The man gave me a keen look, muttered something between his teeth, and walked aft, whither he was proceeding when we met. I looked in the direction in which he went, and could see he was speaking in a surly way to Captain Rowley. The old gentleman cast a look forward, shook a finger at me, then smiled in his benevolent way, and turned, as I thought, to look for one of the midshipmen who acted as his aids. At that moment, the Frenchman went in stays, delivering his whole broadside, from aft forward, as the guns bore. The shot told on the British spars smartly, though only two hulled her. As a matter of course, this turned the thoughts of Captain Rowley to the main business in hand, and I was forgotten. As for Neb, he immediately made himself useful. A shot cut the main-spring-stay, just above his head; and before I had time to speak, the fellow seized a stopper, and caught one of the ends of the stay, applied the stopper, and was hard at work in bringing the rope into its proper place, and in preparing it again to bear a strain. The boatswain applauded his activity, sending two or three forecastle-men to help him. From that moment, Neb was as busy as a bee aloft, now appearing through openings in the smoke, on this yard-arm, now on that, his face on a broad grin, whenever business of more importance than common was to be done. The Briton might have had older and more experienced seamen at work in her rigging, that day, but not one that was more active, more ready when told what to do, or more athletic. The gaite de coeur with which this black exerted himself in the midst of that scene of strife, clamour and bloodshed, has always presented itself to my mind as truly wonderful.
Captain Rowley did not alter his course, or fire a gun, in answer to the salute he received, though the two ships were scarcely a cable's-length asunder when the Frenchman began. The Briton stood steadily on, and the two ships passed each other, within pistol-shot, a minute or two later, when we let fly all our larboard guns. This was the beginning of the real war, and warm enough it was, for half an hour or more,—our ship coming round as soon as she had fired, when the two frigates closed broadside and broadside, both running off nearly dead before the wind. I do not know how it happened, but when the head-yards were swung, I found myself pulling at the fore-brace, like a dray horse. The master's mate, who commanded these braces, thanked me for my assistance, in a cheerful voice, saying, "We'll thrash 'em in an hour, Captain Wallingford." This was the first consciousness I had, that my hands had entered into the affair at all!
I had now an opportunity of ascertaining what a very different thing it is to be a spectator in such a scene, from being an actor. Ashamed of the forgetfulness that had sent me to the brace, I walked on the quarter-deck, where blood was already flowing freely. Everybody, but myself, was at work, for life or death. In 1803, that mongrel gun, the carronade, had come into general use, and those on the quarter-deck of the Briton were beginning to fly round and look their owners in the face, when they vomited their contents, as they grew warm with the explosion. Captain Rowley, Clements, and the master, were all here, the first and last attending to the trimming of the sails, while the first-lieutenant looked a little after the battery, and a little at everything else. Scarce a minute passed, that shot did not strike somewhere, though it was principally aloft; and the wails of the hurt, the revolting part of every serious combat, began to mingle in the roar of the contest. The English, I observed, fought sullenly, though they fought with all their hearts. Occasionally, a cheer would arise in some part of the ship; but these, and the cries of the hurt, were fire on the Briton, as well as the manner in which the English repaid all they received. While standing near the main-mast, in the battery that was not engaged, Marble made me out in the smoke, and came-up to speak to me.
"Them Frenchmen are playing their parts like men," he said. "There's a shot just gone through the cook's coppers, and another through the boats. By the Lord Harry, if the boys on this deck do not bestir themselves, we shall get licked. I wouldn't be licked by a Frenchman on any account, Miles.—Even little Kitty would point her finger at me."
"We are only passengers, you know, Moses; and can have little concern with victory, or defeat, so long as the striped and starred bunting has nothing to do with the credit of the thing."
"I am not so sure of that, Miles.—I do not like being flogged, even as a passenger. There! just look at that, now! Two or three more such raps, and half our guns will be silenced!"
Two shot had come in together, as Marble thus interrupted himself; one of them knocking away the side of a port, while the other laid four men of its gun on the deck. This gun was on the point of being discharged, as the injury was inflicted; but the loss of its captain prevented it from being fired. The lieutenant of the division caught the match from the fallen seaman, gave it a puff with his breath, and applied it to the priming. As the gun came leaping in, the lieutenant turned his head to see where he could best find men to supply the place of those who had been killed, or wounded. His eyes fell on us. He asked no questions; but merely looked in our direction.
"Ay, ay, sir," said Marble, stripping off his jacket, and taking the tobacco from his mouth. "In one moment.—Just hold on, till I'm ready."
I scarce knew whether to remonstrate, or not: but hard at it he went; and, delighted by his zeal, the officer clapped him on the back, leaving him to act as captain of the gun. Afraid the contagion might extend to myself, I turned, ascended the ladder, and was immediately on the quarter-deck again. Here I found old Captain Rowley, with his hat off, cheering his men,—the Frenchman's main-top-mast having just gone over his side. It was not a time to make my report, nor was any needed just then; so I walked aft as far as the taffrail, in order to get out of the way, and to make my observations as much removed from the smoke as possible. This was the only opportunity I enjoyed of noting the relative positions, as well as conditions, of the two vessels.
The Briton had suffered heavily aloft; but all her principal spars still stood. On the other hand, her antagonist had lost both main and mizen-top-masts, and her fire had materially slackened within the last fifteen minutes. She was falling more under a quarter-raking fire, too, from her people's losing command of their ship; the two frigates having, some time before, come by the wind—the Englishman a little on the Frenchman's weather-quarter. As is usual, in a heavy cannonade and a moderate breeze, the wind had died away, or become neutralized, by the concussions of the guns, and neither combatant moved much from the position he occupied. Still the Briton had her yards knowingly braced, while those of her enemy were pretty much at sixes and sevens. Under such circumstances, it was not difficult to predict the result of the engagement; more especially as the spirits of the Britons seemed to be rising with the duration of the combat.
I was still making my observations, when I heard the crack of a shot, and the ripping of plank, on the forward part of the quarter-deck. A little group collected around a falling man, and I thought I caught a glimpse of Captain Rowley's uniform and epaulettes, in the sufferer. In an instant I was on the spot. Sure enough, there was my old friend grievously wounded. Clements was also there. Catching my eye, he observed—
"As you are doing nothing, sir, will you assist in carrying Captain Rowley below?"
I did not like the manner in which this was said, nor the expression of the first-lieutenant's eye while saying it. They seemed to me to add, "I shall now command this ship, and we shall see if new lords don't produce new laws," I complied, however, of course, and, aided by two of his own servants, I got the poor old man into the gun-room. The instant the surgeon cast his eyes on the injuries, I saw by his countenance, there was no hope. His words soon confirmed the bad news.
"The captain cannot live half an hour," this gentleman said to me aside, "and all we can do will be to give him what he asks for. At present he is stupified by the shock of the blow, but, in a few minutes, he will probably ask for water, or wine and water; I wish, sir, you would indulge him in his wishes, for you can have no duty to call you on deck. This will be a lucky hit for Clements, who will run off with more than half the credit of the battle, though I fancy the Frenchman has as much as he wants already."
And so it turned out, literally, in the end. About twenty minutes after I went below, during which time the Briton did most of the fighting, we heard the cheer of victory on deck. These sounds appeared to cause the wounded man to revive.
"What means that, Wallingford?" he asked in a stronger voice than I could have thought it possible for him to use, "What do these cheers mean, my young friend?"
"They mean, Captain Rowley, that you have conquered—that you are master of the French frigate."
"Master!—am I master of my own life? Of what use is victory to me, now? I shall die—die soon, Wallingford, and there will be an end of it, all! My poor wife will call this a melancholy victory."
Alas! what I could say? These words were only too true as respects himself, and, I dare say, as respected his wife, also. Die he did, and in my presence, and that calmly, with all his senses about him; but, I could see, he had his doubts whether a little lustre like that which attended his end, was fulfilling all the objects of his being. The near view of death places a man on a moral eminence, whence he commands prospects before and behind, on each side and on every side, enabling him to overlook the whole scene of life from its commencement to its close, and to form an opinion of his own place in a drama that is about to close. Like many of those who exhibit themselves for our amusement, and to purchase our applause, he is only too apt to quit the stage less satisfied with his own performances, than the thoughtless multitude, who, regarding merely the surfaces of things, are too often loudest in their approbation when there is the least to praise.
I shall pass over the next ten days, with a very brief allusion to their events. The first proof I had of Mr. Clements being commanding officer, was my being transferred from the cabin to the gun-room. It is true, there was no want of space in my new apartment, for officering and manning the prize had left several state-rooms vacant in the Briton's gun-room, which fell to the shares of the French prisoners and myself. Poor Captain Rowley was preserved in spirits and then things went on pretty much as before, with the exception that our crippled condition and reduced crew rendered us no longer anxious to fall in with Frenchmen. I may say, in this place, also, that now the excitement which had carried him away was gone, Marble was profoundly ashamed of the part he had taken in the late affair. He had fought under English colours, once more; and, though I seldom dared to allude to the thing, it is my opinion he heartily regretted his conduct, to his dying day. As for Neb, all seemed right enough in his eyes; for, though he well understood the distinctions between flags and countries, he always imagined it a duty to stick by the craft in which he happened to be.
Ten days after I had been living under the regime of "new lords and new laws," we fell in with a frigate, in the chops of the channel, and exchanged signals with her. The reader will judge of Marble's and my dissatisfaction, when we heard it announced that the ship which was then fast approaching us, was the Speedy. There was no help for it, however; she was already within gun-shot, and soon rounded-to, within hail of the Briton, which ship had hove-to, to wait for her. In a few minutes, Lord Harry Dermond, in person, was alongside of us, in a boat, to show his orders to Captain Rowley, and report himself, as the junior captain. I could not quit the quarter-deck, from a desire to ascertain, if possible, what had become of Sennit and his companions, though prudence dictated concealment.
