But after the usual hail and reply, Ludlow no longer anticipated any proposal from the brigantine. The answer had been what a seaman would call lubberly; or it wanted that attic purity that men of the profession rarely fail to use on all occasions, and by the means of which they can tell a pretender to their mysteries, with a quickness that is almost instinctive. When the short, quick “boat-ahoy!” of the sentinel on the gangway, was answered by the “what do you want?” of a startled respondent in the boat, it was received among the crew of the Coquette with such a sneer as the tyro, who has taken two steps in any particular branch of knowledge, is apt to bestow on the blunders of him who has taken but one.
A deep silence reigned, while a party consisting of two men and as many females mounted the side of the ship, leaving a sufficient number of forms behind them in the boat to man its oars. Notwithstanding more than one light was held in such a manner as would have discovered the faces of the strangers had they not all been closely muffled, the party passed into the cabin without recognition.
“Master Cornelius Ludlow, one might as well put on the Queen’s livery at once, as to be steering in this uncertain manner, between the Coquette and the land, like a protested note sent from endorser to endorser, to be paid,” commenced Alderman Van Beverout, uncasing himself in the great cabin with the coolest deliberation, while his niece sunk into a chair unbidden, her two attendants standing near in submissive silence. “Here is Alida, who has insisted on paying so unseasonable a visit, and, what is worse still, on dragging me in her train, though I am past the day of following a woman about, merely because she happens to have a pretty face. The hour is unseasonable, and as to the motive—why, if Master Seadrift has got a little out of his course, no great harm can come of it, while the affair is in the hands of so discreet and amiable an officer as yourself.”
The Alderman became suddenly mute; for the door of the state-room opened, and the individual he had named entered in person.
Ludlow needed no other explanation than a knowledge of the persons of his guests, to understand the motive of their visit. Turning to Alderman Van Beverout, he said, with a bitterness he could not repress—
“My presence may be intrusive. Use the cabin as freely as your own house, and rest assured that while it is thus honored, it shall be sacred to its present uses. My duty calls me to the deck.”
The young man bowed gravely, and hurried from the place. As he passed Alida, he caught a gleam of her dark and eloquent eye, and he construed the glance into an expression of gratitude.
“If it were done when
’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly—”