Jack Tier, Volume 1
by James Fenimore Cooper
JACK TIER; OR THE FLORIDA REEF
Ay, now I am in Arden; the more fool
I; when I was at home I was in a better place; but
Travellers must be content.
— As You Like It IN TWO VOLUMES. VOL. I.
This work has already appeared in Graham's Magazine, under the
title of "Rose Budd." The change of name is solely the act of the
author, and arises from a conviction that the appellation given in this
publication is more appropriate than the one laid aside. The necessity
of writing to a name, instead of getting it from the incidents of the
book itself, has been the cause of this departure from the ordinary
When this book was commenced, it was generally supposed that the
Mexican war would end, after a few months of hostilities. Such was
never the opinion of the writer. He has ever looked forward to a
protracted struggle; and, now that Congress has begun to interfere,
sees as little probability of its termination, as on the day it
commenced. Whence honourable gentlemen have derived their notions of
the constitution, when they advance the doctrine that Congress is
anAmerican Aulic council, empowered to encumber the movements of
armies, and, as old Blucher expressed it in reference to the diplomacy
of Europe, "to spoil with the pen the work achieved by the sword," it
is difficult to say more than this, that they do not get them from the
constitution itself. It has generally been supposed that the present
executive was created in order to avoid the very evils of a distracted
and divided council, which this new construction has a direct tendency
to revive. But a presidential election has ever proved, and probably
will ever prove, stronger than any written fundamental law.
We have had occasion to refer often to Mexico in these pages. It
has been our aim to do so in a kind spirit; for, while we have never
doubted that the factions which have possessed themselves of the
government in that country have done us great wrong, wrong that would
have justified a much earlier appeal to arms, we have always regarded
the class of Mexicans who alone can properly be termed the 'people,' as
mild, amiable, and disposed to be on friendly terms with us.
Providence, however, directs all to the completion of its own wise
ends. If the crust which has so long encircled that nation, enclosing
it in bigotry and ignorance, shall now be irretrievably broken, letting
in light, even Mexico herself may have cause hereafter to rejoice in
her present disasters. It was in this way that Italy has been, in a
manner, regenerated; the conquests of the French carrying in their
train the means and agencies which have, at length, aroused that
glorious portion of the earth to some of its ancient spirit. Mexico, in
certain senses, is the Italy of this continent; and war, however
ruthless and much to be deplored, may yet confer on her the inestimable
blessings of real liberty, and a religion released from "feux
d'artifice," as well as all other artifices.
A word on the facts of our legend. The attentive observer of men
and things has many occasions to note the manner in which ordinary
lookers on deceive themselves, as well as others. The species of
treason portrayed in these pages is no uncommon occurrence; and it will
often be found that the traitor is the loudest in his protestations of
patriotism. It is a pretty safe rule to suspect the man of hypocrisy
who makes a parade of his religion, and the partisan of corruption and
selfishness, who is clamorous about the rights of the people. Captain
Spike was altogether above the first vice; though fairly on level, as
respects the second, with divers patriots who live by their deity.
Why, that's my spirit! But was not this nigh shore?
Close by, my master.
But are they, Ariel, safe?
Not a hair perished:
"D'ye here there, Mr. Mulford?" called out Capt. Stephen Spike, of
the half-rigged, brigantine Swash, or Molly Swash, as was her
registered name, to his mate—"we shall be dropping out as soon as the
tide makes, and I intend to get through the Gate, at least, on the next
flood. Waiting for a wind in port is lubberly seamanship, for he that
wants one should go outside and look for it."
This call was uttered from a wharf of the renowned city of
Manhattan, to one who was in the trunk-cabin of a clipper-looking
craft, of the name mentioned, and on the deck of which not a soul was
visible. Nor was the wharf, though one of those wooden piers that line
the arm of the sea that is called the East River, such a spot as
ordinarily presents itself to the mind of the reader, or listener, when
an allusion is made to a wharf of that town which it is the fashion of
the times to call the Commercial Emporium of America— as if there
might very well be an emporium of any other character. The wharf in
question had not a single vessel of any sort lying at, or indeed very
near it, with the exception of the Molly Swash. As it actually stood on
the eastern side of the town, it is scarcely necessary to say that such
a wharf could only be found high up, and at a considerable distance
from the usual haunts of commerce. The brig laymore than a mile above
the Hook (Corlaer's, of course, is meant—not Sandy Hook) and quite
near to the old Alms House—far above the ship-yards, in fact. It was a
solitary place for a vessel, in the midst of a crowd. The grum
top-chain voice of Captain Spike had nothing there to mingle with, or
interrupt its harsh tones, and it instantly brought on deck Harry
Mulford, the mate in question, apparently eager to receive his orders.
"Did you hail, Captain Spike?" called out the mate, a tight,
well-grown, straight-built, handsome sailor-lad of two or
three-and-twenty—one full of health, strength and manliness.
"Hail! If you call straining a man's throat until he's hoarse,
hailing, I believe I did. I flatter myself, there is not a man north of
Hatteras that can make himself heard further in gale of wind than a
certain gentleman who is to be found within a foot of the spot where I
stand. Yet, sir, I've been hailing the Swash these five minutes, and
thankful am I to find some one at last who is on board to answer me."
"What are your orders, Capt. Spike?"
"To see all clear for a start as soon as the flood makes. I shall
go through the Gate on the next young flood, and I hope you'll have all
the hands aboard in time. I see two or three of them up at that Dutch
beer-house, this moment, and can tell'em; in plain language, if they
come here with their beer aboard them, they'll have to go ashore
"You have an uncommonly sober crew, Capt. Spike," answered the
young man, with great calmness. "During the whole time I have been with
them, I have not seen a man among them the least in the wind."
"Well, I hope it will turn out that I've an uncommonly sober mate
in the bargain. Drunkenness I abominate, Mr. Mulford, and I can tell
you, short metre, that I will not stand it."
"May I inquire if you ever saw me, the least in the world, under
the influence of liquor, Capt. Spike?" demanded the mate, rather than
asked, with a very fixed meaning in his manner.
"I keep no log-book of trifles, Mr. Mulford, and cannot say. No man
is the worse for bowsing out his jib when off duty, though a drunkard's
a thing I despise. Well, well—remember, sir, that the Molly Swash
casts off on the young flood, and that Rose Budd and the good lady, her
aunt, take passage in her, this v'y'ge."
"Is it possible that you have persuaded them into that, at last!"
exclaimed the handsome mate.
"Persuaded! It takes no great persuasion, sir, to get the ladies to
try their luck in that brig. Lady Washington herself, if she was alive
and disposed to a sea-v'y'ge, might be glad of the chance. We've a
ladies' cabin, you know, and it's suitable that it should have some one
to occupy it. Old Mrs. Budd is a sensible woman, and takes time by the
forelock. Rose is ailin'—pulmonary they call it, I believe, and her
aunt wishes to try the sea for her constitution—"
"Rose Budd has no more of a pulmonary constitution than I have
myself," interrupted the mate.
"Well, that's as people fancy. You must know, Mr. Mulford, they've
got all sorts of diseases now-a-days, and all sorts of cures for'em.
One sort of a cure for consumption is what they tarm the Hyder-Ally—"
"I think you must mean hydropathy, sir—"
"Well it's something of the sort, no matter what—but cold water is
at the bottom of it, and they do say it's a good remedy. Now Rose's
aunt thinks if cold water is what is wanted, there is no place where it
can be so plenty as out on the ocean. Sea-air is good, too, and by
taking a v'y'ge her niece will get both requisites together, and
"Does Rose Budd think herself consumptive, Capt. Spike?" asked
Mulford, with interest.
"Not she—you know it will never do to alarm a pulmonary, so Mrs.
Budd has held her tongue carefully on the subject before the young
woman. Rose fancies that her aunt is out of sorts, and that the v'y'ge
is tried on her account—but the aunt, the cunning thing, knows all
Mulford almost nauseated the expression of his commander's
countenance while Spike uttered the last words. At no time was that
countenance very inviting, the features being coarse and vulgar, while
the color of the entire face was of an ambiguous red, in which liquor
and the seasons would seem to be blended in very equal quantities. Such
a countenance, lighted up by a gleam of successful management, not to
say with hopes and wishes that it will hardly do todwell on, could not
but be revolting to a youth of Harry Mulford's generous feelings, and
most of all to one who entertained the sentiments which he was quite
conscious of entertaining for Rose Budd. The young man made no reply,
but turned his face toward the water, in order to conceal the
expression of disgust that he was sensible must be strongly depicted on
The river, as the well-known arm of the sea in which the Swash was
lying is erroneously termed, was just at that moment unusually clear of
craft, and not a sail, larger than that of a boat, was to be seen
between the end of Blackwell's Island and Corlaer's Hook, a distance of
about a league. This stagnation in the movement of the port, at that
particular point, was owing to the state of wind and tide. Of the
first, there was little more than a southerly air, while the last was
about two-thirds ebb. Nearly everything that was expected on that tide,
coast-wise, and by the way of the Sound, had already arrived, and
nothing could go eastward, with that light breeze and under canvas,
until the flood made. Of course it was different with the steamers, who
were paddling about like so many ducks, steering in all directions,
though mostly crossing and re-crossing at the ferries. Just as Mulford
turned away from his commander, however, a large vessel of that class
shoved her bows into the view, doubling the Hook, and going eastward.
The first glance at this vessel sufficed to drive even Rose Budd
momentarily out of the minds of both master and mate, and to give a new
current to their thoughts. Spike had been on the point of walking up
the wharf, but he now so far changed his purpose as actually to jump on
board of the brig and spring up alongside of his mate, on the taffrail,
in order to get a better look at the steamer. Mulford, who loathed so
much in his commander, was actually glad of this, Spike's rare merit as
a seaman forming a sort of attraction that held him, as it might be
against his own will, bound to his service.
"What will they do next, Harry?" exclaimed the master, his manner
and voice actually humanized, in air and sound at least, by this
unexpected view of something new in his calling—"What will they do
"I see no wheels, sir, nor any movement in the water astern, as if
she were a propeller," returned the young man.
"She's an out-of-the-way sort of a hussy! She's a man-of-war,
too—one of Uncle Sam's new efforts."
"That can hardly be, sir. Uncle Sam has but three steamers, of any
size or force, now the Missouri is burned; and yonder is one of them,
lying at the Navy Yard, while another is, or was lately, laid up at
Boston. The third is in the Gulf. This must be an entirely new vessel,
if she belong to Uncle Sam."
"New! She's as new as a Governor, and they tell me they've got so
now that they choose five or six of them, up at Albany, every fall.
That craft is sea-going, Mr. Mulford, as any one can tell at a glance.
She's none of your passenger-hoys."
"That's plain enough, sir—and she's armed. Perhaps she's English,
and they've brought her here into this open spot to try some new
machinery. Ay, ay! she's about to set her ensign to the navy men at the
yard, and we shall see to whom she belongs."
A long, low, expressive whistle from Spike succeeded this remark,
the colours of the steamer going up to the end of a gaff on the
sternmost of her schooner-rigged masts, just as Mulford ceased
speaking. There was just air enough, aided by the steamer's motion, to
open the bunting, and let the spectators see the design. There were the
stars and stripes, as usual, but the last ran perpendicularly, instead
of in a horizontal direction.
"Revenue, by George!" exclaimed the master, as soon as his breath
was exhausted in the whistle. "Who would have believed they could screw
themselves up to doing such a thing in that bloody service?"
"I now remember to have heard that Uncle Sam was building some
large steamers for the revenue service, and, if I mistake not, with
some new invention to get along with, that is neither wheel nor
propeller. This must be one of these new craft, brought out here, into
open water, just to try her, sir."
"You're right, sir, you're right. As to the natur' of the beast,
you see her buntin', and no honest man can want more. If there's
anything I do hate, it is that flag, with its unnat'ral stripes, up and
down, instead of running in the true old way. I have heard a lawyer
say, that the revenueflag of this country is onconstitutional, and that
a vessel carrying it on the high seas might be sent in for piracy."
Although Harry Mulford was neither Puffendorf, nor Grotius, he had
too much common sense, and too little prejudice in favour of even his
own vocation, to swallow such a theory, had fifty Cherry Street lawyers
sworn to its justice. A smile crossed his fine, firm-looking mouth, and
something very like a reflection of that smile, if smiles can be
reflected in one's own countenance, gleamed in his fine, large, dark
"It would be somewhat singular, Capt, Spike," he said, "if a vessel
belonging to any nation should be seized as a pirate. The fact that she
is national in character would clear her."
"Then let her carry a national flag, and be d—d to her," answered
Spike fiercely. "I can show you law for what I say, Mr. Mulford. The
American flag has its stripes fore and aft by law, and this chap
carries his stripes parpendic'lar. If I commanded a cruiser, and fell
in with one of these up and down gentry, blast me if I wouldn't just
send him into port, and try the question in the old Alms-House."
Mulford probably did not think it worth while to argue the point
any further, understanding the dogmatism and stolidity of his commander
too well to deem it necessary. He preferred to turn to the
consideration of the qualities of the steamer in sight, a subject on
which, as seamen, they might better sympathize.
"That's a droll-looking revenue cutter, after all, Capt. Spike," he
said—"a craft better fitted to go in a fleet, as a look-out vessel,
than to chase a smuggler in-shore."
"And no goer in the bargain! I do not see how she gets along, for
she keeps all snug under water; but, unless she can travel faster than
she does just now, the Molly Swash would soon lend her the Mother
Carey's Chickens of her own wake to amuse her."
"She has the tide against her, just here, sir; no doubt she would
do better in still water."
Spike muttered something between his teeth, and jumped down on
deck, seemingly dismissing the subject of the revenue entirely from his
mind. His old, coarse, authoritative manner returned, and he again
spoke to his mate aboutRose Budd, her aunt, the "ladies' cabin," the
"young flood," and "casting off," as soon as the last made. Mulford
listened respectfully, though with a manifest distaste for the
instructions he was receiving. He knew his man, and a feeling of dark
distrust came over him, as he listened to his orders concerning the
famous accommodations he intended to give to Rose Budd and that
"capital old lady, her aunt;" his opinion of "the immense deal of good
sea-air and a v'y'ge would do Rose," and how "comfortable they both
would be on board the Molly Swash."
"I honour and respect, Mrs. Budd, as my captain's lady, you see,
Mr. Mulford, and intend to treat her accordin'ly. She knows it—and
Rose knows it—and they both declare they'd rather sail with me, since
sail they must, than with any other ship-master out of America."
"You sailed once with Capt. Budd yourself, I think I have heard you
"The old fellow brought me up. I was with him from my tenth to my
twentieth year, and then broke adrift to see fashions. We all do that,
you know, Mr. Mulford, when we are young and ambitious, and my turn
came as well as another's."
"Capt. Budd must have been a good deal older than his wife, sir, if
you sailed with him when a boy," Mulford observed a little drily.
"Yes; I own to forty-eight, though no one would think me more than
five or six-and-thirty, to look at me. There was a great difference
between old Dick Budd and his wife, as you say, he being about fifty,
when he married, and she less than twenty. Fifty is a good age for
matrimony, in a man, Mulford; as is twenty in a young woman."
"Rose Budd is not yet nineteen, I have heard her say," returned the
mate, with emphasis.
"Youngish, I will own, but that's a fault a liberal-minded man can
overlook. Every day, too, will lessen it. Well, look to the cabins, and
see all clear for a start. Josh will be down presently with a cart-load
of stores, and you'll take 'em aboard without delay."
As Spike uttered this order, his foot was on the planksheer of the
bulwarks, in the act of passing to the wharf again. On reaching the
shore, he turned and looked intentlyat the revenue steamer, and his
lips moved, as if he were secretly uttering maledictions on her. We say
maledictions, as the expression of his fierce ill-favoured countenance
too plainly showed that they could not be blessings. As for Mulford,
there was still something on his mind, and he followed to the gangway
ladder and ascended it, waiting for a moment when the mind of his
commander might be less occupied to speak. The opportunity soon
occurred, Spike having satisfied himself with the second look at the
"I hope you don't mean to sail again without a second mate, Capt.
Spike?" he said.
"I do though, I can tell you. I hate Dickies—they are always in
the way, and the captain has to keep just as much of a watch with one
as without one."
"That will depend on his quality. You and I have both been Dickies
in our time, sir; and my time was not long ago."
"Ay—ay—I know all about it—but you didn't stick to it long
enough to get spoiled. I would have no man aboard the Swash who made
more than two v'y'ges as second officer. As I want no spies aboard my
craft, I'll try it once more without a Dicky."
Saying this in a sufficiently positive manner, Capt. Stephen Spike
rolled up the wharf, much as a ship goes off before the wind, now
inclining to the right, and then again to the left. The gait of the man
would have proclaimed him a sea-dog, to any one acquainted with that
animal, as far as he could be seen. The short squab figure, the arms
bent nearly at right angles at the elbow, and working like two fins
with each roll of the body, the stumpy, solid legs, with the feet
looking in the line of his course and kept wide apart, would all have
contributed to the making up of such an opinion. Accustomed as he was
to this beautiful sight, Harry Mulford kept his eyes riveted on the
retiring person of his commander, until it disappeared behind a pile of
lumber, waddling always in the direction of the more thickly peopled
parts of the town. Then he turned and gazed at the steamer, which, by
this time, had fairly passed the brig, and seemed to be actually bound
through the Gate. That steamer was certainly a noble-looking craft, but
our young man fancied she struggled along through the water heavily.
She might be quick at need, but she did not promise as much by her
present rate of moving. Still, she was a noble-looking craft, and, as
Mulford descended to the deck again, he almost regretted he did not
belong to her; or, at least, to anything but the Molly Swash.
Two hours produced a sensible change in and around that brigantine.
Her people had all come back to duty, and what was very remarkable
among seafaring folk, sober to a man. But, as has been said, Spike was
a temperance man, as respects all under his orders at least, if not
strictly so in practice himself. The crew of the Swash was large for a
half-rigged brig of only two hundred tons, but, as her spars were very
square, and all her gear as well as her mould seemed constructed for
speed, it was probable more hands than common were necessary to work
her with facility and expedition. After all, there were not many
persons to be enumerated among the "people of the Molly Swash," as they
called themselves; not more than a dozen, including those aft, as well
as those forward. A peculiar feature of this crew, however, was the
circumstance that they were all middle-aged men, with the exception of
the mate, and all thorough-bred sea-dogs. Even Josh, the cabin-boy, as
he was called, was an old, wrinkled, gray-headed negro, of near sixty.
If the crew wanted a little in the elasticity of youth, it possessed
the steadiness and experience of their time of life, every man
appearing to know exactly what to do, and when to do it. This, indeed,
composed their great merit; an advantage that Spike well knew how to
The stores had been brought alongside of the brig in a cart, and
were already showed in their places. Josh had brushed and swept, until
the ladies' cabin could be made no neater. This ladies' cabin was a
small apartment beneath a trunk, which was, ingeniously enough,
separated from the main cabin by pantries and double doors. The
arrangement was unusual, and Spike had several times hinted that there
was a history connected with that cabin; though what the history was
Mulford never could induce him to relate. The latter knew that the brig
had been used for a forced trade on the Spanish Main, and had heard
something of her deeds in bringing off specie, and proscribed persons,
at different epochs in the revolutions of that part of the world,and he
had always understood that her present commander and owner had sailed
in her, as mate, for many years before he had risen to his present
station. Now, all was regular in the way of records, bills of sale, and
other documents; Stephen Spike appearing in both the capacities just
named. The register proved that the brig had been built as far back as
the last English war, as a private cruiser, but recent and extensive
repairs had made her "better than new," as her owner insisted, and
there was no question as to her seaworthiness. It is true the insurance
offices blew upon her, and would have nothing to do with a craft that
had seen her two score years and ten; but this gave none who belonged
to her any concern, inasmuch as they could scarcely have been
underwritten in their trade, let the age of the vessel be what it
might. It was enough for them that the brig was safe and exceedingly
fast, insurances never saving the lives of the people, whatever else
might be their advantages. With Mulford it was an additional
recommendation, that the Swash was usually thought to be of uncommonly
By half-past two, P. M., everything was ready for getting the
brigantine under way. Her fore-topsail—or fore- tawsail as Spike
called it—was loose, the fasts were singled, and a spring had been
carried to a post in the wharf, that was well forward of the starboard
bow, and the brig's head turned to the southwest, or down the stream,
and consequently facing the young flood. Nothing seemed to connect the
vessel with the land but a broad gangway plank, to which Mulford had
attached life-lines, with more care than it is usual to meet with on
board of vessels employed in short voyages. The men stood about the
decks with their arms thrust into the bosoms of their shirts, and the
whole picture was one of silent, and possibly of somewhat uneasy
expectation. Nothing was said, however; Mulford walking the
quarter-deck alone, occasionally looking up the still little tenanted
streets of that quarter of the suburbs, as if to search for a carriage.
As for the revenue-steamer, she had long before gone through the
southern passage of Blackwell's, steering for the Gate.
"Dat's dem, Mr. Mulford," Josh at length cried, from the look-out
he had taken in a stern-port, where he could seeover the low bulwarks
of the vessel. "Yes, dat's dem, sir. I know dat old gray horse dat
carries his head so low and sorrowful like, as a horse has a right to
do dat has to drag a cab about this big town. My eye! what a horse it
Josh was right, not only as to the gray horse that carried his head
"sorrowful like," but as to the cab and its contents. The vehicle was
soon on the wharf, and in its door soon appeared the short, sturdy
figure of Capt. Spike, backing out, much as a bear descends a tree. On
top of the vehicle were several light articles of female appliances, in
the shape of bandboxes, bags, the trunks having previously arrived in a
cart. Well might that over-driven gray horse appear sorrowful, and
travel with a lowered head. The cab, when it gave up its contents,
discovered a load of no less than four persons besides the driver, all
of weight, and of dimensions in proportion, with the exception of the
pretty and youthful Rose Budd. Even she was plump, and of a
well-rounded person; though still light and slender. But her aunt was a
fair picture of a ship-master's widow; solid, comfortable and buxom.
Neither was she old, nor ugly. On the contrary, her years did not
exceed forty, and being well preserved, in consequence of never having
been a mother, she might even have passed for thirty-five. The great
objection to her appearance was the somewhat indefinite character of
her shape, which seemed to blend too many of its charms into one. The
fourth person, in the fare, was Biddy Noon, the Irish servant and
factotum of Mrs. Budd, who was a pock-marked, red-faced, and red-armed
single woman, about her mistress's own age and weight, though less
stout to the eye.
