James Fenimore Cooper.

Lionel Lincoln : or, The leaguer of Boston online

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Spare him, for the love of that God you worship ! Spare him ! "

Lionel Lincoln, page 122.






First let me talk with this philosopher



Urtv. Library, UCSartaCwz 1995









An unbroken intimacy of four-and-twenty years may justify the pre*?nt
use of your name. A man of readier wit than myself might, on such
a subject, find an opportunity of saying something clever, concerning 'he
exalted services of your father. No weak testimony of mine, however,
can add to a fame that belongs already to posterity : and one like myself,
who has so long known the merits, and has so often experienced the
friendship of the son, can find even better reasons for offering these
Legends to your notice.

Very truly and constantly,




THE manner in which the author became possessed of
the private incidents, the characters, and the descriptions,
contained in these tales, will, most probably, ever remain
a secret between himself and his publisher. That the
leading events are true, he presumes it is unnecessary to
assert ; for should inherent testimony, to prove that im-
portant point, be wanting, he is conscious that no anony-
mous declaration can establish its credibility.

But while he shrinks from directly yielding his authori-
ties, the author has no hesitation in furnishing all the nega-
:ive testimony in his power.

In the first place, then, he solemnly declares, that no
unknown man, nor w r oman, has ever died in his vicinity,
of whose effects he has become the possessor, by either fair
means or foul. No dark-looking stranger, of a morbid
temperament, and of inflexible silence, has ever transmitted
to him a single page of illegible manuscript. Nor has any
landlord furnished him with materials to be worked up into
a book, in order that the profits might go to discharge the
arrearages of a certain consumptive lodger, who made his
exit so unceremoniously as to leave the last item in his ac-
count, his funeral charges.

He is indebted to no garrulous tale-teller for beguiling
the long winter evenings ; in ghosts he has no faith ; he
never had a vision in his life ; and he sleeps too soundly
to dream.

He is constrained to add, that in no "puff," "squib,"
" notice," " article," nor " review," whether in daily, weekly,
monthly, or quarterly publication, has he been able to find
a single hint that his humble powers could improve.
No one regrets this fatality more than himself ; for these
writers generally bring such a weight of imagination to
their several tasks, that, properly improved, might secure
the immortality of any book, by rendering it unintelligible.


He boldly asserts that he has derived no information from
any of the learned societies and without fear of contra-
diction ; for why should one so obscure be the exclusive
object of their favors !

Notwithstanding he occasionally is seen in that erudite
and abstemious association, the " Bread -and - Cheese
Lunch," where he is elbowed by lawyers, doctors, jurists,
poets, painters, editors, congressmen, and authors of every
shade and qualification, whether metaphysical, scientific, or
imaginative, he avers, that he esteems the lore which is
there culled, as far too sacred to be used in any work less
dignified than actual history.

Of the colleges it is necessary to speak with reverence ;
though truth possesses claims even superior to gratitude.
He shall dispose of them by simply saying, that they are
entirely innocent of all his blunders ; the little they be-
stowed having long since been forgotten.

He has stolen no images from the deep, natural poetry
of Bryant ! no pungency from the wit of Halleck ; no fe-
licity of expression from the richness of Percival ; no satire
from the caustic pen of Paulding; no periods nor humor
from Irving ; nor any high finish from the attainments ex-
hibited by Verplanck.

At the "soirees" and " coteries des bas bleus " he did
think he had obtained a prize, in the dandies of literature,
who haunt them. But experiment and analysis detected
his error ; as they proved these worthies unfit for any bet-
ter purpose than that which their own instinct had already

He has made no impious attempt to rob Joe Miller of
his jokes ; the sentimentalists of their pathos ; nor the
newspaper Homers of their lofty inspirations.

His presumption has not even imagined the vivacity of
the, eastern states ; he has not analyzed the homogeneous
character of the middle ; and he has left the south in the
undisturbed possession of all their saturnine wit.

In short he has pilfered from no black-letter book, nor
any six-penny pamphlet; his grandmother unnaturally re-
fused her assistance to his labors; and, to speak affirmative-
ly, for once, he wishes to live in peace, and hopes to die in
the fear of God.


