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The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas online

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can be stigmatized with the same apparent prejudice, it proves the clearer
how strong is misrepresentation at home. Time was wanting to enlighten my
mind and that time has been refused me. In another year, my worthy Sir,
the Council should have been filled with Van's!"

"In such a case, my Lord, the unhappy condition in which you are now
placed might indeed have been avoided."

"Is it too late to arrest the evil? It is time Anne had been undeceived,
and her mind regained. There wanteth nothing to such a consummation of
justice, Sir, but opportunity. It touches me to the heart, to think that
this disgrace should befall one so near the royal blood! 'Tis a spot on
the escutcheon of the crown, that all loyal subjects must feel desirous to
efface, and so small an effort would effect the object, too, with
certain - Mr. Alderman Myndert Van Beverout - - ?"

"My Lord, late Governor," returned the other, observing that his companion

"What think you of this Hanoverian settlement? - Shall a German wear the
crown of a Plantagenet?"

"It hath been worn by a Hollander."

"Aptly answered! Worn, and worn worthily! There is affinity between the
people, and there is reason in that reply. How have I failed in wisdom, in
not seeking earlier the aid of thy advice, excellent Sir! Ah, Myndert,
there is a blessing on the enterprises of all who come of the Low

"They are industrious to earn, and slow to squander."

"That expenditure is the ruin of many a worthy subject! And yet
accident - chance - fortune - or whatever you may choose to call it,
interferes nefariously, at times, with a gentleman's prosperity. I am an
adorer of constancy in friendship, Sir, and hold the principle that men
should aid each other through this dark vale of life - Mr. Alderman Van
Beverout - - ?"

"My Lord Cornbury?"

"I was about to say, that should I quit the Province, without expressing
part of the regret I feel, at not having sooner ascertained the merits of
its original owners, and your own in particular, I should do injustice to
sensibilities, that are only too acute for the peace of him who endures

"Is there then hope that your lordship's creditors will relent, or has the
Earl furnished means to open the prison-door?"

"You use the pleasantest terms, Sir! - but I love directness of language,
above all other qualities. No doubt the prison-door, as you have so
clearly expressed it, might be opened, and lucky would be the man who
should turn the key. I am pained when I think of the displeasure of the
Queen, which, sooner or later, will surely visit my luckless persecutors.
On the other hand, I find relief in thinking of the favor she will extend
to those who have proved my friends, in such a strait. They that wear
crowns love not to see disgrace befall the meanest of their blood, for
something of the taint may sully even the ermine of Majesty. - Mr.
Alderman - - !"

"My Lord?"

" - How fare the Flemish geldings?"

"Bravely, and many thanks, my Lord; the rogues are fat as butter! There is
hope of a little rest for the innocents, since business calls me to the
Lust in Rust. There should be a law, Lord Governor, to gibbet the black
that rides a beast at night."

"I bethought of some condign punishment for so heartless a crime, but
there is little hope for it under the administration of this Mr. Hunter.
Yes, Sir; were I once more in the presence of my royal cousin, there would
quickly be an end to this delusion, and the colony should be once more
restored to a healthful state. The men of a generation should cease to
lord it over the men of a century. But we must be wary of letting our
design, my dear Sir, get wind: it is a truly Dutch idea, and the profits,
both pecuniary and political, should belong to the gentlemen of that
descent - My dear Van Beverout - ?"

"My good Lord?"

"Is the blooming Alida obedient? Trust me, there has no family event
occurred, during my residence in the colony, in which I have taken a
nearer interest, than in that desirable connexion. The wooing of the young
Patroon of Kinderhook is an affair of concern to the province. It is a
meritorious youth!"

"With an excellent estate, my Lord!"

"And a gravity beyond his years."

"I would give a guarantee, at a risk, that two-thirds of his income goes
to increase the capital, at the beginning of each season!"

"He seems a man to live on air!"

"My old friend, the last Patroon, left noble assets," continued the
Alderman, rubbing his hands; "besides the manor."

"Which is no paddock!"

"It reaches from the Hudson to the line of Massachusetts. A hundred
thousand acres of hill and bottom, and well peopled by frugal Hollanders."

"Respectable in possession, and a mine of gold in reversion! Such men,
Sir, should be cherished. We owe it to his station to admit him to a share
of this, our project to undeceive the Queen. How superior are the claims
of such a gentleman to the empty pretensions of your Captain Ludlow!"