Of Rose we shall not stop to say much here. Her deepblue eye, which
was equally spirited and gentle, if one can use such contradictory
terms, seemed alive with interest and curiosity, running over the brig,
the wharf, the arm of the sea, the two islands, and all near her,
including the Alms-House, with such a devouring rapidity as might be
expected in a town-bred girl, who was setting out on her travels for
the first time. Let us be understood; we say town-bred, because such
was the fact; for Rose Budd had been both born and educated in
Manhattan, though we are far fromwishing to be understood that she was
either very well-born, or highly educated. Her station in life may be
inferred from that of her aunt, and her education from her station. Of
the two, the last was, perhaps, a trifle the highest.
We have said that the fine blue eye of Rose passed swiftly over the
various objects near her, as she alighted from the cab, and it
naturally took in the form of Harry Mulford, as he stood in the
gangway, offering his arm to aid her aunt and herself in passing the
brig's side. A smile of recognition was exchanged between the young
people, as their eyes met, and the colour, which formed so bright a
charm in Rose's sweet face, deepened, in a way to prove that that
colour spoke with a tongue and eloquence of its own. Nor was Mulford's
cheek mute on the occasion, though he helped the hesitating,
half-doubting, half-bold girl along the plank with a steady hand and
rigid muscles. As for the aunt, as a captain's widow, she had not felt
it necessary to betray any extraordinary emotions in ascending the
plank, unless, indeed, it might be those of delight on finding her foot
once more on the deck of a vessel!
Something of the same feeling governed Biddy, too, for, as Mulford
civilly extended his hand to her also, she exclaimed—
"No fear of me, Mr. Mate—I came from Ireland by wather, and knows
all about ships and brigs, I do. If you could have seen the times we
had, and the saas we crossed, you'd not think it nadeful to say much to
the likes iv me."
Spike had tact enough to understand he would be out of his element
in assisting females along that plank, and he was busy in sending what
he called "the old lady's dunnage" on board, and in discharging the
cabman. As soon as this was done, he sprang into the main-channels, and
thence vid the bulwarks, on deck, ordering the plank to be hauled
aboard. A solitary labourer was paid a quarter to throw off the fasts
from the ring-bolts and posts, and everything was instantly in motion
to cast the brig loose. Work went on as if the vessel were in haste,
and it consequently went on with activity. Spike bestirred himself,
giving his orders in a way to denote he had been long accustomed to
exercise authority on the deck of a vessel, and knew his calling to its
minutiæ. The only ostensible difference betweenhis deportment to-day
and on any ordinary occasion, perhaps, was in the circumstance that he
now seemed anxious to get clear of the wharf, and that in a way which
might have attracted notice in any suspicious and attentive observer.
It is possible that such a one was not very distant, and that Spike was
aware of his presence, for a respectable-looking, well-dressed,
middle-aged man had come down one of the adjacent streets, to a spot
within a hundred yards of the wharf, and stood silently watching the
movements of the brig, as he leaned against a fence. The want of houses
in that quarter enabled any person to see this stranger from the deck
of the Swash, but no one on board her seemed to regard him at all,
unless it might be the master.
"Come, bear a hand, my hearty, and toss that bow-fast clear," cried
the captain, whose impatience to be off seemed to increase as the time
to do so approached nearer and nearer. "Off with it, at once, and let
The man on the wharf threw the turns of the hawser clear of the
post, and the Swash was released forward. A smaller line, for a spring,
had been run some distance along the wharves, ahead of the vessel, and
brought in aft. Her people clapped on this, and gave way to their
craft, which, being comparatively light, was easily moved, and was very
manageable. As this was done, the distant spectator who had been
leaning on the fence moved toward the wharf with a step a little
quicker than common. Almost at the same instant, a short, stout,
sailor-like looking little person, waddled down the nearest street,
seeming to be in somewhat of a hurry, and presently he joined the other
stranger, and appeared to enter into conversation with him; pointing
toward the Swash as he did so. All this time, both continued to advance
toward the wharf.
In the meanwhile, Spike and his people were not idle. The tide did
not run very strong near the wharves and in the sort of a bight in
which the vessel had lain; but, such as it was, it soon took the brig
on her inner bow, and began to cast her head off shore. The people at
the spring pulled away with all their force, and got sufficient motion
on their vessel to overcome the tide, and to give the rudder an
influence. The latter was put hard a-starboard, and helped to cast the
brig's head to the southward.
Down to this moment, the only sail that was loose on board the
Swash was the fore-topsail, as mentioned. This still hung in the gear,
but a hand had been sent aloft to overhaul the buntlines and clewlines,
and men were also at the sheets. In a minute the sail was ready for
hoisting. The Swash carried a wapper of a fore-and-aft mainsail, and,
what is more, it was fitted with a standing gaff, for appearance in
port. At sea, Spike knew better than to trust to this arrangement; but
in fine weather, and close in with the land, he found it convenient to
have this sail haul out and brail like a ship's spanker. As the gaff
was now aloft, it was only necessary to let go the brails to loosen
this broad sheet of canvas, and to clap on the out-hauler, to set it.
This was probably the reason why the brig was so unceremoniously cast
into the stream, without showing more of her cloth. The jib and
flying-jibs, however, did at that moment drop beneath their booms,
ready for hoisting.
Such was the state of things as the two strangers came first upon
the wharf. Spike was on the taffrail, overhauling the main-sheet, and
Mulford was near him, casting the fore-topsail braces from the pins,
preparatory to clapping on the halyards.
"I say, Mr. Mulford," asked the captain, "did you ever see either
of them chaps afore? These jokers on the wharf, I mean."
"Not to my recollection, sir," answered the mate, looking over the
taffrail to examine the parties. "The little one is a burster! The
funniest-looking little fat old fellow I've seen in many a day."
"Ay, ay, them fat little bursters, as you call 'em, are sometimes
full of the devil. I do n't like either of the chaps, and am right glad
we are well cast, before they got here."
"I do not think either would be likely to do us much harm, Capt.
"There's no knowing sir. The biggest fellow looks as if he might
lug out a silver oar at any moment."
"I believe the silver oar is no longer used, in this country at
least," answered Mulford, smiling. "And if it were, what have we to
fear from it? I fancy the brig has paid her reckoning."
"She do n't owe a cent, nor ever shall for twenty-fourhours after
the bill is made out, while I own her. They call me ready-money
Stephen, round among the ship-chandlers and caulkers. But I do n't like
them chaps, and what I do n't relish I never swallow, you know."
"They 'll hardly try to get aboard us, sir; you see we are quite
clear of the wharf, and the mainsail will take now, if we set it."
Spike ordered the mate to clap on the outhauler, and spread that
broad sheet of canvas at once to the little breeze there was. This was
almost immediately done, when the sail filled, and began to be felt on
the movement of the vessel. Still, that movement was very slow, the
wind being so light, and the vis inertiœ of so large a body remaining
to be overcome. The brig receded from the wharf, almost in a line at
right angles to its face, inch by inch, as it might be, dropping slowly
up with the tide at the same time. Mulford now passed forward to set
the jibs, and to get the topsail on the craft, leaving Spike on the
taffrail, keenly eyeing the strangers, who, by this time, had got down
nearly to the end of the wharf, at the berth so lately occupied by the
Swash. That the captain was uneasy was evident enough, that feeling
being exhibited in his countenance, blended with a malignant ferocity.
"Has that brig any pilot?" asked the larger and better-looking of
the two strangers.
"What's that to you, friend?" demanded Spike, in return. "Have you
a Hell-Gate branch?"
"I may have one, or I may not. It is not usual for so large a craft
to run the Gate without a pilot."
"Oh! my gentleman's below, brushing up his logarithms. We shall
have him on deck to take his departure before long, when I'll let him
know your kind inquiries after his health."
The man on the wharf seemed to be familiar with this sort of
sea-wit, and he made no answer, but continued that close scrutiny of
the brig, by turning his eyes in all directions, now looking below, and
now aloft, which had in truth occasioned Spike's principal cause for
"Is not that Capt. Stephen Spike, of the brigantine Molly Swash?"
called out the little, dumpling-looking person, in a cracked, dwarfish
sort of a voice, that was admirably adapted to his appearance. Our
captain fairly started; turnedfull toward the speaker; regarded him
intently for a moment; and gulped the words he was about to utter, like
one confounded. As he gazed, however, at little dumpy, examining his
bow-legs, red broad cheeks, and coarse snub nose, he seemed to regain
his self-command, as if satisfied the dead had not really returned to
"Are you acquainted with the gentleman you have named?" he asked,
by way of answer. "You speak of him like one who ought to know him."
"A body is apt to know a shipmate. Stephen Spike and I sailed
together twenty years since, and I hope to live to sail with him
"You sail with Stephen Spike? when and where, may I ask, and in
what v'y'ge, pray?"
"The last time was twenty years since. Have you forgotten little
Jack Tier, Capt. Spike?"
Spike looked astonished, and well he might, for he had supposed
Jack to be dead fully fifteen years. Time and hard service had greatly
altered him, but the general resemblance in figure, stature, and
waddle, certainly remained. Notwithstanding, the Jack Tier that Spike
remembered was quite a different person from this Jack Tier. That Jack
had worn his intensely black hair clubbed and curled, whereas this Jack
had cut his locks into short bristles, which time had turned into an
intense gray. That Jack was short and thick, but he was flat and
square; whereas this Jack was just as short, a good deal thicker, and
as round as a dumpling. In one thing, however, the likeness still
remained perfect. Both Jacks chewed tobacco, to a degree that became a
distinct feature in their appearance.
Spike had many reasons for wishing Jack Tier were not resuscitated
in this extraordinary manner, and some for being glad to see him. The
fellow had once been largely in his confidence, and knew more than was
quite safe for any one to remember but himself, while he might be of
great use to him in his future, operations. It is always convenient to
have one at your elbow who thoroughly understands you, and Spike would
have lowered a boat and sent it to the wharf to bring Jack off, were it
not for the gentleman who was so inquisitive about pilots. Under the
circumstances, he determined to forego the advantages of Jack's
presence, reserving the right to hunt him up on his return.
The reader will readily enough comprehend, that the Molly Swash was
not absolutely standing still while the dialogue related was going on,
and the thoughts we have recorded were passing through her master's
mind. On the contrary, she was not only in motion, but that motion was
gradually increasing, and by the time all was said that has been
related, it had become necessary for those who spoke to raise their
voices to an inconvenient pitch in order to be heard. This circumstance
alone would soon have put an end to the conversation, had not Spike's
pausing to reflect brought about the same result, as mentioned.
In the mean time, Mulford had got the canvas spread. Forward, the
Swash showed all the cloth of a full-rigged brig, even to royals and
flying jib; while aft, her mast was the raking, tall, naked pole of an
American schooner. There was a taunt topmast, too, to which a
gaff-topsail was set, and the gear proved that she could also show, at
need, a staysail in this part of her, if necessary. As the Gate was
before them, however, the people had set none but the plain, manageable
The Molly Swash kept close on a wind, luffing athwar the broad
reach she was in, until far enough to weather Blackwell's, when she
edged off to her course, and went through the southern passage.
Although the wind remained light, and a little baffling, the brig was
so easily impelled, and was so very handy, that there was no difficulty
in keeping her perfectly in command. The tide, too, was fast increasing
in strength and volocity, and the movement from this cause alone was
getting to be sufficiently rapid.
As for the passengers, of whom we have lost sight in order to get
the brig under way, they were now on deck again. At first, they had all
gone below, under the care of Josh, a somewhat rough groom of the
chambers, to take possession of their apartment, a sufficiently neat,
and exceedingly comfortable cabin, supplied with everything that could
be wanted at sea, and, what was more, lined on two of its sides with
state-rooms. It is true, all these apartments were small, and the
state-rooms were very low, but no fault could befound with their
neatness and general arrangements, when it was recollected that one was
on board a vessel.
"Here ebbery t'ing heart can wish," said Josh, exultingly, who,
being an old-school black, did not disdain to use some of the
old-school dialect of his caste. "Yes, ladies, ebbery t'ing. Let Cap'n
Spike alone for dat! He won'erful at accommodation! Not a bed-bug
aft—know better dan come here; jest like de people, in dat respects,
and keep deir place forrard. You nebber see a pig come on de
"You must maintain excellent discipline, Josh," cried Rose, in one
of the sweetest voices in the world, which was easily attuned to
merriment—"and we are delighted to learn what you tell us. How do you
manage to keep up these distinctions, and make such creatures know
their places so well?"
"Nuttin easier, if you begin right, miss. As for de pig, I teach
dem wid scaldin' water. Wheneber I sees a pig come aft, I gets a little
water from de copper, and just scald him wid it. You can't t'ink, miss,
how dat mend his manners, and make him squeel fuss, and t'ink arter. In
dat fashion I soon get de ole ones in good trainin', and den I has no
more trouble with dem as comes fresh aboard; for de ole hog tell de
young one, and 'em won'erful cunnin', and know how to take care of
Rose Budd's sweet eyes were full of fun and expectation, and she
could no more repress her laugh than youth and spirits can always be
"Yes, with the pigs," she cried, "that might do very well; but how
is it with those—other creatures?"
"Rosy, dear," interrupted the aunt, "I wish you would say no more
about such shocking things. It's enough for us that Capt. Spike has
ordered them all to stay forward among the men, which is always done on
board well disciplined vessels. I've heard your uncle say, a hundred
times, that the quarter-deck was sacred, and that might be enough to
keep such animals off it."
It was barely necessary to look at Mrs. Budd in the face to get a
very accurate general notion of her character. She was one of those
inane, uncultivated beings who seem to be protected by a benevolent
Providence in their pilgrimageon earth, for they do not seem to possess
the power to protect themselves. Her very countenance expressed
imbecility and mental dependence, credulity and a love of gossip.
Notwithstanding these radical weaknesses, the good woman had some of
the better instincts of her sex, and was never guilty of anything that
could properly convey reproach.
She was no monitress for Rose, however, the niece much oftener
influencing the aunt, than the aunt influencing the niece. The latter
had been fortunate in having had an excellent instructress, who, though
incapable of teaching her much in the way of accomplishments, had
imparted a great deal that was respectable and useful. Rose had
character, and strong character, too, as the course of our narrative
will show; but her worthy aunt was a pure picture of as much mental
imbecility as at all comported with the privileges of self-government.
The conversation about "those other creatures" was effectually
checked by Mrs. Budd's horror of the "animals," and Josh was called on
deck so shortly after as to prevent its being renewed. The females
staid below a few minutes, to take possession, and then they
re-appeared on deck, to gaze at the horrors of the Hell Gate passage.
Rose was all eyes, wonder and admiration of everything she saw. This
was actually the first time she had ever been on the water, in any sort
of craft, though born and brought up in sight of one of the most
thronged havens in the world. But there must be a beginning to
everything, and this was Rose Budd's beginning on the water. It is true
the brigantine was a very beautiful, as well as an exceedingly swift
vessel; but all this was lost on Rose, who would have admired a
horse-jockey bound to the West Indies, in this the incipient state of
her nautical knowledge. Perhaps the exquisite neatness that Mulford
maintained about everything that came under his care, and that included
everything on deck, or above-board, and about which neatness Spike
occasionally muttered an oath, as so much senseless trouble,
contributed somewhat to Rose's pleasure; but her admiration would
scarcely have been less with anything that had sails, and seemed to
move through the water with a power approaching that of volition.
It was very different with Mrs. Budd, She, good woman,had actually
made one voyage with her late husband, and she fancied that she knew
all about a vessel. It was her delight to talk on nautical subjects,
and never did she really feel her great superiority over her niece, so
very unequivocally, as when the subject of the ocean was introduced,
about which she did know something, and touching which Rose was
profoundly ignorant, or as ignorant as a girl of lively imagination
could remain with the information gleaned from others.
"I am not surprised you are astonished at the sight of the vessel,
Rosy," observed the self-complacent aunt at one of her niece's
exclamations of admiration. "A vessel is a very wonderful thing, and we
are told what extr'orny beings they are that 'go down to the sea in
ships.' But you are to know this is not a ship at all, but only a
half-jigger rigged, which is altogether a different thing."
"Was my uncle's vessel, The Rose In Bloom, then, very different
from the Swash?"
"Very different indeed, child! Why, The Rose In Bloom was a
full-jiggered ship, and had twelve masts—and this is only a
half-jiggered brig, and has but two masts. See, you may count
Harry Mulford was coiling away a top-gallant-brace, directly in
front of Mrs. Budd and Rose, and, at hearing this account of the
wonderful equipment of The Rose In Bloom, he suddenly looked up, with a
lurking expression about his eye that the niece very well comprehended,
while he exclaimed, without much reflection, under the impulse of
"Twelve masts! Did I understand you to say, ma'am, that Capt.
Budd's ship had twelve masts?"
"Yes, sir, twelve! and I can tell you all their names, for I learnt
them by heart—it appearing to me proper that a ship-master's wife
should know the names of all the masts in her husband's vessel. Do you
wish to hear their names, Mr. Mulford?"
Harry Mulford would have enjoyed this conversation to the top of
his bent, had it not been for Rose. She well knew her aunt's general
weakness of intellect, and especially its weakness on this particular
subject, but she would suffer no one to manifest contempt for either,
if in her power to prevent it. It is seldom one so young, so mirthful,
so ingenuousand innocent in the expression of her countenance, assumed
so significant and rebuking a frown as did pretty Rose Budd when she
heard the mate's involuntary exclamation about the "twelve masts."
Harry, who was not easily checked by his equals, or any of his own sex,
submitted to that rebuking frown with the meekness of a child, and
stammered out, in answer to the well-meaning, but weak-minded widow's
"If you please, Mrs. Budd—just as you please, ma'am— only twelve
is a good many masts—" Rose frowned again —"that is—more than I'm
used to seeing—that's all."
"I dare say, Mr. Mulford—for you sail in only a half-jigger; but
Capt. Budd always sailed in a full-jigger—and his full-jiggered ship
had just twelve masts, and, to prove it to you, I'll give you the
names—first then, there were the fore, main, and mizen masts—"
"Yes—yes—ma'am," stammered Harry, who wished the twelve masts and
The Rose In Bloom at the bottom of the ocean, since her owner's niece
still continued to look coldly displeased—"that's right, I can swear!"
"Very true, sir, and you'll find I am right as to all the rest.
Then, there were the fore, main, and mizen top-masts —they make six,
if I can count, Mr. Mulford?"
"Ah!" exclaimed the mate, laughing, in spite of Rose's frowns, as
the manner in which the old sea-dog had quizzed his wife became
apparent to him. "I see how it is—you are quite right, ma'am—I dare
say The Rose In Bloom had all these masts, and some to spare."
"Yes, sir—I knew you would be satisfied. The fore, main and mizen
top-gallant-masts make nine—and the fore, main and mizen royals make
just twelve. Oh, I'm never wrong in anything about a vessel, especially
if she is a full-jiggered ship."
Mulford had some difficulty in restraining his smiles each time the
full-jigger was mentioned, but Rose's expression of countenance kept
him in excellent order—and she, innocent creature, saw nothing
ridiculous in the term, though the twelve masts had given her a little
alarm. Delighted that the old lady had got through her enumeration of
the spars with so much success, Rose cried, in the exuberance of her
"Well, aunty, for my part, I find a half-jigger vessel, so very,
very beautiful, that I do not know how I should behave were I to go on
board a full-jigger."
Mulford turned abruptly away, the circumstance of Rose's making
herself ridiculous giving him sudden pain, though he could have laughed
at her aunt by the hour.
"Ah, my dear, that is on account of your youth and
inexperience—but you will learn better in time. I was just so, myself,
when I was of your age, and thought the fore-rafters were as handsome
as the squared-jiggers, but soon after I married Capt. Budd I felt the
necessity of knowing more than I did about ships, and I got him to
teach me. He did n't like the business, at first, and pretended I would
never learn; but, at last, it came all at once like, and then he used
to be delighted to hear me 'talk ship,' as he called it. I've known him
laugh, with his cronies, as if ready to die, at my expertness in
sea-terms, for half an hour together —and then he would swear—that
was the worst fault your uncle had, Rosy—he would swear, sometimes, in
a way that frightened me, I do declare!"
"But he never swore at you, aunty?"
"I can't say that he did exactly do that, but he would swear all
round me, even if he did n't actually touch me, when things went
wrong—but it would have done your heart good to hear him laugh! he had
a most excellent heart, just like your own, Rosy dear; but, for that
matter, all the Budds have excellent hearts, and one of the commonest
ways your uncle had of showing it was to laugh, particularly when we
were together and talking. Oh, he used to delight in hearing me
converse, especially about vessels, and never failed to get me at it
when he had company. I see his good-natured, excellent-hearted
countenance at this moment, with the tears running down his fat, manly
cheeks, as he shook his very sides with laughter. I may live a hundred
years, Rosy, before I meet again with your uncle's equal."
This was a subject that invariably silenced Rose. She remembered
her uncle, herself, and remembered his affectionate manner of laughing
at her aunt, and she always wished the latter to get through her
eulogiums on her married happiness, as soon as possible, whenever the
subject was introduced.
All this time the Molly Swash kept in motion. Spike never took a
pilot when he could avoid it, and his mind was too much occupied with
his duty, in that critical navigation, to share at all in the
conversation of his passengers, though he did endeavour to make himself
agreeable to Rose, by an occasional remark, when a favourable
As soon as he had worked his brig over into the south or weather
passage of Blackwell's, however, there remained little for him to do,
until she had drifted through it, a distance of a mile or more; and
this gave him leisure to do the honours. He pointed out the castellated
edifice on Blackwell's as the new penitentiary, and the hamlet of
villas, on the other shore, as Ravenswood, though there is neither wood
nor ravens to authorize the name. But the "Sunswick," which satisfied
the Delafields and Gibbses of the olden, time, and which distinguished
their lofty halls and broad lawns, was not elegant enough for the
cockney tastes of these latter days, so "wood" must be made to usurp
the place of cherries and apples, and "ravens" that of gulls, in order
to satisfy its cravings. But all this was lost on Spike. He remembered
the shore as it had been twenty years before, and he saw what it was
now, but little did he care for the change. On the whole, he rather
preferred the Grecian Temples, over which the ravens would have been
compelled to fly, had there been any ravens in that neighbourhood, to
the old-fashioned and highly respectable residence that once alone
occupied the spot. The point he did understand, however, and on the
merits of which he had something to say, was a little farther ahead.
