“ — There shall be, in England,
seven half penny loaves sold for a penny:
The three hooped pot shall have ten hoops, and I will make it
felony, to drink small beer.”
Had Alderman Van Beverout been a party in the preceding dialogue, he could not have uttered words more apposite, than the exclamation with which he first saluted the ears of those in the pavilllon.
“Gales and Climates!” exclaimed the merchant, entering with an open letter in his hand. “Here are advices received, by way of Curacoa, and the coast of Africa, that the good ship Musk-rat met with foul winds off the Azores which lengthened her passage home to seventeen weeks — this is too much precious time wasted between markets, Capt. Cornelius Ludlow, and ‘twill do discredit to the good character of the ship, which has hitherto always maintained a sound reputation, never needing more than the regular seven months to make the voyage home, and out again. If our vessels fall into this lazy train, we shall never get a skin to Bristol, till it is past use. What have we here, niece? Merchandize! and of a suspicious fabric — who has the invoice of these goods, and in what vessel were they shipped?”
“These are questions that may be better answered by their owner;” returned la belle, pointing gravely, and not without tremor in her voice, towards the dealer in contraband, who, at the approach of the Alderman, had shrunk back as far as possible from view.
Myndert, cast an uneasy glance at the unmoved countenance of the commander of the royal cruiser, after having bestowed a brief but understanding look at the contents of the bale. “Capt. Ludlow the chaser is chased!” he said. “After sailing about the Atlantic, for a week or more, like a Jew broker’s clerk running up and down the Boom Key at Rotterdam, to get off a consignment of damaged tea, we are fairly caught ourselves! To what fall in prices, or change in the sentiments of the Board of Trade, am I indebted for the honor of this visit, Master a — a — a — gay dealer in green ladies, and bright tissues?”
The confident and gallant manner of the free+trader had vanished. In its place, there appeared a hesitating and embarassed air, that the individual was not wont to exhibit, blended with some apparent indecision, on the subject of his reply.
“It is the business of those who hazard much, in order to minister to the wants of life,” he said, after a pause that was sufficiently expressive of the entire change in his demeanour, “to seek customers, where there is a reputation for liberality. I hope my boldness will be over+looked, on account of its motive, and that you will aid the lady, in judging of the value of my articles, and of their reasonableness, as to price, with your own superior experience.”
Myndert was quite as much astonisbed, by this language, and the subdued manner of the smuggler, as Ludlow himself. When he expected the heaviest demand on his address, in order to check the usual, froward, and reckless familiarity of Seadrift, in order that his connexion with the Skimmer of the Seas might be as much as possible involved in ambiguity, to his own amazement, he found his purpose more than aided, by the sudden and extraordinary respect with which he was treated. Emboldened, and perhaps a little elevated in his own esteem, by this unexpected deference, which the worthy Alderman, shrewd as he was in common, did not fail, like other men, to impute to some inherent quality of his own, he answered with a greater depth of voice, and a more protecting air, than he might otherwise have deemed it prudent to assume, to one who had so frequently given him proofs of his own fearless manner of viewing things.
“This is being more eager as a trader, than prudent as one who should know the value of credit;” he said, making, at the same time, a lofty gesture to betoken indulgence for so venial an error. “We must overlook the mistake, Capt. Ludlow, since, as the young man truly observes in his defence, gain acquired in honest traffic, is a commendable and wholesome pursuit. One who appears as if he might not be ignorant of the laws, should know that our virtuous Queen, and her wise counsellors have decided that Mother England can produce most that a colonist can consume! Ay! and that she can consume, too, most that the colonist can produce!”
“I pretend not to this ignorance, sir, but, in pursuing my humble barter, I merely follow a principle of nature, by endeavouring to provide for my own interests. We of the contraband do but play at hazard with the authorities. When we pass the gauntlet unharmed, we gain; and when we lose, the servants of the crown find their profit. The stakes are equal, and the game should not be stigmatized as unfair. Would the rulers of the world, once remove the unnecessary shackles they impose on commerce, our calling would disappear, and the name of free-trader would then belong to the richest and most esteemed houses.”
