“Sirs, take your place and be vigilant.”
The succeediug day was one in which the weather had a fixed character. The wind was east and, though light, not fluctuating. The air had that thick and hazy appearance, which properly belongs to the Autumn in this climate, but which is sometimes seen, at midsummer, when a dry wind blows from the ocean. The roll of the surf, on the shore, was regular and monotonous, and the currents of the air were so steady as to remove every apprehension of a change. The moment, to which the action of the tale is transferred, was in the earlier hours of the afternoon.
At that time the Coquette lay again at her anchors, just within the shelter of the cape. There were a few small sails to be seen passing up the bay, but the scene, as was common at that distant day, presented little of the activity of our own times, to the eye. The windows of the Lust in Rust were again open, and the movement of the slaves, in and about the villa, announced the presence of its master.
The Alderman was in truth, at the hour named, passing the little lawn in front of la cour des Fées, accompanied by Oloff Van Staats and the commander of the cruiser. It was evident by the frequent glances, which the latter threw in the direction of the pavillon, that he still thought of her who was absent, while the faculties of the two others were either in better subjection, or less stimulated by anxiety. One who understood the character of the individual, and who was acquainted with the past, might have suspected, by this indifference on the part of the patroon, placed as it was in such a singular contrast to a sort of mysterious animation which enlivened a countenance whose ordinary expression was placid content, that the young suitor thought less than formerly of the assets of old Etienne, and more of the secret pleasure he found in the singular incidents, of which he had been a witness.
“Propriety and Discretion!” observed the burgher, in reply to a remark of one of the young men — “I say again, for the twentieth time, that we shall have Alida Barberie back among us, as handsome, as innocent, ay, and as rich as ever! — perhaps I should also say as wilful. A baggage, to worry her old uncle, and two honorable suitors, in so thoughtless a manner! Circumstances, gentlemen,” continued the wary merchant, who saw that the value of the hand of which he had to dispose, was somewhat reduced in the market, “have placed you on a footing, in my esteem. Should my niece, after all, prefer Capt. Ludlow, for a partner in her wordly affairs, why it should not weaken friendship between the son of old Stephanus Van Staats and Myndert Van Beverout. Our grandmothers were cousins, and there should be charities in the same blood.”
“I could not wish to press my suit,” returned the patroon, “when the lady has given so direct a hint that it is disagreeable — “
“Hint me no hints! Do you call this caprice of a moment, this trifling, as the captain here would call it, with the winds and tides, a hint! The girl has Norman blood in her veins, and she wishes to put animation into the courtship. If bargains were to be interrupted by a little cheapening of the buyer, and some affectation of waiting for a better market in the seller, her Majesty might as well order her custom houses to be closed at once, and look to other sources for revenue. Let the girl’s fancy have its swing, and the profits of a year’s peltry against thy rent roll, we shall see her penitent for her folly, and willing to hear reason. My sister’s daughter is no witch, to go journeying forever about the world, on a broomstick!”
“There is a tradition in our family,” said Oloff Van Staats, his eye lighting with a mysterious excitement, while he affected to laugh at the folly he uttered, “that the great Poughkeepsie fortune-teller foretold, in the presence of my grand-mother, that a Patroon of Kinderhook should intermarry with a witch. So should I see la belle in the position you name, it would not greatly alarm me.”
“The prophecy was fulfilled at the wedding of thy father!” muttered Myndert, who, notwithstanding the outward levity with which he treated the subject, was not entirely free from secret reverence for the provincial sooth+sayers, some of whom continued in high repute, even to the close of the last century. “His son would not else have been so clever a youth! But here is Capt. Ludlow looking at the ocean, as if he expected to see my niece rise out of the water, in the shape of a mermaid.”
The commander of the Coquette pointed to the object which attracted his gaze, and which, appearing as it did at that moment, was certainly not of a nature to lessen the faith of either of his companions, in supernatural agencies.
