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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesHomeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 29
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Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 29 Post by :jaydarby Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :2229

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Homeward Bound; Or, The Chase: A Tale Of The Sea - Chapter 29

Chapter XXIX

Sir, 'tis my occupation to be plain.

LEAR.


The barbarians had done much less injury to the ship and her contents than under the circumstances could have been reasonably hoped. The fact that nothing could be effectually landed where she lay was probably the cause, the bales that had actually been got out of the ship, having been put upon the bank with a view to lighten her, more than for any other reason. The compact, too, between the chiefs had its influence probably, though it could not have lasted long with so strong temptations to violate it constantly before the eyes of men habitually rapacious.

Of course, one of the first things after each individual had ascertained his own losses, was to inquire into those of his neighbours, and the usual party in the ladies' cabin was seated around the sofa of Eve, about nine in the evening, conversing on this topic, after having held a short but serious discourse on their recent escape.

"You tell me, John, that Mr. Monday has a desire to sleep?" observed Mr. Effingham, in the manner in which one puts an interrogation.

"He is easier, and dozes. I have left my man with him, with orders to summon me the instant he awakes."

A melancholy pause succeeded, and then the discourse took the channel from which it had been diverted.

"Is the extent of our losses in effects known?" asked Mr. Sharp. "My man reports some trifling _deficit_, but nothing of any value."

"Your counterfeit," returned Eve, smiling, "has been the principal sufferer. One would think by his plaints, that not a toy is left in Christendom."

"So long as they have not stolen from him his good name, I shall not complain, as I may have some use for it when we reach America, of which now, God be praised! there are some flattering prospects."

"I understand from my connexions that the person who is known in the main cabin as Sir George Templemore, is not the person who is known as such in this," observed John Effingham, bowing to Mr. Sharp, who returned his salute as one acknowledges an informal introduction. "There are certainly weak men to be found in high stations all over the world, but you will probably think I am doing honour to my own sagacity, when I say, that I suspected from the first that he was not the true Amphitryon. I had heard of Sir George Templemore, and had been taught to expect more in him than even a man of fashion--a man of the world--while this poor substitute can scarcely claim to be either."

John Effingham so seldom complimented that his kind words usually told, and Mr. Sharp acknowledged the politeness, more gratified than he was probably willing to acknowledge to himself. The other could have heard of him only from Eve and her father, and it was doubly grateful to be spoken of favourably in such a quarter: he thought there was a consciousness in the slight suffusion that appeared on the face of the daughter, which led him to hope that even the latter had not considered him unworthy of recollection; for he cared but little for the remembrances of Mr. Effingham, if they could all be transferred to his child.

"This person, who does me the honour to relieve me from the trouble of bearing my own name," he resumed, "cannot be of very lofty pretensions, or he would have aspired higher. I suspect him of being merely one of those silly young countrymen of mine, of whom so many crowd stage-coaches and packets, to swagger over their less ambitious fellow-mortals with the strut and exactions of the hour."

"And yet, apart from his folly in 'sailing under false colours,' as our worthy captain would call it, the man seems well enough."

"A folly, cousin Jack," said Eve with laughing eyes though she maintained a perfect demureness with her beautiful features--"that he shares in common with so many others!"

"Very true, though I suspect he has climbed to commit it, while others have been content to descend. The man himself behaved well yesterday, showing steadiness as well as spirit in the fray."

"I forgive him his usurpation for his conduct on that occasion," returned Mr. Sharp, "and wish with all my heart the Arabs had discovered less affection for his curiosities. I should think that they must find themselves embarrassed to ascertain the uses of some of their prizes; such for instance, as the button-hooks, the shoe-horn, knives with twenty blades, and other objects that denote a profound civilization."

"You have not spoken of your luck, Mr. Powis," added Mr. Effingham; "I trust you have fared as well as most of us, though had they visited their enemies according to the injury received from them, you would be among the heaviest of the sufferers."

"My loss," replied Paul, mournfully, "is not much in pecuniary value, though irreparable to me."

A look of concern betrayed the general interest, for as he really seemed sad, there was a secret apprehension that his loss even exceeded that which his words would give them reason to suppose. Perceiving the curiosity that was awakened, and which was only suppressed by politeness, the young man added,

"I miss a miniature that, to me, is of inestimable value."