The Alderman drew a long, low, whistle. Motioning to his companions to be seated, he placed his own compact person, in a chair, crossed his legs, with an air of self complacency, and resumed the discourse.
“These are very pretty sentiments, Master — a — a — a — , you bear a worthy name, no doubt, my ingenious commentator on commerce?”
“They call me Seadrift, when they spare a harsher term;” returned the other, meekly declining to be seated.
“These are pretty sentiments, Master Sea+drift, and they much become a gentleman who lives by practical comments on the revenue laws. This is a wise world, Capt. Cornelius Ludlow, and in it, there are many men whose heads are filled, like bales of goods, with a general assortment of ideas. — Horn Books and Primmers! Here have Van Bummel, Schoenbroeck, and Van der Donck, just sent me a very neatly folded pamphlet, written in good Leyden Dutch, to prove that trade is an exchange of what the author calls equivalents, and that nations have nothing to do, but to throw open their ports, in order to make a millenium among the merchants!”
“There are many ingenious men who entertain the same opinions;” observed Ludlow, steady in his resolution to be merely a quiet observer of all that passed.
“What cannot a cunning head devise, to spoil paper with! Trade is a racer, gentlemen, and merchants the jockies who ride. He who carries most weight may lose, but then nature does not give all men the same dimensions, and judges are as necessary to the struggles of the mart as to those of the course. Go, mount your gelding, if you are lucky enough to have one that has not been melted into a weasel by the heartles blacks, and ride out to Harlaem Flats, on a fine October day, and witness the manner in which the trial of speed is made. The rogues of riders cut in, here, and over, there; now the whip, and now the spur; and though they start fair, which is more than can always be said of trade, some one is sure to win. When it is neck and neck, then the heat is to be gone over, until the best bottom gains the prize.”
“Why is it then that men of deep reflection, so often think that commerce flourishes most, when least encumbered?”
“Why is one man born to make laws and another to break them? — Does not the horse run faster with his four legs free, than when in hopples? But in trade, Master Seadrift, and Capt. Cornelius Ludlow, each of us is his own jockey; and puting the aid of custom-house laws, out of the question, just as nature has happened to make him. Fat or lean, big bones or fine bones, he must get to the goal as well as he can. Therefore your heavy weights call out for sand-bags, and belts, to make all even. That the steed may be crushed with his load, is no proof that his chance of winning will not be better, by bringing all the riders to the same level.”
“But to quit these similies,” continued Ludlow, “if trade be but an exchange of equivalents — “
“Beggary and Stoppages!” interrupted the Alderman, who was far more dogmatical than courteous in argument. “This is the language of men who have read all sorts of books, but ledgers. Here have I advices from Tongue and Twaddle, of London, which state the nett proceeds of a little adventure, shipped by the brig Moose, that reached the river on the 16ᵗʰ of April, ultimo. The history of the whole transaction can be put in a child’s muff — you are a discreet youth, Capt. Cornelius, and as to you, Master Seadrift, the affair is altogether out of your line — therefore, as I was observing, here are the items, made out only a fortnight since, in the shape of a memorandum;” while speaking, the Alderman had placed his spectacles and drawn his tablets from a pocket. Adjusting himself to the light, he continued: “Paid bill of Sand, Furnace and Glass, for beads, L.3. 2. 6. — Package and box, 1.10½. — Shipping charges, and freight, 11.4. — Insurance, averaged at, 1.5. — Freight, charges and commission of agent among Mohawks, L.10. — Do. Do. Do. of shipment and sale of furs, in England, L.7.2. Total of costs and charges, L.20.18.8½. all in sterling money. Note, sale of furs, to Frost and Rich, nett avails, L.196.11.3. — Balance, as per contra, L.175.12.5½. — a very satisfactory equivalent this, Master Cornelius, to appear on the books of Tongue and Twaddle, where I stand charged with the original investment of L.20.19.8½! How much the Empress of Germany may pay the firm of Frost and Rich, for the articles, does not appear?”
