His Fifty Years of Exile
BY HERMAN MELVILLE
AUTHOR OF "TYPEE," "OMOO," ETC.
TO HIS HIGHNESS THE Bunker-Hill Monument
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 Bunker Hill,
who for his faithful services was years ago promoted to a still deeper
privacy under the ground, with a posthumous pension, in default of any
during life, annually paid him by the spring in ever-new mosses and
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
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.
I. The birthplace of Israel
II. The youthful adventures of Israel
III. Israel goes to the wars; and reaching Bunker Hill in time to be of
service there, soon after is forced to extend his travels across the sea
into the enemy's land
IV. Further wanderings of the Refugee, with some account of a good
knight of Brentford who befriended him
V. Israel in the Lion's Den
VI. Israel makes the acquaintance of certain secret friends of America,
one of them being the famous author of the "Diversions of Purley." These
despatch him on a sly errand across the Channel
VII. After a curious adventure upon the Pont Neuf, Israel enters the
presence of the renowned sage, Dr. Franklin, whom he finds right
learnedly and multifariously employed
VIII. Which has something to say about Dr. Franklin and the Latin
IX. Israel is initiated into the mysteries of lodging-houses in the
X. Another adventurer appears upon the scene
XI. Paul Jones in a reverie
XII. Recrossing the Channel, Israel returns to the Squire's abode—His
XIII. His escape from the house, with various adventures following
XIV. In which Israel is sailor under two flags, and in three ships, and
all in one night
XV. They sail as far as the Crag of Ailsa
XVI. They look in at Carrickfergus, and descend on Whitehaven
XVII. They call at the Earl of Selkirk's, and afterwards fight the
XVIII. The Expedition that sailed from Groix
XIX. They fight the Serapis.
XX. The Shuttle
XXI. Samson among the Philistines
XXII. Something further of Ethan Allen; with Israel's flight towards the
XXIII. Israel in Egypt
XXV. In the City of Dis
XXVI Forty-five years
XXVII. Requiescat in pace
Fifty Years of Exile
THE BIRTHPLACE OF ISRAEL.
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 township of Otis, the road leads for
twenty or thirty miles towards Windsor, lengthwise upon that long broken
spur of heights which the Green Mountains of Vermont send into
Massachusetts. For nearly the whole of the distance, you have the
continual sensation of being upon some terrace in the moon. The feeling
of the plain or the valley is never yours; scarcely the feeling of the
earth. Unless by a sudden precipitation of the road you find yourself
plunging into some gorge, you pass on, and on, and on, upon the crests
or slopes of pastoral mountains, while far below, mapped out in its
beauty, the valley of the Housatonie lies endlessly along at your feet.
Often, as your horse gaining some lofty level tract, flat as a table,
trots gayly over the almost deserted and sodded road, and your admiring
eye sweeps the broad landscape beneath, you seem to be Bootes driving in
heaven. Save a potato field here and there, at long intervals, the whole
country is either in wood or pasture. Horses, cattle and sheep are the
principal inhabitants of these mountains. But all through the year lazy
columns of smoke, rising from the depths of the forest, proclaim the
presence of that half-outlaw, the charcoal-burner; while in early spring
added curls of vapor show that the maple sugar-boiler is also at work.
But as for farming as a regular vocation, there is not much of it here.
At any rate, no man by that means accumulates a fortune from this thin
and rocky soil, all whose arable parts have long since been nearly
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
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 Israel by the good Puritans, his parents, since,
for more than forty years, poor Potter wandered in the wild wilderness
of the world's extremest hardships and ills.
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 London. But so it
was destined to be. This little boy of the hills, born in sight of the
sparkling Housatonic, was to linger out the best part of his life a
prisoner or a pauper upon the grimy banks of the Thames.
THE YOUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF ISRAEL.
Imagination will easily picture the rural day of the youth of Israel.
Let us pass on to a less immature period.
It appears that he began his wanderings very early; moreover, that ere,
on just principles throwing off the yoke off his king, Israel, on
equally excusable grounds, emancipated himself from his sire. He
continued in the enjoyment of parental love till the age of eighteen,
when, having formed an attachment for a neighbor's daughter—for some
reason, not deemed a suitable match by his father—he was severely
reprimanded, warned to discontinue his visits, and threatened with some
disgraceful punishment in case he persisted. As the girl was not only
beautiful, but amiable—though, as will be seen, rather weak—and her
family as respectable as any, though unfortunately but poor, Israel
deemed his father's conduct unreasonable and oppressive; particularly as
it turned out that he had taken secret means to thwart his son with the
girl's connections, if not with the girl herself, so as to place almost
insurmountable obstacles to an eventual marriage. For it had not been
the purpose of Israel to marry at once, but at a future day, when
prudence should approve the step. So, oppressed by his father, and
bitterly disappointed in his love, the desperate boy formed the
determination to quit them both for another home and other friends.
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
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 Hudson, and the
Yankee settlements on the Housatonic. This was mainly to elude all
search. For the same reason, for the first ten or twelve miles,
shunning the public roads, he travelled through the woods; for he knew
that he would soon be missed and pursued.
He reached his destination in safety; hired out to a farmer for a month
through the harvest; then crossed from the Hudson to the Connecticut.
Meeting here with an adventurer to the unknown regions lying about the
head waters of the latter river, he ascended with this man in a canoe,
paddling and pulling for many miles. Here again he hired himself out for
three months; at the end of that time to receive for his wages two
hundred acres of land lying in New Hampshire. The cheapness of the land
was not alone owing to the newness of the country, but to the perils
investing it. Not only was it a wilderness abounding with wild beasts,
but the widely-scattered inhabitants were in continual dread of being,
at some unguarded moment, destroyed or made captive by the Canadian
savages, who, ever since the French war, had improved every opportunity
to make forays across the defenceless frontier.
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 Connecticut river to its source. At
fifteen shillings per month, he engaged himself to this party as
assistant chain-bearer, little thinking that the day was to come when he
should clank the king's chains in a dungeon, even as now he trailed them
a free ranger of the woods. It was midwinter; the land was surveyed upon
snow-shoes. At the close of the day, fires were kindled with dry
hemlock, a hut thrown up, and the party ate and slept.
Paid off at last, Israel bought a gun and ammunition, and turned
hunter. Deer, beaver, etc., were plenty. In two or three months he had
many skins to show. I suppose it never entered his mind that he was thus
qualifying himself for a marksman of men. But thus were tutored those
wonderful shots who did such execution at Bunker's Hill; these, the
hunter-soldiers, whom Putnam bade wait till the white of the enemy's eye
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
Charlestown, on the Connecticut (sometimes called No. 4), where he
trafficked them away for Indian blankets, pigments, and other showy
articles adapted to the business of a trader among savages. It was now
winter again. Putting his goods on a hand-sled, he started towards
Canada, a peddler in the wilderness, stopping at wigwams instead of
cottages. One fancies that, had it been summer, Israel would have
travelled with a wheelbarrow, and so trundled his wares through the
primeval forests, with the same indifference as porters roll their
barrows over the flagging of streets. In this way was bred that fearless
self-reliance and independence which conducted our forefathers 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 Charlestown, he disposed
of his return cargo again at a very fine profit. And now, with a light
heart and a heavy purse, he resolved to visit his sweetheart and
parents, of whom, for three years, he had had no tidings.
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. Israel soon discovered, that though rejoiced to welcome
the return of the prodigal son—so some called him—his father still
remained inflexibly determined against the match, and still inexplicably
countermined his wooing. With a dolorous heart he mildly yielded to what
seemed his fatality; and more intrepid in facing peril for himself, than
in endangering others by maintaining his rights (for he was now
one-and-twenty), resolved once more to retreat, and quit his blue hills
for the bluer billows.
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
Travelling on foot to Providence, Rhode Island, Israel shipped on board
a sloop, bound with lime to the West Indies. On the tenth day out, the
vessel caught fire, from water communicating with the lime. It was
impossible to extinguish the flames. The boat was hoisted out, but owing
to long exposure to the sun, it needed continual bailing to keep it
afloat. They had only time to put in a firkin of butter and a ten-gallon
keg of water. Eight in number, the crew entrusted themselves to the
waves, in a leaky tub, many leagues from land. As the boat swept under
the burning bowsprit, Israel caught at a fragment of the flying-jib,
which sail had fallen down the stay, owing to the charring, nigh the
deck, of the rope which hoisted it. Tanned with the smoke, and its edge
blackened with the fire, this bit of canvass helped them bravely on
their way. Thanks to kind Providence, on the second day they were picked
up by a Dutch ship, bound from Eustatia to Holland. The castaways were
humanely received, and supplied with every necessary. At the end of a
week, while unsophisticated Israel was sitting in the maintop, thinking
what should befall him in Holland, and wondering what sort of unsettled,
wild country it was, and whether there was any deer-shooting or
beaver-trapping there, lo! an American brig, bound from Piscataqua to
Antigua, comes in sight. The American took them aboard, and conveyed
them safely to her port. There Israel shipped for Porto Rico; from
thence, sailed to Eustatia.
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 length to Nantucket with a
brimming hold. From that island he sailed again on another whaling
voyage, extending, this time, into the great South Sea. There, promoted
to be harpooner, Israel, whose eye and arm had been so improved by
practice with his gun in the wilderness, now further intensified his
aim, by darting the whale-lance; still, unwittingly, preparing himself
for the Bunker Hill rifle.
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, Israel,
upon receiving his discharge at Nantucket at the end of the voyage, hied
straight back for his mountain home.
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
ISRAEL GOES TO THE WARS; AND REACHING BUNKER HILL IN TIME TO BE OF
SERVICE THERE, SOON AFTER IS FORCED TO EXTEND HIS TRAVELS ACROSS THE SEA
INTO THE ENEMY'S LAND.
Left to idle lamentations, Israel might now have planted deep furrows in
his brow. But stifling his pain, he chose rather to plough, than be
ploughed. Farming weans man from his sorrows. That tranquil pursuit
tolerates nothing but tranquil meditations. There, too, in mother earth,
you may plant and reap; not, as in other things, plant and see the
planting torn up by the roots. But if wandering in the wilderness, and
wandering upon the waters, if felling trees, and hunting, and shipwreck,
and fighting with whales, and all his other strange adventures, had not
as yet cured poor Israel of his now hopeless passion, events were at
hand for ever to drown it.
It was the year 1774. The difficulties long pending between the colonies
and England were arriving at their crisis. Hostilities were certain. The
Americans were preparing themselves. Companies were formed in most of
the New England towns, whose members, receiving the name of minute-men,
stood ready to march anywhere at a minute's warning. Israel, for the
last eight months, sojourning as a laborer on a farm in Windsor,
enrolled himself in the regiment of Colonel John Patterson of Lenox,
afterwards General Patterson.
The battle of Lexington was fought on the 18th of April, 1775; news of
it arrived in the county of Berkshire on the 20th about noon. The next
morning at sunrise, Israel swung his knapsack, shouldered his musket,
and, with Patterson's regiment, was on the march, quickstep, towards
Like Putnam, Israel received the stirring tidings at the plough. But
although not less willing than Putnam to fly to battle at an instant's
notice, yet—only half an acre of the field remaining to be finished—he
whipped up his team and finished it. Before hastening to one duty, he
would not leave a prior one undone; and ere helping to whip the British,
for a little practice' sake, he applied the gad to his oxen. From the
field of the farmer, he rushed to that of the soldier, mingling his
blood with his sweat. While we revel in broadcloth, let us not forget
what we owe to linsey-woolsey.
With other detachments from various quarters, Israel's regiment remained
encamped for several days in the vicinity of Charlestown. On the
seventeenth of June, one thousand Americans, including the regiment of
Patterson, were set about fortifying Bunker's Hill. Working all through
the night, by dawn of the following day, the redoubt was thrown up. But
every one knows all about the battle. Suffice it, that Israel was one
of those marksmen whom Putnam harangued as touching the enemy's eyes.
Forbearing as he was with his oppressive father and unfaithful love, and
mild as he was on the farm, Israel was not the same at Bunker Hill.
Putnam had enjoined the men to aim at the officers; so Israel aimed
between the golden epaulettes, as, in the wilderness, he had aimed
between the branching antlers. With dogged disdain of their foes, the
English grenadiers marched up the hill with sullen slowness; thus
furnishing still surer aims to the muskets which bristled on the
redoubt. Modest Israel was used to aver, that considering his practice
in the woods, he could hardly be regarded as an inexperienced marksman;
hinting, that every shot which the epauletted grenadiers received from
his rifle, would, upon a different occasion, have procured him a
deerskin. And like stricken deers the English, rashly brave as they
were, fled from the opening fire. But the marksman's ammunition was
expended; a hand-to-hand encounter ensued. Not one American musket in
twenty had a bayonet to it. So, wielding the stock right and left, the
terrible farmers, with hats and coats off, fought their way among the
furred grenadiers, knocking them right and left, as seal-hunters on the
beach knock down with their clubs the Shetland seal. In the dense crowd
and confusion, while Israel's musket got interlocked, he saw a blade
horizontally menacing his feet from the ground. Thinking some fallen
enemy sought to strike him at the last gasp, dropping his hold on his
musket, he wrenched at the steel, but found that though a brave hand
held it, that hand was powerless for ever. It was some British
officer's laced sword-arm, cut from the trunk in the act of fighting,
refusing to yield up its blade to the last. At that moment another sword
was aimed at Israel's head by a living officer. In an instant the blow
was parried by kindred steel, and the assailant fell by a brother's
weapon, wielded by alien hands. But Israel did not come off unscathed. A
cut on the right arm near the elbow, received in parrying the officer's
blow, a long slit across the chest, a musket ball buried in his hip, and
another mangling him near the ankle of the same leg, were the tokens of
intrepidity which our Sicinius Dentatus carried from this memorable
field. Nevertheless, with his comrades he succeeded in reaching Prospect
Hill, and from thence was conveyed to the hospital at Cambridge. The
bullet was extracted, his lesser wounds were dressed, and after much
suffering from the fracture of the bone near the ankle, several pieces
of which were extracted by the surgeon, ere long, thanks to the high
health and pure blood of the farmer, Israel rejoined his regiment when
they were throwing up intrenchments on Prospect Hill. Bunker Hill was
now in possession of the foe, who in turn had fortified it.
On the third of July, Washington arrived from the South to take the
command. Israel witnessed his joyful reception by the huzzaing
The British now quartered in Boston suffered greatly from the scarcity
of provisions. Washington took every precaution to prevent their
receiving a supply. Inland, all aid could easily be cut off. To guard
against their receiving any by water, from tories and other disaffected
persons, the General equipped three armed vessels to intercept all
traitorous cruisers. Among them was the brigantine Washington, of ten
guns, commanded by Captain Martiedale. Seamen were hard to be had. The
soldiers were called upon to volunteer for these vessels. Israel was one
who so did; thinking that as an experienced sailor he should not be
backward in a juncture like this, little as he fancied the new service
Three days out of Boston harbor, the brigantine was captured by the
enemy's ship Foy, of twenty guns. Taken prisoner with the rest of the
crew, Israel was afterwards put on board the frigate Tartar, with
immediate sailing orders for England. Seventy-two were captives in this
vessel. Headed by Israel, these men—half way across the sea—formed a
scheme to take the ship, but were betrayed by a renegade Englishman. As
ringleader, Israel was put in irons, and so remained till the frigate
anchored at Portsmouth. There he was brought on deck; and would have met
perhaps some terrible fate, had it not come out, during the examination,
that the Englishman had been a deserter from the army of his native
country ere proving a traitor to his adopted one. Relieved of his irons,
Israel was placed in the marine hospital on shore, where half of the
prisoners took the small-pox, which swept off a third of their number.
Why talk of Jaffa?
From the hospital the survivors were conveyed to Spithead, and thrust on
board a hulk. And here in the black bowels of the ship, sunk low in the
sunless sea, our poor Israel lay for a month, like Jonah in the belly
of the whale.
But one bright morning, Israel is hailed from the deck. A bargeman of
the commander's boat is sick. Known for a sailor, Israel for the nonce
is appointed to pull the absent man's oar.
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 Israel with them. As
they enter the ale-house door, our prisoner is suddenly reminded of
still more imperative calls. Unsuspected of any design, he is allowed to
leave the party for a moment. No sooner does Israel see his companions
housed, than putting speed into his feet, and letting grow all his
wings, he starts like a deer. He runs four miles (so he afterwards
affirmed) without halting. He sped towards London; wisely deeming that
once in that crowd detection would be impossible.
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 Israel, hurrying on.
"If you will attend to your business, I will endeavor to attend to
mine," replies Israel coolly. And next minute he lets grow his wings
again; flying, one dare say, at the rate of something less than thirty
miles an hour.
"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, Israel boldly confesses
himself a prisoner-of-war. The officer, a good fellow as it turned out,
had him escorted back to the inn; where, observing to the landlord that
this must needs be a true-blooded Yankee, he calls for liquors to
refresh Israel after his run. Two soldiers are then appointed to guard
him for the present. This was towards evening; and up to a late hour at
night, the inn was filled with strangers crowding to see the Yankee
rebel, as they politely termed him. These honest rustics seemed to think
that Yankees were a sort of wild creatures, a species of 'possum or
kangaroo. But Israel is very affable with them. That liquor he drank
from the hand of his foe, has perhaps warmed his heart towards all the
rest of his enemies. Yet this may not be wholly so. We shall see. At any
rate, still he keeps his eye on the main chance—escape. Neither the
jokes nor the insults of the mob does he suffer to molest him. He is
cogitating a little plot to himself.
