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Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1831], The water-witch, volume 1 (Carey & Lea, Philadelphia) [word count] [eaf061v1].
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“Come on, Nerissa; I have work in hand,
That you, yet, know not of.—”

Merchant of Venice.

Notwithstanding the active movements which
had taken place in and around the buildings of the
Lust in Rust, during the night which ended with
our last chapter, none but the initiated were in the
smallest degree aware of their existence. Oloff Van
Staats was early afoot; and when he appeared on
the lawn, to scent the morning air, there was nothing
visible, to give rise to a suspicion that aught extraordinary
had occurred during his slumbers. La Cour
des Fées was still closed, but the person of the faithful
Francois was seen, near the abode of his young
mistress, busied in some of those pretty little offices,
that can easily be imagined would be agreeable to a
maiden of her years and station. Van Staats of Kinderhook
had as little of romance in his composition,
as could well be in a youth of five-and-twenty, who
was commonly thought to be enamoured, and who

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was not altogether ignorant of the conventional sympathies
of the passion. The man was mortal, and as
the personal attractions of la belle Barbérie were
sufficiently obvious, he had not entirely escaped the
fate, which seems nearly inseparable from young
fancy, when excited by beauty. He drew nigh to
the pavilion, and, by a guarded but decisive man
œuvre, he managed to come so close to the valet, as
to render a verbal communication not only natural,
but nearly unavoidable.

“A fair morning and a healthful air, Monsieur
François;” commenced the young Patroon, acknowledging
the low salute of the domestic, by gravely
lifting his own beaver. “This is a comfortable abode
for the warm months, and one it might be well to
visit oftener.”

“When Monsieur le Patteron shall be de lor' of
ce manoir, aussi, he shall come when he shall have
la volonté,” returned François, who knew that a
pleasantry of his ought not to be construed into an
engagement on the part of her he served, while it
could not fail to be agreeable to him who heard it.
“Monsieur de Van Staats, est grand propriétaire sur
la rivière, and one day, peut-être, he shall be propri
étaire sur la mèr!”

“I have thought of imitating the example of the
Alderman, honest Francis, and of building a villa on
the coast; but there will be time for that, when I
shall find myself more established in life! Your
young mistress is not yet moving, Francis?”

“Ma foi, non—Mam'selle Alide sleep!—'tis good
symptôme, Monsieur Patteron, pour les jeunes personnes,
to tres bien sleep. Monsieur, et toute la
famille de Barbérie sleep à merveille! Oui, c'est
toujours une famille remarquable, pour le sommeil!”

“Yet one would wish to breathe this fresh and
invigorating air, which comes from off the sea, like
a balm, in the early hours of the day.”

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“Sans doute, Monsieur. C'est un miracle, how
Mam'selle love de air! Personne do not love air
more, as Mam'selle Alide. Bah!—It was grand
plaisir to see how Monsieur de Barbérie love de air!”

“Perhaps, Mr. Francis, your young lady is ignorant
of the hour. It might be well to knock at the
door, or perhaps at the window. I confess, I should
much admire to see her bright face, smiling from that
window, on this soft morning scene.”

It is not probable that the imagination of the
Patroon of Kinderhook ever before took so high a
flight; and there was reason to suspect, by the wavering
and alarmed glance that he cast around him
after so unequivocal an expression of weakness, that
he already repented his temerity. François, who
would not willingly disoblige a man that was known
to possess a hundred thousand acres of land, with
manorial rights, besides personals of no mean amount,
felt embarrassed by the request; but was enabled
to recollect in time, that the heiress was known to
possess a decision of character that might choose to
control her own pleasures.

“Well, I shall be too happy to knock; mais, Monsieur
sais, dat sleep est si agréable, pour les jeunes
personnes! On n'a jamais knock, dans la famille de
Monsieur de Barbérie, and je suis sûr, que Mam'selle
Alide, do not love to hear de knock—pourtant, si
Monsieur le Patteron le veut, I shall consult ses—
Voila! Monsieur Bevre, qui vient sans knock à la
fenêtre. J'ai l'honneur de vous laisser avec Monsieur

And so the complaisant but still considerate valet
bowed himself out of a dilemma, that he found, as he
muttered to himself, while retiring, `tant soit peu

The air and manner of the Alderman, as he approached
his guest, were, like the character of the
man, hale, hearty, and a little occupied with his own

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enjoyments and feelings. He hemmed thrice, ere he
was near enough to speak; and each of the strong
expirations seemed to invite the admiration of the
Patroon, for the strength of his lungs, and for the
purity of the atmosphere around a villa which acknowledged
him for its owner.

