James Fenimore Cooper.

Afloat and ashore. A sea tale online

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giving way before the longings or weaknesses of hottuin nsEtnre ;
and Sunday ift nq longer, whurf^ It was: I have witnessed scenes
of |p(rawling, blasphemy, a^nd rude tamnlt in ^e snbmbs of New
York, on Mondays, wiU^ the li^t few yeai»,tfaat I\have nevet
seenin,aayotiierp4rt of the world on aiquiar occasions; and
serious doubts of the expediency of the h^h^pr^ssoro principle
have beset me^ whatj^ver mliy be the juflt cob^rnetions of doc-
tri^. . With the last I pretend not to meddle ; but, in a^ world-
ly point of yiew, it would eeem Iriae, if yoa icumot tnake men
all that they ought to be, to aim at such social r^guktiona aft
shall |I^lke ihem es Uttle vSe as ][>08aibkk But, to return to tiie
Black. Por^^ip St. Oalhetinels Laine^— « plabe whose vety natne
wajf associated wift vilene^ :

It.jjfs uwfioeau^ to speak jof the cfaaiactiers of its feittide
visitors^ jl4<^s(. ^ Uieo^ werb yoimg, many of them w0re stIB
blQcmking a^d lMkn(U<ntie, bnt^ aQ of tlrem weriot abandoned. *^ I
aeed^te^ yei^potliiiig.of theflieigM*»^^md B^eet^^ w&o was a
bit of a philosopher in his way, ordering a pot of beei^ and mo-
tioning me to take a sesii at a.Tacimttdde-^' batons loir the
men you see |ieie^ half ate hons^bseaber^ and {Ackpookctts,
oome to pass .the ;day..gealedlyiUDk>ng you ^ntieiben-sailors.
Tb^re a^ two ^ three flhcea hem that I hare ieen atthe Old
Bailey^^ys^] end hoiT tibejT hafeiicbnained inlto country, ill



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103 AFLOAT AKO A8H0ES.

more than I can tell yoiL You perceive these fellows are just
as mack at their ease, and the limdlord who receives and enter-
tains them is just as much at hds ease, as if the whole party were
merely honest men."

"JHqw happens it,'M asked, ''that such known rogues are al-
lowed to, go at large, or that this innkeeper dares receive them V^

** Oh I you're a child yet, or you would not ask such a ques-
tion I You must know, Master Wallingford, that the law pro-
tects rogues as well as honest men. To convict a pickpocket,
you must have witnesses, and jurors to agree,^^ and proseoutcH^,
and a sight of things that are not as plenty as pocket^iandkeiv
chiefs, or even wallets and Bank of fkigland notes. Besides,
these fellows can prove an alibi any day in the week. An alibi,
you must know" —

'' I know very well what an afibi means, Mr. Sweeney."

"The deuce you do T exclaimed the protector of the long's
revenue, eyeing me a little distrustfiilly. **And pray, how
should one as young as you, and coming f^om a ne# country
Hko America, know that !**

" Oh I" said I, laughing, " America is just the country for
a/tW#— everybody is everywhere, and nobody anywhere. The
whole nation is in motion, and there is every imi^inable oppor-
tunity few* o/fit^."

I bdieve I owed the development of Sweeney's « ulterior
views" to this careless speech. He had no other idea of the
word than its legal signification ; and it must have sifcmck him
as a Httte suspicious that one of my apparent condition in life,
and especially of my years, should be thus early instructed in
the meaning of this very useful professional term. It was a
minute before he spoke again, having been all that time study^
uig my^cpuntebance; : :

" And:pmy, Master Wallii^ord," he then inquired, " do you
happen to k^QW what mMe proteqtU means, too f '

'' Certaiidy ; it means to ^ye up the chase. Thef French
k^gger. under Dnngeness entered a nolle proaequi as respects my
brig, when she found her hands M of the West Indiaman.**



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▲ FLOAT AND ASHORE. 160

'^ So, SO ; I find I hare been keeping company all this time
with a knowing one, and I soch a simpleton as to £uicy him
green I Well, that I should live to be done by a raw JonaUian I"