That, too, had been re-christened—the Hallet's Cove of the mariner
being converted into Astoria—not that bloody-minded place at the mouth
of the Oregon, which has come so near bringing us to blows with our
"ancestors in England," as the worthy denizens of that quarter choose
to consider themselves still, if one can judge by their language. This
Astoria was a very different place, and is one of the many suburban
villages that are shooting up, like mushrooms in a night, around the
great Commercial Emporium. This spot Spike understood perfectly, and it
was not likely that he should pass it without communicating a portion
of his knowledge to Rose.
"There, Miss Rose," he said, with a didactic sort of air,pointing
with his short, thick finger at the little bay which was just opening
to their view; "there's as neat a cove as a craft need bring up in.
That used to be a capital place to lie in, to wait for a wind to pass
the Gate; but it has got to be most too public for my taste. I'm rural,
I tell Mulford, and love to get in out-of-the-way berths with my brig,
where she can see salt-meadows, and smell the clover. You never catch
me down in any of the crowded slips, around the markets, or anywhere in
that part of the town, for I do love country air. That's Hallet's Cove,
Miss Rose, and a pretty anchorage it would be for us, if the wind and
tide didn't sarve to take us through the Gate."
"Are we near the Gate, Capt. Spike?" asked Rose, the fine bloom on
her cheek lessening a little, under the apprehension that formidable
name is apt to awaken in the breasts of the inexperienced.
"Half a mile, or so. It begins just at the other end of this island
on our larboard hand, and will be all over in about another half mile,
or so. It's no such bad place, a'ter all, is Hell-Gate, to them that's
used to it. I call myself a pilot in Hell-Gate, though I have no
"I wish, Capt. Spike, I could teach you to give that place its
proper and polite name. We call it Whirl-Gate altogether now," said the
"Well, that's new to me," cried Spike. "I have heard some
chicken-mouthed folk say Hurl-Gate, but this is the first time I ever
heard it called Whirl-Gate—they'll get it to Whirligig-Gate next. I do
n't think that my old commander, Capt. Budd, called the passage
anything but honest up and down Hell-Gate."
"That he did—that he did—and all my arguments and reading could
not teach him any better. I proved to him that it was Whirl-Gate, as
any one can see that it ought to be. It is full of whirlpools, they
say, and that shows what Nature meant the name to be."
"But, aunty," put in Rose, half reluctantly, half anxious to speak,
"what has gate to do with whirlpools? You will remember it is called a
gate—the gate to that wicked place I suppose is meant."
"Rose, you amaze me! How can you, a young woman of only nineteen,
stand up for so vulgar a name as Hell-Gate!"
"Do you think it as vulgar as Hurl-Gate, aunty?" To me it always
seems the most vulgar to be straining at gnats."
"Yes," said Spike sentimentally, "I'm quite of Miss Rose's way of
thinking—straining at gnats is very ill-manners, especially at table.
I once knew a man who strained in this way, until I thought he would
have choked, though it was with a fly to be sure; but gnats are nothing
but small flies, you know, Miss Rose. Yes, I'm quite of your way of
thinking, Miss Rose; it is very vulgar to be straining at gnats and
flies, more particularly at table. But you'll find no flies or gnats
aboard here, to be straining at, or brushing away, or to annoy you.
Stand by there, my hearties, and see all clear to run through
Hell-Gate. Do n't let me catch you straining at anything, though it
should be the fin of a whale!"
The people forward looked at each other, as they listened to this
novel admonition, though they called out the customary "ay, ay, sir,"
as they went to the sheets, braces and bowlines. To them the passage of
no Hell-Gate conveyed the idea of any particular terror, and with the
one they were about to enter, they were much too familiar to care
anything about it.
The brig was now floating fast, with the tide, up abreast of the
east end of Blackwell's, and in two or three more minutes she would be
fairly in the Gate. Spike was aft, where he could command a view of
everything forward, and Mulford stood on the quarter-deck, to look
after the head-braces. An old and trustworthy seaman, who acted as a
sort of boatswain, had the charge on the forecastle, and was to tend
the sheets and tack. His name was Rove.
"See all clear," called out Spike. "D'ye hear there, for'ard! I
shall make a half-board in the Gate, if the wind favour us, and the
tide prove strong enough to hawse us to wind'ard sufficiently to clear
the Pot—so mind your—"
The captain breaking off in the middle of this harangue, Mulford
turned his head, in order to see what might be the matter. There was
Spike, levelling a spy-glass at a boat that was pulling swiftly out of
the north channel, and shooting like an arrow directly athwart the
brig's bows into the main passage of the Gate. He stepped to the
"Just take a look at them chaps, Mr. Mulford," said Spike, handing
his mate the glass.
"They seem in a hurry," answered Harry, as he adjusted the glass to
his eye, "and will go through the Gate in less time than it will take
to mention the circumstance."
"What do you make of them, sir?"
"The little man who called himself Jack Tier is in the stern-sheets
of the boat, for one," answered Mulford.
"And the other, Harry—what do you make of the other?"
"It seems to be the chap who hailed to know if we had a pilot. He
means to board us at Riker's Island, and make us pay pilotage, whether
we want his services or not."
"Blast him and his pilotage too! Give me the glass"— taking
another long look at the boat, which by this time was glancing, rather
than pulling, nearly at right angles across his bows. "I want no such
pilot aboard here, Mr. Mulford. Take another look at him—here, you can
see him, away on our weather bow, already."
Mulford did take another look at him, and this time his examination
was longer and more scrutinizing than before.
"It is not easy to cover him with the glass," observed the young
man—"the boat seems fairly to fly."
"We're forereaching too near the Hog's Back, Capt. Spike," roared
the boatswain, from forward.
"Ready about—hard a lee," shouted Spike. "Let all fly,
for'ard—help her round, boys, all you can, and wait for no orders!
Bestir yourselves—bestir yourselves."
It was time the crew should be in earnest. While Spike's attention
had been thus diverted by the boat, the brig had got into the strongest
of the current, which, by setting her fast to windward, had trebled the
power of the air, and this was shooting her over toward one of the
greatest dangers of the passage on a flood tide. As everybody bestirred
themselves, however, she was got round and filled on the opposite tack,
just in time to clear the rocks. Spike breathed again, but his head was
still full of the boat. The danger he had just escaped as Scylla met
him as Charybdis. The boatswain again roared to go about. The order was
given as the vessel began to pitch in a heavy swell. At the next
instant she rolled until the water came on deck, whirled with her stern
down the tide, and her bows rose as if she were about to leap out of
water. The Swash had hit the Pot Rock!
If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on him?
Truly, by your office, you may; but I think they that touch pitch
will be defiled; the most peaceable way for you, if you do take a
thief, is, to let him show himself what he is, and steal out of your
— Much Ado About Nothing
We left the brigantine of Capt. Spike in a very critical situation,
and the master himself in great confusion of mind.
A thorough seaman, this accident would never have happened, but for
the sudden appearance of the boat and its passengers; one of whom
appeared to be a source of great uneasiness to him. As might be
expected, the circumstance of striking a place as dangerous as the Pot
Rock in Hell-Gate, produced a great sensation on board the vessel. This
sensation betrayed itself in various ways, and according to the
characters, habits, and native firmness of the parties. As for the
ship-master's relict, she seized hold of the main-mast, and screamed so
loud and perseveringly, as to cause the sensation to extend itself into
the adjacent and thriving village of Astoria, where it was distinctly
heard by divers of those who dwelt near the water. Biddy Noon had her
share in this clamour, lying down on the deck in order to prevent
rolling over, and possibly to scream more at her leisure, while Rose
had sufficient self-command to be silent, though her cheeks lost their
Nor was there anything extraordinary in females betraying this
alarm, when one remembers the somewhat astounding signs of danger by
which these persons were surrounded. There is always something imposing
in the swift movement of a considerable body of water. When this
movement is aided by whirlpools and the other similar accessories of an
interrupted current, it frequently becomes startling, more especially
to those who happen to be on the element itself. This is peculiarly the
case with the Pot Rock, where, not only does the water roll and roar as
if agitated by a mightywind, but where it even breaks, the foam seeming
to glance up stream, in the rapid succession of wave to wave. Had the
Swash remained in her terrific berth more than a second or two, she
would have proved what is termed a "total loss;" but she did not.
Happily, the Pot Rock lies so low that it is not apt to fetch up
anything of a light draught of water, and the brigantine's fore-foot
had just settled on its summit, long enough to cause the vessel to
whirl round and make her obeisance to the place, when a succeeding
swell lifted her clear, and away she went down stream, rolling as if
scudding in a gale, and, for a moment, under no command whatever. There
lay another danger ahead, or it would be better to say astern, for the
brig was drifting stern foremost; and that was in an eddy under a
bluff, which bluff lies at an angle in the reach, where it is no
uncommon thing for craft to be cast ashore, after they have passed all
the more imposing and more visible dangers above. It was in escaping
this danger, and in recovering the command of his vessel, that Spike
now manifested the sort of stuff of which he was really made, in
emergencies of this sort. The yards were all sharp up when the accident
occurred, and springing to the lee braces, just as a man winks when his
eye is menaced, he seized the weather fore-brace with his own hands,
and began to round in the yard, shouting out to the man at the wheel to
"port his helm" at the same time. Some of the people flew to his
assistance, and the yards were not only squared, but braced a little up
on the other tack, in much less time than we have taken to relate the
evolution. Mulford attended to the main-sheet, and succeeded in getting
the boom out in the right direction. Although the wind was in truth
very light, the velocity of the drift filled the canvas, and taking the
arrow-like current on her lee bow, the Swash, like a frantic steed that
is alarmed with the wreck made by his own madness, came under command,
and sheered out into the stream again, where she could drift clear of
the apprehended danger astern.
"Sound the pumps!" called out Spike to Mulford, the instant he saw
he had regained his seat in the saddle. Harry sprang amidships to obey,
and the eye of every mariner in that vessel was on the young man, as,
in the midst of a death-like silence, he performed this all-important
duty. It was like the physician's feeling the pulse of his patient
before he pronounces on the degree of his danger.
"Well, sir?" cried out Spike, impatiently, as the rod reappeared.
"All right, sir," answered Harry, cheerfully—"the well is nearly
"Hold on a moment longer, and give the water time to find its way
amidships, if there be any."
The mate remained perched up on the pump, in order to comply, while
Spike and his people, who now breathed more freely again, improved the
leisure to brace up and haul aft, to the new course.
"Biddy," said Mrs. Budd considerately, during this pause in the
incidents, "you need n't scream any longer. The danger seems to be
past, and you may get up off the deck now. See, I have let go of the
mast. The pumps have been sounded, and are found tight."
Biddy, like an obedient and respectful servant, did as directed,
quite satisfied if the pumps were tight. It was some little time, to be
sure, before she was perfectly certain whether she were alive or
not—but, once certain of this circumstance, her alarm very sensibly
abated, and she became reasonable. As for Mulford, he dropped the
sounding rod again, and had the same cheering report to make.
"The brig is as tight as a bottle, sir."
"So much the better," answered Spike. "I never had such a whirl in
her before in my life, and I thought she was going to stop and pass the
night there. That's the very spot on which 'The Hussar' frigate was
"So I have heard, sir. But she drew so much water that she hit slap
against the rock, and started a butt. We merely touched on its top with
our fore-foot, and slid off."
This was the simple explanation of the Swash's escape, and,
everybody being now well assured that no harm had been done, things
fell into their old and regular train again. As for Spike, his
gallantry, notwithstanding, was upset for some hours, and glad enough
was he when he saw all three of his passengers quit the deck to go
below. Mrs. Budd's spirits had been so much agitated that she told Rose
she would go down into the cabin and rest a few minutes on its sofa. We
say sofa, for that article of furniture, now-a-days,is far more common
in vessels than it was thirty years ago in the dwellings of the
"There, Mulford," growled Spike, pointing ahead of the brig, to an
object on the water that was about half a mile ahead of them, "there's
that bloody boat—d'ye see? I should like of all things to give it the
slip. There's a chap in that boat I do n't like."
"I do n't see how that can be very well done, sir, unless we
anchor, repass the Gate at the turn of the tide, and go to sea by the
way of Sandy Hook."
"That will never do. I've no wish to be parading the brig before
the town. You see, Mulford, nothing can be more innocent and proper
than the Molly Swash, as you know from having sailed in her these
twelve months. You'll give her that character, I'll be sworn?"
"I know no harm of her, Capt. Spike, and hope I never shall."
"No, sir—you know no harm of her, nor does any one else. A nursing
infant is not more innocent than the Molly Swash, or could have a
clearer character if nothing but truth was said of her. But the world
is so much given to lying, that one of the old saints, of whom we read
in the good book, such as Calvin and John Rogers, would be vilified if
he lived in these times. Then, it must be owned, Mr. Mulford, whatever
may be the raal innocence of the brig, she has a most desperate wicked
"Why, yes, sir—it must be owned she is what we sailors call a
wicked-looking craft. But some of Uncle Sam's cruisers have that
"I know it—I know it, sir, and think nothing of looks myself. Men
are often deceived in me, by my looks, which have none of your
long-shore softness about 'em, perhaps; but my mother used to say I was
one of the most tender-hearted boys she had ever heard spoken of—like
one of the babes in the woods, as it might be. But mankind go so much
by appearances that I do n't like to trust the brig too much afore
their eyes. Now, should we be seen in the lower bay, waiting for a
wind, or for the ebb tide to make, to carry us over the bar, ten to one
but some philotropic or other would be off with a complaint to the
District Attorney that we looked like a slaver, and have us all fetched
up to betried for our lives as pirates. No, no—I like to keep the brig
in out-of-the-way places, where she can give no offence to your
'tropics, whether they be philos, or of any other sort."
"Well, sir, we are to the eastward of the Gate, and all's safe.
That boat cannot bring us up."
"You forget, Mr. Mulford, the revenue-craft that steamed up, on the
ebb. That vessel must be off Sands' Point by this time, and she may
hear something to our disparagement from the feller in the boat, and
take it into her smoky head to walk us back to town. I wish we were
well to the eastward of that steamer! But there's no use in
lamentations. If there is really any danger, it's some distance ahead
yet, thank Heaven!"
"You have no fears of the man who calls himself Jack Tier, Capt.
"None in the world. That feller, as I remember him, was a little
bustlin' chap that I kept in the cabin, as a sort of steward's mate.
There was neither good nor harm in him, to the best of my recollection.
But Josh can tell us all about him—just give Josh a call."
The best thing in the known history of Spike was the fact that his
steward had sailed with him for more than twenty years. Where he had
picked up Josh no one could say, but Josh and himself, and neither
chose to be very communicative on the subject. But Josh had certainly
been with him as long as he had sailed the Swash, and that was from a
time actually anterior to the birth of Mulford. The mate soon had the
negro in the council.
"I say, Josh," asked Spike, "do you happen to remember such a hand
aboard here as one Jack Tier?"
"Lor' bless you, yes sir—'members he as well as I do the pea soup
that was burnt, and which you t'rowed all over him, to scald him for
"I've had to do that so often, to one careless fellow or other,
that the circumstance does n't recall the man. I remember him—but not
as clear as I could wish. How long did he sail with us?"
"Sebberal v'y'ge, sir, and got left ashore down on the main, one
night, when'e boat were obliged to shove off in a hurry. Yes, 'members
little Jack, right well I does."
"Did you see the man that spoke us from the wharf, and hailed for
this very Jack Tier?"
"I see'd a man, sir, dat was won'erful Jack Tier built like, sir,
but I did n't hear the conwersation, habbin' the ladies to 'tend to.
But Jack was oncommon short in his floor timbers, sir, and had no
length of keel at all. His beam was won'erful for his length,
altogedder—what you call jolly-boat, or bum-boat build, and was only
good afore'e wind, Cap'n Spike."
"Was he good for anything aboard ship, Josh? Worth heaving-to for,
should he try to get aboard of us again?"
"Why, sir, can't say much for him in dat fashion. Jack was handy in
the cabin, and capital feller to carry soup from the gally, aft. You
see, sir, he was so low-rigged that the brig's lurchin' and pitchin'
could n't get him off his pins, and he stood up like a church in the
heaviest wea'der. Yes, sir, Jack was right good for dat."
Spike mused a moment—then he rolled the tobacco over in his mouth,
and added, in the way a man speaks when his mind is made up—
"Ay ay! I see into the fellow. He'll make a handy lady's maid, and
we want such a chap just now. It's better to have an old friend aboard,
than to be pickin' up strangers, 'long shore. So, should this Jack Tier
come off to us, from any of the islands or points ahead, Mr. Mulford,
you'll round to and take him aboard. As for the steamer, if she will
only pass out into the Sound where there's room, it shall go hard with
us but I get to the eastward of her, without speaking. On the other
hand, should she anchor this side of the fort, I'll not attempt to pass
her. There is deep water inside of most of the islands, I know, and
we'll try and dodge her in that way, if no better offer. I've no more
reason than another craft to fear a government vessel, but the sight of
one of them makes me oncomfortable; that's all."
Mulford shrugged his shoulders and remained silent, perceiving that
his commander was not disposed to pursue the subject any further. In
the mean time, the brig had passed beyond the influence of the bluff,
and was beginning to feel a stronger breeze, that was coming down the
wide opening of Flushing Bay. As the tide still continued strong in her
favour, and her motion through the water was getting to be four or five
knots, there was every prospect of her soon reaching Whitestone, the
point where the tides meet, and where it would become necessary to
anchor; unless, indeed, the wind, which was now getting to the
southward and eastward, should come round more to the south. All this
Spike and his mate discussed together, while the people were clearing
the decks, and making the preparations that are customary on board a
vessel before she gets into rough water.
By this time it was ascertained that the brig had received no
damage by her salute of the Pot Rock, and every trace of uneasiness on
that account was removed. But Spike kept harping on the boat, and "the
pilot-looking chap who was in her." As they passed Riker's Island, all
hands expected a boat would put off with a pilot, or to demand
pilotage; but none came, and the Swash now seemed released from all her
present dangers, unless some might still be connected with the revenue
steamer. To retard her advance, however, the wind came out a smart
working breeze from the southward and eastward, compelling her to make
"long legs and short ones" on her way towards Whitestone.
"This is beating the wind, Rosy dear," said Mrs. Budd,
complacently, she and her niece having returned to the deck a few
minutes after this change had taken place. "Your respected uncle did a
great deal of this in his time, and was very successful in it. I have
heard him say, that in one of his voyages between Liverpool and New
York, he beat the wind by a whole fortnight, everybody talking of it in
the insurance offices, as if it was a miracle."
"Ay, ay, Madam Budd," put in Spike, "I'll answer for that. They're
desperate talkers in and about them there insurance offices in Wall
street. Great gossips be they, and they think they know everything. Now
just because this brig is a little old or so, and was built for a
privateer in the last war, they'd refuse to rate her as even B, No. 2,
and my blessing on 'em."
"Yes, B, No. 2, that's just what your dear uncle used to call me,
Rosy—his charming B, No. 2, or Betsy, No. 2; particularly when he was
in a loving mood. Captain Spike, did you ever beat the wind in a long
"I can't say I ever did, Mrs. Budd," answered Spike,looking grimly
around, to ascertain if any one dared to smile at his passenger's
mistake; "especially for so long a pull as from New York to Liverpool."
"Then your uncle used to boast of the Rose In Bloom's wearing and
attacking. She would attack anything that came in her way, no matter
who, and as for wearing, I think he once told me she would wear just
what she had a mind to, like any human being."
Rose was a little mystified, but she looked vexed at the same time,
as if she distrusted all was not right.
"I remember all my sea education," continued the unsuspecting
widow, "as if it had been learnt yesterday. Beating the wind and
attacking ship, my poor Mr. Budd used to say, were nice manœuvres, and
required most of his tactics, especially in heavy weather. Did you
know, Rosy dear, that sailors weigh the weather, and know when it is
heavy and when it is light?"
"I did not, aunt; nor do I understand now how it can very well be
"Oh! child, before you have been at sea a week, you will learn so
many things that are new, and get so many ideas of which you never had
any notion before, that you'll not be the same person. My captain had
an instrument he called a thermometer, and with that he used to weigh
the weather, and then he would write down in the log-book 'today, heavy
weather, or to-morrow, light weather,' just as it happened, and that
helped him mightily along in his voyages."
"Mrs. Budd has merely mistaken the name of the instrument—the
'barometer' is what she wished to say," put in Mulford, opportunely.
Rose looked grateful, as well as relieved. Though profoundly
ignorant on these subjects herself, she had always suspected her aunt's
knowledge. It was, consequently, grateful to her to ascertain that, in
this instance, the old lady's mistake had been so trifling.
"Well, it may have been the barometer, for I know he had them
both," resumed the aunt. "Barometer, or thermometer, it do n't make any
great difference; or quadrant, or sextant. They are all instruments,
and sometimes he used one, and sometimes another. Sailors take on
boardthe sun, too, and have an instrument for that, as well as one to
weigh the weather with. Sometimes they take on board the stars, and the
moon, and 'fill their ships with the heavenly bodies,' as I've heard my
dear husband say, again and again! But the most curious thing at sea,
as all sailors tell me, is crossing the line, and I do hope we shall
cross the line, Rosy, that you and I may see it."
"What is the line, aunty, and how do vessels cross it."
"The line, my dear, is a place in the ocean where the earth is
divided into two parts, one part being called the North Pole, and the
other part the South Pole. Neptune lives near this line, and he allows
no vessel to go out of one pole into the other, without paying it a
visit. Never! never! —he would as soon think of living on dry land as
think of letting even a canoe pass, without visiting it."
"Do you suppose there is such a being, really, as Neptune, aunty?"
"To be sure I do; he is king of the sea. Why should n't there be?
The sea must have a king, as well as the land."
"The sea may be a republic, aunty, like this country; then, no king
is necessary. I have always supposed Neptune to be an imaginary being."
"Oh that's impossible—the sea is no republic; there are but two
republics, America and Texas. I've heard that the sea is a highway, it
is true—the 'highway of nations,' I believe it is called, and that
must mean something particular. But my poor Mr. Budd always told me
that Neptune was king of the seas, and he was always so accurate, you
might depend on everything he said. Why, he called his last
Newfoundland dog Neptune; and do you think, Rosy, that your dear uncle
would call his dog after an imaginary being?— and he a man to beat the
wind, and attack ship, and take the sun, moon and stars aboard! No, no,
child; fanciful folk may see imaginary beings, but solid folk see solid
Even Spike was dumfounded at this, and there is no knowing what he
might have said, had not an old sea-dog, who had just come out of the
fore-topmast cross-trees, come aft, and, hitching up his trowsers with
one hand while he touched his hat with the other, said with immoveable
"The revenue-steamer has brought up just under the fort, Capt.
