Woven with the Ship: A Novel of 1865

Brady Cyrus Townsend
Woven with the Ship: A Novel of 1865

"Old Ironsides"

The continuity of his thought was suddenly broken. A beautiful hand, of exquisite touch, sunburned, but shapely, delicate, but strong, was laid lightly on his shoulder. He glanced down at it, thrilled!

"Captain Barry," exclaimed a fresh, clear young voice, which in perfection matched the hand, "have you looked to the comfort of our guest? Oh, sir, I beg your pardon. I thought – " she cried in dismay, as Revere rose to his feet and bowed low before her.

"May I answer your question? He has, as these clothes, which account for your mistake, will witness."

"And are you well, sir? Are you none the worse for – ?"

"Much the better, I should say," answered the young man, "since my adventure has gained me the privilege of your acquaintance."

"You might have had that without risking your life, sir," she responded, smiling.

"Not without risking my heart, I am sure," he replied, gallantly.

"What a strange way you have of addressing people!" she continued, looking at him so frankly and so innocently that he felt ashamed of himself. "Do you always talk in that way?"

"Well, not always," he replied, laughing; "but I jest – "

"Oh, it was only a jest, then," she interrupted, her heart sinking faintly.

"But I jest when I should be thanking you for giving me my life," he continued, disregarding her interruption. "You saved my life, Miss – I do not know your name."

"I am Emily Sanford, the admiral's granddaughter."

"You saved my life, Miss Sanford."

"I don't believe I've ever been called 'Miss Sanford' in my life. How strange it sounds!" she exclaimed, naïvely. "Everybody here calls me 'Miss Emily.'"

"You will not find me unwilling, I am sure, to adopt the common practice," he exclaimed, lightly. "But, seriously, death never seemed nearer to me than it did last night, and I have been near it before, too. Had it not been for you – "

"And Captain Barry," she interrupted, quickly.

"Of course, for him, too, I'd not be here thanking you now."

"But it was nothing, after all; anybody could have done it."

"There I disagree with you. I am sailor enough to know that it was a most desperate undertaking. You put your own life in hazard to save mine. If that old man had relaxed his efforts, if you had made a mistake with those yoke-lines, – well, there would have been three of us to go instead of one."

"Oh, hardly that."

"But I know, Miss Emily, and I cannot allow you to disparage your action so. 'Twas a most heroic thing, and I'm not worthy the risk and the effort."

"But you have been with Farragut; you were at Mobile Bay in the Hartford; you – "

"You did not know it then, surely?" in great surprise.

"I did not then; but since I did – as you persist in saying – save you, I am glad to know it now. But you have not told me your name."

"My name is Richard Revere. I am a lieutenant in the United States navy."

"How did you happen to come here?" curiously.

"I came about the ship."

"The ship?" she cried in alarm. "What of it?"

"I came to inspect it," he answered, evasively, something prompting him that he was getting in dangerous waters.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, greatly relieved; "I thought you might have come to destroy it, or to dispose of it. You see, it would be the death of grandfather if anything should happen to the old ship, and it would kill the old sailor, too; and then what would become of me?"

Her frankness delighted him. An answer trembled on the tip of his tongue, but by a great effort he restrained his inclination and questioned her.

"Have you no relatives, no friends?"

"No relatives at all except grandfather," she answered, freely and frankly. "I have lived here since I was a baby with the admiral and Captain Barry. My mother died when I was an infant, and she was the only child of her mother. I haven't a connection in the world that I know of. Friends? Yes, everybody in the village is a friend of mine; but they are different, you know. I wonder sometimes what will happen when – they can't last much longer, you know, but God will take care of me," she continued, simply.

"And I, too," he murmured softly, in spite of himself.

"You!" she cried, surprised, turning her clear, splendid eyes toward him and confronting him in one unabashed glance. "What do you mean? I – "

"Never mind, Miss Emily," he answered, recovering himself again; "you are right. God will find some way, I doubt not. I only mean to say that if you ever need a friend, a real friend, you may count upon me and upon my mother. She owes you a son, you know, and I am sure she would gladly pay her debt in kindness to you."

Dangerous promises, Richard, so far as you are concerned, in spite of Plato; and few men there be who dare assume to speak for a woman, a mother, to a possible daughter-in-law!

His words were simple enough, but there was such intensity in the glance that accompanied them that the girl, innocent though she was, shrank from it, – not with fear, but from the old, old instinct of woman that suggests flight when fain to be pursued.

"More of the ship went with the gale last night," she murmured, pointing; "see yonder. I think every gale that comes will be the last of her. Your boat is gone to pieces, too."

"I count it well lost," he replied, softly, "for it has brought me to you."

"You must not say that," she answered, gravely; "and I am forgetting my duty. Breakfast is nearly ready. I came to tell you. Will you come into the house?"

