The Water-Witch or, The Skimmer of the Seas
James Fenimore Cooper
Part 3 out of 9
"It is the labor of many a day, fashioned by the hand of a recluse. I
bought it of a nun, in France, who passed years in toil, upon the conceit,
which is of more value than the material. The meek daughter of solitude
wept when she parted with the fabric, for, in her eyes, it had the tie of
association and habit. A companion might be lost to one who lives in the
confusion of the world, and it should not cause more real sorrow, than
parting from the product of her needle, gave that mild resident of the
"And is it permitted for your sex to visit those places of religious
retirement?" asked Alida. "I come of a race that pays little deference to
monastic life, for we are refugees from the severity of Louis; but yet I
never heard my father charge these females with being so regardless of
"The fact was so repeated to me; for, surely, my sex are not admitted to
traffic, directly, with the modest sisters;" (a smile, that Alida was
half-disposed to think bold, played about the handsome mouth of the
speaker) "but it was so reported. What is your opinion of the merit of
woman, in thus seeking refuge from the cares, and haply from the sins, of
the world, in institutions of this order."
"Truly the question exceedeth my knowledge. This is not a country to
immure females, and the custom causes us of America little thought."
"The usage hath its abuses," continued the dealer in contraband, speaking
thoughtfully; "but it is not without its good. There are many of the weak
and vain, that would be happier in the cloisters, than if left to the
seductions and follies of life.--Ah! here is work of English hands. I
scarcely know how the articles found their way into the company of the
products of the foreign looms. My bales contain, in general, little that
is vulgarly sanctioned by the law. Speak me, frankly, belle Alida, and say
if you share in the prejudices against the character of us free-traders?"
"I pretend not to judge of regulations that exceed the knowledge and
practices of my sex," returned the maiden, with commendable reserve.
"There are some who think the abuse of power a justification of its
resistance, while others deem a breach of law to be a breach of morals."
"The latter is the doctrine of your man of invested moneys and established
fortune! He has entrenched his gains behind acknowledged barriers, and he
preaches their sanctity, because they favor his selfishness. We skimmers
of the sea--"
Alida started so suddenly, as to cause her companion to cease speaking.
"Are my words frightful, that you pale at their sound?"
"I hope they were used rather in accident, than with their dreaded
meaning. I would not have it said--no! 'tis but a chance that springs from
some resemblance in your callings. One, like you, can never be the man
whose name has grown into a proverb!"
"One like me, beautiful Alida, is much as fortune wills. Of what man, or
of what name wouldst speak?"
"'Tis nothing," returned la belle Barberie, gazing unconsciously at the
polished and graceful features of the stranger, longer than was wont in
maiden. "Proceed with your explanation;--these are rich velvets!"
"They come of Venice, too; but commerce is like the favor which attends
the rich, and the Queen of the Adriatic is already far on the decline.
That which causes the increase of the husbandman, occasions the downfall
of a city. The lagunes are filling with fat soil, and the keel of the
trader is less frequent there than of old. Ages hence, the plow may trace
furrows where the Bucentaur has floated! The outer India passage has
changed the current of prosperity, which ever rushes in the widest and
newest track. Nations might learn a moral, by studying the sleepy canals
and instructive magnificence of that fallen town; but pride fattens on its
own lazy recollections, to the last!--As I was saying, we rovers deal
little in musty maxims, that are made by the great and prosperous at home,
and are trumpeted abroad, in order that the weak and unhappy should be the
more closely riveted in their fetters."
"Methinks you push the principle further than is necessary, for one whose
greatest offence against established usage is a little hazardous commerce.
These are opinions, that might unsettle the world."
"Rather settle it, by referring all to the rule of right. When governments
shall lay their foundations in natural justice, when their object shall be
to remove the temptations to err, instead of creating them, and when
bodies of men shall feel and acknowledge the responsibilities of
individuals--why, then the Water-Witch, herself, might become a
revenue-cutter, and her owner an officer of the customs!"
The velvet fell from the hands of la belle Barberie, and she arose from
her seat with precipitation.
"Speak plainly," said Alida with all her natural firmness. "With whom am I
about to traffic?"
"An outcast of society--a man condemned in the opinions of the world--the
outlaw--the flagrant wanderer of the ocean--the lawless 'Skimmer of the
Seas!'" cried a voice, at the open window.
In another minute, Ludlow was in the room Alida uttered a shriek, veiled
her face in her robe, and rushed from the apartment.
"--Truth will come to light;
Murder cannot be hid long, a man's son may;
But in the end, truth will out.--"
The officer of the Queen had leaped into the pavilion, with the flushed
features and all the hurry of an excited man. The exclamations and retreat
of la belle Barberie, for a single moment, diverted his attention; and
then he turned, suddenly, not to say fiercely, towards her companion. It
is not necessary to repeat the description of the stranger's person, in
order to render the change, which instantly occurred in the countenance of
Ludlow, intelligible to the reader. His eye, at first, refused to believe
there was no other present; and when it had, again and again, searched the
whole apartment, it returned to the face and form of the dealer in
contraband, with an expression of incredulity and wonder.
"Here is some mistake!" exclaimed the commander of the Coquette, after
time had been given for a thorough examination of the room.
"Your gentle manner of entrance," returned the stranger, across whose face
there had passed a glow, that might have come equally of anger or of
surprise, "has driven the lady from the room. But as you wear the livery
of the Queen, I presume you have authority for invading the dwelling of
"I had believed--nay, there was reason to be certain, that one whom all of
proper loyalty execrate, was to be found here;" stammered the
still-confused Ludlow. "There can scarce be a deception, for I plainly
heard the discourse of my captors,--and yet here is none!"
"I thank you for the high consideration you bestow on my presence."
The manner, rather than the words, of the speaker, induced Ludlow to rivet
another look on his countenance. There was a mixed expression of doubt,
admiration, and possibly of uneasiness, if not of actual jealousy, in the
eye, which slowly read all his lineaments, though the former seemed the
stronger sensation of the three.
"We have never met before!" cried Ludlow, when the organ began to grow
dim, with the length and steadiness of its gaze.
"The ocean has many paths, and men may journey on them, long, without
crossing each other."
"Thou hast served the Queen, though I see thee in this doubtful
"Never. I am not one to bind myself to the servitude of any woman that
lives," returned the free trader, while a mild smile played about his lip
"though she wore a thousand diadems! Anne never had an hour of my time,
nor a single wish of my heart."
"This is bold language, Sir, for the ear of her officer. The arrival of an
unknown brigantine, certain incidents which have occurred to myself this
night, your presence here, that bale of articles forbidden by the law,
create suspicions that must be satisfied. Who are you?"
"The flagrant wanderer of the ocean--the outcast of society--the
condemned in the opinions of world--the lawless 'Skimmer of the Seas!'"
"This cannot be! The tongues of men speak of the personal deformity of
that wanderer, no less than of his bold disregard of the law. You would
"If then men err so much in that which is visible and unimportant,"
returned the other, proudly, "is there not reason to doubt their accuracy
in matters of more weight. I am surely what I seem, if I am not what I
"I will not credit so improbable a tale;--give me some proof that what I
hear is true."
"Look at that brigantine, whose delicate spars are almost confounded with
the back-ground of trees," said the other, approaching the window, and
directing the attention of his companion to the Cove: "'Tis the bark that
has so often foiled the efforts of all thy cruisers, and which transports
me and my wealth whither I will, without the fetters of arbitrary laws,
and the meddling inquiries of venal hirelings. The scud, which floats
above the sea, is not freer than that vessel, and scarcely more swift.
Well is she named the Water-Witch! for her performances on the wide ocean
have been such as seem to exceed all natural means. The froth of the sea
does not dance more lightly above the waves, than yonder graceful fabric,
when driven by the breeze. She is a thing to be loved, Ludlow; trust me, I
never yet set affections on woman, with the warmth I feel for the faithful
and beautiful machine!"
"This is little more than any mariner could say, in praise of a vessel
that he admired."
"Will you say it, Sir, in favor of yon lumbering sloop of Queen Anne? Your
Coquette is none of the fairest, and there was more of pretension than of
truth, at her christening."
"By the title of my royal mistress, young beardless, but there is an
insolence in this language, that might become him you wish to represent!
My ship, heavy or light of foot, as she may be, is fated to bring yonder
false trader to the judgment."
"By the craft and qualities of the Water-Witch! but this is language that
might become one who was at liberty to act his pleasure," returned the
stranger tauntingly imitating the tone, in which his angry companion had
spoken. "You would have proof of my identity: listen. There is one who
vaunts his power, that forgets he is a dupe of my agent, and that even
while his words are so full of boldness, he is a captive!"
The brown cheek of Ludlow reddened, and he turned toward the lighter and
far less vigorous frame of his companion, as if about to strike him to the
earth, when a door opened, and Alida appeared in the saloon.
The meeting, between the commander of the Coquette and his mistress, was
not without embarrassment. The anger of the former and the confusion of
the latter, for a moment, kept both silent; but as la belle Barberie had
not returned without an object, she was quick to speak.
"I know not whether to approve, or to condemn, the boldness that has
prompted Captain Ludlow to enter my pavilion, at this unseasonable hour,
and in so unceremonious a manner," she said, "for I am still ignorant of
his motive. When he shall please to let me hear it, I may judge better of
the merit of the excuse."
"True, we will hear his explanation before condemnation," added the
stranger, offering a seat to Alida, which she coldly declined. "Beyond a
doubt the gentleman has a motive."
If looks could have destroyed, the speaker would have been annihilated.
But as the lady seemed indifferent to the last remark, Ludlow prepared to
enter on his vindication.
"I shall not attempt to conceal that an artifice has been practised," he
said, "which is accompanied by consequences that I find awkward. The air
and manner of the seaman, whose bold conduct you witnessed in the boat,
induced me to confide in him more than was prudent, and I have been
rewarded by deception."
"In other words, Captain Ludlow is not as sagacious as he had reason to
believe," said an ironical voice, at his elbow.
"In what manner am I to blame, or why is my privacy to be interrupted,
because a wandering seaman has deceived the commander of the Coquette?"
rejoined Alida. "Not only that audacious mariner, but this--this person,"
she added, adopting a word that use has appropriated to the multitude, "is
a stranger to me. There is no other connexion between us, than that you
"It is not necessary to say why I landed," continued Ludlow; "but I was
weak enough to allow that unknown mariner to quit my ship, in my company;
and when I would return, he found means to disarm my men, and make me a
"And yet, art thou, for a captive, tolerably free!" added the ironical
"Of what service is this freedom, without the means of using it? The sea
separates me from my ship, and my faithful boat's-crew are in fetters. I
have been little watched, myself; but though forbidden to approach certain
points, enough has been seen to leave no doubts of the character of those
whom Alderman Van Beverout entertains."
"Thou wouldst also say, and his niece, Ludlow?"
"I would say nothing harsh to, or disrespectful of, Alida de Barberie. I
will not deny that a harrowing idea possessed me,--but I see my error,
and repent having been so hasty."
