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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 17
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The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 17 Post by :imported_n/a Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :2729

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The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 17

Chapter XVII

"--like Arion on the dolphin's back,
I saw him hold acquaintance with the waves,
So long as I could see."

Tempest.


There was one curious though half-confounded observer of all that passed in and around the Cove, on the morning in question. This personage was no other than the slave called Bonnie, who was the factotum of his master, over the demesnes of the Lust in Rust, during the time when the presence of the Alderman was required in the city; which was, in truth, at least four-fifths of the year. Responsibility and confidence had produced their effect on this negro, as on more cultivated minds. He had been used to act in situations of care; and practice had produced a habit of vigilance and observation, that was not common in men of his unfortunate condition. There is no moral truth more certain, than that men, when once accustomed to this species of domination, as readily submit their minds, as their bodies, to the control of others. Thus it is, that we see entire nations maintaining so many erroneous maxims, merely because it has suited the interests of those who do the thinking, to give forth these fallacies to their followers. Fortunately, however, for the improvement of the race and the advancement of truth, it is only necessary to give a man an opportunity to exercise his natural faculties, in order to make him a reflecting, and, in some degree, an independent being. Such, though to a very limited extent, certainly, had been the consequence, in the instance of the slave just mentioned.

How far Bonnie had been concerned in the proceedings between his master and the mariners of the brigantine, it is unnecessary to say. Little passed at the villa, of which he was ignorant; and as curiosity, once awakened, increases its own desire for indulgence, could he have had his wish, little would have passed anywhere, near him, without his knowing something of its nature and import. He had seen, while seemingly employed with his hoe in the garden of the Alderman, the trio conveyed by Erasmus across the inlet; had watched the manner in which they followed its margin to the shade of the oak, and had seen them enter the brigantine, as related. That this extraordinary visit on board a vessel which was in common shrouded by so much mystery, had given rise to much and unusual reflection in the mind of the black, was apparent by the manner in which he so often paused in his labor, and stood leaning on the handle of his hoe, like one who mused. He had never known his master so far overstep his usual caution, as to quit the dwelling, during the occasional visits of the free-trader; and yet he had now gone as it were into the very jaws of the lion, accompanied by the commander of a royal cruiser himself. No wonder, then, that the vigilance of the negro became still more active, and that not even the slightest circumstance was suffered to escape his admiring eye. During the whole time consumed by the visit related in the preceding chapter, not a minute had been suffered to pass, without an inquiring look in the direction, either of the brigantine, or of the adjacent shore.

It is scarcely necessary to say how keen the attention of the slave became, when his master and his companions were seen to return to the land. They immediately ascended to the foot of the oak, and then there was a long and apparently a serious conference between them. During this consultation, the negro dropped the end of his hoe, and never suffered his gaze, for an instant, to alter its direction. Indeed he scarcely drew breath, until the whole party quitted the spot together, and buried themselves in the thicket that covered the cape, taking the direction of its outer or northern extremity, instead of retiring by the shore of the Cove, towards the inlet. Then Bonnie respired heavily, and began to look about him at the other objects that properly belonged to the interest of the scene.

The brigantine had run up her boat, and she now lay, as when first seen, a motionless, beautiful, and exquisitely graceful fabric, without the smallest sign about her of an intention to move, or indeed without exhibiting any other proof, except in her admirable order and symmetry, that any of human powers dwelt within her hull. The royal cruiser, though larger and of far less aerial mould and fashion, presented the same picture of repose. The distance between the two was about a league; and Bonnie was sufficiently familiar with the formation of the land and of the position of the vessels, to be quite aware that this inactivity on the part of those whose duty it was to protect the rights of the Queen, proceeded from their utter ignorance of the proximity of their neighbor. The thicket which bounded the Cove and the growth of oaks and pines that stretched along the narrow sandy spit of land quite to its extremity, sufficiently accounted for the fact. The negro, therefore, after gazing for several minutes at the two immovable vessels, turned his eye askance on the earth, shook his head, and then burst into a laugh, which was so noisy that it caused his sable partner to thrust her vacant and circular countenance through an open window of the scullery of the villa, to demand the reason of a merriment that to her faithful feelings appeared to be a little unsocial.

