2. Letter II
FITTING OUT FOR THE CRUISE.
TO BENNIE ALLERTON AT BELLISLE.
Marblehead, July 3d, 1846.
DEAR BENNIE,--Just now I heard a rolling of small wheels, and then the barking of a dog. Forgetting where I was, I thought of you and Watch, and walked to the window actually expecting to see you, with Watch in his new harness, drawing the little wagon. I only saw a strange boy, rolling a wheelbarrow along, with a great Newfoundland dog at his side, which I should have bought for you if I could have sent it back to Virginia. But, after all, you would not have liked it as well as Watch, and I am sure that I don't know of a fault he has, but chasing chickens and every thing else on the road, besides barking all night when the moon shines.
I always liked moonlight nights, but never knew half how glorious they were till now. Last evening, Clarendon said, it was too ridiculous for him to be going to bed when it was so beautiful; so he called to me to take a stroll with him on a cliff, not far from the house, which commands a magnificent prospect of the sea. I snatched up my cap in a moment, delighted at the proposition, and ran along at his side, as I always have to do, to keep up with his long, fast strides.
Even brother's melancholy countenance grew animated as he gazed on the scene before us. A bright sheet of water separated the peak on which we were standing from another rocky ledge, connected with the main land by a narrow strip, called Marblehead Neck, that looked like a wall inclosing the quiet bay. Behind us lay the town, with its strange, wild confusion of roofs and spires, and to the south we could descry Nahant and Boston, with Cape Cod stretching out beyond them, along the horizon. My eyes, however, did not rest on the land, but turned to the broad ocean, which lay beyond the light-house, that stood up like a spectre in the moonlight, and I thought I could spy here and there a sail among the many which I had seen that afternoon scattered over the waves.
Clarendon sat down on one of the rocks, and his love of the beautiful overcame, at that moment, his dislike to praising any thing in which he has no personal interest. "This is magnificent," he said, and commenced repeating with enthusiasm Byron's address to the ocean,--
"Roll on, thou dark blue ocean! roll," &c.
At the sound of his fine, manly voice, a boy about my age started up from a rock near him, and listened to the lines with the most profound attention. When they were concluded, he remarked with a modest yet independent air,--"That certainly is very fine, Sir; but we have poets of our own that can match it."
Clarendon at first frowned at what he deemed the height of impertinence; but as he looked on the boy's broad, open forehead, and frank, sweet mouth, in which the white teeth glittered as he spoke, his haughty manner vanished, and he replied quite civilly,--"So you know something about poetry, my little lad."
"To be sure, Sir," replied David Cobb, for such I afterwards found to be his name. "How could a boy be two years at the Boston High School and not know something about it? But I knew Drake's Address to the Flag, and Pierpont's Pilgrim Fathers, and Percival's New England, when I was not more than ten years old."
"Percival's New England!" said Clarendon, quite contemptuously. "Pray, what could a poet say about such a puny subject as this Yankee land of yours?"
"Do you not know that poem?" asked David; and we could see, by the moonlight, that there was something very like indignation at such ignorance in his fine dark eyes.
"Hear it, then, and see if you do not call it poetry."
If you could only have seen him, Bennie, as he stood on the cliff, with his rough, sailor-like hat in hand, and the breeze lifting his dark hair from his broad forehead, while, looking with absolute fondness on the scene around him, he repeated,--
"Hail to the land whereon we tread,
Our fondest boast!
The sepulchre of mighty dead,
The truest hearts that ever bled,
Who sleep on glory's brightest bed,
A fearless host;
No slave is here;--our unchained feet
Walk freely, as the waves that beat
"Our fathers crossed the ocean's wave
To seek this shore;
They left behind the coward slave
To welter in his living grave;
With hearts unbent, and spirits brave,
They sternly bore
Such toils as meaner souls had quelled;
But souls like these such toils impelled
"Hail to the morn when first they stood
On Bunker's height,
And, fearless, stemmed the invading flood,
And wrote our dearest rights in blood,
And mowed in ranks the hireling brood,
In desperate fight!
O, 'twas a proud, exulting day,
For e'en our fallen fortunes lay
"There is no other land like thee,
No dearer shore;
Thou art the shelter of the free;
The home, the port, of liberty
Thou hast been, and shall for ever be,
Till time is o'er.
Ere I forget to think upon
My land, shall mother curse the son
"Thou art the firm, unshaken rock
On which we rest;
And, rising from thy hardy stock,
Thy sons the tyrant's power shall mock,
And slavery's galling chains unlock,
And free the oppressed;
All who the wreath of freedom twine
Beneath the shadow of their vine
"We love thy rude and rocky shore,
And here we stand.
Let foreign navies hasten o'er,
And on our heads their fury pour,
And peal their cannon's loudest roar,
And storm our land;
They still shall find our lives are given
To die for home,--and leant on heaven
Did you think that a real Yankee could be so proud of living out of Virginia? I am sure those we have seen appear to be half ashamed of their country,--and to be sure it is not as good as ours; but I could not help liking this boy's warm, honest love of his native soil. Even Clarendon admired it, and, when he had done repeating his favorite lines, handed him a silver dollar, saying,--"There! buy yourself a book of just such poetry, if you choose, and if you can find any in praise of the Old Dominion, read it for my sake."