"He has truly a very good and an improving estate!"

"These Ludlows, Sir, people that fled the realm for plotting against the
crown, are offensive to a loyal subject. Indeed, too much of this
objection may be imputed to many in the province, that come of English
blood. I am sorry to say, that they are fomenters of discord, disturbers
of the public mind, and captious disputants about prerogatives and vested
rights. But there is a repose in the Dutch character which lends it
dignity! The descendants of the Hollanders are men to be counted on; where
we leave them to-day, we see them to-morrow. As we say in politics, Sir,
we know where to find them. Does it not seem to you particularly offensive
that this Captain Ludlow should command the only royal cruiser on the

"I should like it better, my Lord, were he to serve in Europe," returned
the Alderman, glancing a look behind him, and lowering his voice. "There
was lately a rumor that his ship was in truth to be sent among the

"Matters are getting very wrong, most worthy Sir; and the greater the
necessity there should be one at court to undeceive the Queen. Innovators
should be made to give way to men whose names are historical, in the

"'Twould be no worse for Her Majesty's credit."

"'Twould be another jewel in her crown! Should this Captain Ludlow
actually marry your niece, the family would altogether change its
character - I have the worst memory - thy mother, Myndert, was a - a - "

"The pious woman was a Van Busser."

"The union of thy sister with the Huguenot then reduces the fair Alida to
the quality of a half-blood. The Ludlow connexion would destroy the leaven
of the race! I think the man is penniless!"

"I cannot say that, my Lord, for I would not willingly injure the credit
of my worst enemy; but, though wealthy, he is far from having the estate
of the young Patroon of Kinderhook."

"He should indeed be sent into the Indies - Myndert - ?"

"My Lord?"

"It would be unjust to my sentiments in favor of Mr. Oloff Van Staats,
were we to exclude him from the advantages of our project. This much shall
I exact from your friendship, in his favor; the necessary sum may be
divided, in moieties, between you; a common bond shall render the affair
compact; and then, as we shall be masters of our own secret, there can be
little doubt of the prudence of our measures. The amount is written in
this bit of paper."

"Two thousand pounds, my Lord!"

"Pardon me, dear Sir; not a penny more than one for each of you. Justice
to Van Staats requires that you let him into the affair. Were it not for
the suit with your niece, I should take the young gentleman with me, to
push his fortunes at court."

"Truly, my Lord, this greatly exceeds my means. The high prices of furs
the past season, and delays in returns have placed a seal upon our
silver - "

"The premium would be high."

"Coin is getting so scarce, daily, that the face of a Carolus is almost as
great a stranger, as the face of a debtor - "

"The returns certain."

"While one's creditors meet him, at every corner - "

"The concern would be altogether Dutch."

"And last advices from Holland tell us to reserve our gold, for some
extraordinary movements in the commercial world."

"Mr. Alderman Myndert Van Beverout!"

"My Lord Viscount Cornbury - "

"Plutus preserve thee, Sir - but have a care! though I scent the morning
air, and must return, it is not forbid to tell the secrets of my
prison-house. There is one, in yonder cage, who whispers that the 'Skimmer
of the Seas' is on the coast! Be wary, worthy burgher, or the second part
of the tragedy of Kidd may yet be enacted in these seas."

"I leave such transactions to my superiors," retorted the Alderman, with
another stiff and ceremonious bow. "Enterprises that are said to have
occupied the Earl of Bellamont, Governor Fletcher, and my Lord Cornbury,
are above the ambition of an humble merchant."

"Adieu, tenacious Sir; quiet thine impatience for the extraordinary Dutch
movements!" said Cornbury, affecting to laugh, though he secretly felt the
sting the other had applied, since common report implicated not only him,
but his two official predecessors, in several of the lawless proceedings
of the American Buccaneers: "Be vigilant, or la demoiselle Barbérie will
give another cross to the purity of the stagnant pool!"

The bows that were exchanged were strictly in character. The Alderman was
unmoved, rigid, and formal, while his companion could not forget his ease
of manner, even at a moment of so much vexation. Foiled in an effort, that
nothing but his desperate condition, and nearly desperate character, could
have induced him to attempt, the degenerate descendant of the virtuous
Clarendon walked towards his place of confinement, with the step of one
who assumed a superiority over his fellows, and yet with a mind so
indurated by habitual depravity, as to have left it scarcely the trace of
a dignified or virtuous quality.