It has been said that the wind was dry and the air misty, or rather so pregnant with a thin haze, as to give it the appearance of a dull, smoky, light. In such a state of the weather, the eye, more especially of one placed on an elevation, is unable to distinguish what is termed the visible horizon at sea. The two elements become so blended, that our organs cannot tell where the water ends, or where the void of the heavens commences. It is a consequence of this indistinctnes, that any object seen beyond the apparent boundary of water, has the appearance of floating in the air. It is rare for the organs of a landsman to penetrate beyond the apparent limits of the sea, when the atmosphere exhibit this peculiarity, though the practised eye of a mariner often detects vessels, which are hid from others, merely because they are not sought in the proper place. The deception may also be aided by a slight degree of refraction.
“Here;” said Ludlow, pointing in a line that would have struck the water some two or three leagues in the offing. “First bring the chimney of yonder low building on the plain, in a range with the dead oak on the shore, and then raise your eyes slowly, till they strike a sail.”
“That ship is navigating the heavens!” exclaimed Myndert! “Thy grandmother was a sensible woman, patroon; she was a cousin of my pious progenitor, and there is no knowing what two clever old ladies, in their time, may have heard and seen, when such sights as this are beheld in our own!”
“I am as little disposed as another, to put faith in incredible things,” gravely returned Oloff Van Staats, “and yet if required to give my testimony, I should be reluctant to say, that yonder vessel is not floating in the heavens!”
“You might not give it to that effect, in safety;” said Ludlow. “It is no other than a half-rigged brigantine, on a taut bowline, though she bears no great show of canvass. Mr. Van Beverout, her Majesty’s cruiser is about to put to sea.”
Myndert heard this declaration, in visible dissatisfaction. He spoke of the virtue of patience, and of the comforts of the solid ground; but when he found the intention of the Queen’s servant was not to be shaken, he reluctantly professed an intention of repeating the personal experiment of the preceding day. Accordingly within half an hour, the whole party were on the banks of the Shrewsbury, and about to embark in the barge of the Coquette.
“Adieu, Monsieur François;” said the Alderman, nodding his head to the ancient valet, who stood with a disconsolate eye on the shore. “Have a care of the moveables in la cour des Fées; we may have further use for them.”
“Mais, Monsieur Beevre, mon devoir, et, ma foi, suppose la mèr was plus agréable, mon désir shall be to suivre Mam’selle Alide. Jamais personne de la famille Barberie love de sea; mais Monsieur, comment faire! I shall die sur la mèr de douleur; and I shall die d’ennui, to rester ici, bien sûr!”
“Come then, faithful François,” said Ludlow. “You shall follow your young mistress, and perhaps, on further trial, you may be disposed to think the lives of us seamen more tolerable, than you had believed.”
After an eloquent expression of countenance, in which the secretly amused though grave+looking boat’s crew, thought the old man was about to give a specimen of his powers of anticipation, the affectionate domestic entered the barge. Ludlow fel tfor his distress, and encouraged him by a look of approbation. The language of kindness does not always need a tongue, and the conscience of the valet smote him, with the idea that he might have expressed himself too strongly, concerning a profession to which the other had devoted life and hopes.
“La mèr, Monsieur le Capitaine,” he said, with an acknowledging reverence, “est un vaste théâtre de la gloire. Voilà Messieurs de Tourville et Dougay Trouin; ce sont des hommes, vraiment remarquables! mais Monsieur, quant à toute la famille de Barberie, we have toujours un sentiment plus favorable pour la terre.”
“I wish your whimsical jade of a mistress, Master François, had found the same sentiment,” drily observed, Myndert: “for let me tell you, this cruising about in a suspicious vessel is as little creditable to her judgment as — cheer up, patroon, the girl is only putting thy mettle to the trial, and the sea air will do no damage to her complexion or her pocket. A little predilection for salt water must raise the girl in your estimation, Capt. Ludlow!”
“If the predilection goes no further than to the element, sir;” was the caustic answer. “But, deluded or not, erring or deceived, Alida Barberie is not to be deserted, the victim of a villian’s arts. I did love your niece, Mr. Van Beverout, and — pull with a will, men; fellows, are you sleeping on the oars!”
