James Fenimore Cooper.

Stories of the sea: being narratives of adventure, selected from the Sea tales, online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperStories of the sea: being narratives of adventure, selected from the Sea tales, → online text (page 1 of 23)
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" A nhout hurst from Marbled throat, and a si^ht mot my eyes that causod
the blood tu ru»li hi u torrent through my heart," — Page 55.









4C Walker Street.


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the

Southern District of New York.



It was believed that the leading incidents of Mr. Cooper's Sea
Novels, when freed from those accessory details that belonged
to the general story, would be found to be complete narratives in
themselves, which, from their stirring action and graphic interest,
would prove highly entertaining to young readers. With this
view this book has been compiled, and in pursuance of the plan,
the editor has been enabled to crowd into one small volume, a
large number of the most spirited and absorbing incidents in
Mr. Cooper's famous tales of the sea. The sketches, with the
exception of the introductory paragraphs, are given in the author's
own language, but necessarily condensed. The books from which
they were drawn are, " The Red Rover," " The Water-Witch,"
" The Pilot." "Afloat and Ashore," "Miles Wallingford," and "The
Crater." The work forms a companion to one entitled " Stories
of the Woods."

New York, 1862.



the wreck of the dawn 9

the bed rover 62

fid's story 63

the battle 78

the water-witch 99

the combat 102



THE EE8CUE ... 162









The story of the remarkable escapes and adven-
tures of the crew of the " Dawn" is told in Mr. Feni-
more Cooper's admirable romance of the sea, called
tk Miles Wallingford." The "Dawn" was a merchant
vessel, owned by and under command of Captain Miles
"WaUingford, on a voyage from New York to Ham-
burgh. The various adventures of the voyage were
very striking, some of them quite thrilling, and
others amusing ; but it is our purpose to give you
only the account of the wreck, which occurred on the
coast of Ireland. The period of the incidents of the
story was a short time before our war with Great
Britain, in eighteen hundred and twelve. France
and England were then at war, and England, having
great need of sailors to man her war-ships, was in
the habit, as no doubt you have read in the histories
of the times, of boarding American vessels, and for-
cibly taking from (hem such of the sailors as were
supposed to be of English birth. Our government
protested very energetically against this coarse, bat


the British ministers persisted in the practice, until
at last the American Congress resolved that this in-
sulting conduct could not be submitted to any longer,
and declared war against Great Britain. Well, the
Dawn, as usual, was visited by an English man-of-
war, a number of her seamen impressed, and then on
the ground that her cargo, which consisted of sugar
raised on the French West India islands, was forfeit
to the English crown, was seized as a prize, a prize-
crew placed on board, and ordered into Plymouth

But Captain Wallingford, her mate, Moses Marble,
and two negroes, Neb and Diogenes, all that remained
of the original crew, were so far unwilling to be car-
ried into a foreign port, with a chance of having
the vessel and cargo declared a prize by the courts —
for, although the vessel was sent into port as a prize,
the law courts had to investigate the case and decide
whether the seizure was lawful — that they got to-
gether and laid a scheme for retaking the vessel. It
was a very ingenious plan, and succeeded admirably.
They dressed up a block of wood like a man, secretly
dropped it in the sea, and then raised a great cry of
vt man overboard !" In an instant a boat was manned ;
our American sailors managing to appear very busy
on the deck of the ship, into the boat hurried a good
part of the British crew, and off they rowed in search
o[' the supposed sailor. It did not take long, then,
for Wallingford and his men to overcome the rest of
the prize-crew, and obtain command of their ship.
You may imagine the rage of the English seamen



when they discovered the trick that had been played
upon them. But there was no help for it, and the
best they could do was to make terms with the
Americans, to receive their fellow-seamen into the
boat, and to be supplied with water and provisions,
which Captain Wallingford passed to them over the
side of the ship. Luckily a ship was in the offing,
which picked them up.

