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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAfloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 19
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Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 19 Post by :Infobiz Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :667

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Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 19


"Thou shalt seek the beach of sand,
Where the water bounds the elfin land;
Thou shalt watch the oozy brine
Till the sturgeon leaps in the light moonshine."

There is but a word to say of the whaler. We spoke her, of course, and parted, leaving her her boat. She passed half an hour, close to us, and then went after her whale. When we lost sight of her, she was cutting in the fish, as coolly as if nothing had happened. As for ourselves, we made the best of our way for the island.

Nothing worth relating occurred during the remainder of the passage. We reached our place of destination ten days after we found Marble; and carried both the ship and schooner into the lagoon, without any hesitation or difficulty. Everything was found precisely as we had left it; two months having passed as quietly as an hour. The tents were standing, the different objects lay where they had been hastily dropped at our hurried departure, and everything denoted the unchangeable character of an unbroken solitude. Time and the seasons could alone have produced any sensible alteration. Even the wreck had neither shifted her bed, nor suffered injury. There she lay, seemingly an immovable fixture on the rocks, and as likely to last, as any other of the durable things around her.

It is always a relief to escape from the confinement of a ship, even if it be only to stroll along the vacant sands of some naked beach. As soon as the vessels were secured, we poured ashore in a body, and the people were given a holiday. There was no longer an enemy to apprehend; and we all enjoyed the liberty of movement, and the freedom from care that accompanied our peculiar situation. Some prepared lines and commenced fishing; others hauled the seine; while the less industriously disposed lounged about, selected the fruit of the cocoa-nut tree, or hunted for shells, of which there were many, and those extremely beautiful, scattered along the inner and outer beaches, or lying, visible, just within the wash of the water. I ordered two or three of the hands to make a collection for Clawbonny; paying them, as a matter of course, for their extra services. Their success was great; and I still possess the fruits of their search, as memorials of my youthful adventures.

Emily and her maid took possession of their old tents, neither of which had been disturbed; and I directed that the necessary articles of furniture should be landed for their use. As we intended to remain eight or ten days at Marble Land, there was a general disposition to make ourselves comfortable; and the crew were permitted to bring such things ashore as they desired, care being had for the necessary duties of the ships. Since quitting London, we had been prisoners, with the short interval of our former visit to this place, and it was now deemed wisest to give the people a little relaxation. To all this, I was advised by Marble; who, though a severe, and so often seemingly an obdurate man, was in the main disposed to grant as much indulgence, at suitable moments, as any officer I ever sailed with. There was an ironical severity, at times, about the man, which misled superficial observers. I have heard of a waggish boatswain in the navy, who, when disposed to menace the crew with some of his official visitations, used to cry out, "Fellow-citizens, I'm coming among you;" and the anecdote never recurs to my mind, without bringing Marble back to my recollection. When in spirits, he had much of this bitter irony in his manner; and his own early experience had rendered him somewhat insensible to _professional suffering; but, on the whole, I always thought him a humane man.

We went into the lagoon, before the sun had risen; and before the breakfast hour of those who lived aft, we had everything landed that was necessary, and were in possession of our tents. I had ordered Neb to attend particularly to the wants of the Mertons; and, precisely as the bell of the ship struck eight, which, at that time of day, meant eight o'clock, the black came with the major's compliments, inviting "_Captain_" Wallingford and "_Captain_" Marble to breakfast.

"So it goes, Miles," added my companion, after promising to join the party in a few moments. "This arrangement about the schooner leaves us both captains, and prevents anything like your downhill work, which is always unpleasant business. _Captain Marble and _Captain Wallingford sound well; and I hope they may long sail in company. But natur' or art never meant me for a captain."

"Well, admitting this, where there are _two captains, one must outrank the other, and the senior commands. You should be called _Commodore Marble."

