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the first order of inventive power, but a profoundly philosophical study of the influences of situation upon human character.
3. He treads the deck with the conscious pride of home and dominion : the aspects of the sea and sky, the terrors of the tornado, the excitement of the chase, the tumult of battle, fire, and wreck, are presented by him with a freedom and breadth of outline, a glow and strength of coloring and contrast, and a distinctness and truth of general and particular conception, that place him far in advance of all the other artists who have attempted with pen or pencil to paint the ocean.
4. The same vigorous originality is stamped upon his nautical characters. He goes on board his ship with his own creations, disdaining all society and assistance but that with which he is thus surrounded. Long Tom Coffin, Tom Tiller, Trysail, Bob Yarn, the boisterous Nightingale, the mutinous Nighthead, the fierce but honest Boltrope, and others who crowd upon our memories, as familiar as if we had ourselves been afloat with them, attest the triumph of this self-reliance.
5. And when, as if to rebuke the charge of envy that he owed his successes to the novelty of his scenes and persons, he entered upon fields which for centuries had been illustrated by the first geniuses of Europe, his abounding power and inspiration were vindicated by that series of political novels ending with The Bravo, which have the same supremacy, in their class, that is held by The Pilot and The Red Rover among stories of the sea.
6. It has been urged that his leading characters are essentially alike, having no difference but that which results from situation. But this opinion will not bear investigation. It evideutly arose from the habit of clothing his heroes alike with an intense individuality, which under all circumstances sustains the sympathy they at first awaken, without the aid of those accessories to which artists of less power are compelled to resort. Very few authors have added more than one original and striking character to the world of imagination ; none has added more than Cooper; and his are all as distinct and actual as the personages that stalk before us on the stage of history.
The scene, in the splendid description which follows, is on the eastern coast of the Island of Great Britain. The time supposed is that of the American Revolution. The frigate is an American vessel. She is making her way, under a pilot just taken on board, through a narrow passage among dangerous shoals, to the open sea. The pilot, here called Mr. Gray, whom no one, except the captain, knows, turns out, in the progress of the story, to be the famous Paul Jones.
ESCAPE OF THE FRIGATE.
J. PENIMORE COOPER. 1. The Pilot alone, in that confused and busy throng, where voice rose above voice, and cry echoed cry, in quick succession, appeared as if he held no interest in the important stake. With his eyes steadily fixed on the approaching mist, and his arms folded together in composure, he stood calmly waiting the result.
The ship had fallen off, with her broadside to the sea, and was become unmanageable, and the sails were already brought into the folds necessary to her security, when the quick and heavy fluttering of canvas was thrown across the water, with all the gloomy and chilling sensations that such sounds produce, where darkness and danger unite to appall the seaman.
“The schooner has it !” cried Griffith : “Barnstable has held on, like himself, to the last moment. God send that the squall leave him cloth enough to keep him from the shore !"
“His sails are easily handled,” the commander observed, " and she must be over the principal danger. We are falling off before it, Mr. Gray; shall we try a cast of the lead ?”
2. The Pilot turned from his contemplative posture, and moved slowly across the deck before he returned any reply to this ques. tion-like a man who not only felt that everything depended on himself, but that he was equal to the emergency.
"'Tis unnecessary,” he, at length, said; “'twould be certain destruction to be taken aback; and it is difficult to say, within several points, how the wind may strike us.”
66 'Tis difficult no longer," cried Griffith; “ for here comes, and in right earnest !”
3. The rushing sounds of the wind were now, indeed, heard at hand; and the words were hardly passed the lips of the young lieutenant, before the vessel bowed down heavily to one side, and then, as she began to move through the water, rose again majestically to her upright position, as if saluting, like a courteous champion, the powerful antagonist with which she was about to contend. Not another minute elapsed, before the ship was throwing the waters aside, with a lively progress, and, obedient to her helm, was brought as near to the desired course as the direction of the wind would allow.
4. The hurry and bustle on the yards gradually subsided, and the men slowly descended to the deck, all straining their eyes to pierce the gloom in which they were enveloped, and some shaking their heads, in melancholy doubt, afraid to express the apprehensions they really entertained. All on board anxiously waited for the fury of the gale; for there were none so ignorant or inexperienced, in that gallant frigate, as not to know that, as yet, they only felt the infant effects of the wind. Each moment, however, it increased in power, though so gradual was the alteration, that the relieved mariners began to believe that all their gloomy forebodings were not to be realized. During this short interval of uncertainty, no other sounds were heard than the whistling of the breeze, as it passed quickly through the mass of rigging that belonged to the vessel, and the dashing of the spray that began to fly from her bows, like the foam of a cataract.