"How do you know that, Bill?" demanded the captain, with a rapidity
that showed how completely Mrs. Budd and all her absurdities were
"I was up on the fore-topgallant yard, sir, a bit ago, just to look
to the strap of the jewel-block, which wants some sarvice on it, and I
see'd her over the land, blowin' off steam and takin' in her kites.
Afore I got out of the cross-trees, she was head to wind under
bare-poles, and if she had n't anchored, she was about to do so. I'm
sartin 't was she, sir, and that she was about to bring up."
Spike gave a long, low whistle, after his fashion, and he walked
away from the females, with the air of a man who wanted room to think
in. Half a minute later, he called out—
"Stand by to shorten sail, boys. Man fore-clew-garnets, flying jib
down haul, topgallant sheets, and gaff-topsail gear. In with 'em all,
my lads—in with everything, with a will."
An order to deal with the canvas in any way, on board ship,
immediately commands the whole attention of all whose duty it is to
attend to such matters, and there was an end of all discourse while the
Swash was shortening sail. Everybody understood, too, that it was to
gain time, and prevent the brig from reaching Throg's Neck sooner than
"Keep the brig off," called out Spike, "and let her ware —we're
too busy to tack just now."
The man at the wheel knew very well what was wanted, and he put his
helm up, instead of putting it down, as he might have done without this
injunction. As this change brought the brig before the wind, and Spike
was in no hurry to luff up on the other tack, the Swash soon ran over a
mile of the distance she had already made, putting her back that much
on her way to the Neck. It is out of our power to say what the people
of the different craft in sight thought of all this, but an opportunity
soon offered of putting them on a wrong scent. A large coasting
schooner, carrying everything that would draw on a wind, came sweeping
under the stern of the Swash, and hailed.
"Has anything happened, on board that brig?" demanded her master.
"Man overboard," answered Spike—"you hav'nt seen his hat, have
"No—no," came back, just as the schooner, in her onward course,
swept beyond the reach of the voice. Her people collected together, and
one or two ran up the rigging a short distance, stretching their necks,
on the look-out for the "poor fellow," but they were soon called down
to "'bout ship." In less than five minutes, another vessel, a rakish
coasting sloop, came within hail.
"Did n't that brig strike the Pot Rock, in passing the Gate?"
demanded her captain.
"Ay, ay!—and a devil of a rap she got, too."
This satisfied him; there being nothing remarkable in a vessel's
acting strangely that had hit the Pot Rock in passing Hell Gate.
"I think we may get in our mainsail on the strength of this, Mr.
Mulford," said Spike. "There can be nothing oncommon in a craft's
shortening sail, that has a man overboard, and which has hit the Pot
Rock. I wonder I never thought of all this before."
'Here is a skiff trying to get alongside of us, Capt. Spike,"
called out the boatswain.
"Skiff be d—d! I want no skiff here."
"The man that called himself Jack Tier is in her, sir."
"The d—l he is!" cried Spike, springing over to the opposite side
of the deck to take a look for himself. To his infinite satisfaction he
perceived that Tier was alone in the skiff, with the exception of a
negro, who pulled its sculls, and that this was a very different boat
from that which had glanced through Hell Gate, like an arrow darting
from its bow.
"Luff, and shake your topsail," called out Spike. "Get a rope there
to throw to this skiff."
The orders were obeyed, and Jack Tier, with his clothes-bag, was
soon on the deck of the Swash. As for the skiff and the negro, they
were cast adrift the instant the latter had received his quarter. The
meeting between Spike and his quondam steward's mate was a little
remarkable. Each stood looking intently at the other, as if to note the
changeswhich time had made. We cannot say that Spike's hard, red,
selfish countenance betrayed any great feeling, though such was not the
case with Jack Tier's. The last, a lymphatic, puffy sort of a person at
the best, seemed really a little touched, and he either actually
brushed a tear from his eye, or he affected so to do.
"So, you are my old shipmate, Jack Tier, are ye?" exclaimed Spike,
in a half-patronizing, half-hesitating way —and you want to try the
old craft ag'in. Give us a leaf of your log, and let me know where you
have been this many a day, and what you have been about? Keep the brig
off, Mr. Mulford. We are in no particular hurry to reach Throg's,
you'll remember, sir."
Tier gave an account of his proceedings, which could have no
interest with the reader. His narrative was anything but very clear,
and it was delivered in a cracked, octave sort of a voice, such as
little dapper people not unfrequently enjoy—tones between those of a
man and a boy. The substance of the whole story was this. Tier had been
left ashore, as sometimes happens to sailors, and, by necessary
connection, was left to shift for himself. After making some vain
endeavours to rejoin his brig, he had shipped in one vessel after
another, until he accidentally found himself in the port of New York,
at the same time as the Swash. He know'd he never should be truly happy
ag'in until he could once more get aboard the old hussy, and had
hurried up to the wharf, where he understood the brig was lying. As he
came in sight, he saw she was about to cast off, and, dropping his
clothes-bag, he had made the best of his way to the wharf, where the
conversation passed that has been related.
"The gentleman on the wharf was about to take boat, to go through
the Gate," concluded Tier, "and so I begs a passage of him. He was
good-natured enough to wait until I could find my bag, and as soon
a'terwards as the men could get their grog we shoved off. The Molly was
just getting in behind Blackwell's as we left the wharf, and, having
four good oars, and the shortest road, we come out into the Gate just
ahead on you. My eye! what a place that is to go through in a boat, and
on a strong flood! The gentleman, who watched the brig as a cat watches
a mouse,says you struck on the Pot, as he called it, but I says 'no,'
for the Molly Swash was never know'd to hit rock or shoal in my time
"And where did you quit that gentleman, and what has become of
him?" asked Spike.
"He put me ashore on that point above us, where I see'd a nigger
with his skiff, who I thought would be willin' to 'arn his quarter by
giving me a cast alongside. So here I am, and a long pull I've had to
As this was said, Jack removed his hat and wiped his brow with a
handkerchief, which, if it had never seen better days, had doubtless
been cleaner. After this, he looked about him, with an air not entirely
free from exultation.
This conversation had taken place in the gangway, a somewhat public
place, and Spike beckoned to his recruit to walk aft, where he might be
questioned without being overheard.
"What became of the gentleman in the boat, as you call him?"
"He pulled ahead, seeming to be in a hurry."
"Do you know who he was?"
"Not a bit of it. I never saw the man before, and he did n't tell
me his business, sir."
"Had he anything like a silver oar about him."
"I saw nothing of the sort, Capt. Spike, and knows nothing
"What sort of a boat was he in, and where did he get it?"
"Well, as to the boat, sir, I can say a word, seein' it was so much
to my mind, and pulled so wonderful smart. It was a light ship's yawl,
with four oars, and came round the Hook just a'ter you had got the
brig's head round to the eastward. You must have seen it, I should
think, though it kept close in with the wharves, as if it wished to be
"Then the gentleman, as you call him, expected that very boat to
come and take him off?"
"I suppose so, sir, because it did come and take him off. That's
all I knows about it."
"Had you no jaw with the gentleman? You was n't mnm the whole time
you was in the boat with him?"
"Not a bit of it, sir. Silence and I does n't agree together long,
and so we talked most of the time."
"And what did the stranger say of the brig?"
"Lord, sir, he catechised me like as if I had been a child at
Sunday-school. He asked me how long I had sailed in her; what ports
we'd visited, and what trade we'd been in. You can't think the sight of
questions he put, and how cur'ous he was for the answers."
"And what did you tell him in your answers? You said nothin' about
our call down on the Spanish Main, the time you were left ashore, I
"Not I, sir. I played him off surprisin'ly. He got nothin' to count
upon out of me. Though I do owe the Molly Swash a grudge, I'm not goin'
to betray her."
"You owe the Molly Swash a grudge! Have I taken an enemy on board
Jack started, and seemed sorry he had said so much; while Spike
eyed him keenly. But the answer set all right. It was not given,
however, without a moment for recollection.
"Oh, you knows what I mean, sir. I owe the old hussy a grudge for
having desarted me like; but it's only a love quarrel atween us. The
old Molly will never come to harm by my means."
"I hope not, Jack. The man that wrongs the craft he sails in can
never be a true-hearted sailor. Stick by your ship in all weathers is
my rule, and a good rule it is to go by. But what did you tell the
"Oh! I told him I'd been six v'y'ges in the brig. The first was to
"The d—l you did? Was he soft enough to believe that?"
"That's more than I knows, sir. I can only tell you what I said; I
do n't pretend to know how much he believed."
"Heave ahead—what next?"
"Then I told him we went to Kamschatka for gold dust and ivory."
"Whe-e-ew! What did the man say to that?"
"Why, he smiled a bit, and a'ter that he seemed more cur'ous than
ever to hear all about it. I told him my third v'y'ge was to Canton,
with a cargo of broom-corn, where we took in salmon and dun-fish for
home. A'ter that we went to Norway with ice, and brought back silks and
money. Our next run was to the Havana, with salt and 'nips—"
"'Nips! what the devil be they?"
"Turnips, you knows, sir. We always calls 'em 'nips in cargo. At
the Havana I told him we took in leather and jerked beef, and came
home. Oh! he got nothin' from me, Capt. Spike, that'll ever do the brig
a morsel of harm!"
"I am glad of that, Jack. You must know enough of the seas to
understand that a close mouth is sometimes better for a vessel than a
clean bill of health. Was there nothing said about the
"Now you name her, sir, I believe there was—ay, ay, sir, the
gentleman did say, if the steamer fetched up to the westward of the
fort, that he should overhaul her without difficulty, on this flood.
"That'll do, Jack; that'll do, my honest fellow. Go below, and tell
Josh to take you into the cabin again, as steward's mate. You're rather
too Dutch built, in your old age, to do much aloft."
One can hardly say whether Jack received this remark as
complimentary, or not. He looked a little glum, for a man may be as
round as a barrel, and wish to be thought genteel and slender; but he
went below, in quest of Josh, without making any reply.
The succeeding movements of Spike appeared to be much influenced by
what he had just heard. He kept the brig under short canvas for near
two hours, sheering about in the same place, taking care to tell
everything which spoke him that he had lost a man overboard. In this
way, not only the tide, but the day itself, was nearly spent. About the
time the former began to lose its strength, however, the fore-course
and the main-sail were got on the brigantine, with the intention of
working her up toward Whitestone, where the tides meet, and near which
the revenue-steamer was known to be anchored. We say near, though it
was, in fact, a mile or two more to the eastward, and close to the
extremity of the Point.
Notwithstanding these demonstrations of a wish to work to windward,
Spike was really in no hurry. He had made up his mind to pass the
steamer in the dark, if possible, and the night promised to favour him;
but, in order to do this,it might be necessary not to come in sight of
her at all; or, at least, not until the obscurity should in some
measure conceal his rig and character. In consequence of this plan, the
Swash made no great progress, even after she had got sail on her, on
her old course. The wind lessened, too, after the sun went down, though
it still hung to the eastward, or nearly ahead. As the tide gradually
lost its force, moreover, the set to windward became less and less,
until it finally disappeared altogether.
There is necessarily a short reach in this passage, where it is
always slack water, so far as current is concerned. This is precisely
where the tides meet, or, as has been intimated, at Whitestone, which
is somewhat more than a mile to the westward of Throgmorton's Neck,
near the point of which stands Fort Schuyler, one of the works recently
erected for the defence of New York. Off the pitch of the point, nearly
mid-channel, had the steamer anchored, a fact of which Spike had made
certain, by going aloft himself, and reconnoitering her over the land,
before it had got to be too dark to do so. He entertained no manner of
doubt that this vessel was in waiting for him, and he well knew there
was good reason for it; but he would not return and attempt the passage
to sea by way of Sandy Hook. His manner of regarding the whole matter
was cool and judicious. The distance to the Hook was too great to be
made in such short nights ere the return of day, and he had no manner
of doubt he was watched for in that direction, as well as in this. Then
he was particularly unwilling to show his craft at all in front of the
town, even in the night. Moreover, he had ways of his own for effecting
his purposes, and this was the very spot and time to put them in
While these things were floating in his mind, Mrs. Budd and her
handsome niece were making preparations for passing the night, aided by
Biddy Noon. The old lady was factotum, or factota, as it might be most
classical to call her, though we are entirely without authorities on
the subject, and was just as self-complacent and ambitious of
seawomanship below decks, as she had been above board. The effect,
however, gave Spike great satisfaction, since it kept her out of sight,
and left him more at liberty to carry out his own plans. About nine,
however, the good woman came ondeck, intending to take a look at the
weather, like a skilful marineress as she was, before she turned in.
Not a little was she astonished at what she then and there beheld, as
she whispered to Rose and Biddy, both of whom stuck close to her side,
feeling the want of good pilotage, no doubt, in strange waters.
The Molly Swash was still under her canvas, though very little
sufficed for her present purposes. She was directly off Whitestone, and
was making easy stretches across the passage, or river, as it is
called, having nothing set but her huge fore-and-aft mainsail and the
jib. Under this sail she worked like a top, and Spike sometimes fancied
she travelled too fast for his purposes, the night air having thickened
the canvas as usual, until it "held the wind as a bottle holds water."
There was nothing in this, however, to attract the particular attention
of the ship-master's widow, a sail, more or less, being connected with
observation much too critical for her schooling, nice as the last had
been. She was surprised to find the men stripping the brig forward, and
converting her into a schooner. Nor was this done in a loose and
slovenly manner, under favour of the obscurity. On the contrary, it was
so well executed that it might have deceived even a seaman under a
noon-day sun, provided the vessel were a mile or two distant. The
manner in which the metamorphosis was made was as follows: the
studding-sail booms had been taken off the topsail-yard, in order to
shorten it to the eye, and the yard itself was swayed up about
half-mast, to give it the appearance of a schooner's fore-yard. The
brig's real lower yard was lowered on the bulwarks, while her royal
yard was sent down altogether, and the topgallant-mast was lowered
until the heel rested on the topsail yard, all of which, in the night,
gave the gear forward very much the appearance of that of a
fore-topsail schooner, instead of that of a half-rigged brig, as the
craft really was. As the vessel carried a try-sail on her foremast, it
answered very well, in the dark, to represent a schooner's foresail.
Several other little dispositions of this nature were made, about which
it might weary the uninitiated to read, but which will readily suggest
themselves to the mind of a sailor.
These alterations were far advanced when the femalesre-appeared on
deck. They at once attracted their attention, and the captain's widow
felt the imperative necessity, as connected with her professional
character, of proving the same. She soon found Spike, who was bustling
around the deck, now looking around to see that his brig was kept in
the channel, now and then issuing an order to complete her disguise.
"Captain Spike, what can be the meaning of all these changes? The
tamper of your vessel is so much altered that I declare I should not
have known her!"
"Is it, by George! Then she is just in the state I want her to be
"But why have you done it—and what does it all mean?"
"Oh, Molly's going to bed for the night, and she's only undressing
"Yes, Rosy dear, Captain Spike is right. I remember that my poor
Mr. Budd used to talk about The Rose In Bloom having her clothes on,
and her clothes off, just as if she was a born woman! But do n't you
mean to navigate at all in the night, Captain Spike? Or will the brig
navigate without sails?"
"That's it—she's just as good in the dark, under one sort of
canvas, as under another. So, Mr. Mulford, we'll take a reef in that
mainsail; it will bring it nearer to the size of our new foresail, and
seem more ship-shape and Brister fashion—then I think she'll do, as
the night is getting to be rather darkish."
"Captain Spike," said the boatswain, who had been set to look-out
for that particular change—"the brig begins to feel the new tide, and
sets to windward."
"Let her go, then—now is as good a time as another. We've got to
run the gantlet, and the sooner it is done the better."
As the moment seemed propitious, not only Mulford, but all the
people, heard this order with satisfaction. The night was star-light,
though not very clear at that. Objects on the water, however, were more
visible than those on the land, while those on the last could be seen
well enough, even from the brig, though in confused and somewhat
shapeless piles. When the Swash was brought close by the wind, she had
just got into the last reach of the "river," or that which runs
parallel with the Neck for near a mile, doubling where the Sound
expands itself, gradually, to a breadth of many leagues. Still the
navigation at the entrance of this end of the Sound was intricate and
somewhat dangerous, rendering it indispensable for a vessel of any size
to make a crooked course. The wind stood at south-east, and was very
scant to lay through the reach with, while the tide was so slack as
barely to possess a visible current at that place. The steamer lay
directly off the Point, mid-channel, as mentioned, showing lights, to
mark her position to anything which might be passing in or out. The
great thing was to get by her without exciting her suspicion. As all on
board, the females excepted, knew what their captain was at, the
attempt was made amid an anxious and profound silence; or, if any one
spoke at all, it was only to give an order in a low tone, or its answer
in a simple monosyllable.
Although her aunt assured her that everything which had been done
already, and which was now doing, was quite in rule, the quick-eyed and
quick-witted Rose noted these unusual proceedings, and had an opinion
of her own on the subject. Spike had gone forward, and posted himself
on the weather-side of the forecastle, where he could get the clearest
look ahead, and there he remained most of the time, leaving Mulford on
the quarter-deck, to work the vessel, Perceiving this, she managed to
get near the mate, without attracting her aunt's attention, and at the
same time out of ear-shot.
"Why is everybody so still and seemingly so anxious, Harry
Mulford?" she asked, speaking in a low tone herself, as if desirous of
conforming to a common necessity. "Is there any new danger here? I
thought the Gate had been passed altogether, some hours ago?"
"So it has. D'ye see that large dark mass on the water, off the
Point, which seems almost as huge as the fort, with lights above it?
That is a revenue-steamer which came out of York a few hours before us.
We wish to get past her without being troubled by any of her
"And what do any in this brig care about her questions? They can be
"Ay, ay, Rose—they may be answered, as you say, but the answers
sometimes are unsatisfactory. Captain Spike,for some reason or other,
is uneasy, and would rather not have anything to say to her. He has the
greatest aversion to speaking the smallest craft when on a coast."
"And that's the reason he has undressed his Molly, as he calls her,
that he might not be known."
Mulford turned his head quickly toward his companion, as if
surprised by her quickness of apprehension, but he had too just a sense
of his duty to make any reply. Instead of pursuing the discourse, he
adroitly contrived to change it, by pointing out to Rose the manner in
which they were getting on, which seemed to be very successfully.
Although the Swash was under much reduced canvas, she glided along
with great ease and with considerable rapidity of motion. The heavy
night air kept her canvas distended, and the weatherly set of the tide,
trifling as it yet was, pressed her up against the breeze, so as to
turn all to account. It was apparent enough, by the manner in which
objects on the land were passed, that the crisis was fast approaching.
Rose rejoined her aunt, in order to await the result, in nearly
breathless expectation. At that moment, she would have given the world
to be safe on shore. This wish was not the consequence of any
constitutional timidity, for Rose was much the reverse from timid, but
it was the fruit of a newly-awakened and painful, though still vague,
suspicion. Happy, thrice happy was it for one of her naturally
confiding and guileless nature, that distrust was thus opportunely
awakened, for she was without a guardian competent to advise and guide
her youth, as circumstances required.
The brig was not long in reaching the passage that opened to the
Sound. It is probable she did this so much the sooner because Spike
kept her a little off the wind, with a view of not passing too near the
steamer. At this point, the direction of the passage changes at nearly
a right angle, the revenue-steamer lying on a line with the Neck, and
leaving a sort of bay, in the angle, for the Swash to enter. The land
was somewhat low in all directions but one, and that was by drawing a
straight line from the Point, through the steamer, to the Long Island
shore. On the latter, and in that quarter, rose a bluff of considerable
elevation, with deep water quite near it; and, under the shadows of
thatbluff, Spike intended to perform his nicest evolutions. He saw that
the revenue vessel had let her fires go down, and that she was entirely
without steam. Under canvas, he had no doubt of beating her hand over
hand, could he once fairly get to windward; and then she was at anchor,
and would lose some time in getting under way, should she even commence
a pursuit. It was all important, therefore, to gain as much to windward
as possible, before the people of the government vessel took the alarm.
There can be no doubt that the alterations made on board the Swash
served her a very good turn on this occasion. Although the night could
not be called positively dark, there was sufficient obscurity to render
her hull confused and indistinct at any distance, and this so much the
more when seen from the steamer outside, or between her and the land.
All this Spike very well understood, and largely calculated on. In
effect he was not deceived; the look-outs on board the revenue craft
could trace little of the vessel that was approaching beyond the spars
and sails which rose above the shores, and these seemed to be the spars
and sails of a common foretopsail schooner. As this was not the sort of
craft for which they were on the watch, no suspicion was awakened, nor
did any reports go from the quarter-deck to the cabin. The steamer had
her quarter watches, and officers of the deck, like a vessel of war,
the discipline of which was fairly enough imitated, but even a
man-of-war may be overreached on an occasion.
Spike was only great in a crisis, and then merely as a seaman. He
understood his calling to its minutiæ, and he understood the Molly
Swash better than he understood any other craft that floated. For more
than twenty years had he sailed her, and the careful parent does not
better understand the humours of the child, than he understood exactly
what might be expected from his brig. His satisfaction sensibly
increased, therefore, as she stole along the land, toward the angle
mentioned, without a sound audible but the gentle gurgling of the
water, stirred by the stem, and which sounded like the ripple of the
gentlest wave, as it washes the shingle of some placid beach.
As the brig drew nearer to the bluff, the latter brought the wind
more ahead, as respected the desired course. Thiswas unfavourable, but
it did not disconcert her watchful commander.
"Let her come round, Mr. Mulford," said this pilot-captain, in a
low voice—"we are as near in as we ought to go."
The helm was put down, the head sheets started, and away into the
wind shot the Molly Swash, fore-reaching famously in stays, and, of
course, gaining so much on her true course. In a minute she was round,
and filled on the other tack. Spike was now so near the land, that he
could perceive the tide was beginning to aid him, and that his
weatherly set was getting to be considerable. Delighted at this, he
walked aft, and told Mulford to go about again as soon as the vessel
had sufficient way to make sure of her in stays. The mate inquired if
he did not think the revenue people might suspect something, unless
they stood further out toward mid-channel, but Spike reminded him that
they would be apt to think the schooner was working up under the
southern shore, because the ebb first made there. This reason satisfied
Mulford, and, as soon as they were half-way between the bluff and the
steamer, the Swash was again tacked, with her head to the former. This
manœuvre was executed when the brig was about two hundred yards from
the steamer, a distance that was sufficient to preserve, under all the
circumstances, the disguise she had assumed.
"They do not suspect us, Harry!" whispered Spike to his mate. "We
shall get to windward of 'em, as sartain as the breeze stands. That
boatin' gentleman might as well have staid at home, as for any good his
hurry done him or his employers!"
