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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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“—I'll give thee a wind.
“—Thou art kind.
“—And I another.
“—I myself have all the other.”

[figure description] Page 172.[end figure description]

The cloud above the mouth of the Raritan had
not risen. On the contrary, the breeze still came
from off the sea; and the brigantine in the Cove,
with the cruiser of the Queen, still lay at their
anchors, like two floating habitations that were not
intended to be removed. The hour was that at
which the character of the day becomes fixed; and
there was no longer any expectation that a land-wind
would enable the vessel of the free-trader to
repass the inlet, before the turn of the tide, which
was again running swiftly on the flood.

The windows of the Lust in Rust were open, as
when its owner was present; and the menials were
employed, in and about the villa, in their customary
occupations; though it was evident, by the manner
in which they stopped to converse, and by the frequent
conferences which had place in secret corners,
that they wondered none the less at the unaccountable
disappearance of their young mistress. In all
other respects, the villa and its grounds were, as
usual, quiet and seemingly deserted.

But there was a group collected beneath the shade
of an oak on the margin of the Cove, and at a point
where it was rare for man to be seen. This little
party appeared to be in waiting for some expected
communication from the brigantine; since they had
taken post on the side of the inlet, next the cape,
and in a situation so retired, as to be entirely hid
from any passing observation of those who might

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enter or leave the mouth of the Shrewsbury. In
short, they were on the long, low, and narrow barrier
of sand, that now forms the projection of the Hook,
and which, by the temporary breach that the Cove
had made between its own waters and that of the
ocean, was then an island.

“Snug should be the motto of a merchant,” observed
one of these individuals, whose opinions will
sufficiently announce his name to the reader. “He
should be snug in his dealings, and snug in his manner
of conducting them; snug in his credits, and, above
all, snug in his speculations. There is as little need,
gentlemen, in calling in the aid of a posse-comitatus
for a sensible man to keep his household in order, as
that a discreet trader should go whistling through
the public markets, with the history of his operations.
I gladly court two so worthy assistants, as
Captain Cornelius Ludlow and Mr. Oloff Van Staats;
for I know there will be no useless gossip concerning
the trifling derangement that hath occurred. Ah!
the black hath had communications with the free-trader—
always supposing the opinion of Mr. Ludlow
concerning the character of the vessel to be just—
and he is quitting the brigantine.”

Neither of the companions of the Alderman made
any reply. Each watched the movement of the skiff
that contained their messenger, and each seemed to
feel an equal interest in the result of his errand. Instead,
however, of approaching the spot where his
master and his two friends expected him, the negro,
though he knew that his boat was necessary to enable
the party to recross the inlet, pulled directly for
the mouth of the river,—a course that was exactly
contrary to the one he was expected to take.

“Rank disobedience!” grumbled the incensed
master. “The irreverent dog is deserting us, on this
neck of barren sand, where we are cut off from all
communication with the interior, and are as

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completely without intelligence of the state of the market,
and other necessaries, as men in a desert!”

“Here comes one that seems disposed to bring us
to a parley,” observed Ludlow, whose practised eye
had first detected a boat quitting the side of the brigantine,
as well as the direction it was about to steer.

The young commander was not deceived; for a
light cutter, that played like a bubble on its element,
was soon approaching the shore, where the three expectants
were seated. When it was near enough to
render sight perfectly distinct, and speech audible
without an effort, the crew ceased rowing, and permitted
the boat to lie in a state of rest. The mariner
of the India-shawl then arose in the stern-sheets,
and examined the thicket behind the party, with a
curious and suspicious eye. After a sufficient search,
he signed to his crew to force the cutter still nigher
to the land, and spoke:

“Who has affairs with any of the brigantine?”
he coolly demanded, wearing the air of one who had
no reason to anticipate the object of their visit. “She
has little left that can turn to profit, unless she parts
with her beauty.”

“Truly, good stranger,” returned the Alderman,
laying a sufficient emphasis on the latter word, “here
are none disposed to a traffic, which might not be
pleasing to the authorities of the country, were its
nature known. We come with a desire to be admitted
to a conference with the commander of the vessel,
on a matter of especial but private concern.”

“Why send a public officer on the duty? I see
one, there, in the livery of Queen Anne. We are
no lovers of Her Majesty's servants, and would not
willingly form disagreeable acquaintances.”

