Poems & Short Stories: 4,271
Forum Members: 70,634
Forum Posts: 1,033,546
And over 2 million unique readers monthly!
By all description, this should be the place.
Who's here?--Speak, ho!--No answer!--What is this?
TIMON OF ATHENS
A crowd of well-dressed, but of an evidently humbler class of persons than
those farther aft, were thronging the gangways, little dreaming of the
physical suffering they were to endure before they reached the land of
promise,--that distant America, towards which the poor and oppressed of
nearly all nations turn longing eyes in quest of a shelter. Eve saw with
wonder aged men and women among them; beings who were about to sever most
of the ties of the world in order to obtain relief from the physical pains
and privations that had borne hard on them for more than threescore years.
A few had made sacrifices of themselves in obedience to that mysterious
instinct which man feels in his offspring; while others, again, went
rejoicing, flushed with the hope of their vigour and youth. Some, the
victims of their vices, had embarked in the idle expectation that a change
of scene, with increased means of indulgence, could produce a healthful
change of character. All had views that the truth would have dimmed, and,
perhaps, no single adventurer among the emigrants collected in that ship
entertained either sound or reasonable notions of the mode in which his
step was to be rewarded, though many may meet with a success that will
surpass their brightest picture of the future. More, no doubt, were to be
Reflections something like these passed through the mind of Eve Effingham,
as she examined the mixed crowd, in which some were busy in receiving
stores from boats; others in holding party conferences with friends, in
which a few were weeping; here and there a group was drowning reflection
in the parting cup; while wondering children looked up with anxiety into
the well-known faces, as if fearful they might lose the countenances they
loved, and the charities on which they habitually relied, in such
Although the stern discipline which separates the cabin and steerage
passengers into castes as distinct as those of the Hindoos had not yet
been established, Captain Truck had too profound a sense of his duty to
permit the quarterdeck to be unceremoniously invaded. This part of the
ship, then, had partially escaped the confusion of the moment; though
trunks, boxes, hampers, and other similar appliances of travelling, were
scattered about in tolerable affluence. Profiting by the space, of which
there was still sufficient for the purpose, most of the party left the
hurricane-house to enjoy the short walk that a ship affords. At that
instant, another boat from the land reached the vessel's side, and a
grave-looking personage, who was not disposed to lessen his dignity by
levity or an omission of forms, appeared on deck, where he demanded to be
shown the master. An introduction was unnecessary in this instance; for
Captain Truck no sooner saw his visitor than he recognized the well-known
features and solemn pomposity of a civil officer of Portsmouth, who was
often employed to search the American packets, in pursuit of delinquents
of all degrees of crime and folly.
"I had just come to the opinion I was not to have the pleasure of seeing
you this passage, Mr. Grab," said the captain, shaking hands familiarly
with the myrmidon of the law; "but the turn of the tide is not more
regular than you gentlemen who come in the name of the king.--Mr. Grab,
Mr. Dodge; Mr. Dodge, Mr. Grab. And now, to what forgery, or bigamy, or
elopement, or _scandalum magnatum,_ do I owe the honor of your company
this time?--Sir George Templemore, Mr. Grab; Mr. Grab, Sir George
Sir George bowed with the dignified aversion an honest man might be
supposed to feel for one of the other's employment; while Mr. Grab looked
gravely and with a counter dignity at Sir George. The business of the
officer, however, was with none in the cabin; but he had come in quest of
a young woman who had married a suitor rejected by her uncle,--an
arrangement that was likely to subject the latter to a settlement of
accounts which he found inconvenient, and which he had thought it prudent
to anticipate by bringing an action of debt against the bridegroom for
advances, real or pretended, made to the wife during her nonage. A dozen
eager ears caught an outline of this tale as it was communicated to the
captain, and in an incredibly short space of time it was known throughout
the ship, with not a few embellishments.
"I do not know the person of the husband," continued the officer, "nor
indeed does the attorney who is with me in the boat; but his name is
Robert Davis, and you can have no difficulty in pointing him out. We know
him to be in the ship."
"I never introduce any steerage passengers, my dear sir; and there is no
such person in the cabin, I give you my honour,--and that is a pledge that
must pass between gentlemen like us. You are welcome to search, but the
duty of the vessel must go on. Take your man--but do not detain the
ship.--Mr. Sharp, Mr. Grab; Mr. Grab, Mr. Sharp.--Bear a hand there, Mr.