IN this tale there are one or two slight anachronisms:
which, if unnoticed, might, with literal readers, draw some
unpleasant imputations on its veracity They relate rather
to persons than to things. As they are believed to be
quite in character, connected with circumstances much
more probable than facts, and to possess all the harmony
of poetic coloring, the author is utterly unable to discover
the reason why they are not true.

He leaves the knotty point to the instinctive sagacity of
the critics.

The matter of this "Legend " may be pretty equally di-
vided into that which is publicly, and that which is pri-
vately certain. For the authorities of the latter, the
author refers to the foregoing preface ; but he cannot dis-
pose of the sources whence he has derived the former,
with so little ceremony.

The good people of Boston are aware of the creditable
appearance they make in the early annals of the confeder-
ation, and they neglect no commendable means to per-
petuate the glories of their ancestors. In consequence,
the inquiry after historical facts, is answered, there, by an
exhibition of local publications, that no other town in the
Union can equal. Of these means the author has endeav-
ored to avail himself ; collating with care, and selecting,
as he trusts, with some of that knowledge of men and
things which is necessary to present a faithful picture.

Wherever he may have failed, he has done it honestly.

Fie will not take leave of the " cradle of liberty," with-
out expressing his thanks for the facilities which have been
so freely accorded to his undertaking. If he has not been
visited by aerial beings, and those fair visions that poets
best love to create, he is certain he will not be miscon-
ceived when he says, that he has been honored by the notice
of some resembling those, who first inspired their fancies.




"My weary soul they seem to soothe,
And, redolent of joy and youth,
To breathe a second spring." GRAY.

No American can be ignorant of the principal events
that induced the Parliament of Great Britain, in 1774, to
lay those impolitic restrictions on the port of Boston,
which so effectually destroyed the trade of the chief town
in her western colonies. Nor should it be unknown to
any American, how nobly, and with what devotedness to
the great principles of the controversy, the inhabitants of
the adjacent town of Salem refused to profit by the situa-
tion of their neighbors and fellow-subjects. In consequence
of these impolitic measures of the English government,
and of the laudable unanimity among the capitalists of the
times, it became a rare sight to see the canvas of any
other vessels than such as wore the pennants of the king,
whitening the forsaken waters of Massachusetts Bay.

Toward the decline of a day in April, 1775, however,
the eyes of hundreds had been fastened on a distant sail,
which was seen rising from the bosom of the waves, mak-
ing her way along the forbidden track, nnd steering directly
for the mouth of the proscribed haven. With that deep
solicitude in passing events which marked the period, a
large group of spectators was collected on Beacon Hill,
spreading from its conical summit far down the eastern
declivity, all gazing intently on the object of their com-
mon interest. In so large an assemblage, however, there


were those who were excited by very different feelings,
and indulging in wishes directly opposite to each other.
While the decent, grave, but wary citizen was endeavor-
ing to conceal the bitterness of the sensations which
soured his mind, under the appearance of a cold indif-
ference, a few gay young men, who mingled in the throng,
bearing about their persons the trappings of their martial
profession, were loud in their exultations, and hearty in
their congratulations on the prospect of hearing from their
distant homes and absent friends. But the long, loud rolls
of the drums, ascending on the evening air, from the ad-
jacent common, soon called these idle spectators, in a body,
from the spot, when the hill was left to the quiet posses-
sion of those who claimed the strongest right to its enjoy-
ment. It was not, however, a period for open and unre-
served communications. Long before the mists of evening
had succeeded the shadows thrown from the setting sun,
the hill was entirely deserted ; the remainder of the spec-
tators having descended from the eminence, and held their
several courses, singly, silent, and thoughtful, toward the
rows of dusky roofs that covered the lowland, along the
eastern side of the peninsula. Notwithstanding this ap-
pearance of apathy, rumor, which, in times of great ex-
citement, ever finds means to convey its whisperings, when
it dare not bruit its information aloud, was busy in circu-
lating the unwelcome intelligence, that the stranger was
the first of a fleet, bringing stores and reinforcements to
an army already too numerous, and too confident of its
power, to respect the law. No tumult or noise succeeded
this unpleasant annunciation, but the doors of the houses
were sullenly closed, and the windows darkened, as if the
people intended to express their dissatisfaction, alone, by
these silent testimonials of their disgust.

