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Whither away so fast?
O God save you!
Even to the hall to hear what shall become
Of the great Duke of Buckingham.
Happily, the party collected in the Montauk had the good fortune to
abridge the usual probation in courtesies, by the stirring events of the
night on which they sailed. Two hours had scarcely elapsed since the last
passenger crossed the gangway, and yet the respective circles of the
quarter-deck and steerage felt more sympathy with each other than the
boasted human charities ordinarily quicken in days of common-place
intercourse. They had already found out each other's names, thanks to the
assiduity of Captain Truck, who had stolen time, in the midst of all his
activity, to make half-a-dozen more introductions, and the Americans of
the less trained class were already using them as freely as if they were
old acquaintances. We say Americans, for the cabins of these ships usually
contain a congress of nations, though the people of England, and of her
ci-devant colonies, of course predominate in those of the London lines. On
the present occasion, the last two were nearly balanced in numbers, so far
as national character could be made out; opinion (which, as might be
expected, had been busy the while,) being suspended in reference to Mr.
Blunt, and one or two others whom the captain called "foreigners," to
distinguish them from the Anglo-Saxon stock.
This equal distribution of forces might, under other circumstances, have
led to a division in feeling; for the conflicts between American and
British opinions, coupled with a difference in habits, are a prolific
source of discontent in the cabins of packets. The American is apt to
fancy himself at home, under the flag of his country; while his
Transatlantic kinsman is strongly addicted to fancying that when he has
fairly paid his money, he has a right to embark all his prejudices with
his other luggage.
The affair of the attorney and the newly-married couple, however, was kept
quite distinct from all feelings of nationality; the English apparently
entertaining quite as lively a wish that the latter might escape from the
fangs of the law, as any other portion of the passengers. The parties
themselves were British, and although the authority evaded was of the same
origin, right or wrong, all on board had taken up the impression that it
was improperly exercised. Sir George Templemore, the Englishman of highest
rank, was decidedly of this way of thinking,--an opinion he was rather
warm in expressing,--and the example of a baronet had its weight, not only
with most of his own countrymen, but with not a few of the Americans also.
The Effingham party, together with Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt, were, indeed,
all who seemed to be entirely indifferent to Sir George's sentiments; and,
as men are intuitively quick in discovering who do and who do not defer to
their suggestions, their accidental independence might have been favoured
by this fact, for the discourse of this gentleman was addressed in the
main to those who lent the most willing ears. Mr. Dodge, in particular,
was his constant and respectful listener, and profound admirer:--But then
he was his room-mate, and a democrat of a water so pure, that he was
disposed to maintain no man had a right to any one of his senses, unless
by popular sufferance.
In the mean while, the night advanced, and the soft light of the moon was
playing on the waters, adding a semi-mysterious obscurity to the
excitement of the scene. The two-oared boat had evidently been overtaken
by that carrying six oars, and, after a short conference, the first had
returned reluctantly towards the land, while the latter profiting by its
position, had set two lug-sails, and was standing out into the offing, on
a course that would compel the Montauk to come under its lee, when the
shoals, as would soon be the case, should force the ship to tack.
"England is most inconveniently placed," Captain Truck dryly remarked as
he witnessed this manoeuvre. "Were this island only out of the way, now,
we might stand on as we head, and leave those man-of-war's men to amuse
themselves all night with backing and filling in the roads of Portsmouth."
"I hope there is no danger of that little boat's overtaking this large
ship!" exclaimed Sir George, with a vivacity that did great credit to his
philanthropy, according to the opinion of Mr. Dodge at least; the latter
having imbibed a singular bias in favour of persons of condition, from
having travelled in an _eilwagen_ with a German baron, from whom he had
taken a model of the pipe he carried but never smoked, and from having
been thrown for two days and nights into the society of a "Polish
countess," as he uniformly termed her, in the _gondole_ of a _diligence_,
between Lyons and Marseilles. In addition, Mr. Dodge, as has just been
hinted, was an ultra-freeman at home--a circumstance that seems always to
react, when the subject of the feeling gets into foreign countries.
"A feather running before a lady's sigh would outsail either of us in this
air, which breathes on us in some such fashion as a whale snores, Sir
George, by sudden puffs. I would give the price of a steerage passage, if
Great Britain lay off the Cape of Good Hope for a week or ten days."
