The Pilot. A Tale of the Sea - James Fenimore Cooper - ebook
Opis

In The Pilot (1824), James Fenimore Cooper invented a new literary genre: the sea novel. Bold, vigorous, original, it is a tale of high adventure that vividly captures the majesty and power of the seafaring life. Cooper drew on his direct knowledge of ships and sailors to present a truer picture of life on the sea than had ever before achieved in literature. As a boy of seventeen he had experienced the life of a common seaman, learned the craft of sailing, encountered terrifying storms, was chased by pirates, and watched the impressment of crew members by a British man-of-war.The Pilot is loosely based upon stories of John Paul Jones’s daring hit-and-run tactics during the Revolutionary War. The shadowy hero, modeled on Jones, leads a squadron of the infant American navy in a series of raids on the English coast, braving fierce storms and the guns of hostile warships, yet never revealing his identity. In this novel Cooper introduced the character of the „old salt,” the seasoned deckhand happy only aboard ship.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 774

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS

Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER I

“Sullen waves, incessant rolling, Rudely dash’d against her sides.”Song

A single glance at the map will make the reader acquainted with the position of the eastern coast of the Island of Great Britain, as connected with the shores of the opposite continent. Together they form the boundaries of the small sea that has for ages been known to the world as the scene of maritime exploits, and as the great avenue through which commerce and war have conducted the fleets of the northern nations of Europe. Over this sea the islanders long asserted a jurisdiction, exceeding that which reason concedes to any power on the highway of nations, and which frequently led to conflicts that caused an expenditure of blood and treasure, utterly disproportioned to the advantages that can ever arise from the maintenance of a useless and abstract right. It is across the waters of this disputed ocean that we shall attempt to conduct our readers, selecting a period for our incidents that has a peculiar interest for every American, not only because it was the birthday of his nation, but because it was also the era when reason and common sense began to take the place of custom and feudal practices in the management of the affairs of nations.

Soon after the events of the revolution had involved the kingdoms of France and Spain, and the republics of Holland, in our quarrel, a group of laborers was collected in a field that lay exposed to the winds of the ocean, on the north-eastern coast of England. These men were lightening their toil, and cheering the gloom of a day in December, by uttering their crude opinions on the political aspects of the times. The fact that England was engaged in a war with some of her dependencies on the other side of the Atlantic had long been known to them, after the manner that faint rumors of distant and uninteresting events gain on the ear; but now that nations, with whom she had been used to battle, were armed against her in the quarrel, the din of war had disturbed the quiet even of these secluded and illiterate rustics. The principal speakers, on the occasion, were a Scotch drover, who was waiting the leisure of the occupant of the fields, and an Irish laborer, who had found his way across the Channel, and thus far over the island, in quest of employment.

“The Nagurs wouldn’t have been a job at all for ould England, letting alone Ireland,” said the latter, “if these French and Spanishers hadn’t been troubling themselves in the matter. I’m sure its but little reason I have for thanking them, if a man is to kape as sober as a praist at mass, for fear he should find himself a souldier, and he knowing nothing about the same.”

“Hoot! mon! ye ken but little of raising an airmy in Ireland, if ye mak’ a drum o’ a whiskey keg,” said the drover, winking to the listeners. “Noo, in the north, they ca’ a gathering of the folk, and follow the pipes as graciously as ye wad journey kirkward o’ a Sabbath morn. I’ve seen a’ the names o’ a Heeland raj’ment on a sma’ bit paper, that ye might cover wi’ a leddy’s hand. They war’ a’ Camerons and M’Donalds, though they paraded sax hundred men! But what ha’ ye gotten here! That chield has an ow’r liking to the land for a seafaring body; an’ if the bottom o’ the sea be onything like the top o’t, he’s in gr’at danger o’ a shipwreck!”

This unexpected change in the discourse drew all eyes on the object toward which the staff of the observant drover was pointed. To the utter amazement of every individual present, a small vessel was seen moving slowly round a point of land that formed one of the sides of the little bay, to which the field the laborers were in composed the other. There was something very peculiar in the externals of this unusual visitor, which added in no small degree to the surprise created by her appearance in that retired place. None but the smallest vessels, and those rarely, or, at long intervals, a desperate smuggler, were ever known to venture so close to the land, amid the sand-bars and sunken rocks with which that immediate coast abounded. The adventurous mariners who now attempted this dangerous navigation in so wanton, and, apparently, so heedless a manner, were in a low black schooner, whose hull seemed utterly disproportioned to the raking masts it upheld, which, in their turn, supported a lighter set of spars, that tapered away until their upper extremities appeared no larger than the lazy pennant, that in vain endeavored to display its length in the light breeze.