Eve's heart throbbed, while her eyes sunk to the carpet. The others seemed amazed, and after a brief pause, Mr. Sharp observed--

"A painting on its own account would hardly possess much value with such barbarians. Was the setting valuable?"

"It was of gold, of course, and had some merit in the way of workmanship. It has probably been taken as curious rather than for its specific value; though to me, as I have just said, the ship itself could scarcely be of more account--certainly not as much prized."

"Many light articles have been merely mislaid; taken away through curiosity or idleness, and left where the individual happened to be at the moment of changing his mind," said John Effingham: "several things of mine have been scattered through the cabins in this manner, and I understand that divers vestments of the ladies have found their way into the state-rooms of the other cabin; particularly a nightcap of Mademoiselle Viefville's, that has been discovered in Captain Truck's room, and which that gallant seaman has forthwith condemned as a lawful waif. As he never uses such a device on his head, he will be compelled to wear it next his heart. He will be compelled to convert it into a _liberty_-cap."

"_Ciel! if the excellent captain will carry us safe to New York," coolly returned the governess, "he shall have the prize, _de tout mon coeur; c'est un homme brave, et c'est aussi un brave homme, a sa facon_"

"Here are _two hearts concerned in the affair already, and no one can foresee the consequences; but," turning to Paul, "describe, this miniature, if you please, for there are many in the vessel, and yours is not the only one that has been mislaid."

"It was a miniature of a female, and one, too, I think, that would be remarked for her beauty."

Eve felt a chill at her heart.

"If, sir, it is the miniature of an elderly lady," said Ann Sidley, "perhaps it is this which I found in Miss Eve's room, and which I intended to give to Captain Truck in order that it might reach the hands of its right owner."

Paul took the miniature, which he regarded coldly for a moment, and then returned to the nurse.

"Mine is the miniature of a female under twenty," he said, colouring as he spoke; "and is every way different from this."

This was the painful and humiliating moment when Eve Effingham was made to feel the extent and the nature of the interest she took in Paul Powis. On all the previous occasions in which her feelings had been strongly awakened on his account, she had succeeded in deceiving herself as to the motive, but now the truth was felt in that overwhelming form that no sensitive heart can distrust.

No one had seen the miniature, though all observed the emotion with which Paul spoke of it, and all secretly wondered of whom it could be.

"The Arabs appear to have some such taste for the fine arts as distinguishes the population of a mushroom American city," said John Effingham; "or one that runs to portraits, which are admired while the novelty lasts, and then are consigned to the first spot that offers to receive them."

"Are _your miniatures all safe, Eve?" Mr. Effingham inquired with interest; for among them was one of her mother that he had yielded to her only through strong parental affection, but which it would have given him deep pain to discover was lost, though John Effingham, unknown to him, possessed a copy.

"It is with the jewellery in the baggage-room, dearest father, and untouched of course. We are fortunate that our passing wants did not extend beyond our comfort and luckily they are not of a nature to be much prized by barbarians. Coquetry and a ship have little in common, and Mademoiselle Viefville and myself had not much out to tempt the marauders."

As Eve uttered this, both the young men involuntarily turned their eyes towards her, each thinking that a being so fair stood less in need than common of the factitious aid of ornaments. She was dressed in a dark French chintz, that her maid had fitted to her person in a manner that it would seem none but a French assistant can accomplish, setting off her falling shoulders, finely moulded bust, and slender-rounded waist, in a way to present a modest outline of their perfection. The dress had that polished medium between fashion and its exaggeration, that always denotes a high association, and perhaps a cultivated mind--certainly a cultivated taste--offending neither usage on the one hand, nor self-respect and a chaste appreciation of beauty on the other. Indeed Eve was distinguished for that important acquisition to a gentlewoman, an intellectual or refined toilette; not intellect and refinement in extravagance and caricature, but as they are displayed in fitness, simplicity, elegance, and the proportions. This much, perhaps, she owed to native taste, as the slight air of fashion, and the high air of a gentlewoman, that were thrown about her person and attire, were the fruits of an intimate connexion with the best society of half the capitals of the European continent. As an unmarried female, modesty, the habits of the part of the world in which she had so long dwelt, and her own sense of propriety, caused her to respect simplicity of appearance; but through this, as it might be in spite of herself, shone qualities of a superior order. The little hand and foot, so beautiful and delicate, the latter just peeping from the dress under which it was usually concealed, appeared as if formed expressly to adorn a taste that was every way feminine and alluring.

