The Sea Witch
by Maturin Murray
OR, THE AFRICAN QUADROON: A STORY OF THE SLAVE COAST.
THE HUES OF
LET the reader peruse the following story with the same spirit in
which it was written, and not conceive that it is either a pro-slavery
or anti-slavery tale. The "peculiar institution" which is herein
introduced, is brought forward simply as an auxiliary, and not as a
feature of the story. It is only referred to where the plot and
locality upon the slave coast have rendered this necessary, and the
careful reader will observe that the subject is treated with entire
impartiality. These few remarks are introduced, because we desire to
appear consistent. Our paper shall neither directly nor indirectly
further any sectional policy or doctrine, and in its conduct shall be
neutral, free and independent.—Editor of The Flag of our Union.
CHAPTER I. OUTWARD BOUND.
OUR story opens in that broad, far-reaching expanse of water which
lies deep and blue between the two hemispheres, some fifteen degrees
north of the equator, in the latitude of Cuba and the Cape Verd
Islands. The delightful trade winds had not fanned the sea on a finer
summer's day for a twelvemonth, and the waves were daintily swelling
upon the heaving bosom of the deep, as though indicating the
respiration of the ocean. It was scarcely a day's sail beyond the flow
of the Caribbean Sea, that one of those noblest results of man's
handiwork, a fine ship, might have been seen gracefully ploughing her
course through the sky-blue waters of the Atlantic. She was
close-hauled on the larboard tack, steering east-southeast, and to a
sailor's eye presented a certain indescribable something that gave her
taut rig and saucy air a dash of mystery, which would have set him to
speculating at once as to her character and the trade she followed.
Few things can be named that more potently challenge our admiration
than a full-sized ship under way; her myriad of ropes, sails and
appointments, all so complete and well-controlled, the power of her
volition, the promptness with which she obeys the slightest movement
of the helm, the majestic grace of her inclination to the power of the
winds, and the foaming prow and long glistening wake, all go to make
up the charm and peculiarity of a nautical picture. There is true
poetry in such a scene as this, beauty fit to move the heart of an
anchorite. No wonder the sailor loves his ship like a mistress; no
wonder he discourses of her charms with the eloquence of true love and
confiding trust; no landsman can be more enamored of his promised
But the craft to which we especially refer at the present writing,
was a coquette of the first class, beautiful in the extreme, and
richly meriting the name that her owners had placed in golden letters
on her stern—the "Sea Witch." She was one of that class of vessels
known as flat upon the floor, a model that caused her to draw but
little water, and enabled her to run free over a sandbar or into an
inlet, where an ordinary ship's long boat would have grounded. She was
very long and sharp, with graceful concave lines, and might have
measured some five hundred tons. Speed had evidently been the main
object aimed at in her construction, the flatness of her floor giving
her great buoyancy, and her length ensuring fleetness. These were
points that would at once have struck a sailor's eye, as he beheld the
ship bowling gracefully on her course by the power of the trade winds
that so constantly befriend the mariners in these latitudes.
We have said that the "Sea Witch" was of peculiar model, and so
indeed she was. Contrary to the usual rig of what are called clipper
ships, her masts, instead of raking, were perfectly upright, for the
purpose of enabling her to carry more press of sail when need be, and
to hold on longer when speed should be of vital importance—that the
straighter construction of the masts furthers this object, is a fact
long since proven in naval architecture. She was very low, too, in her
rigging, having tremendous square yards; enabling the canvass to act
more immediately upon the hull, instead of operating as a lever aloft,
and keeping the ship constantly off an even keel. Though low in the
waist, yet her ends rose gracefully in a curve towards the
terminations fore and aft, making her very dry on either the
quarter-deck or forecastle. She might have numbered fifty men for her
crew, and if you had looked in board over her bulwarks you would have
seen that her complement was made up of men. There were none there but
real able-bodied seamen—sea dogs, who had roughed it in all weather,
and on all sorts of allowance.
There was a quiet and orderly mien about the deck and among the
watch, that spoke of the silent yet potent arm of authority. The men
spoke to each other now and then, but it was in an under tone, and
there was no open levity. A few men were lounging about the heel of
the bowsprit on the forecastle, one or two were busy in the waist
coiling cable; an officer of second or third caste a quiet, but
decided character, to judge from his features, stood with folded arms
just abaft the mizzen-mast, and a youthful figure, almost too young
seemingly for so responsible a post, leaned idly against the
monkey-rail, near the sage old tar who was at the helm. At first you
might have supposed him a supercargo, an owner's son as passenger, or
something of that sort, from the quite-at-home air he exhibited; but
now and then he cast one of those searching and understanding glances
aloft and fore and aft, taking in the whole range of the ship's trim,
and the way she did her duty, that you realized at once the fact of
his position; and you could not mistake the fact that he was her
He wore a glazed tarpaulin hat of coarse texture, and his dress was
of little better material than that of the crew he commanded, but it
set it somehow quite jauntily upon his fine, well-developed form, and
there was an unmistakable air of conscious authority about him that
showed him to be no stranger to control, or the position which he
filled. The hair, escaping in glossy curls from beneath his hat, added
to a set of very regular features a fine effect, while a clear, full
blue eye, and an open, ingenuous expression of countenance, told of
manliness of heart and chivalric hardihood of character. Exposure to
the elements had bronzed his skin, but there were no wrinkles there,
and Captain Will Ratlin could not have seen more than two and twenty
years, though most of them had doubtless been passed upon the ocean,
for his well-knit form showed him to be one thoroughly inured to
"She does her work daintily, Captain Ratlin," said he who was
evidently an officer, and who had been standing by the mainmast, but
now walked aft.
"Yes, Mr. Faulkner, 'daintily' is the word. I wish our beauty could
be a little more spunky, time is money in our business, sir," was the
"But the willing craft does all she can, sir."
"I don't know, Mr. Faulkner, we can make her do almost anything."
"But talk," added the mate.
"Ay, she will do that in her own way, and eloquently, too,"
continued his superior.
"In coming out of Matanzas, when you made her back and fill like a
saddle horse, I thought she was little less than a human being," said
the mate, honestly.
"She minds her helm like a beauty, and feels the slightest pull
upon her sheets."
"I never saw a vessel lie closer to the wind," said the mate; "she
eats right into it, and yet has not shaken a foot of canvass this half
"That is well."
"It's uncommon, sir," continued the other.
"She must and can do better, though," said the young commander,
with an air of slight impatience. "Call the watch below, Mr. Faulkner,
we will treat our mistress to a new dress this bright day, and flatter
her pride a little; she is of the coquette school, and will bear a
"Ay, ay, sir," responded the officer, without further parley,
walking forward to the fore hatch, and with a few quick blows with a
handspike, and a clear call, he summoned that portion of the crew
whose hours of release from duty permitted them below. The signal rang
sharply through the ship, and caused an instant response.
A score of dark forms issued forth from the forecastle, embracing
representatives from nearly half the nations of the globe; but they
were sturdy sailors, and used to obey the word of command, men to be
relied upon in an emergency, rough in exterior, but within either soft
as women or hard as steel, according to the occasion.
Now it was that an observer not conversant with the "Sea Witch,"
and looking at her from a distance, would have naturally concluded
that she was most appropriately named, for how else could her singular
manouvres and the result that followed be explained? Suddenly the
mizzen royal disappeared, followed by the top-gallant sail, topsail,
and cross-jack courses, seeming to melt away under the eye like a
misty veil, while, almost in a moment of time, there appeared a
spanker, gaff topsail and gaff top-gallantsail in their place, while
the vessel still held on her course.
A moment later, and the royal top-gallantsail, topsail and mainsail
disappear from the main mast, upon which appears a regular fore and
aft suit of canvass, consisting of mainsail, gaff topsail, and gaff
top-gallantsail, reducing the vessel to a square rig forward, and a
plain fore and aft rig aft. A few minutes more, and the foremast
passed through the same metamorphose, leaving the "Sea Witch" a
three-masted schooner, with fore and aft sails on every mast and every
stay. All this had been accomplished with a celerity that showed the
crew to be no strangers to the manouvres through which they had just
passed, each man requiring to work with marked intelligence. Fifty
well drilled men, thorough sea dogs, can turn a five hundred ton ship
"inside out," if the controlling mind understands his position on the
"She wears that dress as though it suited her taste exactly, Mr.
Faulkner," said the captain, running his eye over the vessel, and
glancing over the side to mark her headway.
"Any rig becomes the 'Sea Witch,'" answered the officer, with
"That is true," returned the captain. "Luff, sir, luff a bit, so,
well," he continued to the man at the helm; "we will have all of her
weatherly points that site will give."
"The wind is rather more unsteady than it was an hour past," said
"Rather puffy, and twice I thought it would haul right about, but
here we have it still from the north'rd and east'rd," replied the
"Here it is again," added the mate, as the wind hauled once more.
The immediate object of the change in the vessel's rig, which we
have described, was at once apparent, enabling the vessel to lie
nearer the wind in her course, as well its giving her increased
velocity by bringing more canvass to draw than a square rig could do
when close hauled. But a shrewd observer would have been led to ask,
what other reason, save that of disguise, could have been the
actuating motive in thus giving to the "Sea Witch" a double character
in her rig? For though temporary and somewhat important advantage
could at times be thus gained, as we have seen, yet such an object
alone would not have warranted the increased outlay that was
necessarily incurred, to say nothing of the imperative necessity of a
vessel's being very strongly manned in order to enable her to thus
change her entire aspect with any ordinary degree of celerity, and as
had just been accomplished.
CHAPTER II. CAPTAIN WILL RATLIN.
THE watch below, after completing the work which had summoned them
for the time being on deck, tumbled helter-skelter down the fore hatch
once more, and left on the deck of the "Sea Witch" about a dozen able
seamen who formed the watch upon deck. A number of these were now
gathered in a knot on the forecastle, and while they were sitting
cross-legged, picking old rope, and preparing it in suitable form for
caulking the ship's seams, one of their number was spinning a yarn,
the hero of which was evidently him who now filled the post of
commander on board their vessel. The object of their remarks,
meanwhile, stood once more quietly leaning over the monkey-rail on the
weather side of the quarter-deck, quite unconscious that he was
supplying a theme of entertainment to the forecastle.
There was an absent expression in his handsome face, a look as
though his heart was far distant from the scene about him, and yet a
habit of watchful caution seemed ever and anon to recall his senses,
and his quick, keen glance would run over the craft from stem to stern
with a searching and comprehensive power that showed him master of his
profession, and worthy his trust. Trust?—what was the trust he held?
Surely, no legitimate commerce could warrant the outfit of such a
vessel as he controlled. A man-of-war could hardly have been more
fully equipped with means of offence and defence. Amidship, beneath
that long boat, was a long, heavy metalled gun that worked on a
traverse, and which could command nearly every point of the compass,
while the ship kept her course. Just inside the rise of the low
quarter-deck—the cabin being entered from the deck by the descent of
a couple of steps—there were ranged boarding pikes, muskets,
cutlasses and pistols, ready for instant use. In shape they formed
stars, hearts and diamonds, dangerous but fantastic ornaments.
The brightness of these arms, and the handy way in which they were
arranged in the sockets made to receive them, showed at once that they
were designed for use, while the various other fixtures of the cabin
and docks plainly bespoke preparation for conflict. A strong and lofty
boarding-netting being stowed, also, told of the readiness of the "Sea
Witch" to repel boarders. That all these preparations had been made
merely as ordinary precautions in a peaceful trade was by no means
probable; and yet there they were, and there stood the bright-eyed,
handsome and youthful commander upon the quarter-deck, but he did not
look the desperado—such a term would have poorly accorded with his
open and manly countenance, hie quiet and gentlemanly mien. A pirate
would hardly have dared to lay the course he steered in these
latitudes, where an English or French cruiser was very likely to cross
"He handles a ship as prettily as ever a true blue did yet," said
one of the forecastle group, in replying to some remark of a comrade
concerning the commander.
"That's true," answered another; "he seems to have a sort of
natural way with him, as though he'd been born aboard and never seed
the land at all; and as to that matter, there may be them on board who
say as much of him."
"That isn't far from the truth," answered Bill Marline, "seein' he
started so arly on the sea he can't tell when he wasn't there
"How was that matter, Bill?" asked one of his messmates. "They say
you have kept the captain's reckoning, man and boy, these fifteen
"That have I, and never a truer heart floated than the man you see
yonder leaning over the rail on the quarterdeck, where he belongs,"
answered Bill Marline.
"How did you first fall in with him, Bill?—Tell us that," said one
of the crew.
"Well, do ye see, messmates, it must have been the matter of
thirteen years ago, there or thereabouts, but I can't exactly say,
seeing's I never have kept a log and can't write; but must have been
about that length of time, when I was a foremast hand on board the
'Sea Lion,' as fine an Indiaman as you would wish to see. We were
lying in the Liverpool docks, with sails bent and cargo stowed, under
sailing orders, when one afternoon there strolled alongside a boy
rather ragged and dirty, but with such eyes and such a countenance as
would make him a passport anywhere. Well, do ye see, we were lazing
away time on board, and waiting the captain's coming before we hauled
out into the stream, and so we coaxed the lad aboard. He either didn't
know where he came from or wouldn't tell, and when we proposed to take
him to sea with us, he readily agreed, and sure enough he sailed in
the 'Sea Lion.'"
"Well, heave ahead, Bill," said one of the group, as the narrator
stopped to stove a fresh instalment of the Virginia weed in his
"We hadn't got fairly clear of the channel," continued Bill
Marline, "before the boy had become a general favorite all over the
ship. We washed him up and bent on a new suit of toggery on him, with
a reg'lar tarpaulin, and there was almost a fight whether the
forecastle or the cabin should have him. At last it was left to the
boy himself, and he chose to remain with us in the forecastle. The boy
wasn't sick an hour on the passage until after we left the Cape of
Good Hope, when the flag halliards getting fouled, he was sent up to
the peak to loosen it, and by some lurch of the ship was throw upon
deck. Why it didn't kill him was the wonder of all, but the boy was
crazy for near a month from the blow on his head, which he got in
falling, but he gradually got cured under our captain's care.
"Well, do ye see, our captain was a regular whole-souled fellow,
though he did sometimes work up a hand's old iron pretty close for
him, and so he took the boy into the cabin and gave him a berth
alongside his own, and as he grew better took to teaching him the use
of his instruments, and mathematics, and the like. The boy they said
was wonderful ready, and learned like a book, and could take the sun
and work up the ship's course as well as the captain; but what was the
funniest of all was that, after he got well, he didn't know one of us,
he had forgotten or even how he came on board the ship, the injury had
put such a stopper on his brain that he had forgotten all that ever
occurred before it. To my mind, howdsomever, it wasn't much to forget,
seeing he was little better than a baby, and hadn't been to sea at
all, and you know there aint anything worth knowing on shore, more'n
one can overhaul in a day's leave, more or less, within hail of the
"That's true," growled one or two of his messmates.
"Our ship was a first class freighter and passage vessel, and on
the home voyage we had plenty of ladies. 'Twas surprisin' to see how
natural like the boy took to 'em, and how they all liked him. He was
constantly learning something, and soon got so be could parley vou
like a real frog-eating Frenchman. And then, as I said before, he took
the sun and worked up the the ship's reckoning like a commodore. Well,
do ye se, messmates, we made a second and third voyage together in
that ship, and when master Will Ratlin—for that was a name we give
him when he first came on board, and he's kept it ever since—was a
matter of fourteen years, he was nearly as big as he is now, and acted
as mate, and through I say it, who ought to know somewhat about those
things, I never seed a better seaman of twice his years, always savin'
present company, messmates."
"In course, Bill," growled three or four of his messmates,
"Well, do ye see, messmates, we continued together in the same ship
for the matter of five years, and then master Will and I shipped in
another Indiaman, and we were in the 'Birmingham' for three years or
more. One day we lay off the Cape on the home passage, and a half
dozen of us got shore leave for a few hours, and I among the rest, and
somehow I got rather more grog aboard than I could stow, and when I
came off, the captain swore at me like a pirate, and after I got sober
triced me up to the main rigging for a round dozen. When all hands
were called to witness punishment, shiver my timbers, if master Will
Ratlin, who was the first mate, didn't walk boldly up to the captain,
and say, blunt and honest:
"'Captain Brace, Marline is an old and favorite seaman, and if you
will let this offence pass without further punishment, I will answer
for his future good behaviour, at all times. I ask it, sir, as a
"'But discipline, discipline must be observed, Mr. Ratlin.'
"'I acknowledge he's in fault, sir,' said our mate.
"'And deserves the punishment,' said the captain.
"'I fear he does, sir; but yet I can't bear to see a good seaman
flogged, said the mate, apologetically.
"'Nor I either,' said the captain; 'but Bill Marline deserves the
cat, though as you make it a personal matter, why I'll let him off
this time, Mr. Ratlin.'
"The captain didn't wish to let me go, but he said he wished to
gratify his mate, and so I was cast loose, and after a broadside of
advice, and a hurricane of oaths, was turned over to duty again. I
didn't forget that favor, messmates, and sink me if I wouldn't go to
the bottom to serve him any time. He commanded a brig in the South
American trade after that, and would have made a mate of me, hut
somehow I've got a weakness for grog that isn't very safe, and so he
knows 'twont do. You see him there now, messmates, as calm as a lady;
but he's awake when there's need of it. The man don't live that can
handle a ship better than he; and as for fighting, do ye see,
messmates, we were running on this here same tack, just off the—but
avast upon that, I haven't any more to say, messmates," said the
Bill Marline evidently found himself treading upon dangerous
ground, and wisely cut short his yarn, thereby creating a vast amount
of curiosity among his messmates, but he sternly refused to speak
further upon the subject. Either his commander had prohibited him, or
he found that by speaking he should in some way compromise the credit
or honor of one upon whom he evidently looked as being little less
than one of a superior order of beings to himself.
"But what do you bring up so sudden for? Pay out, old fellow,
there's plenty of sea-room, and no land-sharks to fear," said one of
the group, encouragingly.
"Never you mind, messmates, there's nothing like keeping a civil
tongue in your head, especially being quiet about other people's
business," added Bill.
"What think you, Bill, of this present vocation, eh?" asked another
"I shipped for six months, that's all I know, and no questions
asked. I understand very well that Captain Ratlin wouldn't ship me
where he wouldn't go himself."
"Well, do you see, Bill, most of us are new on board here, though
we have knocked about long enough to get the number of our mess and to
work ship together, and don't perhaps feel so well satisfied as you
"Why, look ye, messmates, arnt you satisfied so long as the
articles you signed are kept by captain and crew?" asked Bill Marline,
"Why, yes, as to that matter; but where are we bound, Bill?" asked
"Any boy in the ship can make out the 'Sea Witch's' course," said
the old tar, evasively. "We're in these here Northern Trades,
close-hauled, and heading, according to my reckoning, due east, and
any man who has stood his trick at the wheel of a ship, knows that
such a course steered from the West Indies will, if well followed, run
down the Cape Verds; that's all I know."
"Port Praya and a port; that was in the articles sure enough,"
answered he who had questioned Bill Marline; "but the 'Sea Witch' will
scarce anchor there before she is off again, according to my
That the old tar knew more than he chose to divulge, however, was
apparent to his comrades, but they knew him to be fixed when he chose,
and so did not endeavor by importunity to gather anything further from
him; so the conversation gradually changed into some other channel.
In the meantime, while the crew gathered about Bill Marline were
thus speculating, the vessel bowled along gracefully, with a speed
that was in itself exhilarating to her young commander, who still
gazed idly at the passing current. Once or twice a slight frown
clouded his features, and his lips moved as though he was striving
within himself either against real or imaginary evil, and then the
same calm, placid manliness of countenance radiated his handsome
features, and his lips were composed.
Now he turned to issue some necessary order, which was uttered in
that calm, manly distinctness that challenges obedience, and then he
resumed his idle gaze over the vessel's side, once more losing himself
in his day dream.
CHAPTER III. THE GALE.
"THE Wind seems to be hauling," said the mate, walking aft, and
addressing his superior.
"Keep her a good full," said the captain, to the man at the helm.
"Ay, ay, sir," said the old tar, as he tried to make the sails draw
by altering the vessel's course a point or two more free.
"Here it is, sure enough," said the captain, "from the southwest.
Up with the men forward once more, Mr. Faulkner!—we must humor our
"All hands oil deck!" shouted the mate at the hatch—an order which
as before was perfectly obeyed.
Almost as quickly as the foremast had been stripped of the square
rig it had at first borne, it was once more clothed again with its
topsail and mainsail, and in less than fifteen minutes the "Sea Witch"
was under a cloud of canvass, with studd'nsails out on both sides,
while the fore and aft sails on the main and mizzen were boomed out
wing and wing dead before the wind. The staysails and jibs were hauled
down now as useless, and the vessel flew like a courser. The change of
wind had brought the sea up, and the vessel had a gradual roll,
causing the waves now and then to come gracefully in over the waist,
while the extreme fore and aft parts of the handsome craft were
"It has set her to waltzing, Mr. Faulkner," said his superior; "but
she improves her speed upon to it, and I think the breeze freshens
from this new quarter."
"Yes, sir. Do you see the long bank of white hereaway to the
south-southwest; it looks like a fog bank, but may be a squall," said
"There are few squalls in these latitudes, Mr. Faulkner, and yet I
don't like the looks of the weather in the southern board," said the
captain, as he gazed to windward, with a quick, searching glance.
While he spoke, the wind came fresher and fresher, and now and then
a damp puff and lull, that were too significant tokens for a seaman to
disregard. Captain Ratlin jumped upon the inner braces of the
taffrail, and shading his eyes with his hands for a moment, looked
steadily to windward, then glanced at his well-filled sails as though
he was loth to lose even a minute of such a fair wind. He delayed,
however, but a second, when jumping down to the deck again, he issued
his orders in those brief but significant tones of voice, which at the
same time imparts promptness and confidence in a waiting crew on
"In studd'nsails, gaff-topsails, fore royal and top-gallantsails,
with a will, men, cheerily, cheerily O!"
These were tones that the crew of the "Sea Witch" were no strangers
to, and sounds they loved, for they betokened a thorough and complete
feeling of confidence between commander and men, and they worked with
"Lay aft here, and brail the spanker up!" continued the captain,
"Ay, ay, sir!" was the response of a half dozen ready hands, as
they sprang to do his bidding.
The vessel was thus, by the consummation of these orders, quickly
reduced to her mainsail, foresail, and foretopsail, while she flew
before the on-coming gale at the rate of seventeen or eighteen knots
an hour, being actually much faster than the sea. It was now evident
to every one on board that a severe gale of wind was gathering, and
its force was momentarily more powerfully exercised upon the vessel.
"She staggers under it, Mr. Faulkner," said his superior, with a
calmness that evinced perfect self-reliance and coolness, while he
regarded the increasing gale.
"Ay, sir, you can drive her at almost any speed," answered the
mate. "She's like a mettled courser, sir, and loves the fleet track."
"Scud while you can, Mr. Faulkner, it's a true nautical rule. Some
men will always heave a ship to if there is a cap fill of—"
"Double-reef the mainsail!" shouted the captain, interrupting
himself, to give an order that he saw was imperative.
"—Wind, but I believe in scudding, if you can," he added.
"Double-reef foretopsail! and look ye, Mr. Faulkner, have presenter
sheets bent on the foresail, this wind is in earnest," said his
superior, more seriously, as he jumped into the mizzen shrouds and
scanned the sea to windward again.
