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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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“Did he write this?”


“Ay, Madam.”

What you will.

[figure description] Page 055.[end figure description]

If we say that Alida de Barbérie did not cast a
glance behind her, as the party quitted the wharf,
in order to see whether the boat that contained the
commander of the cruiser followed the example of
the others, we shall probably portray the maiden
as one that was less subject to the influence of coquetry
than the truth would justify. To the great
discontent of the Alderman, whatever might have
been the feelings of his niece, on the occasion, the
barge continued to approach the shore, in a manner
which showed that the young seaman betrayed no
visible interest in the result of the chase.

The heights of Stanten Island, a century ago, were
covered, much as they are at present, with a growth
of dwarf-trees. Foot-paths led among this meagre
vegetation, in divers directions; and as the hamlet at
the Quarantine-Ground was the point whence they
all diverged, it required a practised guide to thread
their mazes, without a loss of both time and distance.
It would seem, however, that the worthy burgher
was fully equal to the office; for, moving with more
than his usual agility, he soon led his companions into
the wood, and, by frequently altering his course, so
completely confounded their sense of the relative
bearings of places, that it is not probable one of them
all could very readily have extricated himself from
the labyrinth.

“Clouds and shady bowers!” exclaimed Myndert,
when he had achieved, to his own satisfaction, this
evasion of the pursuit he wished to avoid; “little
oaks and green pines are pleasant on a June

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morning. You shall have mountain air and a sea-breeze,
Patroon, to quicken the appetite at the Lust in Rust.
If Alida will speak, the girl can say that a mouthful
of the elixir is better for a rosy cheek, than all the
concoctions and washes that were ever invented to
give a man a heart-ache.”

“If the place be as much changed as the road
that leads to it,” returned la belle Barbérie, glancing
her dark eye, in vain, in the direction of the bay
they had quitted, “I should scarcely venture an
opinion on a subject of which I am obliged to confess
utter ignorance.”

“Ah, woman is nought but vanities! To see and
to be seen, is the delight of the sex. Though we are
a thousand times more comfortable in this wood than
we should be in walking along the water-side, why,
the sea-gulls and snipes lose the benefit of our company!
The salt water, and all who live on it, are to
be avoided by a wise man, Mr. Van Staats, except
as they both serve to cheapen freight and to render
trade brisk. You'll thank me for this care, niece of
mine, when you reach the bluff, cool as a package
of furs free from moth, and fresh and beautiful as a
Holland tulip, with the dew on it.”

“To resemble the latter, one might consent to walk
blindfold, dearest uncle; and so we dismiss the subject.
Francois, fais moi le plaisir de porter ce petit
livere; malgré la fraîcheur de la fôret, j'ai besoin de
m' évanter.”

The valet took the book, with an empressement
that defeated the more tardy politeness of the Patroon;
and when he saw, by the vexed eye and flushed
cheek of his young mistress, that she was incommoded
rather by an internal than by the external
heat, he whispered considerately,—

“Que ma chère Mademoiselle Alide ne se fàche
pas! Elle ne manquerait jamais d'admirateurs, dans

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un désrt. Ah! si Mam'selle allait voir la patrie de
ses ancêtres!—”

“'Merci bien, mon cher; gardez les feuilles, fortement
fermées. Il y a des papiers dedans.”

“Monsieur Francois,” said the Alderman, separating
his niece, with little ceremony, from her nearly
parental attendant, by the interposition of his own
bulky person, and motioning for the others to proceed,
“a word with thee in confidence. I have noted, in
the course of a busy and I hope a profitable life, that
a faithful servant is an honest counsellor. Next to
Holland and England, both of which are great commercial
nations, and the Indies, which are necessary
to these colonies, together with a natural preference
for the land in which I was born, I have always been
of opinion, that France is a very good sort of a country.
I think, Mr. Francis, that dislike to the seas
has kept you from returning thither, since the decease
of my late brother-in-law?”

“Wid like for Mam'selle Alide, Monsieur, avec
votre permission.”

“Your affection for my niece, honest Francois, is
not to be doubted. It is as certain as the payment
of a good draft, by Crommeline, Van Stopper, and
Van Gelt, of Amsterdam. Ah! old valet! she is fresh
and blooming as a rose, and a girl of excellent qualities!
'Tis a pity that she is a little opinionated; a
defect that she doubtless inherits from her Norman
ancestors; since all of my family have ever been remarkable
for listening to reason. The Normans were
an obstinate race, as witness the siege of Rochelle,
by which oversight real estate in that city must
have lost much in value!”

