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ourselves on ship-board, surely with no one are we more ready to pass away the time, either above or below, in calm or tempest, than with our author. The quarter-deck is his home. Upon an element that has been heretofore occupied by a spirit of poetry rather than real life; where fancy has found little else to revel in, save the solitary and the mighty; and where it has been considered as desperate a matter to carry through a substantial plot, as it would have been to establish houses and highways,—even here has our novelist contrived to keep us through nearly two sizeable volumes, not only contented, but absolutely delighted; and not only with enough to see and wonder at, but with as much to interest the active mind, as can be found in the complicated intrigues of the thronged world. Throughout this tale, the interest excited is intense and untiring. There is in the very movement of a war-ship through the waters, something stirring and beautiful. The dangers she may encounter, and the glory she flings over the deep in her prosperous career, come upon us with their peculiar associations of anxiety and wonder. But when, in addition to this, the characters of the drama are all clustered on the narrow deck, and our regards are thus concentrated, it is difficult to conceive of a locus in quo of deeper or more absorbing interest. The management of the vessel, the descriptions of her in sunshine and storm, with her straight, mysterious, low, black hull, her gliding approach to her prey, and her various graceful evolutions upon the bosom of the ocean,-all these things are sketched by the hand of a master.
The opening scene of the Red Rover is laid in the ancient town of Newport, on a day of mingled rejoicing and sorrow, at the capture of Quebec, and the fall of Wolfe. A mysterious looking vessel, reputed to be a slaver, is anchored in the outer harbor, and becomes an object of speculation to three individuals who are early introduced. One, and the most imposing of the trio, is a youth' of some seven and twenty seasons,' with a fine bearing, and an intellectual expression'; the second, decided sailor of the full swing, and the other a black, very properly called Scipio Africanus. These two last, are the attached followers of Mr Wilder, so called, the person first named. While speculating on the character of the strange ship, the party is joined by a fourth person, a stranger in green, who, as he is one of the important personages of the book, we shall allow the author to introduce.
He' was a man between thirty and forty, and of a mien and attire not a little adapted to quicken the already active curiosity of the good-man Homespun. His person was slight, but afforded the promise of exceeding agility, and even of vigor, especially when contrasted with his stature, which was scarcely equal to the medium height of man. His skin had been dazzling as that of women, though a deep red which had taken possession of the lower lineaments of his face, and which was particularly conspicuous in the outline of a fine aquiline nose, served to destroy all appearance of effeminacy. His hair was like his complexion, fair, and fell about his temples in rich, glossy, and exuberant curls. His mouth and chin were beautiful in their formation, but the former was a little scornful, and the two together bore a decided character of voluptuousness. The eye was blue, full without being prominent, and though in common placid and even soft, there were moments when it seemed a little unsettled and wild. He wore a high conical hat, placed a little on one side, so as to give a slightly rakish expression to his physiognomy, a riding frock of light green, breeches of buckskin, high boots and spurs. In one of his hands he carried a small whip, with which when first seen he was cutting the air, with an appearance of the utmost indifference to the surprise occasioned by his sudden interruption.'
Our new acquaintance, who according to his own story, is 6 no more than an unworthy barrister in the service of his majesty,' after some biting intercourse with Wilder upon maritime matters, suggested by the appearance of the slaver, is left to the prying mercies of a certain honest and warrior tailor of the neighborhood; and it is finally agreed between them, that the ship is the ship of the Rover himself, and that by their concerted measures on the morrow, certain desperate and proper measures shall be taken to secure her.
We are next accompanying our barrister to the Newport ruin, a'circular tower that overlooks the town and harbor. Here, having again fallen in with Wilder, who we now find is a young mariner in search of employment, they overhear the conversation of certain females near them, from which it appears that the youngest of the party, a daughter of General Grayson, of Carolina, with her governess, is about to leave the protection of her aunt, the widow De Lacey, for the residence of her father. They are interchanging remarks upon the ship in which the voyage is to be made. The author has contrived here to be quite sarcastic upon female pretensions in nautical matters; and the affectionate propensity of the relict of the Rear Admiral, is excellently developed. The dowager de
clares her enthusiastic admiration of a ' vessel cutting the waves with her taffrail, and chasing her wake on the trackless waters,' a doctrine that seems to operate very decidedly upon the listeners above, which, as the party retires, is manifested in a fit of clamorous merriment, that caused the old ruin to ring as in its best days of windy power.' The barrister here suddenly takes leave of his companion, descends, displaces the ladder, leaves Wilder in the attic of the mill, and hurries toward the town. The prisoner is soon released however by his followers, Fid and the black. We have here something of the profession. Wilder inquires if they had observed the direction the stranger had taken.
""Do you mean the chap in boots, who was for shoving his oar into another man's rullock, a bit ago, on the small matter of a wharf, here away, in a range, over yonder house, bringing the north-east chimney to bear in a line with the mizen-top-gallantmast-head of the ship they are warping into the stream?
"The very same."
""He made a slant on the wind until he had weathered yonder bit of a barn, and then he tacked and stretched away off here to the east-and-by-south, going large, and with studding sails alow and aloft, as I think, for he made a devil of a head-way."