In the meantime the ship had gained the rocky entrance
to the harbor, where, deserted by the breeze, and met by an
adverse tide, she lay inactive, as if conscious of the unwel-
come reception she must receive. The fears of the inhab-
itants of Boston had, however, exaggerated the danger ; for
the vessel, instead of exhibiting the confused and disor-
derly throng of licentious soldiery, which would have
crowded a transport, was but thinly peopled, and her or-
derly decks were cleared of every incumbrance that could
interfere with the comfort of those she did contain. There
was an appearance, in the arrangements of her external
accommodations, which would have indicated to an ob-


servant eye, that she carried those who claimed the rank,
or possessed the means, of making others contribute
largely to their comforts. The few seamen who navigated
the ship lay extended on different portions of the vessel,
watching the lazy sails as they flapped against the masts,
or indolently bending their looks on the placid waters of
the bay ; while several menials, in livery, crowded around
a young man who was putting his eager inquiries to the
pilot, that had just boarded the vessel off the Graves. The
dress of this youth was studiously neat,' and from the ex-
cessive pains bestowed on its adjustment, it was obviously
deemed, by its wearer, to be in the height of the prevail-
ing customs. From the place where this inquisitive party
stood, nigh the main-mast, a wide sweep of the quarter-
deck was untenanted ; but nearer to the spot where the
listless seaman hung icily over the tiller of the ship, stood
a being of altogether different mould and fashion. He was
a man who would have seemed in the very extremity of
age, had not his quick, vigorous steps, and the glowing,
rapid glances from his eyes, as he occasionally paced the
deck, appeared to deny the usual indications of many years.
His form was bowed, and attenuated nearly to emaciation.
His hair, which fluttered a little wildly around his temples,
was thin, and silvered to the whiteness of at least eighty
winters. Deep furrows, like the lines of great age and
long endured cares united, wrinkled his hollow cheeks, and
rendered the bold haughty outline of his prominent feat-
ures still more remarkable. He was clad in a simple and
somewhat tarnished suit of modest gray, which bore about
it the ill-concealed marks of long and neglected use. When-
ever he turned his piercing look from the shores, he moved
swiftly along the deserted quarter-deck, and seemed en-
tirely engrossed with the force of his own thoughts, his
lips moving rapidly, though no sounds were heard to issue
from a mouth that was habitually silent. He was under
the influence of one of those sudden impulses, in which the
body, apparently, sympathized so keenly with the restless
activity of the mind", when a young man ascended from the
cabin and took his stand among the interested and excited
gazers at the land, on the upper deck. The age of this
gentleman might have been five and twenty. He wore a
military cloak, thrown carelessly across his form, which,
in addition to such parts of his dress as were visible
through its open folds, sufficiently announced that his pro-
fession was that of arms. There was an air of ease


high fashion gleaming about his person, though his speak-
ing countenance, at times, seemed melancholy, if not sad.
On gaining the deck, this young officer, encountering the
eyes of the aged and restless being who trod its planks,
bowed courteously before he turned away to the view, and
in his turn became deeply absorbed in studying its fading

The rounded heights of Dorchester were radiant with
the rays of the luminary that had just sunk behind their
crest, and streaks of paler light were playing along the
waters, and gilding the green summits of the islands which
clustered across the mouth of the estuary. Far in the dis-
tance were to be seen the tall spires of the churches, rising
out of the deep shadows of the town, with their vanes glit-
tering in the sunbeams, while a few rays of strong light
were dancing about the black beacon, which reared itself
high above the conical peak, that took its name from the
circumstance of supporting this instrument of alarms.
Several large vessels were anchored among the islands and
before the town, their dark hulls, at each moment, becom-
ing less distinct through the haze of evening, while the
summits of their long lines of masts were yet glowing with
the marks of day. From each of these sullen ships, from
the low fortification which rose above a small island deep
in the bay, and from various elevations in the town itself,
the broad, silky folds of the flag of England were yet wav-
ing in the currents of the passing air. The young man
was suddenly aroused from gazing at this scene, by the
quick reports of the evening guns, and while his eyes were
yet tracing the descent of the proud symbols of the British
power from their respective places of display, he felt his
arm convulsively pressed by the hand of his aged fellow-

