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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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“—Ay, that way goes the game,
Now I perceive that she hath made compare
Between our statures—”
Midsummer-Night's Dream.

The tide of existence floats downward, and with
it go, in their greatest strength, all those affections
that unite families and kindred. We learn to know
our parents in the fullness of their reason, and commonly
in the perfection of their bodily strength.
Reverence and respect both mingle with our love;
but the affection, with which we watch the helplessness
of infancy, the interest with which we see
the ingenuous and young profiting by our care, the
pride of improvement, and the magic of hope, create
an intensity of sympathy in their favor, that almost
equals the identity of self-love. There is a mysterious
and double existence, in the tie that binds the
parent to the child. With a volition and passions of
its own, the latter has power to plant a sting in the
bosom of the former, that shall wound as acutely as
the errors which arise from mistakes, almost from
crimes, of its own. But, when the misconduct of the
descendant can be traced to neglect, or to a vicious

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instruction, then, indeed, even the pang of a wounded
conscience may be added to the sufferings of those
who have gone before. Such, in some measure, was
the nature of the pain that Alderman Van Beverout
was condemned to feel, when at leisure to reflect on
the ill-judged measure that had been taken by la
belle Barbérie.

“She was a pleasant and coaxing minx, Patroon,”
said the burgher, pacing the room they occupied,
with a quick and heavy step, and speaking unconsciously
of his niece, as of one already beyond the
interests of life; “and as wilful and headstrong as an
unbroken colt.—Thou hard-riding imp! I shall never
find a match for the poor disconsolate survivor.—
But the girl had a thousand agreeable and delightful
ways with her, that made her the delight of my
old days. She has not done wisely, to desert the
friend and guardian of her youth, ay, even of her
childhood, in order to seek protection from strangers.
This is an unhappy world, Mr. Van Staats!
All our calculations come to nought; and it is in the
power of fortune to reverse the most reasonable and
wisest of our expectations. A gale of wind drives
the richly-freighted ship to the bottom; a sudden
fall in the market robs us of our gold, as the November
wind strips the oak of its leaves; and bankruptcies
and decayed credit often afflict the days of the
oldest houses, as disease saps the strength of the
body:—Alida! Alida! thou hast wounded one that
never harmed thee, and rendered my age miserable!”

“It is vain to contend with the inclinations,” returned
the proprietor of the manor, sighing in a manner
that did no discredit to the sincerity of his remark.
“I could have been happy to have placed
your niece in the situation that my respected mother
filled with so much dignity and credit, but it is now
too late—”

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“We don't know that;—we don't know that;”
interrupted the Alderman, who still clung to the
hope of effecting the first great wish of his heart,
with the pertinacity with which he would have
clung to the terms of any other fortunate bargain.
“We should never despair, Mr. Van Staats, as long
as the transaction is left open.”

“The manner in which Mademoiselle Barbérie
has expressed her preference, is so very decided, that
I see no hope of completing the arrangement.”

“Mere coquetry, Sir, mere coquetry! The girl
has disappeared in order to enhance the value of her
future submission. One should never regard a treaty
at an end, so long as reasonable hopes remain that
it may be productive to the parties.”

“I fear, Sir, there is more of the coquette in this
step of the young lady, than a gentleman can overlook,”
returned the Patroon a little dryly, and with
far more point than he was accustomed to use. “If
the commander of Her Majesty's cruiser be not a
happy man, he will not have occasion to reproach
his mistress with disdain!”

“I am not certain, Mr. Van Staats, that in the
actual situation of our stipulations, I ought to overlook
an innuendo that seems to reflect on the discretion
of my ward. Captain Ludlow—well, sirrah!
what is the meaning of this impertinence?”

“He'm waiting to see Masser,” returned the gaping
Erasmus, who stood with the door in his hand,
admiring the secret intelligence of his master, who
had so readily anticipated his errand.

“Who is waiting?—What does the simpleton

“I mean 'a gentle'um Masser say.”

“The fortunate man is here to remind us of his
success,” haughtily observed Van Staats of Kinderhook.
“There can be no necessity of my presence,

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at an interview between Alderman Van Beverout
and his nephew.”

The justly-mortified Patroon bowed ceremoniously
to the equally disappointed burgher, and left the
room the moment he had done speaking. The negro
took his retreat as a favorable symptom for one who
was generally known to be his rival; and he hastened
to inform the young captain, that the coast was

The meeting, that instantly succeeded, was sufficiently
constrained and awkward. Alderman Van
Beverout assumed a manner of offended authority
and wounded affection; while the officer of the
Queen wore an air of compelled submission to a duty
that he found to be disagreeable. The introduction
of the discourse was consequently ceremonious, and
punctiliously observant of courtesy.