That night Wilder discloses his intentions. He seeks the pretended slaver, accompanied by his faithful adherents. Here we have a sea-picture, and a sample of that fine descriptive power in which our author has never been excelled. Wilder is then shown to the cabin, and finds himself in the presence of our old acquaintance the barrister. After some preliminaries, it is settled that Wilder shall fill the place of lieutenant on board the Rover, and under promise of secrecy, and a return in the morning, he lands again in Newport. Here he seeks the residence of the dowager, and endeavors to dissuade the females from embarking in the ship before mentioned, for reasons that the reader will readily apprehend. His objections to the ship are met and answered by an old seaman (the Rover in disguise), who happens to be present, and who very indignantly maintains that it is just as wicked, and as little likely to be forgiven, to speak scandal of a wholesome and sound ship, as it is to talk amiss of mortal christian.' The party eventually embarks in the Bristol trader, and Wilder receives a mysterious hint from the Rover to enter himself on board the same vessel, which he does, much to his satisfaction apparently, as well as the wonder of the passengers.
Then follows a series of nautical evolutions, in the endeavor of the Royal Caroline to pass to the windward of the slaver. This affords an abundance of stirring, startling, and highly poetical description. At length Wilder gets to sea, leaving the Rover at anchor, in the same beautiful but treacherous quiet; in which she is first presented to us. Here we have another instance of that description, that nothing but reality can surpass.
The night was rather misty than dark. A full and bright moon had arisen; but it pursued its path through the heavens behind a body of dusky clouds, that were much too dense for any borrowed rays to penetrate. Here and there a straggling gleam appeared to find its way through a covering of vapor less dense than the rest, and fell upon the water like the dim illumination of a distant taper. As the wind was fresh and easterly, the sea seemed to throw upward, from its agitated surface, more light than it received; long lines of white glittering foam following each other, and lending, at moments, a distinctness to the surface of the waters, that the heavens themselves wanted. The ship was bowed low on its side; and as it entered each rolling swell of the ocean, a wide crescent of foam was driven ahead, as if the element gambolled along its path.'
That night there is hot pursuit, and Wilder drives his ship under a cloud of sail.
The Royal Caroline, seemed, like her crew, sensible of the necessity of increasing her speed. As she felt the pressure of the broad sheets of canvas that had just been distended, the ship bowed lower, and appeared to recline on the bed of water, which rose under her lee nearly to the scuppers. On the other side, the dark plank and polished copper lay bare for many feet, though often washed by the waves, that came sweeping along her length, green and angrily, still capped, as usual, with crests of lucid foam. The shocks, as the vessel tilted against the billows, were becoming every moment more severe; and from each encounter, a bright cloud of spray arose, which either fell glittering on the deck, or drove, in brilliant mist, across the rolling water, far to leeward.'
The approach of a tornado is depicted with surpassing power in the following passages.
'Wilder made a swift turn or two on the quarter-deck, never ceasing to bend his quick glances' 'from his silent and profoundly expectant crew to the dim lines of spars that were waving above his head, like so many pencils tracing their curvilinear and wanton images over the murky volumes of the superincumbent clouds.' In a moment twenty dark forms were seen leaping up the rig
ging, and in another minute, the vast and powerful sheets of canvass were effectually rendered harmless, by securing them in tight rolls to their respective spars. The men descended as swiftly as they had mounted to the yards, and then succeeded another short and breathing pause. At that moment a candle would have sent its flame perpendicularly towards the heavens. The ship, missing the steadying power of the wind, rolled heavily in the troughs of the seas, which, however, began to be more diminutive, at each instant; as though the startled element was recalling, into the security of its own vast bosom, that portion of its particles which had, just before, been permitted to gambol so madly over its surface. The water washed sullenly along the side of the ship, or as she laboring rose from one of her frequent falls into the hollows of the waves, it shot back into the ocean from her decks in numberless little glittering cascades. Every hue of the heavens, every sound of the element, and each dusky and anxious countenance that was visible, helped to proclaim the intense interest of the moment.'
Our limits will not allow us to extract as freely as we wish ; we hazard the following, however, which we think is not surpassed by any passage in the volume. The topsail is cut away from the extremity of the yard.
• The canvass broke from its fastenings with a loud explosion and for an instant was seen sailing in the air, ahead of the ship, as though sustained on the wings of an eagle.'
The Caroline is wrecked and deserted by the crew, in a state little short of mutiny. Wilder and his female companions are saved by committing themselves to the launch. The scene here is fearful and thrilling to the last degree, and furnishes one of the best efforts of the author. The ship is about to go down.
'His companions saw the change, but not for the empire of the world, could either of them have uttered a syllable. Another low, threatening, rumbling sound was heard, and then the pent air beneath blew up the forward part of the deck, with an explosion like that of a gun.
'Now grasp the ropes I have given you,' cried Wilder, breathless with his eagerness to speak. His words were smothered by the rushing and gurgling of waters. The vessel made a plunge like a dying whale, and raising its stern high into the air, glided into the depths of the sea, like the leviathan seeking his secret places. The motionless boat was lifted with the ship, until it stood in an attitude fearfully approaching to the perpendicular. As the wreck descended, the bows of the launch met the element,