Ludlow nearly bit through his lip, in endeavoring
to repress his anger, at the cool confidence of one
who had already treated him with so little ceremony,
and then momentarily forgetting his object, in

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professional pride, and perhaps we might add in the
habits of his rank, he interrupted the dialogue—

“If you see the livery of the royal authority,”
he said, haughtily, “you must be sensible it is worn
by one who is commissioned to cause its rights to be
respected. I demand the name and character of yon

“As for character, she is, like any other beauty,
something vituperated; nay, some carry their envy
so far as to call it cracked! But we are jolly mariners
that sail her, and little heed crazy reports at
the expense of our mistress. As for a name, we answer
any hail that is fairly spoken, and well meant.
Call us `Honesty,' if you will, for want of the register.”

“There is much reason to suspect your vessel of
illegal practices; and, in the name of the Queen, I
demand access to her papers, and the liberty of a free
search into her cargo and crew. Else will there be
necessity to bring her under the guns of the cruiser,
which lies at no great distance, waiting only for orders.”

“It takes no scholar to read our documents, Captain
Ludlow; for they are written by a light keel
on the rolling waters, and he who follows in our wake
may guess at their authority. If you wish to overhaul
our cargo, you must look sharply into the cuffs
and aprons, the negligées and stomachers of the Governor's
lady, at the next ball at the fort; or pry into
the sail that is set above the farthingales of the wife
and daughters of your Admiralty Judge! We are no
cheesemongers, to break the shins of a boarding officer
among boxes and butter-tubs.”

“Your brigantine has a name, sirrah; and, in Her
Majesty's authority, I demand to know it.”

“Heaven forbid that any here should dispute the
Queen's right! You are a seaman, Captain Ludlow,
and have an eye for comeliness in a craft, as well as

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in a woman. Look at those harpings! There is no
fall of a shoulder can equal that curve, in grace or
richness; this shear surpasses the justness and delicacy
of any waist; and there you see the transoms,
swelling and rounded like the outlines of a Venus.
Ah! she is a bewitching creature; and no wonder
that, floating as she does, on the seas, they should
have called her—”

“Water-Witch!” said Ludlow, finding that the
other paused.

“You deserve to be one of the sisterhood yourself,
Captain Ludlow, for this readiness in divination!”

“Amazement and surprise, Patroon!” exclaimed
Myndert, with a tremendous hem. “Here is a discovery
to give a respectable merchant more uneasiness
than the undutiful conduct of fifty nieces! This
vessel is then the famous brigantine of the notorious
`Skimmer of the Seas!' a man whose misdeeds in
commerce are as universally noted, as the stoppage
of a general dealer! Pray, Master Mariner, do not
distrust our purposes. We do not come, sent by any
authority of the country, to pry into your past transactions,
of which it is quite unnecessary for you to
speak; and far less to indulge in any unlawful thirst
of gain, by urging a traffic that is forbidden by the
law. We wish solely to confer with the celebrated
free-trader and rover, who must, if your account be
true, command the vessel, for a few minutes, on an
affair of common interest to the three. This officer
of the Queen is obliged, by his duty, to make certain
demands of you, with which you will comply, or not,
at your own good discretion; and since Her Majesty's
cruiser is so far beyond reach of bullet, it cannot be
expected you will do otherwise; but further than
that, he has no present intention to proceed. Parleys
and civilities! Captain Ludlow, we must speak the
man fair, or he will leave us to get over the inlet,
and back to the Lust in Rust, as we may; and that,

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too, as empty-handed as we came. Remember our
stipulations, without observing which I shall withdraw
from the adventure, altogether.”

Ludlow bit his lip, and continued silent. The seaman
of the shawl, or Master Tiller, as he has been
more than once called, again narrowly examined
the back-ground, and caused his boat to approach so
near the land, that it was possible to step into it, by
the stern.

“Enter,” he said to the Captain of the Coquette,
who needed no second invitation; “enter, for a valuable
hostage is a safe-pledge, in a truce. The
Skimmer is no enemy to good company; and I have
done justice to the Queen's servitor, by introducing
him already, by name and character.”

“Fellow, the success of your deception may cause
you to triumph for a time; but remember that the

“Is a wholesome boat, whose abilities I have
taken, to the admeasurement of her moment-glass;”
observed Tiller, very coolly taking the words out of
the other's mouth. “But as there is business to be
done with the Skimmer, we will speak more of this

The mariner of the shawl, who had maintained
his former audacious demeanor, now became grave;
and he spoke to his crew with authority, bidding
them pull the boat to the side of the brigantine.