"We may then resume our commerce," said the trader, cooly seating himself
before the open bale, while Ludlow and the maiden stood regarding each
other in mute surprise. "It is pleasant to exhibit these forbidden
treasures to an officer of the Queen. It may prove the means of gaining
the royal patronage. We were last among the velvets, and on the lagunes,
of Venice. Here is one of a color and quality to form a bridal dress for
the Doge himself, in his nuptials with the sea! We men of the ocean look
upon that ceremony as a pledge Hymen will not forget us, though we may
wander from his altars. Do I justice to the faith of the craft, Captain
Ludlow?--or are you a sworn devotee of Neptune, and content to breathe
your sighs to Venus, when afloat? Well, if the damps and salt air of the
ocean rust the golden chain, it is the fault of cruel nature!--Ah! here
A shrill whistle sounded among the shrubbery, and the speaker became mute.
Throwing his cloths carelessly on the bale, he arose again, and seemed to
hesitate. Throughout the interview with Ludlow, the air of the free-trader
had been mild, though, at times, it was playful; and not for an instant
had he seemed to return the resentment which the other had so plainly
manifested. It now became perplexed, and, by the workings of his features,
it would seem that he vacillated in his opinions. The sounds of the
whistle were heard, again.
"Ay, ay, Master Tom!" muttered the dealer in contraband. "Thy note is
audible, but why this haste? Beautiful Alida, this shrill summons is to
say, that the moment of parting is arrived!"
"We met with less of preparation," returned la belle Barberie, who
preserved all the distant reserve of her sex, under the jealous eyes of
"We met without a warning, but shall our separation be without a
memorial? Am I to return with all these valuables to the brigantine, or,
in their place, must I take the customary golden tribute?"
"I know not that I dare make a traffic which is not sanctioned by the law,
in presence of a servitor of the Queen," returned Alida, smiling. "I will
not deny that you have much to excite a woman's envy; but our royal
mistress might forget her sex, and show little pity, were she to hear of
"No fear of that, lady.--'Tis they who are most stern in creating these
harsh regulations, that show most frailty in their breach. By the virtues
of honest Leadenhall itself, but I should like to tempt the royal Anne, in
her closet, with such a display of goodly laces and heavy brocades!"
"That might be more hazardous than wise!"
"I know not. Though seated on a throne, she is but woman. Disguise nature
as thou wilt, she is a universal tyrant, and governs all alike. The head
that wears a crown dreams of the conquests of the sex, rather than of the
conquests of states; the hand that wields the sceptre is fitted to display
its prettiness, with the pencil, or the needle; and though words and ideas
may be taught and sounded forth with the pomp of royalty; the tone is
still that of woman."
"Without bringing into question the merits of our present royal mistress,"
said Alida, who was a little apt to assert her sex's rights, "there is the
example of the glorious Elizabeth, to refute his charge."
"Ay, we have had our Cleopatras in the sea-fight, and fear was found
stronger than love! The sea has monsters, and so may have the land. He,
that made the earth gave it laws that 'tis not good to break. We men are
jealous of our qualities, and little like to see them usurped; and trust
me, lady, she that forgets the means that nature bestows, may mourn in
sorrow over the fatal error.--But, shall we deal in velvet, or is your
taste more leaning to brocade?"
Alida and Ludlow listened in admiration to the capricious and fanciful
language of the unaccountable trader, and both were equally at a loss to
estimate his character. The equivocal air was in general well maintained,
though the commander of the Coquette had detected an earnestness and
feeling in his manner, when he more particularly addressed la belle
Barberie, that excited an uneasiness he was ashamed to admit, even to
himself. That the maiden herself observed this change, might also be
inferred, from a richer glow which diffused itself over her features,
though it is scarce probable that she was conscious of its effects. When
questioned as to her determination concerning his goods, she again
regarded Ludlow, doubtingly, ere she answered.
"That you have not studied woman in vain," she laughingly replied, "I must
fain acknowledge. And yet, ere I make a decision, suffer me to consult
those who, being more accustomed to deal with the laws, are better judges
of the propriety of the purchases."
"If this request were not reasonable in itself, it were due to your beauty
and station, lady, to grant it. I leave the bale in your care; and, before
tomorrow's sun has set, one will await the answer Captain Ludlow, are we
to part in friendship, or does your duty to the Queen proscribe the word."
"If what you seem," said Ludlow, "you are a being inexplicable! If this be
some masquerade, as I half suspect, 'tis well maintained, at least, though
not worthily assumed."
"You are not the first who has refused credit to his senses, in a manner
wherein the Water-Witch and her commander have been concerned.--Peace,
honest Tom--thy whistle will not hasten Father Time! Friend, or not,
Captain Ludlow need not be told he is my prisoner."
"That I have fallen into the power of a miscreant--"
"Hist!--if thou hast love of bodily ease and whole bones. Master Thomas
Tiller is a man of rude humor, and he as little likes contumely as
another. Besides, the honest mariner did but obey my orders, and his
character is protected by a superior responsibility."
"Thy orders!" repeated Ludlow, with an expression of eye and lip that
might have offended one more disposed to take offence than him he
addressed. "The fellow who so well succeeded in his artifice, is one much
more likely to command than to obey. If any here be the 'Skimmer of the
Seas,' it is he."
"We are no more than the driving spray, which goes whither the winds list.
But in what hath the man offended, that he finds so little favor with the
Queen's captain? He has not had the boldness to propose a secret traffic
with so loyal a gentleman!"
"'Tis well, Sir; you choose a happy occasion for this pleasantry. I landed
to manifest the respect that I feel for this lady, and I care not if the
world knows the object of the visit. 'Twas no silly artifice that led me
"Spoken with the frankness of a seaman!" said the inexplicable dealer in
contraband, though his color lessened and his voice appeared to hesitate.
"I admire this loyalty in man to woman; for, as custom has so strongly
fettered them in the expression of their inclinations, it is due from us
to leave as little doubt as possible of our intentions. It is difficult to
think that la belle Barberie can do wiser than to reward so much manly
The stranger cast a glance, which Alida fancied betrayed solicitude, as he
spoke, at the maiden and he appeared to expect she would reply.
"When the time shall come for a decision," returned the half-pleased and
yet half-offended subject of his allusion, "it may be necessary to call
upon very different counsellors for advice. I hear the step of my
uncle.--Captain Ludlow, I leave it to your discretion to meet him, or
The heavy footstep was approaching through the outer rooms of the
pavilion. Ludlow hesitated; cast a reproachful look at his mistress; and
then he instantly quitted the apartment, by the place through which he had
entered. A noise in the shrubbery sufficiently proved that his return was
expected, and that he was closely watched.
"Noah's Ark, and our grandmothers!" exclaimed Myndert, appearing at the
door with a face red with his exertions. "You have brought us the cast-off
finery of our ancestors, Master Seadrift. Here are stuffs of an age that
is past, and they should be bartered for gold that hath been spent."
"What now! what now!" responded the free-trader, whose tone and manner
seemed to change, at will, in order to suit the; humor of whomsoever he
was brought to speak with. "What now, pertinacious burgher, that thou
shouldst cry down wares that are but too good for these distant regions!
Many is the English duchess who pines to possess but the tithe of these
beautiful stuffs I offer thy niece, and, faith--rare is the English
duchess that would become them half so well!"
"The girl is seemly, and thy velvets and brocades are passable, but the
heavy articles are not fit to offer to a Mohawk Sachem. There must be a
reduction of prices, or the invoice cannot pass."
"The greater the pity. But if sail we must, sail we will! The brigantine
knows the channel over the Nantucket sands; and, my life on it! the
Yankees will find others than the Mohawks for chapmen."
"Thou art as quick in thy motions, Master Seadrift, as the boat itself.
Who said that a compromise might not be made, when discussion was
prudently and fairly exhausted? Strike off the odd florins, leave the
balance in round thousands, and thy trade is done for the season!"
"Not a stiver. Here, count me back the faces of the Braganza; throw enough
of thin ducats into the scales to make up the sum, and let thy slaves push
inland with the articles, before the morning light comes to tell the
story. Here has been one among us, who may do mischief, if he will; though
I know not how far he is master of the main secret."
Alderman Van Beverout stared a little wildly about him, adjusted his wig,
like one fully conscious of the value of appearances in this world, and
then cautiously drew the curtains before the windows.
"I know of none more than common, my niece excepted;" he said, when all
these precautions had been observed. "'Tis true the Patroon of Kinderhook
is in the house, but as the man sleeps, he is a witness in our favor. We
have the testimony of his presence, while his tongue is silent."
"Well, be it so;" rejoined the free-trader, reading, in the imploring eyes
of Alida, a petition that he would say no more. "I knew by instinct there
was one unusual, and it was not for me to discover that he sleeps. There
are dealers on the coast, who, for the sake of insurance, would charge his
presence in their bills."
"Say no more, worthy Master Seadrift, and take the gold. To confess the
truth, the goods are in the periagua and fairly out of the river. I knew
we should come to conclusions in the matter, and time is precious, as
there is a cruiser of the Queen so nigh. The rogues will pass the pennant,
like innocent market-people, and I'll risk a Flemish gelding against a
Virginia nag, that they inquire if the captain has no need of vegetables
for his soup! Ah! ha-ha-ha! That Ludlow is a simpleton, niece of mine,
and he is not yet fit to deal with men of mature years. You'll think
better of his qualities, one day, and bid him be gone like an unwelcome
"I hope these proceedings may be legally sanctioned, uncle?"
"Sanctioned! Luck sanctions all. It is in trade as in war: success gives
character and booty, in both. Your rich dealer is sure to be your honest
dealer. Plantations and Orders in Council! What are our rulers doing at
home, that they need be so vociferous about a little contraband? The
rogues will declaim, by the hour, concerning bribery and corruption, while
more than half of them get their seats as clandestinely--ay, and as
illegally, as you get these rare Mechlin laces. Should the Queen take
offence at our dealings, Master Seadrift, bring me another season, or two,
as profitable as the last, and I'll be your passenger to London, go on
'change, buy a seat in Parliament, and answer to the royal displeasure
from my place, as they call it. By the responsibility of the States
General! but I should expect, in such a case, to return Sir Myndert, and
then the Manhattanese might hear of a Lady Van Beverout, in which case,
pretty Alida, thy assets would be sadly diminished!--so go to thy bed,
child, and dream of fine laces, and rich velvets, and duty to old uncles,
and discretion, and all manner of agreeable things--kiss me, jade, and to
Alida obeyed, and was preparing to quit the room, when the free-trader
presented himself before her with an air at once so gallant and
respectful, that she could scarce take offence at the freedom.
"I should fail in gratitude," he said, "were I to part from so generous a
customer, without thanks for her liberality. The hope of meeting again,
will hasten my return."
"I know not that you are my debtor for these thanks," returned Alida,
though she saw that the Alderman was carefully collecting the contents of
the bale, and that he had already placed three or four of the most
tempting of its articles on her dressing-table. "We cannot be said to have
"I have parted with more than is visible to vulgar eyes," returned the
stranger, dropping his voice, and speaking with an earnestness that caused
his auditor to start. "Whether there will be a return for the gift, or
perhaps I had better call it loss,--time and my stars must show!"