"Hey! you alway' keep 'e queer t'ing to heself, Bonnie, but!" cried the vixen. "I'm werry glad to see old bones like a hoe; an' I wonner dere ar' time to laugh, wid 'e garden full of weed!"

"Grach!" exclaimed the negro, stretching out an arm in a forensic attitude; "what a black woman know of politic! If a hab time to talk, better cook a dinner. Tell one t'ing, Phyllis, and that be dis; vy 'e ship of Captain Ludlow no lif' 'e anchor, an' come take dis rogue in 'e Cove? can a tell dat much, or no?--If no, let a man, who understan' heself, laugh much as he like. A little fun no harm Queen Anne, nor kill 'e Gubbenor!"

"All work and no sleep make old bone ache, Bonnie, but!" returned the consort. "Ten o'clock--twelve o'clock--t'ree o'clock, and no bed; vell I see 'e sun afore a black fool put 'e head on a pillow! An' now a hoe go all 'e same as if he sleep a ten hour. Masser Myn'ert got a heart, and he no wish to kill he people wid work, or old Phyllis war' dead, fifty year, next winter."

"I t'ink a wench's tongue nebber satisfy! What for tell a whole world, when Bonnie go to bed? He sleep for heself, and he no sleep for 'e neighborhood! Dere! A man can't t'ink of ebery t'ing, in a minute. Here a ribbon long enough to hang heself--take him, and den remem'er, Phyllis, dat you be 'e wife of a man who hab care on he shoul'er."

Bonnie then set up another laugh, in which his partner, having quitted her scullery to seize the gift, which in its colors resembled the skin of a garter-snake, did not fail to join, through mere excess of animal delight. The effect of the gift, however, was to leave the negro to make his observations, without any further interruption from one who was a little too apt to disturb his solitude.

A boat was now seen to pull out from among the bushes that lined the shore; and Bonnie was enabled to distinguish, in its stern-sheets, the persons of his master, Ludlow, and the Patroon. He had been acquainted with the seizure of the Coquette's barge, the preceding night, and of the confinement of the crew. Its appearance in that place, therefore, occasioned no new surprise. But the time which past while the men were rowing up to the sloop-of-war, was filled with minutes of increasing interest. The black abandoned his hoe, and took a position on the side of the mountain, that gave him a view of the whole bay. So long as the mysteries of the Lust in Rust had been confined to the ordinary combinations of a secret trade, he had been fully able to comprehend them; but now that there apparently existed an alliance so unnatural as one between his master and the cruiser of the crown, he felt the necessity of double observation and of greater thought.

A far more enlightened mind than that of the slave, might have been excited by the expectation, and the objects which now presented themselves, especially if sufficiently prepared for events, by a knowledge of the two vessels in sight. Though the wind still hung at east, the cloud above the mouth of the Raritan had at length begun to rise. The broad fleeces of white vapor, that had lain the whole morning over the continent, were rapidly uniting; and they formed already a dark and dense mass, that floated in the bottom of the estuary, threatening shortly to roll over the whole of its wide waters. The air was getting lighter, and variable; and while the wash of the surf sounded still more audible, its roll upon the beach was less regular than in the earlier hours of the day. Such was the state of the two elements, when the boat touched the side of the ship. In a minute it was hanging by its tackles, high in the air; and then it disappeared, in the bosom of the dark mass.