The gale still increased, and everything being now made snug on
board the "Sea Witch," she was run before it with almost incredible
speed. It would have been a study to have regarded the calm
self-possession and complete coolness of the young commander during
this startling gale; he never once left his post, every inch of the
vessel seemed under his eye, and not the least trifle of duty was for
a moment forgotten. If possible, he was more particular than usual
that his orders in the smallest item were strictly observed, and thus
with his iron will and strong intelligence he mastered every
contingency of the hour, imparting that indispensable confidence among
his people so requisite to perfect control. There was a firmness now
expressed in the compressed lips, and a sternness in the eye, that had
not before been manifested, while there was a breathing of authority
in his smallest order.
In an instant more the scene was changed! With terrific violence
the vessel flew up in the wind with the rapidity of thought, and a
report like that of a score of cannons fired at the same moment, was
heard above the roar of the winds.
"What lubberly trick is this?" shouted the captain, fiercely, to
the old tar who held his station at the wheel, and on whose
faithfulness everything depended.
"The wheel rope has parted on the larboard side, your honor," was
"That is no man's fault," said his commander. "Bear a hand here,
Mr. Faulkner, and bend on a fresh wheel rope. Be lively; sir, be
The sails had been blown from the bolt-ropes, in an instant of
time, and the vessel now lay wallowing in the sea. Now once more was
seen the power of discipline and the coolness of the young commander,
whose word was law in that floating community. Fifty voices were
raised in shouts above the storm, suggesting this expedient and that,
but that agile figure, which we have already described, sprang lightly
into the mizzen shrouds, and with a voice that was heard by every soul
on board the "Sea Witch," shouted sternly:
"Silence in the ship!"
Not a voice was heard, and every man quietly awaited his order,
looking abashed that there had been a tongue heard save his who had
the right alone to speak.
"Cast the gasket off the foot of the fore and aft foresail."
"Ay, ay, sir!" responded the mate, who having secured the rudder,
now hastened by his commander, followed by a dozen hands, to execute
"Haul the sheet to port!"
"Ay, ay, sir!"
As the vessel felt the power of the canvass thus opportunely loosed
and brought to bear, she gradually paid off before the wind, and once
more had steerage way. Another foresail was now bent, and this time
double-reefed, the foretopsail, too, was bent, close-reefed and
furled, while the fore and aft foresail was once more stowed, leaving
the "Sea Witch" to scud under double-reefed foresail.
Five days of steady blow continued before the vessel could again
show more than a small portion of her canvass. Then the wind once more
hauled to the northwest, and the "Sea Witch" donned heir fore and aft
rig on all her masts steering close-hauled again due cast, until the
lofty headlands of the Cape de Verds hove gradually in sight, and the
fleet clipper craft made her anchorage in the harbor of Port Praya.
The "Sea Witch," whatever her business in this harbor, seemed able
to transact it without venturing inside the forts, or taking stronger
moorings than a single anchor could afford her. At this she rode with
mysterious quiet. Not a soul of the full complement of men on board
were visible from the shore; now and then perhaps the head of some
taller hand than his fellows might loom up above the bulwarks at the
waist, or a solitary seaman creep quietly aloft to reave a sheet
through some block, or secure some portion of the rigging. The captain
scarcely waited for his land-tackle to hold the vessel before a
quarter-boat was lowered away, and with a half-dozen sturdy fellows as
its crew pulled boldly towards the main landing, where he stepped
ashore and disappeared.
A suspicious eye would have marked the manner in which the sails
upon the "Sea Witch" had been secured, and the way in which she was
moored. If need be, three minutes would have covered her with canvass,
and slipping her cable she could in that space of time, had the order
been issued from her quarter deck, have been under way and looking
once more seaward. Whatever her business, it was very clear that
promptness, secrecy, and large precaution were elements of its
Nor had these characteristics, which we have named, escaped entire
observation of the people on shore, for at the nearest point of land a
group of idlers were visible, who stood gazing at and discussing the
character of the vessel, while at the same moment her young commander
was seen with his boat's crew pulling back from the landing to his
craft. His business was brief enough, for even now the anchor is once
more away. The gallant ship spreads her broad wings one by one, and
gracefully bending to the power of the breeze, glides, like a fleet
courser, over the fathomless depths of the sea, while the mind that
controls her motions again assumes his reverie on the quarter-deck.
CHAPTER IV. BRAMBLE PARK.
CHANGING the field of our story from the blue waves to that of
land, we must ask the reader to go back with us for a period of years
from that wherein our story has opened, to the fertile country and
highly-cultivated lands in the neighborhood of Manchester, England.
Sir Robert Bramble's estate was some eight miles from the large
manufacturing town just named, and embraced within its grounds some of
the most delightfully situated spots within a day's ride in any
direction. Parks, gardens, ponds, groves, stables and fine animals; in
short, every accompaniment to a fine English estate. Sir Robert was a
man of not much force of character, had inherited his estates, and had
partly exhausted his income so far as to render a degree of economy
imperatively necessary, a fact which was not calculated to render any
more amiable a naturally irritable disposition.
The family at Bramble Park, as the estate was called, consisted of
Sir Robert and his lady, a weak-minded, but once beautiful woman, and
two sons, Robert and Charles, the eldest at this period some twelve
years of age, the youngest about nine; the usual number of servants,
in doors and out; made up the household. Sir Robert's could hardly he
said to be a very happy household, notwithstanding there seemed to be
every element and requisite to be found there for peaceful domestic
happiness; and perhaps it would have puzzled a casual observer to have
ascertained wherein laid the root of that evil, which, like a
poisonous upas, seemed to spread its branches through the household.
There was a cloud apparently shadowing each face there; there was
constantly some trouble of a domestic character. Sir Robert and Lady
Bramble seemed to be not on the best of terms with each other, and the
servants wore a hang-dog look, as though they expected at any moment
to be called to account for some piece of rascality. There was,
however, one pleasant face in that household, though even that seemed
tempered by sadness; this was the youngest brother, Charles. He was,
or rather would have been, a cheerful, happy boy, but for the malign
influence of his brother Robert, who seemed his opposite in almost
everything. Robert was jealous, irritable and revengeful; Charles was
open-hearted, mild and forgiving. Robert was cruel to both servants
and animals; Charles was kind to all, and a favorite with all; even
the dumb animals avoided one and adhered to the other, instinctively
knowing a friend.
Robert was the first born and the favorite with his mother, whom he
ruled literally in all things, while Sir Robert, looking upon him as
the legal heir and representative of his name, of course considered
him in a somewhat different light from that in which he regarded
Charles. At times it seemed as though an evil spirit had taken
possession of Robert's heart, and he delighted in oppressing,
domineering over and abusing his brother, who, though he did not lack
for spirit, yet could never bring it to bear against Robert. He meekly
bore his reproaches and abuse, and even at times had suffered personal
chastisement at his hands without complaint to his parents, rather
than irritate both them and himself by referring to so disagreeable a
matter. With a naturally patient disposition, he suffered much without
Sir Robert and Lady Bramble seemed blind to the fact that the
unbounded indulgence which they yielded to their eldest child was
rendering still worse a disposition and habit which were already an
affliction in themselves. But Robert was persevering, and would always
carry his point, let it be what it might, teasing and cajoling the
mother until she granted his wishes however absurd they might be. He
domineered over every one, mother, father, servant maids and servant
men; he was the terror of all.
Charles added to his light-heartedness and cheerfulness of spirit,
great agility, and for a boy of his age, remarkable strength, in which
matters Robert was deficient, and here his jealousy found ample scope.
Charles, too, was remarkably apt with his studies, whereas Robert
generally ended his lessons by quarrelling with his tutor, and setting
both father and mother against him, by which reason the worthy who
filled that post at Bramble Park was usually changed at least once in
six or eight weeks, and thus were matters at the period to which we
refer. It seemed as though Robert was never happy unless he was doing
some one harm, or distressing some of the many pet animals about the
spacious grounds; in this latter occupation he passed much of his
leisure time, and was a great adept at the business.
A fine St. Charles spaniel, belonging to Lady Bramble, had one day,
after being teased beyond forbearance by Robert, at last in
self-defence, snapped at and lightly bit him, in revenge for which the
violent tempered boy vowed to kill him, and the very next opportunity
he had, he seized upon the little pet, and tying a string and stone
about its neck, bore the dog to the large pond in the centre of the
part, where he threw him into the deepest part. Charles at that moment
came in sight, and at once saw the act. Without pausing to take off
his clothes or any part of them, he sprang at once into the pond and
dove down for the dog; but he found the stone about its neck too heavy
for him to bring to the surface, though he struggled long and stoutly
to do so before he yielded.
Swimming to the shore, Charles took his knife from his pocket, and
once more dashed in; and this time diving down he cut the cord, and
releasing the dog from the bottom swam with him to the opposite shore
from where Robert stood, all the while threatening him. Here his
younger brother smoothed the water from the dog's coat, and
instinctively rubbing its benumbed limbs until it became quite
resuscitated, and after a short time, following close to Charles for
protection, it returned to his mother's side in her boudoir. But
Robert had been there before him, and had already manufactured a story
redounding to Charles's discredit, and provoking both his mother's and
father's anger, the latter of whom at Robert's instance, even struck
the gallant-hearted boy a severe blow with the flat of his hand as a
punishment for what he denominated an interference with his brother's
Charles said nothing; he knew the prejudice which Robert's constant
misrepresentations had created against him in his parents' breasts; he
realized too, young as he was, that it was useless for him to attempt
to explain, though he felt the injustice of this treatment; and so
with a quivering lip he turned away from the scene and went in his wet
clothes to the servants' hall where he might dry them. He said
nothing, but looked much sadder than usual as he stood there before
the fire. A coarse but honest servant, Leonard Hust, who had been born
on the estate, and whose father before him had been a servant in Sir
Robert's household, came stealthily to Charles's side and busied
himself in helping him to arrange his clothes and dry them, while he
smoothed the boy's hair and wiped his face.
"Never mind, master Charles," said the honest fellow, noticing the
trembling lips of the handsome boy; "never mind, it's a gallant act in
you, and though I say it, who shouldn't, perhaps, master Robert never
would have dared to do it; he hasn't got half your courage and
strength, though he's bigger and older."
A tear was all the answer that the boy vouchsafed to his honest
effort at consolation. He too proud to make a confidant of the
servant, or to confide to him of his father's conduct, or even that of
Robert. Leonard Hust watched the boy carefully, and entered keenly
into his feelings, until at last he said:
"I wasn't the only one who saw you save her ladyship's pet, master
"It wasn't father or mother that saw it?" asked Charles, quickly,
as he recalled the injustice he had just experienced at their hands,
under Robert's prompting.
"No, master Charles."
"Was it cousin Helen?" continued the boy.
"Yes, master Charles," answered Leonard Hust, with a knowing smile.
"O," said the boy, as a glow of pleasure lit up his features for a
It was evident that the knowledge of the said cousin Helen's having
seen his exertions to save the little favorite spaniel, gave Charles
not a little satisfaction. Now cousin Helen—as a little blue-eyed
child of eight years, the daughter of the family whose estate joined
that of Bramble Park, was called—was no cousin at all, but the
children had thus nicknamed each other, and they were most happy
playmates together. Robert, who was three years his brother's senior,
was more fond of little Helen than of anybody else; indeed, in spite
of his ill temper, he was wont to try and please her at any cost. But
the child, who was as beautiful as a little fairy, did not respond at
all to his advances of friendship, while to Charles she was all
tenderness and confiding in everything, kissing him with childish
fervor and truth whenever they parted, a familiarity she never
permitted to his brother.
The truth was, Robert to his great discomfiture, was aware that
Charles's manly and courageous act of saving the dog had been
witnessed by Helen, though his brother knew it not until told by
Leonard Hust. This had aggravated Robert so much that he had hastened
home, and fabricating a story of Charles having thrown the dog into
the pond, and wet himself completely, preparing his parents for a
rough reception of his brother when he should return, and hence the
treatment he received. Leonard made his young master change his
clothes, and after making him comfortable, left him to amuse himself
in the open park with his ball, where the light-hearted Charles was
soon thoughtlessly happy, and forgetful of the unkindness of Robert
and the injustice of his parents. So light are the cares and mishaps
of youth, so easily forgotten are its hardships, either seeming or
real. Happy childhood!
Whether little cousin Helen had been on the watch for Charley, or
whether she was there by accident, it matters not, suffice it to say
that the two soon met in their headlong career of fun and frolic, and
two more joyous or merry spirits never met on the soft green sward
than these. Now they tire of the play at ball and sit down together
close by the brink of the clear, deep pond, next the rich flower beds
that shed their grateful fragrance around the spot. Cousin Helen,
still panting from the exertion of the play, looked thoughtfully into
the almost transparent water, and involuntarily heaved a sigh that did
not escape her companion's notice.
"Art sick, cousin Helen?" asked Charles, quickly.
"Nay, not I," said the pleasant-voiced child, "not I, Charley."
"But you sighed as though you were very tired or in pain," he
"Did I?" said the child, thoughtfully; "well, I believe I did."
"And what for, cousin Helen?" said Charles, tenderly, parting her
natural ringlets back from her beautiful and radiant face—doubly
radiant now as she looked up into his, so confidingly and so
"I was thinking," she said, ingenuously, "how cruel Robert was to
your mother's pet. I don't see how he could do such a thing, do you,
"Robert is quick-tempered," said his brother, "and perhaps regrets
it now. I guess the dog bit him, or something of that sort."
He was too generous, too manly, to complain of Robert's cruel
treatment of him, or to mention the unkindness he had experienced from
his parents. But he had not forgotten these occurrences, and his lip
once more quivered with emotion, and his clear, handsome eyes were
suffused with tears. Quick as thought his little companion divined
with womanly instinct the cause, for she was not ignorant of the state
of affairs, young as she was, that existed at Bramble Park. Drawing
nearer to his side, she threw one arm tenderly and with childish
abandon over his neck, and with the other brushed away the gathering
tears, until Charles smiled again and leaned over and kissed her sweet
little lips as a brother might have done! And then together they
plucked a beautiful bouquet, and busied themselves in arranging it and
classifying the various plants by their botanical names, for both
children were well versed in this delightful study, young as they
While they were thus engaged, Robert came up and angrily discovered
the two children thus happy together. Saying some rude things to
Charles, he pushed him away from his playmate's side with rude and
brutal force, throwing Charles to the ground. This was too much, even
for his forbearing spirit, and the injured and outraged boy, smarting
under the previous injury he had endured, rose quickly to his feet,
and with one blow knocked Robert heavily upon the ground. The blow had
been a severe one, and the boy was faint and unable to stand for a
moment. Charles looked at him for an instant, then helped to raise him
up, and waited until he was again sufficiently conscious to walk. Then
he saw him walk angrily toward the house, where he knew very well what
would follow on his return there. All the while his little companion
had stood regarding first one and then the other. Now Charles stepped
to her side, and said:
"I am sorry, Helen; but it is very, very hard to bear."
She shook her little head as he spoke, but held up her lips for the
kiss he offered, and saw him turn away from home towards the distant
CHAPTER V. THE NAVAL OFFICER.
THE reader will think that seven league boots—the storyteller's
prerogative—are in special demand as it regards our story, for once
more we must return through a period of years to the date, or
thereabouts, on which our story opens. It was on one of those close,
sultry afternoons that characterize the climate of summer in India,
that two of our characters were seated together in a graceful and
rather elegant villa in the environs of Calcutta. The air of the
lady—for the couple were of either sex, was one of beauty in repose.
She was evidently listening to the gallant speech of her companion
with respect, but without interest, while on his part the most casual
observer might have read in his voice, his features, and his words,
the accent, the bearing, the language of love.
The lady was a gentle being of surpassing beauty, with black eyes,
jetty hair and brilliant complexion; there was little of the
characteristics of the East in her appearance, though she seemed to be
quite at home beneath the Indian Sun. She was of the middle height,
perhaps a little too slender and delicate in form to meet a painter's
idea of perfection, but yet just such an idol as a poet would have
worshipped. She was strikingly handsome, and there was a brilliancy
and spirit in the glance of her dark eyes that told of much character,
and much depth of feeling; and while you gazed at her now, sitting
beneath the broad piazza, you would have detected a shadow ever and
anon cross her brow, as though the words of him by her side aroused
some unpleasant memory, and diverted her thoughts rather to past
scenes than to the consideration of his immediate remarks.
The gentleman who seemed to be pleading an unsuccessful suit, wore
the undress uniform of the English navy, and in the outer harbor, in
view of the very spot where they sat, there rode a sloop-of-war with
St. George's cross floating at her peak. The officer was young, but
bore the insignia of his rank upon his person, which showed him to be
the captain of yonder proud vessel. He might have been five or six and
twenty, but scarcely more, and bore about him those unmistakable
tokens of gentle birth which will shine through the coarsest as well
as the finest attire. The lady was not regarding him now; her eyes
were bent on the distant sea, but still he pleaded, still urged in
gentle tones the suit he brought.
"I see, Miss Huntington has some more favored swain on whom to
bestow her favors; but I am sure that she has no truer friend, or more
"You are altogether mistaken in your premises," she said, coolly,
as she tossed her fragrant fan of sandal wood, perfuming the soft
atmosphere about them.
"A subject who sues for a favor at court, Miss Huntington, if he is
unsuccessful, thinks himself at least entitled to know the reason why
he is denied."
"But suppose the Court declines to give him a reason," said the
lady, still coolly.
"Its decision admits of no appeal, I must acknowledge," replied her
"Then reason I have none, captain; and so pray let that suffice."
"But, Miss Huntington, surely—"
"Nay, captain," she said, at last, weary of his importunity, "you
know well my feelings. Far be it from me to play for one moment the
coquette's part. I thank you for the compliment you pay me by these
assurances, but you are fully aware that I can never encourage a suit
that finds no response in my heart. I trust that no word or act of
mine has ever deceived you for one moment."
"No, Miss Huntington, you have ever been thus cold and impassive
towards me, ever turning a deaf ear to my prayer. Why, why can you not
"Nay, captain, we will not enter into particulars; it is needless,
it is worse than needless, and a matter that is exceedingly unpleasant
to me. I must earnestly beg, sir, that you will not again refer to
this subject under any circumstance."
"Your commands are law to me, Miss Huntington," answered the
discomfited lover, as he rose from the seat he had occupied by her
side, and turned partially away.
It was well he did so, for had she seen the demoniac expression of
his countenance as he struggled to control the vehemence of his
feelings, she would have feared that he might do either her or himself
"May I not hope that years of fond attachment, years of continued
assiduity, may yet outweigh your indifference, Miss Huntington?" he
"Indeed, indeed no. You do but pain me by this continuance of a
subject that—Ah, mother!" she said, interrupting herself, "I have
been looking at the captain's ship, yonder; is she not a noble craft?
And how daintily she floats upon the waters?"
"A ship is always a beautiful sight, my child; and especially so
when she bears the flag that we see flaunting gracefully from that
"When do you sail, captain?" asked Mrs. Huntington, who had just
joined her daughter on the piazza, and did not observe the officer's
"The ship rides by a single anchor, madam, and only waits her
commander," he replied, rather mechanically than otherwise, as he
turned his glance seaward.
"So soon? I had hoped you were to favor us with a longer stay,"
said she mother.
The officer looked towards the daughter, as though he wished it had
been her that had expressed such a desire. But she still gazed at the
distant ship, and he saw no change in her handsome features.
"We officers are not masters of our own time, madam, and can rarely
consult our own wishes as to a cruising ground; but I frankly own that
it was something more than mere accident which brought me this time to
As he said this, his eyes again wandered towards her daughter's
face, but it was still cold, impassive and beautiful as before, while
she gazed on that distant sea. He paused for a moment more, almost
trembling with suppressed emotions of disappointment, chagrin and
anger, and seemed at a loss what to say further; he felt constrained,
and wished that he might have seen the daughter for a moment more
"Farewell is an unpleasant word to say, ladies," he said, at last,
still controlling his feelings with a masterly effort. Then offerings
a hand to the mother, he bowed respectfully and said "Good-by;" and to
her, who now turned with evident feeling evinced in her lovely face at
the idea of a long parting, he offered his hand, which was frankly
pressed, while he said: "I carry away a heavy heart to sea with me,
Miss Huntington; could it be weighed, it would overballast yonder
"Farewell, captain; a happy and safe voyage to you," she answered,
with assumed gaiety of tone; but there was no reply. He bowed low and
hastened away, with a spirit of disappointment clouding his sun-burned
The view which might he had from the window commanded a continuous
sight of the road that the young officer must traverse to reach the
ship, and though she had treated him thus coldly, and had so decidedly
declined his suit, yet here lingered some strange interest about him
in her mind, as was evinced by her now repairing to the window, and
sitting behind the broad shadow of its painted screen, where she
watched his approach to she landing, near the city gates, and saw the
sturdy boatmen dip their oars in regular time, propelling the boat
with arrow-like speed to the ship's side, where its master hastened
upon deck and disappeared, while the boat was hoisted to the
Anon she saw the sheets fall from the ponderous yards, and sheeted
home, the anchor gradually raised to her bow, the yards squared to
bring her with her head to the sea, and then a clear white cloud of
smoke burst from her bows as she gathered steerage-way, and a dull
heavy report of distant ordinance boomed upon the ear of the listening
girl, unanswered by a deep sigh from her own bosom—a sigh not for him
who had just left her, but for some kindred association that his
The villa where we have introduced the reader was that of the late
Edward Huntington, a successful English merchant, who had resided many
years in India and had realized a fortune, which he had proposed to
return to his native land to enjoy with his wife and only child. But
death had stepped in to put an abrupt end to his hopes, and to render
abortive all his well-arranged plans, some twelve months previous to
the period of which we have spoken. Mrs. Huntington, the widow, had
remained in Calcutta to settle up her husband's affairs, and this
done, she determined to embark at once with her daughter for England,
where her relatives, friends and early associations were all located.
Miss Huntington, as the reader may have gathered, was no coquette;
her great beauty and real loveliness of character had challenged the
admiration of many a rich grandee and many an eminent character among
her own countrymen in this distant land. But no one had seemed to mate
the least impression upon her heart; the gayest and wittiest found in
her one quite their equal; the thoughtful and pathetic were equally at
home by her side; but her heart, to them, seemed encased in iron, so
cold and immovable it continued to all the assaults that gallantry
made against its fastness, and yet no one who knew her really doubted
the tenderness of her feelings and the sensibility of her heart.
Her beauty was quite matured—that is she must have numbered at
least twenty years; but there was still a girlish loveliness, a
childlike parity and sincerity in all she said and did, that showed
the real freshness of her heart and innocence of her mind. Far too
pure and good and gentle was she for him who had so earnestly sued for
her hand, as we have seen. Beneath a gentlemanly exterior, that other,
whom we have seen depart from her side under such peculiar
circumstances, hid a spirit of petty meanness and violence of temper,
a soul that hardly merited the name, and which made him enemies
everywhere, friends nowhere.
Robert Bramble—for this was he, the same whom the reader has seen
as a boy at home in Bramble Park—had not improved in spirit or
manliness by advance in years. The declining pecuniary fortune of his
father's house, to which we have before alluded, had led him early to
seek employment in the navy, and by dint of influence and attention to
his profession, he had gradually risen to the position in which we
have found him, as a commander in her majesty's service on the India
station. That he loved the widow's daughter was true—that is to say,
as sincerely as he was capable of loving any one; but his soul was too
selfish to entertain true love for another.
The same spirit that had led him to the petty oppressions and the
ceaseless annoyances which he had exercised towards his younger
brother in childhood, still actuated him, and there was not a gleam of
that chivalric spirit which his profession usually inspires in those
who adopt it as a calling, shining within the recesses of his breast.
