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“ If there's murder to be done,” said Tom, after surveying the astonished
group with a stern eye, “its as likely this here liar will be the one to do it, as another; but you have nothing to fear from a man who has followed the seas so long, and has grappled with too many monsters, both fish and flesh, not to know how to treat a helpless woman. None, who know him, will ever say, that Thomas Coffin ever used uncivil language, or unseaman-like conduct, to any of his mother's kind."
Coffin!” exclaimed Katharine, advancing with a more confidant air, from the corner, into which terror had driven her with her companions.
Ay, 'Coffin,” continued the old sailor, his grim features gradully relaxing, as he gazed on her bright looks; “ 'tis a solemn word, but it's a name that passes over the shoals, among the islands, and along the cape, oftener than any other. My father was a Coffin, and my mother was a Joy; and the two names can count more flukes than all the rest in the island together; though the Worths, and the Gar'ners, and the Swaines, dart better harpoons, and set truer lances, than any men who come from the weatherside of the Atlantic,”
Katharine listened to this digression in honour of the whalers of Nantucket, with marked complacency, and, when he concluded, she repeated; slowly
“Coffin! this, then, is long-Tom!” "Ay, ay, long-Tom, and no sham in the name either," return. ed the cockswain, suffering the stern indignation that had lowered around his hard visage, to relax into a low laugh, as he gazed on her animated features;" the Lord bless your smiling face and bright black eyes, young madam; you have heard of old long-Tom, then? most likely, 'twas something about the blow he strikes at the fish -ah! I'm old and I'm stiff, now, young madam, but afore I was nineteen, I stood at the head of the dance, at a ball on the cape, and that with a partner almost as handsome as yourself-ay! and this was after I had three broad flukes logg'd against my name."
“ No," said Katharine, advancing in her eagerness a step or two nigher to the old tar, her cheeks flushing while she spoke, “ I had heard of you as the instructer in a seaman's duty, as the faithful cockswain,
may say, as the devoted companion and friend of Mr. :iichard Barnstable-bui, perhaps, you come now as the bearer of some message or letter from that gentleman."
The sound of his commander's name suddenly revived the recollection of Coffin, and with it, all the fierce sternness of his manner returned. Bending his eyes keenly on the cowering form of Dillon, he said, in those deep, harsh tones, that seem peculiar to men, who have braved the elements, until they appear to have imbibed some of their roughest qualities
si Liar! how now? what brought old Tom Coffin into these shoals and narrow channels? was it a letter? ha! but by the Lord that
maketh the winds to blow, and teacheth the lost mariner how to steer over the wide waters, you shall sleep this night, villain, on the planks of the Ariel; and if it be the will of God, that beautiful piece of handicraft is to sink at her moorings, like a worthless hulk, ye shall still sleep in her; ay, and a sleep that shall not end, 'till they call all hands, to foot up the days'work of this life, at the close of man's longest voyage.”
The extraordinary vehemence, the language, the attitude of the old seaman, commanding in its energy, and the hopest indignation that shone in every look of his keen eyes, together with the nature of the address, and its paralizing effect on Dillon, who quailed before it like the stricken deer, united to keep the female listeners, for many moments, silent through amazement. During this brief period, Tom advanced upon his nerveless victim, and lashing his arms together behind his back, he fastenedl him, by a strong cord, to the broad canvass belt ihat he constantly wore around his own body, leaving to himself, by this arrangement, the free use of his arms and weapons of offence, while he secured his captive.
“Surely,” said Cecilia, recovering her recollection the first of the astonished group, “ Mr. Barnstable has not commissioned you to offer this violence to my uncle's kinsman, under the roof of colonel Howard?-Miss Plowden, your friend has strangely forgotten himself, in this transaction, if this man acts in obedience to his orders!"
“My friend, my cousin Howard,” returned Katharine, " would never commission his cockswain, or any one, to do an unworthy deed. Speak, honest sailor; why do you commit this outrage on the worthy Mr. Dillon, colonel Howard's kinsman, and a cupboard cousin of St. Ruth's abbey?"
