I will confess that, while writing this, I fancied I was making a sort of half-declaration to Lucy; one that might, at least, give her some faint insight into the real state of my heart; and I had a melancholy satisfaction in thinking that the dear girl might, by these means, learn how much I had prized and still did prize her. It was only a week later, while pondering over what I had written, the idea occurred to me that every syllable I had said would apply just as well to Emily Merton as to Lucy Hardinge. Peculiar circumstances had made me intimately acquainted with our young English friend, and these circumstances might well have produced the very results I had mentioned. We all believed Emily's affections to be engaged to Rupert, who must have succeeded during my absence at sea. A modest and self-distrusting nature, like that of Lucy's, would be very apt to turn to any other than herself in quest of the original of my picture.
These letters occupied me for hours. That to Lucy, in particular, was very long, and it was not written wholly without care. When all were done, and sealed, and enveloped to the address of the post-master, I went on deck. The pilot and Marble had not been idle while I had been below, for I found the ship just weathering the south-west Spit, a position that enabled me to make a fair wind of it past the Hook and out to sea.
Certainly I was in no haste to quit home. I was leaving my native land, Clawbonny, the grave of my sister, and Lucy, dearest Lucy, all behind me; and, at such an instant, one feels the ties that are about to be separated. Still, every seaman is anxious for an offing, and glad was I to see the head of the Dawn pointing in the right direction, with her yards nearly square, and a fore-top-mast studding-sail set. The pilot was all activity, and Marble, cool, clear-headed in his duty, and instinctively acquainted with everything belonging to a vessel, was just the man to carry out his views to his heart's content.
The ship went, rising and falling on the swells of the ocean, that now began to make themselves felt, past the light and the low point of the Hook within a few minutes after we had squared away, and, once more, the open ocean lay before us. I could not avoid smiling at Neb, just as we opened the broad waste of waters, and got an unbroken view of the rolling ocean to the southward. The fellow was on the main-top-sail yard, having just run out, and lashed the heel of a top-gallant-studding-sail boom, in order to set the sail. Before he lay in to the mast, he raised his Herculean frame, and took a look to windward. His eyes opened, his nostrils dilated, and I fancied he resembled a hound that scented game in the gale, as he snuffed the sea-air which came fanning his glistening face, filled with the salts and peculiar flavours of the ocean. I question if Neb thought at all of Chloe, for the next hour or two!
As soon as we got over the bar, I gave the pilot my package, and he got into his boat. It was not necessary to shorten sail in order to do this, for the vessel's way did not exceed five knots.
"Do you see the sail, hereaway in the south-eastern board," said the pilot, as he went over the side, pointing towards a white speck on the ocean; "take care of that fellow, and give him as wide a berth as possible, or he may give you a look at Halifax, or Bermuda."
"Halifax, or Bermuda! I have nothing to do with either and shall not go there. Why should I fear that sail?"
"On account of your cargo, and on account of your men. That is His Majesty's ship Leander; she has been off here, now, more than a week. The inward-bound craft say she is acting under some new orders, and they name several vessels that have been seen heading north-east after she had boarded them. This new war is likely to lead to new troubles on the coast, and it is well for all outward-bound ships to be on the look-out."
"His Majesty's ship" was a singular expression for an American to use, towards any sovereign, twenty years after the independence of the country was acknowledged. But, it was common then, nor has it ceased entirely even among the newspapers of the present hour; so much harder is it to substitute a new language than to produce a revolution. Notwithstanding this proof of bad taste in the pilot, I did not disregard his caution. There had been certain unpleasant rumours, up in town for more than a month, that the two great belligerents would be apt to push each other into the old excesses, England and France at that day having such a monopoly of the ocean as to render them somewhat independent of most of the old-fashioned notions of the rights of neutrals. As for America, she was cursed with the cant of economy—an evil that is apt to produce as many bad consequences as the opposite vice, extravagance. The money paid as interest on the sums expended in the war of 1812, might have maintained a navy that would have caused both belligerents to respect her rights, and thereby saved the principal entirely, to say nothing of all the other immense losses dependent on an interrupted trade; but demagogues were at work with their raven throats, and it is not reasonable to expect that the masses can draw very just distinctions on the subject of remote interests, when present expenditure is the question immediately before them. It is true, I remember a modern French logician, who laid down the dogma that the tendency of democracies being to excesses, if you give a people the power, they would tax themselves to death; but, however true this theory may be in the main, it certainly is not true quoad the good citizens of the great model republic. It was bad enough to be accursed with a spurious economy; but this was not the heaviest grievance that then weighed upon the national interests. The demon of faction, party spirit, was actively at work in the country; and it was almost as rare to find a citizen who was influenced purely by patriotic and just views, as it would be to find an honest man in the galleys. The nation, as a rule, was either English or French. Some swore by the First Consul, and some by Billy Pitt. As for the commercial towns, taken in connection with the upper classes, these were little more than so many reflections of English feeling, exaggerated and rendered still more factitious, by distance. Those who did not swallow all that the English tories chose to pour down their throats, took the pillules Napoleons without gagging. If there were exceptions, they were very few, and principally among travelled men—pilgrims who, by approaching the respective idols, had discovered they were made by human hands!
Impressment at sea, and out of neutral vessels, was revived, as a matter of course, with the renewal of the war and all American ships felt the expediency, of avoiding cruisers that might deprive them of their men. Strange as it may seem, a large and leading class of Americans justified this claim of the English, as it was practised on board their own country's vessels! What will not men defend when blinded and excited by faction? As this practice was to put the mariner on the defensive, and to assume that every man was an Englishman who could not prove, out on the ocean, a thousand miles from land perhaps, that he was an American, it followed that English navy officers exercised a jurisdiction over foreigners and under a foreign flag, that would not be tolerated in the Lord High Chancellor himself, in one of the streets of London; that of throwing the burthen of proving himself innocent, on the accused party! There was an abundance of other principles that were just as obvious, and just as unanswerable as this, which were violated by the daily practices of impressment, but they all produced no effect on the members of Congress and public writers that sustained the right of the English, who as blindly espoused one side of the main question as their opponents espoused the other. Men acting under the guidance of factions are not compos mentis.
I think I may say, without boasting unreasonably of my own good sense, that I have kept myself altogether aloof from the vortex of parties, from boyhood to the present hour. My father had been a federalist, but a federalist a good deal cooled off, from having seen foreign countries, and no attempts had ever been made to make me believe that black was white in the interest of either faction. I knew that impressment from foreign vessels, out of the waters of Great Britain at least, could be defended on no other ground but that of power; and as for colonial produce, and all the subtleties that were dependent on its transportation, I fancied that a neutral had a perfect right to purchase of one belligerent and sell to another, provided he found it his interest so to do, and he violated no positive—not paper—blockade, or did not convey articles that are called contraband of war.
With these views, then, it is not surprising that I easily came into the pilot's opinion, and determined to give the Leander a sufficient berth, as sailors express it.
The Leander was a fifty, on two decks, a very silly sort of a craft; though she had manfully played her part at the Nile, and on one or two other rather celebrated occasions, and was a good vessel of the build. Still, I felt certain the Dawn could get away from her, under tolerably favourable circumstances, The Leander afterwards became notorious, on the American coast, in consequence of a man killed in a coaster by one of her shot, within twenty miles of the spot where I now saw her; an event that had its share in awakening the feeling that produced the war of 1812; a war of which the effects are just beginning to be made manifest in the policy of the republic: a fact, by-the-way, that is little understood, at home or abroad. The Leander was a fast ship of her kind, but the Dawn was a fast ship of any kind; and I had great faith in her. It is true, the fifty had the advantage of the wind; but she was a long way off, well to the southward, and might have something in sight that could not be seen even from our top-gallant yards, whither Neb was sent to take a look at the horizon.
Our plan was soon laid. The south side of Long Island trending a little to the north of east, I ordered the ship to be steered east by south, which, with the wind at south-south-west, gave me an opportunity to carry all our studding-sails. The soundings were as regular as the ascent on the roof of a shed, or on that of a graded lawn; and the land in sight less than two leagues distant. In this manner we ran down the coast, with about six knots' way on the ship, as soon as we got from under the Jersey shore.
In less than an hour, or when we were about four leagues from Sandy Hook Light, the Englishman wore short round, and made sail to cut us off. By this time, he was just forward of our weather beam, a position that did not enable him to carry studding-sails on both sides; for, had he kept off enough for this, he would have fallen into our wake; while, by edging away to close with us, his after-sails becalmed the forward, and this at the moment when every thing of ours pulled like a team of well-broken cart-horses. Notwithstanding all this, we had a nervous afternoon's and night's work of it. These old fifties are great travellers off the wind; and more than once I fancied the Leander was going to lay across my bows, as she did athwart those of the Frenchman, at the Nile. The Dawn, however, was not idle, and, as the wind stood all that day, throughout the night, and was fresher, though more to the southward, than it had hitherto been, next morning, I had the satisfaction of seeing Montauk a little on my lee-bow, at sunrise, while my pursuer was still out of gun-shot on my weather beam.
Marble and I now held a consultation on the subject of the best mode of proceeding. I was half disposed to let the Leander come up, and send a boat on board us. What had we to fear? We were bound to Hamburg, with a cargo, one half of which came from the English, while the other half came from French islands.—But what of that? Marble, however, would not listen to such a project. He affirmed that he was a good pilot in all the sounds, and that it would be better to risk everything, rather than let that fifty close with us.
"Keep the ship away, for Montauk, sir," exclaimed the mate—"keep her away for Montauk, and let that chap follow us if he dare! There's a reef or two, inside, that I'll engage to lead him on, should he choose to try the game, and that will cure him of his taste for chasing a Yankee."
