James Fenimore Cooper.

Afloat and ashore. A sea tale online

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gar scandal There was nothing in these letters that might not
have been nttered in a dmwing-room, to any hut the persons
eoncemed; iEmd yet they were filled witlL:a humor that rose
often to wit, relieved by a tact and tasite that a man never could
have attained. Tlironghoat^ it was a^arent to me. Lady, in or-
der to amnse G]bice,*was giving &11 scope to a natural talent— ^
one that &r suri^assied the same capacity in her brother, being
as true as his was meretriqious and jesoitical^— Which she had
hitherto concealed from hs all, merely because she had nOt seen
an occasion fit for its use. Alhisians in the letters, th^selves,
proved that Cfrace had commented on this tmexpected disphiy
of observant humor, and had expressed her snrpiise at its exist-
ence. It was then as novel to my sister as it wa& to mysel£ I
was struck also with the fact, that Rupert's name did not ap-
pear once in all these Wtters. They embraced just twenty-seven
weeks, between the earliest imd the latest date; and there were
nine-and^wenty letter^, two having been sent by private convey-
ances ; her Cither's, most probably, hie occasionally making the
journey by land ; yet no one of them contained the slighteMi il-
lusion to her brother, or to either of the Meftons. This was
enough to let me know how well Lucy understood the reason of
Orace's withdrawal to Ckwbonny.

" And how is it with Miles Wallingford's name J" some of my
fkir readers may be ready to ask. I went carefully througk the
package in the course of the evening, and I set asiae two, as the
only exceptions in which my name did not appear. On exam-
ildng these two with jealous care, I foUnd each had a poi^ript,
one of which was to the following effect : '* I see by the papers
that Wlea has sidled for Malta, having at last Idft those stubborn
Turks. I ami glad of. this, ats one ^ould not wish to have the
excellent feUow shut ti^ in the Seven Towers, however honorable
it may have been." The other postscript contained this : ^ Dear
Miles has got to Leghorn, my &ther tells me, and may bo ex-
,pected home this summer. How great happiness this will bring



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508 AFLOAT AND ASHORE.

Jon, dearest Grace, I can well understand ; and I need scarcely
say that no one will rejoice more to see him again than his late
guardian and myselfl"

That the papers were often looked over to catch reports of
mj mov^nents in Europe, by means of ships arriving from dif-^
ferent parts of the world, was i^parent enough ; but I scarce
knew what to make of the natural and simply affectioilate man*
ner in which my name was introduced. It m^ht proceed from
a wish to gratify Grace, and a desire to let the idster know aU
that she herself possessed touching the brother's movements*
Then Andrew Drewett's name occurred very frequently, though
it was generally in connection with that of his mother, who
had evidently constituted herself a sort of r^ular ehaperoM for
Lucy, more especially during the time she was kept out of the
gay world by her mourning. I read several of these passages
with the most scrupulous attention, in order to detect the feel-
ing with which they had been written ; but the most practised
art could not have more successfully concealed any secret of
this sort, than Lucy's nature. This often proves to be the
case i the just-minded and true among men daily becoming the
profoundest mysteries to a vicious, cunning, deceptive, and self-
ish world. An honest man, indeed, is ever a paradox to all but
those who see things with Ids own eyes. This is the reas<Hi that
improper motives are so often imputed to the umplest and
seemingly mo^t honest deeds.

The result was, to write, entreating Lucy to come to daw-
bonny ; fuit^Hng care to secure her father's assent^ to aid my
request. This was done in a way not to aWaken any alarm,
and yet with sufficient strength to reiider it tolerably certain
she would come. On deliberate reflection, and after seeitig my
sister at table, where she ate nothing but a light vegetable diet,
and passing the evening with her, I thot^ht I could not do less
in justice to the invalid or her friend. I took the course with
great regret on several accounts ; and, among others, from a re-
luctance to appear to draw Lucy away from the society of tay
rival, into my own. Yet what right had I to call myself the



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AVLOAT AND ASHORB. 509

rival or competitor of a man who had openly professed an at*-
tachment, where I had never breathed a syllable myself that
might not readily be mistaken for the langaage of that friend-
ship, which lime, and habit, and a respect for each other's qual-
ities, so easily awaken among the young of different sexes ? I
had been educated almost as Lucy's brother ; and why should
she not feel toward me as one ?

