Homeward Bound; or, The Chase.
A Tale of the Sea.
By J. Fenimore Cooper.
"Is 't not strange, Canidius. That from Tarentum and Brundusium He could so quickly cut the Ionian Sea, and take in Toryne."—SHAKSPEARE.
Complete in One Volume.
NEW YORK: Published by Hurd and Houghton, Cambridge: Riverside Press. 1871
In one respect, this book is a parallel to Franklin's well-known apologue of the hatter and his sign. It was commenced with a sole view to exhibit the present state of society in the United States, through the agency, in part, of a set of characters with different peculiarities, who had freshly arrived from Europe, and to whom the distinctive features of the country would be apt to present themselves with greater force, than to those who had never lived beyond the influence of the things portrayed. By the original plan, the work was to open at the threshold of the country, or with the arrival of the travellers at Sandy Hook, from which point the tale was to have been carried regularly forward to its conclusion. But a consultation with others has left little more of this plan than the hatter's friends left of his sign. As a vessel was introduced in the first chapter, the cry was for "more ship," until the work has become "all ship;" it actually closing at, or near, the spot where it was originally intended it should commence. Owing to this diversion from the author's design—a design that lay at the bottom of all his projects—a necessity has been created of running the tale through two separate works, or of making a hurried and insufficient conclusion. The former scheme has, consequently, been adopted.
It is hoped that the interest of the narrative will not be essentially diminished by this arrangement.
There will be, very likely, certain imaginative persons, who will feel disposed to deny that every minute event mentioned in these volumes ever befell one and the same ship, though ready enough to admit that they may very well have occurred to several different ships: a mode of commenting that is much in favour with your small critic. To this objection, we shall make but a single answer. The caviller, if any there should prove to be, is challenged to produce the log-book of the Montauk, London packet, and if it should be found to contain a single sentence to controvert any one of our statements or facts, a frank recantation shall be made. Captain Truck is quite as well known in New York as in London or Portsmouth, and to him also we refer with confidence, for a confirmation of all we have said, with the exception, perhaps, of the little occasional touches of character that may allude directly to himself. In relation to the latter, Mr. Leach, and particularly Mr. Saunders, are both invoked as unimpeachable witnesses.
Most of our readers will probably know that all which appears in a New York journal is not necessarily as true as the Gospel. As some slight deviations from the facts accidentally occur, though doubtless at very long intervals, it should not be surprising that they sometimes omit circumstances that are quite as veracious as anything they do actually utter to the world. No argument, therefore, can justly be urged against the incidents of this story, on account of the circumstance of their not being embodied in the regular marine news of the day.
Another serious objection on the part of the American reader to this work is foreseen. The author has endeavoured to interest his readers in occurrences of a date as antiquated as two years can make them, when he is quite aware, that, in order to keep pace with a state of society in which there was no yesterday, it would have been much safer to anticipate things, by laying his scene two years in advance. It is hoped, however, that the public sentiment will not be outraged by this glimpse at antiquity, and this the more so, as the sequel of the tale will bring down events within a year of the present moment.
Previously to the appearance of that sequel, however, it may be well to say a few words concerning the fortunes of some of our characters, as it might be en attendant.
To commence with the most important: the Montauk herself, once deemed so "splendid" and convenient, is already supplanted in the public favour by a new ship; the reign of a popular packet, a popular preacher, or a popular anything-else, in America, being limited by a national esprit de corps, to a time materially shorter than that of a lustre. This, however, is no more than just; rotation in favour being as evidently a matter of constitutional necessity, as rotation in office.
Captain Truck, for a novelty, continues popular, a circumstance that he himself ascribes to the fact of his being still a bachelor.
Toast is promoted, figuring at the head of a pantry quite equal to that of his great master, who regards his improvement with some such eyes as Charles the Twelfth of Sweden regarded that of his great rival Peter, after the affair of Pultowa.
Mr. Leach now smokes his own cigar, and issues his own orders from a monkey rail, his place in the line being supplied by his former "Dickey." He already speaks of his great model, as of one a little antiquated it is true, but as a man who had merit in his time, though it was not the particular merit that is in fashion to-day.
Notwithstanding these little changes, which are perhaps inseparable from the events of a period so long as two years in a country as energetic as America, and in which nothing seems to be stationary but the ages of Tontine nominees and three-life leases, a cordial esteem was created among the principal actors in the events of this book, which is likely to outlast the passage, and which will not fail to bring most of them together again in the sequel.
An inner room I have, Where thou shalt rest and some refreshment take, And then we will more fully talk of this
The coast of England, though infinitely finer than our own, is more remarkable for its verdure, and for a general appearance of civilisation, than for its natural beauties. The chalky cliffs may seem bold and noble to the American, though compared to the granite piles that buttress the Mediterranean they are but mole-hills; and the travelled eye seeks beauties instead, in the retiring vales, the leafy hedges, and the clustering towns that dot the teeming island. Neither is Portsmouth a very favourable specimen of a British port, considered solely in reference to the picturesque. A town situated on a humble point, and fortified after the manner of the Low Countries, with an excellent haven, suggests more images of the useful than of the pleasing; while a background of modest receding hills offers little beyond the verdant swales of the country. In this respect England itself has the fresh beauty of youth, rather than the mellowed hues of a more advanced period of life; or it might be better to say, it has the young freshness and retiring sweetness that distinguish her females, as compared with the warmer tints of Spain and Italy, and which, women and landscape alike, need the near view to be appreciated.
Some such thoughts as these passed through the mind of the traveller who stood on the deck of the packet Montauk, resting an elbow on the quarter-deck rail, as he contemplated the view of the coast that stretched before him east and west for leagues. The manner in which this gentleman, whose temples were sprinkled with grey hairs, regarded the scene, denoted more of the thoughtfulness of experience, and of tastes improved by observation, than it is usual to meet amid the bustling and common-place characters that compose the majority in almost every situation of life. The calmness of his exterior, an air removed equally from the admiration of the novice and the superciliousness of the tyro, had, indeed, so strongly distinguished him from the moment he embarked in London to that in which he was now seen in the position mentioned, that several of the seamen swore he was a man-of-war's-man in disguise. The fair-haired, lovely, blue-eyed girl at his side, too seemed a softened reflection of all his sentiment, intelligence, knowledge, tastes, and cultivation, united to the artlessness and simplicity that became her sex and years.
"We have seen nobler coasts, Eve," said the gentleman, pressing the arm that leaned on his own; "but, after all England will always be fair to American eyes."
"More particularly so if those eyes first opened to the light in the eighteenth century, father."
"You, at least, my child, have been educated beyond the reach of national foibles, whatever may have been my own evil fortune; and still, I think even you have seen a great deal to admire in this country, as well as in this coast."
Eve Effingham glanced a moment towards the eye of her father, and perceiving that he spoke in playfulness, without suffering a cloud to shadow a countenance that usually varied with her emotions, she continued the discourse, which had, in fact, only been resumed by the remark first mentioned.
"I have been educated, as it is termed, in so many different places and countries," returned Eve, smiling, "that I sometimes fancy I was born a woman, like my great predecessor and namesake, the mother of Abel. If a congress of nations, in the way of masters, can make one independent of prejudice, I may claim to possess the advantage. My greatest fear is, that in acquiring liberality, I have acquired nothing else."
Mr. Effingham turned a look of parental fondness, in which parental pride was clearly mingled, on the face of his daughter, and said with his eyes, though his tongue did not second the expression, "This is a fear, sweet one, that none besides thyself would feel."
"A congress of nations, truly!" muttered another male voice near the father and daughter. "You have been taught music in general, by seven masters of as many different states, besides the touch of the guitar by a Spaniard; Greek by a German; the living tongues by the European powers, and philosophy by seeing the world; and now with a brain full of learning, fingers full of touches, eyes full of tints, and a person full of grace, your father is taking you back to America, to 'waste your sweetness on the desert air.'"
"Poetically expressed, if not justly imagined, cousin Jack," returned the laughing Eve; "but you have forgot to add, and a heart full of feeling for the land of my birth."
"We shall see, in the end."
"In the end, as in the beginning, now and for evermore."
"All love is eternal in the commencement."
"Do you make no allowance for the constancy of woman? Think you that a girl of twenty can forget the country of her birth, the land of her forefathers—or, as you call it yourself when in a good humour, the land of liberty?"
"A pretty specimen you will have of its liberty!" returned the cousin sarcastically. "After having passed a girlhood of wholesome restraint in the rational society of Europe, you are about to return home to the slavery of American female life, just as you are about to be married!"
"Married! Mr. Effingham?"
"I suppose the catastrophe will arrive, sooner or later, and it is more likely to occur to a girl of twenty than to a girl of ten."