Clements met the young nobleman at the gangway, and, apologizing for not going on board the Speedy, on account of the state of his boats, reported the late action and its results. Lord Harry then found himself the senior, instead of the junior commander, and he immediately began to ask questions. He was in the midst of these interrogatories, when his eye suddenly fell on me. He and Clements were walking on the quarter-deck together, and I had gone into the gangway, to escape his notice, when this unexpected recognition took place. It occurred as the two were turning in their walk, and were so near me that I could hear what was said between them.
"Who have you there, leaning against the cutter, Mr. Clements?" demanded the captain of the Speedy. "It's a face I know—some old ship-mate of mine, I fancy."
"I rather think not, my lord—it's a-Yankee we picked up at sea in a boat, a Captain Wallingford, of the American ship Dawn. His vessel foundered in a gale, and all hands were lost but this gentleman, his mate, and a negro. We have had them on board, now, more than three months."
A long, low whistle escaped from Lord Harry Dermond, who immediately walked up to me, raised his hat, and commenced a very disagreeable sort of a dialogue, by saying—"Your servant, Mr. Wallingford! We meet under very unusual circumstances, and somewhat often. The last time was at a rather interesting moment to me, and one in which I was so much engaged, that I had not leisure properly to pay my respects to you. Mr. Clements, I have a little business to transact with this gentleman, and must ask the favour of your company and his, for a few minutes, in your cabin."
No objection could be raised to this request; and I followed the two officers into the Briton's cabin.
O I hae scarce to lay me on, If kingly fields were ance my ain; Wi' the moor-cock on the mountain-bree, But hardship na'er can daunton me.
There was an air of cool deliberation about Lord Harry Dermond, which satisfied me I should have to pass through a trying ordeal; and I prepared myself for the occasion. Nothing was said until all three of us were in the after-cabin, when Clements and his visiter took seats on the sofa, and a motion was made to me to occupy a chair. Then Lord Harry Dermond commenced the discourse, in a manner more serious than I could have wished.
"Mr. Wallingford," he said, "there is little need of preliminaries between you and me. I recollected your ship, when the Black Prince and Speedy were in the act of closing with the Frenchmen, three months since; and I need scarcely say that the manner in which she got back to the place where I then saw her, requires an explanation at your hands."
"It shall be given to you, my lord. Believing you had no right to send in the Dawn, and knowing that a detention of any length would prove my ruin, I regained possession of my own by the best means that offered."
"This is at least frank, sir. You mean to be understood that you rose on my people in the night, murdered them, and that you subsequently lost your vessel from a want of force to take care of her."
"This is partly true, and partly a mistake. I certainly should not have lost my ship had I been as strong-handed in the gale in which she was destroyed, as she was the day she left home: and she would have been as strong-handed in that gale, had we never fallen in with the Speedy."
"Which is an indirect manner of saying that the wreck was owing to us?"
"I shall very directly say, that I think it was; though by indirect means."
"Well, sir, on that point it is not probable we shall ever agree. You cannot suppose that the servants of the king of Great Britain will submit to your American mode of construing public law; but will easily understand that we leave such matters to our own admiralty judges. It is a matter of more moment to me, just now, to ascertain what has become of the officers and men that were put in charge of your ship. I saw the vessel, some time after I put Mr. Sennit and his party on board you, in your possession, (that we ascertained by means of our glasses;) and you now admit that you retook your vessel from these men. What has become of the prize-crew?"
I briefly related the manner in which we had regained the possession of the Dawn. The two English officers listened attentively, and I could discern a smile of incredulity on the countenance of Clements; while the captain of the Speedy seemed far from satisfied—though he was not so much disposed to let his real opinion be known.
"This is a very well-concocted and well-told tale, my lord," said the first, with a sneer; "but I doubt whether it find many believers in the British service."
"The British service, sir," I coldly retorted, "is, like all others, liable to reverses and accidents."
"Not exactly of this nature, Mr. Wallingford, you will yourself admit, on reflection. But I beg pardon, my lord: this is your affair—not mine; and I have been indiscreet in speaking."
Lord Harry Dermond looked as if he concurred in this sentiment. He had the pride of official rank, and that of private rank, to the usual degree; and did not exactly like the notion that one so much his inferior in both should take an affair so peculiarly his own out of his hands. He made a cold acknowledging bow, therefore, in reply, and paused a moment, like a man who reflected, ere he continued the discourse.
"You must be aware, Mr, Wallingford, it is my duty to inquire closely into this matter," he at length resumed. "I am just out of port, where my ship has been lying to refit, several weeks, and it is not probable that either of my officers would be in England without reporting himself, had he reached home."
"It is quite probable, my lord, that neither has reached home. I saw them picked up, with my own eyes, and by what appeared to me to be an outward-bound West Indiaman. In that case, they have, most probably, all been carried to one of the West India islands."
Here Clements handed Lord Harry Desmond a paper with something written on it, in pencil, which the latter read. After running his eyes over it, the captain nodded his head, and the lieutenant quitted the cabin. While he was absent, my companion, in a polite manner, gave me the particulars of the combat I had witnessed, going so far as to direct my attention to a paper he had brought on board, to show to Captain Rowley, and which contained the English official account of the whole affair. On glancing at it, I saw that the presence of the Dawn, on that occasion, was mentioned in ihe report; the name of the ship being given, with an allusion that was not very clear to the general reader, but which was plain enough to me. It was not long, however, before Clements returned, and, without much ceremony, he informed me that the gun-room mess waited my appearance to sit down to dinner. On this hint, I rose and took my leave, though I had time to see Marble enter the cabin, and Neb standing by the scuttle-butt, under the charge of the sentinel, ere I dipped my head under hatches.
The dinner lasted near an hour, and Lord Harry Dermond civilly waited all that time, before he again summoned me to the cabin. I was surprised to find Marble in the outer-cabin, Neb near the door, in waiting, and the two officers with pen, ink, and paper before them, where they had been left by me.
"Mr. Wallingford," Lord Harry commenced, "I hold it to be no more than fair to let you know that your mate's account of the manner in which the Speedy's people got out of the Dawn, and your own, do not agree in a single particular. Here is his statement, taken down by myself from his own words; if you are disposed to hear it, I will read you what he says."
"I do not well see how Mr. Marble can contradict me and tell the truth, my lord—but it were better I should hear his statement."
"'I was first-mate of the Dawn, of New York, Miles Wallingford master and owner. Captured and ordered in by Speedy, as known. Three days after parting company with the frigate, with Mr. Sennit as prize-master, Captain Wallingford and I commenced reasoning with that gentleman on the impropriety of sending in a neutral and breaking up a promising voyage, which so overcame the said Lieutenant Sennit, in his mind, that he consented to take the ship's yawl with a suitable stock of provisions and water, and give us up the ship. Accordingly, the boat was lowered, properly stowed, the most tender anxiety manifested for the party that was to go in her, when the English took their leave with tears in their eyes, and hearty good wishes for our safe arrival at Hamburg.'"
"Am I to understand you seriously, Lord Harry Dermond, that my mate has actually given you this account of the affair, for fact?"
"Most seriously, sir. I believe he even offered to swear to it, though I dispensed with that ceremony. Here is the statement of the black. Perhaps you would wish to hear that also?"
"Anything, my lord, it is your pleasure to communicate."
"Nebuchadnezzar Clawbonny says, 'he belonged to the Dawn—was left in her, when captured by Speedy, and was in her when wrecked. Captain Wallingford ordered Mr. Sennit to quit his ship, or he would make him; and Mr. Sennit obeyed Master Miles, of course,' But I will read no more of this, as a slave's statement can hardly be relied on. Perhaps we ought not to have received it, Mr. Clements?"
"Your pardon, my lord; it is our duty to protect his Majesty's subjects, in the best mode we can."
"That may be true, sir; but certain great principles ought never to be overlooked, even when doing our duty. You perceive, Mr. Wallingford, that your companions contradict your own account of this affair; and the most unpleasant suspicions are awakened. I should never justify myself to my superiors, were I to neglect putting you under arrest, and carrying you all in for trial."
"If my companions have been so ill-judging as to make the statements you say, I can only regret it. I have told you the truth; and I can add no more. As for the future, I do not suppose any representation of mine will induce you to change your decision."
"You carry it off well, sir; and I hope you will maintain the same appearance of innocence to the end. The lives of the king's subjects are not to be taken with impunity, nevertheless."
"Nor is the property of an American citizen, I trust, my lord. Had I used force to regain my ship, and had I thrown the prize-crew into the sea, I conceive I would have been doing no more than was my duty."
"This is well, sir; and I hope, for your sake, that an English jury will view the affair in the same light. At present, prepare to go on board the Speedy—for you must not be separated from the important testimony we can find in that ship. As for the citizens you mention, they are bound to submit to the decision of the admiralty courts, and not to take the law into their own hands."
"We shall see, my lord. When this case reaches my own country, we shall probably hear more of it."