It was not the first time that a maiden forgot her duty – even in trifles like this – in the presence of a man she was beginning to love, nor would it be the last.

"Did you, then, do me the honor to seek me? I am delighted."

"At the prospect of breakfast?" she asked, smiling at him merrily.

"Of course. Did you ever see a sailor-man who wasn't?"

"The only sailor-men I know are my grandfather and Captain Barry. Grandfather cares nothing about it, but I must say that Captain Barry – "

"Does full justice to his rations, I doubt not. He looks like it. Well, I am only a lieutenant. I will follow the captain. May I help you up the hill?"

She laughed lightly at him.

"Why, Mr. Revere, I run up and down that hill a dozen times a day, and I should think, after your battering of last night, you would rather depend upon me. Come, let us go."

They had gone but a few steps when an idea struck the lieutenant. He stopped, pressed his hand against his side, and gazed beseechingly at his companion.

"Oh, what is it?" she cried; "your wound? You ought not to have come out. What shall we do?"

"I am afraid," answered this mendacious deceiver; "I am sorry to trouble you, but I will have to be helped up the hill, after all. You see – "

"Of course, of course. How thoughtless of me! I'll call Captain Barry at once."

"Oh, no; that will be unnecessary. If you will give me your hand I think I can manage."

She extended her hand to him instantly with all the freedom of her character, and her ready offer shamed him again. His repentance of his subterfuge did not rise to the renunciation point, for it must be confessed that he seized the beautiful, sunburnt little hand with avidity, and clung to it as if he really craved assistance. She helped him religiously up the hill, and, as he showed no desire to relinquish her hand when they reached the top, she asked him if he did not feel able to walk alone now; and when he was forced to reply in the affirmative, she drew it gently away.

"You see," he said, "it was so delightful, I quite forgot."

"What was delightful?"

"To have reached the top of the hill; you know it was so pleasant, I – I – forgot – I was holding your hand."

If Emily had been a modern young woman she might have asked him how he could ever have forgotten for a moment that he was holding her hand; but as his glance carried his meaning home to her she flushed deeply. The admiral's voice calling to them from the door-way put an end to a scene which was delightful to both of them.

On seeing the old man, the young man took off his cap and bowed respectfully.

"Sir," he said, "my name is Richard Revere."

"Are you related to Commodore Dick Revere of the old navy?"

"He was my grandfather, sir."

"I knew him well; I sailed on many a cruise with him. A gallant fellow, a loyal friend. I'm glad to meet you, sir. You are welcome."

"I have to thank you for your hospitality, sir, even as I thank your granddaughter for her heroic rescue of me last night."

"It was, indeed, nobly done, young sir, and I am glad that my child should have been of service to a grandson of Dick Revere, or to a friend of Dave Farragut. You were at Mobile, were you?"

"Yes, sir, and on the Hartford."

"I've seen many a battle in my day, young sir," said the old admiral, simply. "It was old-fashioned fighting then, yard-arm to yard-arm, but we went at it good and hard, and our hearts were in it, I doubt not, just as yours were."

"May I know your name, sir?"

"I am called Charles Stewart," responded the other.

"What?" cried the lieutenant. "Charles Stewart of the Constitution? The man who took the Cyane and the Levant?"

"The same, sir."

"Him they call 'Old Ironsides'?"

"I believe my countrymen do apply that name to me sometimes," replied the old man, smiling with pleasure at the hearty admiration of the younger.

"I am proud to know you, sir, and proud to see you. We of the new navy only hope that we may live up to the record you of the old made in the past, sir."

"You have more than done that," said the old man, heartily; "we had no better men than Farragut and young Porter. I sailed with old Porter, his father, many a time. I knew him well."


"But come, grandfather," said Emily, "breakfast is ready."

"A moment, child," said the old man, forgetting for the moment, apparently, his environment. "I must look at the ship. Good-morning, Barry," he continued, as the sailor approached him; "is it well with the ship?"

"A good piece of it went down last night, your honor, I'm sorry to say. It lies off on the port side, yonder, under the lee, but nothin' vital yet, sir."

"I did not think to see it this morning. Bit by bit it wears away. Well, please God, there will be an end some day."

The Sword of the Constitution

Clothed in his own uniform, but hardly in his right mind, Mr. Richard Revere sat down late in the afternoon to consider the situation.

He had passed a delightfully idle day in the society of the admiral and his granddaughter; principally, it must be confessed, and in so far as he could contrive it, with the latter. Her cunning fingers had mended the rents in his uniform, which had been dried and put into a passably wearable condition. The versatility of her education and the variety of her accomplishments were evidenced to him when he saw that she wielded the needle as deftly as she steered the boat.

