. "That
truth cannot be denied, and good company we are, though the opinion comes
from one who is not a cipher in the party. Modesty is a poor man's wealth,
but as we grow substantial in the world, Patroon, one can afford to begin
to speak truth of himself, as well as of his neighbor."
"In which case, little, but good, will be uttered from the mouth of
Alderman Van Beverout," said Ludlow, appearing so suddenly from behind the
root of the tree, as effectually to shut the mouth of the burgher. "My
desire to offer the services of the ship to your party, has led to this
abrupt intrusion, and I hope will obtain its pardon."
"The power to forgive is a prerogative of the Governor, who represents the
Queen," drily returned the Alderman. "If Her Majesty has so little
employment for her cruisers, that their captains can dispose of them, in
behalf of old men and young maidens--why, happy is the age, and commerce
"If the two duties are compatible, the greater the reason why a commander
should felicitate himself that he may be of service to so many. You are
bound to the Jersey Highlands, Mr. Van Beverout?"
"I am bound to a comfortable and very private abode, called the Lust in
Rust, Captain Cornelius Van Cuyler Ludlow."
The young man bit his lip, and his healthful but brown cheek flushed a
deeper red than common, though he preserved his composure.
"And I am bound to sea," he soon said. "The wind is getting fresh, and
your boat, which I see, at this moment, standing in for the islands, will
find it difficult to make way against its force. The Coquette's anchor
will be aweigh, in twenty minutes; and I shall find two hours of an ebbing
tide, and a top-gallant breeze, but too short a time for the pleasure of
entertaining such guests. I am certain that the fears of la Belle will
favor my wishes, whichsoever side of the question her inclinations may
happen to be."
"And they are with her uncle;" quickly returned Alida. "I am so little of
a sailor, that prudence, if not pusillanimity, teaches me to depend on the
experience of older heads."
"Older I may not pretend to be," said Ludlow, coloring; "but Mr. Van
Beverout will see no pretension in believing myself as good a judge of
wind and tide, as even he himself can be."
"You are said to command Her Majesty's sloop with skill, Captain Ludlow,
and it is creditable to the colony, that it has produced so good an
officer; though I believe your grandfather came into the province, so
lately as on the restoration of King Charles the Second?"
"We cannot claim descent from the United Provinces, Alderman Van
Beverout, on the paternal side, but whatever may have been the political
opinions of my grandfather, those of his descendant have never been
questioned. Let me entreat the fair Alida to take counsel of the
apprehension I am sure she feels, and to persuade her uncle that the
Coquette is safer than his periagua."
"It is said to be easier to enter than to quit your ship," returned the
laughing Alida. "By certain symptoms that attended our passage to the
island, your Coquette, like others, is fond of conquest. One is not safe
beneath so malign an influence."
"This is a reputation given by our enemies. I had hoped for a different
answer from la belle Barberie."
The close of the sentence was uttered with an emphasis that caused the
blood to quicken its movement in the veins of the maiden. It was fortunate
that neither of their companions was very observant, or else suspicions
might have been excited, that a better intelligence existed between the
young sailor and the heiress, than would have comported with their wishes
"I had hoped for a different answer from la belle Barberie," repeated
Ludlow, in a lower voice, but with even a still more emphatic tone than
There was evidently a struggle in the mind of Alida.--She overcame it,
before her confusion could be noted; and, turning to the valet, she said,
with the composure and grace that became a gentlewoman--
"Rends moi le livre, Francois."
"Le voici--ah! ma chere Mam'selle Alide, que ce Monsieur le marin se
fachait a cause de la gloire, et des beaux vers de notre illustre M.
"Here is an English sailor, that I am sure will not deny the merit of an
admired writer, even though he come of a nation that is commonly thought
hostile, Francois," returned his mistress, smiling "Captain Ludlow, it is
now a month since I am your debtor, by promise, for a volume of Corneille,
and I here acquit myself of the obligation. When you have perused the
contents of this book, with the attention they deserve, I may hope----"
"For a speedy opinion of their merits."
"I was about to say, to receive the volume again, as it is a legacy from
my father," steadily rejoined Alida.
"Legacies and foreign tongues!" muttered the Alderman. "One is well
enough; but for the other, English and Dutch are all that the wisest man
need learn. I never could understand an account of protit and loss in any
other tongue, Patroon; and even a favorable balance never appears so great
as it is, unless the account be rendered in one or the other of these
rational dialects. Captain Ludlow, we thank you for your politeness, but
here is one of my fellows to tell us that my own periagua is arrived; and,
wishing you a happy and a long cruise, as we say of lives, I bid you,
The young seaman returned the salutations of the party, with a better
grace than his previous solicitude to persuade them to enter his ship,
might have given reason to expect. He even saw them descend the hill,
towards the water of the outer bay, with entire composure; and it was only
after they had entered a thicket which hid them from view, that he
permitted his feelings to have sway.
Then indeed he drew the volume from his pocket and opened its leaves with
an eagerness he could no longer control. It seemed as if he expected to
read more, in the pages, than the author had caused to be placed there;
but when his eye caught sight of a sealed billet, the legacy of M. de
Barberie fell at his feet; and the paper was torn asunder, with all the
anxiety of one who expected to find in its contents a decree of life or
Amazement was clearly the first emotion of the young seaman. He read and
re-read; struck his brow with his hand; gazed about him at the land and at
the water; re-perused the note; examined the superscription, which was
simply to 'Capt. Ludlow, of Her Majesty's ship Coquette:' smiled; muttered
between his teeth; seemed vexed, and yet delighted; read the note again,
word by word, and finally thrust it into his pocket, with the air of a man
who had found reason for both regret and satisfaction in its contents.
"--What, has this thing appeared again, to-night?"
"The face of man is the log-book of his thoughts, and Captain Ludlow's
seems agreeable," observed a voice, that came from one, who was not far
from the commander of the Coquette, while the latter was still enacting
the pantomime described in the close of the preceding chapter.
"Who speaks of thoughts and log-books or who dares to pry into my
movements?" demanded the young sailor, fiercely.
"One who has trifled with the first and scribbled in the last too often,
not to know how to meet a squall, whether it be seen in the clouds or only
on the face of man. As for looking into your movements, Captain Ludlow, I
have watched too many big ships in my time, to turn aside at each light
cruiser that happens to cross my course. I hope, Sir, you have an answer;
every hail has its right to a civil reply."
Ludlow could scarce believe his senses, when, on turning to face the
intruder, he saw himself confronted by the audacious eye and calm mien of
the mariner who had, once before that morning, braved his resentment.
Curbing his indignation, however, the young man endeavored to emulate the
coolness which, notwithstanding his inferior condition, imparted to the
air of the other something that was imposing, if it were not absolutely
authoritative. Perhaps the singularity of the adventure aided in effecting
an object, that was a little difficult of attainment in one accustomed to
receive so much habitual deference from most of those who made the sea
their home. Swallowing his resentment, the young commander answered--
"He that knows how to face his enemies with spirit, may be accounted
sufficiently bold; but he who braves the anger of his friends, is
"And he who does neither, is wiser than both," rejoined the reckless hero
of the sash. "Captain Ludlow, we meet on equal terms, at present, and the
parley may be managed with some freedom."
"Equality is a word that ill applies to men of stations so different."
"Of our stations and duties it is not necessary to speak. I hope that,
when the proper time shall come, both may be found ready to be at the
first, and equal to discharge the last. But Captain Ludlow, backed by the
broadside of the Coquette and the cross-fire of his marines, is not
Captain Ludlow alone, on a sea bluff, with a crutch no better than his own
arm, and a stout heart. As the first, he is like a spar supported by
backstays and forestays, braces and standing rigging; while, as the
latter, he is the stick, which keeps its head aloft by the soundness and
quality of its timber. You have the appearance of one who can go alone,
even though it blew heavier than at present, if one may judge of the force
of the breeze, by the manner it presses on the sails of yonder boat in the
"Yonder boat begins to feel the wind, truly!" said Ludlow, suddenly losing
all other interest in the appearance of the periagua which held Alida and
her friends, and which, at that instant, shot out from beneath the cover
of the hill into the broad opening of Raritan bay. "What think you of the
time, my friend? a man of your years should speak with knowledge of the
"Women and winds are only understood, when fairly in motion," returned he
of the sash; "now, any mortal who consulted comfort and the skies, would
have preferred a passage in Her Majesty's ship Coquette, to one in yonder
dancing periagua; and yet the fluttering silk we see, in the boat, tells
us there is one who has thought otherwise."
"You are a man of singular intelligence," cried Ludlow, again facing the
intruder; "as well as one of singular------"
"Effrontery," rejoined the other, observing that the commander hesitated.
Let the commissioned officer of the Queen speak boldly; I am no better
than a top-man, or at most a quarter-master."
"I wish to say nothing disagreeable, but I find your knowledge of my offer
to convey the lady and her friends to the residence of Alderman Van
Beverout, a little surprising."
"And I see nothing to wonder at, in your offer to convey the lady
anywhere, though the liberality to her friends is not an act of so clear
explanation. When young men speak from the heart, their words are not
uttered in whispers."
"Which would imply that you overheard our conversation. I believe it, for
here is cover at hand to conceal you. It may be, Sir, that you have eyes,
as well as ears."
"I confess to have seen your countenance, changing sides, like a member of
parliament turning to a new leaf in his conscience, at the Minister's
signal while you overhauled a bit of paper----"
"Whose contents you could not know!"
"Whose contents I took to be some private orders, given by a lady who is
too much of a coquette herself, to accept your offer to sail in a vessel
of the same name."
"By Heavens, the fellow has reason in his inexplicable impudence!"
muttered Ludlow, pacing backward and forward beneath the shadow of the
tree. "The language and the acts of the girl are in contradiction; and I
am a fool to be trifled with, like a midshipman fresh broken loose from
his mother's apron-string. Harkee, Master-a-a--You've a name I suppose,
like any other straggler on the ocean."
"Yes. When the hail is loud enough to be heard, I answer to the call of
"Well then, Master Tiller, so clever a seaman should be glad to serve the
"Were it not for duty to another, whose claim comes first, nothing could
be more agreeable than to lend a lady in distress a helping hand."
"And who is he, who may prefer a claim to your services, in competition
with the majesty of these realms?" demanded Ludlow, with a little of the
pretension that, when speaking of its privileges, is apt to distinguish
the manner of one who has been accustomed to regard royalty with
"Myself. When our affairs call us the same way no one can be readier than
I, to keep Her Majesty's company; but----"
"This is presuming too far, on the trifling of a moment," interrupted
Ludlow; "you know, sirrah, that I have the right to command your services,
without entering into a parley for them; and which, notwithstanding your
gay appearance, may, after all, be little worth the trouble."
"There is no need to push matters to extremity, between us, Captain
Ludlow," resumed the stranger who had appeared to muse for a moment, "If I
have baffled your pursuit once to-day, it was perhaps to make my merit in
entering the ship freely, less undeniable. We are here alone, and your
Honor will account it no boasting, if I say that a man, well limbed and
active, who stands six feet between plank and earline, is not likely to be
led against his will, like a yawl towing at the stern of a four-and-forty.
I am a seaman, Sir; and though the ocean is my home, I never venture on it
without sufficient footing. Look abroad from this hill, and say whether
there is any craft in view, except the cruiser of the Queen, which would
be likely to suit the taste of a mariner of the long voyage?"