Entirely unlike Miss Huntington in every particular, we have yet seen
that he exercised some singular power over her—that is, so far as to
really interest her beyond even a degree that she was willing to
exhibit before him. What and why this was so must more clearly appear
in the course of the story as it progresses.
Mrs. Huntington was a lady of polished manner and cultivated
intellect, belonging to what might be termed the old school of English
gentlewomen. She had reared her only child with jealous care and
assiduous attention, so that her mind had been richly stored in
classic lore, and her hands duly instructed in domestic duties. There
was no mock-modesty about the mother, she was straightforward and
literal in all she said or did; evidently of excellent family, she was
sufficiently assured of her position not to be sensitive about its
recognition by others, and preferred to instil into her daughter's
mind sound wholesome principles to useless and giddy accomplishments.
And yet the daughter was accomplished, an excellent musician upon the
piano and harp, and a vocalist of rare sweetness and perfection of
execution, as well as mistress of other usual studies of her sex.
But the idea we would convey is, that the mother had rather
endeavored to fill her child's mind with real information and
knowledge, than to teach her that the chief end and aim of life were
to learn how to captivate a husband; she preferred to make her
daughter a true and noble-hearted woman, possessed of intrinsic
excellence, rather than to make her marketable for matrimonial sale;
to give her something that would prove to her under any and all
circumstances, a reliance viz., sound principles and an excellent
"Mother, how long before we shall turn our face towards England?"
said the daughter, soon after the scene which we have described of the
sailing ship and her commander.
"Within the month I hope, my child. I have already directed the
solicitor to close up all his business relative to your father's
estate, and the next homeward-bound ship may bear us in it."
"I shall feel sad to leave our peaceful home here, mother, for,
save my dear father's death, has been very pleasant, very happy to be
"There are many dear associations that must ever hang about its
memory, my dear; but after all, we shall be returning to our native
land, and that is a sweet thought. It is some twelve years since we
lost sight of English soil."
"I remember it most vividly," said the child, recalling the past;
"ay, as though it were but yesterday!"
That night, as she lay sleeping in her daintily-furnished
apartment, into which the soft night-air was admitted through sweet
geranium and mignonette, which bloomed and shed their perfume with
rare sweetness, she dreamed of her native land, of him who had that
day left her so disappointed, of her childhood, and all its happy
memories, and of much that we will not refer to lest we anticipate our
CHAPTER VI. THE WRECK.
ABOUT a fortnight subsequent to the period of the last chapter,
Mrs. Huntington and her daughter, with a single attendant found
themselves embarked on board the Bengal, a large, well-found Indiaman,
bound for Liverpool. The ship belonged to the East India Company, was
a good carrier, but calculated more for freight than speed. She was a
new ship and strong as iron and wood could be put together, and the
widow and her child found their quarters on board of an exceedingly
comfortable nature. They were the only passengers on board, but the
vessel had a heavy freight list, and as she moved out from her
anchorage to lay her course to sea, her draft of water was very deep.
The Bengal fortunately encountered none but the most favorable
winds and tides for many a long and to those on board somewhat
monotonous days, and the sun rose out of the sea clear and bright, and
sunk again beneath its surface in gorgeous splendor with every diurnal
rotation, until at length the ship touched at the Cape of Good Hope,
where, having taken fresh water and provisions on board, she cleared
direct for Liverpool. Every hour now seemed more especially to draw
the ship nearer her port of destination, and a fresh spirit was
infused among passengers and crew, in cabin and forecastle; but it was
a long distance yet, and the widow and her daughter found time for
much study and reading, for which they were amply supplied, and thus
the time was lightened in its progress and also well improved.
But the ocean is a treacherous element, and the fair weather which
had so long characterized their voyage, was to be varied now by fierce
and angry gales. It was the season of the year when they might expect
this, and the captain had kept a sharp lookout. It was the middle of a
fine afternoon that there was observed a singular phenomenon in the
wind which appeared to come from half a dozen points at the same
moment. The ship of course lost her steerage way, and the sea began
most singularly to get up from all points in heavy cross waves. It was
evident that they were either in the course of a whirlwind or close to
its track, and every now and then gusts came first larboard then
starboard, and again bows on and stern on, with a force that snapped
the rigging like pipe stems, and tore the canvass from the bolt ropes,
notwithstanding the prompt orders and nimble efforts of the seamen,
before it could be secured. Half an hour of this strange weather
nearly stripped the ship of her standing rigging, leaving her
comparatively a helpless wreck upon the waters, a mere log at the
mercy of the wind and waves.
The worst had not yet come, however, for the ship was sound still
in her hull, and save that she was now wallowing in the trough of the
sea, she was comparatively safe; she had sprung no leak, but her heavy
freight tested her powers fearfully, and the captain was fain to
acknowledge that there was nought to be done but abide the raging of
the storm until it was over. His attempt to rig a jury mast, on which
to bend sail enough to give the ship steerage way, was perfectly
fruitless; she rolled and pitched so fearfully that no effort of the
kind could succeed, but the crew were kept busy throwing over the
heavier at tiles of freight to case the ship.
As right came on with its intense darkness relieved only by now and
then a terrible flash of liquid fire, all on board expected each
moment might be their last. Prayers were said, and all tried to
compose their minds as far as possible to meet that death which seemed
to be fast approaching them, when suddenly the cry ran, fore and aft
that the captain was lost overboard! This added to the general gloom;
and now a cry was heard "there goes the Flying Dutchman," as was seen
by several on board the Indiaman, during the interval of the vivid
lightning, a large ship dash by them almost within cable's length,
with a single topsail close reefed running before the gale with the
speed of the wind. It did indeed look like a phantom craft. All was
snug on board, not a soul was in sight, everything battened down, save
one dark form apparently lashed to the wheel stanchions and steadily
bent upon keeping the ship before the storm; it was a sight that added
to the terror of those on board the Indiaman, and its effect was at
The ignorant and superstitious seamen, ever ready to argue evil
from any strange occurrence, now felt assured of their destruction,
declaring that the strange appearance of the phantom-ship was but a
warning to foretell the fate that was preparing for them. Thus
actuated, all discipline was gone, and no connected efforts were
further made to protect the ship or render her in any degree safer
from the power of the storm. To add still more to the critical
condition on board, the ship after straining and laboring so long, now
began to leak and rapidly to fill. In this desperate state of affairs
several of the crew, whose numbers were already thinned by being
washed overboard, got into the spirit room and in a condition of wild
desperation became beastly intoxicated, resolving to die insensible to
danger! and at intervals their crazy oaths and incoherent songs were
heard above the gale.
At this crisis, as is generally the case, two or three sterling
spirits among the crew (and there is never a ship's company without
some such among its members), one, the second mate, and a couple of
foremast hands, came into the cabin and assured the widow and her
daughter that they would protect them to the last, and that they were
even now preparing the long boat with compass, water and food, so that
should the storm abate and the sea become less agitated before the
ship should fill and go down, they might launch it, and with the
ladies and such of them as desired, attempt to save themselves in this
frail bark. With heartfelt gratitude the mother and child accepted
their protection and awaited the crisis; but not without solemnly
kneeling together upon the cabin floor and committing themselves to
the care of Divine Providence.
The second mate of the Bengal was the only officer left, but he was
a good sailor, a man of cool nerve and great personal strength. He now
went calmly to work, sounded the well and found four feet of water in
the ship, made his calculations how long it would require for the ship
to fill at the rate she then made water, and then set to work with his
two companions to rig a triangle with spars above the long boat, so as
to lift and launch it just when the proper moment should arrive, but
this he found to be impracticable. As the morning broke in the cast
the gale subsided, but the sea still kept up its angry commotion,
though that too, gradually subsided, the waves growing less and less,
and the ship becoming more and more quiet, enabling those on board to
keep at least upon their feet.
In the meantime, the ship had gradually settled so that the water
was already on the cabin floor. In vain were the entreaties of the
mate and his companions for the four or five hands who had possessed
themselves of the key of the spirit room to come on deck and save
themselves; they could neither be persuaded nor forced to move, but
lay in a state of beastly intoxication. Everything had been done that
was possible, to prepare for launching the long boat, and the widow
and her daughter had already by the mate's sanction taken their seats
within it, while one of the seamen secured and carefully stored the
few articles of necessity which had been selected.
The two masts of the boat were stepped and carefully secured, the
gripes that secured the boat in its place were cut, leaving it
standing upright in its wooden bed, but entirely free from the deck of
the ship. Already had the ship sunk so low that all communication with
the cabin was cut off, and the poor inebriated wretches who had there
sought oblivion in intoxication also found their tomb. Food, water and
compass were properly disposed, so that any sudden movement of the
boat should not dislodge them, oars and sails in readiness, and a
careful examination had, lest some straggling rope might in some way
connect the boat with the wreck, so as to draw them under when the
floundering mass should at last go down. The crisis which they now
expected seemed strangely protracted, and their fearful suspense was
almost unbearable. The mate had placed one of his hands at the bows,
another amidships, while himself and the two passengers occupied the
stern; the precaution having also been taken to secure the ladies by
ropes to the boat.
The weather had now entirely moderated, and the sea was
comparatively calm, except that now and then a heavy swell would lift
the waterlogged craft and surge about the hull, causing it to groan as
though conscious of its approaching fate. Moments assumed the length
of hours now, and the countenance of each was a picture of agonized
suspense and momentary expectation, no one spoke above their breath.
Again the heavy swell caused the hull to lurch and pitch until her
bows were almost buried, and the water was even with the scuppers—the
moment was approaching.
"Steady, all," said the mate, calmly, as he saw another approaching
swell, which he knew must cause the vessel to lift and settle again,
and probably this time prove the signal for her final plunge
altogether. "Steady, I say, and hold on to the boat stoutly now. Don't
let go, ladies, for an instant!"
The seaman was right, the heavy hull was ful this surge came on,
burying her for an instant, and actually sweeping the boat clear of
her bulwarks out upon the sea, a most fortunate circumstance, which
was instantly taken advantage of, by pulling with the oars for a
single instant, and still further clearing the wreck, which now rose
high at the bows for a moment as the stern settled and gradually sunk,
causing a vortex which would certainly have engulfed the boat, had it
not been able thus to pull a short distance away, and which even now
drew it rapidly back to the spot where the ship had laid, and causing
it to toss fearfully for a while, but in a few moments more all was
"Thank God, that is over," said the mate, earnestly; "it was little
short of a miracle that we did not all of us go down with the ship."
The widow covered her face with her hands and breathed a silent
prayer of thankfulness. It was already night again, and steering by
the stars the mate laid his course, after affording a spare sail to
cover the mother and her daughter, who having partaken of some needed
refreshment, the first for many hours, were soon lost in sleep,
induced by the great bodily fatigue and physical exertion they had so
lately encountered in this emergency.
The men stood watch and watch, relieving each other at intervals
throughout the night, while the boat with its two lugger sails crept
on steadily upon its course.
It was remarkable to observe the delicacy observed by those three
seamen towards the widow and her daughter, to mark their assiduity
towards them as to their necessities and their wants; while they, on
their part, were patient, uncomplaining and grateful. The second and
third day passed on, when the mate calculated they were steering
direct for the nearest point of land which they could not fail to
reach in another day, it being the coast of Africa. His calculations
were made under disadvantages, but he felt confident of their
correctness. The weather, fortunately, had been very calm and pleasant
thus far, since the gale had subsided, and the frail craft thus
exposed upon the ocean had really proved quite comfortable and
weatherly for the time being. A snug little apology for a cabin had
been constructed over the forward part of the boat, into which the
ladies could retire at nightfall, and become secure from the weather
and be entirely by themselves; and under the circumstances they were
really quite comfortable, that is to say, they experienced little
exposure to the elements at night, and slept securely in their narrow
In leaving the ship, the mother had been more thoughtful than many
persons would have been, and had taken the box which contained her
valuables and such papers as comprised her heavy bills of credit on
England, in which way she was transporting the bulk of her husband's
late valuable estate to her native land. At first she had taken
especial pains not to have the fact known to the men that she had any
great amount of valuables with her, lest it should prove a temptation
to them, and lead to some tragical result as it regarded the safety of
herself and child. But she need not have feared, those hearty sons of
the ocean were true as steel; and it was only the second day that
having laid the casket down carelessly in the boat, she had retired to
the little forecastle forgetting it, when it was brought to her again
by one of them who remarked, that he presumed it was something of
particular value by its appearance.
According to the mate's reckoning, the time had already arrived
when the land should heave in sight, and the three seamen were
constantly on the lookout for it in the supposed direction where it
should appear; but all their search for it proved in. vain, there was
the same endless expanse of ocean before them day after day, bounded
only by the dim horizon, and unrelieved by any object, while the same
hope reigned in their hearts. The exposure they endured, though not
very severe, yet began to tell upon them all, and especially the mate
and two seamen, and the cheeks of the seamen already looked sunken,
their eyes less spirited. This was the combined result of their
feelings of disappointment with physical labor, for they worked
several hours at the oars every day, aiding the sailing power of the
boat, in the hopes of reaching the land before another gale or storm
should occur. Now, however, they began to discard the oars, and to
feel less and less courage to labor in propelling the boat.
The widow who was not a little of a philosopher and a woman of good
sound mind, determined to do something to amuse the men, and cheer
them up in their emergency; she saw how sadly they needed some such
influence, and telling her daughter of her purpose, when night again
came on she induced her to sing some of her sweetest airs with all her
power of execution, and to repeat them to the real joy and delight of
these hardy men, who at once gathered an agency from this music, and
declared it was the harbinger of good. Whether it was so in the way
they supposed or not, it certainly was a harbinger of good as it
regarded its cheering effects upon them, and their hearts were again
filled with hope, and their sinews bent once more to toil at the oars.
CHAPTER VII. THE SEA WITCH.
WHILE those sweet notes were being uttered under these peculiar
circumstances, and the soft thrilling voice of, the English girl
floated over the sea, and the stars looked down coldly upon those
wrecked adventurers, the mate who sat at the helm was observed to be
peering in the boat's wake, as though looking for some coming object
that would soon overtake them. Leaning over the boat's stern, he
placed his cars as near the surface of the water as possible and
listened. This he repeated several times, with increased earnestness,
then partially shading his eyes with his hands, he gazed back into the
dim night air with intense interest, while the rest in the boat
regarded him silently, wondering what could be the import of his
"Either there is a big fish in our wake, or I hear the ripple of a
ship's cut-water. But I cannot see hull or canvass in this darkness,"
said the mate, after a brief but searching gaze in the direction from
whence they had come.
"It cannot be that you could hear the movement of a ship upon the
water, farther than you could see her even in this light," said the
"It may have been the hauling of a ship's yards, or some rickety
block, but sound I did hear that came from on ship board," said the
mate, with assurance.
"See, see," said the daughter, at that moment, "what is that?"
pointing off nearly in the wake of the boat into the darkness.
"A ship!" said the mate, quickly; "a ship, as true as heaven!"
adding, "shout, shout together now, or she will run us down."
As he spoke, all eyes were bent on the dim object that was now fast
approaching them, and steering as nearly on the same course with
themselves as possible. Only a cloud of canvass was visible now, but
soon the dark hull of a vessel appeared, and the mate hastened to
light a lantern and hoist it to attract their attention. The signal
was seemingly observed in an instant on board the stranger, and the
hoarse deep order to heave the ship to, rolled over the waters and
rang a welcome sound in the cars of those in the boat.
"I know not what sort of craft she is," said the mate; "and this is
a latitude where pirates intercept the homeward bound ships sometimes,
though according to ny reckoning, we are too well in for the land to
be in that track."
"I trust there is no danger in accepting the assistance that the
ship appears willing to give?" said the mother anxiously, to the mate.
"It is not more dangerous than to pass another night in this open
boat, madam, at all events," replied the mate, frankly.
"Stand by, to take this tow-line," shouted a voice from the
bulwarks of the ship, as the vessel drifted with a side impetus
towards the tiny craft, while the figure of a man was observed in the
mizzen shrouds with a coil of line ready to heave, at the word of
"Ay, ay," answered the mate, steering his boat so as to bring her
side on to the ship, and opening his arms to catch the line, which he
saw was about to be thrown.
"Heave, heave clear of all," shouted a stern, manly voice from the
quarter-deck of the ship at this moment; "heave with a will."
And a stout tow-line rattled through the air with a whizzing sound
and lay between the mate's extended arms. This was instantly seized
upon, and while one of the men took a turn about the stanchion in the
bow of the boat, those on board the ship gathered in the line until
the boat was safely moored under her quarter. No words were exchanged,
until the ladies, first, and the seamen next, were taken on board: the
fact of their being wrecked and in distress being too apparent to
require questioning. The valuables in the boat were quickly
transferred to the ship, and the little craft which had proved an ark
of safety to the adventurers, was then cut adrift, and soon lay a mere
speck upon the waters, unguided and alone.
As the boat drifted for a moment astern of the vessel before the
party were taken on board, the mate rend her name on the stern in
golden letters, "The Sea Witch." The foremast hands who had been saved
from the wreck soon mingled with the crew on the forecastle of the
"Sea Witch," and told their story there, while the mate and the ladies
were received in the most hospitable manner in the cabin, where the
captain endeavored to offer them every comfort the ship afforded, and
to place every resource entirely at their command.
Mrs. Huntington and her daughter were at first too tearful and full
of gratitude for their preservation to converse, and soon took
advantage of the kind offer which placed the captain's private
apartments entirely at their service, while the mate explained their
adventures in detail, not forgetting the phantom ship which passed
them in the gale, and which had caused such consternation on board the
wrecked Indiaman. But his story in this particular was unfortunately
spoiled, when Captain Ratlin told him positively that he was at that
moment on board the very craft which he had designated as the Flying
Dutchman. A remark that for a moment puzzled the honest seaman and led
him to look suspiciously about him; but a few corroborating remarks
soon placed the subject at rest in even the mate's credulous mind.
The fact was, that the same gale which had made a wreck of the
Indiaman, had driven the "Sea Witch" two days' sail or more out of her
course, and had thus brought her in sight of the Bengal at that
critical moment when it would have been impossible to have rendered
her the least assistance. The continuance of the gale had carried the
ship far to the southward, from whence she was now returning.
It was early morning upon the day succeeding that auspicious night
for the party in the boat, that Miss Huntington and her mother made
their appearance upon the quarter-deck, and tendered their thanks for
the service rendered. Captain Ratlin received them there with a frank,
manly air, assured them of full protection, and that he would land
them at some port from whence they could take ship for England. A very
few hours placed him on the best of terms with his passengers, for
there was that frank, and open discourse of manner with him, which his
countenance promised, while he felt irresistibly drawn towards the
gentle and beautiful girl whose protector he had thus strangely and
suddenly become. Not one point of her sweet beauty was lost upon the
young commander, and her every word and movement he seemed to dwell
upon, and to consider with a tenacious degree of interest.
On her part, Miss Huntington looked upon him as her preserver, and
did not hesitate to accord him that confidence which the circumstances
of her situation would so naturally lead to, being delighted and
entertained by the sketches he gave her of sea life and wild adventure
upon the ocean, elicited by her suggestion. The mother, too, was
well-pleased with the profound respect and polite attention which
herself and daughter received from him, and accorded him that cordial
countenance in his intercourse with her child which placed him quite
"We have not even asked you, Captain Ratlin, what trade you are
in," said the mother, as they sat together, her daughter and the young
commander, upon the quarter-deck beneath an awning which had been
rigged for their comfort.
"Ahem! madam!" hesitated the young officer, "we are, that is, yes,
we are on a trading voyage to the coast—just at the present time."
Whether the mother saw that the subject was not one which was of an
agreeable nature to him, or otherwise, she at once changed the
subject, and congenial themes were discussed, to the delight of the
daughter, who dwelt with evident pleasure upon the manly tones of the
captain's voice, which seemed to have some secret charm upon her. Even
her mother noticed this, and seemed to regard her with sensitive
watchfulness while the captain was near, though there was no well
defined suspicion or fear in her mind.
"Is it customary for traders upon these seas to go so thoroughly
armed, Captain Ratlin?" asked the daughter, one day, after she had
been shown about the decks, at her own request, where she had marked
the heavy calibre of the gun amidship, its well as the neat and
serviceable array of small arms within the entrance to the cabin.
"It is a treacherous latitude, lady, and the strong arm often makes
the right," he answered again, evasively, as he called her attention
to some distant object in the horizon, while at the same moment there
was shouted from aloft:
"Land, land!" repeated the gentle being by his side, "what land?"
"Africa," quietly responded the captain, without a token of
"Africa? that is indeed an inhospitable shore; can we land there?"
"Yes, I shall make sure that you land safely, and can despatch you
to Sierra Leone, from whence you can take ship for England, but—"
"Sail O!" shouted the lookout.
"Whereaway?" asked the captain promptly, seizing a deck trumpet and
abruptly turning from her to whom he had been speaking, while his
whole manner changed at once.
"A couple of points on the larboard beam, sir," answered the
"All hands, Mr. Faulkner, and 'bout ship; that square rig and the
heavy lift of those topsails tell what there must be below to sustain
them. Lively, sir, the 'Sea Witch' must show her qualities."
Miss Huntington had watched with some amazement these orders, and
the result of the same, and as she saw the beautiful craft in which
she was put at once on the opposite tack and steer boldly away from
the shore which had just been made, she could not help for a moment
remembering the words of the mate in the boat, that pirates sometimes
were found in these latitudes!
After a moment's thought she felt that she did Captain Ratlin
injustice, for whatever might cause him to flee from the sight of what
she presumed by his remarks to be a man-of-war, yet she felt that he
could not be a pirate. True, the vessel even to her inexperienced eye
was very strongly manned, and there was a severity of discipline
observed on board that was very different from what she had seen while
they were in the Indiaman, but that man could not be a pirate, she
felt that he could not—she would not do him the injustice to think it
Let the stranger be whom he might, the "Sea Witch" seemed to have
no intention of making his acquaintance, and as easily dropped the
topsails of the vessel again as she had made them, while from the
manner in which the stranger steered, it was doubtful whether his
lookout had made out the "Sea Witch" at all—and so Captain Ratlin
remarked to his first officer, while he ordered the ship to be kept on
her present course for an hour, then to haul up on the wind and run in
"Is it usual, Captain Ratlin," asked the young and beautiful girl,
"for vessels on the coast to so dread meeting each other as to
deliberately alter their course when this seems likely to be the
"Trade is peculiar on this coast, and men-of-warsmen take
extraordinary liberties on board such vessels as they happen to
overhaul," was the reply. "I always avoid their company when I can do
As Captain Ratlin said this, his eyes met those of his companion
for a moment, which were bent anxiously upon his face, as though she
would read his inmost thoughts. He noted the expression, and replied
"Whatever suspicion or fear may have entered Miss Huntington's
mind, I beg of her to dispel, as it regards her own and her mother's
safety and comfort. Both shall be my sole care until you are safely
landed upon shore, where I shall at the earliest moment place you in a
situation to reach your homes in England."
"I know you will do this," she replied, "and if my looks betrayed
any anxiety, it was not for our safety, but for your own, Captain
"My safety, lady? do you then consider that worth your anxiety?" he
asked, with unmistakable earnestness in his voice.
"You have been more than kind to us, sir," she continued, "you have
been preserver, protector, and friend, and it were strange if I did
not feel an interest for your welfare."
This she uttered so ingenuously, so frankly, that it seemed not in
the least indelicate or forward, while it thrilled the young
"Lady, since the moment you came on board, and I heard the tones of
your voice, a strange interest sprang up in my heart, an indescribable
one, and now that you express an interest in a poor wanderer's fate,
you attach to it a value that he himself has never regarded it as
possessing. But I read your suspicions, you have feared the
worst—your looks have betrayed it, and you were ready to believe that
I am a—"
"Pirate!" almost groaned his companion, "You are not, pray say you
"Not so bad as that, lady."