“Zephyrs and Spas! but this is the abode of health,
Patroon!” cried the burgher, as soon as these demonstrations
of his own bodily condition had been
sufficiently repeated. “One sometimes feels in this
air equal to holding a discourse, across the Atlantic,
with his friends at Scheveling, or the Helder. A
broad and deep chest, air like this from the sea, with
a clear conscience, and a lucky hit in the way of
trade, cause the lungs of a man to play as easily
and as imperceptibly as the wings of a humming-bird.—
Let me see; there are few four-score men in
thy stock. The last Patroon closed the books at
sixty-six; and his father went but a little beyond
seventy. I wonder, there has never been an inter-marriage,
among you, with the Van Courtlandts;
that blood is as good as an insurance to four-score
and ten, of itself.”

“I find the air of your villa, Mr. Van Beverout,
a cordial that one could wish to take often,” returned
the other, who had far less of the brusque manner
of the trader, than his companion. “It is a pity
that all who have the choice, do not profit by their
opportunities to breathe it.”

“You allude to the lazy mariners in you vessel!
Her Majesty's servants are seldom in a hurry; and
as for this brigantine in the Cove, the fellow seems to
have gotten in by magic! I warrant me, now, the
rogue is there for no good, and that the Queen's Exchequer
will be none the richer for his visit. Harkee,
you Brom,” calling to an aged black, who was working
at no great distance from the dwelling, and who
was deep in his master's confidence, “hast seen any

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boats plying between yonder roguish-looking brigantine
and the land?”

The negro shook his head, like the earthen image
of a mandarin, and laughed loud and heartily.

“I b'rieve he do all he mischief among a Yankee,
an' he only come here to take he breat',” said the
wily slave. “Well, I wish, wid all a heart, dere
would come free-trader, some time, along our shore.
Dat gib a chance to poor black man, to make an
Lonest penny!”

“You see, Patroon, human nature itself rises
against monopoly! That was the voice of instinct,
speaking with the tongue of Brom; and it is no easy
task, for a merchant, to keep his dependants obedient
to laws, which, in themselves, create so constant a
temptation to break them. Well, well; we will
always hope for the best, and endeavor to act like
dutiful subjects. The boat is not amiss, as to form
and rig, let her come from where she will.—Dost
think the wind will be off the land this morning?”

“There are signs of a change in the clouds. One
could wish that all should be out in the air, to taste
this pleasant sea-breeze while it lasts.”

“Come, come,” cried the Alderman, who had for
a moment studied the state of the heavens with a
solicitude, that he feared might attract his companion's
attention. “We will taste our breakfast. This
is the spot to show the use of teeth! The negroes
have not been idle during the night, Mr. Van Staats—
he-e-em—I say, Sir, they have not been idle:—
and we shall have a choice among the dainties of the
river and bay.—That cloud above the mouth of the
Raritan appears to rise, and we may yet have a
breeze at west!”

“Yonder comes a boat in the direction of the
city,” observed the other, reluctantly obeying a
motion of the Alderman to retire to the apartment
where they were accustomed to break their fasts.

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“To me, it seems to approach with more than ordinary

“There are stout arms at its oars! Can it be a
messenger for the cruiser? no—it rather steers more
for our own landing. These Jersey-men are often
overtaken by the night, between York and their own
doors. And now, Patroon, we will to our knives and
forks, like men who have taken the best stomachics.”

“And are we to refresh ourselves alone?” demanded
the young man, who ever and anon cast a sidelong
and wistful glance at the closed and immovable shutters
of la Cour des Fées.