I uttered this in a sufficiently magnificent manner; and, to own the truth, I felt a little magnificently at the time. I was then young, not three-and-twenty; and I thought of my country, her independence, her justice, her disposition to do right, her determination to submit to no wrongs, and her disregard of the expedient when principles were concerned,—much as young people think of the immaculate qualities of their own parents. According to the decisions of judges of this latter class, there would not be a liar, a swindler, a cheat, or a mercenary scoundrel living; but the earth would be filled with so many suffering saints that are persecuted for their virtues. According to the notions of most American citizens of my age, the very name they bore ought to be a protection to them in any part of the world, under the penalty of incurring the republic's just indignation. How far my anticipations were realized, will be seen in the sequel;—and I beg the American reader, in particular, to restrain his natural impatience, until he can learn the facts in the regular order of the narrative. I can safely promise him, that should he receive them in the proper spirit, with a desire to ascertain truth only and not to uphold bloated and untenable theories, he will be a wiser, and probably a more modest man, for the instruction that is to be thus gleaned from the incidents it will be my painful office to record. As for Lord Harry Dermond, the threatened indignation of the great American nation gave him very little concern. He probably cared a vast deal more for one frown from the admiral who commanded at Plymouth, than for the virtuous resentment of the President and Congress of the United States of America. I am writing of the close of the year 1803, it will be remembered;—a remote period in the history of the great republic; though I will not take it on myself to say things have materially altered, except it be in the newspapers, in this particular interest. The order to prepare to quit the Briton was repeated, and I was dismissed to the outer cabin, where was Marble, while Mr. Clements attempted to shut the door that separated us, though, from some cause or other, he did not exactly effect his object. In consequence of this neglect, I overheard the following dialogue:
"I hope, my lord," said Clements, "you will not think of taking away the mate and the black. They are both first-rate men, and both well affected to his Majesty's service. The negro was of great use aloft, during the late action, while the mate fought at a gun, like a tiger, for the better part of an hour. We are somewhat short of hands, and I have counted on inducing both these men to enter. There is the prize-money for the Frenchman under our lee, you know, my lord; and I have little doubt of succeeding."
"I'm sorry duty compels me to take all three, Clements, but I'll bear what you say in mind; perhaps we can get them to enter on board the Speedy. You know it—"
Here Mr. Clements discovered that the door was not shut, and he closed it tight, preventing my hearing any more. I now turned to Marble, whose countenance betrayed the self-reproach he endured, at ascertaining the injury he had done, by his ill-judged artifice. I made no reproaches, however, but squeezed his hand in token of my forgiveness. The poor fellow, I plainly saw, had great difficulty in forgiving himself; though he said nothing at the moment.
The conference between Lord Harry Dermond and Mr. Clements, lasted half an hour. At the end of that time, both appeared in the forward cabin, and I saw by the countenance of the last, that he had failed in his object. As for us, we were transferred, with the few articles we possessed, to the Speedy, on board which ship our arrival made as much of a sensation as the discipline of a man-of-war would permit. I was put in irons, the moment we reached the quarter-deck, and placed under the charge of a sentinel near the cabin-door. Some little attention was paid to my comfort, it is true, and a canvass screen was fitted for me, behind which I ate and slept, with some sort of retirement. My irons were of so large a sort, that I found means to take them off, and to put them on, at pleasure. I was disposed to think that the officers were aware of the fact, and that the things were used as much for the sake of appearance as for anything else. Apart from the confinement, and the injury done my affairs, I had no especial causes of complaint, though this imprisonment lasted until the month of April 1804, or quite five months. During this time, the Speedy arrived as far south as the line; then she hovered about the Canaries and the Azores, on her way homeward, looking in vain for another Frenchman. I was permitted to take exercise, twice a day, once in the gangway, and once on the gun-deck, and my table was actually supplied from the cabin. On no head, had I any other cause to complain, than the fact that my ship had been wrongfully seized in the first place, and that I was now suffering imprisonment for a crime—if crime indeed it would have been—that I certainly had not been obliged to commit.
During the five months I thus remained a prisoner on the gun-deck of the Speedy, I never exchanged a syllable with either Marble or Neb. I saw them both occasionally, employed on duty, like the crew, and we often exchanged significant looks, but never any words. Occasionally I had a visit from an officer; these gentlemen sitting down and conversing with me, on general topics, evidently to relieve the tedium of my confinement, without making any allusion to its cause. I cannot say that my health suffered, a circumstance that was probably owing to the cleanliness of the ship, and the admirable manner in which she was ventilated.
At length we went into port, carrying with us a French ship from one of the islands to the eastward of the Cape, as a prize. The Speedy captured this vessel, after a smart chase to the northward of the Azores, and Marble and Neb having volunteered to do so, were sent on board her, as two of the prize-crew. That day I got a visit from the purser, who was the most attentive of all my acquaintances, and I took the liberty of asking him if it were possible my two shipmates had entered into the British service.
"Why not exactly that," he said, "though they seem to like us, and we think both will ship rather than lose the prize-money they might get, for their services in the Briton. Your old mate is a prime fellow, the master tells me; but my lord fancying we might meet some French cruiser in the chops of the channel, thought it better to send these two chaps in the prize, lest they should take the studs and refuse to fight at the pinch. They have done duty, they say, to keep themselves in good health; and we humour them, to be frank with you, under the notion they may get to like us so well, as not to wish to quit us."
This gave me an insight into the true state of the case, and I felt much easier on the subject. That Marble ever intended to serve under the British flag, I had not supposed for a moment; but I was not sure that regret for the blunder he had already made, might not lead him into some new mistake of equally serious import, under the impression that he was correcting the evil. As for Neb, I knew he would never desert me; and I had not, from the first, felt any other concern on his account, than an apprehension his ignorance might be imposed on.
The day we anchored in Plymouth sound, was thick and drizzling, with a fresh breeze at south-west. The ship came-to just at sunset, her prize bringing up a short distance in-shore of her, as I could see from the port, that formed a sort of window to my little canvass state-room. Just as the ship was secured, Lord Harry Dermond passed into his cabin, accompanied by his first-lieutenant, and I overheard him say to the latter—
"By the way, Mr. Powlett, this prisoner must be removed to some other place in the morning. Now we are so near the land, it is not quite safe to trust him at a port."
I was still musing on the purport of this remark, when I heard the noise of a boat coming alongside. Putting my head out of the port, I could just see that the prize, master of the French ship had come on board, and that Marble and Neb were two of the four men who pulled the oars. Marble saw me, and gave a sign of recognition, though it was so dark as to render it difficult to distinguish objects at a trifling distance. This sign I returned in a significant manner. It was this answering signal from me, that induced my mate not to quit the boat, and to keep Neb with him. The other two men were so accustomed to do duty with the Americans, that they did not scruple to run up the frigate's side, after their officer, eager to get a gossip with their old mess-mates on the berth-deck. Almost at the same instant the officer of the deck called out—
"Drop la Manerve's boat astern, out of the way of the captain's gig, which will be hauling up in a minute."
This was on the larboard side, it is true; but a smart sea slapping against the starboard. Lord Harry was willing to dispense with ceremony, in order to escape a wet jacket. I cannot tell the process of reasoning that induced me to take the step I did; it was, however, principally owing to the remark I had so lately heard, and which brought all the danger of my position vividly to my mind. Whatever may have been the moving cause, I acted as follows:
My irons were slipped, and I squeezed myself between the gun and the side of the port, where I hung by my hands, against the ship's side. I might be seen, or I might not, caring little for the result. I was not seen by any but Marble and Neb, the former of whom caught me by the legs, as he passed beneath, and whispering to me to lie down in the bottom of the boat, he assisted me into the cutter. We actually rubbed against the captain's gig, as it was hauling up to the gangway; but no one suspected what had just taken place. This gig was the only one of the Speedy's boats that was in the water, at that hour, it having just been lowered to carry the captain ashore. In another minute we had dropped astern, Neb holding on by a boat-hook to one of the rudder-chains. Here we lay, until the gig pulled round, close to us, taking the direction toward the usual landing, with the captain of the Speedy in her.
In two minutes the gig was out of sight, and Marble whispered to Neb to let go his hold. This was promptly done, when the boat of the prize began to drift from the ship, swept by a powerful tide, and impelled by a stiff breeze. No one paid any heed to us, everybody's thoughts being occupied with the shore and the arrival at such a moment. The time was fortunate in another particular: Lord Harry Dermond was a vigilant and good officer: but his first-lieutenant was what is called on board ship "a poor devil;" a phrase that is sufficiently significant; and the moment a vigilant captain's back is turned, there is a certain ease and neglect in a vessel that has an indifferent first-lieutenant. Every one feels at liberty to do more as he pleases, than has been his wont; and where there is a divided responsibility of this nature, few perform more duty than they can help. When "the cat is away, the mice come out to play."
At all events, our boat continued to drop astern unobserved, until the ship itself became very faintly visible to us. I arose as soon as we were fifty feet from the rudder, and I assumed the direction of affairs as soon as on my feet. There were a mast and a lugg-sail in the boat, and we stepped the former and set the last, as soon as far enough from the Speedy to be certain we could not be seen. Putting the helm up, sufficiently to bring the wind on the quarter, I then stood directly out to sea. All this was accomplished in less than five minutes, by means of what the French call a sudden inspiration!
To be sure, our situation was sufficiently awkward, now we had obtained something that had the semblance of freedom. Neither of us had a single shilling of money, or an article of clothing but those we wore. There was not a mouthful of food of any sort in the boat, nor a drop of water. The night was lowering, and intensely dark; and the wind was blowing fresher than was at all desirable for a boat. Still we determined to persevere, and we ran boldly off the land, trusting our common fate to Providence. I hoped we might fall in with some American, bound in or out: should that fail us, France might be reached, if we had good luck, in the course of less than eight-and-forty hours.
Our situation afforded nothing to occupy the mind, but anxiety. We could not see a hundred yards, possessed no compass or any other guide on our way than the direction of the wind, and were totally without the means of refreshment or shelter. Still, we managed to sleep, by turns, each having entire confidence in the skill of both the others. In this manner we got through the night, feeling no apprehensions of being pursued, the darkness affording an effectual cover.