"By which you would have me understand, you are here in quest of service?"
"Nothing less; and though the opinion of a fore-mast Jack may be of little
value, you will not be displeased to hear, that I might look further
without finding a prettier sea-boat, or a swifter, than the one which
sails under your own orders. A seaman of your station, Captain Ludlow, is
not now to learn, that a man speaks differently, while his name is his
own, and after he has given it away to the crown; and therefore I hope my
present freedom will not be long remembered."
"I have met men of your humor before, my friend, and I have not now to
learn, that a thorough man-of-war's man is as impudent on shore, as he is
obedient afloat.--Is that a sail, in the offing, or is it the wing of a
sea-fowl, glittering in the sun?"
"It may be either," observed the audacious mariner, turning his eye
leisurely towards the open ocean, "for we have a wide look-out from this
windy bluff. Here are gulls sporting above the waves, that turn their
feathers towards the light."
"Look more seaward. That spot of shining white should be the canvas of
some craft, hovering in the offing!"
"Nothing more probable, in so light a breeze Your coasters are in and out,
like water-rats on a wharf, at any hour of the twenty-four--and yet to me
it seems the comb of a breaking sea."
"'Tis snow-white duck; such as your swift rover wears on his loftier
"A duck that is flown," returned the stranger drily, "for it is no longer
to be seen. These fly-aways, Captain Ludlow, give us seamen many sleepless
nights and idle chases. I was once running down the coast of Italy,
between the island of Corsica and the main, when one of these delusions
beset the crew, in a manner that hath taught me to put little faith in
eyes, unless backed by a clear horizon and a cool head."
"I'll hear the circumstance," said Ludlow, withdrawing his gaze from the
distant ocean, like one who was satisfied his senses had been deceived.
"What of this marvel of the Italian seas?"
"A marvel truly, as your Honor will confess, when I read you the affair,
much in the words I had it logged, for the knowledge of all concerned. It
was the last hour of the second dog-watch, on Easter-Sunday, with the wind
here at south-east, easterly. A light air filled the upper canvas, and
just gave us command of the ship. The mountains of Corsica, with Monte
Christo and Elba, had all been sunk some hours, and we were on the yards,
keeping a look-out for a land-fall on the Roman coast. A low, thick bank
of drifting fog lay along the sea, in-shore of us, which all believed to
be the sweat of the land, and thought no more of; though none wished to
enter it, for that is a coast where foul airs rise, and through which the
gulls and land-birds refuse to fly. Well, here we lay, the mainsail in the
brails, the top-sails beating the mast-heads, like a maiden fanning
herself when she sees her lover, and nothing full but the upper duck, with
the sun fairly below the water in the western board. I was then young, and
quick of eye, as of foot, and therefore among the first to see the sight!"
"Which was----?" said Ludlow, interested in spite of his assumed air of
"Why, here just above the bank of foul air, that ever rests on that coast,
there was seen an object, that looked like ribs of bright light, as if a
thousand stars had quitted their usual berths in the heaven, to warn us
off the land, by a supernatural beacon. The sight was in itself altogether
out of nature and surprising. As the night thickened, it grew brighter and
more glowing, as if 'twere meant in earnest to warn us from the coast. But
when the word was passed to send the glasses aloft, there was seen a
glittering cross on high, and far above the spars on which earthly ships
carry their private signals."
"This was indeed extraordinary! and what did you, to come at the character
of the heavenly symbol?"
"We wore off shore, and left it a clear berth for bolder mariners. Glad
enough was I to see, with the morning sun, the snowy hills of Corsica,
"And the appearance of that object was never explained?"
"Nor ever will be. I have since spoke with the mariners of that sea
concerning the sight, but never found any who could pretend to have seen
it. There was indeed one bold enough to say, there is a church, far
inland, of height and magnitude sufficient to be seen some leagues at sea,
and that, favored by our position and the mists that hung above the low
grounds, we had seen its upper works, looming above the fogs, and lighted
for some brilliant ceremony; but we were all too old in seaman's
experience to credit so wild a tale. I know not but a church may loom, as
well as a hill or a ship; but he, who pretends to say, that the hands of
man can thus pile stones among the clouds, should be certain of believers,
ere he pushes the tale too far."
"Your narrative is extraordinary, and the marvel should have been looked
into closer. It may truly have been a church, for there stands an edifice
at Rome, which towers to treble the height of a cruiser's masts."
"Having rarely troubled churches, I know not why a church should trouble
me," said the mariner of the sash, while he turned his back on the ocean,
as if indisposed to regard the waste of water longer. "It is now twelve
years since that sight was seen, and though a seaman of many voyages, my
eyes have not looked upon the Roman coast, from that hour to this. Will
your Honor lead the way from the bluff, as becomes your rank?"
"Your tale of the burning cross and looming church, Master Tiller, had
almost caused me to forget to watch the movements of yon periagua,"
returned Ludlow, who still continued to face the bay. "That obstinate old
Dutchman----I say, Sir, that Mr. Alderman Van Beverout has greater
confidence in this description of craft than I feel myself. I like not the
looks of yonder cloud, which is rising from out the mouth of Raritan; and
here, seaward, we have a gloomy horizon.--By Heaven! there is a sail
playing in the offing or my eye hath lost its use and judgment."
"Your Honor sees the wing of the sporting gull, again; it had been nigh to
deceive my sight, which would be to cheat the look-out of a man that has
the advantage of some ten or fifteen years' more practice in marine
appearances. I remember once, when beating in among the islands of the
China seas, with the trades here at south-east----"
"Enough of your marvels, friend; the church is as much as I can swallow,
in one morning--It may have been a gull! for I confess the object small;
yet it had the steadiness and size of a distant sail! There is some reason
to expect one on our coast, for whom a bright and seaman's watch must be
"This may then leave me a choice of ships," rejoined Tiller. "I thank your
Honor for having spoken, before I had given myself away to the Queen; who
is a lady that is much more apt to receive gifts of this nature, than to
"If your respect aboard shall bear any proportion to your hardihood on
shore, you may be accounted a model of civility! But a mariner of your
pretension should have some regard to the character of the vessel in which
he takes service."
"That of which your Honor spoke, is then a buccaneer?"
"If not a buccaneer, one but little better. A lawless trader, under the
most favorable view; and there are those who think that he, who has gone
so far, has not stopt short of the end. But the reputation of the 'Skimmer
of the Seas' must be known to one who has navigated the ocean, long as
"You will overlook the curiosity of a seafaring man, in a matter of his
profession," returned the mariner of the sash, with strong and evident
interest in his manner. "I am lately from a distant ocean, and though many
tales of the buccaneers of the islands have been narrated, I do not
remember to have heard of that rover, before his name came into the
discourse between me and the schipper of the boat, that plies between this
landing and the city. I am not, altogether, what I seem, Captain Ludlow;
and when further acquaintance and hard service shall have brought me more
before the eyes of my commander, he may not repent having induced a
thorough seaman to enter his ship, by a little condescension and
good-nature shown while the man was still his own master. Your Honor will
take no offence at my boldness, when I tell you, I should be glad to know
more of this unlawful trader."
Ludlow riveted his eyes on the unmoved and manly countenance of his
companion. There was a vague and undefined suspicion in the look; but it
vanished, as the practised organs drank in the assurance, which so much
physical promise afforded, of the aid of a bold and active mariner. Rather
amused than offended by the freedom of the request, he turned upon his
heel, and as they descended the bluff, on their way towards the place of
landing, he continued the dialogue.
"You are truly from a distant ocean," said the young captain of the
Coquette, smiling like a man who apologizes to himself for an act of what
he thought undue condescension, "if the exploits of a brigantine known by
the name of the 'Water-Witch,' and of him who commands her, under the fit
appellation of the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' have not yet reached your ears.
It is now five summers, since orders have been in the colonies for the
cruisers to be on the alert to hunt the picaroon; and it is even said, the
daring smuggler has often braved the pennants of the narrow seas. 'Twould
be a bigger ship, not knighthood, to the lucky officer who should catch
"He must drive a money-gaining trade, to run these risks, and to brave the
efforts of so many skilful gentlemen! May I add to a presumption that your
Honor already finds too bold, if one may judge by a displeased eye, by
asking if report speaks to the face and other particulars of the person of
this--free trader, one must call him, though freebooter should be a
"What matters the personal condition of a rogue?" said Captain Ludlow, who
perhaps remembered that the freedom of their intercourse had been carried
as far as comported with prudence.
"What matter, truly! I asked because the description answers a little to
that of a man I once knew, in the seas of farther India, and who has long
since disappeared, though no one can say whither he has gone. But this
'Skimmer of the Seas' is some Spaniard of the Main, or perhaps a Dutchman
come from the country that is awash, in order to taste of terra-firma?"
"Spaniard of the southern coast never carried so bold a sail in these
seas, nor was there ever known a Dutchman with so light a heel. The fellow
is said to laugh at the swiftest cruiser out of England! As to his figure,
I have heard little good of it. 'Tis said, he is some soured officer of
better days, who has quitted the intercourse of honest men, because
roguery is so plainly written on his face, that he vainly tries to hide
"Mine was a proper man, and one that need not have been ashamed to show
his countenance among his fellows," said he of the sash. "This cannot be
the same, if indeed there be any on the coast.--Is't known, your Honor,
that the man is truly here?"
"So goes a rumor; though so many idle tales have led me before to seek the
smuggler where he was not, that I give but little faith to the
report.--The periagua has the wind more at west, and the cloud in the
mouth of the Raritan is breaking into scud. The Alderman will have a lucky
run of it!"
"And the gulls have gone more seaward--a certain sign of pleasant
weather;" returned the other, glancing a quick but keen look over the
horizon in the offing. "I believe our rover, with his light duck, has
taken flight among them!"
"We will then go in pursuit. My ship is bound to sea; and it is time,
Master Tiller, that I know in what berth you are willing to serve the
"God bless her Majesty! Anne is a royal lady and she had a Lord High
Admiral for her husband. As for a berth, Sir, one always wishes to be
captain even though he may be compelled to eat his ration in the
lee-scuppers. I suppose the first-lieutenancy is filled, to your Honor's
"Sirrah, this is trifling; one of your years and experience need not be
told, that commissions are obtained by service."
"Under favor;--I confess the error. Captain Ludlow, you are a man of
honor, and will not deceive a sailor who puts trust in your word."
"Sailor, or landsman, he is safe who has the gage."
"Then, Sir, I ask it. Suffer me to enter your ship; to look into my future
messmates, and to judge of their characters; to see if the vessel suits my
humor; and then to quit her, if I find it convenient."
"Fellow," said Ludlow, "this impudence almost surpasseth patience!"
"The request is reasonable, as can be shown;" gravely returned the unknown
mariner. "Now, Captain Ludlow of the Coquette would gladly tie himself,
for better for worse, to a fair lady who is lately gone on the water, and
yet there are thousands who might be had with less difficulty."
"Still deeper and deeper in thy effrontery--and what if this be true?"
"Sir, a ship is a seaman's mistress--nay, when fairly under a pennant,
with a war declared, he may be said to be wedded to her, lawfully or not.
He becomes 'bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, until death doth
them part.' To such a long compact, there should be liberty of choice.