The short day of that high northern latitude was already drawing to a close, and the sun was throwing his parting rays obliquely across the waters, touching the gloomy waves here and there with streaks of pale light. The stormy winds of the German Ocean were apparently lulled to rest; and, though the incessant rolling of the surge on the shore heightened the gloomy character of the hour and the view, the light ripple that ruffled the sleeping billows was produced by a gentle air, that blew directly from the land. Notwithstanding this favorable circumstance, there was something threatening in the aspect of the ocean, which was speaking in hollow but deep murmurs, like a volcano on the eve of an eruption, that greatly heightened the feelings of amazement and dread with which the peasants beheld this extraordinary interruption to the quiet of their little bay. With no other sails spread to the action of the air than her heavy mainsail, and one of those light jibs that projected far beyond her bows, the vessel glided over the water with a grace and facility that seemed magical to the beholders, who turned their wondering looks from the schooner to each other in silent amazement. At length the drover spoke in a low solemn voice:

“He’s a bold chield that steers her! and if that bit craft has wood in her bottom, like the brigantines that ply between Lon’on and the Frith at Leith, he’s in mair danger than a prudent mon could wish. Ay! he’s by the big rock that shows his head when the tide runs low, but it’s no mortal man who can steer long in the road he’s journeying and not speedily find land wi’ water a-top o’t.”

The little schooner, however, still held her way among the rocks and sand-pits, making such slight deviations in her course as proved her to be under the direction of one who knew his danger, until she entered as far into the bay as prudence could at all justify, when her canvas was gathered into folds, seemingly without the agency of hands, and the vessel, after rolling for a few minutes on the long billows that hove in from the ocean, swung round in the currents of the tide, and was held by her anchor.

The peasants now began to make their conjectures more freely concerning the character and object of their visitor; some intimating that she was engaged in contraband trade, and others that her views were hostile, and her business war. A few dark hints were hazarded on the materiality of her construction, for nothing of artificial formation, it was urged, would be ventured by men in such a dangerous place, at a time when even the most inexperienced landsman was enabled to foretell the certain gale. The Scotchman, who, to all the sagacity of his countrymen, added no small portion of their superstition, leaned greatly to the latter conclusion, and had begun to express this sentiment warily with reverence, when the child of Erin, who appeared not to possess any very definite ideas on the subject interrupted him, by exclaiming:

“Faith! there’s two of them! a big and a little! sure the bogles of the saa likes good company the same as any other Christians!”

“Twa!” echoed the drover; “twa! ill luck bides o’ some o’ ye. Twa craft a sailing without hand to guide them, in sic a place as this, whar’ eyesight is na guid enough to show the dangers, bodes evil to a’ that luik thereon. Hoot! she’s na yearling the tither! Luik, mon! luik! she’s a gallant boat, and a gr’at:” he paused, raised his pack from the ground, and first giving one searching look at the objects of his suspicions, he nodded with great sagacity to the listeners, and continued, as he moved slowly towards the interior of the country, “I should na wonder if she carried King George’s commission aboot her: weel, weel, I wull journey upward to the town, and ha’ a crack wi’ the good mon; for they craft have a suspeecious aspect, and the sma’ bit thing wu’ld nab a mon quite easy, and the big ane wu’ld hold us a’ and no feel we war’ in her.”

This sagacious warning caused a general movement in the party, for the intelligence of a hot press was among the rumors of the times. The husbandmen collected their implements of labor, and retired homewards; though many a curious eye was bent on the movements of the vessels from the distant hills, but very few of those not immediately interested in the mysterious visitors ventured to approach the little rocky cliffs that lined the bay.

The vessel that occasioned these cautious movements was a gallant ship, whose huge hull, lofty masts, and square yards loomed in the evening’s haze, above the sea, like a distant mountain rising from the deep. She carried but little sail, and though she warily avoided the near approach to the land that the schooner had attempted, the similarity of their movements was sufficiently apparent to warrant the conjecture that they were employed on the same duty. The frigate, for the ship belonged to this class of vessels, floated across the entrance of the little bay, majestically in the tide, with barely enough motion through the water to govern her movements, until she arrived opposite to the place where her consort lay, when she hove up heavily into the wind, squared the enormous yards on her mainmast, and attempted, in counteracting the power of her sails by each other, to remain stationary; but the light air that had at no time swelled her heavy canvas to the utmost began to fail, and the long waves that rolled in from the ocean ceased to be ruffled with the breeze from the land. The currents and the billows were fast sweeping the frigate towards one of the points of the estuary, where the black heads of the rocks could be seen running far into the sea, and in their turn the mariners of the ship dropped an anchor to the bottom, and drew her sails in festoons to the yards. As the vessel swung round to the tide, a heavy ensign was raised to her peak, and a current of air opening for a moment its folds, the white field and red cross, that distinguish the flag of England, were displayed to view. So much even the wary drover had loitered at a distance to behold; but when a boat was launched from either vessel, he quickened his steps, observing to his wondering and amused companions, that “they craft were a’thegither mair bonny to luik on than to abide wi’.”