He then took her hand, and raided it to his lips, by an action so graceful
and so gentle, as not to alarm the maiden, until the freedom was done. La
belle Barberie reddened to her forehead, seemed disposed to condemn the
liberty, frowned, smiled, and curtsying in confusion, withdrew.
Several minutes passed in profound silence, after Alida had disappeared.
The stranger was thoughtful, though his bright eye kindled, as if merry
thoughts were uppermost; and he paced the room, entirely heedless of the
existence of the Alderman. The latter, however, soon took occasion to
remind his companion of his presence.
"No fear of the girl's prating," exclaimed the Alderman, when his task was
ended. "She is an excellent and dutiful niece; and here, you see, is a
balance on her side of the account, that would shut the mouth of the wife
of the First Lord of the Treasury. I disliked the manner in which you
would have the child introduced; for, look you, I do not think that either
Monsieur Barberie, or my late sister, would altogether approve of her
entering into traffic, so very young;--but what is done, is done; and the
Norman himself could not deny that I have made a fair set-off, of very
excellent commodities, for his daughter's benefit.--When dost mean to sail
"With the morning tide. I little like the neighborhood of these meddling
"Bravely answered! Prudence is a cardinal quality in a private trader; and
it is a quality that I esteem in Master Skimmer, next to his punctuality
Dates and obligations! I wish half of the firms, of three and four names,
without counting the Co.'s, were as much to be depended on. Dost not think
it safer to repass the inlet, under favor of the darkness?"
"'Tis impossible. The flood is entering it like water rushing through a
race-way, and we have the wind at east. But, fear not; the brigantine
carries no vulgar freight, and your commerce has given us a swept hold.
The Queen and the Braganza, with Holland ducats, might show their faces
even in the Royal Exchequer itself! We have no want of passes, and the
Miller's-Maid is just as good a name to hail by, as the 'Water-witch.' We
begin to tire of this constant running, and have half a mind to taste the
pleasures of your Jersey sports, for a week. There should be shooting on
the upper plains?"
"Heaven forbid! Heaven forbid! Master Seadrift.--I had all the deer taken
for the skins, ten years ago;--and as to birds, they deserted us, to a
pigeon, when the last tribe of the savages went west of the Delaware. Thou
hast discharged thy brigantine to better effect, than thou couldst ever
discharge thy fowling-pieces. I hope the hospitality of the Lust in Rust
is no problem--but, blushes and curiosity! I could wish to keep a fair
countenance, among my neighbors. Art sure the impertinent masts of the
brigantine will not be seen above the trees, when the day comes? This
Captain Ludlow is no laggard when he thinks his duty actually concerned."
"We shall endeavor to keep him quiet. The cover of the trees, and the
berth of the boat, make all snug, as respects his people. I leave worthy
Tiller to settle balances between us; and so, I take my leave. Master
Alderman--a word at parting Does the Viscount Cornbury still tarry in the
"Like a fixture. There is not a mercantile house in the colony more firmly
"There are unsettled affairs between us.--A small premium would buy the
"Heaven keep thee, Master Seadrift, and pleasant voyages, back and forth!
As for the Viscount's responsibility--the Queen may trust him with another
Province, but Myndert Van Beverout would not give him credit for the tail
of a marten; and so, again, Heaven preserve thee!"
The dealer in contraband appeared to tear himself from the sight of all
the little elegancies that adorned the apartment of la belle Barberie,
with reluctance. His adieus to the Alderman were rather cavalier, for he
still maintained a cold and abstracted air; but as the other scarcely
observed the forms of decorum, in his evident desire to get rid of his
guest, the latter was finally obliged to depart. He disappeared by the low
balcony, where he had entered.
When Myndert Van Beverout was alone, he shut the windows of the pavilion
of his niece, and retired to his own part of the dwelling. Here the
thrifty burgher first busied himself in making sundry calculations, with a
zeal that proved how much his mind was engrossed by the occupation. After
this preliminary step, he gave a short but secret conference to the
mariner of the India-shawl, during which there was much clinking of gold
pieces. But when the latter retired, the master of the villa first looked
to the trifling securities which were then, as now, observed in the
fastenings of an American country house; when he walked forth upon the
lawn, like one who felt the necessity of breathing the open air He cast
more than one inquiring glance at the windows of the room which was
occupied by Oloff Van Staats, where all was happily silent; at the equally
immovable brigantine in the Cove; and at the more distant and still
motionless hull of the cruiser of the crown. All around him was in the
quiet of midnight Even the boats, which he knew to be plying between the
land and the little vessel at anchor, were invisible; and he re-entered
his habitation, with the security one would be apt to feel, under similar
circumstances, in a region so little tenanted, and so little watched, as
that in which he lived.
"Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand,
That you, yet, know not of,----"
Merchant of Venice.
Notwithstanding the active movements which had taken place in and around
the buildings of the Lust in Rust, during the night which ended with our
last chapter, none but the initiated were in the smallest degree aware of
their existence. Oloff Van Staats was early afoot; and when he appeared on
the lawn, to scent the morning air, there was nothing visible, to give
rise to a suspicion that aught extraordinary had occurred during his
slumbers. La Cour des Fees was still closed, but the person of the
faithful Francois was seen, near the abode of his young mistress, busied
in some of those pretty little offices, that can easily be imagined would
be agreeable to a maiden of her years and station. Van Staats of
Kinderhook had as little of romance in his composition, as could well be
in a youth of five-and-twenty, who was commonly thought to be enamoured,
and who was not altogether ignorant of the conventional sympathies of the
passion. The man was mortal, and as the personal attractions of la belle
Barberie were sufficiently obvious, he had not entirely escaped the fate,
which seems nearly inseparable from young fancy, when excited by beauty.
He drew nigh to the pavilion, and, by a guarded but decisive manoeuvre, he
managed to come so close to the valet, as to render a verbal communication
not only natural, but nearly unavoidable.
"A fair morning and a healthful air, Monsieur Francois;" commenced the
young Patroon, acknowledging the low salute of the domestic, by gravely
lifting his own beaver. "This is a comfortable abode for the warm months,
and one it might be well to visit oftener."
"When Monsieur le Patteron shall be de lor' of ce manoir, aussi, he shall
come when he shall have la volonte," returned Francois, who knew that a
pleasantry of his ought not to be construed into an engagement on the part
of her he served, while it could not fail to be agreeable to him who heard
it. "Monsieur de Van Staats, est grand proprietaire sur la riviere, and
one day, peut-etre, he shall be proprietaire sur la mer!"
"I have thought of imitating the example of the Alderman, honest Francis,
and of building a villa on the coast; but there will be time for that,
when I shall find myself more established in life! Your young mistress is
not yet moving, Francis?"
"Ma foi, non--Mam'selle Alide sleep!--'tis good symptome, Monsieur
Patteron, pour les jeunes personnes, to tres bien sleep. Monsieur, et
toute la famille de Barberie sleep a merveille! Oui, c'est toujours une
famille remarquable, poui le sommeil!"
"Yet one would wish to breathe this fresh and invigorating air, which
comes from off the sea, like a balm, in the early hours of the day."
"Sans doute, Monsieur. C'est un miracle, how Mam'selle love de air!
Personne do not love air more, as Mam'selle Alide. Bah!--It was grand
plaisir to see how Monsieur de Barberie love de air!"
"Perhaps, Mr. Francis, your young lady is ignorant of the hour. It might
be well to knock at the door, or perhaps at the window. I confess, I
should much admire to see her bright face, smiling from that window, on
this soft morning scene."
It is not probable that the imagination of the Patroon of Kinderhook ever
before took so high a flight; and there was reason to suspect, by the
wavering and alarmed glance that he cast around him after so unequivocal
an expression of weakness, that he already repented his temerity.
Francois, who would not willingly disoblige a man that was known to
possess a hundred thousand acres of land, with manorial rights, besides
personals of no mean amount, felt embarrassed by the request; but was
enabled to recollect in time, that the heiress was known to possess a
decision of character that might choose to control her own pleasures.
"Well, I shall be too happy to knock; mais, Monsieur sais, dat sleep est
si agreable, pour les jeunes personnes! On n'a jamais knock, dans la
famille de Monsieur de Barberie, and je suis sur, que Mam'selle Alide, do
not love to hear de knock--pourtant, si Monsieur le Patteron le veut, I
shall consult ses--Voila! Monsieur Bevre, qui vient sans knock a la
fenetre. J'ai l'honneur de vous laisser avec Monsieur Al'erman."
And so the complaisant but still considerate valet bowed himself out of a
dilemma, that he found, as he muttered to himself, while retiring, 'tant
soit peu ennuyant.'
The air and manner of the Alderman, as he approached his guest, were, like
the character of the man, hale, hearty and a little occupied with his own
enjoyments and feelings. He hemmed thrice, ere he was near enough to
speak; and each of the strong expirations seemed to invite the admiration
of the Patroon, for the strength of his lungs, and for the purity of the
atmosphere around a villa which acknowledged him for its owner.
"Zephyrs and Spas! but this is the abode of health, Patroon!" cried the
burgher, as soon as these demonstrations of his own bodily condition had
been sufficiently repeated. "One sometimes feels in this air equal to
holding a discourse, across the Atlantic, with his friends at Scheveling,
or the Helder. A broad and deep chest, air like this from the sea, with a
clear conscience, and a lucky hit in the way of trade, cause the lungs of
a man to play as easily and as imperceptibly as the wings of a
humming-bird.--Let me see; there are few four-score men in thy stock. The
last Patroon closed the books at sixty-six; and his father went but a
little beyond seventy. I wonder, there has never been an intermarriage,
among you, with the Van Courtlandts; that blood is as good as an insurance
to four-score and ten, of itself."
"I find the air of your villa, Mr. Van Beverout, a cordial that one could
wish to take often," returned the other, who had far less of the brusque
manner of the trader, than his companion. "It is a pity that all who have
the choice, do not profit by their opportunities to breathe it."
"You allude to the lazy mariners in yon vessel! Her Majesty's servants are
seldom in a hurry; and as for this brigantine in the Cove, the fellow
seems to have gotten in by magic! I warrant me, now, the rogue is there
for no good, and that the Queen's Exchequer will be none the richer for
his visit. Harkee, you Brom," calling to an aged black, who was working at
no great distance from the dwelling, and who was deep in his master's
confidence, "hast seen any boats plying between yonder roguish-looking
brigantine and the land?"
The negro shook his head, like the earthen image of a mandarin, and
laughed loud and heartily.
"I b'rieve he do all he mischief among a Yankee, an' he only come here to
take he breat'," said the wily slave. "Well, I wish, wid all a heart, dere
would come free-trader, some time, along our shore Dat gib a chance to
poor black man, to make an honest penny!"
"You see, Patroon, human nature itself rises against monopoly! That was
the voice of instinct, speaking with the tongue of Brom; and it is no easy
task, for a merchant, to keep his dependants obedient to laws, which, in
themselves, create so constant a temptation to break them. Well, well; we
will always hope for the best, and endeavor to act like dutiful subjects.