Has not your mariner a taste, as well as your lover? The harpings and
counter of his ship are the waist and shoulders; the rigging, the
ringlets; the cut and fit of the sails, the fashion of the millinery; the
guns are always called the teeth, and her paint is the blush and bloom!
Here is matter of choice, Sir; and, without leave to make it, I must wish
your Honor a happy cruise, and the Queen a better servitor."
"Why, Master Tiller," cried Ludlow, laughing, "you trust too much to these
stunted oaks, if you believe it exceeds my power to hunt you out of their
cover, at pleasure. But I take you at your word. The Coquette shall
receive you on these conditions, and with the confidence that a first-rate
city belle would enter a country ball-room."
"I follow in your Honor's wake, without more words," returned he of the
sash, for the first time respectfully raising his canvas cap to the young
commander. "Though not actually married, consider me a man betrothed."
It is not necessary to pursue the discourse between the two seamen any
further. It was maintained, and with sufficient freedom on the part of the
inferior, until they reached the shore, and came in full view of the
pennant of the Queen; when, with the tact of an old man-of-war's man, he
threw into his manner all the respect that was usually required by the
difference of rank.
Half an hour later, the Coquette was rolling at a single anchor, as the
puffs of wind came off the hills on her three top-sails; and shortly
after, she was seen standing through the Narrows, with a fresh
southwesterly breeze. In all these movements, there was nothing to attract
attention. Notwithstanding the sarcastic allusions of Alderman Van
Beverout, the cruiser was far from being idle; and her passage outward
was a circumstance of so common occurrence, that it excited no comment
among the boatmen of the bay, and the coasters, who alone witnessed her
"--I am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore wash'd with the furthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise."
Romeo And Juliet.
A happy mixture of land and water, seen by a bright moon, and beneath the
sky of the fortieth degree of latitude, cannot fail to make a pleasing
picture. Such was the landscape which the reader must now endeavor to
present to his mind.
The wide estuary of Raritan is shut in from the winds and billows of the
open sea, by a long, low, and narrow cape, or point, which, by a medley of
the Dutch and English languages, that is by no means rare in the names of
places that lie within the former territories of the United Provinces of
Holland, is known by the name of Sandy-Hook. This tongue of land appears
to have been made by the unremitting and opposing actions of the waves, on
one side, and of the currents of the different rivers, that empty their
waters into the bay, on the other. It is commonly connected with the low
coast of New-Jersey, to the south; but there are periods, of many years in
succession, during which there exists an inlet from the sea, between what
may be termed the inner end of the cape, and the main-land. During these
periods, Sandy-Hook, of course, becomes an island. Such was the fact at
the time of which it is our business to write.
The outer, or ocean side of this low and narrow bank of sand, is a smooth
and regular beach, like that seen on most of the Jersey coast, while the
inner is indented, in a manner to form several convenient
anchoring-grounds, for ships that seek a shelter from easterly gales. One
of the latter is a circular and pretty cove, in which vessels of a light
draught are completely embayed, and where they may, in safety, ride secure
from any winds that blow. The harbor, or, as it is always called, the
Cove, lies at the point where the cape joins the main, and the inlet just
named communicates directly with its waters, whenever the passage is open.
The Shrewsbury, a river of the fourth or fifth class, or in other words a
stream of a few hundred feet in width, and of no great length, comes from
the south, running nearly parallel with the coast, and becomes a tributary
of the Bay, also, at a point near the Cove. Between the Shrewsbury and the
sea, the land resembles that on the cape, being low and sandy, though not
entirely without fertility. It is covered with a modest growth of pines
and oaks, where it is not either subject to the labors of the husbandman,
or in natural meadow. But the western bank of the river is an abrupt and
high acclivity, which rises to the elevation of a mountain. It was near
the base of the latter that Alderman Van Beverout, for reasons that may be
more fully developed as we proceed in our tale, had seen fit to erect his
villa, which, agreeably to a usage of Holland, he had called the Lust in
Rust; an appellation that the merchant, who had read a few of the classics
in his boyhood, was wont to say meant nothing more nor less than 'Otium
If a love of retirement and a pure air had its influence in determining
the selection of the burgher of Manhattan, he could not have made a better
choice. The adjoining lands had been occupied early in the previous
century, by a respectable family of the name of Hartshorne, which
continues seated at the place, to the present hour. The extent of their
possessions served, at that day, to keep others at a distance. If to this
fact be added the formation and quality of the ground, which was, at so
early a period, of trifling value for agricultural purposes, it will be
seen there was as little motive, as there was opportunity, for strangers
to intrude. As to the air it was refreshed by the breezes of the ocean,
which was scarcely a mile distant; while it had nothing to render it
unhealthy, or impure. With this sketch of the general features of the
scene where so many of our incidents occurred, we shall proceed to
describe the habitation of the Alderman, a little more in detail.
The villa of the Lust in Rust was a low, irregular edifice, in bricks,
whitewashed to the color of the driven snow, and in a taste that was
altogether Dutch. There were many gables and weather-cocks, a dozen small
and twisted chimneys, with numberless facilities that were intended for
the nests of storks. These airy sites were, however, untenanted, to the
great admiration of the honest architect, who, like many others that bring
with them into this hemisphere habits and opinions that are better suited
to the other, never ceased expressing his surprise on the subject, though
all the negroes of the neighborhood united in affirming there was no such
bird in America. In front of the house, there was a narrow but an
exceedingly neat lawn, encircled by shrubbery; while two old elms, that
seemed coeval with the mountain, grew in the rich soil of which the base
of the latter was composed. Nor was there a want of shade on any part of
the natural terrace, that was occupied by the buildings. It was thickly
sprinkled with fruit-trees, and here and there was a pine, or an oak, of
the native growth. A declivity that was rather rapid fell away in front,
to the level of the mouth of the river. In short, it was an ample but an
unpretending country-house, in which no domestic convenience had been
forgotten; while it had little to boast of in the way of architecture,
except its rusty vanes and twisted chimneys. A few out-houses, for the
accommodation of the negroes, were nigh; and nearer to the river, there
were barns and stables, of dimensions and materials altogether superior to
those that the appearance of the arable land, or the condition of the
small farm, would seem to render necessary. The periagua, in which the
proprietor had made his passage across the outer bay, lay at a small
wooden wharf immediately below.
For the earlier hours of the evening, the flashing of candles, and a
general and noisy movement among the blacks, had denoted the presence of
the master of the villa. But the activity had gradually subsided: and
before the clock struck nine, the manner in which the lights were
distributed, and the general silence, showed that the party, most probably
fatigued with their journey, had already separated for the night. The
clamor of the negroes had ceased, and the quiet of deep sleep was already
prevailing among their humble dwellings.
At the northern extremity of the villa, which, it will be remembered,
leaned against the mountain, and facing the east, or fronting the river
and the sea, there stood a little wing, even more deeply embowered in
shrubbery and low trees, than the other parts of the edifice, and which
was constructed altogether in a different style. This was a pavilion
erected for the particular accommodation, and at the cost, of la belle
Barberie. Here the heiress of the two fortunes was accustomed to keep her
own little menage, during the weeks passed in the country; and here she
amused herself, in those pretty and feminine employments that suited her
years and tastes. In compliment to the beauty and origin of its
inhabitant, the gallant Francois had christened this particular portion of
the villa, la Cour des Fees a name that had gotten into general use,
though somewhat corrupted in sound.
On the present occasion, the blinds of the principal apartment of the
pavilion were open, and its mistress was still to be seen at one of the
windows. Alida was at an age when the sex is most sensible of lively
impressions, and she looked abroad on the loveliness of the landscape, and
on the soft stillness of the night, with the pleasure that such a mind is
wont to receive from objects of natural beauty.
There was a young moon, and a firmament glowing with a myriad of stars.
The light was shed softly on the water, though, here and there, the ocean
glittered with its rays. A nearly imperceptible, but what seamen call a
heavy air came off the sea, bringing with it the refreshing coolness of
the hour. The surface of the immense waste was perfectly unruffled, both
within and without the barrier of sand that forms the cape; but the body
of the element was heaving and setting heavily, in a manner to resemble
the sleeping respiration of some being of huge physical frame. The roar of
the surf, which rolled up in long and white curls upon the sands, was the
only audible sound; but that was heavy and incessant, sometimes swelling
on the air, hollow and threatening, and at others dying, in dull and
distant murmurs, on the ear. There was a charm in these varieties of
sound, and in the solemn stillness of such a night, that drew Alida into
her little balcony; and she leaned forward, beyond its shadow of
sweet-brier, to gaze at a part of the bay that was not visible, in the
front view, from her windows.
La belle Barberie smiled, when she saw the dim masts and dark hull of a
ship, which was anchored near the end of the cape, and within its
protection. There was the look of womanly pride in her dark eye, and
haply some consciousness of womanly power in the swell of her rich lip,
while a taper finger beat the bar of the balcony, rapidly, and without
consciousness of its employment.
"The loyal Captain Ludlow has quickly ended his cruise!" said the maiden
aloud, for she spoke under the influence of a triumph that was too natural
to be suppressed. "I shall become a convert to my uncle's opinions, and
think the Queen badly served."
"He who serves one mistress, faithfully, has no light task," returned a
voice from among the shrubbery that grew beneath and nearly veiled the
window; "but he, who is devoted to two, may well despair of success with
Alida recoiled, and, at the next instant, she saw her place occupied by
the commander of the Coquette. Before venturing to cross the low barrier
that still separated him from the little parlor, the young man endeavored
to read the eye of its occupant; and then, either mistaking its
expression, or bold in his years and hopes, he entered the room.
Though certainly unused to have her apartment scaled with so little
ceremony, there was neither apprehension, nor wonder, in the countenance
of the fair descendant of the Huguenot. The blood mantled more richly on
her cheek; and the brightness of an eye, that was never dull, increased,
while her fine form became firm and commanding.
"I have heard that Captain Ludlow gained much of his renown by gallantry
in boarding," she said, in a voice whose meaning admitted of no
misconception; "but I had hoped his ambition was satisfied with laurels so
fairly won from the enemies of his country!"
"A thousand pardons, fairest Alida," interrupted the youth; "you know the
obstacles that the jealous watchfulness of your uncle opposes to my desire
to speak with you."
"They are then opposed in vain, for Alderman Van Beverout has weakly
believed the sex and condition of his ward would protect her from these
"Nay, Alida; this is being more capricious than the winds! You know, too
well, how far my suit is unpleasant to your gardian, to torture a slight
departure from cold observances into cause of serious complaint. I had
hoped--perhaps, I should say, I have presumed on the contents of your
letter, for which I return a thousand thanks; but do not thus cruelly
destroy expectations that have so lately been raised beyond the point,
perhaps, which reason may justify."
The glow, which had begun to subside on the face of la belle Barberie,
again deepened, and for a moment it appeared as if her high
self-dependence was a little weakened. After an instant of reflection,
however, she answered steadily, though not entirely without emotion.
"Reason, Captain Ludlow, has limited female propriety within narrow
limits," she said. "In answering your letter, I have consulted good-nature
more than prudence; and I find that you are not slow in causing me to
repent the error."
"If I ever cause you to repent confidence in me, sweet Alida, may disgrace
in my profession, and the distrust of the whole sex, be my punishment!
But, have I not reason to complain of this inconstancy, on your part?