It far exceeded the intelligence of Bonnie to detect, now, any further signs of preparation, in either of the two vessels, which absorbed the whole of his attention. They appeared to him to be alike without motion, and equally without people. There were, it is true, a few specks in the rigging of the Coquette, which might be men; but the distance prevented him from being sure of the fact; and, admitting them to be seamen busied aloft, there were no visible consequences of their presence, that his uninstructed eye could trace. In a minute or two, even these scattered specks were seen no longer; though the attentive black thought that the mast-heads and the rigging beneath the tops thickened, as if surrounded by more than their usual mazes of ropes. At that moment of suspense, the cloud over the Raritan emitted a flash, and the sound of distant thunder rolled along the water. This seemed to be a signal for the cruiser; for when the eye of Bonnie, which had been directed to the heavens, returned towards the ship, he saw that she had opened and hoisted her three top-sails, seemingly with as little exertion as an eagle would have spread his wings. The ship now became uneasy; for the wind came in puffs, and the vessel rolled lightly, as if struggling to extricate itself from the hold of its anchor; and then, precisely at the moment when the shift of wind was felt, an the breeze came from the cloud in the west, the cruiser whirled away from its constrained position and appearing, for a short space, restless as a steed that had broken from its fastenings, it came up neatly to the wind, and lay balanced by the action of its sails. There was another minute, or two, of seeming inactivity, after which the broad surfaces of the top-sails were brought in parallel lines. One white sheet was spread after another, upon the fabric; and Bonnie saw that the Coquette, the swiftest cruiser of the crown in those seas, was dashing out from the land, under a cloud of canvas.

All this time, the brigantine, in the Cove, lay quietly at her anchor. When the wind shifted, the light hull swang with its currents, and the image of the sea-green lady was seen offering her dark cheek to be fanned by the breeze. But she alone seemed to watch over the fortunes of her followers; for no other eye could be seen, looking out on the danger that began so seriously to threaten them, both from the heavens, and from a more certain and intelligible, foe.

As the wind was fresh, though unsteady, the Coquette moved through the water with a velocity that did no discredit to her reputation for speed. At first, it seemed to be the intention of the royal cruiser to round the cape, and gain an offing in the open sea; for her head was directed northwardly; but no sooner had she cleared the curve of the little bight which from its shape is known by the name of the Horse-Shoe, than she was seen shooting directly into the eye of the wind, and falling off with the graceful and easy motion of a ship in stays, her head looking towards the Lust in Rust. Her design on the notorious dealer in contraband was now too evident to admit of doubt.

Still, the Water-Witch betrayed no symptoms of alarm. The meaning eye of the image seemed to study the motions of her adversary, with all the understanding of an intelligent being; and occasionally the brigantine turned slightly in the varying currents of the air, as if volition directed the movements of the little fabric. These changes resembled the quick and slight movements of the hound, as he lifts his head in his lair, to listen to some distant sound, or to scent some passing taint in the gale.

In the mean time, the approach of the ship was so swift as to cause the negro to shake his head, with a meaning that exceeded even his usually important look. Every thing was propitious to her progress; and, as the water of the Cove, during the periods that the inlet remained open, was known to be of a sufficient depth to admit of her entrance, the faithful Bonnie began to anticipate a severe blow to the future fortunes of his master. The only hope, that one could perceive, for the escape of the smuggler, was in the changes of the heavens.

Although the threatening cloud had now quitted the mouth of the Raritan, and was rolling eastward with fearful velocity, it had not yet broken. The air had the unnatural and heated appearance which precedes a gust; but, with the exception of a few large drops, that fell seemingly from a clear sky, it was as yet what is called a dry squall. The water of the bay was occasionally dark, angry, and green; and there were moments when it would appear as if heavy currents of air descended to its surface, wantonly to try their power on the sister element. Notwithstanding these sinister omens, the Coquette stood on her course, without lessening the wide surfaces of her canvas, by a single inch. They who governed her movements were no men of the lazy Levant, nor of the mild waters of the Mediterranean, to tear their hair, and call on saints to stand between their helplessness and harm; but mariners trained in a boisterous sea, and accustomed to place their first dependence on their own good manhood, aided by the vigilance and skill of a long and severely-exercised experience. A hundred eyes on board that cruiser watched the advance of the rolling cloud, or looked upon the play of light and shade, that caused the color of the water to vary; but it was steadily, and with an entire dependence on the discretion of the young officer who controlled the movements of the ship.

