His Fifty Years of Exile
TO HIS HIGHNESS THE
Biography, in its purer form, confined to the ended lives of the true and brave, may be held the fairest meed of human virtue--one given and received in entire disinterestedness--since neither can the biographer hope for acknowledgment from the subject, nor the subject at all avail himself of the biographical distinction conferred.
Israel Potter well merits the present tribute--a private of
I am the more encouraged to lay this performance at the feet of your Highness, because, with a change in the grammatical person, it preserves, almost as in a reprint, Israel Potter's autobiographical story. Shortly after his return in infirm old age to his native land, a little narrative of his adventures, forlornly published on sleazy gray paper, appeared among the peddlers, written, probably, not by himself, but taken down from his lips by another. But like the crutch-marks of the cripple by the Beautiful Gate, this blurred record is now out of print. From a tattered copy, rescued by the merest chance from the rag-pickers, the present account has been drawn, which, with the exception of some expansions, and additions of historic and personal details, and one or two shiftings of scene, may, perhaps, be not unfitly regarded something in the light of a dilapidated old tombstone retouched.
Well aware that in your Highness' eyes the merit of the story must be in its general fidelity to the main drift of the original narrative, I forbore anywhere to mitigate the hard fortunes of my hero; and particularly towards the end, though sorely tempted, durst not substitute for the allotment of Providence any artistic recompense of poetical justice; so that no one can complain of the gloom of my closing chapters more profoundly than myself.
Such is the work, and such, the man, that I have the honor to present to your Highness. That the name here noted should not have appeared in the volumes of Sparks, may or may not be a matter for astonishment; but Israel Potter seems purposely to have waited to make his, popular advent under the present exalted patronage, seeing that your Highness, according to the definition above, may, in the loftiest sense, be deemed the Great Biographer: the national commemorator of such of the anonymous privates of June 17, 1775, who may never have received other requital than the solid reward of your granite.
Your Highness will pardon me, if, with the warmest ascriptions on this auspicious occasion, I take the liberty to mingle my hearty congratulations on the recurrence of the anniversary day we celebrate, wishing your Highness (though indeed your Highness be somewhat prematurely gray) many returns of the same, and that each of its summer's suns may shine as brightly on your brow as each winter snow shall lightly rest on the grave of Israel Potter.
Your Highness' Most devoted and obsequious,
JUNE 17th, 1854.
The traveller who at the present day is content to travel in the good old Asiatic style, neither rushed along by a locomotive, nor dragged by a stage-coach; who is willing to enjoy hospitalities at far-scattered farmhouses, instead of paying his bill at an inn; who is not to be frightened by any amount of loneliness, or to be deterred by the roughest roads or the highest hills; such a traveller in the eastern part of Berkshire, Massachusetts, will find ample food for poetic reflection in the singular scenery of a country, which, owing to the ruggedness of the soil and its lying out of the track of all public conveyances, remains almost as unknown to the general tourist as the interior of Bohemia.
Travelling northward from the
Yet during the first settlement of the country, the region was not unproductive. Here it was that the original settlers came, acting upon the principle well known to have regulated their choice of site, namely, the high land in preference to the low, as less subject to the unwholesome miasmas generated by breaking into the rich valleys and alluvial bottoms of primeval regions. By degrees, however, they quitted the safety of this sterile elevation, to brave the dangers of richer though lower fields. So that, at the present day, some of those mountain townships present an aspect of singular abandonment. Though they have never known aught but peace and health, they, in one lesser aspect at least, look like countries depopulated by plague and war. Every mile or two a house is passed untenanted. The strength of the frame-work of these ancient buildings enables them long to resist the encroachments of decay. Spotted gray and green with the weather-stain, their timbers seem to have lapsed back into their woodland original, forming part now of the general picturesqueness of the natural scene. They are of extraordinary size, compared with modern farmhouses. One peculiar feature is the immense chimney, of light gray stone, perforating the middle of the roof like a tower.
On all sides are seen the tokens of ancient industry. As stone abounds throughout these mountains, that material was, for fences, as ready to the hand as wood, besides being much more durable. Consequently the landscape is intersected in all directions with walls of uncommon neatness and strength.
The number and length of these walls is not more surprising than the size of some of the blocks comprising them. The very Titans seemed to have been at work. That so small an army as the first settlers must needs have been, should have taken such wonderful pains to enclose so ungrateful a soil; that they should have accomplished such herculean undertakings with so slight prospect of reward; this is a consideration which gives us a significant hint of the temper of the men of the Revolutionary era.
Nor could a fitter country be found for the birthplace of the devoted patriot, Israel Potter.
To this day the best stone-wall builders, as the best wood-choppers, come from those solitary mountain towns; a tall, athletic, and hardy race, unerring with the axe as the Indian with the tomahawk; at stone-rolling, patient as Sisyphus, powerful as Samson.
In fine clear June days, the bloom of these mountains is beyond expression delightful. Last visiting these heights ere she vanishes, Spring, like the sunset, flings her sweetest charms upon them. Each tuft of upland grass is musked like a bouquet with perfume. The balmy breeze swings to and fro like a censer. On one side the eye follows for the space of an eagle's flight, the serpentine mountain chains, southwards from the great purple dome of Taconic--the St. Peter's of these hills--northwards to the twin summits of Saddleback, which is the two-steepled natural cathedral of Berkshire; while low down to the west the Housatonie winds on in her watery labyrinth, through charming meadows basking in the reflected rays from the hill-sides. At this season the beauty of every thing around you populates the loneliness of your way. You would not have the country more settled if you could. Content to drink in such loveliness at all your senses, the heart desires no company but Nature.
With what rapture you behold, hovering over some vast hollow of the hills, or slowly drifting at an immense height over the far sunken Housatonie valley, some lordly eagle, who in unshared exaltation looks down equally upon plain and mountain. Or you behold a hawk sallying from some crag, like a Rhenish baron of old from his pinnacled castle, and darting down towards the river for his prey. Or perhaps, lazily gliding about in the zenith, this ruffian fowl is suddenly beset by a crow, who with stubborn audacity pecks at him, and, spite of all his bravery, finally persecutes him back to his stronghold. The otherwise dauntless bandit, soaring at his topmost height, must needs succumb to this sable image of death. Nor are there wanting many smaller and less famous fowl, who without contributing to the grandeur, yet greatly add to the beauty of the scene. The yellow-bird flits like a winged jonquil here and there; like knots of violets the blue-birds sport in clusters upon the grass; while hurrying from the pasture to the grove, the red robin seems an incendiary putting torch to the trees. Meanwhile the air is vocal with their hymns, and your own soul joys in the general joy. Like a stranger in an orchestra, you cannot help singing yourself when all around you raise such hosannas.
But in autumn, those gay northerners, the birds, return to their southern plantations. The mountains are left bleak and sere. Solitude settles down upon them in drizzling mists. The traveller is beset, at perilous turns, by dense masses of fog. He emerges for a moment into more penetrable air; and passing some gray, abandoned house, sees the lofty vapors plainly eddy by its desolate door; just as from the plain you may see it eddy by the pinnacles of distant and lonely heights. Or, dismounting from his frightened horse, he leads him down some scowling glen, where the road steeply dips among grim rocks, only to rise as abruptly again; and as he warily picks his way, uneasy at the menacing scene, he sees some ghost-like object looming through the mist at the roadside; and wending towards it, beholds a rude white stone, uncouthly inscribed, marking the spot where, some fifty or sixty years ago, some farmer was upset in his wood-sled, and perished beneath the load.
In winter this region is blocked up with snow. Inaccessible and impassable, those wild, unfrequented roads, which in August are overgrown with high grass, in December are drifted to the arm-pit with the white fleece from the sky. As if an ocean rolled between man and man, intercommunication is often suspended for weeks and weeks.
Such, at this day, is the country which gave birth to our
hero: prophetically styled
How little he thought, when, as a boy, hunting after his
father's stray cattle among these New England hills he himself like a beast
should be hunted through half of Old England, as a runaway rebel. Or, how could
he ever have dreamed, when involved in the autumnal vapors of these mountains,
that worse bewilderments awaited him three thousand miles across the sea,
wandering forlorn in the coal-foes of
Imagination will easily picture the rural day of the youth
It appears that he began his wanderings very early;
moreover, that ere, on just principles throwing off the yoke off his king,
It was on Sunday, while the family were gone to a farmhouse church near by, that he packed up as much of his clothing as might be contained in a handkerchief, which, with a small quantity of provision, he hid in a piece of woods in the rear of the house. He then returned, and continued in the house till about nine in the evening, when, pretending to go to bed, he passed out of a back door, and hastened to the woods for his bundle.
It was a sultry night in July; and that he might travel with the more ease on the succeeding day, he lay down at the foot of a pine tree, reposing himself till an hour before dawn, when, upon awaking, he heard the soft, prophetic sighing of the pine, stirred by the first breath of the morning. Like the leaflets of that evergreen, all the fibres of his heart trembled within him; tears fell from his eyes. But he thought of the tyranny of his father, and what seemed to him the faithlessness of his love; and shouldering his bundle, arose, and marched on.
His intention was to reach the new countries to the
northward and westward, lying between the Dutch settlements on the
He reached his destination in safety; hired out to a farmer
for a month through the harvest; then crossed from the
His employer proving false to his contract in the matter of
the land, and there being no law in the country to force him to fulfil it, Israel--who, however brave-hearted, and even
much of a dare-devil upon a pinch, seems nevertheless to have evinced,
throughout many parts of his career, a singular patience and mildness--was
obliged to look round for other means of livelihood than clearing out a farm
for himself in the wilderness. A party of royal surveyors
were at this period surveying the unsettled regions bordering the
Paid off at last,
With the result of his hunting he purchased a hundred acres
of land, further down the river, toward the more settled parts; built himself a
log hut, and in two summers, with his own hands, cleared thirty acres for
sowing. In the winter seasons he hunted and trapped. At the end of the two
years, he sold back his land--now much improved--to the original owner, at an
advance of fifty pounds. He conveyed his cash and furs to
This Canadian trip proved highly successful. Selling his
glittering goods at a great advance, he received in exchange valuable peltries
and furs at a corresponding reduction. Returning to
They were not less astonished than delighted at his
reappearance; he had been numbered with the dead. But his love still seemed
strangely coy; willing, but yet somehow mysteriously withheld. The old
intrigues were still on foot.
A hermitage in the forest is the refuge of the narrow-minded misanthrope; a hammock on the ocean is the asylum for the generous distressed. The ocean brims with natural griefs and tragedies; and into that watery immensity of terror, man's private grief is lost like a drop.
Travelling on foot to
Other rovings ensued; until at
last, entering on board a Nantucket ship, he hunted the leviathan off the
Western Islands and on the coast of Africa, for sixteen months; returning at
In this last voyage, our adventurer experienced to the
extreme all the hardships and privations of the whaleman's
life on a long voyage to distant and barbarous waters--hardships and privations
unknown at the present day, when science has so greatly contributed, in
manifold ways, to lessen the sufferings, and add to the comforts of seafaring
men. Heartily sick of the ocean, and longing once more for the bush,
But if hopes of his sweetheart winged his returning flight, such hopes were not destined to be crowned with fruition. The dear, false girl was another's.
Left to idle lamentations,
It was the year 1774. The difficulties long pending between
the colonies and
The battle of
With other detachments from various quarters,
On the third of July,
The British now quartered in
Three days out of
From the hospital the survivors were conveyed to
But one bright morning,
The officers being landed, some of the crew propose, like merry Englishmen as they are, to hie to a neighboring ale-house, and have a cosy pot or two together. Agreed.
They start, and
Ten miles, as he computed, from where he had left the bargemen, leisurely passing a public house of a little village on the roadside, thinking himself now pretty safe--hark, what is this he hears?--
"No ship," says
"If you will attend to your business, I will endeavor
to attend to mine," replies
"Stop thief!" is now the cry. Numbers rushed from the roadside houses. After a mile's chase, the poor panting deer is caught.
Finding it was no use now to prevaricate,
It seems that the good officer--not more true to the king
his master than indulgent towards the prisoner which that same loyalty
made--had left orders that
Late at night the company break up.
Furnished with a pair of handcuffs, the prisoner is laid on a blanket spread
upon the floor at the side of the bed in which his two keepers are to repose.
Expressing much gratitude for the blanket, with apparent unconcern,
The important moment had now arrived. Certain it was, that if this chance were suffered to pass unimproved, a
second would hardly present itself. For early, doubtless, on the following
morning, if not some way prevented, the two soldiers would convey
"What's the matter with ye, Phil?" hiccoughed the other, who was not yet asleep. "Keep quiet, will ye? Ye ain't at Fontenoy now."
"He's a runaway prisoner, I say. Catch him, catch him!"
"Oh, stush with your drunken dreaming," again hiccoughed his comrade, violently nudging him. "This comes o' carousing."
Shortly after, the dreamer with loud snores fell back into
dead sleep. But by something in the sound of the breathing of the other
"Come, wake up here, Phil," roared the soldier who was awake; "the fellow here says he must step out; cuss these Yankees; no better edication than to be gettin' up on nateral necessities at this time o'night. It ain't nateral; its unnateral. D---n ye, Yankee, don't ye know no better?"
With many more denunciations, the two now staggered to their
feet, and clutching hold of Israel, escorted him down stairs, and through a
long, narrow, dark entry; rearward, till they came to a door. No sooner was
this unbolted by the foremost guard, than, quick as a flash, manacled Israel,
shaking off the grasp of the one behind him, butts him sprawling back into the
entry; when, dashing in the opposite direction, he bounces the other head over
heels into the garden, never using a hand; and then, leaping over the latter's
head, darts blindly out into the midnight. Next moment he was at the garden
wall. No outlet was discoverable in the gloom. But a fruit-tree grew close to
the wall. Springing into it desperately, handcuffed as he was,
After running two or three miles, and hearing no sound of
Bless me, thought
But, hurrying forward again, he came to a turnpike road, and
then knew that, all comely and shaven as it was, this was simply the open
"Please, ladies," half roguishly says
At this salutation, the two figures turned in a sort of
stupid amazement, causing an almost corresponding expression in
"Beg pardon, ladies, but I thought ye were something
Once more the two figures stared at the stranger, and with added boorishness of surprise.
"Does this road go to
"Gentlemen--egad!" cried one of the two.
"Egad!" echoed the second.
Putting their hoes before them, the two frocked boors now
took a good long look at
"Does it, gentlemen? Does it go to
"Yees goin' to Lunnun, are yees? Weel--all right--go along."
And without another word, having now satisfied their rustic curiosity, the two human steers, with wonderful phlegm, applied themselves to their hoes; supposing, no doubt, that they had given all requisite information.
After pausing here a moment, he moved on, and observed a man
over the way standing still and watching him. Instantly
Making up to this old man,
From the friendly old ditcher,
Having solemnly enjoined his old friend not to give any information, should any one he meet inquire for such a person as Israel, our adventurer walked briskly on, less heavy of heart, now that he felt comparatively safe in disguise.
Thirty miles were travelled that
day. At night
By the first peep of day coming through the chinks of the
barn, he was up and abroad. Ere long finding himself in the suburbs of a
considerable village, the better to guard against detection he supplied himself
with a rude crutch, and feigning himself a cripple, hobbled straight through
the town, followed by a perverse-minded cur, which kept up a continual,
spiteful, suspicious bark.
A few miles further, and he came to a second village. While hobbling through its main street, as through the former one, he was suddenly stopped by a genuine cripple, all in tatters, too, who, with a sympathetic air, inquired after the cause of his lameness.
"White swelling," says
"That's just my ailing," wheezed the other;
"but you're lamer than me," he added with a forlorn sort of self-satisfaction,
"But halloo, what's your hurry, friend?" seeing
"Going to limp to Lunnun, eh? Well, success to ye."
"As much to you, sir," answers
Nigh the opposite suburbs of this village, as good fortune
would have it, an empty baggage-wagon bound for the metropolis turned into the
main road from a side one. Immediately
The only advantage, if any, derived from his trip in the wagon, was, when passing through a third village--but a little distant from the previous one--Israel, by lying down in the wagon, had wholly avoided being seen.
The villages surprised him by their number and proximity. Nothing like this was to be seen at home. Well knowing that in these villages he ran much more risk of detection than in the open country, he henceforth did his best to avoid them, by taking a roundabout course whenever they came in sight from a distance. This mode of travelling not only lengthened his journey, but put unlooked-for obstacles in his path--walls, ditches, and streams.
Not half an hour after throwing away his crutch, he leaped a
great ditch ten feet wide, and of undiscoverable muddy depth. I wonder if the
old cripple would think me the lamer one now, thought
At nightfall, on the third day,
Bright and early he arose refreshed, with the pleasing
prospect of reaching his destination ere noon. Encouraged to find himself now
so far from his original pursuers,
"Hey, lad!" said the foremost soldier, a corporal, "you are one of his majesty's seamen! come along with ye."
So, unable to give any satisfactory account of himself, he was made prisoner on the spot, and soon after found himself handcuffed and locked up in the Bound House of the place, a prison so called, appropriated to runaways, and those convicted of minor offences. Day passed dinnerless and supperless in this dismal durance, and night came on.
Two hours sawing across the grating of the window, ridded him of his handcuffs. Next came the door, secured luckily with only a hasp and padlock. Thrusting the bolt of his handcuffs through a small window in the door, he succeeded in forcing the hasp and regaining his liberty about three o'clock in the morning.
Not long after sunrise, he passed nigh Brentford, some six or seven miles from the capital. So great was his hunger that downright starvation seemed before him. He chewed grass, and swallowed it. Upon first escaping from the hulk, six English pennies was all the money he had. With two of these he had bought a small loaf the day after fleeing the inn. The other four still remained in his pocket, not having met with a good opportunity to dispose of them for food.
Having torn off the collar of his shirt, and flung it into a
hedge, he ventured to accost a respectable carpenter at a pale fence, about a
mile this side of Brentford, to whom his deplorable
situation now induced him to apply for work. The man did not wish himself to
hire, but said that if he (
Revived a little by this prospect of relief,
Taking another path, ere long he came to some laborers shovelling gravel. These proved to be men employed by Sir
John. By them he was directed towards the house, when the knight was pointed
out to him, walking bare-headed in the inclosure with
several guests. Having heard the rich men of
"Mr. Millet," said
"Ha,--who are you, pray?"
"A poor fellow, sir, in want of work."
"A wardrobe, too, I should say," smiled one of the guests, of a very youthful, prosperous, and dandified air.
"Where's your hoe?" said Sir John.
"I have none, sir."
"Any money to buy one?"
"Only four English pennies, sir."
"_English_ pennies. What other sort would you have?"
"Will you hire me, Mr. Millet," said
"Ha! that's queer again," cried the knight.
"Hark ye, fellow," said a brisk servant, approaching from the porch, "this is Sir John Millet."
Seeming to take pity on his seeming ignorance, as well as on
his undisputable poverty, the good knight now told
It would be hard to express the satisfaction of the wanderer
at receiving this encouraging reply. Emboldened by it, he now returns towards a
baker's he had spied, and bravely marching in, flings down all four pennies,
and demands bread. Thinking he would not have any more food till next morning,
After resting under a hedge, he saw the sun far descended, and so prepared himself for another hard night. Waiting till dark, he crawled into an old carriage-house, finding nothing there but a dismantled old phaeton. Into this he climbed, and curling himself up like a carriage-dog, endeavored to sleep; but, unable to endure the constraint of such a bed, got out, and stretched himself on the bare boards of the floor.
No sooner was light in the east than he fastened to await
the commands of one who, his instinct told him, was destined to prove his
benefactor. On his father's farm accustomed to rise with the lark,
Supplied by the overseer of the men with a large iron fork and a hoe, he followed the hands into the field. He was so weak he could hardly support his tools. Unwilling to expose his debility, he yet could not succeed in concealing it. At last, to avoid worse imputations, he confessed the cause. His companions regarded him with compassion, and exempted him from the severer toil.
About noon the knight visited his workmen. Noticing that
Hereupon one of the laborers standing by informed the
gentleman how it was with
Arrived at the house he there again saw his employer, who,
after attentively eyeing him without speaking, bade a meal be prepared for him,
when the maid presenting a smaller supply than her kind master deemed
necessary, she was ordered to return and bring out the entire dish. But aware
of the danger of sudden repletion of heavy food to one in his condition,
After breakfast, next morning, he was proceeding to go with the laborers to their work, when his employer approaching him with a benevolent air, bade him return to his couch, and there remain till he had slept his fill, and was in a better state to resume his labors.
Upon coming forth again a little after noon, he found Sir
John walking alone in the grounds. Upon discovering him, Israel would have
retreated, fearing that he might intrude; but beckoning him to advance, the
knight, as Israel drew nigh, fixed on him such a penetrating glance, that our
poor hero quaked to the core. Neither was his dread of detection relieved by
the knight's now calling in a loud voice for one from the house.
"Bring hither some wine!"
It presently came; by order of the knight the salver was set down on a green bank near by, and the servant retired.
"My poor fellow," said Sir John, now pouring out a
glass of wine, and handing it to
"Mr. Millet," exclaimed
"_Mr_. Millet--there it is again. Why don't you say _Sir John_ like the rest?"
"Why, sir--pardon me--but somehow, I can't. I've tried; but I can't. You won't betray me for that?"
"Betray--poor fellow! Hark ye, your history is doubtless a secret which you would not wish to divulge to a stranger; but whatever happens to you, I pledge you my honor I will never betray you."
"God bless you for that, Mr. Millet."
"Come, come; call me by my right name. I am not Mr. Millet. _You_ have said _Sir_ to me; and no doubt you have a thousand times said _John_ to other people. Now can't you couple the two? Try once. Come. Only _Sir_ and then _John_--_Sir John_--that's all."
"John--I can't--Sir, sir!--your pardon. I didn't mean that."
"My good fellow," said the knight looking sharply
"I do not wish unnecessarily to speak against my own countrymen," he added, "I but plainly speak for your good. The soldiers you meet prowling on the roads, are not fair specimens of the army. They are a set of mean, dastardly banditti, who, to obtain their fee, would betray their best friends. Once more, I warn you against them. But enough; follow me now to the house, and as you tell me you have exchanged clothes before now, you can do it again. What say you? I will give you coat and breeches for your rags."
Thus generously supplied with clothes and other comforts by the good knight, and implicitly relying upon the honor of so kind-hearted a man, Israel cheered up, and in the course of two or three weeks had so fattened his flanks, that he was able completely to fill Sir John's old buckskin breeches, which at first had hung but loosely about him.
He was assigned to an occupation which removed him from the other workmen. The strawberry bed was put under his sole charge. And often, of mild, sunny afternoons, the knight, genial and gentle with dinner, would stroll bare-headed to the pleasant strawberry bed, and have nice little confidential chats with Israel; while Israel, charmed by the patriarchal demeanor of this true Abrahamic gentleman, with a smile on his lip, and tears of gratitude in his eyes, offered him, from time to time, the plumpest berries of the bed.
When the strawberry season was over, other parts of the
grounds were assigned him. And so six months elapsed, when, at the
recommendation of Sir John,
So completely now had recent events metamorphosed him in all outward things, that few suspected him of being any other than an Englishman. Not even the knight's domestics. But in the princess's garden, being obliged to work in company with many other laborers, the war was often a topic of discussion among them. And "the d--d Yankee rebels" were not seldom the object of scurrilous remark. Illy could the exile brook in silence such insults upon the country for which he had bled, and for whose honored sake he was that very instant a sufferer. More than once, his indignation came very nigh getting the better of his prudence. He longed for the war to end, that he might but speak a little bit of his mind.
Now the superintendent of the garden was a harsh,
overbearing man. The workmen with tame servility endured his worst affronts.
Tracked one night by the soldiers to the house of one of these friends, in whose garret he was concealed, he was obliged to force the skuttle, and running along the roof, passed to those of adjoining houses to the number of ten or twelve, finally succeeding in making his escape.
