Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Southward Ho! A Spell of Sunshine >> Chapter V >> Page 61

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Page 61

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription DALTON THE STRANGER. ' 61
long, since that the coast which we are passing was distinguished
infamously by a class of cruel outlaws, who were not the less
murderous because they performed their crimes under the cover
of night and tempest. Here, in situations favorable to their
accursed trade, dwelt a race of land pirates, such as roved the
wastes of the Mississippi�such as not many years ago occu-
pied the Keys of Florida�such as still mislead and prey upon
the innocent and unsuspecting, on the dreary land routes to
Oregon and California. These were wreckers, who lived upon
waifs cast up by the sea, and who hung out false lights, when
the nights were dark and stormy, to beguile the unwary and
exhausted mariner. Everybody is aware of the sort of life
which they pursued, for many years, during a period still fresh
within the memories of men ; though no one can conjecture the
extent to which they carried their nefarious traffic. I heard a
story, not long ago, told by a sea-captain along this route, which
he assured me he had from the very best authority."
We were all agog to hear, and our Jerseyan thus proceeded :
" It appears that some twenty years ago there suddenly ap-
peared a stranger in the country along shore�in a lonely and
sequestered spot�of whom nobody knew anything. Briefly,
no one was particularly curious to inquire. He was moody,
reserved, somewhat sullen, and a person whose aspect gave
warning of irritable passions, while his physique was one of
great muscular activity and power. Ile described himself as
an Englishman, and went by the name of Dalton. As far as
the people could gather from himself and others, he was under-
stood to have been a sailor, and a deserter from the royal navy.
This was, to a small degree, a source of sympathy for him
particularly as he had been cruelly treated in the service.
Some accounts spoke of him as one who, in sudden fray, had
used a marlin-spike with a little too heavy a hand upon an inso-
lent and brutal lieutenant. In leaving the service, however, in
disgust, and at short notice, he yet took up another trade which
still kept him in daily commerce with the ocean. The sight of
this field was, perhaps, more natural to his eyes than any other.
He made his way along shore to a portion of the coast where
the restraints of society and law were fewest. Here he natu-
rally became a wrecker, and gathered his spoils along the sea -