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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 am no pilot; yet, wert thou as far
As that vast shore wash'd with the furthest sea,
I would adventure for such merchandise.”
Romeo and Juliet.

A HAPPY mixture of land and water, seen by a
bright moon, and beneath the sky of the fortieth degree
of latitude, cannot fail to make a pleasing picture.
Such was the landscape which the reader
must now endeavor to present to his mind.

The wide estuary of Raritan is shut in from the
winds and billows of the open sea, by a long, low,
and narrow cape, or point, which, by a medley of
the Dutch and English languages, that is by no
means rare in the names of places that lie within
the former territories of the United Provinces of
Holland, is known by the name of Sandy-Hook.
This tongue of land appears to have been made by
the unremitting and opposing actions of the waves,
on one side, and of the currents of the different
rivers, that empty their waters into the bay, on the
other. It is commonly connected with the low coast
of New-Jersey, to the south; but there are periods,
of many years in succession, during which there
exists an inlet from the sea, between what may be
termed the inner end of the cape, and the main-land.
During these periods, Sandy-Hook, of course, becomes
an island. Such was the fact at the time of
which it is our business to write.

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The outer, or ocean side of this low and narrow
bank of sand, is a smooth and regular beach, like
that seen on most of the Jersey coast, while the inner
is indented, in a manner to form several convenient
anchoring-grounds, for ships that seek a shelter from
easterly gales. One of the latter is a circular and
pretty cove, in which vessels of a light draught are
completely embayed, and where they may, in safety,
ride secure from any winds that blow. The harbor,
or, as it is always called, the Cove, lies at the point
where the cape joins the main, and the inlet just
named communicates directly with its waters, whenever
the passage is open. The Shrewsbury, a river
of the fourth or fifth class, or in other words a stream
of a few hundred feet in width, and of no great
length, comes from the south, running nearly parallel
with the coast, and becomes a tributary of the Bay,
also, at a point near the Cove. Between the Shrewsbury
and the sea, the land resembles that on the
cape, being low and sandy, though not entirely without
fertility. It is covered with a modest growth of
pines and oaks, where it is not either subject to the
labors of the husbandman, or in natural meadow.
But the western bank of the river is an abrupt and
high acclivity, which rises to the elevation of a mountain.
It was near the base of the latter that Alderman
Van Beverout, for reasons that may be more
fully developed as we proceed in our tale, had seen
fit to erect his villa, which, agreeably to a usage of
Holland, he had called the Lust in Rust; an appellation
that the merchant, who had read a few of the
classics in his boyhood, was wont to say meant nothing
more nor less than `Otium cum dignitate.'

If a love of retirement and a pure air had its influence
in determining the selection of the burgher
of Manhattan, he could not have made a better
choice. The adjoining lands had been occupied,
early in the previous century, by a respectable

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family of the name of Hartshorne, which continues
seated at the place, to the present hour. The extent
of their possessions served, at that day, to keep others
at a distance. If to this fact be added the formation
and quality of the ground, which was, at so early a
period, of trifling value for agricultural purposes, it
will be seen there was as little motive, as there was
opportunity, for strangers to intrude. As to the air,
it was refreshed by the breezes of the ocean, which
was scarcely a mile distant; while it had nothing to
render it unhealthy, or impure. With this sketch
of the general features of the scene where so many
of our incidents occurred, we shall proceed to describe
the habitation of the Alderman, a little more
in detail.

The villa of the Lust in Rust was a low, irregular
edifice, in bricks, whitewashed to the color of the
driven snow, and in a taste that was altogether Dutch.
There were many gables and weather-cocks, a dozen
small and twisted chimneys, with numberless facilities
that were intended for the nests of storks. These
airy sites were, however, untenanted, to the great
admiration of the honest architect, who, like many
others that bring with them into this hemisphere
habits and opinions that are better suited to the
other, never ceased expressing his surprise on the
subject, though all the negroes of the neighborhood
united in affirming there was no such bird in America.
In front of the house, there was a narrow but an
exceedingly neat lawn, encirled by shrubbery;
while two old elms, that seemed coeval with the
mountain, grew in the rich soil of which the base of
the latter was composed. Nor was there a want of
shade on any part of the natural terrace, that was
occupied by the buildings. It was thickly sprinkled
with fruit-trees, and here and there was a pine, or
an oak, of the native growth. A declivity that was
rather rapid fell away in front, to the level of the