" Will the day ever arrive," said a low, hollow voice at
his elbow, "when those flags shall be lowered, never to rise
again in this hemisphere ! "

The young soldier turned his quick eyes to the counte-
nance of the speaker, but bent them instantly in embarrass-
ment on the deck, to avoid the keen, searching glance he
encountered in the looks of the other. A long, and, on the
part of the young man, a painful silence succeeded this
remark. At length the youth, pointing to the land, said

" Tell me, you who are of Boston, and must have
known it so long, the names of all these beautiful places J


" And are you not of Boston, too ? " asked his old com-

" Certainly by birth, but an Englishman by habit and

" Accursed be the habits, and neglected the education,
which would teach a child to forget its parentage ! " mut-
tered the old man, turning suddenly, and walking away
so rapidly as to be soon lost in the forward parts of the

For several minutes longer the youth stood absorbed in
his own musings, when, as if recollecting his previous pur-
poses, he called aloud " Meriton ! "

At the sounds of his voice the curious group around the
pilot instantly separated, and the highly ornamented youth,
before mentioned, approached the officer, with a manner
in which pert familiarity and fearful respect were pecu-
liarly blended. Without regarding the air of the other,
however, or indeed without even favoring him with a
glance, the young soldier continued

" I desired you to detain the boat which boarded us, in
order to convey me to the town, Mr. Meriton ; see if it be
in readiness."

The valet flew to execute this commission, and in an in-
stant returned with a reply in the affirmative.

" But, sir," he continued, " you will never think of going
in that boat, I feel very much assured, sir."

" Your assurance, Mr. Meriton, is not the least of your
recommendations ; why should I not?"

" That disagreeable old stranger has taken possession of
it, with his mean, filthy bundle of rags ; and "

''And what? you must name a greater evil, to detain
me here, than mentioning the fact that the only gentle-
man in the ship is to be my companion."

" Lord, sir!" said Meriton, glancing his eye upward in
amazement ; " but, sir, surely you know best as to gentil-
ity of behavior but as to gentility of dress "

" Enough of this," interrupted his master, a little an-

frily ; " the company is such as I am content with ; if you
nd it unequal to your deserts, you have my permission
to remain in the ship until the morning the presence of
a coxcomb is by no means necessary to my comfort for
one night."

Without regarding the mortification of his disconcerted
valet, the young man passed along the deck to the place
where the boat was in waiting. By the general movement


among the indolent menials, and the profound respect
with which he was attended by the master of the ship to
the gangway, it was sufficiently apparent, that, notwith-
standing his youth, it was this gentleman whose presence
had exacted those arrangements in the ship, which have
been mentioned. While all around him, however, were
busy in facilitating the entrance of the officer into the
boat, the aged stranger occupied its principal seat, with
an air of deep abstraction, if not of cool indifference. A
hint from the pliant Meriton, who had ventured to follow
his master, that it would be more agreeable if he would
relinquish his place, was disregarded, and the youth took
a seat by the side of the old man, with a simplicity of man-
ner that his valet inwardly pronounced abundantly de-
grading. As if this humiliation were not sufficient, the
young man, perceiving that a general pause had succeeded
his own entrance, turned to his companion, and courteously
inquired if he were ready to proceed. A silent wave of
the hand was the reply, when the boat shot away from the
vessel, leaving the ship steering for an anchorage in Nan-