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 Israel should be supplied with whatever liquor he
wanted that night. So, calling for the can again and again, Israel
invites the two soldiers to drink and be merry. At length, a wag of the
company proposes that Israel should entertain the public with a jig, he
(the wag) having heard that the Yankees were extraordinary dancers. A
fiddle is brought in, and poor Israel takes the floor. Not a little cut
to think that these people should so unfeelingly seek to be diverted at
the expense of an unfortunate prisoner, Israel, while jigging it up and
down, still conspires away at his private plot, resolving ere long to
give the enemy a touch of certain Yankee steps, as yet undreamed of in
their simple philosophy. They would not permit any cessation of his
dancing till he had danced himself into a perfect sweat, so that the
drops fell from his lank and flaxen hair. But Israel, with much of the
gentleness of the dove, is not wholly without the wisdom of the serpent.
Pleased to see the flowing bowl, he congratulates himself that his own
state of perspiration prevents it from producing any intoxicating effect
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, Israel stretches his
legs. An hour or two passes. All is quiet without.
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 Israel back to his floating
prison, where he would thenceforth remain confined until the close of
the war; years and years, perhaps. When he thought of that horrible old
hulk, his nerves were restrung for flight. But intrepid as he must be to
compass it, wariness too was needed. His keepers had gone to bed pretty
well under the influence of the liquor. This was favorable. But still,
they were full-grown, strong men; and Israel was handcuffed. So Israel
resolved upon strategy first; and if that failed, force afterwards. He
eagerly listened. One of the drunken soldiers muttered in his sleep, at
first lowly, then louder and louder,—"Catch 'em! Grapple 'em! Have at
'em! Ha—long cutlasses! Take that, runaway!"
"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 soldier,
Israel knew that this man remained uneasily awake. He deliberated a
moment what was best to do. At length he determined upon trying his old
plea. Calling upon the two soldiers, he informed them that urgent
necessity required his immediate presence somewhere in the rear of the
"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, Israel leaps atop
of the barrier, and without pausing to see where he is, drops himself to
the ground on the other side, and once more lets grow all his wings.
Meantime, with loud outcries, the two baffled drunkards grope
deliriously about in the garden.
After running two or three miles, and hearing no sound of pursuit,
Israel reins up to rid himself of the handcuffs, which impede him. After
much painful labor he succeeds in the attempt. Pressing on again with
all speed, day broke, revealing a trim-looking, hedged, and beautiful
country, soft, neat, and serene, all colored with the fresh early tints
of the spring of 1776.
Bless me, thought Israel, all of a tremble, I shall certainly be caught
now; I have broken into some nobleman's park.
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 country
of England; one bright, broad park, paled in with white foam of the
sea. A copse skirting the road was just bursting out into bud. Each
unrolling leaf was in very act of escaping from its prison. Israel
looked at the budding leaves, and round on the budding sod, and up at
the budding dawn of the day. He was so sad, and these sights were so
gay, that Israel sobbed like a child, while thoughts of his mountain
home rushed like a wind on his heart. But conquering this fit, he
marched on, and presently passed nigh a field, where two figures were
working. They had rosy cheeks, short, sturdy legs, showing the blue
stocking nearly to the knee, and were clad in long, coarse, white
frocks, and had on coarse, broad-brimmed straw hats. Their faces were
"Please, ladies," half roguishly says Israel, taking off his hat, "does
this road go to London?"
At this salutation, the two figures turned in a sort of stupid
amazement, causing an almost corresponding expression in Israel, who now
perceived that they were men, and not women. He had mistaken them, owing
to their frocks, and their wearing no pantaloons, only breeches hidden
by their frocks.
"Beg pardon, ladies, but I thought ye were something else," said Israel
Once more the two figures stared at the stranger, and with added
boorishness of surprise.
"Does this road go to London, gentlemen?"
"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 Israel, meantime scratching their heads under their plaited
"Does it, gentlemen? Does it go to London? Be kind enough to tell a poor
"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
Shortly after, Israel passed an old, dark, mossy-looking chapel, its
roof all plastered with the damp yellow dead leaves of the previous
autumn, showered there from a close cluster of venerable trees, with
great trunks, and overstretching branches. Next moment he found himself
entering a village. The silence of early morning rested upon it. But few
figures were seen. Glancing through the window of a now noiseless
public-house, Israel saw a table all in disorder, covered with empty
flagons, and tobacco-ashes, and long pipes; some of the latter broken.
After pausing here a moment, he moved on, and observed a man over the
way standing still and watching him. Instantly Israel was reminded that
he had on the dress of an English sailor, and that it was this probably
which had arrested the stranger's attention. Well knowing that his
peculiar dress exposed him to peril, he hurried on faster to escape the
village; resolving at the first opportunity to change his garments. Ere
long, in a secluded place about a mile from the village, he saw an old
ditcher tottering beneath the weight of a pick-axe, hoe and shovel,
going to his work; the very picture of poverty, toil and distress. His
clothes were tatters.
Making up to this old man, Israel, after a word or two of salutation,
offered to change clothes with him. As his own clothes were prince-like
compared to the ditchers, Israel thought that however much his
proposition might excite the suspicion of the ditcher, yet self-interest
would prevent his communicating the suspicions. To be brief, the two
went behind a hedge, and presently Israel emerged, presenting the most
forlorn appearance conceivable; while the old ditcher hobbled off in an
opposite direction, correspondingly improved in his aspect; though it
was rather ludicrous than otherwise, owing to the immense bagginess of
the sailor-trowsers flapping about his lean shanks, to say nothing of
the spare voluminousness of the pea-jacket. But Israel—how deplorable,
how dismal his plight! Little did he ween that these wretched rags he
now wore, were but suitable to that long career of destitution before
him: one brief career of adventurous wanderings; and then, forty torpid
years of pauperism. The coat was all patches. And no two patches were
alike, and no one patch was the color of the original cloth. The
stringless breeches gaped wide open at the knee; the long woollen
stockings looked as if they had been set up at some time for a target.
Israel looked suddenly metamorphosed from youth to old age; just like an
old man of eighty he looked. But, indeed, dull, dreary adversity was now
in store for him; and adversity, come it at eighteen or eighty, is the
true old age of man. The dress befitted the fate.
From the friendly old ditcher, Israel learned the exact course he must
steer for London; distant now between seventy and eighty miles. He was
also apprised by his venerable friend, that the country was filled with
soldiers on the constant look-out for deserters whether from the navy or
army, for the capture of whom a stipulated reward was given, just as in
Massachusetts at that time for prowling bears.
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 Israel stole into a barn,
in hopes of finding straw or hay for a bed. But it was spring; all the
hay and straw were gone. So after groping about in the dark, he was fain
to content himself with an undressed sheep-skin. Cold, hungry,
foot-sore, weary, and impatient for the morning dawn, Israel drearily
dozed out the 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. Israel longed to have one good rap at him
with his crutch, but thought it would hardly look in character for a
poor old cripple to be vindictive.
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 Israel.
"That's just my ailing," wheezed the other; "but you're lamer than me,"
he added with a forlorn sort of self-satisfaction, critically eyeing
Israel's limp as once, more he stumped on his way, not liking to tarry
"But halloo, what's your hurry, friend?" seeing Israel fairly
departing—"where're you going?"
"To London," answered Israel, turning round, heartily wishing the old
fellow any where else than present.
"Going to limp to Lunnun, eh? Well, success to ye."
"As much to you, sir," answers Israel politely.
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 Israel limps most deplorably, and begs
the driver to give a poor cripple a lift. So up he climbs; but after a
time, finding the gait of the elephantine draught-horses intolerably
slow, Israel craves permission to dismount, when, throwing away his
crutch, he takes nimbly to his legs, much to the surprise of his honest
friend the driver.
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
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,
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 Israel to himself,
arriving on the hither side.
FURTHER WANDERINGS OF THE REFUGEE, WITH SOME ACCOUNT OF A GOOD KNIGHT OF
BRENTFORD WHO BEFRIENDED HIM.
At nightfall, on the third day, Israel had arrived within sixteen miles
of the capital. Once more he sought refuge in a barn. This time he found
some hay, and flinging himself down procured a tolerable night's rest.
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, Israel relaxed in his vigilance, and about
ten o'clock, while passing through the town of Staines, suddenly
encountered three soldiers. Unfortunately in exchanging clothes with the
ditcher, he could not bring himself to include his shirt in the traffic,
which shirt was a British navy shirt, a bargeman's shirt, and though
hitherto he had crumpled the blue collar out of sight, yet, as it
appeared in the present instance, it was not thoroughly concealed. At
any rate, keenly on the look-out for deserters, and made acute by hopes
of reward for their apprehension, the soldiers spied the fatal collar,
and in an instant laid violent hands on the refugee.
"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.
Israel had now been three days without food, except one two-penny loaf.
The cravings of hunger now became sharper; his spirits, hitherto arming
him with fortitude, began to forsake him. Taken captive once again upon
the very brink of reaching his goal, poor Israel was on the eve of
falling into helpless despair. But he rallied, and considering that
grief would only add to his calamity, sought with stubborn patience to
habituate himself to misery, but still hold aloof from despondency. He
roused himself, and began to bethink him how to be extricated from this
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 (Israel) understood farming or gardening, he might perhaps procure
work from Sir John Millet, whose seat, he said, was not remote. He added
that the knight was in the habit of employing many men at that season of
the year, so he stood a fair chance.
Revived a little by this prospect of relief, Israel starts in quest of
the gentleman's seat, agreeably to the direction received. But he
mistook his way, and proceeding up a gravelled and beautifully decorated
walk, was terrified at catching a glimpse of a number of soldiers
thronging a garden. He made an instant retreat before being espied in
turn. No wild creature of the American wilderness could have been more
panic-struck by a firebrand, than at this period hunted Israel was by a
red coat. It afterwards appeared that this garden was the Princess
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 England charged with all sorts of domineering qualities,
Israel felt no little misgiving in approaching to an audience with so
imposing a stranger. But, screwing up his courage, he advanced; while
seeing him coming all rags and tatters, the group of gentlemen stood in
some wonder awaiting what so singular a phantom might want.
"Mr. Millet," said Israel, bowing towards the bare-headed gentleman.
"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?"
"Why, China pennies to be sure," laughed the youthful gentleman. "See
his long, yellow hair behind; he looks like a Chinaman. Some broken-down
Mandarin. Pity he's no crown to his old hat; if he had, he might pass it
round, and make eight pennies of his four."
"Will you hire me, Mr. Millet," said Israel.
"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 Israel that if he would
come the next morning he would see him supplied with a hoe, and moreover
would hire him.
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, Israel resolved to eat only one of the pair of
two-penny loaves. But having demolished one, it so sharpened his longing,
that yielding to the irresistible temptation, he bolted down the second
loaf to keep the other company.
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
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, Israel was
surprised to discover, as he approached the house, that no soul was
astir. It was four o'clock. For a considerable time he walked back and
forth before the portal ere any one appeared. The first riser was a man
servant of the household, who informed Israel that seven o'clock was the
hour the people went to their work. Soon after he met an hostler of the
place, who gave him permission to lie on some straw in an outhouse.
There he enjoyed a sweet sleep till awakened at seven o'clock by the
sounds of activity around him.
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 Israel made
little progress, he said to him, that though he had long arms and broad
shoulders, yet he was feigning himself to be a very weak man, or
otherwise must in reality be so.
Hereupon one of the laborers standing by informed the gentleman how it
was with Israel, when immediately the knight put a shilling into his
hands and bade him go to a little roadside inn, which was nearer than
the house, and buy him bread and a pot of beer. Thus refreshed he
returned to the band, and toiled with them till four o'clock, when the
day's work was over.
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, Israel, previously recruited by the frugal meal at the
inn, partook but sparingly. The repast was spread on the grass, and
being over, the good knight again looking inquisitively at Israel,
ordered a comfortable bed to be laid in the barn, and here Israel spent
a capital night.
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. Israel was just on the point of fleeing, when overhearing the
words of the master to the servant who now appeared, all dread departed:
"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 Israel, "I perceive that you are an American; and, if I
am not mistaken, you are an escaped prisoner of war. But no fear—drink
"Mr. Millet," exclaimed Israel aghast, the untasted wine trembling in
his hand, "Mr. Millet, I—"
"Mr. Millet—there it is again. Why don't you say Sir John like the
"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 upon Israel, "tell me,
are all your countrymen like you? If so, it's no use fighting them. To
that effect, I must write to his Majesty myself. Well, I excuse you from
Sir Johnning me. But tell me the truth, are you not a seafaring man, and
lately a prisoner of war?"
Israel frankly confessed it, and told his whole story. The knight
listened with much interest; and at its conclusion, warned Israel to
beware of the soldiers; for owing to the seats of some of the royal
family being in the neighborhood, the red-coats abounded hereabout.
"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, Israel procured a good berth in the garden of the Princess
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
Now the superintendent of the garden was a harsh, overbearing man. The
workmen with tame servility endured his worst affronts. But Israel, bred
among mountains, found it impossible to restrain himself when made the
undeserved object of pitiless epithets. Ere two months went by, he
quitted the service of the princess, and engaged himself to a farmer in
a small village not far from Brentford. But hardly had he been here
three weeks, when a rumor again got afloat that he was a Yankee prisoner
of war. Whence this report arose he could never discover. No sooner did
it reach the ears of the soldiers, than they were on the alert. Luckily,
Israel was apprised of their intentions in time. But he was hard pushed.
He was hunted after with a perseverance worthy a less ignoble cause. He
had many hairbreadth escapes. Most assuredly he would have been
captured, had it not been for the secret good offices of a few
individuals, who, perhaps, were not unfriendly to the American side of
the question, though they durst not avow it.
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.
ISRAEL IN THE LION'S DEN.
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, Israel through intervening foliage
would catch peeps in some private but parallel walk, of that lonely
figure, not more shadowy with overhanging leaves than with the shade of
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, Israel vanquished all such temptations. Nor did these ever more
disturb him, after his one chance conversation with the monarch.
As he was one day gravelling a little by-walk, wrapped in thought, the
King turning a clump of bushes, suddenly brushed Israel's person.
Immediately Israel touched his hat—but did not remove it—bowed, and
was retiring; when something in his air arrested the King's attention.
"You ain't an Englishman,—no Englishman—no, no."
Pale as death, Israel tried to answer something; but knowing not what to
say, stood frozen to the ground.
"You are a Yankee—a Yankee," said the King again in his rapid and
Again Israel assayed to reply, but could not. What could he say? Could
he lie to a King?
"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 at Israel.
It was one of the junior gardeners who thus spoke. It seems that Israel
had mistaken his directions that morning.
"Slink, you dog," hissed the gardener again to Israel; then aloud to the
King, "A mistake of the man, I assure your Majesty."
"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
"Were you at Bunker Hill?—that bloody Bunker Hill—eh, eh?"
"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."
"Sir," said Israel firmly, but with deep respect, "I have no king."
The king darted his eye incensedly for a moment; but without quailing,
Israel, now that all was out, still stood with mute respect before him.
The king, turning suddenly, walked rapidly away from Israel a moment,
but presently returning with a less hasty pace, said, "You are rumored
to be a spy—a spy, or something of that sort—ain't you? But I know you
are not—no, no. You are a runaway prisoner of war, eh? You have sought
this place to be safe from pursuit, eh? eh? Is it not so?—eh? eh? eh?"
"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 Kew, I shall see that you are safe—safe."
"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, Israel silently shook his head.
"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, Israel could never
determine. Very probably, though, the latter was the case, inasmuch as
some vague shadowy report of Israel not being an Englishman, had, a
little previous to his interview with the king, been communicated to
several of the inferior gardeners. Without any impeachment of Israel's
fealty to his country, it must still be narrated, that from this his
familiar audience with George the Third, he went away with very
favorable views of that monarch. Israel now thought that it could not be
the warm heart of the king, but the cold heads of his lords in council,
that persuaded him so tyrannically to persecute America. Yet hitherto
the precise contrary of this had been Israel's opinion, agreeably to the
popular prejudice throughout New England.
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 Britain. Nor in that case would we have had to
follow him, as at last we shall, through long, long years of obscure and
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
fate, when Providence seasonably interposed in his favor.
ISRAEL MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF CERTAIN SECRET FRIENDS OF AMERICA, ONE
OF THEM BEING THE FAMOUS AUTHOR OF THE "DIVERSIONS OF PURLEY," THESE
DESPATCH HIM ON A SLY ERRAND ACROSS THE CHANNEL.
At this period, though made the victims indeed of British oppression,
yet the colonies were not totally without friends in Britain. It was but
natural that when Parliament itself held patriotic and gifted men, who
not only recommended conciliatory measures, but likewise denounced the
war as monstrous; it was but natural that throughout the nation at large
there should be many private individuals cherishing similar sentiments,
and some who made no scruple clandestinely to act upon them.
Late one night while hiding in a farmer's granary, Israel saw a man with
a lantern approaching. He was about to flee, when the man hailed him in
a well-known voice, bidding him have no fear. It was the farmer himself.
He carried a message to Israel from a gentleman of Brentford, to the
effect, that the refugee was earnestly requested to repair on the
following evening to that gentleman's mansion.
At first, Israel was disposed to surmise that either the farmer was
playing him false, or else his honest credulity had been imposed upon by
evil-minded persons. At any rate, he regarded the message as a decoy,
and for half an hour refused to credit its sincerity. But at length he
was induced to think a little better of it. The gentleman giving the
invitation was one Squire Woodcock, of Brentford, whose loyalty to the
king had been under suspicion; so at least the farmer averred. This
latter information was not without its effect.
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 to America. We have
heard of you for some weeks past, and inferring from your conduct, that
you must be a Yankee of the true blue stamp, we have resolved to employ
you in a way which you cannot but gladly approve; for surely, though an
exile, you are still willing to serve your country; if not as a sailor
or soldier, yet as a traveller?"
"Tell me how I may do it?" demanded Israel, not completely at ease.