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[figure description] Page 084.[end figure description]

mouth of the river. In short, it was an ample but
an unpretending country-house, in which no domestic
convenience had been forgotten; while it had little
to boast of in the way of architecture, except its
rusty vanes and twisted chimneys. A few out-houses,
for the accommodation of the negroes, were nigh;
and nearer to the river, there were barns and stables,
of dimensions and materials altogether superior to
those that the appearance of the arable land, or the
condition of the small farm, would seem to render
necessary. The periagua, in which the proprietor
had made his passage across the outer bay, lay at a
small wooden wharf immediately below.

For the earlier hours of the evening, the flashing
of candles, and a general and noisy movement among
the blacks, had denoted the presence of the master
of the villa. But the activity had gradually subsided;
and before the clock struck nine, the manner in
which the lights were distributed, and the general
silence, showed that the party, most probably fatigued
with their journey, had already separated for the
night. The clamor of the negroes had ceased, and
the quiet of deep sleep was already prevailing among
their humble dwellings.

At the northern extremity of the villa, which, it
will be remembered, leaned against the mountain,
and facing the east, or fronting the river and the
sea, there stood a little wing, even more deeply embowered
in shrubbery and low trees, than the other
parts of the edifice, and which was constructed altogether
in a different style. This was a pavilion,
erected for the particular accommodation, and at the
cost, of la belle Barbérie. Here the heiress of the
two fortunes was accustomed to keep her own little
ménage, during the weeks passed in the country;
and here she amused herself, in those pretty and
feminine employments that suited her years and
tastes. In compliment to the beauty and origin of

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its inhabitant, the gallant François had christened
this particular portion of the villa, la Cour des Fées,
a name that had gotten into general use, though
somewhat corrupted in sound.

On the present occasion, the blinds of the principal
apartment of the pavilion were open, and its mistress
was still to be seen at one of the windows. Alida
was at an age when the sex is most sensible of lively
impressions, and she looked abroad on the loveliness
of the landscape, and on the soft stillness of the
night, with the pleasure that such a mind is wont to
receive from objects of natural beauty.

There was a young moon, and a firmament glowing
with a myriad of stars. The light was shed
softly on the water, though, here and there, the
ocean glittered with its rays. A nearly imperceptible,
but what seamen call a heavy air came off the
sea, bringing with it the refreshing coolness of the
hour. The surface of the immense waste was perfectly
unruffled, both within and without the barrier
of sand that forms the cape; but the body of the
element was heaving and setting heavily, in a manner
to resemble the sleeping respiration of some being
of huge physical frame. The roar of the surf, which
rolled up in long and white curls upon the sands,
was the only audible sound; but that was heavy and
incessant, sometimes swelling on the air, hollow and
threatening, and at others dying, in dull and distant
murmurs, on the ear. There was a charm in these
varieties of sound, and in the solemn stillness of such
a night, that drew Alida into her little balcony; and
she leaned forward, beyond its shadow of sweet-brier,
to gaze at a part of the bay that was not visible, in
the front view, from her windows.

La belle Barbérie smiled, when she saw the dim
masts and dark hull of a ship, which was anchored
near the end of the cape, and within its protection.
There was the look of womanly pride in her dark

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eye, and haply some consciousness of womanly power
in the swell of her rich lip, while a taper finger beat
the bar of the balcony, rapidly, and without consciousness
of its employment.

“The loyal Captain Ludlow has quickly ended his
cruise!” said the maiden aloud, for she spoke under
the influence of a triumph that was too natural to
be suppressed. “I shall become a convert to my
uncle's opinions, and think the Queen badly served.”

“He who serves one mistress, faithfully, has no
light task,” returned a voice from among the shrubbery
that grew beneath and nearly veiled the window;
“but he, who is devoted to two, may well despair
of success with both!”

Alida recoiled, and, at the next instant, she saw
her place occupied by the commander of the Coquette.
Before venturing to cross the low barrier
that still separated him from the little parlor, the
young man endeavored to read the eye of its occupant;
and then, either mistaking its expression, or
bold in his years and hopes, he entered the room.

Though certainly unused to have her apartment
scaled with so little ceremony, there was neither apprehension,
nor wonder, in the countenance of the
fair descendant of the Huguenot. The blood mantled
more richly on her cheek; and the brightness
of an eye, that was never dull, increased, while her
fine form became firm and commanding.