" Poh, poh, Mr. Sweeney, I can tell you a story of two of our
naval officers, that took place just before we sailed ; and then
you will learn that all hands of us, on the other side of the
Big Pond, understand Latin. One of these officers had been
engaged in a duel, and he found it necessary to lie hid. A
friend and shipmate, who was in his secret, came one day in a
great hurry to tell him that the authorities of the state in which
the parties fought had ' entered a nolle prosequi^ against the
offenders. He had a newspaper with the whole thing in it, in
print. ' What's a nolle proseqtiiy Jack V asked Tom. * Why,
it's Latin, to be sure, and it means some infernal thing or other.
We must eontiiye to find out, for it's half the battle to know
who and what you've got to fecc' * Well, you know lots of
Lawyers, and dare show your face ; so, just step out and ask
one.' * I'll trust no lawyer ; I might put the question to some
chap who has been fee'd. But we both studied a little Latin
when boys, and between us we'll undermine the meaning.' Tom
assented, and to work they went. Jack had the most Latin *
but, do all he could, he was not able to find a * nolle' in any
dictionary. After a great deal of conjecture, the friends agreed
it must be the root of ' knowledge,' and that point was settled.
As for ^prosequif^ it was not so difficult, as ' sequor' was a fa-
ioiliar word ; and, after some cogitation. Jack announced his
discoyeries. ' If this thing werei in English, now,' he said, ' a
fellow might und.6rstand it. In that case, I should say that the
sheriff's men were in *^ pursuit of knowledge ;" that is, hunting
after you ; but Latin, you reijaepiber, wa& always an inverted
sort of stuff, and that "pro^^ alters the whole signification. . Hie
paper says they've *^ entered & nolle prosequi;^* and the "en-
tered" explains the whole. " Entered a nolle" means have enter-
ed on the knowlec^e, got a scent ; you see it is law EngUsh ;
" pro" means " how," and "sequi," " to give cbaae." The amount
of it all is, Tom, that thev are on your heels, apd I n^ust go to
8



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170 AFLIOAT AND A6H0KB.

work and send you off, at once, two or three kundred miles
into the interior, where you may laugh at them and their *^ nolle
prosequis" together,' "*

Sweeney laughed heartily at this story, though he clearly did
not take the joke, which I presume he £uicied lay concealed
under b^ American flash language ; and he proposed, by way of
iinishing the day, to carry me to an entertainment where, he
gave me to understand, American officers were fbnd ot some*
times passing a few minutes. I was led to a Wapping assem^
bly'Toom, on ent.ering which I found myself in a party composed
of some forty or fifty cooks and stewards of American vo^sels,
all as black as their own pots, with partners of the usual eoloi
and bloom of English girls. I have as few prejudices of cdor as
any American well cui have ; but I will confess this scene struck
me as being pamfiilly out of keeping. In England, however,
nothing seemed to be thought of it ; and I ajfterward found that
marriages between English women, and men of all the colors
of the rainbow, were very common occurrenoea.

When he had given me this ball as the climax of his com-
plunents, Sweeney betrayed the real motive of all his attentions.
After drinking a pot of bewr extra, well laced with gin, he offered
his services in snuggling any thing ashore that the Amanda
might happen to contain, and which I, as the prize-master,
might feel a desire to appropriate to iny own particular pur-
poses. I met the proposal with a little warmth, letting my
tempter understand that I considered his offer so near an insult^
that it must terminate our acquaintance. The man seemed
astounded. In the first place, he evidently thought i^ goods
and chattels were made to be plundered, and then he was of
opinion that plundering was a very common " Yankee trick.**
Had I been an Englishman, he nught possibly have onderstoo j
my conduct ; but, with him, it was so much a habit to &ncy an
American a rogue, that, as I afterward discovered, he was try-
ing to persuade the leader of a press-gang that I was the h^-
ed icated and iUe^timate son of some EngUsh merchant, who

* There Is sold to be fonndatlon for this story.



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Jk^FLOAT AND ASHORE. I7l

wislied to pass himself off for an American. I pretend not to
account for tlie contradiction, though I have often met with the
same moral phenomena among his countrymen ; but here was
as regular a rogue as ever cheated, who pretended to think
roguery indigenous to certain nations, among whom his own
was not included.

At length I was eheerod with the si^t of the Crisis, as she
same drifting through the tiers, turning and twisting, and glan-
cing along, just as Uie Amanda had done before her. The pilot
carried her to moorings quite near us ; and Talcott, Neb and I
were on board her before she was fwly secured. My reception
was very ^votable. Captain Williams having seen the account
of the " Yankee trick" in the papers ; and, imderstanding the
thing )u8t as it had hi^pcned, he plaeod the most advantageous
construction on all I had done. For myself, I confess I never
had any nu^vings on the subject

All hands of us were glad to be back in the Crisis again.
Captain Williams had remained at Fahnouth longer than he
expected, to make some repairs that could not be thoroughly
completed at sea, which alone prevented him from getting into
the river as soon as I did myself. Now the ship was in, we no
longer folt any i^prehension of being impressed, Sweeney's
malignancy having set several of the gang upon the scent after
OS. Whether the fellow actually thought I was an En^ish sub-
ject or not, is^more than I ever knew ; but I felt no disposition
myself to let the point be called in question before ray Lord
Chief Justice of a Rendezvous. The King^s Bench was more
governed by safo principles, in its decisions, than the gentle-
men who presided in these marine courts of the British navy.