“It has become my office,” continued Ludlow,
after the preliminaries had been observed, to express
the surprise I feel, that a vessel of the exceedingly
equivocal appearance of the brigantine, that is
anchored in the Cove, should be found in a situation
to create unpleasant suspicions concerning the commercial
propriety of a merchant so well known as
Mr. Alderman Van Beverout.”

“The credit of Myndert Van Beverout is too well
established, Captain Cornelius Ludlow, to be affected
by the accidental position of ships and bays. I see
two vessels anchored near the Lust in Rust, and if
called upon to give my testimony before the Queen
in Council, I should declare that the one which wears
her royal pennant had done more wrong to her subjects
than the stranger. But what harm is known
of the latter?”

“I shall not conceal any of the facts; for I feel
that this is a case, in which a gentleman of your
station has the fullest right to the benefit of explanations—”

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“Hem—” interrupted the burgher, who disliked
the manner in which his companion had opened the
interview, and who thought he saw the commencement
of a forced compromise in the turn it was
taking;—“Hem—I commend your moderation, Captain
Ludlow. Sir, we are flattered in having a native
of the Province in so honorable a command on the
coast. Be seated, I pray you, young gentleman, that
we may converse more at leisure. The Ludlows are
an ancient and well-established family in the colonies;
and though they were no friends of King Charles,
why—we have others here in the same predicament.
There are few crowns in Europe that might not trace
some of their discontented subjects to these colonies;
and the greater the reason, say I, why we should not
be too hasty in giving faith to the wisdom of this
European legislation. I do not pretend, Sir, to admire
all the commercial regulations which flow from the
wisdom of Her Majesty's counsellors. Candor forbids
that I should deny this truth: but—what of the brigantine
in the Cove?”

“It is not necessary to tell one so familiar with
the affairs of commerce, of the character of a vessel
called the Water-Witch, nor of that of its lawless
commander, the notorious `Skimmer of the Seas.”'

“Captain Ludlow is not about to accuse Alderman
Van Beverout of a connexion with such a man!” exclaimed
the burgher, rising as it were involuntarily,
and actually recoiling a foot or two, apparently under
the force of indignation and surprise.

“Sir, I am not commissioned to accuse any of the
Queen's subjects. My duty is to guard her interests
on the water, to oppose her open enemies, and to uphold
her royal prerogatives.”

“An honorable employment, and one I doubt not
that is honorably discharged. Resume your seat, Sir;
for I foresee that the conference is likely to end as it
should, between a son of the late very respectable

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King's counsellor and his father's friend. You have
reason then for thinking that this brigantine, which
has so suddenly appeared in the Cove, has some remote
connexion with the Skimmer of the Seas?”

“I believe the vessel to be the famous Water-Witch
itself, and her commander to be, of course,
that well-known adventurer.”

“Well, Sir—well, Sir—this may be so. It is impossible
for me to deny it—but what should such a
reprobate be doing here, under the guns of a Queen's

“Mr. Alderman, my admiration of your niece is
not unknown to you.”

“I have suspected it, Sir;” returned the burgher,
who believed the tenor of the compromise was getting
clearer, but who still waited to know the exact
value of the concessions the other party would make,
before he closed a bargain, in a hurry, of which he
might repent at his leisure—“Indeed, it has even
been the subject of some discourse between us.”

“This admiration induced me to visit your villa,
the past night,—”

“This is a fact too well established, young gentleman.”

“Whence I took away—” Ludlow hesitated, as
if anxious to select his words—

“Alida Barbérie.”

“Alida Barbérie!”

“Ay, Sir; my niece, or perhaps I should say my
heiress, as well as the heiress of old Etienne de Barb
érie. The cruise was short, Captain Cornelius
Ludlow; but the prize-money will be ample—unless,
indeed, a claim to neutral privileges should be established
in favor of part of the cargo!”

“Sir, your pleasantry is amusing, but I have little
leisure for its enjoyment. That I visited the Cour
des Fées, shall not be denied. I think la belle

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Barbérie will not be offended, under the circumstances,
with this acknowledgment.”

“If she is, the jade has a rare squeamishness, after
what has passed!”

“I pretend not to judge of more than my duty.
The desire to serve my royal mistress had induced
me, Mr. Van Beverout, to cause a seaman of odd
attire and audacious deportment to enter the Coquette.
You will know the man, when I tell you
that he was your companion in the island ferry-boat.”