"Will you engage, Moses, to carry the ship over the shoals, if I will do as you desire, and go inside?"
"I'll carry her into any port, east of Block Island, Cap tain Wallingford. Though New York born, as it now turns out, I'm 'down east' edicated, and have got a 'coasting pilot' of my own in my head."
This settled the matter, and I came to the resolution to stand on.
"The wind blows fair, the vessel feels The pressure of the rising breeze, And, swiftest of a thousand keels She leaps to the careering seas—"
Half an hour later, things drew near a crisis. We had been obliged to luff a little, in order to clear a reef that even Marble admitted lay off Montauk, while the Leander had kept quite as much away, with a view to close. This brought the fifty so near us, directly on our weather beam, as to induce her commander to try the virtue of gunpowder. Her bow-gun was fired, and its shot, only a twelve-pounder, richoched until it fairly passed our fore-foot, distant a hundred yards, making its last leap from the water precisely in a line with the stem of the Dawn. This was unequivocal evidence that the game could not last much longer, unless the space between the two vessels should be sensibly widened. Fortunately, we now opened Montauk fort, and the option was offered us of doubling that point, and entering the sound, or of standing oh towards Block Island, and putting the result on our heels. After a short consultation with Marble, I decided on the first.
One of the material advantages possessed by a man-of-war in a chase with a merchant vessel, is in the greater velocity with which her crew can make or take in sail. I knew that the moment we began to touch our braces, tacks and sheets, that the Leander would do the same, and that she would effect her objects in half the time in which we could effect ours. Nevertheless, the thing was to be done, and we set about the preparations with care and assiduity. It was a small matter to round in our weather braces, until the yards were nearly square, but the rigging out of her studding-sail booms, and the setting of the sails, was a job to occupy the Dawn's people several minutes. Marble suggested that by edging gradually away, we should bring the Leander so far on our quarter as to cause the after-sails to conceal what we were about forward, and that we might steal a march on our pursuers by adopting this precaution. I thought the suggestion a good one, and the necessary orders were given to carry it out.
Any one might be certain that the Englishman's glasses were levelled on us the whole time. Some address was used, therefore, in managing to get our yards in without showing the people at the braces. This was done by keeping off first, and then by leading the ropes as far forward as possible, and causing the men to haul on them, seated on deck. In this manner we got our yards nearly square, or as much in as our new course required, when we sent hands aloft, forward, to get out the lee booms. But we reckoned without our host. John Bull was not to be caught in that way. The hands were hardly in the lee fore rigging, before I saw the fifty falling off to our course, her yards squared, and signs aboard her that she had larboard studding sails as well as ourselves. The change of course had one good effect, however: it brought our pursuer so far on our quarter, that, standing at the capstan, I saw him through the mizen rigging. This took the Dawn completely from under the Leander's broadside, leaving us exposed to merely four or five of her forward guns, should she see fit to use them. Whether the English were reluctant to resort to such very decided means of annoyance, so completely within the American waters, as we were clearly getting to be, or whether they had so much confidence in their speed, as to feel no necessity for firing, I never knew; but they did not have any further recourse to shot.
As might have been foreseen, the fifty had her extra canvass spread some time before we could open ours, and I fancied she showed the advantage thus obtained in her rate of sailing. She certainly closed with us, though we closed much faster with the land: still, there was imminent danger of her overhauling us before we could round the point, unless some decided step were promptly taken to avoid it.
"On the whole, Mr. Marble," I said, after my mates and myself had taken a long and thoughtful look at the actual state of things—"On the whole, Mr. Marble, it may be well to take in our light sails, haul our wind, and let the man-of-war come up with us. We are honest folk, and there is little risk in his seeing all we have to show him."
"Never think of it!" cried the mate. "After this long pull, the fellow will be as savage as a bear with a sore head. He'd not leave a hand on board us, that can take his trick at the wheel; and it's ten chances to one that he would send the ship to Halifax, under some pretence or other, that the sugars are not sweet enough, or that the coffee was grown in a French island, and tastes French. No—no—Captain Wallingford—here's the wind at sou'-sou'-west, and we're heading nothe-east, and-by-nothe-half-nothe already, with that fellow abaft the mizen riggin'; as soon as we get a p'int more to the nor'ard, we'll have him fairly in our wake."
"Ay, that will do very well as a theory, but what can we make of it in practice? We are coming up towards Montauk at the rate of eight knots, and you have told me yourself there is a reef off that point, directly towards which we must this moment be standing. At this rate, fifteen minutes might break us up into splinters."
I could see that Marble was troubled, by the manner in which he rolled his tobacco about, and the riveted gaze he kept on the water ahead. I had the utmost confidence in his seaman-like prudence and discretion, while I knew he was capable of suggesting anything a ship could possibly perform, in an emergency that called for such an exercise of decision. At that moment, he forgot our present relations, and went back, as he often did when excited, to the days of our greater equality, and more trying scenes.
"Harkee, Miles," he said, "the reef is dead ahead of us, but, there is a passage between it and the point. I went through that passage in the revvylution-war, in chase of an English West Injyman, and stood by the lead the whole way, myself. Keep her away, Neb—keep her away, another pint: so—steady—very well, dyce (anglice, thus)—keep her so, and let John Bull follow us, if he dare."
"You should be very sure of your channel, Mr. Marble," I said gravely, "to take so much responsibility on yourself. Remember my all is embarked in this ship, and the insurance will not be worth a sixpence, if we are lost running through such a place as this in broad daylight. Reflect a moment, I beg of you, if not certain of what you do."
"And what will the insurance be worth, ag'in Halifax, or Bermuda? I'll put my life on the channel, and would care more for your ship, Miles, than my own. If you love me, stand on, and let us see if that lubberly make-believe two-decker dare follow."
I was fain to comply, though I ran a risk that I find impossible, now, to justify to myself. I had my cousin John Wallingford's property in charge, as well as my own, or what was quite as bad, I placed Clawbonny in imminent jeopardy. Still, my feelings were aroused, and to the excitement of a race, was added the serious but vague apprehensions all American seamen felt, in that day, of the great belligerents. It is a singular proof of human justice, that the very consequences of these apprehensions are made matter of reproach against them.
It is not my intention to dwell further on the policy of England and France, during their great contest for superiority, than is necessary to the narrative of events connected with my own adventures; but a word in behalf of American seamen in passing, may not be entirely out of place or season. Men are seldom wronged without being calumniated, and the body of men of which I was then one, did not escape that sort of reparation for all the grievances they endured, which is dependent on demonstrating that the injured deserve their sufferings. We have been accused of misleading English cruisers by false information, of being liars to an unusual degree, and of manifesting a grasping love of gold, beyond the ordinary cupidity of man. Now, I will ask our accusers, if it were at all extraordinary that they who felt themselves daily aggrieved, should resort to the means within their power to avenge themselves? As for veracity, no one who has reached my present time of life, can be ignorant that truth is the rarest thing in the world, nor are those who have been the subjects of mystifications got up in payment for wrongs, supposed or real, the most impartial judges of character or facts. As for the charge of an undue love of money, it is unmerited. Money will do less in America than in any other country of my acquaintance, and infinitely less than in either France or England. There is truth in this accusation, as applied either to a particular class, or to the body of the American people, only in one respect. It is undeniable that, as a new nation, with a civilization that is wanting in so many of its higher qualities, while it is already so far advanced in those which form the basis of national greatness, money does not meet with the usual competition among us. The institutions, too, by dispensing with hereditary consideration, do away with a leading and prominent source of distinction that is known to other systems, thus giving to riches an exclusive importance, that is rather apparent, however, than real. I acknowledge, that little or no consideration is yet given among us to any of the more intellectual pursuits, the great bulk of the nation regarding literary men, artists, even professional men, as so many public servants, that are to be used like any other servants, respecting them and their labours only as they can contribute to the great stock of national wealth and renown. This is owing, in part, to the youth of a country in which most of the material foundation was so recently to be laid, and in part to the circumstance that men, being under none of the factitious restraints of other systems, coarse and vulgar-minded declaimers make themselves heard and felt to a degree that would not be tolerated elsewhere. Notwithstanding all these defects, which no intelligent, and least of all, no travelled American should or can justly deny, I will maintain that gold is not one tittle more the goal of the American, than it is of the native of other active and energetic communities. It is true, there is little besides gold, just now, to aim at in this country, but the great number of young men who devote themselves to letters and the arts, under such unfavourable circumstances, a number greatly beyond the knowledge of foreign nations, proves it is circumstances, and not the grovelling propensities of the people themselves, that give gold a so nearly undisputed ascendency. The great numbers who devote themselves to politics among us, certainly any thing but a money-making pursuit, proves that it is principally the want of other avenues to distinction that renders gold apparently the sole aim of American existence. To return from this touch of philosophy to our ships.
The progress of the Dawn soon left us no choice in the course to be steered. We could see by the charts that the reef was already outside of us, and there was now no alternative between going ashore, or going through Marble's channel. We succeeded in the last, gaining materially on the Leander by so doing, the Englishman hauling his wind when he thought himself as near to the danger as was prudent, and giving up the chase. I ran on to the northward an hour longer, when, finding our pursuer was hull down to the southward and westward, I took in our larboard studding-sails, and brought the ship by the wind, passing out to sea again, to the eastward of Block Island.
Great was the exultation on board the Dawn at this escape; for escape it proved to be. Next morning, at sunrise, we saw a sail a long distance to the westward, which we supposed to be the Leander; but she did not give chase. Marble and the people were delighted at having given John Bull the slip; while I learned caution from the occurrence; determining not to let another vessel of war get near enough to trouble me again, could I possibly prevent it.