“Mille excuses, Monsieur Bevre'—; more beautiful
as de rose, and no opinâtre du tout. Mon Dieu!
pour sa qualité, c' est une famille tres ancienne.”

“That was weak point with my brother Barbérie,
and, after all, it did not add a cipher to the sum-total

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of the assets. The best blood, Mr. Francois, is that
which has been best fed. The line of Hugh Capet
himself would fail, without the butcher; and the
butcher would certainly fail, without customers that
can pay. François, thou art a man who understands
the value of a sure footing in the world; would it
not be a thousand pities, that such a girl as Alida
should throw herself away on one whose best foundation
is no better than a rolling ship?”

“Certainement, Monsieur; Mam'selle be too good
to roll in de ship.”

“Obliged to follow a husband, up and down;
among freebooters and dishonest traders; in fair
weather and foul; hot and cold; wet and dry; bilge-water
and salt-water; cramps and nausea; salt-junk
and no junk; gales and calms,—and all for a hasty
judgment formed in sanguine youth.”

The face of the valet had responded to the Alderman's
enumeration of the evils that would attend
so ill-judged a step in his niece, as faithfully as
if each muscle had been a mirror, to reflect the contortions
of one suffering under the malady of the sea.

“Parbleu, c' est horrible cette mer!” he ejaculated,
when the other had done. “It is grand malheur,
dere should be watair but for drink, and for la propret
é, avec fosse to keep de carp round le château.
Mais, Mam'selle be no haste jugement, and she shall
have mari on la terre solide.”

“'Twould be better, that the estate of my brother-in-law
should be kept in sight, judicious Francois,
than to be sent adrift on the high seas.”

“Dere vas marin dans la famille de Barbérie,

“Bonds and balances! if the savings of one I could
name, frugal François, were added in current coin,
the sum-total would sink a common ship. You know
it is my intention to remember Alida, in settling accounts
with the world.”

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[figure description] Page 059.[end figure description]

“If Monsieur de Barbérie vas 'live, Monsieur
Alderman, he should say des choses convenables;
mais, malheureusement, mon chèr, maitre est mort;
and, sair, I shall be bold to remercier pour lui, et
pour toute sa famille.”

“Women are perverse, and sometimes they have
pleasure in doing the very thing they are desired
not to do.”

“Ma foi, oui!”

“Prudent men should manage them with soft
words and rich gifts; with these, they become orderly
as a pair of well-broke geldings.”

“Monsieur know,” said the old valet, rubbing his
hands, and laughing with the subdued voice of a
well-bred domestic, though he could not conceal a
jocular wink; “pourtant il est garçon! Le cadeau
be good for de demoiselles, and bettair as for de

“Wedlock and blinkers! it is we gâssons, as you
call us, who ought to know. Your hen-pecked husband
has no time to generalize among the sex, in
order to understand the real quality of the article.
Now, here is Van Staats of Kinderhook, faithful
François; what think you of such a youth for a
husband for Alida?”

“Pourtant, Mam'selle like de vivacité; Monsieur
le Patroon be nevair trop vif.”

“The more likely to be sure—Hist, I hear a footstep.
We are followed—chased, perhaps, I should
say, to speak in the language of these sea-gentry.
Now is the time to show this Captain Ludlow, how
a Frenchman can wind him round his finger, on
terra-firma. Loiter in the rear, and draw our navigator
on a wrong course. When he has run into a
fog, come yourself, with all speed, to the oak on the
bluff. There we shall await you.”

Flattered by this confidence, and really persuaded
that he was furthering the happiness of her he

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served, the old valet nodded, in reply to the Alderman's
wink and chuckle, and immediately relaxed
his speed. The former pushed ahead; and, in a
minute, he and those who followed had turned short
to the left, and were out of sight.