"None of your pleasantry, Miles," returned Marble, with a severe look and a shake of the head; "it is by your favour, and I hope by your good opinion, that I am master of even that little, half-blooded, part French, part Yankee, schooner. It is my second, and I think it will be my last command. I have generalized over my life, upon a large scale, within the last ten days, and have come to the conclusion that the Lord created me to be your mate, and not you to be mine. When natur' means a man for anything partic'lar, she doesn't set him adrift among human beings, as I was set adrift."

"I do not understand you, sir--perhaps you will give me an outline of your history; and then all will be plain."

"Miles, oblige me in one particular--it will cost you no great struggle, and will considerably relieve my mind."

"You have only to name it, sir, to be certain it will be done."

"Drop that bloody _sir_, then; it's unbecoming now, as between you and me. Call me Marble, or Moses; as I call you, Miles."

"Well, be it so. Now for this history of yours, which you have promised to give me, by the way, any time these two years."

"It can be told in a few words; and I hope it may be of service. A human life, properly generalized on, is at any time as good as most sermons. It is full of what I call the morality of idees. I suppose you know to what I owe my names?"

"Not I--to your sponsors in baptism, like all the rest of us, I suppose."

"You're nearer the truth than you may imagine, this time, boy. I was found, a child of a week old, they tell me, lying in a basket, one pleasant morning, in a stone-cutter's yard, on the North River side of the town, placed upon a bit of stone that was hewing out for the head of a grave, in order, as I suppose, that the workmen would be sure to find me, when they mustered at their work. Although I have passed for a down-easter, having sailed in their craft in the early part of my life, I'm in truth York born."

"And is this all you know of your origin, my dear Marble?"

"All I _want to know, after such a hint. A man is never anxious to make the acquaintance of parents who are afraid to own him. I dare say, now, Miles, that _you knew, and loved, and respected _your mother?"

"Love, and respect her! I worshipped her, Marble; and she deserved it all, if ever human being did!"

"Yes, yes; I can understand _that_," returned Marble, making a hole in the sand with his heel, and looking both thoughtful and melancholy. "It must be a great comfort to love and respect a mother! I've seen them, particularly young women, that I thought set quite as much store by their mothers, as they did by themselves. Well, no matter; I got into one of poor Captain Robbins's bloody currents at the first start, and have been drifting about ever since, just like the whale-boat with which we fell in, pretty much as the wind blew. They hadn't the decency to pin even a name--they might have got one out of a novel or a story-book, you know, to start a poor fellow in life with--to my shirt; no--they just set me afloat on that bit of a tombstone, and cast off the standing part of what fastened me to anything human. There they left me, to generalize on the 'arth and its ways, to my heart's content."

"And you were found next morning, by the stone-cutter, when he came, again, to use his chisel."

"Prophecy couldn't have better foretold what happened. There I was found, sure enough; and there I made my first escape from destruction. Seeing the basket, which it seems was one in which he had brought his own dinner, the day before, and forgotten to carry away with him, he gave it a jerk to cast away the leavings, before he handed it to the child who had come to take it home, in order that it might be filled again, when out I rolled on the cold stone. There I lay, as near the grave as a tomb-stone, when I was just a week old."

"Poor fellow--you could only know this by report, however. And what was done with you?"

"I suppose, if the truth were known, my father was somewhere about that yard; and little do I envy the old gentleman his feelings, if he reflected much, over matters and things. I was sent to the Alms-House, however; stone-cutters being nat'rally hard-hearted, I suppose. The fact that I was left among such people, makes me think so much the more, that my own father must have been one of them, or it never could have happened. At all events, I was soon rated on the Alms-House books; and the first thing they did was to give me some name. I was No. 19, for about a week; at the age of fourteen days, I became Moses Marble."

"It was an odd selection, that your 'sponsors in baptism' made!"

"Somewhat--Moses came from the scriptur's, they tell me; there being a person of that name, as I understand, who was turned adrift pretty much as I was, myself."

"Why, yes--so far as the basket and the abandonment were concerned; but he was put afloat fairly, and not clapped on a tomb-stone, as if to threaten him with the grave at the very outset."