When the light returned, we discovered nothing in pursuit, though the weather was too thick to admit of our seeing any great distance around the boat. All the morning we continued running to the northward and eastward, under our single lugg reefed, only keeping clear of the seas that chased us, by dint of good management. As for eating or drinking, the first was out of the question; though we began to make some little provision to slake our thirst, by exposing our handkerchiefs to the drizzle, in order to wring them when they should become saturated with water. The coolness of the weather, however, and the mist, contributed to prevent our suffering much, and I do not know that I felt any great desire for either food or water, until towards the middle of the day. Then we began to converse together, on the subject of dinner, in a jocular way, however, rather than with any very great longings on the subject. While thus employed, Neb suddenly exclaimed, "dere a sail!"
Sure enough a ship was meeting us, heading up on the larboard tack about west-north-west, as she stretched in towards the English coast. I can see that vessel, in my mind's eye, even at this distant day! She had two reefs in her top-sails, with spanker, jib, and both courses set, like a craft that carried convenient, rather than urgent canvass. Her line of sailing would take her about two hundred yards to leeward of us, and my first impulse was to luff. A second glance showed us she was an English frigate, and we doused our lugg as soon as possible. Our hearts were in our mouths for the next five minutes. My eye never turned from that frigate, as she hove by us, now rising on the summit of a sea, now falling gracefully into the trough, concealing everything but her spars from sight. Glad enough were we, when she had got so far ahead as to bring us well on her weather-quarter, though we did not dare set our sail again, until her dark, glistening hull, with its line of frowning ports, was shut up in the cloud of mist, leaving the spot on the ocean where she had last been seen, as if she were not. That was one of those hair-breadth escapes that often occur to men engaged in hazardous undertakings, without any direct agency of their own.
Our next adventure was of a more pleasing character. A good-sized ship was made astern, coming up channel before the wind, and carrying top-mast studding-sails. She was an American! On this point we were all agreed, and placing ourselves in her track, we ran off, on her course, knowing that she must be going quite two feet to our one. In twenty minutes she passed close to us, her officers and crew manifesting the greatest curiosity to learn who and what we were. So dexterously did Marble manage the boat, that we got a rope, and hauled alongside without lessening the ship's way, though she nearly towed us under water in the attempt. The moment we could, we leaped on deck, abandoning the boat to its fate.
We had not mistaken the character of the vessel. It was a ship from James' river, loaded with tobacco, and bound to Amsterdam. Her master heard our story, believed it, and felt for us. We only remained with him a week, however, quitting his vessel off the coast of Holland, to go to Hamburg, where I fancied my letters would have been sent, and whence I knew it would be equally in our power to reach home. At Hamburg, I was fated to meet with disappointment. There was not a line for me, and we found ourselves without money in a strange place. I did not deem it prudent to tell our story, but we agreed to ship together in some American, and work our way home in the best manner we could. After looking about us a little, necessity compelled us to enter in the first vessel that offered. This was a Philadelphia ship, called the Schuylkill, on board which I shipped as second-mate, while Marble and Neb took the berths of foremast Jacks. No one questioned us as to the past, and we had decided among ourselves, to do our duty and keep mum. We used our own names, and that was the extent of our communication on the subject of our true characters.
I found it a little hard to descend so much on the ladder of life, but an early and capital training enabled me to act Dicky over again, with some credit; and, before the ship went to sea, our chief mate was discharged for drunkenness, and I got a lift. Marble was put in my place, and from that time, for the next five months, things went on smoothly enough; I say five months, for, instead of sailing for home direct, the ship went to Spain, within the Straits, for a cargo of barilla, which she took up to London, where she got a freight for Philadelphia. We were all a little uneasy, at finding that our story, with sundry perversions and exaggerations, were in the English papers; but, by the time we reached England, it was forgotten; having been crowded out by the occurrence of new events of interest, at a moment when every week was teeming with incidents that passed into history.
Nevertheless, I was glad when we left England, and I once more found myself on the high seas, homeward bound. My wages had enabled me, as well as Marble and Neb, to get new outfits, suited to our present stations, and we sailed for Philadelphia with as good a stock of necessaries as usually fall to the lot of men in our respective positions. These were all that remained to me of a ship and cargo that were worth between eighty and ninety thousand dollars!
The passage proved to be very long, but we reached the capes of the Delaware at last. On the 7th September, 1804, or when I wanted a few weeks of being three-and-twenty, I landed on the wharves of what was then the largest town in America, a ruined and disappointed man. Still I kept up my spirits, leaving my companions in ignorance of the extent of my misfortunes. We remained a few days to discharge the cargo, when we were all three paid off. Neb, who had passed on board the Schuylkill for a free black, brought me his wages, and when we had thrown our joint stock into a common bag, it was found to amount to the sum of one hundred and thirty-two dollars. With this money, then, we prepared to turn our faces north, Marble anxious to meet his mother and little Kitty, Neb desirous of again seeing Chloe, and I to meet my principal creditor John Wallingford, and to gain some tidings of Mr. Hardinge and Lucy.
"You think, I'll weep. No, I'll not weep:— I have full cause of weeping; but this heart Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws, Or ere I'll weep."
I pass over the manner and time of our being on the road between Philadelphia and New York, as things belonging to a former age, and to be forgotten. I will merely say that we travelled the South Amboy road, and went through a part of the world called Feather-bed Lane, that causes my bones to ache, even now, in recollection. At South Amboy, we got on board a sloop, or packet, and entered the bay of New York, by the passage of the Kills, landing near White-hall. We were superintending the placing of our chests on a cart, when some one caught my hand, and exclaimed—
"God bless me!—Captain Wallingford come to life, as I live!"
It was old Jared Jones, the man who had been miller at Clawbonny from my infancy to the day I left home. I had supposed him to be at work there still; but the look he gave me—the tears that I could see were forcing themselves from his eyes—his whole manner, indeed,—gave me at once to understand that all was not right. My countenance, rather than my tongue, demanded an explanation. Jared understood me, and we walked together towards the Battery; leaving Marble and Neb to proceed with the luggage to the modest lodgings in which we had proposed to hide ourselves until I had time to look about me—a house frequented by Moses for many years.
"You perceive I do not return home, Jared, in precisely the condition in which I went abroad. My ship and cargo are both lost, and I come among you, now, a poor man, I fear."
"We were afraid that something of the sort must have happened, or such bad news would never have reached Clawbonny, sir. Some of your men got back months ago and they brought the tidings that the Dawn was captivated by the English. From that hour, I think, Mr. Hardinge gave the matter up. The worst news, however, for us,—that of your death excepted,—was that of the mortgage on Clawbonny."
"The mortgage on Clawbonny! Has anything been done in connection with that?"
"Lord bless you, my dear Mr. Miles, it has been foreclosed, under the statue I believe they call it; and it was advertised to be sold three months. Then, when it was sold, how much do you think the place, mill and all, actually brought? Just give a guess, sir?"
"Brought! Clawbonny is then sold, and I am no longer the owner of my father's house!"
"Sold, sir; and we have been sent adrift—niggers and all. They said the freedom-laws would soon let all the older blacks be their own masters; and, as to the young 'uns, why, your creditors might sell their times. But Mr. Hardinge put the poor critturs into houses, near the rectory, and they work about among the neighbours, until things are settled. It's to their credit, Mr. Miles, that not one of 'em all thinks of runnin' away. With the feelin' that's up in the country consarnin' blacks, and no master to look arter them, every one of 'em might be off, without risk."
"And Chloe, my sister's own girl, what has become of Chloe, Jared?"
"Why, I believe Miss Lucy has tuck her. Miss Lucy is dreadful rich, as all allow: and she has put it in her father's power to take care of all the moveables. Every huff [hoof] of living thing that was on the place, has been put on the Wright farm, in readiness for their owner, should he ever come to claim them."
"Has Miss Hardinge had the consideration to hire that farm, with such an object?"
"They say she has bought it, out of the savings of her income. It seems she is mistress of her income, though under age. And this is the use she has made of some of her money."
"I had supposed she would have been married by this time. Mr. Drewett was thought to be engaged to her when I sailed."
"Yes: there is much talk about that, through the country; but they say Miss Lucy will never marry, until she has been of age a few weeks, in order that she may do what she pleases with her money, afore a husband can lay his hand on it. Mr. Rupert is married, I s'pose you heard, sir—and living away like a nabob with his bride, in one of the best houses in town. Some people say, that he has a right in a part of old Mrs. Bradfort's estate, which he will get as soon as Miss Lucy comes of age."
I did not like to pursue this part of the discourse any further, though it was balm to my wounds to hear these tidings of Lucy. The subject was too sacred, however, to be discussed with such a commentator, and I turned the discourse to Clawbonny, and the reports that might have circulated there concerning myself. Green told me all he knew, which was briefly as follows:
It seems that the second-mate of the Dawn, and such of her crew as had been put in the Speedy, and who had not been impressed either in the frigate itself, or in England after they were turned ashore, had found their way home, bringing with them an account of the capture of the ship, her extraordinary appearance near the four combatants, and their own attempt to escape. This last affair, in particular, had made some noise in the journals—a warm discussion having taken place on the subject of the right of Americans to run away with an English man-of-war's boat, under the circumstances in which these poor fellows had found themselves placed. In that day, parties in America took as lively an interest in the wars of Europe, as if the country were a belligerent; and politicians, or quasi statesmen, were little more than retailers of the most ultra English and ultra French opinions. It was sufficient for the Federalists to justify any act, if England did it; while the Democrats had almost as strong a disposition to defend all the enormities which the policy of Napoleon led him to commit. I say almost—for, to deal honestly with posterity, I do not think the French-American party was quite as French as the English-American party was English. These last had returned to their provincial dependence of thought; and, well-read in the English version of all political and moral truths, and little read in those of any other state of society, they believed, as he who worships at a distance from the shrine is known implicitly to yield his faith. The English party had actually a foundation in deeply-rooted opinion, and colonial admiration for the ancient seat of power, whereas the French owed its existence principally to opposition. The alliance of 1778 had some little influence among men old enough to have been active in the events of the revolution, it is true, but they existed as exceptions even in their own party. It was the English feeling that was natural, hearty, dependent, and deep; the other having been, as has just been stated, rooted as much in opposition, as in any other soil.