"Mr. John Effingham never lost an argument for the want of a convenient fact, my love," the father observed by way of bringing the brief discussion to a close. "But here are the boats approaching; let us withdraw a little, and examine the chance medley of faces with which we are to become familiar by the intercourse of a month."
"You will be much more likely to agree on a verdict of murder," muttered the kinsman.
Mr. Effingham led his daughter into the hurricane-house—or, as the packet-men quaintly term it, the coach-house, where they stood watching the movements on the quarter-deck for the next half-hour; an interval of which we shall take advantage to touch in a few of the stronger lights of our picture, leaving the softer tints and the shadows to be discovered by the manner in which the artist "tells the story."
Edward and John Effingham were brothers' children; were born on the same day; had passionately loved the same woman, who had preferred the first-named, and died soon after Eve was born; had, notwithstanding this collision in feeling, remained sincere friends, and this the more so, probably, from a mutual and natural sympathy in their common loss; had lived much together at home, and travelled much together abroad, and were now about to return in company to the land of their birth, after what might be termed an absence of twelve years; though both had visited America for short periods in the intervals,—John not less than five times.
There was a strong family likeness between the cousins, their persons and even features being almost identical; though it was scarcely possible for two human beings to leave more opposite impressions on mere casual spectators when seen separately. Both were tall, of commanding presence, and handsome; while one was winning in appearance, and the other, if not positively forbidding, at least distant and repulsive. The noble outline of face in Edward Effingham had got to be cold severity in that of John; the aquiline nose of the latter, seeming to possess an eagle-like and hostile curvature,—his compressed lip, sarcastic and cold expression, and the fine classical chin, a feature in which so many of the Saxon race fail, a haughty scorn that caused strangers usually to avoid him. Eve drew with great facility and truth, and she had an eye, as her cousin had rightly said, "full of tints." Often and often had she sketched both of these loved faces, and never without wondering wherein that strong difference existed in nature which she had never been able to impart to her drawings. The truth is, that the subtle character of John Effingham's face would have puzzled the skill of one who had made the art his study for a life, and it utterly set the graceful but scarcely profound knowledge of the beautiful young painter at defiance. All the points of character that rendered her father so amiable and so winning, and which were rather felt than perceived, in his cousin were salient and bold, and if it may be thus expressed, had become indurated by mental suffering and disappointment.
The cousins were both rich, though in ways as opposite as their dispositions and habits of thought. Edward Effingham possessed a large hereditary property, that brought a good income, and which attached him to this world of ours by kindly feelings towards its land and water; while John, much the wealthier of the two, having inherited a large commercial fortune, did not own ground enough to bury him. As he sometimes deridingly said, he "kept his gold in corporations, that were as soulless as himself."
Still, John Effingham was a man of cultivated mind, of extensive intercourse with the world, and of manners that varied with the occasion; or perhaps it were better to say, with his humours. In all these particulars but the latter the cousins were alike; Edward Effingham's deportment being as equal as his temper, though also distinguished for a knowledge of society.
These gentlemen had embarked at London, on their fiftieth birthday, in the packet of the 1st of October, bound to New York; the lands and family residence of the proprietor lying in the state of that name, of which all of the parties were natives. It is not usual for the cabin passengers of the London packets to embark in the docks; but Mr. Effingham,—as we shall call the father in general, to distinguish him from the bachelor, John,—as an old and experienced traveller, had determined to make his daughter familiar with the peculiar odours of the vessel in smooth water, as a protection against sea-sickness; a malady, however, from which she proved to be singularly exempt in the end. They had, accordingly, been on board three days, when the ship came to an anchor off Portsmouth, the point where the remainder of the passengers were to join her on that particular day when the scene of this tale commences.
At this precise moment, then, the Montauk was lying at a single anchor, not less than a league from the land, in a flat calm, with her three topsails loose, the courses in the brails, and with all those signs of preparation about her that are so bewildering to landsmen, but which seamen comprehend as clearly as words. The captain had no other business there than to take on board the wayfarers, and to renew his supply of fresh meat and vegetables; things of so familiar import on shore as to be seldom thought of until missed, but which swell into importance during a passage of a month's duration. Eve had employed her three days of probation quite usefully, having, with the exception of the two gentlemen, the officers of the vessel, and one other person, been in quiet possession of all the ample, not to say luxurious cabins. It is true, she had a female attendant; but to her she had been accustomed from childhood, and Nanny Sidley, as her quondam nurse and actual lady's-maid was termed, appeared so much a part of herself, that, while her absence would be missed almost as greatly as that of a limb, her presence was as much a matter of course as a hand or foot. Nor will a passing word concerning this excellent and faithful domestic be thrown away, in the brief preliminary explanations we are making.
Ann Sidley was one of those excellent creatures who, it is the custom with the European travellers to say, do not exist at all in America, and who, while they are certainly less numerous than could be wished, have no superiors in the world, in their way. She had been born a servant, lived a servant, and was quite content to die a servant,—and this, too, in one and the same family. We shall not enter into a philosophical examination of the reasons that had induced old Ann to feel certain she was in the precise situation to render her more happy than any other that to her was attainable; but feel it she did, as John Effingham used to express it, "from the crown of her head to the sole of her foot." She had passed through infancy, childhood, girlhood, up to womanhood, pari passu, with the mother of Eve, having been the daughter of a gardener, who died in the service of the family, and had heart enough to feel that the mixed relations of civilised society, when properly understood and appreciated, are more pregnant of happiness than the vulgar scramble and heart-burnings, that, in the melee of a migrating and unsettled population, are so injurious to the grace and principles of American life. At the death of Eve's mother, she had transferred her affections to the child; and twenty years of assiduity and care had brought her to feel as much tenderness for her lovely young charge as if she had been her natural parent. But Nanny Sidley was better fitted to care for the body than the mind of Eve; and when, at the age of ten, the latter was placed under the control of an accomplished governess, the good woman had meekly and quietly sunk the duties of the nurse in those of the maid.
One of the severest trials—or "crosses," as she herself termed it—that poor Nanny had ever experienced, was endured when Eve began to speak in a language she could not herself comprehend; for, in despite of the best intentions in the world, and twelve years of use, the good woman could never make anything of the foreign tongues her young charge was so rapidly acquiring. One day, when Eve had been maintaining an animated and laughing discourse in Italian with her instructress, Nanny, unable to command herself, had actually caught the child to her bosom, and, bursting into tears, implored her not to estrange herself entirely from her poor old nurse. The caresses and solicitations of Eve soon brought the good woman to a sense of her weakness; but the natural feeling was so strong, that it required years of close observation to reconcile her to the thousand excellent qualities of Mademoiselle Viefville, the lady to whose superintendence the education of Miss Effingham had been finally confided.
This Mademoiselle Viefville was also among the passengers, and was the one other person who now occupied the cabins in common with Eve and her friends. She was the daughter of a French officer who had fallen in Napoleon's campaigns, had been educated at one of those admirable establishments which form points of relief in the ruthless history of the conqueror, and had now lived long enough to have educated two young persons, the last of whom was Eve Effingham. Twelve years of close communion with her eleve had created sufficient attachment to cause her to yield to the solicitations of the father to accompany his daughter to America, and to continue with her during the first year of her probation, in a state of society that the latter felt must be altogether novel to a young woman educated as his own child had been.
So much has been written and said of French governesses, that we shall not anticipate the subject, but leave this lady to speak and act for herself in the course of the narrative. Neither is it our intention to be very minute in these introductory remarks concerning any of our characters; but having thus traced their outlines, we shall return again to the incidents as they occurred, trusting to make the reader better acquainted with all the parties as we proceed.
Lord Cram and Lord Vultur. Sir Brandish O'Cultur, With Marshal Carouzer, And old Lady Mouser.
The assembling of the passengers of a packet-ship is at all times a matter of interest to the parties concerned. During the western passage in particular, which can never safely be set down at less than a month, there is the prospect of being shut up for the whole of that period, within the narrow compass of a ship, with those whom chance has brought together, influenced by all the accidents and caprices of personal character, and a difference of nations, conditions in life, and education. The quarter-deck, it is true, forms a sort of local distinction, and the poor creatures in the steerage seem the rejected of Providence for the time being; but all who know life will readily comprehend that the pele-mele of the cabins can seldom offer anything very enticing to people of refinement and taste. Against this evil, however, there is one particular source of relief; most persons feeling a disposition to yield to the circumstances in which they are placed, with the laudable and convenient desire to render others comfortable, in order that they may be made comfortable themselves.
A man of the world and a gentleman, Mr. Effingham had looked forward to this passage with a good deal of concern, on account of his daughter, while he shrank with the sensitiveness of his habits from the necessity of exposing one of her delicacy and plastic simplicity to the intercourse of a ship. Accompanied by Mademoiselle Viefville, watched over by Nanny, and guarded by himself and his kinsman, he had lost some of his apprehensions on the subject during the three probationary days, and now took his stand in the centre of his own party to observe the new arrivals, with something of the security of a man who is entrenched in his own door-way.