Chapter II.

"His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles;
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate; - "

Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The philosophy of Alderman Van Beverout was not easily disturbed. Still
there was a play of the nether muscles of the face, which might be
construed into self-complacency at his victory, while a certain
contraction of those which controlled the expression of the forehead
seemed to betray a full consciousness of the imminent risk he had run. The
left hand was thrust into a pocket, where it diligently fingered the
provision of Spanish coin without which the merchant never left his abode;
while the other struck the cane it held on the pavement, with the force of
a resolute and decided man. In this manner he proceeded in his walk, for
several minutes longer, shortly quitting the lower streets, to enter one
that ran along the ridge, which crowned the land, in that quarter of the
island. Here he soon stopped before the door of a house which, in that
provincial town, had altogether the air of a patrician dwelling.

Two false gables, each of which was surmounted by an iron weathercock,
intersected the roof of this building, and the high and narrow stoop was
built of the red free-stone of the country. The material of the edifice
itself was, as usual, the small, hard brick of Holland, painted a delicate

A single blow of the massive glittering knocker brought a servant to the
door. The promptitude with which this summons was answered showed that,
notwithstanding the early hour, the Alderman was an expected guest. The
countenance of him who acted as porter betrayed no surprise when he saw
the person who applied for admission, and every movement of the black
denoted preparation and readiness for his reception. Declining his
invitation to enter, however, the Alderman placed his back against the
iron railing of the stoop, and opened a discourse with the negro. The
latter was aged, with a head that was grizzled, a nose that was levelled
nearly to the plane of his face, features that were wrinkled and confused,
and with a form which, though still solid, was bending with its load of

"Brave cheer to thee, old Cupid!" commenced the burgher, in the hearty
and cordial manner with which the masters of that period were wont to
address their indulged slaves. "A clear conscience is a good night-cap,
and you look bright as the morning sun! I hope my friend the young Patroon
has slept sound as yourself, and that he has shown his face already, to
prove it."

The negro answered with the slow clipping manner that characterized his
condition and years.

"He'm werry wakeful, Masser Al'erman. I t'ink he no sleep half he time,
lately. All he a'tiverty and wiwacerty gone, an' he do no single t'ing but
smoke. A gentle'um who smoke alway, Masser Al'erman, get to be a
melercholy man, at last. I do t'ink 'ere be one young lady in York who be
he deat', some time!"

"We'll find the means to get the pipe out of his mouth," said the other,
looking askance at the black, as if to express more than he uttered.
"Romance and pretty girls play the deuce with our philosophy, in youth, as
thou knowest by experience, old Cupid."

"I no good for any t'ing, dat-a-way, now, not'ing," calmly returned the
black. "I see a one time, when few color' man in York hab more respect
among a fair sec', but dat a great while gone by. Now, de modder of your
Euclid, Masser Al'erman, war' a pretty woman, do' she hab but poor
conduc'. Den a war' young heself, and I use to visit at de Al'erman's
fadder's; afore a English come, and when ole Patroon war' a young man.
Golly! I great affection for Euclid, do' a young dog nebber come a near

"He's a blackguard! My back is no sooner turned, than the rascal's atop of
one of his master's geldings.'

"He'm werry young, master My'nert: no one get a wis'om fore a gray hair."

He's forty every minute, and the rogue gets impudence with his years. Age
is a reverend and respectable condition, when it brings gravity and
thought; but, if a young fool be tiresome, an old fool is contemptible.
I'll warrant me, you never were so thoughtless, or so heartless, Cupid, as
to ride an overworked beast, at night!"

"Well, I get pretty ole, Masser Myn'ert an' I forget all he do when a
young man. But here be'e Patroon, who know how to tell'e Al'erman such
t'ing better than a poor color' slave."