The public discussions of the fate of the Dawn, as a matter of course, had drawn much speculation, among my acquaintances, to my own. As month passed after month, and no letters reached America, the opinion became very general that the vessel was lost. At length, a ship from Jamaica brought in a blind story of the manner in which I had re-taken my vessel from Sennit; and, it now being known that we were only four left in the vessel, the conjecture was hazarded that we had been wrecked for want of force to take care of the ship; and I was set down as a drowned man.
Shortly after this opinion of my fate became general among my acquaintances, John Wallingford had appeared at Clawbonny. He made no change, however, spoke kindly to every one, told the slaves nothing should be altered, and gave them every reason to suppose that they would continue under a true Wallingford regime. It was generally understood he was to be my heir, and no one saw any occasion for the acts of violence that succeeded.
But, two months after John Wallingford's visit, Mr. Hardinge, and all connected with Clawbonny, had been astounded by the intelligence of the existence of the mortgage. A foreclosure under the statute, or 'statue,' as Jared had called it, was commenced, and a few months later the place was publicly sold at Kingston, none bidding more than five thousand dollars for it, less than a sixth of its worth. This sacrifice of real estate, however, under forced sales, was, and is, common enough in America, especially; it being generally understood that the creditor is prepared to rise in his bids, as necessity presents. In my case there was no one to protect my rights, Mr. Hardinge having attended the sale prepared to reason with my cousin on the propriety and generosity of his course, rather than prepared with good current coin to extinguish the claim. John Wallingford did not appear, however, and the sale took place without further competition, than one bid of Mr. Hardinge's; a bid that he was not properly prepared to make, but which he hazarded on his knowledge of Lucy's means and disposition. A man of the name of Daggett, a relative of John Wallingford's, by his mother's side, was the ostensible purchaser, and now professed to be the owner of my paternal acres. It was he who had taken possession under the purchase, had dismissed the negroes, and sent off the personal property; and he it was who had placed new servants on the farm and in the mill. To the surprise of everybody, John Wallingford had not appeared in the transaction, though it was understood he had a legal right to all my remaining effects, in the event of my real death. No will was proved or produced, however, nor was anything heard of, or concerning, my cousin! Mr. Daggett was a close and reserved man, and nothing could be learned on the subject from him. His right to Clawbonny could not be disputed, and after consulting counsel in the premises, Mr. Hardinge himself had been compelled, reluctantly, to admit it. Such was the substance of what I gleaned from the miller, in a random sort of conversation that lasted an hour. Of course, much remained to be explained, but I had learned enough, to know that I was virtually a beggar as to means, whatever I might be in feeling.
When I parted from Jared I gave him my address, and we were to meet again next day. The old man felt an interest in me that was soothing to my feelings, and I wished to glean all I could from him; more especially concerning Lucy and Mr. Hardinge. I now followed Marble and Neb to the boarding-house, one frequented by masters and mates of ships, the masters being of the humble class to condescend thus to mingle with their subordinates. We consumed the rest of the morning in establishing ourselves in our rooms, and in putting on our best round-abouts; for I was not the owner of a coat that had skirts to it, unless, indeed there might be a few old garments of that sort among the effects that had been removed from Clawbonny to the Wright farm. Notwithstanding this defect in my wardrobe, I would not have the reader suppose I made a mean or a disagreeable appearance. On the contrary, standing as I did, six feel one, in my shoes, attired in a neat blue round-about of mate's cloth, with a pair of quarter-deck trowsers, a clean white shirt, a black silk handkerchief, and a vest of a pretty but modest pattern, I was not at all ashamed to be seen. I had come from England, a country in which clothes are both good and cheap, and a trimmer-looking tar than I then was, seldom showed himself in the lower part of the town.
Marble and I had dined, and were preparing to sally forth on a walk up Broadway, when I saw a meagre, care-worn, bilious-looking sort of a person enter the house, and proceed towards the bar, evidently with an inquiry concerning some of the inmates. The bar-tender pointed at once to me, when the stranger approached, and with a species of confidence that seemed to proclaim that he fancied news to be the great end of life, and that all who were engaged in its dissemination were privileged beings, he announced himself as Colonel Warbler, the Editor of the New York Republican Freeman. I asked the gentleman into the common sitting-room, when the following dialogue took place between us.
"We have just heard of your arrival, Captain Wallingford," commenced the Colonel, all New York editors of a certain calibre seeming to be, ex-officio, of that blood-and-thunder rank, "and are impatient to place you, as it might be, rectus in curia, before the nation. Your case excited a good deal of feeling some months since, and the public mind may be said to be prepared to learn the whole story; or, in a happy condition to indulge in further excitement. If you will have the goodness to furnish me with the outlines, sir," coolly producing pen, ink, and paper without further ceremony, and preparing to write, "I promise you that the whole narrative shall appear in the Freeman of to-morrow, related in a manner of which you shall have no reason to complain. The caption is already written, and if you please, I will read it to you, before we go any further." Then without waiting to ascertain whether I did or did not please to hear him, the colonel incontinently commenced reading what he called his caption.
"'In the Schuylkill, arrived lately at Philadelphia, came passenger our esteemed fellow-citizen Captain Miles Wallingford"—in 1804, everybody had not got to be 'esquires,' even the editors not yet assuming that title of gentility ex officio. "This gentleman's wrongs have already been laid before our readers. From his own mouth we learn the following outline of the vile and illegal manner in which he has been treated by an English man-of-war called the Speedy, commanded by a sprig of nobility y'clepped Lord"—I have left a blank for the name—"an account which will awaken in the bosom of every true-hearted American sentiments of horror and feelings of indignation, at this new instance of British faith and British insolence on the high-seas. It will be seen by this account, that not satisfied with impressing all his crew, and in otherwise maltreating them, this scion of aristocracy has violated every article of the treaty between the two countries, as respects Captain Wallingford himself, and otherwise trodden on every principle of honour; in a word—set at naught all the commandments of God. We trust there will be found no man, or set of men in the country, to defend such outrageous conduct, and that even the minions of England, employed around the Federal presses of our country, will be ready to join with us, on this occasion, in denouncing British aggression and British usurpation.' There, sir, I trust that is quite to your liking."
"It is a little ex parte, Colonel, as I have quite as much complaint to make of French as of English aggression, having been twice captured, once by an English frigate, and again by a French privateer. I prefer to tell the whole story, if I am to tell any of it."
"Certainly, sir; we wish to relate all the enormities of which these arrogant English were guilty."
"I believe that, in capturing my ship, the English commander did me an act of great injustice, and was the cause of my ruin—"
"Stop, sir, if you please," interrupted Colonel Warbler writing with rapidity and zeal, "and thus caused the ruin of an industrious and honest man; ay, that ends a period beautifully—well, sir, proceed."
"But, I have no personal ill treatment to complain of; and, the act of the French was of precisely the same character; perhaps, worse, as I had got rid of the English prize-crew, when the Frenchman captured us in his turn, and prevented our obtaining shelter and a new crew in France." Colonel Warbler listened with cold indifference. Not a line would he write against the French, belonging to a very extensive school of disseminators of news who fancy it is a part of their high vocation to tell just as much, or just as little, of any transaction, as may happen to suit their own purposes. I pressed the injuries I had received from the French, on my visitor, so much the more warmly, on account of the reluctance he manifested to publish it; but all to no purpose. Next morning the Republican Freeman contained just such an account of the affair as comported with the consistency of that independent and manly journal; not a word being said about the French privateer, while the account of the proceedings of the English frigate was embellished with sundry facts and epithets that must have been obtained from Colonel Warbler's general stock in trade, as it was certainly not derived from me.
As soon as I got rid of this gentleman, which was not long after he discovered my desire to press the delinquency of the French on his notice, Marble and I left the house, on the original design of strolling up Broadway, and of looking at the changes produced by time. We had actually got a square, when I felt some one touch my elbow; turning, I found it was an utter stranger with a very eager, wonder-mongering sort of a countenance, and who was a good deal out of breath with running.
"Your pardon, sir; the bar-tender of the house where you lodge, tells me you are Captain Wallingford." I bowed an assent, foreseeing another application for facts.
"Well, sir. I hope you'll excuse the liberty I am taking, on account of its object. I represent the public, which is ever anxious to obtain the earliest information on all matters of general concernment, and I feel emboldened by duty, to introduce myself—Colonel Positive of the Federal Truth Teller, a journal that your honoured father once did us the favour to take—we have this moment heard of the atrocities committed on you, Captain Wallingford, by 'a brigand of a French piratical, picarooning, plundering vagabond,'" reading from what I dare say was another caption, prepared for the other side of the question; "a fresh instance of Gallic aggression, and republican, jacobinical insolence; atrocities that are of a character to awaken the indignation of every right-thinking American, and which can only find abettors among that portion of the community, which, possessing nothing, is never slow to sympathize in the success of this robber, though it be at the expense of American rights, and American prosperity."
As soon as Col. Positive had read this much, he stopped to take breath, looking at me, as if expecting some exclamations of admiration and delight.
"I have suffered by means of what I conceive to be a perfectly unauthorized act of a French privateer, Col. Positive," I replied; "but this wrong would not have been done me, had I not suffered previously by what I conceive to be an equally unjustifiable act of the English frigate, the Speedy, commanded by Captain Lord Harry Dermond, a son of the Irish Marquis of Thole."