“I have heard that Captain Ludlow gained much
of his renown by gallantry in boarding,” she said, in
a voice whose meaning admitted of no misconception;
“but I had hoped his ambition was satisfied
with laurels so fairly won from the enemies of his

“A thousand pardons, fairest Alida,” interrupted
the youth; “you know the obstacles that the jealous
watchfulness of your uncle opposes to my desire to
speak with you.”

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[figure description] Page 087.[end figure description]

“They are then opposed in vain, for Alderman
Van Beverout has weakly believed the sex and condition
of his ward would protect her from these

“Nay, Alida; this is being more capricious than
the winds! You know, too well, how far my suit is
unpleasant to your gardian, to torture a slight departure
from cold observances into cause of serious
complaint. I had hoped—perhaps, I should say, I
have presumed on the contents of your letter, for
which I return a thousand thanks; but do not thus
cruelly destroy expectations that have so lately been
raised beyond the point, perhaps, which reason may

The glow, which had begun to subside on the face
of la belle Barbérie, again deepened, and for a moment
it appeared as if her high self-dependence was
a little weakened. After an instant of reflection,
however, she answered steadily, though not entirely
without emotion.

“Reason, Captain Ludlow, has limited female
propriety within narrow limits,” she said. “In answering
your letter, I have consulted good-nature
more than prudence; and I find that you are not
slow in causing me to repent the error.”

“If I ever cause you to repent confidence in me,
sweet Alida, may disgrace in my profession, and the
distrust of the whole sex, be my punishment! But,
have I not reason to complain of this inconstancy, on
your part? Ought I to expect so severe a reprimand—
severe, because cold and ironical—for an
offence, venial as the wish to proclaim my gratitude?”

“Gratitude!” repeated Alida, and this time her
wonder was not feigned. “The word is strong, Sir;
and it expresses more than an act of courtesy, so
simple as that which may attend the lending a volume
of popular poetry, can have any right to claim.”

“I have strangely misconceived the meaning of

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the letter, or this has been a day of folly!” said
Ludlow, endeavoring to swallow his discontent. “But,
no; I have your own words to refute that averted
eye and cold look; and, by the faith of a sailor!
Alida, I will believe your deliberate and well-reflected
thoughts, before these capricious fancies, which
are unworthy of your nature. Here are the very
words; I shall not easily part with the flattering
hopes they convey!”

La belle Barbérie now regarded the young man
in open amazement. Her color changed; for of the
indiscretion of writing, she knew she was not guiltless,—
but of having written in terms to justify the confidence
of the other, she felt no consciousness. The
customs of the age, the profession of her suitor, and
the hour, induced her to look steadily into his face,
to see whether the man stood before her in all the
decency of his reason. But Ludlow had the reputation
of being exempt from a vice that was then but
too common among seamen, and there was nothing
in his ingenuous and really handsome features, to
cause her to distrust his present discretion. She
touched a bell, and signed to her companion to be

“Francois,” said his mistress, when the old valet,
but half awake, entered the apartment, “fais moi le
plaisir de m'apporter de cette eau de la fontaine du
bosquet, et du vin—le Capitaine Ludlow a soif; et
rapelle-toi, bon Francois, il ne faut pas déranger mon
oncle á cette heure; il doit être bien fatigué de son

When her respectful and respectable servitor had
received his commission and departed, Alida took a
seat herself, in the confidence of having deprived the
visit of Ludlow of its clandestine character, and at
the same time having employed the valet on an
errand that would leave her sufficient leisure, to investigate
the inexplicable meaning of her companion.

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“You have my word, Captain Ludlow, that this
unseasonable appearance in the pavilion, is indiscreet,
not to call it cruel,” she said, so soon as they were
again alone; “but that you have it, in any manner,
to justify your imprudence, I must continue to doubt,
until confronted by proof.”

“I had thought to have made a very different use
of this,” returned Ludlow, drawing a letter,—we
admit it with some reluctance in one so simple and
so manly,—from his bosom: “and even now, I take
shame in producing it, though at your own orders.”

“Some magic has wrought a marvel, or the scrawl
has no such importance,” observed Alida, taking a
billet that she now began to repent having ever
written. “The language of politeness and female reserve
must admit of strange perversions, or all who
read are not the best interpreters.”