Neb went out in the boat as soon as he got his orders, and
the Wallingford s^ed again in ballast that very night She
did not remain at the wharf an hour after her wheat was out I
felt easier when these duties were discharged, and was better pre-
pared to pass the night in peace. Grace's manner and appear-
ance, too, contributed to this calm ; for she seemed to revive,
and to experience some d^ree of earthly happiness, in having
her brother near her. When Mr. Hardinge read prayers that
night, she came to the chair where I stood, took my hand in
hers, and knelt at my side. I was touched to tears by this act
of affection, which spoke as much of the tenderness of the
sainted and departed spirit, lingering around those it had loved
on earth, as of the affection of the world. I folded the dear
girl to my bosom, as I left her at the door of her own room
that night, and went to my own pillow, with a heavy heart
Seamen pray little ; less than they ought, amid the rude scenes
of their hazardous lives^ Still, I had not quite forgotten the
lessons of childhood, and sometimes I practised on them. That
night I prayed fervently, beseeching God to spare my sister, if
in his wisdom it were meet ; and I humbly invoked his bless-
ings on the excellent divine, and on Lucy, by name. I am not
ashamed to own it, let who may deride the act



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SIO ArLOAT AKD ASBORX.



CHAPTEEXXDL

* WhMwrer mrow Ia, ralirf would be ;
If yoa do aorrow at mj grief in lore,
B7 giving lore, your eorroir and mj grief
Were both exterminU**

As Tov LtKM 1%

I SAW but little of Grace, daring the early part of the sao*
ecediog day. She had unifonnlj break&sted in her own room,
of late, and, in the short visit I paid her there, I found her com-
posed, with an appearance of renewed strength that encouraged
me greatly, as to the future. Mr. Hardinge insisted on render-
ing an account of his stewardship, that morning, and I let the
good divine have his own way ; though, had he asked me for
a receipt in full, I would cheerfully have given it to him, with-
out examining a single item. There Was a singular peculiaiity
about Mr. Hardinge. No one could live less for the world
genendly; no one was less qualified to stperlntendeictensive
worldly interests, thut required care, or thoi^ht; and no one
would have been a more unsafe executor in miUiteiirs that were
intricate or involved : still, in the mere business of accoutts, he
was ais methodical and exact as the most faithful banker, fidd-
ly honest, and with a strict r^ard for the rights of others, Uving
moreover on a mere pittance, for the greater part of his Kfe, thia
conscientious divine never contracted a debt he could not pay.
What rendered this caution more worthy of remark, was the
fact that he had a spendthrift son ; but even Rupert could never
lure him into any weakness of this sort. I question if Ids actual
cash receipts, independently of the profits of his little glebe,
exceeded $300 in any one year; yet, he and his children were
over well dressed and I knew from observation that his table



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AFLOAT AND. ASHORE. 511

was always sufficiently supplied. He got a few presents occa-
sionally, from bis parishioners, it is true; but tbey did not
amount to any sum of moment. It was metbod, and a deter-
mination not to anticipate bis income, tbat placed bim so mucb
abpve the world, wbile be bad a flEunily to support ; wbereas,
now that Mrs. Bradfcwrt's fortune was in the possession of bis
cluldren, he assured me be felt himself quite rich, though he
scrupulously refused to appropriate one dollar of the handsome
income that passed through his bands as executor, to his own
uses. It was all Lucy's, who was entitled to receive this income
even in her minority, and to her: he paid every cent, quarterly;
the sister providing for Buperi's ample wants.

Of course, I found every thing exact to a fartlung ; the nec^-
essary p£q)ers were signed, the power of attorney was cancelled,
and I entered fully into the possession of my own.. An unex-
pected rise in the value of flour had ndsed my shore receipts
that year to the handsome sum of nine thousand dollars. This
was not . properiy inconie, however, but profits, princapally ob-
tained through the labor of the mill* By putting all my loose
cash togetbtf , I found I could command fully $30,000, in addi-
tion to the price of the ship. This sum was making me a man
quite at my ease, and, properly managed, it op^ied a way to
wealth. How ^adly would I have given every cent of it, to
see Grace as healthy and happy as she was when I left hear at
Mrs. Bradfort's, to sail in the Grids 1

After settlitig the figures, Mr. Hardioge and I mounted our
horses, and todeorer the property^ to take a look at the state of
the farm. Onx road took us near the little rectory and the
glebe; and, h^re, the siipple-minded divine broke out into
ecstasies on- the subject of the beauties of his own re$idence,
and the delight with which he should now return to his ancient
abode. He loved Clawbonny no less than formerly, but he
loved the re<5tory more.

