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similarly engaged for fifty years, bred his only child to follow his only profession. Many a noble ship has Jim Harley drawn to destruction, the loss of which was charged upon its commander, and to his want of skill and care in its management. The wrecker resided in a quiet valley, which ran retiringly up from the beach of the ocean, and served as a pathway for a busy little stream that came tumbling and foaming down its declivity. It was a cool, romantic spot, and so narrow, that the trees which lined the summit of each hill, threw their green foliage together, shutting the beams of day from below, and casting all the objects there into a dim and uncertain twilight. Harley was a hermit, and though not perhaps a poet, he had nevertheless a most exquisite ear for the voice of nature. The solemn, eternal anthem of the deep was ever pealing, in varied thunder, in his ear; and he had at least sufficient knowledge to divine the prospect of the coming storm or calm, from the changing tone of the winds.
It had for many months been a dull and indolent life with the wrecker. The heavens had worn a continual serenity, and each succeeding day there was a pleasant seaward breeze. Not a sail bore in sight, to fix his wandering eye, save now and then one that glided like a speck on the distant verge of the horizon. He lounged about his rustic hut, watching his children as they climbed the slopes of the valley; and he prayed within himself that the whirlwind and the storm might once more be loosed, to sweep in death and destruction on their pitiless path.
One evening, during the summer solstice, a most tremendous gale arose, such as had never before been known. The sun sank the preceding evening round and red, and ere it kissed the trembling deep, became completely wrapped in a dun bank of clouds. The wrecker's eyes brightened, as he looked upon this ominous robe of the sky, and he immediately proceeded to gather his hooks, ropes, boats, etc., that they might be ready for use, if suddenly necessary. As night came on, the tempest gathered wilder and more fierce, and the winds blew directly toward the land. The breakers, which ran far out from the beach, in front of the wrecker's hut, threw their foam, white as milk, midway in the heavens, and threatened instant destruction to any vessel which might be caught within their reach. The wrecker went out on the upland, and hoisted false beacons upon the trees ; and, more successfully to imitate a revolving light, ' hobbled' a horse, and suspended a lanthorn to his neck. In short, he left nothing undone to secure the ruin of his victims, and was now fully prepared to plunder them of the last garment the waves might in mercy spare them.
Harley had stationed himself on a small promontory, and with a spy-glass in his hand, caught a hurried glance of the raging ocean, as the quick flashes of lightning suddenly lit up the horrors around him. He saw innumerable ships rolling and plunging afar in the main, and presently caught a glimpse of a sail rushing full and fair toward the breakers. He raised his glass again - the heavens flamed upand lo! she was painted as black as the night itself. Above, her sails were snowy white, while below, the milky and curling crests of an infinity of billows gave the craft a strange and startling appearance. VOL. IX.
The wrecker, however, viewed her closely, and finally concluded that she must be a piratical craft, and that her destruction would be a benefit not only to himself, but to the world at large. As she neared the breakers, he trembled; for he fancied he already heard the crash and the shriek the mast crack like steel, and disappear in the foaming abyss. Another flash, and she was just driving on! He wiped his telescope, and elevated it once more — but it fell suddenly from his hands upon
the earth. What did he behold ? The ship was gliding through the terrific surge around her her sails all set her masts standing firm - and yet she dashed along, leaping the billows, apparently wholly unconscious of the dreadful tumult and danger which beset her. The wrecker's superstitious fears were now awakened. Like all who follow nautical pursuits, he had an abundance of the supernatural in his composition. At first, he imagined it might be the terrible genius of the storm itself, careering to and fro, and superintending the raging winds and waters. Of all the breakers on the Long-Island coast, those which spread out before him had always been considered the most terrible. He had seen a vessel disappear like a bubble, as it touched their frowning border; a common skipper could not navigate even his light vessel among any portion of them; and yet he beheld this phantom-ship playing among them, and running onward toward the shore, as smoothly and freely as if she were buoyed up and guided by invisible wings.
Soon after the wrecker dropped his telescope, the winds began to lull — the clouds to break and scatter from the west — and the deep thunder, which had so long ruttered hoarsely through the sky, was now but faintly reverberating along the eastern hills. A tranquil serenity was imparted to the scene by the light of a full moon, which suddenly burst forth, and streamed in long columns of radiance over the rolling waves. The sable vessel was now plainly visible, and it was discovered that she had run up under the faint shadow of a rocky bluff, her masts just tipped with the bright yet mellow beams of the moon.