“Thy mother hath spoilt thee, young Oloff; unless
the coffee comes from a pretty female hand, it loses
its savor. I take thy meaning, and think none the
worse of thee; for the weakness is natural at thy
years. Celibacy and independence! A man must
get beyond forty, before he is ever sure of being his
own master. Come hither, Master Francis. It is
time my niece had shaken off this laziness, and
shown her bright face to the sun. We wait for her
fair services at the table.—I see nothing of that lazy
hussy, Dinah, any more than of her mistress.”

“Assurément non, Monsieur,” returned the valet.
“Mam'selle Dinah do not love trop d'activité. Mais,
Monsieur Al'erman, elles sont jeunes, toutes les deux!
Le sommeil est bien salutaire, pour la jeunesse.”

“The girl is no longer in her cradle, Francis, and
it is time to rattle at the windows. As for the black
minx, who should have been up and at her duty this
hour, there will be a balance to settle between us.
Come, Patroon:—the appetite will not await the
laziness of a wilful girl; we will to the table.—Dost
think the wind will stand at west this morning?”

Thus saying, the Alderman led the way into the
little parlor, where a neat and comfortable service
invited them to break their morning fast. He was
followed by Oloff Van Staats, with a lingering step,

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for the young man really longed to see the windows
of the pavilion open, and the fair face of Alida smiling
amid the other beautiful objects of the scene.
Francois proceeded to take such measures to arouse
his mistress, as he believed to comport with his duty
to her uncle, and his own ideas of bienséance. After
some little delay, the Alderman and his guest took
their seats at the table; the former loudly protesting
against the necessity of waiting for the idle, and
throwing in an occasional moral concerning the particular
merit of punctuality in domestic economy, as
well as in the affairs of commerce.

“The ancients divided time,” said the somewhat
pertinacious commentator, “into years, months,
weeks, days, hours, minutes, and moments, as they
divided numbers into units, tens, hundreds, thousands,
and tens of thousands; and both with an object. If
we commence at the bottom, and employ well the
moments, Mr. Van Staats, we turn the minutes into
tens, the hours into hundreds, and the weeks and
months into thousands—ay! and when there is a
happy state of trade, into tens of thousands! Missing
an hour, therefore, is somewhat like dropping an
important figure in a complex calculation, and the
whole labor may be useless, for want of punctuality
in one, as for want of accuracy in the other. Your
father, the late Patroon, was what may be called a
minute-man.—He was as certain to be seen in his
pew, at church, at the stroke of the clock, as to pay
a bill, when its items had been properly examined.
Ah! it was a blessing to hold one of his notes, though
they were far scarcer than broad pieces, or bullion.
I have heard it said, Patroon, that the manor is
backed by plenty of Johannes and Dutch ducats!”

“The descendant has no reason to reproach his
ancestors with want of foresight.”

“Prudently answered;—not a word too much, nor
too little—a principle on which all honest men settle

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their accounts. By proper management, such a foundation
might be made to uphold an estate that should
count thousands with the best of Holland or England.
Growth and majority! Patroon; but we of the
colonies must come to man's estate in time, like our
cousins on the dykes of the Low Countries, or our
rulers among the smithies of England.—Erasmus,
look at that cloud over the Raritan, and tell me if it

The negro reported that the vapor was stationary;
and, at the same time, by way of episode, he told his
master that the boat which had been seen approaching
the land had reached the wharf, and that some
of its crew were ascending the hill towards the Lust
in Rust.

“Let them come of all hospitality,” returned the
Alderman, heartily; “I warrant me, they are honest
farmers from the interior, a-hungered with the toil
of the night. Go tell the cook to feed them with the
best, and bid them welcome. And harkee, boy;—
if there be among them any comfortable yeoman,
bid the man enter and sit at our table. This is not
a country, Patroon, to be nice about the quality of
the cloth a man has on his back, or whether he wears
a wig or only his own hair.—What is the fellow
gaping at?”