" I was bom in that humble, snug, quiet old stone cottage,
MUes,'' he said, '^ ai^d there I lived for years a hi^py hoaband
and fiither, and I hope I may say a faithful sheplierd of my ^



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512 AFLOAT AND ASHORE.

Ue flock. St Michael's, Clawbonny, is not Trinity, New Yort,
but it may prove, on a small scale as to numbers, as fitting a
nursery of saints. What humble and devout Christians have I
known to kneel at its little altar, Miles, among whom your
mother, and your venerable old grandmother, were two of the
best I hope the day is not distant when I shall meet there
another Mrs. IkOles Wallingford. Marry young, my boy ; early
marriages prove happier than late, where there are the means
of subsistence."

'' Ton would not have me marry, until I can find a woman
whom I shall truly love, dear sir f '

^ Heaven forbid ! I would rather see you a bachelor to my
dying day. But America has enough females that a youth, like
you, could, and indeed ought to love. I could direct you to
fifty, myself."

" WeU, sir, your recommendations would have great weight
with me. I wish you would begin."

" That I will, that I will, if you wish it, my dear boy. WeD,
there is a Miss Hervey, Miss Kate Hervey, in town ; a girl of ex-
cellent qualities, and who would just suit you, could you agree."

"I recollect the young lady; the greatest objection I should
raise to hcsr^ is a want of personal attractions. Of all Mi&
Bradfort's acquaintances, I think she was among the very
plainest"

" What is beauty. Miles ? In marriage, very different recom-
mendations are to be looked for by the husband."

" Yet, I have understood you practised on another theory ;
Mrs. Hardinge, even as I recollect her, was very handsome."

" Yes, that is true," answered the good divine, simply ; " she
was so ; but beauty is not to be considered as an cbjeetion. If
you do not relish the idea of Kate Hervey, what do you say to
Jane Harwood — ^there is a pretty girl for you."

" A pretty girl, sir, but not for me. But, in naming so many
young ladies, why do you overlook your own daughter f '

I said this with a sort of desperate resolution, tempted by
the opportunity, and the direction the discourse had takea



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AFLOAT AKD ASHOBE. 513

When it was uttered, I repented of my temerity, and almost
treml^d to hear tlie answer.

" Lncy I" exclaimed Mr. Hardinge, turning suddenly toward
me, and looking so intently and earnestly in my &ce, that J
saw the possibility of such a thing then struck him for the first
time. " Sure enough, why should you not marry Lucy ? There
is not a particle of relationship between you, after all, though I
have so long considered you as brother and sister. I wish wo
had thought of this earlier. Miles ; it would be a most capital
eonnection — ^though I should insist on your quitting the sea.
Lucy has too affectionate a heart, to be always in distress for an
absent husband. I wonder the possibility of this thing did not
strike me, before it was too late ; in a man so much accustomed
to see what is going on around me, to overlook this !"

Hie words " too late," sounded to me like the doom of fate ;
and had my simple-minded companion but the tithe of the ob-
servation which he so much vaunted, he must . have seen my
agitation. I had advsuQced so far, however, that I determined
to learn the worst, whatever pain it might cost me.

" I suppose, sir, the very circumstance that we were brought up
together has prevoited us all from rcganfing the thing as possi-
We. But, why * too late,^ my excellent guardian, if we who are the
most interested in the thing should happen to think otherwise ?"

** Certainly not too late, if you include Lucy, herself in your
conditions; but I am afiraid. Miles, it is Hoo late' for Lucy."

'^ Am I to understand, then, that Miss Hardinge is engaged
to Mr. Drewett ? Are her affections enlisted in his behalf?"

" You may be certain of one thing, boy, and that is, if Lucy
be engaged, her affections are enlisted— ^so conscientious a young
woman would never marry with6ut giving her heart with her
hand. As for the feet, however, I know nothing, except by
inference. I do suppose a mutual attachment to exist between
her and Andrew Drewett"

"Of course with good reason, sir. Lucy is not a coquette,
or a girl to encourage when she does not mean to accept"

"That's all I know of the matter. Drewett continues to

540



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514 AFLOAT AKD ABROBE.

risit ; is as atteotive as a young man well can be, where a yoing
woman is as scrapnlous as is Lucy abont tiie proper forms, and
I infet they nnderstand each other. I have thon^t of speaking
to Lucy on the subject^ but I do not wish to influence her judg>
ment, in a case where there exists no objection. Diewett is
every way a suitable match, and I wish things to take their own
course. There is one little circumstance, howerer, that I can
mention to you as & sort of son, Afiles, and which 1 consider
condusive as to the girl's indinadons — ^I have remarked that she
refuses all expedients to get her to be alone with Drewett , re-
fuses to make excursions in which she must be driven in his
curricle, or to go anywhere with him, even to the next door.
So particular is she, that she contrives never to be idone with
him, even in Ms many visits to the house."

