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

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

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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

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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 respire 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

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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 herself, 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

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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,

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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

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 topsails, 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, and
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 heavily
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

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topsails 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

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

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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
he 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

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with an entire dependence on the discretion of the
young officer who controlled the movements of the

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 manœuvres.
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

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

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

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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

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

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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

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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

“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

The Coquette, by this time, had run so far as to
have the entrance of the Cove open; and she was

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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
topsails 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-topsail
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

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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,

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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 topmen were gathering in and knotting
the sails down to a close reef.

“Give way, men, for your lives!” cried the excited

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

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
topmen!—lay out!—furl away!”

These orders were given in rapid succession, and
without 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

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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

“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

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[figure description] Page 236.[end figure description]

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.

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[figure description] Page 237.[end figure description]

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

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[figure description] Page 238.[end figure description]

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