"It is one of the mysteries of the grand designs of Providence, that men should exist in conditions so widely distant from each other," said John Effingham abruptly, "with a common nature that can be so much varied by circumstances. It is almost humiliating to find one's-self a man, vhen beings like these Arabs are to be classed as fellows."

"The most instructed and refined, cousin Jack, may get a useful lesson, notwithstanding your disrelish for the consanguinity, from this very identity of nature," said Eve, who made a rally to overcome feelings that she deemed girlish and weak. "By showing us what we might be ourselves, we get an admonition of humility; or by reflecting on the difference that is made by education, does it not strike you that there is an encouragement to persevere until better things are attained?"

"This globe is but a ball, and a ball, too, insignificant, even when compared with the powers of man," continued the other. "How many navigators now circle it! even you, sir, may have done this, young as you still are," turning to Paul, who made a bow of assent; "and yet, within these narrow limits, what wonderful varieties of physical appearance, civilization, laws, and even of colour, do we find, all mixed up with points of startling affinity."

"So far as a limited experience has enabled me to judge," observed Paul, "I have every where found, not only the same nature, but a common innate sentiment of justice that seems universal; for even amidst the wildest scenes of violence, or of the most ungovernable outrages, this sentiment glimmers through the more brutal features of the being. The rights of property, for instance, are every where acknowledged; the very wretch who steals whenever he can, appearing conscious of his crime, by doing it clandestinely, and as a deed that shuns observation. All seem to have the same general notions of natural justice, and they are forgotten only through the policy of systems, irresistible temptation, the pressure of want, or the result of contention."

"Yet, as a rule, man every where oppresses his weaker fellow."

"True; but he betrays consciousness of his error, directly or indirectly. One can show his sense of the magnitude of his crime even by the manner of defending it. As respects our late enemies, I cannot say I felt any emotion of animosity while the hottest engaged against them, for their usages have rendered their proceedings lawful."

"They tell me," interrupted Mr. Effingham, "that it is owing to your presence of mind and steadiness that more blood was not shed unnecessarily."

"It may be questioned," continued Paul, noticing this compliment merely by an inclination of the head, "if civilized people have not reasoned themselves, under the influence of interest, into the commission of deeds quite as much opposed to natural justice as anything done by these barbarians. Perhaps no nation is perfectly free from the just imputation of having adopted some policy quite as unjustifiable in itself as the system of plunder maintained among the Arabs."

"Do you count the rights of hospitality as nothing?"

"Look at France, a nation distinguished for refinement, among its rulers, at least. It was but the other day that the effects of the stranger who died in her territory were appropriated to the use of a monarch wallowing in luxury. Compare this law with the treaties that invited strangers to repair to the country, and the wants of the monarch who exhibited the rapacity, to the situation of the barbarians from whom we have escaped, and the magnitude of the temptation we offered, and it does not appear that the advantage is much with Christians. But the fate of shipwrecked mariners all over the world is notorious. In countries the most advanced in civilization they are plundered, if there is an opportunity, and, at need, frequently murdered."

"This is a frightful picture of humanity," said Eve shuddering. "I do not think that this charge can be justly brought against America."

"That is far from certain. America has many advantages to weaken the temptation to crime, but she is very far from perfect. The people on some of her coasts have been accused of resorting to the old English practice of showing false lights, with a view to mislead vessels, and of committing cruel depredations on the wrecked. In all things I believe there is a disposition in man to make misfortune weigh heaviest on the unfortunate. Even the coffin in which we inter a friend costs more than any other piece of work of the same amount of labour and materials."

"This is a gloomy picture of humanity, to be drawn by one so young," Mr. Effingham mildly rejoined.

"I think it true. All men do not exhibit their selfishness and ferocity in the same way; but there are few who do not exhibit both. As for America, Miss Effingham, she is fast getting vices peculiar to herself and her system, and, I think, vices which bid fair to bring her down, ere long, to the common level, although I do not go quite so far in describing her demerits as some of the countrymen of Mademoiselle Viefville have gone."