Though faithfully and even affectionately attached
to Alida, her servant had many of the qualifications
of an European domestic. Trained in all the ruses
of his profession, he was of that school which believes
civilization is to be measured by artifice; and
success lost some of its value, when it had been effected
by the vulgar machinery of truth and common
sense. No wonder then the retainer entered into
the views of the Alderman, with more than a usual
relish for the duty. He heard the cracking of the
dried twigs beneath the footstep of him who followed;
and in order that there might be no chance of missing
the desired interview, the valet began to hum a
French air, in so loud a key, as to be certain the
sounds would reach any ear that was nigh. The
twigs snapped more rapidly, the footsteps seemed
nearer, and then the hero of the India-shawl sprang
to the side of the expecting François.

The disappointment seemed mutual, and on the
part of the domestic it entirely disconcerted all his
pre-arranged schemes for misleading the commander
of the Coquette. Not so with the bold mariner. So
far from his self-possession being disturbed, it would
have been no easy matter to restrain his audacity,
even in situations far more trying than any in which
he has yet been presented to the reader.

“What cheer, in thy woodland cruise, Monsieur
Broad-Pennant?” he said, with infinite coolness, the
instant his steady glance had ascertained they were
alone. “This is safer navigation for an officer of thy
draught of water, than running about the bay, in a
periagua. What may be the longitude, and where-a-way
did you part company from the consorts?”

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“Sair, I valk in de vood for de plaisir, and I go
on de bay for de—parbleu, non! 'tis to follow ma
jeune maitresse I go on de bay; and, sair, I wish dey
who do love de bay and de sea, would not come into
de vood, du tout.”

“Well spoken, and with ample spirit;—what, a
student too! one in a wood should glean something
from his labors. Is it the art of furling a main cue,
that is taught in this pretty volume?”

As the mariner put his question, he very deliberately
took the book from François, who, instead of
resenting the liberty, rather offered the volume, in

“No, sair, it is not how to furl la queue, but how
to touch de soul; not de art to haul over de calm,
but—oui, c'est plein de connoissance et d'esprit!
Ah! ha! you know de Cid! le grand homme! l'homme
de génie! If you read, Monsieur Marin, you shall
see la vraie poésie! Not de big book and no single
rhyme—Sair, I do not vish to say vat is pénible, mais
it is not one book widout rhyme; it was not écrit on
de sea. Le diable! que le vrai génie, et les nobles
sentiments, se trouvent dans ce livre, la!”

“Ay, I see it is a log-book, for every man to note
his mind in. I return you Master Cid, with his fine
sentiments, in the bargain. Great as was his genius,
it would seem he was not the man to write all that
I find between the leaves.”

“He not write him all! Yes, sair, he shall write
him six time more dan all, if la France a besoin.
Que l'envie de ces Anglais se découvre quand on parle
des beaux génies de la France!”

“I will only say, if the gentleman wrote the whole
that is in the book, and it is as fine as you would
make a plain seafaring man believe, he did wrong
not to print it.”

“Print!” echoed François, opening his eyes, and

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the volume, by a common impulse. “Imprimé! ha!
here is papier of Mam'selle Alide, assurément.”

“Take better heed of it then,” interrupted the
seaman of the shawl. “As for your Cid, to me it is
an useless volume, since it teaches neither the latitude
of a shoal, nor the shape of a coast.”

“Sair, it teach de morale; de rock of de passion,
et les grands mouvements de l'ame! Oui, Sair; it
teach all, un Monsieur vish to know. Tout le monde
read him in la France; en province, comme en ville.
If sa Majesté, le Grand Louis, be not so mal avisé,
as to chasser Messieurs les Huguenots from his royaume,
I shall go to Paris, to hear le Cid, moi-même!”

“A good journey to you, Monsieur Cue. We may
meet on the road, until which time I take my departure.
The day may come, when we shall converse
with a rolling sea beneath us. Till then, brave

“Adieu, Monsieur,” returned François, bowing
with a politeness that had become too familiar to be
forgotten. “If we do not meet but in de sea, we
shall not meet, nevair. Ah, ha, ha! Monsieur le
Marin n'aime pas à entendre parler de la gloire de
la France! Je voudrais bien savoir lire ce f—e Shak-a-spear,
pour voir, combien l'immortel Corneille lui
est supérieur. Ma foi, oui; Monsieur Pierre Corneille
est vraiment un homme illustre!”