“ Nay, Katharine"
“ Nay, Cecilia, be patient, and let the stranger have utterance; he may solve the difficulty altogether.”
The cockswain, understanding that an explanation was expected from his lips, addressed himself to the task, with an energy suitable both to the subject and to his own feelings. In a very few words, though a little obscured by his peculiar diction, he made his listeners understand the confidence that Barnstable bad reposed in Dillon, and the treachery of the latter. They heard him with increased astonishment, and Cecilia hardly allowed him time to conclude, before she exclaimed
“ And did colonel Howard, could colonel Howard listen to this treacherous project?”
Ay, they patched it up among them," returned Tom; " though one part of this cruise will turn out but badly."
“ Even Borroughcliffe, cold and hardened as he appears to be by habit, would spurn at such dishonour,” added Miss Howard.
* But, Mr. Barnstable?” at length Katharine succeeded in sayı
ing, when her feelings permitted her utterance, “said you not, that soldiers were in quest of him?”
“ Ay, ay, young madam,” the cockswain replied, smiling with grim ferocity, “ they are in chase, but he has shifted his anchorage; and even if they should find him, his long pikes would make short work of a dozen red-coats. The Lord of tempests and calms have mercy though, on the schooner! Ah! young madam, she is as lovely to the eyes of an old sea-faring man, as any of your kind can be to human nature.”
"But why this delay-away then, honest Tom, and reveal the treachery to your commander; you may not yet be too late—why delay a moment?”
“ The ship tarries for want of a pilot-I could carry three fathom over the shoals of Nantucket, the darkest night that ever shut the windows of heaven, but I should be likely to run upon breakers in this navigation. As it was, I was near getting into company that I should have had to fight my way out of.”
“ If that be all, follow me,” cried tlie ardent Katherine; “ I will conduct you to a path that leads to the ocean, without approaching the sentinels.
Until this moment, Dillon had entertained a secret expectation of a rescue, but when he heard this proposal, he felt his blood retreating to his heart, from every part of his agitated frame, and his last hope seemed wrested from him. Raising himself from the abject, shrinking attitude, in which both shame and dread had conspired to keep him, as though he had been fettered to the spot, he approached Cecilia, and cried, in tones of horror
“Do not, do not consent, Miss Howard, to abandon me to the fury of this man! your uncle, your honourable uncle, even now, applauded and united with me in my enterprise, which is no more than a common artifice in war,"
“My uncle would unite, Mr. Dillon, in no project of deliberate treachery, like this,” said Cecilia, coldly.
“ He did, I swear by~"
Dillon shivered with agony and terror, while the sounds of this appalling voice sunk into his inmost soul; but as the gloom of the night, the secret ravines of the clitis, and the turbulence of the ocean flashed across his imagination, he again yielded to a dread of the horrors to which he should be exposed, in encountering them at the mercy of his powerful enemy, and he continued his solicitations
“ Hear me, once more hear me-Miss Howard, I beseech you, hear me; am I not of your own blood and country! will you see me abandoned to the wild, merciless, malignant fury of this man, who will transfix me with that-oh! God! if you had but seen the sight I beheld in the Alacrity!-hear me, Miss Howard, for the
love you bear your Maker, intercede for me. Mr. Griffith shall be released"
“ Liar!” again interrupted the cockswain.
“ What promises her” asked Cecilia, turning her averted face once more at the miserable captive.
“Nothing that will be fulfilled," said Katherine; “ follow, honest Tom, and I, at least, will conduct you in good faith.”
“Cruel, obdurate Miss Plowden; gentle, kind Miss Alice, you will not refuse to raise your voice in my favour; your heart is not hardened by any imaginary dangers to those you love."
“Nay, address not me," said Alice, bending her meek eyes to the floor; “ I trust your life is in no danger, and I pray that he who has the power, will have the mercy, to see you unharmed.”
