James Fenimore Cooper.

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eller has no right to draw these visionary scenes, and
then quarrel with the people he has come to visit,
because he finds that he has seen fit to throw into a
strong light, those parts which nature has every where
been pleased to keep in shadow ; or to colour highest
the moral properties, which the same wise dame has
sagaciously kept down, in order that those qualities,
which it has been her greatest delight to lavish on
man, may for ever stand the boldest and most promi-
nent in her own universal picture.

Instead of beholding, on reaching the deck, some
immense mountain, clad in a verdant dress of luxu-
riant and unknown vegetation, lifting its tall head out
of the sea, and imperiously frowning on the sister
element, my first view was of that same monotonous
waste with which my eyes had been sated to weari-
ness, during the last three weeks. The eager question
of " Where is America ?" was answered by Cadwal-
lader, who silently pointed to a little, blue, cloud-like
mound, that rose above the western horizon in three
or four undulating swells, and then fell away to the
north and to the south, losing itself in the water. 1

their own places of residence, just as if the Dane should be ex-
pected i,o answer interrogatories concerning the condition of a
farm situate on the Po I


believe I should have expressed my disappointment
aloud, but for the presence, and, more particularly,
for the air of my companion. His eye was riveted
on the spot with all the fondness of a child who is
greeting the countenance of a well-beloved parent.
It appeared to me that it penetrated far beyond
those little hills of blue, and that it was gifted with
power to roam over the broad valleys, vast lakes, and
thousand rivers of his native land. I fancied that his
philanthropic spirit was deeply enjoying those scenes
of domestic happiness, of quiet, of abundance, and of
peace, which he has so often assured me exist, be-
yond a parallel, within her borders. Perhaps a secret
consciousness of my own absurdity, came in season,
also, to prevent so unfortunate an exposure of my
high-wrought expectations.

The season of tlie } ear, a soft, balmy, southerly
breeze, and the air from the land, however, were all
present to restore good-humour. The httle hillocks
soon swelled into modest mountains ; and then a
range of low, sandy, and certainly not inviting, coast,
was gradually rising along the western margin of the
view. The sea was dotted with a hundred sails, all
of which were either receding from, or approaching,
a low point that was as yet scarcely visible, and which
extended a few miles to the northward of the high
land already mentioned. Beyond, in that direction,
nothing more was as yet apparent, than the tame
view of the sea. Three or four small schooners were
lying off and on, under jib and mainsail, gliding about,
like so many marine birds soaring over their native
waters. From time to time, they threw pilots on
board of, or received them from, the difierent ships
that were quitting or entering the haven within the
Cape. On the whole, the scene was lively, cheer-
ing, and, compared to the past, filled with the most
animating expectations.

It was not long before a beautiful little sloop, of a


formation and rig quite different from any I had ever
before seen, came skimming the waves directly in our
track. Her motion was swift and graceful, and likely
to bring us soon within speaking distance. It was
a fishing smack, out of which the cajttain was dis-
posed to obtain some of the delicious bass that are
said to abound on certain banks that lie along this
coast. We were disappointed of our treat, for the
fisherman answered the signal by intimating that he
had sold the last of his stock, but the manoeuvres of
the two vessels brought us near enough to hail. " Is
there any news?" roared the captain, through his
trumpet, while we were gliding past each other. The
answer came against the breeze, and was nearly in-
distinct. The words " Cadmus in," were, however,
aihrmed by more than one eager listener, to form part
of the reply^ Every body now pressed about our
commander, to inquire who or what was this Cadmus^
and what he or she might be in ? But the captain
was not able to gratify our curiosity. Cadmus was
the name of a ship in the French trade, it seemed,
and formed one in a line of packets between Havre
and New- York, just as our own vessel did between
the latter port and Liverpool. " It is not surprising
that she should be in," continued our honest com-
mander, "for she sailed on the 13th, whereas, we only
got clear of the land, as you well know, gentlemen,
on the 1 8th of the same month ; a passage of one and
twenty days, at this season of the year, cannot be called
a bad one." As it was quite evident the ideas of the
worthy seaman were in a channel very different from
our own, we were fain to wait for some more satis-
factory means of arriving at the truth. Another op-
portunity was not long wanting. A large coasting
schooner passed within two hundred feet of us. A tar
was standing on her quarter-deck, both hands thrust
into the bosom of his sea-jacket, eyeing our ship with
a certain understanding air that need not be explained