The wrecker hurried down to the spot and concealed himself, but presently became wholly enraptured with the songs of the jovial sailors. They were indeed a merry, roystering crew, and extremely comical in their costume. They were attired in uniforms of bloodred, without a thread or patch to relieve the harmonious simplicity of their garb. Their sides were fully equipped with cutlasses and pistols, whose sheathings, being richly bound and inlaid with silver and gold, glittered and flashed with a rich brilliancy. Their heads were covered with conical caps, at the peak of which flaunted a long tassel. Their breeches reached to their knees, where they were met by a heavy pair of top-boots, and a kind of doublet that served as a coat, which was tightly bound around them by a long row of heavy buttons.
Harley thought them the most eccentric little crew he had ever had the honor of meeting on those shores. He was somewhat startled at their curious aspect; and at last the little merry company became so tumultuous, that the bays and hills fairly echoed back their carousings. The glass circulated freely, and the wrecker's mouth grew unusually moist, as the wine sparkled, and the bottom of their glasses were turned toward the moon. He was just on the point of eleva
ting his telescope, to take a closer survey of their apparent hilarity, when the thunder and smoke of a broadside from the vessel shook the hill, and he dropped like a log to the earth. He screamed, and affirmed that he was a dead man; but found, on stirring himself, that he was yet the same old wrecker, as wicked and as well as ever.
This appeared, on examination, to be nothing more than the signal of the captain to suspend the festivities, and form themselves in order for the duty which was about to follow. When Harley arose, the songs were hushed
the wine had disappeared — and all the crew vanished, save a couple of sentinels, who were solemnly pacing back and forth, amid the chequered shadows of the ship.
Another broadside ensued, when the wrecker observed a man of giant stature, armed to the teeth, preceding a single file of about fifty
What particularly arrested his attention, was the great contrast in the costume of the former, which was to the full as black as that of the latter was blood-red. They were paraded across the ship in double columns, and down a wide plank, the outer end of which rested upon
the beach. The chief stationed himself at the head of his band, and giving a signal, they all commenced passing small bars of gold and silver, and laying them nicely in a pile on the shore. Next in order came a quantity of small kegs, bound strongly with iron hoops; and last of all, a varied collection of silver plate, with pitchers and goblets of the most exquisite workmanship. The yellow heaps of the pure metal, shining in the moonbeams, had such a magical influence
upon the wrecker, that he was nigh to faint, and was only prevented from that foolish act by his overwhelming fear. He however determined to ascend a noble tree which stood near him, and trust to its beavy foliage to screen him from this company
of spirits. So up he mounted, and sat quietly awaiting the issue.
But what was his surprise, on beholding the very crew themselves moving along in couples, each carrying on a barrow a portion of the gold and other treasure which lay upon the beach! how much more was he surprised, as they all rested their burthens in a circle around the very tree to which he had fled for safety!
His hair stood on end, like quills upon the fretful porcupine,' and his knees trembled as do the aspen leaves in the forest.
Not a word was spoken by the band who had so mysteriously assembled. The chief soon arrived, and by a wave of his sword, disposed his men in a still wider circle around the spoils. He then walked into the centre of the ring, lifted his sword again, when two of his band stepped forth and commenced digging a pit in the earth. This being accomplished, the gold was deposited within it, and a slight covering of moist loam was sprinkled over it.
Harley's spirits now began to rise rapidly, and he was quite confident that, if not discovered, he would be the richest man on the island before another twelvemonth had rolled over his head. Still, his situation was an uncommonly disagreeable one, and he would gladly have relinquished a small fortune, to have been liberated from his bondage.
His musings were all at once disturbed by the sharp crack of a pistol, and the sudden start it effected among his ideas, gave the foliage of the tree a very injudicious motion, considering the pecu
liar situation in which he was placed. He cast his eyes below, and there beheld one of the spirit crew apparently lifeless upon the earth; and what caused him to look with yet more wonder, was the fact, that the corpse had been cast, just as it was shot, into the pit, among the bars of gold. The earth was then replaced, and the ground so nicely and delicately sodded over, that no eye, save the wrecker's, could ever detect any thing unnatural in the soil.
After all was complete, the whole crew locked hands, and danced around the spot, muttering a long, low chant, in unintelligible language, that rather amused Harley, than otherwise. Each one then described some strange characters over the spot, and this appeared to be the concluding scene of this tragedy and comedy; for immediately afterward, they formed themselves again in order, raised their barrows, and took up their march for the vessel.