Ludlow himself paced the deck, with all his usual composure, so far as might be seen by external signs; though, in reality, his mind was agitated by feelings that were foreign to the duties of his station. He too had thrown occasional glances at the approaching squall, but his eye was far oftener riveted on the motionless brigantine, which was now distinctly to be seen from the deck of the Coquette, still riding at her anchor. The cry of 'a stranger in the cove!' which, a few moments before, came out of one of the tops, caused no surprise in the commander; while the crew, wondering but obedient, began, for the first time, to perceive the object of their strange manoeuvres. Even the officer, next in authority to the captain, had not presumed to make any inquiry, though, now that the object of their search was so evidently in view, he felt emboldened to presume on his rank, and to venture a remark.

"It is a sweet craft!" said the staid lieutenant, yielding to an admiration natural to his habits, "and one that might serve as a yacht for the Queen! This is some trifler with the revenue, or perhaps a buccaneer from the islands. The fellow shows no ensign!"

"Give him notice, Sir, that he has to do with one who bears the royal commission," returned Ludlow, speaking from habit, and half-unconscious of what he said. "We must teach these rovers to respect a pennant."

The report of the cannon startled the absent man and caused him to remember the order.

"Was that gun shotted?" he asked, in a tone that sounded like rebuke.

"Shotted, but pointed wide, Sir; merely a broad hint. We are no dealers in dumb show, in the Coquette, Captain Ludlow."

"I would not injure the vessel, even should it prove a buccaneer. Be careful, that nothing strikes her, without an order."

"Ay, 'twill be well to take the beauty alive, Sir; so pretty a boat should not be broken up, like an old hulk. Ha! there goes his bunting, at last! He shows a white field--can the fellow be a Frenchman, after all?"

The lieutenant took a glass, and for a moment applied it to his eye, with the usual steadiness. Then he suffered the instrument to fall, and it would seem that he endeavored to recall the different flags that he had seen during the experience of many years.

"This joker should come from some terra incognita;" he said. "Here is a woman in his field, with an ugly countenance, too, unless the glass play me false--as I live, the rogue has her counterpart for a figure-head!--Will you look at the ladies, Sir?"

Ludlow took the glass, and it was not without curiosity that he turned it toward the colors the hardy smuggler dared to exhibit, in presence of a cruiser. The vessels were, by this time, sufficiently near each other, to enable him to distinguish the swarthy features and malign smile of the sea-green lady, whose form was wrought in the field of the ensign, with the same art as that which he had seen so often displayed in other parts of the brigantine. Amazed at the daring of the free-trader, he returned the glass, and continued to pace the deck, in silence. There stood near the two speakers an officer whose head and form began to show the influence of time, and who, from his position, had unavoidably been an auditor of what passed. Though the eye of this person, who was the sailing-master of the sloop, was rarely off the threatening cloud, except to glance along the wide show of canvas that was spread, he found a moment to take a look at the stranger.

"A half-rigged brig, with her fore-top-gallant-mast fidded abaft, a double martingale, and a standing gaft;" observed the methodical and technical mariner, as another would have recounted the peculiarities of complexion, or of feature, in some individual who was the subject of a personal description. "The rogue has no need of showing his brazen-faced trull to be known! I chased him, for six-and-thirty hours, in the chops of St. George's, no later than the last season; and the fellow ran about us, like a dolphin playing under a ship's fore-foot. We had him, now on our weather bow, and now crossing our course, and, once in a while, in our wake, as if he had been a Mother Carey's chicken looking for our crumbs. He seems snug enough in that cove, to be sure, and yet I'll wager the pay of any month in the twelve, that he gives us the slip. Captain Ludlow, the brigantine under our lee, here, in Spermaceti, is the well-known Skimmer of the Seas!"

"The Skimmer of the Seas!" echoed twenty voices, in a manner to show the interest created by the unexpected information.