Harassed day and night, hunted from food and sleep, driven from hole to hole like a fox in the woods, with no chance to earn an hour's wages, he was at last advised by one whose sincerity he could not doubt, to apply, on the good word of Sir John Millet, for a berth as laborer in the King's Gardens at Kew. There, it was said, he would be entirely safe, as no soldier durst approach those premises to molest any soul therein employed. It struck the poor exile as curious, that the very den of the British lion, the private grounds of the British King, should be commended to a refugee as his securest asylum.
His nativity carefully concealed, and being personally introduced to the chief gardener by one who well knew him; armed, too, with a line from Sir John, and recommended by his introducer as uncommonly expert at horticulture; Israel was soon installed as keeper of certain less private plants and walks of the park.
It was here, to one of his near country retreats, that, coming from perplexities of state--leaving far behind him the dingy old bricks of St. James--George the Third was wont to walk up and down beneath the long arbors formed by the interlockings of lofty trees.
More than once, raking the gravel,
Unauthorized and abhorrent thoughts will sometimes invade
the best human heart. Seeing the monarch unguarded before him; remembering that
the war was imputed more to the self-will of the King than to the willingness
of parliament or the nation; and calling to mind all his own sufferings growing
out of that war, with all the calamities of his country; dim impulses, such as
those to which the regicide Ravaillae yielded, would
shoot balefully across the soul of the exile. But thrusting Satan behind him,
As he was one day gravelling a little by-walk, wrapped in
thought, the King turning a clump of bushes, suddenly brushed
"You ain't an Englishman,--no Englishman--no, no."
Pale as death,
"You are a Yankee--a Yankee," said the King again in his rapid and half-stammering way.
"Yes, yes,--you are one of that stubborn race,--that very stubborn race. What brought you here?"
"The fate of war, sir."
"May it please your Majesty," said a low cringing
voice, approaching, "this man is in the walk against orders. There is some
mistake, may it please your Majesty. Quit the walk, blockhead," he hissed
It was one of the junior gardeners who thus spoke. It seems
"Slink, you dog," hissed the gardener again to
"Go you away--away with ye, and leave him with me," said the king.
Waiting a moment, till the man was out of hearing, the king
again turned upon
"Were you at Bunker Hill?--that bloody
"Fought like a devil--like a very devil, I suppose?"
"Helped flog--helped flog my soldiers?"
"Yes, sir; but very sorry to do it."
"I took it to be my sad duty, sir."
"Very much mistaken--very much mistaken, indeed. Why do ye sir me?--eh? I'm your king--your king."
The king darted his eye incensedly
for a moment; but without quailing,
"Sir, it is."
"Well, ye're an honest
rebel--rebel, yes, rebel. Hark ye, hark. Say nothing of this talk to any one.
And hark again. So long as you remain here at
"God bless your Majesty!"
"God bless your noble Majesty?"
"Come--come--come," smiled the king in delight, "I thought I could conquer ye--conquer ye."
"Not the king, but the king's kindness, your Majesty."
"Join my army--army."
Sadly looking down,
"You won't? Well, gravel the walk then--gravel away. Very stubborn race--very stubborn race, indeed--very--very--very."
And still growling, the magnanimous lion
departed. How the monarch came by his knowledge of so humble an exile,
whether through that swift insight into individual character said to form one
of the miraculous qualities transmitted with a crown, or whether some of the
rumors prevailing outside of the garden had come to his ear,
Thus we see what strange and powerful magic resides in a
crown, and how subtly that cheap and easy magnanimity, which in private belongs
to most kings, may operate on good-natured and unfortunate souls. Indeed, had
it not been for the peculiar disinterested fidelity of our adventurer's
patriotism, he would have soon sported the red coat; and perhaps under the
immediate patronage of his royal friend, been advanced in time to no mean rank
in the army of
Continuing in the service of the king's gardeners at Kew,
until a season came when the work of the garden required a less number of
laborers, Israel, with several others, was discharged; and the day after,
engaged himself for a few months to a farmer in the neighborhood where he had
been last employed. But hardly a week had gone by, when the old story of his
being a rebel, or a runaway prisoner, or a Yankee, or a spy, began to be
revived with added malignity. Like bloodhounds, the soldiers were once more on
the track. The houses where he harbored were many times searched; but thanks to
the fidelity of a few earnest well-wishers, and to his own unsleeping vigilance
and activity, the hunted fox still continued to elude apprehension. To such
extremities of harassment, however, did this incessant pursuit subject him,
that in a fit of despair he was about to surrender himself, and submit to his
At this period, though made the victims indeed of British
oppression, yet the colonies were not totally without friends in
Late one night while hiding in a farmer's granary,
At nightfall on the following day, being disguised in strange clothes by the farmer, Israel stole from his retreat, and after a few hours' walk, arrived before the ancient brick house of the Squire; who opening the door in person, and learning who it was that stood there, at once assured Israel in the most solemn manner, that no foul play was intended. So the wanderer suffered himself to enter, and be conducted to a private chamber in the rear of the mansion, where were seated two other gentlemen, attired, in the manner of that age, in long laced coats, with small-clothes, and shoes with silver buckles.
"I am John Woodcock," said the host, "and
these gentlemen are Horne Tooke and James Bridges. All three of us are friends
"Tell me how I may do it?" demanded
"At that in good time," smiled the Squire. "The point is now--do you repose confidence in my statements?"
Israel glanced inquiringly upon the Squire; then upon his companions; and meeting the expressive, enthusiastic, candid countenance of Horne Tooke--then in the first honest ardor of his political career--turned to the Squire, and said, "Sir, I believe what you have said. Tell me now what I am to do."
"Oh, there is just nothing to be done to-night," said the Squire; "nor for some days to come perhaps, but we wanted to have you prepared."
And hereupon he hinted to his guest rather vaguely of his
general intention; and that over, begged him to entertain them with some
account of his adventures since he first took up arms for his country. To this
But after his second glass,
And to this desirable conclusion they eventually came, for
upon the ending of
"All your expenses shall be paid, not to speak of a compensation besides," said the Squire; "will you go?"
"I must think of it," said
The Squire now informed
Having informed him of thus much, Squire Woodcock asked him to hold out his right foot.
"What for?" said
"Why, would you not like to have a pair of new boots against your return?" smiled Home Tooke.
"Oh, yes; no objection at all," said,
"Well, then, let the bootmaker measure you," smiled Horne Tooke.
"Do _you_ do it, Mr. Tooke," said the Squire; "you measure men's parts better than I."
"Hold out your foot, my good friend," said Horne Tooke--"there--now let's measure your heart."
"For that, measure me round the chest," said
"Just the man we want," said Mr. Bridges, triumphantly.
"Give him another glass of wine, Squire," said Horne Tooke.
Exchanging the farmer's clothes for still another disguise,
"The time has now come," said Squire Woodcock.
"You must start this morning for
"Am I to steal from here to Paris on my stocking-feet?" said Israel, whose late easy good living at White Waltham had not failed to bring out the good-natured and mirthful part of him, even as his prior experiences had produced, for the most part, something like a contrary result.
"Oh, no," smiled Horne Tooke, who always lived well, "we have seven-league-boots for you. Don't you remember my measuring you?"
Hereupon going to the closet, the Squire brought out a pair
of new boots. They were fitted with false heels. Unscrewing these, the Squire showed
"Walk across the room with them," said the Squire,
"He'll surely be discovered," smiled Horne Tooke. "Hark how he creaks."
"Come, come, it's too serious a matter for joking," said the Squire. "Now, my fine fellow, be cautious, be sober, be vigilant, and above all things be speedy."
Being furnished now with all requisite directions, and a supply of money, Israel, taking leave of Mr. Tooke and Mr. Bridges, was secretly conducted down stairs by the Squire, and in five minutes' time was on his way to Charing Cross in London, where taking the post-coach for Dover, he thence went in a packet to Calais, and in fifteen minutes after landing, was being wheeled over French soil towards Paris. He arrived there in safety, and freely declaring himself an American, the peculiarly friendly relations of the two nations at that period, procured him kindly attentions even from strangers.
Following the directions given him at the place where the
The man had a small, shabby-looking box before him on the ground, with a box of blacking on one side of it, and several shoe-brushes upon the other. Holding another brush in his hand, he politely seconded his verbal invitation by gracefully flourishing the brush in the air.
"What do you want of me, neighbor?" said
"Ah, Monsieur," exclaimed the man, and with
voluble politeness he ran on with a long string of French, which of course was
all Greek to poor
"Ah, Monsieur, Monsieur," cried the man, at last
running up to
Incensed that his politeness should receive such an
ungracious return, the man pursued, which but confirming
Arrived at last at the street and the house to which he had
been directed, in reply to his summons, the gate very strangely of itself swung
open, and much astonished at this unlooked-for sort of
Upon hearing the name of Doctor Franklin mentioned, the old
woman, all alacrity, hurried out of her den, and with much courtesy showed
"Come in," said a voice.
Wrapped in a rich dressing-gown, a fanciful present from an admiring Marchesa, curiously embroidered with algebraic figures like a conjuror's robe, and with a skull-cap of black satin on his hive of a head, the man of gravity was seated at a huge claw-footed old table, round as the zodiac. It was covered with printer papers, files of documents, rolls of manuscript, stray bits of strange models in wood and metal, odd-looking pamphlets in various languages, and all sorts of books, including many presentation-copies, embracing history, mechanics, diplomacy, agriculture, political economy, metaphysics, meteorology, and geometry. The walls had a necromantic look, hung round with barometers of different kinds, drawings of surprising inventions, wide maps of far countries in the New World, containing vast empty spaces in the middle, with the word DESERT diffusely printed there, so as to span five-and-twenty degrees of longitude with only two syllables,--which printed word, however, bore a vigorous pen-mark, in the Doctor's hand, drawn straight through it, as if in summary repeal of it; crowded topographical and trigonometrical charts of various parts of Europe; with geometrical diagrams, and endless other surprising hangings and upholstery of science.
The chamber itself bore evident marks of antiquity. One part of the rough-finished wall was sadly cracked, and covered with dust, looked dim and dark. But the aged inmate, though wrinkled as well, looked neat and hale. Both wall and sage were compounded of like materials,--lime and dust; both, too, were old; but while the rude earth of the wall had no painted lustre to shed off all fadings and tarnish, and still keep fresh without, though with long eld its core decayed: the living lime and dust of the sage was frescoed with defensive bloom of his soul.
The weather was warm; like some old
So, intent on his errand, hurried and heated with his recent run, our courier entered the room, inadequately impressed, for the time, by either it or its occupant.
"Bon jour, bon jour, monsieur," said the man of wisdom, in a cheerful voice, but too busy to turn round just then.
"How do you do, Doctor Franklin?" said
"Ah! I smell Indian corn," said the Doctor, turning round quickly on his chair. "A countryman; sit down, my good sir. Well, what news? Special?"
"Wait a minute, sir," said
Now there was no carpet on the floor, which was of
dark-colored wood, set in lozenges, and slippery with wax, after the usual
French style. As
"'Pears to me you have rather high heels to your boots," said the grave man of utility, looking sharply down through his spectacles; "don't you know that it's both wasting leather and endangering your limbs, to wear such high heels? I have thought, at my first leisure, to write a little pamphlet against that very abuse. But pray, what are you doing now? Do your boots pinch you, my friend, that you lift one foot from the floor that way?"
At this moment,
"How foolish," continued the wise man, "for a rational creature to wear tight boots. Had nature intended rational creatures should do so, she would have made the foot of solid bone, or perhaps of solid iron, instead of bone, muscle, and flesh,--But,--I see. Hold!"
And springing to his own slippered feet, the venerable sage hurried to the door and
shot-to the bolt. Then drawing the curtain carefully across the window looking
out across the court to various windows on the opposite side, bade
"I was mistaken this time," added the Doctor,
"Pretty full, Doctor," said
"How? How's that?" said the sage, fumbling the papers eagerly.
"Why, crossing the stone bridge there over the _Seen_"--
"_Seine_"--interrupted the Doctor, giving the French pronunciation.--"Always get a new word right in the first place, my friend, and you will never get it wrong afterwards."
"Well, I was crossing the bridge there, and who should hail me, but a suspicious-looking man, who, under pretence of seeking to polish my boots, wanted slyly to unscrew their heels, and so steal all these precious papers I've brought you."
"My good friend," said the man of gravity, glancing scrutinizingly upon his guest, "have you not in your time, undergone what they call hard times? Been set upon, and persecuted, and very illy entreated by some of your fellow-creatures?"
"That I have, Doctor; yes, indeed."
"I thought so. Sad usage has made you sadly suspicious, my honest friend. An indiscriminate distrust of human nature is the worst consequence of a miserable condition, whether brought about by innocence or guilt. And though want of suspicion more than want of sense, sometimes leads a man into harm, yet too much suspicion is as bad as too little sense. The man you met, my friend, most probably had no artful intention; he knew just nothing about you or your heels; he simply wanted to earn two sous by brushing your boots. Those blacking-men regularly station themselves on the bridge."
"How sorry I am then that I knocked over his box, and then ran away. But he didn't catch me."
"How? surely, my honest friend, you--appointed to the conveyance of important secret dispatches--did not act so imprudently as to kick over an innocent man's box in the public streets of the capital, to which you had been especially sent?"
"Yes, I did, Doctor."
"Never act so unwisely again. If the police had got hold of you, think of what might have ensued."
"Well, it was not very wise of me, that's a fact, Doctor. But, you see, I thought he meant mischief."
"And because you only thought he _meant_ mischief, _you_ must straightway proceed to _do_ mischief. That's poor logic. But think over what I have told you now, while I look over these papers."
In half an hour's time, the Doctor, laying down the documents, again turned towards Israel, and removing his spectacles very placidly, proceeded in the kindest and most familiar manner to read him a paternal detailed lesson upon the ill-advised act he had been guilty of, upon the Pont Neuf; concluding by taking out his purse, and putting three small silver coins into Israel's hands, charging him to seek out the man that very day, and make both apology and restitution for his unlucky mistake.
"All of us, my honest friend," continued the Doctor, "are subject to making mistakes; so that the chief art of life, is to learn how best to remedy mistakes. Now one remedy for mistakes is honesty. So pay the man for the damage done to his box. And now, who are you, my friend? My correspondents here mention your name--Israel Potter--and say you are an American, an escaped prisoner of war, but nothing further. I want to hear your story from your own lips."
"I suppose," said the Doctor, upon
"That I do, Doctor," said
"Well, I think I shall be able to procure you a passage."
"I think it is probable that in two or three days I shall want you to return with some papers to the persons who sent you to me. In that case you will have to come here once more, and then, my good friend, we will see what can be done towards getting you safely home again."
"Gratitude, my friend, cannot be too much towards God, but towards man, it should be limited. No man can possibly so serve his fellow, as to merit unbounded gratitude. Over gratitude in the helped person, is apt to breed vanity or arrogance in the helping one. Now in assisting you to get home--if indeed I shall prove able to do so--I shall be simply doing part of my official duty as agent of our common country. So you owe me just nothing at all, but the sum of these coins I put in your hand just now. But that, instead of repaying to me hereafter, you can, when you get home, give to the first soldier's widow you meet. Don't forget it, for it is a debt, a pecuniary liability, owing to me. It will be about a quarter of a dollar, in the Yankee currency. A quarter of a dollar, mind. My honest friend, in pecuniary matters always be exact as a second-hand; never mind with whom it is, father or stranger, peasant or king, be exact to a tick of your honor."
"Well, Doctor," said
"My honest friend," said the Doctor, "I like your straightforward dealing. I will receive back the money."
"No interest, Doctor, I hope," said
The sage looked mildly over his spectacles upon
"But I thought I would like to have a little look round
the town, before I go back to
"Business before pleasure, my friend.
You must absolutely remain in your room, just as if you were my prisoner, until
"But you knocked over the box."
"That, Doctor, was bravery."
"Bravery in a poor cause, is the height of simplicity, my friend.--Count out your change. It must be French coin, not English, that you are to pay the man with.--Ah, that will do--those three coins will be enough. Put them in a pocket separate from your other cash. Now go, and hasten to the bridge."
"Shall I stop to take a meal anywhere, Doctor, as I return? I saw several cookshops as I came hither."
"Cafes and restaurants, they are called here, my honest friend. Tell me, are you the possessor of a liberal fortune?"
"Not very liberal," said
"I thought as much. Where little wine is drunk, it is good to dine out occasionally at a friend's; but where a poor man dines out at his own charge, it is bad policy. Never dine out that way, when you can dine in. Do not stop on the way at all, my honest friend, but come directly back hither, and you shall dine at home, free of cost, with me."
"Thank you very kindly, Doctor."
"Let me fill your glass," said the sage.
"It's white wine, ain't it?" said
"White wine of the very oldest brand; I drink your health in it, my honest friend."
"Why, it's plain water," said
"Plain water is a very good drink for plain men," replied the wise man.
"Very good, my honest friend; if you like perry and port and brandy, wait till you get back to Squire Woodcock, and the gentleman at White Waltham, and the other friends, and you shall drink perry and port and brandy. But while you are with me, you will drink plain water."
"So it seems, Doctor."
"What do you suppose a glass of port costs?"
"About three pence English, Doctor."
"That must be poor port. But how much good bread will three pence English purchase?"
"Three penny rolls, Doctor."
"How many glasses of port do you suppose a man may drink at a meal?"
"The gentleman at White Waltham drank a bottle at a dinner."
"A bottle contains just thirteen glasses--that's thirty-nine pence, supposing it poor wine. If something of the best, which is the only sort any sane man should drink, as being the least poisonous, it would be quadruple that sum, which is one hundred and fifty-six pence, which is seventy-eight two-penny loaves. Now, do you not think that for one man to swallow down seventy-two two-penny rolls at one meal is rather extravagant business?"
"But he drank a bottle of wine; he did not eat seventy-two two-penny rolls, Doctor."
"He drank the money worth of seventy-two loaves, which is drinking the loaves themselves; for money is bread."
"But he has plenty of money to spare, Doctor."
"To have to spare, is to have to give away. Does the gentleman give much away?"
"Not that I know of, Doctor."
"Then he thinks he has nothing to spare; and thinking
he has nothing to spare, and yet prodigally drinking down his money as he does
every day, it seems to me that that gentleman stands self-contradicted, and
therefore is no good example for plain sensible folks like you and me to
follow. My honest friend, if you are poor, avoid wine
as a costly luxury; if you are rich, shun it as a fatal indulgence. Stick to
plain water. And now, my good friend, if you are through with your meal, we
will rise. There is no pastry coming. Pastry is poisoned bread. Never eat
pastry. Be a plain man, and stick to plain things. Now, my friend, I shall have
to be private until nine o'clock in the evening, when I shall be again at your
service. Meantime you may go to your room. I have ordered the one next to this
to be prepared for you. But you must not be idle. Here is Poor Richard's Almanac,
which, in view of our late conversation, I commend to your earnest perusal. And
here, too, is a Guide to Paris, an English one, which you can read. Study it
well, so that when you come back from
So saying, this homely sage, and household Plato, showed his humble guest to the door, and standing in the hall, pointed out to him the one which opened into his allotted apartment.
The first, both in point of time and merit, of American envoys was famous not less for the pastoral simplicity of his manners than for the politic grace of his mind. Viewed from a certain point, there was a touch of primeval orientalness in Benjamin Franklin. Neither is there wanting something like his Scriptural parallel. The history of the patriarch Jacob is interesting not less from the unselfish devotion which we are bound to ascribe to him, than from the deep worldly wisdom and polished Italian tact, gleaming under an air of Arcadian unaffectedness. The diplomatist and the shepherd are blended; a union not without warrant; the apostolic serpent and dove. A tanned Machiavelli in tents.
Doubtless, too, notwithstanding his eminence as lord of the moving manor, Jacob's raiment was of homespun; the economic envoy's plain coat and hose, who has not heard of?
In keeping with his general habitudes, Doctor Franklin while
Long ago the haunt of rank, the
But all the lodging-houses are not so grim. Not to speak of
many of comparatively modern erection, the others of the better class, however
stern in exterior, evince a feminine gayety of taste, more or less, in their
furnishings within. The embellishing, or softening, or screening hand of woman
is to be seen all over the interiors of this metropolis..
Like Augustus Caesar with respect to
In this congenial vicinity of the
So, then, in the
Closing the door upon himself,
A dark tessellated floor, but without a rug; two mahogany chairs, with embroidered seats, rather the worse for wear; one mahogany bed, with a gay but tarnished counterpane; a marble wash-stand, cracked, with a china vessel of water, minus the handle. The apartment was very large; this part of the house, which was a very extensive one, embracing the four sides of a quadrangle, having, in a former age, been the hotel of a nobleman. The magnitude of the chamber made its stinted furniture look meagre enough.
"I wonder now what O-t-a-r-d is?" soliloquised
There was a rapid knock at the door.
Clapping down the bottle,
It was the man of wisdom.
"My honest friend," said the Doctor, stepping with
venerable briskness into the room, "I was so busy during your visit to the
Pont Neuf, that I did not have time to see that your
room was all right. I merely gave the order, and heard that it had been
fulfilled. But it just occurred to me, that as the landladies of
"Oh, Doctor, that reminds me; what is O-t-a-r-d, pray?"
"Otard is poison."
"Yes, and I think I had best remove it from the room
forthwith," replied the sage, in a business-like manner putting the bottle
under his arm; "I hope you never use
"What--what is that, Doctor?"
"I see. You never heard of the senseless luxury--a wise
ignorance. You smelt flowers upon your mountains. You won't want this,
either;" and the
"Is that cheaper, Doctor?"
"Yes, but just as good as the other. You don't ever munch sugar, do you? It's bad for the teeth. I'll take the sugar." So the paper of sugar was likewise dropped into one of the capacious coat pockets.
"Oh, you better take the whole furniture, Doctor Franklin. Here, I'll help you drag out the bedstead." "My honest friend," said the wise man, pausing solemnly, with the two bottles, like swimmer's bladders, under his arm-pits; "my honest friend, the bedstead you will want; what I propose to remove you will not want."
"Oh, I was only joking, Doctor."
"I knew that. It's a bad habit, except at the proper time, and with the proper person. The things left on the mantel were there placed by the landlady to be used if wanted; if not, to be left untouched. To-morrow morning, upon the chambermaid's coming in to make your bed, all such articles as remained obviously untouched would have been removed, the rest would have been charged in the bill, whether you used them up completely or not."
"Just as I thought. Then why not let the bottles stay, Doctor, and save yourself all this trouble?"
"Ah! why indeed. My honest friend, are you not my guest? It were unhandsome in me to permit a third person superfluously to entertain you under what, for the time being, is my own roof."
These words came from the wise man in the most graciously
bland and flowing tones. As he ended, he made a sort of conciliatory half bow
Charmed with his condescending affability,
No venerable doctor, but in tripped a young French lass,
bloom on her cheek, pink ribbons in her cap, liveliness in all her air, grace
in the very tips of her elbows. The most bewitching little
"Oh, I pardon ye freely,"
"Monsieur, is de--de--" but, breaking down at the
very threshold in her English, she poured out a long ribbon of sparkling
French, the purpose of which was to convey a profusion of fine compliments to
the stranger, with many tender inquiries as to whether he was comfortably
roomed, and whether there might not be something, however trifling, wanting to
his complete accommodation. But
She stood eyeing him for a few moments more, with a look of
pretty theatrical despair, and, after vaguely lingering a while, with another
shower of incomprehensible compliments and apologies, tripped like a fairy from
the chamber. Directly she was gone
Not long had she disappeared, when a noise in the passage apprised him that, in her hurried retreat, the girl must have stumbled against something. The next moment he heard a chair scraping in the adjacent apartment, and there was another knock at the door.
It was the man of wisdom this time.
"My honest friend, did you not have a visitor, just now?"