Ought I to expect so severe a reprimand--severe, because cold and
ironical--for an offence, venial as the wish to proclaim my gratitude?"
"Gratitude!" repeated Alida, and this time her wonder was not feigned.
"The word is strong, Sir; and it expresses more than an act of courtesy,
so simple as that which may attend the lending a volume of popular poetry,
can have any right to claim."
"I have strangely misconceived the meaning of the letter, or this has
been a day of folly!" said Ludlow, endeavoring to swallow his discontent.
"But, no; I have your own words to refute that averted eye and cold look;
and, by the faith of a sailor! Alida, I will believe your deliberate and
well-reflected thoughts, before these capricious fancies, which are
unworthy of your nature. Here are the very words; I shall not easily part
with the flattering hopes they convey!"
La belle Barberie now regarded the young man in open amazement. Her color
changed; for of the indiscretion of writing, she knew she was not
guiltless,--but of having written in terms to justify the confidence of
the other, she felt no consciousness. The customs of the age, the
profession of her suitor, and the hour, induced her to look steadily in to
his face, to see whether the man stood before her in all the decency of
his reason. But Ludlow had the reputation of being exempt from a vice that
was then but too common among seamen, and there was nothing in his
ingenuous and really handsome features, to cause her to distrust his
present discretion. She touched a bell, and signed to her companion to be
"Francois," said his mistress, when the old valet but half awake, entered
the apartment, "fais moi le plaisir de m'apporter de cette eau de la
fontaine du bosquet, et du vin--le Capitaine Ludlow a soif; et
rapelle-toi, bon Francois, il ne faut pas deranger mon oncle a cette
heure; il doit etre bien fatigue de son voyage."
When her respectful and respectable servitor had received his commission
and departed, Alida took a seat herself, in the confidence of having
deprived the visit of Ludlow of its clandestine character, and at the same
time having employed the valet on an errand that would leave her
sufficient leisure, to investigate the inexplicable meaning of her
"You have my word, Captain Ludlow, that this unseasonable appearance in
the pavilion, is indiscreet, not to call it cruel," she said, so soon as
they were again alone; "but that you have it, in any manner, to justify
your imprudence, I must continue to doubt until confronted by proof."
"I had thought to have made a very different use of this," returned
Ludlow, drawing a letter,--we admit it with some reluctance in one so
simple and so manly,--from his bosom: "and even now, I take shame in
producing it, though at your own orders.
"Some magic has wrought a marvel, or the scrawl has no such importance,"
observed Alida, taking a billet that she now began to repent having ever
written. "The language of politeness and female reserve must admit of
strange perversions, or all who read are not the best interpreters."
La belle Barberie ceased speaking, for the instant her eye fell on the
paper, an absorbing and intense curiosity got the better of her
resentment. We shall give the contents of the letter, precisely in the
words which caused so much amazement, and possibly some little uneasiness,
to the fair creature who was perusing it.
"The life of a seaman," said the paper, in a delicate and beautiful female
hand, "is one of danger and exposure. It inspires confidence in woman, by
the frankness to which it gives birth, and it merits indulgence by its
privations. She who writes this, is not insensible to the merit of men of
this bold calling. Admiration for the sea, and for those who live on it
has been her weakness through life; and her visions of the future, like
her recollections of the past, are not entirely exempt from a
contemplation of its pleasures. The usages of different nations--glory in
arms--change of scene--with constancy in the affections, all sweetened by
affluence, are temptations too strong for a female imagination, and they
should not be without their influence on the judgment of man. Adieu."
This note was read, re-perused, and for the third time conned, ere Alida
ventured to raise her eyes to the face of the expectant young man.
"And this indelicate and unfeminine rhapsody, Captain Ludlow has seen
proper to ascribe to me!" she said, while her voice trembled between pride
"To whom else can I impute it? No other, lovely Alida, could utter
language so charming, in words so properly chosen."
The long lashes of the maiden played quickly above their dark organs, and
then, conquering feelings that were strangely in contradiction to each
other, she said with dignity, turning to a little ebony escritoire which
lay beside her dressing-box--
"My correspondence is neither very important nor very extensive; but such
as it is, happily for the reputation of the writer's taste, if not for her
sanity, I believe it is in my power to show the trifle I thought it
decorous to write, in reply to your own letter. Here is a copy," she
added, opening what in fact was a draught, and reading aloud.
"I thank Capt. Ludlow for his attention in affording me an opportunity of
reading a narrative of the cruel deeds of the buccaneers. In addition to
the ordinary feelings of humanity, one cannot but regret, that men so
heartless are to be found in a profession that is commonly thought to be
generous and tender of the weak. We will, however, hope, that the very
wicked and cowardly, among seamen, exist only as foils to render the
qualities of the very bold and manly more conspicuous. No one can be more
sensible of this truth than the friends of Captain Ludlow," the voice of
Alida fell a little, as she came to this sentence, 'who has not now to
earn a reputation for mercy. In return, I send the copy of the Cid, which
honest Francois affirms to be superior to all other poems, not even
excepting Homer--a book, which I believe he is innocent of calumniating,
from ignorance of its contents. Again thanking Capt. Ludlow for this
instance of his repeated attentions I beg he will keep the volume, until
he shall return from his intended cruise."
"This note is but a copy of the one you have, or ought to have," said the
niece of the Alderman, as she raised her glowing face from leaning over
the paper, "though it is not signed, like that, with the name of Alida de
When this explanation was over, both parties sat looking at each other, in
silent amazement. Still Alida saw, or thought she saw, that,
notwithstanding the previous professions of her admirer, the young man
rejoiced he had been deceived. Respect for delicacy and reserve in the
other sex is so general and so natural among men, that they who succeed
the most in destroying its barriers, rarely fail to regret their triumph;
and he who truly loves can never long exult in any violation of propriety,
in the object of his affections, even though the concession be made in his
own favor. Under the influence of this commendable and healthful feeling,
Ludlow, while he was in some respects mortified at the turn affairs had
taken, felt sensibly relieved from a load of doubt, to which the
extraordinary language of the letter, he believed his mistress to have
written, had given birth. His companion read the state of his mind, in a
countenance that was frank as face of sailor could be; and though secretly
pleased to gain her former place in his respect, she was also vexed and
wounded that he had ever presumed to distrust her reserve. She still held
the inexplicable billet and her eyes naturally sought the lines. A sudden
thought seemed to strike her mind, and returning the paper, she said
"Captain Ludlow should know his correspondent better; I much mistake if
this be the first of her communications."
The young man colored to the temples, and hid his face, for a moment, in
the hollow of his hands.
"You admit the truth of my suspicions," continued la belle Barberie, "and
cannot be insensible of my justice, when I add, that henceforth------"
"Listen to me, Alida," cried the youth, half breathless in his haste to
interrupt a decision that he dreaded; "hear me, and as Heaven is my judge,
you shall hear only truth. I confess this is not the first of the letters,
written in the same hand--perhaps I should say in the same spirit--but, on
the honor of a loyal officer, I affirm, that until circumstances led me to
think myself so happy--so--very happy,--"
"I understand you, Sir: the work was anonymous, until you saw fit to
inscribe my name as its author. Ludlow! Ludlow! how meanly have you
thought of the woman you profess to love!"
"That were impossible! I mingle little with those who study the finesse of
life; and loving, as I do, my noble profession, Alida, was it so unnatural
to believe that another might view it with the same eyes? But since you
disavow the letter--nay, your disavowal is unnecessary--I see my vanity
has even deceived me in the writing--but since the delusion is over, I
confess that I rejoice it is not so."
La belle Barberie smiled, and her countenance grew brighter. She enjoyed
the triumph of knowing that she merited the respect of her suitor, and it
was a triumph heightened by recent mortification. Then succeeded a pause
of more than a minute. The embarrassment of the silence was happily
interrupted by the return of Francois.
"Mam'selle Alide, voici de l'eau de la fontaine," said the valet; "mais
Monsieur votre oncle s'esi couche, et il a mis la clef de la cave an vin
dessous son oreiller. Ma foi, ce n'est pas facile d'avoir du bon vin du
tout, en Amerique, mais apres que Monsieur le maire s'est couche, c'est
toujours impossible; voila!"
"N'importe, mon cher; le capitaine va partir, et il n'a plus soif."
"Dere is assez de jin," continued the valet, who felt for the captain's
disappointment, "mais, Monsieur Loodle, have du gout, an' he n'aime pas so
"He has swallowed already more than was necessary for one occasion," said
Alida, smiling on her admirer, in a manner that left him doubtful whether
he ought most to repine, or to rejoice. "Thank you, good Francois; your
duty for the night shall end with lighting the captain to the door."
Then saluting the young commander, in a manner that would not admit of
denial, la belle Barberie dismissed her lover and the valet, together.
"You have a pleasant office, Monsieur Francois," said the former, as he
was lighted to the outer door of the pavilion; "it is one that many a
gallant gentleman would envy."
"Oui, Sair. It be grand plaisir to serve Mam'selle Alide. Je porte de fan,
de book, mais quant an vin, Monsieur le Capitaine, parole d'honneur, c'est
toujours impossible apres que l'Aldermain s'est couche."
"Ay--the book--I think you had the agreeable duty, to-day, of carrying the
book of la Belle?"
"Vraiment, oui! 'Twas ouvrage de Monsieur Pierre Corneille. On pretend,
que Monsieur Shak-a-spear en a emprunte d'assez beaux sentiments!"
"And the paper between the leaves?--you were charged also with that note,
The valet paused, shrugged his shoulders, and aid one of his long yellow
fingers on the plane of an enormous aquiline nose, while he seemed to
muse. Then shaking his head perpendicularly, he preceded the captain, as
before, muttering, as usual, half in French and half in English,--
"For le papier, I know, rien du tout; c'est bien possible, parceque, voyez
vous, Monsieur le Capitaine, Mam'selle Alide did say, prenez-y garde; but
I no see him, depuis. Je suppose 'twas beaux compliments ecrits on de vers
of M. Pierre Corneille. Quel genie que celui de cet homme la!--n'est ce
"It is of no consequence, good Francois," said Ludlow, slipping a guinea
into the hands of the valet. "If you should ever discover what became of
that paper, however, you will oblige me by letting me know. Good night;
mes devoirs a la Belle!"
"Bon soir, Monsieur le Capitaine; c'est un brave Monsieur que celui-la, et
de tres bonne famille! Il n'a pas de si grandes terres, que Monsieur le
Patteroon, pourtant, on dit, qu'il doit avoir de jolies maisons et assez
de rentes publiques! J'aime a servir un si genereux et loyal maitre, mais,
malheureusement, il est marin! M. de Barberie n'avait pas trop d'amitie
pour les gens de cette profession la."
"--Well, Jessica, go in;
Perhaps, I will return immediately;
Do as I bid you,
Shut doors after you: Fast bind, fast find;
A proverb never stale, in thrifty mind."
Merchant of Venice.