*^ And do you consider that as a proof of attachment !*-K>f
her being engaged ? Does your own experience, cdr, confirm
such a notion f

^ What else can it be, if it be riot a consdousiiess. of a pas-
8ion-~-of an attachment that she is afraid every one will bee ?
Yoii do not understand Ihe sex, I perceive, Miles, or the fineness
of their natures would be more apparent to you. As fbr my
experience, no conclusion can be drawn firoin that^ as I arid my
dear wife were thrown together very young, all alone, in her
mother's country-house; and the old hidy bemg bed ridden,
there was no opportunity for the bashful madden to betray this
consciousness. But, if I understand human nature, inch is the
secret of Lucy's fbeKngs toward Andrew Drewett It: is bt no
great mpment t6 you, l£les, notwithstanding, as there are plenty
more young women to be had in the worid." ;

" True, sir • but there is only one Lucy Hardingier' I rejomed,
i^ith a fervor and strength of utterance thiit betrayed taore than
I intended.

My late guardian actually stopped his horse this tinie, to look
at me, and I could perceive deep concern gathering arotmd'his
usually serene and placid brow. He began to penetrate n^ fe^
ings, and I believe they caused him real grief.



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AFLOAT AND ABHOEE. 515

«I never could have dreamed of this T' Mr.Hardinge at length
exclaimed. " Do you really love Lucy, my dear Miles?"

" Better than I do my own life, sir — ^I zdmost worship the
earth she treads on — ^love her with my whole heart, and have
loved, I believe, if the truth were known, ever since I was ax*
teen — perhaps I had better say, twelve years old !"

The truth eaeaped me, as the torrent of the Mississippi breaks
through the lev^o, and a passage once open for its exit, it clear-
ed a way for itself, untU the cuitent of my feelings left no doubt
of its direction. I believe I was a little ashamed of my own
weakness, for I caused my horse to walk forward, Mr. Hardinge
accompanying the movement, for a considerable distance, in a
profound, aud I doubt not, a painful silence.

^^ Xhis has taken me altogether! by surprise, Miles," my late
guardian resumed ; '' altogether by surprise. What would I not
give could this have been known a year or two since ! My dear
boy, I feel for you, from the bottom of my heart, for I can un-
derstand what it must be to love a gid like Lucy, without hope.
Why did you not let this be known sooner— or, why did you
insist on going to sea, having so strong a motive for remaining
at. home?"

" I was too young, at that time, sir, to act on, or even to un-
derstand my own feelings. On my return, in the Crisis, I found
Lucy in a set superior to that in which I was bom and educated,
and it would have been a poor proof of my attachment to wish
to bring her down nearer to my own level."

*' I understand you. Miles, and can appreciate the generosity
of yoitr conduct;' thLoh^ I am afraid it wotdd have been tco
late on yotr return in the Crisis. That was only a twelvemonth
since, and, .then, I richer think, Andrew Drewett had offered.
There is good.s^ise in your feeling on. the subject of marriages
in unequal oondidons in Mfe, for they certainly lead to many
heart-burnings, and greatly lessen the chances of happiness.
One thing is certain ; in all such cases, if the inferior cannot
rise to the height of the superior, the superior must aink to the
level of the inferior. Man and wife cannot continue to occi^py



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516 AFLOAT AND ASHORE.

different social positions ; and as for the nonsense that is uttei-ed
on such snbjeets, by visionaries, under the claim of its being
commcm sense, it is only fit for pretending theories, and can
Itav^ nothing to do widi the great rules of practice. You were
right in principle, then, Miles, though you hare greatly exagger-
ated the facts of your own particular case.*'

'' I haye always known, sir, and have ever been ready to ad-
mit, that the Hardinges have belonged to a difibrent class of
society from that filled by the Wallingfords,"

^This is true, but in part only; and by no means true to a
degree that need have drawn any impassable line between you
and Lucy. You forget how poor we then were, and how sub-
stantial a benefit the care of Clawbonny might have been to
my dear girl Besides, you are of reputable descent and po-
sition, if not precisely of the gentry ; and this is not a country,
or an age, to carry notions of such a nature beyond the strict
bounds of reason. You and Lucy were educated on the same
level ; and, after all, that is the great essential for the marriage,
connection."