“Yes, yes, I confess there was a mariner of the
long voyage there, who caused much surprise, and
some uneasiness, to myself and niece, as well as to
Van Staats of Kinderhook.”

Ludlow smiled, like one not to be deceived, as he

“Well, Sir, this man so far succeeded, as to tempt
me to suffer him to land, under the obligation of some
half-extorted promise—we came into the river together,
and entered your grounds in company.”

Alderman Van Beverout now began to listen like
a man who dreaded, while he desired to catch, each
syllable. Observing that Ludlow paused, and
watched his countenance with a cool and steady eye,
he recovered his self-command, and affected a mere
ordinary curiosity, while he signed to him to proceed.

“I am not sure I tell Alderman Van Beverout
any thing that is new,” resumed the young officer,
“when I add, that the fellow suffered me to visit the
pavilion, and then contrived to lead me into an ambush
of lawless men, having previously succeeded in
making captives of my boat's-crew.”

“Seizures and warrants!” exclaimed the burgher,
in his natural strong and hasty manner of speaking.
“This is the first I have heard of the affair. It was
ill-judged, to call it by no other term.”

Ludlow seemed relieved, when he saw, by the undisguised
amazement of his companion, that the

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latter was, in truth, ignorant of the matter in which
he had been detained.

“It might not have been, Sir, had our watch been
as vigilant as their artifice was deep,” he continued.
“But I was little guarded, and having no means to
reach my ship, I—”

“Ay, ay, Captain Ludlow; it is not necessary to
be so circumstantial; you proceeded to the wharf,

“Perhaps, Sir, I obeyed my feelings, rather than
my duty,” observed Ludlow, coloring high, when he
perceived that the burgher paused to clear his throat.
“I returned to the pavilion, where—”

“You persuaded a niece to forget her duty to her
uncle and protector.”

“This is a harsh and most unjustifiable charge,
both as respects the young lady and myself. I can
distinguish between a very natural desire to possess
articles of commerce that are denied by the laws,
and a more deliberate and mercenary plot against
the revenue of the country. I believe there are few
of her years and sex, who would refuse to purchase
the articles I saw presented to the eyes of la belle
Barbérie, especially when the utmost hazard could
be no more than their loss, as they were already introduced
into the country.”

“A just discrimination, and one likely to render
the arrangement of our little affairs less difficult! I
was sure that my old friend the counsellor would not
have left a son of his ignorant of principles, more
especially as he was about to embark in a profession
of so much responsibility.—And so, my niece had the
imprudence to entertain a dealer in contraband?”

“Alderman Van Beverout, there were boats in
motion on the water, between this landing and the
brigantine in the Cove. A periagua even left the
river for the city, at the extraordinary hour of midnight!”

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“Sir, boats will move on the water, when the
hands of man set them in motion; but what have I
to answer for in the matter? If goods have entered
the Province, without license, why, they must be
found and condemned; and if free-traders are on the
coast, they should be caught. Would it not be well
to proceed to town, and lay the fact of this strange
brigantine's presence before the Governor, without

“I have other intentions. If, as you say, goods
have gone up the bay, it is too late for me to stop
them; but it is not too late to attempt to seize yon
brigantine. Now, I would perform this duty in a
manner as little likely to offend any of reputable
name, as my allegiance will admit.”

“Sir, I extol this discretion—not that there is any
testimony to implicate more than the crew, but credit
is a delicate flower, and it should be handled tenderly.
I see an opening for an arrangement—but,
we will, as in duty bound, hear your propositions
first, since you may be said to speak with the authority
of the Queen. I will merely surmise that
terms should be moderate, between friends;—perhaps
I should say, between connexions, Captain Ludlow.”

“I am flattered by the word, Sir,” returned the
young sailor, smiling with an expression of delight.
“First suffer me to be admitted to the charming
Cour des Fées, but for a moment.”

“That is a favor which can hardly be refused you,
who may be said to have a right, now, to enter the
pavilion at pleasure,” returned the Alderman, unhesitatingly
leading the way through the long passage
to the deserted apartments of his niece, and continuing
the blind allusions to the affairs of the preceding
night, in the same indirect manner as had distinguished
the dialogue during the whole interview. “I
shall not be unreasonable, young gentleman, and

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here is the pavilion of my niece; I wish I could add,
and here also is its mistress!”

“And is la belle Barbérie no longer a tenant of la
Cour des Fées!” demanded Ludlow, in a surprise too
natural to be feigned.