“Nor does it appear that more was got for your beads, in the Mohawk country, than they were valued at there, or was paid for the skins than they were worth, where they were produced.”
“Whe — w — w — w!” whistled the merchant, as he returned the tablets to his pocket.”
“One would think that thou hadst been studying the Leyden pamphleteer, son of my old friend! If the savage thinks so little of his skins, and so much of my beads, I shall never take the pains to set him right; else, always by permission of the Board of Trade, we shall see him, one day, turning his bark canoe into a good ship, and going in quest of his own ornaments. Enterprize and Voyages! Who knows that the rogue would see fit to stop at London, even, in which case the mother country might lose the profit of the sale, at Vienna, and the Mohawk set up his carriage, on the difference in the value of markets! Thus, you see, in order to run a fair race, the horses must start even, carry equal weights, and, after all, one commonly wins. Your metaphysics are no better than so much philosophical gold leaf, which a cunning reasoner beats out into a sheet, as large as the broadest American lake, to make dunces believe the earth can be transmuted into the precious material, while a plain, practical, man puts the value of the metal into his pocket, in good current coin.”
“And yet I hear you complain that Parliament has legislated more than is good for trade, and speak in a manner of the proceedings at home, that, you will excuse me for saying, would better become a Hollander, than a subject of the crown.”
“Have I not told you, that the horse will run faster without a rider, than with a pack saddle on his back! Give your own jockey as little, and your adversary’s as much weight as you can, if you wish to win. I complain of the borough men, because they make laws for us, and not for themselves. As I often tell my worthy friend, Alderman Gulp, eating is good for life, but a surfiet makes a will necessary.”
“From all which I infer, that the opinions of your Leyden correspondent are not those of Mr. Van Beverout.”
The Alderman laid a finger on his nose, and looked at his companions, for a moment, without answering.
“Those Leydeners are a sagacious breed! If the United Provinces had but ground to stand on, they would, like the philosopher who boasted of his lever, move the world! The sly rogues think that the Amsterdammers have naturally an easy seat, and they wish to persuade all others to ride bare back. I shall send the pamphlet up into the Indian country, and pay some scholar to have it translated, into the Mohawk tongue, in order that the famous chief Schendoh, when the missionaries shall have taught him to read, may entertain right views of equivalents! I am not certain that I may not make the worthy divines a present, to help the good fruits to ripen.”
The Alderman leered round upon his auditors, and folding his hands meekly on his breast, he appeared to leave his eloquence to work its own effects.
“These opinions favour but little the occupation of the — the gentleman — who now honours us with his company,” said Ludlow, regarding the gay-looking smuggler, with an eye that shewed how much he was embarassed, to find a suitable appellation, for one whose appearance was so much at variance with his pursuits. “If restrictions are necessary to commerce, the lawless trader is surely left without an excuse, for his calling.”