After this the Dawn, having now only four men to
work her, had a number of adventures and narrow
escapes ; once falling into the hands of a French pri-
vateer, from which Miles Wallingford as ingeniously
rescued her, as in the case of the English prize-crew ;
at other times being hotly pursued by English frigates ;
until, at last, in attempting to run up the Irish Chan-
nel, between Ireland and Scotland, during a very
heavy gale, was obliged to seek anchoring ground on
the coast of Ireland. We shall now let Miles Wall-
ingford tell his story in his own words:

I never knew precisely the point on the coast of
Ireland where we anchored. It was somewhere be-
tween Strangford and Dundrum Bay; though the
name of the headland which gave us a sort of pro-
tection, I did not learn. In this part of the island,
the caasl trends North and South, generally ; 1 hough
at the place where we anchored, its direction was
nearly from north-north-east to south-south-west —
which, in the early part of the gale, was as close as
might be the course in which the wind blew. At the

moment we broughl up, the wind had hauled a little
further to the northward, giving us a better lee; but,


to my great regret, Michael (a fisherman who had
piloted them to this spot), had scarcely left us,
when it shifted to due north-east, making a fair rake
of the Channel. This left us very little of a lee — the
point ahead of us being no great matter, and we
barely within it. I consulted such maps as I had,
and came to the conclusion that we were off the
county Down, a part of the kingdom that was at least
civilized, and where we should be apt to receive good
treatment, in the event of being wrecked.

It was past noon when the Dawn anchored ; and
the wind got more to the eastward, about half an
hour afterward. It was out of the question to think
of getting under way again, with so strong a wind,
and with our feeble crew. Had it been perfectly
smooth water, and had there been neither tide, nor
air, it would have taken us half a day, at least, to get
out two bowers. It was folly, therefore, to think of
it, situated as we were. It only remained to ride out
the gale in the best manner we could, but I had great
forebodings of evil from the commencement of the
tempest. Nothing occurred for several hours, except
that the gale increased sensibly in violence. Like an
active disease, it was fast coming to a crisis. There
Mas a little relaxation of the force of the gale in the
middle of the night, but, with the return of day, came
the winds howling down upon us, in a way that an-
nounced a more than common storm. All hands of
us were now up, and paying every attention to the
vessel. My greatest concern had been lest some of
the sails should get adrift, for they had been furled


by few and fatigued men. This did not happen,
however, our gaskets and lashings doing all of their
duty. We got our breakfasts, therefore, in the ordi-
nary way, and Marble and myself went and stood on
the forecastle, to watch the signs of the times, like
faithful guardians who were anxious to get as near
as possible to the danger.

It was wonderful how the ship pitched! Fre-
quently her Aurora was completely submerged, and
tons of water would come in upon the forecastle,
washing entirely aft at the next send, so that our
only means of keeping above water was to stand on
the wmdlass-bitts, or to get upon the heart of the
main-stay. Dry we were not, nor did we tbink of
attempting to be so, but such expedients were neces-
sary to enable us to remain stationary ; often to ena-
ble us to breathe. It was quite clear the fishermen
knew very little about finding a proper berth for a
ship, and that we might pretty nearly as well have
brought up in the middle of St. George's Channel,
could our ground-tackle reach the bottom, as to have
brought up where we were.

Just about nine o'clock, Marble and I got near each
other on the file-rail, and held a consultation on the
subject of our prospects. Although we both clung
to the same topsail-sheet, we were obliged to hollo
to make ourselves heard, the howling of the wind
through the rigging converting the hamper into a
sort of tremendous Eoliau harp, while the roar of
the water kept up a species of bass accompaniment to
this music of the ocean. Marble was the one who


had brought about this communication, and he was
the first to speak.

"I say, Miles," he called out, his mouth within
three feet of my ear—" she jumps about like a whale
with a harpoon in it ! I've been afraid she'd jerk the
stem out of her."

" Xot much fear of that, Moses — my great concern
is that starboard bower-cable; it has a good deal
more strain on it than the larboard, and you can see
how the strands are stretched."

" Ay, ay — 'tis generalizing its strength, as one may
say. Spose we clap the helm aport, and try the
effects of a sheer ?"