The place they occupied, at a window of the hurricane-house, did not admit of a view of the water; but it was sufficiently evident from the preparations in the gangway next the land, that boats were so near as to render that unnecessary.
"Genus cockney; species, bagman," muttered John Effingham, as the first arrival touched the deck. "That worthy has merely exchanged the basket of a coach for the deck of a packet; we may now learn the price of buttons."
It did not require a naturalist to detect the species of the stranger, in truth; though John Effingham had been a little more minute in his description than was warranted by the fact. The person in question was one of those mercantile agents that England scatters so profusely over the world, some of whom have all the most sterling qualities of their nation, though a majority, perhaps, are a little disposed to mistake the value of other people as well as their own. This was the genus, as John Effingham had expressed it; but the species will best appear on dissection. The master of the ship saluted this person cordially, and as an old acquaintance, by the name of Monday.
"A mousquetaire resuscitated," said Mademoiselle Viefville, in her broken English, as one who had come in the same boat as the first-named, thrust his whiskered and mustachoed visage above the rail of the gangway.
"More probably a barber, who has converted his own head into a wig-block," growled John Effingham.
"It cannot, surely, be Wellington in disguise!" added Mr. Effingham, with a sarcasm of manner that was quite unusual for him.
"Or a peer of the realm in his robes!" whispered Eve, who was much amused with the elaborate toilet of the subject of their remarks, who descended the ladder supported by a sailor, and, after speaking to the master, was formally presented to his late boat-companion, as Sir George Templemore. The two bustled together about the quarter-deck for a few minutes, using eye-glasses, which led them into several scrapes, by causing them to hit their legs against sundry objects they might otherwise have avoided, though both were much too high-bred to betray feelings—or fancied they were, which answered the same purpose.
After these flourishes, the new comers descended to the cabin in company, not without pausing to survey the party in the hurricane-house, more especially Eve, who, to old Ann's great scandal, was the subject of their manifest and almost avowed admiration and observation.
"One is rather glad to have such a relief against the tediousness of a sea-passage," said Sir George as they went down the ladder. "No doubt you are used to this sort of thing, Mr. Monday; but with me, it is voyage the first,—that is, if I except the Channel and the seas one encounters in making the usual run on the Continent."
"Oh, dear me! I go and come as regularly as the equinoxes, Sir George, which you know is quite, in rule, once a year. I call my passages the equinoxes, too, for I religiously make it a practice to pass just twelve hours out of the twenty-four in my berth."
This was the last the party on deck heard of the opinions of the two worthies, for the time being; nor would they have been favoured with all this, had not Mr. Monday what he thought a rattling way with him, which caused him usually to speak in an octave above every one else. Although their voices were nearly mute, or rather lost to those above, they were heard knocking about in their state-rooms; and Sir George, in particular, as frequently called out for the steward, by the name of "Saunders," as Mr. Monday made similar appeals to the steward's assistant for succour, by the appropriate appellation of "Toast."
"I think we may safely claim this person, at least, for a countryman," said John Effingham: "he is what I have heard termed an American in a European mask."
"The character is more ambitiously conceived than skilfully maintained," replied Eve, who had need of all her retenue of manner to abstain from laughing outright. "Were I to hazard a conjecture, it would be to describe the gentleman as a collector of costumes, who had taken a fancy to exhibit an assortment of his riches on his own person. Mademoiselle Viefville, you, who so well understand costumes, may tell us from what countries the separate parts of that attire have been collected?"
"I can answer for the shop in Berlin where the travelling cap was purchased," returned the amused governess; "in no other part of the world can a parallel be found."
"I should think, ma'am," put in Nanny, with the quiet simplicity of her nature as well as of her habits, "that the gentleman must have bought his boots in Paris, for they seem to pinch his feet, and all the Paris boots and shoes pinch one's feet,—at least, all mine did."
"The watch-guard is stamped 'Geneva,'" continued Eve.
"The coat comes from Frankfort: c'est une equivoque."
"And the pipe from Dresden, Mademoiselle Viefville."
"The conchiglia savours of Rome, and the little chain annexed bespeaks the Rialto; while the moustaches are anything but indigenes, and the tout ensemble the world: the man is travelled, at least."
Eve's eyes sparkled with humour as she said this: while the new passenger, who had been addressed as Mr. Dodge, and as an old acquaintance also, by the captain, came so near them as to admit of no further comments. A short conversation between the two soon let the listeners into the secret that the traveller had come from America in the spring, whither, after having made the tour of Europe, he was about to return in the autumn.
"Seen enough, ha!" added the captain, with a friendly nod of the head, when the other had finished a brief summary of his proceedings in the eastern hemisphere. "All eyes, and no leisure or inclination for more?"
"I've seen as much as I warnt to see," returned the traveller, with an emphasis on, and a pronunciation of, the word we have italicised, that cannot be committed to paper, but which were eloquence itself on the subject of self-satisfaction and self-knowledge.
"Well, that is the main point. When a man has got all he wants of a thing, any addition is like over-ballast. Whenever I can get fifteen knots out of the ship, I make it a point to be satisfied, especially under close-reefed topsails and on a taut bowline."
The traveller and the master nodded their heads at each other, like men who understood more than they expressed; when the former, after inquiring with marked interest if his room-mate, Sir George Templemore, had arrived, went below. An intercourse of three days had established something like an acquaintance between the latter and the passengers she had brought from the River, and turning his red quizzical face towards the ladies, he observed with inimitable gravity,
"There is nothing like understanding when one has enough, even if it be of knowledge. I never yet met with the navigator who found two 'noons' in the same day, that he was not in danger of shipwreck. Now I dare say, Mr. Dodge there, who has just gone below, has, as he says, seen all he warnts to see, and it is quite likely he knows more already than he can cleverly get along with.—Let the people be getting the booms on the yards, Mr. Leach; we shall be warnting to spread our wings before the end of the passage."
As Captain Truck, though he often swore, seldom laughed, his mate gave the necessary order with a gravity equal to that with which it had been delivered to him; and even the sailors went aloft to execute it with greater alacrity for an indulgence of humour that was peculiar to their trade, and which, as few understood it so well, none enjoyed so much as themselves. As the homeward-bound crew was the same as the outward-bound, and Mr. Dodge had come abroad quite as green as he was now going home ripe, this traveller of six months' finish did not escape diver commentaries that literally cut him up "from clew to ear-ring," and which flew about in the rigging much as active birds flutter from branch to branch in a tree. The subject of all this wit, however, remained profoundly, not to say happily, ignorant of the sensation he had produced, being occupied in disposing of the Dresden pipe, the Venetian chain, and the Roman conchiglia in his state-room, and in "instituting an acquaintance," as he expressed it, with his room-mate, Sir George Templemore.
"We must surely have something better than this," observed Mr. Effingham, "for I observed that two of the state-rooms in the main cabin are taken singly."
In order that the general reader may understand this, it may be well to explain that the packet-ships have usually two berths in each state-room, but they who can afford to pay an extra charge are permitted to occupy the little apartment singly. It is scarcely necessary to add, that persons of gentlemanly feeling, when circumstances will at all permit, prefer economising in other things in order to live by themselves for the month usually consumed in the passage, since in nothing is refinement more plainly exhibited than in the reserve of personal habits.
"There is no lack of vulgar fools stirring with full pockets," rejoined John Effingham; "the two rooms you mention may have been taken by some 'yearling' travellers, who are little better than the semi-annual savant who has just passed us."
"It is at least something, cousin Jack, to have the wishes of a gentleman."
"It is something, Eve, though it end in wishes, or even in caricature."
"What are the names?" pleasantly asked Mademoiselle Viefville; "the names may be a clue to the characters."
"The papers pinned to the bed-curtains bear the antithetical titles of Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt; though it is quite probable the first is wanting of a letter or two by accident, and the last is merely a synonyme of the old nom de guerre 'Cash.'"
"Do persons, then, actually travel with borrowed names, in our days?" asked Eve, with a little of the curiosity of the common mother whose name she bore.
"That do they, and with borrowed money too, as well as in other days. I dare say, however, these two co-voyagers of ours will come just as they are, in truth, Sharp enough, and Blunt enough."
"Are they Americans, think you?"
"They ought to be; both the qualities being thoroughly indigenes, as Mademoiselle Viefville would say."
"Nay, cousin John, I will bandy words with you no longer; for the last twelve months you have done little else than try to lessen the joyful anticipations with which I return to the home of my childhood."
"Sweet one, I would not willingly lessen one of thy young and generous pleasures by any of the alloy of my own bitterness; but what wilt thou? A little preparation for that which is as certain to follow as that the sun succeeds the dawn, will rather soften the disappointment thou art doomed to feel."