"Yes, Doctor, a very pretty girl called upon me."
"Well, I just stopped in to tell you of another strange
"Why, Doctor Franklin, she is a very sweet little girl."
"I know it, my honest friend; the sweeter the more dangerous. Arsenic is sweeter than sugar. I know you are a very sensible young man, not to be taken in by an artful Ammonite, and so I think I had better convey your message to the girl forthwith."
So saying, the sage withdrew, leaving
"Every time he comes in he robs me," soliloquised
It was growing dusk, and
"This is poor sight-seeing," muttered he at last, "sitting here all by myself, with no company but an empty tumbler, reading about the fine things in Paris, and I myself a prisoner in Paris. I wish something extraordinary would turn up now; for instance, a man come in and give me ten thousand pounds. But here's 'Poor Richard;' I am a poor fellow myself; so let's see what comfort he has for a comrade."
Opening the little pamphlet, at random,
"'_So what signifies waiting and hoping for better
times? We may make these times better, if we bestir ourselves. Industry need
not wish, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting, as Poor Richard says.
There are no gains, without pains. Then help hands, for I have no lands, as
Poor Richard says._' Oh, confound all this wisdom! It's a sort of insulting to
talk wisdom to a man like me. It's wisdom that's cheap, and it's fortune that's
dear. That ain't in Poor Richard; but it ought to
He walked across the room, looked at the artificial flowers, and the rose-colored soap, and again went to the table and took up the two books.
"So here is the 'Way to Wealth,' and here is the 'Guide
At this point, the Doctor knocked, summoning
Discovering that, in early life, Israel had been employed on
a farm, the man of wisdom at length turned the conversation in that direction;
among other things, mentioning to his guest a plan of his (the Doctor's) for
yoking oxen, with a yoke to go by a spring instead of a bolt; thus greatly
facilitating the operation of hitching on the team to the cart.
About half-past ten o'clock, as they were thus conversing,
"A very rude gentleman?" repeated the wise man in French, narrowly looking at the girl; "that means, a very fine gentleman who has just paid you some energetic compliment. But let him come up, my girl," he added patriarchially.
In a few moments, a swift coquettish step was heard,
followed, as if in chase, by a sharp and manly one. The door opened.
The next instant both disappeared from the range of the
crevice; the girl departing whence she had come; the stranger--transiently
invisible as he advanced behind the door--entering the room. When
He was a rather small, elastic, swarthy man, with an aspect as of a disinherited Indian Chief in European clothes. An unvanquishable enthusiasm, intensified to perfect sobriety, couched in his savage, self-possessed eye. He was elegantly and somewhat extravagantly dressed as a civilian; he carried himself with a rustic, barbaric jauntiness, strangely dashed with a superinduced touch of the Parisian _salon_. His tawny cheek, like a date, spoke of the tropic, A wonderful atmosphere of proud friendlessness and scornful isolation invested him. Yet there was a bit of the poet as well as the outlaw in him, too. A cool solemnity of intrepidity sat on his lip. He looked like one who of purpose sought out harm's way. He looked like one who never had been, and never would be, a subordinate.
So absorbed was our adventurer by the person of the stranger, that a few moments passed ere he began to be aware of the circumstance, that Dr. Franklin and this new visitor having saluted as old acquaintances, were now sitting in earnest conversation together.
"Do as you please; but I will not bide a suitor much
longer," said the stranger in bitterness. "Congress gave me to
understand that, upon my arrival here, I should be given immediate command of
the _Indien_; and now, for no earthly reason that I
can see, you Commissioners have presented her, fresh from the stocks at
"Come, come, Captain," said Doctor Franklin, soothingly, "tell me now, what would you do with her, if you had her?"
"I would teach the British that Paul Jones, though born
in Britain, is no subject to the British King, but an untrammelled
citizen and sailor of the universe; and I would teach them, too, that if they
ruthlessly ravage the American coasts, their own coasts are vulnerable as New
Holland's. Give me the _Indien_, and I will rain down
These words of bravado were not spoken in the tone of a bravo, but a prophet. Erect upon his chair, like an Iroquois, the speaker's look was like that of an unflickering torch.
His air seemed slightly to disturb the old sage's philosophic repose, who, while not seeking to disguise his admiration of the unmistakable spirit of the man, seemed but illy to relish his apparent measureless boasting.
As if both to change the subject a little, as well as put
his visitor in better mood--though indeed it might have been but covertly to
play with his enthusiasm--the man of wisdom now drew his chair confidentially
nearer to the stranger's, and putting one hand in a very friendly, conciliatory
way upon his visitor's knee, and rubbing it gently to and fro there, much as a
lion-tamer might soothingly manipulate the aggravated king of beasts, said in a
winning manner:--"Never mind at present, Captain, about the '_Indien_' affair. Let that sleep a moment. See now, the
"Decoy-duck to French frigates!--Very dignified office,
truly!" hissed Paul in a fiery rage. "Doctor Franklin, whatever Paul
Jones does for the cause of
The man of wisdom slowly shook his head. "Everything is lost through this shillyshallying timidity, called prudence," cried Paul Jones, starting to his feet; "to be effectual, war should be carried on like a monsoon, one changeless determination of every particle towards the one unalterable aim. But in vacillating councils, statesmen idle about like the cats'-paws in calms. My God, why was I not born a Czar!"
rather. Come, come, Captain," added the sage, "sit down, we
have a third person present, you see," pointing towards
Paul slightly started, and turned inquiringly upon
"Never fear, Captain," said the sage, "this man is true blue, a secret courier, and an American born. He is an escaped prisoner of war."
"Ah, captured in a ship?" asked Paul eagerly; "what ship? None of mine! Paul Jones never was captured."
"No, sir, in the brigantine
"Did your shipmates talk much of me?" demanded Paul, with a look as of a parading Sioux demanding homage to his gewgaws; "what did they say of Paul Jones?"
"I never heard the name before this evening," said
"Our friend here gave you a rather blunt answer," said the wise man, sagely mischievous, and addressing Paul.
"Yes. And I like him for it. My man, will you go a
cruise with Paul Jones? You fellows so blunt with the tongue,
are apt to be sharp with the steel. Come, my lad, return with me to
Fired by the contagious spirit of
"Our friend here," said he to the Captain, "is at present engaged for very different duty."
Much other conversation followed, during which Paul Jones again and again expressed his impatience at being unemployed, and his resolution to accept of no employ unless it gave him supreme authority; while in answer to all this Dr. Franklin, not uninfluenced by the uncompromising spirit of his guest, and well knowing that however unpleasant a trait in conversation, or in the transaction of civil affairs, yet in war this very quality was invaluable, as projectiles and combustibles, finally assured Paul, after many complimentary remarks, that he would immediately exert himself to the utmost to procure for him some enterprise which should come up to his merits.
"Thank you for your frankness," said Paul; "frank myself, I love to deal with a frank man. You, Doctor Franklin, are true and deep, and so you are frank."
The sage sedately smiled, a queer incredulity just lurking in the corner of his mouth.
"But how about our little scheme for new modelling ships-of-war?" said the Doctor, shifting the subject; "it will be a great thing for our infant navy, if we succeed. Since our last conversation on that subject, Captain, at odds and ends of time, I have thought over the matter, and have begun a little skeleton of the thing here, which I will show you. Whenever one has a new idea of anything mechanical, it is best to clothe it with a body as soon as possible. For you can't improve so well on ideas as you can on bodies."
With that, going to a little drawer, he produced a small basket, filled with a curious looking unfinished frame-work of wood, and several bits of wood unattached. It looked like a nursery basket containing broken odds and ends of playthings.
"Now look here, Captain, though the thing is but begun at present, yet there is enough to show that _one_ idea at least of yours is not feasible."
Paul was all attention, as if having unbounded confidence in whatever the sage might suggest, while Israel looked on quite as interested as either, his heart swelling with the thought of being privy to the consultations of two such men; consultations, too, having ultimate reference to such momentous affairs as the freeing of nations.
"If," continued the Doctor, taking up some of the loose bits and piling them along on one side of the top of the frame, "if the better to shelter your crew in an engagement, you construct your rail in the manner proposed--as thus--then, by the excessive weight of the timber, you will too much interfere with the ship's centre of gravity. You will have that too high."
"Ballast in the hold in proportion," said Paul.
"Then you will sink the whole hull too low. But here, to have less smoke in time of battle, especially on the lower decks, you proposed a new sort of hatchway. But that won't do. See here now, I have invented certain ventilating pipes, they are to traverse the vessel thus"--laying some toilette pins along--"the current of air to enter here and be discharged there. What do you think of that? But now about the main things--fast sailing driving little to leeward, and drawing little water. Look now at this keel. I whittled it only night before last, just before going to bed. Do you see now how"--
At this crisis, a knock was heard at the door, and the chambermaid reappeared, announcing that two gentlemen were that moment crossing the court below to see Doctor Franklin.
"The Duke de Chartres, and Count D'Estang," said the Doctor; "they appointed for last night, but did not come. Captain, this has something indirectly to do with your affair. Through the Duke, Count D'Estang has spoken to the King about the secret expedition, the design of which you first threw out. Call early to-morrow, and I will inform you of the result."
With his tawny hand Paul pulled out his watch, a small, richly-jewelled lady's watch.
"It is so late, I will stay here to-night," he said; "is there a convenient room?"
"Quick," said the Doctor, "it might be
ill-advised of you to be seen with me just now. Our friend here will let you
share his chamber. Quick,
As the door closed upon them in
"'God helps them that help themselves.' That's a clincher. That's been my experience. But I never saw it in words before. What pamphlet is this? 'Poor Richard,' hey!"
"A rare old gentleman is 'Poor Richard,'" said
"So he seems, so he seems," answered Paul, his eye still running over the pamphlet again; "why, 'Poor Richard' reads very much as Doctor Franklin speaks."
"He wrote it," said
"Aye? Good. So it is, so it is; it's the wise man all over. I must get me a copy of this and wear it around my neck for a charm. And now about our quarters for the night. I am not going to deprive you of your bed, my man. Do you go to bed and I will doze in the chair here. It's good dozing in the crosstrees."
"Why not sleep together?" said
"When, before the mast, I first sailed out of
Complying with what seemed as much a command as a request,
But his natural complaisance induced him at least to feign
himself asleep; whereupon. Paul, laying down "Poor Richard," rose
from his chair, and, withdrawing his boots, began walking rapidly but
noiselessly to and fro, in his stockings, in the spacious room, wrapped in
So at midnight, the heart of the metropolis of modern civilization was secretly trod by this jaunty barbarian in broadcloth; a sort of prophetical ghost, glimmering in anticipation upon the advent of those tragic scenes of the French Revolution which levelled the exquisite refinement of Paris with the bloodthirsty ferocity of Borneo; showing that broaches and finger-rings, not less than nose-rings and tattooing, are tokens of the primeval savageness which ever slumbers in human kind, civilized or uncivilized.
On the third day, as
"Well done, my honest friend," said the Doctor; "you have the papers in your heel, I suppose."
"I think I could improve the design," said the
sage, as, notwithstanding his haste, he critically eyed the screwing apparatus
of the boot. "The vacancy should have been in the standing part of the heel,
not in the lid. It should go with a spring, too, for better dispatch. I'll draw
up a paper on false heels one of these days, and send it to a private reading
at the Institute. But no time for it now. My honest
friend, it is now half past ten o'clock. At half past eleven the diligence
starts from the Place-du-Carrousel for
And, flinging the door open for his exit, the Doctor saw
The man of wisdom stood mildly motionless a moment, with a look of sagacious, humane meditation on his face, as if pondering upon the chances of the important enterprise: one which, perhaps, might in the sequel affect the weal or woe of nations yet to come. Then suddenly clapping his hand to his capacious coat-pocket, dragged out a bit of cork with some hen's feathers, and hurrying to his room, took out his knife, and proceeded to whittle away at a shuttlecock of an original scientific construction, which at some prior time he had promised to send to the young Duchess D'Abrantes that very afternoon.
But this pondering in such soporific vapors had the effect of those mathematical devices whereby restless people cipher themselves to sleep. His languid head fell to his breast. In another moment, he drooped half-lengthwise upon a chest, his legs outstretched before him.
Presently he was awakened by some intermeddlement with his feet. Starting to his elbow, he saw one of the two men in the act of slyly slipping off his right boot, while the left one, already removed, lay on the floor, all ready against the rascal's retreat Had it not been for the lesson learned on the Pont Neuf, Israel would instantly have inferred that his secret mission was known, and the operator some designed diplomatic knave or other, hired by the British Cabinet, thus to lie in wait for him, fume him into slumber with tobacco, and then rifle him of his momentous dispatches. But as it was, he recalled Doctor Franklin's prudent admonitions against the indulgence of premature suspicions.
"Excuse me," said the rascal, an accomplished, self-possessed practitioner in his thievish art; "I thought your boots might be pinching you, and only wished to ease you a little."
"Much obliged to ye for your kindness, sir," said
"No," said the fellow, with sanctimonious
seriousness; "but with your permission I should like to try them on, when
we get to
"What are you laughing at?" said the fellow testily.
"Odd idea! I was just looking at those sad old patched boots there on your feet, and thinking to myself what leaky fire-buckets they would be to pass up a ladder on a burning building. It would hardly be fair now to swop my new boots for those old fire-buckets, would it?"
"By plunko!" cried the
fellow, willing now by a bold stroke to change the subject, which was growing
slightly annoying; "by plunko, I believe we are
And so saying, he sprang up the ladder to the deck. Upon
The following afternoon, having gained unobserved admittance into the house, according to preconcerted signals, he was sitting in Squire Woodcock's closet, pulling off his boots and delivering his dispatches.
Having looked over the compressed tissuey sheets, and read a line particularly addressed to himself, the Squire, turning round upon Israel, congratulated him upon his successful mission, placed some refreshment before him, and apprised him that, owing to certain suspicious symptoms in the neighborhood, he (Israel) must now remain concealed in the house for a day or two, till an answer should be ready for Paris.
It was a venerable mansion, as was somewhere previously stated, of a wide and rambling disorderly spaciousness, built, for the most part, of weather-stained old bricks, in the goodly style called Elizabethan. As without, it was all dark russet bricks, so within, it was nothing but tawny oak panels.
"Now, my good fellow," said the Squire, "my wife has a number of guests, who wander from room to room, having the freedom of the house. So I shall have to put you very snugly away, to guard against any chance of discovery."
So saying, first locking the door, he touched a spring nigh the open fire-place, whereupon one of the black sooty stone jambs of the chimney started ajar, just like the marble gate of a tomb. Inserting one leg of the heavy tongs in the crack, the Squire pried this cavernous gate wide open.
"Why, Squire Woodcock, what is the matter with your
"Quick, go in."
"Am I to sweep the chimney?" demanded
"Pooh, pooh, this is your hiding-place. Come, move in."
"But where does it go to, Squire Woodcock? I don't like the looks of it."
"Follow me. I'll show you."
Pushing his florid corpulence into the mysterious aperture, the elderly Squire led the way up steep stairs of stone, hardly two feet in width, till they reached a little closet, or rather cell, built into the massive main wall of the mansion, and ventilated and dimly lit by two little sloping slits, ingeniously concealed without, by their forming the sculptured mouths of two griffins cut in a great stone tablet decorating that external part of the dwelling. A mattress lay rolled up in one corner, with a jug of water, a flask of wine, and a wooden trencher containing cold roast beef and bread.
"And I am to be buried alive here?" said
"But your resurrection will soon be at hand," smiled the Squire; "two days at the furthest."
"Though to be sure I was a sort of prisoner in
"Ah, but, my hero, that was in
"Then, for your sake, I am willing to stay wherever you
think best to put me," replied
"Well, then, you say you want boquets and a mirror. If those articles will at all help to solace your seclusion, I will bring them to you."
"They really would be company; the sight of my own face particularly."
"Stay here, then. I will be back in ten minutes."
In less than that time, the good old Squire returned, puffing and panting, with a great bunch of flowers, and a small shaving-glass.
"There," said he, putting them down; "now keep perfectly quiet; avoid making any undue noise, and on no account descend the stairs, till I come for you again."
"But when will that be?" asked
"I will try to come twice each day while you are here. But there is no knowing what may happen. If I should not visit you till I come to liberate you--on the evening of the second day, or the morning of the third--you must not be at all surprised, my good fellow. There is plenty of food-and water to last you. But mind, on no account descend the stone-stairs till I come for you."
With that, bidding his guest adieu, he left him.
Sitting down on the Mattress,
"Poverty and liberty, or plenty and a prison, seem to be the two horns of the constant dilemma of my life," thought he. "Let's look at the prisoner."
And taking up the shaving-glass, he surveyed his lineaments.
"What a pity I didn't think to ask for razors and soap.
I want shaving very badly. I shaved last in
And for pastime, he applied himself to the beef and bread, and took a draught of the wine and water.
At last night fell. He was left in utter darkness. No Squire.
After an anxious, sleepless night, he saw two long flecks of pale gray light slanting into the cell from the slits, like two long spears. He rose, rolled up his mattress, got upon the roll, and put his mouth to one of the griffins' months. He gave a low, just audible whistle, directing it towards the foliage of the tree. Presently there was a slight rustling among the leaves, then one solitary chirrup, and in three minutes a whole chorus of melody burst upon his ear.
"I've waked the first bird," said he to himself, with a smile, "and he's waked all the rest. Now then for breakfast. That over, I dare say the Squire will drop in."
But the breakfast was over, and the two flecks of pale light had changed to golden beams, and the golden beams grew less and less slanting, till they straightened themselves up out of sight altogether. It was noon, and no Squire.
"He's gone a-hunting before breakfast, and got
The afternoon shadows lengthened. It was sunset; no Squire.
"He must be very busy trying some sheep-stealer in the
He waited and listened; and listened and waited.
Another restless night; no sleep; morning came. The second day passed like the first, and the night. On the third morning the flowers lay shrunken by his side. Drops of wet oozing through the air-slits, fell dully on the stone floor. He heard the dreary beatings of the tree's leaves against the mouths of the griffins, bedashing them with the spray of the rain-storm without. At intervals a burst of thunder rolled over his head, and lightning flashing down through the slits, lit up the cell with a greenish glare, followed by sharp splashings and rattlings of the redoubled rain-storm.
"This is the morning of the third day," murmured
But, owing to the murkiness of the day, it was very hard to
tell when noon came.
He had eaten all the beef, but there was bread and water sufficient to last, by economy, for two or three days to come. It was not the pang of hunger then, but a nightmare originating in his mysterious incarceration, which appalled him. All through the long hours of this particular night, the sense of being masoned up in the wall, grew, and grew, and grew upon him, till again and again he lifted himself convulsively from the floor, as if vast blocks of stone had been laid on him; as if he had been digging a deep well, and the stonework with all the excavated earth had caved in upon him, where he burrowed ninety feet beneath the clover. In the blind tomb of the midnight he stretched his two arms sideways, and felt as if coffined at not being able to extend them straight out, on opposite sides, for the narrowness of the cell. He seated himself against one side of the wall, crosswise with the cell, and pushed with his feet at the opposite wall. But still mindful of his promise in this extremity, he uttered no cry. He mutely raved in the darkness. The delirious sense of the absence of light was soon added to his other delirium as to the contraction of space. The lids of his eyes burst with impotent distension. Then he thought the air itself was getting unbearable. He stood up at the griffin slits, pressing his lips far into them till he moulded his lips there, to suck the utmost of the open air possible.
And continually, to heighten his frenzy, there recurred to him again and again what the Squire had told him as to the origin of the cell. It seemed that this part of the old house, or rather this wall of it, was extremely ancient, dating far beyond the era of Elizabeth, having once formed portion of a religious retreat belonging to the Templars. The domestic discipline of this order was rigid and merciless in the extreme. In a side wall of their second storey chapel, horizontal and on a level with the floor, they had an internal vacancy left, exactly of the shape and average size of a coffin. In this place, from time to time, inmates convicted of contumacy were confined; but, strange to say, not till they were penitent. A small hole, of the girth of one's wrist, sunk like a telescope three feet through the masonry into the cell, served at once for ventilation, and to push through food to the prisoner. This hole opening into the chapel also enabled the poor solitaire, as intended, to overhear the religious services at the altar; and, without being present, take part in the same. It was deemed a good sign of the state of the sufferer's soul, if from the gloomy recesses of the wall was heard the agonized groan of his dismal response. This was regarded in the light of a penitent wail from the dead, because the customs of the order ordained that when any inmate should be first incarcerated in the wall, he should be committed to it in the presence of all the brethren, the chief reading the burial service as the live body was sepulchred. Sometimes several weeks elapsed ere the disentombment, the penitent being then usually found numb and congealed in all his extremities, like one newly stricken with paralysis.
This coffin-cell of the Templars had been suffered to remain in the demolition of the general edifice, to make way for the erection of the new, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It was enlarged somewhat, and altered, and additionally ventilated, to adapt it for a place of concealment in times of civil dissension.
With this history ringing in his solitary brain, it may
readily be conceived what
At length, after what seemed all the prophetic days and years of Daniel, morning broke. The benevolent light entered the cell, soothing his frenzy, as if it had been some smiling human face--nay, the Squire himself, come at last to redeem him from thrall. Soon his dumb ravings entirely left him, and gradually, with a sane, calm mind, he revolved all the circumstances of his condition.
He could not be mistaken; something fatal must have befallen
his friend. Israel remembered the Squire's hinting that in case of the
discovery of his clandestine proceedings it would fare extremely hard with him,
Israel was forced to conclude that this same unhappy discovery had been made;
that owing to some untoward misadventure his good friend had been carried off a
State-prisoner to London; that prior to his going the Squire had not apprised
any member of his household that he was about to leave behind him a prisoner in
the wall; this seemed evident from the circumstance that, thus far, no soul had
visited that prisoner. It could not be otherwise. Doubtless the Squire, having
no opportunity to converse in private with his relatives or friends at the
moment of his sudden arrest, had been forced to keep his secret, for the
present, for fear of involving Israel in still worse calamities. But would he
leave him to perish piecemeal in the wall? All surmise was baffled in the unconjecturable possibilities of the case. But some sort of
action must speedily be determined upon.
Gliding out of the cell, he descended the stone stairs, and stood before the interior of the jamb. He felt an immovable iron knob, but no more. He groped about gently for some bolt or spring. When before he had passed through the passage with his guide, he had omitted to notice by what precise mechanism the jamb was to be opened from within, or whether, indeed, it could at all be opened except from without.
He was about giving up the search in despair, after sweeping with his two hands every spot of the wall-surface around him, when chancing to turn his whole body a little to one side, he heard a creak, and saw a thin lance of light. His foot had unconsciously pressed some spring laid in the floor. The jamb was ajar. Pushing it open, he stood at liberty, in the Squire's closet.
He started at the funereal aspect of the room, into which, since he last stood there, undertakers seemed to have stolen. The curtains of the window were festooned with long weepers of crape. The four corners of the red cloth on the round table were knotted with crape.
Knowing nothing of these mournful customs of the country,
While wrapped in these dispiriting reveries, he heard a step
not very far off in the passage. It seemed approaching. Instantly he flew to
the jamb, which remained unclosed, and disappearing within, drew the stone
after him by the iron knob. Owing to his hurried violence the jamb closed with
a dull, dismal and singular noise. A shriek followed from within the room. In a
panic, Israel fled up the dark stairs, and near the top, in his eagerness,
stumbled and fell back to the last step with a rolling din, which, reverberated
by the arch overhead, smote through and through the wall, dying away at last
indistinctly, like low muffled thunder among the clefts of deep hills. When
raising himself instantly, not seriously bruised by his fall,
Recovering from his first amazement,
With these, thoughts, he cautiously sprung the iron under
foot, peeped in, and, seeing all clear, boldly re-entered the apartment. He
went straight to a high, narrow door in the opposite wall. The key was in the
lock. Opening the door, there hung several coats, small-clothes, pairs of silk
stockings, and hats of the deceased. With little difficulty
Slipping off his own clothing, he deliberately arrayed
himself in the borrowed raiment, silk small-clothes and all, then put on the
cocked hat, grasped the silver-headed cane in his right hand, and moving his
small shaving-glass slowly up and down before him, so as by piecemeal to take
in his whole figure, felt convinced that he would well pass for Squire
Woodcock's genuine phantom. But after the first feeling of self-satisfaction
with his anticipated success had left him, it was not without some
superstitious embarrassment that
Waiting long and anxiously till darkness came, and then till
he thought it was fairly midnight, he stole back into the closet, and standing
for a moment uneasily in the middle of the floor, thinking over all the risks
he might run, he lingered till he felt himself resolute and calm. Then groping for the door leading into the hall, put his hand on
the knob and turned it. But the door refused to budge. Was it locked?