From this time, for twenty days, the passage of the Dawn had nothing unusual. We crossed the Banks in forty-six, and made as straight a course for the western extremity of England, as the winds would allow. For several days, I was uncertain whether to go north-about, or not, believing that I should fall in with fewer cruisers by doubling Scotland, than by running up channel. The latter was much the nearest route; though so much depends on the winds, that I determined to let these last govern. Until we had made two-thirds of our distance across the ocean, the winds had stood very much at south-west; and, though we had no heavy weather, our progress was good; but in 20 deg. east from Greenwich, we got north-easters, and our best tack being the larboard, I stood for ten days to the southward and eastward. This brought us into the track of every thing going to, or coming from, the Mediterranean; and, had we stood on far enough, we should have made the land somewhere in the Bay of Biscay. I knew we should find the ocean dotted with English cruisers, however, as soon as we got into the European waters, and we tacked to the north-west, when about a hundred leagues from the land.
The thirty-third day out proved one of great importance to me. The wind had shifted to south-west, and it was blowing fresh, with very thick weather—rain, mingled with a fine mist, that often prevented one's seeing a quarter of a mile from the ship. The change occurred at midnight, and there was every prospect of the wind's standing until it shoved us into the chops of the channel, from which we were then distant about four hundred miles, according to my own calculation. Marble had the watch at four o'clock, and he sent for me, that I might decide on the course to be steered and the sail to be carried. The course was N. N. East; but, as for the sail, I determined to stand on under our top-sails and fore-course, spanker and jib, until I could get a look by daylight. When the sun was fairly up, there was no change, and I gave orders to get along some of the larger studding-sails, and to set the main-top-gallant sail, having my doubts whether the spars would bear any more canvass, under the stiff breeze that was blowing.
"This is no great distance from the spot where we surprised the Lady of Nantes, Captain Wallingford," Marble observed to me, as I stood overlooking the process of bending a fore-top-mast studding-sail, in which he was engaged with his own hands; "nor was the weather any thicker then than it is now, though that was a haze, and this is a mist."
"You are out of your longitude a few hundred miles, Master Moses, but the comparison is well enough, otherwise. We have twice the wind and sea we had then, moreover, and that was dry weather, while this is, to speak more gingerly, a little moist."
"Ay, ay, sir; there is just that difference. Them were pleasant days, Captain Wallingford—I say nothing ag'in these—but them 'ere were pleasant times, as all in the Crisis must allow."
"Perhaps we shall think the same of these some five or six years hence."
"Well, that's natur', I must confess. It's amazing how the last v'yge hangs in a man's memory, and how little we think of the present! I suppose the Lord made us all of this disposition, for it's sartain we all manifest it. Come, bear a hand Neb, on that fore-yard, and let us see the length of the stun-sail boom."
But, Neb, contrary to his habits, stood upright on the yard, holding on by the lift, and looking over the weather leach of the top-sail, apparently at some object that either was just then visible, or which had just before been visible.
"What is it?" cried Marble, struck with the black's attitude and manner. "What d'ye see?"
"I don't see him now, sir; nuttin' now; but dere was a ship."
"Where-away?" I demanded.
"Off, here, Masser Mile—larboard bow, well forrard; look sharp and soon see him, yourself, sir."
Sharp enough we did look, all hands of us on deck, and, in less than a minute, we caught a pretty good view of the stranger from the forecastle. He might have been visible to us half a minute, in one of those momentary openings in the mist, that were constantly occurring, and which enabled the eye to command a range around the ship of half a mile, losing it again, however, almost as soon as it was obtained. Notwithstanding the distance of time, I can perfectly recall the appearance of that vessel, seen as she was, for a moment only, and seen too so unexpectedly. It was a frigate, as frigates then were; or a ship of that medium size between a heavy sloop-of-war and a two-decker, which, perhaps, offers the greatest proportions for activity and force. We plainly saw her cream-coloured, or as it is more usual to term it, her yellow streak, dotted with fourteen ports, including the bridle, and gleaming brightly in contrast to the dark and glistening hull, over which the mist and the spray of the ocean cast a species of sombre lustre. The stranger was under his three top-sails, spanker and jib, each of the former sails being double reefed. His courses were in the brails. As the wind did not blow hard enough to bring a vessel of any size to more than one reef, even on a bow-line, this short canvass proved that the frigate was on her cruising ground, and was roaming about in quest of anything that might offer. This was just the canvass to give a cruiser a wicked look, since it denoted a lazy preparation, which might, in an instant, be improved into mischief. As all cruising vessels, when on their stations doing nothing, reef at night, and the hour was still early, it was possible we had made this ship before her captain, or first-lieutenant, had made his appearance on deck. There she was, at all events, dark, lustrous, fair in her proportions, her yards looming square and symmetrical, her canvass damp, but stout and new, the copper bright as a tea-kettle, resembling a new cent, her hammock-cloths with the undress appearance this part of a vessel of war usually offers at night, and her quarter-deck and forecastle guns frowning through the lanyards of her lower rigging like so many slumbering bull-dogs muzzled in their kennels.
The frigate was on an easy bow-line, or, to speak more correctly, was standing directly across our fore-foot, with her yards nearly square. In a very few minutes, each keeping her present course, the two ships would have passed within pistol-shot of each other. I scarce knew the nature of the sudden impulse which induced me to call out to the man at the wheel to starboard his helm. It was probably from instinctive apprehension that it were better for a neutral to have as little to do with a belligerent as possible, mingled with a presentiment that I might lose some of my people by impressment. Call out I certainly did, and the Dawn's bows came up to the wind, looking to the westward, or in a direction contrary to that in which the frigate was running, as her yards were square, or nearly so. As soon as the weather leeches touched, the helm was righted, and away we went with the wind abeam, with about as much breeze as we wanted for the sail we carried.
The Dawn might have been half a mile to windward of the frigate when this manoeuvre was put in execution. We were altogether ignorant whether our own ship had been seen; but the view we got of the stranger satisfied us that he was an Englishman. Throughout the whole of the long wars that succeeded the French Revolution, the part of the ocean which lay off the chops of the channel was vigilantly watched by the English, and it was seldom, indeed, a vessel could go over it, without meeting more or less of their cruisers.
I was not without a hope that the two ships would pass each other, without our being seen. The mist became very thick just as we hauled up, and, had this change of course taken place after we were shut in, the chances were greatly in favour of its being effected. Once distant a mile from the frigate, there was little danger of her getting a glimpse of us, since, throughout all that morning, I was satisfied we had not got an horizon with that much of diameter.
As a matter of course, the preparations with the studding-sails were suspended. Neb was ordered to lay aloft, as high as the cross-trees, and to keep a vigilant look-out, while all eyes on deck were watching as anxiously, in the mist, as we had formerly watched for the shadowy outline of la Dame de Nantes. Marble's long experience told him best where to look, and he caught the next view of the frigate. She was directly under our lee, gliding easily along under the same canvass; the reefs still in, the courses in the brails, and the spanker rolled up, as it had been for the night.
"By George," cried the mate, "all them Johnny Bulls are still asleep, and they haven't seen us! If we can give this fellow the slip, as we did the old Leander, Captain Wallingford, the Dawn will become as famous as the Flying Dutchman! See, there he jogs on, as if going to mill, or to church, and no more stir aboard him than there is in a Quaker meetin'! How my good old soul of a mother would enjoy this!"
There the frigate went, sure enough, without the smallest sign of any alarm having been given on board her. The vessels had actually passed each other, and the mist was thickening again. Presently, the veil was drawn, and the form of that beautiful ship was entirely hid from sight. Marble rubbed his hands with delight; and all our people began to joke at the expense of the Englishman. 'If a merchantman could see a man-of-war,' it was justly enough said, 'a man-of-war ought certainly to see a merchantman.' Her look-outs must have all been asleep, or it would not have been possible for us to pass so near, under the canvass we carried, and escape undiscovered. Most of the Dawn's crew were native Americans, though there were four or five Europeans among them. Of these last, one was certainly an Englishman, and (as I suspected) a deserter from a public ship; and the other, beyond all controversy, was a plant of the Emerald Isle. These two men were particularly delighted, though well provided with those veracious documents called protections, which, like beggars' certificates, never told anything but truth; though, like beggars' certificates, they not unfrequently fitted one man as well as another. It was the well-established laxity in the character of this testimony, that gave the English officers something like a plausible pretext for disregarding all evidence in the premises. Their mistake was in supposing they had a right to make a man prove anything on board a foreign ship; while that of America was, in permitting her citizens to be arraigned before foreign judges, under any conceivable circumstances. If England wanted her own men, let her keep them within her own jurisdiction; not attempt to follow them into the jurisdiction of neutral states.
Well, the ship had passed; and I began myself to fancy that we were quit of a troublesome neighbour, when Neb came down the rigging, in obedience to an order from the mate.
"Relieve the wheel, Master Clawbonny," said Marble, who often gave the negro his patronymic, "we may want some of your touches, before we reach the foot of the danse. Which way was John Bull travelling when you last saw him?"
"He goin' eastward, sir."—Neb was never half as much "nigger" at sea, as when he was on shore,—there being something in his manly calling that raised him nearer to the dignity of white men.—"But, sir, he was gettin' his people ready to make sail."
"How do you know that?—No such thing, sir; all hands were asleep, taking their second naps."
"Well, you see, Misser Marble; den you know, sir."
Neb grinned as he said this; and I felt persuaded he had seen something that he understood, but which very possibly he could not explain; though it clearly indicated that John Bull was not asleep. We were not left long in doubt on this head. The mist opened again, and, distant from us about three-quarters of a mile, bearing on our lee quarter, we got another look at the frigate, and a look that satisfied everybody what she was about. The Englishman was in stays, in the very act of hauling his head-yards, a certain sign he was a quick and sure-working fellow, since this manoeuvre had been performed against a smart sea, and under double-reefed top-sails. He must have made us, just as we lost sight of him, and was about to shake out his reefs.