"Well, Tombstone came very near being my name. At first, they thought of giving me the name of the man for whom the stone was intended; but, that being Zollickoffer, they thought I never should be able to spell it. Then came Tombstone, which they thought melancholy, and so they called me Marble; consaiting, I suppose, it would make me _tough._"

"How long did you remain in the Alms-House, and at what age did you first go to sea?"

"I staid among them the public feeds, until I was eight years old, and then I took a hazy day to cut adrift from charity. At that time, Miles, our country belonged to the British--or they treated it as if it did, though I've heard wiser men than myself say, it was always our own, the king of England only happening to be our king--but I was born a British subject, and being now just forty, you can understand I went to sea several years before the revolution."

"True--you must have seen service in that war, on one side, or the other?"

"If you say _both sides, you'll not be out of the way. In 1775, I was a foretop-man in the Romeny 50, where I remained until I was transferred to the Connecticut 74--"

"The what?" said I, in surprise. "Had the English a line-of-battle ship called the Connecticut?"

"As near as I could make it out: I always thought it a big compliment for John Bull to pay the Yankees."

"Perhaps the name of your ship was the Carnatic? The sounds are not unlike."

"Blast me, if I don't think you've hit it, Miles. Well, I'm glad of it, for I run from the ship, and I shouldn't half like the thought of serving a countryman such a trick. Yes, I then got on board of one of our sloops, and tried my hand at settling the account with my old masters. I was taken prisoner for my pains, but worried through the war without getting my neck stretched. They wanted to make it out, on board the old Jarsey, that I was an Englishman, but I told 'em just to prove it. Let 'em only prove where I was born, I said, and I would give it up. I was ready to be hanged, if they could only prove where I was born. D----, but I sometimes thought I never _was born, at all."

"You are surely an American, Marble? A Manhattanese, born and educated?"

"Why, as it is not likely any person would import a child a week old, to plant it on a tombstone, I conclude I am. Yes, I must be _that_; and I have sometimes thought of laying claim to the property of Trinity Church, on the strength of my birth-right. Well, as soon as the war was over, and I got out of prison, and that was shortly after you were born, Captain Wallingford, I went to work regularly, and have been ever since sarving as dickey, or chief-mate, on board of some craft or other. If I had no family bosom to go into, as a resting-place, I had my bosom to fill with solid beef and pork, and that is not to be done by idleness."

"And, all this time, my good friend, you have been living, as it might be, alone in the world, without a relative of any sort?"

"As sure as you are there. Often and often, have I walked through the streets of New York, and said to myself, Among all these people, there is not one that I can call a relation. My blood is in no man's veins, but my own."

This was said with a bitter sadness, that surprised me. Obdurate, and insensible to suffering as Marble had ever appeared to me, I was not prepared to find him giving such evidence of feeling. I was then young, but now am old; and one of the lessons learned in the years that have intervened, is not to judge of men by appearances. So much sensibility is hidden beneath assumed indifference, so much suffering really exists behind smiling countenances, and so little does the exterior tell the true story of all that is to be found within, that I am now slow to yield credence to the lying surfaces of things. Most of all had I learned to condemn that heartless injustice of the world, that renders it so prompt to decide, on rumour and conjectures, constituting itself a judge from which there shall be no appeal, in cases in which it has not taken the trouble to examine, and which it had not even the power to examine evidence.

"We are all of the same family, my friend," I answered, with a good design at least, "though a little separated by time and accidents."

"Family!--Yes, I belong to my own family. I'm a more important man in my family, than Bonaparte is in his; for I am all in all; ancestors, present time and posterity!"

"It is, at least, your own fault you are the last; why not marry and have children?"

"Because my parents did not set me the example," answered Marble, almost fiercely. Then clapping his hand on my shoulder, in a friendly way, as if to soothe me after so sharp a rejoinder, he added in a gentler tone--"Come, Miles, the Major and his daughter will want their breakfasts, and we had better join them. Talking of matrimony, there's the girl for you, my boy, thrown into your arms almost nat'rally, as one might say."