As I was the only officer in the ship who had ever seen any
thing of London, my fortnight's experience made me a notable
man in the cabin. It was actually greater preferment for me
than when I was raised from third to be second mate. Marble
was all curiosity to see the English capital, and he made me
promise to be his pilot, as soon as duty would allow time for a
htroll, and to show him every thing I had seen myself. We



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172 AFLOAT AND ASHOKB.

soon got out the cargo, and then took in ballast for our north*
west voyage ; the articles we intended to traffic with on the
coast, being too few and too light to fill the ship. This kept
us busy for a fortnight, after which we had to look about us to
obtain men to supply the places of those who had been killed,
or sent away in la Dame de Nantes. Of course we preferred
Americans; and this so much the more, as Englishmcii were
Ihible to be pressed at any moment. Fortunately, a party of
men that had been taken out of an American ship, a twelve*
month before, by an English cruiser, had obtained their dis-
charges ; and they all came to London, for the double purpose
of getting some prize money, and of obtaining passages h(Hne.
These lads were pleased with the Crisis and the voy^ige, and, in-
stead of returning to their own country, sailor-like, they took ser-
vice to go nearly round the world. These were first-rate men —
Delaware-river seamen — and proved a great accesfflon to our
force. We owed the windfall to the reputation the ship had
obtained by her affairs with the letter-of-marque ; an account of
which, copied from the log-book, and a little embellished by
some one on ^ore, the consignee had taken care should appear
in the journals. The history of the surprise, in particular, read
very well ; and the English were in a remarkably good humor,
at that time, to receive an account of any discomfiture of a
Frenchman. At no period ranee the year 1775, had the Amer-
icah character stood so high in En^and as it did just then;
the two nations, for a novelty, fighting on the same side. Not
long after we left London, the underwriters at Lloyd's actually
voted a handsome compliment to an American commander for
capturing a French frigate. Stranger things hiave happened
than to have the day arrive when English and American fleets
may be acting in concert. No one can tell what is in the womb
of time ; and I have lived long enough to know that no man
can foresee who will continue to be his friends, or a nation what
people may become its eneiiiies.

The Crisis at length began to take in her bales and boxes for
the notth-west coast, and, as the articles were received slowly,



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AFLOAT AND A8U0RE. ~ l73

or a few packages at a time, it gave as leisure for play. Oni
captain was in sach good-hamor with ns, on account of the
success of the outward-bound passage, that he proved very in-
dulgent. This disposition was probably increased by the cit-
cumstance that a ship arrived in a very short passage from New
York, which spoke our priae ; all weU, with a smacking southerly
breeze, a clear coast, and a run of only a few hundred miles to
make. This left the almost moral certainty that la Dame d€
Nantes had arrived safe, no Frenchman being likely to trust
herself on that distant coast, which was now alive with our own
cruisers, gdng to or returning from the West Indies.

I had a laughable time in showing Marble the sights of Lon-
don. We began with the wild beasts in the Tower, as in duty
bound ; but of these our mate spoke very disparagingly. He
had been too often in the East *^ to be taken in by such ani>
mals;*' and, tot own the truth, the cockneys were easily satisfied
on the score of their mSnagerie. We next went to the Monu-
ment ; but this did not please him. He had seen a shot-tower
in America — ^there was but one in tliat day — ^that beat it out
and out as to height, Mid he thought in beauty, too. There
was no reasoning against this. St Paul's rather confounded
him. He franldy admitted there was no such church at Kenne-
bunk ; though he did not know but Trinity, New York, ** might
stand up alongside of it." " Stand up alongside of it I" I re-
peated, laughing. " Why, Mr. Marble, Trinity, steeple and all,
could stand up in it — under that dome — ^and then leave more
room in this building than all the other churches in New York
contain, put altogether."