to one who claims himself to be so promising a chile
of Neptune. This individual proved to be the master
of the coaster, and to him our captain again roared
"Any news?" "Aj, ay; all alive up in the bay,"
was the answer. The vessels were sweeping by each
other with tantalizing rapidity, and without paying
the customary deference to nautical etiquette, some
six or seven of the passengers united in bawling out,
as with one voice, " What news, what news ?" The
envious winds again bore away the answer, of which
no more reached our ears than the same perplexing
words of "Cadmus is in."

In the absence of all certainty, I ventured to ask
Cadwallader, whether an important election had not
just passed, in which some favourite namesake of the
founder of Thebes had proved successful. This sur-
mise, however, was not treated with any particular
deference, and then we were left to devise our own
manner of explaining the little we had heard, by the
?[id of sheer invention.

In the mean time the ship was pressing steadily to-
wards her haven. The high land which, in contra-
distinction to the low, sandy beach, that extends four
hundreds of leagues along the coast of this country,
has obtained the name of " Neversink," ceased to rise,
and objects had become distinct on its brown acclivity.
A light-house on the Cape was soon plainly visible,
and a large buoy was seen, heaving and setting with
the unquiet waters, to mark the proper entrance to a
wide bay, that stretched, farther than the eye could
reach, to the westward. Just without this rolliiig
beacon, lay a low, graceful, rakish, httle schooner, in
waiting to give us a pilot. The wind was getting
light, and there was no necessity to arrest the progress
of the ship to receive this welcome harbinger of the
comforts of the land. It may be unnecessary to add,
that we all pressed around him, in a body, to attain


the solution of our recent doubts, and to hear the
tidings of another hemisphere.

I was struck with the singular air of exultation with
which this sturdy marine guide delivered himself of
the intelligence with which he was evidently teem-
ing. To the usual question, he gave a quick answer,
and in nearly the same language as the seaman of the
fishing-smack. " Cadmus in," again rung in our ears,
without leaving us any wiser than before we had
heard the inexplicable words. " She has been long
enough from Havre, to be out again," retorted our
captain, w4th a dryness that savoured a little of dis-
content. " If you think so much of the arrival of the
Cadmus in thirty days, from France, what will you say
to that of my ship, in twenty-one, from Liverpool?"
" Your owners may be glad to see you, but then,
you've not got the old man aboard." "We have
them here of all ages : and, what is far better, some
of both sexes !" returned one of the passengers, throw-
r^':^ a glance at the interested features of a beautiful
young creature, who was eagerly listening to catch
the syllables that should first impart intelligence from
her native country. " Ay, ay ; but you have no La
Fayette in the ship." " La Fayette !" echoed, cer-
tainly every American within hearing. " Is La
Fayette arrived ?" demanded Cadwallader, with the
quickness of lightning, and with an animation far
greater than I had ever given him credit for possess-
ing. " That is he, safe and well. He has been on
the island with the vice-president since yesterday.
This morning he is to go up to town, where he will
find himself a welcome guest. The bay above is
alive," our guide concluded, jerking his thumb over
one shoulder, and looking as if he were master of a
secret of some importance. Here, then, was a simple
and brief explanation of the event on which we had
been exercising our faculties for the last two hours.


For myself, T confess, I was disappointed, expecting
little short of some revolution in the politics of the
state. But the effect on most of my companions wslS
as remarkable as it was sudden. Cadwallader did not
speak again for many minutes. He walked apart ; and
I saw, by his elevated head and proud step, that the
man was full of lofty and patriotic recollections. The
eyes of the fair girl just mentioned, were glistening,
and her pretty lip was actually quivering with emo-
tion. A similar interest in the event was manifested,
in a greater or less degree, by every individual in the
ship, who claimed the land we were approaching as
the country of his birth. The captain lost every
shade of discontent on the instant, and even the na-
tive portion of the crew suspended their labour to
listen to what was said, with a general air of gratifica-
tion and pride.