5. “It blows fresh,” cried Griffith, who was the first to speak in that moment of doubt and anxiety; “but it is no more than a cap-full of wind after all. Give us elbow-room, and the right canvas, Mr. Pilot, and I'll handle the ship like a gentleman's yacht, in this breeze.”
“ Will she stay, think ye, under this sail ?” said the low voice of the stranger.
6. “She will do all that man, in reason, can ask of wood and iron,” returned the lieutenant; “but the vessel don't float the ocean, that will tack under double-reefed topsails alone, against a heavy sea. Help her with the courses, pilot, and you shall see her come round like a dancing-master.”
“Let us feel the strength of the gale first,” returned the man who was called Mr. Gray; moving from the side of Griffith to the weather gangway of the vessel, where he stood in silence, looking ahead of the ship, with an air of singular coolness and abstraction.
7. All the lanterns had been extinguished on the deck of the frigate, when her anchor was secured; and, as the first mist of the gale had passed over, it was succeeded by a faint light that was a good deal aided by the glittering foam of the waters, which now broke, in white curls, around the vessel in every direction. The land could be faintly discerned, rising like a heavy bank of black fog, above the margin of the waters, and was only distinguishable from the heavens by its deeper gloom and obscurity
8. The last rope was coiled, and deposited in its proper place, by the seamen, and, for several minutes, the stillness of death pervaded the crowded decks. It was evident to every one, that their ship was dashing, at a prodigious rate, through the waves; and, as she was approaching, with such velocity, the quarter of the bay where the shoals and dangers were known to be situated, nothing but the habits of the most exact discipline could sup press the uneasiness of the officers and men within their own bosoms. At length the voice of Captain Munson was heard, calling to the pilot.
9. “Shall I send a hand into the chains, Mr. Gray,” he said, “and try our water ?”
Although this question was asked aloud, and the interest it excited drew many of the officers and men around him, in eager impatience for his answer, it was unheeded by the man to whom it was addressed. His head rested on his hand, as he leaned over the hammock-cloths of the vessel, and his whole air was that of one whose thoughts wandered from the pressing necessity of their situation. Griffith was among those who had approached the pilot; and, after waiting a moment, from respect, to hear the answer to his commander's question he presumed on his own rank, and, leaving the circle that stood at a little distance, stepped to the side of the mysterious guardian of their lives.
10). “Captain Munson desires to know whether you wish a cast of the lead ?” said the young officer, with a little impatience of mancer. No in mediate answer was made to this repetition of
the question, and Griffith laid his hand unceremoniously on the shoulder of the other, with an intent to rouse him before he made another application for a reply; but the convulsive start of the pilot held him silent in amazement. :
11. “Fall back there,” said the lieutenant, sternly, to the men, who were closing around them in a compact circle; “ away with you to your stations, and see all clear for stays” The dense mass of heads dissolved, at this order, like the water of one of the waves commingling with the ocean, and the lieutenant and his companions were left by themselves.
“ This is not a time for musing, Mr. Gray,” continued Griffith; “ remember our compact, and look to your charge—is it not time to put the vessel in stays ? Of what are you dreaming ?”
12. The pilot laid his hand on the extended arm of the lieutenant, and grasped it with a convulsive pressure, as he Enswered
“'Tis a dream of reality. You are young, Mr. Griffith, nor am I past the noon of life; but should you live fifty years longer, you never can see and experience what I have encountered in my little period of three-and-thirty years !"
A good deal astonished at this burst of feeling, so singular at Euch a moment, the young sailor was at a loss for a reply; but, as his duty was uppermost in his thoughts, he still dwelt on the theme that most interested him.
“I hope much of your experience has been on this coast; for the ship travels lively,” he said; “ and the daylight showed us 80 much to dread, that we do not feel over-valiant in the dark. How much longer shall we stand on, upon this tack ?”
13. The pilot turned slowly from the side of the vessel, and walked towards the commander of the frigate, as he replied, iu a tone that seemed deeply agitated by his melancholy reflections
“ You have your wish, then ; much, very much of my early life was passed on this dreaded coast. What to you is all dark. ness and gloom, to me is as light as if a noonday sun shone upun it. But tack your ship, sir, tack your ship; I would see how she works before we reach the point where she must behave well, or we perisha”