James Fenimore Cooper.

Afloat and ashore. A sea tale online

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AFLOAT AND ASHORE.



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AFLOAT AND ASHORE.



A SEA TALE.



5*. PENIMORE COOPER.



"Home-keepiiig youth hsve ever homely wits.^

Two GnraxsHXN of TnovA.



NEW YORK:
J>. APPLETON AND COMPANY,

1, 8, AND 6 BOND STREET.
1881.



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Entered, according to the Act of Congreea, in the jear 1861, bj

W. A. T0WN8END AND COMPANY,

In the Clerk's Oifioo of thft Dhtrfet Court fbr the Southern District of New York.



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«V7



PREFACE.



The writer has published so much truth which the
world has insisted was fiction, and so much fiction
which has beeu received as truth, that, in the present
instknce, he is resolved to say nothing on the subject.
Each of his readers is at liberty to believe just as
much, or as little, of the matter here laid before him,
or her, as may suit his or her notions, prejudices, knowl^
edge of the world, or ignorance. If anybody is disposed
to swear he knows precisely where Clawbonny is, that
he was well acquainted with old Mr. Hardinge, nay, has
often heard him: preach — ^let him make his affidavit, in
welcome. Should he get a little wide of the mark, it
will not be the first document of that nature which has
possessed the same weakness.

It is possible that certain captious persons may be
disposed to inquire into the eai honot of such a book.
The answer is this. Every thing which can convey to
the human mind distinct and accurate impressions of
events, social facts, professional peculiarities, or past



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PREFACE.



history, whether of the higher or more familiar charac-
ter, is of use. All that is necessary is, that tlie pictm*es
should be true to nature, if not absolutely drawn from
living sitters. The knowledge we gain by our looser
reading often becomes serviceable in modes and man-
ners little anticipated in the moments when it is ac-
quired.

Perhaps the greater portion of all our peculiar opin-
ions have their foundation in prejudices. These preju-
dices are produced in consequence of its being out of
the power of any one man to see, or know, every thing.
The most favored mortal must receive far more than
half of aU. that he learns on his faith in others ; and it
may aid those who can never be placed in positions to
judge for themselves of certain phases of men and
things, to get pictures of the same, di*awn in a way to
give them nearer views than they might otherwise ob-
tain. This is tK^e greatest benefit of all light literature
in general, it being possible to render that which is
purely fictitious even more useful than that which is
strictly true, by avoiding extravagances, by portraying
witii fidelity, and, as our friend Marble might say, by
" generalizing" with discretion.

This country has undergone many important changes
since the commencement of the present century. Some
of these changes have been for the better ; others, we
think out of all question, for the worse, llie last is a
fact that can be known to the generation which is com-
ing into life by report only, and these pages may possi-
bly throw some little light on both points, in representing
things as they were. The population of the republic is
probably something more than eighteen millions and a
half to-day; in the year of our Lord one thousand
eight himdred, it was but a little more than five millions



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PRXFACK.



In 1800, tlie population of New York was somewhat less
than six hundred thousand souls ; to-day it is probablj
a little less than two millions seven hundred thousand
souls. Li 1800, the town of N#w York had sixty thou-
sand inhabitants; whereas, including Brooklyn and
Williamsburg, which then virtually had no existence, it
must have at this moment quite four hundred thousand.
These are prodigious numerical changes, that have pro-
duced changes of another sort Although an increase
of numbers does not necessarily infer an increase of
high civilization, it reasonably leads to the expectation
of great melioration in the commoner comforts. Such
has been the result, and to those familiar with facts as
they now exist, the difference will probably be apparent
in these pages.

Although the moral changes in American society
have not kept pace with those that are purely physical,
many that are essential have nevertheless occurred.
Of all the British possessions on tiiis continent, ISew
York, aftCT its conquest from the Ihitch, received most
of the social organization of the mother country. Un-
der the Dutch, even, it had some of these characteristic
peculiarities in its patroons ; the lords of the manor of
the New Netherlands. Some of the southern colonies,
it is true, had their caciques and other semi-feudal and
semi-savage noblesse, but the system was of short con-
tinuance ; the peculiarities of that section of the coim-
try arising principally from the existence of domestic
slavery on an extended scale. With New York it was
different A conquered colony, the mother country
left the impression of its own institutions more deeply
engraved than on any of the settlements that were com-
menced by grants to proprietors, or under chart^s from
the crown. It was strictly a royal colony, and so eon-



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IFUl P&SFACE.

timied to be, down to the hour of separation. Tlie
social consequences of this state of things were to be
traced in her ha'bits until the current of immigration
became so strong as t^ bring- with it those that were
conflicting, if not absolutely antagonist. The inflil^ice
of these two sources of thought is still obvious to the
' reflecting, giving rise to a double set of social opinions ;
one of which bears all the characteristics of its New
England and puritanical origin, while the other may be
said to come of the usages and notions of the middle
states, proper.