I will acknowledge. Baron, that I was touched my-
self, at the common feeling thus betrayed by so many
differently constituted individuals ; and, at so simple
an occurrence. There was none of that noisy accla-
mation with which the English seamen are apt to
welcome any grateful intelligence, nor a single exag-
gerated exclamation, like those which characterize
the manners of most of the continental nations of
Europe, in their manifestations of pleasure.

It was not lono; ere Cadwallader had taken the
pilot apart, and was earnestly engaged in extracting
all the information he deemed necessary, on a subject
he found so interesting. I was soon made acquainted
with the result. It seems, that after an absence of
forty years. La Fayette had returned to visit the land
in which he had laid the foundation of his fame.
That he had reached a country where hearts and
arms would alike be open to receive him, was suffi-
ciently manifest in the manner of all around me ; and
I could not butfehcitate myself, in being so fortunate
as to have arrived at a moment likely to elicit some


of the stronger emotions of a people, who are often
accused of insensibility to all lively impressions, and
most of whose thoughts, like their time, are said to
be occupied in heedful considerations of the future.
Here was, at least, an occasion to awaken recollec-
tions of the past, and to elicit something like a popu-
lar display of those generous qualities which consti
tute, what may not improperly be called, the chivalry
of nations. It would be curious, also, to observe, how
far political management was mingled, in a perfect
democracy, with any demonstrations of pleasure it
might be thought expedient to exhibit, or in what^de-
gree the true popular sentiment sympathized with feel-
ings that, in one section of the earth, are, as you well
know, not unfrequently played off by the engines of
governmental power.

I was not sorry, therefore, to listen to the plans of
my companion. A boat, in the employment of the
journals of the city, was by this time alongside the
ship, and having obtained the little news we had to
impart, it was about to return into the haven, in or^
der to anticipate the arrival of the vessel, which was
likely to be delayed for many hours by a flat calm
and an adverse tide. In this boat it was proposed that
we should take passage, as far, at least, as the place
where La Fayette had made his temporary abode.
The earnestness with which Cadwallader pressed this
plan, was not likely to meet with any objections from
me. Tired of the ship, and eager to place my foot
on the soil of the western world, the proposal was no
sooner made than it was accepted. The boat was
instantly engaged for our exclusive benefit, and the
necessary preparations made for our departure.

And now a httle incident occurred, which, as it
manifests a marked difference in the manners, and
perhaps in the characters of those who inhabit this
republic, and the possessors of our own Europe, I
shall take the liberty to introduce.


I have already mentioned a fair creature as being
among our passengers. She is of that age when, in
our eyes, the sex is most alluring, because we know
it to be the most innocent. I do not think her years
can much exceed seventeen. Happily, your Belgic
temperament is too mercurial to require a tincture of
romance to give interest to a simple picture, in which
delicacy, feminine beauty, and the most commendable
ingenuousness, were admirably mingled. Neither am
I, albeit, past the time of day-dreams, and wakeful
nights, so utterly insensible to the attractions of such
a being, as to have passed three weeks in her society,
without experiencing some portion of that manly in-
terest in her welfare, which, I fear, it has been my
evil fortune to have felt for too many of the syrens in
general, to permit a sufficient concentration of the
sentiment, in favom- of any one in particular. I had
certainly not forgotten, during the passage, to manifest
a proper spirit of homage to the loveliness of the sex,
in the person of this young American ; nor do I think
that my manner failed to express a prudent and saving
degree of the admiration that was excited by her
gentle, natural, and nymph-like deportment, no less
than by her spirited and intelligent discourse. In
short — but you were not born in Rotterdam, nor
reared upon the Zuy der Zee, to need a madrigal on
such a topic. The whole affair passed on the ocean,
and, as a nautical man, you will not fail to compre-
hend it. Notwithstanding I had made every effort to
appear, what you know I really am, sufficiently ami-
able, during the voyage, and, notwithstanding Cad-
wallader had not given himself any particular trouble
on the subject at all, it was not to be denied that
there was a marked distinction in the reception of
our respective civilities, and that always in his favour.
I confess that, for a long time, I was disposed (in the
entire absence of all better reasons) to ascribe this
preference to an illiberal national prejudice. Still, it