La belle Barbérie ceased speaking, for the instant
her eye fell on the paper, an absorbing and intense
curiosity got the better of her resentment. We shall
give the contents of the letter, precisely in the words
which caused so much amazement, and possibly some
little uneasiness, to the fair creature who was perusing

“The life of a seaman,” said the paper, in a delicate
and beautiful female hand,” is one of danger
and exposure. It inspires confidence in woman, by
the frankness to which it gives birth, and it merits
indulgence by its privations. She who writes this, is
not insensible to the merit of men of this bold calling.
Admiration for the sea, and for those who live on it,
has been her weakness through life; and her visions
of the future, like her recollections of the past, are
not entirely exempt from a contemplation of its
pleasures. The usages of different nations—glory in
arms—change of scene—with constancy in the affections,
all sweetened by affluence, are temptations too
strong for a female imagination, and they should not

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be without their influence on the judgment of man.

This note was read, re-perused, and for the third
time conned, ere Alida ventured to raise her eyes to
the face of the expectant young man.

“And this indelicate and unfeminine rhapsody,
Captain Ludlow has seen proper to ascribe to me!”
she said, while her voice trembled between pride and

“To whom else can I impute it?” No other, lovely
Alida, could utter language so charming, in words so
properly chosen.”

The long lashes of the maiden played quickly
above their dark organs, and then, conquering feelings
that were strangely in contradiction to each
other, she said with dignity, turning to a little ebony
éscritoire which lay beside her dressing-box—

“My correspondence is neither very important,
nor very extensive; but such as it is, happily for the
reputation of the writer's taste, if not for her sanity,
I believe it is in my power to show the trifle I
thought it decorous to write, in reply to your own
letter. “Here is a copy,” she added, opening what
in fact was a draught, and reading aloud.

“I thank Capt. Ludlow for his attention in affording
me an opportunity of reading a narrative of the
cruel deeds of the buccaneers. In addition to the
ordinary feelings of humanity, one cannot but regret,
that men so heartless are to be found in a profession
that is commonly thought to be generous and tender
of the weak. We will, however, hope, that the very
wicked and cowardly, among seamen, exist only as
foils to render the qualities of the very bold and
manly more conspicuous. No one can be more sensible
of this truth than the friends of Captain Ludlow,”
the voice of Alida fell a little, as she came to
this sentence, “who has not now to earn a reputation
for mercy. In return, I send the copy of the Cid,

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which honest François affirms to be superior to all
other poems, not even excepting Homer—a book,
which I believe he is innocent of calumniating, from
ignorance of its contents. Again thanking Capt.
Ludlow for this instance of his repeated attentions,
I beg he will keep the volume, until he shall return
from his intended cruise.”

“This note is but a copy of the one you have, or
ought to have,” said the niece of the Alderman, as
she raised her glowing face from leaning over the
paper, “though it is not signed, like that, with the
name of Alida de Barbérie.”

When this explanation was over, both parties sat
looking at each other, in silent amazement. Still
Alida saw, or thought she saw, that, notwithstanding
the previous professions of her admirer, the young
man rejoiced he had been deceived. Respect for
delicacy and reserve in the other sex is so general
and so natural among men, that they who succeed
the most in destroying its barriers, rarely fail to
regret their triumph; and he who truly loves can
never long exult in any violation of propriety, in the
object of his affections, even though the concession
be made in his own favor. Under the influence of
this commendable and healthful feeling, Ludlow,
while he was in some respects mortified at the turn
affairs had taken, felt sensibly relieved from a load
of doubt, to which the extraordinary language of the
letter, he believed his mistress to have written, had
given birth. His companion read the state of his
mind, in a countenance that was frank as face of
sailor could be; and though secretly pleased to gain
her former place in his respect, she was also vexed
and wounded that he had ever presumed to distrust
her reserve. She still held the inexplicable billet,
and her eyes naturally sought the lines. A sudden
thought seemed to strike her mind, and returning the
paper, she said coldly—

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[figure description] Page 092.[end figure description]

“Captain Ludlow should know his correspondent
better; I much mistake if this be the first of her

The young man colored to the temples, and hid
his face, for a moment, in the hollow of his hands.