Leach, and let us have the slack of the chain as soon as possible."
There appeared to be what the philosophers call the attraction of
repulsion between the parties last introduced, for the tall
gentlemanly-looking Mr. Sharp eyed the officer with a supercilious
coldness, neither party deeming much ceremony on the occasion necessary.
Mr. Grab now summoned his assistant, the attorney, from the boat, and
there was a consultation between them as to their further proceedings.
Fifty heads were grouped around them, and curious eyes watched their
smallest movements, one of the crowd occasionally disappearing to report
Man is certainly a clannish animal; for without knowing any thing of the
merits of the case, without pausing to inquire into the right or the wrong
of the matter, in the pure spirit of partisanship, every man, woman, and
child of the steerage, which contained fully a hundred souls, took sides
against the law, and enlisted in the cause of the defendant. All this was
done quietly, however, for no one menaced or dreamed of violence, crew and
passengers usually taking their cues from the officers of the vessel on
such occasions, and those of the Montauk understood too well the rights of
the public agents to commit themselves in the matter.
"Call Robert Davis," said the officer, resorting to a _ruse_, by affecting
an authority he had no right to assume. "Robert Davis!" echoed twenty
voices, among which was that of the bridegroom himself, who was nigh to
discover his secret by an excess of zeal. It was easy to call, but no
"Can you tell me which is Robert Davis, my little fellow?" the officer
asked coaxingly, of a fine flaxen-headed boy, whose age did not exceed
ten, and who was a curious spectator of what passed. "Tell me which is
Robert Davis, and I will give you a sixpence."
The child knew, but professed ignorance.
"_C'est un esprit de corps admirable_!" exclaimed Mademoiselle Viefville;
for the interest of the scene had brought nearly all on board, with the
exception of those employed in the duty of the vessel, near the gangway.
"_Ceci est délicieux,_ and I could devour that boy--!"
What rendered this more, odd, or indeed absolutely ludicrous, was the
circumstance that, by a species of legerdemain, a whisper had passed among
the spectators so stealthily, and yet so soon, that the attorney and his
companion were the only two on deck who remained ignorant of the person of
the man they sought. Even the children caught the clue, though they had
the art to indulge their natural curiosity by glances so sly as to escape
Unfortunately, the attorney had sufficient knowledge of the family of the
bride to recognize her by a general resemblance, rendered conspicuous as
it was by a pallid face and an almost ungovernable nervous excitement. He
pointed her out to the officer, who ordered her to approach him,--a
command that caused her to burst into tears. The agitation and distress of
his wife were near proving too much for the prudence of the young husband,
who was making an impetuous movement towards her, when the strong grasp of
a fellow-passenger checked him in time to prevent discovery. It is
singular how much is understood by trifles when the mind has a clue to the
subject, and how often signs, that are palpable as day, are overlooked
when suspicion is not awakened, or when the thoughts have obtained a false
direction. The attorney and the officer were the only two present who had
not seen the indiscretion of the young man, and who did not believe him
betrayed. His wife trembled to a degree that almost destroyed the ability
to stand; but, casting an imploring look for self-command on her
indiscreet partner, she controlled her own distress, and advanced towards
the officer, in obedience to his order, with a power of endurance that the
strong affections of a woman could alone enable her to assume.
"If the husband will not deliver himself up, I shall be compelled to order
the wife to be carried ashore in his stead!" the attorney coldly remarked,
while he applied a pinch of snuff to a nose that was already
saffron-coloured from the constant use of the weed.
A pause succeeded this ominous declaration, and the crowd of passengers
betrayed dismay, for all believed there was now no hope for the pursued.
The wife bowed her head to her knees, for she had sunk on a box as if to
hide the sight of her husband's arrest. At this moment a voice spoke from
among the group on the quarter-deck.
"Is this an arrest for crime, or a demand for debt?" asked the young man
who has been announced as Mr. Blunt.
There was a quiet authority in the speaker's manner that reassured the
failing hopes of the passengers, while it caused the attorney and his
companion to look round in surprise, and perhaps a little in resentment. A
dozen eager voices assured "the gentleman" there was no crime in the
matter at all--there was even no just debt, but it was a villanous scheme
to compel a wronged ward to release a fraudulent guardian from his
liabilities. Though all this was not very clearly explained, it was
affirmed with so much zeal and energy as to awaken suspicion, and to
increase the interest of the more intelligent portion of the spectators.