"I'll swear to his character before any Admiralty Judge in England, or even in France, should there be occasion to go into an outlandish court--but no need of an oath, when here is a written account I took, with my own hands, having the chase in plain view, at noon-day." While speaking, the sailing-master drew a tobacco-box from his pocket, and removing a coil of pig-tail, he came to a deposit of memorandums, that vied with the weed itself in colors. "Now, gentlemen," he continued, "you shall have her build, as justly as if the master-carpenter had laid it down with his rule. 'Remember to bring a muff of marten's fur from America, for Mrs. Trysail--buy it in London, and swear'--this is not the paper--I let your boy, Mr. Luff, stow away the last entry of tobacco for me, and the young dog has disturbed every document I own. This is the way the government accounts get jammed, when Parliament wants to overhaul them. But I suppose young blood will have its run! I let a monkey into a church of a Saturday night myself, when a youngster, and he made such stowage of the prayer-books, that the whole parish was by the ears for six months; and there is one quarrel between two old ladies, that has not been made up to this hour.--Ah! here we have it:--'Skimmer of the Seas.--Full-rigged forward, with fore-and-aft mainsail, abaft; a gaff-top-sail; taut in his spars, with light top-hamper; neat in his gear, as any beauty--Carries a ring-tail in light weather; main-boom like a frigate's top-sail-yard, with a main-top-mast-stay-sail as big as a jib. Low in the water, with a woman figure-head; carries sail more like a devil than a human being, and lies within five points, when jammed up hard on a wind.' Here are marks by which one of Queen Anne's maids of honor might know the rogue; and there you see them all, as plainly as human nature can show them in a ship!"

"The Skimmer of the Seas!" repeated the young officers, who had crowded round the veteran tar, to hear this characteristic description of the notorious free-trader.

"Skimmer or flyer, we have him now, dead under our lee, with a sandy beach on three of his sides, and the wind in his eye!" cried the first-lieutenant.

"You shall have an opportunity, Master Trysail, of correcting your account, by actual measurement."

The sailing-master shook his head, like one who doubted, and again turned his eye on the approaching cloud.

The Coquette, by this time, had run so far as to have the entrance of the Cove open; and she was separated from her object, only by a distance of a few cables'-length. In obedience to an order given by Ludlow, all the light canvas of the ship was taken in, and the vessel was left under her three top-sails and gib. There remained, however, a question as to the channel; for it was not usual for ships of the Coquette's draught, to be seen in that quarter of the bay, and the threatening state of the weather rendered caution doubly necessary. The pilot shrunk from a responsibility which did not properly belong to his office, since the ordinary navigation had no concern with that secluded place; and even Ludlow, stimulated as he was by so many powerful motives, hesitated to incur a risk which greatly exceeded his duty. There was something so remarkable in the apparent security of the smuggler, that it naturally led to the belief he was certain of being protected by some known obstacle, and it was decided to sound before the ship was hazarded. An offer to carry the free-trader with the boats, though plausible in itself, and perhaps the wisest course of all, was rejected by the commander, on an evasive plea of its being of uncertain issue, though, in truth, because he felt an interest in one whom he believed the brigantine to contain, which entirely forbade the idea of making the vessel the scene of so violent a struggle. A yawl was therefore lowered into the water, the main-top-sail of the ship was thrown to the mast; and Ludlow himself, accompanied by the pilot and the master, proceeded to ascertain the best approach to the smuggler. A flash of lightning, with one of those thunder-claps that are wont to be more terrific on this continent than in the other hemisphere, warned the young mariner of the necessity of haste, if he would regain his ship, before the cloud, which still threatened them, should reach the spot where she lay. The boat pulled briskly into the Cove, both the master and the pilot sounding on each side, as fast as the leads could be cast from their hands and recovered.

"This will do;" said Ludlow, when they had ascertained that they could enter. "I would lay the ship as close as possible to the brigantine, for I distrust her quiet. We will go nearer."

