“Hint me no hints! Do you call this caprice of a moment, this trifling, as the captain here would call it, with the winds and tides, a hint! The girl has Norman blood in her veins, and she wishes to put animation into the courtship. If bargains were to be interrupted by a little cheapening of the buyer, and some affectation of waiting for a better market in the seller, Her Majesty might as well order her custom-houses to be closed at once, and look to other sources for revenue. Let the girl’s fancy have its swing, and the profits of a year’s peltry against thy rent-roll, we shall see her penitent for her folly, and willing to hear reason. My sister’s daughter is no witch, to go journeying for ever about the world, on a broomstick!”
“There is a tradition in our family,” said Oloff Van Staats, his eye lighting with a mysterious excitement, while he affected to laugh at the folly he uttered, “that the great Poughkeepsie fortune-teller foretold, in the presence of my grandmother, that a Patroon of Kinderhook should intermarry with a witch. So, should I see la Belle in the position you name, it would not greatly alarm me.”
“The prophecy was fulfilled at the wedding of thy father!” muttered Myndert, who, notwithstanding the outward levity with which he treated the subject, was not entirely free from secret reverence for the provincial soothsayers, some of whom continued in high repute, even to the close of the last century. “His son would not else have been so clever a youth! But here is Captain Ludlow looking at the ocean, as if he expected to see my niece rise out of the water, in the shape of a mermaid.”
The commander of the Coquette pointed to the object which attracted his gaze, and which, appearing as it did at that moment, was certainly not of a nature to lessen the faith of either of his companions in supernatural agencies.
It has been said that the wind was dry and the air misty, or rather so pregnant with a thin haze, as to give it the appearance of a dull, smoky light. In such a state of the weather, the eye, more especially of one placed on an elevation, is unable to distinguish what is termed the visible horizon at sea. The two elements become so blended, that our organs cannot tell where the water ends, or where the void of the heavens commences. It is a consequence of this in distinctness, that any object seen beyond the apparent boundary of water, has the appearance of floating in the air. It is rare for the organs of a landsman to penetrate beyond the apparent limits of the sea, when the atmosphere exhibits this peculiarity, though the practised eye of a mariner often detects vessels, which are hid from others, merely because they are not sought in the proper place. The deception may also be aided by a slight degree of refraction.
“Here;” said Ludlow, pointing in a line that would have struck the water some two or three leagues in the offing. “First bring the chimney of yonder low building on the plain, in a range with the dead oak on the shore, and then raise your eyes slowly, till they strike a sail.”