The attorney surveyed the travelling dress, the appearance of fashion, and
the youth of his interrogator, whose years could not exceed
five-and-twenty, and his answer was given with an air of superiority.
"Debt or crime, it can matter nothing in the eye of the law."
"It matters much in the view of an honest man," returned the youth with
spirit. "One might hesitate about interfering in behalf of a rogue,
however ready to exert himself in favour of one who is innocent, perhaps,
of every thing but misfortune."
"This looks a little like an attempt at a rescue! I hope we are still in
England, and under the protection of English laws?"
"No doubt at all of that, Mr. Seal," put in the captain, who having kept
an eye on the officer from a distance, now thought it time to interfere,
in order to protect the interests of his owners. "Yonder is England, and
that is the Isle of Wight, and the Montauk has hold of an English bottom,
and good anchorage it is; no one means to dispute your authority, Mr.
Attorney, nor to call in question that of the king. Mr. Blunt merely
throws out a suggestion, sir; or rather, a distinction between rogues and
honest men; nothing more, depend on it, sir.--Mr. Seal, Mr. Blunt; Mr.
Blunt, Mr. Seal. And a thousand pities it is, that a distinction is not
more commonly made."
The young man bowed slightly, and with a face flushed, partly with
feeling, and partly at finding himself unexpectedly conspicuous among so
many strangers, he advanced a little from the quarter-deck group, like one
who feels he is required to maintain the ground he has assumed.
"No one can be disposed to question the supremacy of the English laws in
this roadstead," he said, "and least of all myself; but you will permit me
to doubt the legality of arresting, or in any manner detaining, a wife in
virtue of a process issued against the husband."
"A briefless barrister!" muttered Seal to Grab. "I dare say a timely
guinea would have silenced the fellow. What is now to be done?"
"The lady must go ashore, and all these matters can be arranged before a
"Ay, ay! let her sue out a _habeas corpus_ if she please," added the ready
attorney, whom a second survey caused to distrust his first inference.
"Justice is blind in England as well as in other countries, and is liable
to mistakes; but still she is just. If she does mistake sometimes, she is
always ready to repair the wrong."
"Cannot _you_ do something here?" Eve involuntarily half-whispered to Mr.
Sharp, who stood at her elbow.
This person started on hearing her voice making this sudden appeal, and
glancing a look of intelligence at her, he smiled and moved nearer to the
"Really, Mr. Attorney," he commenced, "this appears to be rather
irregular, I must confess,--quite out of the ordinary way, and it may lead
to unpleasant consequences."
"In what manner, sir?" interrupted Seal, measuring the other's ignorance
at a glance.
"Why, irregular in form, if not in principle. I am aware that the _habeas
corpus_ is all-essential, and that the law must have its way; but really
this does seem a little irregular, not to describe it by any
Mr. Seal treated this new appeal respectfully, in appearance at least, for
he saw it was made by one greatly his superior, while he felt an utter
contempt for it in essentials, as he perceived intuitively that this new
intercession was made in a profound ignorance of the subject. As respects
Mr. Blunt, however, he had an unpleasant distrust of the result, the quiet
manner of that gentleman denoting more confidence in himself, and a
greater practical knowledge of the laws. Still, to try the extent of the
other's information, and the strength of his nerves, he rejoined in a
magisterial and menacing tone--
"Yes, let the lady sue out a writ of _habeas corpus_ if wrongfully
arrested; and I should be glad to discover the foreigner who will dare to
attempt a rescue in old England, and in defiance of English laws."
It is probable Paul Blunt would have relinquished his interference, from
an apprehension that he might be ignorantly aiding the evil-doer, but for
this threat; and even the threat might not have overcome his prudence, had
not he caught the imploring look of the fine blue eyes of Eve.
"All are not necessarily foreigners who embark on board an American ship
at an English port," he said steadily, "nor is justice denied those that
are. The _habeas corpus_ is as well understood in other countries as in
this, for happily we live in an age when neither liberty nor knowledge is
exclusive. If an attorney, you must know yourself that you cannot legally
arrest a wife for a husband, and that what you say of the _habeas corpus_
is little worthy of attention."
"We arrest, and whoever interferes with an officer in charge of a prisoner
is guilty of a rescue. Mistakes must be rectified by the magistrates."
"True, provided the officer has warranty for what he does."