The boat is not amiss, as to form and rig, let her come from where she
will.--Dost think the wind will be off the land this morning?"
"There are signs of a change in the clouds. One could wish that all should
be out in the air, to taste this pleasant sea-breeze while it lasts."
"Come, come," cried the Alderman, who had for a moment studied the state
of the heavens with a solicitude, that he feared might attract his
companion's attention. "We will taste our breakfast. This is the spot to
show the use of teeth! The negroes have not been idle during the night,
Mr. Van Staats--he-e-em--I say, Sir, they have not been idle:--and we
shall have a choice among the dainties of the river and bay.--That cloud
above the mouth of the Raritan appears to rise, and we may yet have a
breeze at west!"
"Yonder comes a boat in the direction of the city," observed the other,
reluctantly obeying a motion of the Alderman to retire to the apartment
where they were accustomed to break their fasts. "To me, it seems to
approach with more than ordinary speed."
"There are stout arms at its oars! Can it be a messenger for the cruiser?
no--it rather steers more for our own landing. These Jersey-men are often
overtaken by the night, between York and their own doors. And now,
Patroon, we will to our knives and forks, like men who have taken the best
"And are we to refresh ourselves alone?" demanded the young man, who ever
and anon cast a sidelong and wistful glance at the closed and immovable
shutters of la Cour des Fees.
"Thy mother hath spoilt thee, young Oloff; unless the coffee comes from a
pretty female hand, it loses its savor. I take thy meaning, and think none
the worse of thee; for the weakness is natural at thy years. Celibacy and
independence! A man must get beyond forty, before he is ever sure of being
his own master. Come hither, Master Francis. It is time my niece had
shaken off this laziness, and shown her bright face to the sun. We wait
for her fair services at the table.--I see nothing of that lazy hussy,
Dinah, any more than of her mistress."
"Assurement non, Monsieur," returned the valet. "Mam'selle Dinah do not
love trop d'activite. Mais, Monsieur Al'erman, elles sont jeunes, toutes
les deux! Le sommeil est bien salutaire, pour la jeunesse."
"The girl is no longer in her cradle, Francis, and it is time to rattle at
the windows. As for the black minx, who should have been up and at her
duty this hour, there will be a balance to settle between us. Come,
Patroon:--the appetite will not await the laziness of a wilful girl; we
will to the table.--Dost think the wind will stand at west this morning?"
Thus saying, the Alderman led the way into the little parlor, where a neat
and comfortable service invited them to break their morning fast. He was
followed by Oloff Van Staats, with a lingering step for the young man
really longed to see the windows of the pavilion open, and the fair face
of Alida smiling amid the other beautiful objects of the scene. Francois
proceeded to take such measures to arouse his mistress, as he believed to
comport with his duty to her uncle, and his own ideas of bienseance. After
some little delay, the Alderman and his guest took their seats at the
table; the former loudly protesting against the necessity of waiting for
the idle, and throwing in an occasional moral concerning the particular
merit of punctuality in domestic economy, as well as in the affairs of
"The ancients divided time," said the somewhat pertinacious commentator,
"into years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and moments, as they
divided numbers into units, tens, hundreds, thousands, and tens of
thousands; and both with an object. If we commence at the bottom, and
employ well the moments, Mr. Van Staats, we turn the minutes into tens,
the hours into hundreds, and the weeks and months into thousands--ay! and
when there is a happy state of trade, into tens of thousands! Missing an
hour, therefore, is somewhat like dropping an important figure in a
complex calculation, and the whole labor may be useless, for want of
punctuality in one, as for want of accuracy in the other. Your father, the
late Patroon, was what may be called a minute-man.--He was as certain to
be seen in his pew, at church, at the stroke of the clock, as to pay a
bill, when its items had been properly examined. Ah! it was a blessing to
hold one of his notes, though they were far scarcer than broad pieces, or
bullion. I have heard it said, Patroon, that the manor is backed by plenty
of Johannes and Dutch ducats!"
"The descendant has no reason to reproach his ancestors with want of
"Prudently answered;--not a word too much, not too little--a principle on
which all honest men settle their accounts. By proper management, such a
foundation might be made to uphold an estate that should count thousands
with the best of Holland or England. Growth and majority! Patroon; but we
of the colonies must come to man's estate in time, like our cousins on the
dykes of the Low Countries, or our rulers among the smithies of
England.--Erasmus, look at that cloud over the Raritan, and tell me if it
The negro reported that the vapor was stationary; and, at the same time,
by way of episode, he told his master that the boat which had been seen
approaching the land had reached the wharf, and that some of its crew were
ascending the hill towards the Lust in Rust.
"Let them come of all hospitality," returned the Alderman, heartily; "I
warrant me, they are honest farmers from the interior, a-hungered with the
toil of the night. Go tell the cook to feed them with the best, and bid
them welcome. And harkee, boy;--if there be among them any comfortable
yeoman, bid the man enter and sit at our table. This is not a country,
Patroon, to be nice about the quality of the cloth a man has on his back,
or whether he wears a wig or only his own hair.--What is the fellow gaping
Erasmus rubbed his eyes, and then showing his teeth to the full extent of
a double row, that glittered like pearls, he gave his master to
understand, that the negro, introduced to the reader under the name of
Euclid, and who was certainly his own brother of the half-blood, or by the
mother's side, was entering the villa. The intelligence caused a sudden
cessation of the masticating process in the Alderman, who had not,
however, time to express his wonder ere two doors simultaneously opened,
and Francois presented himself at the one, while the shining and doubting
face of the slave from town darkened the other. The eyes of Myndert
rolled first to this side and then to that, a certain misgiving of the
heart preventing him from speaking to either; for he saw, in the disturbed
features of each, omens that bade him prepare himself for unwelcome
tidings. The reader will perceive, by the description we shall give that
there was abundant reason for the sagacious burgher's alarm.
The visage of the valet, at all times meagre and long, seemed extended to
far more than its usual dimensions, the under jaw appearing fallen and
trebly attenuated. The light-blue protruding eyes were open to the utmost,
and they expressed a certain confused wildness, that was none the less
striking, for the painful expression of mental suffering, with which it
was mingled. Both hands were raised, with the palms outward; while the
shoulders of the poor fellow were elevated so high, as entirely to destroy
the little symmetry that Nature had bestowed on that particular part of
On the other hand, the look of the negro was guilty, dogged, and cunning.
His eye leered askance, seeming to wish to play around the person of his
master, as, it will be seen, his language endeavored to play around his
understanding. The hands crushed the crown of a woollen hat between their
fingers, and one of his feet described semicircles with its toe, by
performing nervous evolutions on its heel.
"Well!" ejaculated Myndert, regarding each in turn. "What news from the
Canadas?--Is the Queen dead, or has she restored the colony to the United
"Mam'selle Alide!" exclaimed, or rather groaned, Francois.
"The poor dumb beast!--" muttered Euclid.
The knives and the forks fell from the hands of Myndert and his guest, as
it were by a simultaneous paralysis. The latter involuntarily arose; while
the former planted his solid person still more firmly in its seat, like
one who was preparing to meet some severe and expected shock, with all the
physical resolution he could muster.
"--What of my niece!--What of my geldings?--You have called upon Dinah?"
"Sans doute, Monsieur!"
"--And you kept the keys of the stable?"
"I nebber let him go, at all!"
"--And you bade her call her mistress?"
"She no make answair, de tout."
"--The animals were fed and watered, as I ordered?"
"'Em nebber take he food, better!"
"--You entered the chamber of my niece, yourself, to awake her?"
"Monsieur a raison."
"What the devil has befallen the innocent?"
"He lose he stomach quite, and I t'ink it great time 'fore it ebber come
"--Mister Francis, I desire to know the answer of Monsieur Barberie's
"Mam'selle no repond, Monsieur; pas un syllabe!"
"--Drenchers and fleams! The beauty should have been drenched and
"He'm too late for dat, Masser, on honor."
"--The obstinate hussy! This comes of her Huguenot breed, a race that
would quit house and lands rather than change its place of worship!"
"La famille de Barberie est honorable, Monsieur mais le Grand Monarque fut
un pen trop exigeant. Vraiment, la dragonade etait mal avisee, pour faire
"Apoplexies and hurry! you should have sent for the farrier to administer
to the sufferer, thou black hound!"
"'Em go for a butcher, Masser, to save he skin; for he war' too soon
The word dead produced a sudden pause. The preceding dialogue had been so
rapid, and question and answer, no less than the ideas of the principal
speaker, had got so confused, that, for a moment, he was actually at a
loss to understand, whether the last great debt of nature had been paid by
la belle Barberie, or one of the Flemish geldings. Until now,
consternation, as well as the confusion of the interview, had constrained
the Patroon to be silent, but he profited by the breathing-time to
"It is evident, Mr. Van Beverout," he said, speaking with a tremor in the
voice, which betrayed his own uneasiness, "that some untoward event has
occurred. Perhaps the negro and I had better retire, that you may question
Francis concerning that which hath befallen Mademoiselle Barberie, more at
The Alderman was recalled from a profound stupor, by this gentlemanlike
and considerate proposal. He bowed his acknowledgments, and permitted Mr.
Van Staats to quit the room; but when Euclid would have followed, he
signed to the negro to remain.
"I may have occasion to question thee farther," he said, in a voice that
had lost most of that compass and depth for which it was so remarkable.
"Stand there, sirrah, and be in readiness to answer. And now, Mr. Francis,
I desire to know why my niece declines taking the breakfast with myself
and my guest?"
"Mon Dieu, Monsieur, it is not possible y repondre Les sentiments des
demoiselles are nevair decides!"
"Go then, and say to her, that my sentiments are decided to curtail
certain bequests and devises, which have consulted her interests more than
strict justice to others of my blood--ay, and even of my name, might
"Monsieur y reflechira. Mam'selle Alide be so young personne!"
"Old or young, my mind is made up; and so to your Cour des Fees, and tell
the lazy minx as much.--Thou hast ridden that innocent, thou scowling imp
"Mais, pensez-y, je vous en prie, Monsieur. Mam'selle shall nevair se
sauver encore; jamais, je vous en repond."
"What is the fellow jabbering about?" exclaimed the Alderman, whose mouth
fell nearly to the degree that rendered the countenance of the valet so
singularly expressive of distress. "Where is my niece, Sir?--and what
means this allusion to her absence?"
"La fille de Monsieur de Barberie n'y est pas!" cried Francois, whose
heart was too full to utter more. The aged and affectionate domestic laid
his hand on his breast, with an air of acute suffering; and then,
remembering the presence of his superior, he turned, bowed with a manner
of profound condolence, struggled manfully with his own emotion, and
succeeded in getting out of the room with dignity and steadiness.