"And what may that have been?" asked the governess eagerly, in English.

"_Pourrie avant d'etre mure. Mure_, America is certainly far from being; but I am not disposed to accuse her yet of being quite_pourrie._"

"We had flattered ourselves," said Eve, a little reproachfully, "with having at last found a countryman in Mr. Powis."

"And how would that change the question? Or do you admit that an American can be no American, unless blind to the faults of the country, however great?"

"Would it be generous for a child to turn upon a parent that all others assail?"

"You put the case ingeniously, but scarcely with fairness. It is the duty of the parent to educate and correct the child, but it is the duty of the citizen to reform and improve the character of his country. How can the latter be done, if nothing but eulogies are dealt in? With foreigners, one should not deal too freely with the faults of his country, though even with the liberal among them one would wish to be liberal, for foreigners cannot repair the evil; but with one's countrymen I see little use and much danger, in observing a silence as to faults. The American, of all others, it appears to me, should be the boldest in denouncing the common and national vices, since he is one of those who, by the institutions themselves, has the power to apply the remedy."

"But America is an exception, I think, or perhaps it would be better to say I _feel_, since all other people deride at, mock her, and dislike her. You will admit this yourself, Sir George Templemore?"

"By no means: in England, now, I consider America to be particularly well esteemed."

Eve held up her pretty hands, and even Mademoiselle Viefville, usually so well-toned and self-restrained, gave a visible shrug.

"Sir George means in his country," dryly observed John Effingham.

"Perhaps the parties would better understand each other," said Paul, coolly, "were Sir George Templemore to descend to particulars. He belongs himself to the liberal school, and may be considered a safe witness."

"I shall be compelled to protest against a cross-examination on such a subject," returned the baronet, laughing. "You will be satisfied, I am certain, with my simple declaration. Perhaps we still regard the Americans as _tant soit peu rebels; but that is a feeling that will soon cease."

"That is precisely the point on which I think liberal Englishman usually do great justice to America, while it is on other points that they betray a national dislike."

"England believes America hostile to herself; and if love creates love, dislike creates dislike."

"This is at least something like admitting the truth of the charge, Miss Effingham," said John Effingham, smiling, "and we may dismiss the accused. It is odd enough that England should consider America as rebellious, as is the case with many Englishmen, I acknowledge, while, in truth, England herself was the rebel, and this, too, in connexion with the very questions that produced the American revolution."

"This is quite new," said Sir George, "and I confess some curiosity to see how it can be made out."

John Effingham did not hesitate about stating his case.

"In the first place you are to forget professions and names," he said, "and to look only at facts and things. When America was settled, a compact was made, either in the way of charters or of organic laws, by which all the colonies had distinct rights, while, on the other hand, they confessed allegiance to the king. But in that age the English monarch _was a king. He used his veto on the laws, for instance, and otherwise exercised his prerogatives. Of the two, he influenced parliament more than parliament influenced him. In such a state of things, countries separated by an ocean might be supposed to be governed equitably, the common monarch feeling a common parental regard for all his subjects. Perhaps distance might render him even more tender of the interest of those who were not present to protect themselves."

"This is putting the case loyally, at least," said Sir George, as the other paused for a moment.

"It is precisely in that light that I wish to present it. The degree of power that parliament possessed over the colonies was a disputed point; but I am willing to allow that parliament had all power."

"In doing which, I fear, you will concede all the merits," said Mr. Effingham.

"I think not. Parliament then ruled the colonies absolutely and legally, if you please, under the Stuarts; but the English rebelled against these Stuarts, dethroned them, and gave the crown to an entirely new family--one with only a remote alliance with the reigning branch. Not satisfied with this, the king was curtailed in his authority; the prince, who might with justice be supposed to feel a common interest in all his subjects, became a mere machine in the hands of a body who represented little more than themselves, in fact, or a mere fragment of the empire, even in theory; transferring the control of the colonial interest from the sovereign himself to a portion of his people, and that, too, a small portion. This was no longer a government of a prince who felt a parental concern for all his subjects, but a government of a _clique of his subjects, who felt a selfish concern only for their own interests."

"And did the Americans urge this reason for the revolt?" asked Sir George. "It sounds new to me."