"Or Cape Hatteras!" rejoined the mate.
"Not I; I wish the old island no harm, nor a worse climate than it has got
already; though it lies as much in our way just at this moment, as the
moon in an eclipse of the sun. I bear the old creature a great-grandson's
love--or a step or two farther off, if you will,--and come and go too
often to forget the relationship. But, much as I love her, the affection
is not strong enough to go ashore on her shoals, and so we will go about,
Mr. Leach; at the same time, I wish from my heart that two-lugged rascal
would go about his business."
The ship tacked slowly but gracefully, for she was in what her master
termed "racing trim;" and as her bows fell off to the eastward, it became
pretty evident to all who understood the subject, that the two little
lug-sails that were "eating into the wind," as the sailors express it,
would weather upon her track ere she could stretch over to the other
shoal. Even the landsmen had some feverish suspicions of the truth, and
the steerage passengers were already holding a secret conference on the
possibility of hiding the pursued in some of the recesses of the ship.
"Such things were often done," one whispered to another, "and it was as
easy to perform it now as at any other time."
But Captain Truck viewed the matter differently: his vocation called him
three times a year into the roads at Portsmouth, and he felt little
disposition to embarrass his future intercourse with the place by setting
its authorities at a too open defiance. He deliberated a good deal on the
propriety of throwing his ship up into the wind, as she slowly advanced
towards the boat, and of inviting those in the latter to board him.
Opposed to this was the pride of profession, and Jack Truck was not a man
to overlook or to forget the "yarns" that were spun among his fellows at
the New England Coffee-house, or among those farming hamlets on the banks
of the Connecticut, whence all the packet-men are derived, and whither
they repair for a shelter when their careers are run, as regularly as the
fruit decays where it falleth, or the grass that has not been harvested or
cropped withers on its native stalk.
"There is no question, Sir George, that this fellow is a man-of-war's
man," said the master to the baronet, who stuck close to his side. "Take a
peep at the creeping rogue through this night-glass, and you will see his
crew seated at their thwarts with their arms folded, like men who eat the
king's beef. None but your regular public servant ever gets that impudent
air of idleness about him, either in England or America. In this respect,
human nature is the same in both hemispheres, a man never falling in with
luck, but he fancies it is no more than his deserts."
"There seems to be a great many of them! Can it be their intention to
carry the vessel by boarding?"
"If it is, they must take the will for the deed," returned Mr. Truck a
little coldly. "I very much question if the Montauk, with three cabin
officers, as many stewards, two cooks, and eighteen foremast-men, would
exactly like the notion of being 'carried,' as you style it, Sir, George,
by a six-oared cutter's crew. We are not as heavy as the planet Jupiter,
but have somewhat too much gravity to be 'carried' as lightly as all
"You intend, then, to resist?" asked Sir George, whose generous zeal in
behalf of the pursued apparently led him to take a stronger interest in
their escape than any other person on board.
Captain Truck, who had never an objection to sport, pondered with himself
a little, smiled, and then loudly expressed a wish that he had a member of
congress or a member of parliament on board.
"Your desire is a little extraordinary for the circumstances," observed
Mr. Sharp; will you have the goodness to explain why?"
"This matter touches on international law, gentlemen." continued the
master, rubbing his hands; for, in addition to having caught the art of
introduction, the honest mariner had taken it into his head he had become
an adept in the principles of Vattel, of whom he possessed a well-thumbed
copy, and for whose dogmas he entertained the deference that they who
begin to learn late usually feel for the particular master into whose
hands they have accidentally fallen. "Under what circumstances, or in what
category, can a public armed ship compel a neutral to submit to being
boarded--not 'carried,' Sir George, you will please to remark; for d----
me, if any man 'carries' the Montauk that is not strong enough to 'carry'
her crew and cargo along with her!--but in what category, now, is a packet
like this I have the honour to command obliged, in comity, to heave-to and
to submit to an examination at all? The ship is a-weigh, and has
handsomely tacked under her canvas; and, gentlemen, I should be pleased to
have your sentiments on the occasion. Just have the condescension to point
out the category."