It is due to the character of Alderman Van Beverout, to say, that the blow
occasioned by the sudden death of the Flemish gelding, lost some of its
force, in consequence of so unlooked-for a report concerning the
inexplicable absence of his niece. Euclid was questioned, menaced, and
even anathematized, more than once, during the next ten minutes; but the
cunning slave succeeded in confounding himself so effectually with the
rest of his connexions of the half-blood, during the search which
instantly followed the report of Francois, that his crime was partially
On entering la Cour des Fees, it was, in truth, found to want her whose
beauty and grace had lent its chief attraction. The outer rooms, which
were small, and ordinarily occupied during the day by Francois and the
negress called Dinah, and in the night by the latter only, were in the
state in which they might be expected to be seen. The apartment of the
attendant furnished evidence that its occupant had quitted it in haste,
though there was every appearance of her having retired to rest at the
usual hour. Clothes were scattered carelessly about; and though most of
her personal effects had disappeared enough remained to prove that her
departure had been hurried and unforeseen.
On the other hand, the little saloon, with the dressing-room and bed-room
of la belle Barberie, were in a state of the most studied arrangement. Not
an article of furniture was displaced, a door ajar, or a window open. The
pavilion had evidently been quitted by its ordinary passage, and the door
had been closed in the customary manner, without using the fastenings. The
bed had evidently not been entered, for the linen was smooth and
untouched. In short, so complete was the order of the place, that,
yielding to a powerful natural feeling, the Alderman called aloud on his
truant niece, by name, as if he expected to see her appear from some
place, in which she had secreted her person, in idle sport. But this
touching expedient was vain. The voice sounded hollow through the deserted
rooms; and though all waited long to listen, there came no playful or
laughing answer back.
"Alida!" cried the burgher, for the fourth and last time, "come forth,
child; I forgive thee thy idle sport, and all I have said of
disinheritance was but a jest. Come forth, my sister's daughter, and kiss
thy old uncle!"
The Patroon turned aside, as he heard a man so Known for his worldliness
yielding to the power of nature; and the lord of a hundred thousand acres
forgot his own disappointment, in the force of sympathy.
"Let us retire," he said, gently urging the burgher to quit the place. "A
little reflection will enable us to deride what should be done."
The Alderman complied. Before quitting the place, however, its closets and
drawers were examined; and the search left no further doubts of the step
which the young heiress had taken. Her clothes, books, utensils for
drawing, and even the lighter instruments of music, had disappeared.
"--Ay, that way goes the game,
Now I perceive that she hath made compare
Between our statures--"
The tide of existence floats downward, and with it go, in their greatest
strength, all those affections that unite families and kindred. We learn
to know our parents in the fullness of their reason, and commonly in the
perfection of their bodily strength. Reverence and respect both mingle
with our love; but the affection, with which we watch the helplessness of
infancy, the interest with which we see the ingenuous and young profiting
by our care, the pride of improvement, and the magic of hope, create an
intensity of sympathy in their favor, that almost equals the identity of
self-love. There is a mysterious and double existence, in the tie that
binds the parent to the child. With a volition and passions of its own,
the latter has power to plant a sting in the bosom of the former, that
shall wound as acutely as the errors which arise from mistakes, almost
from crimes, of its own. But, when the misconduct of the descendant can be
traced to neglect, or to a vicious instruction, then, indeed, even the
pang of a wounded conscience may be added to the sufferings of those who
have gone before. Such, in some measure, was the nature of the pain that
Alderman Van Beverout was condemned to feel, when at leisure to reflect on
the ill-judged measure that had been taken by la belle Barberie.
"She was a pleasant and coaxing minx, Patroon," said the burgher, pacing
the room they occupied, with a quick and heavy step, and speaking
unconsciously of his niece, as of one already beyond the interests of
life; "and as wilful and headstrong as an unbroken colt.--Thou hard-riding
imp! I shall never find a match for the poor disconsolate survivor.--But
the girl had a thousand agreeable and delightful ways with her, that made
her the delight of my old days. She has not done wisely, to desert the
friend and guardian of her youth, ay, even of her childhood, in order to
seek protection from strangers. This is an unhappy world, Mr. Van Staats!
All our calculations come to nought; and it is in the power of fortune to
reverse the most reasonable and wisest of our expectations. A gale of wind
drives the richly-freighted ship to the bottom; a sudden fall in the
market robs us of our gold, as the November wind strips the oak of its
leaves; and bankruptcies and decayed credit often afflict the days of the
oldest houses, as disease saps the strength of the body:--Alida! Alida!
thou hast wounded one that never harmed thee, and rendered my age
"It is vain to contend with the inclinations," returned the proprietor of
the manor, sighing in a manner that did no discredit to the sincerity of
his remark. "I could have been happy to have placed your niece in the
situation that my respected mother filled with so much dignity and credit,
but it is now too late----"
"We don't know that;--we don't know that;" interrupted the Alderman, who
still clung to the hope of effecting the first great wish of his heart,
with the pertinacity with which he would have clung to the terms of any
other fortunate bargain. "We should never despair, Mr. Van Staats, as long
as the transaction is left open."
"The manner in which Mademoiselle Barberie has expressed her preference,
is so very decided, that I see no hope of completing the arrangement."
"Mere coquetry, Sir, mere coquetry! The girl has disappeared in order to
enhance the value of her future submission. One should never regard a
treaty at an end, so long as reasonable hopes remain that it may be
productive to the parties."
"I fear, Sir, there is more of the coquette in this step of the young
lady, than a gentleman can overlook," returned the Patroon a little dryly,
and with far more point than he was accustomed to use. "If the commander
of Her Majesty's cruiser be not a happy man, he will not have occasion to
reproach his mistress with disdain!"
"I am not certain, Mr. Van Staats, that in the actual situation of our
stipulations, I ought to overlook an innuendo that seems to reflect on the
discretion of my ward. Captain Ludlow----well, sirrah! what is the
meaning of this impertinence?"
"He'm waiting to see Masser," returned the gaping Erasmus, who stood with
the door in his hand, admiring the secret intelligence of his master, who
had so readily anticipated his errand.
"Who is waiting?--What does the simpleton mean?"
"I mean 'a gentle'um Masser say."
"The fortunate man is here to remind us of his success," haughtily
observed Van Staats of Kinderhook. "There can be no necessity of my
presence at an interview between Alderman Van Beverout and his nephew."
The justly-mortified Patroon bowed ceremoniously to the equally
disappointed burgher, and left the room the moment he had done speaking.
The negro took his retreat as a favorable symptom for one who was
generally known to be his rival; and he hastened to inform the young
captain, that the coast was clear.
The meeting, that instantly succeeded, was sufficiently constrained and
awkward. Alderman Van Beverout assumed a manner of offended authority and
wounded affection; while the officer of the Queen wore an air of compelled
submission to a duty that he found to be disagreeable. The introduction of
the discourse was consequently ceremonious, and punctiliously observant of
"It has become my office," continued Ludlow, after the preliminaries had
been observed, to express the surprise I feel, that a vessel of the
exceedingly equivocal appearance of the brigantine, that is anchored in
the Cove, should be found in a situation to create unpleasant suspicions
concerning the commercial propriety of a merchant so well known as Mr.
Alderman Van Beverout."
"The credit of Myndert Van Beverout is too well established, Captain
Cornelius Ludlow, to be affected by the accidental position of ships and
bays. I see two vessels anchored near the Lust in Rust, and if called upon
to give my testimony before the Queen in Council, I should declare that
the one which wears her royal pennant had done more wrong to her subjects
than the stranger. But what harm is known of the latter?"
"I shall not conceal any of the facts; for I feel that this is a case, in
which a gentleman of your station has the fullest right to the benefit of
"Hem--" interrupted the burgher, who disliked the manner in which his
companion had opened the interview, and who thought he saw the
commencement of a forced compromise in the turn it was taking;--"Hem--I
commend your moderation, Captain Ludlow. Sir, we are flattered in having a
native of the Province in so honorable a command on the coast. Be seated,
I pray you, young gentleman, that we may converse more at leisure. The
Ludlows are an ancient and well-established family in the colonies; and
though they were no friends of King Charles, why--we have others here in
the same predicament. There are few crowns in Europe that might not trace
some of their discontented subjects to these colonies; and the greater the
reason, say I, why we should not be too hasty in giving faith to the
wisdom of this European legislation. I do not pretend, Sir, to admire all
the commercial regulations which flow from the wisdom of Her Majesty's
counsellors. Candor forbids that I should deny this truth: but--what of
the brigantine in the Cove?"
"It is not necessary to tell one so familiar with the affairs of commerce,
of the character of a vessel called the Water-Witch, nor of that of its
lawless commander, the notorious 'Skimmer of the Seas.'"
"Captain Ludlow is not about to accuse Alderman Van Beverout of a
connexion with such a man!" exclaimed the burgher, rising as it were
involuntarily, and actually recoiling a foot or two, apparently under the
force of indignation and surprise.
"Sir, I am not commissioned to accuse any of the Queen's subjects. My duty
is to guard her interests on the water, to oppose her open enemies, and to
uphold her royal prerogatives."
"An honorable employment, and one I doubt not that is honorably
discharged. Resume your seat, Sir; for I foresee that the conference is
likely to end as it should, between a son of the late very respectable
King's counsellor and his father's friend. You have reason then for
thinking that this brigantine, which has so suddenly appeared in the Cove,
has some remote connexion with the Skimmer of the Seas?"
"I believe the vessel to be the famous Water-Witch itself, and her
commander to be, of course, that well-known adventurer."
"Well, Sir--well, Sir--this may be so. It is impossible for me to deny
it--but what should such a reprobate be doing here, under the guns of a
"Mr. Alderman, my admiration of your niece is not unknown to you."
"I have suspected it, Sir;" returned the burgher, who believed the tenor
of the compromise was getting clearer, but who still waited to know the
exact value of the concessions the other party would make, before he
closed a bargain, in a hurry, of which he might repent at his
leisure--"Indeed, it has even been the subject of some discourse between
"This admiration induced me to visit your villa, the past night,----"
"This is a fact too well established, young gentleman."
"Whence I took away----" Ludlow hesitated, as if anxious to select his
"Ay, Sir; my niece, or perhaps I should say my heiress, as well as the
heiress of old Etienne de Barberie. The cruise was short, Captain
Cornelius Ludlow; but the prize-money will be ample--unless, indeed, a
claim to neutral privileges should be established in favor of part of the
"Sir, your pleasantry is amusing, but I have little leisure for its
enjoyment. That I visited the Cour lies Fees, shall not be denied. I think
la belle Barberie will not be offended, under the circumstances, with
"If she is, the jade has a rare squeamishness, after what has passed!"
"I pretend not to judge of more than my duty. The desire to serve my royal
mistress had induced me, Mr. Van Beverout, to cause a seaman of odd attire
and audacious deportment to enter the Coquette. You will know the man,
when I tell you that he was your companion in the island ferry-boat."
"Yes, yes, I confess there was a mariner of the long voyage there, who
caused much surprise, and some uneasiness, to myself and niece, as well as
to Van Staats of Kinderhook."
Ludlow smiled, like one not to be deceived, as he continued.
"Well, Sir, this man so far succeeded, as to tempt me to suffer him to
land, under the obligation of some half-extorted promise--we came into the
river together, and entered your grounds in company."