They had sat on the porch most of the time in the pleasant fall weather, and the dozing old admiral offered but little check to the freedom of their intercourse. In response to her insistent questioning, this young Telemachus, cast up by the sea at her feet, poured into the ear of this new Calypso stories of the naval battles in which he had participated and whose honorable scars he bore. Like Desdemona, she loved him for the dangers he had passed.

She was familiar with the history of the old navy, of which the admiral had been one of the brightest stars. Many a tale had the old man told her of storm and tempest, battle and triumph, shipwreck and disaster, and his own adventures and distinguished career she knew by heart. Although the great wave of the Civil War had ebbed and flowed far to the south of them, she and her grandfather had prayerfully and anxiously followed its mighty course, especially on the sea; yet it so happened that this was the first time that either of them had been brought in personal contact with its naval side. A returning volunteer, a wounded soldier, – for the little town had done its patriotic part with the rest, – had sometimes brought fresher news of the battles than might be read in the papers, but no sailor had come to tell them how Farragut had damned the torpedoes and steamed through the pass until Revere told the thrilling story of the immortal fight.

The admiral waked up while this was being recounted, and he pressed the young man with the keen questions of a veteran who knew well the sound of battle and had fronted the enemy undismayed. Even the story of the wound that disabled Revere must be told, in spite of his reluctance to mention it, and Emily dropped the needle and listened with bated breath to the simple and modest recital.

"Were you ever wounded, admiral?" questioned the young sailor, when he had finished his story.

"Never, by God's providence," said the old man; "though I came near to it once."

"And how was that, sir?"

"Well, sir, when the old Constitution took the Cyane and the Levant, a shot from the Cyane struck the hilt of my sword, carried it away, and slewed me about so that I thought for a moment that I had been hit in the side. It was a Spanish blade, and I prized it highly. I was lucky enough to give some succor to a Spanish brig in distress down in the West Indies on a certain occasion, years before, and His Most Catholic Majesty of Spain was pleased to present me with a sword for it, a beautiful Toledo blade, the finest sword I ever saw. It was richly hilted and scabbarded, as became such a weapon, and I always wore it in action. Of course, the hilt was ruined by the shot, and the armorer of the Constitution made a rude guard out of a piece of iron he took from the Levant after she struck, to replace the broken hilt, and I've never cared to change it since."

"I saw it this morning in Miss Emily's room," said Revere. "I took the liberty of examining it, and I was struck by the beauty of the blade and the roughness of the hilt. I quite agree with you, sir. I should not have it changed for anything."

"I call it the sword of the Constitution," said Emily.

"How comes it in your room, may I ask, Miss Emily?"

"Grandfather gave it to me. I am the only son of the house, you see," she continued with a melancholy sigh. "I would that I had been a man."

"That is a wish in which I cannot join you," said the young officer, quickly.

"I think it's a pity," responded the girl, "that so great and gallant a sailor as my grandfather should leave no one to bear his name."

"My dear young lady, his name is borne in our history and upon our hearts," answered Revere, quickly. "The world will never forget 'Old Ironsides' and her last great fighting captain. The new navy is the child of the old, and, in a certain sense, we all feel the obligations of such distinguished ancestry. As for me, that I have been permitted to meet you, sir," he said, turning to the admiral, "in this intimate and familiar way, is one of the proudest moments of my life."

"Is it so?" said the old man, simply; "we only did our duty then, just as you are doing it now. Dave Farragut, now, he was trained in our school – "

"And we are trained in his school; so you see here is a connection. Some day we may show what we have learned from him, as he showed what he had learned from you."

"I doubt it not, young sir, I doubt it not; and while I have no sons or grandsons to bear my name, yet Emily is a good child. No one could wish for a better daughter."

"Of that I am quite sure," interrupted the lieutenant, spontaneously.

"And, perhaps," continued the admiral, simply, "in the hands of her children the sword of the Constitution may again be drawn in the service of our beloved country. But where is Barry? The sun is just setting. He should – Ah, there he is. Evening colors, Mr. Revere," said the veteran, rising to his feet as the gun on the terrace boomed out in salute, and standing still until the colors slowly and gracefully floated down.

One of the most beautiful of sights is the fall of a flag, when it comes down by your own hand and betokens no surrender. The declining banner lingers in the evening air with sweet reluctance until it finally drops into waiting hands with a touch like a caress.

"You see, we keep up the customs of the service as near as we can, sir. How is the ship, Barry?" the admiral asked, as the old sailor delivered his report, as he had done the evening before and on all the evenings of their long sojourn on Ship House Point.

"I have a fond fancy, Mr. Revere," resumed the veteran, after the termination of the customary conversation with the sailor, "that the ship and I will sail into the final harbor together. Both of us are old and worn out, laid up in ordinary, waiting for the end. But let us go into the house. The night air grows chill for me. Emily shall sing to us, and then I shall bid you good-night."