Mr. Dodge came from a part of the country in which men were accustomed to
think, act, almost to eat and drink and sleep, in common; or, in other
words, from one of those regions in America, in which there was so much
community, that few had the moral courage, even when they possessed the
knowledge, and all the other necessary means, to cause their individuality
to be respected. When the usual process of conventions, sub-conventions,
caucusses, and public meetings did not supply the means of a "concentrated
action," he and his neighbours had long been in the habit of having
recourse to societies, by way of obtaining "energetic means," as it was
termed; and from his tenth year up to his twenty-fifth, this gentleman had
been either a president, vice-president, manager, or committee-man, of
some philosophical, political, or religious expedient to fortify human
wisdom, make men better, and resist error and despotism. His experience
had rendered him expert in what may well enough be termed the language of
association. No man of his years, in the twenty-six states, could more
readily apply the terms of "taking up"--"excitement"--"unqualified
hostility"--"public opinion"--"spreading before the public," or any other
of those generic phrases that imply the privileges of all, and the rights
of none. Unfortunately, the pronunciation of this person was not as pure
as his motives, and he misunderstood the captain when he spoke of comity,
as meaning a "committee;" and although it was not quite obvious what the
worthy mariner could intend by "obliged in committee (comity) to
heave-to," yet, as he had known these bodies to do so many "energetic
things," he did not see why they might not perform this evolution as well
"It really does appear, Captain Truck," he remarked accordingly, "that our
situation approaches a crisis, and the suggestion of a comity (committee)
strikes me as being peculiarly proper and suitable to the circumstances,
and in strict conformity with republican usages. In order to save time,
and that the gentlemen who shall be appointed to serve may have
opportunity to report, therefore, I will at once nominate Sir George
Templemore as chairman, leaving it for any other gentleman present to
suggest the name of any candidate he may deem proper. I will only add,
that in my poor judgment this comity (committee) ought to consist of at
least three and that it have power to send for persons and papers."
"I would propose five, Captain Truck, by way of amendment," added
another passenger of the same kidney as the last speaker, gentlemen of
their school making it a point to differ a little from every proposition
by way of showing their independence.
It was fortunate for both the mover of the original motion, and for the
proposer of the amendment, that the master was acquainted with the
character of Mr. Dodge, or a proposition that his ship was to be worked by
a committee, (or indeed by comity,) would have been very likely to meet
with but an indifferent reception; but, catching a glimpse of the laughing
eyes of Eve, as well as of the amused faces of Mr. Sharp and Mr. Blunt, by
the light of the moon, he very gravely signified his entire approbation of
the chairman named, and his perfect readiness to listen to the report of
the aforesaid committee as soon as it might be prepared to make it.
"And if your committee, or comity, gentlemen," he added, "can tell me what
Vattel would say about the obligation to heave-to in a time of profound
peace, and when the ship, or boat, in chase, can have no belligerent
rights, I shall be grateful to my dying day; for I have looked him through
as closely as old women usually examine almanacks to tell which way the
wind is about to blow, and I fear he has overlooked the subject
Mr. Dodge, and three or four more of the same community-propensity as
himself, soon settled the names of the rest of the committee, when the
nominees retired to another part of the deck to consult together; Sir
George Templemore, to the surprise of all the Effingham party, consenting
to serve with a willingness that rather disregarded forms.
"It might be convenient to refer other matters to this committee,
captain," said Mr. Sharp, who had tact enough to see that nothing but her
habitual _retenue_ of deportment kept Eve, whose bright eyes were dancing
with humour from downright laughter: "these are the important points of
reefing and furling, the courses to be steered, the sail to be carried,
the times and seasons of calling all hands together, with sundry other
customary duties, that no doubt would be well treated on in this
"No doubt, sir; I perceive you have been at sea before, and I am sorry you
were overlooked in naming the members of the comity: take my word for
it, all that you have mentioned can be done on board the Montauk by a
comity, as well as settling the question of heaving-to, or not, for yonder
boat.--By the way, Mr. Leach, the fellows have tacked, and are standing in
this direction, thinking to cross our bows and speak us.--Mr. Attorney,
the tide is setting us off the land, and you may make it morning before
you get into your nests, if you hold on much longer. I fear Mrs. Seal and
Mrs. Grab will be unhappy women."