"I am far from being so sure of that. Marble." I answered, as both began to walk slowly towards the tent "Major Merton might hot think it an honour, in the first place, to let his daughter marry a Yankee sailor."

"Not such a one as myself, perhaps; but why not one like you? How many generations have there been of you, now, at the place you call Clawbonny?"

"Four, from father to son, and all of us Miles Wallingfords."

"Well, the old Spanish proverb says 'it takes three generations to make a gentleman;' and here you have four to start upon. In _my family, all the generations have been on the same level, and I count myself old in my sphere."

"It is odd that a man like you should know anything of old Spanish proverbs!"

"What? Of _such a proverb, think you, Miles? A man without even a father or mother--who never had either, as one may say--and he not remember such a proverb! Boy, boy, I never forget anything that so plainly recalls the tomb-stone, and the basket, and the Alms-House, and Moses, and the names!"

"But Miss Merton might object to the present generation," I resumed, willing to draw my companion from his bitter thoughts, "however favourably disposed her father might prove to the last."

"That will be your own fault, then. Here you have her, but on the Pacific Ocean, all to yourself; and if you cannot tell your own story, and that in a way to make her believe it, you are not the lad I take you for."

I made an evasive and laughing answer; but, being quite near the tent by this time, it was necessary to change the discourse. The reader may think it odd, but that was the very first time the possibility of my marrying Emily Merton ever crossed my mind. In London, I had regarded her as an agreeable acquaintance, with just as much of the colouring of romance and of the sentimental about our intercourse, as is common with youths of nineteen and girls a little younger; but as nothing more. When we met on the island, Emily appeared to me like a friend--a _female friend--and, of course, one to be viewed with peculiarly softened feelings; still, as only a friend. During the month we had just passed in the same ship, this tie had gradually strengthened; and I confess to a perfect consciousness of there being on board a pretty girl in her nineteenth year, of agreeable manners, delicate sentiments, and one whose presence gave the Crisis a charm she certainly never enjoyed during poor Captain Williams's time. Notwithstanding all this, there was something--though what that something was, I did not then know myself--which prevented me from absolutely falling in love with my fair guest. Nevertheless, Marble's suggestion was not unpleasant to me; but, on the other hand, it rather conduced to the satisfaction of my present visit.

We were kindly received by our hosts, who always seemed to remember the commencement of our acquaintance, when Marble and myself visited them together. The breakfast had a little of the land about it; for Mons. Le Compte's garden still produced a few vegetables, such as lettuce, pepper-grass, radishes, &c.; most of which, however, had sown themselves. Three or four fowls, too, that he had left on the island in the hurry of his departure, had begun to lay; and Neb having found a nest, we had the very unusual treat of fresh eggs. I presume no one will deny that they were sufficiently "country-laid."

"Emily and myself consider ourselves as old residents here," the Major observed, as he gazed around him, the table being set in the open air, under some trees; "and I could almost find it in my heart to remain on this beautiful island for the remainder of my days--quite, I think, were it not for my poor girl, who might find the society of her old father rather dull work, at her time of life."

"Well, Major," said Marble, "you have only to let your taste be known, to have the ch'ice among all our youngsters to be her companion. There is Mr. Talcott, a well-edicated and mannerly lad enough, and of good connexions, they tell me; and as for Captain Wallingford here, I will answer for _him_. My life on it, he would give up Clawbonny, and the property on which he is the fourth of his name, to be king, or Prince of Wales of this island, with such company!"

Now, it was Marble, and not I, who made this speech; and yet I heartily wished it unsaid. It made me feel foolish and I dare say it made me look foolish; and I know it caused Emily to blush. Poor girl! she, who blushed so easily, and was so sensitive, and so delicately situated--she was entitled to have more respect paid to her feelings. The Major and Marble, however, took it all very coolly, continuing the discourse as if nothing out of the way had been said.