The key was not in. Turning the knob once more, and holding it so, he pressed
firmly against the door. It did not move. More firmly still, when suddenly it
burst open with a loud crackling report. Being cramped, it had stuck in the
sill. Less than three seconds passed when, as Israel was groping his way down
the long wide hall towards the large staircase at its opposite end, he heard
confused hurrying noises from the neighboring rooms, and in another instant
several persons, mostly in night-dresses, appeared at their chamber-doors,
thrusting out alarmed faces, lit by a lamp held by one of the number, a rather
elderly lady in widow's weeds, who by her appearance seemed to have just risen
from a sleepless chair, instead of an oblivious couch.
In a few minutes more he had reached the main door of the mansion, and withdrawing the chain and bolt, stood in the open air. It was a bright moonlight night. He struck slowly across the open grounds towards the sunken fields beyond. When-midway across the grounds, he turned towards the mansion, and saw three of the front windows filled with white faces, gazing in terror at the wonderful spectre. Soon descending a slope, he disappeared from their view.
Presently he came to hilly land in meadow, whose grass having been lately cut, now lay dotting the slope in cocks; a sinuous line of creamy vapor meandered through the lowlands at the base of the hill; while beyond was a dense grove of dwarfish trees, with here and there a tall tapering dead trunk, peeled of the bark, and overpeering the rest. The vapor wore the semblance of a deep stream of water, imperfectly descried; the grove looked like some closely-clustering town on its banks, lorded over by spires of churches.
The whole scene magically reproduced to our adventurer the
aspect of Bunker Hill, Charles River, and
Acted on as if by enchantment,
As meditating over this difficulty, he was passing along,
suddenly he saw a man in black standing right in his path, about fifty yards
distant, in a field of some growing barley or wheat. The gloomy stranger was
standing stock-still; one outstretched arm, with weird intimation pointing
towards the deceased Squire's abode. To the brooding soul of
the now desolate
As he neared him,
But mechanically continuing his course,
Not a little relieved by the discovery, our adventurer
paused, more particularly to survey so deceptive an object, which seemed to
have been constructed on the most efficient principles; probably by some broken
down wax figure costumer. It comprised the complete wardrobe of a scarecrow,
namely: a cocked hat, bunged; tattered coat; old
velveteen breeches; and long worsted stockings, full of holes; all stuffed very
nicely with straw, and skeletoned by a frame-work of
poles. There was a great flapped pocket to the coat--which seemed to have been
some laborer's--standing invitingly opened. Putting
his hands in,
Looking upon the scarecrow more attentively, it struck him
that, miserable as its wardrobe was, nevertheless here was a chance for getting
rid of the unsuitable and perilous clothes of the Squire. No other available
opportunity might present itself for a time. Before he encountered any living
creature by daylight, another suit must somehow be had. His exchange with the
old ditcher, after his escape from the inn near
Without more ado, slipping off the Squire's raiment, he donned the scarecrow's, after carefully shaking out the hay, which, from many alternate soakings and bakings in rain and sun, had become quite broken up, and would have been almost dust, were it not for the mildew which damped it. But sufficient of this wretched old hay remained adhesive to the inside of the breeches and coat-sleeves, to produce the most irritating torment.
The grand moral question now came up, what to do with the
purse. Would it be dishonest under the circumstances to appropriate that purse?
Considering the whole matter, and not forgetting that he had not received from
the gentleman deceased the promised reward for his services as courier,
When he awoke, the sun was well up in the sky. Looking around he saw a farm-laborer with a pitchfork coming at a distance into view, whose steps seemed bent in a direction not far from the spot where he lay. Immediately it struck our adventurer that this man must be familiar with the scarecrow; perhaps had himself fashioned it. Should he miss it then, he might make immediate search, and so discover the thief so imprudently loitering upon the very field of his operations.
Waiting until the man momentarily disappeared in a little
It so happened that this time, in pointing towards the
Seeing him now determinately coming, with pitchfork
valiantly presented, Israel, as a last means of practising
on the fellow's fears of the supernatural, suddenly doubled up both fists,
presenting them savagely towards him at a distance of about twenty paces, at
the same time showing his teeth like a skull's, and demoniacally rolling his
eyes. The man paused bewildered, looked all round him, looked at the springing
grain, then across at some trees, then up at the sky, and satisfied at last by
those observations that the world at large had not undergone a miracle in the
last fifteen minutes, resolutely resumed his advance; the pitchfork, like a
boarding-pike, now aimed full at the breast of the object. Seeing all his
Loitering in the wood till nightfall, he then stole out and
made the best of his way towards the house of that good natured farmer in whose
corn-loft he had received his first message from Squire Woodcock. Rousing this
man up a little before midnight, he informed him somewhat of his recent
adventures, but carefully concealed his having been employed as a secret
courier, together with his escape from Squire Woodcock's. All he craved at
present was a meal. The meal being over,
"Where did you get so much money?" said his entertainer in a tone of surprise; "your clothes here don't look as if you had seen prosperous times since you left me. Why, you look like a scarecrow."
"That may well be," replied
"I don't know about it," said the farmer, in doubt; "let me look at the money. Ha!--a silk purse come out of a beggars pocket!--Quit the house, rascal, you've turned thief."
Thinking that he could not swear to his having come by his
money with absolute honesty--since indeed the case was one for the most subtle
In great dolor at this unhappy repulse,
Remedying this oversight as well as he might, he again implored the woman to wake her husband.
"That I shan't!" said the woman, morosely. "Quit the premises, or I'll throw something on ye."
With that she brought some earthenware to the window, and
would have fulfilled her threat, had not
"You behold how sadly I need them," said he; "for heaven's sake befriend me."
"Quit the premises!" reiterated the woman.
"The breeches, the breeches! here is the money," cried
"Saucy cur," cried the woman, somehow misunderstanding him; "do you cunningly taunt me with _wearing_ the breeches'? begone!"
Once more poor
In this plight the morning discovered him dubiously skirmishing on the outskirts of a village.
"Ah! what a true patriot gets
for serving his country!" murmured
"Three crown-pieces in your pocket, and no crown to your hat!" said the farmer.
"But I assure you, my friend," rejoined
"True," said the farmer, "I forgot that part of your story. Well, I have a tolerable coat and breeches which I will sell you for your money."
In ten minutes more
"Now, my kind friend," said
Our adventurer thought it his best plan to seek out one or other of those gentlemen, both to report proceedings and learn confirmatory tidings concerning Squire Woodcock, touching whose fate he did not like to inquire of others.
"Horne Tooke? What do you want with Horne Tooke," said the farmer. "He was Squire Woodcock's friend, wasn't he? The poor Squire! Who would have thought he'd have gone off so suddenly. But apoplexy comes like a bullet."
"I was right," thought
"He once lived in Brentford, and wore a cassock there. But I hear he's sold out his living, and gone in his surplice to study law in Lunnon."
This was all news to
"You can't tell me, then, where to find Horne
"You'll find him, I suppose, in Lunnon."
"What street and number?"
"Don't know. Needle in a haystack."
"Where does Mr. Bridges live?"
"Never heard of any Bridges, except Lunnon bridges, and one Molly Bridges in Bridewell."
What to do next? He reckoned up his money, and concluded he
had plenty to carry him back to Doctor Franklin in
Here was another accumulation of misfortunes. All visions
but those of eventual imprisonment or starvation vanished from before the
present realities of poor Israel Potter. The Brentford
gentleman had flattered him with the prospect of receiving something very
handsome for his services as courier. That hope was no more. Doctor Franklin
had promised him his good offices in procuring him a passage home to
While standing wrapped in afflictive reflections on the
shore, gazing towards the unattainable coast of
"Take another glass," said the stranger, affably.
"Ever at sea?" said the stranger, lightly.
"Oh, yes; been a whaling."
"Ah!" said the other, "happy to hear that, I
assure you. Jim! Bill!" And beckoning very quietly to two brawny fellows,
in a trice
"Hands off!" said
"Reglar game-cock," said
the cousinly-looking man. "I must get three guineas for cribbing him.
Pleasant voyage to ye, my friend," and, leaving
"I'm no Englishman," roared
"Oh! that's the old story," grinned his jailers. "Come along. There's no Englishman in the English fleet. All foreigners. You may take their own word for it."
To be short, in less than a week Israel found himself at Portsmouth, and, ere long, a foretopman in his Majesty's ship of the line, "Unprincipled," scudding before the wind down channel, in company with the "Undaunted," and the "Unconquerable;" all three haughty Dons bound to the East Indian waters as reinforcements to the fleet of Sir Edward Hughs.
And now, we might shortly have to record our adventurer's part in the famous engagement off the coast of Coromandel, between Admiral Suffrien's fleet and the English squadron, were it not that fate snatched him on the threshold of events, and, turning him short round whither he had come, sent him back congenially to war against England; instead of on her behalf. Thus repeatedly and rapidly were the fortunes of our wanderer planted, torn up, transplanted, and dropped again, hither and thither, according as the Supreme Disposer of sailors and soldiers saw fit to appoint.
As running down channel at evening, Israel walked the
crowded main-deck of the seventy-four, continually brushed by a thousand
hurrying wayfarers, as if he were in some great street in London, jammed with
artisans, just returning from their day's labor, novel and painful emotions
were his. He found himself dropped into the naval mob without one friend; nay,
among enemies, since his country's enemies were his own, and against the kith
and kin of these very beings around him, he himself had once lifted a fatal hand.
The martial bustle of a great man-of-war, on her first day out of port, was
indescribably jarring to his present mood. Those sounds of the human multitude
disturbing the solemn natural solitudes of the sea, mysteriously afflicted him.
He murmured against that untowardness which, after
condemning him to long sorrows on the land, now pursued him with added griefs on the deep. Why should a patriot, leaping for the
chance again to attack the oppressor, as at
Plying on between Scilly and Cape Clear, the Unprincipled--which vessel somewhat outsailed her consorts--fell in, just before dusk, with a large revenue cutter close to, and showing signals of distress. At the moment, no other sail was in sight.
Cursing the necessity of pausing with a strong fair wind at
a juncture like this, the officer-of-the-deck shortened sail, and hove to;
hailing the cutter, to know what was the matter. As he hailed the small craft
from the lofty poop of the bristling seventy-four, this lieutenant seemed
standing on the top of
"You shall have one man," said the officer-of-the-deck, morosely.
"Let him be a good one then, for heaven's sake," said he in the cutter; "I ought to have at least two."
During this talk,
"Take which of them you please," said the lieutenant in command, addressing the officer in the revenue-cutter, and motioning with his hand to his boat's crew, as if they were a parcel of carcasses of mutton, of which the first pick was offered to some customer. "Quick and choose. Sit down, men"--to the sailors. "Oh, you are in a great hurry to get rid of the king's service, ain't you? Brave chaps indeed!--Have you chosen your man?"
All this while the ten faces of the anxious oarsmen looked with mute longings and appealings towards the officer of the cutter; every face turned at the same angle, as if managed by one machine. And so they were. One motive.
"I take the freckled chap with the yellow
hair--him," pointing to
Nine of the upturned faces fell in sullen despair, and ere
"Jump, dobbin!" cried the officer of the boat.
The revenue vessel resumed her course towards the nighest port, worked by but four men: the captain,
"Heave to, and send a boat on board!" roared a voice almost as loud as the cannon.
"That's a war-ship," cried the captain of the revenue vessel, in alarm; "but she ain't a countryman."
Meantime the officers and
"Send a boat on board, or I'll sink you," again came roaring from the stranger, followed by another shot, striking the water still nearer the cutter.
"For God's sake, don't cannonade us. I haven't got the crew to man a boat," replied the captain of the cutter. "Who are you?"
"Wait till I send a boat to you for that," replied the stranger.
"She's an enemy of some sort, that's plain," said
the Englishman now to his officers; "we ain't at
open war with
With that, nothing doubting that his counsel would be heartily responded to, he ran to the braces to get the cutter before the wind, followed by one officer, while the other, for a useless bravado, hoisted the colors at the stern.
"Come, what do ye standing there, fool? Spring to the ropes here!" cried the furious captain.
Meantime the confusion on board the stranger, owing to the hurried lowering of her boat, with the cloudiness of the sky darkening the misty sea, united to conceal the bold manoeuvre of the cutter. She had almost gained full headway ere an oblique shot, directed by mere chance, struck her stern, tearing the upcurved head of the tiller in the hands of the cabin-boy, and killing him with the splinters. Running to the stump, the captain huzzaed, and steered the reeling ship on. Forced now to hoist back the boat ere giving chase, the stranger was dropped rapidly astern.
All this while storms of maledictions were
Soon the stranger was seen dimly wallowing along astern, crowding all sail in chase, while now and then her bow-gun, showing its red tongue, bellowed after them like a mad bull. Two more shots struck the cutter, but without materially damaging her sails, or the ropes immediately upholding them. Several of her less important stays were sundered, however, whose loose tarry ends lashed the air like scorpions. It seemed not improbable that, owing to her superior sailing, the keen cutter would yet get clear.
At this juncture
"Help here, lads, help," roared the captain, "a traitor, a traitor!"
The words were hardly out of his mouth when his voice was
silenced for ever. With one prodigious heave of his whole physical force,
With a loud huzza,
In a few moments a boat was alongside. As its commander stepped to the deck he stumbled against the body of the first officer, which, owing to the sudden slant of the cutter in coming to the wind, had rolled against the side near the gangway. As he came aft he heard the moan of the other officer, where he lay under the mizzen shrouds.
"What is all this?" demanded the stranger of
"It means that I am a Yankee impressed into the king's service, and for their pains I have taken the cutter."
Giving vent to his surprise, the officer looked narrowly at the body by the shrouds, and said, "This man is as good as dead, but we will take him to Captain Paul as a witness in your behalf."
"Captain Paul?--Paul Jones?" cried
"I thought so. I thought that was his voice hailing. It was Captain Paul's voice that somehow put me up to this deed."
"Captain Paul is the devil for putting men up to be tigers. But where are the rest of the crew?"
"What?" cried the officer; "come on board the Ranger. Captain Paul will use you for a broadside."
Taking the moaning man along with them, and leaving the cutter untenanted by any living soul, the boat now left her for the enemy's ship. But ere they reached it the man had expired.
Standing foremost on the deck, crowded with three hundred
"You rascal," said this person, "why did your paltry smack give me this chase? Where's the rest of your gang?"
"Captain Paul," said
"God! Is this the courier? The Yankee courier? But how now? in an English revenue cutter?"
"Impressed, sir; that's the way."
"But where's the rest of them?" demanded Paul, turning to the officer.
Thereupon the officer very briefly told Paul what
"Are we to sink the cutter, sir?" said the gunner, now advancing towards Captain Paul. "If it is to be done, now is the time. She is close under us, astern; a few guns pointed downwards will settle her like a shotted corpse."
"No. Let her drift into
Then giving directions as to the course of the ship, with an
order for himself to be called at the first glimpse of a sail, Paul took
"Tell me your story now, my yellow lion. How was it all? Don't stand, sit right down there on the transom. I'm a democratic sort of sea-king. Plump on the woolsack, I say, and spin the yarn. But hold; you want some grog first."
As Paul handed the flagon,
"You don't wear any rings now, Captain, I see. Left them in
"Aye, with a certain marchioness there," replied Paul, with a dandyish look of sentimental conceit, which sat strangely enough on his otherwise grim and Fejee air.
"I should think rings would be somewhat inconvenient at
"And did the girl grow as close to your heart, lad?"
"Ah, Captain, girls grow themselves off quicker than we grow them on."
"Some experience with the countesses as well as myself, eh? But the story; wave your yellow mane, my lion--the story."
At its conclusion Captain Paul eyed him very earnestly. His wild, lonely heart, incapable of sympathizing with cuddled natures made humdrum by long exemption from pain, was yet drawn towards a being, who in desperation of friendlessness, something like his own, had so fiercely waged battle against tyrannical odds.
"Did you go to sea young, lad?"
"Yes, pretty young."
"I went at twelve, from Whitehaven. Only so high," raising his hand some four feet from the deck. "I was so small, and looked so queer in my little blue jacket, that they called me the monkey. They'll call me something else before long. Did you ever sail out of Whitehaven?"
"If you had, you'd have heard sad stories about me. To
this hour they say there that I--bloodthirsty, coward dog that I am--flogged a
sailor, one Mungo Maxwell, to death. It's a lie, by
Heaven! I flogged him, for he was a mutinous scamp. But he died naturally, some
time afterwards, and on board another ship. But why talk? They didn't believe
the affidavits of others taken before
Men with poignant feelings, buried under an air of care-free
self command, are never proof to the sudden incitements of passion. Though in
the main they may control themselves, yet if they but once permit the smallest
vent, then they may bid adieu to all self-restraint, at least for that time. Thus with Paul on the present occasion. His sympathy with
"I will be very happy, Captain Paul, to be sailor under the man who will yet, I dare say, help flog the British nation to death."
"You hate 'em, do ye?"
"Like snakes. For months they've hunted me as a
dog," half howled and half wailed
"Give me your hand, my lion; wave your wild flax again. By Heaven, you hate so well, I love ye. You shall be my confidential man; stand sentry at my cabin door; sleep in the cabin; steer my boat; keep by my side whenever I land. What do you say?"
"I say I'm glad to hear you."
"You are a good, brave soul. You are the first among
the millions of mankind that I ever naturally took to. Come, you are tired.
There, go into that state-room for to-night--it's mine. You offered me your bed
"But you begged off, Captain, and so must I. Where do you sleep?"
"Lad, I don't sleep half a night out of three. My clothes have not been off now for five days."
"Ah, Captain, you sleep so little and scheme so much, you will die young."
"I know it: I want to: I mean to. Who would live a doddered old stump? What do you think of my Scotch bonnet?"
"It looks well on you, Captain."
"Do you think so? A Scotch bonnet, though, ought to look well on a Scotchman. I'm such by birth. Is the gold band too much?"
"I like the gold band, Captain. It looks something as I should think a crown might on a king."
"You would make a better-looking king than George III."
"Did you ever see that old granny? Waddles about in farthingales, and carries a peacock fan, don't he? Did you ever see him?"
"Was as close to him as I am to you now,
"By Jove, what a chance! Had I but been there! What an opportunity for kidnapping a British king, and carrying him off in a fast sailing smack to Boston, a hostage for American freedom. But what did you? Didn't you try to do something to him?"
"I had a wicked thought or two, Captain, but I got the better of it. Besides, the king behaved handsomely towards me; yes, like a true man. God bless him for it. But it was before that, that I got the better of the wicked thought."
"Ah, meant to stick him, I suppose. Glad you didn't. It would have been very shabby. Never kill a king, but make him captive. He looks better as a led horse, than a dead carcass. I propose now, this trip, falling on the grounds of the Earl of Selkirk, a privy counsellor and particular private friend of George III. But I won't hurt a hair of his head. When I get him on board here, he shall lodge in my best state-room, which I mean to hang with damask for him. I shall drink wine with him, and be very friendly; take him to America, and introduce his lordship into the best circles there; only I shall have him accompanied on his calls by a sentry of two disguised as valets. For the Earl's to be on sale, mind; so much ransom; that is, the nobleman, Lord Selkirk, shall have a bodily price pinned on his coat-tail, like any slave up at auction in Charleston. But, my lad with the yellow mane, you very strangely draw out my secrets. And yet you don't talk. Your honesty is a magnet which attracts my sincerity. But I rely on your fidelity."
"I shall be a vice to your plans, Captain Paul. I will receive, but I won't let go, unless you alone loose the screw."
"Well said. To bed now; you ought to. I go on deck. Good night, ace-of-hearts."
"That is fitter for yourself, Captain Paul, lonely leader of the suit."
"Lonely? Aye, but number one cannot but be lonely, my trump."
"Again I give it back. Ace-of-trumps may it prove to you, Captain Paul; may it be impossible for you ever to be taken. But for me--poor deuce, a trey, that comes in your wake--any king or knave may take me, as before now the knaves have."
"Tut, tut, lad; never be more cheery for another than for yourself. But a fagged body fags the soul. To hammock, to hammock! while I go on deck to clap on more sail to your cradle."
And they separated for that night.
It was a fine cool day in the beginning of April. They were
now off the coast of
As Paul stood on the elevated part of the quarter-deck, with
none but his confidential quartermaster near him, he yielded to
Without detailing all the steps taken through the united
efforts of Captain Paul and Doctor Franklin, suffice it that the determined
rover had now attained his wish--the unfettered command of an armed ship in the
British waters; a ship legitimately authorized to hoist the American colors, her
commander having in his cabin-locker a regular commission as an officer of the
American navy. He sailed without any instructions. With that rare insight into
rare natures which so largely distinguished the sagacious
Much subtile casuistry has been expended upon the point, whether Paul Jones was a knave or a hero, or a union of both. But war and warriors, like politics and politicians, like religion and religionists, admit of no metaphysics.
On the second day after
The Ranger then stood over, passed the Isle of Man towards
"I won't call on old friends in foul weather,"
said Captain Paul to
Next morning, in Glentinebay, on
Off the Mull of Galoway, the day
following, Paul found himself so nigh a large barley-freighted Scotch coaster,
that, to prevent her carrying tidings of him to land, he dispatched her with
the news, stern foremost, to Hades; sinking her, and sowing her barley in the
sea broadcast by a broadside. From her crew he learned that there was a fleet
of twenty or thirty sail at anchor in Lochryan, with
an armed brigantine. He pointed his prow thither; but at the mouth of the lock,
the wind turned against him again in hard squalls. He abandoned the project.
Shortly after, he encountered a sloop from
Thus, seeming as much to bear the elemental commission of Nature, as the military warrant of Congress, swarthy Paul darted hither and thither; hovering like a thundercloud off the crowded harbors; then, beaten off by an adverse wind, discharging his lightnings on uncompanioned vessels, whose solitude made them a more conspicuous and easier mark, like lonely trees on the heath. Yet all this while the land was full of garrisons, the embayed waters full of fleets. With the impunity of a Levanter, Paul skimmed his craft in the land-locked heart of the supreme naval power of earth; a torpedo-eel, unknowingly swallowed by Britain in a draught of old ocean, and making sad havoc with her vitals.
Seeing next a large vessel steering for the
While thus engaged, suddenly a shadow, like that thrown by an eclipse, was seen rapidly gaining along the deck, with a sharp defined line, plain as a seam of the planks. It involved all before it. It was the domineering shadow of the Juan Fernandez-like crag of Ailsa. The Kanger was in the deep water which makes all round and close up to this great summit of the submarine Grampians.
The crag, more than a mile in circuit, is over a thousand feet high, eight miles from the Ayrshire shore. There stands the cove, lonely as a foundling, proud as Cheops. But, like the battered brains surmounting the Giant of Gath, its haughty summit is crowned by a desolate castle, in and out of whose arches the aerial mists eddy like purposeless phantoms, thronging the soul of some ruinous genius, who, even in overthrow, harbors none but lofty conceptions.