"A brazen witch, and one whose saucy eye and pert figure might lead any honest mariner into contraband, or even into a sea-robbery!" half-whispered Trysail, perhaps afraid to trust his voice within hearing of a creature that seemed almost endowed with the faculties of life. "Ay, this is the hussy! I know her by the book, and her green jacket! But where are her people? The vessel is as quiet as the royal vault on a coronation-day, when the last king, and those who went before him, commonly have the place to themselves. Here would be a pretty occasion to throw a boat's-crew on her decks, and haul down yon impudent ensign, which bears the likeness of this wicked lady, so bravely in the air, if------"

"If what?" asked Ludlow, struck with the plausible character of the proposal.

"Why, if one were sure of the nature of such a minx, Sir; for to own the truth, I would rather deal with a regularly-built Frenchman, who showed his guns honestly, and kept such a jabbering aboard that one might tell his bearings in the dark.--The creature spoke!"

Ludlow did not reply, for a heavy crash of thunder succeeded the vivid glow of a flash of lightning, and glared so suddenly across the swarthy lineaments as to draw the involuntary exclamation from Trysail. The intimation that came from the cloud, was not to be disregarded. The wind, which had so long varied, began to be heard in the rigging of the silent brigantine; and the two elements exhibited unequivocal evidence, in their menacing and fitful colors of the near approach of the gust. The young sailor, with an absorbing interest, turned his eyes on his ship. The yards were on the caps, the bellying canvas was fluttering far to leeward, and twenty or thirty human forms on each spar, showed that the nimble-fingered top-men were gathering in and knotting the sails down to a close reef.

"Give way, men, for your lives!" cried the excited Ludlow.

A single dash of the oars was heard, and the yawl was already twenty feet from the mysterious image. Then followed a desperate struggle to regain the cruiser, ere the gust should strike her. The sullen murmur of the wind, rushing through the rigging of the ship, was audible some time before they reached her side; and the struggles between the fabric and the elements, were at moments so evident, as to cause the young commander to fear he would be too late.

The foot of Ludlow touched the deck of the Coquette, at the instant the weight of the squall fell upon her sails. He no longer thought of any interest but that of the moment; for, with all the feelings of a seaman, his mind was now full of his ship.

"Let run every thing!" shouted the ready officer, in a voice that made itself heard above the roar of the wind. "Clue down, and hand! Away aloft, you top-men!--lay out!--furl away!"

These orders were given in rapid succession, and witout a trumpet, for the young man could, at need, speak loud as the tempest. They were succeeded by one of those exciting and fearful minutes that are so familiar to mariners. Each man was intent on his duty, while the elements worked their will around him, as madly as if the hand by which they are ordinarily restrained was for ever removed. The bay was a sheet of foam, while the rushing of the gust resembled the dull rumbling of a thousand chariots. The ship yielded to the pressure, until the water was seen gushing through her lee-scuppers, and her tall line of masts inclined towards the plane of the bay, as if the ends of the yards were about to dip into the water. But this was no more than the first submission to the shock. The well-moulded fabric recovered its balance, and struggled through its element, as if conscious that there was security only in motion. Ludlow glanced his eye to leeward. The opening of the Cove was favorably situated, and he caught a glimpse of the spars of the brigantine, rocking violently in the squall. He spoke to demand if the anchors were clear, and then he was heard, shouting again from his station in the weather gangway--

"Hard a-weather!--"

The first efforts of the cruiser to obey her helm, stripped as she was of canvas, were labored and slow. But when her head began to fall off, the driving scud was scarce swifter than her motion. At that moment, the sluices of the cloud opened, and a torrent of rain mingled in the uproar, and added to the confusion. Nothing was now visible but the lines of the falling water, and the sheet of white foam through which the ship was glancing.

"Here is the land, Sir!" bellowed Trysail, from a cat-head, where he stood resembling some venerable sea-god, dripping with his native element. "We are passing it, like a race-horse!"

"See your bowers clear!" shouted back the captain.