"No doubt--no doubt," answered the first; "romance always finds votaries among young people, and this place may well excite romantic feelings in those who are older than these young men. Do you know, gentlemen, that ever since I have known this island, I have had a strong desire to pass the remainder of my days on it? The idea I have just mentioned to you, therefore, is by no means one of a moment's existence."

"I am glad, at least, dear sir," observed Emily, laughing, "that the desire has not been so strong as to induce you to make formal proposals on the subject."

"You, indeed, are the great obstacle; for what could I do with a discontented girl, whose mind would be running on balls, theatres, and other amusements? We should not have even a church."

"And, Major Merton," I put in, "what could you, or any other man, do with _himself_, in a place like this, without companions, books, or occupation ?"

"If a conscientious man, Miles, he might think over the past; if a wise one, he would certainly reflect on the future. I should have books, since Emily and I could muster several hundred volumes between us; and, _with books, I should have companions. What could I do? I should have everything to create, as it might be, and the pleasure of seeing everything rising up under my own hand. There would be a house to construct--the materials of that wreck to collect--ropes, canvass, timber, tar, sugar, and divers other valuables that are still out on the reef, or which lie scattered about on the beach, to gather together, and save against a rainy day. Then I would have a thought for my poultry; and possibly you might be persuaded to leave me one or two of these pigs, of which I see the French forgot half a dozen, in their haste to cheat the Spaniards. Oh! I should live like a prince and be a prince _regnant in the bargain."

"Yes, sir, you would be captain and all hands, if that would be any gratification; but I think you would soon weary of your government, and be ready to abdicate."

"Perhaps so, Miles; yet the thought is pleasant to me: but for this dear girl, it would be particularly so. I have very few relatives; the nearest I have being, oddly enough, your own country-people, gentlemen. My mother was a native of Boston, where my father, a merchant, married her; and I came very near being a Yankee myself, having been born but a week after my parents landed in England. On my father's side, I have not five recognised relatives, and they are rather distant; while those on my mother's are virtually all strangers. Then I never owned a foot of this earth on which we live, in my life--"

"Nor I," interrupted Marble, with emphasis.

"My father was a younger son; and younger sons in England are generally lack-lands. My life has been such, and, I may add, my means such, that I have never been in the way of purchasing even enough earth to bury me in; and here, you see, is an estate that can be had for asking. How much land do you fancy there is in this island, gentlemen? I mean, apart from the beach, the sands and rocks; but such as has grass, and bears trees--ground that might be tilled, and rendered productive, without much labour?"

"A hundred thousand acres," exclaimed Marble, whose calculation was received with a general laugh.

"It seems rather larger to me, sir," I answered, "than the farm at Clawbonny. Perhaps there may be six or eight hundred acres of the sort of land you mention; though the whole island must contain several thousands--possibly four, or five."

"Well, four or five thousand acres of land make a good estate--but, as I see Emily is getting frightened, and is nervous under the apprehension of falling heir to such extensive possessions, I will say no more about them."

No more _was said, and we finished our breakfasts, conversing of the past, rather than of the future. The Major and Marble went to stroll along the groves, in the direction of the wreck; while I persuaded Emily to put on her hat and stroll--the other way.

"This is a singular notion of my father's," my fair companion remarked, after a moment of musing; "nor is it the first time, I do assure you, on which he has mentioned it. While we were here before, he spoke of it daily."

"The scheme might do well enough for two ardent lovers," said I, laughing; "but would scarcely be Wise for an elderly gentleman and his daughter. I can imagine that two young people, warmly attached to each other, might get along in such a place for a year or two, without hanging themselves; but I fancy even love would tire out, after a while, and they would set about building a boat, in which to be off."

"You are not very romantic, I perceive, Mr. Wallingford," Emily answered, and I thought a little reproachfully. "Now, I own that to my taste, I could be happy anywhere--here, as well as in London, surrounded by my nearest and dearest friends."

"Surrounded! Ay, that would be a very different matter. Let me have your father, yourself, honest Marble, good Mr. Hardinge, Rupert, dear, dear Grace, and Lucy, with Neb and some others of my own blacks, and I should ask no better home. The island is only in twenty, has plenty of shade some delicious fruits, and Would be easily tilled--one might do here, I acknowledge, and it would be pleasant to found a colony."