It was a long time before Marble forgave this speech. He
said it was ^^ unpatriotic ;" a word which was less used in 1799
than it is used to-day, certainly, but which, nevertheless, w€U
used. It often meant then, as now, a thick and thin pertinacity
in believing in provincial marvels ; and, in this. Marble was one
of the most patriotic men with whom I ever met. I got him
out of the church, and along Fleet street, through Temple Bar,
and into the Strand, however, in peace ; and then wc emerged



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174 AFLOAT AND ASHOBB.

mto the arena of &aIiion, aristocracy and the court After a
time we worked our way into Hyde Park, where we brought up,
to make our observations.

Marble was deeply averse to acknowledging all the admiration
he really felt at the turn-outs of London, as tiiey were exhibited
in the Park, of a fine day, in their season* It is probtEtble the
world elsewhere never saw any thing approaching the beauty
and magnificence that is here daOy seen, at certain times, so fiur
as beauty and magnificence are connected with equipages, in-
cluding carriages, horses, and servants. Unable to find fiiult
with the taut ensemhhy our mate made a violent attack on the
liveries. He protested it was indecent to put a ** hired man*' —
the word help never being applied to the male sex, I believe, by
the most fiistidious New England purist — in a cocked-hat; a
decoration that ought to be exclusively devoted to the uses of
ministers of the gospel, governors of states, and militia oflSc^rs.
I had some notions of the habits of the great wodd, through
books, and some little learned by observation and listening; but
Marble scouted at most of my explanations. He put his own
construction on every thing he saw ; imd I have often thought,
since, could the publishers of travels have had the benefit of his
blunders, how many would have profited by them. Gentlemen
were just then beginning to drive their own coaches; and I re-
member in a particular instance, an ultra in the new mode had
actually put his coachman in the inside, while he occuped the
dickey in person. Such a gross violation of the proprieties was
unusual, even in London ; but there sat Jehu, in all the dimity
of cotton-lace, plush, and a cocked-hat Marble took it into his
head that this man was the king, and no reasoning of miuo
could persuade him to the contrary. In vain I pointed out to
him a hundred similar dignitaries, in the proper exercise of their
vocation, on the bammeiHsloths ; he cared not a straw — ^this was
not showing him one inside ; and a gentleman inside of a car*
riage, who wore so £ne a coat, and a cocked-hat in the bargain,
could be nothing less than some dignitary of the empire ; and
why not the king ! . Absuri as all this wiH seem, I have known



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▲ FLOAT AKO ASHOBE. I7j(

mistakes, connected with the workings of our own institutions,
almost as great, made by theorists from Europe.

"While Marble and I were wrangling on this very point, a little
uicident occurred, which led to important consequences in the
end. Halckney-coa(5hes, or any oUier public conveyance, short
of post-chaises and post-hotses, are not admitted into the Eng-
fish parks. But glass^coaches are ; meaning by this term, which
is liever used in America, hired carriages that do not go on the
Stan Is. We encountered one of these glass-coaches in a very
serious difficulty. The horses had got frightened by means of
a wheelbarrow, aided, probably, by some bad management of
the driver, and had actually backed the hind wheels of the ve-
hicle into the Water of the canaL They would have soon had
the whole carriage submerged, and have followed it themselves,
had it not beiBU for the chief mate and myself I thrust the
wheelbarrow Under one of the forward wheels^ just in time to
{Movent the final catastrophe ; while Marble grasped the spoke
with his iron gripe, and, together, h^ and the wheelbarrow made
a resistanoe that counterbalanced the backward tendency of the
team. There was no footman ; and, springing to the door, I
aided a sickly-looking, elderiy man, a female, who might very
well have been his wife, and anoljjiet thltt I took for his daugh-
ter, to escape. By my agency all Ilii?ee were put on ihe dry
land, without even If etting their feet, though I fei^d worse my-
selC No Soulier were they safe, than Marble, who was up to his
dbiOulders in the wat6r, and who had made prodigious efforts to
maihtaSn the balance of poWer, released hk hold, the wheelbar-
row gave way at the same moment, and the whole a£^r, coach
and hors^s^ h^ thdr will, and went, stdm foremost, overboard.
One of the horses was saved, I believe, and the other drowned ;
butv A clrowd soon collecting, I paid little attention to what was
going on iii the o&rriage, as soon ds its cargo was discharged.