The measured dash of the oars was uninterrupted by
any voice, while, stemming the tide, they pulled labori-
ously up among the islands ; but by the time they had
reached the castle, the twilight had melted into the softer
beams from a young moon, and the surrounding objects
becoming more distinct, the stranger commenced talking
with that quick and startling vehemence whicli seemed his
natural manner. He spoke of the localities, with the ve-
hemence and fondness of an enthusiast, and with the
familiarity of one who had long known their beauties.
His rapid utterance, however, ceased as they approached
the naked wharves, and he sunk back gloomily in the
boat, as if unwilling to trust his voice on the subject of
his country's wrongs. Thus left to his own thoughts, the
youth gazed, with eager interest, at the long ranges of
buildings, which were now clearly visible to the eye,
though with softer colors and more gloomy shadows. A
few neglected and dismantled ships were lying at different
points ; but the hum of business, the forests of masts, and
the rattling of wheels, which at that early hour should
have distinguished the great mart of the colonies, were
wanting. In their places were to be heard, at intervals,
the sudden bursts of distant, martial music, the riotous
merriment of the soldiery who frequented the taverns at


the water's edge, or the sullen challenges of the sentinels
from the vessels of war, as they vexed the progress of the
few boats, which the inhabitants still used in their ordi-
nary pursuits.

" Here indeed is a change ! " the young officer exclaimed,
as they glided swiftly along this desolate scene ; " even my
recollections, young and fading as they are, recall the dif-
ference !"

The stranger made no reply, but a smile of singular
meaning gleamed across his \van features, imparting, by
the moonlight, to their remarkable expression, a character
of additional wildness. The officer was again silent, nor
did either speak until the boat, having shot by the end of
the long wharf, across whose naked boundaries a sentinel
was pacing his measured path, inclined more to the shore,
and soon reached the place of its destination.

Whatever might have been the respective feelings of the
two passengers, at having thus reached in safety the object
of their tiresome and protracted voyage, they were not ex-
pressed in language. The old man bared his silver locks,
and, concealing his face with his hat, stood as if in deep
mental thanksgiving at the termination of his toil, while
his more youthful companion trod* the wharf on which
they landed with the air of a man whose emotions were
too engrossing for the ordinary use of words.

" Here we must part, sir," the officer at length said ;
" but I trust the acquaintance, which has been thus acci-
dentally formed between us, is not to be forgotten now
there is an end to our common privations."

" It is not in the power of a man whose days, like mine,
are numbered," returned the stranger, " to mock the liber-
ality of his God, by any vain promises that must depend
on time for their fulfilment. I am one, young gentleman,
who has returned from a sad, sad pilgrimage, in the other
hemisphere, to lay his bones in this, his native land ; but
should many hours be granted me, you will hear further of
the man whom your courtesy and kindness have so greatly

The officer was sensibly affected by the softened but
solemn manner of his companion, and pressed his wasted
hand fervently as he answered

" Do ; I ask it as a singular favor ; I know not why, but
you have obtained a command of my feelings that no other
being ever yet possessed and yet 'tis a mystery, 'tis like
a dream ! I feel that I not only venerate, but love you ! "


The old man stepped back, and held the youth at the
length of his arm for a moment, while he fastened on him
a look of glowing interest, and then, raising his hand
slowly, he pointed impressively upward, and said

" 'Tis from heaven, and for God's own purposes smother
not the sentiment, boy, but cherish it in your heart's core ! "

The reply of the youth was interrupted by sudden and
violent shrieks, that burst rudely on the stillness of the
place, chilling the very blood of those who heard them,
with their piteousness. The quick and severe blows of a
lash were blended with the exclamations of the sufferer,
and rude oaths, with hoarse execrations, from various
voices, were united in the uproar, which appeared to be at
no great distance. By a common impulse, the whole party
broke away from the spot, and moved rapidly up the wharf
in the direction of the sounds. As they approached the
buildings, a group was seen collected around the man,
who thus broke the charm of evening by his cries, inter-
rupting his wailings with their ribaldry, and encouraging
his tormentors to proceed.

"Mercy, mercy, for -'the sake of the blessed God, have
mercy, and don't kill Job!" again shrieked the sufferer ;

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperLionel Lincoln : or, The leaguer of Boston → online text (page 1 of 72)