"And who are all these people you love so well, Mr. Wallingford, that their presence would make a desert island pleasant?"

"In the first place, Major Merton is a half-pay officer in the British service, who has been appointed to some civil station in India"--I answered, gallantly. "He is a respectable, agreeable, well-informed gentleman, a little turned of fifty, who might act as Judge and Chancellor. Then he has a daughter--"

"I know more of her and her bad qualities than you do yourself, _Sire_--but who are Rupert, and Grace, and Lucy--_dear, dear Grace, especially?"

"Dear, _dearest Grace, Madam, is my sister--my _only sister--all the sister I ever can have, either by marriage, or any other means, and sisters are usually _dear to young men, I believe."

"Well--I knew you had a sister, and a _dear sister, but I also knew you had but one. Now as to Rupert--"

"He is not another sister, you may be well assured. I have mentioned to you a friend from childhood, who went to sea with me, at first, but, disliking the business, has since commenced the study of the law."

"That, then, is Rupert. I remember some such touches of his character, but did not know the name. Now, proceed on to the next--"

"What, Neb!--You know _him almost as well as I do myself. He is yonder feeding the chickens, and will save his passage money."

"But you spoke of another--that is--was there not a Mr.--, Hardinge was the name, I think?"

"Oh! true--I forgot Mr. Hardinge and Lucy, though they would be two of the most important of the colonists. Mr. Hardinge is my guardian, and will continue to be so a few months longer, and Lucy is his daughter--Rupert's sister--the old gentleman is a clergyman, and would help us to keep Sundays as one should, and might perform the marriage ceremony, should it ever be required."

"Not much danger of that, I fancy, on your _desert island--your Barrataria"--observed Miss Merton, quickly.

I cannot explain the sensitiveness of certain young ladies on such points, unless it be through their consciousness. Now, had I been holding this idle talk with Lucy, the dear, honest creature would have laughed, blushed ever so little, possibly, and nodded her head in frank assent; or, perhaps, she would have said "oh! certainly," in a way to show that she had no desire to affect so silly a thing as to wish one to suppose she thought young people would not get married at Marble Land, as well as Clawbonny, or New York. Miss Merton, however, saw fit to change the discourse, which soon turned on her father's health. On this subject she was natural and full of strong affection. She was anxious to get the Major out of the warm latitudes. His liver had been touched in the West Indies, but he had hoped that he was cured, or he never would have accepted the Bombay appointment. Experience, however, was giving reason to suspect the contrary, and Emily wished him in a cold climate as soon as possible, and that with an earnestness that showed she regarded all that had been said about the island as sheer pleasantry. We continued the conversation for an hour when, returning to the tent, I left my fair companion with a promise to be as active as possible, in order to carry the ship into a higher latitude. Still I did not deem the island a particularly dangerous place, notwithstanding its position; the trades and sea breezes, with its ample shades, rendering the spot one of the most delightful tropical abodes I had ever been in.

After quitting Emily, I went to join Marble, who was alone, pacing a spot beneath the trees, that poor Le Compte had worn into a path, and which he had himself called his "quarter-deck."

"This Major Merton is a sensible man, Miles," the ex-mate began, as soon as I dropped in alongside of him, and joined in his semi-trot; "a downright, sensible sort of a philosopher-like man, accordin' to my notion."

"What has he been telling you, now, that has seized your fancy so much stronger than common?"

"Why, I was thinking of this idee of his, to remain on the island, and pass the remainder of the v'y'ge here, without slaving day and night to get up two or three rounds of the ladder of promotion, only to fall down again."

"And did the Major speak of such things? I know of no disappointments of his, to sour him with the world."

"I was not speaking for Major Merton, but for myself, Miles. To tell you the truth, boy, this idee seems just suited to me, and I have almost made up my mind to remain behind, here, when you sail."