Alderman Van Beverout regarded the young man
in wonder; pondered a moment, to consider how far
denying a knowledge of the absence of his niece
might benefit the officer, in the pending negotiation;
and then he dryly observed, “Boats passed on the
water, during the night. If the men of Captain Ludlow
were at first imprisoned, I presume they were
set at liberty at the proper time.”

“They are carried I know not whither—the boat
itself is gone, and I am here alone.”

“Am I to understand, Captain Ludlow, that Alida
Barbérie has not fled my house, during the past night,
to seek a refuge in your ship?”

“Fled!” echoed the young man, in a voice of
horror. “Has Alida de Barbérie fled from the house
of her uncle, at all?”

“Captain Ludlow, this is not acting. On the honor
of a gentleman, are you ignorant of my niece's absence?”

The young commander did not answer; but, striking
his head fiercely, he smothered words that were
unintelligible to his companion. When this momentary
burst of feeling was past, he sunk into a chair,
and gazed about him in stupid amazement. All this
pantomime was inexplicable to the Alderman, who,
however, began to see that more of the conditions
of the arrangement in hand were beyond the control
of his companion, than he had at first believed. Still
the plot thickened, rather than grew clear; and he
was afraid to speak, lest he might utter more than
was prudent. The silence, therefore, continued for
quite a minute; during which time, the parties sat
gazing at each other in dull wonder.

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“I shall not deny, Captain Ludlow, that I believed
you had prevailed on my niece to fly aboard the
Coquette; for, though a man who has always kept
his feelings in his own command, as the safest manner
of managing particular interests, yet I am not
to learn that rash youth is often guilty of folly. I am
now equally at a loss with yourself, to know what
has become of her, since here she is not.”

“Hold!” eagerly interrupted Ludlow. “A boat
left your wharf, for the city, in the earlier hours of
the morning. Is it not possible that she may have
taken a passage in it?”

“It is not possible. I have reasons to know—in
short, Sir, she is not there.”

“Then is the unfortunate—the lovely—the indiscreet
girl for ever lost to herself and us!” exclaimed
the young sailor, actually groaning under his mental
agony. “Rash, mercenary man! to what an act of
madness has this thirst of gold driven one so fair—
would I could say, so pure and so innocent!”

But while the distress of the lover was thus violent,
and caused him to be so little measured in his
terms of reproach, the uncle of the fair offender appeared
to be lost in surprise. Though la belle Barb
érie had so well preserved the decorum and reserve
of her sex, as to leave even her suitors in doubt of
the way her inclinations tended, the watchful Alderman
had long suspected that the more ardent, open,
and manly commander of the Coquette was likely to
triumph over one so cold in exterior, and so cautious
in his advances, as the Patroon of Kinderhook. When,
therefore, it became apparent Alida had disappeared,
he quite naturally inferred that she had taken
the simplest manner of defeating all his plans for
favoring the suit of the latter, by throwing herself,
at once, into the arms of the young sailor. The laws
of the colonies offered few obstacles to the legality
of their union; and when Ludlow appeared that

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morning, he firmly believed that he beheld one, who,
if he were not so already, was inevitably soon to become
his nephew. But the suffering of the disappointed
youth could not be counterfeited; and, prevented
from adhering to his first opinion, the perplexed
Alderman seemed utterly at a loss to conjecture
what could have become of his niece. Wonder,
rather than pain, possessed him; and when he suffered
his ample chin to repose on the finger and
thumb of one hand, it was with the air of a man
that revolved, in his mind, all the plausible points of
some knotty question.

“Holes and corners!” he muttered, after a long
silence; “the wilful minx cannot be playing at hide-and-seek
with her friends! The hussy had ever too
much of la famille de Barbérie, and her high Norman
blood about her, as that silly old valet has it, to stoop
to such childish trifling. Gone she certainly is,” he
continued, looking, again, into the empty drawers
and closets, “and with her the valuables have disappeared.
The guitar is missing—the lute I sent across
the ocean to purchase, an excellently-toned Dutch
lute, that cost every stiver of one hundred guilders,
is also wanting, and all the—hem—the recent accessions
have disappeared. And there, too, are my
sister's jewels, that I persuaded her to bring along,
to guard against accidents while our backs are turned,
they are not to be seen. Francois! Francois!
Thou long-tried servitor of Etienne Barbérie, what
the devil has become of thy mistress?”

“Mais, Monsieur,” returned the disconsolate valet,
whose decent features exhibited all the signs of unequivocal
suffering, “she no tell le pauvre François!
En supposant, que Monsieur ask le capitaine, he
shall probablement know.”