"Whom do you suppose him to be, Captain Spike?"
"Who,—a feller that lives by his own wicked deeds. No matter who
he is. An informer, perhaps. At any rate, he is not the man to outwit
the Molly Swash, and her old, stupid, foolish master and owner, Stephen
Spike. Luff, Mr. Mulford, luff. Now's the time to make the most of your
leg—Luff her up and shake her. She is setting to windward fast, the
ebb is sucking along that bluff like a boy at a molasses hogshead. All
she can drift on this tack is clear gain; there is no hurry, so long as
they are asleep aboard the steamer. That's it—make a half-board at
once, buttake care and not come round. As soon as we are fairly clear
of the bluff, and open the bay that makes up behind it, we shall get
the wind more to the southward, and have a fine long leg for the next
Of course Mulford obeyed, throwing the brig up into the wind, and
allowing her to set to windward, but filling again on the same tack, as
ordered. This, of course, delayed her progress toward the land, and
protracted the agony, but it carried the vessel in the direction she
most wished to go, while it kept her not only end on to the steamer,
but in a line with the bluff, and consequently in the position most
favourable to conceal her true character. Presently, the bay mentioned,
which was several miles deep, opened darkly toward the south, and the
wind came directly out of it, or more to the southward. At this moment
the Swash was near a quarter of a mile from the steamer, and all that
distance dead to windward of her, as the breeze came out of the bay.
Spike tacked his vessel himself now, and got her head up so high that
she brought the steamer on her lee quarter, and looked away toward the
island which lies northwardly from the Point, and quite near to which
all vessels of any draught of water are compelled to pass, even with
the fairest winds.
"Shake the reef out of the mainsail, Mr. Mulford," said Spike, when
the Swash was fairly in motion again on this advantageous tack. "We
shall pass well to windward of the steamer, and may as well begin to
open our cloth again."
"Is it not a little too soon, sir?" Mulford ventured to
remonstrate; "the reef is a large one, and will make a great difference
in the size of the sail."
"They'll not see it at this distance. No, no, sir, shake out the
reef, and sway away on the topgallant-mast rope; I'm for bringing the
Molly Swash into her old shape again, and make her look handsome once
"Do you dress the brig, as well as undress her, o'mights; Captain
Spike?" inquired the ship-master's reliet, a little puzzled with this
fickleness of purpose. "I do not believe my poor Mr. Budd ever did
"Fashions change, madam, with the times—ay, ay, sir —shake out
the reef, and sway away on that mast-rope,boys, as soon as you have
manned it. We'll convart our schooner into a brig again."
As these orders were obeyed, of course, a general bustle now took
place. Mulford soon had the reef out, and the sail distended to the
utmost, while the topgallant-mast was soon up and fidded. The next
thing was to sway upon the fore-yard, and get that into its place. The
people were busied at this duty, when a hoarse hail came across the
water on the heavy night air.
"Brig ahoy!" was the call.
"Sway upon that fore-yard," said Spike, unmoved by this
summons—"start it, start it at once."
"The steamer hails us, sir," said the mate.
"Not she. She is hailing a brig; we are a schooner yet."
A moment of active exertion succeeded, during which the fore-yard
went into its place. Then came a second hail.
"Schooner, ahoy!" was the summons this time.
"The steamer hails us again, Captain Spike."
"The devil a bit. We're a brig now, and she hails a schooner. Come
boys, bestir yourselves, and get the canvas on Molly for'ard. Loose the
fore-course before you quit the yard there, then up aloft and loosen
everything you can find."
All was done as ordered, and done rapidly, as is ever the case on
board a well-ordered vessel when there is occasion for exertion. That
occasion now appeared to exist in earnest, for while the men were
sheeting home the topsail, a flash of light illuminated the scene, when
the roar of a gun came booming across the water, succeeded by the very
distinct whistling of its shot. We regret that the relict of the late
Captain Budd did not behave exactly as became a ship-master's widow,
under fire. Instead of remaining silent and passive, even while
frightened, as was the case with Rose, she screamed quite as loud as
she had previously done that very day in Hell-Gate. It appeared to
Spike, indeed, that practice was making her perfect; and, as for Biddy,
the spirit of emulation became so powerful in her bosom, that, if
anything, she actually outshrieked her mistress. Hearing this, the
widow made a second effort, and fairly recovered the ground some might
have fancied she had lost.
"Oh! Captain Spike," exclaimed the agitated widow, "do not—do not,
if you love me, do not let them fire again!"
"How am I to help it!" asked the captain, a good deal to the point,
though he overlooked the essential fact, that, by heaving-to, and
waiting for the steamer's boat to board him, he might have prevented a
second shot, as completely as if he had the ordering of the whole
affair. No second shot was fired, however. As it afterward appeared,
the screams of Mrs. Budd and Biddy were heard on board the steamer, the
captain of which, naturally enough, supposing that the slaughter must
be terrible where such cries had arisen, was satisfied with the
mischief he had already done, and directed his people to secure their
gun and go to the capstan-bars, in order to help lift the anchor. In a
word, the revenue vessel was getting under way, man-of-war fashion,
which means somewhat expeditiously.
Spike understood the sounds that reached him, among which was the
call of the boatswain, and he bestirred himself accordingly.
Experienced as he was in chases and all sorts of nautical artifices, he
very well knew that his situation was sufficiently critical. It would
have been so, with a steamer at his heels, in the open ocean; but,
situated as he was, he was compelled to steer but one course, and to
accept the wind on that course as it might offer. If he varied at all
in his direction it was only in a trifling way, though he did make some
of these variations. Every moment was now precious, however, and he
endeavoured to improve the time to the utmost. He knew that he could
greatly outsail the revenue vessel, under canvas, and some time would
be necessary to enable her to get up her steam; half an hour at the
very least. On that half hour, then, depended the fate of the Molly
"Send the booms on the yards, and set stun'sails at once, Mr.
Mulford," said Spike, the instant the more regular canvas was spread
forward. "This wind will be free enough for all but the lower
stun'sail, and we must drive the brig on."
"Are we not looking up too high, Captain Spike? The Stepping-Stones
are ahead of us, sir."
"I know that very well, Mulford. But it's nearly highwater, and the
brig's in light trim, and we may rub and go. By making a short cut
here, we shall gain a full mile on the steamer; that mile may save us."
"Do you really think it possible to get away from that craft, which
can always make a fair wind of it, in these narrow waters, Captain
"One don't know, sir. Nothin' is done without tryin', and by tryin'
more is often done than was hoped for. I have a scheme in my head, and
Providence may favour me in bringing it about."
Providence! The religionist quarrels with the philosopher if the
latter happen to remove this interposition of a higher power, even so
triflingly as by the intervention of secondary agencies, while the
biggest rascal dignifies even his success by such phrases as
Providential aid! But it is not surprising men should misunderstand
terms, when they make such sad confusion in the acts which these terms
are merely meant to represent. Spike had his Providence as well as a
priest, and we dare say he often counted on its succour, with quite as
rational grounds of dependence as many of the pharisees who are
constantly exclaiming, "The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord
Sail was made on board the Swash with great rapidity, and the brig
made a bold push at the Stepping-Stones. Spike was a capital pilot. He
insisted if he could once gain sight of the spar that was moored on
those rocks for a buoy, he should run with great confidence. The two
lights were of great assistance, of course; but the revenue vessel
could see these lights as well as the brig, and she, doubtless, had an
excellent pilot on board. By the time the studding-sails were set on
board the Swash, the steamer was aweigh, and her long line of peculiar
sails became visible. Unfortunately for men who were in a hurry, she
lay so much within the bluff as to get the wind scant, and her
commander thought it necessary to make a stretch over to the southern
shore, before he attempted to lay his course. When he was ready to
tack, an operation of some time with a vessel of her great length, the
Swash was barely visible in the obscurity, gliding off upon a slack
bowline, at a rate which nothing but the damp night air, the
ballast-trim of the vessel, united to her excellent sailing qualities,
could have produced with so light a breeze.
The first half hour took the Swash completely out of sight of the
steamer. In that time, in truth, by actual superiority in sailing, by
her greater state of preparation, and by the distance saved by a bold
navigation, she had gained fully a league on her pursuer. But, while
the steamer had lost sight of the Swash, the latter kept the former in
view, and that by means of a signal that was very portentous. She saw
the light of the steamer's chimneys, and could form some opinion of her
distance and position.
It was about eleven o'clock when the Swash passed the light at
Sands' Point, close in with the land. The wind stood much as it had
been. If there was a change at all, it was half a point more to the
southward, and it was a little fresher. Such as it was, Spike saw he
was getting, in that smooth water, quite eight knots out of his craft,
and he made his calculations thereon. As yet, and possibly for half an
hour longer, he was gaining, and might hope to continue to gain on the
steamer. Then her turn would come. Though no great traveller, it was
not to be expected that, favoured by smooth water and the breeze, her
speed would be less than ten knots, while there was no hope of
increasing his own without an increase of the wind. He might be five
miles in advance, or six at the most; these six miles would be overcome
in three hours of steaming, to a dead certainty, and they might
possibly be overcome much sooner. It was obviously necessary to resort
to some other experiment than that of dead sailing, if an escape was to
The Sound was now several miles in width, and Spike, at first,
proposed to his mate, to keep off dead before the wind, and by crossing
over to the north shore, let the steamer pass ahead, and continue a
bootless chase to the eastward. Several vessels, however, were visible
in the middle of the passage, at distances varying from one to three
miles, and Mulford pointed out the hopelessness of attempting to cross
the sheet of open water, and expect to go unseen by the watchful eyes
of the revenue people.
"What you say is true enough, Mr. Mulford," answered Spike, after a
moment of profound reflection, "and every foot that they come nearer,
the less will be our chance.But here is Hempstead Harbour a few leagues
ahead; if we can reach that before the blackguards close, we may do
well enough. It is a deep bay, and has high land to darken the view. I
don't think the brig could be seen at midnight by anything outside; if
she was once fairly up that water a mile or two."
"That is our chance, sir!" exclaimed Mulford cheerfully. "Ay, ay, I
know the spot; and everything is favourable— try that, Captain Spike;
I'll answer for it that we go clear."
Spike did try it. For a considerable time longer he stood on,
keeping as close to the land as he thought it safe to run, and carrying
everything that would draw. But the steamer was on his heels, evidently
gaining fast. Her chimneys gave out flames, and there was every sign
that her people were in earnest. To those on board the Swash these
flames seemed to draw nearer each instant, as indeed was the fact, and
just as the breeze came fresher out of the opening in the hills, or the
low mountains, which surround the place of refuge in which they
designed to enter, Mulford announced that by aid of the night-glass he
could distinguish both sails and hull of their pursuer. Spike took a
look, and throwing down the instrument, in a way to endanger it, he
ordered the studding-sails taken in. The men went aloft like cats, and
worked as if they could stand in air. In a minute or two the Swash was
under what Mrs. Budd might have called her "attacking" canvas, and was
close by the wind, looking on a good leg well up the harbour. The brig
seemed to be conscious of the emergency, and glided ahead at capital
speed. In five minutes she had shut in the flaming chimneys of the
steamer. In five minutes more Spike tacked, to keep under the western
side of the harbour, and out of sight as long as possible, and because
he thought the breeze drew down fresher where he was than more out in
All now depended on the single fact whether the brig had been seen
from the steamer or not, before she hauled into the bay. If seen, she
had probably been watched; if not seen, there were strong grounds for
hoping that she might still escape. About a quarter of an hour after
Spike hauled up, the burning chimneys came again into view. The brig
was then half a league within the bay, with a fine dark backgroundof
hills to throw her into shadow. Spike ordered everything taken in but
the trysail, under which the brig was left to set slowly over toward
the western side of the harbour. He now rubbed his hands with delight,
and pointed out to Mulford the circumstance that the steamer kept on
her course directly athwart the harbour's mouth! Had she seen the
Swash, no doubt she would have turned into the bay also. Nevertheless,
an anxious ten minutes succeeded, during which the revenue vessel
steamed fairly past, and shut in her flaming chimneys again by the
eastern headlands of the estuary.
The western wave was all a flame,
The day was well nigh done,
Almost upon the western wave
Rested the broad bright sun;
When that strange ship drove suddenly
Betwixt us and the sun.
— The Ancient Mariner
At that hour, on the succeeding morning, when the light of day is
just beginning to chase away the shadows of night, the Molly Swash
became visible within the gloom of the high land which surrounds so
much of the bay of Hempstead, under easy sail, backing and filling, in
order to keep within her hiding-place, until a look could be had at the
state of things without. Half an hour later, she was so near the
entrance of the estuary, as to enable the look-outs aloft to ascertain
that the coast was clear, when Spike ordered the helm to be put up, and
the brig to be kept away to her course. At this precise moment, Rose
appeared on deck, refreshed by the sleep of a quiet night; and with
cheeks tinged with a colour even more delicate than that which was now
glowing in the eastern sky, and which was almost as brilliant.
"We stopped in this bit of a harbour for the night, Miss Rose, that
is all;" said Spike, observing that his fair passenger was looking
about her, in some little surprise, at finding the vessel so near the
land, and seemingly so much out of her proper position. "Yes, we always
do that, when we first start on a v'y'ge, and before the brig gets used
to travelling—do n't we, Mr. Mulford?"
Mr. Mulford, who knew how hopeless was the attempt to mystify Rose,
as one might mystify her credulous and weak-minded aunt, and who had no
disposition to deal any way but fairly by the beautiful, and in one
sense now helpless young creature before him, did not see fit to make
any reply. Offend Spike he did not dare to do, more especially under
present circumstances; and mislead Rose he would not do. He affected
not to hear the question, therefore, but issuing an order about the
head-sails, he walked forward as if to see it executed. Rose herself
was not under as much restraint as the young mate.
"It is convenient, Captain Spike," she coolly answered for Mulford,
"to have stopping-places, for vessels that are wearied, and I remember
the time when my uncle used to tell me of such matters, very much in
the same vein; but, it was before I was twelve years old."
Spike hemmed, and he looked a little foolish, but Clench, the
boatswain, coming aft to say something to him in confidence, just at
that moment, he was enabled to avoid the awkwardness of attempting to
explain. This man Clench, or Clinch, as the name was pronounced, was
deep in the captain's secrets; far more so than was his mate, and would
have been filling Mulford's station at that very time, had he not been
hopelessly ignorant of navigation. On the present occasion, his
business was to point out to the captain, two or three lines of smoke,
that were visible above the water of the Sound, in the eastern board;
one of which he was apprehensive might turn out to be the smoke of the
revenue craft, from which they had so recently escaped.
"Steamers are no rarities in Long Island Sound, Clench," observed
the captain, levelling his glass at the most suspected of the smokes.
"That must be a Providence, or Stonington chap, coming west with the
"Either of them would have been further west, by this time, Captain
Spike," returned the doubting, but watchful boatswain. "It's a large
smoke, and I fear it is the revenue fellow coming back, after having
had a look well to the eastward, and satisfying himself that we are not
to be had in that quarter."
Spike growled out his assent to the possibility of such a
conjecture, and promised vigilance. This satisfied his subordinate for
the moment, and he walked forward, or to the place where he belonged.
In the mean time, the widow came on deck, smiling, and snuffing the
salt air, and ready to be delighted with anything that was maritime.
"Good morning, Captain Spike," she cried—"Are we in the offing,
yet?—you know I desired to be told when we are in the offing, for I
intend to write a letter to my poor Mr. Budd's sister, Mrs. Sprague, as
soon as we get to the offing."
"What is the offing, aunt?" inquired the handsome niece.
"Why you have hardly been at sea long enough to understand me,
child, should I attempt to explain. The offing, however, is the place
where the last letters are always written to the owners, and to friends
ashore. The term comes, I suppose, from the circumstance that the
vessel is about to be off, and it is natural to think of those we leave
behind, at such a moment. I intend to write to your aunt Sprague, my
dear, the instant I hear we are in the offing; and what is more, I
intend to make you my amanuensis."
"But how will the letter be sent, aunty?—I have no more objections
to writing than any one else, but I do not see how the letter is to be
sent. Really, the sea is a curious region, with its stopping-places for
the night, and its offings to write letters at!"
"Yes, it's all as you say, Rose—a most remarkable region is the
sea! You'll admire it, as I admire it, when you come to know it better;
and as your poor uncle admired it, and as Captain Spike admires it,
too. As for the letters, they can be sent ashore by the pilot, as
letters are always sent."
"But, aunty, there is no pilot in the Swash—for Captain Spike
refused to take one on board."
"Rose!—you don't understand what you are talking about! No vessel
ever yet sailed without a pilot, if indeedany can. It's opposed to the
law, not to have a pilot; and now I remember to have heard your dear
uncle say it wasn't a voyage if a vessel didn't take away a pilot."
"But if they take them away, aunty, how can they send the letters
ashore by them?"
"Poh! poh! child; you don't know what you're saying; but you'll
overlook it, I hope, Captain Spike, for Rose is quick, and will soon
learn to know better. As if letters couldn't be sent ashore by the
pilot, though he was a hundred thousand miles from land! But, Captain
Spike, you must let me know when we are about to get off the Sound, for
I know that the pilot is always sent ashore with his letters, before
the vessel gets off the Sound."
"Yes, yes," returned the captain, a little mystified by the widow,
though he knew her so well, and understood her so well—"you shall
know, ma'am, when we get off soundings, for I suppose that is what you
"What is the difference? Off the Sound, or off the soundings, of
course, must mean the same thing. But, Rosy, we will go below and write
to your aunt at once, for I see a light-house yonder, and light-houses
are always put just off the soundings."
Rose, who always suspected her aunt's nautical talk, though she did
not know how to correct it, and was not sorry to put an end to it, now,
by going below, and spreading her own writing materials, in readiness
to write, as the other dictated. Biddy Noon was present, sewing on some
of her own finery.
"Now write, as I tell you, Rose," commenced the widow—
"My dear sister Sprague—Here we are, at last, just off the
soundings, with light-houses all round us, and so many capes and
islands in sight, that it does seem as if the vessel never could find
its way through them all. Some of these islands must be the West
"Aunty, that can never be!" exclaimed Rose—"we left New York only
"What of that? Had it been old times, I grant you several days
might be necessary to get a sight of the West Indies, but, now, when a
letter can be written to a friend in Boston, and an answer received in
half an hour, it requires no such time to go to the West Indies.
Besides, what otherislands are there in this part of the world?—they
can't be England—"
"No—no,"—said Rose, at once seeing it would be preferable to
admit they were the West Indies; so the letter went on:—
"Some of these islands must be the West Indies, and it is high time
we saw some of them, for we are nearly off the Sound, and the
light-houses are getting to be quite numerous. I think we have already
seen four since we left the wharf. But, my dear sister Sprague, you
will be delighted to hear how much better Rose's health is already
"My health, aunty! Why, I never knew an ill day in my life!"
"Don't tell me that, my darling; I know too well what all these
deceptive appearances of health amount to. I would not alarm you for
the world, Rosy dear, but a careful parent—and I'm your parent in
affection, if not by nature— but a careful parent's eye is not to be
deceived. I know you look well, but you are ill, my child; though,
Heaven be praised, the sea air and hydropathy are already doing you a
monstrous deal of good."
As Mrs. Budd concluded, she wiped her eyes, and appeared really
glad that her niece had a less consumptive look than when she embarked.
Rose sat, gazing at her aunt, in mute astonishment. She knew how much
and truly she was beloved, and that induced her to be more tolerant of
her connection's foibles than even duty demanded. Feeling was blended
with her respect, but it was almost too much for her, to learn that
this long, and in some respects painful voyage, was undertaken on her
account, and without the smallest necessity for it. The vexation,
however, would have been largely increased, but for certain free
communications that had occasionally occurred between her and the
handsome mate, since the moment of her coming on board the brig. Rose
knew that Harry Mulford loved her, too, for he had told her as much
with a seaman's frankness; and though she had never let him know that
his partiality was returned, her woman's heart was fast inclining
toward him, with all her sex's tenderness. This made the mistakeof her
aunt tolerable, though Rose was exceedingly vexed it should ever have
"Why, my dearest aunt," she cried, "they told me it was on your
account that this voyage was undertaken!"
"I know they did, poor, dear Rosy, and that was in order not to
alarm you. Some persons of delicate constitutions—"
"But my constitution is not in the least delicate, aunt; on the
contrary, it is as good as possible; a blessing for which, I trust, I
am truly grateful, I did not know but you might be suffering, though
you do look so well, for they all agreed in telling me you had need of
"I, a subject for hydropathy! Why, child, water is no more
necessary to me than it is to a cat."
"But going to sea, aunty, is not hydropathy—"
"Don't say that, Rosy; do not say that, my dear. It is hydropathy
on a large scale, as Captain Spike says; and when he gets us into blue
water, he has promised that you shall have all the benefits of the
Rose was silent and thoughtful; after which she spoke quickly, like
one to whom an important thought had suddenly occurred.
"And Captain Spike, then, was consulted in my case?" she asked.
"He was, my dear, and you have every reason to be grateful to him.
He was the first to discover a change in your appearance, and to
suggest a sea voyage. Marine Hydropathy, he said, he was sure would get
you up again; for Captain Spike thinks your constitution good at the
bottom, though the high colour you have proves too high a state of
"Was Dr. Monson consulted at all, aunt?"
"Not at all. You know the doctors are all against hydropathy, and
mesmerism, and the magnetic telegraph, and everything that is new; so
we thought it best not to consult him."
"And my aunt Sprague?"
"Yes, she was consulted after everything was settled, and when I
knew her notions could not undo what had been already done. But she is
a seaman's widow, as well as myself, and has a great notion of the
virtue of sea air."
"Then it would seem that Doctor Spike was the principal adviser in
"I own that he was, Rosy dear. Captain Spike was brought up by your
uncle, who has often told me what a thorough seaman he was. 'There's
Spike, now,' he said to me one day, 'he can almost make his brig
talk'—this very brig too, your uncle meant, Rosy, and, of course, one
of the best vessels in the world to take hydropathy in."
"Yes, aunty," returned Rose, playing with the pen, while her air
proved how little her mind was in her words. "Well, what shall I say
next to my aunt Sprague?"
"Rose's health is already becoming confirmed," resumed the widow,
who thought it best to encourage her niece by as strong terms as she
could employ, "and I shall extol hydropathy to the skies, as long as I
live. As soon as we reach our port of destination, my dear sister
Sprague, I shall write you a line to let you know it, by the magnetic
"But there is no magnetic telegraph on the sea, aunty," interrupted
Rose, looking up from the paper, with her clear, serene, blue eyes,
expressing even her surprise, at this touch of the relict's ignorance.