As the Ranger shot higher under the crag, its height and bulk dwarfed both pursuer and pursued into nutshells. The main-truck of the Ranger was nine hundred feet below the foundations of the ruin on the crag's top:
While the ship was yet under the shadow, and each seaman's face shared in the general eclipse, a sudden change came over Paul. He issued no more sultanical orders. He did not look so elate as before. At length he gave the command to discontinue the chase. Turning about, they sailed southward.
"Captain Paul," said
"Sink the craft," cried Paul; "it was not any fear of her, nor of King George, which made me turn on my heel; it was yon cock of the walk."
"Cock of the walk?"
"Aye, cock of the walk of the sea; look--yon Crag of Ailsa."
Next day, off Carrickfergus, on the Irish coast, a fishing boat, allured by the Quaker-like look of the incognito craft, came off in full confidence. Her men were seized, their vessel sunk. From them Paul learned that the large ship at anchor in the road, was the ship-of-war Drake, of twenty guns. Upon this he steered away, resolving to return secretly, and attack her that night.
"Surely, Captain Paul," said
"Because, Yellow-hair, my boy, I am engaged to marry her to-night. The bride's friends won't like the match; and so, this very night, the bride must be carried away. She has a nice tapering waist, hasn't she, through the glass? Ah! I will clasp her to my heart."
He steered straight in like a friend; under easy sail,
lounging towards the Drake, with anchor ready to drop, and grapnels to hug. But
the wind was high; the anchor was not dropped at the ordered time. The ranger
came to a stand three biscuits' toss off the unmisgiving
enemy's quarter, like a peaceful merchantman from the
"I shan't marry her just yet," whispered Paul, seeing his plans for the time frustrated. Gazing in audacious tranquillity upon the decks of the enemy, and amicably answering her hail, with complete self-possession, he commanded the cable to be slipped, and then, as if he had accidentally parted his anchor, turned his prow on the seaward tack, meaning to return again immediately with the same prospect of advantage possessed at first--his plan being to crash suddenly athwart the Drake's bow, so as to have all her decks exposed point-blank to his musketry. But once more the winds interposed. It came on with a storm of snow; he was obliged to give up his project.
Thus, without any warlike appearance, and giving no alarm, Paul, like an invisible ghost, glided by night close to land, actually came to anchor, for an instant, within speaking-distance of an English ship-of-war; and yet came, anchored, answered hail, reconnoitered, debated, decided, and retired, without exciting the least suspicion. His purpose was chain-shot destruction. So easily may the deadliest foe--so he be but dexterous--slide, undreamed of, into human harbors or hearts. And not awakened conscience, but mere prudence, restrain such, if they vanish again without doing harm. At daybreak no soul in Carrickfergus knew that the devil, in a Scotch bonnet, had passed close that way over night.
Seldom has regicidal daring been more strangely coupled with octogenarian prudence, than in many of the predatory enterprises of Paul. It is this combination of apparent incompatibilities which ranks him among extraordinary warriors.
Ere daylight, the storm of the night blew over. The sun saw
the Ranger lying midway over channel at the head of the Irish Sea;
"Ah, Yellow-hair," said Paul, with a smile,
"they show the white flag, the cravens. And, while the white flag stays
blanketing yonder heights, we'll make for Whitehaven, my boy. I promised to
drop in there a moment ere quitting the country for good.
"I've driven the spike-teeth into harrows before
"Well, then, driving spikes into harrows is a good introduction to driving spikes into cannon. You are just the man. Put down your glass; go to the carpenter, get a hundred spikes, put them in a bucket with a hammer, and bring all to me."
As evening fell, the great promontory of St. Bee's Head, with its lighthouse, not far from Whitehaven, was in distant sight. But the wind became so light that Paul could not work his ship in close enough at an hour as early as intended. His purpose had been to make the descent and retire ere break of day. But though this intention was frustrated, he did not renounce his plan, for the present would be his last opportunity.
As the night wore on, and the ship, with a very light wind,
glided nigher and nigher
the mark, Paul called upon
The town contained, at that period, a population of some six or seven thousand inhabitants, defended by forts.
At midnight, Paul Jones, Israel Potter, and twenty-nine
others, rowed in two boats to attack the six or seven thousand inhabitants of
Whitehaven. There was a long way to pull. This was done in perfect silence. Not
a sound was heard except the oars turning in the row-locks. Nothing was seen except
the two lighthouses of the harbor. Through the stillness and the darkness, the
two deep-laden boats swam into the haven, like two mysterious whales from the
The great staple exported from Whitehaven was then, and
still is, coal. The town is surrounded by mines; the town is built on mines;
the ships moor over mines. The mines honeycomb the land in all directions, and
extend in galleries of grottoes for two miles under the sea. By the falling in
of the more ancient collieries numerous houses have been swallowed, as if by an
earthquake, and a consternation spread, like that of
Now, sailing on the Thames, nigh its mouth, of fair days,
when the wind is favorable for inward-bound craft, the stranger will sometimes
see processions of vessels, all of similar size and rig, stretching for miles
and miles, like a long string of horses tied two and two to a rope and driven
to market. These are colliers going to
About three hundred of these vessels now
lay, all crowded together, in one dense mob, at Whitehaven. The tide was
out. They lay completely helpless, clear of water, and grounded. They were
sooty in hue. Their black yards were deeply canted, like spears, to avoid
collision. The three hundred grimy hulls lay wallowing in the mud, like a herd
of hippopotami asleep in the alluvium of the
Paul landed in his own boat at the foot of this fort. He dispatched the other boat to the north side of the haven, with orders to fire the shipping there. Leaving two men at the beach, he then proceeded to get possession of the fort.
"Hold on to the bucket, and give me your
shoulder," said he to
The two went alone about a quarter of a mile.
"Captain Paul," said
"There are none in the fort we go to."
"You know all about the place, Captain?"
"Pretty well informed on that subject, I believe. Come along. Yes, lad, I am tolerably well acquainted with Whitehaven. And this morning intend that Whitehaven shall have a slight inkling of _me_. Come on. Here we are."
Scaling the walls, the two involuntarily stood for an instant gazing upon the scene. The gray light of the dawn showed the crowded houses and thronged ships with a haggard distinctness.
"Spike and hammer, lad;--so,--now follow me along, as I
go, and give me a spike for every cannon. I'll tongue-tie the thunderers. Speak no more!" and he spiked the first
gun. "Be a mute," and he spiked the second. "Dumbfounder
thee," and he spiked the third. And so, on, and on, and on,
"There, it is done. D'ye see the fire yet, lad, from the south? I don't."
"Not a spark, Captain. But day-sparks come on in the east."
"Forked flames into the hounds! What are they about? Quick, let us back to the first fort; perhaps something has happened, and they are there."
Sure enough, on their return from spiking the cannon, Paul and Israel found the other boat back, the crew in confusion, their lantern having burnt out at the very instant they wanted it. By a singular fatality the other lantern, belonging to Paul's boat, was likewise extinguished. No tinder-box had been brought. They had no matches but sulphur matches. Locofocos were not then known.
The day came on apace.
"Captain Paul," said the lieutenant of the second boat, "it is madness to stay longer. See!" and he pointed to the town, now plainly discernible in the gray light.
"Traitor, or coward!" howled Paul, "how came
the lanterns out?
"Has any man here a bit of pipe and tobacco in his
A sailor quickly produced an old stump of a pipe, with tobacco.
"That will do," and
"What will the loon do with the pipe?" said one. "And where goes he?" cried another.
"Let him alone," said Paul.
The invader now disposed his whole force so as to retreat at an instant's warning. Meantime the hardy Israel, long experienced in all sorts of shifts and emergencies, boldly ventured to procure, from some inhabitant of Whitehaven, a spark to kindle all Whitehaven's habitations in flames.
There was a lonely house standing somewhat disjointed from
the town, some poor laborer's abode. Rapping at the door,
"What the devil," roared a voice from within, "knock up a man this time of night to light your pipe? Begone!"
"You are lazy this morning, my friend," replied
In a moment a sleepy fellow appeared, let down the bar, and
All was done in a flash. The man, stupid with sleep, had
looked on bewildered. He reeled to the door, but, dodging behind a pile of
"Well done, my lion," was the hail he received from Paul, who, during his absence, had mustered as many pipes as possible, in order to communicate and multiply the fire.
Both boats now pulled to a favorable point of the principal pier of the harbor, crowded close up to a part of which lay one wing of the colliers.
The men began to murmur at persisting in an attempt impossible to be concealed much longer. They were afraid to venture on board the grim colliers, and go groping down into their hulls to fire them. It seemed like a voluntary entrance into dungeons and death.
"Follow me, all of you but ten by the boats," said
Paul, without noticing their murmurs. "And now, to put
an end to all future burnings in
He would have distributed the men so as simultaneously to
fire different ships at different points, were it not that the lateness of the
hour rendered such a course insanely hazardous. Stationing his party in front
of one of the windward colliers, Paul and
In a twinkling they had broken open a boatswain's locker,
and, with great bunches of oakum, fine and dry as tinder, had leaped into the
steerage. Here, while Paul made a blaze,
"It is not a sure thing yet," said Paul, "we must have a barrel of tar."
They searched about until they found one, knocked out the head and bottom, and stood it like a martyr in the midst of the flames. They then retreated up the forward hatchway, while volumes of smoke were belched from the after one. Not till this moment did Paul hear the cries of his men, warning him that the inhabitants were not only actually astir, but crowds were on their way to the pier.
As he sprang out of the smoke towards the rail of the collier, he saw the sun risen, with thousands of the people. Individuals hurried close to the burning vessel. Leaping to the ground, Paul, bidding his men stand fast, ran to their front, and, advancing about thirty feet, presented his own pistol at now tumultuous Whitehaven.
Those who had rushed to extinguish what they had deemed but an accidental fire, were now paralyzed into idiotic inaction, at the defiance of the incendiary, thinking him some sudden pirate or fiend dropped down from the moon.
While Paul thus stood guarding the
"Come back, come back," cried Paul.
"Not till I start these sheep, as their own wolves many a time started me!"
As he rushed bare-headed like a madman, towards the crowd,
the panic spread. They fled from unarmed
The flames now catching the rigging and spiralling around the masts, the whole ship burned at one end of the harbor, while the sun, an hour high, burned at the other. Alarm and amazement, not sleep, now ruled the world. It was time to retreat.
They re-embarked without opposition, first releasing a few prisoners, as the boats could not carry them.
"That was good seed you gave me;" said
The men cried to their commander, conjuring him not to linger.
But Paul remained for several moments, confronting in silence the clamors of the mob beyond, and waving his solitary hand, like a disdainful tomahawk, towards the surrounding eminences, also covered with the affrighted inhabitants.
When the assailants had rowed pretty well off, the English rushed in great numbers to their forts, but only to find their cannon no better than so much iron in the ore. At length, however, they began to fire, having either brought down some ship's guns, or else mounted the rusty old dogs lying at the foot of the first fort.
In their eagerness they fired with no discretion. The shot fell short; they did not the slightest damage.
Paul's men laughed aloud, and fired their pistols in the air.
Not a splinter was made, not a drop of blood spilled throughout the affair. The intentional harmlessness of the result, as to human life, was only equalled by the desperate courage of the deed. It formed, doubtless, one feature of the compassionate contempt of Paul towards the town, that he took such paternal care of their lives and limbs.
Had it been possible to have landed a few hours earlier not a ship nor a house could have escaped. But it was the lesson, not the loss, that told. As it was, enough damage had been done to demonstrate--as Paul had declared to the wise man of Paris--that the disasters caused by the wanton fires and assaults on the American coasts, could be easily brought home to the enemy's doors. Though, indeed, if the retaliators were headed by Paul Jones, the satisfaction would not be equal to the insult, being abated by the magnanimity of a chivalrous, however unprincipled a foe.
The Ranger now stood over the Solway
Frith for the Scottish shore, and at noon on the same
day, Paul, with twelve men, including two officers and
In three consecutive days this elemental warrior either entered the harbors or landed on the shores of each of the Three Kingdoms.
The morning was fair and clear. St. Mary's Isle lay shimmering in the sun. The light crust of snow had melted, revealing the tender grass and sweet buds of spring mantling the sides of the cliffs.
At once, upon advancing with his party towards the house,
Paul augured ill for his project from the loneliness of the spot. No being was
seen. But cocking his bonnet at a jaunty angle, he continued his way.
Stationing the men silently round about the house, fallowed by
A gray-headed domestic at length responded.
"Is the Earl within?"
"He is in Edinburgh, sir."
"Ah--sure?--Is your lady within?"
"Yes, sir--who shall I say it is?"
"A gentleman who calls to pay his respects. Here, take my card."
And he handed the man his name, as a private gentleman,
superbly engraved at
Presently the lady appeared.
"Charming Madame, I wish you a very good morning."
"Who may it be, sir, that I have the happiness to see?" said the lady, censoriously drawing herself up at the too frank gallantry of the stranger.
"Madame, I sent you my card."
"Which leaves me equally ignorant, sir," said the lady, coldly, twirling the gilded pasteboard.
"A courier dispatched to Whitehaven, charming Madame, might bring you more particular tidings as to who has the honor of being your visitor."
Not comprehending what this meant, and deeply displeased, if not vaguely alarmed, at the characteristic manner of Paul, the lady, not entirely unembarrassed, replied, that if the gentleman came to view the isle, he was at liberty so to do. She would retire and send him a guide.
"Countess of Selkirk," said Paul, advancing a step, "I call to see the Earl. On business of urgent importance, I call."
"The Earl is in
"Do you give me your honor as a lady that it is as you say?"
The lady looked at him in dubious resentment.
"Pardon, Madame, I would not lightly impugn a lady's lightest word, but I surmised that, possibly, you might suspect the object of my call, in which case it would be the most excusable thing in the world for you to seek to shelter from my knowledge the presence of the Earl on the isle."
"I do not dream what you mean by all this," said the lady with a decided alarm, yet even in her panic courageously maintaining her dignity, as she retired, rather than retreated, nearer the door.
"Madame," said Paul, hereupon waving his hand imploringly, and then tenderly playing with his bonnet with the golden band, while an expression poetically sad and sentimental stole over his tawny face; "it cannot be too poignantly lamented that, in the profession of arms, the officer of fine feelings and genuine sensibility should be sometimes necessitated to public actions which his own private heart cannot approve. This hard case is mine. The Earl, Madame, you say is absent. I believe those words. Far be it from my soul, enchantress, to ascribe a fault to syllables which have proceeded from so faultless a source."
This probably he said in reference to the lady's mouth, which was beautiful in the extreme.
He bowed very lowly, while the lady eyed him with conflicting and troubled emotions, but as yet all in darkness as to his ultimate meaning. But her more immediate alarm had subsided, seeing now that the sailor-like extravagance of Paul's homage was entirely unaccompanied with any touch of intentional disrespect. Indeed, hyperbolical as were his phrases, his gestures and whole carriage were most heedfully deferential.
Paul continued: "The Earl, Madame, being absent, and he being the sole object of my call, you cannot labor under the least apprehension, when I now inform you, that I have the honor of being an officer in the American Navy, who, having stopped at this isle to secure the person of the Earl of Selkirk as a hostage for the American cause, am, by your assurances, turned away from that intent; pleased, even in disappointment, since that disappointment has served to prolong my interview with the noble lady before me, as well as to leave her domestic tranquillity unimpaired."
"Can you really speak true?" said the lady in undismayed wonderment.
"Madame, through your window you will catch a little peep of the American colonial ship-of-war, Banger, which I have the honor to command. With my best respects to your lord, and sincere regrets at not finding him at home, permit me to salute your ladyship's hand and withdraw."
But feigning not to notice this Parisian proposition, and artfully entrenching her hand, without seeming to do so, the lady, in a conciliatory tone, begged her visitor to partake of some refreshment ere he departed, at the same time thanking him for his great civility. But declining these hospitalities, Paul bowed thrice and quitted the room.
In the hall he encountered
"Looks like a pewter platter and knife and fork, Captain Paul."
"So they do, my lion; but come, curse it, the old cock has flown; fine hen, though, left in the nest; no use; we must away empty-handed."
"Why, ain't Mr. Selkirk
"Mr. Selkirk? Alexander Selkirk, you mean. No, lad, he's not on the Isle of St. Mary's; he's away off, a hermit, on the Isle of Juan Fernandez--the more's the pity; come."
In the porch they encountered the two officers. Paul briefly informed them of the circumstances, saying, nothing remained but to depart forthwith.
"With nothing at all for our pains?" murmured the two officers.
"What, pray, would you have?"
"Some pillage, to be sure--plate."
"Shame. I thought we were three gentlemen."
"So are the English officers in
"Come, now, don't be slanderous," said Paul; "these officers you speak of are but one or two out of twenty, mere burglars and light-fingered gentry, using the king's livery but as a disguise to their nefarious trade. The rest are men of honor."
"Captain Paul Jones," responded the two, "we have not come on this expedition in much expectation of regular pay; but we _did_ rely upon honorable plunder."
"Honorable plunder! That's something new."
But the officers were not to be turned aside. They were the
most efficient in the ship. Seeing them resolute, Paul, for fear of incensing
them, was at last, as a matter of policy, obliged to comply. For himself,
however, he resolved to have nothing to do with the affair. Charging the
officers not to allow the men to enter the house on any pretence, and that no
search must be made, and nothing must be taken away, except what the lady
should offer them upon making known their demand, he beckoned to Israel and
retired indignantly towards the beach. Upon second thoughts, he dispatched
The lady was not a little disconcerted on receiving the
officers. With cool determination they made known their purpose. There was no
escape. The lady retired. The butler came; and soon, several silver salvers,
and other articles of value, were silently deposited in the parlor in the
presence of the officers and
"Mister Butler," said
But, scowling upon this rusticity, or roguishness--he knew not which--the butler, in high dudgeon at Israel's republican familiarity, as well as black as a thundercloud with the general insult offered to an illustrious household by a party of armed thieves, as he viewed them, declined any assistance. In a quarter of an hour the officers left the house, carrying their booty.
At the porch they were met by a red-cheeked, spiteful-looking lass, who, with her brave lady's compliments, added two child's rattles of silver and coral to their load.
Now, one of the officers was a Frenchman, the other a Spaniard.
The Spaniard dashed his rattle indignantly to the ground. The Frenchman took his very pleasantly, and kissed it, saying to the girl that he would long preserve the coral, as a memento of her rosy cheeks.
When the party arrived on the beach, they found Captain Paul
writing with pencil on paper held up against the smooth tableted
side of the cliff. Next moment he seemed to be making his signature. With a
reproachful glance towards the two officers, he handed the slip to
The note was as follows:
"After so courteous a reception, I am disturbed to make you no better return than you have just experienced from the actions of certain persons under my command.--actions, lady, which my profession of arms obliges me not only to brook, but, in a measure, to countenance. From the bottom of my heart, my dear lady, I deplore this most melancholy necessity of my delicate position. However unhandsome the desire of these men, some complaisance seemed due them from me, for their general good conduct and bravery on former occasions. I had but an instant to consider. I trust, that in unavoidably gratifying them, I have inflicted less injury on your ladyship's property than I have on my own bleeding sensibilities. But my heart will not allow me to say more. Permit me to assure you, dear lady, that when the plate is sold, I shall, at all hazards, become the purchaser, and will be proud to restore it to you, by such conveyance as you may hereafter see fit to appoint.
"From hence I go, Madame, to engage, to-morrow morning, his Majesty's ship, Drake, of twenty guns, now lying at Carrickfergus. I should meet the enemy with more than wonted resolution, could I flatter myself that, through this unhandsome conduct on the part of my officers, I lie not under the disesteem of the sweet lady of the Isle of St. Mary's. But unconquerable as Mars should I be, could but dare to dream, that in some green retreat of her charming domain, the Countess of Selkirk offers up a charitable prayer for, my dear lady countess, one, who coming to take a captive, himself has been captivated.
"Your ladyship's adoring enemy,
"JOHN PAUL JONES."
How the lady received this super-ardent note, history does not relate. But history has not omitted to record, that after the return of the Ranger to France, through the assiduous efforts of Paul in buying up the booty, piece by piece, from the clutches of those among whom it had been divided, and not without a pecuniary private loss to himself, equal to the total value of the plunder, the plate was punctually restored, even to the silver heads of two pepper-boxes; and, not only this, but the Earl, hearing all the particulars, magnanimously wrote Paul a letter, expressing thanks for his politeness. In the opinion of the noble Earl, Paul was a man of honor. It were rash to differ in opinion with such high-born authority.
Upon returning to the ship, she was instantly pointed over
towards the Irish coast. Next morning Carrickfergus
was in sight. Paul would have gone straight in; but
"What think you,
"They are dropping a boat now, sir," replied
"So they are--so they are. They don't know us. I'll decoy that boat alongside. Quick--they are coming for us--take the helm now yourself, my lion, and keep the ship's stern steadily presented towards the advancing boat. Don't let them have the least peep at our broadside."
The boat came on, an officer in its bow all the time eyeing the Ranger through a glass. Presently the boat was within hail.
"Ship ahoy! Who are you?"
"Oh, come alongside," answered Paul through his trumpet, in a rapid off-hand tone, as though he were a gruff sort of friend, impatient at being suspected for a foe.
In a few moments the officer of the boat stepped into the Ranger's gangway. Cocking his bonnet gallantly, Paul advanced towards him, making a very polite bow, saying: "Good morning, sir, good morning; delighted to see you. That's a pretty sword you have; pray, let me look at it."
"I see," said the officer, glancing at the ship's armament, and turning pale, "I am your prisoner."
"No--my guest," responded Paul, winningly. "Pray, let me relieve you of your--your--cane."
Thus humorously he received the officer's delivered sword.
"Now tell me, sir, if you please," he continued, "what brings out his Majesty's ship Drake this fine morning? Going a little airing?"
"She comes out in search of you, but when I left her side half an hour since she did not know that the ship off the harbor was the one she sought."
"You had news from Whitehaven, I suppose, last night, eh?"
"Aye: express; saying that certain incendiaries had landed there early that morning."
"What?--what sort of men were they, did you say?"
said Paul, shaking his bonnet fiercely to one side of his head, and coming close
to the officer. "Pardon me," he added derisively, "I had forgot you are my _guest_.
The Drake was now seen slowly coming out under a light air, attended by five small pleasure-vessels, decorated with flags and streamers, and full of gaily-dressed people, whom motives similar to those which drew visitors to the circus, had induced to embark on their adventurous trip. But they little dreamed how nigh the desperate enemy was.
"Drop the captured boat astern," said Paul; "see what effect that will have on those merry voyagers."
No sooner was the empty boat descried by the pleasure-vessels than forthwith, surmising the truth, they with all diligence turned about and re-entered the harbor. Shortly after, alarm-smokes were seen extending along both sides of the channel.
"They smoke us at last, Captain Paul," said
"There will be more smoke yet before the day is done," replied Paul, gravely.
The wind was right under the land, the tide unfavorable. The Drake worked out very slowly.
Meantime, like some fiery-heated duellist calling on urgent business at frosty daybreak, and long kept waiting at the door by the dilatoriness of his antagonist, shrinking at the idea of getting up to be cut to pieces in the cold--the Ranger, with a better breeze, impatiently tacked to and fro in the channel. At last, when the English vessel had fairly weathered the point, Paul, ranging ahead, courteously led her forth, as a beau might a belle in a ballroom, to mid-channel, and then suffered her to come within hail.
"She is hoisting her colors now, sir," said
"Give her the stars and stripes, then, my lad."
Joyfully running to the locker,
As the colors rose to their final perch, and streamed in the air, Paul eyed them exultingly.
"I first hoisted that flag on an American ship, and was the first among men to get it saluted. If I perish this night, the name of Paul Jones shall live. Hark! they hail us."
"What ship are you?"
"Your enemy. Come on! What wants the fellow of more prefaces and introductions?"