The decision, with which la demoiselle Barberie had dismissed her suitor,
was owing to some consciousness that she had need of opportunity to
reflect on the singular nature of the events which had just happened, no
less than to a sense of the impropriety of his visiting her at that hour,
and in a manner so equivocal. But, like others who act from feverish
impulses, when alone the maiden repented of her precipitation; and she
remembered fifty questions which might aid in clearing the affair of its
mystery, that she would now gladly put. It was too late, however, for she
had heard Ludlow take his leave, and had listened, in breathless silence,
to his footstep, as he passed the shrubbery of her little lawn. Francois
reappeared at the door, to repeat his wishes for her rest and happiness,
and then she believed she was finally alone for the night, since the
ladies of that age and country, were little apt to require the assistance
of their attendants, in assuming, or in divesting themselves of, their
It was still early, and the recent interview had deprived Alida of all
inclination for sleep. She placed the lights in a distant corner of the
apartment, and approached a window. The moon had so far changed its
position, as to cast a different light upon the water. The hollow washing
of the surf, the dull but heavy breathing of the air from the sea, and the
soft shadows of the trees and mountain, were much the same. The Coquette
lay, as before, at her anchor near the cape, and the Shrewsbury glittered
towards the south, until its surface was concealed by the projection of a
high and nearly perpendicular bluff.
The stillness was profound, for, with the exception of the dwelling of the
family who occupied the estate nearest the villa, there was no other
habitation within some miles of the place. Still the solitude of the
situation was undisturbed by any apprehension of danger, or any tradition
of violence from rude and lawless men. The peaceable character of the
colonists, who dwelt in the interior country, was proverbial, and their
habits simple; while the ocean was never entered by those barbarians, who
then rendered some of the seas of the other hemisphere as fearful as they
Notwithstanding this known and customary character of tranquillity, and
the lateness of the hour, Alida had not been many moments in her balcony,
before she heard the sound of oars. The stroke was measured, and the noise
low and distant, but it was too familiar to be mistaken. She wondered at
the expedition of Ludlow, who was not accustomed to show such haste in
quitting her presence, and leaned over the railing to catch a glimpse of
his departing boat. Each moment she expected to see the little bark issue
from out of the shadows of the land, into the sheet of brightness which
stretched nearly to the cruiser. She gazed long, and in vain, for no barge
appeared, and yet the sound had become inaudible. A light still hung at
the peak of the Coquette, a sign that the commander was out of his vessel.
The view of a fine ship, seen by the aid of the moon, with its symmetry of
spars, and its delicate tracery of cordage, and the heavy and grand
movements of the hull as it rolls on the sluggish billows of a calm sea,
is ever a pleasing and indeed an imposing spectacle. Alida knew that
more, than a hundred human beings slept within the black and silent mass,
and her thoughts insensibly wandered to the business of their daring
lives, their limited abode, and yet wandering existence, their frank and
manly qualities, their devotion to the cause of those who occupied the
land, their broken and interrupted connexion with the rest of the human
family, and finally to those weakened domestic ties, and to that
reputation for inconstancy, which are apparently a natural consequence of
all. She sighed, and her eye wandered from the ship to that ocean on which
it was constructed to dwell. From the distant, low, and nearly
imperceptible shore of the island of Nassau, to the coast of New-Jersey,
there was one broad and untenanted waste. Even the sea-fowl rested his
tired wing, and slept tranquilly on the water. The broad space appeared
like some great and unfrequented desert, or rather like a denser and more
material copy of the firmament by which it was canopied.
It has been mentioned that a stunted growth of oaks and pines covered much
of the sandy ridge that formed the cape. The same covering furnished a
dark setting to the waters of the Cove. Above this outline of wood, which
fringed the margin of the sea. Alida now fancied she saw an object in
motion. At first, she believed some ragged and naked tree, of which the
coast had many, was so placed as to deceive her vision, and had thrown its
naked lines upon the back-ground of water, in a manner to assume the shape
and tracery of a light-rigged vessel. But when the dark and symmetrical
spars were distinctly seen, gliding past objects that were known to be
stationary, it was impossible to doubt their character. The maiden
wondered, and her surprise was not unmixed with apprehension. It seemed as
if the stranger for such the vessel must needs be, was recklessly
approaching a surf, that, in its most tranquil moments, was dangerous to
such a fabric, and that he steered, unconscious of hazard, directly upon
the land. Even the movement was mysterious and unusual. Sails there were
none; and yet the light and lofty spars were soon hid behind a thicket
that covered a knoll near the margin of the sea. Alida expected, each
moment, to hear the cry of mariners in distress, and then, as the minutes
passed and no such fearful sound interrupted the stillness of the night,
she began to bethink her of those lawless rovers, who were known to abound
among the Carribean isles, and who were said sometimes even to enter and
to refit, in the smaller and more secret inlets of the American continent.
The tales, coupled with the deeds, character, and fate of the notorious
Kidd, were then still recent, and although magnified and colored by vulgar
exaggerations, as all such tales are known to be, enough was believed, by
the better instructed, to make his life and death the subject of many
curious and mysterious rumors. At this moment, she would have gladly
recalled the young commander of the Coquette, to apprize him of the enemy
that was nigh; and then, ashamed of terrors that she was fain to hope
savored more of woman's weakness than of truth, she endeavored to believe
the whole some ordinary movement of a coaster, who, familiar with his
situation, could rot possibly be either in want of aid, or an object of
alarm. Just as this natural and consoling conclusion crossed her mind, she
very audibly heard a step in her pavilion. It seemed near the door of the
room she occupied. Breathless, more with the excitement of her
imagination, than with any actual fear created by this new cause of alarm,
the maiden quitted the balcony, and stood motionless to listen. The door,
in truth, was opened, with singular caution, and, for an instant, Alida
saw nothing but a confused area in the centre of which appeared the
figure of a menacing and rapacious freebooter.
"Northern lights and moonshine!" growled Alderman Van Beverout, for it was
no other than the uncle of the heiress, whose untimely and unexpected
visit had caused her so much alarm. "This sky-watching, and turning of
night into day, will be the destruction of thy beauty, niece; and then we
shall see how plenty Patroons are for husbands! A bright eye and a
blooming cheek are thy stock in trade, girl; and she is a spendthrift of
both, who is out of her bed when the clock hath struck ten."
"Your discipline would deprive many a beauty of the means of using her
power," returned la demoiselle, smiling, as much at the folly of her
recent fears, as with affection for her reprover. "They tell me, that ten
is the witching time of night, for the necromancy of the dames of Europe."
"Witch me no witches! The name reminds one of the cunning Yankees, a race
that would outwit Lucifer himself, if left to set the conditions to their
bargain. Here is the Patroon, wishing to let in a family of the knaves
among the honest Dutchmen of his manor; and we have just settled a dispute
between us, on this subject, by making the lawful trial."
"Which, it may be proper to hope, dearest uncle, was not the trial by
"Peace and olive-branches, no! The Patroon of Kinderhook is the last man
in the Americas, that is likely to suffer by the blows of Myndert Van
Beverout. I challenged the boy to hold a fine eel, that the blacks have
brought out of the river to help in breaking our morning fasts, that it
might be seen if he were fit to deal with the slippery rogues. By the
merit of the peaceable St. Nicholas! but the son of old Hendrick Van
Staats had a busy time of it! The lad griped the fish, as the ancient
tradition has it that thy uncle clenched the Holland florin, when my
father put it between my fingers, within the month, in order to see if the
true saving grace was likely to abide in the family for another
generation. My heart misgave me for a moment; for young Oloff has the fist
of a vice, and I thought the goodly names of the Harmans, and Rips,
Corneliuses, and Dircks of the manor rent-roll were likely to be
contaminated by the company of an Increase or a Peleg; but just as the
Patroon thought he had the watery viper by the throat, the fish gave an
unexpected twist, and slid through his fingers by the tail. Flaws and
loop-holes! but that experiment has as much wisdom as wit in it!"
"And to me, it seemeth better, now that Providence has brought all the
colonies under one government, that these prejudices should be forgotten.
We are a people, sprung from many nations, and our effort should be to
preserve the liberality and intelligence, while we forget the weaknesses,
"Bravely said, for the child of a Huguenot! But I defy the man, who brings
prejudice to my door. I like a merry trade, and a quick calculation. Let
me see the man in all New-England, that can tell the color of a
balance-sheet quicker than one that can be named, and I'll gladly hunt up
the satchel and go to school again. I love a man the better for looking to
his own interests, I; and, yet common honesty teaches us, that there
should be a convention between men, beyond which none of reputation and
character ought to go."
"Which convention shall be understood, by every man, to be the limits of
his own faculties; by which means the dull may rival the quick of thought.
I fear me, uncle, there should be an eel kept on every coast, to which a
"Prejudice and conceit, child, acting on a drowsy head; 'tis time thou
seekest thy pillow, and in the morning we shall see if young Oloff of the
Manor shall have better success with thy favor, than with the prototype of
the Jonathans. Here, put out these flaring candles, and take a modest lamp
to light thee to thy bed. Glaring windows, so near midnight give a house
an extravagant name, in the neighborhood."
"Our reputation for sobriety may suffer in the opinion of the eels,"
returned Alida, laughing, "but here are few others, I believe, to call us
"One never knows--one never knows--" muttered the Alderman, extinguishing
the two large candles of his niece, and substituting his own little
handlamp in their place. "This broad light only invites to wakefulness,
while the dim taper I leave is good as a sleeping draught. Kiss me, wilful
one, and draw thy curtains close, for the negroes will soon rise to load
the periagua, that they may go up with the tide to the city. The noise of
the chattering black guards may disturb thy slumbers!"
"Truly, it would seem there was little here to invite such active
navigation," returned Alida, saluting the cheek of her uncle at his order.
"The love of trade must be strong, when it finds the materials of
commerce, in a solitude like this."
"Thou hast divined the reason, child. Thy father Monsieur de Barberie had
his peculiar opinions on the subject, and doubtless he did not fail to
transmit some of them to his offspring. And yet, when the Huguenot was
driven from his chateau and his clayey Norman lands, the man had no
distaste, himself, for an account-current, provided the balance was in his
own favor. Nations and characters! I find but little difference, after
all, in trade; whether it be driven with a Mohawk for his pack of furs, or
with a Seigneur, who has been driven from his lands. Each strives to get
the profit on his own side of the account, and the loss on that of his
neighbor. So rest thee well, girl; and remember that matrimony is no more
than a capital bargain, on whose success depends the sum-total of a
woman's comfort--and so once more, good night."
La belle Barberie attended her uncle, dutifully to the door of her
pavilion, which she bolted after him; and then, finding her little
apartment gloomy by the light of the small and feeble lamp he had left,
she was pleased to bring its flame in contact with the wicks of the two
candles he had just extinguished. Placing the three, near each other, on a
table, the maiden again drew nigh a window. The unexpected interview with
the Alderman had consumed several minutes, and she was curious to know
more of the unaccountable movements of the mysterious vessel.
The same deep silence reigned about the villa, and the slumbering ocean
was heaving and setting as heavily as before. Alida again looked for the
boat of Ludlow; but her eye ran over the whole distance of the bright and
broad streak, between her and the cruiser, in vain. There was the slight
ripple of the water in the glittering of the moon's rays, but no speck,
like that the barge would make, was visible. The lantern still shone at
the cruiser's peak. Once, indeed, she thought the sound of oars was again
to be heard, and much nearer than before; and yet no effort of her quick
and roving sight could detect the position of the boat. But to all these
doubts succeeded an alarm which sprang from a new and very different
The existence of the inlet, which united the ocean with the waters of the
Cove, was but little known, except to the few whose avocations kept them
near the spot. The pass being much more than half the time closed, its
varying character, and the little use that could be made of it under any
circumstances, prevented the place from being a subject of general
interest, with the coasters. Even when open the depth of its water was
uncertain, since a week or two of calms, or of westerly winds, would
permit the tides to clean its channel, while a single easterly gale was
sufficient to choke the entire inlet with sand. No wonder, then, that
Alida felt an amazement which was not quite free from superstitious alarm
when, at that hour and in such a scene, she saw a vessel gliding, as it
were unaided by sails or sweeps, out of the thicket that fringed the ocean
side of the Cove, into its very centre.