"But you are then—"
"A slaver!" said the young commander, turning from her and moodily
walking the deck; with a contracted brow and uneven step.
CHAPTER VIII. THE QUADROON.
FOR several days succeeding that upon which Captain Ratlin had
avowed himself to his fair young companion to be engaged in the slave
trade upon the coast of Africa, the "Sea Witch" was occupied in
running in towards the land and exchanging signals with friends on
shore, and then standing off and on to watch a favorable moment for
running to an anchorage, without encountering one of the English or
American cruisers stationed on the coast. During this time the young
commander and his fair passenger found much time for conversation, and
she strove with all that power of persuasion and delicacy of tact
peculiar to her sex, to point out to the adventurous and
generous-hearted commander the fearful responsibility of the course he
Perhaps no other agent would have accomplished so much as she
did—indeed, no other could for a moment have gained his ear, and the
result even to herself was very apparent, very satisfactory. He, all
unconsciously yielded every argument to her, was only too ready and
willing to grant her the fullest accordance in what she asked or
argued, for though he dared not to say so, yet he felt that already he
loved the mild yet eloquent and lovely girl with a devotion that
caused all other interests to fade in importance. It was a novel idea
to him to realize that so fair and gentle a creature could entertain
such sufficient interest in him, a rough sailor, to strive and mould
his conduct for good.
On her part, it would be difficult for us to define the exact state
of feelings which actuated the beautiful girl whom we first introduced
to the reader in India. She felt an interest in the commander of the
slaver that she was afraid to acknowledge not only to her mother, but
indeed to herself. The tones of his voice came over her heart like the
memory of music that we have heard at some distant time, and in some
forgotten place; his eyes betrayed to her the love he dared not speak,
and when she did pause to consider their relation towards each other,
she half shuddered, and said to herself, "Would to heaved this man was
a poor mechanic, anything but a slaver! How can I give my confidence
to him, and yet how can I withhold it, for he wins from me my very
One evening just after sunset, Miss Huntington and her mother had
been tarrying on the quarter deck for a long while, watching the
conversation going on between the ship and the shore by means of
flags, and observing that the "Sea Witch" had run in closer than
usual, the mother asked:
"Shall we not land before long, Captain Ratlin? We have been in the
vicinity of the shore so long, that I begin to feel quite impatient."
"To-night, madam, we shall be on shore. I cannot offer you very
good quarters at first, but you shall find conveyance to Sierra Leone
shortly, from whence you can sail for England."
"We have to thank you for much kindness, sir," she continued,
"Nay, madam, necessity and duty to my owners has rendered it
imperative for me to approach the coast cautiously, and hence a delay
I could not avoid."
"You are too honest and manly a spirit, sir," said the mother,
frankly, "to be engaged in such a trade. Ah, sir, why not turn your
talents to a more fitting purpose? The field of commerce is extensive,
and such as you need not look for command."
"Madam, your daughter has already caused me to behold my position
in a very different light from what I did when I cleared my ship from
the last port."
"I rejoice, Captain Ratlin, to hear you say so," was the frank
rejoinder of the mother, as she extended her hand to him, and which he
"She is thus frank and open with me," reasoned the young commander
to himself, "because she has no reason for restraint; but were I to
tell her that I loved her child, that she was already so dear to me
that I would relinquish all things for her, that face, so friendly in
its expression now, would be suffused with disdain and scorn. No, no!
such a fate is not in store for me; a sailor should know but one
mistress, and she should be his ship. But the heart is a stubborn
thing. I would not have believed that ouch a change could come over
"Stand by to let go the starboard bow anchor," he shouted, as the
vessel gradually crept shoreward with the oncoming of night, and,
assumed the position in which he desired to place her.
Her sails were gradually furled, and as she drew to her anchorage
ground, a quarter-boat a was lowered from the davits, while the chain
cable rang its loud report as it ran out at the hawser hole, and the
ship swung gradually with the set of the current, leaving her stern
towards the shore. But a few moments elapsed before Capt. Ratlin and
his two passengers, with such articles as they had brought on board,
were skimming over the short space between the ship and the shore,
propelled by a half-dozen stout rowers. It had already been explained
to them that at first it would be necessary to land them and offer
them shelter at Don Leonardo's slave factory, until a mode of
conveyance could be procured for them to reach Sierra Leone, so they
were not surprised, but placing full confidence in Captain Ratlin,
At the house of Don Leonardo, they were hospitably received, and
found the proprietor to be a rough Spaniard, with a dark quadroon
daughter, whose mulatto mother was dead. The household, though
primitive, in many particulars, was yet profusely supplied with every
necessity, and even many luxuries. In the rear of the house was a
spacious barracoon, where the slaves were collected and kept for
shipment, and where they were plentifully supplied with rice and
vegetables, with salt meats, and the means of doing their own cooking.
All these things the new corners noted at once, and indeed were very
curious in fully understanding. There seemed to be little restraint
exercised about the place; the slaves were looked at in the light of
prisoners of war, and did not attempt escape. They seemed to be quite
indifferent themselves as to their fate, and were very happy, with
good food to eat, and a plenty of it.
One thing that both Mrs. Huntington and her daughter marked well
was the fact that Don Leonardo greeted Capt. Ratlin as one whom he had
met before, and that Maud, his daughter, also sprang forward to meet
him with unmistakable tokens of delight. On his part, both were
cordially greeted, and they spoke together like people whose time was
precious and whose business required despatch. Mrs. Huntington
gathered enough from their open and undisguised talk to learn, that as
there was not a sufficient number of negroes at the present moment on
hand, that the "Sea Witch," with her light draft of water, must be run
up a neighboring river and be there moored away from the prying eyes
of the cruisers on the coast, until the proper hour should arrive for
shipping her freight. Therefore when Captain Ratlin left them, it was
with a promise to return and join them again within a few hours. He
resolved to moor his vessel under the shelter of the present favoring
darkness, to which end he at once repaired on board.
The two English ladies, both mother and daughter, found much to
interest them in Maud Leonardo. She seemed to be a strange girl, a
rough diamond, with all the tact and ready invention of her mulatto
mother, and all the fire of her Spanish father. They soon learned that
this was not Captain Ratlin's first visit to the coast, and that her
father, as well as herself, considered him the finest seaman and
gentleman in the coast trade. It was impossible not to see with what
feeling Maud the Quadroon dwelt upon the good qualities of him she
referred to, declaring that he was a father to all the people he took
away in his ship, and how kind he was to them; that he always knocked
off their shackles at once and made friends of them by real kindness.
Mrs. Huntington, to say nothing of her daughter, saw something more
than mere honest admiration in the enthusiastic girl's remarks about
the young commander, and the mother shrewdly determined to question
her upon the theme, and to weigh well her answers.
"Captain Ratlin is very friendly to you, I suppose, Maud?" said
"He is friendly to father, and that is the same thing," she
"Has he not brought you presents across the ocean?" continued the
"One," said Maud, with evident pleasure, rolling back a long
sleeve, and discovering to her new-made friends a rich golden
bracelet, set with pearls, a rare and beautiful ornament.
"This is indeed beautiful," said the mother.
Mrs. Huntington examined the jewel, while her daughter turned
thoughtfully away! She could not he mistaken; she saw at once that
this rude, uncultivated girl loved the commander of the "Sea Witch,"
nor did she wonder at such a fact; but yet she found herself musing
and asking within her own mind whether such a being could make him
happy as a wife. She felt that he was worthy of better companionship,
and that, notwithstanding Maud evidently loved him, he could hardly
entertain any peculiar regard for her. Could he have deceived the
girl? she thought. No, deceit was no part of his nature; that she felt
sure of, and thus she mused alone to herself, placing the relationship
of the two in all manner of lights, until she saw him again.
Having moored the "Sea Witch" safely amid the jungle of one of the
many winding rivers that indent the coast of Africa, and sent down her
upper spars to prevent her from being discovered by any exhibition of
the top-hamper above the trees and jungle growth, Captain Ratlin left
his crew under charge of the first officer, Mr. Faulkner, and returned
once more to the seaboard and the establishment of Don Leonardo. Here
it would be necessary for him to remain for a week or more, while the
Spaniard sent his runners inland to the chiefs of the various coast
tribes to forward the prisoners of war to his barracoons. This period
of time was passed in various domestic amusements, in observing the
sports and games of the natives, their habits, and studying their
nationalities—for the slaves in Don Leonardo's barracoons represented
a score of different tribes, each characteristic of its origin.
Mrs. Huntington regarded Captain Ratlin's intercourse with Maud
with much interest, which she did not attempt to disguise, while her
daughter did so under the disguise of indifference, but with the most
intense interest. Not a word, look, or sign between them betrayed the
least token of any understanding or peculiar confidence as existing
between the commander and the Quadroon.
Maud, on her part, began to change somewhat since the first day of
the arrival of the strangers. Then she was as free and unconstrained
as innocence itself—now she seemed to regard the new-comers with a
jealous eye, for she saw the deep feeling evinced by the young
commander towards the fairest of the two; she heard a strange charm in
the tone of his voice when he addressed the daughter, and at such
moments Mrs. Huntington more than once saw her bosom heave quickly,
and her eye flash with a wild and startling fire that made her
tremble. This was jealousy, plain and unmistakable, a fact that no
woman would have been at a loss to understand.
It was not possible that the mother should be blind to the feeling
evinced by Captain Ratlin towards her daughter, and she thought, so
long as this sentiment maintained the respectful and solicitous
character which it now bore, that it would redound to their security
and future safety, as they were in one sense completely in his power.
But as it regarded the idea of her daughter's entertaining any
affection for him, or seriously considering his advances, the idea
could not for a moment enter her head. She did not at ill consider
that there was any danger of her daughter's losing her heart—no, no!
Had not she been accustomed to attention from earliest girlhood, and
from the most polished men? She did not even think it necessary to
speak to her upon the subject; she might be as friendly as she pleased
with him under the circumstances.
But the daughter herself, who to her mother's eye was so
indifferent, was at heart deeply and strangely impressed by the frank,
chivalrous and devoted attention of the commander of the slaver. His
attention was characterized by the most unquestioned delicacy and
consideration; he had never uttered the first syllable to her that he
might not properly have used before her mother—indeed, he had not the
boldness or effrontery to urge a suit that he knew was out of the
question, and yet he felt irresistibly drawn towards the English girl,
and could not disguise from her the true sentiments that so plainly
filled his inmost heart; she must have been less than woman not to
have read his very soul, so bared to her scrutiny.
It was the first time that she had ever deceived her mother,
because it was the first time that she had loved. Yes, loved, for
though she would as soon have sacrificed her life as to have
acknowledged it, yet she did love him, and the poor untutored Quadroon
girl read the fact that the mother could not, with all her cultivation
and knowledge of the world, detect. But jealousy is an apt teacher,
and the spirit of Maud Leonardo was now thoroughly aroused; she sighed
for revenge, and puzzled her brain how she might gain the longed-for
Captain Ratlin had eyes for only one object, and that was the young
and beautiful English girl. He never gave a thought to Maud; he had
never done so for one moment. As a friend of her father, or rather as
a dealer intimately connected in a business point of view with him, he
had given a present to his daughter, and had endeavored to make
himself agreeable to her at all times, but never for one moment with a
serious thought of any degree of intimacy, save of the most public and
ordinary character. Probably Maud herself would have never thought
seriously about the matter had she not felt how much the English girl
surpassed her in beauty, in accomplishment, and in all that might
attract the interest of one like Captain Ratlin.
Jealousy is a subtle poison, and the Quadroon was feeding upon it
greedily, while its baleful effect was daily becoming more and more
manifest in her behaviour.
CHAPTER IX. THE ATTACK.
DON LEONARDO was no favorite among the tribes and chiefs of the
region which was his immediate neighborhood, and he lived within the
walls of his well-arranged residence, more like one in a fort than in
his own domestic dwelling, maintaining himself, in fact, by a regular
armament of his servants and a few countrymen whom he retained in his
service. With the negroes he was, therefore, no friend, save so far as
he purchased their prisoners of them, whom they secured in their
marauding inroads upon the interior tribes. They feared Don Leonardo
because he was a bold, bad man, and cared not for the spilling of
blood at any time, for the furtherance of his immediate gain in the
trade he pursued. It was for his interest to make them fear him, and
this he contrived to do most effectually.
As Don Leonardo always paid for the slaves he purchased of the
coast tribes in hard Spanish dollars, they believed him to possess an
inexhaustible supply of specie, and the idea of robbing him had more
than once been broached among them in their counsels; but feat and
want of tact as to proper management in conducting an assault, they
felt would insure the defeat of such a purpose, and thus the Spaniard
had remained unmolested for years in his present position, but in no
way relaxing the necessary degree of vigilance which should render
safe his household, for he knew full well the treacherous character of
the negroes, and that they were not for a moment to be trusted.
Maud, his daughter, was in no way ignorant of this state of
affairs. She fully understood the entire matter. Perhaps the fact that
some portion of the blood of that despised race ran in her own veins,
led her to conceive a plan for revenge which should embrace not only
the party who was the grave object of her hate, but even every person
of white blood in her father's household, not even excepting her
father! No one, save a North American Indian, can hold and nourish a
spirit of revenge like a Quadroon. It seems to be an innate trait of
their nature, and ever ready to burst forth in a blaze at any moment.
It was impossible to understand exactly by what course of reasoning
Maud had arrived at the purpose of attempting the destruction of the
household as she did. One would have supposed that she would have been
apt to adopt the easiest mode of arriving at the desired result, and
that with even her simple knowledge of poison, she might, with a
little adroitness, have taken the lives of all who were gathered under
her father's roof at a single meal; but the revengeful girl evidently
had some secret feeling to gratify, in the employment of the agents
whom she engaged for her purpose, and the blow she resolved should be
struck, and decisively, too, by the negro enemies of her father, who
were his near neighbors.
For this fell purpose, Maud held secret meetings with the chiefs,
represented that her father's strong-boxes were full of gold and
silver coin, and that the negroes had only to effect an entrance at
night, means for which she was herself prepared to furnish them, and
at the same time representing to them that they would have it in their
power to revenge themselves for all their past wrongs at her father's
hands, fancied or real. The negroes and their chiefs were only too
intent upon the treasures their fancy depicted, to think or care for
Maud herself, or to question the reason of her unnatural treachery. So
they promised to enter the stockade under her direction, rob the
house, and then screen the deed they had committed by burning the
dwelling and all within its precincts.
While this diabolical plan had been thoroughly concocted, Captain
Ratlin and the two English ladies had passed many pleasant hours
together, all unconscious of there being any danger at hand, and even
Maud, with subtle treachery, seemed more open and free than she had
been in her intercourse with them at first. But when she thought
herself unobserved, she would at times permit a reflex of her soul to
steal over her dark, handsome features, and the fire of passion to
flash from her eye. At such moments, the Quadroon became completely
unsexed, and could herself scarcely contain her own anger and passion
so far as not to spring, tiger-like, upon the object of her hatred.
But the hour for the attempt upon the dwelling, and the destruction of
its inhabitants, drew near. The negroes had sworn to stand by each
other, and had sacrificed an infant to their deity, to propitiate him
and insure success.
It was long past midnight that the blacks might have been seen
pouring out of the adjacent jungle nearest to the house. They had
selected the hour for their attack when they supposed the dwellers in
the stockade-house would be soundest wrapped in sleep, and they had
indeed chosen well, and all their plans had been carefully arranged.
But just as Maud opened the secret entrance for them to pass in, and
she herself passed out, to flee for the time being from the scene, Don
Leonardo came out from his sleeping-apartment, followed by a trusty
slave, and promptly shot down the two first figures that entered by
the door, causing them to fall dead. This unexpected repulse caused
those behind to retreat for a while to the jungle, where they might
consult under cover as to what this unexpected opposition to their
The reader may as well be here informed that a faithful slave, who
had been long with the Spanish trader, and who had been confided in by
the robbers, at last could not keep the secret, but just at the
opportune moment aroused her master, while he, by his promptness, for
the moment stayed the attack, until the door could once more be
fastened, and the people awakened and armed to repel the congregated
mass of the enemy. The father did not for one moment suspect his
child's treachery, and was amazed and alarmed by her absence; but
there was little time for speculations upon that or any other matter,
since the large numbers of the negroes had rendered them bold, and
they seemed determined, now they were partially foiled in their
purpose as to entering the place by stratagem, to carry the house, at
all hazards, by actual storm, while they rendered the air heavy with
Don Leonardo was not at all alarmed—he had fought too many battles
with the negroes to fear them. He quietly prepared his fire-arms, and
loaded to the muzzle a heavy swivel-gun he kept mounted at one of the
main windows, while he gave arms to such of his slaves as he felt
confidence in, and to his immediate retainers. The negroes had never
seen nor heard the swivel fired, as it was a late importation. They
had become somewhat accustomed to small arms, and though they had a
dread of them, yet it was not sufficient to deter them from making the
attack after having congregated in such numbers, and having become so
wrought up by each other. But as they made a rush bodily towards the
stockade, Don Leonardo fired the swivel, which had been loaded with
shot, slugs, and bullets, into their very midst, every missile telling
on the limb or body of one or more! The effect was electrical and the
The astonished savages rapidly gathered up their wounded companions
and returned to the jungle once more. At first this terrible slaughter
among them seemed to deter them from the idea of a second attack, but
the loud report of the gun rapidly augmented the numbers of the
blacks, until they made a second onslaught, with almost precisely the
same effect. They could scale the stockade only on this side, while on
the other, or opposite side, Captain Ratlin kept up such a deadly and
accurate fire of musketry, that every one who approached the buildings
was sure to forfeit his life. It was fortunate that this arrangement
had been made, for the negroes twice attempted to set the dwellings on
fire from the rear, but were instantly repulsed by Captain Ratlin's
double-barrelled gun, which was ready loaded by his side, and which he
used with fearful accuracy of aim on every approaching object.
The negroes seemed to be wrought up to such a state of excitement
that they would not give over their purpose, though it involved such
immense risk and sacrifice of life, and the attack was continued, at
intervals, far into the morning, and long after the regular course of
duty, until at last the negroes divided their mutilated numbers into
four parties, and it was evidently their last and most determined
attempt. They did not hurry this, but seemed to pause and take
refreshments and rest for a couple of hours, when once more the
onslaught commenced, and the inhabitants of the stockade found it a
desperate fight, and one even of doubtful result, if long continued as
"Keep the black imps clear, don, for a short half-hour longer, and
it will be all up with them," shouted Captain Ratlin, from the rear.
"I see a heavy square-rig rounding the point and standing in for an
anchorage; we shall find civilized help."
"That is lucky," growled the Spaniard, as he coolly shot down a
negro; "our powder is fast giving out."
The inhabitants of the stockade sadly needed assistance at this
critical juncture, for the infuriated savages had become desperate and
reckless in their attack, and must soon have carried the building by
storm. But there soon pulled to the beach a half-dozen boats, with a
detachment of marines and seamen, led on at full speed by an officer,
before whose approach the angry negroes retired exhausted, leaving
many dead upon the ground, and many too severely wounded to effect
their retreat to the jungle. The fight had been a very sanguinary one
to the half witted creatures outside the stockade.
The new comers were an officer and part of the crew of a man-of-war
that was cruising upon the coast, and which had been attracted to the
harbor by the firing of the heavy swivel. They were admitted within
the stockade. That they were English was at once observable, by the
flag that floated from the graceful craft that had now rounded to and
come to an anchor within blank cartridge shot of the factory or
barracoons. The officer felt authorized to interfere, as we have seen,
but his power of search and of interference in the peculiar trade of
the coast ceased the moment he touched the land. His jurisdiction did
not extend over any residents on their property, unless it was afloat;
over the coast and rivers he claimed jurisdiction only.
The new comers were hospitably entertained by Don Leonardo, white
the officer who had led them, and whose insignia of rank betrayed his
station as captain, was introduced into the more private apartments of
the place, where were the ladies and Captain Ratlin, the latter trying
to re-assure them, and to quiet their fears on account of the late
fearful business of the fight. He was thus engaged when the English
captain entered, and was not a little astonished to hear the mutual
expressions of surprise that were uttered by both the ladies and the
officer himself, while a moment sufficed to show them to be old
acquaintances! The reader would here recognize, in the new comer,
Captain Robert Bramble, whom we saw paying suit to Miss Huntington,
not long previous, on the shady verandah of her mother's house, in the
environs of Calcutta.
Notwithstanding the excitement of the moment, and the joy felt on
all sides at the timely arrival of the English officer and his
people,—notwithstanding the surprise of the moment, that filled all
present at the singular melting of old friends under such
extraordinary circumstances, yet a close observer might have noticed
an ill-suppressed expression of dissatisfaction upon Captain Ratlin's
face, as he saw the English captain in friendly and even familiar
intercourse with mother and daughter.
"Who could have possibly foreseen this strange, this opportune
meeting?" said the mother.
"It is as strange as agreeable, I assure you," replied the new
comer. "And you were wrecked and picked up at sea, you say, and
brought here by—"
"Captain Ratlin," interrupted the daughter, fearing that her mother
would have introduced a word that would have betrayed their protector.
"Yes, by Captain Ratlin," continued the mother, "permit me to
introduce you, gentlemen. Captain Bramble, this is Captain Ratlin; you
are both seamen, and there is no need of compliments, though I am
seriously indebted to you both."
"Of the merchant service, I presume?" said the English officer,
regarding the young and handsome commander of the "Sea Witch" with a
somewhat suspicious eye.
"From childhood," was the cool reply, while, as though by a feeling
of common content, both turned away from each other, to other objects.
Captain Bramble saw that she whom he had so profitlessly
saved,—she whose smile would have been invaluable to him, now spoke
low and gently to the merchant captain; and even smiled kindly upon
his remarks to her, of whatever nature they might be. Doubtless, from
the moment of their introduction, a vague suspicion of his true
character crossed the English officer's thoughts, but now he needed no
other incentive, than the fact that Miss Huntington received and
entertained his addresses so agreeably, and with such evident
pleasure, to make him more than watchful, and resolved to find out the
"You are not long arrived, Captain Ratlin?" asked the other.
"Within these two weeks," was the calm reply.
"Not seeing your vessel, I presume she has gone to the windward,
"Or perhaps to leeward for other cargo," answered the other,
The hint was sufficient, and the English officer saw that, let his
trade be what it might, he had one to deal with who was master of his
own business, and who feared no one.
It was nearly night when Maud Leonardo reappeared, expressing
profound surprise at what had occurred, and feigning well-assumed
grief and regret, so honestly, too, as to deceive all parties who
observed her. But her secret chagrin could hardly be expressed.
Indeed, her father, who knew her better than any one else, saw that
there was something wrong in his daughter's spirit, that some event
had seriously annoyed and moved her. He knew the child possessed of
much of her mother's wild, revengeful disposition, and though even he
never for a moment suspected her unnatural treachery, yet he resolved
to watch her.
The negroes she had joined in the attack were completely routed and
disheartened, and fearing the power and cunning of Don Leonardo,
retreated far inland and incorporated themselves with the tribes that
gather their wild and precarious living in the depths of the jungle.
CHAPTER X. THE DUEL.
AFFAIRS in the immediate vicinity of Don Leonardo's residence began
to assume a singular and very peculiar aspect. In the first place,
there was within doors, and under his immediate roof, four new comers,
nearly each of which was actuated by some contrary purpose or design.