On this occasion, the frigate may have been visible from our decks three minutes. I watched all her movements, as the cat watches the mouse. In the first place her reefs were shaken out, as the ship's bows fell off far enough to get the sea on the right side of them, and her top-sails appeared to me to be mast-headed by instinct, or as the bird extends its wings. The fore and main-top-gallant sails were fluttering in the breeze at this very moment,—it blew rather too fresh for the mizen,—and then their bosoms were distended, and their bow-lines hauled. How the fore and main-tacks got aboard I could not tell, though it was done while my eyes were on the upper sails. I caught a glimpse of the fore-sheet, however, as the clew was first flapping violently, and then was brought under the restraint of its own proper, powerful purchase. The spanker had been hauled out previously, to help the ship in tacking.
There was no mistaking all this. We were seen, and chased; everything on board the frigate being instantly and accurately trimmed, "full and by." She looked up into our wake, and I knew must soon overtake a heavily-laden ship like the Dawn, in the style in which she was worked and handled. Under the circumstances, therefore, I motioned Marble to follow me aft, where we consulted together, touching our future proceedings. I confess I was disposed to shorten sail, and let the cruiser come alongside; but Marble, as usual, was for holding on.
"We are bound to Hamburg," said the mate, "which lies, hereaway, on our lee-beam, and no man has a right to complain of our steering our course. The mist has shut the frigate in again, and, it being very certain he will overhaul us on a bow-line, I advise you, Miles, to lay the yards perfectly square, edge away two points more, and set the weather stun'-sails. If we do not open John very soon again, we may be off three or four miles to leeward before he learns where we are, and then, you know, a 'starn-chase' is always a 'long-chase.'"
This was good advice, and I determined to follow it. It blew rather fresh at the instant, and the Dawn began to plunge through the seas at a famous rate as soon as she felt the drag of the studding-sails. We were now running on a course that made an obtuse angle with that of the frigate, and there was the possibility of so far increasing our distance as to get beyond the range of the openings of the mist, ere our expedient were discovered. So long did the density of the atmosphere continue, indeed, that my hopes were beginning to be strong, just as one of our people called out "the frigate!" This time she was seen directly astern of us, and nearly two miles distant! Such had been our gain, that ten minutes longer would have carried us clear. As we now saw her, I felt certain she would soon see us, eyes being on the look-out on board her, beyond a question. Nevertheless, the cruiser was still on a bow-line, standing on the course on which we had been last seen.
This lasted but a moment, however. Presently the Englishman's bow fell off, and by the time he was dead before the wind, we could see his studding-sails flapping in the air, as they were in the act of being distended, by means of halyards, tacks and sheets, all going at once. The mist shut in the ship again before all this could be executed. What was to be done next? Marble said, as we were not on our precise course, it might serve a good turn to bring the wind on our starboard quarter, set all the studding-sails we could carry on the same side, and run off east-north-east: I inclined to this opinion, and the necessary changes were made forthwith. The wind and mist increased, and away we went, on a diverging line from the course of the Englishman, at the rate of quite ten knots in the hour. This lasted fully forty minutes, and all hands of us fancied we had at last given the cruiser the slip. Jokes and chuckling flew about among the men, as usual, and everybody began to feel as happy as success could make us, when the dark veil lifted at the south-west; the sun was seen struggling through the clouds, the vapour dispersed, and gradually the whole curtain which had concealed the ocean throughout that morning arose, extending the view around the ship, little by little, until nothing limited it but the natural horizon.
The anxiety with which we watched this slow rising of the curtain need scarcely be described. Every eye was turned eagerly in the direction in which its owner expected to find the frigate, and great was our satisfaction as mile after mile opened in the circle around us, without bringing her beautiful proportions within its range. But this could not last for ever, there not being sufficient time to carry so large a vessel over the curvature of the ocean's surface. As usual, Marble saw her first. She had fairly passed to leeward of us, and was quite two leagues distant, driving ahead with the speed of a race-horse. With a clear horizon, an open ocean, a stiff breeze, and hours of daylight, it was hopeless to attempt escape from as fast a vessel as the stranger, and I now determined to put the Dawn on her true course, and trust altogether to the goodness of my cause: heels being out of the question. The reader who will do me the favour to peruse the succeeding chapter, will learn the result of this resolution.
"Whom have we here? Buckingham, to disturb The King hath sent him, sure: I must dissemble."
King Henry VI.
At first, the frigate took single reefs in her top-sails, set topgallant-sails over them, and hauled up on taut bow-lines. But seeing no signs of our studding-sails coming down, she shook out her reefs, squared her yards, set top-mast studding-sails, and kept off to a course that would be certain to intercept us. She was up on our line of sailing some little time before we got down to her, and she kept standing off and on, hauling up her courses, and furling her topgallant-sails and hauling down all of her light sails, the jib excepted As for the Dawn, she kept steadily on, carrying everything she could bear. We had top-mast and lower studding-sails, and not a tack or sheet had been touched when we got within a quarter of a mile of the frigate. The Englishman now showed his colours, when we let him see the stars and stripes. Still no sail was touched on board us. As if surprised at our obstinacy, John Bull let fly a chase-gun, taking good care not to send the shot very near us. I thought it time, now, to shorten sail and to pretend to see him. We began to haul down our studding-sails, merchant-fashion, and were fairly alongside of the frigate before even this preliminary step to heaving-to was effected. As we approached, the frigate bore up, and ran off in company with us, keeping a hundred fathoms distance from us, and watching us closely. At this instant, I ordered the topgallant-sails settled on the caps, as a sign we intended to let him board us.
At length, having reduced the sail to the three top-sails, reefed, I hove-to the Dawn, and waited for a visit from the Englishman's boat. As soon as the frigate saw us fairly motionless, she shot up on our weather quarter, half a cable's length distant, swung her long, saucy-looking yards, and lay-to herself. At the same instant her lee-quarter boat dropped into the water, with the crew in it, a boy of a mid-shipman scrambled down the ship's side and entered it also, a lieutenant followed, when away the cockle of a thing swept on the crest of a sea, and was soon pulling round under our stern. I stood on the lee quarter, examining my visiters, as they struggled against the swell, in order to get a boat-hook into our main chains. The men were like any other man-of-war's men, neat, sturdy, and submissive in air. The reefer was a well-dressed boy, evidently a gentleman's son; but the lieutenant was one of those old weather-beaten sea-dogs, who are seldom employed in boats, unless something more than common is to be done. He was a man of forty, hard-featured, pock-marked, red-faced, and scowling. I afterwards ascertained he was the son of some underling about the Portsmouth dock-yard, who had worked his way up to a lieutenancy, and owed his advancement principally to his readiness in impressing seamen. His name was Sennit.
We threw Mr. Sennit a rope, as a matter of course, and Marble met him at the gangway with the usual civilities. I was amused with the meeting between these men, who had strictly that analogy to each other which is well described as "diamond cut diamond." Each was dogmatical, positive, and full of nautical conceit, in his own fashion; and each hated the other's country as heartily as man could hate, while both despised Frenchmen. But Sennit knew a mate from a master, at a glance; and, without noticing Marble's sea-bow, a slight for which Marble did not soon forgive him, he walked directly aft to me, not well pleased, as I thought, that a ship-master had neglected to be at the gangway to meet a sea lieutenant.
"Your servant, sir," commenced Mr. Sennit, condescending to notice my bow; "your servant, sir; I suppose we owe the pleasure of your company, just now, to the circumstance of the weather's clearing."
This sounded hostile from the go off; and I was determined to give as good as I received.
"Quite likely, sir," was my answer, uttered as coolly as I could speak—"I do not think you got much the advantage, as long as there was thick weather."
"Ay, you 're a famous fellow at hide and go seek, and I do not doubt would make a long chase in a dark night. But his Majesty's ship, Speedy, is not to be dodged by a Yankee."
"So it would seem, sir, by your present success."
"Men seldom run away without there is a cause for it. It's my business to find out the reason why you have attempted it; so, sir, I will thank you for the name of your ship, to begin with?"
"The Dawn, of New York."
"Ay, full-blooded Yankee—I knew you were New England, by your tricks."
"New York is not in New England; nor do we call a New York ship, a Yankee," put in Marble.
"Ay, ay—if one were to believe all you mates from the t' other side, say, he would soon fancy that King George held his throne by virtue of a commission from President Washington."
"President Washington is dead, Heaven bless him!" retorted Marble—"and if one were to believe half of what you English say, he would soon fancy that President Jefferson held his office as one of King George's waiting men."
I made a sign for Marble to be silent, and intimated to the lieutenant I was ready to answer any further inquiries he wished to make. Sennit did not proceed, however, without giving a significant look at the mate, which to me, seemed to say, "I have pressed a mate in my time."
"Well, sir, the Dawn, of New York," he continued, noting the name in his pocket-book—"How are you called yourself?"
"The Dawn, of New York, Miles Wallingford, master."
"Miles Wallingford, master. Where from, whither bound, and with what laden?"
"From New York; bound to Hamburg; cargo sugars, coffee, and cochineal."
"A very valuable cargo, sir," observed Mr. Sennit, a little drily. "I wish for your sake, it had been going to any other part of the world, as this last war has sent the French into that part of Germany, and Hamburg is suspected of being rather too much under Boney's influence."
"And were we bound to Bordeaux, sir, what power have you to stop a neutral, at this distance at sea?"
"If you put it on power, Mr. Wallingford, you depend on a crutch that will betray you. We have power enough to eat you, should that be necessary—I suppose you mean right."
"I shall not dispute with you, sir, about words."