The strange and mysterious craft was a brigantine of that mixed
construction, which is much used, even in the most ancient and classical
seas of the other hemisphere, and which is supposed to unite the
advantages of both a square and of a fore-and-aft rigged vessel, but which
is nowhere seen to display the same beauty of form, and symmetry of
equipment, as on the coasts of this Union. The first and smallest of its
masts had all the complicated machinery of a ship, with its superior and
inferior spars, its wider reaching, though light and manageable yards, and
its various sails, shaped and arranged to meet every vicissitude and
caprice of the winds; while the latter, or larger of the two, rose like
the straight trunk of a pine from the hull, simple in its cordage, and
spreading a single sheet of canvas, that, in itself, was sufficient to
drive the fabric with vast velocity through the water. The hull was low,
graceful in its outlines, dark as the raven's wing, and so modelled as to
float on its element like a sea-gull riding the billows. There were many
delicate and attenuated lines among its spars, which were intended to
spread broader folds of canvas to the light airs, when necessary; but
these additions to the tracery of the machine, which added so much to its
beauty by day, were now, seen as it was by the dimmer and more treacherous
rays of the moon, scarcely visible. In short, as the vessel had entered
the Cove floating with the tide, and it was so singularly graceful and
fairy-like in form, that Alida, at first, was fain to discredit her
senses, and to believe it no more than some illusion of the fancy. Like
most others, she was ignorant of the temporary inlet, and, under the
circumstances, it was not difficult to lend a momentary credence to so
pleasing an idea.
But the delusion was only momentary. The brigantine turned in its course,
and, gliding into the part of the Cove where the curvature of the shores
offered most protection from the winds and waves, and perhaps from curious
eyes, its motion ceased. A heavy plunge in the water was audible even at
the villa, and Alida then knew that an anchor had fallen into the bay.
Although the coast of North America offered little to invite lawless
depredation, and it was in general believed to be so safe, yet the
possibility that cupidity might be invited by the retired situation of her
uncle's villa, did not fail to suggest itself to the mind of the young
heiress. Both she and her guardian were reputed to be wealthy; and
disappointment, on the open sea, might drive desperate men to the
commission of crimes that in more prosperous moments would not suggest
themselves. The freebooters were said to have formerly visited the coast
of the neighboring island, and men were just then commencing those
excavations for hidden treasures and secreted booty, which have been, at
distant intervals, continued to our own time.
There are situations in which the mind insensibly gives credit to
impressions, that the reason in common disapproves. The present was one in
which Alide de Barberie, though of a resolute and even a masculine
understanding, felt disposed to believe there might be truth in those
tales, that she had hitherto heard, only to deride. Still keeping her eye
on the Motionless vessel, she drew back into her window and wrapped the
curtain round her form, undecided whether to alarm the family or not, and
acting under a vague impression that, though so distant, her person might
be seen. She was hardly thus secreted, before the shrubbery was violently
agitated, a footstep was heard in the lawn beneath her window, and then
one leaped so lightly into the balcony, and from the balcony into the
centre of the room, that the passage of the figure seemed like the
flitting of some creature of supernatural attributes.
"Why look you, how you stare!
I would be friends with you, and have your love."
The first impulse of Alida, at this second invasion of her pavilion, was
certainly to flee. But timidity was not her weakness, and as natural
firmness gave her time to examine the person of the individual who had so
unceremoniously entered, curiosity aided in inducing her to remain.
Perhaps a vague, but a very natural, expectation that she was again to
dismiss the commander of the Coquette, had its influence on her first
decision. In order that the reader may judge how far this boldness was
excusable, we shall describe the person of the intruder.
The stranger was one in the very bud of young and active manhood. His
years could not have exceeded two-and-twenty, nor would he probably have
been thought so old, had not his features been shaded by a rich, brown
hue, that in some degree, served as a foil to a natural complexion, which,
though never fair, was still clear and blooming. A pair of dark, bushy,
and jet-black, silken whiskers, that were in singular contrast to
eye-lashes and brows of almost feminine beauty and softness, aided also in
giving a decided expression to a face that might otherwise have been
wanting in some of that character which is thought essential to comeliness
in man. The forehead was smooth and low; the nose, though prominent and
bold in outline, of exceeding delicacy in detail; the mouth and lips full,
a little inclined to be arch, though the former appeared as if it might at
times be pensive; the teeth were even and unsullied; and the chin was
small, round, dimpled, and so carefully divested of the distinguishing
mark of the sex, that one could fancy nature had contributed all its
growth to adorn the neighboring cheeks and temples. If to these features
be added a pair of full and brilliant coal-black eyes, that appeared to
vary their expression at their master's will, the reader will at once see,
that the privacy of Alida had been invaded by one whose personal
attractions might, under other circumstances, have been dangerous to the
imagination of a female, whose taste was in some degree influenced by a
standard created by her own loveliness.
The dress of the stranger was as unique as his personal attractions were
extraordinary. The fashion of the garments resembled that of those already
described as worn by the man who has announced himself as Master Tiller;
but the materials were altogether richer, and, judging only from the
exterior, more worthy of the wearer.
The light frock was of a thick purple silk, of an Indian manufacture, cut
with exceeding care to fit the fine outlines of a form that was rather
round, than square; active, than athletic. The loose trowsers were of a
fine white jean, the cap of scarlet velvet, ornamented with gold, and the
body was belted with a large cord of scarlet silk, twisted in the form of
a ship's cable. At the ends of the latter, little anchors, wrought in
bullion, were attached as gay and fitting appendages.
In contrast to an attire so whimsical and uncommon, however, a pair of
small and richly-mounted pistols were at the stranger's girdle; and the
haft, of a curiously-carved Asiatic dagger was seen projecting, rather
ostentatiously, from between the folds of the upper garment.
"What cheer! what cheer!" cried a voice, that was more in harmony with the
appearance of the speaker, than with the rough, professional salutation he
uttered, so soon as he had fairly landed in the centre of Alida's little
saloon. "Come forth, my dealer in the covering of the beaver, for here is
one who brings gold to thy coffers. Ha! now that this trio of lights hath
done its office, it may be extinguished, lest it pilot others to the
"Your pardon, Sir," said the mistress of the pavilion, advancing from
behind the curtain, with an air of coolness that her beating heart had
nigh betrayed to be counterfeit; "having so unexpected a guest to
entertain, the additional candles are necessary."
The start, recoil, and evident alarm of the intruder, lent Alida a little
more assurance; for courage is a quality that appears to gain force, in a
degree proportioned to the amount in which it is abstracted from the
dreaded object. Still, when she saw a hand on a pistol, the maiden was
again about to flee; nor was her resolution to remain confirmed, until she
met the mild and alluring eye of the intruder, as, quitting his hold of
the weapon, he advanced with an air so mild and graceful, as to cause
curiosity to take the place of fear.
"Though Alderman Van Beverout be not punctual to his appointment," said
the gay young stranger "he has more than atoned for his absence by the
substitute he sends. I hope she comes authorized to arrange the whole of
"I claim no right to hear, or to dictate, in matters not my own. My utmost
powers extend to expressing a desire, that this pavilion may be exempt
from the discussion of affairs, as much beyond my knowledge as they are
separated from my interests."
"Then why this signal?" demanded the stranger, pointing, with a serious
air, to the lights that still burned near each other in face of an open
window "It is awkward to mislead, in transactions that are so delicate!"
"Your allusion, Sir, is not understood. These lights are no more than what
are usually seen in my apartment at this hour--with, indeed, the addition
of a lamp, left by my uncle, Alderman Van Beverout."
"Your uncle!" exclaimed the other, advancing so near Alida, as to cause
her to retire a step, his countenance expressing a deep and newly-awakened
interest--"your uncle!--This, then, is one far-famed and justly extolled;
la belle Barberie!" he added, gallantly lifting his cap, as if he had just
discovered the condition and the unusual personal attractions of his
It was not in nature for Alida to be displeased. All her fancied causes of
terror were forgotten; for, in addition to their improbable and uncertain
nature, the stranger had sufficiently given her to understand, that he was
expected by her uncle. If we add, that the singular attraction and
softness of his face and voice aided in quieting her fears, we shall
probably do no violence either to the truth or to a very natural feeling.
Profoundly ignorant of the details of commerce, and accustomed to hear its
mysteries extolled as exercising the keenest and best faculties of man,
she saw nothing extraordinary in those who were actively engaged in the
pursuit having reasons for concealing their movements from the jealousy
and rivalry of competitors. Like most of her sex, she had great dependence
on the characters of those she loved; and, though nature, education, and
habit, had created a striking difference between the guardian and his
ward, their harmony had never been interrupted by any breach of affection.
"This then is la belle Barberie!" repeated the young sailor, for such his
dress denoted him to be, studying her features with an expression of face,
in which pleasure vied with evident and touching melancholy. "Fame hath
done no injustice, for here is all that might justify the folly or madness
"This is familiar dialogue for an utter stranger," returned Alida,
blushing, though the quick dark eye that seemed to fathom all her
thoughts, saw it was not in anger. "I do not deny that the partiality of
friends, coupled with my origin, have obtained the appellation, which is
given, however, more in playfulness than in any serious opinion of its
being merited--and now, as the hour is getting late, and this visit is at
least unusual, you will permit me to seek my uncle."
"Stay!" interrupted the stranger--"it is long--very long, since so
soothing, so gentle a pleasure has been mine! This is a life of mysteries,
beautiful Alida, though its incidents seem so vulgar, and of every-day
occurrence. There is mystery in its beginning and its end; in its
impulses; its sympathies and all its discordant passions. No, do not quit
me. I am from off the sea, where none but coarse and vulgar-minded men
have long been my associates; and thy presence is a balm to a bruised and
Interested, if possible, more by the touching and melancholy tones of the
speaker, than by his extraordinary language, Alida hesitated. Her reason
told her that propriety, and even prudence, required she should apprize
her uncle of the stranger's presence; but propriety and prudence lose much
of their influence, when female curiosity is sustained by a secret and
powerful sympathy. Her own eloquent eye met the open and imploring look of
organs, that seemed endowed with the fabled power to charm; and while her
judgment told her there was so much to alarm her senses pleaded powerfully
in behalf of the gentle mariner.
"An expected guest of my uncle will have, leisure to repose, after the
privations and hardships of so weary a voyage," she said. "This is a house
whose door is never closed against the rites of hospitality."
"If there is aught about my person or attire, to alarm you," returned the
stranger, earnestly, "speak, that it may be cast away--These arms--these
foolish arms, had better not have been here," he added, casting the
pistols and dagger indignantly, through a window, into the shrubbery; "Ah!
if you knew how unwillingly I would harm any--and, least of all, a
woman--you would not fear me!"