The bloodhounds of the law heard this warning with indifference, for they
expected succour of some sort, though they hardly knew of what sort, from
the man-of-war's boat which, it was now plain enough, must weather on the
ship. After putting their heads together, Mr. Seal offered his companion a
pinch of snuff, helping himself afterwards, like a man indifferent to the
result, and one patient in time of duty. The sun-burnt face of the
captain, whose standing colour was that which cooks get when the fire
burns the brightest, but whose hues no fire or cold ever varied, was
turned fully on the two, and it is probable they would have received some
decided manifestation of his will, had not Sir George Templemore, with the
four other committee-men, approached to give in the result of their
"We are of opinion, Captain Truck," said the baronet, "that as the ship is
under way, and your voyage may be fairly said to have commenced, it is
quite inexpedient and altogether unnecessary for you to anchor again; but
that it is your duty----"
"I have no occasion for advice as to my duty, gentlemen. If you can let me
know what Vattel says, or ought to have said, on the subject, or touching
the category of the right of search, except as a belligerent right, I will
thank you; if not, we must e'en guess at it. I have not sailed a ship in.
this trade these ten years to need any jogging of the memory about
port-jurisdiction either, for these are matters in which one gets to be
expert by dint of use, as my old master used to say when he called us from
table with half a dinner. Now, there was the case of the blacks in
Charleston, in which our government showed clearly it had not studied
Vattel, or it never would have given the answer it did. Perhaps you never
heard that case, Sir George, and as it touches a delicate principle, I
will just run over the category lightly; for it has its points, as well
as a coast."
"Does not this matter press,--may not the boat--"
"The boat will do nothing, gentlemen, without the permission of Jack
Truck. You must know, the Carolinians have a law that all niggers brought
into their state by ships, must be caged until the vessel sails again.
This is to prevent emancipation, as they call it, or abolition, I know not
which. An Englishman comes in from the islands with a crew of blacks, and,
according to law, the authorities of Charleston house them all before
night. John Bull complains to his minister, and his minister sends a note
to our secretary, and our secretary writes to the Governor of Carolina,
calling on him to respect the treaty, and so on. Gentlemen, I need not
tell you what a treaty is--it is a thing in itself to be obeyed; but it is
all important to know what it commands. Well, what was this said treaty?
That John should come in and out of the ports, on the footing of the most
favoured nation; on the _statu quo ante bellum_ principle, as Vattel has
it. Now, the Carolinians treated John just as they treated Jonathan, and
there was no more to be said. All parties were bound to enter the port,
subject to the municipals, as is set forth in Vattel. That was a case soon
settled, you perceive, though depending on a nicety."
Sir George had listened with extreme impatience, but, fearful of
offending, he listened to the end; then, seizing the first pause in the
captain's discourse, he resumed his remonstrances with an interest that
did infinite credit to his humanity, at the same time that he overlooked
none of the obligations of politeness.
"An exceedingly clear case, I protest," he answered, "and capitally put--I
question if Lord Stowell could do it better--and exceedingly apt, that
about the _ante bellum_; but I confess my feelings have not been so much
roused for a long time as they have been on account of these poor people.
There is something inexpressibly painful in being disappointed as one is
setting out in the morning of life, as it were, in this cruel manner; and
rather than see this state of things protracted, I would prefer paying a
trifle out of my own pocket. If this wretched attorney will consent, now
to take a hundred pounds and quit us, and carry back with him that
annoying cutter with the lug-sails, I will give him the money most
cheerfully,--most cheerfully, I protest."
There is something so essentially respectable in practical generosity,
that, though Eve and all the curious auditors of what was massing; felt an
inclination to laugh at the whole procedure up to this declaration, eye
met eye in commendation of the liberality of the baronet. He had shown he
had a heart, in the opinion of most of those who heard him though his
previous conversation had led several of the observers to distrust his
having the usual quantum of head.
"Give yourself no trouble about the attorney, Sir George," returned the
captain, shaking the other cordially by the hand: "he shall not touch a
pound of your money, nor do I think he is likely to touch Robert Davis. We
have caught the tide on our lee bow, and the current is wheeling us up to
windward, like an opposition coach flying over Blackheath. In a few
minutes we shall be in blue water; and then I'll give the rascal a touch
of Vattel that will throw him all aback, if it don't throw him overboard."