"Writs and warrants may contain errors, but an arrest is an arrest,"
"Not the arrest of a woman for a man. In such a case there is design, and
not a mistake. If this frightened wife will take counsel from me, she will
refuse to accompany you."
"At her peril, let her dare do so!"
"At _your_ peril do you dare to attempt forcing her from the ship!"
"Gentlemen, gentlemen!--let there be no misunderstanding, I pray you,"
interposed the captain. "Mr. Blunt, Mr. Grab; Mr. Grab, Mr. Blunt. No
warm words, gentlemen, I beg of you. But the tide is beginning to serve,
Mr. Attorney, and 'time and tide,' you know--If we stay here much
longer, the Montauk may be forced to sail on the 2d, instead of the 1st,
as has been advertised in both hemispheres. I should be sorry to carry you
to sea, gentlemen, without your small stores; and as for the cabin, it is
as full as a lawyer's conscience. No remedy but the steerage in such a
case.--Lay forward, men, and heave away. Some of you, man the
fore-top-sail halyards.--We are as regular as our chronometers; the 1st,
10th, and 20th, without fail."
There was some truth, blended with a little poetry, in Captain Truck's
account of the matter. The tide had indeed made in his favour, but the
little wind there was blew directly into the roadstead, and had not his
feelings become warmed by the distress of a pretty and interesting young
woman, it is more than probable the line would have incurred the disgrace
of having a ship sail on a later day than had been advertised. As it was,
however, he had the matter up in earnest, and he privately assured Sir
George and Mr. Dodge, if the affair were not immediately disposed of, he
should carry both the attorney and officer to sea with him, and that he
did not feel himself bound to furnish either with water. "They may catch a
little rain, by wringing their jackets," he added, with a wink; "though
October is a dryish month in the American seas."
The decision of Paul Blunt would have induced the attorney and his
companion to relinquish their pursuit but for two circumstances. They had
both undertaken the job as a speculation, or on the principle of "no
play, no pay," and all their trouble would be lost without success. Then
the very difficulty that occurred had been foreseen, and while the officer
proceeded to the ship, the uncle had been busily searching for a son on
shore, to send off to identify the husband,--a step that would have been
earlier resorted to could the young man have been found. This son was a
rejected suitor, and he was now seen, by the aid of a glass that Mr. Grab
always carried, pulling towards the Montauk, in a two-oared boat, with as
much zeal as malignancy and disappointment could impart. His distance from
the ship was still considerable; but a peculiar hat, with the aid of the
glass, left no doubt of his identity. The attorney pointed out the boat to
the officer, and the latter, after a look through the glass, gave a nod of
approbation. Exultation overcame the usual wariness of the attorney, for
his pride, too, had got to be enlisted in the success of his
speculation,--men being so strangely constituted as often to feel as much
joy in the accomplishment of schemes that are unjustifiable, as in the
accomplishment of those of which they may have reason to be proud.
On the other hand, the passengers and people of the packet seized
something near the truth, with that sort of instinctive readiness which
seems to characterize bodies of men in moments of excitement. That the
solitary boat which was pulling towards them in the dusk of the evening
contained some one who might aid the attorney and his myrmidon, all
believed, though in what manner none could tell.
Between all seamen and the ministers of the law there is a long-standing
antipathy, for the visits of the latter are usually so timed as to leave
nothing between the alternatives of paying or of losing a voyage. It was
soon apparent, then, that Mr. Seal had little to expect from the apathy of
the crew, for never did men work with better will to get a ship loosened
from the bottom.
All this feeling manifested itself in a silent and intelligent activity
rather than in noise or bustle, for every man on board exercised his best
faculties, as well as his best good will and strength; the clock-work
ticks of the palls of the windlass resembling those of a watch that had
got the start of time, while the chain came in with surges of half a
fathom at each heave.
"Lay hold of this rope, men," cried Mr. Leach, placing the end of the
main-topsail halyards in the hands of half-a-dozen athletic steerage
passengers, who had all the inclination in the world to be doing, though
uncertain where to lay their hands; "lay hold, and run away with it."