"I fear you not," returned la Belle, firmly. "I dread the misconceptions
of the world."
"What world is here to disturb us? Thou livest in thy pavilion, beautiful
Alida, remote from towns and envy, like some favored damsel, over whose
happy and charmed life presides a benignant genius. See, here are all the
pretty materials, with which thy sex seeks innocent and happy amusement.
Thou touchest this lute, when melancholy renders thought pleasing; here
are colors to mock, or to eclipse, the beauties of the fields and the
mountain, the flower, and the tree; and from these pages are culled
thoughts, pure and rich in imagery, as thy spirit is spotless, and thy
Alida listened in amazement; for, while he spoke the young mariner touched
the different articles he named, with a melancholy interest, which seemed
to say how deeply he regretted that fortune had placed him in a
profession, in which their use was nearly denied.
"It is not common for those who live on the sea, to feel this interest in
the trifles which constitute a woman's pleasure," she said, lingering,
spite of her better resolution to depart.
"The spirit of our rude and boisterous trade is then known to you?"
"It were not possible for the relation of a merchant, so extensively known
as my uncle, to be ignorant altogether of mariners."
"Ay, here is proof of it," returned the stranger, speaking so quick as
again to betray how sensitively his mind was constructed. "The History of
the American Buccaneers is a rare book to be found in a lady's library!
What pleasure can a mind like that of la belle Barberie find in these
recitals of bloody violence?"
"What pleasure, truly!" returned Alida, half tempted, by the wild and
excited eye of her companion, not withstanding all the contradictory
evidence which surrounded him, to believe she was addressing one of the
very rovers in question. "The book was lent me by a brave seaman, who
holds himself in readiness to repress their depredations; and while
reading of so much wickedness, I endeavor to recall the devotion of those
who risk their lives, in order to protect the weak and innocent--My uncle
will be angered, should I longer delay to apprize him of your presence."
"A single moment! It is long--very long, since I have entered a sanctuary
like this! Here is music; and there the frame for the gaudy tambour--these
windows look on a landscape, soft as thine own nature; and yonder ocean
can be admired without dreading its terrific power, or feeling disgust at
its coarser scenes. Thou shouldst be happy, here!"
The stranger turned, and perceived that he was alone. Disappointment was
strongly painted on his handsome face; but, ere there was time for second
thought, another voice was heard grumbling at the door of the saloon.
"Compacts and treaties! What, in the name of good faith, hath brought thee
hither? Is this the way to keep a cloak on our movements? or dost suppose
that the Queen will knight me, for being known as thy correspondent?"
"Lanterns and false-beacons!" returned the other, mimicking the voice of
the disconcerted burgher, and pointing to the lights that still stood
where last described. "Can the port be entered without respecting the
land-marks and signals?"
"This comes of moonlight and sentiment! When the girl should have been
asleep, she is up, gazing at the stars, and disconcerting a burgher's
speculations--But fear thee not, Master Seadrift; my niece has discretion,
and if we have no better pledge for her silence, there is that of
necessity; since there is no one here for a confidant, but her old Norman
valet, and the Patroon of Kinderhook, both of whom are dreaming of other
matter than a little gainful traffic."
"Fear thee not, Alderman;" returned the other, still maintaining his air
of mockery. "We have the pledge of character, if no other; since the uncle
cannot part with reputation, without the niece sharing in the loss."
"What sin is there in pushing commerce a step beyond the limits of the
law? These English are a nation of monopolists; and they make no scruple
of tying us of the colonies, hand and foot, heart and soul, with their
acts of Parliament, saying 'with us shalt thou trade, or not at all.' By
the character of the best burgomaster of Amsterdam, and they came by the
province, too, in no such honesty, that we should lie down and obey!"
"Wherein there is much comfort to a dealer in the contraband. Justly
reasoned, my worthy Alderman. Thy logic will, at any time, make a smooth
pillow, especially if the adventure be not without its profit. And now,
having so commendabiy disposed of the moral of our bargain, let us
approach its legitimate, if not its lawful, conclusion. There," he added,
drawing a small bag from an inner pocket of his frock, and tossing it
carelessly on a table; "there is thy gold. Eighty broad Johannes is no bad
return for a few packages of furs; and even avarice itself will own, that
six months is no long investment for the usury."
"That boat of thine, most lively Seadrift, is a marine humming-bird!"
returned Myndert, with a joyful tremor of the voice, that betrayed his
deep and entire satisfaction. "Didst say just eighty? But spare thyself
the trouble of looking for the memorandum; I will tell the gold myself, to
save thee the trouble. Truly, the adventure hath not been bad! A few kegs
of Jamaica, with a little powder and lead, and a blanket or two, with now
and then a penny bauble for a chief, are knowingly, ay! and speedily
transmuted into the yellow metal, by thy good aid.--This affair was
managed on the French coast?"
"More northward, where the frost helped the bargain. Thy beavers and
martens, honest burgher, will be flaunting in the presence of the Emperor,
at the next holidays. What is there in the face of the Braganza, that thou
studiest it so hard?"
"The piece peems none of the heaviest--but, luckily, I have scales at
"Hold!" said the stranger, laying his hand, which according to a fashion
of that day, was clad in a delicate and scented glove, lightly on the arm
of the other: "No scales between us, Sir! That was taken in return for thy
adventure; heavy or light, it must go down. We deal in confidence, and
this hesitation offends me. Another such doubt of my integrity, and our
connexion is at an end."
"A calamity I should deplore, quite or nearly as much as thyself,"
returned Myndert, affecting to laugh; though he slipped the suspected
doubloon into the bag again, in a manner that at once removed the object
of contention from view. "A little particularity in the balance part of
commerce serves to maintain friendships. But a trifle shall not cause us
to waste the precious time.--Hast brought goods suited to the colonies?"
"And ingeniously assorted? Colonies and monopoly!--But there is a two-fold
satisfaction in this clandestine traffic! I never get the notice of thy
arrival, Master Seadrift, but the heart within me leapeth of gladness!
There is a double pleasure in circumventing the legislation of your London
"The chiefest of which is--?"
"A goodly return for the investment, truly--I desire not to deny the
agency of natural causes; but, trust me, there is a sort of professional
glory in thus defeating the selfishness of our rulers. What! are we born
of woman, to be used as the instruments of their prosperity! Give us equal
legislation, a right to decide on the policy of enactments, and then, like
a loyal and obedient subject,--"
"Thou wouldst still deal in the contraband!"
"Well, well, multiplying idle words is not multiplying gold. The list of
the articles introduced can be forthcoming?"
"It is here, and ready to be examined. But there is a fancy come over me,
Alderman Van Beverout, which, like others of my caprices, thou knowest
must have its way. There should be a witness to our bargain."
"Judges and juries! Thou forgettest, man, that a clumsy galliot could
sail through the tightest clause, of these extra-legal compacts. The
courts receive the evidence of this sort of traffic, as the grave receives
the dead; to swallow all, and be forgotten."
"I care not for the courts, and little desire do I feel to enter them. But
the presence of la belle Barberie may serve to prevent any misconceptions,
that might bring our connexion to a premature close. Let her be summoned."
"The girl is altogether ignorant of traffic, and it might unsettle her
opinions of her uncle's stability. If a man does not maintain credit
within his own doors, how can he expect it in the streets?"
"Many have credit on the highway, who receive none at home. But thou
knowest my humor; no niece--no traffic."
"Alida is a dutiful and affectionate child, and I would not willingly
disturb her slumbers. Here is the Patroon of Kinderhook, a man who loves
English legislation as little as myself;--he will be less reluctant to see
an honest shilling turned into gold. I will awake him: no man was ever yet
offended at an offer to share in a profitable adventure."
"Let him sleep on. I deal not with your lords of manors and mortgages.
Bring forth the lady, for there will be matter fit for her delicacy."
"Duty and the ten commandments! You never had the charge of a child,
Master Seadrift, and cannot know the weight of responsibility--"
"No niece--no traffic!" interrupted the wilful dealer in contraband,
returning his invoice to his pocket, and preparing to rise from the table,
where he had already seated himself.--"The lady knows of my presence; and
it were safer for us both, that she entered more deeply into our
"Thou art as despotic as the English navigation-law! I hear the foot of
the child still pacing her chamber, and she shall come. But there need be
no explanations, to recall old intercourse.--The affair can pass as a bit
of accidental speculation--a by-play, in the traffic of life."
"As thou pleasest. I shall deal less in words than in business. Keep thine
own secrets, burgher, and they are safe. Still, I would have the lady, for
there is a presentiment that our connexion is in danger."
"I like not that word presentiment," grumbled the Alderman, taking a
light, and snuffing it with deliberate care; "drop but a single letter,
and one dreams of the pains and penalties of the Exchequer.--Remember thou
art a trafficker, who conceals his appearance on account of the cleverness
of his speculations."
"That is my calling, to the letter. Were all others as clever, the trade
would certainly cease.--Go, bring the lady."
The Alderman, who probably saw the necessity of making some explanation to
his niece, and who, it would seem, fully understood the positive character
of his companion, no longer hesitated; but, first casting a suspicious
glance out of the still open window he left the room.
"--Alack, what heinous sin is it in me
To be ashamed, to be my father's child!
But though I am a daughter to his blood
I am not to his manners.--"
Merchant of Venice.
The moment the stranger was again alone, the entire expression of his
countenance underwent a change. The reckless and bold expression deserted
his eye, which once more became soft, if not pensive, as it wandered over
the different elegant objects that served to amuse the leisure of la belle
Barberie. He arose, and touched the strings of a lute, and then, like
Fear, started back, as if recoiling at the sound he had made. All
recollection of the object of his visit was evidently forgotten, in a new
and livelier interest; and had there been one to watch his movements, the
last motive imputed to his presence would probably have been the one that
was true. There was so little of that vulgar and common character, which
is usually seen in men of his pursuit, in the gentle aspect and subdued
air of his fine features, that it might be fancied he was thus singularly
endowed by nature, in order that deception might triumph, if there were
moments when a disregard of opinion was seen in his demeanor, it rather
appeared assumed than easy; and even when most disposed to display lawless
indifference to the ordinary regulations of society, in his interview with
the Alderman, it had been blended with a reserve of manner that was
strangely in contrast with his humor.
On the other hand, it were idle to say that Alida de Barberie had no
unpleasant suspicions concerning the character of her uncle's guest. That
baneful influence, which necessarily exerts itself near an irresponsible
power, coupled with the natural indifference with which the principal
regards the dependant, had caused the English Ministry to fill too many of
their posts of honor and profit, in the colonies, with needy and dissolute
men of rank, or of high political connexions at home. The Province of
New-York had, in this respect, been particularly unfortunate. The gift of
it by Charles to his brother and successor, had left it without the
protection of those charters and other privileges that had been granted to
most of the governments of America. The connexion with the crown was
direct, and, for a long period, the majority of the inhabitants were
considered as of a different race, and of course as of one less to be
considered, than that of their conquerors. Such was the laxity of the
times on the subject of injustice to the people of this hemisphere, that
the predatory expeditions of Drake and others against the wealthy
occupants of the more southern countries, seem to have left no spots on
their escutcheons; and the honors and favors of Queen Elizabeth had been
liberally extended to men who would now be deemed freebooters. In short,
that system of violence and specious morality, which commenced with the
gifts of Ferdinand and Isabella, and the bulls of the Popes, was
continued, with more or less of modification, until the descendants of
those single-minded and virtuous men who peopled the Union, took the
powers of government into their own hands, and proclaimed political ethics
that were previously as little practised as understood.
