The hero of Cooper's stirring sea-tale is a mysterious Pilot known as
Mr. Gray, who, during the American Revolution, came aboard the Yankee
frigate Alliance one stormy night to guide her in a privateering
expedition along the east coast of England. Captain Munson
had been intrusted by Congress with the dangerous errand of venturing into the enemy's own waters in order to capture prize ships and prisoners of war, who were to be held for exchange. Inspired by the Pilot's presence, the daring Yankee bluejackets captured the British cutter Alacrity, in a sharp contest near the shore. Following this victory, the frigate's officers in council determined upon an invasion of the enemy's country. Accordingly, one night a party of officers and marines from the Alliance, headed by the Pilot himself, landed near the abbey of St. Ruth, and after many exciting adventures and narrow escapes, secured as prisoners Captain Borroughcliffe of the king's service, Colonel Howard, a wealthy Tory recently returned from America, and the latter's nieces, Cecilia Howard and Katherine Plowden. Before leaving America the girls had become engaged to Griffith and Barnstaple, young lieutenants on this very frigate; and it was to separate them from their Yankee lovers that Colonel Howard had brought his wards to England, guarding them like prisoners at St. Ruth. Moreover, Merry, the midshipman on board the Alliance was the girls' favorite cousin. They therefore willingly accepted the situation, and were not sorry to be transported to the frigate, preparing to enjoy a sea voyage in pleasant company. But the officers knew that reports of the Yankee cruiser must have spread abroad and that pursuit was to be expected. The following pages describe the narrow escape of the Alliance from a British man-of-war.
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