“I as much admire your discretion, in practice, as the justice of your sentiments, in theory, Capt. Ludlow;” returned the Alderman. “In a rencontre on the high seas, it would be your duty to render captive the brigantine of this person, but, in what may be called the privacy of domestic retirement, you are content to ease your mind in moralities! I feel it my duty, too, to speak on this point, and shall take so favourable an occasion, when all is pacific, to disburthen myself of some sentiments that suggest themselves, very naturally, under the circumstances.” Myndert then turned himself towards the dealer in contraband, and continued, much in the manner of a City Magistrate reading a lesson of propriety to some disturber of the peace of society. “You appear here, Master Seadrift,” he said, “under what, to borrow a figure from your profession, may be called false colours. You bear the countenance of one who might be a useful subject, and yet are you suspected of being addicted to certain practices, which — I will not say they are dishonest, or even discreditable — for on that head the opinions of men are much divided, but which certainly have no tendency to assist her Majesty, in bringing her wars to a glorious issue, by securing to her European dominions, that monopoly of trade, by which it is her greatest desire to ease us of the colonies, of looking any further after our particular interests, than beyond the doors of her own custom+houses. This is an indiscretion, to give the act its gentlest appellation, and I regret to add, it is accompained by certain circumstances, which rather heighten than lessen the delinquency.” The Alderman paused, a moment, to observe the effect of his admonition, and to judge, by the eye of the free-trader, how much farther he might push his artifice; but perceiving, to his own surprise, that the other bent his face to the floor, and stood like one rebuked, he took courage to proceed. “You have introduced, into this portion of my dwelling, which is exclusively inhabited by my niece, who is neither of a sex, nor of years to be legally arraigned for any oversight of this nature, sundries, of which it is the pleasure of the Queen’s advisers, her subjects in the colonies should not know the use, since, in the nature of fabrications, they cannot be submitted to the supervising care of the ingenious artisans of the mother island. Woman, Master Sea drift, is a creature liable to the influence of temptation, and in few things is she weaker, than in her efforts to resist the allurements of articles, which may aid in adorning her person. My niece, the daughter of Etienne Barberie, may also have an hereditary weakness, on this head, since the females of France study these inventions, more than those of some other countries. It is not my intention, however, to manifest any unreasonable severity, since if old Etienne has communicated any hereditary feebleness on the subject of fancy, he has also left his daughter the means of paying for it. Hand in your account, therefore, and the debt shall be discharged; if debt has been incurred. And this brings me to the last and the gravest of your offences.”
“Capital is no doubt the foundation, on which a merchant builds his edifice of character,” continued Myndert, after taking another jealous survey of the countenance of him he addressed; “but credit is the ornaments of its front. This is a corner stone; that the pilastres and carvings, by which the building is rendered pleasant; sometimes, when age has undermined the basement, it is the columns on which the superstructure rests, or even the roof, by which the occupant is sheltered. It renders the rich man safe, the dealer of moderate means active and respectable, and it causes even the poor man to hold up his head, in hope. Though I admit that buyer and seller need both be wary, when it stands unsupported by any substantial base. This being the value of credit, Master Seadrift, none should assail it, without sufficient cause, for its quality is of a nature too tender for rude treatment. I learned, when a youth, in my travels in Holland, through which country, by means of the Trekschuyts, I passed with sufficient deliberation to profit by what was seen, the importance of avoiding, on all occasions, bringing credit into disrepute. As one event, that occurred, offers an apposite parallel of what I have now to advance, I shall make a tender of the facts, in the way of illustration. The circumstances show the awful uncertainty of things in this transitory life, Capt. Ludlow, and forewarn the most vigorous and youthful, that the strong of arm may be cut down, in hispride, like the tender plant of the fields! The banking house of Van Gelt and Van Stopper, in Amsterdam, had dealt largely in securities, issued by the Emperor for the support of his wars. It happened, at the time, that Fortune had favoured the Ottoman, who was then pressing the city of Belgrade, with some prospects of success. Well, sirs, an headstrong and ill+advised laundress had taken possession of an elevated terrace, in the centre of the town, in order to dry her clothes. This woman was in the act of commencing the distribution of her linens and muslins, with the break of day, when the Mussulmans awoke the garrison by a rude assault. Some, who had been posted in a position that permitted of retreat, having seen certain bundles of crimson, and green, and yellow, on an elevated parapet, mistook them for the heads of so many Turks, and they spread the report, far and near, that a countless band of the Infidels, led on by a vast number of Sherriffs in green turbans, had gained the heart of the place, before they were induced to retire. The rumour soon took the shape of a circumstantial detail, and having reached Amsterdam, it caused the funds of the Imperialists to look down. There was much question, on the Exchange, concerning the probable loss of Van Gelt and Van Stopper, in consequence. Just as speculation was at its greatest height, on this head, the monkey of a Savoyard escaped from its string, and concealed himself in a nut-shop, a few doors distant from the banking-house of the firm, where a crowd of Jew boys collected to witness its antics. Men of reflection, seeing what they mistook for a demonstration on the part of the children of the Israelites, began to fell uneasiness for their own property. Draughts multiplied, and the worthy bankers, in order to prove their solidity, disdained to shut their doors, at the usual hour. Money was paid throughout the night, and before noon, on the following day, Van Gelt had cut his throat, in a summer house, that stood on the banks of the Utrecht canal, and Van Stopper was seen smoking a pipe, among strong boxes that were entirely empty. At 2 o’clock, the post brought the intelligence that the Mussulmans were repulsed, and that the laundress was hanged; though I never knew exactly for what crime, as she certainly was not a debtor of the unhappy firm. These are some of the warning events of life, gentleman, and as I feel sure of addressing those who are capable of making the application, I shall now conclude, by advising all who hear me to great discretion of speech, on every matter connected with commercial character.”