"But the cutter?"
"Why, if we drive the attorney and Grab out of the ship, there will be no
process in the hands of the others, by which they can carry off the man,
even admitting the jurisdiction. I know the scoundrels, and not a shilling
shall either of the knaves take from this vessel with my consent Harkee,
Sir George, a word in your ear: two of as d----d cockroaches as ever
rummaged a ship's bread-room; I'll see that they soon heave about, or I'll
heave them both into their boat, with my own fair hands."
The captain was about to turn away to examine the position of the cutter,
when Mr. Dodge asked permission to make a short report in behalf of the
minority of the comity (committee), the amount of which was, that they
agreed in all things with the majority, except on the point that, as it
might become expedient for the ship to anchor again in some of the ports
lower down the Channel, it would be wise to keep that material
circumstance in view, in making up a final decision in the affair. This
report, on the part of the minority, which, Mr. Dodge explained to the
baronet, partook rather of the character of a caution than of a protest,
had quite as little influence on Captain Truck as the opinion of the
majority, for he was just one of those persons who seldom took advice that
did not conform with his own previous decision; but he coolly continued to
examine the cutter, which by this time was standing on the same course as
the ship, a short distance to windward of her, and edging a little off the
wind, so as to bring the two nearer to each other, every yard
The wind had freshened to a little breeze, and the captain nodded his head
with satisfaction when he heard even where he stood on the quarter-deck,
the slapping of the sluggish swell, as the huge bows of the ship parted
the water. At this moment those in the cutter saw the bubbles glide
swiftly past them, while to those in the Montauk the motion was still slow
and heavy; and yet, of the two, the actual velocity was rather in favour
of the latter, both having about what is technically termed "four-knot
way" on them. The officer of the boat was quick to detect the change that
was acting against him, and by easing the sheets of his lug-sails, and
keeping the cutter as much off the wind as he could, he was soon within a
hundred feet of the ship, running along on her weather-beam. The bright
soft moonlight permitted the face of a young man in a man-of-war cap, who
wore the undress uniform of a sea lieutenant, to be distinctly seen, as he
rose in the stern-sheets, which contained also two other persons.
"I will thank you to heave-to the Montauk," said the lieutenant civilly,
while he raised his cap, apparently in compliment to the passengers who
crowded the rail to see and hear what passed. "I am sent on the duty of
the king, sir."
"I know your errand, sir," returned Captain Truck, whose resolution to
refuse to comply was a good deal shaken by the gentleman-like manner in
which the request was made; "and I wish you to bear witness, that if I do
consent to your request, it is voluntarily; for, on the principles laid
down by Vattel and the other writers on international law, the right of
search is a belligerent right, and England being at peace, no ship
belonging to one nation can have a right to stop a vessel belonging
"I cannot enter into these niceties, sir," returned the lieutenant,
sharply: "I have my orders, and you will excuse me if I say, I intend to
"Execute them, with all my heart, sir: if you are ordered to heave-to my
ship, all you have to do is to get on board if you can, and let us see the
style in which you handle yards. As to the people now stationed at the
braces, the trumpet that will make them stir is not to be spoken through
at the Admiralty. The fellow has spirit in him, and I like his principles
as an officer, but I cannot admit his conclusions as a jurist. If he
flatters himself with being able to frighten us into a new category, now,
that is likely to impair national rights, the lad has just got himself
into a problem that will need all his logic, and a good deal of his
spirit, to get out of again."
"You will scarcely think of resisting a king's officer in British waters!"
said the young man with that haughtiness that the meekest tempers soon
learn to acquire under a pennant.
"Resisting, my dear sir! I resist nothing. The misconception is in
supposing that you sail this ship instead of John Truck. That is my name,
sir; John Truck. Do your errand in welcome, but do not ask me to help you.
Come aboard, with all my heart; nothing would give me more pleasure than
to take wine with you; but I see no necessity of stopping a packet, that
is busy on a long road, without an object, as we say on the other side of
the big waters."