Mrs. Huntington was exceedingly desirous to obtain passage up the
coast to Sierra Leone, and thence home to England; her daughter
secretly dreaded the approach of the hour that was to separate her
from one whom in her unrevealed heart she devotedly loved. Captain
Ratlin was, of course, all impatience to have the English cruiser up
anchor and leave the harbor, her proximity to his own fleet clipper
ship being altogether too close, while, Captain Bramble felt in no
haste to leave port for several reasons. First, he had a suspicion
that he should soon be able to trip up the heels of his rival, as it
regarded this business on the coast; and secondly, he was very content
to have Miss Huntington remain here, because he knew if she was once
landed at Sierra Leone, she would directly sail for England.
Don Leonardo heartily wished them all at the bottom of the sea, or
any other place except his house, with the exception, of course, of
Captain Ratlin, whose business with him was seriously impeded by the
presence of these parties. Maud, too, was not a disinterested party,
as the reader may well imagine, after the audacious treachery which
she had already evinced; but she was comparatively passive now, and
seemed quietly to bide her time for accomplishing her second resolve
touching him she once loved but now hated, as well as satisfying her
revengeful spirit by the misery or destruction of her rival. We say
affairs in Don Leonardo's residence had assumed a singular and
peculiar aspect, and the dull routine of everyday life that had
characterized the last year was totally changed.
The singular coincidence of the meeting between Miss Huntington and
her rejected lover, Captain Bramble, under such singular
circumstances, led him once more to press this suit, and now, as she
regarded him largely in the light of a protector, the widow quite
approved of his intimacy, and indeed, as far as propriety would
permit, seconded his suit with her daughter. When in India, she had
looked most favorably upon Captain Bramble's intimacy with her child,
where there were accessory circumstances to further her claims; but
now she soon told her daughter in private, that Captain Bramble was a
match fit and proper in all respects for such as she was.
"Well, my child?"
"Suppose, for instance, that I do not like Captain Bramble, then is
he a fitting match for me?"
"Not like him, my child?"
"Yes, mother, not like him."
"Why, is he not gentlemanly?"
"And of good family?"
"And handsome, and—"
"Hold, mother, you need not extend the catalogue. Captain Bramble
can never be my husband," she said, in a mild but determined tone that
her mother understood very well.
But Captain Bramble himself could not seem to understand this,
notwithstanding she was perfectly frank and open with him. He seemed
to be running away with the idea that if he could but get rid of
Captain Ratlin, in some way, he should then have a clear field, and be
able to win her hand under the peculiar circumstances surrounding her.
Thus moved, he redoubled his watchfulness touching the captain's
movements, satisfied that he should be able ere long to detect him in
some intrigue, as to running a cargo of slaves, and doubtless under
such circumstances that he could arrest and detain him, if not, by
some lucky chance, even have him tried and adjudged upon by the
English commission upon the coast.
To suppose that Captain Ratlin did not understand entirely the
motives and conduct of his enemy and would-be rival, would be to give
him less credit for discernment than he deserved. He understood the
matter very well, and, indeed, bore with assumed patience, for Miss
Huntington's sake, many impertinences that he would otherwise have
instantly asserted. But he marked out for himself a course, and he
resolved to adhere to it. Captain Bramble was not only a suitor of
Miss Huntington's, but an old and intimate friend, as he learned from
her family, and therefore he should avoid all quarrel whatever with
him, and so he did on his own part; but the English officer, enraged
by his apparent success, took every occasion to disparage the
character of Captain Ratlin, and even before Miss Huntington's own
face, declared him no gentleman.
"You are very severe, Captain Bramble," said the lady, "upon a
person whom you acknowledge you have not yet known a single calendar
"It is long enough, quite long enough, Miss Huntington, to read the
character of such an unprincipled fellow as this nondescript captain."
"I have known him about twice as long as you, Captain Bramble,"
replied Miss Huntington, calmly, "and I have not only formed a very
different opinion of him, but have good reasons to feel satisfied of
the correctness of my judgment."
"I perceive that Miss Huntington has taken him under her
protection," replied the discomfited officer, sarcastically, as he
seized his hat and left her.
While in this spirit, the two rivals met in the open space before
the hose of Don Leonardo, when the English officer vented some coarse
and scurrillous remarks upon Captain Ratlin, whose eyes flashed fire,
and who seized his traducer by the throat and bent him nearly double
to the earth, with an ease that showed his superior physical strength
to be immense, but as though impressed with some returning sense,
Captain Ratlin released his grasp and said:
"Rise, sir, you are safe from my hand; but fortunate it is for you
that you can call this lady whose name you have just referred to,
friend; the man whom she honors by her countenance is safe from any
injury I can inflict."
"A very chivalric speech," replied the enraged and brow-beaten
officer. "But you shall answer for this, sir, and at once. This is not
the spot—you must give me satisfaction for this base insult, or by
the heaven above us I will shoot you like a dog!"
"As you will, sir. I have spoken openly, and I shall abide by my
word. I am no boaster, nor do I expect any especial favor at the hands
of the lady whom you have named; but I repeat, sir, that my respect
for her renders her friend safe from any injury that I might
otherwise, in just indignation, inflict."
Little did either know that the object of their remarks had been a
silent but trembling witness of the entire scene, from the first
taunting word Captain Bramble had spoken.
Early the subsequent morning, even before the sun had risen, a boat
might have been seen pulling from the side of the English
sloop-of-war, propelled by the stout arms of a couple of seamen, while
two persons sat in the stern, a closer examination of whom would have
revealed them to be the captain of the ship and surgeon. At the same
moment there shot out from a little nook or bay in the rear of the
barracoons, a light skiff propelled by a single oarsman, who rowed his
bark in true seamen style, cross-handed, while a second party sat in
the stern. The rower was Captain Ratlin, and his companion was the
swarthy and fierce-looking Don Leonardo. That the same purpose guided
the course of either boat was apparent from the fact that both were
headed for the same jutting point of land that formed a sort of cape
on the harbor's southern side.
"That is the fellow, he who pulls the oars," said Captain Bramble
to his surgeon.
"He must be a vulgar chap, and pulls those instruments as though
bred to the business."
"Not so very vulgar, either," said the other; "the fellow has seen
the world and has his notions of honor, and knows how to behave, that
is plain enough."
"Egad, he shoots that skiff ahead like an arrow; the fellow could
make his fortune as a ferryman," continued the surgeon, facetiously.
"Give way, lads, give way," said the English captain, impatiently,
to his men, as he saw that the skiff would reach the point long before
he got there himself.
A short half-hour found the two rivals standing opposite to each
other at some twelve paces distance, each with a pistol in his hand.
The preliminaries had been duly arranged between the surgeon and Don
Leonardo, the latter of whom had not ceased up to the last moment to
strive and effect a reconciliation. Not that he dreaded bloodshed, it
was a pastime to him, but because it jarred so manifestly with his
interests to have his friend run the risk of his life. Both of the
principals were silent. Captain Bramble was exceedingly red in the
face, and evidently felt the bitterness of anger still keenly upon
him; while the open, manly features of his opponent wore the same
placid aspect as had characterized them while he leaned over the side
of his own ship, or gazed idly into the rippling waters that laved the
It had been arranged that both parties should aim and fire between
the commencement and end of pronouncing the words, "one, two, three,"
by the surgeon; and that individual, having placed his box of
instrument with professional coolness upon the ground, took his
position to give the signal agreed upon, when he said, in a
"Gentlemen, are you ready?"
To which both answered by an inclination of the head, and then
"One, two, three!"
Almost before the first word was fairly articulated, the sharp
quick report of Captain Bramble's pistol was heard, and the next
moment he was observed gazing intently upon his adversary, to see
whether he had wounded him, and observing that he had not, he dashed
his weapon to the ground, uttering a fierce oath at his luck.
In the meantime Captain Ratlin had not moved an inch, not even a
muscle; his hand containing the pistol had hung quietly at his side,
and his face still remained undisturbed. He had kept his word, and
would not fire upon the friend of the woman whom he truly respected,
and earnestly, devotedly, though hopelessly loved.
Captain Bramble paced back and forth like a caged lion, until at
last, coming opposite and near to his adversary, he coarsely remarked:
"It is much easier for a trembling hand to retain a perpendicular
position than to assume a horizontal one!"
Captain Ratlin understood the taunt, and stepping to where the
English officer had thrown his discharged weapon, he threw it high in
the air, and at the exact moment when the power of gravitation turned
the piece towards the earth, he quickly raised his arm and fired,
sending the bullet in his own pistol completely through the wooden
stock of the other. Then turning coolly to Captain Bramble, he said:
"A trembling hand, sir, is hardly so sure of its aim as that."
"This fellow is the evil one himself," whispered the surgeon to his
principal. "Come, let us on board, if he should insist upon at second
shot, we should be obliged to give him the chance, since he did not
fire at you, and he would drop you spite of fate."
"Curse his luck; I am sure I had him full in the breast—such a
miss, and I, who am so sure at a dozen paces;" and the English officer
continued to chafe and growl until he had got into his boat, and was
out of hearing from the shore.
Captain Ratlin and Don Leonardo quietly pulled back towards the
barracoons, and as they neared the shore they saw the form of a
female, which both at once recognized to be that of Miss Huntington,
who stood there pale as death, and who gazed intently at the young
commander as he drew nearer and nearer, and as he jumped upon the
shore, said, hastily:
"You have been on a fearful errand. Have either of you been hurt?"
"Nay, lady, it was but a bit of morning sport," said Captain
"Answer me, was he injured, for I see you are not?"
"There has been no harm done to flesh and blood, lady."
"Heaven be praised!" said the half-fainting girl, as she leaned
upon the young commander's proffered arm, and they together approached
the house of Don Leonardo.
There had been another witness of the affair, one who was secreted
on the very spot where the meeting took place, one who had overheard
the arrangements for the same, and one who had secretly repaired
thither with hopes to have seen the blood of one, if not both, flow,
even unto death. And this was Maud, poor deluded, revengeful girl, who
had permitted one passion to fill her every thought, and who now lived
and dreamed only for revenge upon one who was as innocent of any
intended slight or wrong to her as he was to the being he really
Maud, with the fleetness of an antelope, had ran by the land-path
from the spot of the contest, and reached home nearly as quick as the
boat containing her father and Captain Ratlin had done, and now, as
she saw her hated white rival leaning upon his arm, so pale, so
confiding, and he addressing her with such tender assurance, a fresh
wound to her already rankled and goaded feelings was imparted, and
once more she swore a fearful and quick revenge.
Captain Bramble, too much chagrined to make his appearance, at
least for a few days, did not soon land from his vessel, but mused
alone in the solitude of his cabin upon the obduracy of Miss
Huntington's heart, and the good luck which had saved his rival's
CHAPTER XI. THE HUES OF LOVE.
CAPTAIN BRAMBLE did not long remain contented on board his ship.
This he could not do while he realized that Miss Huntington was so
near upon the shore; for, so far as such a being could really love, he
did love the lady; and yet his sentiment of regard was so mixed up
with selfishness and bitterness of spirit, and pride at being refused,
that the small germ of real affection which had found birth in his
bosom was too much corroded with alloy to be identified. He felt that
he had been overreached by Captain Ratlin, and also that he had good
grounds of suspecting his successful rival of being either directly or
indirectly engaged in the illegal trade of the coast, and, determined,
if possible, to discover his secret, he again became a frequent
visitor of Don Leonardo's house, where he was sure to meet him
There were two spirits whom we have introduced to the reader in
this connection, who were fitting companions for each other; but they
had not as yet been brought together by any chance so as to understand
one another. We refer to Captain Bramble and Maud the Quadroon. Both
now hated Captain Ratlin, and would gladly have been revenged in any
way for the gratification of their feelings upon her whom he so fondly
loved. With this similarity of sentiment it was not singular that they
should ere long discover themselves and feelings to each other. Indeed
Maud, who had been a secret witness of the deed, already realized that
Captain Bramble was the enemy of him whom she had once loved, and whom
she now so bitterly despised.
Untutored in the ways of the world and fashionable intrigue, yet
the Quadroon saw very clearly that through Captain Bramble she might
consummate that revenge which she had so signally failed in doing by
the agency of the hostile negro tribes she had treacherously brought
to her father's doors. He had not been long at the factory, therefore,
on landing after the duel, before Maud sought a private interview with
him, on pretext of communicating to him some information that should
be of value to him in connection with his official duty. To this, of
course, the English officer responded at once, shrewdly suspecting at
least a portion of the truth, and he therefore met Maud at an
appointed spot in the jungle hard by her father's house.
"You will speak truly in what you tell me, my good girl?" he said
sagaciously, as he looked into her dark spirited eyes with admiration
he could not avoid.
"Have I anything to gain by a lie?" responded Maud, with a curling
"No, I presume not," he answered. "I merely ask from ordinary
precaution. But what do you propose to reveal to me? Something
touching this Captain Ratlin?"
"Ay," said the girl quickly. "It is of him I would speak. You are
an English officer, agent of your government, and sent here to
suppress this vile traffic?"
"And have you suspected nothing since your vessel has been here?"
"I suspect that this Captain Ratlin is in some way connected with
"He is, and but now awaits the gathering of a cargo in my father's
barracoons, to sail with them to the West Indies. It is not his first
"But where is his vessel? he cannot go to sea without one," said
"That is what I would reveal to you. I will discover to you his
ship if you swear to arrest him, seize the vessel, and if possible
"You are bitter indeed," said the officer, almost startled at the
fiendish expression of the Quadroon's countenance as she emphasized
those two expressive words.
"I have reason to be," answered Maud, calming her feelings by an
"Has he wronged you?"
"Yes, he loves the white woman whom he brought to my father's
"Thus far, at all events, my good girl, we have mutual cause for
hate, and we will work heartily together. You know where his vessel
"Is it far from here?"
"Less than a league."
"Indeed! These fellows are cunning," mused the officer. "When will
you guide me and a party of my people thither?"
"It is well. I will be prepared. Where shall we meet?"
"At the end of the cape, where you and he met a few days since."
"Where we met?" asked the other, in surprise. "How knew you of
"I saw it."
"It is strange. I thought none but ourselves were to be there."
"He has moved in no direction since this woman has been here that I
have not followed. There I hoped to see him fall; but he was strangely
"You are a singular girl, Maud," replied the officer. "Take this
and wear it for my sake," he added, unloosing a fine gold chain from
his watch and tossing it around her neck, "and be punctual at that
spot to-night after the last ray of twilight."
"I will," answered the Quadroon, as she regarded the fine
workmanship of the chain for a moment with idle and childlike
pleasure, then turning from the spot, they both returned, though by
different paths, from the jungle towards the dwelling of her father.
Captain Bramble dined with Don Leonardo that day, and his good
spirits and pleasant converse were afterwards the subject of comment,
exhibiting him in a fair more favorable light than he had appeared in
since his arrival at the factory. Maud, too, either for sake of
disguise, or because the knowledge of her plan imparted exhilaration
of spirits to her, was more agreeable, seemingly frank and friendly
than she had been for many a long day, if we except the day before the
late attack of the negroes upon the house, when the same treacherous
assumption of cheerfulness and satisfaction with all parties was
Captain Ratlin, on his part, was ever the same; he found that he
must wait some weeks even yet before he could prosecute the purpose of
his voyage, and indeed he seemed to have lost all interest in it. His
thoughts were full of too pure an object to permit him to participate
to any extent in so questionable a business. Gladly would he at any
moment have thrown up his charge of the "Sea Witch;" and he had indeed
promised Miss Huntington that for her sake, and in honor of her
friendship (for he had never aspired to any more intimate
relationship), he would ignore the trade altogether, and that he would
despatch Mr. Faulkner, his first officer, to the owners in Cuba with
the ship he had himself taken in charge.
Having been brought up from childhood upon the sea, he had never
studied the morality of the trade in which he was now engaged. But the
nice sense of honor which was so strong a characteristic of his
nature, only required the gentle influence of a sweet and refined
nature like her with whom providence had so opportunely thrown him, to
reform him altogether of those rougher ideas which he had naturally
imbibed in the course of his perilous and daring profession. In the
presence of that fair and pure-minded girl he was as a child,
impressible, and ready to follow her simplest instructions. All this
betokened a native refinement of soul, else he could never have
evinced the pliability which had rendered him so pleasant and
agreeable a companion to her he secretly loved.
"Lady," he said to her as they sat together that afternoon, "Heaven
has sent you for a guardian angel to me; your refining influence has
come to my heart at its most lonely, its most necessary moment. I have
done with this trade, never more to engage in it."
"That is honorable, noble in you, Captain Ratlin, so promptly to
relinquish all connection with a calling, which though it affords
fortune and command, can never permit you self-respect."
"The ship will probably be despatched within these two weeks, and
then I will take any birth in legitimate commerce, where I may win an
honorable name and reputation."
"There is my hand on so honorable a resolution," said Miss
huntington, frankly, while a single tear of pleasure trembled in her
clear, lustrous eyes.
The young commander took the hand respectfully that waits extended
to him, but when he raised his eyes to her face and detected that
tear, a thought for a moment ran through his brain, a faint shadow of
hope that perhaps she loved him, or might at some future time do so,
and bending over the fair hand he held he pressed it gently to his
lips. He was not repulsed, nor chided, but she delicately rose and
turned to her mother's apartment.
How small a things will affect the whole tenor of a life time;
trifles lighter than straws are levers in the building up of destiny.
Captain Ratlin turned from that brief interview with a feeling he had
never before experienced. The idea that Miss Huntington really cared
for him beyond the ordinary interest, that the circumstances of their
acquaintances had caused, had not thus far been entertained by him;
had this been otherwise he would doubtless have differently
interpreted many agreeable tokens which she had granted him, and to
which his mind now went back eagerly to recall and consider under the
new phase of feeling which actuated him.
How else could he interpret that tear but as springing from a heart
that was full of kindly feeling towards him. It was a tell-tale drop
of crystal that glistened but one moment there. Could it have been
fancy? was it possible he could have been mistaken? The matter assumed
an aspect of intense importance it his estimation, and he paced the
apartment where she had left him alone, half in doubt, half hoping. In
one instant how different an aspect all things wore; life, its aims,
the persons he met at the door as he now passed out. Even the foliage
seemed to partake of the freshness of his spirit, and the world to
become rejuvenated and beautified in every aspect in which he could
This was the bright tide of the picture which his imagination,
aided by that gaudy painter and fancy colorer, Hope, had conjured up
before his mind's eye, but the reverse side of the picture was at
hand, and now he paused to ask himself seriously: "Can this be? Who am
I? a poor unknown sailor, fortuneless, friendless, nameless. Who is
she? a lady of refined cultivation, high family, wealth, and beauty.
Is it likely that two such persons as I have considered should be
joined by intimate friendship? can such barriers as these be broken
down by love? Alas, I am not so blind, so foolish, so unreasonable, as
to believe it for a moment." So once more the heart of the young
commander was heavy within his breast.
In the mean time Captain Bramble had found an opportunity that
afternoon to see Maud, and to learn from her that Captain Ratlin
almost always slept on board his ship, departing soon after dark for
the spot through the jungle. Satisfied of this, Capt. Bramble once
more proceeded to make his arrangements, for to have seized the vessel
without her commander on board would have been to perform but half the
business he had laid out for the night's engagement. But all seemed
now propitious, and he awaited the darkness with impatience, when he
might disembark a couple of boat loads of sailors and marines, and
with the Quadroon for guide follow the path through the jungle to
where the "Sea Witch" lay.
"Why do you muse so long and lonely, my child?" asked Mr.
Huntington of her daughter that afternoon, as she came in and
surprised her gazing out at a window vacantly.
"O, I hardly know, dear mother. I was thinking over our strange
fortune since we left Calcutta, the wreck, the nights in the boat, and
our fortunate rescue."
"Fortunate, my dear? I don't exactly know about that. Here we have
been confined at this slave factory, little better than the slaves
themselves, these four weeks."
"Well, mother, Captain Bramble says he shall sail soon, and then we
can go round to Sierra Leone, and from thence take passage direct for
"For my part I can't understand why Capt. Bramble insists upon
staying here so long. He don't seem to be doing anything, and he came
into the harbor by chance."
"He says that business and duty, which he cannot explain, detain
him here, but that he will soon leave, of which he will give us due
"Heaven hasten the period!" said the mother, impatiently; "for I am
most heartily tired and worn out with the strange life we lead here."
This conversation will explain to the reader in part, the reason
why Mrs. Huntington and her daughter, English subjects and in distress
upon the coast, had not at once gone on board the vessel of their
sovereign which lay in the harbor, and been carried upon their
destination. From the outset Captain Bramble had resolved not to let
his rival slip through his fingers by leaving port himself, and thus
he had still remained to the present time, though without any definite
plan of operation formed until he availed himself of Maud's proposal.
"Why, bless me, my child, you look as though you had been crying,"
said the mother, now, catching a glance at her daughter's face.
"Do I, mother?" she answered, vacantly.
This was just after she had returned from the meeting with Captain
Ratlin as already described, and whether, she had been crying or not,
the reader will probably know what feelings moved her heart.
CHAPTER XII. THE CONFLICT.
CAPTAIN BRAMBLE knew very well that he had desperate men to deal
with in the taking of a slaver on the coast, but he had gathered his
evidence and witnesses in such a strong array that he felt warranted
in going to any length in securing possession of a clipper craft which
had been so fully described to him. He was not wanting in personal
courage, and therefore, with a well-selected body of sailors and
marines, and one or two officers, he quietly pulled away from the
ship's side, under cover of the night, and landed at the proposed
spot. Here he found Maud patiently awaiting his coming, and ready to
lead him to the hiding-place of the "Sea Witch" and her crew. The men
were all well armed, and instructed how to act in any possible
emergency that was to be met with in the business which brought them
On the whole body pressed in silence, through a tangled and narrow
path, being more than once startled by the growl of some wild animal,
whose haunts they disturbed. It was weary struggling by this path
through the wood, but it was the only way to approach the desired
point by land. Maud hesitated not, but stole or glided through the
tangled undergrowth, as though she had passed her whole life-time in
the deep, tangled ways of the jungle. As they went on, the moon
gradually rose and lifted up the dark path by little gleamings which
stole in through the thick leaves and close-turning branches of the
On, on they press; and now they pause at a sign from Maud, and
listen to the sound of voices, which have a strange and echo-like
sound in that wild and tangled spot. Hark! those voices are not from
the tongues of natives; that is English which they speak.
"Hist! hist!" whispered the Quadroon, "we are almost upon them!"
"In which direction?" asked the English officer.
"Here, see you not those bright, silver-like scales through the
"That is the river's bed, and they lie on board their craft, moored
close to us."
"How many do they number?"
"I know not."
"It is not important," continued the Englishman, turning to his
followers, and in a low voice bidding them look to their weapons, for
the game was near at hand.
A few more steps brought the party to the skirts of the thicket,
where it bordered on a small clearing, opening upon the river, and
looking across which—while they were themselves screened by the
jungle—they discovered the dark hull of the "Sea Witch," with her
lower masts and their standing rigging. The vessel was moored close to
the shore, with which a portable gangway connected it. Shallow as the
water was, yet so light was her draft that she evidently floated upon
its sluggish current. Voices were heard issuing from the fore hatch,
and two or three petty officers were seated about the entrance to the
cabin, smoking cigars and pipes, all unconscious of any danger.
"There is your prey! Spring upon it, and be quick, for they will
fight like mad, and he will lay a dozen of you by the heels before you
take the 'Sea Witch!'" said Maud.
Captain Bramble rushed forward to the attack, followed by his men,
and was soon on the deck of the vessel; but though he took Mr.
Faulkner and his crew by surprise, he did not find them entirely
unprepared, and after dropping eight of his people upon the slaver's
deck, and being himself, severely wounded in the arm, Captain Bramble
thought it best to beat a retreat, at least for a few moments, and so
sought again the shelter of the jungle.