"Well, to prove to you that I am as amicably disposed as yourself, I will say no more on the subject. With your permission, I will now examine your papers; and to show you that I feel myself among friends, I will first send my own boat back to the Speedy."
I was infinitely disgusted with this man's manner. It had the vulgar sort of witticism about even his air, that he so much affected in his speech; the whole being deformed by a species of sly malignancy, that rendered him as offensive as he seemed to me to be dangerous. I could not refuse to let a belligerent look at my papers, however, and went below to get them, while Sennit gave some private orders to his reefer, and sent him away to the frigate.
While on this subject, the reader must excuse an old man's propensity to gossip, if I say a word on the general question of the right of search. As for the pretence that was set up by some of the advocates of impressment out of neutral ships, which laid down the position, that the belligerent being on board in the exercise of an undoubted right to inquire into the character of the ship and cargo, he took with him the right to lay hands on all the subjects of his own sovereign he might happen to find there, it is not worthy of a serious reply. Because a man has a right to take the step preliminary to the discharge of an admitted power, as an incident of that power, it does not follow that he can make the incident a principle, and convert it into a justification of acts, unlawful in themselves. On this head, therefore, I shall say nothing, holding it to be beyond dispute among those who are competent to speak on the subject at all. But the abuse of that admitted power to board and ascertain the character of a ship, has created so lively a feeling in us Americans, as to induce us to forego some of the wholesome principles that are necessary to the well-being of all civilized nations. It is thus, in my judgment, that we have quite recently and erroneously laid down the doctrine that foreign vessels of war shall not board American ships on the coast of Africa, in a time of peace, in order to ascertain their character.
On this subject I intend to speak plainly. In the first place, I lay no claim to that spurious patriotism which says, "our country, right or wrong." This may do for the rabble; but it will not do for God, to whom our first and highest obligations are due. Neither country, nor man, can justify that which is wrong; and I conceive it to be wrong, in a political if not in a moral sense, to deny a vessel of war the privilege which England here claims. I can see but one plausible argument against it, and that is founded on the abuses which may arise from the practice. But it will not do to anticipate abuses in this instance, more than in any other. Every right, whether national or international, may be abused in its exercise; and the argument, if good for anything, is as good against every other right of international law, as it is against this. Abuse, after it has occurred, might be a justifiable reason for suspending the exercise of an admitted right, until some remedies were applied to prevent their recurrence, but it can never be urged as a proper argument against the right itself. If abuses occur, we can get them remedied by proper representations; and, if these last fail, we have the usual appeal of nations. As well might it be said, the law of the land shall not be administered, because the sheriff's officers are guilty of abuses, as to say the law of nations shall cease because we apprehend that certain commercial rivalries may induce others to transcend them. When the wrong is done, it will be time enough to seek the remedy.
That it is the right of a vessel of war to ascertain the character of a ship at sea, is dependent on her right to arrest a pirate, for instance. In what manner can this be done, if a pirate can obtain impunity, by simply hoisting the flag of some other country, which the cruiser is obliged to respect? All that the latter asks is the power to ascertain if that flag is not an imposition; and this much every regularly commissioned public ship should be permitted to do, in the interests of civilization, and in maintenance of the police of the seas.
The argument on the other side goes the length of saying, that a public cruiser is in the situation of a sheriff's officer on shore, who is compelled to arrest his prisoner on his own responsibility. In the first place, it may be questioned if the dogma of the common law which asserts the privilege of the citizen to conceal his name, is worthy of a truly enlightened political freedom. It must not be forgotten that liberty first took the aspect of franchises, in which men sought protection from the abuses of power in any manner they could, and often without regarding the justness of the general principles with which they were connected; confusion in these principles arising as a consequence. But, admitting the dogma of the common law to be as inherently wise, as it is confessedly a practice, there is no parallel in the necessity of the case of an arrest on shore and of an arrest at sea. In the former instance the officer may apply to witnesses;—he has the man before him, and compares him with the description of the criminal; and, should he make an erroneous arrest, under misleading circumstances, his punishment would be merely nominal—in many cases, nothing. But the common law, whilst it gives the subject this protection, does not deny the right of the officer to arrest. It only punishes the abuse of this power, and that is precisely what nations ought to do, in a case of the abuse of the right to examine a merchantman.
The vessel of war cannot apply to witnesses, and cannot judge of national character by mere external appearances, since an American-built ship can be sailed by Portuguese. The actual necessities of the case are in favour of the present English claim, as well as that great governing principle, which says that no great or principal right can exist, in international law, without carrying with it all the subordinate privileges which are necessary to its discreet exercise.
Thus much I could not refrain from saying, not that I think John Bull is very often right in his controversies with ourselves, but because I think, in this case, he is; and because I believe it far safer, in the long run, for a nation, or an individual, to have justice on his side, than always to carry his point.
I was soon on deck, carrying my writing-desk under my arm, Mr. Sennit preferring to make his examination in the open air, to making it below. He read the clearance and manifest with great attention. Afterwards he asked for the shipping articles. I could see that he examined the names of the crew with eagerness, for the man was in his element when adding a new hand to his frigate's crew.
"Let me see this Nebuchadnezzar Clawbonny, Mr. Wallingford," he said, chuckling. "The name has an alias in its very absurdity, and I doubt not I shall see a countryman—perhaps a townsman."
"By turning your head, sir, you can easily see the man. He is at the wheel."
"A black!—umph—yes; those fellows do sometimes sail under droll titles. I do not think the lad was born at Gosport."
"He was born in my father's house, sir, and is my slave."
"Slave! A pretty word in the mouth of a free and independent son of liberty, Mr. Wallingford. It is lucky you are not bound to that land of despotism, old England, or you might see the fetters fall from about the chap's limbs."
I was nettled, for I felt there was some justice in this sarcasm, and this, too, at the very moment I felt it was only half-merited: and not at all, perhaps, from an Englishman. But Sennit knew as much of the history of my country as he did of his own, having obtained all he had learned of either out of newspapers. Nevertheless, I succeeded in keeping silent.
"Nathan Hitchcock; this chap has a suspiciously Yankee name; will you let me see him, sir," observed the lieutenant.
"The chap's name, then, does him no more than justice, for I believe he is strictly what we call a Yankee."
Nathan came aft at the call of the second-mate, and Sennit no sooner saw him than he told him to go forward again. It was easy to see that the man was perfectly able to distinguish, by means of the eye alone, between the people of the two countries, though the eye would sometimes deceive even the most practised judges. As the Speedy was not much in want of men, he was disposed not to lay his hands on any but his own countrymen.
"I shall have to ask you, sir, to muster all your people in the gangway," said Sennit, rising, as he passed me the ship's papers. "I am only a supernumerary of the Speedy, and I expect we shall soon have the pleasure of seeing her first on board, the Honourable Mr. Powlett. We are a nob ship, having Lord Harry Dermond for our captain, and lots of younger sons in the cock-pit."
I cared little who commanded or officered the Speedy, but I felt all the degradation of submitting to have my crew mustered by a foreign officer, and this, too, with the avowed object of carrying away such portions of them as he might see fit to decide were British subjects. In my judgment it would have been much more creditable and much wiser for the young Hercules to have made an effort to use his club, in resisting such an offensive and unjustifiable assumption of power, than to be setting up doubtful claims to establish principles of public law that will render the exercise of some of the most useful of all international rights perfectly nugatory. I felt a disposition to refuse compliance with Sennit's request, and did the result only affect myself I think I should have done so; but, conscious that my men would be the sufferers, I thought it more prudent to comply. Accordingly, all the Dawn's people were ordered to muster near the quarter-deck.
While I endeavour to do justice to principles, I wish to do no injustice to Sennit. To own the truth, this man picked out the Englishman and Irishman as soon as each had answered his first questions. They were ordered to get their things ready to go on hoard the Speedy, and I was coolly directed to pay them any wages that might be due. Marble was standing near when this command was given; and seeing disgust, most likely, in my countenance, he took on himself the office of replying:
"You think accounts should be balanced, then, before these men quit the ship?" he asked, significantly.
"I do, sir; and it's my duty to see it done. I will thank you to attend to it at once," returned the lieutenant.
"Well, sir, that being the case, we shall be receivers, instead of payers. By looking at the shipping articles, you will see that each of these men received fifty dollars, or two months' advance," [seamen's wages were as high, frequently, in that day, as twenty or thirty dollars;] "and quite half of the 'dead-horse' remains to be worked out. We will, therefore, thank His Majesty to pay us the odd twenty-five dollars for each of the men."
"What countryman are you?" demanded the lieutenant, with a menacing look. "Cornish, by your impudence: have a care, sir; I have carried off mates, before now, in my day."
"I came from the land of tombstones, which is an advantage; as I know the road we all must travel, sooner or later. My name is Marble, at your service; and there's a hard natur' under it, as you'll find on trial."
Just at this moment, the frigate's boat came round her stern, carrying the Hon. Mr. Powlett, or the gentleman whom Sennit had announced as her first-lieutenant. I thought the rising anger of the last was a little subdued by the appearance of his senior officers: social position and private rank making even a greater difference between the two, than mere date of commission. Sennit suppressed his wrath, therefore; though I make no doubt the resentment he felt at the contumelious manner of my mate, had no little influence on what subsequently occurred. As things were, he waited, before he proceeded any further, for the Speedy's boat to come alongside.
Mr. Powlett turned out to be a very different sort of person from his brother lieutenant. There was no mistaking him for anything but a gentleman, or for a sailor. Beyond a question, he owed his rank in his ship to family influence, and he was one of those scions of aristocracy (by no means the rule, however, among the high-born of England) who never was fit for anything but a carpet-knight, though trained to the seas. As I afterwards learned, his father held high ministerial rank; a circumstance that accounted for his being the first-lieutenant of a six-and-thirty, at twenty, with a supernumerary lieutenant under him who had been a sailor some years before he was born. But, the captain of the Speedy, himself, Lord Harry Dermond, was only four-and-twenty; though he had commanded his ship two years, and fought one very creditable action in her.