"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
Israel had no objections in the world, since all men love to tell the
tale of hardships endured in a righteous cause. But ere beginning his
story, the Squire refreshed him with some cold beef, laid in a snowy
napkin, and a glass of Perry, and thrice during the narration of the
adventures, pressed him with additional draughts.
But after his second glass, Israel declined to drink more, mild as the
beverage was. For he noticed, that not only did the three gentlemen
listen with the utmost interest to his story, but likewise
interrupted him with questions and cross-questions in the most
pertinacious manner. So this led him to be on his guard, not being
absolutely certain yet, as to who they might really be, or what was
their real design. But as it turned out, Squire Woodcock and his friends
only sought to satisfy themselves thoroughly, before making their final
disclosures, that the exile was one in whom implicit confidence might be
And to this desirable conclusion they eventually came, for upon the
ending of Israel's story, after expressing their sympathies for his
hardships, and applauding his generous patriotism in so patiently
enduring adversity, as well as singing the praises of his gallant
fellow-soldiers of Bunker Hill, they openly revealed their scheme. They
wished to know whether Israel would undertake a trip to Paris, to carry
an important message—shortly to be received for transmission through
them—to Doctor Franklin, then in that capital.
"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 Israel, not yet wholly confirmed in his mind.
But once more he cast his glance on Horne Tooke, and his irresolution
The Squire now informed Israel that, to avoid suspicions, it would be
necessary for him to remove to another place until the hour at which he
should start for Paris. They enjoined upon him the profoundest secresy,
gave him a guinea, with a letter for a gentleman in White Waltham, a
town some miles from Brentford, which point they begged him to reach
as soon as possible, there to tarry for further instructions.
Having informed him of thus much, Squire Woodcock asked him to hold out
his right foot.
"What for?" said Israel.
"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, Israel.
"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 Israel.
"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, Israel now
set out immediately, on foot, for his destination, having received
minute directions as to his road, and arriving in White Waltham on the
following morning was very cordially received by the gentleman to whom
he carried the letter. This person, another of the active English
friends of America, possessed a particular knowledge of late events in
that land. To him Israel was indebted for much entertaining information.
After remaining some ten days at this place, word came from Squire
Woodcock, requiring Israel's immediate return, stating the hour at which
he must arrive at the house, namely, two o'clock on the following
morning. So, after another night's solitary trudge across the country,
the wanderer was welcomed by the same three gentlemen as before, seated
in the same room.
"The time has now come," said Squire Woodcock. "You must start this
morning for Paris. Take off your shoes."
"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 Israel the papers concealed beneath. They were of a fine tissuey
fibre, and contained much writing in a very small compass. The boots, it
need hardly be said, had been particularly made for the occasion.
"Walk across the room with them," said the Squire, when Israel had
pulled them on.
"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.
AFTER A CURIOUS ADVENTURE UPON THE PONT NEUF, ISRAEL ENTERS THE PRESENCE
OF THE RENOWNED SAGE, DR. FRANKLIN, WHOM HE FINDS RIGHT LEARNEDLY AND
Following the directions given him at the place where the diligence
stopped, Israel was crossing the Pont Neuf, to find Doctor Franklin,
when he was suddenly called to by a man standing on one side of the
bridge, just under the equestrian statue of Henry IV.
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 Israel, pausing in somewhat
"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
Israel. But what his language failed to convey, his gestures now made
very plain. Pointing to the wet muddy state of the bridge, splashed by
a recent rain, and then to the feet of the wayfarer, and lastly to the
brush in his hand, he appeared to be deeply regretting that a gentleman
of Israel's otherwise imposing appearance should be seen abroad with
unpolished boots, offering at the same time to remove their blemishes.
"Ah, Monsieur, Monsieur," cried the man, at last running up to Israel.
And with tender violence he forced him towards the box, and lifting this
unwilling customer's right foot thereon, was proceeding vigorously to
work, when suddenly illuminated by a dreadful suspicion, Israel,
fetching the box a terrible kick, took to his false heels and ran like
mad over the bridge.
Incensed that his politeness should receive such an ungracious return,
the man pursued, which but confirming Israel in his suspicions he ran
all the faster, and thanks to his fleetness, soon succeeded in escaping
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
enchantment, Israel entered a wide vaulted passage leading to an open
court within. While he was wondering that no soul appeared, suddenly he
was hailed from a dark little window, where sat an old man cobbling
shoes, while an old woman standing by his side was thrusting her head
into the passage, intently eyeing the stranger. They proved to be the
porter and portress, the latter of whom, upon hearing his summons, had
invisibly thrust open the gate to Israel, by means of a spring
communicating with the little apartment.
Upon hearing the name of Doctor Franklin mentioned, the old woman, all
alacrity, hurried out of her den, and with much courtesy showed Israel
across the court, up three flights of stairs to a door in the rear of
the spacious building. There she left him while Israel knocked.
"Come in," said a voice.
And immediately Israel stood in the presence of the venerable Doctor
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 West India hogshead on the wharf,
the whole chamber buzzed with flies. But the sapient inmate sat still
and cool in the midst. Absorbed in some other world of his occupations
and thoughts, these insects, like daily cark and care, did not seem one
whit to annoy him. It was a goodly sight to see this serene, cool and
ripe old philosopher, who by sharp inquisition of man in the street, and
then long meditating upon him, surrounded by all those queer old
implements, charts and books, had grown at last so wondrous wise. There
he sat, quite motionless among those restless flies; and, with a sound
like the low noon murmur of foliage in the woods, turning over the
leaves of some ancient and tattered folio, with a binding dark and
shaggy as the bark of any old oak. It seemed as if supernatural lore
must needs pertain to this gravely, ruddy personage; at least far
foresight, pleasant wit, and working wisdom. Old age seemed in no wise
to have dulled him, but to have sharpened; just as old dinner-knives—so
they be of good steel—wax keen, spear-pointed, and elastic as
whale-bone with long usage. Yet though he was thus lively and vigorous
to behold, spite of his seventy-two years (his exact date at that time)
somehow, the incredible seniority of an antediluvian seemed his. Not the
years of the calendar wholly, but also the years of sapience. His white
hairs and mild brow, spoke of the future as well as the past. He seemed
to be seven score years old; that is, three score and ten of prescience
added to three score and ten of remembrance, makes just seven score
years in all.
But when Israel stepped within the chamber, he lost the complete effect
of all this; for the sage's back, not his face, was turned to him.
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 Israel.
"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 Israel, stepping across the room towards a
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 Israel walked this slippery floor, his unaccustomed feet slid about
very strangely as if walking on ice, so that he came very near falling.
"'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
At this moment, Israel having seated himself, was just putting his right
foot across his left knee.
"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 Israel proceed with his operations.
"I was mistaken this time," added the Doctor, smiling, as Israel
produced his documents from their curious recesses—"your high heels,
instead of being idle vanities, seem to be full of meaning."
"Pretty full, Doctor," said Israel, now handing over the papers. "I had
a narrow escape with them just now."
"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
"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."
Israel immediately began, and related to the Doctor all his adventures
up to the present time.
"I suppose," said the Doctor, upon Israel's concluding, "that you desire
to return to your friends across the sea?"
"That I do, Doctor," said Israel.
"Well, I think I shall be able to procure you a passage."
Israel's eyes sparkled with delight. The mild sage noticed it, and
added: "But events in these times are uncertain. At the prospect of
pleasure never be elated; but, without depression, respect the omens of
ill. So much my life has taught me, my honest friend."
Israel felt as though a plum-pudding had been thrust under his nostrils,
and then as rapidly withdrawn.
"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."
Israel was pouring out torrents of thanks when the Doctor interrupted
"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 Israel, "since exactness in these matters is so
necessary, let me pay back my debt in the very coins in which it was
loaned. There will be no chance of mistake then. Thanks to my Brentford
friends, I have enough to spare of my own, to settle damages with the
boot-black of the bridge. I only took the money from you, because I
thought it would not look well to push it back after being so kindly
"My honest friend," said the Doctor, "I like your straightforward
dealing. I will receive back the money."
"No interest, Doctor, I hope," said Israel.
The sage looked mildly over his spectacles upon Israel and replied: "My
good friend, never permit yourself to be jocose upon pecuniary matters.
Never joke at funerals, or during business transactions. The affair
between us two, you perhaps deem very trivial, but trifles may involve
momentous principles. But no more at present. You had better go
immediately and find the boot-black. Having settled with him, return
hither, and you will find a room ready for you near this, where you will
stay during your sojourn in Paris."
"But I thought I would like to have a little look round the town, before
I go back to England," said Israel.
"Business before pleasure, my friend. You must absolutely remain in your
room, just as if you were my prisoner, until you quit Paris for Calais.
Not knowing now at what instant I shall want you to start, your keeping
to your room is indispensable. But when you come back from Brentford
again, then, if nothing happens, you will have a chance to survey this
celebrated capital ere taking ship for America. Now go directly, and pay
the boot-black. Stop, have you the exact change ready? Don't be taking
out all your money in the open street."
"Doctor," said Israel, "I am not so simple."
"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 Israel.
"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."
And Israel departed for the Pont Neuf. Succeeding in his errand thither,
he returned to Dr. Franklin, and found that worthy envoy waiting his
attendance at a meal, which, according to the Doctor's custom, had been
sent from a neighboring restaurant. There were two covers; and without
attendance the host and guest sat down. There was only one principal
dish, lamb boiled with green peas. Bread and potatoes made up the rest.
A decanter-like bottle of uncolored glass, filled with some uncolored
beverage, stood at the venerable envoy's elbow.
"Let me fill your glass," said the sage.
"It's white wine, ain't it?" said Israel.
"White wine of the very oldest brand; I drink your health in it, my
"Why, it's plain water," said Israel, now tasting it.
"Plain water is a very good drink for plain men," replied the wise man.
"Yes," said Israel, "but Squire Woodcock gave me perry, and the other
gentleman at White Waltham gave me port, and some other friends have
given me brandy."
"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
"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
"But he drank a bottle of wine; he did not eat seventy-two two-penny
"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
"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 England, if you should then have an
opportunity to travel about Paris, to see its wonders, you will have all
the chief places made historically familiar to you. In this world, men
must provide knowledge before it is wanted, just as our countrymen in
New England get in their winter's fuel one season, to serve them the
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.
WHICH HAS SOMETHING TO SAY ABOUT DR. FRANKLIN AND THE LATIN QUARTER.
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?
Franklin all over is of a piece. He dressed his person as his periods;
neat, trim, nothing superfluous, nothing deficient. In some of his works
his style is only surpassed by the unimprovable sentences of Hobbes of
Malmsbury, the paragon of perspicuity. The mental habits of Hobbes and
Franklin in several points, especially in one of some moment,
assimilated. Indeed, making due allowance for soil and era, history
presents few trios more akin, upon the whole, than Jacob, Hobbes, and
Franklin; three labyrinth-minded, but plain-spoken Broadbrims, at once
politicians and philosophers; keen observers of the main chance; prudent
courtiers; practical magians in linsey-woolsey.
In keeping with his general habitudes, Doctor Franklin while at the
French Court did not reside in the aristocratical faubourgs. He deemed
his worsted hose and scientific tastes more adapted in a domestic way to
the other side of the Seine, where the Latin Quarter, at once the haunt
of erudition and economy, seemed peculiarly to invite the philosophical
Poor Richard to its venerable retreats. Here, of gray, chilly, drizzly
November mornings, in the dark-stoned quadrangle of the time-honored
Sorbonne, walked the lean and slippered metaphysician,—oblivious for
the moment that his sublime thoughts and tattered wardrobe were famous
throughout Europe,—meditating on the theme of his next lecture; at the
same time, in the well-worn chambers overhead, some clayey-visaged
chemist in ragged robe-de-chambre, and with a soiled green flap over his
left eye, was hard at work stooping over retorts and crucibles,
discovering new antipathies in acids, again risking strange explosions
similar to that whereby he had already lost the use of one optic; while
in the lofty lodging-houses of the neighboring streets, indigent young
students from all parts of France, were ironing their shabby cocked
hats, or inking the whity seams of their small-clothes, prior to a
promenade with their pink-ribboned little grisettes in the Garden of the
Long ago the haunt of rank, the Latin Quarter still retains many old
buildings whose imposing architecture singularly contrasts with the
unassuming habits of their present occupants. In some parts its general
air is dreary and dim; monastic and theurgic. In those lonely narrow
ways—long-drawn prospectives of desertion—lined with huge piles of
silent, vaulted, old iron-grated buildings of dark gray stone, one
almost expects to encounter Paracelsus or Friar Bacon turning the next
corner, with some awful vial of Black-Art elixir in his hand.
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 Rome, the Frenchwoman leaves her
obvious mark on Paris. Like the hand in nature, you know it can be none
else but hers. Yet sometimes she overdoes it, as nature in the peony; or
underdoes it, as nature in the bramble; or—what is still more
frequent—is a little slatternly about it, as nature in the pig-weed.
In this congenial vicinity of the Latin Quarter, and in an ancient
building something like those alluded to, at a point midway between the
Palais des Beaux Arts and the College of the Sorbonne, the venerable
American Envoy pitched his tent when not passing his time at his country
retreat at Passy. The frugality of his manner of life did not lose him
the good opinion even of the voluptuaries of the showiest of capitals,
whose very iron railings are not free from gilt. Franklin was not less a
lady's man, than a man's man, a wise man, and an old man. Not only did
he enjoy the homage of the choicest Parisian literati, but at the age of
seventy-two he was the caressed favorite of the highest born beauties of
the Court; who through blind fashion having been originally attracted to
him as a famous savan, were permanently retained as his admirers by
his Plato-like graciousness of good humor. Having carefully weighed the
world, Franklin could act any part in it. By nature turned to knowledge,
his mind was often grave, but never serious. At times he had
seriousness—extreme seriousness—for others, but never for himself.
Tranquillity was to him instead of it. This philosophical levity of
tranquillity, so to speak, is shown in his easy variety of pursuits.
Printer, postmaster, almanac maker, essayist, chemist, orator, tinker,
statesman, humorist, philosopher, parlor man, political economist,
professor of housewifery, ambassador, projector, maxim-monger,
herb-doctor, wit:—Jack of all trades, master of each and mastered by
none—the type and genius of his land. Franklin was everything but a
poet. But since a soul with many qualities, forming of itself a sort of
handy index and pocket congress of all humanity, needs the contact of
just as many different men, or subjects, in order to the exhibition of
its totality; hence very little indeed of the sage's multifariousness
will be portrayed in a simple narrative like the present. This casual
private intercourse with Israel, but served to manifest him in his far
lesser lights; thrifty, domestic, dietarian, and, it may be,
didactically waggish. There was much benevolent irony, innocent
mischievousness, in the wise man. Seeking here to depict him in his less
exalted habitudes, the narrator feels more as if he were playing with
one of the sage's worsted hose, than reverentially handling the honored
hat which once oracularly sat upon his brow.
So, then, in the Latin Quarter lived Doctor Franklin. And accordingly in
the Latin Quarter tarried Israel for the time. And it was into a room of
a house in this same Latin Quarter that Israel had been directed when
the sage had requested privacy for a while.
ISRAEL IS INITIATED INTO THE MYSTERIES OF LODGING-HOUSES IN THE LATIN
Closing the door upon himself, Israel advanced to the middle of the
chamber, and looked curiously round him.
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
But in Israel's eyes, the marble mantel (a comparatively recent
addition) and its appurtenances, not only redeemed the rest, but looked
quite magnificent and hospitable in the extreme. Because, in the first
place, the mantel was graced with an enormous old-fashioned square
mirror, of heavy plate glass, set fast, like a tablet, into the wall.
And in this mirror was genially reflected the following delicate
articles:—first, two boquets of flowers inserted in pretty vases of
porcelain; second, one cake of white soap; third, one cake of
rose-colored soap (both cakes very fragrant); fourth, one wax candle;
fifth, one china tinder-box; sixth, one bottle of Eau de Cologne;
seventh, one paper of loaf sugar, nicely broken into sugar-bowl size;
eighth, one silver teaspoon; ninth, one glass tumbler; tenth, one glass
decanter of cool pure water; eleventh, one sealed bottle containing a
richly hued liquid, and marked "Otard."
"I wonder now what O-t-a-r-d is?" soliloquised Israel, slowly spelling
the word. "I have a good mind to step in and ask Dr. Franklin. He knows
everything. Let me smell it. No, it's sealed; smell is locked in. Those
are pretty flowers. Let's smell them: no smell again. Ah, I see—sort of
flowers in women's bonnets—sort of calico flowers. Beautiful soap. This
smells anyhow—regular soap-roses—a white rose and a red one. That
long-necked bottle there looks like a crane. I wonder what's in that?
Hallo! E-a-u—d-e—C-o-l-o-g-n-e. I wonder if Dr. Franklin understands
that? It looks like his white wine. This is nice sugar. Let's taste.
Yes, this is very nice sugar, sweet as—yes, it's sweet as sugar; better
than maple sugar, such as they make at home. But I'm crunching it too
loud, the Doctor will hear me. But here's a teaspoon. What's this for?
There's no tea, nor tea-cup; but here's a tumbler, and here's drinking
water. Let me see. Seems to me, putting this and that and the other
thing together, it's a sort of alphabet that spells something. Spoon,
tumbler, water, sugar,—brandy—that's it. O-t-a-r-d is brandy. Who put
these things here? What does it all mean? Don't put sugar here for show,
don't put a spoon here for ornament, nor a jug of water. There is only
one meaning to it, and that is a very polite invitation from some
invisible person to help myself, if I like, to a glass of brandy and
sugar, and if I don't like, let it alone. That's my reading. I have a
good mind to ask Doctor Franklin about it, though, for there's just a
chance I may be mistaken, and these things here be some other person's
private property, not at all meant for me to help myself from. Cologne,
what's that—never mind. Soap: soap's to wash with. I want to use soap,
anyway. Let me see—no, there's no soap on the wash-stand. I see, soap
is not given gratis here in Paris, to boarders. But if you want it, take
it from the marble, and it will be charged in the bill. If you don't
want it let it alone, and no charge. Well, that's fair, anyway. But then
to a man who could not afford to use soap, such beautiful cakes as these
lying before his eyes all the time, would be a strong temptation. And
now that I think of it, the O-t-a-r-d looks rather tempting too. But if
I don't like it now, I can let it alone. I've a good mind to try it. But
it's sealed. I wonder now if I am right in my understanding of this
alphabet? Who knows? I'll venture one little sip, anyhow. Come, cork.