The exploits, the mysterious character, and the
daring of the Water-Witch, and of him who sailed
her, were, in that day, the frequent subjects of anger,
admiration, and surprise. Those who found
pleasure in the marvellous, listened to the wonders
that were recounted of her speed and boldness, with
pleasure; they who had been so often foiled in their
attempts to arrest the hardy dealers in contraband,
reddened at her name; and all wondered at the success
and intelligence with which her movements

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were controlled. It will, therefore, create no astonishment
when we say, that Ludlow and the Patroon
drew near to the light and graceful fabric,
with an interest that deepened at each stroke of the
oars. So much of a profession which, in that age,
was particularly marked and apart from the rest of
mankind in habits and opinions, had been interwoven
into the character of the former, that he could not
see the just proportions, the graceful outlines of the
hull, or the exquisite symmetry and neatness of the
spars and rigging, without experiencing a feeling
somewhat allied to that which undeniable superiority
excites in the heart of even a rival. There was also
a taste in the style of the merely ornamental parts
of the delicate machine, which caused as much surprise
as her model and rig.

Seamen, in all ages, and in every state of their
art, have been ambitious of bestowing on their floating
habitations, a style of decoration which, while
appropriate to their element, should be thought
somewhat analogous to the architectural ornaments
of the land. Piety, superstition, and national usages,
affect these characteristic ornaments, which are still
seen, in different quarters of the world, to occasion
broad distinctions between the appearances of vessels.
In one, the rudder-head is carved with the
resemblance of some hideous monster; another shows
goggling eyes and lolling tongues from its cat-heads;
this has the patron saint, or the ever-kind Marie,
embossed upon its mouldings or bows; while that is
covered with the allegorical emblems of country and
duty. Few of these efforts of nautical art are successful,
though a better taste appears to be gradually
redeeming even this branch of human industry
from the rubbish of barbarism, and to be elevating
it to a state which shall do no violence to the more
fastidious opinions of the age. But the vessel of
which we write, though constructed at so remote a

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period, would have done credit to the improvements
of our own time.

It has been said that the hull of this celebrated
smuggler was low, dark, moulded with exquisite art,
and so justly balanced as to ride upon its element
like a sea-fowl. For a little distance above the water,
it showed a blue that vied with the color of the
deep ocean, the use of copper being then unknown;
while the more superior parts were of a jet black,
delicately relieved by two lines, of a straw-color,
that were drawn, with mathematical accuracy, parallel
to the plane of her upper works, and consequently
converging slightly towards the sea, beneath
her counter. Glossy hammock-cloths concealed the
persons of those who were on the deck, while the
close bulwarks gave the brigantine the air of a vessel
equipped for war. Still the eye of Ludlow ran
curiously along the whole extent of the two strawcolored
lines, seeking in vain some evidence of the
weight and force of her armament. If she had
ports at all, they were so ingeniously concealed as to
escape the keenest of his glances. The nature of
the rig has been already described. Partaking of
the double character of brig and schooner, the sails
and spars of the forward-mast being of the former,
while those of the after-mast were of the latter construction,
seamen have given to this class of shipping
the familiar name of Hermaphrodites. But, though
there might be fancied, by this term, some want of
the proportions that constitute seemliness, it will be
remembered that the departure was only from some
former rule of art, and that no violence had been
done to those universal and permanent laws which
constitute the charm of nature. The models of
glass, which are seen representing the machinery of
a ship, are not more exact or just in their lines than
were the cordage and spars of this brigantine. Not
a rope varied from its true direction; not a sail, but

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it resembled the neat folds of some prudent house-wife;
not a mast or a yard was there, but it rose into
the air, or stretched its arms, with the most fastidious
attention to symmetry. All was airy, fanciful, and
full of grace, seeming to lend to the fabric a character
of unreal lightness and speed. As the boat drew
near her side, a change of the air caused the buoyant
bark to turn, like a vane, in its current; and as
the long and pointed proportions of her head-gear
came into view, Ludlow saw beneath the bowsprit
an image that might be supposed to make, by means
of allegory, some obvious allusions to the character
of the vessel. A female form, fashioned with the
carver's best skill, stood on the projection of the cut-water.
The figure rested lightly on the ball of one
foot, while the other was suspended in an easy attitude,
resembling the airy posture of the famous Mercury
of the Bolognese. The drapery was fluttering,
scanty, and of a light sea-green tint, as if it had imbibed
a hue from the element beneath. The face
was of that dark bronzed color which human ingenuity
has, from time immemorial, adopted as the
best medium to portray a superhuman expression.
The locks were dishevelled, wild, and rich; the eye,
full of such a meaning as might be fancied to glitter
in the organs of a sorceress; while a smile so strangely
meaning and malign played about the mouth, that
the young sailor started, when it first met his view,
as if a living thing had returned his look.