After making my best bow to Mr. Powlett, and receiving a very gentleman-like salutation in return, Sennit led his brother officer aside, and they had a private conference of some little length together.
"I shall not meddle with the crew, Sennit," I overheard Powlett say, in a sort of complaining tone, as he walked away from his companion. "Really, I cannot become the master of a press-gang, though the Speedy had to be worked by her officers. You are used to this business, and I leave it all to you."
I understood this to be a carte blanche to Sennit to carry off as many of my people as he saw fit; there being nothing novel or surprising in men's tolerating in others, acts they would disdain to perform in person. As soon as he left his junior in rank, the youthful first-lieutenant approached me. I call him youthful, for he appeared even younger than he was, though I myself had commanded a ship when only of his own age. It was easy to see that this young man felt he was employed on an affair of some importance.
"It is reported to us, on board the Speedy, sir," the Hon. Mr. Pewlett commenced, "that you are bound to Hamburg?"
"To Hamburg, sir, as my papers will show."
"Our government regards all trade with that part of the continent with great distrust, particularly since the late movements of the French. I really wish, sir, you had not been bound to Hamburg."
"I believe Hamburg is still a neutral port, sir; and, if it were not, I do not see why an American should not enter it, until actually blockaded."
"Ah! these are some of your very peculiar American ideas on such subjects! I cannot agree with you, however, it being my duty to obey my orders. Lord Harry has desired us to be very rigorous in our examination, and I trust you will understand we must comply, however unpleasant it may be, sir. I understand, now, sugar and coffee are exceedingly suspicious!"
"They are very innocent things rightly used, as I hope mine will be."
"Have you any particular interest in the cargo, Captain Wallingford?"
"Only that of owner, sir. Both ship and cargo are my own private property."
"And you seem to be English, or American—for, I confess myself unable to tell the difference between the people of the two countries, though I dare say there is a very great difference."
"I am an American by birth, as have been my ancestors for generations."
"I declare that is remarkable! Well, I can see no difference. But, if you are American, I do not see why the sugar and coffee are not American, too. Lord Harry, however, desired us to be very particular about these things, for some reason or other. Do you happen to know, now, where this sugar grew?"
"The canes of which it was made grew, I believe, in St. Domingo."
"St. Domingo!—Is not that a French Island?"
"Certainly, in part, sir; though the Spaniards and the negroes dispute the possession with the French."
"I declare I must send Lord Harry word of this! I am exceedingly sorry, Captain Wallingford, to detain your ship, but my duty requires me to send a young gentleman on board the Speedy for orders."
As I could urge no plausible objection, the young gentleman was again sent back to the frigate. In the mean time, Sennit had not been idle. Among my crew were a Swede and a Prussian, and both these men having acquired their English in London or Liverpool, he affected to believe they were natives of the old island, ordering them to get their dunnage ready to go under the pennant. Neither of the men, however, was disposed to obey him, and when I joined the group, leaving the Hon. Mr. Powlett waiting the return of his boat, on the quarter-deck, I found the three in a warm discussion on the subject.
"I'll tell you what it is, Mr. Wallingford," Sennit cried, as I approached, "we will compromise matters. Here are two fellows who are Lancashire men, if the truth were known, that pretend to be Norwegians, or Fins, or to come from some other outlandish country or other, and I wish to place them under His Majesty's pennant, where they properly belong; as they are so reluctant to receive this honour, I will consent to take that fine-looking Kentish man, who is worth them both put together."
As this was said, Sennit pointed to Tom Voorhees, an athletic, handsome young North River man, of Dutch extraction, a fellow who had not a drop of English blood in his veins, and the ablest-bodied and the best seaman in the Dawn; a fact that the lieutenant's nautical tact had not been slow to detect.
"You are asking me to let you have a man who was born within ten miles of myself," I answered, "and whose family I know to be American, for near two centuries."
"Ay, ay; you're all of old families in America, as everybody knows. The chap is English born, for a hundred guineas; and I could name a spot in Kent, not ten miles distant from that where he first saw the light. I do not say, however, you were not his neighbour—for you have a Dover look, yourself."
"You might be less disposed to pleasantry, sir, were this a thirty-six, or were you and I on shore."
Sennit gave me a disdainful look, and terminated the affair by ordering Voorhees to get his chest ready, and to join the two other men he had pressed. Taking example, however, from the Swede and the Prussian, Voorhees walked away, using no measures to obey. As for myself, thoroughly disgusted with this man, a vulgar rogue, I walked aft to the other lieutenant, who was only a gentleman-like dunce.
Mr. Powlett now began to converse of London; and he told me how often he had been at the opera when last in town,—and remarked what an exceedingly delightful fete champetre was lady somebody's entertainment of that sort. This occupied us until the boat returned, with a very civil request from the captain of the Speedy, that I would do him the favour to pay him a visit, bringing with me the ship's papers. As this was what no belligerent had a right to demand, though privateersmen constantly did it, I could comply or not. Fancying it might expedite matters, regarding the civility of the request as a good omen, and feeling a desire to deal with principals, in an affair that was very needlessly getting to be serious, I consented to go. Marble was called, and formally told to take charge of the ship. I could see a smile of contempt on Sennit's face, at this little ceremony, though he made no objection in terms. I had expected that the first-lieutenant would go to the frigate with me, but, after a short consultation with his junior, the last was deputed to do me this honour.
Sennit now appeared disposed to show me every slight and indignity it was in his power to manifest. Like all vulgar-minded men, he could not refrain from maltreating those whom he designed to injure. He made me precede him into the boat, and went up the Speedy's side first, himself, on reaching that vessel. His captain's conduct was very different. Lord Harry was not a very noble looking personage, as your worshippers of rank imagine nobility to appear, but he was decidedly well-mannered; and it was easy enough to see he commanded his own ship, and was admirably fitted so to do. I have had occasion to learn that there is a vast deal of aristocratic and democratic cant, on the subject of the appearance, abilities, qualities and conduct of Europeans of birth and station. In the first place, nature has made them very much as she makes other people; and the only physical difference there is proceeds from habit and education. Then, as to the enervating effects of aristocracy, and noble effeminacy, I have seen ten times as much of it among your counter-jumpers and dealers in bob binet, as I have seen in the sons of dukes and princes; and, in my later days, circumstances have brought me much in contact with many of these last. Manliness of character is far more likely to be the concomitant of aristocratic birth, than of democratic, I am afraid; for, while those who enjoy the first feel themselves above popular opinion, those who possess the last bow to it, as the Asiatic slave bows to his master. I wish I could think otherwise; but experience has convinced me of these facts, and I have learned to feel the truth of an axiom that is getting to be somewhat familiar among ourselves, viz.—"that it takes an aristocrat to make a true democrat." Certain I am, that all the real, manly, independent democrats, I have ever known in America, have been accused of aristocracy, and this simply because they were disposed to carry out their principles, and not to let that imperious sovereign, "the neighbourhood," play the tyrant over them. As for personal merit, quite as fair a proportion of talent is found among the well-born as among the low; and he is but an ad captandum vulgus sort of a philosopher who holds the contrary doctrine. Talleyrand was of one of the most ancient and illustrious houses of Europe, as was Turenne; while Mansfield, Erskine, Grey, Wellington, and a host of Englishmen of mark of our time, come of noble blood. No—no—The cause of free institutions has much higher and much juster distinctions to boast of, than this imaginary superiority of the humbly born over those who come of ancient stock.
Lord Harry Dermond received me just as one of his station ought to receive one of mine; politely, without in the least compromising his own dignity. There was a good-natured smile on his face, of which, at first, I did not know what to make. He had a private conversation with Sennit, too; but the smile underwent no change. In the end, I came to the conclusion that it was habitual with him and meant nothing. But, though so much disposed to smile Lord Harry Dermond was equally disposed to listen to every suggestion of Sennit, that was likely to favour the main chance. Prize-money is certainly a great stain on the chivalry of all navies, but it is a stain with which the noble wishes to be as deeply dyed as the plebeian. Human nature is singularly homogeneous on the subject of money; and younger-son nature, in the lands of majorats and entails, enjoys a liveliness of longing on the subject, that is quite as conspicuous as the rapacity of the veriest plebeian who ever picked a pocket.
"I am very sorry, Captain Wallingford," Captain Lord Harry Dermond observed to me, when his private conference with Sennit was ended, and altogether superior to the weakness of Powlett, who would have discussed the point, "that it is my duty to send your ship into Plymouth. The French have got such an ascendency on the continent, that we are obliged to use every act of vigilance to counteract them: then, your cargo is of enemy's growth"."
"As for the ascendency, my lord, you will see we Americans have nothing to do with it; and my cargo, being necessarily of last year's crops, must have been grown and manufactured in a time of general peace. If it were not, I do not conceive it would legalize my capture."
"We must leave Sir William Scott to decide that, my good sir," answered the captain,'with his customary smile; "and there is no use in our discussing the matter. An unpleasant duty"—as if he thought the chance of putting two or three thousand pounds in his pocket, unpleasant!—"an unpleasant duty, however, need not be performed in a disagreeable manner. If you will point out what portion of your people you could wish to keep in your ship, it shall be attended to. Of course, you remain by your property your self; and I confess, whatever may be done with the cargo, I think the ship will be liberated. As the day is advancing, and it will require some little time to exchange the people, I should be exceedingly happy if you would do me the favour to lunch in my cabin."