There was a rapid knock at the door.
Clapping down the bottle, Israel said, "Come in."
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 Paris have some curious customs which might
puzzle an entire stranger, my presence here for a moment might explain
any little obscurity. Yes, it is as I thought," glancing towards the
"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 Cologne, do you?"
"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
Cologne bottle was put under the other arm. "Candle—you'll want that.
Soap—you want soap. Use the white cake."
"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, Israel, without another word,
suffered him to march from the room, bottles and all. Not till the first
impression of the venerable envoy's suavity had left him, did Israel
begin to surmise the mild superiority of successful strategy which
lurked beneath this highly ingratiating air.
"Ah," pondered Israel, sitting gloomily before the rifled mantel, with
the empty tumbler and teaspoon in his hand, "it's sad business to have a
Doctor Franklin lodging in the next room. I wonder if he sees to all the
boarders this way. How the O-t-a-r-d merchants must hate him, and the
pastry-cooks too. I wish I had a good pie to pass the time. I wonder if
they ever make pumpkin pies in Paris? So I've got to stay in this room
all the time. Somehow I'm bound to be a prisoner, one way or another.
Never mind, I'm an ambassador; that's satisfaction. Hark! The Doctor
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 chambermaid in
Paris. All art, but the picture of artlessness.
"Oh, I pardon ye freely," said Israel. "Come to call on the
"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 Israel understood nothing, at the time, but
the exceeding grace, and trim, bewitching figure of the girl.
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 Israel pondered upon a
singular glance of the girl. It seemed to him that he had, by his
reception, in some way, unaccountably disappointed his beautiful
visitor. It struck him very strangely that she had entered all sweetness
and friendliness, but had retired as if slighted, with a sort of
disdainful and sarcastic levity, all the more stinging from its apparent
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 custom of Paris.
That girl is the chambermaid, but she does not confine herself
altogether to one vocation. You must beware of the chambermaids of
Paris, my honest friend. Shall I tell the girl, from you, that,
unwilling to give her the fatigue of going up and down so many flights
of stairs, you will for the future waive her visits of ceremony?"
"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 Israel once more gloomily seated
before the rifled mantel, whose mirror was not again to reflect the form
of the charming chambermaid.
"Every time he comes in he robs me," soliloquised Israel, dolefully;
"with an air all the time, too, as if he were making me presents. If he
thinks me such a very sensible young man, why not let me take care of
It was growing dusk, and Israel, lighting the wax candle, proceeded to
read in his Guide-book.
"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, Israel's eyes fell on the
following passages: he read them aloud—
"'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 be," concluded Israel, suddenly slamming down the pamphlet.
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
"So here is the 'Way to Wealth,' and here is the 'Guide to Paris.'
Wonder now whether Paris lies on the Way to Wealth? if so, I am on the
road. More likely though, it's a parting-of-the-ways. I shouldn't be
surprised if the Doctor meant something sly by putting these two books
in my hand. Somehow, the old gentleman has an amazing sly look—a sort
of wild slyness—about him, seems to me. His wisdom seems a sort of sly,
too. But all in honor, though. I rather think he's one of those old
gentlemen who say a vast deal of sense, but hint a world more. Depend
upon it, he's sly, sly, sly. Ah, what's this Poor Richard says: 'God
helps them that help themselves:' Let's consider that. Poor Richard
ain't a Dunker, that's certain, though he has lived in Pennsylvania.
'God helps them that help themselves.' I'll just mark that saw, and
leave the pamphlet open to refer to it again—Ah!"
At this point, the Doctor knocked, summoning Israel to his own
apartment. Here, after a cup of weak tea, and a little toast, the two
had a long, familiar talk together; during which, Israel was delighted
with the unpretending talkativeness, serene insight, and benign
amiability of the sage. But, for all this, he could hardly forgive him
for the Cologne and Otard depredations.
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.
Israel was very much struck with the improvement; and thought that, if
he were home, upon his mountains, he would immediately introduce it
among the farmers.
ANOTHER ADVENTURER APPEARS UPON THE SCENE.
About half-past ten o'clock, as they were thus conversing, Israel's
acquaintance, the pretty chambermaid, rapped at the door, saying, with a
titter, that a very rude gentleman in the passage of the court, desired
to see Doctor Franklin.
"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
In a few moments, a swift coquettish step was heard, followed, as if in
chase, by a sharp and manly one. The door opened. Israel was sitting so
that, accidentally, his eye pierced the crevice made by the opening of
the door, which, like a theatrical screen, stood for a moment between
Doctor Franklin and the just entering visitor. And behind that screen,
through the crack, Israel caught one momentary glimpse of a little bit
of by-play between the pretty chambermaid and the stranger. The
vivacious nymph appeared to have affectedly run from him on the
stairs—doubtless in freakish return for some liberal advances—but had
suffered herself to be overtaken at last ere too late; and on the
instant Israel caught sight of her, was with an insincere air of rosy
resentment, receiving a roguish pinch on the arm, and a still more
roguish salute on the cheek.
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 Israel now
perceived him again, he seemed, while momentarily hidden, to have
undergone a complete transformation.
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
Israel thought to himself that seldom before had he seen such a being.
Though dressed à-la-mode, he did not seem to be altogether civilized.
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 Amsterdam, to the King of
France, and not to me. What does the King of France with such a frigate?
And what can I not do with her? Give me back the "Indien," and in less
than one month, you shall hear glorious or fatal news of Paul Jones."
"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 on wicked England
like fire on Sodom."
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
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 Jersey privateers do us a great deal of mischief by
intercepting our supplies. It has been mentioned to me, that if you had
a small vessel—say, even your present ship, the 'Amphitrite,'—then, by
your singular bravery, you might render great service, by following
those privateers where larger ships durst not venture their bottoms; or,
if but supported by some frigates from Brest at a proper distance, might
draw them out, so that the larger vessels could capture them."
"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 America, it must be done through unlimited orders: a separate,
supreme command; no leader and no counsellor but himself. Have I not
already by my services on the American coast shown that I am well worthy
all this? Why then do you seek to degrade me below my previous level? I
will mount, not sink. I live but for honor and glory. Give me, then,
something honorable and glorious to do, and something famous to do it
with. Give me the Indien"
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!"
"A Nor'wester, rather. Come, come, Captain," added the sage, "sit down,
we have a third person present, you see," pointing towards Israel, who
sat rapt at the volcanic spirit of the stranger.
Paul slightly started, and turned inquiringly upon Israel, who, equally
owing to Paul's own earnestness of discourse and Israel's motionless
bearing, had thus far remained undiscovered.
"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 Washington, out of Boston," replied Israel;
"we were cruising to cut off supplies to the English."
"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
"I never heard the name before this evening," said Israel.
"What? Ah—brigantine Washington—let me see; that was before I had
outwitted the Soleby frigate, fought the Milford, and captured the
Mellish and the rest off Louisbergh. You were long before the news, my
lad," he added, with a sort of compassionate air.
"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 Brest. I go in a few days."
Fired by the contagious spirit of Paul, Israel, forgetting all about his
previous desire to reach home, sparkled with response to the summons.
But Doctor Franklin interrupted him.
"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
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
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
With his tawny hand Paul pulled out his watch, a small, richly-jewelled
"It is so late, I will stay here to-night," he said; "is there a
"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,
Israel, and show the Captain thither."
As the door closed upon them in Israel's apartment, Doctor Franklin's
door closed upon the Duke and the Count. Leaving the latter to their
discussion of profound plans for the timely befriending of the American
cause, and the crippling of the power of England on the seas, let us
pass the night with Paul Jones and Israel in the neighboring room.
PAUL JONES IN A REVERIE.
"'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!"
Upon entering Israel's room, Captain Paul, stepping towards the table
and spying the open pamphlet there, had taken it up, his eye being
immediately attracted to the passage previously marked by our
"A rare old gentleman is 'Poor Richard,'" said Israel in response to
"So he seems, so he seems," answered Paul, his eye still running over
the pamphlet again; "why, 'Poor Richard' reads very much as Doctor
"He wrote it," said Israel.
"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 Israel; "see, it is a big bed. Or perhaps
you don't fancy your bed-fellow. Captain?"
"When, before the mast, I first sailed out of Whitehaven to Norway,"
said Paul, coolly, "I had for hammock-mate a full-blooded Congo. We had
a white blanket spread in our hammock. Every time I turned in I found
the Congo's black wool worked in with the white worsted. By the end of
the voyage the blanket was of a pepper-and-salt look, like an old man's
turning head. So it's not because I am notional at all, but because I
don't care to, my lad. Turn in and go to sleep. Let the lamp burn. I'll
see to it. There, go to sleep."
Complying with what seemed as much a command as a request, Israel,
though in bed, could not fall into slumber for thinking of the little
circumstance that this strange swarthy man, flaming with wild
enterprises, sat in full suit in the chair. He felt an uneasy misgiving
sensation, as if he had retired, not only without covering up the fire,
but leaving it fiercely burning with spitting fagots of hemlock.
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 Indian
meditations. Israel furtively eyed him from beneath the coverlid, and
was anew struck by his aspect, now that Paul thought himself unwatched.
Stern relentless purposes, to be pursued to the points of adverse
bayonets and the muzzles of hostile cannon, were expressed in the now
rigid lines of his brow. His ruffled right hand was clutched by his
side, as if grasping a cutlass. He paced the room as if advancing upon a
fortification. Meantime a confused buzz of discussion came from the
neighboring chamber. All else was profound midnight tranquillity.
Presently, passing the large mirror over the mantel, Paul caught a
glimpse of his person. He paused, grimly regarding it, while a dash of
pleased coxcombry seemed to mingle with the otherwise savage
satisfaction expressed in his face. But the latter predominated. Soon,
rolling up his sleeve, with a queer wild smile, Paul lifted his right
arm, and stood thus for an interval, eyeing its image in the glass. From
where he lay, Israel could not see that side of the arm presented to the
mirror, but he saw its reflection, and started at perceiving there,
framed in the carved and gilded wood, certain large intertwisted ciphers
covering the whole inside of the arm, so far as exposed, with mysterious
tattooings. The design was wholly unlike the fanciful figures of
anchors, hearts, and cables, sometimes decorating small portions of
seamen's bodies. It was a sort of tattooing such as is seen only on
thoroughbred savages—deep blue, elaborate, labyrinthine, cabalistic.
Israel remembered having beheld, on one of his early voyages, something
similar on the arm of a New Zealand warrior, once met, fresh from
battle, in his native village. He concluded that on some similar early
voyage Paul must have undergone the manipulations of some pagan artist.
Covering his arm again with his laced coat-sleeve, Paul glanced
ironically at the hand of the same arm, now again half muffled in
ruffles, and ornamented with several Parisian rings. He then resumed his
walking with a prowling air, like one haunting an ambuscade; while a
gleam of the consciousness of possessing a character as yet un-fathomed,
and hidden power to back unsuspected projects, irradiated his cold white
brow, which, owing to the shade of his hat in equatorial climates, had
been left surmounting his swarthy face, like the snow topping the Andes.
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.
Israel slept not a wink that night. The troubled spirit of Paul paced
the chamber till morning; when, copiously bathing himself at the
wash-stand, Paul looked care-free and fresh as a daybreak hawk. After a
closeted consultation with Doctor Franklin, he left the place with a
light and dandified air, switching his gold-headed cane, and throwing a
passing arm round all the pretty chambermaids he encountered, kissing
them resoundingly, as if saluting a frigate. All barbarians are rakes.
RECROSSING THE CHANNEL, ISRAEL RETURNS TO THE SQUIRE'S ABODE—HIS
On the third day, as Israel was walking to and fro in his room, having
removed his courier's boots, for fear of disturbing the Doctor, a quick
sharp rap at the door announced the American envoy. The man of wisdom
entered, with two small wads of paper in one hand, and several crackers
and a bit of cheese in the other. There was such an eloquent air of
instantaneous dispatch about him, that Israel involuntarily sprang to
his boots, and, with two vigorous jerks, hauled them on, and then
seizing his hat, like any bird, stood poised for his flight across the
"Well done, my honest friend," said the Doctor; "you have the papers in
your heel, I suppose."
"Ah," exclaimed Israel, perceiving the mild irony; and in an instant his
boots were off again; when, without another word, the Doctor took one
boot, and Israel the other, and forthwith both parties proceeded to
secrete the documents.
"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 Calais. Make all
haste till you arrive at Brentford. I have a little provender here for
you to eat in the diligence, as you will not have time for a regular
meal. A day-and-night courier should never be without a cracker in his
pocket. You will probably leave Brentford in a day or two after your
arrival there. Be wary, now, my good friend; heed well, that, if you are
caught with these papers on British ground, you will involve both
yourself and our Brentford friends in fatal calamities. Kick no man's
box, never mind whose, in the way. Mind your own box. You can't be too
cautious, but don't be too suspicious. God bless you, my honest friend.
And, flinging the door open for his exit, the Doctor saw Israel dart
into the entry, vigorously spring down the stairs, and disappear with
all celerity across the court into the vaulted way.
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.
Safely reaching Calais, at night, Israel stepped almost from the
diligence into the packet, and, in a few moments, was cutting the water.
As on the diligence he took an outside and plebeian seat, so, with the
same secret motive of preserving unsuspected the character assumed, he
took a deck passage in the packet. It coming on to rain violently, he
stole down into the forecastle, dimly lit by a solitary swinging lamp,
where were two men industriously smoking, and filling the narrow hole
with soporific vapors. These induced strange drowsiness in Israel, and
he pondered how best he might indulge it, for a time, without
imperilling the precious documents in his custody.
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
"Sir," said Israel very civilly, "I will thank you for that boot which
lies on the floor, and, if you please, you can let the other stay where
"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 Israel; "but they
don't pinch me at all. I suppose, though, you think they wouldn't pinch
you either; your foot looks rather small. Were you going to try 'em
on, just to see how they fitted?"
"No," said the fellow, with sanctimonious seriousness; "but with your
permission I should like to try them on, when we get to Dover. I
couldn't try them well walking on this tipsy craft's deck, you know."
"No," answered Israel, "and the beach at Dover ain't very smooth either.
I guess, upon second thought, you had better not try 'em on at all.
Besides, I am a simple sort of a soul—eccentric they call me—and don't
like my boots to go out of my sight. Ha! ha!"
"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 getting nigh Dover. Let's see."
And so saying, he sprang up the ladder to the deck. Upon Israel
following, he found the little craft half becalmed, rolling on short
swells almost in the exact middle of the channel. It was just before the
break of the morning; the air clear and fine; the heavens spangled with
moistly twinkling stars. The French and English coasts lay distinctly
visible in the strange starlight, the white cliffs of Dover resembling a
long gabled block of marble houses. Both shores showed a long straight
row of lamps. Israel seemed standing in the middle of the crossing of
some wide stately street in London. Presently a breeze sprang up, and
ere long our adventurer disembarked at his destined port, and directly
posted on for Brentford.
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
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
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
"Why, Squire Woodcock, what is the matter with your chimney?" said
"Quick, go in."
"Am I to sweep the chimney?" demanded Israel; "I didn't engage for
"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
"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 Israel, ruefully looking round.
"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 Paris, just as I seem
about to be made here," said Israel, "yet Doctor Franklin put me in a
better jug than this, Squire Woodcock. It was set out with boquets and a
mirror, and other fine things. Besides, I could step out into the entry
whenever I wanted."
"Ah, but, my hero, that was in France, and this is in England. There you
were in a friendly country: here you are in the enemy's. If you should
be discovered in my house, and your connection with me became known, do
you know that it would go very hard with me; very hard indeed?"
"Then, for your sake, I am willing to stay wherever you think best to
put me," replied Israel.
"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 Israel.
"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.
Israel stood glancing pensively around for a time. By and by, moving the
rolled mattress under the two air-slits, he mounted, to try if aught
were visible beyond. But nothing was to be seen but a very thin slice of
blue sky peeping through the lofty foliage of a great tree planted near
the side-portal of the mansion; an ancient tree, coeval with the ancient
dwelling it guarded.
Sitting down on the Mattress, Israel fell into a reverie.
"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
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 France. How it would pass the time here.
Had I a comb now and a razor, I might shave and curl my hair, and keep
making a continual toilet all through the two days, and look spruce as a
robin when I get out. I'll ask the Squire for the things this very night
when he drops in. Hark! ain't that a sort of rumbling in the wall? I
hope there ain't any oven next door; if so, I shall be scorched out.
Here I am, just like a rat in the wainscot. I wish there was a low
window to look out of. I wonder what Doctor Franklin is doing now, and
Paul Jones? Hark! there's a bird singing in the leaves. Bell for dinner,
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 belated," thought Israel.
The afternoon shadows lengthened. It was sunset; no Squire.
"He must be very busy trying some sheep-stealer in the hall," mused
Israel. "I hope he won't forget all about me till to-morrow."
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
"This is the morning of the third day," murmured Israel to himself; "he
said he would at the furthest come to me on the morning of the third
day. This is it. Patience, he will be here yet. Morning lasts till
But, owing to the murkiness of the day, it was very hard to tell when
noon came. Israel refused to credit that noon had come and gone, till
dusk set plainly in. Dreading he knew not what, he found himself buried
in the darkness of still another night. However patient and hopeful
hitherto, fortitude now presently left him. Suddenly, as if some
contagious fever had seized him, he was afflicted with strange
enchantments of misery, undreamed of till now.