There was great good sense in what Mr. Hardinge ssdd ; and
I began to see that pride, and not humility, might have in-
terfered with my happiness. As I firmly believed it was now
too latf , however, I began to wish the subject changed ; for I
felt it grating on some of my most sacred feelings. With a
view to divert the conversation to another channel, therefore, I
remarked with some emphasis, affecting an indifference I did not
feel—

^ What cannot be cured, must be endured, sir ; and I shall
endeavor to find a sailor's happiness hereafter, in loving my
ship. Besides, were Andrew Drewett entirely out of the ques-
tion, it is now ' too late,' in another sense, since it would never
do for the man who, himself at his ease in the way of money,
hesitated about offering when his mistress was poor, to prove
his love, by proposing to Mrs. Bradfort's heiress. Still, I own
to so much weakness as to wi^ to know, before we close the
subject forever, why Mr. Drewett and your daughter do not



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AFLOAT AVD ABHORS. 5l7

many, if thej are engaged ? Perhaps it is owing only to Lucy's
mourning ?"

'* I haye myself imputed it to another cause. Rupert is en-
tirely dependent on hia sister, and I know Lucy so weU as to feel
certain — some extraordinary cause not interposing — ^that she
wishes to bestow hsU her cousin's fortune on her brother. This
cannot be done until she is of age, and she wants near two
years of attaining her majority."

I made no answer; for I felt how likely tiiis was to be true.
Lucy was not a girl of professions, and she would be very apt
to ke^ a resolution of this nature, a secret in her own breast,
until ready to carry it into execution. No more passed be-
tween Mr. Hardinge and myseH^ on the subject of our recent
conversation; though I could see my avowal had made him
sad, and that it induced him to treat me with more affection,
even, thaa had been his practice. Once or twice, in the course
of the next day or two, I overheard him soliloquizing— a habit
to which he was a good deal addicted — during which he
would murmur, "What a pityl" — ^**How much to be regret-
ted 1"-*-" I would rather have him for a son tlum any man
on e^h I" and other similar expressions. Of course, these in-
voluntary disclosures did not weaken my regard for my late
guardian. ^

About noon, the Grace and Lucy came in, and Neb reported
that Dr. Bard was not at home. He had left my letter, how-
ever, and it would be delivered as soon as possible. He told me
also that the wiud had been &vorable on the river, and that the
WaUingford must reach town that day.

Nothing further occurred, worthy of notice. I passed the
afternoon with Grace, in the little room; and we conversed
much of the past, of our parents in particular, without advert-
ing, however, to her situation, any further than to apprise her
>t what I had done. I thought she was not sorry to learn I had
sent for Lucy, now that I was with her, and it was no longei
possible her illness could be concealed. As for the physicians,
when they were mentioned, I could see a look of tender concern



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518 XThOJLT AND ASfiORK.

in Grace^s eyes, as if she regretted that I still cfaing to Uie delu-
sion of hoping to see her health restored. Notwithstanding
these little drawbacks, we passed a sweet eventide tcgdbhcr.
For more than an hour, Grace hj on my bosoto, occa^oaally
patting her hand on my^^heeks^ as the <^d earessofr its motno**.
This was an old habit of hers, and it was one I was equally do*
lighted and pained to h»ye her resume, now we irere of the age
and stature of man and woman.

The next day was Sunday, and Grace, insisted on my Mving
her to church. This was done, accordingly, in it vety old-fash-
ioned, but very qasy Boston chaise, that had b^onged to my
mother, and with very careful driving. The congregation, like
the church edifice of St. Michael'Sr was very^ small, being con-
fined, with some twenty OT thirty exceptions, to the fkmily and
dependents of Clawbonny. Mr. Hardinge's- little- flock was
hedged in by other denominations on every ude, and It was not
an easy matter to break through the buriers that suriounded
it. Then he was not pcissessed with the spirit of prdselytism,
contenting himsdf :with aiding in the sf^tu^ advan^eitLent of
those whcHU Prpvid^ce had consigned to his care. ^}n ^e
present occasion, however, the little building was fiifl^ and that
wa^ as mudi as co^d bai^ happened had it been as lai'ge as St.
Peter's itself The prayers were devoutly and fervently read, and
the sermon was plain and filled with piety.

My sister professed herself in no manner wearied wiA the



Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperAfloat and ashore. A sea tale → online text (page 44 of 47)