“Witchcraft and necromancy!” grumbled the Alderman,
as this extraordinary image came suddenly
on his vision also. “Here is a brazen-looking hussy!
and one who might rob the Queen's treasury, itself,
without remorse! Your eyes are young, Patroon;
what is that the minx holds so impudently above her

“It seems an open book, with letters of red,

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written on its pages. One need not be a conjuror, to divine
it is no extract from the Bible.”

“Nor from the statute-books of Queen Anne. I
warrant me, 'tis a leger of profit gained in her many
wanderings. Goggling and leers! the bold air of the
confident creature is enough to put an honest man
out of countenance!”

“Wilt read the motto of the witch?” demanded
he of the India-shawl, whose eye had been studying
the detail of the brigantine's equipment, rather than
attending to the object which so much attracted the
looks of his companions. “The night air has taut'ned
the cordage of that flying-jib-boom, fellows, until it
begins to lift its nose like a squeamish cockney,
when he holds it over salt-water! See to it, and
bring the spar in line; else shall we have a reproof
from the sorceress, who little likes to have any of her
limbs deranged. Here, gentlemen, the opinions of
the lady may be read, as clearly as woman's mind
can ever be fathomed.”

While speaking to his crew, Tiller had changed
the direction of the boat; and it was soon lying, in
obedience to a motion of his hand, directly beneath
the wild and significant-looking image, just described.
The letters in red were now distinctly visible; and
when Alderman Van Beverout had adjusted his spectacles,
each of the party read the following sentence:—

“Albeit, I neither lend nor borrow,
By taking, nor by giving of excess,
Yet to supply the ripe wants of my friend,
I'll break a custom.”
Merchant of Venice.

“The brazen!” exclaimed Myndert, when he had
got through this quotation from the immortal bard.
“Ripe or green, one could not wish to be the friend
of so impudent a thing; and then to impute such
sentiments to any respectable commercial man,

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whether of Venice or of Amsterdam! Let us board
the brigantine, friend mariner, and end the connexion,
ere foul mouths begin to traduce our motives for the

“The over-driven ship plows the seas too deep,
for speed; we shall get into port, in better season,
without this haste. Wilt take another look into the
dark lady's pages? A woman's mind is never known,
at the first answer!”

The speaker raised the rattan he still carried, and
caused a page of painted metal to turn on hinges
that were so artfully concealed as not to be visible.
A new surface, with another extract, was seen.

“What is it, what is it, Patroon?” demanded the
burgher, who appeared greatly to distrust the discretion
of the sorceress. “Follies and rhymes! but this
is the way of the whole sex; when nature has
denied them tongues, they invent other means of

“Porters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about;
Thrice to thine, and thrice to thine,
And thrice again to make up nine.”

“Rank nonsense!” continued the burgher! “It is
well for those who can, to add thrice and thrice to
their stores; but look you, Patroon—it is a thriving
trade that can double the value of the adventure,
and that with reasonable risks, and months of patient

“We have other pages,” resumed Tiller, “but our
affairs drag for want of attending to them. One may
read much good matter in the book of the sorceress,
when there is leisure and opportunity. I often take
occasion, in the calms, to look into her volume; and
it is rare to find the same moral twice told, as these
brave seamen can swear.”

The mariners at the oars confirmed this assertion,

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by their grave and believing faces; while their superior
caused the boat to quit the place, and the
image of the Water-Witch was left floating in solitude
above her proper element.

The arrival of the cutter produced no sensation
among those who were found on the deck of the brigantine.
The mariner of the shawl welcomed his
companions, frankly and heartily; and then he left
them for a minute to make their observations, while
he discharged some duty in the interior of the vessel.
The moments were not lost, as powerful curiosity
induced all the visiters to gaze about them, in the
manner in which men study the appearance of any
celebrated object, that has long been known only by
reputation. It was quite apparent that even Alderman
Van Beverout had penetrated farther into the
mysteries of the beautiful brigantine, than he had
ever before been. But it was Ludlow who gathered
most from this brief opportunity, and whose understanding
glances so rapidly and eagerly ran over all
that a seaman could wish to examine.