This was gentlemanly conduct, if it were not lawful. I could foresee a plenty of evil consequences to myself in the delay, though I own I had no great apprehensions of a condemnation. There was my note to John Wallingford to meet, and two months' detention might keep me so long from home, as to put the payment at maturity quite out of the question. Then came the mortgage on Clawbonny, with its disquieting pictures; and I was in anything but a good humour to enjoy Lord Harry Dermond's hospitality. Still, I knew the uselessness of remonstrances, and the want of dignity there would be in repining, and succeeded in putting a good face on the matter. I simply requested that my chief mate, the cook, and Neb, might be left in the Dawn, submitting it to the discretion of my captors to take out of her as many of the remainder of her people as they saw fit. Lord Harry remarked it was not usual to leave a mate, but to oblige me, he would comply. The frigate would go in for water, in the course of a fortnight, when I might depend on having the entire crew, His Majesty's subjects excepted, restored to my command.
1st Gent. What is my ransom, master? Let me know. Mast. A thousand crowns, or else lay down your head. Mate. And so much shall you give, or off goes yours.
King Henry VI.
I never saw a man more astounded, or better disposed to fly into a passion, than was the case with Mr. Moses Oloff Van Duzen Marble, when he was told that the Dawn was to be sent into England, for adjudication. Nothing kept his tongue within the bounds of moderation, and I am far from certain I might not add his fists, but my assurances he would be sent on board the Speedy, unless he behaved with prudence. As our people were sent out of the ship, I thought, several times, he would break out in open hostilities; and he did actually propose to me to knock Sennit down, and throw him overboard. With a significant look, I told him it was not time for this. The mate now laid a finger on his nose, winked, and from that moment he not only seemed cheerful, but he assisted in hoisting in and out the different articles that were exchanged, in shifting the crews.
When all was ready, it appeared that Sennit was to be our prize-master. Although a lieutenant in commission, he had only been lent to Lord Harry Dermond by the admiral, in order to fill up the crew of that favoured officer; the Speedy having her regular complement of lieutenants without him. As the cruise was so nearly up, and the ship had experienced great success in impressing since she sailed, Sennit could be spared; and, if the truth were said, I make no doubt his mess-mates in the frigate were glad to be rid of him, now they had no further occasion for his peculiar skill and services.
Mr. Sennit brought on board with him, as a prize-crew, ten foremast men, besides a master's-mate, of the name of Diggens. Under ordinary circumstances, this last dignitary would have been of sufficient skill to take the ship in: but this was the first prize Lord Harry had taken; she promised to be valuable if condemned; and I suppose he and his young, gentleman-like luffs were desirous of getting rid of their vulgar associate. At any rate, Messrs. Sennit and Diggens both came on board us, bag and baggage.
The various changes, the lunch, and the chase of the morning, had so far worn away the day, that the two vessels did not make sail until four o'clock, P.M., when both ships filled at the same time; the Speedy on a wind, with two reefs in her top-sails, as when first seen, to play about for more prizes, and the Dawn under studding-sails, with the wind nearly over the taffrail. When all was ready, each ship started away from the vacant point on the ocean, where they had been lying for hours, moving on diverging lines, at a rate that soon put a wide expanse of water between them.
I felt the circumstance of being left under the command of such a man as Sennit almost as sensibly as I felt the loss of my ship. He and the mate established themselves in my cabin, within the first hour, in a way that would have brought about an explosion, had not policy forbade it, on my part. Sennit even took possession of my state-room, in which he ordered his own cot to be swung, and from which he coolly directed my mattress to be removed. As the lockers were under locks and keys, I permitted him to take possession without a remonstrance. Diggens stowed his bedding in Marble's berth, leaving my mate and myself to shift for ourselves. At a suggestion from Marble, I affected great indignation at this treatment, directing Neb to clear away a place in the steerage, in which to live, and to swing hammocks there for Marble and myself. This movement had some effect on Sennit, who was anxious to get at the small-stores; all of which were under good locks, and locks that he did not dare violate, under an order from the admiralty. It was, therefore, of much importance to him to belong to my mess; and the necessity of doing something to appease my resentment became immediately apparent to him. He made some apologies for his cavalier conduct, justifying what he had done on the score of his rank and the usages of navies, and I thought it prudent to receive his excuses in a way to avoid an open rupture. Sennit was left in possession of the state-room, but I remained in the steerage; consenting, however, to mess in the cabin. This arrangement, which was altogether premeditated on my part, gave me many opportunities of consulting privately with Marble; and of making sundry preparations for profiting by the first occasion that should offer to re-take the ship. In that day, re-captures were of pretty frequent occurrence; and I no sooner understood the Dawn was to be sent in, than I began to reflect on the means of effecting my purpose. Marble had been kept in the ship by me, expressly with this object.
I suppose the reader to have a general idea of the position of the vessel, as well as of the circumstances in which she was placed. We were just three hundred and fifty-two miles to the southward and westward of Scilly, when I observed at meridian, and the wind blowing fresh from the south-south-west, there was no time to lose, did I meditate anything serious against the prize crew. The first occasion that presented to speak to my mate offered while we were busy together in the steerage, stowing away our effects, and in making such dispositions as we could to be comfortable.
"What think you, Moses, of this Mr. Sennit and his people?" I asked, in a low voice, leaning forward on a water-cask, in order to get my head nearer to that of the mate. "They do not look like first-rate man-of-war's-men; by activity and surprise, could we not handle them?"
Marble laid a finger on his nose, winked, looked as sagacious as he knew how, and then went to the steerage door, which communicated with the companion-way, to listen if all were safe in that quarter. Assured that there was no one near, he communicated his thoughts as follows:
"The same idee has been at work here," he said, tapping his forehead with a fore-finger, "and good may come of it This Mr. Sennit is a cunning chap, and will want good looking after, but his mate drinks like a coal-heaver; I can see that in his whole face; a top-lantern is not lighter. He must be handled by brandy. Then, a more awkward set of long-shore fellows were never sent to manage a square-rigged craft, than these which have been sent from the Speedy. They must have given us the very sweepings of the hold."
"You know how it is with these dashing young man-of-war captains; they keep all their best materials for a fight. French frigates are tolerably plenty, they tell me, and this Lord Harry Dermond, much as he loves sugar and coffee, would like to fall in with a la Vigilante, or a la Diane, of equal force, far better. This is the secret of his giving Sennit such a set of raw ones. Besides, he supposes the Dawn will be at Plymouth in eight-and-forty hours, as will certainly be the case should this wind stand."
"The fellows are just so many London loafers. (I have always thought Marble had the merit of bringing this word into fashion.) There are but three seamen among them, and they are more fit for a hospital than for a lowyer-yard or a jib-boom."
There was a good deal of truth, blended with some exaggeration, mixed up with this statement of tire mate. As a matter of course, the captain of the Speedy had not sent away his best men, though they were not quite as bad as Marble, in his desire to overcome them, was disposed to fancy. It is true, there were but three of their number whom the quick, nautical instinct of the mate had recognised as real seamen, though all had been on board ship long enough to render them more or less useful.
"Whatever we do must be done at once," I rejoined. "We are four athletic men, to act against twelve. The odds are heavy, but we shall have the advantage of being picked men, and of attacking by surprise."
"I wish you had thought of asking to keep Voorhees in the ship, Miles; that fellow would be worth three ordinary men to us."
"I did think of it, but the request would never have been granted. One could ask for a cook, or a mate, or a servant like Neb, but to ask for an able seaman or two would have been to declare our object."
"I believe you're right, and we must be thankful for the good stuff we have, as it is. How far will the law bear us out in knocking men on the head in such an undertaking? It's peace for America, and we must steer clear of piracy!"
"I've thought of all that, Moses, and see no great cause of apprehension. A man has certainly a right to recover that by the strong hand which he lost by the strong hand. Should blood be spilt, which I hope to avert, the English courts might judge us harshly, while the American would acquit us. The law would be the same in both cases, though its administration would be very different. I am ready to cast my own fortune on the issue, and I wish no man to join me who will not do so, heart and hand. I see no reason to suppose it will be necessary to take life, to which I have as strong reluctance as you can have yourself."
"There's my hand!" exclaimed Marble, "and as for its owner's heart, you well know where that is to be found, Miles. Enough has been said for a beginning. We will look about us this afternoon, and talk further after supper."
"Good. Do you say a word to Billings, the cook, and I will open the matter to Neb. Of the last we are certain, but it may be well to make some promises to your man."
"Leave that to me, Miles. I know my chap, and will deal with him as I would with an owner."
Marble and myself now separated, and I went on deck to observe how things promised in that quarter. By this time, the Speedy's top-sails were beginning to dip, and the Dawn was driving forward on her course, with everything drawing that she could carry. All the English were on deck, Sennit included. The last gave me a sufficiently civil salute as I put my foot on the quarter-deck, but I avoided falling into any discourse with him. My cue was to note the men, and to ascertain all I could concerning their distribution during the approaching night. Diggens, I could see, was a red-faced fellow who probably had lost his promotion through love of the bottle, though, as often happens with such persons, a prime seaman and a thorough man-of-war's-man. Of him, I thought I could make sure by means of brandy. Sennit struck me as being a much more difficult subject to get along with. There were signs of cogniac about his face too, but he had more rank, more at stake, and brighter hopes than the master's-mate. Then he was evidently better practised in the ways of the world than his companion, and had constantly a sort of uneasy vigilance about his eye and manner that gave me no little concern.
It was my wish to strike a blow, if possible, that very night, every minute carrying us fast towards the chops of the channel, where the English had so many cruisers in general, as to render ultimate escape next to impossible, should we even be so lucky as to regain command of our own ship. I was afraid, moreover, Sennit might take it into his head to have all hands all night, under the pretext of drawing in with the land. Should he actually adopt this course, our case was nearly hopeless.