This Js said in anticipation of certain strictures that
will be likely to follow some of the incidents of ouJ*
story, it not being always deemed an essential in ah
American critic that he should understand hi^ subject.
Too many of thein, indeed, justify the retort of the man
who derided the claims to knowledge of life set up by a
neighbor, that " had been to meetin' and had been to
mill." We can all obtain some notions of the portion
of a subject that is placed imndediately before our eyes ;
the difficulty is to understand that which we have no
njeans of studying.

On the subject of the nautical incidents of this book,
we have endeavored to be as exact as our authorities
will allow. We ate fully aware of the importance of
writing what the world thinks, rather than what is true,
and are not conscious of any very palpable errors of
this nature.

It is no niore tban fair to apprise the reader that our
tale is not completed in the first part, or the volumes
that are now ptiblished. This the plan of the book
would not permit; but we can promise those who may
feel any interest in the subject, that the season shall not
pass away, so far as it may depend on ourselves, without



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PREFACE. IX



bringiug the narrative to a close. Poor Captain Wal-
lingford is now in his sixty-jSflh year, and is naturally
desirous of not being hung up long on the tenter-hooka
of expectation so near the close^f life. The old gentle-
man having seen much and suffered much, is entitled
to end his days in peace. In this mutual frame of mind
between the principal and his editors, the public shall
have no cause to complain of unnecessary delay, what-
ever may be its rights of the same nature on other sub-
jects.

The author — ^perhaps editor would be the better word
— does not feel himself responsible for all the notions
advanced by the hero of this tale, and it may be as well
to say as much. That one bom in the Eevolution
should think differently from the men of the present
day, in a hundred things, is to be expected. It is in
just this difference of opinion that the lessons of the
book are to be found.



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AFLOAT AND ASUORE.



CHAPTER L

* And 1—mj joj of life Is fled,
M7 BpliiVs power, my boeom^s glow ;
The nren locka that gnc*d mj head,
Ware in a wreath of snowl
.^nd where the star of joath aroee
I deemM lifers lingering nj should close ;
And those loT*d trees m j tomb o^ershade.
Beneath whose arching bowers mj childhood played.**



I WAS bom in a valley not very remote from the sea. My
£Either liad been a sailor in yonth, and some of my earliest rec
ollections are connected with the hbtory of his adventures and
the recolleetions they excited. He had been a boy in the war
of the Revolation, and had seen some service in the shipping of
that period. Among other scenes he witnessed, he had been
on board the Trnmbull in her action with the Watt — ^the hard*
est-fonght naval combat of that war — and he particularly de-
lighted in relating its incidents. He had been wounded in the
battle, and bore the marks of the injury in a scar that slightly
disfigured a &ce that, without this blemish, would have been
singularly handsome. My mother, after my poor father's death,
always spoke of even this scar as a beauty-spot. Agreeably to
my own recollections the mark scarcely deserved that commen-
dation, as it gave one side of the &ce a grim and fierce appear-
ance, particularly when its owner was displeased.

My &ther died on the taxm on which he was bom, and which
descended to him from his great-grandfather, an English emi-



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12 AFLOAT AND ASHORE.

grant that had purchased it of the Dutch colonist who haa
originally cleared it from the woods. The place was called
Clawbonny, which some said was good Dutch, others bad
Dutch ; and now and then a person ventured a conjecture that
it might be Indian. Bonny it was, in one sense at least, for a
lovelier farm there is not on the whole of the wide sur&ce of
the Empire State. What does not always happen in this wicked
world, it was as good as it was handsome. It consisted of three
hundred and seventy-two acres of first-rate land, either arable or
of rich river bottom in meadows, and of more than a hundred
of rocky mountain side, that was very tolerably covered with
wood. The first of our family who owned the place had built a
substantial one-story stone house, that bears the date of 1 70 7 on
one of its gables ; and to which each of his successors had add-
ed a little, until the whole structure got to resemble a cluster of
cottages thrown together without the least attention to order or
regularity. Hiere were a porch, a front door, and a lawn, how-
ever ; the latter containing half a dozen acres of a soil as black
as one's hat, and nourishing eight or ten elms that were scattered
about as if their seeds had been sown broadcast. In addition
to the trees and a suitable garniture of shrubbery, this lawn was
coated with a sward that, in the proper seasons, rivalled all I
have read or imagined of the emerald and shorn slopes of tho
Swiss valleys.

