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The water witch; or, The skimmer of the seas. A tale (Volume 1) online

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for the others to proceed, " a word with thee in
confidence. I have noted, in the course of a
busy, and I hope a profitable life, that a faith
ful servant is an honest counsellor. Next to
Holland and England, both of which are great
commercial nations, and the Indies, which are
necessary to these colonies, together with a na
tural preference for the land in which I was
born, I have always been of opinion that France
is a very good sort of a country. I think, Mr.
Francis, that dislike to the seas has kept you
from returning thither, since the decease of my
late brother-in-law ?"

" Wid like for Mam selle Alide, Monsieur,
avec votre permission."


" Your affection for my niece, honest Fran-
9ois, is not to be doubted. It is as certain as the
payment of a good draught by Crommeline,
Van Stopper, and Van Gelt, of Amsterdam.
Ah ! old valet ! she is fresh and blooming as a
rose, and a girl of excellent qualities ! Tis a
pity that she is a little opinionated ; a defect
that she doubtless inherits from her Norman
ancestors, since all of my family have ever
been remarkable for listening to reason. The
Normans were an obstinate race, as witness the
siege of Rochelle, by which oversight real
estate in that city must have lost much in
value. 1

" Mille excuses. Monsieur Bevre ; more

beautiful as de rose, and no opiniatre du tout.
Mon dieu ! pour sa qualite, c est une famille

* c That was a weak point with my brother

Barberie, and after all, it did not add a cipher

to the sum total of the assets. The best blood,

Mr. Francois, is that which has been best fed.

F 2


The line of Hugh Capet himself would fail
without the butcher, and the butcher would
certainly fail without customers that can pay.
Francois, thou art a man who understands the
value of a sure footing in the world ; would it
not be a thousand pities that such a girl as
Ali da should throw herself away on one, whose
best foundation is no better than a rolling

" Certainement, Monsieur, ManVselle be too
good to roll in de ship." .

" Obliged to follow a husband, up and down ;
among freebooters and dishonest traders; in
fair weather and foul ; hot and cold ; wet and
dry ; bilge water and salt water ; cramps and
nausea ; salt junk and no junk ; gales and calms,
and all for a hasty judgment formed in san
guine youth r

The face of the valet had responded to the
Alderman s enumeration of the evils that would
attend so ill-judged a step in his niece, as faith
fully as if each muscle had been a mirror, to


reflect the contortions of one suffering under the
malady of the sea.

" Parbleu, c est horrible, cette mer I" he
ejaculated, when the other had done. " It is
grand malheur, dere should be watair but for
drink, and for la proprete, avec fosse to keep
de carp round le chateau. Mais, Mam selle, be
no haste jugement, and she shall have mari on
la terre solide.*

" T would be better that the estate of my
brother-in-law should be kept in sight, judicious
Frangois, than to be sent adrift on the high

" Dere vas marin dans la famille de Barberie,

" Bonds and balances ! if the savings of one
I could name, frugal Francois, were added in
current coin, the sum total would sink a
common ship. You know it is my intention to
remember Alida, in settling accounts with the

" If Monsieur de Barberie was live, Mon-


sieur Alderman, he should say des choses con-
venables ; mais, malheureusement, mon cher
maitre est mort, and, Sair, I shall be bold to
remercier pour lui, et pour toute sa famille."

" Women are perverse, and sometimes they
have pleasure in doing the very thing they are
desired not to do."

" Ma foi, oui !"

" Prudent men should manage them with
soft words and rich gifts ; with these they be
come orderly, as a pair of well broke geld-

" Monsieur know," said the old valet, rubbing
his hands, and laughing with the subdued voice
of a well-bred domestic, though he could not
conceal a jocular wink ; " pourtant il est gar-
on ! Le cadeau be good for de demoiselles,
and bettair as for de dames."

" Wedlock and blinkers ! it is we gassons,
as you call us, who ought to know. Your
hen-pecked husband has no time to generalize
among the sex, in order to understand the real


quality of the article. Now, here is Van Staats
of Kinderhook, faithful Francois; what think
you of such a youth for a husband for
Alida ?"

" Pourtant, Mam selle like de vivacite ; Mon
sieur le Patroon be nevair trop vif."