Vol. I. D


was only by comparison that I had the smallest ra
tional grounds of complaint. But a peculiarly odious
quality^, attaches itself to comparisons of this nature.
There is a good deal of the Caesar in my composition,
as respects the sex ; unless I could be first with the
Houries, I believe I should be willing to 'abandon
Paradise itself, in order to seek pre-eminence in some
humbler sphere. I fear this ambitious temperament
has been our bane, and has condemned us to the
heartless and unsocial life we lead ! Our fair fellow
passenger was under the care of an aged and invalid
grandfather, who had been passing a few years in
Italy, in pursuit of health. Now, it is not easy to
imagine a more cuttingly polite communication, than
that which this vigilant old guardian permitted be-
tween me and his youthful charge. If I approached,
her joyous, natural, and enticing (I will not, because
a little piqued, deny the truth, Baron,) merriment
was instantly changed into the cold and regulated
smiles of artificial breeding. Nature seemed banished
at my footstep : and yet it was the artlessness and
irresistible attractions of those fascinations, which so
peculiarly denote the influence of the mighty dame,
that were constantly tempting me to obtrude my
withering presence on her enjoyments. With Cad-
wallader, every thing was reversed. In his society,
she laughed without ceasing; chatted, disputed, was
natural and happy. To all this intercourse, the lynx-
eyed grandfather paid not the smallest attention. He
merely seemed pleased that his child had found an
agreeable, and an instructive companion ; while, on
the contrary, there existed so much of attractiveness
in our respective systems, that it was impossible for
me to approach the person of the daughter, without
producing a corresponding proximity on the part of
the parent.

Something nettled by a -circumstance that, to one
who is sensible he is not as interesting as formerly,


really began to grow a little personal, I took occasion
to joke Cadwallader on his superior happiness, and
to felicitate myself on the probability, that I might
yet enjoy the honour of officiating, in my character
of a confirmed celibite, at his nuptials. He heard me
without surprise, and answered me without emotion.
" I thought the circumstance could not long escape
one so quick-sighted," he said. " You think I am
better received than yourself? The fact is indisput-
able ; and, as the motive exists in customs that dis-
tinguish us, in a greater or less degree, from every
other people, I will endeavour to account for it. In
no other country, is the same freedom of intercourse
between the unmarried of the two sexes, permitted,
as in America. In no other Christian country, is there
more restraint imposed on the communications be-
tween the married: in this particular, we reverse the
usages of all other civilized nations. The why, and
the wherefore, shall be pointed out to you, in proper
time; but the present case requires its own explana-
tion. Surprising, and possibly suspicious, as may
seem to you the easy intercourse I hold witli my
young countrywoman, there is nothing in it beyond
what you will see every day in our society. The
father permits it, because / am his countryman^ and
he is watchful of you, because you are not ! Men of
my time of hfe, are not considered particularly dan-
gerous to the atfections of young ladies of seventeen,
for unequal matches are of exceedingly rare occur-
rence among us. And, if I were what I have been,"
he added, smiling, " I do not know that the case
would be materially altered. In every thing but
years, the grandfather of the fair Isabel, knows that
I am the equal of his charge. It would be quite in
the ordinary course of things, that a marriage should
grow out of this communication. Ninety-nine, in one
hundred, of our family connexions, are formed very
much in this manner. Taste and inclination, rather


guided, than controlled, by the prudence of older
heads, form most of our matches ; and just as much
freedom as comports with that prudence, and a vast
deal more than you probably deem safe, is allowed
between the young of the two sexes. We, who
ought to, and who do know best, think otherwise.
Women are, literally, our better halves. Their frailty
is to be ascribed to the seductions of man. In a com-
munity like ours, where almost every man has some
healthful and absorbing occupation, there is neither
leisure, nor inclination, to devote much time to un-
worthy pursuits. I need not tell you that vice must
be familiar, before it ceases to be odious. In Europe,
a successful intrigue often gives tclat^ even to an
otherwise contemptible individual ; in America, he
must be a peculiarly fortunate man, who can with-
stand its odium. But the abuse of youth and inno-
cence with us, is comparatively rare indeed. In
consequence, suspicion slumbers ; voila tout.''''