" I've thought of that ; as there is a strong tide go-
ing, it may possibly answer" —

These words were scarcely out of my mouth, when
three seas of enormous height came rolling down
upon us, like three great roistering companions in a
crowd of sullen men, the first of which raised the
Dawn's bows so high in the air, as to cause us both
to watch the result in breathless silence. The plunge
into the trough was in a just proportion to the toss
into the air ; and I felt a surge, as if something gave
way under the violent strain that succeeded. The
torrent of water that came on the forecastle prevented
any thing from being seen; but again the bows rose,
again they sunk, and then the ship seemed easier.

"We are all adrift, Miles!" Marble shouted, lean-
in - forward to be heard. "Both bowers have
snapped like thread, and here we go, head-foremost,
in for the land !"


All this was true enough ! The cables had parted,
and the ship's head was falling off fast from the gale,
like the steed that has slipped his bridle, before he
commences his furious and headlong career. I looked
round for the negroes ; but Neb was already at the
wheel. That noble fellow, true as steel, had per-
ceived the accident as soon as any of us, and he
sprang to the very part of the vessel where he was
most needed. A motion of my hand ordered him
to put the helm hard up, and the answering sign let
me know that I was obeyed. We could do no more
just then, but the result was awaited in awful expec-

The Dawn's bows fell off until the ship lay broad-
side to the gale, which made her reel until her lee
lower yard-arms nearly dipped. Then she overcame
the cauldron of water thai was boiling around her,
and began to draw heavily ahead. Three seas swept
athwart her decks, before she minded her helm in the
least, carrying with them every thing that was not
mosl firmly* lashed, or which had not animal life to
direct its movements, away to leeward. They swept
off the hen-coops, and ripped four or five water-casks
from their lashings, even, as if the latter had been
pack-thread. The camboose-house went also, at the
last of these terrific seas ; and nothing saved the
camboose itself, but it s great weight, added t<> the
strength of its fastenings. In a word, little was left,
that could very well go, but the launch, the gripes of
which fortunately held on.

By the time this desolation was completed, the ship


began to fall off, and her movement through the
Avater became very perceptible. At first, she clashed
in toward the land, running, I make no doubt, quite
half a mile obliquely in that direction, ere she got
fairly before the wind : a course which carried her
nearly in a line with the coast. Marble and myself
now got aft without much trouble, and put the helm
a little to starboard, with a view to edge off to
the passage as far as possible. The wind blew so
nearly down channel, that there would have been no
immediate danger, had we an offing ; but the ship
had not driven before the gale more than three or
four hours, when we made land ahead ; the coast
trending in this part of the island nearly north and
south. Marble suggested the prudence of taking
time by the forelock, and of getting the main-top-sail
on the ship, to force her off the land, the coast in the
neighborhood of Dublin lying under our lee bow.
We had taken the precaution to close-reef every
thing before it was furled, and I went aloft myself to
lower this sail. If I had formed a very respectful
opinion of the power of the gale while on deck, that
opinion was materially heightened when I came to
feel its gusts on the main-top-sail yard. It was not
an easy matter to hold on at all ; and to work re-
quired great readiness and strength. Nevertheless
I got the sail loose, and then I went down and aided
Marble and the cook to drag home the sheets. Home
they could not be dragged by us, notwithstanding we
got up a luff; but we made the sail stand reasonably


The ship immediately felt the effect of even this
rag of canvas. She drove ahead at a prodigious
rate, running, I make no question, some eleven or
twelve knots, under the united power collected by
her hamper and this one fragment of a sail. Her
drift was unavoidably great, and I thought the cur-
rent sucked her in toward the land; but, on the
whole, she kept at about the same distance from the
6hore, foaming along it, much as we had seen the
frigate do the day before. At the rate we were go-
ing, twelve or fifteen hours would carry us down to
the passage between Holy Head and Ireland, when
we should get more sea-room, on account of the land's
trending again to the westward.

Long, long hours did Marble and I watch the pro-
gress of our ship that day and the succeeding night,
each of us taking our tricks at the wheel, and doing
seaman's duty, as well as that of mate and master.
All this time, the vessel was dashing furiously out
toward the Atlantic, which she reached ere the morn-
ing of the succeeding day.