Alida knew that both the Earl of Bellamont and the unprincipled nobleman
who has been introduced in the earlier pages of this tale, had not escaped
the imputation of conniving at acts on the sea, far more flagrant than any
of an unlawful trade; and it will therefore create little surprise, that
she saw reason to distrust the legality of some of her uncle's
speculations, with less pain than might be felt by one of her sex and
opinions at the present hour. Her suspicions, however, fell far short of
the truth; for it were scarce possible to have presented a mariner, who
bore about him fewer of those signs of his rude calling, than he whom she
had so unexpectedly met.
Perhaps, too, the powerful charm, that existed in the voice and
countenance of one so singularly gifted by nature, had its influence in
persuading Alida to reappear. At all events, she was soon seen to enter
the room, with an air, that manifested more of curiosity and wonder, than
"My niece has heard that thou comest from the old countries, Master
Seadrift," said the wary Alderman, who preceded Alida, "and the woman is
uppermost in her heart. Thou wilt never be forgiven, should the eye of any
maiden in Manhattan get sight of thy finery before she has passed judgment
on its merit."
"I cannot wish a more impartial or a fairer judge;" returned the other,
doffing his cap in the gallant and careless manner of his trade. "Here are
silks from the looms of Tuscany, and Lyonnois brocades, that any Lombard,
or dame of France, might envy. Ribbons of every hue and dye, and laces
that seem to copy the fret-work of the richest cathedral of your Fleming!"
"Thou hast journeyed much, in thy time, Master Seadrift, and speakest of
countries and usages with understanding," said the Alderman. "But how
stand the prices of these precious goods? Thou knowest the long war, and
the moral certainty of its continuance; this German succession to the
throne, and the late earthquakes in the country, too, have much unsettled
prices, and cause us thoughtful burghers to be wary in our traffic.--Didst
inquire the cost of geldings, when last in Holland?"
"The animals go a-begging!--As to the value of my goods, that you know is
fixed; for I admit of no parley between friends."
"Thy obstinacy is unreasonable, Master Seadrift. A wise merchant will
always look to the state of the market, and one so practised should know
that a nimble sixpence multiplies faster than a slow-moving shilling. 'Tis
the constant rolling of the ball that causes the snow to cleave! Goods
that come light should not go heavy, and quick settlements follow sudden
bargains. Thou knowest our York saying, that 'first offers are the best.'"
"He that likes may purchase, and he that prefers his gold to fine laces,
rich silks, and stiff brocades, has only to sleep with his money-bags
under his pillow. There are others who wait, with impatience, to see the
articles; and I have not crossed the Atlantic, with a freight that
scarcely ballasts the brigantine, to throw away the valuables on the
"Nay, uncle," said Alida, in a little trepidation "we cannot judge of the
quality of Master Seadrift's articles, by report. I dare to say, he has
not landed without a sample of his wares?"
"Custom and friendships!" muttered Myndert; "of what use is an established
correspondence, if it is to be broken on account of a little cheapening?
But produce thy stores, Mr. Dogmatism; I warrant me the fashions are of
some rejected use, or that the color of the goods be impaired by the usual
negligence of thy careless mariners. We will, at least pay thee the
compliment to look at the effects."
"'Tis as you please," returned the other. "The bales are in the usual
place, at the wharf, under the inspection of honest Master Tiller--but if
so inferior in quality, they will scarce repay the trouble of the walk."
"I'll go, I'll go," said the Alderman, adjusting his wig and removing his
spectacles; "'twould not be treating an old correspondent well, to refuse
to look at his samples,--thou wilt follow, Master Seadrift, and so I will
pay thee the compliment to examine the effects--though the long war, the
glut of furs, the over-abundance of the last year's harvests, and the
perfect quiet in the mining districts, have thrown all commerce flat on
its back. I'll go, however; lest thou shouldst say, thy interests were
neglected. Thy Master Tiller is an indiscreet agent; he gave me a fright
to-day that exceeds any alarm I have felt since the failure of Van Halt,
Balance, and Diddle."
The voice of Myndert became inaudible, for, in his haste not to neglect
the interests of his guest, the tenacious trader had already quitted the
room, and half of his parting speech was uttered in the antechamber of the
"'Twould scarce comport with the propriety of my sex, to mingle with the
seamen, and the others who doubtless surround the bales," said Alida, in
whose face there was a marked expression of hesitation and curiosity.
"It will not be necessary," returned her companion. "I have, at hand,
specimens of all that you would see.--But, why this haste? We are yet in
the early hours of the night, and the Alderman will be occupied long, ere
he comes to the determination to pay the prices my people are sure to ask.
I am lately from off the sea, beautiful Alida, and thou canst not know the
pleasure I find in breathing even the atmosphere of a woman's presence."
La belle Barberie retired a step or two, she knew not why; and her hand
was placed upon the cord of the bell, before she was aware of the manner
in which she betrayed her alarm.
"To me it does not seem that I am a creature so terrific, that thou
need'st dread my presence," continued the gay mariner, with a smile that
expressed as much of secret irony, as of that pensive character which had
again taken possession of his countenance; "but ring, and bring your
attendants to relieve fears that are natural to thy sex, and therefore
seducing to mine. Shall I pull the cord?--for this pretty hand trembles
too much, to do its office."
"I know not that any would answer, for it is past the hour of
attendance;--it is better that I go to the examination of the bales."
The strange and singularly-attired being, who occasioned so much
uneasiness to Alida, regarded her a moment with a kind and melancholy
"Thus they are all, till altered by too much intercourse with a cold and
corrupt world!" he rather whispered, than uttered aloud. "Would that thus
they might all continue! Thou art a singular compound of thy sex's
weakness, and of manly resolution, belle Barberie; but trust me," and he
laid his hand on his heart with an earnestness that spoke well for his
sincerity; "ere word, or act, to harm or to offend thee, should proceed
from any who obey will of mine, nature itself must undergo a change. Start
not, for I call one to show the specimens you would see."
He then applied a little silver whistle to his lips, and drew a low signal
from the instrument, motioning to Alida to await the result, without
alarm. In half a minute, there was a rustling among the leaves of the
shrubbery, a moment of attentive pause, and then a dark object entered the
window, and rolled heavily to the centre of the floor.
"Here are our commodities, and trust me the price shall not be dwelt on,
between us," resumed Master Seadrift, undoing the fastenings of the little
bale, that had entered the saloon, seemingly without the aid of hands.
"These goods are so many gages of neutrality, between us; so approach, and
examine, without fear. You will find some among them to reward the
The bale was now open, and as its master appeared to be singularly expert
in suiting a female fancy, it became impossible for Alida to resist any
longer. She gradually lost her reserve, as the examination proceeded; and
before the owner of the treasures had got into the third of his packages,
the hands of the heiress were as actively employed as his own, in gaining
access to their view.
"This is a stuff of the Lombard territories," said the vender of the
goods, pleased with the confidence he had succeeded in establishing
between his beautiful customer and himself. "Thou seest, it is rich,
flowery, and variegated as the land it came from. One might fancy the
vines and vegetation of that deep soil were shooting from this labor of
the loom--nay, the piece is sufficient for any toilette, however ample;
see, it is endless as the plains that reared the little animal who
supplies the texture. I have parted of that fabric to many dames of
England, who have not disdained to traffic with one that risks much in
"I fear there are many who find a pleasure in these stuffs, chiefly
because their use is forbidden."
"'Twould not be out of nature! Look; this box contains ornaments of the
elephant's tooth, cut by a cunning artificer in the far Eastern lands;
they do not disfigure a lady's dressing-table, and have a moral, for they
remind her of countries where the sex is less happy than at home. Ah! here
is a treasure of Mechlin, wrought in a fashion of my own design."
"'Tis beautifully fancied, and might do credit to one who professed the
"My youth was much employed in these conceits," returned the trader,
unfolding the rich and delicate lace in a manner to show that he had still
pleasure in contemplating its texture and quality. "There was a compact
between me and the maker, that enough should be furnished to reach from
the high church-tower of his town, to the pavement beneath; and yet, you
see how little remains! The London dames found it to their taste, and it
was not easy to bring even this trifle into the colonies."
"You chose a remarkable measure for an article that was to visit so many
different countries, without the formalities of law!"
"We thought to start in the favor of the church, which rarely frowns on
those who respect its privileges. Under the sanction of such authority, I
will lay aside all that remains, certain it will be needed for thy use."
"So rare a manufacture should be costly?"
La belle Barberie spoke hesitatingly, and as she raised her eyes, they met
the dark organs of her companion, fixed on her face, in a manner that
seemed to express a consciousness of the ascendency he was gaining.
Startled, at she knew not what the maiden again added hastily--
"This may be fitter for a court lady, than a girl of the colonies."
"None who have vet worn of it, so well become it;--I lay it here, as a
make-weight in my bargain with the Alderman.--This is satin of Tuscany; a
country where nature exhibits its extremes, and one whose merchants were
princes. Your Florentine was subtle in his fabrics, and happy in his
conceits of forms and colors, for which he stood indebted to the riches of
his own climate. Observe--the hue of this glossy surface is scarcely so
delicate as I have seen the rosy light, at even, playing on the sides of
"You have then visited the regions, in whose fabrics you deal?" said
Alida, suffering the articles to fall from her hand, in the stronger
interest she began to feel in their owner.
"'Tis my habit. Here have we a chain from the city of the Isles. The hand
of a Venetian could alone form these delicate and nearly insensible links:
I refused a string of spotless pearls for that same golden web."
"It was indiscreet, in one who trades at so much hazard."
"I kept the bauble for my pleasure!--Whim is sometimes stronger than the
thirst of gain; and this chain does not quit me, till I bestow it on the
lady of my love."
"One so actively employed can scarcely spare time to seek a fitting object
for the gift."
"Is merit and loveliness in the sex, so rare? La belle Barberie speaks in
the security of many conquests, or she would not deal thus lightly, in a
matter that is so serious with most females."
"Among other countries your vessel hath visited a land of witchcraft, or
you would not pretend to a knowledge of things, that, in their very
nature, must be hidden from a stranger.--Of what value may be those
beautiful feathers of the ostrich?"
"They came of swarthy Africa, though so spotless themselves. The bunch was
had, by secret traffic, from a Moorish man, in exchange for a few skins of
Lachrymyae Christi, that he swallowed with his eyes shut. I dealt with the
fellow, only in pity for his thirst, and do not pride myself on the value
of the commodity. It shall go, too, to quicken love between me and thy
Alida could not object to this liberality, though she was not without a
secret opinion that the gifts were no more than delicate and
well-concealed offerings to herself. The effect of this suspicion was
two-fold; it caused the maiden to become more reserved in the expression
of her tastes, though it in no degree lessened her confidence in, and
admiration of, the wayward and remarkable trader.
"My uncle will have cause to commend thy generous spirit," said the
heiress, bending her head a little coldly, at this repeated declaration of
her companion's intentions, "though it would seem that, in trade, justice
is as much to be desired as generosity;--this seemeth a curious design,
wrought with the needle!"
Back to Full Books