When Myndert ceased speaking, he threw another glance around him, in order to note the effect his words had produced, and more particularly to ascertain whether he had not drawn a draught on the forbearance of the free-trader, which might still meet with a protest. He was at a loss to account for the marked and unusual deference with which he was treated, by one who, while he was never coarse, seldom exhibited much complaisance for the opinions of a man he was in the habit of meeting so familiarily, on matters of pecuniary interest. During the whole of the foregoing harangue, the young mariner of the brigantine had maintained the same attitude of modest attention, and when his eyes were permitted to rise, it was only to steal uneasy looks at the face of Alida. La belle Barberie had also listened to her uncle’s eloquence, with a more thoughtful air than common. She met the occasional glances of the dealer in contraband, with answering sympathy, and, in short, the most indifferent observer of their deportment, might have seen that circumstances had created between them a confidence and intelligence, which, if it were not absolutely of the most tender, was unequivocally of the most intimate character. All this Ludlow plainly saw, though the burgher had been too much engrossed with the ideas he had so complacently dealt out, to note the fact.
“Now that my mind is so well stored, with maxims on commerce, which I shall esteem as so many commentaries on the instructions of my Lords of the Admiralty,” observed the Captain, after a brief interval of silence, “it may be permitted to turn our attention to things less metaphysical. The present occasion is favorable to inquire after the fate of the shipmate we lost in the last cruise, and it ought not to be neglected.”
“You speak truth, Mr. Cornelius — The Patroon of Kinderhook is not a man to fall into the sea, like an anker of forbidden liquor, and no questions asked. Leave this matter to my discretion, sir, and trust me, the tenants of the third best estate in the colony shall not long be without tidings of their landlord. If you will accompany Master Seadrift, into the other part of the villa, for a reasonable time, I shall possess myself of all the facts, that are at all pertinent to the right understanding of the case.”
The commander of the royal cruiser and the young mariner of the brigantine appeared to think, that a compliance with this invitation would bring about a singular association. The hesitation of the latter, however, was far the most visible, since Ludlow had coolly determined to maintain his neutral character, until a proper moment to act, as a faithful servitor of his royal mistress, should arrive. He knew, or firmly believed, that the Water-Witch again lay in the Cove, concealed by the shadows of the surrounding wood, and as he had once before suffered by the superior address of the smugglers, he was now resolved to act with so much caution, as to enable him to return to his ship, in time to proceed against her with decision, and as he hoped with effect. In addition to this motive for artifice, there was that in the manner and language of the contraband dealer to place him altogether above the ordinary men of his pursuit, and indeed to create, in his favor, a certain degree of interest, which the officer of the crown was compelled to admit. He therefore bowed with sufficient courtesy, and professed his readiness to follow the suggestions of the Alderman.
“We have met on neutral ground, Master Seadrift,” said Ludlow, to his gay companion, as they quitted the salon of la Cour des Fées; “and though bent on different objects, we may discourse amicably of the past. The Skimmer of the Seas has a reputation, in his way, that almost raises him to the level of a seaman distinguished in a better service. I will ever testify to his skill and coolness as a mariner, however much I may lament that those fine qualities have received so unhappy a direction.”