“ Away,” said Tom, grasping the collar of the helpless Dillon, and rather carrying than leading him into the gallery; "if a sound, one quarter as loud as a young porpoise makes, when he draws his first breath, comes from you, villain, you shall see the sight of the Alacrity over again. My harpoon keeps its edge well, and the old arm can yet drive it to the seizing."
Another extract will enable us to bring all the principal actors in this drama, upon the stage. Soene: a room in the Abbey of St. Ruth. Col. Howard, Capt. Borroughcliffe, and the three young ladies, are discovered at a supper-table. The captain has just intimated his knowledge of the intended attack upon the castle:
“A loud crash interrupted further speech, and the sounds of heavy footsteps were heard in the adjoining room, as if many men were alighting on its floor, in quick succession. Borroughcliffe drew back, with great coolness, to the opposite side of the large apartment, and took a sheathed sword from the table where it had been placed; at the same moment the door was burst open, and Barnstable entered alone, but heavily armed.
" You are my prisoners, gentlemen,” said the sailor, as he advanced;“ resistance is useless, and without it you shall receive favour. Ha! Miss Plowden! my advice was, that you should not be present at this scene.”
• Barnstable, we are betrayed!” cried the agitated Katherine. “ But it is not yet too late. Blood has not yet been spilt, and you can retire, without that dreadful alternative, with honour. Go, then, delay not another moment; for, should the soldiers of Capt. Borroughcliffe come to the rescue of their commander, the abbey would be a scene of horror!"
“Go you away; go, Katharine,” said her lover, with impatience; " This is no place for such as you. But, Capt. Borroughcliffe, if such be your name, you must perceive that resistance is in vain. I have ten good pikes in this outer room, in twenty better hands, and it will be madness to fight against such odds."
"Show me your strength,” said the captain, “ that I may take counsel with mine honour.”
“ Your honour shall be appeased, my brave soldier, for such is your bearing, though your livery is my aversion, and your cause most unholy! Heave-ahead, boys! but hold your hands for orders."
The party of fierce-looking sailors, whom Barnstable led, on receiving this order, rushed into the room in a medley; but, notwithstanding the surly glances, and savage characters of their dress and equipments, they struck no blow, nor committed any act of hostility. The ladies shrunk back appalled, as this terrific little band took possession of the hall; and even Borroughcliffe, was seen to fall back towards a door, which, in some measure, covered his retreat. The confusion of this sudden movement had not yet subsided, when sounds of strife were heard rapidly approaching from a distant part of the building, and presently one of the numerous doors of the apartment was violently opened, when two of the garrison of the abbey rushed into the hall, vigorously pressed by twice their number of seamen, seconded by Griffith, Manual, and Merry, who were armed with such weapons of offence as had presented themselves to their hands, at their unexpected liberation. There was a movement on the part of the seamen, who already were in possession of the room, that threatened instant death to the fugitives; but Barnstable beat down their pikes with his sword, and sternly ordered them to fall back. Surprise produced the same pacific result among the combatants; and as the sol. diers hastily sought a refuge behind their own officers, and the released captives, with their liberators, joined the body of their friends, the quiet of the hall, which had been so rudely interrupted, was soon restored.
“You sce, sir,” said Barnstable, after grasping the hands of Griffith and Manual, in a warm and cordial pressure, “ that all my plans have succeeded. Your sleeping guard are closely watched in their barracks, by one party, our officers are released, and your sentinels cut off by another, while, with a third, I hold the centre of the abbey, and ám, substantially, in possession of your own person. In consideration, therefore, of what is due to humanity, and to the presence of these ladies, let there be no struggle! I shall impose no difficult terms, nor any long imprisonment.”
The recruiting officer manifested a composure, throughout the whole scene, that would have excited some uneasiness in his invaders, had there been opportunity for more minute observation; but his countenance now gradually assumed an appearance of anxiety, and his head was frequently turned, as if listening for further, and more important interruptions. He answered, however, to this appeal, with his ordinary deliberation.
“You speak of conquests, sir, before they are achieved. My venerable host and myself are not so defenceless as you may choose to imagine.” While speaking, he threw aside the cloth of a side