"Bless me, sir, this is very extraordinary! An English frigate, did you say? It is very unusual for the vessels of that just nation ever to be guilty of an aggression, particularly as our common language, common descent, Saxon ancestors, and Saxon English, and all that sort of thing, you know, operate against it; whereas, sorry I am to say, each new arrival brings us some fresh instance of the atrocities of the myrmidons of this upstart Emperor of the French; a man, sir, whose deeds, sir, have never been paralleled since the day of Nero, Caligula, and all the other tyrants of antiquity. If you will favour me, Captain Wallingford, with a few of the particulars of this last atrocity of Bonaparte, I promise you it shall be circulated far and near, and that in a way to defy the malignant and corrupt perversions of any man, or set of men."
I had the cruelty to refuse compliance. It made no difference, however; for, next day, the Federal Truth Teller had an account of the matter, that was probably about as accurate as if I had related all the events myself, and which was also about as true as most of the jeremiads of the journals that are intended for brilliant effect. It was read with avidity by all the federalists of America; while its counterpart in the Republican Freeman, passed, pari passu, through all the democratic papers, and was devoured, with a similar appetite, by the whole of that side of the question. This distinction, I afterwards ascertained, was made by nearly the whole country. If a federalist was my auditor, he would listen all day to that part of my story which related to the capture by the French privateer; while it was vice versa with the democrats. Most of the merchants being federalists, and the English having so much more connection with my narrative than the French, I soon found I was making myself exceedingly unpopular by speaking on the subject at all; nor was it long before a story got in circulation, that I was nothing but a runaway English deserter myself—I, the fifth Miles of my name, at Clawbonny! As for Marble, men were ready to swear he had robbed his captain, and got off from an English two-decker only four years before. It is unnecessary to tell people of the world the manner in which stories to the prejudice of an unpopular man are fabricated, and with what industry they are circulated; so I shall leave the reader to imagine what would have been our fate, had we not possessed the prudence to cease dwelling on our wrongs. Instead of thinking of appealing to the authorities of my country for redress, I felt myself fortunate in having the whole affair forgotten, as soon as possible, leaving me some small portion of character.
I confess, while returning home, I had sometimes fancied I might be protected by the country of which I was a native, for which I had fought, and to which I paid taxes; but I was only three-and-twenty, and did not then understand the workings of laws, particularly in a state of society that submits to have its most important interests under foreign control. Had I received a wrong from only a Frenchman, or an Englishman, I should have fared a little better, in appearance, at least, though my money was irretrievably gone; for one political party, or the other, as the case might have been, would have held me up to ex parte sympathy, so long as it suited its purposes, or until the novelty of some new case offered an inducement to supplant me. But I had been wronged by both belligerents; and it was soon agreed, by mutual consent, to drop the whole subject. As for redress or compensation, I was never fool enough to seek it. On the contrary, finding how unpopular it made a man among the merchants, to prove anything against Great Britain, just at that moment, I was wisely silent, thus succeeding in saving my character, which would otherwise have followed my property, as the shortest method of making a troublesome declaimer hold his tongue.
Most young persons will doubtless hesitate to believe that such a state of things could ever have existed in a nation calling itself independent; but, in the first place, it must be remembered, that the passions of factions never leave their followers independent of their artifices and designs; and, in the next place, all who knew the state of this country in 1804, must admit it was not independent in mind of either England or France. Facts precede thought in everything among us; and public opinion was as much in arrears of the circumstances of the country, then, as—as—to what shall I liken it?—why, as it is to-day. I know no better or truer parallel. I make no doubt that the same things would be acted over again, were similar wrongs to be committed by the same powerful belligerents.
Marble was ludicrously enraged at these little instances of the want of true nationality in his countrymen. He was not a man to be bullied into holding his tongue; and, for years afterwards, he expressed his opinions on the subject of an American's losing his ship and cargo, as I had lost mine, without even a hope of redress, with a freedom that did more credit to his sense of right, than to his prudence. As for myself, as has just been said, I never even attempted to procure justice. I knew its utter hopelessness; and the Dawn and her cargo went with the hundreds of other ships and cargoes, that were sunk in the political void created by the declaration of war, in 1812.
This is an unpleasant subject to me. I could gladly have passed it over, for it proves that the political association of this country failed in one of the greatest ends of all such associations;—but nothing is ever gained by suppressing truth, on such a matter. Let those who read reflect on the past: it may possibly have a tendency to render the future more secure, giving to the American citizen in reality, some of those rights which it so much accords with our habits to boast of his possessing. If concealment did any good, I would gladly be silent; but diseases in the body politic require a bold and manly treatment, even more than those in the physical system. I remember the tone of the presses of the trading towns of this country on the subject of the late French treaty,—one of the most flagitious instances of contempt, added to wrong, of which history supplies an instance, and will own I do not feel much encouraged to hope for any great improvement.
After we got rid of Colonel No. 2, Marble and I continued our walk. We passed several persons of my acquaintance, but not one of them recognised me in my present attire. I was not sorry to see this, as I was wearied of my story, and could gladly remain in a species of incognito, for a few days. But, New York was comparatively a small town in 1804, and everybody knew almost everybody's face who was anybody. There was little real hope, therefore, of my escaping recognition for any great length of time.
We strolled up above St. Paul's, then a high quarter of the town, and where a few houses had been erected in what was then a new and enlarged style. On the stoop of one of these patrician residences—to use a word that has since come much into use—I saw a fashionably pressed man, standing, picking his teeth, with the air of its master. I had nearly passed this person, when an exclamation from him, and his calling my mate by name, caused me to stop. It was Rupert!
"Marble, my dear fellow, why, how fare you?" said our old ship-mate, descending the steps, with an indolent, half-cordial, half-condescending manner; extending his hand at the same time, which Moses received and shook heartily.—"The sight of you reminds me of old times, and salt water!"
"Mr. Hardinge," answered my mate, who knew nothing of Rupert's defects, beyond his want of aptitude for the sea, "I'm heartily glad to fall in with you. Do your father and handsome sister live here?"
"Not they, old Moses;" answered Rupert, still without casting his eyes on me. "This is my own house, in which I shall be very happy to see you, and to make you acquainted with my wife, who is also an old acquaintance of yours—Miss Emily Merton that was—the daughter of Gen. Merton, of the British army."
"Blast the British army! and blast the British navy, too!" cried Marble, with more feeling than manners. "But for the last, our old friend Miles, here, would now be a rich man."
"Miles!" Rupert repeated, with an astonishment that had more nature in it than had been usual with him of late years. "This is true, then, and you have not been lost at sea, Wallingford?"
"I am living, as you may see, Mr. Hardinge, and glad of this opportunity to inquire after your father and sister?"
"Both are well, I thank you: the old gentleman, in particular, will be delighted to see you. He has felt your misfortunes keenly, and did all he could to avert the sad affair about Clawbonny. You know he could as well raise a million, as raise five or ten thousand dollars; and poor Lucy is still a minor, and can only touch her income, the savings of which were insufficient, just then. We did all we could, I can assure you, Wallingford; but I was about commencing house-keeping, and was in want of cash at the moment,—and you know how it is under such circumstances. Poor Clawbonny! I was exceedingly sorry when I heard of it; though they say this Mr. Daggett, your successor, is going to do wonders with it,—a capitalist, they tell me, and able to carry out all his plans."
"I am glad Clawbonny has fallen into good hands, since it has passed out of mine. Good evening, Mr. Hardinge, I shall take an early opportunity to find your father, and to learn the particulars."
"Yes; he'll be exceedingly glad to see you, Wallingford; and I'm sure it will always afford me pleasure to aid you, in any way I can. I fear it must be very low water with you?"
"If having nothing to meet a balance of some twenty or thirty thousand dollars of unpaid debt is what you call low water, the tide is out of my pocket, certainly. But, I shall not despair; I am young, and have a noble, manly profession."
"Yes, I dare say, you'll do remarkably well, Wallingford," Rupert answered, in a patronizing manner. "You were always an enterprising fellow; and one need have no great concern for you. It would hardly be delicate to ask you to see Mrs. Hardinge, just as you are—not but what you appear uncommonly well in your round-about, but I know precisely how it is with young men when there are ladies in the case; and Emily is a little over-refined, perhaps."
"Yet, Mrs. Hardinge has seen me often in a round-about, and passed hours in my company, when I have been dressed just as I am at this moment."
"Ay, at sea. One gets used to everything at sea. Good evening; I'll bear you in mind, Wallingford, and may do something for you. I am intimate with the heads of all the principal mercantile houses, and shall bear you in mind, certainly. Good evening, Wallingford.—A word with you, Marble, before we part."
I smiled bitterly—and walked proudly from before Rupert's door. Little did I then know that Lucy was seated within thirty feet of me, listening to Andrew Drewett's conversation and humour. Of the mood in which she was listening, I shall have occasion to speak presently. As for Marble, when he overtook me, I was informed that Rupert had stopped him in order to ascertain our address;—a piece of condescension for which I had not the grace to be thankful.
"The weary sun hath made a golden set, And, by the bright track of his fiery car, Gives token of a goodly day to-morrow."
I was quite as much surprised at my own manner towards Rupert, as he could be himself. No doubt he ascribed it to my fallen fortune, for, at the commencement of the interview, he was a good deal confused, and his confidence rose in proportion as he fancied mine was lessened. The moderation I manifested, however, was altogether owing to Lucy, whose influence on my feelings never ceased. As for Marble, he thought all was right, and was very decided in his approval of Rupert's behaviour and appearance.
"'Tisn't every man that can make a seaman, Miles," he said, "for it's a gift that comes nat'rally, like singing, or rope-dancing. I dare say Rupert will do very well ashore, in the gentleman line, though he's no great catch afloat, as all will admit who ever sailed with him. The lad don't want for stuff; but it's shore stuff, a'ter all; and that will never pass muster in blue water. I dare say, now, this Imperor-Gineral, Bonaparte, would make a bloody poor shipmaster, if a body was to try him."