"A fair rising and a lucky day to you, Patroon!" cried the Alderman,
saluting a large, slow-moving, gentlemanly-looking young man of
five-and-twenty, who advanced, with the gravity of one of twice that
number of years, from the interior of the house, towards its outer door
"The winds are bespoken, and here is as fine a day as ever shone out of a
clear sky, whether it came from the pure atmosphere of Holland, or of old
England itself. Colonies and patronage! If the people on the other side of
the ocean had more faith in mother Nature, and less opinion of themselves,
they would find it very tolerable breathing in the plantations. But the
conceited rogues are like the man who blew the bellows, and fancied he
made the music; and there is never a hobbling imp of them all, but he
believes he is straighter and sounder, than the best in the colonies. Here
is our bay, now, as smooth as if it were shut in with twenty dykes, and
the voyage will be as safe as if it were made on a canal."

"Dat werry well, if a do it," grumbled Cupid, who busied himself
affectionately about the person of his master. "I think it alway better to
travel on 'e land, when a gentle'um own so much as Masser Oloff Der war'
'e time a ferry-boat go down, wid crowd of people; and nobody ebber come
up again to say how he feel."

"Here is some mistake!" interrupted the Alderman, throwing an uneasy
glance at his young friend. "I count four-and-fifty years, and remember no
such calamity."

"He'm werry sing'lar how a young folk do forget! 'Ere war' drown six
people in dat werry-boat. A two Yankee, a Canada Frenchman, and a poor
woman from a Jarseys. Ebbery body war werry sorry for a poor woman from a

"Thy tally is false, Master Cupid," promptly rejoined the Alderman, who
was rather expert at figures. "Two Yankees, a Frenchman, and your Jersey
woman, make but four."

"Well, den I s'pose 'ere war' one Yankee; but I, know all war' drown, for
'e Gubbenor lose he fine coach-horses in dat werry-boat."

"The old fellow is right, sure enough; for I remember the calamity of the
horses, as if it were but yesterday. But Death is monarch of the earth,
and none of us may hope to escape his scythe, when the appointed hour
shall come! Here are no nags to lose, to-day; and we may commence our
voyage, Patroon, with cheerful faces and light hearts. Shall we proceed?"

Oloff Van Staats, or the Patroon of Kinderhook, as, by the courtesy of the
colony, he was commonly termed, did not want for personal firmness. On the
contrary, like most of those who were descended from the Hollanders, he
was rather distinguished for steadiness in danger, and obstinacy in
resistance. The little skirmish which had just taken place, between his
friend and his slave, had proceeded from the several apprehensions; the
one feeling a sort of parental interest in his safety, and the other
having particular reasons for wishing him to persevere in his intention to
embark, instead of any justifiable cause in the character of the young
proprietor himself. A sign to the boy who bore a portmanteau, settled the
controversy; and then Mr. Van Staats intimated his readiness to move.

Cupid lingered on the stoop, until his master had turned a corner; then,
shaking his head with all the misgivings of an ignorant and superstitious
mind, he drove the young fry of blacks, who thronged the door, into the
house, closing all after him with singular and scrupulous care. How far
the presentiment of the black was warranted by the event, will be seen in
the course of the narrative.

The wide avenue, in which Oloff Van Staats dwelt, was but a few hundred
yards in length. It terminated, at one end, with the fortress; and at the
other, it was crossed by a high stockade, which bore the name of the city
walls; a defence that was provided against any sudden irruption of the
Indians, who then hunted, and even dwelt in some numbers, in the lower
counties of the colony.

It requires great familiarity with the growth of the town, to recognize,
in this description, the noble street that now runs for a league through
the centre of the island. From this avenue, which was then, as it is
still, called the Broadway, our adventurers descended into a lower quarter
of the town, holding free converse by the way.

"That Cupid is a negro to keep the roof on a house, in its master's
absence, Patroon," observed the Alderman, soon after they had left the
stoop. "He looks like a padlock, and one might sleep, without a dream,
with such a guardian near his dwelling. I wish I had brought the honest
fellow the key of my stable!"

"I have heard my father say, that the keys of his own were always better
near his own pillow," coolly returned the proprietor of a hundred thousand

"Ah, the curse of Cain! It is needless to look for the fur of a marten on
the back of a cat. But, Mr. Van Staats, while walking to your door this
morning, it was my fortune to meet the late governor, who is permitted by
his creditors to take the air, at an hour when he thinks the eyes of the
impertinent will be shut. I believe, Patroon, you were so lucky as to get
back your moneys, before the royal displeasure visited the man?"

"I was so lucky as never to trust him."