Clawbonny, while it had all the appearance of being the resi-
dence of an affluent, agriculturist, had none of the pretension
of these later times. The house had an air of substantial c<mi-
fort without, an appearance that its interior in no maimer con^
tradicted. The ceilings were low, it is true, nor were the rooms
particularly large ; but the latter w^re warm in winter, cool in
sunmier, and tidy, neat, and respectaWe all the year round. Both
the parlors had carpets, as had the passages and s31 the better
bedrooms ; and there were an old-fa^oned chintz settee, well
stuffed and cushioned, and curtains in the "big parlor," as we
called the best apartment — ^the pretending name of drawing
room not having reached our valley as far back as the year 1796,



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AFLOAT AND ASHORE. 13

or that in which ray recollections of the place, as it then existed,
arc the most vivid and distinct.

We had orchards^ meadows, and ploughed fields all around
lis; while the bams, granaries, styes, and other buildings of the
farm, were of soHd stone, like the dwelling, and all in capital
condition. In addition to the place, whiph he inherited from
my grandMher quite without any incumbrance, well stocked
and sap{^ed with utensils of all sorts^ my &ther had managed
to bring with him from sea some fourteen or fi^en thousand
dollars, which he carefully invested in mortgages in the county.
He got twenty-eeven hundred pounds currency with my mother,
similarly bestowed ; and, two or three great landed proprietors
and as many retired merchants from York excepted, Ci^tain
Walhngford was generally supposed to be one of the stiffest
men in Ulster county. I do not know exactly how true was
this rej^rt ; though I never saw any thing but the abundance
of a better sort of American &rm under the paternal roof, and
I know that the poor were never sent away empty-handed. It
is true that our wine was made of currants; but it was deli-
cious,, and there was always a sufficient stodk in the cellar to
enable us to drink it three or four years old. My father, how
ever^ had a small private colle<^n of his own, out of which he
wonki oocisionally produce a bottle ; and I remember to have
heard Governor George Clinton, afterward Vice President, who
was an Ulster county man, and who sometimes stopped at Claw
bonny in passing, say that it was excellent £ast India Madeira.
Aa for cb^ets, burgundy, hock, and champagne, they were wines
then unknown in America, except on ih» tables of so^ne of the
principal merchants, and here and Hiere On that of 'some travel-
led gentleman of an^tate Jai^r than c<»nmon. When I say
that Governor George Clinton used to stop occasionally and
taste my father^s Madeira, I do not wish to boast of being cla^d
with those who then composed the gentry of the state. To
this, in that day, we cou}d hardly aspire, though the substantial
hereditary property of toy femily gave us a local consideration
that placed us a good delal above the station of ordinary yeo-



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14 AFLOAT AND ASHORE.

men. Ilad we lived in one of the large towns, our associatioo
would unquestionably have been with those who are usually
considered to be one or two degrees beneath the highest class.
These distinctions were much more marked inunediately aft;er the
war of the Revolution than they are to-day ; and they are more
marked to-day, even, than all but the most lucky or the most
meiitorious, whichever fortune dignifies, are willing to allow.

The courtship between my parents occurred while my &ther
was at home to be cured of the wounds he had received in the
engagement between the Trumbull and the Watt I have al-
ways supposed this was the moving cause why my mother fan-
cied that the grim-looking scar on the left side of my father's
face was so particularly becoming. The battle was fought in
June, 1780, and my parents were married in the autumn of the
same year. My father did not go to sea again until after my birth,
which took place the very day that Comwallis capitulated at
Yorktown. These combined events set the young sailor }n mo-
tion, for he felt he had a family to provide for, and he wished to
make one more mark on the enemy in return for the beauty-spot
his wife so gloried in. He accordingly got a eonmiission in a
privateer, made two or three fortunate cruises, and was able at
the peace to purchase a prize-brig, which he sailed as master
and owner until the year 1790, when he was recalled to the pa-
ternal roof by the death of my grandfather. Being an only son,
the captain, as my father was uniformly called, inherited the
land, stock, utensils, and crops^ as already mentioned ; while the
six thousand pounds currency that were ^' at use," went to my
two aunts, who were thought to be well married to men in their
own class of life, in adjacent counties.