The conflict, which was very brief, was also a very sanguinary, and
five of the slaver's people had been either mortally wounded or killed
outright; but from the habit of constantly wearing their arms, even to
pistols, when on the coast, they had been found in a very good
situation at even the shortest notice for defending themselves.
Captain Bramble now saw evident tokens of a purpose to unmoor the
vessel, and let her drift out into the river, which would at once
place her beyond his reach, as he had no boats within a league of the
spot; and therefore he resolved upon a second onslaught, and this time
divided his men into three parts—one to board at the bows, one at the
stern, and himself leading a dozen picked men at the waist.
This division of his forces was the best manouvre he could possibly
make, and succeeded admirably, since his own people outnumbered the
slavers, and by dividing them he strengthened his own power and
weakened theirs. Once more upon their deck, the hand-to-hand battle
was short, bloody and decisive, until towards its close, Captain
Bramble found himself driven into the forecastle with a number of his
followers, and at the same moment saw the mate of the "Sea Witch,"
with those of his people that were left alive hastening to embark in a
quarterboat, and pull away from the vessel's side with great speed.
A sort of instinct explained to him the meaning of this, and
hurrying his people on shore with the wounded, they sought the shelter
of the jungle once more. Scarcely had they gained the shade of the
thick undergrowth, when a report like that of a score of cannons rang
upon the night air, and high in the air soared a body of flame and
wreck in terrific confusion. The slavers had placed a slow match in
connection with the magazine, and had blown in one instant of time
that entire and beautiful fabric into ten thousand atoms!
Even Maud, with all her hatred and passion, quailed at the shock,
and trembled as she crouched to the ground with averted face. She
realized the result of her treachery, but looked in vain for the
object on whom she had hoped to reck the strength of her indignation
and her hate. Where was he? This was a question that Captain Bramble
had several times asked; but in vain, until now, when suddenly there
appeared before their eves, hastening towards the scene, Captain Will
"Seize him, my men! seize him, and bind his arms!—he is our
prisoner," said the English officer.
"By what authority do you give such an order as that, Captain
Bramble?" asked the young commander.
"In the queen's name, sir; in the name of the English people, who
abhor pirates and slavers!" was the taunting reply of the Englishman.
"Stand back!" said Captain Ratlin, felling two seamen to the earth
who approached him to lay hands upon his person, and at the same time
drawing a revolver from his pocket. "Stand back, I say! I carry the
lives of six of you in this weapon, and I am not one to miss my aim,
as your valiant leader yonder well knows.—Now, Captain Bramble, I
will surrender to you, provided you accede to my terms, otherwise you
cannot take me alive!"
"Well, sir, what have you to offer?" said the English officer,
positively quailing before the stern and manly front of the young
"That you accept my word of honor to obey your directions as a
prisoner, but that you shall not bind my arms or confine me
"Have your own way," replied the Englishman, doggedly; "but give up
"Do you promise me this, Captain Bramble?"
"It is well, sir; there goes my weapon;" saying which he hurled it
far into the river's bed.
As soon as Maud saw him, she sprang to her feet, and with all the
bitterness of expression which her countenance was capable of, she
scowled upon his upright figure and handsome features. It was evident
she felt a bitter disappointment at his absence from the late affray,
and would only have rejoiced had she believed he was blown to atoms
with his vessel by the wild explosion which had so lately shaken the
very earth upon which she now stood. It was plain that up to this very
moment, however, that the young commander had never suspected her of
treachery, or even jealousy, towards himself; but now, he would have
been worse than blind not to have seen and realized, also, the deep
malignant feeling which was written on her dark, but handsome face.
"Maud," he said, in a low, but reproachful tone, "is it you who
have betrayed us?"
"Ay," said the girl, quickly, and with a shrill cadence of voice,
"a double heart should be dealt doubly with. It was I who led these
people hither, and I hoped the fate of so many of your ship's company
might have been yours!—but you are a prisoner now, and there's hope
"Maud, Maud! have I ever wronged you or your father?" asked Captain
"Do you not love that white-faced girl you brought hither?"
"And if I did, Maud, what wrong is that to thee? Did I promise thee
"Nay; I asked it not of you," said the angry girl.
"But you have done me a great wrong, Maud; one that you do not
yourself understand. I forgive you though, poor girl; you are hardly
These kindly-intended words only aggravated the object to whom they
were addressed, and she turned away hastily to the shade of the thick
vegetable growth, where he lost sight of her figure among the branches
and leaves, while he walked on with the English officer and his people
over the ground they had just passed, towards Don Leonardo's. There
being now no further cause for secrecy, they marched openly, and
enlivened the way with many a rude jest, which grated harshly upon the
ears of the wounded, who were borne upon litters made from branches of
the hard, dry leaves of the palm.
As they came upon the open spot where stand the barracoons and Don
Leonardo's dwelling, they found the entire family aroused and on the
watch, the heavy explosion of the "Sea Witch's" magazine having seemed
to them like an earthquake. Don Leonardo, who shrewdly suspected the
truth, seemed satisfied at a single glance as to the state of affairs,
and walking up to the young commander, and watching for a favorable
opportunity, when not overheard, he asked, significantly: "Treachery?"
"It matters not," was the magnanimous reply; for Captain Ratlin was
too generous to betray the Quadroon to her father, though she had
proved thus treacherous to him.
As he now recognized himself to be a prisoner, and had been told by
Captain Bramble that he must go forthwith on board his ship as such,
he desired to say a few words to Mrs. Huntington and her daughter, a
request which his rival could hardly find grounds for refusing, and so
he took occasion to explain to them the state of affairs, and to
advise them to the best of his ability, touching their own best course
in order to safely reach England. They felt that his advice was good,
as truly disinterested, and both agreed to abide strictly by it; but
doubted not that as Captain Ratlin had not been engaged in any slave
commerce, and indeed had not been in the late action at all, that he
would be very soon liberated, and free to choose his own calling.
Captain Ratlin was conveyed on board the ship in the harbor, and
Mrs. Huntington and her daughter also, with Maud and some other
witnesses that Captain Bramble desired; and the vessel shaped her
course along the coast towards Sierra Leone, where there was sitting
an English court of admiralty, with extraordinary authority relative
to such cases Captain Bramble was now about to lay before them, and
who would be only too much gratified at the bringing before them of an
offender to make an example of him.
Captain Bramble of course offered to Mrs. Huntington and her
daughter his own cabin for their greater comfort, and strove to make
their position as comfortable as possible for them while they were on
board; but he had not the nice sense of honor, that true delicacy of
spirit, which should have led him to remember they were his guests
from necessity, and that to push a suit under such circumstances was
not only indelicate but positively insulting. And yet he did so; true,
he did not actually importune Miss Huntington, but his attentions and
services were all rendered under that guise and aspect which rendered
them to her most repulsive.
Captain Bramble took good care that his prisoner and rival should
have no degree of intercourse with her whom he knew very well Captain
Ratlin loved. Under pretence that he feared his prisoner would attempt
to escape, he kept him under close guard, and did not permit him once
upon deck during the entire trip from the factory of Don Leonardo to
the harbor of Sierra Leone. This chafed the young commander's spirit
somewhat, but yet he was of too true a spirit to sink under
oppression; he was brave and cheerful always. Of course, Miss
Huntington saw and understood all this, and the more heartily despised
the English officer for the part he played in the unmanly business.
Maud kept by herself. She felt miserable, and as is often the case,
realized that the success of her treachery, thus far, which, in her
anticipation, had promised so much, had but still more deeply shadowed
her heart. The English officer looked upon her with mingled feelings
of admiration for her strange beauty, with contempt for her treachery,
and with a thought that she might be made perhaps the subject of his
pleasure by a little management by-and-by. It was natural for a heart
so vile as his to couple every circumstance and connection in some
such selfish spirit with himself; it was like him.
"Maud," he said to her, one day.
"Well," she answered, lifting her handsome face from her hands,
where she often hid it.
"You have lost one lover?"
The girl only answered by a flashing glance of contempt.
"How would you like another?"
"Who?" she said, sternly.
"Me!" answered Captain Bramble.
"You!" she said, contemptuously, and with so much expression as to
end the conversation.
No, he had not rightly understood the Quadroon; it was not wounded
pride, that sentiment so easily healed when once bruised in the heart
of a woman; it was not that which moved the laughter of the Spanish
slaver—it was either love, or something very like it, turned to
actual hate, and the native power of her bosom for revenge seemed to
be now the food upon which she sustained life itself. Taking her
lonely place in the cabin, after the conversation just referred to,
she again hid her face in her hands, and remained with her head bowed
in her lap for a long, long while, half dreaming, half waking. Poor,
untutored, uncivilized child of nature! she was very, very unhappy
CHAPTER XIII. THE TRIAL.
AT the immediate time of which we now write, there had been some
very aggravated instances of open resistance to the English and
American cruisers on the African station by the slavers who thronged
the coast, and the home government had sent out orders embracing
extraordinary powers, in order that the first cases that might
thenceforth come under the cognizance of the court might lead to such
summary treatment of the offenders, as to act as an example for the
rest, and thus have a most salutary effect upon the people thus
engaged. It was under these circumstances that Captain Will Ratlin
found himself arraigned before the maritime commission at Sierra
Leone, with a pretty hard case made out against him at the outset of
The truth was, he had not been taken resisting the attack of
Captain Bramble and his men, but his accusers did not hesitate to
represent that he was thus guilty, and several were prepared, Maud
among the rest, to swear to this charge. Indeed, Captain Bramble found
that he had people about him who would swear to anything, and he had
little doubt in proving so strong a case as to jeopardize even the
life of his prisoner, since many of his crew had died outright in the
attack upon the "Sea Witch," to say nothing of the seriously wounded.
All that could prejudice the court against the prisoner was duly
paraded before the eyes and ears of the individual members ere yet the
case was brought legally before them, and at last when Captain Ratlin
was formally brought into court, he was little less than condemned
already in the minds of nine-tenths of the marine court.
He was rather amazed to see and to hear the free way in which
evidence was given against him, corroborating statements which
amounted to the most unmitigated falsehoods, but above all to find
Maud unblushingly declare that she saw him in the fight, and that he
shot with a pistol one of the men whose name had been returned as
among the dead, and that he had wounded another. The girl avoided his
eyes while she uttered her well-fabricated story, but had she met the
eyes of the young commander, she would have seen more of pity there
than of anger, more of surprise than of reproach, even. But in the
meantime, while these feelings were moving him, the case was steadily
progressing, and began to wear a most serious aspect as it regarded
the fate of Captain Will Ratlin.
There still remained one other witness to examine, whose illness
had kept him on board ship up to the last moment, and who it was said
could identify the prisoner as one of the party engaged in defending
the deck of the slaver. He was a servant of Captain Bramble's, had
attended his master in the attack, but having received a blow from a
handspike upon the head, was rendered insensible at the first of the
action, and had been carried on board his ship in that condition, from
which state he had gradually recovered until it was thought he would
be able to testify before the court at the present time. After a few
moments of delay, the man made his appearance, evidently not yet
recovered from the fearful blow he had received, but yet able to take
his place at the witness's post, and to perform the part expected of
No sooner had the court, through its head, addressed the witness,
than he answered promptly the preliminary queries put to him, while
the effect upon Captain Ratlin seemed to be like magic. Was it guilt
that made him start so, rub his eyes, look about him so vaguely, and
then sitting down, to cover his face with his hands, only to go
through the same pantomime again? We ask, was it guilt that made him
act thus? The judges noted it, and even made memorandums of the same
upon their record of evidence. It was observed as significant also by
every one present. Captain Bramble himself looked at the prisoner with
surprise to see him thus effected by the presence of his servant.
"For the love of Heaven!" exclaimed the prisoner aloud, as though
he could bear this intensity of feeling no longer, "who is this man?"
"It is my servant—an honest, faithful man, may it please the
court. Leonard Hust, by name, born in my father's service," said
"Leonard Hust," mused the young commander, thoughtfully; "Leonard
"Ay, sir," added Captain Bramble, somewhat pertly, "do you find any
objection to that name? If so, sir, I pray you will declare it to the
"Leonard Hust!" still mused the prisoner, without noticing this
interruption. "There is a strange ring upon my ears in repeating that
"Prisoner," said the judge, "do you recollect having done this man
a severe and almost fatal harm in the late conflict?"
"I—I," said the young commander, somewhat confused in his mind
from an evident effort to recall some long-forgotten association.
"You will be so good as to answer the question put by the court,"
repeated the judge.
"The court will please remember that I hurt no one, and that I was
not even engaged in the action referred to. These good people are
Now it was that the attention of all were drawn towards Leonard
Hust, who in turn seemed as much surprised and as much moved by some
secret cause as the prisoner had been. He hastily crossed the court
room to where the prisoner sat, and looking full into his eyes, seemed
to be for a moment entranced, while the court remained silent,
observing these singular manifestations, which they could not
"Leonard—Leonard, I say!" repeated Captain Bramble, "what trick is
"Trick!" whispered the man; "trick, Captain Bramble! Tell me, sir,
who is that man?"
"Why, they call him Captain Will Ratlin, and we know him to be a
The servant still hesitated, looking from the prisoner to his
principal accuser, the English officer, then at the court, and finally
drawing his master a little on one side, the man again went through
the pantomime described, and placing his mouth to his master's ear
whispered something which startled him as though a gun had been fired
at his very ear. The shock was like electricity, and made him stagger
for support. Two or three times he repeated "Impossible! impossible!"
and finally begged the court to stay the proceedings, as he was taken
suddenly ill, and should not be able to attend until to-morrow. Being
the principal prosecutor and witness, of course his presence was
requisite to the progress of the trial, and therefore as he made this
request it was at once formally granted, and the court adjourned for
the time, while the prisoner was remanded on ship-board for safe
keeping until the next day.
That the reader may understand the singular conduct of both the
young commander and Leonard Hust, he must follow the latter worthy
into his master's private room in the government house, where they
proceeded at once after the occurrences described.
"In Heaven's name, Leonard, what do you mean by such an assertion?"
asked Captain Bramble, throwing himself into a chair, and wiping the
cold perspiration from his face.
"I mean, sir, that the man on trial to-day is no more nor less than
"How strange is all this. How know you beyond all cavil, Leonard?"
"By the scar over the right eye. You gave it to him yourself. Don't
you remember, sir, just previous to the dog affair, for which he ran
away from home!"
"By Heaven! I believe you speak truly; and yet how strange, how
more than strange it all is, that we should meet again in this way!"
"It quite nonplussed me, sir. I thought he was a ghost at first."
"Strange, strange!" mused the elder brother. "In those days, long
ago in our childhood, he crossed my path constantly, and here he is
again athwart my hawse. By Heaven! but it is strange—wonderful, that
fate should have thrown him and Helen Huntington together again, and
that neither should know the other; and yet not so very strange, for
she was but eight years old when Charles ran away. Yes, he thwarted me
then, for even in childhood the girl fancied him above me, and now she
affects him even in his fallen fortunes."
"What shall we do, sir, now that master Charles has turned up
again?" asked Leonard Hust, in his simplicity. "We cannot testify
against him now, sir."
"No, no, no!" said the elder brother, hastily, "he must not be
"How he has altered, sir, only to think," continued the servant;
"why, when he went away from Bramble Park, sir, he wasn't much more
than nine years old."
"Yes. I remember, I remember, Leonard," replied his master,
hurriedly, while he walked the apartment with quick, irregular steps.
"I remember only too well."
This was indeed that elder brother who had, when a boy, so
oppressed, so worried, and rendered miserable his brother Charles, as
to cause him in a fit of desperation to stray away from home, whither
he knew not. His parents saw now—alas! too late—their fatal error;
but the boy was gone, no tidings could be had of him, and they
believed him dead. The honest tar, whose yarn the attentive reader
will remember, as given on the deck of the "Sea Witch," spoke truly of
his commander. He had, years before, strayed alongside a vessel, as
has been related, from whence he hardly knew himself, or was afraid to
say. Hunger and neglect even then had greatly changed him, and he
shipped, as has been related. The fall he got at sea threw a cloud
over his brain as to past recollections up to that time, and here if
the wish ever possessed him as to returning to his early home, he knew
naught of it.
When he heard the voice of Leonard Hust in the court, it seemed to
strike upon some string in memory's harp, which vibrated to old
familiar recollections, and the more he heard him speak the more the
sensation came over him which led to the demonstrations which we have
already witnessed. And yet he could not recall aught that would serve
him as a clue—the early injury to his brain seemed to have
obliterated the connecting links that memory could not supply. The
reason, probably, why the servant's voice and not the brother's thus
recalled him was, that the former had been kind, and his voice had
ever sounded like music in the neglected boy's ears, but the brother's
voice had never had that charm or happy association connected with it.
As to little cousin Helen,—as she was then called,—it was not
strange that Miss Huntington, after years of estrangement in India,
meeting him under such circumstances, himself so changed, should not
have recalled enough of the past to recognize him; and yet we have
seen that at times she dwelt upon the tender accents of his voice like
sleeping memories, herself quite ignorant of the cause of this
She was now with her mother on shore at the mission house, in an
agony of suspense as to the result of the trial which was taking
place. She feared the worst, for Captain Bramble had taken measures to
instruct those about her to their effect that the prisoner would be
found guilty, and either strung cup by the neck at once, or be sent
home to England for the same purpose. Mrs. Huntington felt sad and
borne down by the position of affairs—for although she did not
understand her daughter's sentiments towards Captain Ratlin, yet she
recognized the fact of her and her child's indebtedness to him, and
that he had evinced the characteristics of a gentleman.
"Mother, if they find Captain Ratlin guilty, what can they, what
will they do with him?" asked Helen Huntington anxiously of her
mother, on the day of the trial.
"Why, my dear, it is terrible to think of, but the penalty of such
a crime as is charged to him, is death; but we must hope for the best,
and—why Helen, how pale you look!"
"It was only a passing spasm, mother. I am—I believe I am already
better," said the daughter, in an agony of suffering that she dared
"Come, Helen, lean on me and go to your bed for a while; these
sudden changes and so much exposure has rendered you weak. Come, my
And the poor girl, all trembling and pale, suffered her mother to
lead her to her chamber, where a gentle anodyne soothed her nerves,
and she soon fell to sleep. Had her mother not been little better than
blind, she would have easily read her daughter's heart, and have seen
that she loved with all her woman's soul the man who was that day on
trial for his life. What mattered it to her that he was nameless, a
wanderer, a slaver? She loved him, and that covered each and all
faults, however heinous in the sight of the law. She felt that it was
not the outward associations which made a man. She had looked beneath
the surface of his soul, and had seen the pure crystal depth of his
manly heart—frank, open, and as truthful as day itself. To her he was
noble, chivalric and true, and if all the world had blamed him, if all
had called him guilty, her bosom would have been open to receive him!
Could he have realized this as he lay in chains on board his elder
brother's ship—could he have known that he was really loved by that
fair, sweet and gentle creature, how it would have lightened the
weight of the iron bands he bore—how cheered his drooping spirits.
CHAPTER XIV. THE BROTHERS.
Now commenced a struggle in the bosom of Robert Bramble. It was
some hours before he could recover from the first blush of amazement
at the strange discovery he had made. Not to have had something of a
brother's feelings come over him at such a time, he must have been
less than human; and it was between the promptings of blood, of early
recollections of childhood, before he grew to that age when his
disposition, ruined by indulgence, had led him so bitterly to oppress
and injure his brother as to drive him from the home of their youth,
and the recollection of those little more matured years, when jealousy
at his superior aptness, strength, and success with "cousin Helen,"
had made him hate him.
It was impossible for the man to forget the bitterness of the
child; besides, had not the same spirit of rivalry ripened, until he
found his brother in manhood still his successful rival with Helen
Huntington? The reader will remember that they had all three been
children together, and that the last time Charles had looked back at
his home, as he started away from it, his eye detected the little form
of Helen, where she stood gazing after him.
If there had been any better promptings in the heart of Robert
Bramble, they would have turned the balance in favor of his brother,
and he would have befriended him; but this he did not do. He walked
his room, bitterly musing upon the singular position of affairs, while
he knew very well that Charles lay in chains on board his ship in the
harbor. Then he recalled the memory of his parents, as connected with
this state of affairs. The father was dead, the mother, a weak-minded
woman, was also bowed by ill-health; indeed, their early lives had few
happy associations. Robert himself had embittered all its relations.
It was nearly midnight, and the moon had sunk behind the hill that
sheltered the harbor on the north, leaving the dark water of the bay
in deep shadow. At long gunshot from the shore lay the ship in which
Charles Bramble was confined. All was still as death, save the pace of
the sentinel in the ship's waist, and a ripple now and then of
tide-way against the ship's cable. An observant eye, from the leeward
side of the ship, might have seen a dark form creep out from one of
the quarter ports, and gradually make its way along the moulding of
the water-lines toward the larboard bow ports, one of which it
Entering with this figure, we shall soon find it to be Leonard
Hust, who now, watching an opportunity, slipped into the apartment
where the young commander had been confined since he left the factory
of Don Leonardo. No sooner was the door closed quietly, so as to avoid
the observation of the watch between decks, than the new comer opened
a secret lantern and discovered himself to the prisoner, at the same
time cautioning him to silence.
"Who are you?" coolly asked Charles Bramble, for thus we must know
him in future.
"Leonard Hust," was the reply; "your friend, as I will soon prove."
"But it is only a few hours since you were giving witness against
"That is true; but bless you, sir, there has been a great change in
matters since that."
"So I thought, by the movements I observed, though I did not
"Hist! speak low, sir," said the other, "and while I am talking to
you, just let me, at the same time, be filing off these steel
ornaments upon your wrists!"
"File them off? Well, then, you must, indeed, be a friend," said
"Leave me to prove that. Sit here, so the light will fall on them,
with your back this way, that will keep the light from showing between
decks. So, that is it."
"But what was it made your voice and the sound of your name affect
me so this morning? I could not divest myself of the feeling that, I
had heard it somewhere before."
"Heard it? bless you, sir, I rather think you have heard it
before," said the fellow, as he worked industriously with his file
upon the handcuffs.
"Well, where, and when; and under what circumstances?" asked the
"That is just what I am going to tell you, sir; and you see, master
"Master Charles,—Charles,—why do you call me that name?"
"Why, you see, that is your name, to be sure. Charles Bramble, and
you are Captain Robert Bramble's brother, and—take care, hold still,
or the file will cut you."
"How,—do not trifle with me,—what is this which you are telling
"Indeed, sir,—indeed, it is all true," said the other, half
frightened at the effect his words had produced upon the prisoner, who
now stepped away from him and stood aloof, withdrawing his wrists from
the operation which Leonard Hust was performing.
"Come hither, Leonard Hust, if that be your name," he said; "sit
here and tell me what this business is that you refer to. No blind
hints, sir, but speak out plainly, and like a man."
Thus interrogated, the man did as he was directed, and went on to
tell the commander of the "Sea Witch" his story, up to the time when
he was lost to his parents and friends. How he had never been kindly
treated by his elder brother, who, indeed, drove him from home by his
incessant oppression. He referred to that last gallant act he had
performed, by saving his mother's favorite dog, and how little cousin
Helen (she is the same as Miss Huntington) had seen it all, and had
thanked him over and over again for it, and a thousand other
reminiscences, thread by thread, and link by link, filling up the
space from earliest childhood to the hour when he had left his home at
As he went on relating these things, in the same old natural voice
that he had poured into the same ears from their infancy, until nearly
ten years had passed, a long-closed vein of memory seemed gradually to
open in the prisoner's brain; he covered his face with his hands, and
for a few moments seemed lost in connecting the various threads of the
past, until gradually it all came plainly and clearly back to him. His
memory had again by these hints become completely restored, he was
"Leonard, Leonard, I see all, remember all," he said, while a tear,
a man's tear, wet for a single moment his bronzed cheek.