Eve had only time to cast a look of affectionate gratitude towards him,—for whilst he spoke tauntingly, he spoke with a feeling that her experience from childhood had taught her to appreciate,—ere the arrival of another boat drew the common attention to the gangway. A call from the officer in attendance had brought the captain to the rail; and his order "to pass in the luggage of Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt," was heard by all near.
"Now for les indigenes," whispered Mademoiselle Viefville, with the nervous excitement that is a little apt to betray a lively expectation in the gentler sex.
Eve smiled, for there are situations in which trifles help to awaken interest, and the little that had just passed served to excite curiosity in the whole party. Mr. Effingham thought it a favourable symptom that the master, who had had interviews with all his passengers in London, walked to the gangway to receive the new-comers; for a boat-load of the quarter-deck oi polloi had come on board a moment before without any other notice on his part than a general bow, with the usual order to receive their effects.
"The delay denotes Englishmen," the caustic John had time to throw in, before the silent arrangement at the gangway was interrupted by the appearance of the passengers.
The quiet smile of Mademoiselle Viefville, as the two travellers appeared on deck, denoted approbation, for her practised eye detected at a glance, that both were certainly gentlemen. Women are more purely creatures of convention in their way than men, their education inculcating nicer distinctions and discriminations than that of the other sex; and Eve, who would have studied Sir George Templemore and Mr. Dodge as she would have studied the animals of a caravan, or as creatures with whom she had no affinities, after casting a sly look of curiosity at the two who now appeared on deck, unconsciously averted her eyes like a well-bred young person in a drawing-room.
"They are indeed English," quietly remarked Mr. Effingham; "but, out of question English gentlemen."
"The one nearest appears to me to be Continental," answered Mademoiselle Viefville who had not felt the same impulse to avert her look as Eve; "he is jamais Anglais!"
Eve stole a glance in spite of herself, and, with the intuitive penetration of a woman, intimated that she had come to the same conclusion. The two strangers were both tall, and decidedly gentleman-like young men, whose personal appearance would cause either to be remarked. The one whom the captain addressed as Mr. Sharp had the most youthful look, his complexion being florid, and his hair light; though the other was altogether superior in outline of features as well as in expression; indeed, Mademoiselle Viefville fancied she never saw a sweeter smile than that he gave on returning the salute of the deck; there was more than the common expression of suavity and of the usual play of features in it, for it struck her as being thoughtful and as almost melancholy. His companion was gracious in his manner, and perfectly well toned; but his demeanour had less of the soul of the man about it, partaking more of the training of the social caste to which it belonged. These may seem to be nice distinctions for the circumstances; but Mademoiselle Viefville had passed her life in good company, and under responsibilities that had rendered observation and judgment highly necessary, and particularly observations of the other sex.
Each of the strangers had a servant; and while their luggage was passed up from the boat, they walked aft nearer to the hurricane-house, accompanied by the captain. Every American, who is not very familiar with the world appears to possess the mania of introducing. Captain Truck was no exception to the rule; for, while he was perfectly acquainted with a ship, and knew the etiquette of the quarter-deck to a hair, he got into blue water the moment he approached the finesse of deportment. He was exactly of that school of elegants who fancy drinking a glass of wine with another, and introducing, are touches of breeding; it being altogether beyond his comprehension that both have especial uses, and are only to be resorted to on especial occasions. Still, the worthy master, who had begun life on the forecastle, without any previous knowledge of usages, and who had imbibed the notion that "manners make the man," taken in the narrow sense of the axiom, was a devotee of what he fancied to be good breeding, and one of his especial duties, as he imagined, in order to put his passengers at their ease, was to introduce them to each other; a proceeding which, it is hardly necessary to say, had just a contrary effect with the better class of them.
"You are acquainted, gentlemen?" he said, as the three approached the party in the hurricane-house.
The two travellers endeavoured to look interested, while Mr. Sharp carelessly observed that they had met for the first time in the boat. This was delightful intelligence to Captain Truck, who did not lose a moment in turning it to account. Stopping short, he faced his companions, and, with a solemn wave of the hand, he went through the ceremonial in which he most delighted, and in which he piqued himself at being an adept.
"Mr. Sharp, permit me to introduce you to Mr. Blunt—Mr. Blunt, let me make you acquainted with Mr. Sharp."
The gentlemen, though taken a little by surprise at the dignity and formality of the captain, touched their hands civilly to each other, and smiled. Eve, not a little amused at the scene, watched the whole procedure; and then she too detected the sweet melancholy of the one expression and the marble-like irony of the other. It may have been this that caused her to start, though almost imperceptibly, and to colour.
"Our turn will come next," muttered John Effingham: "get the grimaces ready."
His conjecture was right; for, hearing his voice without understanding the words, the captain followed up his advantage to his own infinite gratification.
"Gentlemen,—Mr. Effingham, Mr. John Effingham"—(every one soon came to make this distinction in addressing the cousins)—"Miss Effingham, Mademoiselle Viefville:—Mr. Sharp, Mr. Blunt,—ladies;—gentlemen, Mr. Blunt, Mr. Sharp."
The dignified bow of Mr. Effingham, as well as the faint and distant smile of Eve, would have repelled any undue familiarity in men of less tone than either of the strangers, both of whom received the unexpected honour like those who felt themselves to be intruders. As Mr. Sharp raised his hat to Eve, however, he held it suspended a moment above his head, and then dropping his arm to its full length, he bowed with profound respect, though distantly. Mr. Blunt was less elaborate in his salute, but as pointed as the circumstances at all required. Both gentlemen were a little struck with the distant hauteur of John Effingham, whose bow, while it fulfilled all the outward forms, was what Eve used laughingly to term "imperial." The bustle of preparation, and the certainty that there would be no want of opportunities to renew the intercourse, prevented more than the general salutations, and the new-comers descended to their state-rooms.
"Did you remark the manner in which those people took my introduction?" asked Captain Truck of his chief mate, whom he was training up in the ways of packet-politeness, as one in the road of preferment. "Now, to my notion, they might have shook hands at least. That's what I call Vattel."
"One sometimes falls in with what are rum chaps," returned the other, who, from following the London trade, had caught a few cockneyisms. "If a man chooses to keep his hands in the beckets, why let him, say I; but I take it as a slight to the company to sheer out of the usual track in such matters."
"I was thinking as much myself; but after all, what can packet-masters do in such a case? We can set luncheon and dinner before the passengers, but we can't make them eat. Now, my rule is, when a gentleman introduces me, to do the thing handsomely, and to return shake for shake, if it is three times three; but as for a touch of the beaver, it is like setting a top-gallant sail in passing a ship at sea, and means just nothing at all. Who would know a vessel because he has let run his halyards and swayed the yard up again? One would do as much to a Turk for manners' sake. No, no! there is something in this, and, d—- me, just to make sure of it, the first good opportunity that offers, I'll—ay, I'll just introduce them all over again!—Let the people ship their hand-spikes, Mr. Leach, and heave in the slack of the chain.—Ay, ay! I'll take an opportunity when all hands are on deck, and introduce them, ship-shape, one by one, as your greenhorns go through a lubber's-hole, or we shall have no friendship during the passage."
The mate nodded approbation, as if the other had hit upon the right expedient, and then he proceeded to obey the orders, while the cares of his vessel soon drove the subject temporarily from the mind of his commander.
By all description, this should be the place. Who's here?—Speak, ho!—No answer!—What is this?
TIMON OF ATHENS
A ship with her sails loosened and her ensign abroad is always a beautiful object; and the Montauk, a noble New-York-built vessel of seven hundred tons burthen, was a first-class specimen of the "kettle-bottom" school of naval architecture, wanting in nothing that the taste and experience of the day can supply. The scene that was now acting before their eyes therefore soon diverted the thoughts of Mademoiselle Viefville and Eve from the introductions of the captain, both watching with intense interest the various movements of the crew and passengers as they passed in review.
A crowd of well-dressed, but of an evidently humbler class of persons than those farther aft, were thronging the gangways, little dreaming of the physical suffering they were to endure before they reached the land of promise,—that distant America, towards which the poor and oppressed of nearly all nations turn longing eyes in quest of a shelter. Eve saw with wonder aged men and women among them; beings who were about to sever most of the ties of the world in order to obtain relief from the physical pains and privations that had borne hard on them for more than threescore years. A few had made sacrifices of themselves in obedience to that mysterious instinct which man feels in his offspring; while others, again, went rejoicing, flushed with the hope of their vigour and youth. Some, the victims of their vices, had embarked in the idle expectation that a change of scene, with increased means of indulgence, could produce a healthful change of character. All had views that the truth would have dimmed, and, perhaps, no single adventurer among the emigrants collected in that ship entertained either sound or reasonable notions of the mode in which his step was to be rewarded, though many may meet with a success that will surpass their brightest picture of the future. More, no doubt, were to be disappointed.