Alderman Van Beverout now began to listen like a man who dreaded, while he
desired to catch, each syllable. Observing that Ludlow paused, and watched
his countenance with a cool and steady eye, he recovered his self-command,
and affected a mere ordinary curiosity, while he signed to him to proceed.
"I am not sure I tell Alderman Van Beverout any thing that is new,"
resumed the young officer, "when I add, that the fellow suffered me to
visit the pavilion, and then contrived to lead me into an ambush of
lawless men, having previously succeeded in making captives of my
"Seizures and warrants!" exclaimed the burgher in his natural strong and
hasty manner of speeking.
"This is the first I have heard of the affair. It was ill-judged, to call
it by no other term."
Ludlow seemed relieved, when he saw, by the undisguised amazement of his
companion, that the latter was, in truth, ignorant of the matter in which
lie had been detained.
"It might not have been, Sir, had our watch been as vigilant as their
artifice was deep," he continued. "But I was little guarded, and having no
means to reach my ship, I--"
"Ay, ay, Captain Ludlow; it is not necessary to be so circumstantial; you
proceeded to the wharf, and----"
"Perhaps, Sir, I obeyed my feelings, rather than my duty," observed
Ludlow, coloring high, when he perceived that the burgher paused to clear
his throat "I returned to the pavilion, where----"
"You persuaded a niece to forget her duty to her uncle and protector."
"This is a harsh and most unjustifiable charge, both as respects the young
lady and myself. I can distinguish between a very natural desire to
possess articles of commerce that are denied by the laws and a more
deliberate and mercenary plot against the revenue of the country. I
believe there are few of her years and sex, who would refuse to purchase
the articles I saw presented to the eyes of la belle Barberie, especially
when the utmost hazard could be no more than their loss, as they were
already introduced into the country."
"A just discrimination, and one likely to render the arrangement of our
little affairs less difficult! I was sure that my old friend the
counsellor would not have left a son of his ignorant of principles, more
especially as he was about to embark in a profession of so much
responsibility.--And so, my niece had the imprudence to entertain a dealer
"Alderman Van Beverout, there were boats in motion on the water, between
this landing and the brigantine in the Cove. A periagua even left the
river for the city, at the extraordinary hour of midnight!"
"Sir, boats will move on the water, when the hands of man set them in
motion; but what have I to answer for in the matter? If goods have entered
the Province, without license, why, they must be found and condemned; and
if free-traders are on the coast, they should be caught. Would it not be
well to proceed to town, and lay the fact of this strange brigantine's
presence before the Governor, withou delay?"
"I have other intentions. If, as you say, goods have gone up the bay, it
is too late for me to stop them; but it is not too late to attempt to
seize yon brigantine. Now, I would perform this duty in a manner as little
likely to offend any of reputable name, as my allegiance will admit."
"Sir, I extol this discretion--not that there is any testimony to
implicate more than the crew, but credit is a delicate flower, and it
should be handled tenderly. I see an opening for an arrangement--but, we
will, as in duty bound, hear your propositions first, since you may be
said to speak with the authority of the Queen. I will merely surmise that
terms should be moderate, between friends;--perhaps I should say, between
connexions, Captain Ludlow."
"I am flattered by the word, Sir," returned the young sailor, smiling with
an expression of delight. "First suffer me to be admitted to the charming
Cour des Fees, but for a moment."
"That is a favor which can hardly be refused you, who may be said to have
a right, now, to enter the pavilion at pleasure," returned the Alderman,
unhesitatingly leading the way through the long passage to the deserted
apartments of his niece, and continuing the blind allusions to the affairs
of the preceding night, in the same indirect manner as had distinguished
the dialogue during the whole interview. "I shall not be unreasonable,
young gentleman, and here is the pavilion of my niece; I wish I could
add, and here also is its mistress!"
"And is la belle Barberie no longer a tenant of la Cour des Fees!"
demanded Ludlow, in a surprise too natural to be feigned.
Alderman Van Beverout regarded the young man in wonder; pondered a moment,
to consider how far denying a knowledge of the absence of his niece might
benefit the officer, in the pending negotiation; and then he dryly
observed, "Boats passed on the water, during the night. If the men of
Captain Ludlow were at first imprisoned, I presume they were set at
liberty at the proper time."
"They are carried I know not whither--the boat itself is gone, and I am
"Am I to understand, Captain Ludlow, that Alida Barberie has not fled my
house, during the past night, to seek a refuge in your ship?"
"Fled!" echoed the young man, in a voice of horror. "Has Alida de Barberie
fled from the house of her uncle, at all?"
"Captain Ludlow, this is not acting. On the honor of a gentleman, are you
ignorant of my niece's absence?"
The young commander did not answer; but, striking his head fiercely, he
smothered words that were unintelligible to his companion. When this
momentary burst of feeling was past, he sunk into a chair, and gazed about
him in stupid amazement. All this pantomime was inexplicable to the
Alderman, who, however, began to see that more of the conditions of the
arrangement in hand were beyond the control of his companion, than he had
at first believed. Still the plot thickened, rather than grew clear; and
he was afraid to speak, lest he might utter more than was prudent. The
silence, therefore, continued for quite a minute; during which time, the
parties sat gazing at each other in dull wonder.
"I shall not deny, Captain Ludlow, that I believed you had prevailed on
my niece to fly aboard the Coquette; for, though a man who has always kept
his feelings in his own command, as the safest manner of managing
particular interests, yet I am not to learn that rash youth is often
guilty of folly. I am now equally at a loss with yourself, to know what
has become of her, since here she is not."
"Hold!" eagerly interrupted Ludlow. "A boat left your wharf, for the city,
in the earlier hours of the morning. Is it not possible that she may have
taken a passage in it?"
"It is not possible. I have reasons to know--in short, Sir, she is not
"Then is the unfortunate--the lovely--the indiscreet girl for ever lost to
herself and us!" exclaimed the young sailor, actually groaning under his
mental agony. "Rash, mercenary man! to what an act of madness has this
thirst of gold driven one so fair--would I could say, so pure and so
But while the distress of the lover was thus violent, and caused him to be
so little measured in his terms of reproach, the uncle of the fair
offender appeared to be lost in surprise. Though la belle Barberie had so
well preserved the decorum and reserve of her sex, as to leave even her
suitors in doubt of the way her inclinations tended, the watchful Alder
man had long suspected that the more ardent, open, and manly commander of
the Coquette was likely to triumph over one so cold in exterior, and so
cautious in his advances, as the Patroon of Kinderhook. When, therefore,
it became apparent Alida had disappeared, he quite naturally inferred that
she had taken the simplest manner of defeating all his plans for favoring
the suit of the latter, by throwing herself, at once, into the arms of the
young sailor. The laws of the colonies offered few obstacles to the
legality of their union; and when Ludlow appeared that morning, he firmly
believed that he beheld one, who, if he were not so already, was
inevitably soon to become his nephew. But the suffering of the
disappointed youth could not be counterfeited; and, prevented from
adhering to his first opinion, the perplexed Alderman seemed utterly at a
loss to conjecture what could have become of his niece. Wonder, rather
than pain, possessed him; and when he suffered his ample chin to repose on
the finger and thumb of one hand, it was with the air of a man that
revolved, in his mind, all the plausible points of some knotty question.
"Holes and corners!" he muttered, after a long silence; "the wilful minx
cannot be playing at hide-and-seek with her friends! The hussy had ever
too much of la famille de Barberie, and her high Norman blood about her,
as that silly old valet has it, to stoop to such childish trifling. Gone
she certainly is," he continued, looking, again, into the empty drawers
and closets, "and with her the valuables have disappeared. The guitar is
missing--the lute I sent across the ocean to purchase, an
excellently-toned Dutch lute, that cost every stiver of one hundred
guilders, is also wanting, and all the--hem--the recent accessions have
disappeared. And there, too, are my sister's jewels, that I persuaded her
to bring along, to guard against accidents while our backs are turned,
they are not to be seen. Francois! Francois I Thou long-tried servitor of
Etienne Barberie, what the devil has become of thy mistress?"
"Mais, Monsieur," returned the disconsolate valet, whose decent features
exhibited all the signs of unequivocal suffering, "she no tell le pauvre
Francois! En supposant, que Monsieur ask le capitaine, he shall
The burgher cast a quick suspicious glance at Ludlow, and shook his head,
to express his belief that the young man was true.
"Go; desire Mr. Van Staats of Kinderhook to favor us with his company."
"Hold," cried Ludlow, motioning to the valet to withdraw. "Mr. Beverout,
an uncle should be tender of the errors of one so dear as this cruel,
unreflecting girl. You cannot think of abandoning her to so frightful a
"I am not addicted to abandoning any thing, Sir to which my title is just
and legal. But you speak in enigmas. If you are acquainted with the place
where my niece is secreted, avow it frankly, and permit me to take those
measures which the case requires."
Ludlow reddened to his forehead, and he struggled powerfully with his
pride and his regrets.
"It is useless to attempt concealing the step which Alida Barberie has
been pleased to take," he said, a smile so bitter passing over his
features, as to lend them the expression of severe mockery; "she has
chosen more worthily than either of us could have believed; she has found
a companion more suited to her station, her character, and her sex, than
Van Staats of Kinderhook, or a poor commander of a Queen's ship!"
"Cruisers and manors! What in the name of mysteries is thy meaning? The
girl is not here; you declare she is not on board of the Coquette, and
there remains only----"
"The brigantine!" groaned the young sailor uttering the word by a violent
effort of the will.
"The brigantine!" repeated the Alderman, slowly "My niece can have nothing
to do aboard a dealer in contraband. That is to say, Alida Barberie is not
"Alderman Van Beverout, if we wish to escape the contamination of vice,
its society must be avoided. There was one in the pavilion, of a mien and
assurance the past night, that might delude an angel. Ah! woman! woman!
thy mind is composed of vanities, and thy imagination is thy bitterest
"Women and vanities!" echoed the amazed burgher. "My niece, the heiress of
old Etienne Marie de Barberie, and the sought of so many of honorable
names and respectable professions, to be a refugee with a rover!--always
supposing your opinions of the character of the brigantine to be just.
This is a conjecture too improbable to be true."
"The eye of a lover, Sir, may be keener than that of a guardian--call it
jealousy, if you will,--would to Heaven my suspicions were untrue!--but if
she be not there, where is she?"
The opinion of the Alderman seemed staggered. If la belle Barberie had not
yielded to the fascinations of that wayward, but seductive, eye and smile,
to that singular beauty of face, and to the secret and often irresistible
charm that encircles eminent personal attractions, when aided by mystery,
to what had she yielded, and whither had she fled?
These were reflections that now began to pass through the thoughts of the
Alderman, as they had already planted stings in the bosom of Ludlow. With
reflection, conviction began slowly to assert its power. But the truth did
not gleam upon the mind of the calculating and wary merchant, with the
same instinctive readiness that it had flashed upon the jealous faculties
of the lover. He pondered on each circumstance of the interview between
the dealer in contraband and his niece; recalled the manner and discourse
of the former; drew certain general and vague conjectures concerning the
power which novelty, when coupled with circumstances of romance, might
exercise over a female fancy; and dwelt long and secretly on some
important facts that were alone known to himself,--before his judgment
finally settled down into the same opinion, as that which his companion
had formed, with all the sensitiveness of jealous alarm.