The sudden manner in which the young man interrupted himself, and the depth of tone in which he spoke to the boat’s crew, put an end to the discourse. It was apparent that he wished to say no more, and that he even regretted the weakness which had induced him to say so much. The remainder of the distance, between the shore and the ship, was past in silence.
When Queen Anne’s cruiser, was seen doubling Sandy Hook, past meridian on the 6ᵗʰ June, (sea-time) in the year 17 — — the wind, as stated in an ancient journal, which was kept by one of the midshipmen, and is still in existence, was light steady at south, and-by-west+half-west. It appears, by the same document, that the vessel took her departure at 7 o’clock, P.M., the point of Sandy Hook bearing west+half-south, distant three leagues. On the same page which contains these particulars, it is observed, under the head of remarks-’Ship under starboard steering-sails, forward and aft, making six knots. A suspicious half-rigged brigantine lying-to in the eastern board, under her mainsail, with fore-top-sail to the mast; light and lofty sails and jib loose; foresail in the brails. Her starboard steering-sail-booms appear to be rigged out, and the gear rove, ready for a run. This vessel is supposed to be the celebrated Hermaphrodite, the Water Witch, commanded by the notorious Skimmer of the Seas, and the same fellow who gave us so queer a slip, yesterday. The Lord send us a cap-full of wind, and we’ll try his heels, before morning! — Passengers, Alderman Van Beverout of the second ward of the City of of New York, in her Majesty’s province of the same name; Oloff Van Staats Esq. commonly called the patroon of Kinderhook, of the same colony, and a qualmish looking old chap, in a sort of marine’s jacket, who answers when hailed as Francis. A rum set taken altogether, though they seem to suit the Captain’s fancy. Mem — Each lipper of a wave works like tartar emetic on the lad in marine gear.”
As no description of ours can give a more graphic account of the position of the two vessels, in question, at the time named, than that which is contained in the foregoing extract, we shall take up the narrative at that moment, which the reader will see must, in the 33° of latitude and in the month of June, have been shortly after the close of the day.
The young votary of Neptune, whose opinions have just been quoted, had indeed presumed on his knowledge of the localities, in affirming the distance and position of the cape, since the low sandy point was no longer visible, from the deck. The sun had set, as seen from the vessel, precisely in the mouth of the Rariton, and the shadows from Navesink, or Neversink as the hills are vulgarly called, were thrown far upon the sea. In short, the night was gathering round the mariners, with every appearance of settled and mild weather, but of a darkness deeper than is common on the ocean. Under such circumstances, the great object was to keep on the track of the chase, during the time when she must necessarily be hid from their sight.
Ludlow walked into the lee gang-way of his ship, and leaning with his elbow on the empty hammock-cloths, he gazed long and in silence, at the object of his pursuit. The Water Witch was lying in the quarter of the horizon most favourable to being seen. The twilight, which still fell out of the heavens, was without glare in that direction, and for the first time that day, he saw her in her true proportions. The admiration of a seaman was blended with the other sensations of the young man. The brigantine lay in the position that exhibited her exquisitely moulded hull and rakish rig to the most advantage. The head, having come to the wind, was turned towards her pursuer, and as the bows rose on some swell, that was heavier than common, Ludlow saw, or fancied he saw, the mysterious image still perched on her cut+water, holding the book to the curious, and ever pointing with its finger, across the waste of water. A movement of the hammock- cloths caused the young sailor to bend his head aside, and he then saw that the master had drawn as near to his person, as discipline would warrant. Ludlow had a great respect for the professional attainments, that his inferior unquestionably possessed, and he was not without some consideration for the chances of a fortune, which had not done much to reward the privations and the services of a seaman old enough to be his father. The recollection of these facts always disposed him to be indulgent to a man who had little, beyond his seaman-like character and long experience, to recommend him.
“We are likely to have a thick night, Master Trysail,” said the young captain, without deeming it necessary to change his look, “and we may yet be brought on a bowline, before yonder insolent is overhauled.”
The master smiled, like one, who knew more than he expressed, and gravely shook his head.