Erasmus rubbed his eyes, and then showing his
teeth to the full extent of a double row, that glittered
like pearls, he gave his master to understand, that
the negro, introduced to the reader under the name
of Euclid, and who was certainly his own brother
of the half-blood, or by the mother's side, was entering
the villa. The intelligence caused a sudden
cessation of the masticating process in the Alderman,
who had not, however, time to express his wonder,
ere two doors simultaneously opened, and François
presented himself at the one, while the shining and
doubting face of the slave from town darkened the

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other. The eyes of Myndert rolled first to this side,
and then to that, a certain misgiving of the heart
preventing him from speaking to either; for he saw,
in the disturbed features of each, omens that bade
him prepare himself for unwelcome tidings. The
reader will perceive, by the description we shall give,
that there was abundant reason for the sagacious
burgher's alarm.

The visage of the valet, at all times meagre and
long, seemed extended to far more than its usual di-
mensions, the under jaw appearing fallen and trebly
attenuated. The light-blue protruding eyes were
open to the utmost, and then expressed a certain
confused wildness, that was none the less striking, for
the painful expression of mental suffering, with which
it was mingled. Both hands were raised, with the
palms outward; while the shoulders of the poor fel-
low were elevated so high, as entirely to destroy the
little symmetry that Nature had bestowed on that
particular part of his frame.

On the other hand, the look of the negro was
guilty, dogged, and cunning. His eye leered askance,
seeming to wish to play around the person of his
master, as, it will be seen, his language endeavored
to play around his understanding. The hands crushed
the crown of a woolen hat between their fingers,
and one of his feet described semicircles with its toe,
by performing nervous evolutions on its heel.

“Well!” ejaculated Myndert, regarding each in
turn. “What news from the Canadas?—Is the
Queen dead, or has she restored the colony to the
United Provinces?”

“Mam'selle Alide!” exclaimed, or rather groaned,

“The poor dumb beast!—” muttered Euclid.

The knives and the forks fell from the hands of
Myndert and his guest, as it were by a simultaneous
paralysis. The latter involuntarily arose; while the

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former planted his solid person still more firmly in its
seat, like one who was preparing to meet some severe
and expected shock, with all the physical resolution
he could muster.

“—What of my niece?—What of my geldings?—
You have called upon Dinah?”

“Sans doute, Monsieur!”

“—And you kept the keys of the stable?”

“I nebber let him go, at all!”

“—And you bade her call her mistress?”

“She no make answair, de tout.”

“—The animals were fed and watered, as I ordered?”

“'Em nebber take he food, better!”

“—You entered the chamber of my niece, yourself,
to awake her?”

“Monsieur a raison.”

“What the devil has befallen the innocent?”

“He lose he stomach quite, and I t'ink it great
time 'fore it ebber come back.”

“—Mister Francis, I desire to know the answer of
Monsieur Barbérie's daughter.”

“Mam'selle no répond, Monsieur; pas un syllabe!”

“—Drenchers and fleams! The beauty should
have been drenched and blooded—”

“He'm too late for dat, Masser, on honor.”

“—The obstinate hussy! This comes of her Huguenot
breed, a race that would quit house and
lands rather than change its place of worship!”

“La famille de Barbérie est honorable, Monsieur,
mais le Grand Monarque fut un peu trop exigeant.
Vraiment, la dragonade était mal avisée, pour faire
des chrétiens!”

“Apoplexies and hurry! you should have sent for
the farrier to administer to the sufferer, thou black

“'Em go for a butcher, Masser, to save he skin;
for he war' too son dead.”

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The word dead produced a sudden pause. The
preceding dialogue had been so rapid, and question
and answer, no less than the ideas of the principal
speaker, had got so confused, that, for a moment, he
was actually at a loss to understand, whether the
last great debt of nature had been paid by la belle
Barbérie, or one of the Flemish geldings. Until now,
consternation, as well as the confusion of the interview,
had constrained the Patroon to be silent, but he
profited by the breathing-time to interpose.

“It is evident, Mr. Van Beverout,” he said, speaking
with a tremor in the voice, which betrayed his
own uneasiness, “that some untoward event has occurred.
Perhaps the negro and I had better retire,
that you may question Francis concerning that which
hath befallen Mademoiselle Barbérie, more at your

The Alderman was recalled from a profound stupor,
by this gentlemanlike and considerate proposal.
He bowed his acknowledgments, and permitted Mr.
Van Staats to quit the room; but when Euclid would
have followed, he signed to the negro to remain.