I knew that brother meant to do a gracious thing; but still there was something about David's appearance which would have made me afraid to give him money, and I was not surprised at the indignant flush which rose to his cheek, or the scornful way in which he threw the poor dollar over the rock into the sea.
"I am Captain Cobb's son, Sir," he said very proudly, "and must tell you, that, though a New England boy is not ashamed of earning money in any honest way, he never takes it as a gift from strangers. I should have pocketed your silver with great pleasure if I had sold you its worth in fish, or taken you out in the skiff for a day's excursion; but my mother would scorn me if I had taken alms like a beggar-boy."
I never saw Clarendon more confused than he was at this speech; yet he has so much pride himself, that he could not help liking the boy's honest love of independence. His curiosity was so much excited, that he prolonged the conversation, and discovered that David was the son of the captain of the Go-Ahead, the very schooner in which we are to sail to-morrow for Newfoundland. It will he the fourth of July, and the sailors were at first averse to going out upon that day, but concluded to celebrate it on shore in the morning, and depart in the afternoon. David is going to accompany his father on the trip, having studied a little too hard at school, and it being the custom here to intersperse study with seasons of labor.
"You see," he said, "that I am rigged already sailor-fashion"; and he pointed to his wide trousers, round jacket, and tarpaulin.
"O brother! can't I have just such clothes?" I asked. "They would be so comfortable, and I should have no fears of hurting them, as I should these I have on."
"You got yours for economy, did you not, boy?" said brother to David.
"Not altogether, Sir. They are the only ones proper for fishing. Of course, if you are going to work, you will get some of the same kind; for that finery of yours would be very much out of place."
Finery! Could you have heard David's tone of contempt, and seen his glance at brother's last Paris suit, you would have laughed as I did.
I think Clarendon is getting more patient already; for a few weeks since nothing could have saved a boy from a flogging that had dared to give him such a glance; but his good-sense is getting uppermost. "Well, Master David," he said, good-humoredly, "since you don't like our clothes, you must come to-morrow to our lodgings, and show Pidgie and myself where to get such beautiful ones as yours."
This morning, before we had half done breakfast, I heard a bright, pleasant voice asking of our host, in a free and easy way,--"Captain Peck, is there considerable of a pretending chap here who's going out fishing in our craft to-day? When the salt water has washed some of his airs out of him he'll be good for something; and his brother ain't so bad now."
You should have seen Clarendon taking as much of a glance at himself in the little wooden-framed looking-glass, opposite the breakfast-table, as the size of it would allow, when he heard this qualified compliment.
"A pretty way, that, of speaking of Clarendon Beverley!" he exclaimed, almost fiercely. "These Yankees have no respect for any thing on earth, but their own boorish selves."
"But he is only a little boy, about thirteen or fourteen, brother," I said, coaxingly; "and that's his way of praising." For I did not want to lose our new acquaintance. "He can show us where to get our clothes, just as well as if he had better manners."
The scene at the little shop where we went for our new clothes was comical, even to me, though I am used to brother's ways; so I could not wonder that some sailors at the door laughed out.
"I would like some coarse jackets and trousers for this lad and myself," he said. "Of course, we do not need any different under-clothes."
"That shirt of yours," said the shopman, pointing to the ribbon binding of a fine silk shirt, which had slipped below brother's beautiful linen wristband, "would be terribly uncomfortable when it was wringing wet, and soon spoiled by sailor's washing. Nobody of any sense would think of going to sea in such things as those."
Poor Clarendon! the thought of those red-flannel shirts was near killing him; for they were just like those our negroes wear, and so were the duck trousers. When, at last, he was persuaded to have them sent home, and put them on for trial, they did seem most ludicrously unsuitable. I never saw him, however, look so handsome in my life; for his tarpaulin is mighty becoming to his pale, dark face, and those jet moustaches of his, when he has not time to tend them and keep every hair in place, will be quite fierce. He looked as solemn when he got his sea-rig on, as if he was about preaching a sermon.
O, that reminds me that I have not told you of our visit to old Father Taylor's church in Boston! His text was,--"He that cometh unto me shall never thirst." And every word of the sermon was just suited to the plain tars whom he was addressing. He baptized some children more touchingly than any one I ever saw. Their mother was the widow of a sailor, who had been lost on a late cruise, and sat beside the altar alone with two little boys, the youngest an infant in her arms. As the old father took it from her and kissed it, a tear of sympathy with the bereaved parent actually fell from his kind eye, on the little, round cheek; and I shall never forget the manner in which, after the rite was performed, he replaced it in her arms, saying,--"Go back to your mother's bosom, and may you never be a thorn there."
Captain Peck, our host,--and a worthy man he is, who was himself a sailor till he was washed overboard and lost his health,--has just come in to say that it is time for "our chest," as he calls brother's portmanteau, to be on board; so I must say good by. My next will probably be sent from some port, into which we may run for a few hours.