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 Israel's feelings must have been. Here, in this very
darkness, centuries ago, hearts, human as his, had mildewed in despair;
limbs, robust as his own, had stiffened in immovable torpor.
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. Israel would not additionally endanger the
Squire, but he could not in such uncertainty consent to perish where he
was. He resolved at all hazards to escape, by stealth and noiselessly,
if possible; by violence and outcry, if indispensable.
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.
HIS ESCAPE FROM THE HOUSE, WITH VARIOUS ADVENTURES FOLLOWING.
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, nevertheless,
Israel's instinct whispered him that Squire Woodcock lived no more on
this earth. At once the whole three days' mystery was made clear. But
what was now to be done? His friend must have died very suddenly; most
probably struck down in a fit, from which he never more rose. With him
had perished all knowledge of the fact that a stranger was immured in
the mansion. If discovered then, prowling here in the inmost privacies
of a gentleman's abode, what would befall the wanderer, already not
unsuspected in the neighborhood of some underhand guilt as a fugitive?
If he adhered to the strict truth, what could he offer in his own
defence without convicting himself of acts which, by English tribunals,
would be accounted flagitious crimes? Unless, indeed, by involving the
memory of the deceased Squire Woodcock in his own self acknowledged
proceedings, so ungenerous a charge should result in an abhorrent
refusal to credit his extraordinary tale, whether as referring to
himself or another, and so throw him open to still more grievous
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, Israel instantly listened, the
echoing sounds of his descent were mingled with added shrieks from
within the room. They seemed some nervous female's, alarmed by what must
have appeared to her supernatural, or at least unaccountable, noises in
the wall. Directly he heard other voices of alarm undistinguishably
commingled, and then they retreated together, and all again was still.
Recovering from his first amazement, Israel revolved these occurrences.
"No creature now in the house knows of the cell," thought he. "Some
woman, the housekeeper, perhaps, first entered the room alone. Just as
she entered the jamb closed. The sudden report made her shriek; then,
afterwards, the noise of my fall prolonging itself, added to her fright,
while her repeated shrieks brought every soul in the house to her, who
aghast at seeing her lying in a pale faint, it may be, like a corpse, in
a room hung with crape for a man just dead, they also shrieked out, and
then with blended lamentations they bore the fainting person away. Now
this will follow; no doubt it has followed ere now:—they believe that
the woman saw or heard the spirit of Squire Woodcock. Since I seem then
to understand how all these strange events have occurred, since I seem
to know that they have plain common causes, I begin to feel cool and
calm again. Let me see. Yes. I have it. By means of the idea of the
ghost prevailing among the frightened household, by that means I will
this very night make good my escape. If I can but lay hands on some of
the late Squire's clothing, if but a coat and hat of his, I shall be
certain to succeed. It is not too early to begin now. They will hardly
come back to the room in a hurry. I will return to it and see what I can
find to serve my purpose. It is the Squire's private closet, hence it is
not unlikely that here some at least of his clothing will be found."
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
Israel selected from these the complete suit in which he had last seen
his once jovial friend. Carefully closing the door, and carrying the
suit with him, he was returning towards the chimney, when he saw the
Squire's silver-headed cane leaning against a corner of the wainscot.
Taking this also, he stole back to his cell.
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 Israel felt himself
encased in a dead man's broadcloth; nay, in the very coat in which the
deceased had no doubt fallen down in his fit. By degrees he began to
feel almost as unreal and shadowy as the shade whose part he intended to
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. Israel's heart beat like
a hammer; his face turned like a sheet. But bracing himself, pulling his
hat lower down over his eyes, settling his head in the collar of his
coat, he advanced along the defile of wildly staring faces. He advanced
with a slow and stately step, looked neither to the right nor the left,
but went solemnly forward on his now faintly illuminated way, sounding
his cane on the floor as he passed. The faces in the doorways curdled
his blood by their rooted looks. Glued to the spot, they seemed
incapable of motion. Each one was silent as he advanced towards him or
her, but as he left each individual, one after another, behind, each in
a frenzy shrieked out, "The Squire, the Squire!" As he passed the lady
in the widow's weeds, she fell senseless and crosswise before him. But
forced to be immutable in his purpose, Israel, solemnly stepping over
her prostrate form, marched deliberately on.
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 Boston town, on the well-remembered
night of the 16th of June. The same season; the same moon; the same
new-mown hay on the shaven sward; hay which was scraped together during
the night to help pack into the redoubt so hurriedly thrown up.
Acted on as if by enchantment, Israel sat down on one of the cocks, and
gave himself up to reverie. But, worn out by long loss of sleep, his
reveries would have soon merged into slumber's still wilder dreams, had
he not rallied himself, and departed on his way, fearful of forgetting
himself in an emergency like the present. It now occurred to him that,
well as his disguise had served him in escaping from the mansion of
Squire Woodcock, that disguise might fatally endanger him if he should
be discovered in it abroad. He might pass for a ghost at night, and
among the relations and immediate friends of the gentleman deceased; but
by day, and among indifferent persons, he ran no small risk of being
apprehended for an entry-thief. He bitterly lamented his omission in not
pulling on the Squire's clothes over his own, so that he might now have
reappeared in his former guise.
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 Israel, so strange a sight roused a supernatural
suspicion. His conscience morbidly reproaching him for the terrors he
had bred in making his escape from the house, he seemed to see in the
fixed gesture of the stranger something more than humanly significant.
But somewhat of his intrepidity returned; he resolved to test the
apparition. Composing itself to the same deliberate stateliness with
which it had paced the hall, the phantom of Squire Woodcock firmly,
advanced its cane, and marched straight forward towards the mysterious
As he neared him, Israel shrunk. The dark coat-sleeve flapped on the
bony skeleton of the unknown arm. The face was lost in a sort of ghastly
blank. It was no living man.
But mechanically continuing his course, Israel drew still nearer and saw
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, Israel drew
out the lid of an old tobacco-box, the broken bowl of a pipe, two rusty
nails, and a few kernels of wheat. This reminded him of the Squire's
pockets. Trying them, he produced a handsome handkerchief, a
spectacle-case, with a purse containing some silver and gold, amounting
to a little more than five pounds. Such is the difference between the
contents of the pockets of scarecrows and the pockets of well-to-do
squires. Ere donning his present habiliments, Israel had not omitted to
withdraw his own money from his own coat, and put it in the pocket of
his own waistcoat, which he had not exchanged.
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 Portsmouth, had familiarized him with the most deplorable of
wardrobes. Well, too, he knew, and had experienced it, that for a man
desirous of avoiding notice, the more wretched the clothes, the better.
For who does not shun the scurvy wretch, Poverty, advancing in battered
hat and lamentable coat?
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
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, Israel concluded that he might justly use the
money for his own. To which opinion surely no charitable judge will
demur. Besides, what should he do with the purse, if not use it for his
own? It would have been insane to have returned it to the relations.
Such mysterious honesty would have but resulted in his arrest as a
rebel, or rascal. As for the Squire's clothes, handkerchief, and
spectacle-case, they must be put out of sight with all dispatch. So,
going to a morass not remote, Israel sunk them deep down, and heaped
tufts of the rank sod upon them. Then returning to the field of corn,
sat down under the lee of a rock, about a hundred yards from where the
scarecrow had stood, thinking which way he now had best direct his
steps. But his late ramble coming after so long a deprivation of rest,
soon produced effects not so easy to be shaken off, as when reposing
upon the haycock. He felt less anxious too, since changing his apparel.
So before he was aware, he fell into deep sleep.
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 hollow, Israel
ran briskly to the identical spot where the scarecrow had stood, where,
standing stiffly erect, pulling the hat well over his face, and
thrusting out his arm, pointed steadfastly towards the Squire's abode,
he awaited the event. Soon the man reappeared in sight, and marching
right on, paused not far from Israel, and gave him an one earnest look,
as if it were his daily wont to satisfy that all was right with the
scarecrow. No sooner was the man departed to a reasonable distance,
than, quitting his post, Israel struck across the fields towards London.
But he had not yet quite quitted the field when it occurred to him to
turn round and see if the man was completely out of sight, when, to his
consternation, he saw the man returning towards him, evidently by his
pace and gesture in unmixed amazement. The man must have turned round to
look before Israel had done so. Frozen to the ground, Israel knew not
what to do; but next moment it struck him that this very motionlessness
was the least hazardous plan in such a strait. Thrusting out his arm
again towards the house, once more he stood stock still, and again
awaited the event.
It so happened that this time, in pointing towards the house, Israel
unavoidably pointed towards the advancing man. Hoping that the
strangeness of this coincidence might, by operating on the man's
superstition, incline him to beat an immediate retreat, Israel kept cool
as he might. But the man proved to be of a braver metal than
anticipated. In passing the spot where the scarecrow had stood, and
perceiving, beyond the possibility of mistake, that by, some
unaccountable agency it had suddenly removed itself to a distance,
instead of being, terrified at this verification of his worst
apprehensions, the man pushed on for Israel, apparently resolved to sift
this mystery to the bottom.
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 stratagems vain, Israel now threw himself into
the original attitude of the scarecrow, and once again stood immovable.
Abating his pace by degrees almost to a mere creep, the man at last came
within three feet of him, and, pausing, gazed amazed into Israel's eyes.
With a stern and terrible expression Israel resolutely returned the
glance, but otherwise remained like a statue, hoping thus to stare his
pursuer out of countenance. At last the man slowly presented one prong
of his fork towards Israel's left eye. Nearer and nearer the sharp point
came, till no longer capable of enduring such a test, Israel took to his
heels with all speed, his tattered coat-tails streaming behind him. With
inveterate purpose the man pursued. Darting blindly on, Israel, leaping
a gate, suddenly found himself in a field where some dozen laborers
were at work, who recognizing the scarecrow—an old acquaintance of
theirs, as it would seem—lifted all their hands as the astounding
apparition swept by, followed by the man with the pitchfork. Soon all
joined in the chase, but Israel proved to have better wind and bottom
than any. Outstripping the whole pack he finally shot out of their sight
in an extensive park, heavily timbered in one quarter. He never saw more
of these people.
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,
Israel offered to buy from the farmer his best suit of clothes, and
displayed the money on the spot.
"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 Israel, very soberly. "But what do you say?
will you sell me your suit?—here's the cash."
"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
casuist—Israel knew not what to reply. This honest confusion confirmed
the farmer, who with many abusive epithets drove him into the road,
telling him that he might thank himself that he did not arrest him on
In great dolor at this unhappy repulse, Israel trudged on in the
moonlight some three miles to the house of another friend, who also had
once succored him in extremity. This man proved a very sound sleeper.
Instead of succeeding in rousing him by his knocking, Israel but
succeeded in rousing his wife, a person not of the greatest amiability.
Raising the sash, and seeing so shocking a pauper before her, the woman
upbraided him with shameless impropriety in asking charity at dead of
night, in a dress so improper too. Looking down at his deplorable
velveteens, Israel discovered that his extensive travels had produced a
great rent in one loin of the rotten old breeches, through which a
whitish fragment protruded.
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 Israel prudently retreated some paces.
Here he entreated the woman to take mercy on his plight, and since she
would not waken her husband, at least throw to him (Israel) her
husband's breeches, and he would leave the price of them, with his own
breeches to boot, on the sill of the door.
"You behold how sadly I need them," said he; "for heaven's sake befriend
"Quit the premises!" reiterated the woman.
"The breeches, the breeches! here is the money," cried Israel, half
furious with anxiety.
"Saucy cur," cried the woman, somehow misunderstanding him; "do you
cunningly taunt me with wearing the breeches'? begone!"
Once more poor Israel decamped, and made for another friend. But here a
monstrous bull-dog, indignant that the peace of a quiet family should be
disturbed by so outrageous a tatterdemalion, flew at Israel's
unfortunate coat, whose rotten skirts the brute tore completely off,
leaving the coat razeed to a spencer, which barely came down to the
wearer's waist. In attempting to drive the monster away, Israel's hat
fell off, upon which the dog pounced with the utmost fierceness, and
thrusting both paws into it, rammed out the crown and went snuffling the
wreck before him. Recovering the wretched hat, Israel again beat a
retreat, his wardrobe sorely the worse for his visits. Not only was his
coat a mere rag, but his breeches, clawed by the dog, were slashed into
yawning gaps, while his yellow hair waved over the top of the crownless
beaver, like a lonely tuft of heather on the highlands.
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
Israel. But soon thinking a little better of his case, and seeing yet
another house which had once furnished him with an asylum, he made bold
to advance to the door. Luckily he this time met the man himself, just
emerging from bed. At first the farmer did not recognize the fugitive,
but upon another look, seconded by Israel's plaintive appeal, beckoned
him into the barn, where directly our adventurer told him all he thought
prudent to disclose of his story, ending by once more offering to
negotiate for breeches and coat. Having ere this emptied and thrown away
the purse which had played him so scurvy a trick with the first farmer,
he now produced three crown-pieces.
"Three crown-pieces in your pocket, and no crown to your hat!" said the
"But I assure you, my friend," rejoined Israel, "that a finer hat was
never worn, until that confounded bull-dog ruined it."
"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 Israel was equipped in a gray coat of coarse cloth,
not much improved by wear, and breeches to match. For half-a-crown more
he procured a highly respectable looking hat.
"Now, my kind friend," said Israel, "can you tell me where Horne Tooke
and John Bridges live?"
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
"I was right," thought Israel to himself. "But where does Horne Tooke
live?" he demanded again.
"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 Israel, who, from various amiable remarks he had
heard from Horne Tooke at the Squire's, little dreamed he was an
ordained clergyman. Yet a good-natured English clergyman translated
Lucian; another, equally good-natured, wrote Tristam Shandy; and a
third, an ill-natured appreciator of good-natured Rabelais, died a dean;
not to speak of others. Thus ingenious and ingenuous are some of the
"You can't tell me, then, where to find Horne Tooke?" said Israel, in
"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."
So Israel departed; better clothed, but no wiser than before.
What to do next? He reckoned up his money, and concluded he had plenty
to carry him back to Doctor Franklin in Paris. Accordingly, taking a
turn to avoid the two nearest villages, he directed his steps towards
London, where, again taking the post-coach for Dover, he arrived on the
channel shore just in time to learn that the very coach in which he rode
brought the news to the authorities there that all intercourse between
the two nations was indefinitely suspended. The characteristic
taciturnity and formal stolidity of his fellow-travellers—all
Englishmen, mutually unacquainted with each other, and occupying
different positions in life—having prevented his sooner hearing the
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 America. Quite
out of the question now. The sage had likewise intimated that he might
possibly see him some way remunerated for his sufferings in his
country's cause. An idea no longer to be harbored. Then Israel recalled
the mild man of wisdom's words—"At the prospect of pleasure never be
elated; but without depression respect the omens of ill." But he found
it as difficult now to comply, in all respects, with the last section of
the maxim, as before he had with the first.
While standing wrapped in afflictive reflections on the shore, gazing
towards the unattainable coast of France, a pleasant-looking cousinly
stranger, in seamen's dress, accosted him, and, after some pleasant
conversation, very civilly invited him up a lane into a house of rather
secret entertainment. Pleased to be befriended in this his strait,
Israel yet looked inquisitively upon the man, not completely satisfied
with his good intentions. But the other, with good-humored violence,
hurried him up the lane into the inn, when, calling for some spirits, he
and Israel very affectionately drank to each other's better health and
"Take another glass," said the stranger, affably.
Israel, to drown his heavy-heartedness, complied. The liquor began to
"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 Israel found
himself kidnapped into the naval service of the magnanimous old
gentleman of Kew Gardens—his Royal Majesty, George III.
"Hands off!" said Israel, fiercely, as the two men pinioned him.
"Reglar game-cock," said the cousinly-looking man. "I must get three
guineas for cribbing him. Pleasant voyage to ye, my friend," and,
leaving Israel a prisoner, the crimp, buttoning his coat, sauntered
leisurely out of the inn.
"I'm no Englishman," roared Israel, in a foam.
"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
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.
IN WHICH ISRAEL IS SAILOR UNDER TWO FLAGS, AND IN THREE SHIPS, AND ALL
IN ONE NIGHT.
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 Bunker Hill, now be kidnapped to fight that oppressor's battles
on the endless drifts of the Bunker Hills of the billows? But like many
other repiners, Israel was perhaps a little premature with upbraidings
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 Gibraltar, talking to some lowland peasant
in a hut. The reply was, that in a sudden flaw of wind, which came nigh
capsizing them, not an hour since, the cutter had lost all four foremost
men by the violent jibing of a boom. She wanted help to get back to
"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, Israel's curiosity had prompted him to dart up the
ladder from the main-deck, and stand right in the gangway above, looking
out on the strange craft. Meantime the order had been given to drop a
boat. Thinking this a favorable chance, he stationed himself so that he
should be the foremost to spring into the boat; though crowds of English
sailors, eager as himself for the same opportunity to escape from
foreign service, clung to the chains of the as yet imperfectly
disciplined man-of-war. As the two men who had been lowered in the boat
hooked her, when afloat, along to the gangway, Israel dropped like a
comet into the stern-sheets, stumbled forward, and seized an oar. In a
moment more, all the oarsmen were in their places, and with a few
strokes the boat lay alongside the cutter.
"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 Israel could
spring to his feet, he felt a violent thrust in his rear from the toes
of one of the disappointed behind him.
"Jump, dobbin!" cried the officer of the boat.
But Israel was already on board. Another moment, and the boat and cutter
parted. Ere long, night fell, and the man-of-war and her consorts were
out of sight.