"Ready, Sir, ready--"

Ludlow motioned to the men at the wheel, to bring the ship to the wind; and when her way was sufficiently deadened, two ponderous anchors dropped, at another signal, into the water. The vast fabric was not checked without a further and tremendous struggle. When the bows felt the restraint, the ship swung head to wind, and fathom after fathom of the enormous ropes were extracted, by surges so violent as to cause the hull to quiver to its centre. But the first lieutenant and Trysail were no novices in their duty, and, in less than a minute, they had secured the vessel steadily at her anchors. When this important service was performed, officers and crew stood looking at each other, like men who had just made a hazardous and fearful experiment. The view again opened, and objects on the land became visible through the still falling rain. The change was like that from night to day. Men who had passed their lives on the sea drew long and relieving breaths, conscious that the danger was happily passed. As the more pressing interest of their own situation abated they remembered the object of their search. All eyes were turned in quest of the smuggler; but, by some inexplicable means, he had disappeared.

'The Skimmer of the Seas!' and 'What has become of the brigantine?' were exclamations that the discipline of a royal cruiser could not repress. They were repeated by a hundred mouths, while twice as many eyes sought to find the beautiful fabric. All looked in vain. The spot where the Water-Witch had so lately lain, was vacant, and no vestige of her wreck lined the shores of the Cove. During the time the ship was handing her sails, and preparing to enter the Cove, no one had leisure to look for the stranger; and after the vessel had anchored, until that moment, it was not possible to see her length, on any side of them. There was still a dense mass of falling water moving seaward; but the curious and anxious eyes of Ludlow made fruitless efforts to penetrate its secrets. Once indeed, more than an hour after the gust had reached his own ship, and when the ocean in the offing was clear and calm, he thought he could distinguish, far to seaward, the delicate tracery of a vessel's spars, drawn against the horizon, without any canvas set. But a second look did not assure him of the truth of the conjecture.

There were many extraordinary tales related that night, on board Her Britannic Majesty's ship Coquette. The boatswain affirmed that, while piping below in order to overhaul the cables, he had heard a screaming in the air, that sounded as if a hundred devils were mocking him, and which he told the gunner, in confidence, he believed was no more than the winding of a call on board the brigantine, who had taken occasion, when other vessels were glad to anchor, to get under way, in her own fashion. There was also a fore-top-man named Robert Yarn, a fellow whose faculty for story-telling equalled that of Scheherazade, and who not only asserted, but who confirmed the declaration by many strange oaths, that while he lay on the lee-fore-top-sail-yard-arm, stretching forth an arm to grasp the leech of the sail, a dark-looking female fluttered over his head and caused her long hair to whisk into his face, in a manner that compelled him to shut his eyes, which gave occasion to a smart reprimand from the reefer of the top. There was a feeble attempt to explain this assault, by the man who lay next to Yarn, who affected to think the hair was no more than the end of a gasket whipping in the wind; but his shipmate, who had pulled one of the oars of the yawl, soon silenced this explanation, by the virtue of his long-established reputation for veracity. Even Trysail ventured several mysterious conjectures concerning the fate of the brigantine, in the gun-room; but, on returning from the duty of sounding the inlet, whither he had been sent by his captain, he was less communicative and more thoughtful than usual. It appeared, indeed, from the surprise that was manifested by every officer that heard the report of the quarter-master, who had given the casts of the lead on this service, that no one in the ship, with the exception of Alderman Van Beverout, was at all aware that there was rather more than two fathoms of water in that secret passage.

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The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 16 The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 16

The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 16
Chapter XVI"This will prove a brave kingdom to me; Where I shall have my music, for nothing." Tempest.During the time past in the secret conference of the cabin, Ludlow and the Patroon were held in discourse on the quarter-deck, by the hero of the India-shawl. The dialogue was professional, as Van Staats maintained his ancient reputation for taciturnity. The appearance of Myndert, thoughtful, disappointed, and most evidently perplexed, caused the ideas of all to take a new direction. It is probable that the burgher believed he had not yet bid enough to tempt the free-trader
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