The faithful, self-complacent, and aged valet then
pursued his way towards the large oak on the bluff;
for as he ceased speaking, the mariner of the gay
sash had turned deeper into the woods, and left him
alone. Proud of the manner, in which he had met
the audacity of the stranger, prouder still of the
reputation of the author, whose fame had been
known in France long before his own departure from
Europe, and not a little consoled with the reflection
that he had contributed his mite to support the honor
of his distant and well-beloved country, the honest

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François pressed the volume affectionately beneath
his arm, and hastened on after his mistress.

Though the position of Staten Island and its surrounding
bays is so familiar to the Manhattanese, an
explanation of the localities may be agreeable to
readers who dwell at a distance from the scene of
the tale.

It has already been said, that the principal communication
between the bays of Raritan and York,
is called the Narrows. At the mouth of this passage,
the land on Staten Island rises in a high bluff, which
overhangs the water, not unlike the tale-fraught
cape of Misenum. From this elevated point, the
eye not only commands a view of both estuaries and
the city, but it looks far beyond the point of Sandy-Hook,
into the open sea. It is here that, in our own
days, ships are first noted in the offing, and whence
the news of the approach of his vessel is communicated
to the expecting merchant by means of the
telegraph. In the early part of the last century,
arrivals were too rare to support such an establishment.
The bluff was therefore little resorted to, except
by some occasional admirer of scenery, or by
those countrymen whom business, at long intervals,
drew to the spot. It had been early cleared of its
wood, and the oak already mentioned was the only
tree standing in a space of some ten or a dozen

It has been seen that Alderman Van Beverout had
appointed this solitary oak, as the place of rendezvous
with François. Thither then he took his way
on parting from the valet, and to this spot we must
now transfer the scene. A rude seat had been placed
around the root of the tree, and here the whole
party, with the exception of the absent domestic,
were soon seated. In a minute, however, they were
joined by the exulting François, who immediately

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related the particulars of his recent interview with
the stranger.

“A clear conscience, with cordial friends, and a
fair balance-sheet, may keep a man warm in January,
even in this climate,” said the Alderman, willing
to turn the discourse; “but what with rebellious
blacks, hot streets, and spoiling furs, it passeth mortal
powers to keep cool in yonder overgrown and
crowded town. Thou seest, Patroon, the spot of
white on the opposite side of the bay.—Breezes and
fanning! that is the Lust in Rust, where cordial enters
the mouth at every breath, and where a man
has room to cast up the sum-total of his thoughts,
any hour in the twenty-four.”

“We seem quite as effectually alone on this hill,
with the advantage of having a city in the view,”
remarked Alida, with an emphasis that showed she
meant even more than she expressed.

“We are by ourselves, niece of mine,” returned
the Alderman, rubbing his hands as if he secretly
felicitated himself that the fact were so. “That
truth cannot be denied, and good company we are,
though the opinion comes from one who is not a
cipher in the party. Modesty is a poor man's wealth.
but as we grow substantial in the world, Patroon,
one can afford to begin to speak truth of himself, as
well as of his neighbor.”

“In which case, little, but good, will be uttered
from the mouth of Alderman Van Beverout,” said
Ludlow, appearing so suddenly from behind the root
of the tree, as effectually to shut the mouth of the
burgher. “My desire to offer the services of the
ship to your party, has led to this abrupt intrusion,
and I hope will obtain its pardon.”

“The power to forgive is a prerogative of the
Governor, who represents the Queen,” drily returned
the Alderman. “If Her Majesty has so little employment
for her cruisers, that their captains can

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dispose of them, in behalf of old men and young
maidens—why, happy is the age, and commerce
should flourish!”

“If the two duties are compatible, the greater the
reason why a commander should felicitate himself,
that he may be of service to so many. You are
bound to the Jersey Highlands, Mr. Van Beverout?”

“I am bound to a comfortable and very private
abode, called the Lust in Rust, Captain Cornelius
Van Cuyler Ludlow.”

The young man bit his lip, and his healthful but
brown cheek flushed a deeper red than common,
though he preserved his composure.

“And I am bound to sea,” he soon said. “The
wind is getting fresh, and your boat, which I see, at
this moment, standing in for the islands, will find it
difficult to make way against its force. The Coquette's
anchor will be aweigh, in twenty minutes;
and I shall find two hours of an ebbing tide, and a
top-gallant breeze, but too short a time for the pleasure
of entertaining such guests. I am certain that
the fears of la Belle will favor my wishes, whichsoever
side of the question her inclinations may happen
to be.”