" The more likely to be sure. Hist. I hear
a footstep. We are followed chased, perhaps,
I should say, to speak in the language of these
sea gentry. Now is the time to show this Cap
tain Ludlow how a Frenchman can wind him
round his finger on terra firma. Loiter in the
rear, and draw our navigator on a wrong course.
When he has run into a fog, come yourself,
with all speed to the oak on the bluff. There
we shall await you."

Flattered by this confidence, and really per
suaded that he was furthering the happiness of
her he served, the old valet nodded in reply to
the Alderman s wink and chuckle, and imme
diately relaxed his speed. The former pushed
ahead, and in a minute, he and those who fol-


lowed had turned short to the left and were out
of sight.

Though faithfully, and even affectionately
attached to Alida, her servant had many of the
qualifications of an European domestic. Trained
in all the ruses of his profession, he was of that
school which believes civilization is to be mea
sured by artifice, and success lost some of its
value, when it had been effected by the vulgar
machinery of truth and common sense. No
wonder, then, the retainer entered into the views
of the Alderman with more than a usual relish
for the duty. He heard the cracking of the
dried twigs beneath the footstep of him who
followed, and in order that there might be no
chance of missing the desired interview, the
valet began to hum a French air in so loud a
key, as to be certain the sounds would reach
any ear that was nigh. The twigs snapped more
rapidly, the footsteps seemed nearer, and then
the hero of the India shawl sprang to the side
of the expecting Fran9ois.



The disappointment seemed mutual, and on
the part of the domestic it entirely disconcerted
all his pre-arranged schemes for misleading
the commander of the Coquette. Not so with
the bold mariner. So far from his self-pos
session being disturbed, it would have been no
easy matter to restrain his audacity, even in
situations far more trying than any in which he
has yet been presented to the reader.

" What cheer, in thy woodland cruise,
Monsieur Broad -Pennant ?" he said, with
infinite coolness, the instant his steady glance
had ascertained they were alone. " This is
safer navigation for an officer of thy draught
of water, than running about the bays in a
periagua. What may be the longitude, and
where-a-way did you part company from the
consorts ?"

" Sair, I valk in de vood for de plaisir,

and I go on de bay for de parbleu, non ! tis

to follow ma jeune maltresse I go on de bay ;

and, Sair, I wish dey who do love de bay and

F 3



de sea, would not come into de vood, du

" Well spoken, and with ample spirit ; what,
a student too ! one, in a wood, should glean
something from his labours. Is it the art of
furling a main cue, that is taught in this pretty
volume ?"

As the mariner put this question, he very
deliberately took the book from Fran9ois, who,
instead of resenting the liberty, rather offered
the volume in exultation.

" No, Sair, it is not how to furl la queue, but
how to touch de soul ; not de art to haul over
de calm, but oui, c est plein de connoissance
et d esprit ! Ah ! ha ! you know de Cid ! le
grand homme ! Fhomme de genie ! If you read,
Monsieur Marin, you shall see la vraie poesie !
Not de big book and no single rhyme Sair, I
do not vish to say vat is penible, mais it is
not one book widout rhyme ; it was not ecrit on
de sea. Le diable ! que le vrai genie et les
nobles sentiments se trouvent dans ce livre, la !"


" Ay, I see it is a log-book for every man
to note his mind in. I return you Master
Cid ? with his fine sentiments in the bargain.
Great as was his genius, it would seem he was
not the man to write all that I find between
the leaves."

" He not write him all ! Yes, Sair, he shall
write him six time more dan all, if la France
a besoin. Que 1 envie de ces Anglais se de-
couvre quand on parle des beaux genies de la
France !"

" I will only say, if the gentleman wrote the
whole that is in the book, and it is as fine
as you would make a plain sea-faring man
believe, he did wrong not to print it."

" Print !" echoed Francois, opening his eyes
and the volume by a common impulse. " Im-
prime ! ha ! here is papier of Mam selle Alide,

" Take better heed of it then/ interrupted
the seaman of the shawl. " As for your Cid,
to me it is an useless volume, since it teaches


neither the latitude of a shoal, nor the shape
of a coast."