The sun was now calmly setting over the green
The Drake was the larger ship; more cannon; more men. Her loss in killed and wounded was far the greater. Her brave captain and lieutenant were mortally wounded.
The former died as the prize was boarded, the latter two days after.
It was twilight, the weather still severe. No cannonade,
naught that mad man can do, molests the stoical imperturbability of Nature,
when Nature chooses to be still. This weather, holding on through the following
day, greatly facilitated the refitting of the ships. That done, the two
vessels, sailing round the north of
"A pretty fair four weeks' yachting, gentlemen,"
said Paul Jones, as the Ranger swung to her cable, while some French officers
boarded her. "I bring two travellers with me,
gentlemen," he continued. "Allow me to introduce you to my particular
friend Israel Potter, late of North America, and also to his Britannic
Majesty's ship Drake, late of
This cruise made loud fame for Paul, especially at the court
of France, whose king sent Paul, a sword and a medal. But poor
Three months after anchoring at
The career of this stubborn adventurer signally illustrates the idea that since all human affairs are subject to organic disorder, since they are created in and sustained by a sort of half-disciplined chaos, hence he who in great things seeks success must never wait for smooth water, which never was and never will be, but, with what straggling method he can, dash with all his derangements at his object, leaving the rest to Fortune.
Though nominally commander of the squadron, Paul was not so in effect. Most of his captains conceitedly claimed independent commands. One of them in the end proved a traitor outright; few of the rest were reliable.
As for the ships, that commanded by Paul in person will be a
good example of the fleet. She was an old Indiaman, clumsy and crank, smelling
strongly of the savor of tea, cloves, and arrack, the cargoes of former
voyages. Even at that day she was, from her venerable grotesqueness, what a
cocked hat is, at the present age, among ordinary beavers. Her elephantine bulk
was houdahed with a castellated poop like the leaning
It was evening in the road of Groix. After a fagging day's work, trying to conciliate the hostile jealousy of his officers, and provide, in the face of endless obstacles (for he had to dance attendance on scores of intriguing factors and brokers ashore), the requisite stores for the fleet, Paul sat in his cabin in a half-despondent reverie, while Israel, cross-legged at his commander's feet, was patching up some old signals.
"Captain Paul, I don't like our ship's name.--Duras? What's that mean?--Duras? Being cribbed up in a ship named Duras! a sort of makes one feel as if he were in durance vile."
"Gad, I never thought of that before, my lion. Duras--Durance vile. I suppose it's superstition, but I'll change Come, Yellow-mane, what shall we call her?"
"Well, Captain Paul, don't you like Doctor Franklin? Hasn't he been the prime man to get this fleet together? Let's call her the Doctor Franklin."
"Oh, no, that will too publicly declare him just at present; and Poor Richard wants to be a little shady in this business."
"Poor Richard!--call her Poor Richard, then,"
"'Gad, you have it," answered Paul, springing to his feet, as all trace of his former despondency left him;--"Poor Richard shall be the name, in honor to the saying, that 'God helps them that help themselves,' as Poor Richard says."
Now this was the way the craft came to be called the _Bon Homme Richard_; for it being deemed advisable to have a French rendering of the new title, it assumed the above form.
A few days after, the force sailed. Ere long, they captured several vessels; but the captains of the squadron proving refractory, events took so deplorable a turn, that Paul, for the present, was obliged to return to Groix. Luckily, however, at this junction a cartel arrived from England with upwards of a hundred exchanged American seamen, who almost to a man enlisted under the flag of Paul.
Upon the resailing of the force,
the old troubles broke out afresh. Most of her consorts insubordinately
separated from the Bon Homme Richard. At length Paul
found himself in violent storms beating off the rugged southeastern coast of
Along both startled shores the panic of their approach
spread like the cholera. The three suspicious crafts had so long lain off and
on, that none doubted they were led by the audacious viking, Paul Jones. At five o'clock, on the following
morning, they were distinctly seen from the capital of
In the afternoon,
"They have hot oat-cakes for us," said Paul;
"let 'em come. To encourage them, show them the
Soon the boat was alongside.
"Well, my good fellows, what can I do for you this afternoon?" said Paul, leaning over the side with a patronizing air.
"Why, captain, we come from the Laird of Crokarky, who wants some powder and ball for his money."
"What would you with powder and ball, pray?"
"Oh! haven't you heard that that bloody pirate, Paul Jones, is somewhere hanging round the coasts?"
"Aye, indeed, but he won't hurt you. He's only going round among the nations, with his old hat, taking up contributions. So, away with ye; ye don't want any powder and ball to give him. He wants contributions of silver, not lead. Prepare yourselves with silver, I say."
"Nay, captain, the Laird ordered us not to return without powder and ball. See, here is the price. It may be the taking of the bloody pirate, if you let us have what we want."
"Well, pass 'em over a
keg," said Paul, laughing, but modifying his order by a sly whisper to
"But ball, captain; what's the use of powder without ball?" roared one of the fellows from the boat's bow, as the keg was lowered in. "We want ball."
"Bless my soul, you bawl loud enough as it is. Away with ye, with what you have. Look to your keg, and hark ye, if ye catch that villain, Paul Jones, give him no quarter."
"But, captain, here," shouted one of the boatmen, "there's a mistake. This is a keg of pickles, not powder. Look," and poking into the bung-hole, he dragged out a green cucumber dripping with brine. "Take this back, and give us the powder."
"Pooh," said Paul, "the powder is at the bottom, pickled powder, best way to keep it. Away with ye, now, and after that bloody embezzler, Paul Jones."
This was Sunday. The ships held on. During the afternoon, a
long tack of the Richard brought her close towards the shores of Fife, near the
"There's a great crowd on the beach. Captain
"Let me see," said Paul, taking the glass as they came nigher. "Sure enough, it's an old lady--an old quack-doctress, seems to me, in a black gown, too. I must hail her."
Ordering the ship to be kept on towards the port, he shortened sail within easy distance, so as to glide slowly by, and seizing the trumpet, thus spoke:
"Old lady, ahoy! What are you talking about? What's your text?"
"The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked."
"Ah, what a lack of charity. Now hear mine:--God helpeth them that help themselves, as Poor Richard says."
"Reprobate pirate, a gale shall yet come to drive thee in wrecks from our waters."
"The strong wind of your hate fills my sails well.
Adieu," waving his bonnet--"tell us the rest at
Next morning the ships were almost within cannon-shot of the
town. The men to be landed were in the boats.
To this hour, on the shores of the Firth of Forth, it is the
popular persuasion, that the Rev. Mr. Shirrer's (of Kirkaldy) powerful intercession was the direct cause of the
elemental repulse experienced off the endangered
Through the ill qualities of Paul's associate captains:
their timidity, incapable of keeping pace with his daring; their jealousy,
blind to his superiority to rivalship; together with
the general reduction of his force, now reduced by desertion, from nine to
three ships; and last of all, the enmity of seas and winds; the invader,
driven, not by a fleet, but a gale, out of the Scottish water's, had the
mortification in prospect of terminating a cruise, so formidable in appearance
at the onset, without one added deed to sustain the reputation gained by former
exploits. Nevertheless, he was not disheartened. He sought to conciliate
fortune, not by despondency, but by resolution. And, as if won by his confident
bearing, that fickle power suddenly went over to him from the ranks of the
enemy--suddenly as plumed Marshal Ney to the stubborn standard of Napoleon from
Elba, marching regenerated on
The battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis stands in history as the first signal collision on the sea between the Englishman and the American. For obstinacy, mutual hatred, and courage, it is without precedent or subsequent in the story of ocean. The strife long hung undetermined, but the English flag struck in the end.
There would seem to be something singularly indicatory I in this engagement. It may involve at once a type, a parallel, and a prophecy. Sharing the same blood with England, and yet her proved foe in two wars--not wholly inclined at bottom to forget an old grudge--intrepid, unprincipled, reckless, predatory, with boundless ambition, civilized in externals but a savage at heart, America is, or may yet be, the Paul Jones of nations.
Regarded in this indicatory light, the battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis--in itself so curious--may well enlist our interest.
Never was there a fight so snarled. The intricacy of those incidents which defy the narrator's extrication, is not illy figured in that bewildering intertanglement of all the yards and anchors of the two ships, which confounded them for the time in one chaos of devastation.
Elsewhere than here the reader must go who seeks an elaborate version of the fight, or, indeed, much of any regular account of it whatever. The writer is but brought to mention the battle because he must needs follow, in all events, the fortunes of the humble adventurer whose life lie records. Yet this necessarily involves some general view of each conspicuous incident in which he shares.
Several circumstances of the place and time served to invest
the fight with a certain scenic atmosphere casting a light almost poetic over
the wild gloom of its tragic results. The battle was fought between the hours
of seven and ten at night; the height of it was under a full harvest moon, in
view of thousands of distant spectators crowning the high cliffs of
From the Tees to the Humber, the eastern coast of
Weathering out the gale which had driven them from Leith, Paul's ships for a few days were employed in giving
chase to various merchantmen and colliers; capturing some, sinking others, and
putting the rest to flight. Off the mouth of the
The Richard carried a motley, crew, to keep whom in order one hundred and thirty-five soldiers--themselves a hybrid band--had been put on board, commanded by French officers of inferior rank. Her armament was similarly heterogeneous; guns of all sorts and calibres; but about equal on the whole to those of a thirty-two-gun frigate. The spirit of baneful intermixture pervaded this craft throughout.
The Serapis was a frigate of fifty guns, more than half of which individually exceeded in calibre any one gun of the Richard. She had a crew of some three hundred and twenty trained man-of-war's men.
There is something in a naval engagement which radically distinguishes it from one on the land. The ocean, at times, has what is called its _sea_ and its _trough of the sea_; but it has neither rivers, woods, banks, towns, nor mountains. In mild weather it is one hammered plain. Stratagems, like those of disciplined armies--ambuscades, like those of Indians, are impossible. All is clear, open, fluent. The very element which sustains the combatants, yields at the stroke of a feather. One wind and one tide at one time operate upon all who here engage. This simplicity renders a battle between two men-of-war, with their huge white wings, more akin to the Miltonic contests of archangels than to _the comparatively squalid_ tussles of earth.
As the ships neared, a hazy darkness overspread the water. The moon was not yet risen. Objects were perceived with difficulty. Borne by a soft moist breeze over gentle waves, they came within pistol-shot. Owing to the obscurity, and the known neighborhood of other vessels, the Serapis was uncertain who the Richard was. Through the dim mist each ship loomed forth to the other vast, but indistinct, as the ghost of Morven. Sounds of the trampling of resolute men echoed from either hull, whose tight decks dully resounded like drum-heads in a funeral march.
The Serapis hailed. She was answered by a broadside. For half an hour the combatants deliberately manoeuvred, continually changing their position, but always within shot fire. The. Serapis--the better sailer of the two--kept critically circling the Richard, making lounging advances now and then, and as suddenly steering off; hate causing her to act not unlike a wheeling cock about a hen, when stirred by the contrary passion. Meantime, though within easy speaking distance, no further syllable was exchanged; but an incessant cannonade was kept up.
At this point, a third party, the
Not long after, an invisible hand came and set down a great
yellow lamp in the east. The hand reached up unseen from below the horizon, and
set the lamp down right on the rim of the horizon, as on a threshold; as much
as to say, Gentlemen warriors, permit me a little to light up this rather
gloomy looking subject. The lamp was the round harvest moon; the one solitary
foot-light of the scene. But scarcely did the rays from the lamp pierce that
languid haze. Objects before perceived with difficulty, now glimmered
ambiguously. Bedded in strange vapors, the great foot-light
cast a dubious, half demoniac glare across the waters, like the phantasmagoric
stream sent athwart a
Aided now a little by the planet, one of the consorts of the
Richard, the Pallas, hovering far outside the fight, dimly discerned the
suspicious form of a lonely vessel unknown to her. She resolved to engage it,
if it proved a foe. But ere they joined, the unknown ship--which proved to be
the Scarborough--received a broadside at long gun's distance from another
consort of the Richard the
Compared to the Serapis and the
Richard, the Pallas and the
The Man-in-the-Moon now raised himself still higher to obtain a better view of affairs.
But the Man-in-the-Moon was not the only spectator. From the
high cliffs of the shore, and especially from the great promontory of Flamborough Head, the scene was witnessed by crowds of the
islanders. Any rustic might be pardoned his curiosity in view of the spectacle,
presented. Far in the indistinct distance fleets of frightened merchantmen
filled the lower air with their sails, as flakes of snow in a snow-storm by
night. Hovering undeterminedly, in another direction,
were several of the scattered consorts of Paul, taking no part in the fray.
Nearer, was an isolated mist, investing the Pallas and
To get some idea of the events enacting in that cloud, it will be necessary to enter it; to go and possess it, as a ghost may rush into a body, or the devils into the swine, which running down the steep place perished in the sea; just as the Richard is yet to do.
Thus far the Serapis and the Richard had been manoeuvring and chasing to each other like partners in a cotillion, all the time indulging in rapid repartee.
But finding at last that the superior managableness of the enemy's ship enabled him to get the better of the clumsy old Indiaman, the Richard, in taking position, Paul, with his wonted resolution, at once sought to neutralize this, by hugging him close. But the attempt to lay the Richard right across the head of the Serapis ended quite otherwise, in sending the enemy's jib-boom just over the Richard's great tower of Pisa, where Israel was stationed; who, catching it eagerly, stood for an instant holding to the slack of the sail, like one grasping a horse by the mane prior to vaulting into the saddle.
"Aye, hold hard, lad," cried Paul, springing to
his side with a coil of rigging. With a few rapid turns he knitted himself to
his foe. The wind now acting on the sails of the Serapis
forced her, heel and point, her entire length, cheek by jowl, alongside the
Richard. The projecting cannon scraped; the yards interlocked; but the hulls
did not touch. A long lane of darkling water lay wedged between, like that
narrow canal in
Into that Lethean canal--pond-like in its smoothness as compared with the sea without--fell many a poor soul that night; fell, forever forgotten.
As some heaving rent coinciding with a disputed frontier on a volcanic plain, that boundary abyss was the jaws of death to both sides. So contracted was it, that in many cases the gun-rammers had to be thrust into the opposite ports, in order to enter to muzzles of their own cannon. It seemed more an intestine feud, than a fight between strangers. Or, rather, it was as if the Siamese Twins, oblivious of their fraternal bond, should rage in unnatural fight.
Ere long, a horrible explosion was heard, drowning for the
instant the cannonade. Two of the old eighteen-pounders--before
spoken of, as having been hurriedly set up below the main deck of the
Richard--burst all to pieces, killing the sailors who worked them, and
shattering all that part of the hull, as if two exploded steam-boilers had shot
out of its opposite sides. The effect was like the fall of the walls of a
house. Little now upheld the great
But, further forward, so deadly was the broadside from the heavy batteries of the Serapis--levelled point-blank, and right down the throat and bowels, as it were, of the Richard--that it cleared everything before it. The men on the Richard's covered gun-deck ran above, like miners from the fire-damp. Collecting on the forecastle, they continued to fight with grenades and muskets. The soldiers also were in the lofty tops, whence they kept up incessant volleys, cascading their fire down as pouring lava from cliffs.
The position of the men in the two ships was now exactly reversed. For while the Serapis was tearing the Richard all to pieces below deck, and had swept that covered part almost of the last man, the Richard's crowd of musketry had complete control of the upper deck of the Serapis, where it was almost impossible for man to remain unless as a corpse. Though in the beginning, the tops of the Serapis had not been unsupplied with marksmen, yet they had long since been cleared by the overmastering musketry of the Richard. Several, with leg or arm broken by a ball, had been seen going dimly downward from their giddy perch, like falling pigeons shot on the wing.
As busy swallows about barn-eaves and ridge-poles, some of the Richard's marksmen, quitting their tops, now went far out on their yard-arms, where they overhung the Serapis. From thence they dropped hand-grenades upon her decks, like apples, which growing in one field fall over the fence into another. Others of their band flung the same sour fruit into the open ports of the Serapis. A hail-storm of aerial combustion descended and slanted on the Serapis, while horizontal thunderbolts rolled crosswise through the subterranean vaults of the Richard. The belligerents were no longer, in the ordinary sense of things, an English ship and an American ship. It was a co-partnership and joint-stock combustion-company of both ships; yet divided, even in participation. The two vessels were as two houses, through whose party-wall doors have been cut; one family (the Guelphs) occupying the whole lower story; another family (the Ghibelines) the whole upper story.
Meanwhile, determined Paul flew hither and thither like the meteoric corposant-ball, which shiftingly dances on the tips and verges of ships' rigging in storms. Wherever he went, he seemed to cast a pale light on all faces. Blacked and burnt, his Scotch bonnet was compressed to a gun-wad on his head. His Parisian coat, with its gold-laced sleeve laid aside, disclosed to the full the blue tattooing on his arm, which sometimes in fierce gestures streamed in the haze of the cannonade, cabalistically terrific as the charmed standard of Satan. Yet his frenzied manner was less a testimony of his internal commotion than intended to inspirit and madden his men, some of whom seeing him, in transports of intrepidity stripped themselves to their trowsers, exposing their naked bodies to the as naked shot The same was done on the Serapis, where several guns were seen surrounded by their buff crews as by fauns and satyrs.
At the beginning of the fray, before the ships interlocked, in the intervals of smoke which swept over the ships as mist over mountain-tops, affording open rents here and there--the gun-deck of the Serapis, at certain points, showed, congealed for the instant in all attitudes of dauntlessness, a gallery of marble statues--fighting gladiators.
Stooping low and intent, with one braced leg thrust behind,
and one arm thrust forward, curling round towards the muzzle of the gun, there
was seen the _loader_, performing his allotted part; on the other side of the
carriage, in the same stooping posture, but with both hands holding his long
black pole, pike-wise, ready for instant use--stood the eager _rammer and
sponger_; while at the breech, crouched the wary _captain of the gun_, his keen
eye, like the watching leopard's, burning along the range; and behind all, tall
and erect, the Egyptian symbol of death, stood the _matchman_,
immovable for the moment, his long-handled match reversed. Up to their two long
death-dealing batteries, the trained men of the Serapis
stood and toiled in mechanical magic of discipline. They tended those rows of
"Look, lad; I want a grenade, now, thrown down their main hatchway. I saw long piles of cartridges there. The powder monkeys have brought them up faster than they can be used. Take a bucket of combustibles, and let's hear from you presently."
These words were spoken by Paul to
But the drooping spirits of the English were suddenly revived, by an event which crowned the scene by an act on the part of one of the consorts of the Richard, the incredible atrocity of which has induced all humane minds to impute it rather to some incomprehensible mistake than to the malignant madness of the perpetrator.
The cautious approach and retreat of a consort of the Serapis, the
"Do you strike?" cried the English captain.
"I have not yet begun to fight," howled sinking Paul.
This summons and response were whirled on eddies of smoke and flame. Both vessels were now on fire. The men of either knew hardly which to do; strive to destroy the enemy, or save themselves. In the midst of this, one hundred human beings, hitherto invisible strangers, were suddenly added to the rest. Five score English prisoners, till now confined in the Richard's hold, liberated in his consternation by the master at arms, burst up the hatchways. One of them, the captain of a letter of marque, captured by Paul, off the Scottish coast, crawled through a port, as a burglar through a window, from the one ship to the other, and reported affairs to the English captain.
While Paul and his lieutenants were confronting these
prisoners, the gunner, running up from below, and not perceiving his official
superiors, and deeming them dead, believing himself now left sole surviving
officer, ran to the
At this moment the gunner, rushing to the rail, shouted "Quarter! quarter!" to the Serapis.
"I'll quarter ye," yelled
"Do you strike?" now came from the Serapis.
"Aye, aye, aye!" involuntarily cried
"Do you strike?" again was repeated from the Serapis; whose captain, judging from the augmented confusion on board the Richard, owing to the escape of the prisoners, and also influenced by the report made to him by his late guest of the port-hole, doubted not that the enemy must needs be about surrendering.
"Do you strike?"
"Aye!--I strike _back_" roared Paul, for the first time now hearing the summons.
But judging this frantic response to come, like the others, from some unauthorized source, the English captain directed his boarders to be called, some of whom presently leaped on the Richard's rail, but, throwing out his tattooed arm at them, with a sabre at the end of it, Paul showed them how boarders repelled boarders. The English retreated, but not before they had been thinned out again, like spring radishes, by the unfaltering fire from the Richard's tops.
An officer of the Richard, seeing the mass of prisoners delirious with sudden liberty and fright, pricked them with his sword to the pumps, thus keeping the ship afloat by the very blunder which had promised to have been fatal. The vessels now blazed so in the rigging that both parties desisted from hostilities to subdue the common foe.
When some faint order was again restored upon the Richard her chances of victory increased, while those of the English, driven under cover, proportionably waned. Early in the contest, Paul, with his own hand, had brought one of his largest guns to bear against the enemy's mainmast. That shot had hit. The mast now plainly tottered. Nevertheless, it seemed as if, in this fight, neither party could be victor. Mutual obliteration from the face of the waters seemed the only natural sequel to hostilities like these. It is, therefore, honor to him as a man, and not reproach to him as an officer, that, to stay such carnage, Captain Pearson, of the Serapis, with his own hands hauled down his colors. But just as an officer from the Richard swung himself on board the Serapis, and accosted the English captain, the first lieutenant of the Serapis came up from below inquiring whether the Richard had struck, since her fire had ceased.
So equal was the conflict that, even after the surrender, it could be, and was, a question to one of the warriors engaged (who had not happened to see the English flag hauled down) whether the Serapis had struck to the Richard, or the Richard to the Serapis. Nay, while the Richard's officer was still amicably conversing with the English captain, a midshipman of the Richard, in act of following his superior on board the surrendered vessel, was run through the thigh by a pike in the hand of an ignorant boarder of the Serapis. While, equally ignorant, the cannons below deck were still thundering away at the nominal conqueror from the batteries of the nominally conquered ship.
But though the Serapis had submitted, there were two misanthropical foes on board the Richard which would not so easily succumb--fire and water. All night the victors were engaged in suppressing the flames. Not until daylight were the flames got under; but though the pumps were kept continually going, the water in the hold still gained. A few hours after sunrise the Richard was deserted for the Serapis and the other vessels of the squadron of Paul. About ten o'clock the Richard, gorged with slaughter, wallowed heavily, gave a long roll, and blasted by tornadoes of sulphur, slowly sunk, like Gomorrah, out of sight.
The loss of life in the two ships was about equal; one-half of the total number of those engaged being either killed or wounded.
In view of this battle one may ask--What separates the enlightened man from the savage? Is civilization a thing distinct, or is it an advanced stage of barbarism?
For a time back, across the otherwise blue-jean career of
The battle won, the squadron started for the
Two weeks out, they encountered by night a frigate-like craft, supposed to be an enemy. The vessels came within hail, both showing English colors, with purposes of mutual deception, affecting to belong to the English Navy. For an hour, through their speaking trumpets, the captains equivocally conversed. A very reserved, adroit, hoodwinking, statesman-like conversation, indeed. At last, professing some little incredulity as to the truthfulness of the stranger's statement, Paul intimated a desire that he should put out a boat and come on board to show his commission, to which the stranger very affably replied, that unfortunately his boat was exceedingly leaky. With equal politeness, Paul begged him to consider the danger attending a refusal, which rejoinder nettled the other, who suddenly retorted that he would answer for twenty guns, and that both himself and men were knock-down Englishmen. Upon this, Paul said that he would allow him exactly five minutes for a sober, second thought. That brief period passed, Paul, hoisting the American colors, ran close under the other ship's stern, and engaged her. It was about eight o'clock at night that this strange quarrel was picked in the middle of the ocean. Why cannot men be peaceable on that great common? Or does nature in those fierce night-brawlers, the billows, set mankind but a sorry example?
After ten minutes' cannonading, the stranger struck, shouting
out that half his men were killed. The Ariel's crew hurrahed.