"I am rejoiced, sir, to hear it, I am sure," said the other.
"But, Leonard, where is my brother, and why is it necessary to
remove these badges of shame by stealth? Tell me, where is Robert?"
"Alas, sir, you must remember that he never held a brother's regard
for you; it was that very thing which drove you from us when you were
a wee bit of a boy."
"True, true; but he must see the hand of Providence in all this,
and I know he will give me his hand, and we will forgive each other
and forget the past."
"Alas! sir, I always befriended you at home, when master Robert had
set both the old folk against you, and I would do so now; but as to
him, sir, I am sorry to say it, but he's a bad man, and he makes all
those who are with him bad men, and I have many a sad thing at heart
that I have been guilty of by following his orders, sir. No, no,
master Charles, take my advice, don't trust Robert,—make your escape,
or you will be hanged at the yard-arm of this very ship ere another
twenty-four hours have passed!"
"Is he capable of this?" asked the younger brother, in tones of
"Nobody should know better than I, sir, and I tell you yes."
"My blood, then, shall not be upon his hands," said Charles,
musing, "I will escape. Come, good Leonard, relieve me of these
shackles, and quickly."
"Slowly, slowly, master Charles, we must be cautious, there are
watchful eyes on board the ship, and sentries who know their duty, so
The young commander seemed now to stand more erect, there was a
freer glance to his eye, his lips were more compressed and firm, he
felt that what had been to him heretofore an indelible stain, a stigma
upon his character, was now effaced; he was not only respectably born,
but even gently and highly so. His father was knighted by his king,
his blood was as pure and ancient as any in England. He could now take
Helen Huntington to his heart without shame; he could boldly plead a
cause that he had not before dared to utter; he could refer her to the
dear hours of their childhood, to the tender kiss she gave him when he
left that distant home to become a wanderer over half the globe!
He no longer felt the irons that Leonard Hust was filing away. He
seemed to feel a strength that would have snapped them like pack
threap. He was a man now, a free man, and not a thing of accident; a
thing for the world to point at in scorn, not an abandoned child of
shame. No, he felt nerved at once by this singular, this almost
miraculous discovery, and could hardly restrain his impatience. Yet a
shadow for a moment crossed over his brow, as he thought of that
brother, who could coldly look on and see him sacrificed, knowing what
he must and surely did know. Could he have permitted such a result,
had he been in Robert's place? Indeed, he felt he could not.
"Does not my brother know that you are here on this errand,
"If he did it would cost me my life," said the honest fellow.
Charles would have placed some favorable construction upon the
case, but, alas, he could not; there was no possible way of disguising
the matter. Robert was the same bitter, jealous-spirited soul that had
rendered his childhood miserable. Time had not improved him,—it was
his nature and could not be eradicated. Charles now realized this, and
within a few further inquiries of Leonard, touching matters of vital
interest to him, he resolved not to seek Robert, as he had at the
outset intended, neither would he avoid him. He knew no other person
save him could bring a continuance of the suit against him, but he
hardly feared that even he would do that.
"Of course Helen Huntington knows nothing of this development yet,
"No, sir, and master Robert bid me be careful not to let her find
it out, or to say one word about the matter to any one whatever. I
wonder the lady didn't know you, sir."
"You forget that even Robert did not recognize me."
"And that, too, seemed funny to me. Why, sir, I seemed to know you
the instant I set eyes on you in the court, and when I got close I
soon settled the doubt in my mind."
"Well, my good fellow, it seems that but for you I might have been
hanged, and that, too, by my own bother; but I trust all is set right
"I hope so, sir, only you must not let master Robert know that I
liberated you from these ruffles, sir, will you, master Charles?"
"Never fear me, Leonard, I shall not do as you were about to do
towards me, give testimony that will in any way criminate you."
"But I wasn't, sir, of my own free will, only master Robert had
told me what I must say, and stick to it, and swear to it through
thick and thin, and I'm afraid not to obey him."
"Poor fellow, I see you are, indeed, his tool; but if I find myself
in any sort of a position ere long, I will take care to make your
situation more comfortable."
"Thank ye, sir," said Leonard Hust, just as the last shackle
dropped from the prisoner's wrists.
In the mean time, let us turn for a moment to the bedside of
Captain Robert Bramble, for it is long past midnight, and, weary in
mind and body, he had retired to that rest which he most certainly
needed. But sleep is hardly repose to the guilty, and he was trebly
so. Phantoms of all imaginable shapes flitted across his brain,
pictures of suffering, of misery and of danger, to all of which he
seemed to be exposed, and from which he had no power to flee. Alas,
how fearful the shadows that haunt a bad man's pillow. He writhed like
one in physical pain, tossed from side to side, while the cold
perspiration stood in big drops upon his brow and temples.
Now his dreams carry him back, far back a score of years, to his
childhood at Bramble Park, when all was innocence, and then, with
leaping strides, he finds himself, years after, even as to-day,
bearing deadly witness against his brother. His dead father seems
standing by his bedside, pointing at him a warning finger, and sadly
chiding his fearful want of feeling. He tosses and turns and writhes
again, then leaping from the uneasy bed, looks bewildered around, and
half grows alarmed. Quickly he wraps a dressing-gown about him, and
hastily walks back and forth to still the agony of feeling and the
bitter phantoms of his dreams. How haggard and wild he looks by that
Once more he throws himself upon his bed, and, after a while, is
again asleep, if such unconsciousness can be called sleep. Again he
tosses, and turns, and sighs like one in a nightmare until at last,
towards the breaking of day, the quick, startling breathing ceases,
and subsides into a regular and equal respiration, and he lies still.
Nature overcomes all else, and he now sleeps, indeed, but not until he
has passed through a fearful purgatory of dreams, all too real, too
trying.—His brother, with soon the prospect of a disgraceful death on
the gallows, had not suffered thus. No, he was repentant for the wrong
he had done, and had already resolved to completely reform if the
opportunity were offered to him; but Robert Bramble was outraging the
laws of nature and of God.
CHAPTER XV. THE ESCAPE.
CHARLES BRAMBLE found himself playing a dangerous part. It was true
that Leonard Hust had freed his hands from those shackles that had
confined them so long, and had pointed out to him the way to retreat
and escape; but he must run the gauntlet of dangers in order to do so.
This, however, he was prepared to do; as to fear, it was a sensation
he knew not; but prudence was much more requisite in this instance
than any especial degree of courage. As is always the case on board a
man-of-war, especially when lying in port, where the escape to the
shore is easy, sentinels were placed at stem, stern and waist of the
English ship, at all hours, pacing their allotted round of the deck,
and keeping watchful guard over every avenue of exit from the vessel.
The only possible plan of escape that suggested itself to Charles
Bramble, under the circumstances, was to place a few necessary
articles of clothing in a small package, and confine it to the back of
his neck, while he should divest himself of all garments, slip quietly
into the water on the seaward side of the ship, where none of the
sentries were immediately placed, the object being to guard the access
to the shore more especially. Once in the water he had only to strike
out quietly for the shore, trusting the dullness of the sentries and
the favoring darkness of the night to enable him to reach the land
He had the most to fear from the sentry placed on the top-gallant
forecastle of the ship, as that post was so near to his line of
passage. He would have to swim around the bows far enough out to clear
the land tackle, and when he got on an even line with the ship's bows,
this sentry, if he happened to be on the lookout at the moment, could
hardly fail to see him on the surface of the water. To obviate this
difficulty, Leonard Hust, who was a sort of privileged person on
board, being the captain's confidential servant and man of all work,
undertook to engage the sentry's attention by sonic device, for a few
moments, just at the opportune period, while the prisoner should get
fairly clear of the ship.
"See here, Bill," said Leonard Hust, carelessly, as he emerged from
the fore hatch; "look ye, old boy, I have had such a dream, hang me if
I can sleep a wink."
"What's that to me?" growled the sentry, morosely, and not much
more than half awake.
"Why, if you knew what it was I dreamed, you would think it was
something to you," continued the other, with assumed mystery and
"Look ye, Leonard Hust," said the marine, "do you know you arc
talking to a sentry on duty, and that it's clearly against the rules
of the ship to do so?"
"Why, as to the matter of that, I don't see hut that you are as
much to blame as I am," continued the other; "but who is there to
peach on either of us?"
"That's true," added the marine, bringing the butt of his musket
lightly to the deck; "but for all that, Leonard, it's dangerous
business, for you see if—hallo! what's that?"
"Nothing; nothing but me drawing this cork," said the other,
quickly producing a small bottle of brandy from his pocket, and urging
the marine to drink.
The temptation was too great, and the sleepy and tired sentinel
drank a heavy draught of the liquor, smacking his lips, and forgetting
the sound he had just heard, and which Leonard Hust very well knew was
caused by the prisoner's descent a little too quickly into the water,
alongside the ship.
"Now, Bill, what do you think I did dream?" continued the captain's
"Bother it, how can I tell?" answered the marine. "Let it out if
it's worth telling."
"Why, do you see, Bill, I kept tossing and turning
uncomfortable-like for an hour or so, until finally I thought I saw
you, with your face as black as the ace of spades, and your body
dangling by the neck from the main yard-arm of the ship, a dead man!"
"Well, that's comfortable at any rate," said the marine, "and you
needn't trouble yourself in future, Leonard Hust, to repeat your
dreams to me, especially if they are personal."
"Never mind, man, it was all a dream, no truth in it, you know.
Come, old boy, take another drink for companionship, and then good
night to you, and I'll turn in."
The marine greedily drained the rest of the bottle, and with
swimming eyes thanked Leonard for his kindness, bade him good night,
and with an unsteady step resumed his musket and his walk upon the
forecastle. In the meantime, Charles Bramble, who was an expert
swimmer, had got out of gunshot and even sight of the ship, or rather
where his head could not be discovered from the ship's deck, and was
nearing the shore very fast. He had secured, as he proposed,
sufficient clothing upon the back of his neck, and in an oil cloth
covering, so as to keep it dry, to equip himself quite comfortably on
landing, and in these garments he was soon dressed again, and making
his way through the town to the mission house, where he knew Helen
Huntington and her mother to be, and where he knew, also, that he
could find at last temporary lodgings.
He had no longer any fear that his brother would resume the charge
concerning him before the court—bad as he knew him to be, he did not
believe that he would do this, though he doubted not that he would
have managed to have kept him in confinement, and perhaps to have
carried him thus to England, partly from revengeful feelings towards
him, and partly to keep him out of the presence of her whom he so
tenderly loved. But, lest his brother should be betrayed by his
feelings into any extremity of action concerning him, he resolved at
once to write him a note, declaring that their relationship was known,
and that should any further persecution be offered, the same should at
once be made public to the oppressor's disgrace.
With this purpose, he hardly awaited the breaking of day before he
possessed himself of writing materials, and wrote and despatched the
following to his brother:
"CAPTAIN ROBERT BRAMBLE,—About the same time you receive this
note, you will also be made aware, doubtless, of my escape from
durance vile in your ship. The purpose of my sending yon this is not
to ask any favors at the hand of one who was never actuated towards me
even in childhood by a brother's regard, but whose sole desire and
purpose have been to oppress and injure one related to him by the
nearest ties of relationship. My object is rather to let you know that
any further attempt to arraign me before the court will lead at once
to a public declaration of the fact that your are my brother, a
relationship which necessity alone will compel me to publish to the
people of Sierra Leone. CHARLES BRAMBLE,
"Alias CAPTAIN WILL RATLIN."
Charles Bramble felt that he was safe from further immediate
oppression on his brother's part, and that it was only necessary for
him to keep quietly within doors until some chance for shipping from
the port should occur, to enable him to disentangle himself from the
singular web of circumstances which chance had woven so net-like about
him. In spite of the sad accomplishments of the realization of his
condition as it regarded his brother, and the partial danger of his
present position, yet there was a lightness to his heart, a buoyancy
in his breast, which he had not known for nearly a score of years, for
he now felt that all shame of birth was removed from him, that he was
respectably and even highly born, and that in point of blood was even
the equal, full equal of that fair and lovely girl he regarded so
Of course there was no disguise between Charles Bramble and Helen,
and her mother, as to the charge brought against him. They knew very
well that he had been engaged in the evil trade of the coast, but they
knew also that he had conducted his part of the business upon the most
humane principles which the traffic would admit, and that he was not a
principal, but an agent in the business, sailing his ship as rich
owners had directed, and also that besides the fact of his having
utterly renounced the trade altogether since he became acquainted with
Helen Huntington, his heart and feelings had never been engaged in its
necessary requirements. Realizing these facts, we say, neither Helen
nor her mother regarded Captain Ratlin (the only character in which
they yet knew him) to be actually and seriously culpable as to at
charge of inhumanity.
The gratification which Helen evinced on meeting him the next
morning after his escape from the ship, was too honest, too
unmistakable in its import not to raise up fresh hopes in his heart,
that, in spite of his seeming disgrace, his confinement as a prisoner,
his trial as an outlaw, and his fallen fortunes generally, still there
was one heart that beat purely and tenderly with at least a sister's
affection for him, and even Mrs. Huntington, who had not for one
moment suspected the true state of her daughter's sentiments towards
the young commander, did not hesitate to salute him tenderly, and
assure him of her gratification at his release from bondage. She was a
generous hearted woman, frank and honorable in her sentiments, and she
secretly rejoiced that they had, herself and daughter unitedly, been
able to exert a refining influence over so chivalric and noble a
character, as she fully realized Captain Ratlin to be at heart, and in
all his inward promptings.
Charles Bramble still hesitated as to revealing his relationship to
Captain Robert Bramble, from real feelings of delicacy, even to Mrs.
Huntington, whom he felt he could trust, partly because he had reason
to know that the mother had favored the suit of his brother whom Helen
had rejected in India, and partly because at present of his own
equivocal situation. But to Helen herself he felt that he might,
indeed that he must reveal the important truth, and that very evening
as they sat together in one of the spacious apartments of the mission
house, he took her hand within his own, and asked her if he might
confide in her as he would have done with a dear sister.
"You know, Captain Ratlin, that I feel so much indebted to you, in
so many ways, that any little service I am capable of doing for you
would be but a grateful pleasure," was the instant and frank reply of
the beautiful girl, while a heightened glow mantled her cheek.
"Then, Helen, listen to me, and if I am too excited in speaking of
a subject so immensely important to me, I trust you will forgive me.
Already I have given you a rough outline of my story, rough and
uncouth indeed, since I could give it no commencement. You will
remember that previous to the fall I got on ship-board, while a boy in
the 'Sea Lion,' I could recall no event. It was all a blank to me, and
my parentage and my childhood were to me a sealed book. Strange as it
may seem that book has been opened, and the story is now complete. I
"Indeed! indeed I am rejoiced to hear you say so," was the earnest
reply, while the countenance of the fair creature by his side was
lighted up by tenderness and hope.
"You look pleased, Helen," he continued; "but supposing the gap in
my story, which is now filled up, had better for my own credit have
"That cannot be—I feel that it cannot be," she said, almost
"Supposing that it is now ascertained that the parents of the
sailor boy, whose story you have heard, deserted him because of
necessity; supposing they were poor, very humble, but not dishonest,
would such facts rob me of your continued kind feelings?"
"You know, Captain Ratlin, that you need not ask such a question,"
she replied, as she looked into his face with her whole gentle soul
open through her eyes.
"You are too kind, too trusting in your confidence in me, Helen,"
The only reply was from her downcast eyes, and a still warmer blush
which covered the delicate surface of her temples even, and glowed in
silent beauty upon her cheek.
"Helen," continued he by her side in tones of tenderness that were
momentarily becoming more and more gentle, more and more expressive of
the deepest feeling; "Helen, do you remember the days of your
childhood, at home, in far-off England, at home near Bramble Park?"
"Yes, yes," she answered, eagerly. "But why do you speak of those
She looked into his face as she asked, almost as though she could
read his meaning.
"Do you remember Robert Bramble then?"
"And do you remember his brother, Helen?"
"Gracious heavens, yes!" she quickly answered, almost anticipating
"Well, Helen, Charles Bramble is before you!"
She did not faint nor utter a shriek at the effect of the
powerfully condensed feelings which crowded upon her heart and senses;
but she stood for one moment gazing at him as though a veil had been
removed from her eyes, recalling in one instant of time the sweet
memories of their childish days together, recalling even the kiss,
that last kiss he had given her years, years before, when he saw her
for the last time, until they met in the broad ocean; she recalled
these things and a thousand more in a moment of time. She remembered
how strangely the tones of his voice had affected her from the outset,
how they had seemed to awaken dreams of the past nearly every time she
listened to him. These things she thought like a flash of mind in one
instant, and then, covering her face with her hands, sobbed aloud!
One moment Charles Bramble stood and looked upon that long-loved,
beautiful form; one moment, like herself, recalled the past, the
sunshine of his childish hours—ay, even the last kiss which she, too,
remembered, now that so much had been recalled; and then he tenderly
drew the weeping, loving girl to his heart, and whispered to her how
dearly he loved her still!
CHAPTER XVI. THE CANNIBALS.
THE first intimation of his brother's escape from confinement
reached Captain Bramble through the letter which we have already given
to the reader. His rage knew no bounds; he saw at once that he was
foiled completely, that he could do nothing towards his arrest, even,
without casting such dishonor upon his own name as would publicly
disgrace him for all time to come. In vain were all his efforts to
discover the guilty assistants or assistant of the prisoner, as it was
not known at what hour he escaped. Even the three sentinels on duty at
the time could not be identified, though Leonard Hust's friend, Bill,
did more than suspect that some trick had been played upon him during
his watch; but he could say nothing about the matter without making
such a case of self-crimination as to ensure punishment, and that,
too, of the most sanguinary character. Leonard Hust knew this, and
feared him not.
There was another party sadly disappointed in this state of
affairs, one who only assumed sufficient importance to be noticed when
her services were needed, but she nevertheless felt and suffered,
probably, as much as any one of our characters. We refer to Maud
Leonardo. She had found lodgings in an obscure residence in the town
during the course of the trial, and had resolved to remain until the
sentence was given (of the result of which no one doubted), and even
until the detail of that sentence should be executed, which she had
already, learned would doubtless be death by hanging at the yard-arm
of the ship in which he was confined. Poor girl! it was sad to think
that she could gloat over this anticipated result—such was the power
of her revenge.
But in the same ratio to the intensity of her secret satisfaction
at the hoped-for execution of Captain Will Ratlin, whom she had once
loved, but now so bitterly hated, was her disappointment, vexation,
and uncontrollable anger, at the idea of his escape, of which she was
one of the first to learn.
Captain Robert Bramble, though he did not attempt to find his
brother, would hardly have believed that he would remain openly in
town, and at the mission-house; but Maud reasoned more truly. It was
the first thought that entered her head that he had probably gone
thither to be near and with Helen Huntington, and thither she
stealthily crept, and watched until she saw him, and thus satisfied
herself. Knowing nothing of the discovery that had been made, she
hastened to give information to Captain Bramble, supposing that he
would take steps for his immediate arrest; but in this she was
She could not understand the apathy which seemed to have come over
the English officer who so lately had thirsted for the young
commander's blood, and she went away from him amazed and dejected. In
vain, thus far, had her attempts resulted as to sacrificing him whom
she so bitterly despised. She had trusted to others thus far—this she
said to herself, as she mused at the fruitless attempts she had been
engaged in—now she would trust to herself. But how to do it she
hardly knew. When he was under her father's roof, and she unsuspected
of hostility to him, it would have been an easy matter, with her
knowledge of poisons, to have sacrificed his life; but now it was not
so very easy for her to find an opportunity for any sort of approach
to him. But this seemed her last and only resource of vengeance, and
she cared to live only to consummate it.
Actually afraid to bring his brother again to trial, for fear of a
personal exposure, Captain Robert Bramble was now in a quandary; he
was looked to by the court for a conclusion of the suit he had
brought, and was now so situated that he found it necessary to screen
that brother whom he so bitterly disliked, from the cognizance of the
authorities. Indeed, he became nervous lest the exposure should become
public in spite of his efforts at concealing the singular facts. All
this, of course, tended to the safety of his brother Charles, who had
rightly anticipated this state of affairs in relation to the part that
Robert must needs enact; he therefore felt perfectly safe in awaiting
an opportunity for shipment to England in the first vessel bound
thither, and it was at once agreed between Mrs. Huntington, Helen and
himself, that they would go together. The period of the return of
Captain Bramble's ship to England was fast approaching, and passage
had been offered to Helen and her mother therein; but Helen had
promptly declined it, and induced her mother to do so also, though it
required some persuasion to bring this result about.
Charles Bramble, of course, kept within doors at Sierra Leone, and
did not, by exposing his person, provoke arrest. He was reading aloud
to Helen a few days subsequent to his escape from his brother's ship,
when the door of the room was stealthily opened, and a person stepped
"Well, Leonard Hust," said Charles Bramble, "what has brought yon
here so clothed in mystery? Art well, my good fellow?"
"Yes, very well, master Charles; but I come to tell you that you
must get away from this place, for a few days at least. It is not safe
"What is in the wind, Leonard, now? Have the court scented me out?"
"Yes, mister Charles, and your brother Robert has agreed to deliver
"Has he?" added Charles Bramble, musing. "I did not expect that."
"Yes, sir; and I thought I would just slip over here and advise you
to get off as quick as possible, for the officers will be over here in
an hour or so."
"Thank you, Leonard. What is that protruding from your pocket?"
"Very good, Leonard, I will borrow them."
"They are yours, sir, with all my heart."
"Are they loaded, Leonard?"
"With two slugs each, sir, and as true as a compass."
These formidable preparations startled Helen, who looked
beseechingly towards him whom she loved better than her own life. She
came and placed a hand timidly upon his shoulder, and looked into his
face with all the wealth of her heart expressed in her eyes, as she
"Pray, pray, Charles, be cautious, be prudent for my sake, will you
"I will, dearest," he whispered, as he leaned forward and pressed
his lips to her pure white forehead. "We shall not long be
separated—I feel that we shall not."
Leonard Hust, who had befriended the younger brother while the two
were under the parental roof, still clung to the interest of Charles
Bramble. He had already procured for him a guide—a negro runner—who
knew the coast perfectly, and with him for a companion, and a small
pack of provisions, and well armed, Charles Bramble determined to make
his way by land back to Don Leonardo's factory on the southern coast.
In so doing, he would be able not only to elude all pursuit, but would
also be able to further his own pecuniary interest by settling up his
affairs with Don Leonardo, and arranging matters as to the property
that had been entrusted to him by the owners of the "Sea Witch."
Charles Bramble awaited impatiently the coming of the guide, until
indeed he was afraid that longer delay would expose him to the arrest
which he so much desired to avoid, and then telling Leonard that he
would hasten forward to the outskirts of the town, where he would
await the guide. Leonard Hust promised to bring him directly, and thus
they parted; the younger brother, hastening towards the jungle at the
environs of Sierra Leone, at length reached the designated spot, where
he quietly awaited the arrival of his guide. It was quite dark before
the expected individual came; but at length he did arrive, and
thrusting a note into the hands of the impatient refugee, waited for
orders. Charles opened the paper and read in a rough school-boy hand,
that he, Leonard Hast, had intended to come to see him off, but that
he could not, and that the bearer was a faithful guide, somewhat
eccentric, but reliable.