A wild scene lay around us, at the return of light.
The Atlantic resembled a chaos of waters, the por-
tions of the rolling sheet that were not white with
foam, looking green and angry. The clouds hid the
sun, and the gale seemed to be fast coming to its
height. At ten, we drove past an American, with
nothing standing but his foremast. Like us, he was
running oft*, though we went three feet to his two.
Hall' an hour later, we had tin; awful sighl before our
eyes of witnessing the sudden disappearance of an


English brig. She was lying-to, directly on our
course, and I was looking at her from the windlass,
trying to form some opinion as to the expediency of
our luffing-to, in order to hold our own. Of a sud-
den this brig gave a plunge, and she went down like
a porpoise diving. What caused this disaster I never
knew ; but in five minutes we passed as near as pos-
sible over the spot, and not a trace of her was to be
seen. I could not discover so much as a handspike
floating, though I looked with intense anxiety, in the
hope of picking up some fellow-creature clinging to a
spar. As for stopping to examine, one Mho did not
understand the language might as well hope to read
the German character on a mile-stone, while flying
past it in a railroad car.

At noon, precisely, away went our fore-top-sail out
of the gaskets. One fastening snapped after another,
until the whole sail was adrift. The tugs that this
large sheet of canvas gave upon the spars, as it
shook in the wind, threatened to jerk the foremast
out of the ship. They lasted about three minutes,
when, after a report almost as loud as that of a small
piece of ordnance, the sail split in ribands. Ten min-
utes later, our main-top-sail went. This sail left us as
it might be bodily, and I actually thought that a gun
of distress was fired near us, by some vessel that was
unseen. The bolt-rope was left set ; the sheets, ear-
ings, and reef points all holding on, the cloth tearing
at a single rent around the four sides of the sail.
The scene that followed I scarcely know how to de-
scribe. The torn part of the main-top-sail flew for-


ward, and caught in the after part of the fore-top,
where it stood spread, as one might say, held by the
top, cat-harpins, rigging, and other obstacles. This
was the feather to break the camel's back. Bolt
after bolt of the fore-rigging drew or broke, each
parting with, a loud report, and away went every
thing belonging to the foremast over the bows, from
the deck up. The main-top-mast was dragged down
by this fearful pull, and that brought the mizzen-top-
gallant-mast after it. The pitching of so much
hamper under the bows of the ship, while her after-
masts stood, threw the stern round, in spite of the
manner in which Marble steered; and the ship
broached-to. In doing this, the sea made a fair
breach over her, sweeping the deck of even the launch
and camboose, and carrying all the lee bulwarks, in
the waist, with them. Neb was in the launch at the
time, hunting for some article kept there; and the
last I saw of the poor fellow, he was standing erect
in the bows of the boat, as the latter drove over the
vessel's side, on the summit of a wave, like a bubble
floating in a furious current. Diogenes, it seems, had
that moment gone to his camboose, to look after the
plain dinner lie was trying to boil, when probably
seizing the iron as the mosl solid objeel near him, lie
was carried overboard with it, and never reappeared.
Marble was in a tolerably sate part of the vessel, at
tiie wheel, and he kept his feet, though the water
rose above his waist; as high, indeed, as his arms.
As for myself, I was saved only by the main-rigging,
into which I was driven, and where I lodged.


I could not but admire the coolness and conduct of
Marble even at that terrific moment ! In the first
place, he put the helm hard down, and lashed the
wheel, the wisest thing that could be done by men in
our situation. This he did by means of that nautical
instinct, which enables a seaman to act, in the direst
emergencies, almost without reflection, or, as one
closes his eyes to avoid danger to the pupils. Then
he gave one glance at the state of things in-board,
running forward with the end of a rope to throw to
Diogenes, should the cook rise near the ship. By the
time he was satisfied the hope of doing any thing in
that way was vain, I was on deck, and we two stood
facing each other, in the midst of the scene of desola-
tion and ruin that was around us. Marble caught my
hand with a look that spoke as plainly as words. It
told me the joy he felt at seeing I was spared, his de-
termination to stick by me to the last ; yet, how low
were his hopes of ultimate preservation ! It was such
a look as any man would be glad to receive from a
comrade in the heat of battle ; nevertheless, it was
not a look that promised victory.