Tha gentlemaa we had saved pressed my hand with fervor,
and A&urble's, too; saying that we must not quit him — that we
must go home with him. To this we consented readily enough,
thinking we might still be of use. As we all talked toward one



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176 AFLOAT AND ASHORE,

of the more private entrances of the Park, I had an opportunity
of observing the people we had served. They were very re-
spectable in appearance ; but I knew enough of the world to
see that they belonged to what is called the middle class in
England. I thought the man might be a soldier ; while the two
females had an air of great respectability, though not in the least
of fashion. The girl appeared to be nearly as old as myself, and
was decidedly pretty. Here, then, was an adventure I I had
saved the life of a damsel of seventeen, and had only to fell in
love to become the hero of a romance.

At the gate, the gentleman stopped a hackney-coach, put the
females in, and desired us to follow. But to this we would not
consent, both being wet, and Marble particularly so. After a
short parley, he gave us an address in Norfolk street, Sl^nd ;
and we promised to stop there on our way back to the ship.
Instead of following the carriage, however, we made our way on
foot into the Strand, where we found an eating-house, turned in
and eat a hearty dinner each, the chief mate resorting to some
brandy in order to prevent his taking cold. On what piinciple
this is done, I cannot explain, though I know it is often prac-
tised, and in all quarters of the world.
, As soon as we had dined and dried ourselves, we went into
Norfolk street We had been told to ask for Major Merton,
and this we did. The house was one of those plain lodging-
houses, of which most of that part of the town is composed ;
and we found the major and his family in the occupadon of the
first floor, a mark of gentility on which some stress is laid in
England. It was plain enough, however, to see that these peo-
ple were not rolling in that splendor of whidi we had just seen
so much in the Park.

'^ I can trace the readiness and gallantry of the English tar
in yom* conduct," observed the major, after he had given us
both quite as warm a reception as circumstances required, at
the same time taking out his pocket-book, and turning ovei
some bank-notes. " I wish, for your sakes, I was better able
than I am to reward you for what you have done ; but twenty



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AFLOAT AND ASHORE. 197

pounds is all I can now offer. At some other time circum-
stances may place it in my power to give further and better
proofs of my gratitude."

As this was said, the major held two ten-pound notes toward
Marble, doubtless intending that I should receive one of them
as a feir division of the spoils. Now, according to all thcoiy,
and the establi^ed opinion of the Christian world, America is
ihje avaricious country ; the land, of all others, in which men arc
f Jie most greedy of gaiil ; in which human beings respect gold
more, and themselves less, than in any* other portion of this
globe. I never dispute any thing that is settled by tiie common
consent of my fellow-creatures, for the simple reason that I know
the decision must be against me ; so I will concede that money
w the great end of American life — that there is little else to live
for in the great model republic. Politics have fallen into such
hands, that office will not even give social station ; the people
are omnipotent, it is true ; but, though they can make ia gov-
emor^ they cannot make gentlemen and ladies ; even kings are
sometimes puzzled to do that; literature, arms, luts, and feme
of all sorts are unattainable in their rewards among us, as in
other nations, leaving the puissant dollar in its undisturbed
ascendency ; still, as a rule, twenty Europeans can be bought
with two ten-pound Bank of England notes much easier than
two Americans. I leave others to explain the phenonionon ; 1
only speak of ih^fact.

Marble listened to the major's speech with great attention
and respect, fumbling in his pocket for his tobacco-box the whole
time. The box was opened just as the major ended, and oven
I began to be Jlfraid that the well-known cupidity of Konnebunk
was aboilt to giVe way before tlie temptation, and the notes
were to be stowed alongside of the tobacco; but I wiw mis-
taken. Deliberately helping himself to a quid, the chief mate
shut the box agidti, and then he made his reply.

" Quite ginerous iti you, major," he said, " and all ship-shape
and right. I like to see things done just in that way. Put up
the money; w€i thank you as much as if we could take it, and
519



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178 AFLOAT AVD A8B01IE.

that squares all accounts. I would just mention, however, to
prevent mistakes, as the other idee might get us impressed, that
tlus young man and I are both bom Americans — ^he from up
the Hudson somewhere, and I from York city, itself though
edicated down East"

'* Americans I" resumed the major, drawing hi^Qself up a little
stiffly ; <^ then you, young man," turning to me, and holding out
the notes, of which he now seemed as anxious to be rid, as I
had previously fimcied he was sorry to see go— "y«m will do
me the fiivor to accept of this small token of my gratitude."

** It is quite impossible, sir," I answered, respectfully. ^ We
are not exactly what wo seem, and yon are probably deceived
by our roundabouts ; but we are the first and second officers of



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperAfloat and ashore. A sea tale → online text (page 15 of 47)