I looked at Marble with astonishment; the subject on which the Major had spoken in pleasantry, rather than with any real design of carrying his project into execution, was one that my old messmate regarded seriously! I had noted the attention with which he listened to our discourse, during breakfast, and the strong feeling with which he spoke at the time, but had no notion of the cause of either. I knew the man too well, not to understand, at once, that he was in sober earnest, and had too much experience of his nature, not to foresee the greatest difficulty in turning him from his purpose. I understood the true motive to be professional mortification at all that occurred since he had succeeded Captain Williams in command; for Marble was much too honest and too manly, to think for a moment of concealing his own misfortunes behind the mantle offered by my success.

"You have not thought of this matter sufficiently, my friend," I answered, evasively, knowing the folly of attempting to laugh the matter off--"when you have slept on it a night, you will see things differently."

"I fancy not, Miles. Here is all I want, and just what I want. After you have taken away everything that can be required for the vessels, or desirable to the owners, there will be enough left to keep me a dozen lives."

"It is not on account of food, that I speak--the island alone in its fruits, fish and birds, to say nothing as to the seeds, and fowls, and pigs, we could leave you, would be sufficient to keep fifty men; but, think of the solitude, the living without object, the chances of sickness--the horrible death that would follow to one unable to rise and assist himself, and all the other miseries of being alone. Depend on it, man was not created to live alone. Society is indispensable to him, and--"

"I have thought of it all, and find it entirely to my taste. I tell you, Miles, I should be exactly in my sphere, in this island, and that as a hermit. I do not say I should not like _some company, if it could be yourself, or Talcott, or the Major, or even Neb; but no company is better than bad; and as for asking, or _allowing any one to stay with me, it is out of the question. I did, at first, think of keeping the Sandwich Islanders; but it would be bad faith, and they would not be likely to remain quiet, after the ship had sailed. No, I will remain alone. You will probably report the island when you get home, and that will induce some vessel, which may be passing near, to look for me, so I shall hear of you all, every four or five years."

"Gracious heaven! Marble, you cannot be serious in so mad a design?"

"Just look at my situation, Miles, and decide for yourself. I am without a friend on earth--I mean nat'ral friend--I know what sort of friend you are, and parting with you will be the toughest of all--but I have not a relation on the wide earth--no property, no home no one to wish to see me return, not even a cellar to lay my head in. To me all places are alike, with the exception of this, which, having discovered, I look upon as my own."

"You have a _country_, Marble; and that is the next thing to family and home--overshadows all."

"Ay, and I'll have a country here. This will be America, having been discovered by Americans, and in their possession. You will leave me the buntin', and I'll show the stars and stripes of a 4th of July, just as you will show 'em, in some other part of the world. I was born Yankee, at least, and I'll die Yankee, I've sailed under that flag, boy, ever since the year '77, and will not sail under another you may depend on it."

"I never could justify myself to the laws for leaving a man behind me in such a place."

"Then I'll run, and that will make all right. But, you know well enough, boy, that leaving a captain is one thing, and leaving a man another."

"And what shall I tell all your acquaintances, those who have sailed with you so often and so long, has become of their old ship-mate?"

"Tell 'em that the man who was once _found_, is now _lost_," answered Marble, bitterly. "But I am not such a fool as to think myself of so much importance as you seem to imagine. The only persons who will consider the transaction of any interest will be the newspaper gentry, and they will receive it only as _news_, and thank you about half as much as they would for a murder, or a robbery, or the poisoning of a mother and six little children."

"I think, after all, you would scarcely find the means of supporting yourself," I added, looking round in affected doubt; for I felt, at each instant, how likely my companion was to adhere to his notion, and this from knowing him so well. "I doubt if the cocoa is healthy, all the year round, and there must be seasons when the trees do not bear."