"That was better still, for it would have been a barren investment - great
jeopardy to principal, and no return. But we had discourse of various
interests, and, among others, something was hazarded concerning your
amatory pretensions to my niece."

"Neither the wishes of Oloff Van Staats, nor the inclinations of la belle
Barbérie, are a subject for the Governor in Council," said the Patroon of
Kinderhook, stiffly.

"Nor was it thus treated. The Viscount spoke me fair, and, had he not
pushed the matter beyond discretion, we might have come to happier

"I am glad that there was some restraint in the discourse."

"The man certainly exceeded reason, for he led the conference into
personalities that no prudent man could relish. Still he said it was
possible that the Coquette might yet be ordered for service among the

It has been said, that Oloff Van Staats was a fair personable young man of
vast stature, and with much of the air of a gentleman of his country; for,
though a British subject, he was rather a Hollander in feelings, habits,
and opinions. He colored at the allusion to the presence of his known
rival, though his companion was at a loss to discover whether pride or
vexation was at the bottom of his emotion.

"If Captain Ludlow prefer a cruise in the Indies, to duty on this coast, I
hope he may obtain his wish," was the cautious answer.

"Your liberal man enjoys a sounding name, and an empty coffer," observed
the Alderman, drily. "To me it seems that a petition to the admiral to
send so meritorious an officer on service where he may distinguish
himself, should deserve his thanks. The freebooters are playing the
devil's game with the sugar trade, and even the French are getting
troublesome, further south."

"He has certainly the reputation of an active cruiser."

"Blixum and philosophy! If you wish to succeed with Alida, Patroon, you
must put more briskness into the adventure. The girl has a cross of the
Frenchman in her temper, and none of your deliberations and taciturnities
will gain the day. This visit to the Lust in Rust is Cupid's own
handywork, and I hope to see you both return to town as amicable as the
Stadtholder and the States General after a sharp struggle for the year's
subsidy has been settled by a compromise."

"The success of this suit is the affair nearest my - - " The young man
paused as if surprised at his own communicativeness; and, taking advantage
of the haste in which his toilette had been made, he thrust a hand into
his vest, covering with its broad palm a portion of the human frame which
poets do not describe as the seat of the passions.

"If you mean stomach, Sir, you will not have reason to be disappointed,"
retorted the Alderman, a little more severely than was usual with one so
callous. "The heiress of Myndert Van Beverout will not be a penniless
bride, and Monsieur Barbérie did not close the books of life without
taking good care of the balance-sheet - but yonder are those devils of
ferrymen quitting the wharf without us! Scamper ahead, Brutus, and tell
them to wait the legal minute. The rogues are never exact; sometimes
starting before I am ready, and sometimes keeping me waiting in the sun,
as if I were no better than a dried dun-fish. Punctuality is the soul of
business, and one of my habits does not like to be ahead, nor behind his

In this manner the worthy burgher, who would have been glad to regulate
the movements of others, on all occasions, a good deal by his own, vented
his complaints, while he and his companion hurried on to overtake the
slow-moving boat in which they were to embark. A brief description of the
scene will not be without interest, to a generation that may be termed
modern in reference to the time of which we write.

A deep narrow creek penetrated the island, at this point, for the distance
of a quarter of a mile. Each of its banks had a row of buildings, as the
houses line a canal in the cities of Holland. As the natural course of the
inlet was necessarily respected, the street had taken a curvature not
unlike that of a new moon. The houses were ultra-Dutch, being low,
angular, fastidiously neat, and all erected with their gables to the
street. Each had its ugly and inconvenient entrance, termed a stoop, its
vane or weathercock, its dormer-windows, and its graduated
battlement-walls. Near the apex of one of the latter, a little iron crane
projected into the street. A small boat, of the same metal, swung from its
end, - a sign that the building to which it was appended was the

An inherent love of artificial and confined navigation had probably
induced the burghers to select this spot, as the place whence so many
craft departed from the town: since, it is certain, that the two rivers
could have furnished divers points more favorable for such an object,
inasmuch as they possess the advantage of wide and unobstructed channels.

Fifty blacks were already in the street, dipping their brooms into the
creek, and flourishing water over the side-walks, and on the fronts of the

Online LibraryJames Fenimore CooperThe Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas → online text (page 2 of 37)