Reflections something like these passed through the mind of Eve Effingham, as she examined the mixed crowd, in which some were busy in receiving stores from boats; others in holding party conferences with friends, in which a few were weeping; here and there a group was drowning reflection in the parting cup; while wondering children looked up with anxiety into the well-known faces, as if fearful they might lose the countenances they loved, and the charities on which they habitually relied, in such a melee.
Although the stern discipline which separates the cabin and steerage passengers into castes as distinct as those of the Hindoos had not yet been established, Captain Truck had too profound a sense of his duty to permit the quarterdeck to be unceremoniously invaded. This part of the ship, then, had partially escaped the confusion of the moment; though trunks, boxes, hampers, and other similar appliances of travelling, were scattered about in tolerable affluence. Profiting by the space, of which there was still sufficient for the purpose, most of the party left the hurricane-house to enjoy the short walk that a ship affords. At that instant, another boat from the land reached the vessel's side, and a grave-looking personage, who was not disposed to lessen his dignity by levity or an omission of forms, appeared on deck, where he demanded to be shown the master. An introduction was unnecessary in this instance; for Captain Truck no sooner saw his visitor than he recognized the well-known features and solemn pomposity of a civil officer of Portsmouth, who was often employed to search the American packets, in pursuit of delinquents of all degrees of crime and folly.
"I had just come to the opinion I was not to have the pleasure of seeing you this passage, Mr. Grab," said the captain, shaking hands familiarly with the myrmidon of the law; "but the turn of the tide is not more regular than you gentlemen who come in the name of the king.—Mr. Grab, Mr. Dodge; Mr. Dodge, Mr. Grab. And now, to what forgery, or bigamy, or elopement, or scandalum magnatum, do I owe the honor of your company this time?—Sir George Templemore, Mr. Grab; Mr. Grab, Sir George Templemore."
Sir George bowed with the dignified aversion an honest man might be supposed to feel for one of the other's employment; while Mr. Grab looked gravely and with a counter dignity at Sir George. The business of the officer, however, was with none in the cabin; but he had come in quest of a young woman who had married a suitor rejected by her uncle,—an arrangement that was likely to subject the latter to a settlement of accounts which he found inconvenient, and which he had thought it prudent to anticipate by bringing an action of debt against the bridegroom for advances, real or pretended, made to the wife during her nonage. A dozen eager ears caught an outline of this tale as it was communicated to the captain, and in an incredibly short space of time it was known throughout the ship, with not a few embellishments.
"I do not know the person of the husband," continued the officer, "nor indeed does the attorney who is with me in the boat; but his name is Robert Davis, and you can have no difficulty in pointing him out. We know him to be in the ship."
"I never introduce any steerage passengers, my dear sir; and there is no such person in the cabin, I give you my honour,—and that is a pledge that must pass between gentlemen like us. You are welcome to search, but the duty of the vessel must go on. Take your man—but do not detain the ship.—Mr. Sharp, Mr. Grab; Mr. Grab, Mr. Sharp.—Bear a hand there, Mr. Leach, and let us have the slack of the chain as soon as possible."
There appeared to be what the philosophers call the attraction of repulsion between the parties last introduced, for the tall gentlemanly-looking Mr. Sharp eyed the officer with a supercilious coldness, neither party deeming much ceremony on the occasion necessary. Mr. Grab now summoned his assistant, the attorney, from the boat, and there was a consultation between them as to their further proceedings. Fifty heads were grouped around them, and curious eyes watched their smallest movements, one of the crowd occasionally disappearing to report proceedings.
Man is certainly a clannish animal; for without knowing any thing of the merits of the case, without pausing to inquire into the right or the wrong of the matter, in the pure spirit of partisanship, every man, woman, and child of the steerage, which contained fully a hundred souls, took sides against the law, and enlisted in the cause of the defendant. All this was done quietly, however, for no one menaced or dreamed of violence, crew and passengers usually taking their cues from the officers of the vessel on such occasions, and those of the Montauk understood too well the rights of the public agents to commit themselves in the matter.
"Call Robert Davis," said the officer, resorting to a ruse, by affecting an authority he had no right to assume. "Robert Davis!" echoed twenty voices, among which was that of the bridegroom himself, who was nigh to discover his secret by an excess of zeal. It was easy to call, but no one answered.
"Can you tell me which is Robert Davis, my little fellow?" the officer asked coaxingly, of a fine flaxen-headed boy, whose age did not exceed ten, and who was a curious spectator of what passed. "Tell me which is Robert Davis, and I will give you a sixpence."
The child knew, but professed ignorance.
"C'est un esprit de corps admirable!" exclaimed Mademoiselle Viefville; for the interest of the scene had brought nearly all on board, with the exception of those employed in the duty of the vessel, near the gangway. "Ceci est delicieux, and I could devour that boy—!"
What rendered this more, odd, or indeed absolutely ludicrous, was the circumstance that, by a species of legerdemain, a whisper had passed among the spectators so stealthily, and yet so soon, that the attorney and his companion were the only two on deck who remained ignorant of the person of the man they sought. Even the children caught the clue, though they had the art to indulge their natural curiosity by glances so sly as to escape detection.
Unfortunately, the attorney had sufficient knowledge of the family of the bride to recognize her by a general resemblance, rendered conspicuous as it was by a pallid face and an almost ungovernable nervous excitement. He pointed her out to the officer, who ordered her to approach him,—a command that caused her to burst into tears. The agitation and distress of his wife were near proving too much for the prudence of the young husband, who was making an impetuous movement towards her, when the strong grasp of a fellow-passenger checked him in time to prevent discovery. It is singular how much is understood by trifles when the mind has a clue to the subject, and how often signs, that are palpable as day, are overlooked when suspicion is not awakened, or when the thoughts have obtained a false direction. The attorney and the officer were the only two present who had not seen the indiscretion of the young man, and who did not believe him betrayed. His wife trembled to a degree that almost destroyed the ability to stand; but, casting an imploring look for self-command on her indiscreet partner, she controlled her own distress, and advanced towards the officer, in obedience to his order, with a power of endurance that the strong affections of a woman could alone enable her to assume.
"If the husband will not deliver himself up, I shall be compelled to order the wife to be carried ashore in his stead!" the attorney coldly remarked, while he applied a pinch of snuff to a nose that was already saffron-coloured from the constant use of the weed.
A pause succeeded this ominous declaration, and the crowd of passengers betrayed dismay, for all believed there was now no hope for the pursued. The wife bowed her head to her knees, for she had sunk on a box as if to hide the sight of her husband's arrest. At this moment a voice spoke from among the group on the quarter-deck.
"Is this an arrest for crime, or a demand for debt?" asked the young man who has been announced as Mr. Blunt.
There was a quiet authority in the speaker's manner that reassured the failing hopes of the passengers, while it caused the attorney and his companion to look round in surprise, and perhaps a little in resentment. A dozen eager voices assured "the gentleman" there was no crime in the matter at all—there was even no just debt, but it was a villanous scheme to compel a wronged ward to release a fraudulent guardian from his liabilities. Though all this was not very clearly explained, it was affirmed with so much zeal and energy as to awaken suspicion, and to increase the interest of the more intelligent portion of the spectators. The attorney surveyed the travelling dress, the appearance of fashion, and the youth of his interrogator, whose years could not exceed five-and-twenty, and his answer was given with an air of superiority.
"Debt or crime, it can matter nothing in the eye of the law."
"It matters much in the view of an honest man," returned the youth with spirit. "One might hesitate about interfering in behalf of a rogue, however ready to exert himself in favour of one who is innocent, perhaps, of every thing but misfortune."
"This looks a little like an attempt at a rescue! I hope we are still in England, and under the protection of English laws?"
"No doubt at all of that, Mr. Seal," put in the captain, who having kept an eye on the officer from a distance, now thought it time to interfere, in order to protect the interests of his owners. "Yonder is England, and that is the Isle of Wight, and the Montauk has hold of an English bottom, and good anchorage it is; no one means to dispute your authority, Mr. Attorney, nor to call in question that of the king. Mr. Blunt merely throws out a suggestion, sir; or rather, a distinction between rogues and honest men; nothing more, depend on it, sir.—Mr. Seal, Mr. Blunt; Mr. Blunt, Mr. Seal. And a thousand pities it is, that a distinction is not more commonly made."
The young man bowed slightly, and with a face flushed, partly with feeling, and partly at finding himself unexpectedly conspicuous among so many strangers, he advanced a little from the quarter-deck group, like one who feels he is required to maintain the ground he has assumed.