Boarders were called to take possession. At this juncture, the prize shifting
her position so that she headed away, and to leeward of the Ariel, thrust her
long spanker-boom diagonally over the latter's quarter; when Israel, who was
standing close by, instinctively caught hold of it--just as he had grasped the
jib-boom of the Serapis--and, at the same moment,
hearing the call to take possession, in the valiant excitement of the occasion,
he leaped upon the spar, and made a rush for the stranger's deck, thinking, of
course, that he would be immediately followed by the regular boarders. But the
sails of the strange ship suddenly filled; she began to glide through the sea;
her spanker-boom, not having at all entangled itself, offering no hindrance.
In the confusion, no eye had observed our hero's spring. But, as the vessels separated more, an officer of the strange ship spying a man on the boom, and taking him for one of his own men, demanded what he did there.
"Clearing the signal halyards, sir," replied
"Well, bear a hand and come in, or you will have a bow-chaser at you soon," referring to the bow guns of the Ariel.
"Aye, aye, sir," said
In intervals he considered with himself what to do. Favored by the obscurity of the night and the number of the crew, and wearing much the same dress as theirs, it was very easy to pass himself off for one of them till morning. But daylight would be sure to expose him, unless some cunning, plan could be hit upon. If discovered for what he was, nothing short of a prison awaited him upon the ship's arrival in port.
It was a desperate case, only as desperate a remedy could serve. One thing was sure, he could not hide. Some audacious parade of himself promised the only hope. Marking that the sailors, not being of the regular navy, wore no uniform, and perceiving that his jacket was the only garment on him which bore any distinguishing badge, our adventurer took it off, and privily dropped it overboard, remaining now in his dark blue woollen shirt and blue cloth waistcoat.
What the more inspirited Israel to the added step now contemplated, was the circumstance that the ship was not a Frenchman's or other foreigner, but her crew, though enemies, spoke the same language that he did.
So very quietly, at last, he goes aloft into the maintop, and sitting down on an old sail there, beside some eight or ten topmen, in an off-handed way asks one for tobacco.
"Give us a quid, lad," as he settled himself in his seat.
"Halloo," said the strange sailor, "who be you? Get out of the top! The fore and mizzentop men won't let us go into their tops, and blame me if we'll let any of their gangs come here. So, away ye go."
"You're blind, or crazy, old boy," rejoined
"There's only ten maintopmen belonging to our watch; if you are one, then there'll be eleven," said a second sailor. "Get out of the top!"
"This is too bad, maties,"
"Look ye," returned the other, "if you don't make away with yourself, you skulking spy from the mizzen, we'll drop you to deck like a jewel-block."
Seeing the party thus resolute,
The reason why he had tried the scheme--and, spite of the
foregoing failure, meant to repeat it--was this: As customary in armed ships,
the men were in companies allotted to particular places and functions.
Therefore, to escape final detection,
Mixing in again for a while with the general watch, he at last goes on the forecastle among the sheet-anchor-men there, at present engaged in critically discussing the merits of the late valiant encounter, and expressing their opinion that by daybreak the enemy in chase would be hull-down out of sight.
"To be sure she will," cried
In the prodigal fraternal patriotism of the moment, one of the old worthies freely handed his plug to our adventurer, who, helping himself, returned it, repeating the question as to the killed and wounded.
"Why," said he of the plug, "Jack Jewboy told me, just now, that there's only seven men been carried down to the surgeon, but not a soul killed."
"Good, boys, good!" cried Israel, moving up to one of the gun-carriages, where three or four men were sitting--"slip along, chaps, slip along, and give a watchmate a seat with ye."
"All full here, lad; try the next gun."
"Boys, clear a place here,",
"Who the devil are _you_, making this row here?" demanded a stern-looking old fellow, captain of the forecastle, "seems to me you make considerable noise. Are you a forecastleman?"
"If the bowsprit belongs here, so do I," rejoined
"Let's look at ye, then!" and seizing a battle-lantern, before thrust under a gun, the old veteran came close to Israel before he had time to elude the scrutiny.
"Take that!" said his examiner, and fetching Israel a terrible thump, pushed him ignominiously off the forecastle as some unknown interloper from distant parts of the ship.
With similar perseverance of effrontery,
A group of them sat round a lantern, in the dark bowels of the ship, like a knot of charcoal burners in a pine forest at midnight.
"Well, boys, what's the good word?" said
"The good word is," rejoined a censorious old _holder_, "that you had best go where you belong--on deck--and not be a skulking down here where you _don't_ belong. I suppose this is the way you skulked during the fight."
"Oh, you're growly to-night,
"Get out of the hold with ye," roared the other. "On deck, or I'll call the master-at-arms."
Sorely against his grain, as a final effort to blend himself openly with the crew, he now went among the _waisters_: the vilest caste of an armed ship's company, mere dregs and settlings--sea-Pariahs, comprising all the lazy, all the inefficient, all the unfortunate and fated, all the melancholy, all the infirm, all the rheumatical scamps, scapegraces, ruined prodigal sons, sooty faces, and swineherds of the crew, not excluding those with dismal wardrobes.
An unhappy, tattered, moping row of them sat along dolefully on the gun-deck, like a parcel of crest-fallen buzzards, exiled from civilized society.
"Cheer up, lads," said
"Oh, sit on your head!" answered a sullen fellow in the corner.
"Come, come, no growling; we're homeward-bound. Whoop, my hearties!"
"Workhouse bound, you mean," grumbled another sorry chap, in a darned shirt.
"Oh, boys, don't be down-hearted. Let's keep up our spirits. Sing us a song, one of ye, and I'll give the chorus."
"Sing if ye like, but I'll plug my ears, for one," said still another sulky varlet, with the toes out of his sea-boots, while all the rest with one roar of misanthropy joined him.
"'Cease, rude Boreas, cease your growling!'"
"And you cease your squeaking, will ye?" cried a fellow in a banged tarpaulin. "Did ye get a ball in the windpipe, that ye cough that way, worse nor a broken-nosed old bellows? Have done with your groaning, it's worse nor the death-rattle."
"Boys, is this the way you treat a watchmate"
"Lean off me, will ye?" roared his friend, shoving him away.
"But who _is_ this ere singing, leaning, yarn-spinning chap? Who are ye? Be you a waister, or be you not?"
So saying, one of this peevish, sottish
band staggered close up to
"No such singing chap belongs to our gang, that's flat," he dogmatically exclaimed at last, after an ineffectual scrutiny. "Sail out of this!"
And with a shove once more, poor
Blackballed out of every club, he went disheartened on deck. So long, while light screened him at least, as he contented himself with promiscuously circulating, all was safe; it was the endeavor to fraternize with any one set which was sure to endanger him. At last, wearied out, he happened to find himself on the berth deck, where the watch below were slumbering. Some hundred and fifty hammocks were on that deck. Seeing one empty, he leaped in, thinking luck might yet some way befriend him. Here, at last, the sultry confinement put him fast asleep. He was wakened by a savage whiskerando of the other watch, who, seizing him by his waistband, dragged him most indecorously out, furiously denouncing him for a skulker.
Springing to his feet,
"Who the deuce _are_ you?" at last said the officer-of-the-deck, in added bewilderment. "Where did you come from? What's your business? Where are you stationed? What's your name? Who are you, any way? How did you get here? and where are you going?"
"Belong to the maintop? Why, these men here say you have been trying to belong to the foretop, and the mizzentop, and the forecastle, and the hold, and the waist, and every other part of the ship. This is extraordinary," he added, turning upon the junior officers.
"He must be out of his mind," replied one of them, the sailing-master.
"Out of his mind?" rejoined the officer-of-the-deck. "He's out of all reason; out of all men's knowledge and memories! Why, no one knows him; no one has ever seen him before; no imagination, in the wildest flight of a morbid nightmare, has ever so much as dreamed of him. Who _are_ you?" he again added, fierce with amazement. "What's your name? Are you down in the ship's books, or at all in the records of nature?"
"My name, sir, is Peter Perkins," said
"Certainly, I never heard that name before. Pray, see if Peter Perkins is down on the quarter-bills," he added to a midshipman. "Quick, bring the book here."
Having received it, he ran his fingers along the columns, and dashing down the book, declared that no such name was there.
"You are not down, sir. There is no Peter Perkins here. Tell me at once who are you?"
"It might be, sir," said Israel, gravely, "that seeing I shipped under the effects of liquor, I might, out of absent-mindedness like, have given in some other person's name instead of my own."
"Well, what name have you gone by among your shipmates since you've been aboard?"
"Peter Perkins, sir."
Upon this the officer turned to the men around, inquiring whether the name of Peter Perkins was familiar to them as that of a shipmate. One and all answered no.
"This won't do, sir," now said the officer. "You see it won't do. Who are you?"
"A poor persecuted fellow at your service, sir."
"_Who_ persecutes you?"
"Every one, sir. All hands seem to be against me; none of them willing to remember me."
"Tell me," demanded the officer earnestly, "how long do you remember yourself? Do you remember yesterday morning? You must have come into existence by some sort of spontaneous combustion in the hold. Or were you fired aboard from the enemy, last night, in a cartridge? Do you remember yesterday?"
"Oh, yes, sir."
"What was you doing yesterday?"
"Well, sir, for one thing, I believe I had the honor of a little talk with yourself."
"Yes, sir; about nine o'clock in the morning--the sea being smooth and the ship running, as I should think, about seven knots--you came up into the maintop, where I belong, and was pleased to ask my opinion about the best way to set a topgallant stu'n'-sail."
"He's mad! He's mad!" said the officer, with delirious conclusiveness. "Take him away, take him away, take him away--put him somewhere, master-at-arms. Stay, one test more. What mess do you belong to?"
"Number 12, sir."
"Mr. Tidds," to a midshipman, "send mess No. 12 to the mast."
Ten sailors replied to the summons, and arranged themselves
"Men, does this man belong to your mess?"
"No, sir; never saw him before this morning."
"What are those men's names?" he demanded of
"Well, sir, I am so intimate with all of them," looking upon them with a kindly glance, "I never call them by their real names, but by nicknames. So, never using their real names, I have forgotten them. The nicknames that I know, them by, are Towser, Bowser, Rowser, Snowser."
"Enough. Mad as a March hare. Take him away. Hold," again added the officer, whom some strange fascination still bound to the bootless investigation. "What's _my_ name, sir?"
"Why, sir, one of my messmates here called you Lieutenant Williamson, just now, and I never heard you called by any other name."
"There's method in his madness," thought the officer to himself. "What's the captain's name?"
"Why, sir, when we spoke the enemy, last night, I heard him say, through his trumpet, that he was Captain Parker; and very likely he knows his own name."
"I have you now. That ain't the captain's real name."
"He's the best judge himself, sir, of what his name is, I should think."
"Were it not," said the officer, now turning gravely upon his juniors, "were it not that such a supposition were on other grounds absurd, I should certainly conclude that this man, in some unknown way, got on board here from the enemy last night."
"How could he, sir?" asked the sailing-master.
"Heaven knows. But our spanker-boom geared the other ship, you know, in manoeuvring to get headway."
"But supposing he _could_ have got here that fashion, which is quite impossible under all the circumstances, what motive could have induced him voluntarily to jump among enemies?"
"Let him answer for himself," said the officer,
turning suddenly upon
"Answer, sir. Why did you jump on board here, last night, from the enemy?"
"Jump on board, sir, from the enemy? Why, sir, my station at general quarters is at gun No. 3, of the lower deck, here."
"He's cracked--or else I am turned--or all the world is;--take him away!"
"But where am I to take him, sir?" said the master-at-arms. "He don't seem to belong anywhere, sir. Where--where am I to take him?"
"Take him-out of sight," said the officer, now incensed with his own perplexity. "Take him out of sight, I say."
"Come along, then, my ghost," said the master-at-arms. And, collaring the phantom, he led it hither and thither, not knowing exactly what to do with it.
Some fifteen minutes passed, when the captain coming from his cabin, and observing the master-at-arms leading Israel about in this indefinite style, demanded the reason of that procedure, adding that it was against his express orders for any new and degrading punishments to be invented for his men.
"Come here, master-at-arms. To what end do you lead that man about?"
"To no end in the world, sir. I keep leading him about because he has no final destination."
"Mr. Officer-of-the-deck, what does this mean? Who is this strange man? I don't know that I remember him. Who is he? And what is signified by his being led about?"
Hereupon the officer-of-the-deck, throwing himself into a tragical posture, set forth the entire mystery; much to the captain's astonishment, who at once indignantly turned upon the phantom.
"You rascal--don't try to deceive me. Who are you? and where did you come from last?"
"Sir, my name is Peter Perkins, and I last came from the forecastle, where the master-at-arms last led me, before coming here."
"No joking, sir, no joking."
"Sir, I'm sure it's too serious a business to joke about."
"Do you have the assurance to say, that you, as a
regularly shipped man, have been on board this vessel ever since she sailed
"Sir, anxious to secure a berth under so good a commander, I was among the first to enlist."
"What ports have we touched at, sir?" said the captain, now in a little softer tone.
"Ports, sir, ports?"
"Yes, sir, _ports_"
"What _ports_, sir?"
"Right there," whispered a midshipman.
"What was the next port, sir?"
"Why, sir, I was saying
"The _second_ port, sir, is what I want."
"Right again," whispered the midshipman.
"And what port are we bound to, now?"
"Let me see--homeward-bound--
"What sort of a place is
"Pretty considerable of a place, sir."
"Very straight streets, ain't they?"
"Yes, sir; cow-paths, cut by sheep-walks, and intersected with hen-tracks."
"When did we fire the first gun?"
"Well, sir, just as we were leaving
"Where did we fire the first _shotted_ gun, sir?--and what was the name of the privateer we took upon that occasion?"
"'Pears to me, sir, at that time I was on the sick list. Yes, sir, that must have been the time; I had the brain fever, and lost my mind for a while."
"Master-at-arms, take this man away."
"Where shall I take him, sir?" touching his cap.
"Go, and air him on the forecastle."
So they resumed their devious wanderings. At last, they descended to the berth-deck. It being now breakfast-time, the master-at-arms, a good-humored man, very kindly' introduced our hero to his mess, and presented him with breakfast, during which he in vain endeavored, by all sorts of subtle blandishments, to worm out his secret.
At length Israel was set at liberty; and whenever there was any important duty to be done, volunteered to it with such cheerful alacrity, and approved himself so docile and excellent a seaman, that he conciliated the approbation of all the officers, as well as the captain; while his general sociability served, in the end, to turn in his favor the suspicious hearts of the mariners. Perceiving his good qualities, both as a sailor and man, the captain of the maintop applied for his admission into that section of the ship; where, still improving upon his former reputation, our hero did duty for the residue of the voyage.
One pleasant afternoon, the last of the passage, when the
ship was nearing the Lizard, within a few hours' sail of her port, the
officer-of-the-deck, happening to glance upwards towards the maintop, descried
"Well, Peter Perkins, you seem to belong to the maintop, after all."
"I always told you so, sir," smiled
At length, as the ship, gliding on past three or four vessels at anchor in the roadstead--one, a man-of-war just furling her sails--came nigh Falmouth town, Israel, from his perch, saw crowds in violent commotion on the shore, while the adjacent roofs were covered with sightseers. A large man-of-war cutter was just landing its occupants, among whom were a corporal's guard and three officers, besides the naval lieutenant and boat's crew. Some of this company having landed, and formed a sort of lane among the mob, two trim soldiers, armed to the teeth, rose in the stern-sheets; and between them, a martial man of Patagonian stature, their ragged and handcuffed captive, whose defiant head overshadowed theirs, as St. Paul's dome its inferior steeples. Immediately the mob raised a shout, pressing in curiosity towards the colossal stranger; so that, drawing their swords, four of the soldiers had to force a passage for their comrades, who followed on, conducting the giant.
As the letter of marque drew still
When at last the vessel had gained her anchorage, opposite a distant detached warehouse, all was still; and the work of breaking out in the hold immediately commencing, and continuing till nightfall, absorbed all further attention for the present.
Next day was Sunday; and about noon
"What place is yon?" he asked of a rustic passing.
As he stepped upon the short crisp sward under its walls, he started at a violent sound from within, as of the roar of some tormented lion. Soon the sound became articulate, and he heard the following words bayed out with an amazing vigor:
"Brag no more, Old England; consider you are but an island! Order back your broken battalions! home, and repent in ashes! Long enough have your hired tories across the sea forgotten the Lord their God, and bowed down to Howe and Kniphausen--the Hessian!--Hands off, red-skinned jackal! Wearing the king's plate,[A] as I do, I have treasures of wrath against you British."
[Footnote A: Meaning, probably, certain manacles.]
Then came a clanking, as of a chain; many vengeful sounds, all confusedly together; with strugglings. Then again the voice:
"Ye brought me out here, from my dungeon to this green--affronting yon Sabbath sun--to see how a rebel looks. But I show ye how a true gentleman and Christian can conduct in adversity. Back, dogs! Respect a gentleman and a Christian, though he _be_ in rags and smell of bilge-water."
Filled with astonishment at these words, which came from over a massive wall, enclosing what seemed an open parade-space, Israel pressed forward, and soon came to a black archway, leading far within, underneath, to a grassy tract, through a tower. Like two boar's tusks, two sentries stood on guard at either side of the open jaws of the arch. Scrutinizing our adventurer a moment, they signed him permission to enter.
Arrived at the end of the arched-way, where the sun shone,
Like some baited bull in the ring, crouched the
Patagonian-looking captive, handcuffed as before; the grass of the green
trampled, and gored up all about him, both by his own movements and those of
the people around. Except some soldiers and sailors, these seemed mostly
townspeople, collected here out of curiosity. The stranger was outlandishly
arrayed in the sorry remains of a half-Indian, half-Canadian sort of a dress,
consisting of a fawn-skin jacket--the fur outside and hanging in ragged
tufts--a half-rotten, bark-like belt of wampum; aged breeches of sagathy; bedarned worsted
stockings to the knee; old moccasins riddled with holes, their metal tags
yellow with salt-water rust; a faded red woollen
bonnet, not unlike a Russian night-cap, or a portentous, ensanguined full-moon,
all soiled, and stuck about with bits of half-rotted straw. He seemed just
broken from the dead leases in David's outlawed
"Aye, stare, stare! Though but last night dragged out of a ship's hold, like a smutty tierce; and this morning out of your littered barracks here, like a murderer; for all that, you may well stare at Ethan Ticonderoga Allen, the unconquered soldier, by ----! You Turks never saw a Christian before. Stare on! I am he, who, when your Lord Howe wanted to bribe a patriot to fall down and worship him by an offer of a major-generalship and five thousand acres of choice land in old Vermont--(Ha! three-times-three for glorious old Vermont, and my Green-Mountain boys! Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!) I am he, I say, who answered your Lord Howe, 'You, _you_ offer _our_ land? You are like the devil in Scripture, offering all the kingdoms in the world, when the d----d soul had not a corner-lot on earth! Stare on!'"
"Look you, rebel, you had best heed how you talk against General Lord Howe," here said a thin, wasp-waisted, epauletted officer of the castle, coming near and flourishing his sword like a schoolmaster's ferule.
"General Lord Howe? Heed how I talk of that toad-hearted king's lick-spittle of a scarlet poltroon; the vilest wriggler in God's worm-hole below? I tell you, that herds of red-haired devils are impatiently snorting to ladle Lord Howe with all his gang (you included) into the seethingest syrups of tophet's flames!"
At this blast, the wasp-waisted officer was blown backwards as from before the suddenly burst head of a steam-boiler.
Staggering away, with a snapped spine, he muttered something about its being beneath his dignity to bandy further words with a low-lived rebel.
"Come, come, Colonel Allen," here said a mild-looking man in a sort of clerical undress, "respect the day better than to talk thus of what lies beyond. Were you to die this hour, or what is more probable, be hung next week at Tower-wharf, you know not what might become, in eternity, of yourself."
"Reverend Sir," with a mocking bow, "when not better employed braiding my beard, I have a little dabbled in your theologies. And let me tell you, Reverend Sir," lowering and intensifying his voice, "that as to the world of spirits, of which you hint, though I know nothing of the mode or manner of that world, no more than do you, yet I expect when I shall arrive there to be treated as well as any other gentleman of my merit. That is to say, far better than you British know how to treat an American officer and meek-hearted Christian captured in honorable war, by ----! Every one tells me, as you yourself just breathed, and as, crossing the sea, every billow dinned into my ear, that I, Ethan Allen, am to be hung like a thief. If I am, the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress shall avenge me; while I, for my part, shall show you, even on the tree, how a Christian gentleman can die. Meantime, sir, if you are the clergyman you look, act out your consolatory function, by getting an unfortunate Christian gentleman about to die, a bowl of punch."
The good-natured stranger, not to have his religious courtesy appealed to in vain, immediately dispatched his servant, who stood by, to procure the beverage.
At this juncture, a faint rustling sound, as of the advance
of an army with banners, was heard. Silks, scarfs,
and ribbons fluttered in the background. Presently, a bright squadron of fair
ladies drew nigh, escorted by certain outriding
"Ah," sighed a soft voice, "what a strange sash, and furred vest, and what leopard-like teeth, and what flaxen hair, but all mildewed;--is that he?"
"Yea, is it, lovely charmer," said Allen, like an Ottoman, bowing over his broad, bovine forehead, and breathing the words out like a lute; "it is he--Ethan Allen, the soldier; now, since ladies' eyes visit him, made trebly a captive."
"Why, he talks like a beau in a parlor, this wild, mossed American from the woods," sighed another fair lady to her mate; "but can this be he we came to see? I must have a lock of his hair."
"It is he, adorable Delilah; and fear not, even though incited by the foe, by clipping my locks, to dwindle my strength. Give me your sword, man," turning to an officer:--"Ah! I'm fettered. Clip it yourself, lady."
"No, no--I am--"
"Afraid, would you say? Afraid of the vowed friend and champion of all ladies all round the world? Nay, nay, come hither."
The lady advanced; and soon, overcoming her timidity, her white hand shone like whipped foam amid the matted waves of flaxen hair.
"Ah, this is like clipping tangled tags of gold-lace," cried she; "but see, it is half straw."
"But the wearer is no man-of-straw, lady; were I free, and you had ten thousand foes--horse, foot, and dragoons--how like a friend I could fight for you! Come, you have robbed me of my hair; let me rob your dainty hand of its price. What, afraid again?"
"No, not that; but--"
"I see, lady; I may do it, by your leave, but not by your word; the wonted way of ladies. There, it is done. Sweeter that kiss, than the bitter heart of a cherry."
When at length this lady left, no small talk was had by her with her companions about someway relieving the hard lot of so knightly an unfortunate. Whereupon a worthy, judicious gentleman, of middle-age, in attendance, suggested a bottle of good wine every day, and clean linen once every week. And these the gentle Englishwoman--too polite and too good to be fastidious--did indeed actually send to Ethan Allen, so long as he tarried a captive in her land.
The withdrawal of this company was followed by a different scene.
A perspiring man in top-boots, a riding-whip in his hand, and having the air of a prosperous farmer, brushed in, like a stray bullock, among the rest, for a peep at the giant; having just entered through the arch, as the ladies passed out.
"Hearing that the man who took Ticonderoga was here in Pendennis Castle, I've ridden twenty-five miles to see him; and to-morrow my brother will ride forty for the same purpose. So let me have first look. Sir," he continued, addressing the captive, "will you let me ask you a few plain questions, and be free with you?"
"Be free with me? With all my heart. I love freedom of all things. I'm ready to die for freedom; I expect to. So be free as you please. What is it?"
"Then, sir, permit me to ask what is your occupation in life--in time of peace, I mean?"
"You talk like a tax-gatherer," rejoined Allen, squinting diabolically at him; "what is my occupation in life? Why, in my younger days I studied divinity, but at present I am a conjurer by profession."