There was a pause, and then the lieutenant, with the sort of hesitation
that a gentleman is apt to feel when he makes a proposal that he knows
ought not to be accepted, called out that those in the boat with him would
pay for the detention of the ship. A more unfortunate proposition could
not be made to Captain Truck, who would have hove-to his ship in a moment
had the lieutenant proposed to discuss Vattel with him on the
quarter-deck, and who was only holding out as a sort of salve to his
rights, with that disposition to resist aggression that the experience of
the last forty years has so deeply implanted in the bosom of every
American sailor, in cases connected with English naval officers, and who
had just made up his mind to let Robert Davis take his chance, and to
crack a bottle with the handsome young man who was still standing up in
the boat. But Mr. Truck had been too often to London not to understand
exactly the manner in which Englishmen appreciate American character; and,
among other things, he knew it was the general opinion in the island that
money could do any thing with Jonathan; or, as Christophe is said once to
have sententiously expressed the same sentiment, "if there were a bag of
coffee in h---, a Yankee could be found to go and bring it out."
The master of the Montauk had a proper relish for his lawful gains as well
as another, but he was vain-glorious on the subject of his countrymen,
principally because he found that the packets outsailed all other
merchant-ships, and fiercely proud of any quality that others were
disposed to deny them.
At hearing this proposal, or intimation, therefore, instead of accepting
it, Captain Truck raised his hat with formal civility, and coolly wished
the other "good night." This was bringing the affair to a crisis at once;
for the helm of the cutter was borne up, and an attempt was made to run
the boat alongside of the ship. But the breeze had been steadily
increasing, the air had grown heavier as the night advanced, and the
dampness of evening was thickening the canvas of the coarser sails in a
way sensibly to increase the speed of the ship. When the conversation
commenced, the boat was abreast of the fore-rigging; and by the time it
ended, it was barely up with the mizzen. The lieutenant was quick to see
the disadvantage he laboured under, and he called out "Heave!" as he found
the cutter was falling close under the counter of the ship, and would be
in her wake in another minute. The bowman of the boat cast a light grapnel
with so much precision that it hooked in the mizzen rigging, and the line
instantly tightened so as to tow the cutter. A seaman was passing along
the outer edge of the hurricane-house at the moment, coming from the
wheel, and with the decision of an old salt, he quietly passed his knife
across the stretched cordage, and it snapped like pack-thread. The grapnel
fell into the sea, and the boat was lossing in the wake of the ship, all
as it might be while one could draw a breath. To furl the sails and ship
the oars consumed but an instant, and then the cutter was ploughing the
water under the vigorous strokes of her crew.
"Spirited! spirited and nimble!" observed Captain Truck, who stood coolly
leaning against a shroud, in a position where he could command a view of
all that was passing, improving the opportunity to shake the ashes from
his cigar while he spoke; "a fine young fellow, and one who will make an
admiral, or something better, I dare say, if he live;--perhaps a cherub,
in time. Now, if he pull much longer in the back-water of our wake, I
shall have to give him up, Leach, as a little marin-_ish:_ ah! there he
sheers out of it, like a sensible youth as he is! Well, there is something
pleasant in the conceit of a six-oared boat's carrying a London liner by
boarding, even admitting the lad could have got alongside."
So, it would seem, thought Mr. Leach and the crew of the Montauk; for they
were clearing the decks with as much philosophy as men ever discover when
employed in an unthankful office. This _sang-froid_ of seamen is always
matter of surprise to landsmen; but adventurers who have been rocked in
the tempest for years, whose utmost security is a great hazard, and whose
safety constantly depends on the command of the faculties, come in time to
experience an apathy on the subject of all the minor terrors and
excitements of life, that none can acquire unless by habit and similar
risks. There was a low laugh among the people, and now and then a curious
glance of the eye over the quarter to ascertain the position of the
struggling boat; but there the effect of the little incident ceased, so
far as the seamen were concerned.