I made no answer, and we strolled on until dark. Then we returned to our lodgings, and turned-in. Next morning we breakfasted with the rest, and I was about to set out in search of a lawyer, to take his opinion on the subject of my insurance, though I had little or no hope of recovering anything, when I was told two gentlemen wished to see me. At first sight, I fancied that more editors were in quest of news; but we were no sooner alone together, than one of these persons let me into the secret of his errand, in a way that was well enough as respects the suaviter in modo, while it could not be said to be in the least deficient in the fortiter in re.
"I am sorry to say, Capt. Wallingford," this person commenced "that I have a writ to arrest you, for a sum that will require very respectable bail—no less than sixty thousand dollars."
"Well done, my upright cousin," I muttered; "this is losing no time, certainly. I owe half that money, I admit, sir, if my farm only sold for five thousand dollars, as I hear, and I suppose I am arrested for the penalty of my bond. But, at whose suit am I thus pursued?"
Here, the second person announced himself as the attorney of the plaintiff, excusing his presence on the pretence that he hoped to be of service in amicably arranging the affair.
"My client is Mr. Thomas Daggett, of Clawbonny, Ulster county, who holds your bonds as the administrator of the estate of the late John Wallingford, deceased, a gentleman to whom I believe you were related."
"The late John Wallingford! Is my cousin then dead?"
"He departed this life eight months since, dying quite unexpectedly. Letters of administration have been granted to Mr. Daggett, who is a son of his mother's sister, and a principal heir, the party dying intestate. It is a great pity that the law excludes you from the succession, being as you are of the name."
"My kinsman gave me reason to think I was to be his heir, as it was understood he was to be mine. My will in his favour was left in his hands."
"We are aware of that, sir, and your death being supposed, for a considerable period, it was thought your personals would descend to us, in part, by devise, which might have prevented the necessity of taking the unpleasant step to which we are now driven. The question was, which died first, you, or your cousin, and that fact, you will easily understand, we had no means of establishing. As it is, the duty of the administrator compels him to proceed, with as little delay as possible."
"I have no alternative, then, but to go to gaol. I know not the person on earth, I can or could ask to become my bail for a sum as large as even that I justly owe, to say nothing of the penalty of the bond,'"
"I am very sorry to hear this, Captain Wallingford," Mr. Meekly, the attorney, very civilly replied. "We will walk together, leaving the officer to follow. Perhaps the matter may be arranged amicably."
"With all my heart, sir. But, before quitting this house, I will discharge my bill, and communicate my position to a couple of friends, who are waiting in the passage."
Neb was one of these friends: for I felt I was fast getting into a condition which rendered the friendship of even my slaves of importance to me. That worthy fellow and Marble joined us on a signal from me, when I simply let them into the secret of my affairs.
"Arrested!" said Moses, eyeing the sheriff's officer with sovereign contempt; though he was a sturdy fellow, and one who had every disposition to do his duty. "Arrested! Why, Miles, you can handle both these chaps, yourself; and, with Neb's and my assistance, could work 'em up into spun-yarn without a winch!"
"That may be true, Moses: but I cannot handle the law, even with your powerful aid; nor should I wish to, if I could. I am bound to gaol, my friends,—having no bail,—so——"
"Bail! Why I'll be your bail; and, if you want two, there's Neb."
"I fancy the gentleman don't much understand being taken on a writ," the attorney simpered.
"I not understand it! That's a bloody poor guess of your'n, my friend.—When we had the scrape with the Hamburghers, in Philadelphy,—it's now coming thirty years,—"
"Never mind all that just now, Moses. I wish you to pay my bill here; give Neb the small bag of my clothes to bring up to the gaol, and keep my other effects under your own care. Of course you will come to see me, by-and bye: but I now order you not to follow us."
I then left the house, with a rapidity that gave the officer some uneasiness, I believe. Once in the street, however, my pace became more moderate; and dropping alongside of the attorney, we fell into discourse on the subject of the arrangement.
"To be frank with you, Captain Wallingford," said Meekly, "my client never expects to recover the full amount of his demand: it being understood your personals are now limited to certain jewelry; the stock of your late farm; a few negroes; a sloop; some furniture, &c. No, sir, we do not expect to obtain the whole of our demand. Certain securities in our hands will extinguish much of it, though a large balance will remain."
"As Mr. Daggett has already got real estate richly worth five-and-thirty thousand dollars, and which brings a clear two thousand a-year,—to say nothing of its advantages as a residence,—besides bonds and mortgages for twenty odd thousand more, I am fully sensible of his moderation. The forty thousand dollars I owed my cousin will be amply repaid to his heirs, though I pass my life in jail."
"You misapprehend the affair, entirely. Mr. Daggett does not hold Clawbonny as administrator at all; but as a purchaser under a mortgage sale. He did not buy it himself, of course; but has received a deed from a nephew of his, who was a bond fide bidder. The amount bid,—five thousand, two hundred and fifty dollars,—is duly endorsed on your bond, and you have credit for it. If no one bid higher, the property had to go."
"Yes, sir: I very well understand how property goes, in the absence of the debtor, at forced sales. But what is the nature of the proposition you intend to make?"
"Mr. Daggett understands you possess some very valuable pearls, that are supposed to be worth one thousand dollars, with a good deal of plate, &c., &c. Now he proposes that you assign to the estate he represents all your personals at an appraisal, when he will credit you with the amount, and suspend proceedings for the balance. In a word—give you time."
"And what idea has Mr. Daggett of the sum I should thus receive?"
"He is disposed to be liberal, and thinks you might get credit for about four thousand dollars."
"My personal property, including the pearls of which you speak, quite a thousand dollars worth of plate, even at the price of old silver, the sloop, the stock, horses, carriages, farming utensils, and without counting the slaves, all of whom I intend to set free, if the law will allow it, must nearly or quite double that sum, sir. Unless Mr. Daggett is disposed to raise his views of the value of my effects, I should prefer to remain in custody, and see what I can do by private sale. As he will receive every cent of the securities received from my sister's estate, quite $22,000, and now possesses more than $5,000 from Clawbonny, the balance I shall really owe cannot exceed $13,000."
"Were you to confess judgment, sir, and leave the property under execution—"
"I'll do nothing of the sort, Mr. Meekly—on that subject my mind is made up. One forced sale is quite enough for a novice."
"We shall soon reach the jail, sir—perhaps its sight may—"
"It will not, sir. Whenever Mr. Daggett shall be disposed to receive my property at a just valuation, I may be ready to arrange the matter with him, for I have no disposition to deny the debt, or to avoid its payment; but, as he has adopted his own mode of proceeding, I am ready to abide by it. Good morning, Mr. Meekly; I see no use in your accompanying me any further."
I was thus decided, because I saw I had to deal with an extortioner. A rogue himself, Mr. Daggett was afraid I might get rid of my personal property before he could issue an execution by the regular mode; and he anticipated frightening or constraining me into an arrangement. It would be my business to disappoint him; and I assumed an air of confidence that soon shook off my companion. A few minutes later, the key of the old stone debtor's jail was turned upon me. I had a little money, and reluctant to be shut up with the company I found in the building, I succeeded in procuring a small, ill-furnished room, to myself.
These preliminaries were hardly settled, when Neb was admitted with the bag. The poor fellow had been in tears; for he not only felt for me, but he felt for the disgrace and misfortune which had alighted on the whole Clawbonny stock. He had yet to learn that the place itself was gone, and I shrank from telling him the fact; for, to his simple mind, it would be like forcing body and soul asunder. All the negroes considered themselves as a part of Clawbonny, and a separation must have appeared in their eyes like some natural convulsion. Neb brought me a letter. It was sealed with wax, and bore the impression of the Hardinge arms. There was also an envelop, and the address had been written by Rupert. In short, everything about this letter denoted ease, fashion, fastidiousness, and the observance of forms. I lost no time in reading the contents, which I copy, verbatim.
"Broadway, Wednesday morning.
"It has just occurred to me that the enclosed may be of service to you; and I reproach myself for not having bethought me of your probable necessities when I saw you. I regret it is not in my power to ask you to dine with me, en famille, to-day; but Mrs. Hardinge has company, and we are engaged out every other day this week. I shall fall in with you again, some day, however, when I hope to be less engaged. Lucy has just heard of your safety and arrival, and has gone to write a note to my father, who will be glad to learn you are still in the land of the living. The General, who lives with us, desires to be mentioned, and hopes when he returns to England, it may be as your passenger. Adieu, dear Wallingford; I shall never forget our boyish pranks, which, I dare say, sometimes cause you to smile.
This letter contained a bank-note for twenty dollars! Yes, the man to whom I had given twenty thousand dollars, sent me, in my distress, this generous donation, to relieve my wants. I need hardly say, I sent the bank-note back to him, by the hands of Neb, on the instant, with a cold note of acknowledgment. I had no occasion for his charity, at least.
I passed a most uncomfortable hour alone, after Neb was gone. Then a turnkey came to inform me that a gentleman and lady—a clergyman, he believed—were in the private parlour, and wished to see me. It was doubtless Mr. Hardinge—could his companion be Lucy? I was too anxious, too eager, to lose any time, and, rushing toward the room, was at once admitted. There they were—Lucy and her father. Neb had seen Chloe, in calling at Rupert's door—had heard much and told much. Mr. Hardinge was on the point of going in quest of me; but, learning where I was, he had barely given his daughter time to put on a hat and shawl, and conducting her across the Park, brought her himself to visit me in prison. I saw, at a glance, that Lucy was dreadfully agitated; that she was pale, though still handsomer than ever; and that she was Lucy herself, in character, as in person.