"No one can be disposed to question the supremacy of the English laws in this roadstead," he said, "and least of all myself; but you will permit me to doubt the legality of arresting, or in any manner detaining, a wife in virtue of a process issued against the husband."
"A briefless barrister!" muttered Seal to Grab. "I dare say a timely guinea would have silenced the fellow. What is now to be done?"
"The lady must go ashore, and all these matters can be arranged before a magistrate."
"Ay, ay! let her sue out a habeas corpus if she please," added the ready attorney, whom a second survey caused to distrust his first inference. "Justice is blind in England as well as in other countries, and is liable to mistakes; but still she is just. If she does mistake sometimes, she is always ready to repair the wrong."
"Cannot you do something here?" Eve involuntarily half-whispered to Mr. Sharp, who stood at her elbow.
This person started on hearing her voice making this sudden appeal, and glancing a look of intelligence at her, he smiled and moved nearer to the principal parties.
"Really, Mr. Attorney," he commenced, "this appears to be rather irregular, I must confess,—quite out of the ordinary way, and it may lead to unpleasant consequences."
"In what manner, sir?" interrupted Seal, measuring the other's ignorance at a glance.
"Why, irregular in form, if not in principle. I am aware that the habeas corpus is all-essential, and that the law must have its way; but really this does seem a little irregular, not to describe it by any harsher term."
Mr. Seal treated this new appeal respectfully, in appearance at least, for he saw it was made by one greatly his superior, while he felt an utter contempt for it in essentials, as he perceived intuitively that this new intercession was made in a profound ignorance of the subject. As respects Mr. Blunt, however, he had an unpleasant distrust of the result, the quiet manner of that gentleman denoting more confidence in himself, and a greater practical knowledge of the laws. Still, to try the extent of the other's information, and the strength of his nerves, he rejoined in a magisterial and menacing tone—
"Yes, let the lady sue out a writ of habeas corpus if wrongfully arrested; and I should be glad to discover the foreigner who will dare to attempt a rescue in old England, and in defiance of English laws."
It is probable Paul Blunt would have relinquished his interference, from an apprehension that he might be ignorantly aiding the evil-doer, but for this threat; and even the threat might not have overcome his prudence, had not he caught the imploring look of the fine blue eyes of Eve.
"All are not necessarily foreigners who embark on board an American ship at an English port," he said steadily, "nor is justice denied those that are. The habeas corpus is as well understood in other countries as in this, for happily we live in an age when neither liberty nor knowledge is exclusive. If an attorney, you must know yourself that you cannot legally arrest a wife for a husband, and that what you say of the habeas corpus is little worthy of attention."
"We arrest, and whoever interferes with an officer in charge of a prisoner is guilty of a rescue. Mistakes must be rectified by the magistrates."
"True, provided the officer has warranty for what he does."
"Writs and warrants may contain errors, but an arrest is an arrest," growled Grab.
"Not the arrest of a woman for a man. In such a case there is design, and not a mistake. If this frightened wife will take counsel from me, she will refuse to accompany you."
"At her peril, let her dare do so!"
"At your peril do you dare to attempt forcing her from the ship!"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!—let there be no misunderstanding, I pray you," interposed the captain. "Mr. Blunt, Mr. Grab; Mr. Grab, Mr. Blunt. No warm words, gentlemen, I beg of you. But the tide is beginning to serve, Mr. Attorney, and 'time and tide,' you know—If we stay here much longer, the Montauk may be forced to sail on the 2d, instead of the 1st, as has been advertised in both hemispheres. I should be sorry to carry you to sea, gentlemen, without your small stores; and as for the cabin, it is as full as a lawyer's conscience. No remedy but the steerage in such a case.—Lay forward, men, and heave away. Some of you, man the fore-top-sail halyards.—We are as regular as our chronometers; the 1st, 10th, and 20th, without fail."
There was some truth, blended with a little poetry, in Captain Truck's account of the matter. The tide had indeed made in his favour, but the little wind there was blew directly into the roadstead, and had not his feelings become warmed by the distress of a pretty and interesting young woman, it is more than probable the line would have incurred the disgrace of having a ship sail on a later day than had been advertised. As it was, however, he had the matter up in earnest, and he privately assured Sir George and Mr. Dodge, if the affair were not immediately disposed of, he should carry both the attorney and officer to sea with him, and that he did not feel himself bound to furnish either with water. "They may catch a little rain, by wringing their jackets," he added, with a wink; "though October is a dryish month in the American seas."
The decision of Paul Blunt would have induced the attorney and his companion to relinquish their pursuit but for two circumstances. They had both undertaken the job as a speculation, or on the principle of "no play, no pay," and all their trouble would be lost without success. Then the very difficulty that occurred had been foreseen, and while the officer proceeded to the ship, the uncle had been busily searching for a son on shore, to send off to identify the husband,—a step that would have been earlier resorted to could the young man have been found. This son was a rejected suitor, and he was now seen, by the aid of a glass that Mr. Grab always carried, pulling towards the Montauk, in a two-oared boat, with as much zeal as malignancy and disappointment could impart. His distance from the ship was still considerable; but a peculiar hat, with the aid of the glass, left no doubt of his identity. The attorney pointed out the boat to the officer, and the latter, after a look through the glass, gave a nod of approbation. Exultation overcame the usual wariness of the attorney, for his pride, too, had got to be enlisted in the success of his speculation,—men being so strangely constituted as often to feel as much joy in the accomplishment of schemes that are unjustifiable, as in the accomplishment of those of which they may have reason to be proud.
On the other hand, the passengers and people of the packet seized something near the truth, with that sort of instinctive readiness which seems to characterize bodies of men in moments of excitement. That the solitary boat which was pulling towards them in the dusk of the evening contained some one who might aid the attorney and his myrmidon, all believed, though in what manner none could tell.
Between all seamen and the ministers of the law there is a long-standing antipathy, for the visits of the latter are usually so timed as to leave nothing between the alternatives of paying or of losing a voyage. It was soon apparent, then, that Mr. Seal had little to expect from the apathy of the crew, for never did men work with better will to get a ship loosened from the bottom.
All this feeling manifested itself in a silent and intelligent activity rather than in noise or bustle, for every man on board exercised his best faculties, as well as his best good will and strength; the clock-work ticks of the palls of the windlass resembling those of a watch that had got the start of time, while the chain came in with surges of half a fathom at each heave.
"Lay hold of this rope, men," cried Mr. Leach, placing the end of the main-topsail halyards in the hands of half-a-dozen athletic steerage passengers, who had all the inclination in the world to be doing, though uncertain where to lay their hands; "lay hold, and run away with it."
The second mate performed the same feat forward, and as the sheets had never been started, the broad folds of the Montauk's canvas began to open, even while the men were heaving at the anchor. These exertions quickened the blood in the veins of those who were not employed, until even the quarter-deck passengers began to experience the excitement of a chase, in addition to the feelings of compassion. Captain Truck, was silent, but very active in preparations. Springing to the wheel, he made its spokes fly until he had forced the helm hard up, when he unceremoniously gave it to John Effingham to keep there. His next leap was to the foot of the mizen-mast, where, after a few energetic efforts alone, he looked over his shoulder and beckoned for aid.
"Sir George Templemore, mizen-topsail-halyards; mizen-topsail-halyards, Sir George Templemore," muttered the eager master, scarce knowing what he said. "Mr. Dodge, now is the time to show that your name and nature are not identical."
In short, nearly all on board were busy, and, thanks to the hearty good will of the officers, stewards, cooks, and a few of the hands that could be spared from the windlass, busy in a way to spread sail after sail with a rapidity little short of that seen on board of a vessel of war. The rattling of the clew-garnet blocks, as twenty lusty fellows ran forward with the tack of the mainsail, and the hauling forward of braces, was the signal that the ship was clear of ground, and coming under command.
A cross current had superseded the necessity of casting the vessel, but her sails took the light air nearly abeam; the captain understanding that motion was of much more importance just then than direction. No sooner did he perceive by the bubbles that floated past, or rather appeared to float past, that his ship was dividing the water forward, than he called a trusty man to the wheel, relieving John Effingham from his watch. The next instant, Mr. Leach reported the anchor catted and fished.
"Pilot, you will be responsible for this if my prisoners escape," said Mr. Grab menacingly. "You know my errand, and it is your duty to aid the ministers of the law."
"Harkee, Mr. Grab," put in the master, who had warmed himself with the exercise; "we all know, and we all do our duties, on board the Montauk. It is your duty to take Robert Davis on shore if you can find him; and it is my duty to take the Montauk to America: now, if you will receive counsel from a well-wisher, I would advise you to see that you do not go in her. No one offers any impediment to your performing your office, and I'll thank you to offer me none in performing mine.—Brace the yards further forward, boys, and let the ship come up to the wind."