"Don't tell me that, Rosy, child, when everybody says the sparks
will fly round the whole earth, just as soon as they will fly from New
York to Philadelphia."
"But they must have something to fly on, aunty; and the ocean will
not sustain wires, or posts."
"Well, there is no need of being so particular; if there is no
telegraph, the letter must come by mail. You can say telegraph, here,
and when your aunt gets the letter, the postmark will tell her how it
came. It looks better to talk about telegraphic communications, child."
Rose resumed her pen, and wrote at her aunt's dictation, as
follows:—"By the magnetic telegraph, when I hope to be able to tell
you that our dear Rose is well. As yet, we both enjoy the ocean
exceedingly; but when we get off the Sound, into blue water, and have
sent the pilot ashore, or discharged him, I ought to say, which puts me
in mind of telling you that a cannon was discharged at us only last
night, and that the ball whistled so near me, that I heard it as plain
as ever you heard Rose's piano."
"Had I not better first tell my aunt Sprague what is to be done
when the pilot is discharged?"
"No; tell her about the cannon that was discharged, first, and
about the ball that I heard. I had almost forgot that adventure, which
was a very remarkable one, was it not, Biddy?"
"Indeed, Missus, and it was! and Miss Rose might put in the letter
how we both screamed at that cannon, and might have been heard as
plainly, every bit of it, as the ball."
"Say nothing on the subject, Rose, or we shall never hear the last
of it. So, darling, you may conclude in your own way, for I believe I
have told your aunt all that comes to mind."
Rose did as desired, finishing the epistle in a very few words,
for, rightly enough, she had taken it into her head there was no pilot
to be discharged, and consequently that the letter would never be sent.
Her short but frequent conferences with Mulford were fast opening her
eyes, not to say her heart, and she was beginning to see Captain Spike
in his true character, which was that of a great scoundrel. It is true,
that the mate had not long judged his commander quite so harshly; but
had rather seen his beautiful brig, and her rare qualities, in her
owner and commander, than the man himself; but jealousy had quickened
his observation of late, and Stephen Spike had lost ground sensibly
with Harry Mulford, within the last week. Two or three times before,
the young man had thought of seeking another berth, on account of
certain distrusts of Spike's occupations; but he was poor, and so long
as he remained in the Swash, Harry's opportunities of meeting Rose were
greatly increased. This circumstance, indeed, was the secret of his
still being in the "Molly," as Spike usually called his craft; the last
voyage having excited suspicions that were rather of a delicate nature.
Then the young man really loved the brig, which, if she could not be
literally made to talk, could be made to do almost everything else. A
vessel, and a small vessel, too, is rather contracted as to space, but
those who wish to converse can contrive to speak together often, even
in such narrow limits. Such had been the fact with Rose Budd and the
handsome mate. Twenty times since they sailed, short as that timewas,
had Mulford contrived to get so near to Rose, as to talk with her,
unheard by others. It is true, that he seldom ventured to do this, so
long as the captain was in sight, but Spike was often below, and
opportunities were constantly occurring. It was in the course of these
frequent but brief conversations, that Harry had made certain dark
hints touching the character of his commander, and the known
recklessness of his proceedings. Rose had taken the alarm, and fully
comprehending her aunt's mental imbecility, her situation was already
giving her great uneasiness. She had some undefined hopes from the
revenue steamer; though, strangely enough as it appeared to her, her
youngest and most approved suitor betrayed a strong desire to escape
from that craft, at the very moment he was expressing his apprehensions
on account of her presence in the brig. This contradiction arose from a
certain esprit de corps, which seldom fails, more or less, to identify
the mariner with his ship.
But the writing was finished, and the letter sealed with wax, Mrs.
Budd being quite as particular in that ceremony as Lord Nelson, when
the females again repaired on deck. They found Spike and his mate
sweeping the eastern part of the Sound with their glasses, with a view
to look out for enemies; or, what to them, just then, was much the same
thing, government craft. In this occupation, Rose was a little vexed to
see that Mulford was almost as much interested as Spike himself, the
love of his vessel seemingly overcoming his love for her, if not his
love of the right—she knew of no reason, however, why the captain
should dread any other vessel, and felt sufficiently provoked to
question him a little on the subject, if it were only to let him see
that the niece was not as completely his dupe as the aunt. She had not
been on deck five minutes, therefore, during which time several
expressions had escaped the two sailors touching their apprehensions of
vessels seen in the distance, ere she commenced her inquiries.
"And why should we fear meeting with other vessels?" Rose plainly
demanded—"here in Long Island Sound, and within the power of the laws
of the country?"
"Fear?" exclaimed Spike, a little startled, and a good deal
surprised at this straight-forward question—"Fear, Miss Rose! You do
not think we are afraid, though thereare many reasons why we do not
wish to be spoken by certain craft that are hovering about. In the
first place, you know it is war time—I suppose you know, Madam Budd,
that America is at war with Mexico?"
"Certainly," answered the widow, with dignity—"and that is a
sufficient reason, Rose, why one vessel should chase, and another
should run. If you had heard your poor uncle relate, as I have done,
all his chasings and runnings away, in the war times, child, you would
understand these things better. Why, I've heard your uncle say that, in
some of his long voyages, he has run thousands and thousands of miles,
with sails set on both sides, and all over his ship!"
"Yes, aunty, and so have I, but that was 'running before the wind,'
as he used to call it."
"I s'pose, however, Miss Rose," put in Spike, who saw that the
niece would soon get the better of the aunt;—"I s'pose, Miss Rose,
that you'll acknowledge that America is at war with Mexico?"
"I am sorry to say that such is the fact, but I remember to have
heard you say, yourself, Captain Spike, when my aunt was induced to
undertake this voyage, that you did not consider there was the smallest
danger from any Mexicans."
"Yes, you did, Captain Spike," added the aunt—"you did say there
was no danger from Mexicans."
"Nor is there a bit, Madam Budd, if Miss Rose, and your honoured
self, will only hear me. There is no danger, because the brig has the
heels of anything Mexico can send to sea. She has sold her steamers,
and, as for anything else under her flag, I would not care a straw."
"The steamer from which we ran, last evening, and which actually
fired off a cannon at us, was not Mexican, but American," said Rose,
with a pointed manner that put Spike to his trumps.
"Oh! that steamer—" he stammered—"that was a race —only a race,
Miss Rose, and I wouldn't let her come near me, for the world. I should
never hear the last of it, in the insurance offices, and on 'change,
did I let her overhaul us. You see, Miss Rose—you see, Madam Budd—"
Spike ever found it most convenient to address his mystifying discourse
to the aunt, in preference to addressing it to the niece —"You see,
Madam Budd, the master of that craft and I are old cronies—sailed
together when boys, and set great store by each other. We met only last
evening, just a'ter I had left your own agreeable mansion, Madam Budd,
and says he, 'Spike, when do you sail?' 'To-morrow's flood, Jones,'
says I—his name is Jones;—Peter Jones, and as good a fellow as ever
lived. 'Do you go by the Hook, or by Hell-Gate—' "
"Hurl-Gate, Captain Spike, if you please—or Whirl-Gate, which some
people think is the true sound; but the other way of saying it is
"Well, the captain, my old master, always called it Hell-Gate, and
I learned the trick from him—"
"I know he did, and so do all sailors; but genteel people,
now-a-days, say nothing but Hurl-Gate, or Whirl-Gate."
Rose smiled at this; as did Mulford; but neither said anything, the
subject having once before been up between them. As for ourselves, we
are still so old-fashioned as to say, and write, Hell-Gate, and intend
so to do, in spite of all the Yankees that have yet passed through it,
or who ever shall pass through it, and that is saying a great deal. We
do not like changing names to suit their uneasy spirits.
"Call the place Hurl-Gate, and go on with your story," said the
"Yes, Madam Budd—'Do you go by the Hook, or by Whirl-Gate?' said
Jones. 'By Whirl-a-Gig-Gate,' says I. 'Well,' says he, 'I shall go
through the Gate myself, in the course of the morning. We may meet
somewhere to the eastward, and, if we do, I'll bet you a beaver,' says
he, 'that I show you my stern.' 'Agreed,' says I, and we shook hands
upon it. That's the whole history of our giving the steamer the slip,
last night, and of my not wishing to let her speak me."
"But you went into a bay, and let her go past you," said Rose,
coolly enough as to manner, but with great point as to substance. "Was
not that a singular way of winning a race?"
"It does seem so, Miss Rose, but it's all plain enough, when
understood. I found that steam was too much for sails, and I stood up
into the bay to let them run past us, in hopes they would never find
out the trick. I care as littlefor a hat as any man, but I do care a
good deal about having it reported on 'change that the Molly was beat,
by even a steamer."
This ended the discourse for the moment, Clench again having
something to say to his captain in private.
"How much of that explanation am I to believe, and how much
disbelieve?" asked Rose, the instant she was left alone with Harry. "If
it be all invention, it was a ready and ingenious story."
"No part of it is true. He no more expected that the steamer would
pass through Hell-Gate, than I expected it myself. There was no bet, or
race, therefore; but it was our wish to avoid Uncle Sam's cruiser, that
"And why should you wish any such thing?"
"On my honour, I can give you no better reason, so far as I am
concerned, than the fact that, wishing to keep clear of her, I do not
like to be overhauled. Nor can I tell you why Spike is so much in
earnest in holding the revenue vessel at arm's length; I know he
dislikes all such craft, as a matter of course, but I can see no
particular reason for it just now. A more innocent cargo was never
stuck into a vessel's hold."
"What is it?"
"Flour; and no great matter of that. The brig is not half full,
being just in beautiful ballast trim, as if ready for a race. I can see
no sufficient reason, beyond native antipathy, why Captain Spike should
wish to avoid any craft, for it is humbug his dread of a Mexican, and
least of all, here, in Long Island Sound. All that story about Jones is
a tub for whales."
"Thank you for the allusion; my aunt and myself being the whales."
"You know I do mean—can mean nothing, Rose, that is disrespectful
to either yourself or your aunt."
Rose looked up, and she looked pleased. Then she mused in silence,
for some time, when she again spoke.
"Why have you remained another voyage with such a man, Harry?" she
"Because, as his first officer, I have had access to your house,
when I could not have had it otherwise; and because I have apprehended
that he might persuade Mrs. Budd, ashe had boasted to me it was his
intention to do, to make this voyage."
Rose now looked grateful; and deeply grateful did she feel, and had
reason to feel. Harry had concealed no portion of his history from her.
Like herself, he was a ship-master's child, but one better educated and
better connected than was customary for the class. His father had paid
a good deal of attention to the youth's early years, but had made a
seaman of him, out of choice. The father had lost his all, however,
with his life, in a shipwreck; and Harry was thrown upon his own
resources, at the early age of twenty. He had made one or two voyages
as a second mate, when chance threw him in Spike's way, who, pleased
with some evidences of coolness and skill, that he had shown in a
foreign port, on the occasion of another loss, took him as his first
officer; in which situation he had remained ever since, partly from
choice and partly from necessity. On the other hand, Rose had a
fortune; by no means a large one, but several thousands in possession,
from her own father, and as many more in reversion from her uncle. It
was this money, taken in connection with the credulous imbecility of
the aunt, that had awakened the cupidity, and excited the hopes of
Spike. After a life of lawless adventure, one that had been chequered
by every shade of luck, he found himself growing old, with his brig
growing old with him, and little left beside his vessel and the sort of
half cargo that was in her hold. Want of means, indeed, was the reason
that the flour-barrels were not more numerous.
Rose heard Mulford's explanation favourably, as indeed she heard
most of that which came from him, but did not renew the discourse,
Spike's conference with the boatswain just then terminating. The
captain now came aft, and began to speak of the performances of his
vessel in a way to show that he took great pride in them.
"We are travelling at the rate of ten knots, Madam Budd," he said
exultingly, "and that will take us clear of the land, before night
shuts in ag'in. Montauk is a good place for an offing; I ask for no
"Shall we then have two offings, this voyage, Captain Spike?" asked
Rose, a little sarcastically. "If we are inthe offing now, and are to
be in the offing when we reach Montauk, there must be two such places."
"Rosy, dear, you amaze me!" put in the aunt. "There is no offing
until the pilot is discharged, and when he's discharged there is
nothing but offing. It's all offing. On the Sound, is the first great
change that befalls a vessel as she goes to sea; then comes the offing;
next the pilot is discharged—then—then—what comes next, Captain
"Then the vessel takes her departure—an old navigator like
yourself, Madam Budd, ought not to forget the departure."
"Quite true, sir. The departure is a very important portion of a
seaman's life. Often and often have I heard my poor dear Mr. Budd talk
about his departures. His departures, and his offings and his—"
"Land-falls," added Spike, perceiving that the ship-master's relict
was a little at fault.
"Thank you, sir; the hint is quite welcome. His land-falls, also,
were often in his mouth."
"What is a land-fall, aunty?" inquired Rose—"It appears a strange
term to be used by one who lives on the water."
"Oh! there is no end to the curiosities of sailors! A 'land-fall,'
my dear, means a shipwreck, of course. To fall on the land, and a very
unpleasant fall it is, when a vessel should keep on the water. I've
heard of dreadful land-falls in my day, in which hundreds of souls have
been swept into eternity, in an instant."
"Yes; yes, Madam Budd—there are such accidents truly, and serious
things be they to encounter," answered Spike, hemming a little to clear
his throat, as was much his practice whenever the widow ran into any
unusually extravagant blunder; "yes, serious things to encounter. But
the land-fall that I mean is a different sort of thing; being, as you
well know, what we say when we come in sight of land, a'ter a v'y'ge;
or, meaning the land we may happen first to see. The departure is the
beginning of our calculation when we lose sight of the last cape or
headland, and the land-fall closes it, by letting us know where we are,
at the other end of our journey, as you probably remember."
"Is there not such a thing as clearing out in navigation?" asked
Rose, quickly, willing to cover a little confusion that was manifest in
her aunt's manner.
"Not exactly in navigation, Miss Rose, but clearing out, with
honest folk, ought to come first, and navigation a'terwards. Clearing
out means going through the Custom-House, accordin' to law."
"And the Molly Swash has cleared out, I hope?"
"Sartain—a more lawful clearance was never given in Wall Street;
it's for Key West and a market. I did think of making it Havana and a
market, but port-charges are lightest at Key West."
"Then Key West is the place to which we are bound?"
"It ought to be, agreeable to papers; though vessels sometimes miss
the ports for which they clear."
Rose put no more questions; and her aunt, being conscious that she
had not appeared to advantage in the affair of the "land-fall," was
also disposed to be silent. Spike and Mulford had their attention drawn
to the vessel, and the conversation dropped.
The reader can readily suppose that the Molly Swash had not been
standing still all this time. So far from this, she was running "down
Sound," with the wind on her quarter, or at south-west, making great
head-way, as she was close under the south shore, or on the island side
of the water she was in. The vessel had no other motion than that of
her speed, and the females escaped everything like sea-sickness, for
the time being. This enabled them to attend to making certain
arrangements necessary to their comforts below, previously to getting
into rough water. In acquitting herself of this task, Rose received
much useful advice from Josh, though his new assistant, Jack Tier,
turned out to be a prize indeed, in the cabins. The first was only a
steward; but the last proved himself not only a handy person of his
calling, but one full of resources—a genius, in his way. Josh soon
became so sensible of his own inferiority, in contributing to the
comforts of females, that he yielded the entire management of the
"ladies' cabin," as a little place that might have been ten feet
square, was called, to his uncouth-looking, but really expert deputy.
Jack waddled about below, as if born and brought up in such a place,
and seemed every way fitted for his office. Inheight, and in build
generally, there was a surprising conformity between the widow and the
steward's deputy, a circumstance which might induce one to think they
must often have been in each other's way, in a space so small; though,
in point of fact, Jack never ran foul of any one. He seemed to avoid
this inconvenience by a species of nautical instinct.
Towards the turn of the day, Rose had everything arranged, and was
surprised to find how much room she had made for her aunt and herself,
by means of Jack's hints, and how much more comfortable it was possible
to be, in that small cabin, than she had at first supposed.
After dinner, Spike took his siesta. He slept in a little
state-room that stood on the starboard side of the quarter-deck, quite
aft; as Mulford did in one on the larboard. These two state-rooms were
fixtures; but a light deck overhead, which connected them, shipped and
unshipped, forming a shelter for the man at the wheel, when in its
place, as well as for the officer of the watch, should he see fit to
use it, in bad weather. This sort of cuddy, Spike termed his
The captain had no sooner gone into his state-room, and closed its
window, movements that were understood by Mulford, than the latter took
occasion to intimate to Rose, by means of Jack Tier, the state of
things on deck, when the young man was favoured with the young lady's
"He has turned in for his afternoon's nap, and will sleep for just
one hour, blow high, or blow low," said the mate, placing himself at
Rose's side on the trunk, which formed the usual seat for those who
could presume to take the liberty of sitting down on the quarter-deck.
"It's a habit with him, and we can count on it, with perfect security."
"His doing so, now, is a sign that he has no immediate fears of the
"The coast is quite clear of her. We have taken good looks at every
smoke, but can see nothing that appears like our late companion. She
has doubtless gone to the eastward, on duty, and merely chased us, on
"But why should she chase us, at all?"
"Because we ran. Let a dog run, or a man run, or a cat run, ten to
one but something starts in chase. It ishuman nature, I believe, to
give chase; though I will admit there was something suspicious about
that steamer's movements—her anchoring off the Fort, for instance. But
let her go, for the present; are you getting things right, and to your
mind, below decks?"
"Very much so. The cabin is small, and the two state-rooms the
merest drawers that ever were used, but, by putting everything in its
place, we have made sufficient room, and no doubt shall be
"I am sorry you did not call on me for assistance. The mate has a
prescriptive right to help stow away."
"We made out without your services," returned Rose, slightly
blushing—"Jack Tier, as he is called, Josh's assistant, is a very
useful person, and has been our adviser and manager. I want no better
for such services."
"He is a queer fellow, all round. Take him altogether, I hardly
ever saw so droll a being! As thick as he's long, with a waddle like a
duck, a voice that is cracked, hair like bristles, and knee high; the
man might make a fortune as a show. Tom Thumb is scarcely a greater
"He is singular in 'build,' as you call it," returned Rose,
laughing, "but, I can assure you that he is a most excellent fellow in
his way—worth a dozen of Josh. Do you know, Harry, that I suspect he
has strong feelings towards Captain Spike; though whether of like or
dislike, friendship or enmity, I am at a loss to say."
"And why do you think that he has any feeling at all? I have heard
Spike say he left the fellow ashore, somewhere down on the Spanish
Main, or in the Islands, quite twenty years since; but a sailor would
scarce carry a grudge so long a time, for such a thing as that."
"I do not know—but feeling there is, and much of it, too; though,
whether hostile or friendly, I will not undertake to say."
"I'll look to the chap, now you tell me this. It is a little odd,
the manner in which he got on board us, taken in connection with the
company he was in, and a discovery may be made. Here he is, however;
and, as I keep the keys of the magazine, he can do us no great harm,
unless he scuttles the brig."
"Magazine! Is there such a thing here?"
"To be sure there is, and ammunition enough in it to keep eight
carronades in lively conversation for a couple of hours."
"A carronade is what you call a gun, is it not?"
"A piece of a one—being somewhat short, like your friend, Jack
Tier, who is shaped a good deal like a carronade."
Rose smiled—nay, half laughed, for Harry's pleasantries almost
took the character of wit in her eyes, but she did not the less pursue
"Guns! And where are they, if they be on this vessel?"
"Do not use such a lubberly expression, my dear Rose, if you
respect your father's profession. On a vessel, is a new-fangled
Americanism, that is neither fish, flesh, nor red-herring, as we
sailors say—neither English nor Greek."
"What should I say, then? My wish is not to parade sea-talk, but to
use it correctly, when I use it at all."
"The expression is hardly 'sea-talk,' as you call it, but every-day
English—that is, when rightly used. On a vessel is no more English
than it is nautical—no sailor ever used such an expression."
"Tell me what I ought to say, and you will find me a willing, if
not an apt scholar. I am certain of having often read it, in the
newspapers, and that quite lately."
"I'll answer for that, and it's another proof of its being wrong.
In a vessel is as correct as in a coach, and on a vessel as wrong as
can be; but you can say on board a vessel, though not 'on the boards of
a vessel;' as Mrs. Budd has it."
"I beg a thousand pardons, Rose, and will offend no more—though
she does make some very queer mistakes!"
"My aunt thinks it an honour to my uncle's memory, to be able to
use the language of his professional life, and if she does sometimes
make mistakes that are absurd, it is with motives so respectable that
no sailor should deride them."
"I am rebuked for ever. Mrs. Budd may call the anchor a silver
spoon, hereafter, without my even smiling. But if the aunt has this
kind remembrance of a seaman's life, why cannot the niece think equally
well of it?"
"Perhaps she does," returned Rose, smiling again—"seeing all its
attractions through the claims of Captain Spike."
"I think half the danger from him gone, now that you seem so much
on your guard. What an odious piece of deception, to persuade Mrs. Budd
that you were fast falling into a decline!"
"One so odious that I shall surely quit the brig at the first port
we enter, or even in the first suitable vessel that we may speak."
"And Mrs. Budd—could you persuade her to such a course?"
"You scarce know us, Harry Mulford. My aunt commands, when there is
no serious duty to perform, but we change places when there is. I can
persuade her to anything that is right, in ten minutes."
"You might persuade a world!" cried Harry, with strong admiration
expressed in his countenance; after which he began to converse with
Rose, on a subject so interesting to themselves, that we do not think
it prudent to relate any more of the discourse, forgetting all about
About four o'clock, of a fine summer's afternoon, the Swash went
through the Race, on the best of the ebb, and with a staggering
south-west wind. Her movement by the land, just at that point, could
not have been less than at the rate of fifteen miles in the hour. Spike
was in high spirits, for his brig had got on famously that day, and
there was nothing in sight to the eastward. He made no doubt, as he had
told his mate, that the steamer had gone into the Vineyard Sound, and
that she was bound over the shoals.
"They want to make political capital out of her," he added, using
one of the slang phrases, that the "business habits" of the American
people are so rapidly incorporating with the common language of the
country—"They want to make political capital out of her, Harry, and
must show her off to the Boston folk, who are full of notions. Well,
let them turn her to as much account in that way as they please, so
long as they keep her clear of the Molly. Your sarvant, Madam
Budd"—addressing the widow, who just at that moment came on deck—"a
fine a'ternoon, and likely to be a clear night to run off the coast
"Clear nights are desirable, and most of all at sea, CaptainSpike,"
returned the relict, in her best, complacent manner, "whether it be to
run off a coast, or to run on a coast. In either case, a clear night,
or a bright moon must be useful."