An admirable neatness reigned in every part. The
planks of the deck resembled the work of the cabinet-maker,
rather than the coarser labor which is generally
seen in such a place; and the same excellence
of material, and exactness in the finish, were visible
in the ceilings of the light bulwarks, the railings,
and all the other objects which necessarily came
conspicuously into view, in the construction of such
a fabric. Brass was tastefully rather than lavishly
used, on many of those parts where metal was necessary;
and the paint of the interior was everywhere
a light and delicate straw-color. Armament there
was none, or at least none visible; nor did the fifteen
or twenty grave-looking seamen, who were silently
lounging, with folded arms, about the vessel, appear
to be those who would find pleasure in scenes of violence.
They were, without an exception, men who

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had reached the middle age, of weather-worn and
thoughtful countenances, many of them even showing
heads that had begun to be grizzled more by time
than even by exposure. Thus much Ludlow had
been enabled to ascertain, ere they were rejoined by
Tiller. When the latter again came on deck, he
showed, however, no desire to conceal any of the
perfections of his habitation.

“The wilful sorceress is no niggard in accommodating
her followers,” said the mariner, observing
the manner in which the Queen's officer was employed.
“Here, you see, the Skimmer keeps room
enough for an admiral, in his cabins; and the fellows
are berthed aft, far beyond the foremast;—wilt step
to the hatch, and look below?”

The captain and his companions did as desired,
and to the amazement of the former, he perceived
that, with the exception of a sort of room fitted with
large and water-tight lockers, which were placed in
full view, all the rest of the brigantine was occupied
by the accommodations of her officers and crew.

“The world gives us the reputation of free-traders,”
continued Tiller, smiling maliciously; “but if the
Admiralty-Court were here, big wigs and high staffs,
judge and jury, it would be at a loss to bring us to
conviction. There is iron to keep the lady on her
feet, and water, with some garnish of Jamaica, and
the wines of old Spain and the islands, to cheer the
hearts and cool the mouths of my fellows, beneath
that deck; and more than that, there is not. We
have stores for the table and the breeze, beyond you
bulk-head; and here are lockers beneath you, that
are—empty! See, one is open; it is neat as any
drawer in a lady's bureau. This is no place for your
Dutchman's strong waters, or the coarse skins of your
tobacconist. Odd's my life! He who would go on
the scent of the Water-Witch's lading, must follow
your beauty in her satins, or your parson in his band

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and gown. There would be much lamentation in
the church, and many a heavy-hearted bishop, were
it known that the good craft had come to harm!”

“There must be an end to this audacious trifling
with the law,” said Ludlow; “and the time may be
nearer than you suppose.”

“I look at the pages of the lady's book, in the
pride of each morning; for we have it aboard here,
that when she intends to serve us foul, she will at
least be honest enough to give a warning. The
mottoes often change, but her words are ever true.
'Tis hard to overtake the driving mist, Captain Ludlow,
and he must hold good way with the wind itself,
who wishes to stay long in our company.”

“Many a boastful sailor has been caught. The
breeze that is good for the light of draught, and the
breeze that is good for the deep keel, are different.
You may live to learn what a stout spar, a wide
arm, and a steady hull, can do.”

“The lady of the wild eye and wicked smile protect
me! I have seen the witch buried fathoms deep
in brine, and the glittering water falling from her
tresses like golden stars; but never have I read an
untruth in her pages. There is good intelligence
between her and some on board; and, trust me, she
knows the paths of the ocean too well, ever to steer
a wrong course. But we prate like gossiping rivermen.—
Wilt see the Skimmer of the Seas?”

“Such is the object of our visit,” returned Ludlow,
whose heart beat violently at the name of the
redoubtable rover. “If you are not he, bring us
where he is.”

“Speak lower; if the lady under the bowsprit
hear such treason against her favorite, I'll not answer
for her good-will. If I am not he!” added the
hero of the India-shawl, laughing freely. “Well,
an ocean is bigger than a sea, and a bay is not a
gulf. You shall have an opportunity of judging

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between us, noble captain, and then I leave opinions to
each man's wisdom. Follow.”

He quitted the hatchway, and led his companions
toward the accommodations in the stern of the

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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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