" Sair, it teach de morale ; de rock of de
passion, et les grands mouvements de Fame !
Oui, Sair ; it teach all un Monsieur vish to
know. Tout le monde read him in la France ;
en province, comme en ville. If Sa Majeste
le Grand JLouis be not so mal avise as to
chasser Messieurs les Huguenots from his
royaume, I shall go to Paris, to hear le Cid,
moi-meme !"

f6 A good journey to you, Monsieur Cue.
We may meet on the road, until which time
I take my departure. The day may come,
when we shall converse with a rolling sea
beneath us. Till then, brave cheer !"

t; Adieu, Monsieur," returned Frangois,
bowing with a politeness that had become too
familiar to be forgotten. " If we do not meet
but in de sea, we shall not meet nevair. Ah,
ha, ha ! Monsieur le Marin n aime pas a
entendre parler de la gloire de la France ! Je


voudrais bien savoir lire ce f e Shak-a-spear,
pour voir combien Fimmortel Corneille lui est
superieur. Ma foi, oui; Monsieur Pierre
Corneille est vrairaent un homme illustre !"

The faithful, self-complacent, and aged valet,
then pursued his way towards the large oak
on the bluff; for as he ceased speaking, the
mariner of the gay sash, had turned deeper
into the woods and left him alone. Proud of
the manner in which he had met the audacity
of the stranger, prouder still of the reputation
of the author, whose fame had been known in
France long before his own departure from
Europe, and not a little consoled with the
reflection that he had contributed his mite to
support the honour of his distant and well-
beloved country, the honest Francois pressed
the volume affectionately beneath his arm,
and hastened on after his mistress.

Though the position of Staten Island and its
surrounding bays is so familiar to the Manhat-
tanese, an explanation of the localities may be


agreeable to readers who dwell at a distance from
the scene of the tale.

It has already been said that the principal
communication between the bays of Rariton
and York, is called the Narrows. At the mouth
of this passage, the land on Staten Island rises
in a high bluff, which overhangs the water,
not unlike the tale-fraught cape of Misenum.
From this elevated point, the eye not only
commands a view of both estuaries and the
city, but it looks far beyond the point of
Sandy Hook, into the open sea. It is here
that, in our own days, ships are first noted
in the offing, and whence the news of the
approach of his vessel is communicated to the
expecting merchant by means of the telegraph.
In the early part of the last century, arrivals
were too rare to support such an establish
ment. The bluff was therefore little resorted
to, except by some occasional admirer of
scenery, or by those countrymen whom busi
ness, at long intervals, drew to the spot.



It had been early cleared of its wood, and
the oak already mentioned was the only tree
standing in a space of some ten or a dozen

It has been seen that Aderman Van Beverout
had appointed this solitary oak as the place
of rendezvous with Francois. Thither then he
took his way on parting from the valet, and to
this spot we must now transfer the scene. A
rude seat had been placed around the root of
the tree, and here the whole party, with the
exception of the absent domestic, were soon
seated. In a minute, however, they were joined
by the exulting Francois, who immediately
related the particulars of his recent interview
with the stranger.

" A clear conscience, with cordial friends,
and a fair balance sheet, may keep a man warm
in January, even in this climate," said the
Alderman, willing to turn the discourse; "but
what with rebellious blacks, hot streets, and
spoiling furs, it passeth mortal powers to keep


cool in yonder overgrown and crowded town.
Thou seest, Patroon, the spot of white on the
opposite side of the bay ? Breezes and fanning !
that is the Lust in Rust, where cordial enters
the mouth at every breath, and where a man
has room to cast up the sum-total of his thoughts
any hour in the twenty-four."

" We seem quite as effectually alone on
this hill, with the advantage of having a city
in the view," remarked Alida, with an empha
sis that shewed she meant even more than she

" We are by ourselves, niece of mine," re
turned the Alderman, rubbing his hands as if
he secretly felicitated himself that the fact were
so. " That truth cannot be denied, and good
company we are, though the opinion comes
from one who is not a cipher in the party.
Modesty is a poor man s wealth, but as we grow
substantial in the world, Patroon, one can afford
to begin to speak truth of himself as well as of
his neighbour."


" In which case little but good will be
uttered from the mouth of Alderman Van Be-
verout," said Ludlow, appearing so suddenly
from behind the root of the tree, as effectually
to shut the mouth of the burgher. " My desire
to offer the services of the ship to your party,
has led to this abrupt intrusion, and I hope will
obtain its pardon."