“We may have many pulls on our bow+lines, and some squaring of yards, too, before the Coquette (the figure head of the sloop of war was also a female) gets near enough to the dark-faced woman, under the bow-sprit of the brigantine, to whisper her mind. You and I have been nigh enough to see the white of her eyes, and to count the teeth she shows, in that cunning grin of hers, and what good has come of our visit! I am but a subordinate, Capt. Ludlow, and I know my duty too well not to be silent in a squall, and I hope too well not to know how to speak when my commander wishes the opinions of his officers, at a council, and therefore mine, just now, is perhaps different from that of some others in this ship, that I will not name, who are good men, too, though none of the oldest.”
“And what is thy opinion, Trysail? — the ship is doing well, and she carries her canvass bravely.”
“The ship behaves like a well bred young woman, in the presence of the queen; modest but stately — but, of what use is canvass, in a chase where witchcraft breeds squalls, and shortens sail in one vessel, while it gives flying kites to another! If her Majesty, God bless her! should be over persuaded to do so silly a thing, as to give old Tom Trysail a ship, and the said ship lay, just here-a-way, where the Coquette is now getting along so cleverly, why then, as in duty bound, I know very well what her commander would do — “
“Which would be — ?”
“To, in all studding sails, and bring the vessel on the wind.”
“That would be to carry you to the southward, while the chase lies here in the eastern board!”
“Who can say how long she will lie there! They told us, in York, that there was a Frenchman, of our burthen and metal, rummaging about among the fishermen, lower down on the coast. Now, sir, no man knows that the war is half over better than myself, for not a ha’penny of prize money has warmed my pocket, these three years; — but, as I was saying, if a Frenchman will come off his ground, and will run his ship into troubled water, why — whose fault is it but his own! A pretty affair might be made out of such a mistake, Capt. Ludlow, whereas running after yonder brigantine, is flapping out the Queen’s canvass for nothing. The vessel’s bottom will want new sheating, in my poor opinion, before you catch him.”
“I know not, Trysail,” returned his captain, glancing an eye aloft; “every thing draws, and the ship never went along with less trouble to herself. We shall not know which has the longest legs till the trial is made.”
“You may judge of the rogue’s speed by his impudence. There he lies, waiting for us, like a line-of-battle-ship lying-to for an enemy to come down. Though a man of some experience, in my way, I have never seen a Lord’s son more sure of promotion, than that same brigantine seems to be of his heels! If this old Frenchman goes on with his faces, much longer, he will turn himself inside out, and then we shall get an honest look at him, for these fellows never carry their true characters above board, like a fair dealing Englishman.-Well, sir, as I was remarking, yon rover, if rover he be, has more faith in his canvass than in the church. I make no doubt, Capt. Ludlow, that the brigantine went through the inlet, while we were handing our top-sails yesterday, for I am none of those who are in a hurry to give credit to any will-o’-the-wisp tale, besides which, I sounded the passage with my own hands, and know the thing to be possible, with the wind blowing heavy over the taffrail; still, sir, human nature, is human nature, and what is the oldest seaman, after all, but a man! and so to conclude, I would rather any day chase a Frenchman, whose disposition is known to me, than have the credit of making traverses, for eight and forty hours, in the wake of one of these flyers, with little hope of getting him within hail.”
“You forget, Master Trysail, that I have been aboard the chase, and know something of his build and character.”
“They say as much aboard, here,” returned the old tar, drawing nearer to the person of his captain, under a impulse of strong curiosity; “though none presume to be acquainted with the particulars. I am not one of those who ask impertinent questions, more especially under her Majesty’s pennant, for the worst enemy I have will not say I am very womanish. One would think, however, that there was neat work on board a craft, that is so prettily moulded about her water lines?”
“She is perfect as to construction, and admirable in gear.”