As there were logic, useful information, law, and seamanship united in this reply, the attorney began to betray uneasiness; for by this time the ship had gathered so much way as to render it exceedingly doubtful whether a two-oared boat would be able to come up with her, without the consent of those on board. It is probable, as evening had already closed, and the rays of the moon were beginning to quiver on the ripple of the water, that he would have abandoned his object, though with infinite reluctance, had not Sir George Templemore pointed out to the captain a six-oared boat, that was pulling towards them from a quarter that permitted it to be seen in the moonlight.
"That appears to be a man-of-war's cutter," observed the baronet uneasily, for by this time all on board felt a sort of personal interest in their escape.
"It does indeed, Captain Truck," added the pilot; "and if she make a signal, it will become my duty to heave-to the Montauk."
"Then bundle out of her, my fine fellow, as fast as you can for not a brace or a bowline shall be touched here, with my consent, for any such purpose. The ship is cleared—my hour is come—my passengers are on board—and America is my haven.—Let them that want me, catch me. That is what I call Vattel."
The pilot and the master of the Montauk were excellent friends, and understood each other perfectly, even while the former was making the most serious professions of duty. The beat was hauled up, and, first whispering a few cautions about the shoals and the currents, the worthy marine guide leaped into it, and was soon seen floating astern—a cheering proof that the ship had got fairly in motion. As he fell out of hearing in the wake of the vessel, the honest fellow kept calling out "to tack in season."
"If you wish to try the speed of your boat against that of the pilot, Mr. Grab," called out the captain, "you will never have a better opportunity. It is a fine night for a regatta, and I will stand you a pound on Mr. Handlead's heels. For that matter, I would as soon trust his head, or his hands, in the bargain."
The officer continued obstinately on board, for he saw that the six-oared boat was coming up with the ship, and, as he well knew the importance to his client of compelling a settlement of the accounts, he fancied some succour might be expected in that quarter. In the mean time, this new movement on the part of their pursuers attracted general attention, and, as might be expected, the interest of this little incident increased the excitement that usually accompanies a departure for a long sea-voyage, fourfold. Men and women forgot their griefs and leave-takings in anxiety, and in that pleasure which usually attends agitation of the mind that does not proceed from actual misery of our own.
Whither away so fast? O God save you! Even to the hall to hear what shall become Of the great Duke of Buckingham.
The assembling of the passengers of the large packet-ship is necessarily an affair of coldness and distrust, especially with those who know the world, and more particularly still when the passage is from Europe to America. The greater sophistication of the old than of the new hemisphere, with its consequent shifts and vices, the knowledge that the tide of emigration sets westward, and that few abandon the home of their youth unless impelled by misfortune at least, with other obvious causes, unite to produce this distinction. Then come the fastidiousness of habits, the sentiments of social castes, the refinements of breeding, and the reserves of dignity of character, to be put in close collision with bustling egotism, ignorance of usages, an absence of training, and downright vulgarity of thought and practices. Although necessity soon brings these chaotic elements into something like order, the first week commonly passes in reconnoitring, cool civilities, and cautious concessions, to yield at length to the never-dying charities; unless, indeed, the latter may happen to be kept in abeyance by a downright quarrel, about midnight carousals, a squeaking fiddle, or some incorrigible snorer.
Happily, the party collected in the Montauk had the good fortune to abridge the usual probation in courtesies, by the stirring events of the night on which they sailed. Two hours had scarcely elapsed since the last passenger crossed the gangway, and yet the respective circles of the quarter-deck and steerage felt more sympathy with each other than the boasted human charities ordinarily quicken in days of common-place intercourse. They had already found out each other's names, thanks to the assiduity of Captain Truck, who had stolen time, in the midst of all his activity, to make half-a-dozen more introductions, and the Americans of the less trained class were already using them as freely as if they were old acquaintances. We say Americans, for the cabins of these ships usually contain a congress of nations, though the people of England, and of her ci-devant colonies, of course predominate in those of the London lines. On the present occasion, the last two were nearly balanced in numbers, so far as national character could be made out; opinion (which, as might be expected, had been busy the while,) being suspended in reference to Mr. Blunt, and one or two others whom the captain called "foreigners," to distinguish them from the Anglo-Saxon stock.
This equal distribution of forces might, under other circumstances, have led to a division in feeling; for the conflicts between American and British opinions, coupled with a difference in habits, are a prolific source of discontent in the cabins of packets. The American is apt to fancy himself at home, under the flag of his country; while his Transatlantic kinsman is strongly addicted to fancying that when he has fairly paid his money, he has a right to embark all his prejudices with his other luggage.
The affair of the attorney and the newly-married couple, however, was kept quite distinct from all feelings of nationality; the English apparently entertaining quite as lively a wish that the latter might escape from the fangs of the law, as any other portion of the passengers. The parties themselves were British, and although the authority evaded was of the same origin, right or wrong, all on board had taken up the impression that it was improperly exercised. Sir George Templemore, the Englishman of highest rank, was decidedly of this way of thinking,—an opinion he was rather warm in expressing,—and the example of a baronet had its weight, not only with most of his own countrymen, but with not a few of the Americans also. The Effingham party, together with Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt, were, indeed, all who seemed to be entirely indifferent to Sir George's sentiments; and, as men are intuitively quick in discovering who do and who do not defer to their suggestions, their accidental independence might have been favoured by this fact, for the discourse of this gentleman was addressed in the main to those who lent the most willing ears. Mr. Dodge, in particular, was his constant and respectful listener, and profound admirer:—But then he was his room-mate, and a democrat of a water so pure, that he was disposed to maintain no man had a right to any one of his senses, unless by popular sufferance.
In the mean while, the night advanced, and the soft light of the moon was playing on the waters, adding a semi-mysterious obscurity to the excitement of the scene. The two-oared boat had evidently been overtaken by that carrying six oars, and, after a short conference, the first had returned reluctantly towards the land, while the latter profiting by its position, had set two lug-sails, and was standing out into the offing, on a course that would compel the Montauk to come under its lee, when the shoals, as would soon be the case, should force the ship to tack.
"England is most inconveniently placed," Captain Truck dryly remarked as he witnessed this manoeuvre. "Were this island only out of the way, now, we might stand on as we head, and leave those man-of-war's men to amuse themselves all night with backing and filling in the roads of Portsmouth."
"I hope there is no danger of that little boat's overtaking this large ship!" exclaimed Sir George, with a vivacity that did great credit to his philanthropy, according to the opinion of Mr. Dodge at least; the latter having imbibed a singular bias in favour of persons of condition, from having travelled in an eilwagen with a German baron, from whom he had taken a model of the pipe he carried but never smoked, and from having been thrown for two days and nights into the society of a "Polish countess," as he uniformly termed her, in the gondole of a diligence, between Lyons and Marseilles. In addition, Mr. Dodge, as has just been hinted, was an ultra-freeman at home—a circumstance that seems always to react, when the subject of the feeling gets into foreign countries.
"A feather running before a lady's sigh would outsail either of us in this air, which breathes on us in some such fashion as a whale snores, Sir George, by sudden puffs. I would give the price of a steerage passage, if Great Britain lay off the Cape of Good Hope for a week or ten days."
"Or Cape Hatteras!" rejoined the mate.
"Not I; I wish the old island no harm, nor a worse climate than it has got already; though it lies as much in our way just at this moment, as the moon in an eclipse of the sun. I bear the old creature a great-grandson's love—or a step or two farther off, if you will,—and come and go too often to forget the relationship. But, much as I love her, the affection is not strong enough to go ashore on her shoals, and so we will go about, Mr. Leach; at the same time, I wish from my heart that two-lugged rascal would go about his business."
The ship tacked slowly but gracefully, for she was in what her master termed "racing trim;" and as her bows fell off to the eastward, it became pretty evident to all who understood the subject, that the two little lug-sails that were "eating into the wind," as the sailors express it, would weather upon her track ere she could stretch over to the other shoal. Even the landsmen had some feverish suspicions of the truth, and the steerage passengers were already holding a secret conference on the possibility of hiding the pursued in some of the recesses of the ship. "Such things were often done," one whispered to another, "and it was as easy to perform it now as at any other time."
But Captain Truck viewed the matter differently: his vocation called him three times a year into the roads at Portsmouth, and he felt little disposition to embarrass his future intercourse with the place by setting its authorities at a too open defiance. He deliberated a good deal on the propriety of throwing his ship up into the wind, as she slowly advanced towards the boat, and of inviting those in the latter to board him. Opposed to this was the pride of profession, and Jack Truck was not a man to overlook or to forget the "yarns" that were spun among his fellows at the New England Coffee-house, or among those farming hamlets on the banks of the Connecticut, whence all the packet-men are derived, and whither they repair for a shelter when their careers are run, as regularly as the fruit decays where it falleth, or the grass that has not been harvested or cropped withers on its native stalk.