The second mate performed the same feat forward, and as the sheets had
never been started, the broad folds of the Montauk's canvas began to open,
even while the men were heaving at the anchor. These exertions quickened
the blood in the veins of those who were not employed, until even the
quarter-deck passengers began to experience the excitement of a chase, in
addition to the feelings of compassion. Captain Truck, was silent, but
very active in preparations. Springing to the wheel, he made its spokes
fly until he had forced the helm hard up, when he unceremoniously gave it
to John Effingham to keep there. His next leap was to the foot of the
mizen-mast, where, after a few energetic efforts alone, he looked over his
shoulder and beckoned for aid.
"Sir George Templemore, mizen-topsail-halyards; mizen-topsail-halyards,
Sir George Templemore," muttered the eager master, scarce knowing what he
said. "Mr. Dodge, now is the time to show that your name and nature are
In short, nearly all on board were busy, and, thanks to the hearty good
will of the officers, stewards, cooks, and a few of the hands that could
be spared from the windlass, busy in a way to spread sail after sail with
a rapidity little short of that seen on board of a vessel of war. The
rattling of the clew-garnet blocks, as twenty lusty fellows ran forward
with the tack of the mainsail, and the hauling forward of braces, was the
signal that the ship was clear of ground, and coming under command.
A cross current had superseded the necessity of casting the vessel, but
her sails took the light air nearly abeam; the captain understanding that
motion was of much more importance just then than direction. No sooner did
he perceive by the bubbles that floated past, or rather appeared to float
past, that his ship was dividing the water forward, than he called a
trusty man to the wheel, relieving John Effingham from his watch. The next
instant, Mr. Leach reported the anchor catted and fished.
"Pilot, you will be responsible for this if my prisoners escape," said Mr.
Grab menacingly. "You know my errand, and it is your duty to aid the
ministers of the law."
"Harkee, Mr. Grab," put in the master, who had warmed himself with the
exercise; "we all know, and we all do our duties, on board the Montauk. It
is your duty to take Robert Davis on shore if you can find him; and it is
my duty to take the Montauk to America: now, if you will receive counsel
from a well-wisher, I would advise you to see that you do not go in her.
No one offers any impediment to your performing your office, and I'll
thank you to offer me none in performing mine.--Brace the yards further
forward, boys, and let the ship come up to the wind."
As there were logic, useful information, law, and seamanship united in
this reply, the attorney began to betray uneasiness; for by this time the
ship had gathered so much way as to render it exceedingly doubtful whether
a two-oared boat would be able to come up with her, without the consent of
those on board. It is probable, as evening had already closed, and the
rays of the moon were beginning to quiver on the ripple of the water, that
he would have abandoned his object, though with infinite reluctance, had
not Sir George Templemore pointed out to the captain a six-oared boat,
that was pulling towards them from a quarter that permitted it to be seen
in the moonlight.
"That appears to be a man-of-war's cutter," observed the baronet uneasily,
for by this time all on board felt a sort of personal interest in
"It does indeed, Captain Truck," added the pilot; "and if _she_ make a
signal, it will become my duty to heave-to the Montauk."
"Then bundle out of her, my fine fellow, as fast as you can for not a
brace or a bowline shall be touched here, with my consent, for any such
purpose. The ship is cleared--my hour is come--my passengers are on
board--and America is my haven.--Let them that want me, catch me. That is
what I call _Vattel_."
The pilot and the master of the Montauk were excellent friends, and
understood each other perfectly, even while the former was making the most
serious professions of duty. The beat was hauled up, and, first whispering
a few cautions about the shoals and the currents, the worthy marine guide
leaped into it, and was soon seen floating astern--a cheering proof that
the ship had got fairly in motion. As he fell out of hearing in the wake
of the vessel, the honest fellow kept calling out "to tack in season."
"If you wish to try the speed of your boat against that of the pilot, Mr.
Grab," called out the captain, "you will never have a better opportunity.
It is a fine night for a regatta, and I will stand you a pound on Mr.
Handlead's heels. For that matter, I would as soon trust his head, or his
hands, in the bargain."
The officer continued obstinately on board, for he saw that the six-oared
boat was coming up with the ship, and, as he well knew the importance to
his client of compelling a settlement of the accounts, he fancied some
succour might be expected in that quarter. In the mean time, this new
movement on the part of their pursuers attracted general attention, and,
as might be expected, the interest of this little incident increased the
excitement that usually accompanies a departure for a long sea-voyage,
fourfold. Men and women forgot their griefs and leave-takings in anxiety,
and in that pleasure which usually attends agitation of the mind that does
not proceed from actual misery of our own.
|Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily|
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.