“I may have occasion to question thee farther,”
he said, in a voice that had lost most of that compass
and depth for which it was so remarkable. “Stand
there, sirrah, and be in readiness to answer. And
now, Mr. Francis, I desire to know why my niece declines
taking the breakfast with myself and my

“Mon Dieu, Monsieur, it is not possible y répondre.
Les sentiments des demoiselles are nevair décides!”

“Go then, and say to her, that my sentiments are
decided to curtail certain bequests and devises, which
have consulted her interests more than strict justice
to others of my blood—ay, and even of my name,
might dictate.”

“Monsieur y réfléchira. Mam'selle Alide be so
young personne!”

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“Old or young, my mind is made up; and so to
your Cour des Fées, and tell the lazy minx as much.—
Thou hast ridden that innocent, thou scowling imp
of darkness!”

“Mais, pensez-y, je vous en prie, Monsieur.
Mam'selle shall nevair se sauver encore; jamais, je
vous en répond.”

“What is the fellow jabbering about?” exclaimed
the Alderman, whose mouth fell nearly to the degree
that rendered the countenance of the valet so singularly
expressive of distress. “Where is my niece,
Sir?—and what means this allusion to her absence?”

“La fille de Monsieur de Barbérie n'y est pas!”
cried François, whose heart was too full to utter
more. The aged and affectionate domestic laid his
hand on his breast, with an air of acute suffering;
and then, remembering the presence of his superior,
he turned, bowed with a manner of profound condolence,
struggled manfully with his own emotion, and
succeeded in getting out of the room with dignity
and steadiness.

It is due to the character of Alderman Van Beverout,
to say, that the blow occasioned by the sudden
death of the Flemish gelding, lost some of its force,
in consequence of so unlooked-for a report concerning
the inexplicable absence of his niece. Euclid
was questioned, menaced, and even anathematized,
more than once, during the next ten minutes; but
the cunning slave succeeded in confounding himself
so effectually with the rest of his connexions of the
half-blood, during the search which instantly followed
the report of François, that his crime was
partially forgotten.

On entering la Cour des Fées, it was, in truth,
found to want her whose beauty and grace had lent
its chief attraction. The outer rooms, which were
small, and ordinarily occupied during the day by
François and the negress called Dinah, and in the

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night by the latter only, were in the state in which
they might be expected to be seen. The apartment
of the attendant furnished evidence that its occupant
had quitted it in haste, though there was every appearance
of her having retired to rest at the usual
hour. Clothes were scattered carelessly about; and
though most of her personal effects had disappeared,
enough remained to prove that her departure had
been hurried and unforeseen.

On the other hand, the little saloon, with the
dressing-room and bed-room of la belle Barbérie,
were in a state of the most studied arrangement.
Not an article of furniture was displaced, a door
ajar, or a window open. The pavilion had evidently
been quitted by its ordinary passage, and the door
had been closed in the customary manner, without
using the fastenings. The bed had evidently not
been entered, for the linen was smooth and untouched.
In short, so complete was the order of the place,
that, yielding to a powerful natural feeling, the Alderman
called aloud on his truant niece, by name,
as if he expected to see her appear from some place,
in which she had secreted her person, in idle sport.
But this touching expedient was vain. The voice
sounded hollow through the deserted rooms; and
though all waited long to listen, there came no playful
or laughing answer back.

“Alida!” cried the burgher, for the fourth and
last time, “come forth, child; I forgive thee thy idle
sport, and all I have said of disinheritance was but a
jest. Come forth, my sister's daughter, and kiss thy
old uncle!”

The Patroon turned aside, as he heard a man so
known for his worldliness yielding to the power of
nature; and the lord of a hundred thousand acres
forgot his own disappointment, in the force of sympathy.

“Let us retire,” he said, gently urging the burgher

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to quit the place. “A little reflection will enable us
to decide what should be done.”

The Alderman complied. Before quitting the
place, however, its closets and drawers were examined;
and the search left no further doubts of the
step which the young heiress had taken. Her clothes,
books, utensils for drawing, and even the lighter instruments
of music, had disappeared.

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Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1831], The water-witch, volume 1 (Carey & Lea, Philadelphia) [word count] [eaf061v1].
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