The revenue vessel resumed her course towards the nighest port, worked
by but four men: the captain, Israel, and two officers. The cabin-boy
was kept at the helm. As the only foremast man, Israel was put to it
pretty hard. Where there is but one man to three masters, woe betide
that lonely slave. Besides, it was of itself severe work enough to
manage the vessel thus short of hands. But to make matters still worse,
the captain and his officers were ugly-tempered fellows. The one kicked,
and the others cuffed Israel. Whereupon, not sugared with his recent
experiences, and maddened by his present hap, Israel seeing himself
alone at sea, with only three men, instead of a thousand, to contend
against, plucked up a heart, knocked the captain into the lee scuppers,
and in his fury was about tumbling the first-officer, a small wash of a
fellow, plump overboard, when the captain, jumping to his feet, seized
him by his long yellow hair, vowing he would slaughter him. Meanwhile
the cutter flew foaming through the channel, as if in demoniac glee at
this uproar on her imperilled deck. While the consternation was at its
height, a dark body suddenly loomed at a moderate distance into view,
shooting right athwart the stern of the cutter. The next moment a shot
struck the water within a boat's length.
"Heave to, and send a boat on board!" roared a voice almost as loud as
"That's a war-ship," cried the captain of the revenue vessel, in alarm;
"but she ain't a countryman."
Meantime the officers and Israel stopped the cutter's way.
"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
"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 France; she's some bloodthirsty
pirate or other. What d'ye say, men?" turning to his officers; "let's
outsail her, or be shot to chips. We can beat her at sailing, I know."
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.
But Israel stood indifferent, or rather all in a fever of conflicting
emotions. He thought he recognized the voice from the strange vessel.
"Come, what do ye standing there, fool? Spring to the ropes here!" cried
the furious captain.
But Israel did not stir.
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 hurled on Israel. But their
exertions at the ropes prevented his shipmates for the time from using
personal violence. While observing their efforts, Israel could not but
say to himself, "These fellows are as brave as they are brutal."
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 Israel, running towards the captain, who still held the
splintered stump of the tiller, stood full before him, saying, "I am an
enemy, a Yankee, look to yourself."
"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, Israel
smote him over the taffrail into the sea, as if the man had fallen
backwards over a teetering chair. By this time the two officers were
hurrying aft. Ere meeting them midway, Israel, quick as lightning, cast
off the two principal halyards, thus letting the large sails all in a
tumble of canvass to the deck. Next moment one of the officers was at
the helm, to prevent the cutter from capsizing by being without a
steersman in such an emergency. The other officer and Israel
interlocked. The battle was in the midst of the chaos of blowing
canvass. Caught in a rent of the sail, the officer slipped and fell near
the sharp iron edge of the hatchway. As he fell he caught Israel by the
most terrible part in which mortality can be grappled. Insane with pain,
Israel dashed his adversary's skull against the sharp iron. The
officer's hold relaxed, but himself stiffened. Israel made for the
helmsman, who as yet knew not the issue of the late tussle. He caught
him round the loins, bedding his fingers like grisly claws into his
flesh, and hugging him to his heart. The man's ghost, caught like a
broken cork in a gurgling bottle's neck, gasped with the embrace.
Loosening him suddenly, Israel hurled him from him against the bulwarks.
That instant another report was heard, followed by the savage hail—"You
down sail at last, do ye? I'm a good mind to sink ye for your scurvy
trick. Pull down that dirty rag there, astern!"
With a loud huzza, Israel hauled down the flag with one hand, while with
the other he helped the now slowly gliding craft from falling off before
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 Israel.
"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 Israel.
"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 men, as Israel
climbed the side, he saw, by the light of battle-lanterns, a small,
smart, brigandish-looking man, wearing a Scotch bonnet, with a gold band
"You rascal," said this person, "why did your paltry smack give me this
chase? Where's the rest of your gang?"
"Captain Paul," said Israel, "I believe I remember you. I believe I
offered you my bed in Paris some months ago. How is Poor Richard?"
"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 Israel told him.
"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
"No. Let her drift into Penzance, an anonymous earnest of what the
whitesquall in Paul Jones intends for the future."
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 Israel
down with him into his cabin.
"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
As Paul handed the flagon, Israel's eye fell upon his hand.
"You don't wear any rings now, Captain, I see. Left them in Paris for
"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 sea," resumed
Israel. "On my first voyage to the West Indies, I wore a girl's ring on
my middle finger here, and it wasn't long before, what with hauling wet
ropes, and what not, it got a kind of grown down into the flesh, and
pained me very bad, let me tell you, it hugged the finger so."
"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."
So Israel went on and told the story in all particulars.
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 London courts, triumphantly acquitting
me; how then will they credit my interested words? If slander, however
much a lie, once gets hold of a man, it will stick closer than fair
fame, as black pitch sticks closer than white cream. But let 'em
slander. I will give the slanderers matter for curses. When last I left
Whitehaven, I swore never again to set foot on her pier, except, like
Caesar, at Sandwich, as a foreign invader. Spring under me, good ship;
on you I bound to my vengeance!"
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
Israel had prompted this momentary ebullition. When it was gone by, he
seemed not a little to regret it. But he passed it over lightly, saying,
"You see, my fine fellow, what sort of a bloody cannibal I am. Will you
be a sailor of mine? A sailor of the Captain who flogged poor Mungo
Maxwell to death?"
"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 Israel, at the memory of all he had suffered.
"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 in
"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
"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, Captain. In Kew Gardens it was,
where I worked gravelling the walks. I was all alone with him, talking
for some ten minutes."
"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 or 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,
"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.
THEY SAIL AS FAR AS THE CRAG OF AILSA.
Next morning Israel was appointed quartermaster—a subaltern selected
from the common seamen, and whose duty mostly stations him in the stern
of the ship, where the captain walks. His business is to carry the glass
on the look-out for sails; hoist or lower the colors; and keep an eye on
the helmsman. Picked out from the crew for their superior respectability
and intelligence, as well as for their excellent seamanship, it is not
unusual to find the quartermasters of an armed ship on peculiarly easy
terms with the commissioned officers and captain. This birth, therefore,
placed Israel in official contiguity to Paul, and without subjecting
either to animadversion, made their public intercourse on deck almost as
familiar as their unrestrained converse in the cabin.
It was a fine cool day in the beginning of April. They were now off the
coast of Wales, whose lofty mountains, crested with snow, presented a
Norwegian aspect. The wind was fair, and blew with a strange, bestirring
power. The ship—running between Ireland and England, northwards,
towards the Irish Sea, the inmost heart of the British waters—seemed,
as she snortingly shook the spray from her bow, to be conscious of the
dare-devil defiance of the soul which conducted her on this anomalous
cruise. Sailing alone from out a naval port of France, crowded with
ships-of-the-line, Paul Jones, in his small craft, went forth in
single-armed championship against the English host. Armed with but the
sling-stones in his one shot-locker, like young David of old, Paul
bearded the British giant of Gath. It is not easy, at the present day,
to conceive the hardihood of this enterprise. It was a marching up to
the muzzle; the act of one who made no compromise with the cannonadings
of danger or death; such a scheme as only could have inspired a heart
which held at nothing all the prescribed prudence of war, and every
obligation of peace; combining in one breast the vengeful indignation
and bitter ambition of an outraged hero, with the uncompunctuous
desperation of a renegade. In one view, the Coriolanus of the sea; in
another, a cross between the gentleman and the wolf.
As Paul stood on the elevated part of the quarter-deck, with none but his
confidential quartermaster near him, he yielded to Israel's natural
curiosity to learn something concerning the sailing of the expedition.
Paul stood lightly, swaying his body over the sea, by holding on to the
mizzen-shrouds, an attitude not inexpressive of his easy audacity; while
near by, pacing a few steps to and fro, his long spy-glass now under his
arm, and now presented at his eye, Israel, looking the very image of
vigilant prudence, listened to the warrior's story. It appeared that on
the night of the visit of the Duke de Chartres and Count D'Estaing to
Doctor Franklin in Paris—the same night that Captain Paul and Israel
were joint occupants of the neighboring chamber—the final sanction of
the French king to the sailing of an American armament against England,
under the direction of the Colonial Commissioner, was made known to the
latter functionary. It was a very ticklish affair. Though swaying on the
brink of avowed hostilities with England, no verbal declaration had as
yet been made by France. Undoubtedly, this enigmatic position of things
was highly advantageous to such an enterprise as Paul's.
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 Franklin, the sage well knew that a prowling brave, like
Paul Jones, was, like the prowling lion, by nature a solitary warrior.
"Let him alone," was the wise man's answer to some statesman who sought
to hamper Paul with a letter of instructions.
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
On the second day after Israel's arrival on board the Ranger, as he and
Paul were conversing on the deck, Israel suddenly levelling his glass
towards the Irish coast, announced a large sail bound in. The Ranger
gave chase, and soon, almost within sight of her destination—the port
of Dublin—the stranger was taken, manned, and turned round for Brest.
The Ranger then stood over, passed the Isle of Man towards the
Cumberland shore, arriving within remote sight of Whitehaven about
sunset. At dark she was hovering off the harbor, with a party of
volunteers all ready to descend. But the wind shifted and blew fresh
with a violent sea.
"I won't call on old friends in foul weather," said Captain Paul to
Israel. "We'll saunter about a little, and leave our cards in a day or
Next morning, in Glentinebay, on the south shore of Scotland, they fell
in with a revenue wherry. It was the practice of such craft to board
merchant vessels. The Ranger was disguised as a merchantman, presenting
a broad drab-colored belt all round her hull; under the coat of a
Quaker, concealing the intent of a Turk. It was expected that the
chartered rover would come alongside the unchartered one. But the former
took to flight, her two lug sails staggering under a heavy wind, which
the pursuing guns of the Ranger pelted with a hail-storm of shot. The
wherry escaped, spite the severe cannonade.
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 Dublin. He sunk her to prevent intelligence.
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 Clyde, he gave chase, hoping
to cut her off. The stranger proving a fast sailer, the pursuit was
urged on with vehemence, Paul standing, plank-proud, on the
quarter-deck, calling for pulls upon every rope, to stretch each already
half-burst sail to the uttermost.
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 Ranger
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
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
"Captain Paul," said Israel, shortly afterwards, "you changed your mind
rather queerly about catching that craft. But you thought she was
drawing us too far up into the land, I suppose."
"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."
THEY LOOK IN AT CARRICKFERGUS, AND DESCEND ON WHITEHAVEN.
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 Israel to his commander, as about sunset
they backed and stood in again for the land "surely, sir, you are not
going right in among them this way? Why not wait till she comes out?"
"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 Canadas, laden with
"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; England,
Scotland, and Ireland, with all their lofty cliffs, being as
simultaneously as plainly in sight beyond the grass-green waters, as the
City Hall, St. Paul's, and the Astor House, from the triangular Park in
New York. The three kingdoms lay covered with snow, far as the eye could
"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. Israel, lad, I mean to step ashore in
person, and have a personal hand in the thing. Did you ever drive
"I've driven the spike-teeth into harrows before now," replied Israel;
"but that was before I was a sailor."
"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
As the night wore on, and the ship, with a very light wind, glided
nigher and nigher the mark, Paul called upon Israel to produce his
bucket for final inspection. Thinking some of the spikes too large, he
had them filed down a little. He saw to the lanterns and combustibles.
Like Peter the Great, he went into the smallest details, while still
possessing a genius competent to plan the aggregate. But oversee as one
may, it is impossible to guard against carelessness in subordinates.
One's sharp eyes can't see behind one's back. It will yet be noted that
an important omission was made in the preparations for Whitehaven.
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 Arctic Sea. As they reached the outer pier,
the men saw each other's faces. The day was dawning. The riggers and
other artisans of the shipping would before very long be astir. No
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 Lisbon, in 1755. So insecure and treacherous was the site of the
place now about to be assailed by a desperado, nursed, like the coal, in
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 London with coal.
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 Nile. Their sailless, raking
masts, and canted yards, resembled a forest of fish-spears thrust into
those same hippopotamus hides. Partly flanking one side of the grounded
fleet was a fort, whose batteries were raised from the beach. On a
little strip of this beach, at the base of the fort, lay a number of
small rusty guns, dismounted, heaped together in disorder, as a litter
of dogs. Above them projected the mounted cannon.
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 Israel.
Using Israel for a ladder, in a trice he scaled the wall. The bucket and
the men followed. He led the way softly to the guard-house, burst in,
and bound the sentinels in their sleep. Then arranging his force,
ordered four men to spike the cannon there.
"Now, Israel, your bucket, and follow me to the other fort."
The two went alone about a quarter of a mile.
"Captain Paul," said Israel, on the way, "can we two manage the
"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
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, Israel following him with the bucket, like a footman, or some
charitable gentleman with a basket of alms.
"There, it is done. D'ye see the fire yet, lad, from the south? I
"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? Israel,
my lion, now prove your blood. Get me a light—but one spark!"
"Has any man here a bit of pipe and tobacco in his pocket?" said
A sailor quickly produced an old stump of a pipe, with tobacco.
"That will do," and Israel hurried away towards the town.
"What will the loon do with the pipe?" said one. "And where goes he?"
"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
There was a lonely house standing somewhat disjointed from the town,
some poor laborer's abode. Rapping at the door, Israel, pipe in mouth,
begged the inmates for a light for his tobacco.
"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 Israel, "it is daylight.
Quick, give me a light. Don't you know your old friend? Shame! open the
In a moment a sleepy fellow appeared, let down the bar, and Israel,
stalking into the dim room, piloted himself straight to the fire-place,
raked away the cinders, lighted his tobacco, and vanished.
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
bricks, Israel had already hurried himself out of sight.
"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
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 America, by one mighty conflagration of shipping in England. Come on,
lads! Pipes and matches in the van!"
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 Israel sprang on board.
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, Israel ran to collect the
tar-pots, which being presently poured on the burning matches, oakum and
wood, soon increased the flame.
"It is not a sure thing yet," said Paul, "we must have a barrel of
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 incipient conflagration, Israel,
without a weapon, dashed crazily towards the mob on the shore.
"Come back, come back," cried Paul.
"Not till I start these sheep, as their own wolves many a time started
As he rushed bare-headed like a madman, towards the crowd, the panic
spread. They fled from unarmed Israel, further than they had from the
pistol of Paul.
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.
Just as Israel was leaping into the boat, he saw the man at whose house
he had procured the fire, staring like a simpleton at him.
"That was good seed you gave me;" said Israel, "see what a yield,"
pointing to the flames. He then dropped into the boat, leaving only Paul
on the pier.
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.
THEY CALL AT THE EARL OF SELKIRK'S, AND AFTERWARDS FIGHT THE SHIP-OF-WAR
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 Israel, landed on St. Mary's Isle, one of the seats of the Earl of
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 Israel,
he announced his presence at the porch.
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 Paris, on gilded paper.
Israel tarried in the hall while the old servant led Paul into a parlor.
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
"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 Edinburgh," uneasily responded the lady, again about to
"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
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, Ranger, 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
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 Israel, standing all agape before a Highland
target of steel, with a claymore and foil crossed on top.
"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 in?" demanded Israel in roguish concern.
"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
"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 America; but they help themselves to
plate whenever they can get it from the private houses of the enemy."
"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! 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 Israel back, to enter the house with
the officers, as joint receiver of the plate, he being, of course, the
most reliable of the seamen.
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 Israel.
"Mister Butler," said Israel, "let me go into the dairy and help to
carry the milk-pans."
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
Israel, bidding him hasten immediately with it to the house and place it
in Lady Selkirk's own hands.
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 Israel, reconnoitring with his glass, informed him
that a large ship, probably the Drake, was just coming out.
"What think you, Israel, do they know who we are? Let me have the
"They are dropping a boat now, sir," replied Israel, removing the glass
from his eye, and handing it to Paul.
"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
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
"You had news from Whitehaven, I suppose, last night, eh?"
"Aye: express; saying that certain incendiaries had landed there early
"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. Israel, see the unfortunate gentleman below, and his men
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 Israel.
"There will be more smoke yet before the day is done," replied Paul,
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 Israel.
"Give her the stars and stripes, then, my lad."
Joyfully running to the locker, Israel attached the flag to the
halyards. The wind freshened. He stood elevated. The bright flag blew
around him, a glorified shroud, enveloping him in its red ribbons and
spangles, like up-springing tongues, and sparkles of flame.
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
The sun was now calmly setting over the green land of Ireland. The sky
was serene, the sea smooth, the wind just sufficient to waft the two
vessels steadily and gently. After the first firing and a little
manoeuvring, the two ships glided on freely, side by side; in that mild
air Exchanging their deadly broadsides, like two friendly horsemen
walking their steeds along a plain, chatting as they go. After an hour
of this running fight, the conversation ended. The Drake struck. How
changed from the big craft of sixty short minutes before! She seemed
now, above deck, like a piece of wild western woodland into which
choppers had been. Her masts and yards prostrate, and hanging in
jack-straws; several of her sails ballooning out, as they dragged in the
sea, like great lopped tops of foliage. The black hull and shattered
stumps of masts, galled and riddled, looked as if gigantic woodpeckers
had been tapping them.
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
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 Ireland, steered towards Brest. They
were repeatedly chased by English cruisers, but safely reached their
anchorage in the French waters.
"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 Israel, who also had
conquered a craft, and all unaided too—what had he?
THE EXPEDITION THAT SAILED FROM GROIX.
Three months after anchoring at Brest, through Dr. Franklin's
negotiations with the French king, backed by the bestirring ardor of
Paul, a squadron of nine vessels, of various force, were ready in the
road of Groix for another descent on the British coasts. These craft
were miscellaneously picked up, their crews a mongrel pack, the officers
mostly French, unacquainted with each other, and secretly jealous of
Paul. The expedition was full of the elements of insubordination and
failure. Much bitterness and agony resulted to a spirit like Paul's. But
he bore up, and though in many particulars the sequel more than
warranted his misgivings, his soul still refused to surrender.