"But why this difTerence, then, between you and
me ?" I demanded. " Why does this Cer])erus sleep
only while you are nigh ? I confess I looked for
higher courtesy in a man who has travelled."

"It is precisely because he has travelled^'"' my
friend interrupted, a little dryly. "But you can con-
sole yourself with the expectation, that those of his
countrymen, who have never quitted home, will be less
vigilant, because less practised in foreign manners."

This introduction brings me to my incident. It
was no sooner known that we were about to quit the
ship, than a dozen longing faces gathered about us.
Our example was followed by others, and one or
two more boats from the land were engaged to
transport the passengers into the bay, in order that
they might witness the reception of La Faj^ette. I
had observed a cloud of disappointment on the fair
brow of the httle Isabel, from the moment our'^inten-
tions were known. The circumstance was mentioned


to Cadwallader, who was not slow to detect its rea-
son. After a little thought, he approached the grand-
father, and made an offer of as many seats, in our own
boat, as might be necessary for the accommodation of
his party. It seems the health of the old man would
not permit the risk. The offer was, therefore, politely
declined. The cloud thickened on the brow of Isa-
bel ; but it vanished entirely when her aged grand-
father proposed that she should accompany us, at-
tended by a maid, and under the especial protection
of my companion. In all this arrangement, singular
as it appeared to my eastern vision, there was the
utmost simphcity and confidence. It was evident, by
the tremulous and hesitating assent of the young lady,
that even the customs of the country were slightly
invaded ; but, then, the occasion was deemed sutH-
ciently extraordinary to justify the innovation. '^So
much for the privileges of two score and five," whis-
pered Cadwallader, after he had handed his charge
into the boat. For myself, I admit I rejoiced in an
omen that was so flattering to those personal preten-
sions which, in my own case, are getting to be a httle
weakened by time. Before closing this relation, of
what I consider a distinctive custom, it is proper
to add, that had not the parties been of the very
highest class of society, even far less hesitation would
have been manifested ; and that the little reluctance
exhibited by Isabel, was rather a tribute paid to that
retiring delicacy which is thought to be so proper to
her sex, than to the most remote suspicion of any
positive impropriety. Had she been a young married
woman, there would, probably, have been the same
little struggle with timidity, and the same triumph of
the curiosity of the sex. But the interest which our
fair companion took in the approaching ceremony,
deserves a better name. It was plain, by her sparkling
eyes and flushed features, that a more worthy senti-


ment was at the bottom of her impulses— it was al-
most patriotism.

Behold us then in the boat ; Cadwallader^ the gen-
tle Isabel, and our three attendants, and impelled by
the vigorous arms of four lusty watermen. We were
still upon the open sea, and our distance from the city
not less than seven leagues. The weather, however,
was propitious, and our little bark, no less than its
crew, was admirably adapted to inspire confidence.
The former was long and narrow, but buoyant, and
of beautiful construction, being both light and strong.
The latter, it appears, are of a class of watermen, that
are renowned in this country, under the name of VVhite-
hallers. 1 have every reason to believe their reputation
is fairly earned ; for they urged the boat onward with
great speed, and with the most extraordinary ease to
themselves. I remarked, that their stroke was rather
short, and somewhat quick, and that it was made en-
tirely with the arm, the body remaining as nearly up-
right as possible when the limbs are exerted. At first, I
thought these men were less civil than comported with
their condition. They touched their hats to us, it is true,
on entering the boat, but it was rather too much in the
manner of a salutation of equality ; at least, there was
no very visible manifestation of a sense of inferiority.
Closer observation, however, furnished no additional
grounds of complaint. Their whole deportnient was
civij, nor, though far from humble, could it be termed
in any degree obtrusive ; still it was not precisely
European. There seemed no sin of commission, but

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperNotions of the Americans: picked up by a travelling bachelor (Volume 1-2) → online text (page 3 of 58)