“I thought as much, by instinct! Her commander need not, however, be any the more sure of keeping her off the rocks, on that account The prettiest young woman in our parish was wrecked, as one might say, on the shoals of her own good looks, having cruised once too often in the company of the squire’s son. A comely wench she was, though she luffed athwart all her old companions, when the young Lord of the Manor fell into her wake. Well, she did bravely enough, sir, as long as she could carry her flying kites, and make a fair wind of it; but when the squall of which I spoke, overtook her, what could she do but keep away before it, and as others, who are snugger in their morals hove-to as it were, under the storm sails of religion and such matters as they had picked up in the catechism, she drifted to leeward of all honest society! A neatly built and clean heeled hussey was that girl, and I am not certain, by any means, that Mrs Trysail would this day, call herself the lady of a Queen’s officer, had the other known how to carry sail, in the company of her betters.”
The worthy master drew a long breath, which possibly was a nautical sigh, but which certainly had more of the north wind than of the Zephyr in its breathing, and he had recourse to the little box of iron, whence he usually drew consolation.
“I have heard of this accident before;” returned Ludlow, who had sailed as a midshipman, in the same vessel with, and indeed as a subordinate to his present inferior. “But from all accounts, you have little reason to regret the change, as I hear the best character of your present worthy partner.”
“No doubt, sir, no doubt. I defy any man, in the ship, to say that I am a back-biter, even against my own wife, with whom I have a sort of lawful right to deal candidly. I make no complaints, and am a happy man at sea, and I piously hope Mrs. Trysail knows how to submit to her duty at home. — I suppose you see, sir, that the chase has hauled his yards, and is getting his fore-tack aboard?” Ludlow, whose eye did not often turn from the brigantine, nodded assent, and the Master having satisfied himself, by actual inspection, that every sail in the Coquette did its duty, continued — “The night is coming on thick, and we shall have occasion for all our eyes to keep the rogue in view, when he begins to change his bearings — but, as I was saying, if the commander of yonder half-rig is too vain of her good looks, he may yet wreck her, in his pride! The rogue has a desperate character as a smuggler, though for my own part, I cannot say that I look on such men, with as unfavourable an eye, as some others. This business of trade seems to be a sort of chase, between one man’s wits and another man’s wits, and the dullest goer must be content to fall to leeward. When it comes to be a question of revenue, why, he who goes free is lucky, and he who is caught, a prize. I have known a flag officer look the other way, Capt. Ludlow, when his own effects were passing duty free, and as to your admiral’s lady, she is a great patroness of the contraband. I do not deny, sir, that a smuggler must be caught, and when caught condemned, after which there must be a fair distribution among the captors; but all that I mean to say is, that there are worse men in the world, than your British smuggler — such for instance as your Frenchman, your Dutchman, or your Don.”
“These are heretodox opinions for a Queen’s servant;” said Ludlow, as much inclined to smile, as to frown.
“I hope I know my duty too well to preach them to the ship’s company, but a man may say that, in a philosophical way, before his captain, that he would not let run into a midshipman’s ear. Though no lawyer, I know what is meant by swearing a witness, to the truth and nothing but the truth. I wish the Queen got the last, God bless her! several worn out ships would then be broken up, and better vessels sent to sea in their places. But, sir, speaking in a religious point of view, what is the difference between passing in a trunk of finery, with a Dutchess’ name on the brass plate, or in passing in gin enough to fill a cutter’s hold?”
“One would think a man of your years, Mr. Trysail, would see the difference between robbing the revenue of a guinea, and of robbing it of a thousand pounds.”
“Which is just the difference between retail and wholesale, and that is no trifle I admit, Capt. Ludlow, in a commercial country, especially in genteel life. Still, sir, revenue is the country’s right, and therefore I allow a smuggler to be a bad man, only not so bad as those I have just named, particularly your Dutchman! The Queen is right to make those rogues lower their flags to her in the narrow seas, which are her lawful property, because England, being a wealthy island, and Holland no more than a bit of bog turned up to dry, it is reasonable that we should have the command afloat. No, sir, though none of your out-criers against a man, because he has had bad luck, in a chase with a revenue cutter, I hope I know what the natural rights of an Englishman are. We must be masters, here, Capt. Ludlow, will ye nill ye, and look to the main chances of trade and manufactures!”
“I had not thought you so accomplished a statesman, Master Trysail!”