"Miles, my dear, dear boy!" cried the good old divine, folding me in his arms, "for this mercy, may God alone receive the praise! Everybody gave you up, but Lucy and myself, and we could not, would not believe you, too, were lost to us for ever!"
As my former guardian still clasped me to his bosom, as if I still remained a child, I could perceive that dear Lucy was weeping as if ready to break her heart. Then she looked up, and tried to smile; though I could see the effort was made solely on my account. I caught her extended hand, and kissed it over and over again. The dear, dear girl trembled in every fibre of her body.
"All my misfortunes are forgotten," I cried, "in finding you thus, in finding you unchanged, in finding you still Lucy Hardinge!"
I scarce knew what I was uttering, though I saw Lucy's face was covered with blushes, and that a smile, which I found of inexplicable signification, now rose readily enough to her beautiful mouth. On the whole, I think there must have been some eight or ten minutes, during which neither of the three knew particularly well what was said or done. Lucy was both smiles and tears; though keen anxiety to know what had occurred, and how I came to be in gaol, was strongly expressed in her countenance, as well as in some of her words. As for myself, I was beside myself, and acted like a fool.
After a time, we were all seated, when I narrated the manner in which I had lost my ship, and the reason why Clawbonny had been sold, and why I supposed I was thus arrested.
"I am glad my cousin, John Wallingford, had no concern with these transactions; though I deeply regret the reason why my bond has passed into other hands. It would have rendered my misfortunes still harder to be borne, could I suppose that a kinsman had laid so deep a plot to ruin me, under the semblance of kindness. His death, however, sets that point at rest."
"I do not like his talking of making you his heir, and neglecting to do it," rejoined Mr. Hardinge. "Men should never promise, and forget to redeem their words. It has a suspicious look."
Lucy had not spoken the whole time I was relating my story. Her serene eye beamed on me in a way to betray the interest she felt; but not a syllable escaped her until her father had made the observation just given.
"It is of no moment, now," she then said, "what may have been the motive of Mr. John Wallingford. With Miles, I thought him a rough, but an honest man; but honest men may be pardoned for not foreseeing their own sudden deaths. The question, now, my dear father, is, how Miles can be got out of this wretched place, in the shortest possible time."
"Ay, Miles, my dear boy: heaven forbid you should sleep in such a spot. How shall we go to work?"
"I am afraid, sir, I shall sleep many nights here. The debt I really owe is about thirteen thousand dollars; and the writ, I believe, is issued for the entire penalty of the bond. As the motive for arresting me is, probably, to drive me into a compromise, by confessing judgment, and giving up my personal property to be sacrificed, as Clawbonny has been, it is not probable that bail for a less amount than the law allows the plaintiff to claim, will be received. I do not know the man who will become surety for me in that amount."
"Well, I know two.—Rupert and myself."
The idea of receiving such a favour from Rupert was particularly unpleasant to me; and I saw by the expression of Lucy's face that she entered into my feelings.
"I am afraid, sir," I said, after thanking Mr. Hardinge by a warm pressure of the hand, "that you are not rich enough. The deputy sheriff has told me he has instructions to be rigid about the bail; and I apprehend neither you, nor Rupert, can swear he is worth fifty thousand dollars."
"Bless me!—bless me! Is that really necessary, Miles?"
"If required, I believe the law insists on security to the amount of the judgment claimed. Rupert lives largely, I see, and yet I doubt if he would be willing to swear to that."
Mr. Hardinge's face became very sorrowful; and he paused a moment before answering.
"I am not in Rupert's secrets, neither is Lucy," he then said. "I hope all is right: though the thought that he might possibly play, has sometimes crossed my anxious mind. He is married to Miss Merton; has purchased and furnished a Broadway house, and is living at a large rate. When I spoke to him on the subject, he asked me if I thought 'English ladies of condition gave empty hands in marriage?' I don't know how it is, my dear Miles, but I always fancied that the Mertons had nothing but the Colonel's salary to live on."
"Major Merton," I answered, laying an emphasis on the brevet rank the worthy individual actually possessed, "Major Merton has told me as much as this, himself."
Mr. Hardinge actually groaned, and I saw that Lucy turned pale as death. The former had no knowledge of the true character of his son; but he had all the apprehensions that a father would naturally feel under such circumstances. I saw the necessity—nay, the humanity, of relieving both.
"You know me too well, my dear guardian—excellent Lucy—to think that I would deliberately deceive either of you. What I now tell you, is to prevent Rupert from being too harshly judged. I know whence Rupert derived a large sum of money, previously to my sailing. It was legally obtained, and is, or was, rightfully his. I do not say it was large enough long to maintain him in the style in which he lives; but it can so maintain him a few years. You need fear neither cards, nor positive dishonesty. Rupert has no disposition for either: he dislikes the first, and is too prudent for the last."
"God be thanked for this!" the divine exclaimed devoutly. "I had really frightened myself, with my own folly. So, so, Master Rupert; you have been making money and holding your peace! Well, I like his modesty; Rupert is clever, Miles, and I trust will one day take an honourable station at the bar. His marriage has been a little too early, for one of his means, perhaps; but I feel encouraged now that I find he can make money honourably, and legally, and justly."
I had said nothing of the honourable, or the just; but what weakness will not parental affection encourage? As for Lucy, her countenance told me she suspected the truth. Never before had I seen on those usually placid, and always lovely features, an expression of so much humiliation. For a single instant, it almost amounted to anguish. Recovering her self-possession, however, she was the first to turn the discourse to its proper channel.
"All this time, we are forgetting Miles," she said. "It would seem, father, that he thinks neither you, nor Rupert, rich enough to be his bail—can I be of any use, in this way?"
Lucy spoke firmly, and in the manner of one who was beginning to be accustomed to consider herself of some account in the way of money; but, a bright flush suffused her face, as she thus seemed to make herself of more moment than was her wont—to pass out of her sex, as it might be.
"A thousand thanks, dearest Lucy, for the offer," I said, eagerly, "but could you become my bail, I certainly would not permit it. It is enough that you come to visit me here, without further connecting your name with my debts. A minor, however, cannot become security. Mr. Daggett will keep me here a few weeks; when he finds I am employing agents to sell my effects, I fancy he is sufficiently a rogue himself to apprehend the money will get beyond the reach of his execution, and he will offer to compromise. Once at large, I can always go to sea; if not as master, at least as a mate."
"Had we been as proud as yourself, Miles, Clawbonny would have been less dear to us."
"It is not pride, but propriety, Lucy, to prevent you from doing a thing for which there is no necessity, and which might subject you to impertinent observations. No, I'll set about disposing of my personal property at once; that will soon bring Mr. Daggett to some sense of decency."
"If a minor cannot be received as bail, there is no more to be said," Lucy answered; "else would I prove to you, Miles, that I can be as obstinate as you are yourself. At all events, I can be a purchaser of jewels, if wanting a few months of my majority; fortunately, I have nearly a year's income on hand. You see, Miles,"—Lucy again blushed brightly, though she smiled—"what an accountant I am getting to be—but, I can commence at once by purchasing your pearls. They are already in my possession for safe keeping, and many is the covetous glance they have received from me. Those precious pearls! I think you valued them at three thousand dollars, Miles," Lucy continued, "and my father will at once pay you that sum on my behalf. Then send for the lawyer of your persecutor, for I can call him nothing else, and offer to pay that much on his demand provided he will accept my father as bail. If he be the son of being you fancy him, and so his acts I think prove him to be, he will be glad to accept the offer."
I was delighted at the readiness of resources this proved in Lucy, nor was the project in the least unlikely to succeed. Could I get four or five thousand dollars together, I had no doubt Daggett would accept Mr. Hardinge for bail, as it was only as surety for my appearance in court. That was then required, and no one could really think I would abscond and leave my old guardian in the lurch. Still, I could not think of thus robbing Lucy. Left to her own sense of propriety, I well knew she would never dream of investing so large a sum as the pearls were really worth, in ornaments for her person; and the pearls were worth but little more than half the sum she had named.
"This will not do," I answered, expressing my gratitude with my eyes, "and no more need be said about it. I cannot rob you, dearest Lucy, because you are so ready to submit to be robbed. Leave me here a few days, and Mr. Meekly will come to volunteer a plan of setting me free."
"I have it!" exclaimed Mr. Hardinge, jumping up and seizing his hat. "Lucy, I'll be back in fifteen minutes; then we'll bear Miles off in triumph, to your own house. Yes, yes, the scheme cannot fail, with a lawyer of any respectability."
"May I know what it is, dear papa?" Lucy asked, glancing expressively towards me.
"Why, it's just this. I'll go and find the bishop, who'll do anything to oblige me, and he and I'll go, in company, to this Mr. Meekly's office, and pledge our words as divines, that Miles shall appear in court, as the under-sheriff told me would be required, when all will be settled to our heart's content. On my way to the bishop's, I'll just stop in at Richard Harrison's office, and take his opinion in the matter."
"Well, sir, the notion of seeing Richard Harrison is a good one. He may suggest something in the way of practice that will be useful to us. If you could step across the way, and get him to pay me a short visit, I should be infinitely obliged to you. I was about to take his advice on the subject of my insurance when arrested, and I wish that point disposed of."
Mr. Hardinge listened attentively, and then he left the room, telling Lucy he would be back in a few minutes. It might have been an awkward situation for most young ladies, thus to be left alone with a prisoner in gaol; but Lucy was so much accustomed to the intimacy that bound us together, I do not think its peculiarities struck her at the moment. When her father went out of the room, she was in deep thought, nor did she appear to rouse herself from it, until he had been gone some little time. Lucy was seated, but I had risen to see Mr. Hardinge to the door of the room, and was walking slowly back and forth. The dear girl arose, came to me, took one of my hands in both her own, and looked anxiously into my face, for some little time, ere she spoke.