" The power to forgive is a prerogative of
the Governor, who represents the Queen,"
drily returned the Alderman. u If her Ma
jesty has so little employment for her cruisers,
that their captains can dispose of them in
behalf of old men and young maidens, why,
happy is the age, and commerce should flou
rish !"

" If the two duties are compatible, the greater
the reason why a commander should felicitate
himself that he may be of service to so many.
You are bound to the Jersey Highlands, Mr.
Van Beverout ?"

u I am bound to a comfortable and very pri-


vate abode, called the Lust in Rust, Captain
Cornelius Van Cuyler Ludlow."

The young man bit his lip, and his healthful
but brown cheek flushed a deeper red than com
mon, though he preserved his composure.

" And I am bound to sea," he soon said.
u The wind is getting fresh, and your boat,
which I see at this moment standing in for the
islands, will find it difficult to make way against
its force. The Coquette s anchor will be a-weigh
in twenty minutes, and I shall find two hours
of an ebbing tide and a top-gallant breeze but
too short a time for the pleasure of entertain
ing such guests. I am certain that the fears
of la belle will favour my wishes, whichever
side of the question her inclinations may hap
pen to be."

" And they are with her uncle," quickly
returned Alida. " I am so little of a sailor that
prudence, if not pusillanimity, teaches me to
depend on the experience of older heads."

Older I may not pretend to be," said Lud-


low, colouring ; " but Mr. Van Beverout will
see no pretension in believing myself as good a
judge of wind and tide as even he himself
can be."

" You are said to command her Majesty^s
sloop with skill, Captain Ludlow, and it is cre
ditable to the colony that it has produced so
good an officer ; though I believe your grand
father came into the province so lately as on
the restoration of King Charles the Second ?"

" We cannot claim descent from the United
Provinces, Alderman Van Beverout, on the pa
rental side, but whatever may have been the
political opinions of my grandfather, those of
his descendant have never been questioned. Let
me entreat the fair Alida to take counsel of the
apprehension I am sure she feels, and to per
suade her uncle that the Coquette is safer than
his periagua."

" It is said to be easier to enter than to quit
your ship," returned the laughing Alida. c By
certain symptoms that attended our passage to


the island, your Coquette, like others, is fond
of conquest. One is not safe beneath so malign
an influence."

" This is a reputation given by our enemies.
I had hoped for a different answer from la Belle

The close of the sentence was uttered with
an emphasis that caused the blood to quicken
its movement in the veins of the maiden. It
was fortunate that neither of their companions
was very observant, or else suspicions might
have been excited, that a better intelligence
existed between the young sailor and the
heiress, than would have comported with their
wishes and intentions.

" I had hoped for a different answer from la
Belle Barberie," repeated Ludlow, in a lower
voice, but with even a still more emphatic tone
than before.

There was evidently a struggle in the mind
of 1 Alida. She overcame it before her confu
sion could be noted, and turning to the valet,


she said, with the composure and grace that
became a gentlewoman

6 - Rends-moi le livre, Francois."

" Le voici ah ! ma chere Mam selle Alide,
que ce Monsieur le marin se fachait a cause de
la gloire, et des beaux vers de notre illustre M.
Pierre Corneille !"

" Here is an English sailor, that I am sure
will not deny the merit of an admired writer,
even though he come of a nation that is com
monly thought hostile, Francois," returned his
mistress, smiling. " Captain Ludlow, it is now
a month since I am your debtor, by promise,
for a volume of Corneille, and I here acquit
myself of the obligation. When you have pe
rused the contents of this book, with the atten
tion they deserve, I may hope "

44 For a speedy opinion of their merits."

" I was about to say, to receive the volume
again, as it is a legacy from my father," steadily
rejoined Alida.

" Legacies and foreign tongues !" muttered


the Alderman. 4t One is well enough, but for
the other, English and Dutch are all that the
wisest man need learn. I never could under
stand an account of profit and loss in any other
tongue, Patroon, and even a favourable balance
never appears so great as it is, unless the
account be rendered in one or the other of
these rational dialects. Captain Ludlow, we
thank you for your politeness, but here is one
of my fellows to tell us that my own periagua is
arrived, and wishing you a happy and a long
cruise, as we say of lives, I bid you adieu."