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
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
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 tower of Pisa. Poor Israel, standing on the top of this
poop, spy-glass at his eye, looked more an astronomer than a mariner,
having to do, not with the mountains of the billows, but the mountains
in the moon. Galileo on Fiesole. She was originally a single-decked
ship, that is, carried her armament on one gun-deck; but cutting ports
below, in her after part, Paul rammed out there six old
eighteen-pounders, whose rusty muzzles peered just above the water-line,
like a parcel of dirty mulattoes from a cellar-way. Her name was the
Duras, but, ere sailing, it was changed to that other appellation,
whereby this sad old hulk became afterwards immortal. Though it is not
unknown, that a compliment to Doctor Franklin was involved in this
change of titles, yet the secret history of the affair will now for the
first time be disclosed.
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
"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," cried Israel, suddenly
struck by the idea.
"'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
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 Scotland, with only two accompanying ships. But
neither the mutiny of his fleet, nor the chaos of the elements, made him
falter in his purpose. Nay, at this crisis, he projected the most daring
of all his descents.
The Cheviot Hills were in sight. Sundry vessels had been described bound
in for the Firth of Forth, on whose south shore, well up the Firth,
stands Leith, the port of Edinburgh, distant but a mile or two from that
capital. He resolved to dash at Leith, and lay it under contribution or
in ashes. He called the captains of his two remaining consorts on board
his own ship to arrange details. Those worthies had much of fastidious
remark to make against the plan. After losing much time in trying to
bring to a conclusion their sage deliberations, Paul, by addressing
their cupidity, achieved that which all appeals to their gallantry
could not accomplish. He proclaimed the grand prize of the Leith lottery
at no less a figure than £200,000, that being named as the ransom.
Enough: the three ships enter the Firth, boldly and freely, as if
carrying Quakers to a Peace-Congress.
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 Scotland, quietly sailing up the bay. Batteries were hastily
thrown up at Leith, arms were obtained from the castle at Edinburgh,
alarm fires were kindled in all directions. Yet with such tranquillity
of effrontery did Paul conduct his ships, concealing as much as possible
their warlike character, that more than once his vessels were mistaken
for merchantmen, and hailed by passing ships as such.
In the afternoon, Israel, at his station on the tower of Pisa, reported
a boat with five men coming off to the Richard from the coast of Fife.
"They have hot oat-cakes for us," said Paul; "let 'em come. To encourage
them, show them the English ensign, Israel, my lad."
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 Israel: "Oh, put up your price, it's a gift 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
"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
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
thriving little port of Kirkaldy.
"There's a great crowd on the beach. Captain Paul," said Israel, looking
through his glass. "There seems to be an old woman standing on a
fish-barrel there, a sort of selling things at auction to the people,
but I can't be certain yet."
"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,
"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
"The strong wind of your hate fills my sails well. Adieu," waving his
bonnet—"tell us the rest at Leith."
Next morning the ships were almost within cannon-shot of the town. The
men to be landed were in the boats. Israel had the tiller of the
foremost one, waiting for his commander to enter, when just as Paul's
foot was on the gangway, a sudden squall struck all three ships, dashing
the boats against them, and causing indescribable confusion. The squall
ended in a violent gale. Getting his men on board with all dispatch,
Paul essayed his best to withstand the fury of the wind, but it blew
adversely, and with redoubled power. A ship at a distance went down
beneath it. The disappointed invader was obliged to turn before the
gale, and renounce his project.
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 harbor of Leith.
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 Paris. In a
word, luck—that's the word—shortly threw in Paul's way the great
action of his life: the most extraordinary of all naval engagements; the
unparalleled death-lock with the Serapis.
THEY FIGHT THE SERAPIS.
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 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
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 Yorkshire.
From the Tees to the Humber, the eastern coast of Britain, for the most
part, wears a savage, melancholy, and Calabrian aspect. It is in course
of incessant decay. Every year the isle which repulses nearly all other
foes, succumbs to the Attila assaults of the deep. Here and there the
base of the cliffs is strewn with masses of rock, undermined by the
waves, and tumbled headlong below, where, sometimes, the water
completely surrounds them, showing in shattered confusion detached
rocks, pyramids, and obelisks, rising half-revealed from the surf—the
Tadmores of the wasteful desert of the sea. Nowhere is this desolation
more marked than for those fifty miles of coast between Flamborough Head
and the Spurm.
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 Humber they ineffectually manoeuvred with a
view of drawing out a king's frigate, reported to be lying at anchor
within. At another time a large fleet was encountered, under convoy of
some ships of force. But their panic caused the fleet to hug the edge of
perilous shoals very nigh the land, where, by reason of his having no
competent pilot, Paul durst not approach to molest them. The same night
he saw two strangers further out at sea, and chased them until three in
the morning, when, getting pretty nigh, he surmised that they must needs
be vessels of his own squadron, which, previous to his entering the
Firth of Forth, had separated from his command. Daylight proved this
supposition correct. Five vessels of the original squadron were now once
more in company. About noon a fleet of forty merchantmen appeared coming
round Flamborough Head, protected by two English man-of-war, the Serapis
and Countess of Scarborough. Descrying the five cruisers sailing down,
the forty sail, like forty chickens, fluttered in a panic under the wing
of the shore. Their armed protectors bravely steered from the land,
making the disposition for battle. Promptly accepting the challenge,
Paul, giving the signal to his consorts, earnestly pressed forward. But,
earnest as he was, it was seven in the evening ere the encounter began.
Meantime his comrades, heedless of his signals, sailed independently
along. Dismissing them from present consideration, we confine ourselves,
for a while, to the Richard and the Serapis, the grand duellists 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 Scarborough, drew near, seemingly
desirous of giving assistance to her consort. But thick smoke was now
added to the night's natural obscurity. The Scarborough imperfectly
discerned two ships, and plainly saw the common fire they made; but
which was which, she could not tell. Eager to befriend the Serapis, she
durst not fire a gun, lest she might unwittingly act the part of a foe.
As when a hawk and a crow are clawing and beaking high in the air, a
second crow flying near, will seek to join the battle, but finding no
fair chance to engage, at last flies away to the woods; just so did the
Scarborough now. Prudence dictated the step; because several chance
shot—from which of the combatants could not be known—had already
struck the Scarborough. So, unwilling uselessly to expose herself, off
went for the present this baffled and ineffectual friend.
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 London flagging in a night-rain
from an apothecary's blue and green window. Through this sardonical
mist, the face of the Man-in-the-Moon—looking right towards the
combatants, as if he were standing in a trap-door of the sea, leaning
forward leisurely with his arms complacently folded over upon the edge
of the horizon—this queer face wore a serious, apishly self-satisfied
leer, as if the Man-in-the-Moon had somehow secretly put up the ships
to their contest, and in the depths of his malignant old soul was not
unpleased to see how well his charms worked. There stood the grinning
Man-in-the-Moon, his head just dodging into view over the rim of the
sea:—Mephistopheles prompter of the stage.
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 Alliance. The
shot whizzed across the broad interval like shuttlecocks across a great
hall. Presently the battledores of both batteries were at work, and
rapid compliments of shuttlecocks were very promptly exchanged. The
adverse consorts of the two main belligerents fought with all the rage
of those fiery seconds who in some desperate duels make their
principal's quarrel their own. Diverted from the Richard and the Serapis
by this little by-play, the Man-in-the-Moon, all eager to see what it
was, somewhat raised himself from his trap-door with an added grin on
his face. By this time, off sneaked the Alliance, and down swept the
Pallas, at close quarters engaging the Scarborough; an encounter
destined in less than an hour to end in the latter ship's striking her
Compared to the Serapis and the Richard, the Pallas and the Scarborough
were as two pages to two knights. In their immature way they showed the
same traits as their fully developed superiors.
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 Scarborough—a mist slowly
adrift on the sea, like a floating isle, and at intervals irradiated
with sparkles of fire and resonant with the boom of cannon. Further
away, in the deeper water, was a lurid cloud, incessantly torn in shreds
of lightning, then fusing together again, once more to be rent. As yet
this lurid cloud was neither stationary nor slowly adrift, like the
first-mentioned one; but, instinct with chaotic vitality, shifted hither
and thither, foaming with fire, like a valiant water-spout careering off
the coast of Malabar.
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
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 Venice which dozes between two shadowy piles, and high in air is
secretly crossed by the Bridge of Sighs. But where the six yard-arms
reciprocally arched overhead, three bridges of sighs were both seen and
heard, as the moon and wind kept rising.
Into that Lethean canal—pond-like in its smoothness as compared with
the sea without—fell many a poor soul that night; fell, forever
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 tower of Pisa but a few naked crow
stanchions. Thenceforth, not a few balls from the Serapis must have
passed straight through the Richard without grazing her. It was like
firing buck-shot through the ribs of a skeleton.
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
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 guns, as Lowell girls the rows of looms in a cotton
factory. The Parcae were not more methodical; Atropos not more fatal;
the automaton chess-player not more irresponsible.
"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 Israel. Israel did as ordered. In a
few minutes, bucket in hand, begrimed with powder, sixty feet in air, he
hung like Apollyon from the extreme tip of the yard over the fated abyss
of the hatchway. As he looked down between the eddies of smoke into that
slaughterous pit, it was like looking from the verge of a cataract down
into the yeasty pool at its base. Watching, his chance, he dropped one
grenade with such faultless precision, that, striking its mark, an
explosion rent the Serapis like a volcano. The long row of heaped
cartridges was ignited. The fire ran horizontally, like an express on a
railway. More than twenty men were instantly killed: nearly forty
wounded. This blow restored the chances of battle, before in favor of
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
Scarborough, before the moon rose, has already been mentioned. It is now
to be related how that, when the moon was more than an hour high, a
consort of the Richard, the Alliance, likewise approached and retreated.
This ship, commanded by a Frenchman, infamous in his own navy, and
obnoxious in the service to which he at present belonged; this ship,
foremost in insurgency to Paul hitherto, and which, for the most part,
had crept like a poltroon from the fray; the Alliance now was at hand.
Seeing her, Paul deemed the battle at an end. But to his horror, the
Alliance threw a broadside full into the stern of the Richard, without
touching the Serapis. Paul called to her, for God's sake to forbear
destroying the Richard. The reply was, a second, a third, a fourth
broadside, striking the Richard ahead, astern, and amidships. One of the
volleys killed several men and one officer. Meantime, like carpenters'
augers, and the sea-worm called Remora, the guns of the Serapis were
drilling away at the same doomed hull. After performing her nameless
exploit, the Alliance sailed away, and did no more. She was like the
great fire of London, breaking out on the heel of the great Plague. By
this time, the Richard had so many shot-holes low down in her hull, that
like a sieve she began to settle.
"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 tower of Pisa to haul down the colors. But
they were already shot down and trailing in the water astern, like a
sailor's towing shirt. Seeing the gunner there, groping about in the
smoke, Israel asked what he wanted.
At this moment the gunner, rushing to the rail, shouted "Quarter!
quarter!" to the Serapis.
"I'll quarter ye," yelled Israel, smiting the gunner with the flat of
"Do you strike?" now came from the Serapis.
"Aye, aye, aye!" involuntarily cried Israel, fetching the gunner a
shower of blows.
"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
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 Israel, Paul
Jones flits and re-flits like a crimson thread. One more brief
intermingling of it, and to the plain old homespun we return.
The battle won, the squadron started for the Texel, where they arrived
in safety. Omitting all mention of intervening harassments, suffice it,
that after some months of inaction as to anything of a warlike nature,
Paul and Israel (both, from different motives, eager to return to
America) sailed for that country in the armed ship Ariel, Paul as
commander, Israel as quartermaster.
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. Israel, clinging midway along
the boom, soon found himself divided from the Ariel by a space
impossible to be leaped. Meantime, suspecting foul play, Paul set every
sail; but the stranger, having already the advantage, contrived to make
good her escape, though perseveringly chased by the cheated conqueror.
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
"Clearing the signal halyards, sir," replied Israel, fumbling with the
cord which happened to be dangling near by.
"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 Israel, and in a moment he sprang to the deck, and
soon found himself mixed in among some two hundred English sailors of a
large letter of marque. At once he perceived that the story of half the
crew being killed was a mere hoax, played off for the sake of making an
escape. Orders were continually being given to pull on this and that
rope, as the ship crowded all sail in flight. To these orders Israel,
with the rest, promptly responded, pulling at the rigging stoutly as the
best of them; though Heaven knows his heart sunk deeper and deeper at
every pull which thus helped once again to widen the gulf between him
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 Israel. "I'm a topmate;
ain't I, lads?" appealing to the rest.
"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," cried Israel, "to serve an old topmate this
way. Come, come, you are foolish. Give us a quid." And, once more, with
the utmost sociability, he addressed the sailor next to him.
"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
Seeing the party thus resolute, Israel, with some affected banter,
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, Israel must some way get himself
recognized as belonging to some one of those bands; otherwise, as an
isolated nondescript, discovery ere long would be certain, especially
upon the next general muster. To be sure, the hope in question was a
forlorn sort of hope, but it was his sole one, and must therefore be
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 Israel, joining in with the group, "old
ballyhoo that she is, to be sure. But didn't we pepper her, lads? Give
us a chew of tobacco, one of ye. How many have we wounded, do ye know?
None killed that I've heard of. Wasn't that a fine hoax we played on
'em? Ha! ha! But give us a chew."
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,", said Israel, advancing, like one of the
family, to that gun.
"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 Israel, composedly.
"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, Israel tried other quarters of
the vessel. But with equal ill success. Jealous with the spirit of
class, no social circle would receive him. As a last resort, he dived
down among the holders.
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 Israel, advancing very
cordially, but keeping as much as possible in the shadow.
"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
"Oh, you're growly to-night, shipmate," said Israel, pleasantly—"supper
sits hard on your conscience."
"Get out of the hold with ye," roared the other. "On deck, or I'll call
Once more Israel decamped.
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
"Cheer up, lads," said Israel, in a jovial tone, "homeward-bound, you
know. Give us a seat among ye, friends."
"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
"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.
But Israel, riot to be daunted, began:
"'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" demanded Israel
reproachfully, "trying to cheer up his friends? Shame on ye, boys. Come,
let's be sociable. Spin us a yarn, one of ye. Meantime, rub my back for
me, another," and very confidently he leaned against his neighbor.
"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
Israel. But there was a deck above and a deck below, and the lantern
swung in the distance. It was too dim to see with critical exactness.
"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 Israel was ejected.
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, Israel perceived from the crowd and tumult of the
berth deck, now all alive with men leaping into their hammocks, instead
of being full of sleepers quietly dosing therein, that the watches were
changed. Going above, he renewed in various quarters his offers of
intimacy with the fresh men there assembled; but was successively
repulsed as before. At length, just as day was breaking, an irascible
fellow whose stubborn opposition our adventurer had long in vain sought
to conciliate—this man suddenly perceiving, by the gray morning light,
that Israel had somehow an alien sort of general look, very savagely
pressed him for explicit information as to who he might be. The answers
increased his suspicion. Others began to surround the two. Presently,
quite a circle was formed. Sailors from distant parts of the ship drew
near. One, and then another, and another, declared that they, in their
quarters, too, had been molested by a vagabond claiming fraternity, and
seeking to palm himself off upon decent society. In vain Israel
protested. The truth, like the day, dawned clearer and clearer. More and
more closely he was scanned. At length the hour for having all hands on
deck arrived; when the other watch which Israel had first tried,
reascending to the deck, and hearing the matter in discussion, they
endorsed the charge of molestation and attempted imposture through the
night, on the part of some person unknown, but who, likely enough, was
the strange man now before them. In the end, the master-at-arms appeared
with his bamboo, who, summarily collaring poor Israel, led him as a
mysterious culprit to the officer of the deck, which gentleman having
heard the charge, examined him in great perplexity, and, saying that he
did not at all recognize that countenance, requested the junior officers
to contribute their scrutiny. But those officers were equally at fault.
"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?"
"Sir," replied Israel very humbly, "I am going to my regular duty, if
you will but let me. I belong to the maintop, and ought to be now
engaged in preparing the topgallant stu'n'-sail for hoisting."
"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 Israel, thinking it most prudent
to conceal his real appellation.
"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
"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
"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
"Oh, yes, sir."
"What was you doing yesterday?"
"Well, sir, for one thing, I believe I had the honor of a little talk
"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 before
"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 Israel.
"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
"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
Israel, with the view of taking him off his guard, by the matter of
course assumption of the very point at issue.
"Answer, sir. Why did you jump on board here, last night, from the
"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
"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 from Falmouth, ten
"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
"Ports, sir, ports?"
"Yes, sir, ports"
Israel began to scratch his yellow hair.
"What ports, sir?"
"Well, sir:—Boston, for one."
"Right there," whispered a midshipman.
"What was the next port, sir?"
"Why, sir, I was saying Boston was the first port, I believe; wasn't
"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—Falmouth, sir."
"What sort of a place is Boston?"
"Pretty considerable of a place, sir."
"Very straight streets, ain't they?"
"Yes, sir; cow-paths, cut by sheep-walks, and intersected with
"When did we fire the first gun?"
"Well, sir, just as we were leaving Falmouth, ten months
"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
"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 Israel there, leaning very leisurely over the rail, looking
mildly down where the officer stood.
"Well, Peter Perkins, you seem to belong to the maintop, after all."
"I always told you so, sir," smiled Israel benevolently down upon him,
"though, at first, you remember, sir, you would not believe it."
SAMSON AMONG THE PHILISTINES.