Not so with the passengers. The Americans exulted at the failure of the
man-of-war's man, and the English doubted. To them, deference to the crown
was habitual, and they were displeased at seeing a stranger play a king's
boat such a trick, in what they justly enough thought to be British
waters. Although the law may not give a man any more right than another to
the road before his own door, he comes in time to fancy it, in a certain
degree, his particular road. Strictly speaking, the Montauk was perhaps
still under the dominion of the English laws, though she had been a
league from the land when laying at her anchor, and by this time the tide
and her own velocity had swept her broad off into the offing quite as far
again; indeed she had now got to such a distance from the land, that
Captain Truck thought it his "duty" to bring matters to a conclusion with
"Well, Mr. Seal," he said, "I am grateful for the pleasure of your company
thus far; but you will excuse me if I decline taking you and Mr. Grab
quite to America. Half an hour hence you will hardly be able to find the
island; for as soon as we have got to a proper distance from the cutter, I
shall tack to the south-west, and you ought, moreover, to remember the
anxiety of the ladies at home."
"This may turn out a serious matter, Captain Truck, on your return
passage! The laws of England are not to be trifled with. Will you oblige
me by ordering the steward to hand me a glass of water? Waiting for
justice is dry duty, I find."
"Extremely sorry I cannot comply, gentlemen. Vattel has nothing on the
subject of watering belligerents, or neutrals, and the laws of Congress
compel me to carry so many gallons to the man. If you will take it in the
way of a nightcap, however, and drink success to our run to America, and
your own to the shore, it shall be in champagne, if you happen to like
that agreeable fluid."
The attorney was about to express his readiness to compromise on these
terms, when a glass of the beverage for which he had first asked was put
into his hand by the wife of Robert Davis. He took the water, drank it,
and turned from the woman with the obduracy of one who never suffered
feeling to divert him from the pursuit of gain. The wine was brought, and
the captain filled the glasses with a seaman's heartiness.
"I drink to your safe return to Mrs. Seal, and the little gods and
goddesses of justice,--Pan or Mercury, which is it? And as for you, Grab,
look out for sharks as you pull in. If they hear of your being afloat, the
souls of persecuted sailors will set them on you, as the devil chases male
coquettes. Well, gentlemen, you are balked this time; but what matters it?
It is but another man got safe out of a country that has too many in it;
and I trust we shall meet good friends again this day four months. Even
man and wife must part, when the hour arrives."
"That will depend on how my client views your conduct on this occasion,
Captain Truck; for he is not a man that it is always safe to thwart."
"That for your client, Mr. Seal!" returned the captain, snapping his
fingers. "I am not to be frightened with an attorney's growl, or a
bailiff's nod. You come off with a writ or a warrant, I care not which; I
offer no resistance; you hunt for your man, like a terrier looking for a
rat, and can't find him; I see the fine fellow, at this moment, on
deck,--but I feel no obligation to tell you who or where he is; my ship is
cleared and I sail, and you have no power to stop me; we are outside of
all the head-lands, good two leagues and a half off, and some writers say
that a gun-shot is the extent of your jurisdiction, once out of which,
your authority is not worth half as much as that of my chief cook, who has
power to make his mate clean the coppers. Well, sir, you stay here ten
minutes longer and we shall be fully three leagues from your nearest land,
and then you are in America, according to law, and a quick passage you
will have made of it. Now, that is what I call a category."
As the captain made this last remark, his quick eye saw that the wind had
hauled so far round to the westward, as to supersede the necessity of
tacking, and that they were actually going eight knots in a direct line
from Portsmouth. Casting an eye behind him, he perceived that the cutter
had given up the chase, and was returning towards the distant roads. Under
circumstances so discouraging, the attorney, who began to be alarmed for
his boat, which was flying along on the water, towed by the ship, prepared
to take his leave; for he was fully aware that he had no power to compel
the other to heave-to his ship, to enable him to get out of her. Luckily
the water was still tolerably smooth, and with fear and trembling, Mr.
Seal succeeded in blundering into the boat; not, however, until the
watermen had warned him of their intention to hold on no longer. Mr. Grab
followed, with a good deal of difficulty, and just as a hand was about to
let go the painter, the captain appeared at the gangway with the man they
were in quest of, and said in his most winning manner--
"Mr. Grab, Mr. Davis; Mr. Davis, Mr Grab; I seldom introduce steerage
passengers, but to oblige two old friends I break the rule. That's what I
call a category. My compliments to Mrs. Grab. Let go the painter"
The words were no sooner uttered than the boat was tossing and whirling in
the caldron left by the passing ship.
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