The young seaman returned the salutations
of the party with a better grace than his pre
vious solicitude to persuade them to enter his
ship might have given reason to expect. He
even saw them descend the hill, towards the
water of the outer bay, with entire composure,
and it was only after they had entered a thicket,
which hid them from view, that he permitted
his feelings to have sway.

Then indeed he drew the volume from his


pocket, and opened its leaves with an eagerness
he could no longer control. It seemed as if he
expected to read more in the pages than the
author had caused to be placed there, but when
his eye caught sight of a sealed billet, the legacy
of M. de Barberie fell at his feet, and the paper
was torn asunder, with all the anxiety of one
who expected to find in its contents a decree of
life or death.

Amazement was clearly the first emotion of
the young seaman. He read and re-read ;
struck his brow with his hand ; gazed about
him at the land and at the water ; re-perused
the note; examined the superscription, which
was simply to " Captain Ludlow, of her Ma
jesty s ship Coquette;" smiled; muttered be
tween his teeth ; seemed vexed and yet delight
ed ; read the note again, word by word, and
finally thrust it into his pocket, with the air of
a man, who had found reason for both regret
and satisfaction in its contents.



" What ! has this thing appeared again to-night ?"


" THE face of man is the log book of his
thoughts, and Capt. Ludlow s seem agreeable,%
observed a voice, that came from one who was
not far from the commander of the Coquette,
while the latter was still enacting the panto
mime described in the close of the preceding

"Who speaks of thoughts and log books, or
who dares to pry into my movements?" demand
ed the young sailor, fiercely.


"One who has trifled with the first and scrib
bled in the last, too often not to know how to
meet a squall, whether it be seen in the clouds,
or only on the face of man. As for looking
into your movements, Captain Ludlow, I have
watched too many big ships in my time, to turn
aside at each light cruiser, that happens to cross
my course. I hope, Sir, you have an answer;
every hail has its right to a civil reply."

Ludlow could scarce believe his senses, when,
on turning to face the intruder, he saw himself
confronted by the audacious eye and calm mien
of the mariner who had, once before that morn
ing, braved his resentment. Curbing his indig
nation, however, the young man endeavoured to
emulate the coolness which, notwithstanding his
inferior condition, imparted to the air of the
other something that was imposing, if it were
not absolutely authoritative. Perhaps the sin
gularity of the adventure aided in effecting an
object, that was a little difficult of attainment
in one accustomed to receive so much habitual



deference from most of those who made the sea
their home. Swallowing his resentment, the
young commander answered

" He that knows how to face his enemies
with spirit, may be accounted sufficiently bold;
but he who braves the anger of his friends is

"And he who does neither, is wiser than
both," rejoined the reckless hero of the sash.
" Captain Ludlow, we meet on equal terms, at
present, and the parley may be managed with
some freedom."

"Equality is a word that ill applies to men of
stations so different."

" Of our stations and duties it is not necessary
to speak. I hope that, when the proper time
shall come, both may be found ready to be at
the first, and equal to discharge the last. But
Captain Ludlow, backed by the broadside of the
Coquette and the cross-fire of his marines, is not
Captain Ludlow alone, on a sea-bluff, with a
crutch no better than his own arm and a stout


heart. As the first, he is like a spar supported
by backstays and forestays, braces and standing
rigging ; while, as the latter, he is the stick,
which keeps its head aloft by the soundness and
quality of its timber. You have the appearance
of one who can go alone, even though it blew
heavier than at present, if one may judge of the
force of the breeze, by the manner it presses on
the sails of yonder boat, in the bay."

" Yonder boat begins to feel the wind, truly! "
said Ludlow, suddenly losing all other interest,
in the appearance of the periagua which held
Alida and her friends, and which, at that in
stant, shot out from beneath the cover of the
hill into the broad opening of Rariton Bay.
" What think you of the time, my friend? A
man of your years should speak with knowledge
of the weather."

a Women and winds are only understood

when fairly in motion," returned he of the sash ;

"now any mortal who consulted comfort and

the skies, would have preferred a passage in her

G 2


Majesty s ship Coquette, to one in yonder danc
ing periagua ; and yet the fluttering silk we see
in the boat, tells us there is one who has thought

"You are a man of singular intelligence,"
cried Ludlow, again facing the intruder, " as
as well as one of singular "

u Effrontery," rejoined the other, observing

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