The situation of the ship would now have been
much better than it had been, in many respects, were
it not for the wreck. All the masts forward had gone
over the lee bow, and would have lain in a sufficiently
favorable situation for a strong crew to get rid of
them ; but in our case we were compelled to let things
take their course. It is true, we could cut away, and
this we began to do pretty freely, but the lower end
of the foremast lay on the forecastle, where it was


grinding every thing near it to pieces, with the heav-
ing and setting of the waves. All the bulwarks in
that part of the ship threatened soon to be beaten
down, and I felt afraid the cathead would be torn
violently out of the ship, leaving a bad leak. Leaks
enough there were, as it was. The launch, camboose,
water-casks, and spare spars, in driving overboard,
having forced out timber heads, and other supports,
in a way to split the plank sheer, which let in the
Mater fast, every time the lee gunwale went under.
I gave up my cargo from the first, bringing my hopes
down as low as the saving of the ship, the instant I
saw the state of the upper works.

Marble and I had not been educated in a school
that is apt to despair. As for my mate, had he found
himself on a plank in the middle of the Atlantic, I do
believe he would have set about rigging a jury-mast,
by splitting off a piece of the hull of his craft and
spreading Ins shirt by way of sail. I never knew a
more in-and-in-bred seaman, who, when one resource
failed, invariably set about the next besl visible expe-
dient. We were at a loss, however, whether to make
an effort to get rid of the foremast, or not. With the
exception of the damages it did on the forecastle, it
was of use to us, keeping the ship's bow up to the
wind, and making better weather for us on deck.
The after-masts stauding, while those forward were
gone, had the effect to press the stern of the vessel to
leeward, while this support in the water prevented
Ins- bows from falling oil" and we rode much nearer
to the wind than is usual with a ship that is lying-to.


It is true the outer end of the fallen spars began to
drive to leeward ; and acting as a long lever, they
were gradually working the broken end of the fore-
mast athwart the forecastle, ripping and tearing away
every thing on the gunwale, and threatening the foot
of the mainstay. This made it desirable to be rid of
the wreck, while on the other hand, there was the
danger of the ship's bottom beating against the end
of the mast, did the latter get overboard. Under all
these circumstances, however, we determined to cut
as much of the gear as possible, and let the fallen
spars work themselves clear of us, if they could.

Our job was by no means easy. It was difficult to
stand, even, on the deck of the Dawn, in a time like
that ; and this difficulty was greatly increased forward,
by having so little to hold on by. But work Ave did,
and in a way that cleared most of the rigging from
the ship, in the course of the next half-hour. We
were encouraged by the appearances of the weather,
too, the gale having broken, and promising to abate.
The ship grew a little easier, I thought, and we moved
about with more confidence of not being washed away
by the seas that came on board us. After a time, we
took some refreshments, eating the remains of a for-
mer meal, and cheered our hearts a little with a glass
or two of good Sherry. Then we went at it again,
working with a will and with spirit. The wreck aft
wanted very little to carry it over the side, and going
aloft with an axe, I watched my opportunity, cut one
or two of the shrouds and stays, just as the ship
lurched heavily to leeward, and got rid of the whole


in the sea handsomely, without further injury to the
ship. This was a good deliverance, the manner in
which the spars had threshed about having menaced
our lives before. We now attacked the wreck for-
ward for the last time, feeling certain we should get
it adrift, could we sever the connection formed by
one or two of the larger ropes. The lee shrouds, in
particular, gave us trouble, it being impossible to get
at them, in-board, the fore-channels being half the time
underwater and the' bulwarks in then- wake being
all gone. It was, in fact, impossible to stand there to
Avork long enough to clear, or cut, all the lanyards.
Marble was an adventurous fellow aloft, on all occa-

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Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperStories of the sea: being narratives of adventure, selected from the Sea tales, → online text (page 1 of 23)