Captain Spike rolled his tobacco over in his mouth, and cast a
furtive glance at the mate, but he did not presume to hazard any
further manifestations of his disposition to laugh.
"Yes, Madam Budd," he answered, "it is quite as you say, and I am
only surprised where you have picked up so much of what I call useful
"We live and learn, sir. You will recollect that this is not my
first voyage, having made one before, and that I passed a happy, happy,
thirty years, in the society of my poor, dear husband, Rose's uncle.
One must have been dull, indeed, not to have picked up, from such a
companion, much of a calling that was so dear to him, and the
particulars of which were so very dear to him. He actually gave me
lessons in the 'sea dialect,' as he called it, which probably is the
true reason I am so accurate and general in my acquisitions."
"Yes, Madam Budd—yes—hem—you are—yes, you are wonderful in that
way. We shall soon get an offing, now, Madam Budd—yes, soon get an
"And take in our departure, Captain Spike—" added the widow, with
a very intelligent smile.
"Yes, take our departure. Montauk is yonder, just coming in sight;
only some three hours' run from this spot. When we get there, the open
ocean will lie before us; and give me the open sea, and I'll not call
the king my uncle."
"Was he your uncle, Captain Spike?"
"Only in a philanthropic way, Madam Budd. Yes, let us get a good
offing, and a rapping to'gallant breeze, and I do not think I should
care much for two of Uncle Sam's new-fashioned revenue craft, one on
each side of me."
"How delightful do I find such conversation, Rose! It's as much
like your poor, dear uncle's, as one pea is like another. 'Yes,' he
used to say, too, 'let me only have one on each side of me, and a
wrapper round the topgallant sail to hold the breeze, and I'd not call
the king my uncle.' Now I think of it, he used to talk about the king
as his uncle, too."
"It was all talk, aunty. He had no uncle, and, what is more, he had
"That's quite true, Miss Rose," rejoined Spike, attempting a bow,
which ended in a sort of jerk. "It is not very becoming in us
republicans to be talking of kings, but a habit is a habit. Our
forefathers had kings, and we drop into their ways without thinking of
what we are doing. Fore-topgallant yard, there?"
"Keep a bright look-out, ahead. Let me know the instant you make
anything in the neighbourhood of Montauk."
"Ay, ay, sir."
"As I was saying, Madam Budd, we seamen drop into our forefathers'
ways. Now, when I was a youngster, I remember, one day, that we fell in
with a ketch—you know, Miss Rose, what a ketch is, I suppose?"
"I have not the least notion of it, sir."
"Rosy, you amaze me!" exclaimed the aunt—"and you a ship-master's
niece, and a ship-master's daughter! A catch is a trick that sailors
have, when they quiz landsmen."
"Yes, Madam Budd, yes; we have them sort of catches, too; but I now
mean the vessel with a peculiar rig, which we call a ketch, you know."
"Is it the full-jigger, or the half-jigger sort, that you mean?"
Spike could hardly stand this, and he had to hail the
top-gallant-yard again, in order to keep the command of his muscles,
for he saw by the pretty frown that was gathering on the brow of Rose,
that she was regarding the matter a little seriously. Luckily, the
answer of the man on the yard diverted the mind of the widow from the
subject, and prevented the necessity of any reply.
"There's a light, of course, sir, on Montauk, is there not, Captain
Spike?" demanded the seaman who was aloft.
"To be sure there is—every head-land, hereabouts, has its light;
and some have two."
"Ay, ay, sir—it's that which puzzles me; I think I see one
light-house, and I'm not certain but I see two."
"If there is anything like a second, it must be a sail. Montauk has
but one light."
Mulford sprang into the fore-rigging, and in a minute wason the
yard. He soon came down, and reported the light-house in sight, with
the afternoon's sun shining on it, but no sail near.
"My poor, dear Mr. Budd used to tell a story of his being cast away
on a light-house, in the East Indies," put in the relict, as soon as
the mate had ended his report, "which always affected me. It seems
there were three ships of them together, in an awful tempest directly
off the land—"
"That was comfortable, any how," cried Spike;—"if it must blow
hard, let it come off the land, say I."
"Yes, sir, it was directly off the land, as my poor husband always
said, which made it so much the worse you must know, Rosy; though
Captain Spike's gallant spirit would rather encounter danger than not.
It blew what they call a Hyson, in the Chinese seas—"
"A what, aunty?—Hyson is the name of a tea, you know."
"A Hyson, I'm pretty sure it was; and I suppose the wind is named
after the tea, or the tea after the wind."
"The ladies do get in a gale, sometimes, over their tea," said
Spike gallantly. "But I rather think Madam Budd must mean a Typhoon."
"That's it—a Typhoon, or a Hyson—there is not much difference
between them, you see. Well, it blew a Typhoon, and they are always
mortal to somebody. This my poor Mr. Budd well knew, and he had set his
chronometer for that Typhoon—"
"Excuse me, aunty, it was the barometer that he was watching—the
chronometer was his watch."
"So it was—his watch on deck was his chronometer, I declare. I am
forgetting a part of my education. Do you know the use of a
chronometer, now, Rose? You have seen your uncle's often, but do you
know how he used it?"
"Not in the least, aunty. My uncle often tried to explain it, but I
never could understand him."
"It must have been, then, because Captain Budd did not try to make
himself comprehended," said Mulford, "for I feel certain nothing would
be easier than to make you understand the uses of the chronometer."
"I should like to learn it from you, Mr. Mulford," answered the
charming girl, with an emphasis so slight on the 'you,' that no one
observed it but the mate, but which was clear enough to him, and caused
every nerve to thrill.
"I can attempt it," answered the young man, "if it be agreeable to
Mrs. Budd, who would probably like to hear it herself."
"Certainly, Mr. Mulford; though I fancy you can say little on such
a subject that I have not often heard already, from my poor, dear Mr.
"This was not very encouraging, truly; but Rose continuing to look
interested, the mate proceeded.
"The use of the chronometer is to ascertain the longitude," said
Harry, "and the manner of doing it is, simply this: A chronometer is
nothing more nor less than a watch, made with more care than usual, so
as to keep the most accurate time. They are of all sizes, from that of
a clock, down to this which I wear in my fob, and which is a watch in
size and appearance. Now, the nautical almanacs are all calculated to
some particular meridian—"
"Yes," interrupted the relict, "Mr. Budd had a great deal to say
"That of London, or Greenwich, being the meridian used by those who
use the English Almanacs, and those of Paris or St. Petersburg, by the
French and Russians. Each of these places has an observatory, and
chronometers that are kept carefully regulated, the year round. Every
chronometer is set by the regulator of the particular observatory or
place to which the almanac used is calculated."
"How wonderfully like my poor, dear Mr. Budd, all this is, Rosy!
Meridians, and calculated, and almanacs! I could almost think I heard
your uncle entertaining me with one of his nautical discussions, I
"Now the sun rises earlier in places east, than in places west of
"It rises earlier in the summer, but later in the winter,
everywhere, Mr. Mulford."
"Yes, my dear Madam; but the sun rises earlier every day, in
London, than it does in New York."
"That is impossible," said the widow, dogmatically— "Why should
not the sun rise at the same time in England and America?"
"Because England is east of America, aunty. The sundoes not move,
you know, but only appears to us to move, because the earth turns round
from west to east, which causes those who are farthest east to see it
first. That is what Mr. Mulford means."
"Rose has explained it perfectly well," continued the mate. "Now
the earth is divided into 360 degrees, and the day is divided into 24
hours. If 360 be divided by 24, the quotient will be 15. If follows
that, for each fifteen degrees of longitude, there is a difference of
just one hour in the rising of the sun, all over the earth, where it
rises at all. New York is near five times 15 degrees west of Greenwich,
and the sun consequently rises five hours later at New York than at
"There must be a mistake in this, Rosy," said the relict, in a tone
of desperate resignation, in which the desire to break out in dissent,
was struggling oddly enough with an assumed dignity of deportment.
"I've always heard that the people of London are some of the latest in
the world. Then, I've been in London, and know that the sun rises in
New York, in December, a good deal earlier than it does in London, by
the clock—yes, by the clock."
"True enough, by the clock, Mrs. Budd, for London is more than ten
degrees north of New York, and the farther north you go, the later the
sun rises in winter, and the earlier in summer."
The relict merely shrugged her shoulders, as much as to say that
she knew no such thing; but Rose, who had been well taught, raised her
serene eyes to her aunt's face, and mildly said—
"All true, aunty, and that is owing to the fact that the earth is
smaller at each end than in the middle."
"Fiddle faddle with your middles and ends, Rose—I've been in
London, dear, and know that the sun rises later there than in New York,
in the month of December, and that I know by the clock, I tell you."
"The reason of which is," resumed Mulford, "because the clocks of
each place keep the time of that place. Now, it is different with the
chronometers; they are set in the observatory of Greenwich, and keep
the time of Greenwich. This watch chronometer was set there, only six
monthssince; and this time, as you see, is near nine o'clock, when in
truth it is only about four o'clock here, where we are."
"I wonder you keep such a watch, Mr. Mulford!"
"I keep it," returned the mate, smiling, "because I know it to keep
good time. It has the Greenwich time; and, as your watch has the New
York time, by comparing them together, it is quite easy to find the
longitude of New York."
"Do you, then, keep watches to compare with your chronometers?"
asked Rose, with interest.
"Certainly not; as that would require a watch for every separate
part of the ocean, and then we should only get known longitudes. It
would be impracticable, and load a ship with nothing but watches. What
we do is this: We set our chronometers at Greenwich, and thus keep the
Greenwich true time wherever we go. The greatest attention is paid to
the chronometers, to see that they receive no injuries; and usually
there are two, and often more of them, to compare one with another, in
order to see that they go well. When in the middle of the ocean, for
instance, we find the true time of the day at that spot, by
ascertaining the height of the sun. This we do by means of our
quadrants, or sextants; for, as the sun is always in the zenith at
twelve o'clock, nothing is easier than to do this, when the sun can be
seen, and an arc of the heavens measured. At the instant the height of
the sun is ascertained by one observer, he calls to another, who notes
the time on the chronometer. The difference in these two times, or that
of the chronometer and that of the sun, gives the distance in degrees
and minutes, between the longitude of Greenwich and that of the place
on the ocean where the observer is; and that gives him his longitude.
If the difference is three hours and twenty minutes, in time, the
distance from Greenwich is fifty degrees of longitude, because the sun
rises three hours and twenty minutes sooner in London, than in the
fiftieth degree of west longitude."
"A watch is a watch, Rosy," put in the aunt, doggedly —"and time
is time.—When it's four o'clock at our house, it's four o'clock at
your aunt Sprague's, and it's so all over the world. The world may turn
round—I'll not deny it, for your uncle often said as much as that, but
it cannot turn in the way Mr. Mulford says, or we should all fall off
it, atnight, when it was bottom upwards. No, sir, no; you've started
wrong. My poor, dear, late Mr. Budd, always admitted that the world
turned round, as the books say; but when I suggested to him the
difficulty of keeping things in their places, with the earth upside
down, he acknowledged candidly—for he was all candour, I must say that
for him— and owned that he had made a discovery by means of his
barometer, which showed that the world did not turn round in the way
you describe, or by rolling over, but by whirling about, as one turns
in a dance. You must remember your uncle's telling me this, Rose?"
Rose did remember her uncle's telling her aunt this, as well as a
great many other similar prodigies. Captain Budd had married his silly
wife on account of her pretty face, and when the novelty of that was
over, he often amused himself by inventing all sorts of absurdities, to
amuse both her and himself. Among other things, Rose well remembered
his quieting her aunt's scruples about falling off the earth, by laying
down the theory that the world did not "roll over," but "whirl round."
But Rose did not answer the question.
"Objects are kept in their places on the earth by means of
attraction," Mulford ventured to say, with a great deal of humility of
manner. "I believe it is thought there is no up or down, except as we
go from or towards the earth; and that would make the position of the
last a matter of indifference, as respects objects keeping on it."
"Attractions are great advantages, I will own, sir, especially to
our sex. I think it will be acknowledged there has been no want of them
in our family, any more than there has been of sense and information.
Sense and information we pride ourselves on; attractions being gifts
from God, we try to think less of them. But all the attractions in the
world could not keep Rosy, here, from falling off the earth, did it
ever come bottom upwards. And, mercy on me, where would she fall to!"
Mulford saw that argument was useless, and he confined his remarks,
during the rest of the conversation, to showing Rose the manner in
which the longitude of a place might be ascertained, with the aid of
the chronometer, and by means of observations to get the true time of
day, at the particular place itself. Rose was so quick-witted, and
already so well instructed, as easily to comprehend the principles; the
details being matters of no great moment to one of her sex and habits.
But Mrs. Budd remained antagonist to the last. She obstinately
maintained that twelve o'clock was twelve o'clock; or, if there was any
difference, "London hours were notoriously later than those of New
Against such assertions arguments were obviously useless, and
Mulford, perceiving that Rose began to fidget, had sufficient tact to
change the conversation altogether.
And still the Molly Swash kept in swift motion. Montauk was by this
time abeam, and the little brigantine began to rise and fall, on the
long swells of the Atlantic, which now opened before her, in one vast
sheet of green and rolling waters. On her right lay the termination of
Long Island; a low, rocky cape, with its light, and a few fields in
tillage, for the uses of those who tended it. It was the "land's end"
of New York, while the island that was heaving up out of the sea, at a
distance of about twenty miles to the eastward, was the property of
Rhode Island, being called Blok Island. Between the two, the Swash
shaped her course for the ocean.
Spike had betrayed uneasiness, as his brig came up with Montauk;
but the coast seemed clear, with not even a distant sail in sight, and
he came aft, rubbing his hands with delight, speaking cheerfully.
"All right, Mr. Mulford," he cried—"everything ship-shape and
brister-fashion—not even a smack fishing hereaway, which is a little
remarkable. Ha!—what are you staring at, over the quarter, there?"
"Look here, sir, directly in the wake of the setting sun, which we
are now opening from the land—is not that a sail?"
"Sail! Impossible, sir. What should a sail be doing in there, so
near Montauk—no man ever saw a sail there in his life. It's a spot in
the sun, Madam Budd, that my mate has got a glimpse at, and,
sailor-like, he mistakes it for a sail! Ha—ha—ha—yes, Harry, it's a
spot in the sun."
"It is a spot on the sun, as you say, but it's a spot made by a
vessel—and here is a boat pulling towards her, might and main; going
from the light, as if carrying news."
It was no longer possible for Spike's hopes to deceivehim. There
was a vessel, sure enough; though, when first seen, it was so directly
in a line with the fiery orb of the setting sun, as to escape common
observation. As the brig went foaming on towards the ocean, however,
the black speck was soon brought out of the range of the orb of day,
and Spike's glass was instantly levelled at it.
"Just as one might expect, Mr. Mulford," cried the captain,
lowering his glass, and looking aloft to see what could be done to help
his craft along; "a bloody revenue cutter, as I'm a wicked sinner!
There she lies, sir, within musket shot of the shore, hid behind the
point, as it might be in waiting for us, with her head to the
southward, her helm hard down, topsail aback, and foresail brailed; as
wicked looking a thing as Free Trade and Sailor's Rights ever ran from.
My life on it, sir, she's been put in that precise spot, in waiting for
the Molly to arrive. You see, as we stand on, it places her as
handsomely to windward of us, as the heart of man could desire."
"It is a revenue cutter, sir; now she's out of the sun's wake, that
is plain enough. And that is her boat, which has been sent to the light
to keep a look-out for us. Well, sir, she's to windward; but we have
everything set for our course, and as we are fairly abeam, she must be
a great traveller to overhaul us."
"I thought these bloody cutters were all down in the Gulf," growled
the captain, casting his eyes aloft again, to see that everything drew.
"I'm sure the newspapers have mentioned as many as twenty that are down
there, and here is one, lying behind Montauk, like a snake in the
"At any rate, by the time he gets his boat up we shall get the
start of him—ay, there he fills and falls off, to go and meet her.
He'll soon be after us, Captain Spike, at racing speed."
Everything occurred as those two mariners had foreseen. The revenue
cutter, one of the usual fore-top-sail schooners that are employed in
that service, up and down the coast, had no sooner hoisted up her boat,
than she made sail, a little off the wind, on a line to close with the
Swash. As for the brig, she had hauled up to an easy bowline, as she
came round Montauk, and was now standing off south south-east, still
having the wind at south-west. The weatherlyposition of the cutter
enabled her to steer rather more than one point freer. At the
commencement of this chase, the vessels were about a mile and a half
apart, a distance too great to enable the cutter to render the light
guns she carried available, and it was obvious from the first, that
everything depended on speed. And speed it was, truly; both vessels
fairly flying; the Molly Swash having at last met with something very
like her match. Half an hour satisfied both Spike and Mulford that, by
giving the cutter the advantage of one point in a freer wind, she would
certainly get alongside of them, and the alternative was therefore to
"A starn chase is a long chase, all the world over," cried
Spike—"edge away, sir; edge away, sir, and bring the cutter well on
This order was obeyed; but to the surprise of those in the Swash,
the cutter did not exactly follow, though she kept off a little more.
Her object seemed to be to maintain her weatherly position, and in this
manner the two vessels ran on for an hour longer, until the Swash had
made most of the distance between Montauk and Blok Island. Objects were
even becoming dimly visible on the last, and the light on the point was
just becoming visible, a lone star above a waste of desert, the sun
having been down now fully a quarter of an hour, and twilight beginning
to draw the curtain of night over the waters.
"A craft under Blok," shouted the look-out, that was still kept
aloft as a necessary precaution.
"What sort of a craft?" demanded Spike, fiercely; for the very
mention of a sail, at that moment, aroused all his ire. "Arn't you
making a frigate out of an apple-orchard?"
"It's the steamer, sir. I can now see her smoke. She's just
clearing the land, on the south side of the island, and seems to be
coming round to meet us."
A long, low, eloquent whistle from the captain, succeeded this
announcement. The man aloft was right. It was the steamer, sure enough;
and she had been lying hid behind Blok Island, exactly as her consort
had been placed behind Montauk, in waiting for their chase to arrive.
The result was, to put the Molly Swash in exceeding jeopardy, and
thereason why the cutter kept so well to windward was fully explained.
To pass out to sea between these two craft was hopeless. There remained
but a single alternative from capture by one or by the other,—and that
Spike adopted instantly. He kept his brig dead away, setting
studding-sails on both sides. This change of course brought the cutter
nearly aft, or somewhat on the other quarter, and laid the brig's head
in a direction to carry her close to the northern coast of the island.
But the principal advantage was gained over the steamer, which could
not keep off, without first standing a mile or two, or even more, to
the westward, in order to clear the land. This was so much clear gain
to the Swash, which was running off at racing speed, on a north-east
course, while her most dangerous enemy was still heading to the
westward. As for the cutter, she kept away; but it was soon apparent
that the brig had the heels of her, dead before the wind.
Darkness now began to close around the three vessels; the brig and
the schooner soon becoming visible to each other principally by means
of their night-glasses; though the steamer's position could be easily
distinguished by means of her flaming chimney. This latter vessel stood
to the westward for a quarter of an hour, when her commander appeared
to become suddenly conscious of the ground he was losing, and he wore
short round, and went off before the wind, under steam and canvas;
intending to meet the chase off the northern side of the island. The
very person who had hailed the Swash, as she was leaving the wharf, who
had passed her in Hell-Gate, with Jack Tier in his boat, and who had
joined her off Throgmorton's, was now on her deck, urging her commander
by every consideration not to let the brig escape. It was at his
suggestion that the course was changed. Nervous, and eager to seize the
brig, he prevailed on the commander of the steamer to alter his course.
Had he done no more than this, all might have been well; but so
exaggerated were his notions of the Swash's sailing, that, instead of
suffering the steamer to keep close along the eastern side of the
island, he persuaded her commander of the necessity of standing off a
long distance to the northward and eastward, with a view to get ahead
of the chase. This was not bad advice, were thereany certainly that
Spike would stand on, of which, however, he had no intention.
The night set in dark and cloudy; and, the instant that Spike saw,
by means of the flaming chimney, that the steamer had wore, and was
going to the eastward of Blok, his plan was laid. Calling to Mulford,
he communicated it to him, and was glad to find that his intelligent
mate was of his own way of thinking. The necessary orders were given,
accordingly, and everything was got ready for its execution.
In the meantime, the two revenue craft were much in earnest. The
schooner was one of the fastest in the service, and had been placed
under Montauk, as described, in the confident expectation of her being
able to compete with even the Molly Swash successfully, more especially
if brought upon a bowline. Her commander watched the receding form of
the brig with the closest attention, until it was entirely swallowed up
in the darkness, under the land, towards which he then sheered himself,
in order to prevent the Swash from hauling up, and turning to windward,
close in under the shadow of the island. Against this manœuvre,
however, the cutter had now taken an effectual precaution, and her
people were satisfied that escape in that way was impossible.
On the other hand, the steamer was doing very well. Driven by the
breeze, and propelled by her wheels, away she went, edging further and
further from the island, as the person from the Custom-House succeeded,
as it might be, inch by inch, in persuading the captain of the
necessity of his so doing. At length a sail was dimly seen ahead, and
then no doubt was entertained that the brig had got to the northward
and eastward of them. Half an hour brought the steamer alongside of
this sail, which turned out to be a brig that had come over the shoals,
and was beating into the ocean, on her way to one of the southern
ports. Her captain said there had nothing passed to the eastward.
Round went the steamer, and in went all her canvas. Ten minutes
later the look-out saw a sail to the westward, standing before the
wind. Odd as it might seem, the steamer's people now fancied they were
sure of the Swash. There she was, coming directly for them, with
squared yards!The distance was short, or a vessel could not have been
seen by that light, and the two craft were soon near each other. A gun
was actually cleared on board the steamer, ere it was ascertained that
the stranger was the schooner! It was now midnight, and nothing was in
sight but the coasting brig. Reluctantly, the revenue people gave the
matter up; the Molly Swash having again eluded them, though by means
Leander dived for love, Leucadia's cliff
The Lesbian Sappho leap'd from in a miff,
To punish Phaon; Icarus went dead,
Because the wax did not continue stiff;
And, had he minded what his father said,
He had not given a name unto his watery bed.