"Have no fear of that sort. I have my own fowling-piece, and you will leave me a musket, or two, with some ammunition. Transient vessels, now the island is known, will keep up the supply. There are two hens setting, at this moment, and a third has actually hatched. Then one of the men tells me there is a litter of pigs, near the mouth of the bay. As for the hogs and the poultry, the shell-fish and berries will keep them; but there are fifteen hogsheads of sugar on the beach, besides thirty or forty more in the wreck, and all above water. There are casks of beans and peas, the sea-stores of the French, besides lots of other things. I can plant, and fish, and shoot, and make a fence from the ropes of the wreck, and have a large garden, and all that a man can want. Our own poultry, you know, has long been out; but there is still a bushel of Indian-corn left, that was intended for their feed. One quart of that, will make me a rich man, in such a climate as this, and with soil like that on the flat between the two groves. I own a chest of tools, and am, ship-fashion, both a tolerable carpenter and blacksmith; and I do not see that I shall want for anything. You _must leave half the things that are scattered about, and so far from being a man to be pitied, I shall be a man to be envied. Thousands of wretches in the greatest thoroughfares of London, would gladly exchange their crowded streets and poverty, for my solitude and abundance."

I began to think Marble was not in a state of mind to reason with, and changed the subject. The day passed in recreation, as had been intended; and next morning we set about filling up the schooner. We struck in all the copper, all the English goods, and such portions of the Frenchman's cargo as would be most valuable in America. Marble, however, had announced to others his determination to remain behind, to abandon the seas, and to turn hermit. As his first step, he gave up the command of the Pretty Poll, and I was obliged to restore her, again, to our old third-mate, who was every way competent to take care of her. At the end of the week, the schooner was ready, and despairing of getting Marble off in _her_, I ordered her to sail for home, via Cape Horn; giving especial instructions not to attempt Magellan. I wrote to the owners, furnishing an outline of all that had occurred, and of my future plans, simply remarking that Mr. Marble had declined acting out of motives of delicacy, since the re-capture of the ship; and that, in future, their interests must remain in my care. With these despatches the schooner sailed. Marble and I watched her until her sails became a white speck on the ocean, after which she suddenly disappeared.

As for the ship, she was all ready; and my only concern now was in relation to Marble. I tried the influence of Major Merton; but, unfortunately, that gentleman had already said too much in favour of our friend's scheme, in ignorance of its effect, to gain much credit when he turned round, and espoused the other side. The arguments of Emily failed, also. In fact, it was not reason, but feeling that governed Marble; and, in a bitter hour, he had determined to pass the remainder of his days where he was. Finding all persuasion useless, and the season approaching when the winds rendered it necessary to sail, I was compelled to yield, or resort to force. The last I was reluctant to think of; nor was I certain the men would have obeyed me had I ordered them to use it. Marble had been their commander so long, that he might, at any moment, have re-assumed the charge of the ship; and it was not probable his orders would have been braved under any circumstances that did not involve illegality, or guilt. After a consultation with the Major, I found it necessary to yield to this whim, though I did so with greater reluctance than I ever experienced on any other occasion.

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Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 20 Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 20

Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 20
CHAPTER XX"Pass on relentless world! I grieve No more for all that thou hast riven! Pass on, in God's name--only leave The things thou never yet hast given.--" LUNT.After every means had been uselessly exhausted to persuade Marble from his design, it only remained to do all we could to make him comfortable and secure. Of enemies, there was no danger, and care was not necessary for defence. We got together, however, some of the timber, planks and other materials, that were remaining at the shipyard, and built him a cabin, that

Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 18 Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 18

Afloat And Ashore: A Sea Tale - Chapter 18
CHAPTER XVIII_1st Witch_. "Hail!" _2d Witch_. "Hail!" _3d Witch_. "Hail!" _1st Witch_. "Lesser than Macbeth, and greater." _2d Witch_. "Not so happy, yet much happier." MACBETH.I hope I shall be believed in saying, if Marble had been with us when we retook the ship, I should have been perfectly happy. He was not, however, and regret was left to mingle in our triumph. I had a hasty interview with Major Merton that night, and communicated all that was necessary to quiet the apprehensions of his daughter. Emily was in her state-room, and had