A numerous crew manned the barge that was lowered from the frigate, which, after receiving an officer, with an attendant youth, left the ship, and moved with a measured stroke of its oars directly towards the head of the bay. As it passed at a short distance from the schooner a light whale-boat, pulled by four athletic men, shot from her side, and rather dancing over than cutting through the waves, crossed her course with a wonderful velocity. As the boats approached each other, the men, in obedience to signals from their officers, suspended their efforts, and for a few minutes they floated at rest, during which time there was the following dialogue:

“Is the old man mad!” exclaimed the young officer in the whale-boat, when his men had ceased rowing; “does he think that the bottom of the Ariel is made of iron, and that a rock can’t knock a hole in it! or does he think she is manned with alligators, who can’t be drowned!”

A languid smile played for a moment round the handsome features of the young man, who was rather reclining than sitting in the stern-sheets of the barge, as he replied:

“He knows your prudence too well, Captain Barnstable, to fear either the wreck of your vessel or the drowning of her crew. How near the bottom does your keel lie?”

“I am afraid to sound,” returned Barnstable. “I have never the heart to touch a lead-line when I see the rocks coming up to breathe like so many porpoises.”

“You are afloat!” exclaimed the other, with a vehemence that denoted an abundance of latent fire.

“Afloat!” echoed his friend; “ay, the little Ariel would float in air!” As he spoke, he rose in the boat, and lifting his leathern sea-cap from his head, stroked back the thick clusters of black locks which shadowed his sun-burnt countenance, while he viewed his little vessel with the complacency of a seaman who was proud of her qualities. “But it’s close work, Mr. Griffith, when a man rides to a single anchor in a place like this, and at such a nightfall. What are the orders?”

“I shall pull into the surf and let go a grapnel; you will take Mr. Merry into your whale-boat, and try to drive her through the breakers on the beach.”

“Beach!” retorted Barnstable; “do you call a perpendicular rock of a hundred feet in height a beach!”

“We shall not dispute about terms,” said Griffith, smiling, “but you must manage to get on the shore; we have seen the signal from the land, and know that the pilot, whom we have so long expected, is ready to come off.”

Barnstable shook his head with a grave air, as he muttered to himself, “This is droll navigation; first we run into an unfrequented bay that is full of rocks, and sandpits, and shoals, and then we get off our pilot. But how am I to know him?”

“Merry will give you the password, and tell you where to look for him. I would land myself, but my orders forbid it. If you meet with difficulties, show three oar-blades in a row, and I will pull in to your assistance. Three oars on end and a pistol will bring the fire of my muskets, and the signal repeated from the barge will draw a shot from the ship.”

“I thank you, I thank you,” said Barnstable, carelessly; “I believe I can fight my own battles against all the enemies we are likely to fall in with on this coast. But the old man is surely mad, I would––”

“You would obey his orders if he were here, and you will now please to obey mine,” said Griffith, in a tone that the friendly expression of his eye contradicted. “Pull in, and keep a lookout for a small man in a drab pea-jacket; Merry will give you the word; if he answer it, bring him off to the barge.”

The young men now nodded familiarly and kindly to each other, and the boy who was called Mr. Merry having changed his place from the barge to the whale-boat, Barnstable threw himself into his seat, and making a signal with his hand, his men again bent to their oars. The light vessel shot away from her companion, and dashed in boldly towards the rocks; after skirting the shore for some distance in quest of a favorable place, she was suddenly turned, and dashing over the broken waves, was run upon a spot where a landing could be effected in safety.

In the mean time the barge followed these movements, at some distance, with a more measured progress, and when the whale-boat was observed to be drawn up alongside of a rock, the promised grapnel was cast into the water, and her crew deliberately proceeded to get their firearms in a state for immediate service. Everything appeared to be done in obedience to strict orders that must have been previously communicated; for the young man, who has been introduced to the reader by the name of Griffith, seldom spoke, and then only in the pithy expressions that are apt to fall from those who are sure of obedience. When the boat had brought up to her grapnel, he sunk back at his length on the cushioned seats of the barge, and drawing his hat over his eyes in a listless manner, he continued for many minutes apparently absorbed in thoughts altogether foreign to his present situation. Occasionally he rose, and would first bend his looks in quest of his companions on the shore, and then, turning his expressive eyes toward the ocean, the abstracted and vacant air, that so often usurped the place of animation and intelligence in his countenance, would give place to the anxious and intelligent look of a seaman gifted with an experience beyond his years. His weather beaten and hardy crew, having made their dispositions for offence, sat in profound silence, with their hands thrust into the bosoms of their jackets, but with their eyes earnestly regarding every cloud that was gathering in the threatening atmosphere, and exchanging looks of deep care, whenever the boat rose higher than usual on one of those long heavy groundswells, that were heaving in from the ocean with increasing rapidity and magnitude.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.