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 nigher, Israel heard the officer in
command of the party ashore shouting, "To the castle! to the castle!"
and so, surrounded by shouting throngs, the company moved on, preceded
by the three drawn swords, ever and anon flourished at the rioters,
towards a large grim pile on a cliff about a mile from the landing. Long
as they were in sight, the bulky form of the captive was seen at times
swayingly towering over the flashing bayonets and cutlasses, like a
great whale breaching amid a hostile retinue of sword-fish. Now and
then, too, with barbaric scorn, he taunted them with cramped gestures of
his manacled hands.
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 Israel, with others, was allowed to
go ashore for a stroll. The town was quiet. Seeing nothing very
interesting there, he passed out, alone, into the fields alongshore, and
presently found himself climbing the cliff whereon stood the grim pile
before spoken of.
"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
[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
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
Arrived at the end of the arched-way, where the sun shone, Israel stood
transfixed, at the scene.
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 Cave of Adullam. Unshaven, beard and
hair matted, and profuse as a corn-field beaten down by hailstorms, his
whole marred aspect was that of some wild beast; but of a royal sort,
and unsubdued by the cage.
"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,
"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
The good-natured stranger, not to have his religious courtesy appealed
to in vain, immediately dispatched his servant, who stood by, to procure
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 gallants of Falmouth.
"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
"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,
"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
"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 took Ticonderoga,
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
"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 Montreal. Selah! But
pray, now that I look at you, are not you the hero I caught dodging
round, in his shirt, in the cattle-pen, inside the fort? It was the
break of day, you remember."
"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
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 against Britain,
is not meant for you, kind friends, but for my insulters, present and to
come." Then recognizing among the interposers the giver of the bowl, he
turned with a courteous bow, saying, "Thank you again and again, my good
sir; you may not be the worse for this; ours is an unstable world; so
that one gentleman never knows when it may be his turn to be helped of
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 strangers,
Israel among the rest, and closing the castle gates after them.
SOMETHING FURTHER OF ETHAN ALLEN; WITH ISRAEL'S FLIGHT TOWARDS THE
Among the episodes of the Revolutionary War, none is stranger than that
of Ethan Allen in England; the event and the man being equally uncommon.
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 New England, he exhibited no trace of her character. He
was frank, bluff, companionable as a Pagan, convivial, a Roman, hearty
as a harvest. His spirit was essentially Western; and herein is his
peculiar Americanism; for the Western spirit is, or will yet be (for no
other is, or can be), the true American one.
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 Montreal, he was treated with
inexcusable cruelty and indignity; something as if he had fallen into
the hands of the Dyaks. Immediately upon his capture he would have been
deliberately suffered to have been butchered by the Indian allies in
cold blood on the spot, had he not, with desperate intrepidity, availed
himself of his enormous physical strength, by twitching a British
officer to him, and using him for a living target, whirling him round
and round against the murderous tomahawks of the savages. Shortly
afterwards, led into the town, fenced about by bayonets of the guard,
the commander of the enemy, one Colonel McCloud, flourished his cane
over the captive's head, with brutal insults promising him a rebel's
halter at Tyburn. During his passage to England in the same ship wherein
went passenger Colonel Guy Johnson, the implacable tory, he was kept
heavily ironed in the hold, and in all ways treated as a common
mutineer; or, it may be, rather as a lion of Asia; which, though caged,
was still too dreadful to behold without fear and trembling, and
consequent cruelty. And no wonder, at least for the fear; for on one
occasion, when chained hand and foot, he was insulted on shipboard by an
officer; with his teeth he twisted off the nail that went through the
mortise of his handcuffs, and so, having his arms at liberty, challenged
his insulter to combat. Often, as at Pendennis Castle, when no other
avengement was at hand, he would hurl on his foes such howling tempests
of anathema as fairly to shock them into retreat. Prompted by somewhat
similar motives, both on shipboard and in England, he would often make
the most vociferous allusions to Ticonderoga, and the part he played in
its capture, well knowing, that of all American names, Ticonderoga was,
at that period, by far the most famous and galling to Englishmen.
Parlor-men, dancing-masters, the graduates of the Albe Bellgarde, may
shrug their laced shoulders at the boisterousness of Allen in England.
True, he stood upon no punctilios with his jailers; for where modest
gentlemanhood is all on one side, it is a losing affair; as if my Lord
Chesterfield should take off his hat, and smile, and bow, to a mad bull,
in hopes of a reciprocation of politeness. When among wild beasts, if
they menace you, be a wild beast. Neither is it unlikely that this was
the view taken by Allen. For, besides the exasperating tendency to
self-assertion which such treatment as his must have bred on a man like
him, his experience must have taught him, that by assuming the part of a
jocular, reckless, and even braggart barbarian, he would better sustain
himself against bullying turnkeys than by submissive quietude. Nor
should it be forgotten, that besides the petty details of personal
malice, the enemy violated every international usage of right and
decency, in treating a distinguished prisoner of war as if he had been a
Botany-Bay convict. If, at the present day, in any similar case between
the same States, the repetition of such outrages would be more than
unlikely, it is only because it is among nations as among individuals:
imputed indigence provokes oppression and scorn; but that same indigence
being risen to opulence, receives a politic consideration even from its
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 Israel had been an eye-witness
of the scenes on the Castle Green. Neither was this interest abated by
the painful necessity of concealing, for the present, from his brave
countryman and fellow-mountaineer, the fact of a friend being nigh. When
at last the throng was dismissed, walking towards the town with the
rest, he heard that there were some forty or more Americans, privates,
confined on the cliff. Upon this, inventing a pretence, he turned back,
loitering around the walls for any chance glimpse of the captives.
Presently, while looking up at a grated embrasure in the tower, he
started at a voice from it familiarly hailing him:
"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
Israel was under arrest. Being brought into the presence of the forty
prisoners, where they lay in litters of mouldy straw, strewn with gnawed
bones, as in a kennel, he recognized among them one Singles, now
Sergeant Singles, the man who, upon our hero's return home from his last
Cape Horn voyage, he had found wedded to his mountain Jenny. Instantly a
rush of emotions filled him. Not as when Damon found Pythias. But far
stranger, because very different. For not only had this Singles been an
alien to Israel (so far as actual intercourse went), but impelled to it
by instinct, Israel had all but detested him, as a successful, and
perhaps insidious rival. Nor was it altogether unlikely that Singles had
reciprocated the feeling. But now, as if the Atlantic rolled, not
between two continents, but two worlds—this, and the next—these alien
souls, oblivious to hate, melted down into one.
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
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 ship, Israel had little dreamed of its liability
to the same governmental hardships with the meanest merchantman. But the
system of impressment is no respecter either of pity or person.
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 the capital, Israel for more than forty years was yet to disappear,
as one entering at dusk into a thick wood. Nor did ever the German
forest, nor Tasso's enchanted one, contain in its depths more things of
horror than eventually were revealed in the secret clefts, gulfs, caves
and dens of London.
But here we anticipate a page.
ISRAEL IN EGYPT.
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 supply the London market, hordes
of the poorest wretches are employed, their grimy tatters naturally
adapting them to an employ where cleanliness is as much out of the
question as with a drowned man at the bottom of the lake in the Dismal
Desperate with want, Israel resolved to turn brickmaker, nor did he fear
to present himself as a stranger, nothing doubting that to such a
vocation his rags would be accounted the best letters of introduction.
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.
Israel was assigned to this pit. Men came to him continually, reaching
down rude wooden trays, divided into compartments, each of the size and
shape of a brick. With a flat sort of big ladle, Israel slapped the
dough into the trays from the trough; then, with a bit of smooth board,
scraped the top even, and handed it up. Half buried there in the pit,
all the time handing those desolate trays, poor Israel seemed some
gravedigger, or churchyard man, tucking away dead little innocents in
their coffins on one side, and cunningly disinterring them again to
resurrectionists stationed on the other.
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, Israel had been struck by the
dismally devil-may-care gestures of the moulders. But hardly had he
himself been a moulder three days, when his previous sedateness of
concern at his unfortunate lot, began to conform to the reckless sort of
half jolly despair expressed by the others. The truth indeed was, that
this continual, violent, helter-skelter slapping of the dough into the
moulds, begat a corresponding disposition in the moulder, who, by
heedlessly slapping that sad dough, as stuff of little worth, was
thereby taught, in his meditations, to slap, with similar heedlessness,
his own sadder fortunes, as of still less vital consideration. To these
muddy philosophers, men and bricks were equally of clay. "What signifies
who we be—dukes or ditchers?" thought the moulders; "all is vanity and
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, Israel toiled
in his pit. Though this condemned him to a sort of earthy dungeon, or
gravedigger's hole, while he worked, yet even when liberated to his
meals, naught of a cheery nature greeted him. The yard was encamped,
with all its endless rows of tented sheds, and kilns, and mills, upon a
wild waste moor, belted round by bogs and fens. The blank horizon, like
a rope, coiled round the whole.
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 Pekin. As man serves bricks, so God
him, building him up by billions into edifices of his purposes. Man
attains not to the nobility of a brick, unless taken in the aggregate.
Yet is there a difference in brick, whether quick or dead; which, for
the last, we now shall see.
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, Israel often took a peep into
the low vaulted ways at the base, where the flaming fagots had crackled.
The bricks immediately lining the vaults would be all burnt to useless
scrolls, black as charcoal, and twisted into shapes the most grotesque;
the next tier would be a little less withered, but hardly fit for
service; and gradually, as you went higher and higher along the
successive layers of the kiln, you came to the midmost ones, sound,
square, and perfect bricks, bringing the highest prices; from these the
contents of the kiln gradually deteriorated in the opposite direction,
upward. But the topmost layers, though inferior to the best, by no means
presented the distorted look of the furnace-bricks. The furnace-bricks
were haggard, with the immediate blistering of the fire—the midmost
ones were ruddy with a genial and tempered glow—the summit ones were
pale with the languor of too exclusive an exemption from the burden of
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 London, once more to be set up in
ambitious edifices, to a true brickyard philosopher, little less
transient than the kilns.
Sometimes, lading out his dough, Israel could not but bethink him of
what seemed enigmatic in his fate. He whom love of country made a hater
of her foes—the foreigners among whom he now was thrown—he who, as
soldier and sailor, had joined to kill, burn and destroy both them and
theirs—here he was at last, serving that very people as a slave, better
succeeding in making their bricks than firing their ships. To think that
he should be thus helping, with all his strength, to extend the walls of
the Thebes of the oppressor, made him half mad. Poor Israel!
well-named—bondsman in the English Egypt. But he drowned the thought by
still more recklessly spattering with his ladle: "What signifies who we
be, or where we are, or what we do?" Slap-dash! "Kings as clowns are
codgers—who ain't a nobody?" Splash! "All is vanity and clay."
IN THE CITY OF DIS.
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 Windsor, from the Surrey side.
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
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
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
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 Dis abide white.
As retired at length, midway, in a recess of the bridge, Israel surveyed
them, various individual aspects all but frighted him. Knowing not who
they were; never destined, it may be, to behold them again; one after
the other, they drifted by, uninvoked ghosts in Hades. Some of the
wayfarers wore a less serious look; some seemed hysterically merry; but
the mournful faces had an earnestness not seen in the others: because
man, "poor player," succeeds better in life's tragedy than comedy.
Arrived, in the end, on the Middlesex side, Israel's heart was
prophetically heavy; foreknowing, that being of this race, felicity
could never be his lot.
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 Israel during his forty years wanderings
in the London deserts, surpassed the forty years in the natural
wilderness of the outcast Hebrews under Moses.
In that London fog, went before him the ever-present cloud by day, but
no pillar of fire by the night, except the cold column of the monument,
two hundred feet beneath the mocking gilt flames on whose top, at the
stone base, the shiverer, of midnight, often laid down.
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 London. Yet, when this came to pass, he
could only embrace the facilities for a return here furnished, by
deserting a wife and child, wedded and born in the enemy's land.
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
But many a poor soldier had sloped down there into the boggy canal of
Avernus before him. Nay, he had three corporals and a sergeant for
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, Israel returned
to chair-bottoming. And it was in frequenting Covent-Garden market, at
early morning, for the purchase of his flags, that he experienced one
of the strange alleviations hinted of above. That chatting with the
ruddy, aproned, hucksterwomen, on whose moist cheeks yet trickled the
dew of the dawn on the meadows; that being surrounded by bales of hay,
as the raker by cocks and ricks in the field; those glimpses of garden
produce, the blood-beets, with the damp earth still tufting the roots;
that mere handling of his flags, and bethinking him of whence they must
have come, the green hedges through which the wagon that brought them
had passed; that trudging home with them as a gleaner with his sheaf of
wheat;—all this was inexpressibly grateful. In want and bitterness,
pent in, perforce, between dingy walls, he had rural returns of his
boyhood's sweeter days among them; and the hardest stones of his
solitary heart (made hard by bare endurance alone) would feel the stir
of tender but quenchless memories, like the grass of deserted flagging,
upsprouting through its closest seams. Sometimes, when incited by some
little incident, however trivial in itself, thoughts of home
would—either by gradually working and working upon him, or else by an
impetuous rush of recollection—overpower him for a time to a sort of
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 Israel there—at times staring dreamily about him—seemed like
some amazed runaway steer, or trespassing Pequod Indian, impounded on
the shores of Narraganset Bay, long ago; and back to New England our
exile was called in his soul. For still working, and thinking of home;
and thinking of home, and working amid the verdant quietude of this
little oasis, one rapt thought begat another, till at last his mind
settled intensely, and yet half humorously, upon the image of Old
Huckleberry, his mother's favorite old pillion horse; and, ere long,
hearing a sudden scraping noise (some hob-shoe without, against the iron
pailing), he insanely took it to be Old Huckleberry in his stall,
hailing him (Israel) with his shod fore-foot clattering against the
planks—his customary trick when hungry—and so, down goes Israel's
hook, and with a tuft of white clover, impulsively snatched, he hurries
away a few paces in obedience to the imaginary summons. But soon
stopping midway, and forlornly gazing round at the enclosure, he
bethought him that a far different oval, the great oval of the ocean,
must be crossed ere his crazy errand could be done; and even then, Old
Huckleberry would be found long surfeited with clover, since, doubtless,
being dead many a summer, he must be buried beneath it. And many years
after, in a far different part of the town, and in far less winsome
weather too, passing with his bundle of flags through Red-Cross street,
towards Barbican, in a fog so dense that the dimmed and massed blocks
of houses, exaggerated by the loom, seemed shadowy ranges on ranges of
midnight hills, he heard a confused pastoral sort of sounds—tramplings,
lowings, halloos—and was suddenly called to by a voice to head off
certain cattle, bound to Smithfield, bewildered and unruly in the fog.
Next instant he saw the white face—white as an orange-blossom—of a
black-bodied steer, in advance of the drove, gleaming ghost-like through
the vapors; and presently, forgetting his limp, with rapid shout and
gesture, he was more eager, even than the troubled farmers, their
owners, in driving the riotous cattle back into Barbican. Monomaniac
reminiscences were in him—"To the right, to the right!" he shouted, as,
arrived at the street corner, the farmers beat the drove to the left,
towards Smithfield: "To the right! you are driving them back to the
pastures—to the right! that way lies the barn-yard!" "Barn-yard?" cried
a voice; "you are dreaming, old man." And so, Israel, now an old man,
was bewitched by the mirage of vapors; he had dreamed himself home into
the mists of the Housatonic mountains; ruddy boy on the upland pastures
again. But how different the flat, apathetic, dead, London fog now
seemed from those agile mists which, goat-like, climbed the purple
peaks, or in routed armies of phantoms, broke down, pell-mell, dispersed
in flight upon the plain, leaving the cattle-boy loftily alone,
clear-cut as a balloon against the sky.
In 1817 he once more endured extremity; this second peace again drifting
its discharged soldiers on London, so that all kinds of labor were
overstocked. Beggars, too, lighted on the walks like locusts.
Timber-toed cripples stilted along, numerous as French peasants in
sabots. And, as thirty years before, on all sides, the exile had heard
the supplicatory cry, not addressed to him, "An honorable scar, your
honor, received at Bunker Hill, or Saratoga, or Trenton, fighting for
his most gracious Majesty, King George!" so now, in presence of the
still surviving Israel, our Wandering Jew, the amended cry was anew
taken up, by a succeeding generation of unfortunates, "An honorable
scar, your honor, received at Corunna, or at Waterloo, or at Trafalgar!"
Yet not a few of these petitioners had never been outside of the London
smoke; a sort of crafty aristocracy in their way, who, without having
endangered their own persons much if anything, reaped no insignificant
share both of the glory and profit of the bloody battles they claimed;
while some of the genuine working heroes, too brave to beg, too cut-up
to work, and too poor to live, laid down quietly in corners and died.
And here it may be noted, as a fact nationally characteristic, that
however desperately reduced at times, even to the sewers, Israel, the
American, never sunk below the mud, to actual beggary.
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
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 Israel unconsciously sowed the seeds of his eventual
return. For with added years, the boy felt added longing to escape his
entailed misery, by compassing for his father and himself a voyage to
the Promised Land. By his persevering efforts he succeeded at last,
against every obstacle, in gaining credit in the right quarter to his
extraordinary statements. In short, charitably stretching a technical
point, the American Consul finally saw father and son embarked in the
Thames for Boston.
It was the year 1826; half a century since Israel, in early manhood, had
sailed a prisoner in the Tartar frigate from the same port to which he
now was bound. An octogenarian as he recrossed the brine, he showed
locks besnowed as its foam. White-haired old Ocean seemed as a brother.
REQUIESCAT IN PACE.
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
Charles River towards the battle-ground, whose incipient monument, at
that period, was hard to see, as a struggling sprig of corn in a chilly
spring. Upon those heights, fifty years before, his now feeble hands had
wielded both ends of the musket. There too he had received that slit
upon the chest, which afterwards, in the affair with the Serapis, being
traversed by a cutlass wound, made him now the bescarred bearer of a
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
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
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
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.