“You admit the truth of my suspicions,” continued
la belle Barbérie, “and cannot be insensible of my
justice, when I add, that henceforth—”

“Listen to me, Alida,” cried the youth, half breathless
in his haste to interrupt a decision that he dreaded;
“hear me, and as Heaven is my judge, you shall
hear only truth. I confess this is not the first of the
letters, written in the same hand—perhaps I should
say in the same spirit—but, on the honor of a loyal
officer, I affirm, that until circumstances led me to
think myself so happy—so—very happy,—”

“I understand you, Sir: the work was anonymous,
until you saw fit to inscribe my name as its author.
Ludlow! Ludlow! how meanly have you thought of
the woman you profess to love!”

“That were impossible! I mingle little with those
who study the finesse of life; and loving, as I do, my
noble profession, Alida, was it so unnatural to believe
that another might view it with the same eyes? But
since you disavow the letter—nay, your disavowal is
unnecessary—I see my vanity has even deceived me
in the writing—but since the delusion is over, I confess
that I rejoice it is not so.”

La belle Barbérie smiled, and her countenance
grew brighter. She enjoyed the triumph of knowing
that she merited the respect of her suitor, and it was
a triumph heightened by recent mortification. Then
succeeded a pause of more than a minute. The embarrassment
of the silence was happily interrupted
by the return of François.

“Mam'selle Alide, voici de l'eau de la fontaine,”
said the valet; “mais Monsieur votre oncle s'est
couché, et il a mis la cléf de la cave au vin dessous

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son oreiller. Ma foi, ce n'est pas facile d'avoir du bon
vin du tout, en Amerique, mais après que Monsieur
le maire s'est couché, c'est toujours impossible;

“N'importe, mon cher; le capitaine va partir, et
il n'a plus soif.”

“Dere is assez de jin,” continued the valet, who
felt for the captain's disappointment, “mais, Monsieur
Loodle, have du gout, an' he n'aime pas so strong

“He has swallowed already more than was necessary
for one occasion,” said Alida, smiling on her
admirer, in a manner that left him doubtful whether
he ought most to repine, or to rejoice. “Thank you,
good François; your duty for the night shall end
with lighting the captain to the door.”

Then saluting the young commander, in a manner
that would not admit of denial, la belle Barbérie
dismissed her lover and the valet, together.

“You have a pleasant office, Monsieur François,”
said the former, as he was lighted to the outer door
of the pavilion; “it is one that many a gallant gentleman
would envy.”

“Oui, Sair. It be grand plaisir to serve Mam'selle
Alide. Je porte de fan, de book, mais quant au vin,
Monsieur le Capitaine, parole d'honneur, c'est toujours
impossible après que l'Aldermain s'est couché.”

“Ay—the book—I think you had the agreeable
duty, to-day, of carrying the book of la Belle?”

“Vraiment, oui! 'Twas ouvrage de Monsieur
Pierre Corneille. On prétend, que Monsieur Shak-a-spear
en a emprunté d'assez beaux sentiments!”

“And the paper between the leaves?—you were
charged also with that note, good François?”

The valet paused, shrugged his shoulders, and
laid one of his long yellow fingers on the plane of
an enormous aquiline nose, while he seemed to muse.
Then shaking his head perpendicularly, he preceded

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the captain, as before, muttering, as usual, half in
French and half in English,—

“For le papier, I know, rien du tout; c'est bien
possible, parceque, voyez vous, Monsieur le Capitaine,
Mam'selle Alide did say, prenez-y garde; but I no
see him, depuis. Je suppose 'twas beaux compliments
écrits on de vers of M. Pierre Corneille. Quel génie
que celui de cet homme là!—n'est ce pas, Monsieur?”

“It is of no consequence, good François,” said
Ludlow, slipping a guinea into the hands of the valet.
“If you should ever discover what became of that
paper, however, you will oblige me by letting me
know. Good night; mes devoirs à la Belle!”

“Bon soir, Monsieur le Capitaine; c'est un brave
Monsieur que celui-la, et de très bonne famille! Il
n'a pas de si grandes terres, que Monsieur le Patteroon,
pourtant, on dip, qu'il doit avoir de jolies maisons
et assez de rentes publiques! J'aime à servir un si
généreux et loyal maitre, mais, malheureusement, il
est marin! M. de Barbérie n'avait pas trop d'amitié
pour les gens de cette profession là.”

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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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