“Though a poor man’s son, Capt. Ludlow, I am a free born Briton, and my education has not been entirely overlooked. I hope, I know something of the constitution, as well as my betters. Justice and Honor being an Englishman’s mottoes, we must look manfully to the main chance. We are none of your flighty talkers, but a reasoning people, and there is no want of deep thinkers on the little island, and therefore, sir, taking all together, why England must stick up for her rights! Here is your Dutchman, for instance, a ravenous cormorant; a fellow with a throat wide enough to swallow all the gold of the Great Mogul, if he could get at it; and yet a vagabond who has not even a fair footing on the earth, if the truth must be spoken! Well, sir, shall England give up her rights to a nation of such blackguards! No, sir; our venerable constitution and mother church itself forbid, and therefore I say, dam’me, lay them aboard, if they refuse us any of our natural rights, or show a wish to bring us down to their own dirty level!”
“Reasoned like a countryman of Newton,” and with an eloquence, that would do credit to Cicero! I shall endeavour to digest your ideas, at my leisure, since they are much too solid food to be disposed of, in a minute. At present, we will look to the chase, for I see by the aid of my glass, that he has set his studding sails, and is beginning to draw ahead.”
This remark closed the dialogue, between the captain and his subordinate. The latter quitted the gangway with that secret and pleasurable sensation, which communicates itself to all who have reason to think they have delivered themselves, creditably, of a train of profound thought.
It was, in truth, time to lend every faculty to the movements of the brigantine, for there was great reason to apprehend, that by changing her direction, in the darkness, she might elude them. The night was fast closing on the Coquette, and at each moment, the horizon narrowed around her, so that it was only at uncertain intervals the men aloft could distinguish the position of the chase. While the two vessels were thus situated, Ludlow joined his guests on the quarter deck.”
“A wise man will trust to his wits, what cannot be done by force;” said the Alderman. “I do not pretend to be much of a mariner, Capt. Ludlow, though I once spent a week in London, and I have crossed the ocean seven times to Rotterdam. We did little in our passages, by striving to force nature. When the nights came in dark, as at present, the honest schippers were content to wait for better times, by which means we were sure not to miss our road, and of finally arriving at the destined port, in safety.”
“You saw that the brigantine was opening his canvass, when last seen, and he that would move fast, must have recourse to his sails.”
“One never knows what may be brewing, up there in the heavens, when the eye cannot see the colour of a cloud. I have little knowledge of the character of the Skimmer of the Seas, beyond that which common fame gives him, but, in the poor judgment of a landsman, we should do better by showing lanterns in different parts of the ship, lest some homeward bound vessel do us an injury, and awaiting until the morning, for further movements.”
“We are spared the trouble, for look, the insolent has set a light himself, as if to invite us to follow! This temerity exceeds belief! To dare to trifle, thus, with one of the swiftest cruisers, in the English fleet! See, that every thing draws, gentlemen, and take a pull at all the sheets. Hail the tops, sir, and make sure that every thing is home.”
The order was succeeded by the voice of the officer of the watch, who inquired, as directed, if each sail was distended to the utmost. Force was applied to some of the ropes, and then a general quiet succeeded to the momentary activity.
The brigantine had indeed showed a light, as if in mockery of the attempt of the royal cruiser. Though secretly stung, by this open contempt of their speed, the officers of the Coquette found themselves relieved from a painful and anxious duty. Before this beacon was seen, they were obliged to exert their senses to the utmost, in order to get occasional glimpses of the position of the chase, while they now steered in confidence for the brilliant little spot, that was gently rising and falling with the waves.
“I think we near him,” half-whispered, the eager captain; “for, see, there is some design visible on the sides of the lantern. Hold! Ay, ‘tis the face of a woman, as I live!”
“The men of the yawl report that the rover shows this symbol, in many parts of his vessel, and we know he had the impudence to set it, yesterday, in our presence even, on his ensign.”
“True — true; take you the glass, Mr. Luff, and tell me if there be not a woman’s face sketched in front of that light — we certainly near him fast — let their be silence, fore and aft the ship. The rogues mistake our bearings!”