Charles Bramble looked carefully for a few moments at the companion
of his long and dangerous journey. He saw before him the person of a
negro, slender, agile, rather below the usual height, and clothed
after the style of the settlers, in pants and jacket, but with a red
handkerchief bound upon the head. In a coarse, leathern belt, the
negro wore a short double-edged knife and a pistol, while in his hand
he held a short, sharp spear, which served for staff and weapon both,
and was designed more particularly for defence against the wild
animals that infested the jungle in all directions.
The guide was painted in the face after fantastic style often
adopted by the shore tribes in Africa, in alternate lines of red and
yellow and white, so as to give a most strange and inhuman expression
to the countenance. But Charles Bramble was familiar with these tricks
of the race, and saluting the guide kindly told him his plans, and
asked if he could guide him on the route. Being assured in the
affirmative, he felt satisfied, and the two, by the light of the moon,
which was now creeping up in the heavens, commenced their journey,
intending, after passing a few leagues, to make up their camp, light
their fires to keep off the wild animals, and sleep.
The resting-place was at last found, and after the usual
arrangements had been completed, and a circle of fire built around
them, the two lay down to sleep. Fatigue soon closed the eyes of our
young adventurer, and he slept soundly, how long he knew not; but
after a while he was awakened by the breaking of some decayed branches
near him, and partially opened his eyes, half asleep, half conscious,
when to his utter amazement he beheld, or fancied he beheld, a dozen
pairs of glistening eyes peering at him from out the jungle. He did
not stir, but feigning to be still asleep, he cautiously watched to
see what all this meant. They surely did not belong to wild
He partially turned without moving his body to ascertain if the
guide was still by him, but found that he was gone. There was
treachery somewhere—there was danger about him—this he seemed to
feel instinctively, but still, feigning sleep, he almost held his
breath to listen. He soon learned by his sense of clearing that there
were some half dozen or more of negroes near to him, and that he was
the subject of their conversation. He could even detect his guide's
voice among the rest, though the conversation was carried on scarcely
above a whisper. He had on a previous voyage taken much pains to
familiarize himself with the language spoken by the shore tribes in
the south, and he now had little difficulty in understanding a
considerable portion of the remarks which were making by the gang who
were secreted in the jungle so near to where he was lying, while he
He soon learned that his guide was followed by a half dozen or more
of negroes, who had lately visited Sierra Leone on some business of
their own, and who, in common with the guide, belonged to a fierce and
warlike tribe, whose chief village was but a few leagues from Don
Leonardo's factory. At first it was difficult to make out the actual
purport of their scheme, though Charles Bramble could guess what he
did not hear, and was satisfied that the cannibals intended to lead
him, apparently in good faith, to the neighborhood of their village,
where he was to be seized, sacrificed to some deity of these poor
ignorant creatures' manufacture, and afterwards be eaten in council
with great ceremony. All this he could distinctly make out, and
certainly it was anything but agreeable to him. But Charles Bramble
knew the race he had to deal with; he fully understood the fact that
one after white man with his wits about him was equal to cope with a
dozen of them at any time, and he felt prepared.
He gathered at once that it was their intention to guide him safely
until near their own village, where they would seize upon him, and
from that moment make him a prisoner. Meanwhile none but his guide was
to be seen by the traveller, so it was agreed, and he was to receive
care and kind attention until the time appointed. Knowing all this, of
course he was prepared for it, and now saw that for the present and
the few coming days, he need have no alarm, and beyond that he must
trust to his ready wit, personal prowess, and the indomitable courage
which was natural to him. It may seem strange, but reasoning thus, he
soon fell to sleep again in good earnest.
The next morning, he met his guide with frankness, and the best of
feeling seemed to prevail day after day, until suddenly one evening
before night had fairly set in, and the day before he had anticipated
any such attempt, the negroes suddenly fell upon him, and pinned his
arms, and otherwise disabled him, so that he was completely at their
mercy. Already they had arrived at the environs of their village, and
into it they bore him in great triumph. Council was at once held, and
it was resolved that on the morrow the prisoner should be sacrificed,
and cooked, and eaten! This was anything but agreeable to our
adventurer, but he did not despair. Thrusting his hand into his pack,
he discovered an almanac that he had brought with him from Cuba.
Turning over the hieroglyphics and singular figures, to the wonder
and amusement of the negroes, he saw that on the morrow an eclipse of
the sun would take place, and he immediately resolved to turn the fact
to good account. He summoned the chief of the tribe and told him to
his no small amazement, in his own tongue, that to-morrow, the Great
Spirit that ruled the sun would put a veil over it in displeasure at
the detention of his white child by them, but that as soon as they
should loose his feet and arms, and set him free, the veil would be
Amazed at such an assertion, the chief consulted among his
brethren, and it was agreed that if the white man's story proved true,
then he should be released.
At the hour appointed on the following day, the negroes were
surprised and terrified to see the gradual and almost total eclipse of
the sun, and attributed it to the Great Spirit's displeasure because
of their detention of the white prisoner, as he had foretold. They
hastened to loose his arms and to set him on his way rejoicing. They
even bore him on their shoulders for leagues in a sort of triumphal
march, and did not permit him to walk until they had brought him
safely and deposited him with his arms and pack before the doors of
CHAPTER XVII. THE POISONED BARB.
OF course, Don Leonardo was amazed to see his friend, deeming him
by this time either in an English prison or dead. He learned with
amazement the part that Maud had performed, for Charles Bramble was
forced to reveal to the father, who was eager to inquire after his
daughter. Though Charles felt not the least compunctions of conscience
as to the matter, yet he now fully realized the cause of all her
enmity, though of this he said not a word to her father. Don Leonardo
cheerfully joined the new-comer in completing his business
arrangements, and Charles Bramble found himself the rightful owner of
some eight thousand dollars in gold, the product of the goods which he
had landed as his private venture, and he also took good care to
forward true bills of credit to his owners in Cuba, for the specie
which had been sent out by him to purchase slaves.
These business arrangements consummated, he now began to think
seriously of once more revisiting the scenes of his childhood, Bramble
Park. He doubted not that Helen and her mother would arrive at their
own early home, which adjoined that of Bramble Park, and which, by the
way, had been leased during their settlement in India, as early as he
could himself procure conveyance which would enable him to reach the
spot. With this idea, he eagerly scanned the horizon daily, hoping for
the arrival of some craft, even a slaver, that might bear him away,
either towards America or Europe, so that he might get into the course
One morning, when he had as usual gone up to the lookout and
scanned the sea view far and near, he at last came down to the
breakfast-room with his face quite speaking with inward satisfaction.
He had seen a sail, evidently a large merchantman, and begged Don
Leonardo to go up and see if together they could not make the stranger
out more fully. Charles, himself, thought that she was heavy and
evidently steering for the small bay on which the factory stood. But
their curiosity was soon to be satisfied, for spar after spar
gradually became more and more clearly defined, until at last the deck
itself could be seen, and St. George's cross observed flying saucily
in the breeze. The ship was a British sloop-of-war, and so it proved.
In an hour more, Captain Robert Bramble came on shore, accompanied
by Helen and her mother, with Maud Leonardo. As it afterwards
appeared, Maud desired to be brought back to her father, and the
English ship was but performing its appointed duty in cruising on the
coast; while Helen knowing that Charles had come hither, persuaded her
mother that it was best to sail with Captain Bramble, rather than stop
in Sierra Leone among utter strangers. For on ship-board they were
under his care, and besides, as she admitted to her mother, she had
good reason for supposing that Captain Will Ratlin, for thus the
mother knew him still, was at Bay Salo, as Don Leonardo's factory was
called on the coast. Thus it was that they were once more on this
The brothers met before the collected members of the returning
party and those on the shore, and regarded each other with a stern
glance. It was the only token of recognition which passed. between
them; but Charles hastened to Helen's side, and pressing her hand
tenderly, looked the words that he could not speak before others. Mrs.
Huntington seemed overjoyed, too, at joining one whom she felt was a
true friend to herself and daughter, and unhesitatingly evinced this
feeling, while Maud and Captain Robert Bramble walked by themselves
filled with bitter thoughts. Robert had at once presumed as to whither
his brother had escaped, well knowing that he must here have left
unsettled business accounts of great value and importance. He
therefore was prepared for the meeting which took place as we have
seen. The Quadroon saw Helen and Charles thus together, she saw the
delight that this meeting caused to both, she was witness to the
eloquent language of the eyes that beamed into each other, and then
she hastened from the spot, crazed with bitterness of feeling, and
fall of direful purpose. Had she been observed at that moment, it
would have been seen that there was danger in her. To her father's
kind salute, she turned a deaf ear, and hastened into the dwelling
with headlong speed.
Charles and Helen had much to say to each other. Now that he had
told his love, now that the dark veil had been removed from the past
that had obscured his origin, he felt confidence, and spoke with manly
cheer and a light heart. The most indifferent observer would have
noticed this, and it waits not without its effect upon Helen, who
looked brighter and happier than ever before, and the two succeeded at
once in infusing a degree of cheerfulness all around them, reflected
by Helen's mother and even Don Leonardo, with his heavy eyebrows and
shaggy beard. Captain Robert Bramble and Maud alone seemed unhappy,
and they were moody indeed.
It was towards the twilight hour on the very day of the arrival
which we have referred to, that Charles and Helen arm in arm started
away from the house to the adjacent jungle, where was a pleasant
trysting-place, with a seat prepared for resort from the house.
Breathing into each other's ears the glad and trusting accents of true
love, they sauntered slowly hither and sat down there, Helen upon the
rude, but comfortable seat, and Charles at her feet upon the ground.
About them grew the rank, luxuriant foliage of Africa; fragrant
flowers bloomed within reach of their hands, and luscious fruit
greeted the eye in whichever direction it sought. The soft air of the
afterpart of the day was ladened with sweetness, and they seemed to
gather fresh incentive for tenderness and love in the peculiar
surroundings of the spot.
"So, you have broken off all connection with this business, and
have settled your accounts with Don Leonardo, have you not?" asked
Helen, of him at her feet.
"Yes, dearest, all has been done, and I shall have no more to do
with the trade of this inhospitable coast, you may be assured. My only
hope and desire is once more to see you and your mother safe in
England, where I can make you by sacred ties my own."
Helen looked the tender response that beat in her heart, but which
her lips refused to pronounce. She was very, very happy, and they
talked over olden times, childish recollections, and the memories of
their early home.
While Charles and Helen were thus engaged, two other individuals
closely connected with the plot of our story were not idle. Captain
Robert Bramble was now satisfied that without physical force he could
not intervene between his rival brother and Helen Huntington; he would
gladly have done this, but policy prevented, for he saw that in doing
so, he would but gratify his revenge without approaching a single step
nearer the consummation of his wishes. It was nearly the appointed
date for the sailing of his ship from the station for England, and he
had made up his mind to return at once to Sierra Leone, and prepare to
He had already taken leave of Mrs. Huntington, and was seeking her
daughter to say to her farewell; the wind was fair, he would sail
within the hour, and on inquiring for Helen he was told by some one
that she had been seen a few moments before walking towards the
jungle. The informant did not say in the company of him she so
evidently loved, and Robert Bramble hastened forward in hopes that he
might meet her there alone; perhaps, even once more press that oft
rejected suit; he even thought as he went what he could say to her,
and wondered how she would receive him. It was difficult to say what
it was in his bosom which caused him so tenaciously to pursue this
vain desire; his was not the heart to die for love, it amounted almost
to obstinacy. He was self-willed, and was accustomed to have his own
way in all things; here he had been thwarted from the very outset.
Maud Leonardo, since her arrival home, was scarcely herself, she
avoided all intercourse, spoke to no one, and locked herself in her
chamber. But now she started forth intent on some purpose, as was
evident from the direct and prompt step she pursued. Yes, from her
window she had seen Charles, and Helen wander leisurely and
affectionately together towards the jungle, and to the same point she
now directed her steps, though by a circuitous path. She muttered to
herself as she went, and walked with unwonted speed, as though she
feared to lose one moment of time. At this quick pace, she was soon
hidden in the paths of the thick undergrowth and forest land.
"Hark! what sound is that?" said Helen, suddenly turning and
peering into the thick foliage which surrounded the spot.
"I hear nothing," replied Charles Bramble. "It was some bird
perhaps, among these branches. But why do you look so pale, Helen?"
"It is so terrible. I thought the sound was like that of one of
those terrible serpents that frequent these parts, the anaconda,
creeping towards us."
"Nay, dearest, it was but your imagination; these reptiles avoid
the near approach to human habitations, and would not be likely to be
"There! there it is again," she said convulsively, drawing closely
to his side, while both looked towards the spot from whence at that
moment a sound proceeded.
In a moment more there broke forth from the clustering vines and
trees the figure of a man, with a drawn sword, who hastened with
lowering brow towards them! It was Robert Bramble, incensed beyond
endurance at the sight which met his vision through the vista of the
foliage on his approaching the spot; he paused but for one single
moment, then yielding to the power of his almost ungovernable temper,
he drew his sword and rushed forward, determined to sacrifice his
brother's life. Helen seeing plainly and instantly the state of
affairs, threw herself with a scream of terror before Charles to
protect him, unarmed as he was, from the keen weapon that gleamed in
his brother's hand.
But strange are the ways of Providence, and past finding out. At
that instant he staggered, reeled forward, and placing one hand to his
forehead fell nearly at their feet!
Amazed at this, Charles and Helen both hastened to his side, but he
was speechless, and ere he could be removed from the position in which
he fell, life was wholly extinct. What was it that had so strangely,
so suddenly sacrificed him in the midst of his fell intent? Hark!
Charles starts as a shrill, low whizzing sound was heard close to his
ear! The mystery is explained, a poisoned barb had killed his brother,
entering the eye and piercing the brain, while this second one that
had just whistled past his car, had been intended for him. He turned
hastily to the direction from whence the missile had come, and there
stood or rather staggered Maud Leonardo. He hastened now to her side
as she gradually half knelt, half fell to the ground. Her eyes rolled
madly in their pockets, her hands grasped vainly at the air, and she
"Maud, Maud, what have you done?" asked Charles, leaning over her.
"The barb was poisoned, it—it—was meant for you!" she half
shrieked. "I—I—am dying, dying unrevenged—O, this scorching,
"What ails you, Maud—what can we do for you?" asked Charles,
"I—I am poisoned," groaned the Quadroon, holding up her lacerated
hand which she had carelessly wounded with one of the barbs intended
to have killed him.
The barb she had wounded and killed Robert with, was blown through
a long, hollow reed, a weapon much used in Africa, and the barb had
been dipped in poison so subtle, rapid and sure in its effect, that
the wound the girl had received accidentally in her hand, was fast
proving fatal to her. In Robert Bramble's case, it had reached a vital
part at once, and had been almost instantly fatal in its effect. But
Maud was dying!
"Poor, poor girl, what shall we say to your father?" asked Charles,
for he knew full well the fatal poisons in which the negroes dip their
tiny barbs; and he realized that the Quadroon, who was a victim to her
own scheme of destruction, could not live but a few moments.
She seemed too far gone to speak now, and turned and writhed in an
agony of pain upon the ground, while Helen strove to raise her head
and to comfort her. The poison seemed to act upon her by spasms, and
she would have a moment now and then, when she was comparatively at
ease. The lowering darkness of her face was gone now, a serenity
seemed to be gathering there, and leaning forward between the
paroxysms, she held forth the hand which was not wounded towards
Charles Bramble who stood tenderly over her, and said in a low, gentle
"Forgive—forgive me! will you—will you not forgive me?"
"With all my heart, poor girl, I do sincerely forgive you," said
All was not black in that human heart, the half effaced image of
its Maker was there still; and Maud looked tenderly and penitently
upon Helen and Charles. The former knelt by her side, and drawing the
poor girl's hands together across her breast as she lay upon the
ground, lifted her own hands heavenward, moving her lips in prayer as
she bent over the sufferer. What little Maud knew of religious
instruction, had been taught her in the form of the Episcopal church,
and she now listened to the formal prayer from the litany appropriate
to her situation. A sweet smile gathered over her face as Helen
proceeded, and prayed for forgiveness for all sins committed; and as
she paused at the close, three voices repeated the word Amen.
Charles and Helen rose to their feet, but the spirit of the
Quadroon had fled!
CHAPTER XVIII. THE DENOUEMENT.
THE events of the past few weeks seemed to Charles Bramble more
like dream than reality; he could hardly compose his mind sufficiently
to realize the serious bearings of his present situation. Of course,
it was now useless longer to disguise his relationship to Robert, who
had lost his life by means of the poisoned barb which Maud had
intended for his brother. Charles took possession of his body, and
informed all those necessary duties that his own feelings suggested,
and form required. The second officer of the ship assumed the command
vacated by Captain Robert's death, and as the time had now arrived for
the return of the vessel to England, he sailed at once for Liverpool.
Though Charles was loth to be separated from Helen, yet he urged
upon herself and mother to join the English man-of-war, in which they
could secure the most comfortable and safest passage to Liverpool;
while for himself, there was still left business matters which it was
imperative for him to consummate before he left the region where he
was. It was at last decided that the mother and daughter should
improve this mode of conveyance home, and Helen reluctantly bade him
she so tenderly loved a tearful farewell, and in secret they pledged
to each other their hearts for life.
Charles Bramble watched the receding ship which contained her so
dear to him, until it was a mere speck upon the waters, and then felt
that it was possibly the last token he might ever see of her. The path
before him was not one strewn with roses, he had serious dangers to
encounter, a long voyage to make, and an unhealthy climate to endure;
for he must cross the ocean, he found, in order to settle honorably
with those men who had placed such unlimited faith in his integrity.
But he had no ship or craft of any sort at his command, and must wait
an opportunity for reaching the West Indies, doubtless, on board some
vessel in the trade which he had just abandoned.
Don Leonardo seemed to little heed the death of his daughter. In
fact, he did not trouble himself to inquire into its particulars,
further than to understand the immediate cause. He was a sensual and
intemperate man, half of whose life was passed under the effects of
unnatural stimulus, and provided his appetite was not interfered with,
cared little what befell others. Since the English man-of-war had
sailed, his barracoons began to fill once more with negroes from the
interior, and he was now prepared to ship a cargo by the first
adventurer's vessel which should arrive. The funds which Charles
Bramble had brought out from Cuba to Africa, were consigned to Don
Leonardo, and he of course would do with the money as he pleased; he
therefore proposed to charter the first vessel that came, and ship a
cargo the same as he would have done in the "Sea Witch."
It was not long before one of those flat, low, dark clipper
schooners hove in sight and ran into the bay. She was small, sat deep
in the water, was scarcely three hundred tons burthen, but managed to
stow three hundred and forty negroes with ease, and would have taken
more had not intelligence from the lookouts been brought in, that a
square rig was coming down the coast. Charles Bramble hesitated
whether he should embark in this craft. It was consigned to his former
owners, the very men he wished to meet. He might have to wait for
months in order to obtain another chance, it was hardly a matter of
choice with him, but became one of necessity, and he embarked
Charles Bramble was no sooner fairly at sea than he was filled with
amazement at the condition of matters on board the slaver. Himself
accustomed to enforce the most rigid discipline, he here saw a perfect
bedlam; a crew of some thirty people, composed of the vilest of the
vile, who must have been shipped only with an eye to numbers, and no
regard for character or stability. Added to this, the captain, though
a man of some experience as a seaman, had no control of the crew, and
was quite at a loss how to manage them. Twice was Charles Bramble
obliged to interfere between the crew and the captain before they were
three days at sea; and by his stern, calm will he succeeded in
preventing open mutiny by the crew. The fact was, the most desperate
part of the foremast hands knew very well that the money sent out to
purchase slaves, was still on board in good golden doubloons, and they
were secretly scheming to take the schooner, kill the officers and
appropriate the gold.
Charles Bramble was accustomed to deal with such spirits; he was
well-armed at all hours, and prepared for the very trouble which was
to come, inasmuch as he had anticipated it. There were two mates and
the captain, beside himself, who might be relied upon to stand by the
vessel and the owners' rights, but they had fearful odds against them.
There was also a lad who had gone out in the "Sea Witch" as cabin boy,
whom Charles Bramble was now bringing back with him to his family in
Cuba, the boy having escaped the massacre which occurred when the "Sea
Witch" was burned, and who had been living at Leonardo's factory. On
him also he felt he could rely. The boy soon discovered the mutiny
that was hatching, and told the captain secretly that it would occur
at the moment land was announced from the mast-head on making the
islands of the West Indies.
This was all the information necessary for Charles Bramble, to whom
the captain of the schooner gave up all control, to prepare for the
emergency. He completely armed the four parties on whom he could rely,
and bade them wait for orders from him, but when he gave those orders
to act instantly and without pausing for further consideration. The
crew were somewhat puzzled to see their chief officer give up even the
sailing of the vessel to him who had come on board as a passenger, but
they could not but also perceive that he who acted as the captain now,
was a very different man to deal with, and one who knew his business.
They saw that the schooner was made to sail better than ever before,
that the crew were kept in their places and busy, an important thing
at sea, and though they were still resolved to make the attempt, they
did not like the appearance of matters.
Scarcely had the lookout after a short passage descried the first
land, and hailed the deck with "land ho!" when a change was instantly
observed among the crew. Captain Bramble, however, was on the watch,
and so were his backers; and seeing this, he instantly called one of
the ringleaders aft, and bade him sternly to lay his hand to a rope
and pull it taut. The man instinctively obeyed at first, subdued by
the calm, stern front of the man who addressed him, but in a moment
more he ceased and turned towards the officer flatly declining duty,
at the same time beckoning the hands forward to come to the
quarter-deck. Captain Bramble paused one second of time and repeated
his order. It was not obeyed, and in the next instant the man lay a
corpse with a bullet through his brains at the feet of his officer!
This prompt punishment for a moment checked the action of the rest,
but it was only for a moment when they moved aft in a body.
"Hold, where you are!" shouted the young but determined commander.
"The man who advances another step dies!"
All paused, save two of the most daring of the rascals who
continued to press on. Captain Ratlin now bade the mates to shoot the
first man who came aft unbidden, while he marched a few paces forward,
and once more bid them stand. They heeded him not, and the foremost
one fell with a bullet though his heart! Captain Ratlin instantly drew
a fresh weapon from his bosom and presented it at the other foremost
man, "fall back, fall back, you imps of darkness, fall back, I say, or
The crew had not counted on this summary treatment, they were
beaten and mastered; the culprit addressed sneaked back among the crew
trembling with fear.
Captain Ratlin returned to the quarter-deck, received fresh arms
from one of the mates, and then calmly began to issue orders for the
sailing of the vessel, as though nothing had occurred to interfere
with the business routine of the day. Those orders were promptly
obeyed. The master spirit there had asserted its control, and
established it, too; and a more orderly crew never moored a slave ship
on the south side of Cuba, than were soon busily engaged in that duty
after the set of sun on the day when this bold attempt at mutiny had
This little affair, which came very near to costing Charles Bramble
his life, was in one sense a fortunate one, since it put him on the
best of terms with the owners, who had entrusted him with the "Sea
Witch," and who now pressed a gratuity of $2000 upon him for his part
of the present voyage, and forwarded him safely without expense on his
return voyage to England. This additional amount of funds to his
already handsome sum of personal property, gave him some $10,000
dollars of ready money, which he took with him to his homestead at
Bramble Park. The money enabled him not only to clear the estate of
all encumbrances, but also to make his mother, now aged and
But he was soon married, and with Helen Huntington, whose estates
joined those of Bramble Park, he obtained a large fortune; but best of
all, he took to his arms a sweet, intelligent and loving wife. She
with whom he had played in childhood amid these very scenes, she whom
he had rescued upon the waters of the ocean, she who had loved and