“I have been there.”
“I hope you like it well enough to go again. Here we will part. You shall haul on the wind, being the lightest sailer, and make a stretch or two among these houses, until you are well to windward of yonder church. You will then have plain sailing down upon hearty Joe Joram’s, where is to be found as snug an anchorage, for an honest trader, as at any inn in the Colonies. I will keep away down this hill, and, considering the difference in our rate of sailing, we shall not be long after one another in port.”
“And what is to be gained by so much manoeuvring? Can you listen to nothing which is not steeped in rum?”
“You offend me by the word. You shall see what it is to send a sober messenger on your errands, when the time comes. But, suppose we are seen speaking to each other on the highway—why, as you are in such low repute just now, I shall lose my character with the ladies altogether.”
“There may be reason in that. Hasten, then to meet me; for, as they spoke of embarking soon, there is not a minute to lose.”
“No fear of their breaking ground so suddenly,” returned the old man, holding the palm of his hand above his head to catch the wind. “There is not yet air enough to cool the burning cheeks of that young beauty; and, depend on it, the signal will not be given to them until the sea breeze is fairly come in.”
Wilder waved his hand, and stepped lightly along the road the other had indicated to him, ruminating on the figure which the fresh and youthful charms of Gertrude had extorted from one even as old and as coarse as his new ally. His companion followed his person for a moment, with an amused look, and an ironical cast of the eye; and then he also quickened his pace, in order to reach the place of rendezvous in sufficient season.
“Forewarn him, that he use no scurrilous words.”
As Wilder approached the “Foul Anchor,” he beheld every symptom of some powerful excitement existing within the bosom of the hitherto peaceful town. More than half the women, and perhaps one fourth of all the men, within a reasonable proximity to that well known inn, were assembled before its door, listening to one of the former sex, who declaimed in tones so shrill and penetrating as not to leave the proprietors of the curious and attentive countenances, in the outer circle of the crowd, the smallest rational ground of complaint on the score of impartiality. Our adventurer hesitated, with the sudden consciousness of one but newly embarked in such enterprises as that in which he had so recently enlisted, when he first saw these signs of commotion; nor did he determine to proceed until he caught a glimpse of his aged confederate, elbowing his way through the mass of bodies, with a perseverance and energy that promised to bring him right speedily into the very presence of her who uttered such loud and piercing plaints. Encouraged by this example, the young man advanced, but was content to take his position, for a moment, in a situation that left him entire command of his limbs and, consequently, in a condition to make a timely retreat, should the latter measure prove at all expedient.