“This is speaking with a becoming reservation for the rights of the crown, and with meet respect for the Barons of the Exchequer!” retorted Seadrift, whose former, and we may say natural, spirit seemed to return, as he left the presence of the burgher. “We follow the pursuit, Capt. Ludlow, in which accident has cast our fortunes. You serve a Queen you never saw, and a nation who will use you in her need, and despise you in her prosperity, and I serve myself. Let reason decide between us.”
“I admire this frankness, sir, and have hopes of a better understanding between us, now that you have done with the mystifications of your sea-green woman. The farce has been well enacted, though with the exception of Oloff Van Staats, and those enlightened spirits you lead about the ocean, it has not made many converts to necromancy.”
The free-trader permitted his handsome mouth to relax in a smile.
“We have our mistress, too,” he said; “but she exacts no tribute. All that is gained, goes to enrich her subjects, while all that she knows, is cheerfully imparted, for their use. If we are obedient, it is because we have experienced her justice and wisdom. I hope Queen Anne deals as kindly by those who risk life and limb in her cause?”
“Is it part of the policy of her you follow, to reveal the fate of the patroon, for though rivals in one dear object — or rather I should say, once rivals, in that object, I cannot see a guest quit my ship, with so little ceremony, without an interest in his welfare.”
“You make a just distinction,” returned Sea+drift, smiling still more meaningly — “Once rivals is indeed the better expression. Mr. Van Staats is a brave man, however ignorant he may be of the seaman’s art. One who has showed so much spirit will be certain of protection, from personal injury, in the care of the Skimmer of the Seas.”
“I do not constitute myself the keeper of Mr. Van Staats, still as the commander of the ship whence he has been — what shall I term the manner of his abduction? — for I would not willingly use, at this moment, a term that may prove disagreable — “
“Speak freely, sir, and fear not to offend. We of the brigantine are accustomed to divers epithets, that might startle less practised ears. We are not to learn, at this late hour, that in order to become respectable, roguery must have the sanction of government. You were pleased, Capt. Ludlow, to name the mystifications of the Water Witch, but you seem indifferent to those that are hourly practised, near you, in the world, and which, without the pleasantry of this of ours, have not half its innocence.”
“There is little novelty in the expedient of seeking to justify the delinquency of individuals, by the failings of society.”
“I confess it is rather just, than original. Triteness and Truth appear to be sisters! And yet do we find ourselves driven to this apology, since the refinement of us of the brigantine, has not yet attained to the point of understanding all the excellence of novelty in morals.”
“I believe there is a mandate of sufficient antiquity, which bids us to render unto Caesar, the things which are Caesar’s.”
“A mandate, which our modern Caesars, have most liberally construed! I am a poor casuist, sir, nor do I think the loyal commander of the Coquette would wish to uphold all that sophistry can invent, on such a subject. If we begin with potentates, for instance, we shall find the most Christian King bent on appropriating as many of his neigbbour’s good’s to his own use, as ambition, under the name of glory, can covet; the most Catholic, covering with the mantle of his catholicity, a greater multitude of enormities, on this very continent, than even charity itself could conceal, and our own gracious sovereign, whose virtues and whose mildness are celebrated, in verse and prose, causing rivers of blood to run, in order that the little island over which she rules, may swell out, like the frog in the fable, to dimensions that nature has denied, and which will one day inflict the unfortunate death that befel the ambitious inhabitant of the pool. The gallows awaits the pickpocket. but your robber under a pennant, is dubbed a knight! The man who amasses wealth, by gainful industry, is ashamed of his origin, while he who has stolen from churches, laid villages under contribution, and cut throats by thousands, to divide the spoils of a galleon, or a military chest, has gained gold on the highway of glory! Europe has reached an exceeding pass of civilization, it may not be denied, but before society inflicts so severe censure on the acts of individuals, notwithstanding the triteness of the opinion, I must say it is bound to look more closely to the example it sets, in its collective character.”
“These are points on which our difference of opinion is likely to be lasting;” said Ludlow, assuming the severe air of one who had the world on his side. “We will defer the discussion to a moment of greater leisure, sir. Am I to learn more of Mr. Van Staats, or is the question of his fate to become the subject of a serious official inquiry?”