"Women and vagaries!" muttered the burgher, after his study was ended.
"Their conceits are as uncertain as the profits of a whaling voyage, or
the luck of a sportsman. Captain Ludlow, your assistance will be needed in
this affair; and, as it may not be too late, since there are few priests
in the brigantine--always supposing her character to be what you
affirm--my niece may yet see her error, and be disposed to reward so much
assiduity and attachment."
"My services shall always be ready, so long as they can be useful to Alida
Barberie," returned the young officer with haste, and yet a little coldly.
"It will be time enough to speak of the reward, when we shall have
"The less noise that is made about a little domestic inconvenience like
this, the better; and I would therefore suggest the propriety of keeping
our suspicions of the character of the vessel a secret, until we shall be
The captain bowed his assent to the proposal.
"And now that we are of the same mind in the preliminaries, we will seek
the Patroon of Kinderhook, who has a claim to participate in our
Myndert then led the way from the empty and melancholy Cour des Fees, with
a step that had regained its busy and firm tread, and a countenance that
expressed far more of vexation and weariness, than of real sorrow.
"--I 'll give thee a wind.
"--Thou art kind.
"--And I another
"--I myself have all the other."
The cloud above the mouth of the Raritan had not risen. On the contrary,
the breeze still came from off the sea; and the brigantine in the Cove,
with the cruiser of the Queen, still lay at their anchors, like two
floating habitations that were not intended to be removed. The hour was
that at which the character of the day becomes fixed; and there was no
longer any expectation that a landwind would enable the vessel of the
free-trader to repass the inlet, before the turn of the tide, which was
again running swiftly on the flood.
The windows of the Lust in Rust were open, as when its owner was present;
and the menials were employed, in and about the villa, in their customary
occupations; though it was evident, by the manner in which they stopped to
converse, and by the frequent conferences which had place in secret
corners, that they wondered none the less at the unaccountable
disappearance of their young mistress. In all other respects, the villa
and its grounds were, as usual, quiet and seemingly deserted.
But there was a group collected beneath the shade of an oak on the margin
of the Cove, and at a point where it was rare for man to be seen. This
little party appeared to be in waiting for some expected communication
from the brigantine; since they had taken post on the side of the inlet,
next the cape, and in a situation so retired, as to be entirely hid from
any passing observation of those who might enter or leave the mouth of
the Shrewsbury. In short, they were on the long, low, and narrow barrier
of sand, that now forms the projection of the Hook, and which, by the
temporary breach that the Cove had made between its own waters and that of
the ocean, was then an island.
"Snug should be the motto of a merchant," observed one of these
individuals, whose opinions will sufficiently announce his name to the
reader. "He should be snug in his dealings, and snug in his manner of
conducting them; snug in his credits, and, above all, snug in his
speculations. There is as little need gentlemen, in calling in the aid of
a posse-comitatus for a sensible man to keep his household in order, as
that a discreet trader should go whistling through the public markets,
with the history of his operations. I gladly court two so worthy
assistants, as Captain Cornelius Ludlow and Mr. Oloff Van Staats; for I
know there will be no useless gossip concerning the trifling derangement
that hath occurred. Ah! the black hath had communications with the
free-trader--always supposing the opinion of Mr. Ludlow concerning the
character of the vessel to be just--and he is quitting the brigantine."
Neither of the companions of the Alderman made any reply. Each watched the
movement of the skiff that contained their messenger, and each seemed to
feel an equal interest in the result of his errand. Instead, however, of
approaching the spot where his master and his two friends expected him,
the negro, though he knew that his boat was necessary to enable the party
to recross the inlet, pulled directly for the mouth of the river,--a
course that was exactly contrary to the one he was expected to take.
"Rank disobedience!" grumbled the incensed master. "The irreverent dog is
deserting us, on this neck of barren sand, where we are cut off from all
communication with the interior, and are as completely without
intelligence of the state of the market, and other necessaries, as men in
"Here comes one that seems disposed to bring us to a parley," observed
Ludlow, whose practised eye had first detected a boat quitting the side of
the brigantine, as well as the direction it was about to steer.
The young commander was not deceived; for a light cutter, that played like
a bubble on its element; was soon approaching the shore, where the three
expectants were seated. When it was near enough to render sight perfectly
distinct, and speech audible without an effort, the crew ceased rowing,
and permitted the boat to lie in a state of rest. The mariner of the
India-shawl then arose in the stern-sheets, and examined the thicket
behind the party, with a curious and suspicious eye. After a sufficient
search, he signed to his crew to force the cutter still nigher to the
land, and spoke:
"Who has affairs with any of the brigantine?" he coolly demanded, wearing
the air of one who had no reason to anticipate the object of their visit.
"She has little left that can turn to profit, unless she parts with her
"Truly, good stranger," returned the Alderman, laying a sufficient
emphasis on the latter word, "here are none disposed to a traffic, which
might not be pleasing to the authorities of the country, were its nature
known. We come with a desire to be admitted to a conference with the
commander of the vessel, on a matter of especial but private concern."
"Why send a public officer on the duty? I see one, there, in the livery of
Queen Anne. We are no lovers of Her Majesty's servants, and would not
willingly form disagreeable acquaintances."
Ludlow nearly bit-through his lip, in endeavoring to repress his anger, at
the cool confidence of one who had already treated him with so little
ceremony; and then momentarily forgetting his object, in professional
pride, and perhaps we might add in the habits of his rank, he interrupted
"If you see the livery of the royal authority," he said, haughtily, "you
must be sensible it is worn by one who is commissioned to cause its rights
to be respected. I demand the name and character of yon brigantine?"
"As for character, she is, like any other beauty, something vituperated;
nay, some carry their envy so far as to call it cracked! But we are jolly
mariners that sail her, and little heed crazy reports at the expense of
our mistress. As for a name, we answer any hail that is fairly spoken, and
well meant. Call us 'Honesty,' if you will, for want of the register."
"There is much reason to suspect your vessel of illegal practices; and, in
the name of the Queen, I demand access to her papers, and the liberty of a
free search into her cargo and crew. Else will there be necessity to bring
her under the guns of the cruiser, which lies at no great distance,
waiting only for orders."
"It takes no scholar to read our documents, Captain Ludlow; for they are
written by a light keel on the rolling waters, and he who follows in our
wake may guess at their authority. If you wish to overhaul our cargo, you
must look sharply into the cuffs and aprons, the negligees and stomachers
of the Governor's lady, at the next ball at the fort; or pry into the sail
that is set above the farthingales of the wife and daughters of your
Admiralty Judge! We are no cheesemongers, to break the shins of a boarding
officer among boxes and butter-tubs."
"Your brigantine has a name, sirrah; and, in Her Majesty's authority, I
demand to know it."
"Heaven forbid that any here should dispute the Queen's right! You are a
seaman, Captain Ludlow, and have an eye for comeliness in a craft, as well
as in a woman. Look at those harpings! There is no fall of a shoulder
can equal that curve, in grace or richness; this shear surpasses the
justness and delicacy of any waist: and there you see the transoms,
swelling and rounded like the outlines of a Venus. Ah! she is a bewitching
creature; and no wonder that, floating as she does, on the seas, they
should have called her----"
"Water-Witch!" said Ludlow, finding that the other paused.
"You deserve to be one of the sisterhood yourself, Captain Ludlow, for
this readiness in divination!"
"Amazement and surprise, Patroon!" exclaimed Myndert, with a tremendous
hem "Here is a discovery to give a respectable merchant more uneasiness
than the undutiful conduct of fifty nieces! This vessel is then the famous
brigantine of the notorious 'Skimmer of the Seas!' a man whose misdeeds in
commerce are as universally noted, as the stoppage of a general dealer!
Pray, Master Mariner, do not distrust our purposes. We do not come, sent
by any authority of the country, to pry into your past transactions, of
which it is quite unnecessary for you to speak; and far less to indulge in
any unlawful thirst of gain, by urging a traffic that is forbidden by the
law. We wish solely to confer with the celebrated free-trader and rover,
who must, if your account be true, command the vessel, for a few minutes,
on an affair of common interest to the three. This officer of the Queen is
obliged, by his duty, to make certain demands of you, with which you will
comply, or not, at your own good discretion; and since Her Majesty's
cruiser is so far beyond reach of bullet, it cannot be expected you will
do otherwise; but further than that, he has no present intention to
proceed. Parleys and civilities! Captain Ludlow, we must speak the man
fair, or he will leave us to get over the inlet and back to the Lust in
Rust, as we may; and that, too, as empty-handed as we came. Remember our
stipulations, without observing which I shall withdraw from the adventure,
Ludlow bit his lip, and continued silent. The seaman of the shawl, or
Master Tiller, as he has been more than once called, again narrowly
examined the back-ground, and caused his boat to approach so near the
land, that it was possible to step into it, by the stern.
"Enter," he said to the Captain of the Coquette, who needed no second
invitation; "enter, for a valuable hostage is a safe-pledge, in a truce.
The Skimmer is no enemy to good company; and I have done justice to the
Queen's servitor, by introducing him already, by name and character."
"Fellow, the success of your deception may cause you to triumph for a
time; but remember that the Coquette----"
"Is a wholesome boat, whose abilities I have taken, to the admeasurement
of her moment-glass;" observed Tiller, very coolly taking the words out of
the other's mouth. "But as there is business to be done with the Skimmer,
we will speak more of this anon."
The mariner of the shawl, who had maintained his former audacious
demeanor, now became grave; and he spoke to his crew with authority,
bidding them pull the boat to the side of the brigantine.
The exploits, the mysterious character, and the daring of the Water-Witch,
and of him who sailed her, were, in that day, the frequent subjects of
anger, admiration, and surprise. Those who found pleasure in the
marvellous, listened to the wonders that were recounted of her speed and
boldness, with pleasure; they who had been so often foiled in their
attempts to arrest the hardy dealers in contraband, reddened at her name;
and all wondered at the success and intelligence with which her movements
were controlled. It will, therefore, create no astonishment when we say,
that Ludlow and the Patroon drew near to the light and graceful fabric
with an interest that deepened at each stroke of the oars. So much of a
profession which, in that age, was particularly marked and apart from the
rest of mankind in habits and opinions, had been interwoven into the
character of the former, that he could not see the just proportions, the
graceful outlines of the hull, or the exquisite symmetry and neatness of
the spars and rigging, without experiencing a feeling somewhat allied to
that which undeniable superiority ecites in the heart of even a rival.
There was also a taste in the style of the merely ornamental parts of the
delicate machine, which caused as much surprise as her model and rig.