"Your mate seems to love the cupboard, Mr. Wallingford," Sennit remarked to me, in a good-natured manner, with an evident wish to establish still more amicable relations between us than had yet existed; "he has been in and about that galley these ten minutes, fidgeting with his tin-pot, like a raw hand who misses his mother's tea!"
Sennit laughed at his own humour, and I could hardly answer with a smile, for I knew my mate had adopted this experiment to open communications with the cook.
"Mr. Marble is famous for his love of slops," I answered, evasively.
"Well, he does not look it. I have seldom seen a more thorough-looking sea-dog than your mate, Captain Wallingford,"—this was the first time Sennit had dignified me with this title,—"and I took a fancy to him on that account, as soon as I saw him. You will do me the favour to sup with us in the cabin, I hope, for I see signs at the galley that it will soon be ready?"
"I shall expect to join your mess, sir, now explanations have passed between us. I suppose my mate is to be one of my party, as well as yours?"
"Certainly. I shall ask the favour of you to let Mr. Marble relieve Diggens, for half an hour or so, while the poor fellow gets a bite. We'll do as much for you another time."
This was said in a dry, laughing, sort of a way, which showed that Mr. Sennit was fully aware he was making a request a little out of rule, to ask a man to aid in carrying his own ship into port, as a prize; but I took it, as it was meant, for a rough joke that had convenience at the bottom.
It was not long ere Neb came to announce that supper was ready. Sennit had made but an indifferent dinner, it would seem, and he appeared every way disposed to take his revenge on the present occasion. Calling out to me to follow, he led the way, cheerfully, into the cabin, professing great satisfaction at finding we were to make but one mess of it. Strictly speaking, a prize crew, under circumstances like those in which the Dawn was now placed, had no right to consume any portion of the vessel's own stores, condemnation being indispensable to legalize Lord Harry Dermond's course, even according to the laws of his own country. But I had ordered Neb to be liberal with my means, and a very respectable entertainment was spread before our eyes, when we reached the cabin. Sennit was soon hard at work; but, under pretence of looking for some better sugar than had been placed on the table, I got three bottles of brandy privately into Neb's hands, whispering him to give one to the master's-mate on deck, and the other two to the crew. I knew there were too many motives for such a bribe, connected with our treatment, the care of our private property, and other things of that nature, to feel any apprehension that the true object of this liberality would be suspected by those who were to reap its advantages.
Sennit, Marble, and myself, sate quite an hour at table. The former drank freely of wine; though he declined having anything to do with the brandy. As he had taken two or three glasses of the rejected liquor in my presence before the two ships parted, I was convinced his present forbearance proceeded from a consciousness of the delicate circumstances in which he was placed, and I became rather more wary in my own movements. At length the lieutenant said something about the "poor devil on deck," and Marble was sent up, to look out for the ship, while Diggens came below to eat. The instant the master's-mate appeared, I could see the brandy had been doing its work on him, and I was fearful his superior might notice it. He did not, however, being too well pleased with the Madeira I had set before him, to trouble himself about a few drams, more or less, that might have fallen to the share of his subordinate.
At length this memorable supper, like everything else of earth, came to an end, and all of us went on deck in a body: leaving Neb and the cook to clear away the fragments. It was now night, though a soft star-light was diffused over the surface of the rolling water. The wind had moderated a little, and the darkness promised to pass without any extra labour to the people, several of the studding-sails having been taken in by Diggens' orders, when he first went below.
When seamen first come on deck at sea, there is usually a pause in the discourse, while each notes the weather, the situation of the ship, and the signs of the hour. Sennit and myself did this, almost as a matter of course, separating, in order that each might make his observations at leisure. As for Marble, he gave up the command of the deck to Diggens, walking forward by himself. Neb and the cook were keeping up the customary clattering with plates, knives, and forks.
"Have the people had their suppers yet, Mr. Diggens?" demanded the lieutenant.
"Not yet, sir. We have no cook of our own, you know, sir, and so have been obliged to wait, sir."
"The King's men wait for nobody. Order that black fellow to let them have their suppers at once; while that is doing, we'll tell off the watches for the night."
Diggens was evidently getting more and more under the influence of brandy, keeping the bottle hid somewhere near him, by which means he took frequent draughts unperceived. He gave the necessary orders, notwithstanding; and presently the men were mustered aft, to be told off into the two watches that were required for the service of the ship. This was soon done. Sennit choosing five, and Diggens his five.
"It's past eight o'clock," said Sennit, when the selections were made. "Go below the watch, and all but the man at the wheel of the watch on deck can go below to the lights, to eat. Bear a hand with your suppers, my lads; this is too big a craft to be left without look-outs forward, though I dare say the Yankees will lend us a hand while you are swallowing a mouthful?"
"To be sure we will, sir," cried Marble, who had come to the gangway to witness the proceedings. "Here, you Neb—come out of that galley and play forecastle-man, while John Bull gets his supper. He's always cross when he's hungry, and we'll feed him well to make a good neighbourhood."
This caused some who heard it to laugh, and others to swear and mutter. Every one, nevertheless, appeared willing to profit by the arrangement, the Englishmen being soon below, hard at work around the kids. It now struck me that Marble intended to clap the forecastle-hatch down suddenly, and make a rush upon the prize officers and the man at the wheel. Leaving one hand to secure the scuttle, we should have been just a man apiece for those on deck; and I make no doubt the project would have succeeded, had it been attempted in that mode. I was, by nature, a stronger man than Sennit, besides being younger and in my prime; while Diggens would not have been more than a child in Marble's hands. As for the man at the wheel, Neb could have thrown him half-way up to the mizen-top, on an emergency. But it seemed that my mate had a deeper project in view; nor was the other absolutely certain, as I afterwards learned, one of the Englishmen soon coming out of the forecastle, to eat on deck, quite likely aware that there might be some risk in letting all hands remain below.
It was now sufficiently dark for our purposes, and I began to reflect seriously on the best mode of proceeding, when, all at once, a heavy splash in the water was heard, and Marble was heard shouting, "Man overboard!"
Sennit and I ran to the lee main-rigging, where we just got a glimpse of the hat of the poor fellow, who seemed to be swimming manfully, as the ship foamed past him.
"Starboard, your helm!" shouted Marble.—"Starboard, your helm! Come to these fore-braces, Neb—bear a hand this a-way, you cook. Captain Wallingford, please lend us a pull. Look out for the boat, Mr. Sennit; we'll take care of the head-yards."
Now all this had been regularly concocted in the mate's mind in advance. By these means he not only managed to get all our people together, but he got them away from the boat. The whole was done so naturally, as to prevent the smallest suspicion of any design. To do Sennit justice, I must acknowledge that he behaved himself particularly well on this sudden appeal to his activity and decision. The loss of a man was, to him, a matter of deep moment; all his habits and propensities inclining him to be solicitous about the manning of ships. A man saved was as good as a man impressed; and he was the first person in the boat. By the time the ship had lost her way, the boat was ready; and I heard Sennit call out the order to lower. As for us Americans, we had our hands full, to get the head-yards braced up in time, and to settle away the top-gallant halyards, aft, in order to save the spars. In two minutes, however, the Dawn resembled a steed that had suddenly thrown his rider, diverging from his course, and shooting athwart the field at right angles to his former track, scenting and snuffing the air. Forward all was full, but the after-yard having been square from the first, their sails lay aback, and the ship was slowly forging ahead, with the seas slapping against her bows, as if the last were admonishing her to stop.
I now walked aft to the taffrail, in order to make certain of the state of things. Just as I reached the stern, Sennit was encouraging the men to "give way" with the oar. I saw that he had six of his people with him, and no doubt six of his best men—the boldest and most active being always the most forward on such occasions. There was no time to be lost; and I turned to look for Marble. He was at my elbow, having sought me with the same object. We walked away from the man at the wheel together, to get out of ear-shot.
"Now's your time, Miles," the mate muttered, slipping one of my own pistols into my hands, as he spoke.—"That master's-mate is as muzzy as a tapster at midnight, and I can make him do what I please. Neb has his orders, and the cook is ready and willing. You have only to say the word, to begin."
"There seems little necessity for bloodshed," I answered "If you have the other pistol, do not use it unnecessarily; we may want it for the boat——"
"Boat!" interrupted Marble. "What more have we to do with the boat? No—no—Miles; let this Mr. Sennit go to England where he belongs. Now, see how I'll manage Diggens," he added; "I want to get a luff purchase up out of the forecastle;—will you just order two or three of your fellows forward, to go down and pass it up for me?"
"D'ye hear there, forward," called out Diggens, with a very thick tongue.—"Tumble down into that forecastle, three or four of you, and pass up the tackle for Mr. Marble."
Now, there were but three of the Englishmen left in the ship, exclusively of the master's-mate himself, and the man at the wheel. This order, consequently, sent all three immediately into the forecastle. Marble coolly drew over the hatch, secured it, ordered the cook to keep a general look-out forward, and walking aft, as if nothing occurred, said in his quiet way—
"The ship's yours, again, Captain Wallingford."
"Mr. Diggens," I said, approaching the master's-mate, "as I have a necessity for this vessel, which is my property, if you please, sir, I'll now take charge of her in person. You had better go below, and make yourself comfortable; there is good brandy to be had for the asking, and you may pass an agreeable evening, and turn in whenever it suits you."
Diggens was a sot and a fool, but he did not want for pluck. His first disposition was to give battle, beginning to call out for his men to come to his assistance, but I put an end to this, by seizing him by the collar, and dropping him, a little unceremoniously, down the companion-way. Half an hour later, he was dead drunk, and snoring on the cabin floor.