Harley thought it would perhaps be advisable to retreat from his eyrie, as he did not wish to be inquisitive nor curious in other men's matters ; and it was quite possible the blood-red crew might make the tree another visit for the same special purpose. He therefore very quietly descended, and crept cautiously toward the beach, that he might see the vessel safely off to sea again ; for he had taken a very sudden affection for the captain and his men, and really wished within himself that no harm might befall them, or the snug
little ves. sel which so gallantly wafted them through the tempest.
But the success of their escape was rendered quite doubtful. Many ships and brigs were lying out at sea, in a dead calm, which would undoubtedly be attending to the movements of the strange vessel. The wrecker disposed himself quietly in the shadow of a large sycamore, and watched with intense interest the operations which were in progress below. There the craft lay, as easy as a swan upon the waters, with all her sails closely reefed, and her delicate rope-rigging thrown into silver and ebony, by the lights and shades that fell upon it. A solitary sentinel, with his gun firmly braced against his shoulder, paced with a regular and solemn tread the narrow deck, and his footsteps echoed back from the curves and bays that scalloped along the beach. Harley had just relapsed into one of those delightful reveries which so calm the soul, when another broadside burst upon the serenity of the scene, and scattered his splendid creations to the winds.
The vessel immediately rounded off, under bare poles - without a rag of canvass spread — and cut her way through the breakers before her, leaving in her track a long line which shone like fire. Without wind or towing — in the dead calm of the night — like a spirit of life, she 'walked the waters,' and made off into the open sea. The wrecker watched her as long as a speck was visible, and with such astonishment and wonder depicted in his countenance and demeanor, that he was indeed a model of fear and doubt. When, at last, he recovered, and ascertained beyond doubt that he was yet in his sublunary abode, he thought again how short would be the time before he - James Harley, Esq., — could pronounce himself the richest man on all Long-Island.
Upon mature consideration, he came to the conclusion that he would not disturb the bars of gold until the subsequent evening,
when the mineral-rod, steel-rod, spades, etc., should all be prepared. Another thing, indispensable on such occasions, was a suitable person who could work the rods, which was no common gift.' Sam Rowe was the seventh son, and born, moreover, with a veil over his face. He was a gentleman whom the wrecker thought might answer his purpose exactly, and he therefore concluded to invite him on the occasion.
Let the reader imagine, if he pleases, Sam and Harley all armed and equipped,' and wending their way toward the tree where the strange characters deposited their treasure. Let him conceive also — which was the fact that both were absolutely trembling with fear; for all who are in the least acquainted with the history of money-diggers, know them to be the most superstitious of all men. The rustling of a bush — the quiver of a leaf - the wind — in fact, every object which they beheld or heard, threw them into convulsions, and sent the cold sweat in beaded drops to their foreheads.
At last, they arrived at the fearful spot. Preparations were made, and the mineral-rod was put in motion, to ascertain if the gold had moved or not. Finding all right, the steel-rod was run down above it, to keep it in its place. A few strange sayings for such occasions were made use of, to intimidate Satan, who often makes it convenient to visit such spots when they are molested by any one. All being arranged, Sam pushed down his slender rod into the loose soil, and had the gratification to hear it chink among the yellow bars of gold. Harley commenced digging, cautioning his companion to bear hard upon the rod, lest the whole, in a moment, should move. Matters proceeded exceedingly well, until they were almost down, when they overheard such a rushing of wind among the trees such a fall and roar of waters such a thundering and trembling of the whole earth — that they both shook like the leaves above them. But Sam, who had witnessed such scenes before, remained unmoved, and clung still closer to his rod; as he had always heard it declared, that it was not in the power of the spirits to inflict any actual harm. He told the wrecker, as well as he was able, not to be frightened, but to stand firm to his work, cool and composed, as HE DID! They finally resumed their labors, but had only cast up a few more shovels-full of earth, when countless numbers of blue balls arose from out the pit, and after soaring afar in the quiet sky, burst with a loud explosion, showering down sparks upon them, and filling the whole air with a flavor much like brimstone. Harley then thought of Satan and as he had no disposition to encounter his august majesty, he dropped his spade, and glided off through the moonlight with inconceivable rapidity; and it was not without much eloquent persuasion, that Sam induced him to return again to his labor.
The third attempt was now made, and matters proceeded quite smoothly for a few moments ; but what was their astonishment, when, on casting their eyes upward, they beheld a large round mill-stone suspended from a limb of the tree by a mere thread, that threatened every instant to snap in sunder. Neither looked twice, but both fled as if their lives depended upon their celerity, while the rod, which Sam had held so long, flew like a flash into the heavens, and disappeared forever. Their fears having in some measure died away,