Seamen, in all ages, and in every state of their art, have been ambitious
of bestowing on their floating habitations, a style of decoration which,
while appropriate to their element, should be thought somewhat analogous
to the architectural ornaments of the land. Piety, superstition, and
national usages, affect these characteristic ornaments, which are still
seen, in different quarters of the world, to occasion broad distinctions
between the appearances of vessels. In one, the rudder-head is carved with
the resemblance of some hideous monster; another shows goggling eyes and
lolling tongues from its cat-heads; this has the patron saint, or the
ever-kind Marie, embossed upon its mouldings or bows; while that is
covered with the allegorical emblems of country and duty. Few of these
efforts of nautical art are successful, though a better taste appears to
be gradually redeeming even this branch of human industry from the rubbish
of barbarism, and to be elevating it to a state which shall do no violence
to the more fastidious opinions of the age. But the vessel of which we
write, though constructed at so remote a period, would have done credit
to the improvements of our own time.
It has been said that the hull of this celebrated smuggler was low, dark,
moulded with exquisite art, and so justly balanced as to ride upon its
element like a sea-fowl. For a little distance above the water, it showed
a blue that vied with the color of the deep ocean, the use of copper being
then unknown; while the more superior parts were of a jet black,
delicately relieved by two lines, of a straw-color, that were drawn, with
mathematical accuracy, parallel to the plane of her upper works, and
consequently converging slightly towards the sea, beneath her counter.
Glossy hammock-cloths concealed the persons of those who were on the deck,
while the close bulwarks gave the brigantine the air of a vessel equipped
for war. Still the eye of Ludlow ran curiously along the whole extent of
the two straw-colored lines, seeking in vain some evidence of the weight
and force of her armament. If she had ports at all, they were so
ingeniously concealed as to escape the keenest of his glances. The nature
of the rig has been already described. Partaking of the double character
of brig and schooner, the sails and spars of the forward-mast being of the
former, while those of the after-mast were of the latter construction,
seamen have given to this class of shipping the familiar name of
Hermaphrodites. But, though there might be fancied, by this term, some
want of the proportions that constitute seemliness, it will be remembered
that the departure was only from some former rule of art, and that no
violence had been done to those universal and permanent laws which
constitute the charm of nature. The models of glass, which are seen
representing the machinery of a ship, are not more exact or just in their
lines than were the cordage and spars of this brigantine. Not a rope
varied from its true direction; not a sail, but it resembled the neat
folds of some prudent house wife; not a mast or a yard was there, but it
rose into the air, or stretched its arms, with the most fastidious
attention to symmetry. All was airy, fanciful, and full of grace, seeming
to lend to the fabric a character of unreal lightness and speed. As the
boat drew near her side, a change of the air caused the buoyant bark to
turn, like a vane, in its current; and as the long and pointed proportions
of her head-gear came into view, Ludlow saw beneath the bowsprit an image
that might be supposed to make, by means of allegory, some obvious
allusions to the character of the vessel. A female form, fashioned with
the carver's best skill, stood on the projection of the cut-water. The
figure rested lightly on the ball of one foot, while the other was
suspended in an easy attitude, resembling the airy posture of the famous
Mercury of the Bolognese. The drapery was fluttering, scanty, and of a
light sea-green tint, as if it had imbibed a hue from the element beneath.
The face was of that dark bronzed color which human ingenuity has, from
time immemorial, adopted as the best medium to portray a superhuman
expression. The locks were dishevelled, wild, and rich; the eye, full of
such a meaning as might be fancied to glitter in the organs of a
sorceress; while a smile so strangely meaning and malign played about the
mouth, that the young sailor started, when it first met his view as if a
living thing had returned his look.
"Witchcraft and necromancy!" grumbled the Alderman, as this extraordinary
image came suddenly on his vision also. "Here is a brazen-looking hussy
and one who might rob the Queen's treasury, itself, without remorse! Your
eyes are young, Patroon; what is that the minx holds so impudently above
"It seems an open book, with letters of red, writ ten on its pages. One
need not be a conjurer, to divine it is no extract from the Bible."
"Nor from the statute-books of Queen Anne. I warrant me, 'tis a leger of
profit gained in her many wanderings. Goggling and leers! the bold air of
the confident creature is enough to put an honest man out of countenance!"
"Will read the motto of the witch?" demanded he of the India-shawl, whose
eye had been studying the detail of the brigantine's equipment, rather
than attending to the object which so much attracted the looks of his
companions. "The night air has taut'ned the cordage of that
flying-jib-boom, fellows, until it begins to lift its nose like a
squeamish cockney, when he holds it over salt-water! See to it, and bring
the spar in line; else shall we have a reproof from the sorceress, who
little likes to have any of her limbs deranged. Here, gentlemen, the
opinions of the lady may be read, as clearly as woman's mind can ever be
While speaking to his crew, Tiller had changed the direction of the boat;
and it was soon lying, in obedience to a motion of his hand, directly
beneath the wild and significant-looking image, just described. The
letters in red were now distinctly visible; and when Alderman Van Beverout
had adjusted his spectacles, each of the party read the following
"Albeit, I neither lend nor borrow,
By taking, nor by giving of excess,
Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend,
I'll break a custom."
Merchant of Venice.
"The brazen!" exclaimed Myndert, when he had got through this quotation
from the immortal bard. "Ripe or green, one could not wish to be the
friend of so impudent a thing; and then to impute such sentiments to any
respectable commercial man whether of Venice or of Amsterdam! Let us
board the brigantine, friend mariner, and end the connexion ere foul
mouths begin to traduce our motives for the visit."
"The over-driven ship plows the seas too deep for speed; we shall get into
port, in better season without this haste. Wilt take another look into the
dark lady's pages? A woman's mind is never known at the first answer!"
The speaker raised the rattan he still carried, and caused a page of
painted metal to turn on hinges that were so artfully concealed as not to
be visible. A new surface, with another extract, was seen.
"What is it, what is it, Patroon?" demanded the burgher, who appeared
greatly to distrust the discretion of the sorceress. "Follies and rhymes!
but this is the way of the whole sex; when nature has denied them tongues,
they invent other means of speech."
"Porters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about;
Thrice to thine, and thrice to thine,
And thrice again to make up nine."
"Rank nonsense!" continued the burgher! "It is well for those who can, to
add thrice and thrice to their stores; but look you, Patroon--it is a
thriving trade that can double the value of the adventure, and that with
reasonable risks, and months of patient watching."
"We have other pages," resumed Tiller, "but our affairs drag for want of
attending to them. One may read much good matter in the book of the
sorceress, when there is leisure and opportunity. I often take occasion,
in the calms, to look into her volume; and it is rare to find the same
moral twice told, as these brave seamen can swear."
The mariners at the oars confirmed this assertion, by their grave and
believing faces; while their superior caused the boat to quit the place,
and the image of the Water-Witch was left floating in solitude above her
The arrival of the cutter produced no sensation among those who were found
on the deck of the brigantine. The mariner of the shawl welcomed his
companions, frankly and heartily; and then he left them for a minute to
make their observations, while he discharged some duty in the interior of
the vessel. The moments were not lost, as powerful curiosity induced all
the visiters to gaze about them, in the manner in which men study the
appearance of any celebrated object, that has long been known only by
reputation. It was quite apparent that even Alderman Van Beverout had
penetrated farther into the mysteries of the beautiful brigantine, than he
had ever before been. But it was Ludlow who gathered most from this brief
opportunity, and whose understanding glances so rapidly and eagerly ran
over all that a seaman could wish to examine.
An admirable neatness reigned in every part. The planks of the deck
resembled the work of the cabinetmaker, rather than the coarser labor
which is generally seen in such a place; and the same excellence of
material, and exactness in the finish, were visible in the ceilings of the
light bulwarks, the railings, and all the other objects which necessarily
came conspicuously into view, in the construction of such a fabric. Brass
was tastefully rather than lavishly used, on many of those parts where
metal was necessary; and the paint of the interior was everywhere a light
and delicate straw-color. Armament there was none, or at least none
visible; nor did the fifteen or twenty grave-looking seamen, who were
silently lounging, with folded arms, about the vessel, appear to be those
who would find pleasure in scenes of violence. They were, without an
exception, men who had reached the middle age, of weather-worn and
thoughtful countenances, many of them even showing heads that had begun to
be grizzled more by time than even by exposure. Thus much Ludlow had been
enabled to ascertain, ere they were rejoined by Tiller. When the latter
again came on deck, he showed, however, no desire to conceal any of the
perfections of his habitation.
"The wilful sorceress is no niggard in accommodating her followers," said
the mariner, observing the manner in which the Queen's officer was
employed. "Here, you see, the Skimmer keeps room enough for an admiral, in
his cabins; and the fellows are berthed aft, far beyond the
fore-mast;--wilt step to the hatch, and look below?"
The captain and his companions did as desired, and to the amazement of the
former, he perceived that, with the exception of a sort of room fitted
with large and water-tight lockers, which were placed in full view, all
the rest of the brigantine was occupied by the accommodations of her
officers and crew.
"The world gives us the reputation of free-traders," continued Tiller,
smiling maliciously; "but if the Admiralty-Court were here, big wigs and
high staffs, judge and jury, it would be at a loss to bring us to
conviction. There is iron to keep the lady on her feet, and water, with
some garnish of Jamaica, and the wines of old Spain and the islands, to
cheer the hearts and cool the mouths of my fellows, beneath that deck; and
more than that, there is not. We have stores for the table and the breeze,
beyond yon bulk-head; and here are lockers beneath you, that are--empty!
See, one is open; it is neat as any drawer in a lady's bureau. This is no
place for your Dutchman's strong waters, or the coarse skins of your
tobacconist. Odd's my life! He who would go on the scent of the
Water-Witch's lading, must follow your beauty in her satins, or your
parson in his band and gown. There would be much lamentation in the
church, and many a heavy-hearted bishop, were it known that the good craft
had come to harm!"
"There must be an end to this audacious trifling with the law," said
Ludlow; "and the time may be nearer than you suppose."
"I look at the pages of the lady's book, in the pride of each morning; for
we have it aboard here, that when she intends to serve us foul, she will
at least be honest enough to give a warning. The mottoes often change, but
her words are ever true. 'Tis hard to overtake the driving mist, Captain
Ludlow, and he must hold good way with the wind itself, who wishes to stay
long in our company."
"Many a boastful sailor has been caught. The breeze that is good for the
light of draught, and the breeze that is good for the deep keel, are
different. You may live to learn what a stout spar, a wide arm, and a
steady hull, can do."
"The lady of the wild eye and wicked smile protect me! I have seen the
witch buried fathoms deep in brine, and the glittering water falling from
her tresses like golden stars; but never have I read an untruth in her
pages. There is good intelligence between her and some on board; and,
trust me, she knows the paths of the ocean too well, ever to steer a wrong
course. But we prate like gossiping river-men.--Wilt see the Skimmer of
"Such is the object of our visit," returned Ludlow, whose heart beat
violently at the name of the redoubtable rover. "If you are not he, bring
us where he is."
"Speak lower; if the lady under the bowsprit hear such treason against her
favorite, I'll not answer for her good-will. If I am not he!" added the
hero of the India-shawl, laughing freely. "Well, an ocean is bigger than a
sea, and a bay is not a gulf. You shall have an opportunity of judging
between us, noble captain, and then I leave opinions to each man's wisdom.
He quitted the hatchway, and led his companions toward the accommodations
in the stern of the vessel.
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