Hereupon everybody laughed, equally at the manner as the words, and the nettled farmer retorted:
"Conjurer, eh? well, you conjured wrong that time you were taken."
"Not so wrong, though, as you British did, that time I
At this juncture the servant came with the punch, when his master bade him present it to the captive.
"No!--give it me, sir, with your own hands, and pledge me as gentleman to gentleman."
"I cannot pledge a state-prisoner, Colonel Allen; but I will hand you the punch with my own hands, since you insist upon it."
"Spoken and done like a true gentleman, sir; I am bound to you."
Then receiving the bowl into his gyved hands, the iron ringing against the china, he put it to his lips, and saying, "I hereby give the British nation credit for half a minute's good usage," at one draught emptied it to the bottom.
"The rebel gulps it down like a swilling hog at a trough," here scoffed a lusty private of the guard, off duty.
"Shame to you!" cried the giver of the bowl.
"Nay, sir; his red coat is a standing blush to him, as
it is to the whole scarlet-blushing British army." Then turning derisively
upon the private: "You object to my way of taking things, do ye? I fear I
shall never please ye. You objected to the way, too,
in which I took Ticonderoga, and the way in which I meant to take
"Come, Yankee," here swore the incensed private; "cease this, or I'll darn your old fawn-skins for ye with the flat of this sword;" for a specimen, laying it lashwise, but not heavily, across the captive's back.
Turning like a tiger, the giant, catching the steel between his teeth, wrenched it from the private's grasp, and striking it with his manacles, sent it spinning like a juggler's dagger into the air, saying, "Lay your dirty coward's iron on a tied gentleman again, and these," lifting his handcuffed fists, "shall be the beetle of mortality to you!"
The now furious soldier would have struck him with all his force, but several men of the town interposed, reminding him that it were outrageous to attack a chained captive.
"Ah," said Allen, "I am accustomed to that,
and therefore I am beforehand with them; and the extremity of what I say
But the soldier still making a riot, and the commotion
growing general, a superior officer stepped up, who terminated the scene by
remanding the prisoner to his cell, dismissing the townspeople, with all
Among the episodes of the Revolutionary War, none is
stranger than that of Ethan Allen in
Allen seems to have been a curious combination of a Hercules,
a Joe Miller, a Bayard, and a Tom Hyer; had a person
like the Belgian giants; mountain music in him like a Swiss; a heart plump as
Coeur de Lion's. Though born in
For the most part, Allen's manner while in England was
scornful and ferocious in the last degree; however, qualified by that wild,
heroic sort of levity, which in the hour of oppression or peril seems
inseparable from a nature like his; the mode whereby such a temper best evinces
its barbaric disdain of adversity, and how cheaply and waggishly it holds the
malice, even though triumphant, of its foes! Aside from that inevitable egotism
relatively pertaining to pine trees, spires, and giants, there were, perhaps,
two special incidental reasons for the Titanic Vermonter's singular demeanor
abroad. Taken captive while heading a forlorn hope before
Parlor-men, dancing-masters, the graduates of the Albe Bellgarde, may shrug their
laced shoulders at the boisterousness of Allen in
As the event proved, in the course Allen pursued, he was right. Because, though at first nothing was talked of by his captors, and nothing anticipated by himself, but his ignominious execution, or at the least, prolonged and squalid incarceration, nevertheless, these threats and prospects evaporated, and by his facetious scorn for scorn, under the extremest sufferings, he finally wrung repentant usage from his foes; and in the end, being liberated from his irons, and walking the quarter-deck where before he had been thrust into the hold, was carried back to America, and in due time, at New York, honorably included in a regular exchange of prisoners.
It was not without strange interest that
"Potter, is that you? In God's name how came you here?"
At these words, a sentry below had his eye on our astonished
adventurer. Bringing his piece to bear, he bade him stand. Next moment
At such a juncture, it was hard to maintain a disguise, especially when it involved the seeming rejection of advances like the Sergeant's. Still, converting his real amazement into affected surprise, Israel, in presence of the sentries, declared to Singles that he (Singles) must labor under some unaccountable delusion; for he (Potter) was no Yankee rebel, thank Heaven, but a true man to his king; in short, an honest Englishman, born in Kent, and now serving his country, and doing what damage he might to her foes, by being first captain of a carronade on board a letter of marque, that moment in the harbor.
For a moment the captive stood astounded, but observing Israel more narrowly, detecting his latent look, and bethinking him of the useless peril he had thoughtlessly caused to a countryman, no doubt unfortunate as himself, Singles took his cue, and pretending sullenly to apologize for his error, put on a disappointed and crest-fallen air. Nevertheless, it was not without much difficulty, and after many supplemental scrutinies and inquisitions from a board of officers before whom he was subsequently brought, that our wanderer was finally permitted to quit the cliff.
This luckless adventure not only nipped in the bud a little
scheme he had been revolving, for materially befriending Ethan Allen and his
comrades, but resulted in making his further stay at Falmouth perilous in the
extreme. And as if this were not enough, next day, while hanging over the side,
painting the hull, in trepidation of a visit from the castle soldiers, rumor
came to the ship that the man-of-war in the haven purposed impressing one-third
of the letter of marque's crew; though, indeed, the
latter vessel was preparing for a second cruise. Being on board a private armed
His mind was soon determined. Unlike his shipmates, braving immediate and lonely hazard, rather than wait for a collective and ultimate one, he cunningly dropped himself overboard the same night, and after the narrowest risk from the muskets of the man-of-war's sentries (whose gangways he had to pass), succeeded in swimming to shore, where he fell exhausted, but recovering, fled inland, doubly hunted by the thought, that whether as an Englishman, or whether as an American, he would, if caught, be now equally subject to enslavement.
Shortly after the break of day, having gained many miles, he succeeded in ridding himself of his seaman's clothing, having found some mouldy old rags on the banks of a stagnant pond, nigh a rickety building, which looked like a poorhouse--clothing not improbably, as he surmised, left there on the bank by some pauper suicide. Marvel not that he should with avidity seize these rags; what the suicides abandon, the living hug.
Once more in beggar's garb, the fugitive sped towards
London, prompted by the same instinct which impels the hunted fox to the
wilderness; for solitudes befriend the endangered wild beast, but crowds are
the security, because the true desert, of persecuted man. Among the things of
But here we anticipate a page.
It was a gray, lowering afternoon that, worn out, half starved, and haggard, Israel arrived within some ten or fifteen miles of London, and saw scores and scores of forlorn men engaged in a great brickyard.
For the most part, brickmaking is
all mud and mire. Where, abroad, the business is carried on largely, as to
Desperate with want,
To be brief, he accosted one of the many surly overseers, or
taskmasters of the yard, who, with no few pompous airs, finally engaged him at
six shillings a week, almost equivalent to a dollar and a half. He was
appointed to one of the mills for grinding up the ingredients. This mill stood
in the open air. It was of a rude, primitive, Eastern aspect, consisting of a
sort of hopper, emptying into a barrel-shaped receptacle. In the barrel was a
clumsy machine turned round at its axis by a great bent beam, like a
well-sweep, only it was horizontal; to this beam, at its outer end, a spavined
old horse was attached. The muddy mixture was shovelled
into the hopper by spavined-looking old men, while, trudging wearily round and
round, the spavined old horse ground it all up till it slowly squashed out at
the bottom of the barrel, in a doughy compound, all ready for the moulds. Where
the dough squeezed out of the barrel a pit was sunken, so as to bring the moulder here stationed down to
a level with the trough, into which the dough fell.
Twenty of these melancholy old mills were in operation. Twenty heartbroken old horses, rigged out deplorably in cast-off old cart harness, incessantly tugged at twenty great shaggy beams; while from twenty half-burst old barrels, twenty wads of mud, with a lava-like course, gouged out into twenty old troughs, to be slapped by twenty tattered men into the twenty-times-twenty battered old trays.
Ere entering his pit for the first,
So slap, slap, slap, care-free and negligent, with bitter unconcern, these dismal desperadoes flapped down the dough. If this recklessness were vicious of them, be it so; but their vice was like that weed which but grows on barren ground; enrich the soil, and it disappears.
For thirteen weary weeks, lorded over by the taskmaster,
Sometimes the air was harsh and bleak; the ridged and
mottled sky looked scourged, or cramping fogs set in from sea, for leagues
around, ferreting out each rheumatic human bone, and racking it; the sciatic
limpers shivered; their aguish rags sponged up the mists. No shelter, though it
hailed. The sheds were for the bricks. Unless, indeed, according to the phrase,
each man was a "brick," which, in sober scripture, was the case;
brick is no bad name for any son of Adam; Eden was but a brickyard; what is a
mortal but a few luckless shovelfuls of clay, moulded
in a mould, laid out on a sheet to dry, and ere long quickened into his queer
caprices by the sun? Are not men built into communities just like bricks into a
wall? Consider the great wall of China: ponder the
great populace of
All night long, men sat before the mouth of the kilns,
feeding them with fuel. A dull smoke--a smoke of their torments--went up from
their tops. It was curious to see the kilns under the action of the fire,
gradually changing color, like boiling lobsters. When, at last, the fires would
be extinguished, the bricks being duly baked,
These kilns were a sort of temporary temples constructed in
the yard, each brick being set against its neighbor almost with the care taken
by the mason. But as soon as the fire was extinguished, down came the kiln in a
tumbled ruin, carted off to
Sometimes, lading out his dough,
At the end of his brickmaking, our
adventurer found himself with a tolerable suit of clothes--somewhat darned--on
his back, several blood-blisters in his palms, and some verdigris coppers in
his pocket. Forthwith, to seek his fortune, he proceeded on foot to the capital,
entering, like the king, from
It was late on a Monday morning, in November--a Blue Monday--a Fifth of November--Guy Fawkes' Day!--very blue, foggy, doleful and gunpowdery, indeed, as shortly will be seen, that Israel found himself wedged in among the greatest everyday crowd which grimy London presents to the curious stranger: that hereditary crowd--gulf-stream of humanity--which, for continuous centuries, has never ceased pouring, like an endless shoal of herring, over London Bridge.
At the period here written of, the bridge, specifically known by that name, was a singular and sombre pile, built by a cowled monk--Peter of Colechurch--some five hundred years before. Its arches had long been crowded at the sides with strange old rookeries of disproportioned and toppling height, converting the bridge at once into the most densely occupied ward and most jammed thoroughfare of the town, while, as the skulls of bullocks are hung out for signs to the gateways of shambles, so the withered heads and smoked quarters of traitors, stuck on pikes, long crowned the Southwark entrance.
Though these rookeries, with their grisly heraldry, had been pulled down some twenty years prior to the present visit, still enough of grotesque and antiquity clung to the structure at large to render it the most striking of objects, especially to one like our hero, born in a virgin clime, where the only antiquities are the forever youthful heavens and the earth.
On his route from Brentford to Paris, Israel had passed through the capital, but only as a courier; so that now, for the first time, he had time to linger, and loiter, and lounge--slowly absorb what he saw--meditate himself into boundless amazement. For forty years he never recovered from that surprise--never, till dead, had done with his wondering.
Hung in long, sepulchral arches of stone, the black, besmoked bridge seemed a huge scarf of crape, festooning the river across. Similar funeral festoons spanned it to the west, while eastward, towards the sea, tiers and tiers of jetty colliers lay moored, side by side, fleets of black swans.
The Thames, which far away, among the green fields of Berks, ran clear as a brook, here, polluted by continual vicinity to man, curdled on between rotten wharves, one murky sheet of sewerage. Fretted by the ill-built piers, awhile it crested and hissed, then shot balefully through the Erebus arches, desperate as the lost souls of the harlots, who, every night, took the same plunge. Meantime, here and there, like awaiting hearses, the coal-scows drifted along, poled broadside, pell-mell to the current.
And as that tide in the water swept all craft on, so a like tide seemed hurrying all men, all horses, all vehicles on the land. As ant-hills, the bridge arches crawled with processions of carts, coaches, drays, every sort of wheeled, rumbling thing, the noses of the horses behind touching the backs of the vehicles in advance, all bespattered with ebon mud--ebon mud that stuck like Jews' pitch. At times the mass, receiving some mysterious impulse far in the rear, away among the coiled thoroughfares out of sight, would, start forward with a spasmodic surge. It seemed as if some squadron of centaurs, on the thither side of Phlegethon, with charge on charge, was driving tormented humanity, with all its chattels, across.
Whichever way the eye turned, no tree, no speck of any green thing was seen--no more than in smithies. All laborers, of whatsoever sort, were hued like the men in foundries. The black vistas of streets were as the galleries in coal mines; the flagging, as flat tomb-stones, minus the consecration of moss, and worn heavily down, by sorrowful tramping, as the vitreous rocks in the cursed Gallipagos, over which the convict tortoises crawl.
As in eclipses, the sun was hidden; the air darkened; the
whole dull, dismayed aspect of things, as if some neighboring volcano, belching
its premonitory smoke, were about to whelm the great town, as Herculaneum and
Pompeii, or the Cities of the Plain. And as they had been upturned in terror
towards the mountain, all faces were more or less snowed or spotted with soot.
Nor marble, nor flesh, nor the sad spirit of man, may in this cindery City of
As retired at length, midway, in a recess of the bridge,
Arrived, in the end, on the Middlesex side,
For five days he wandered and wandered. Without leaving statelier haunts unvisited, he did not overlook those broader areas--hereditary parks and manors of vice and misery. Not by constitution disposed to gloom, there was a mysteriousness in those impulses which led him at this time to rovings like these. But hereby stoic influences were at work, to fit him at a soon-coming day for enacting a part in the last extremities here seen; when by sickness, destitution, each busy ill of exile, he was destined to experience a fate, uncommon even to luckless humanity--a fate whose crowning qualities were its remoteness from relief and its depth of obscurity--London, adversity, and the sea, three Armageddons, which, at one and the same time, slay and secrete their victims.
For the most part, what befell
But these experiences, both from their intensity and his solitude, were necessarily squalid. Best not enlarge upon them. For just as extreme suffering, without hope, is intolerable to the victim, so, to others, is its depiction without some corresponding delusive mitigation. The gloomiest and truthfulest dramatist seldom chooses for his theme the calamities, however extraordinary, of inferior and private persons; least of all, the pauper's; admonished by the fact, that to the craped palace of the king lying in state, thousands of starers shall throng; but few feel enticed to the shanty, where, like a pealed knuckle-bone, grins the unupholstered corpse of the beggar.
Why at one given stone in the flagging does man after man cross yonder street? What plebeian Lear or Oedipus, what Israel Potter, cowers there by the corner they shun? From this turning point, then, we too cross over and skim events to the end; omitting the particulars of the starveling's wrangling with rats for prizes in the sewers; or his crawling into an abandoned doorless house in St. Giles', where his hosts were three dead men, one pendant; into another of an alley nigh Houndsditch, where the crazy hovel, in phosphoric rottenness, fell sparkling on him one pitchy midnight, and he received that injury, which, excluding activity for no small part of the future, was an added cause of his prolongation of exile, besides not leaving his faculties unaffected by the concussion of one of the rafters on his brain.
But these were some of the incidents not belonging to the beginning of his career. On the contrary, a sort of humble prosperity attended him for a time; insomuch that once he was not without hopes of being able to buy his homeward passage so soon as the war should end. But, as stubborn fate would have it, being run over one day at Holborn Bars, and taken into a neighboring bakery, he was there treated with such kindliness by a Kentish lass, the shop-girl, that in the end he thought his debt of gratitude could only be repaid by love. In a word, the money saved up for his ocean voyage was lavished upon a rash embarkation in wedlock.
Originally he had fled to the capital to avoid the dilemma
of impressment or imprisonment. In the absence of
other motives, the dread of those hardships would have fixed him there till the
peace. But now, when hostilities were no more, so was his money. Some period
elapsed ere the affairs of the two governments were put on such a footing as to
support an American consul at
The peace immediately filled England, and more especially London, with hordes of disbanded soldiers; thousands of whom, rather than starve, or turn highwaymen (which no few of their comrades did, stopping coaches at times in the most public streets), would work for such a pittance as to bring down the wages of all the laboring classes. Neither was our adventurer the least among the sufferers. Driven out of his previous employ--a sort of porter in a river-side warehouse--by this sudden influx of rivals, destitute, honest men like himself, with the ingenuity of his race, he turned his hand to the village art of chair-bottoming. An itinerant, he paraded the streets with the cry of "Old chairs to mend!" furnishing a curious illustration of the contradictions of human life; that he who did little but trudge, should be giving cosy seats to all the rest of the world. Meantime, according to another well-known Malthusian enigma in human affairs, his family increased. In all, eleven children were born to him in certain sixpenny garrets in Moorfields. One after the other, ten were buried.
When chair-bottoming would fail, resort was had to match-making. That business being overdone in turn, next came the cutting of old rags, bits of paper, nails, and broken glass. Nor was this the last step. From the gutter he slid to the sewer. The slope was smooth. In poverty--"Facilis descensus Averni."
But many a poor soldier had sloped down there into the boggy
But his lot was relieved by two strange things, presently to appear. In 1793 war again broke out, the great French war. This lighted London of some of its superfluous hordes, and lost Israel the subterranean society of his friends, the corporals and sergeant, with whom wandering forlorn through the black kingdoms of mud, he used to spin yarns about sea prisoners in hulks, and listen to stories of the Black Hole of Calcutta; and often would meet other pairs of poor soldiers, perfect strangers, at the more public corners and intersections of sewers--the Charing-Crosses below; one soldier having the other by his remainder button, earnestly discussing the sad prospects of a rise in bread, or the tide; while through the grating of the gutters overhead, the rusty skylights of the realm, came the hoarse rumblings of bakers' carts, with splashes of the flood whereby these unsuspected gnomes of the city lived.
Encouraged by the exodus of the lost tribes of soldiers,
Thus was it:--One fair half-day in the July of 1800, by good
luck, he was employed, partly out of charity, by one of the keepers, to trim
the sward in an oval enclosure within St. James' Park, a little green but a
three-minutes' walk along the gravelled way from the
brick-besmoked and grimy Old Brewery of the palace
which gives its ancient name to the public resort on whose borders it stands.
It was a little oval, fenced in with iron pailings,
between whose bars the imprisoned verdure peered forth, as some wild captive
creature of the woods from its cage. And alien
In 1817 he once more endured extremity; this second peace
again drifting its discharged soldiers on
Though henceforth elbowed out of many a chance threepenny job by the added thousands who contended with him against starvation, nevertheless, somehow he continued to subsist, as those tough old oaks of the cliffs, which, though hacked at by hail-stones of tempests, and even wantonly maimed by the passing woodman, still, however cramped by rival trees and fettered by rocks, succeed, against all odds, in keeping the vital nerve of the tap-root alive. And even towards the end, in his dismallest December, our veteran could still at intervals feel a momentary warmth in his topmost boughs. In his Moorfields' garret, over a handful of reignited cinders (which the night before might have warmed some lord), cinders raked up from the streets, he would drive away dolor, by talking with his one only surviving, and now motherless child--the spared Benjamin of his old age--of the far Canaan beyond the sea; rehearsing to the lad those well-remembered adventures among New England hills, and painting scenes of rustling happiness and plenty, in which the lowliest shared. And here, shadowy as it was, was the second alleviation hinted of above.
To these tales of the Fortunate Isles of the Free, recounted by one who had been there, the poor enslaved boy of Moorfields listened, night after night, as to the stories of Sinbad the Sailor. When would his father take him there? "Some day to come, my boy," would be the hopeful response of an unhoping heart. And "Would God it were to-morrow!" would be the impassioned reply.
In these talks
It was the year 1826; half a century since
It happened that the ship, gaining her port, was moored to the dock on a Fourth of July; and half an hour after landing, hustled by the riotous crowd near Faneuil Hall, the old man narrowly escaped being run over by a patriotic triumphal car in the procession, flying a broidered banner, inscribed with gilt letters:
GLORY TO THE HEROES THAT FOUGHT!"
It was on Copps' Hill, within the
city bounds, one of the enemy's positions during the fight, that our wanderer
found his best repose that day. Sitting down here on a mound in the graveyard,
he looked off across
For a long time he sat mute, gazing blankly about him. The sultry July day was waning. His son sought to cheer him a little ere rising to return to the lodging for the present assigned them by the ship-captain. "Nay," replied the old man, "I shall get no fitter rest than here by the mounds."
But from this true "Potter's Field," the boy at length drew him away; and encouraged next morning by a voluntary purse made up among the reassembled passengers, father and son started by stage for the country of the Housatonie. But the exile's presence in these old mountain townships proved less a return than a resurrection. At first, none knew him, nor could recall having heard of him. Ere long it was found, that more than thirty years previous, the last known survivor of his family in that region, a bachelor, following the example of three-fourths of his neighbors, had sold out and removed to a distant country in the west; where exactly, none could say.
He sought to get a glimpse of his father's homestead. But it had been burnt down long ago. Accompanied by his son, dim-eyed and dim-hearted, he next went to find the site. But the roads had years before been changed. The old road was now browsed over by sheep; the new one ran straight through what had formerly been orchards. But new orchards, planted from other suckers, and in time grafted, throve on sunny slopes near by, where blackberries had once been picked by the bushel. At length he came to a field waving with buckwheat. It seemed one of those fields which himself had often reaped. But it turned out, upon inquiry, that but three summers since a walnut grove had stood there. Then he vaguely remembered that his father had sometimes talked of planting such a grove, to defend the neighboring fields against the cold north wind; yet where precisely that grove was to have been, his shattered mind could not recall. But it seemed not unlikely that during his long exile, the walnut grove had been planted and harvested, as well as the annual crops preceding and succeeding it, on the very same soil.
Ere long, on the mountain side, he passed into an ancient natural wood, which seemed some way familiar, and midway in it, paused to contemplate a strange, mouldy pile, resting at one end against a sturdy beech. Though wherever touched by his staff, however lightly, this pile would crumble, yet here and there, even in powder, it preserved the exact look, each irregularly defined line, of what it had originally been--namely, a half-cord of stout hemlock (one of the woods least affected by exposure to the air), in a foregoing generation chopped and stacked up on the spot, against sledging-time, but, as sometimes happens in such cases, by subsequent oversight, abandoned to oblivious decay--type now, as it stood there, of forever arrested intentions, and a long life still rotting in early mishap.
"Do I dream?" mused the bewildered old man, "or what is this vision that comes to me of a cold, cloudy morning, long, long ago, and I heaving yon elbowed log against the beech, then a sapling? Nay, nay, I cannot be so old."
"Come away, father, from this dismal, damp wood," said his son, and led him forth.
Blindly ranging to and fro, they next saw a man ploughing. Advancing slowly, the wanderer met him by a little heap of ruinous burnt masonry, like a tumbled chimney, what seemed the jams of the fire-place, now aridly stuck over here and there, with thin, clinging, round, prohibitory mosses, like executors' wafers. Just as the oxen were bid stand, the stranger's plough was hitched over sideways, by sudden contact with some sunken stone at the ruin's base.
"There, this is the twentieth year my plough has struck this old hearthstone. Ah, old man,--sultry day, this."
"Whose house stood here, friend?" said the wanderer, touching the half-buried hearth with his staff, where a fresh furrow overlapped it.
"Don't know; forget the name; gone West, though, I believe. You know 'em?"
But the wanderer made no response; his eye was now fixed on a curious natural bend or wave in one of the bemossed stone jambs.
"What are you looking at so, father?"
"'_Father_!' Here," raking with his staff, "_my_ father would sit, and here, my mother, and here I, little infant, would totter between, even as now, once again, on the very same spot, but in the unroofed air, I do. The ends meet. Plough away, friend."
Best followed now is this life, by hurrying, like itself, to a close.
Few things remain.
He was repulsed in efforts after a pension by certain caprices of law. His scars proved his only medals. He dictated a little book, the record of his fortunes. But long ago it faded out of print--himself out of being--his name out of memory. He died the same day that the oldest oak on his native hills was blown down.