The burgher cast a quick suspicious glance at
Ludlow, and shook his head, to express his belief
that the young man was true.

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“Go; desire Mr. Van Staats of Kinderhook to
favor us with his company.”

“Hold,” cried Ludlow, motioning to the valet to
withdraw. “Mr. Beverout, an uncle should be tender
of the errors of one so dear as this cruel, unreflecting
girl. You cannot think of abandoning her to so
frightful a fortune!”

“I am not addicted to abandoning any thing, Sir,
to which my title is just and legal. But you speak
in enigmas. If you are acquainted with the place
where my niece is secreted, avow it frankly, and
permit me to take those measures which the case

Ludlow reddened to his forehead, and he struggled
powerfully with his pride and his regrets.

“It is useless to attempt concealing the step which
Alida Barbérie has been pleased to take,” he said, a
smile so bitter passing over his features, as to lend
them the expression of severe mockery; “she has
chosen more worthily than either of us could have
believed; she has found a companion more suited to
her station, her character, and her sex, than Van
Staats of Kinderhook, or a poor commander of a
Queen's ship!”

“Cruisers and manors! What in the name of mysteries
is thy meaning? The girl is not here; you declare
she is not on board of the Coquette, and there
remains only—”

“The brigantine!” groaned the young sailor
uttering the word by a violent effort of the will.

“The brigantine!” repeated the Alderman, slowly.
“My niece can have nothing to do aboard a dealer
in contraband. That is to say, Alida Barbérie is not
a trader.”

“Alderman Van Beverout, if we wish to escape
the contamination of vice, its society must be avoided.
There was one in the pavilion, of a mien and assurance,
the past night, that might delude an angel.

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Ah! woman! woman! thy mind is composed of vanities,
and thy imagination is thy bitterest foe!”

“Women and vanities!” echoed the amazed burgher.
“My niece, the heiress of old Etienne Marie
de Barbérie, and the sought of so many of honorable
names and respectable professions, to be a refugee
with a rover!—always supposing your opinions of
the character of the brigantine to be just. This is a
conjecture too improbable to be true.”

“The eye of a lover, Sir, may be keener than
that of a guardian—call it jealousy, if you will,—
would to Heaven my suspicions were untrue!—but
if she be not there, where is she?”

The opinion of the Alderman seemed staggered.
If la belle Barbérie had not yielded to the fascinations
of that wayward, but seductive, eye and smile,
to that singular beauty of face, and to the secret and
often irresistible charm that encircles eminent personal
attractions, when aided by mystery, to what
had she yielded, and whither had she fled?

These were reflections that now began to pass
through the thoughts of the Alderman, as they had
already planted stings in the bosom of Ludlow. With
reflection, conviction began slowly to assert its power.
But the truth did not gleam upon the mind of the
calculating and wary merchant, with the same instinctive
readiness that it had flashed upon the jealous
faculties of the lover. He pondered on each circumstance
of the interview between the dealer in contraband
and his niece; recalled the manner and discourse
of the former; drew certain general and
vague conjectures concerning the power which novelty,
when coupled with circumstances of romance,
might exercise over a female fancy; and dwelt long
and secretly on some important facts that were alone
known to himself,—before his judgment finally settled
down into the same opinion, as that which his

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companion had formed, with all the sensitiveness of
jealous alarm.

“Women and vagaries!” muttered the burgher,
after his study was ended. “Their conceits are as
uncertain as the profits of a whaling voyage, or the
luck of a sportsman. Captain Ludlow, your assistance
will be needed in this affair; and, as it may
not be too late, since there are few priests in the
brigantine—always supposing her character to be
what you affirm—my niece may yet see her error,
and be disposed to reward so much assiduity and

“My services shall always be ready, so long as
they can be useful to Alida Barbérie,” returned the
young officer with haste, and yet a little coldly. “It
will be time enough to speak of the reward, when
we shall have succeeded.”

“The less noise that is made about a little domestic
inconvenience like this, the better; and I would
therefore suggest the propriety of keeping our suspicions
of the character of the vessel a secret, until
we shall be better informed.”

The captain bowed his assent to the proposal.

“And now that we are of the same mind in the
preliminaries, we will seek the Patroon of Kinderhook,
who has a claim to participate in our confidence.”

Myndert then led the way from the empty and
melancholy Cour des Fées, with a step that had regained
its busy and firm tread, and a countenance
that expressed far more of vexation and weariness,
than of real sorrow.

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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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