My father never went to sea after he inherited Clawbonny.
From that time down to the day of his death, he remained on
his fimn, with the exception of a single winter passed in Albany
as one of the representatives of the county. In his day it was
a credit to a man to represent a county, and to hold office under
the state : though the abuse of the elective principle, not to say
of the appointing power, has since brought about so great a



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AFLOAT AND ABHORS. 15

ehangc. Then a member of Congress was somebody; now be is
only — ^a member of Congress,

We were but two surviving cbiidren, three of the fisunily dy-
ing infimts, leaving only my sister Grace and myself to console
our mother in her widowhood. The dire accident which placed
her in this, the saddest of all conditions for a woman who had
been a happy wife, occurred in the year 1794, when I was in my
thirteenth year, and Grace was turned of eleven. It may be
well to relate the particulars.

Hiere was a mill, just where the stream that runs through
our valley tumbles down to a level below that on which the farm
lies, and empties itself into a small tributary of the Hudson.
This mill was on our property, and was a source of great con-
venience and of some profit to my father. There he ground all
the grain that was consumed for domestic purposes for several
miles around ; and the tolls enabled him to fatten his pollers
and beeves, in a way to give both a sort of established charac
ter. In a word, the mill was the concentrating point for aU the
products of the farm, there being a little landing on the maipn
of the creek that put up from the Hudson, whence a sloop sailed
weekly for town. My father passed half his time about the
mill and landing, superintending his workmen, and particularly
^ving directions about the fitting of the sloop, which was his
property also, and about the gear of the mill He was clever,
certainly, and had made several useM suggestions to the mill-
wright who occasionally came to examine and rep^r the works ;
but he was by no means so accurate a mechanic as he &ncied
himself to be. He had invented some new mode of arresting
the movement, and of setting the machinery in motion when
necessary; what it was, I never knew, for it was not named at
Clawbonny after the fatal accident occurred. One' day, how-
ever, in order to convince the millwright of the excellence of
this improvement, my father caused the machinery to be stop«
ped, and then placed his own weight upon the large wheel, in
order to manifest the sense he fdt in the security of his inven-
tion. He was in the very act of laughing exultingly at the



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16 AFLOAT AND ABHORS.

manner in which the millwright shook his head at the risk he
ran, when the arresting power lost its control of the machineiy,
the heavy head of water burst into the buckets, and the wheel
whirled round cairying my unfortunate &ther with it. I wae
an eye-witness of the whole, and saw the £Eice of my parent, as
the wheel turned it from me, still expanded in mirth. There
was but one revolution made, when the wright succeeded in
stopjnng the works. This brought the great wheel back nearly
to its ori^al position, and I fairly shouted with hysterical
delight when I saw my father standing in his tracks, as it might
be, seemingly unhurt. Unhurt he would have been, though he
must have passed a fearful keel-hauling, but for one circum-
stance. He had held on to the wheel with the tenacity of a
seaman, since letting go his hold would have thrown him down
a cliff of near a hundred feet in depth, and he actually passed
between the wheel and the planking beneath it unharmed,
although there was only an inch or two to spare ; but in rising
from this fearful strait, his head had been driven between a pro-
jecting beam and one of the buckets, in a way to crush one
temple in upon the brain. So swift and sudden had been the
whole thing, that, on turning the wheel, his lifeless body was
still inclining on its periphery, retained erect, I believe, ih conse-
quence of some part of his coat getting attached to the head of
a naiL This was the first serious sorrow of my life. I had
always regarded my &thto as one of the fixtures of. the world ;
as a part of the great system of the universe ; and had never
contemplated his death as a possible thing. That another rev-
olution might occur, and carry the country back under the
dominion of the British crown, wotdd have seemed to mo far
more possible than that my father could die. Bitter truth now
convinced me of the fallacy of such notions.

It was months and months before I ceased to dr^am of this
frightful scene. At my ago, all the feelings were fresh and plas-
tic, and grief took strong hold of my heart. Grace and I used
to look at each other without speaking, long after the events
die tears starting to my eyes, and rolling down her cheeks, our



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AFLOAT AND ASHORB. 17

emotions being the only communications between us, but com-
munications that no uttered words could have made so plain.
Even now, I allude to my mother's anguish with trembling. She
was sent for to the house of the miller, where the body lay, and
arrived unapprised of the extent of the evil. Never can I —
never shall I forget the outbreakings of her sorrow, when she
learned the whole of the dreadful truth. She was in fainting
fit 3 for hours, one succeeding another, and then her grief found



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperAfloat and ashore. A sea tale → online text (page 1 of 47)