"There is no question, Sir George, that this fellow is a man-of-war's man," said the master to the baronet, who stuck close to his side. "Take a peep at the creeping rogue through this night-glass, and you will see his crew seated at their thwarts with their arms folded, like men who eat the king's beef. None but your regular public servant ever gets that impudent air of idleness about him, either in England or America. In this respect, human nature is the same in both hemispheres, a man never falling in with luck, but he fancies it is no more than his deserts."
"There seems to be a great many of them! Can it be their intention to carry the vessel by boarding?"
"If it is, they must take the will for the deed," returned Mr. Truck a little coldly. "I very much question if the Montauk, with three cabin officers, as many stewards, two cooks, and eighteen foremast-men, would exactly like the notion of being 'carried,' as you style it, Sir, George, by a six-oared cutter's crew. We are not as heavy as the planet Jupiter, but have somewhat too much gravity to be 'carried' as lightly as all that, too."
"You intend, then, to resist?" asked Sir George, whose generous zeal in behalf of the pursued apparently led him to take a stronger interest in their escape than any other person on board.
Captain Truck, who had never an objection to sport, pondered with himself a little, smiled, and then loudly expressed a wish that he had a member of congress or a member of parliament on board.
"Your desire is a little extraordinary for the circumstances," observed Mr. Sharp; will you have the goodness to explain why?"
"This matter touches on international law, gentlemen." continued the master, rubbing his hands; for, in addition to having caught the art of introduction, the honest mariner had taken it into his head he had become an adept in the principles of Vattel, of whom he possessed a well-thumbed copy, and for whose dogmas he entertained the deference that they who begin to learn late usually feel for the particular master into whose hands they have accidentally fallen. "Under what circumstances, or in what category, can a public armed ship compel a neutral to submit to being boarded—not 'carried,' Sir George, you will please to remark; for d—— me, if any man 'carries' the Montauk that is not strong enough to 'carry' her crew and cargo along with her!—but in what category, now, is a packet like this I have the honour to command obliged, in comity, to heave-to and to submit to an examination at all? The ship is a-weigh, and has handsomely tacked under her canvas; and, gentlemen, I should be pleased to have your sentiments on the occasion. Just have the condescension to point out the category."
Mr. Dodge came from a part of the country in which men were accustomed to think, act, almost to eat and drink and sleep, in common; or, in other words, from one of those regions in America, in which there was so much community, that few had the moral courage, even when they possessed the knowledge, and all the other necessary means, to cause their individuality to be respected. When the usual process of conventions, sub-conventions, caucusses, and public meetings did not supply the means of a "concentrated action," he and his neighbours had long been in the habit of having recourse to societies, by way of obtaining "energetic means," as it was termed; and from his tenth year up to his twenty-fifth, this gentleman had been either a president, vice-president, manager, or committee-man, of some philosophical, political, or religious expedient to fortify human wisdom, make men better, and resist error and despotism. His experience had rendered him expert in what may well enough be termed the language of association. No man of his years, in the twenty-six states, could more readily apply the terms of "taking up"—"excitement"—"unqualified hostility"—"public opinion"—"spreading before the public," or any other of those generic phrases that imply the privileges of all, and the rights of none. Unfortunately, the pronunciation of this person was not as pure as his motives, and he misunderstood the captain when he spoke of comity, as meaning a "committee;" and although it was not quite obvious what the worthy mariner could intend by "obliged in committee (comity) to heave-to," yet, as he had known these bodies to do so many "energetic things," he did not see why they might not perform this evolution as well as another.
"It really does appear, Captain Truck," he remarked accordingly, "that our situation approaches a crisis, and the suggestion of a comity (committee) strikes me as being peculiarly proper and suitable to the circumstances, and in strict conformity with republican usages. In order to save time, and that the gentlemen who shall be appointed to serve may have opportunity to report, therefore, I will at once nominate Sir George Templemore as chairman, leaving it for any other gentleman present to suggest the name of any candidate he may deem proper. I will only add, that in my poor judgment this comity (committee) ought to consist of at least three and that it have power to send for persons and papers."
"I would propose five, Captain Truck, by way of amendment," added another passenger of the same kidney as the last speaker, gentlemen of their school making it a point to differ a little from every proposition by way of showing their independence.
It was fortunate for both the mover of the original motion, and for the proposer of the amendment, that the master was acquainted with the character of Mr. Dodge, or a proposition that his ship was to be worked by a committee, (or indeed by comity,) would have been very likely to meet with but an indifferent reception; but, catching a glimpse of the laughing eyes of Eve, as well as of the amused faces of Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt, by the light of the moon, he very gravely signified his entire approbation of the chairman named, and his perfect readiness to listen to the report of the aforesaid committee as soon as it might be prepared to make it.
"And if your committee, or comity, gentlemen," he added, "can tell me what Vattel would say about the obligation to heave-to in a time of profound peace, and when the ship, or boat, in chase, can have no belligerent rights, I shall be grateful to my dying day; for I have looked him through as closely as old women usually examine almanacks to tell which way the wind is about to blow, and I fear he has overlooked the subject altogether."
Mr. Dodge, and three or four more of the same community-propensity as himself, soon settled the names of the rest of the committee, when the nominees retired to another part of the deck to consult together; Sir George Templemore, to the surprise of all the Effingham party, consenting to serve with a willingness that rather disregarded forms.
"It might be convenient to refer other matters to this committee, captain," said Mr. Sharp, who had tact enough to see that nothing but her habitual retenue of deportment kept Eve, whose bright eyes were dancing with humour from downright laughter: "these are the important points of reefing and furling, the courses to be steered, the sail to be carried, the times and seasons of calling all hands together, with sundry other customary duties, that no doubt would be well treated on in this forthcoming report."
"No doubt, sir; I perceive you have been at sea before, and I am sorry you were overlooked in naming the members of the comity: take my word for it, all that you have mentioned can be done on board the Montauk by a comity, as well as settling the question of heaving-to, or not, for yonder boat.—By the way, Mr. Leach, the fellows have tacked, and are standing in this direction, thinking to cross our bows and speak us.—Mr. Attorney, the tide is setting us off the land, and you may make it morning before you get into your nests, if you hold on much longer. I fear Mrs. Seal and Mrs. Grab will be unhappy women."
The bloodhounds of the law heard this warning with indifference, for they expected succour of some sort, though they hardly knew of what sort, from the man-of-war's boat which, it was now plain enough, must weather on the ship. After putting their heads together, Mr. Seal offered his companion a pinch of snuff, helping himself afterwards, like a man indifferent to the result, and one patient in time of duty. The sun-burnt face of the captain, whose standing colour was that which cooks get when the fire burns the brightest, but whose hues no fire or cold ever varied, was turned fully on the two, and it is probable they would have received some decided manifestation of his will, had not Sir George Templemore, with the four other committee-men, approached to give in the result of their conference.
"We are of opinion, Captain Truck," said the baronet, "that as the ship is under way, and your voyage may be fairly said to have commenced, it is quite inexpedient and altogether unnecessary for you to anchor again; but that it is your duty——"
"I have no occasion for advice as to my duty, gentlemen. If you can let me know what Vattel says, or ought to have said, on the subject, or touching the category of the right of search, except as a belligerent right, I will thank you; if not, we must e'en guess at it. I have not sailed a ship in. this trade these ten years to need any jogging of the memory about port-jurisdiction either, for these are matters in which one gets to be expert by dint of use, as my old master used to say when he called us from table with half a dinner. Now, there was the case of the blacks in Charleston, in which our government showed clearly it had not studied Vattel, or it never would have given the answer it did. Perhaps you never heard that case, Sir George, and as it touches a delicate principle, I will just run over the category lightly; for it has its points, as well as a coast."
"Does not this matter press,—may not the boat—"
"The boat will do nothing, gentlemen, without the permission of Jack Truck. You must know, the Carolinians have a law that all niggers brought into their state by ships, must be caged until the vessel sails again. This is to prevent emancipation, as they call it, or abolition, I know not which. An Englishman comes in from the islands with a crew of blacks, and, according to law, the authorities of Charleston house them all before night. John Bull complains to his minister, and his minister sends a note to our secretary, and our secretary writes to the Governor of Carolina, calling on him to respect the treaty, and so on. Gentlemen, I need not tell you what a treaty is—it is a thing in itself to be obeyed; but it is all important to know what it commands. Well, what was this said treaty? That John should come in and out of the ports, on the footing of the most favoured nation; on the statu quo ante bellum principle, as Vattel has it. Now, the Carolinians treated John just as they treated Jonathan, and there was no more to be said. All parties were bound to enter the port, subject to the municipals, as is set forth in Vattel. That was a case soon settled, you perceive, though depending on a nicety."