"They quarreled with the results, rather than with the cause. When they found that legislation was to be chiefly in the interests of England, they took the alarm, and seized their arms, without stopping to analyse causes. They probably were mystified too much with names and professions to see the real truth, though they got some noble glimpses of it."

"I have never before heard this case put so strongly," cried Paul Powis, "and yet I think it contains the whole merit of the controversy as a principle."

"It is extraordinary how nationality blinds us," observed Sir George, laughing. "I confess, Powis,"--the late events had produced a close intimacy and a sincere regard between these two fine young men,--"that I stand in need of an explanation."

"You can conceive of a monarch," continued John Effingham, "who possesses an extensive and efficient power?"

"Beyond doubt; nothing can be plainer than that."

"Fancy this monarch to fall into the hands of a fragment of his subjects, who reduce his authority to a mere profession, and begin to wield it for their own especial benefit, no longer leaving, him a free agent, though always using the authority in his name."

"Even that is easily imagined."

"History is full of such instances. A part of the subjects, unwilling to be the dupes of such a fraud, revolt against the monarch in name, against the cabal in fact. Now who are the real rebels? Profession is nothing. Hyder Ally never seated himself in the presence of the prince he had deposed, though he held him captive during life."

"But did not America acquiesce in the dethronement of the Stuarts?" asked Eve, in whom the love of the right was stronger even than the love of country.

"Beyond a doubt, though America neither foresaw nor acquiesced in all the results. The English themselves, probably, did not' foresee the consequences of their own revolution; for we now find England almost in arms against the consequences of the very subversion of the kingly power of which I have spoken. In England it placed a portion of the higher classes in possession of authority, at the expense of all the rest of the nation; whereas, as respects America, it set a remote people to rule over her, instead of a prince, who had the same connexion with his colonies as with all the rest of his subjects. The late English reform is a peaceable revolution; and America would very gladly have done the same thing, could she have extricated herself from the consequences, by mere acts of congress. The whole difference is, that America, pressed upon by peculiar circumstances, preceded England in the revolt about sixty years, and that this revolt was against an usurper, and not against the legitimate monarch, or against the sovereign himself."

"I confess all this is novel to me," exclaimed Sir George.

"I have told you, Sir George Templemore, that, if you stay long enough in America, many novel ideas will suggest themselves. You have too much sense to travel through the country seeking for petty exceptions that may sustain your aristocratical prejudices, or opinions, if you like that better; but will be disposed to judge a nation, not according to preconceived notions, but according to visible facts."

"They tell me there is a strong bias to aristocracy in America; at least such is the report of most European travellers."

"The report of men who do not reflect closely on the meaning of words. That there are real aristocrats in opinion in America is very true; there are also a few monarchists, or those who fancy themselves monarchists."

"Can a man be deceived on such a point?"

"Nothing is more easy. He who would set up a king merely in name, for instance, is not a monarchist, but a visionary, who confounds names with things."

"I see you will not admit of a balance in the state."

"I shall contend that there must be a preponderating authority in every government, from which it derives its character; and if this be not the king, that government is not a real monarchy, let the laws be administered in whose name they may. Calling an idol Jupiter does not convert it into a god. I question if there be a real monarchist left in the English empire at this very moment. They who make the loudest professions that way strike me as being the rankest aristocrats, and a real political aristocrat is, and always has been, the most efficient enemy of kings."

"But we consider loyalty to the prince as attachment to the system."

"That is another matter; for in that you may be right enough, though it is ambiguous as to terms."

"Sir--gentlemen--Mr. John Effingham, sir," interrupted Saunders, "Mr. Monday is awake, and so werry conwalescent--I fear he will not live long. The ship herself is not so much conwerted by these new spars as poor Mr. Monday is conwerted since he went to sleep."

"I feared this," observed John Effingham, rising. "Acquaint Captain Truck with the fact, steward: he desired to be sent for at any crisis."

He then quitted the cabin, leaving the rest of the party wondering that they could have been already so lost to the situation of one of their late companions, however different from themselves he might be in opinions and character. But in this they merely showed their common connexion with all the rest of the great family of man, who uniformly forget sorrows that do not press too hard on self, in the reaction of their feelings.

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