“And they are with her uncle;” quickly returned
Alida. “I am so little of a sailor, that prudence, if
not pusillanimity, teaches me to depend on the experience
of older heads.”

“Older I may not pretend to be,” said Ludlow,
coloring;” but Mr. Van Beverout will see no pretension
in believing myself as good a judge of wind and
tide, as even he himself can be.”

“You are said to command Her Majesty's sloop
with skill, Captain Ludlow, and it is creditable to
the colony, that it has produced so good an officer;
though I believe your grandfather came into the
province, so lately as on the restoration of King
Charles the Second?”

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“We cannot claim descent from the United Provinces,
Alderman Van Beverout, on the paternal side;
but whatever may have been the political opinions
of my grandfather, those of his descendant have
never been questioned. Let me entreat the fair
Alida to take counsel of the apprehension I am sure
she feels, and to persuade her uncle that the Coquette
is safer than his periagua.”

“It is said to be easier to enter than to quit your
ship,” returned the laughing Alida. “By certain
symptoms that attended our passage to the island,
your Coquette, like others, is fond of conquest. One
is not safe beneath so malign an influence.”

“This is a reputation given by our enemies. I
had hoped for a different answer from la belle Barb

The close of the sentence was uttered with an
emphasis that caused the blood to quicken its movement
in the veins of the maiden. It was fortunate
that neither of their companions was very observant,
or else suspicions might have been excited, that a
better intelligence existed between the young sailor
and the heiress, than would have comported with
their wishes and intentions.

“I had hoped for a different answer from la belle
Barbérie,” repeated Ludlow, in a lower voice, but
with even a still more emphatic tone than before.

There was evidently a struggle in the mind of
Alida.—She overcame it, before her confusion could
be noted; and, turning to the valet, she said, with
the composure and grace that became a gentlewoman—

“Rends moi le livre, François.”

“Le voici—ah! ma chère Mam'selle Alide, que
ce Monsieur le marin se fâchait à cause de la gloire,
et des beaux vers de notre illustre M. Pierre Corneille!

“Here is an English sailor, that I am sure will not

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deny the merit of an admired writer, even though
he come of a nation that is commonly thought hostile,
François,” returned his mistress, smiling. “Captain
Ludlow, it is now a month since I am your
debtor, by promise, for a volume of Corneille, and I
here acquit myself of the obligation. When you
have perused the contents of this book, with the attention
they deserve, I may hope—”

“For a speedy opinion of their merits.”

“I was about to say, to receive the volume again,
as it is a legacy from my father,” steadily rejoined

“Legacies and foreign tongues!” muttered the
Alderman. “One is well enough; but for the other,
English and Dutch are all that the wisest man need
learn. I never could understand an account of profit
and loss in any other tongue, Patroon; and even a
favorable balance never appears so great as it is,
unless the account be rendered in one or the other
of these rational dialects. Captain Ludlow, we thank
you for your politeness, but here is one of my fellows
to tell us that my own periagua is arrived; and,
wishing you a happy and a long cruise, as we say of
lives, I bid you, adieu.”

The young seaman returned the salutations of the
party, with a better grace than his previous solicitude
to persuade them to enter his ship, might have
given reason to expect. He even saw them descend
the hill, towards the water of the outer bay, with
entire composure; and it was only after they had
entered a thicket which hid them from view, that
he permitted his feelings to have sway.

Then indeed he drew the volume from his pocket,
and opened its leaves with an eagerness he could no
longer control. It seemed as if he expected to read
more, in the pages, than the author had caused to
be placed there; but when his eye caught sight of
a sealed billet, the legacy of M. de Barbérie fell at

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his feet; and the paper was torn asunder, with all
the anxiety of one who expected to find in its contents
a decree of life or death.

Amazement was clearly the first emotion of the
young seaman. He read and re-read; struck his
brow with his hand; gazed about him at the land
and at the water; re-perused the note; examined
the superscription, which was simply to `Capt.
Ludlow, of Her Majesty's ship Coquette:' smiled;
muttered between his teeth; seemed vexed, and yet
delighted; read the note again, word by word, and
finally thrust it into his pocket, with the air of a
man who had found reason for both regret and satisfaction
in its contents.

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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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