“A saucy looking jade, as one might wish to see!” returned the lieutenant. “Her impudent laugh is visible to the naked eye.”
“See all clear for laying him, aboard! Get a party to throw on his decks, sir! I will lead them, myself.”
These orders were given in an under tone and rapidly. They were prompty obeyed. Iu the mean time, the Coquette continued to glide gently a head, her sails thickening with the dew, and every brea th of the heavy air acting wit increased power on their surfaces. The boarders were stationed, orders were given for the most profound silence, and as the ship drew nearer to the light, even the officers were commanded not to stir. Ludlow stationed himself, in the mizzen channels, to cun the ship, and his directions were repeated to the quarter-master, in a loud whisper.
“The night is so dark we are certainly unseen!” observed the young man, to his second in command, who stood at his elbow. “They have unaccountably mistaken our position. Observe how the face of the painting becomes more distinct — one can see even the curls of the hair. — Luff, sir,! luff — we will run him aboard! on his weather quarter.”
“The fool must be lying to!” returned the lieutenant. “Even your witches fail of common sense, at times! Do you see which way he has his head, sir?”
“I see nothing but the light. It is so dark that our own sails are scarcely visible — and, yet I think here are his yards, a little forward of our lee beam.”
“Tis our own lower boom. I got it out, in readiness for the other tack, in case the knave should ware. Are we not running too full?”
“Luff you may, a little, — luff, or we shall crush him!”
As this order was given, Ludlow passed swiftly forward. He found the boarders ready for a spring, and he rapidly gave his orders. The men were told to carry the brigantine at every hazard, but not to offer violence, unless serious resistance was made. They were thrice enjoined not to enter the cabins, and the young man expressed a generous wish that, in every case, the Skimmer of the Seas might be taken alive. By the time these directions were given, the light was so near that the malign countenance of the sea-green lady was seen, in every lineament. Ludlow looked, in vain, for the spars, in order to ascertain in which direction the head of the brigantine lay, but trusting to luck, he saw that the decisive moment was come.
“Starboard and run him, aboard! — Away there, you boarders, away! Heave with your grapnels; heave, men, with a long swing, heave! Meet her, with the helm — hard down — meet her — steady! — was shouted in a clear, full, and steady voice, that seemed to deepen at each mandate which issued from the lips of the young captain.
The boarders cheered heartily, and leaped into the rigging. The Coquette readily and rapidly yielded to the power of her rudder. First inclining to the light, and then sweeping up towards the wind, again, in another instant, she was close upon the chase. The irons were thrown, the men once more shouted, and all on board held their breaths in expectation of the crash of the meeting hulls. At that moment of high excitement, the woman’s face rose a short distance in the air, seemed to smile in derision of their attempt, and suddenly disappeared. The ship passed steadily ahead, while no noise, but the sullen wash of the waters, was audible. The boarding irons were heard falling heavily, into the sea, and the Coquette rapidly overrun the spot, where the light had been seen, without sustaining any shock. Though the clouds lifted a little, and the eye might embrace a circuit of a few hundred feet, there certainly was nothing to be seen, within its range, but the unquiet element, and the stately cruiser of Queen Anne floating on its bosom.
Though its effects were different, on the differently constituted minds of those who witnessed the singular incident, the disappointment was general. The common impression was certainly unfavourable to the earthly character of the brigantine, and when opinions of this nature once get possession of the ignorant, they are not easily removed. Even Trysail, though experienced in the arts of those who trifle with the revenue laws, was much inclined to believe that this was no vulgar case of floating lights or false beacons, but a manifestation that others, besides those who had been regularly trained to the sea, were occasionally to be found on the waters. If Capt. Ludlow thought differently, he saw no sufficient reason to enter into an explanation, with those who were bound silently to obey. He paced the quarter-deck, for many minutes, and then issued his orders to the equally disappointed lieutenants. The light canvass of the Coquette was taken in, the studding-sail-gear unrove, and the booms secured. The ship was then brought to the wind, and her courses haviug been hauled up, the fore-topsail was thrown to the mast. In this position the cruiser lay, waiting for the morning light, in order to give greater certainty to her movements.