“The Patroon of Kinderhook is a bold boarder!” returned the free-trader, laughing. He has carried the residence of the lady of the brigantine, by a coup de main; and he reposes on his laurels! We of the contraband are merrier, in our privacy, than is thought, and those who join our mess seldom wish to quit it.”
“There may be occasion to look further into its mysteries — until when, I wish you adieu.”
“Hold!” gaily cried the other, observing that Ludlow was about to quit the room — “Let the time of our uncertainty be short, I pray thee. Our mistress is like the insect, which takes the colour of the leaf on which it dwells. You have seen her, in her sea-green robe, which she never fails to wear when roving over the soundings of your American coast, but in the deep waters, her mantle vies with the blue of the oceans depths. Symptoms of a change, which always denote an intended excursion far beyond the influence of the land, have been seen!”
“Hearkee, Master Seadrift! This foolery may do, while you possess the power to maintain it. But remember, that though the law only punishes the illegal trader, by confiscation of his goods when taken, it punishes the kidnapper with personal pains, and sometimes with — death! — And, more remember, that the line which divides smuggling from piracy is easily past, while the return becomes impossible.”
“For this generous counsel, in my mistress’ name, I thank thee;” the gay mariner replied, bowing with a gravity that rather heightened than concealed his irony — “Your Coquette is broad in the reach of her booms, and swift on the water, Capt. Ludlow; but let her be capricious, wilful, deceitful, nay — powerful, as she may, she shall find a woman in the brigantine equal to all her arts, and far superior to all her threats!
With this prophetic warning on the part of Queen’s officer, and cool reply, on that of the dealer in contraband, the two sailors separated. The latter took a book, andthrew himself into a chair, with a well-maintained indifference, while the other left the house, in a haste that was not disguised.
In the mean time, the interview between Alderman Van Beverout and his niece still continued. Minute passed after minute, and yet there was no summons to the pavillion. The gay young seaman of the brigantine had continued his studies, for some time after the disappearance of Ludlow, and he now evidently awaited an intimation that his presence was required, in la Cour des Fées. During these moments of anxiety, the air of the free- trader was sorrowful, rather than impatient, and when a footstep was heard at the door of the room, he betrayed symptoms of strong and uncontrollable agitation. It was the female attendant of Alida, who entered, presented a slip of paper, and retired. The eager expectant read the following words, hastily written, in pencil. —
“I have evaded all his questions, and he is more than half disposed to believe in necromancy. This is not the moment to confess the truth, for he is not in a condition to hear it, being already much disturbed, by the uncertainty of what may follow the appearance of the brigantine on the coast, and so near his own villa. But be assured, he shall and will acknowledge claims that I know how to support, and which should I fail of establishing, he would not dare to refuse to the redoubtable Skimmer of the Seas. Come hither, the moment you hear his foot, in the passage.”
The last injunction was soon obeyed. The Alderman entered by one door, as the active fugitive retreated by another, and where the wary burgher expected to see his guests, he found an empty apartment. This last circumstance, however, gave Myndert Van Beverout but little surprise and no concern, as would appear by the indifference, with which he noted the circumstance.
“Vagaries and Womanhood!” thought, rather than muttered the Alderman. “The jade turns like a fox in his tracks, and it would be easier to convict a merchant, who values his reputation, of a false invoice, than this minx of nineteen, of an indiseretion! There is so much of old Etienne and his Norman blood, in her eye, that one does not like to provoke extremities, but here, when I expected Van Staats had profited by his opportunity, the girl looks like a nun, at the mention of his name. The patroon is no Cupid, we must allow, or in a week at sea, he would have won the heart of a mermaid! — Ay — and here are more perplexities by the return of the Skimmer and his brig, and the notions that young Ludlow has of his duty. Life and Mortality! One must quit trade, at some time or other, and begin to close the books of life. I must seriously think of striking a final balance. If the sum total was a littlemore in my favor, it should be gladly done to-morrow!”
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.