The girl's sweet, low voice, although unaccompanied, makes rare music in the old room. The admiral sits with his eyes closed, a smile upon his lips, beating the time upon the arm of his chair with his withered fingers. The songs the girl sings are of the music of the past; the words, those the admiral heard when he was a boy. Now it is a rollicking sea-chorus which bubbles from her young lips, now it is a sweet old ballad that his wife sang in the long ago time. His head nods, and he says, softly, under his breath, half in time with the rhythm, —

"Ay, just so. When I was a boy, so many years ago!"

Revere listens entranced, though possibly he had arrived at such a state that he would have listened entranced if she had sung badly, – which she did not. Her voice, though untrained, was delightful. It had the naturalness of bird notes, the freshness of youth, and the purity that charms the world. The airs were half-forgotten things, lingering familiarly in his memory. He may have heard them when he was a baby in his mother's arms, and she from her mother, and so on down through the long line of ancient ancestry maternal.

The sweetest songs, are they not the oldest? Have not the peasants of Sicily been singing the music of "Home, Sweet Home," for a thousand years?

And so the young man listens and loves, the old man listens and dreams, and the girl sings as never before, for this time she knows that a young heart beats in harmony with her voice. Alas for the old! he has had his day. Compelling youth enters and displaces him. Emily sings not merely for the past, but with thoughts reaching out into the future. When she stops, fain to be persuaded, Revere entreats her to continue, he begs for more. She knows not how to refuse, indeed does not wish to do so, so she sings on and on.

The admiral sleeps, but what of that? Youth listens, and by and by, as she strikes something that he knows, in a fresh, hearty tenor voice he ventures to join with her. In the harmony of their voices they almost see a prophecy of the future harmony of their lives.

Many a time has she sung to the admiral and the old sailor, but never quite as to-night. And Captain Barry has not been there. The heavy oaken chair, which he made himself from the timbers of the ship, which stands by the door, and which, in its rude strength, its severe plainness, somehow suggests the man, is empty. To the admiral she has sung like a voice from the past, to Barry her music has been like that of an angel in heaven, to Revere it is the voice of the woman he loves. But to-night, although he hears the music, Captain Barry will not come in. He stands on the porch, peering through the blinds. Unskilled as he is in the reading of character, unaccustomed to the observation of faces, there is no mistaking, even in the sailor's mind, the look in the eyes of Revere.

The young man sits opposite Emily, listening to her, watching her, drinking in the sweetness of the melody and the beauty of her face; the light that is in his eye is the light of a love that has come, not as the oak grows from the tiny seed, slowly developing through the ages, and spreading and bourgeoning until it fills the landscape, but the glory of a passion that has burst upon him with the suddenness of a tempest, and one that promises to be as irresistible in its onset. And Barry sees it all, divines, knows, feels, and in the light of another love recognizes at last his own futile passion. The revelation of hopelessness in the light of hope, of despair in the glow of success.

Never had the Bostonian been brought in contact with a personality quite like that of Emily. More beautiful girls, measured by the canons, he had seen, possibly; wiser in the world's ways, better trained, more accustomed to the usages of society, undoubtedly; but never one so sweet, so innocent, so fresh, so unspoiled, so lovely, and so lovable. As frank as she was beautiful, as brave as she was innocent, as pure as she was strong. There was no use denying it; he could not disguise it; he had loved her from the moment when, standing on the wreck, he saw her steering the skiff in the storm, with her fair hair blown out by the breeze and her face turned up toward him, full of encouragement and entreaty.

And Barry knew it now.

As a young sailor, Revere had flirted and frolicked with many girls, he had been staidly engaged to another for a long time, but not until that day had he really loved any one. As for the girl, she had taken him at his face value; and while it would hardly be just to say that she entirely reciprocated his feeling, yet it was easy to see whither her heart tended and what the end of the acquaintance would be unless something checked the course of the growing interest she felt in the young man.

Could Barry check it? He yearned to try. And all these things were plain to the old sailor. He suddenly found himself dowered with an unwonted ability to reason, to see, to read beneath the surface. 'Twas love's enlightening touch; hopeless, uncoveting, yet jealous love, that opened his eyes. Love blinds? Ay, but he enlightens, too.

Barry's glance through the window ranged from the dozing admiral to the adoring young man, and paused over the face, exalted, of the young woman. His breath came hard as he gazed, his heart rose in his throat and tried to suffocate him. He clinched his hands, closed his teeth – a dangerous man, there, under the moonlight. He cursed the gay young lieutenant under his breath, as Adam might have cursed the serpent who gave him, through the woman, of that tree of knowledge that opened his eyes and turned his paradise into a hell.