We must now advance the time several days, and change the scene to
a distant part of the ocean; within the tropics indeed. The females had
suffered slight attacks of sea-sickness, and recovered from them, and
the brig was safe from all her pursuers. The manner of Spike's escape
was simple enough, and without any necromancy. While the steamer, on
the one hand, was standing away to the northward and eastward, in order
to head him off, and the schooner was edging in with the island, in
order to prevent his beating up to windward of it, within its shadows,
the brig had run close round the northern margin of the land, and
hauled up to leeward of the island, passing between it and the steamer.
All this time, her movements were concealed from the schooner by the
island itself, and from the steamer, by its shadow and dark
back-ground, aided by the distance. By making short tacks, this
expedient answered perfectly well; and, at the very moment when the two
revenue vessels met, at midnight, about three leagues toleeward of Blok
Island, the brigantine, Molly Swash, was just clearing its most
weatherly point, on the larboard tack, and coming out exactly at the
spot where the steamer was when first seen that afternoon. Spike stood
to the westward, until he was certain of having the island fairly
between him and his pursuers, when he went about, and filled away on
his course, running out to sea again on an easy bowline. At sunrise the
next day he was fifty miles to the southward and eastward of Montauk;
the schooner was going into New London, her officers and people quite
chop-fallen; and the steamer was paddling up the Sound, her captain
being fully persuaded that the runaways had returned in the direction
from which they had come, and might yet be picked up in that quarter.
The weather was light, just a week after the events related in the
close of the last chapter. By this time the brig had got within the
influence of the trades; and, it being the intention of Spike to pass
to the southward of Cuba, he had so far profited by the westerly winds,
as to get well to the eastward of the Mona Passage, the strait through
which he intended to shape his course on making the islands. Early on
that morning Mrs. Budd had taken her seat on the trunk of the cabin,
with a complacent air, and arranged her netting, some slight passages
of gallantry, on the part of the captain, having induced her to propose
netting him a purse. Biddy was going to and fro, in quest of silks and
needles, her mistress having become slightly capricious in her tastes
of late, and giving her, on all such occasions, at least a double
allowance of occupation. As for Rose, she sat reading beneath the shade
of the coach-house deck, while the handsome young mate was within three
feet of her, working up his logarithms, but within the sanctuary of his
own state-room; the open door and window of which, however, gave him
every facility he could desire to relieve his mathematics, by gazing at
the sweet countenance of his charming neighbor. Jack Tier and Josh were
both passing to and fro, as is the wont of stewards, between the
camboose and the cabin, the breakfast table being just then in the
course of preparation. In all other respects, always excepting the man
at the wheel, who stood within a fathom of Rose, Spike had the
quarter-deck to himself, anddid not fail to pace its weather-side with
an air that denoted the master and owner. After exhibiting his sturdy,
but short, person in this manner, to the admiring eyes of all
beholders, for some time, the captain suddenly took a seat at the side
of the relict, and dropped into the following discourse.
"The weather is moderate, Madam Budd; quite moderate," observed
Spike, a sentimental turn coming over him at the moment. "What I call
moderate and agreeable."
"So much the better for us; the ladies are fond of moderation,
"Not in admiration, Madam Budd—ha! ha! ha! no, not in admiration.
Immoderation is what they like when it comes to that. I'm a single man,
but I know that the ladies like admiration—mind where you're sheering
to," the captain said, interrupting himself a little fiercely,
considering the nature of the subject, in consequence of Jack Tier's
having trodden on his toe in passing—"or I'll teach you the navigation
of the quarter-deck, Mr. Burgoo!"
"Moderation—moderation, my good captain," said the simpering
relict. "As to admiration, I confess that it is agreeable to us ladies;
more especially when it comes from gentlemen of sense, and
intelligence, and experience."
Rose fidgeted, having heard every word that was said, and her face
flushed; for she doubted not that Harry's ears were as good as her own.
As for the man at the wheel, he turned the tobacco over in his mouth,
hitched up his trousers, and appeared interested, though somewhat
mystified—the conversation was what he would have termed "talking
dictionary," and he had some curiosity to learn how the captain would
work his way out of it. It is probable that Spike himself had some
similar gleamings of the difficulties of his position, for he looked a
little troubled, though still resolute. It was the first time he had
ever lain yard-arm and yard-arm with a widow, and he had long
entertained a fancy that such a situation was trying to the best of
"Yes, Madam Budd, yes," he said, "exper'ence and sense carry weight
with 'em, wherever they go. I'm glad to find that you entertain these
just notions of us gentlemen, and make a difference between boys and
them that's seen and known exper'ence. For my part, I count youngsters
under forty as so much lumber about decks, as to any comfort and
calculations in keepin' a family, as a family ought to be kept."
Mrs. Budd looked interested, but she remained silent on hearing
this remark, as became her sex.
"Every man ought to settle in life, some time or other, Madam Budd,
accordin' to my notion, though no man ought to be in a boyish haste
about it," continued the captain. "Now, in my own case, I've been so
busy all my youth— not that I'm very old now, but I'm no boy—but all
my younger days have been passed in trying to make things meet, in a
way to put any lady who might take a fancy to me—"
"Oh! captain—that is too strong! The ladies do not take fancies
for gentlemen, but the gentlemen take fancies for ladies!"
"Well, well, you know what I mean, Madam Budd; and so long as the
parties understand each other, a word dropped, or a word put into a
charter-party, makes it neither stronger nor weaker. There's a time,
howsomever, in every man's life, when he begins to think of settling
down, and of considerin' himself as a sort of mooring-chain, for
children and the likes of them to make fast to. Such is my natur', I
will own; and ever since I've got to be intimate in your family, Madam
Budd, that sentiment has grown stronger and stronger in me, till it has
got to be uppermost in all my idees. Bone of my bone, and flesh of my
flesh, as a body might say."
Mrs. Budd now looked more than interested, for she looked a little
confused, and Rose began to tremble for her aunt. It was evident that
the parties most conspicuous in this scene were not at all conscious
that they were overheard, the intensity of their attention being too
much concentrated on what was passing to allow of any observation
without their own narrow circle. What may be thought still more
extraordinary, but what in truth was the most natural of all, each of
the parties was so intently bent on his, or her, own train of thought,
that neither in the least suspected any mistake.
"Grown with your growth, and strengthened with yourstrength,"
rejoined the relict, smiling kindly enough on the captain to have
encouraged a much more modest man than he happened to be.
"Yes, Madam Budd—very just that remark; grown with my strength,
and strengthened with my growth, as one might say; though I've not done
much at growing for a good many years. Your late husband, Captain Budd,
often remarked how very early I got my growth; and rated me as an
'able-bodied' hand, when most lads think it an honour to be placed
among the 'or'naries.' "
The relict looked grave; and she wondered at any man's being so
singular as to allude to a first husband, at the very moment he was
thinking of offering himself for a second. As for herself, she had not
uttered as many words in the last four years, as she had uttered in
that very conversation, without making some allusion to her "poor dear
Mr. Budd." The reader is not to do injustice to the captain's widow,
however, by supposing for a moment that she was actually so weak as to
feel any tenderness for a man like Spike, which would be doing a great
wrong to both her taste and her judgment, as Rose well knew, even while
most annoyed by the conversation she could not but overhear. All that
influenced the good relict was that besetting weakness of her sex,
which renders admiration so universally acceptable; and predisposes a
female, as it might be, to listen to a suitor with indulgence, and some
little show of kindness, even when resolute to reject him. As for Rose,
to own the truth, her aunt did not give her a thought, as yet,
notwithstanding Spike was getting to be so sentimental.
"Yes, your late excellent and honourable consort always said that I
got my growth sooner than any youngster he ever fell in with," resumed
the captain, after a short pause; exciting fresh wonder in his
companion, that he would persist in lugging in the "dear departed" so
very unseasonably. "I am a great admirer of all the Budd family, my
good lady, and only wish my connection with it had never tarminated; if
tarminated it can be called."
"It need not be terminated, Captain Spike, so long as friendship
exists in the human heart."
"Ay, so it is always with you ladies; when a man is bent on suthin'
closer and more interestin' like, you're forputting it off on
friendship. Now friendship is good enough in its way, Madam Budd, but
friendship is n't love."
"Love!" echoed the widow, fairly starting, though she looked down
at her netting, and looked as confused as she knew how. "That is a very
decided word, Captain Spike, and should never be mentioned to a woman's
So the captain now appeared to think, too, for no sooner had he
delivered himself of the important monosyllable, than he left the
widow's side, and began to pace the deck, as it might be to moderate
his own ardour. As for Rose, she blushed, if her more practised aunt
did not; while Harry Mulford laughed heartily, taking good care,
however, not to be heard. The man at the wheel turned the tobacco
again, gave his trousers another hitch, and wondered anew whither the
skipper was bound. But the drollest manifestation of surprise came from
Josh, the steward, who was passing along the lee-side of the
quarter-deck, with a tea-pot in his hand, when the energetic manner of
the captain sent the words "friendship is n't love" to his ears. This
induced him to stop for a single instant, and to cast a wondering
glance behind him; after which he moved on toward the galley, mumbling
as he went—"Lub! what he want of lub, or what lub want of him! Well, I
do t'ink Captain Spike bowse his jib out pretty 'arly dis mornin'."
Captain Spike soon got over the effects of his effort, and the
confusion of the relict did not last any material length of time. As
the former had gone so far, however, he thought the present an occasion
as good as another to bring matters to a crisis.
"Our sentiments sometimes get to be so strong, Madam Budd," resumed
the lover, as he took his seat again on the trunk, "that they run away
with us. Men is liable to be run away with as well as ladies. I once
had a ship run away with me, and a pretty time we had of it. Did you
ever hear of a ship's running away with her people, Madam Budd, just as
your horse ran away with your buggy?"
"I suppose I must have heard of such things, sir, my education
having been so maritime, though just at this moment I cannot recall an
instance. When my horse ran away, the buggy was cap-asided. Did your
vessel cap-aside on the occasion you mention?"
"No, Madam Budd, no. The ship was off the wind at the time I mean,
and vessels do not capsize when off the wind. I'll tell you how it
happened. We was a scuddin' under a goose-wing foresail—"
"Yes, yes," interrupted the relict, eagerly. "I've often heard of
that sail, which is small, and used only in tempests."
"Heavy weather, Madam Budd—only in heavy weather."
"It is amazing to me, captain, how you seamen manage to weigh the
weather. I have often heard of light weather and heavy weather, but
never fairly understood the manner of weighing it."
"Why we do make out to ascertain the difference," replied the
captain, a little puzzled for an answer; "and I suppose it must be by
means of the barometer, which goes up and down like a pair of scales.
But the time I mean, we was a scuddin' under a goose-wing foresail—"
"A sail made of goose's wings, and a beautiful object it must be;
like some of the caps and cloaks that come from the islands, which are
all of feathers, and charming objects are they. I beg pardon—you had
your goose's wings spread—"
"Yes, Madam Budd, yes; we was steering for a Mediterranean port,
intending to clear a mole-head, when a sea took us under the
larboard-quarter, gave us such a sheer to-port as sent our cat-head
ag'in a spile, and raked away the chain-plates of the top-mast
back-stays, bringing down all the forrard hamper about our ears."
This description produced such a confusion in the mind of the
widow, that she was glad when it came to an end. As for the captain,
fearful that the "goose's wings" might be touched upon again, he
thought it wisest to attempt another flight on those of Cupid.
"As I was sayin', Madam Budd, friendship is n't love; no, not a bit
of it! Friendship is a common sort of feelin': but love, as you must
know by exper'ence, Madam Budd, is an uncommon sort of feelin'."
"Fie, Captain Spike, gentlemen should never allude to ladies
knowing any thing about love. Ladies respect, and admire, and esteem,
and have a regard for gentlemen; but it is almost too strong to talk
about their love."
"Yes, Madam Budd, yes; I dare say it is so, and ought to be so; and
I ask pardon for having said as much as I did. But my love for your
niece is of so animated and lastin' a natur', that I scarce know what I
"Captain Spike, you amaze me! I declare I can hardly breathe for
astonishment. My niece! Surely you do not mean Rosy!"
"Who else should I mean? My love for Miss Rose is so very decided
and animated, I tell you, Madam Budd, that I will not answer for the
consequences, should you not consent to her marryin' me."
"I can scarce believe my ears! You, Stephen Spike, and an old
friend of her uncle's, wishing to marry his niece!"
"Just so, Madam Budd; that's it, to a shavin'. The regard I have
for the whole family is so great, that nothin' less than the hand of
Miss Rose in marriage can, what I call, mitigate my feelin's."
Now the relict had not one spark of tenderness herself in behalf of
Spike; while she did love Rose better than any human being, her own
self excepted. But she had viewed all the sentiment of that morning,
and all the fine speeches of the captain, very differently from what
the present state of things told her she ought to have viewed them; and
she felt the mortification natural to her situation. The captain was so
much bent on the attainment of his own object, that he saw nothing
else, and was even unconscious that his extraordinary and somewhat loud
discourse had been overheard. Least of all did he suspect that his
admiration had been mistaken; and that in what he called "courtin' "
the niece, he had been all the while "courtin' " the aunt. But little
apt as she was to discover any thing, Mrs. Budd had enough of her sex's
discernment in a matter of this sort, to perceive that she had fallen
into an awkward mistake, and enough of her sex's pride to resent it.
Taking her work in her hand, she left her seat, and descended to the
cabin, with quite as much dignity in her manner as it was in the power
of one of her height and "build" to express. What is the most
extraordinary, neither she nor Spike ever ascertained that their whole
dialogue had been overheard. Spike continued to pace the quarter-deck
forseveral minutes, scarce knowing what to think of the relict's
manner, when his attention was suddenly drawn to other matters by the
familiar cry of "sail-ho!"
This was positively the first vessel with which the Molly Swash had
fallen in since she lost sight of two or three craft that had passed
her in the distance, as she left the American coast. As usual, this cry
brought all hands on deck, and Mulford out of his state-room.
It has been stated already that the brig was just beginning to feel
the trades, and it might have been added, to see the mountains of San
Domingo. The winds had been variable for the last day or two, and they
still continued light, and disposed to be unsteady, ranging from
north-east to south-east, with a preponderance in favour of the first
point. At the cry of "sail-ho!" everybody looked in the indicated
direction, which was west, a little northerly, but for a long time
without success. The cry had come from aloft, and Mulford went up as
high as the fore-top before he got any glimpse of the stranger at all.
He had slung a glass, and Spike was unusually anxious to know the
result of his examination.
"Well, Mr. Mulford, what do you make of her?" he called out as soon
as the mate announced that he saw the strange vessel.
"Wait a moment, sir, till I get a look,—she's a long way off, and
"Well, sir, well?"
"I can only see the heads of her top-gallant sails. She seems a
ship steering to the southward, with as many kites flying as an
Indiaman in the trades. She looks as if she were carrying royal
"The devil she does! Such a chap must not only be in a hurry, but
he must be strong-handed to give himself all this trouble in such light
and var'able winds. Are his yards square?—Is he man-of-war-ish?"
"There's no telling, sir, at this distance; though I rather think
its stun'-sails that I see. Go down and get your breakfast, and in half
an hour I'll give a better account of him."
This was done, Mrs. Budd appearing at the table with great dignity
in her manner. Although she had so naturallysupposed that Spike's
attentions had been intended for herself, she was rather mortified than
hurt on discovering her mistake. Her appetite, consequently, was not
impaired, though her stomach might have been said to be very full. The
meal passed off without any scene, notwithstanding, and Spike soon
re-appeared on deck, still masticating the last mouthful like a man in
a hurry, and a good deal à l' Américaine. Mulford saw his arrival, and
immediately levelled his glass again.
"Well, what news now, sir?" called out the captain. "You must have
a better chance at him by this time, for I can see the chap from off
the coach-house here."
"Ay, ay, sir; he's a bit nearer, certainly. I should say that craft
is a ship under stun'-sails, looking to the eastward of south, and that
there are caps with gold bands on her quarter-deck."
"How low down can you see her?" demanded Spike, in a voice of
So emphatic and remarkable was the captain's manner in putting this
question, that the mate cast a look of surprise beneath him ere he
answered it. A look with the glass succeeded, when the reply was given.
"Ay, ay, sir; there can be no mistake—it's a cruiser, you may
depend on it. I can see the heads of her topsails now, and they are so
square and symmetrical, that gold bands are below beyond all doubt."
"Perhaps he's a Frenchman—Johnny Crapaud keeps cruisers in these
seas as well as the rest on'em."
"Johnny Crapaud's craft don't spread such arms, sir. The ship is
either English or American; and he's heading for the Mona Passage as
well as ourselves."
"Come down, sir, come down—there's work to be done as soon as you
Mulford did come down, and he was soon seated at the table, with
both Josh and Jack Tier for attendants. The aunt and the niece were in
their own cabin, a few yards distant, with the door open.
"What a fuss'e cap'in make 'bout dat sail," grumbled Josh, who had
been in the brig so long that he sometimes took liberties with even
Spike himself. "What good he t'ink t'will do to measure him inch by
inch? Bye'm by heget alongside, and den 'e ladies even can tell all
"He nat'rally wishes to know who gets alongside," put in Tier,
"What matter dat. All sort of folk get alongside of Molly Swash;
and what good it do 'em? Yoh! yoh! yoh! I do remem'er sich times vid'e
"What old hussy do you mean?" demanded Jack Tier a little fiercely,
and in a way to draw Mulford's eyes from the profile of Rose's face to
the visages of his two attendants.
"Come, come, gentlemen, if you please; recollect where you are,"
interrupted the mate authoritatively. "You are not now squabbling in
your galley, but are in the cabin. What is it to you, Tier, if Josh
does call the brig an old hussy; she is old, as we all know, and years
are respectable; and as for her being a 'hussy,' that is a term of
endearment sometimes. I've heard the captain himself call the Molly a
'hussy,' fifty times, and he loves her as he does the apple of his
This interference put an end to the gathering storm as a matter of
course, and the two disputants shortly after passed on deck. No sooner
was the coast clear than Rose stood in the door of her own cabin.
"Do you think the strange vessel is an American?" she asked
"It is impossible to say—English or American I make no doubt. But
why do you inquire?"
"But my aunt and myself desire to quit the brig, and if the
stranger should prove to be an American vessel of war, might not the
occasion be favourable?"
"And what reason can you give for desiring to do so?"
"What signifies a reason," answered Rose with spirit. "Spike is not
our master, and we can come and go as we may see fit."
"But a reason must be given to satisfy the commander of the vessel
of war. Craft of that character are very particular about the
passengers they receive; nor would it be altogether wise in two
unprotected females to go on board a cruiser, unless in a case of the
most obvious necessity."
"Will not what has passed this morning be thought a sufficient
reason," added Rose, drawing nearer to the mate,and dropping her voice
so as not to be heard by her aunt.
Mulford smiled as he gazed at the earnest but attractive
countenance of his charming companion.
"And who could tell it, or how could it be told? Would the
commander of a vessel of war incur the risk of receiving such a person
as yourself on board his vessel, for the reason that the master of the
craft she was in when he fell in with her desired to marry her?"
Rose appeared vexed, but she was at once made sensible that it was
not quite as easy to change her vessel at sea, as to step into a
strange door in a town. She drew slowly back into her own cabin silent
and thoughtful; her aunt pursuing her netting the whole time with an
air of dignified industry.
"Well, Mr. Mulford, well," called out Spike at the head of the
cabin stairs, "what news from the coffee?"
"All ready, sir," answered the mate, exchanging significant glances
with Rose. "I shall be up in a moment."
That moment soon came, and Mulford was ready for duty. While below,
Spike had caused certain purchases to be got aloft, and the main-hatch
was open and the men collected around it, in readiness to proceed with
the work. Harry asked no questions, for the preparations told him what
was about to be done, but passing below, he took charge of the duty
there, while the captain superintended the part that was conducted on
deck. In the course of the next hour eight twelve-pound carronades were
sent up out of the hold, and mounted in as many of the ports which
lined the bulwarks of the brigantine. The men seemed to be accustomed
to the sort of work in which they were now engaged, and soon had their
light batteries in order, and ready for service. In the mean time the
two vessels kept on their respective courses, and by the time the guns
were mounted, there was a sensible difference in their relative
positions. The stranger had drawn so near the brigantine as to be very
obvious from the latter's deck, while the brigantine had drawn so much
nearer to the islands of San Domingo and Porto Rico, as to render the
opening between them, the well-known Mona Passage, distinctly visible.
Of all this Spike appeared to be fully aware, for he quittedthe
work several times before it was finished, in order to take a look at
the stranger, and at the land. When the batteries were arranged, he and
Mulford, each provided with a glass, gave a few minutes to a more
deliberate examination of the first.
"That's the Mona ahead of us," said the captain; "of that there can
be no question, and a very pretty land-fall you've made of it, Harry.
I'll allow you to be as good a navigator as floats."
"Nevertheless, sir, you have not seen fit to let me know whither
the brig is really bound this voyage."
"No matter for that, young man—no matter, as yet. All in good
time. When I tell you to lay your course for the Mona, you can lay your
course for the Mona; and, as soon as we are through the passage, I'll
let you know what is wanted next—if that bloody chap, who is nearing
us, will let me."
"And why should any vessel wish to molest us on our passage,
"Why, sure enough! It's war-times, you know, and war-times always
bring trouble to the trader—though it sometimes brings profit, too."
As Spike concluded, he gave his mate a knowing wink, which the
other understood to mean that he expected himself some of the unusual
profit to which he alluded. Mulford did not relish this secret
communication, for the past had induced him to suspect the character of
the trade in which his commander was accustomed to engage. Without
making any sort of reply, or encouraging the confidence by even a
smile, he levelled his glass at the stranger, as did Spike, the instant
he ceased to grin.
"That's one of Uncle Sam's fellows!" exclaimed the captain,
dropping the glass. "I'd swear to the chap in any admiralty court on
"'T is a vessel of war, out of all doubt," returned the mate, "and
under a cloud of canvas. I can make out the heads of her courses now,
and see that she is carrying hard, for a craft that is almost
"Ay, ay; no merchantmen keeps his light stun'-sails set, as near
the wind as that fellow's going. He's a big chap, too—a frigate, at
least, by his canvas."
"I do not know, sir—they build such heavy corvettes now-a-days,
that I should rather take her for one of them. They tell me ships are
now sent to sea which mount only two-and-twenty guns, but which measure
quite a thousand tons."
"With thunderin' batteries, of course."
"With short thirty-twos and a few rapping sixty-eight Paixhans—or
Columbiads, as they ought in justice to be called."
"And you think this chap likely to be a craft of that sort?"
"Nothing is more probable, sir. Government has several, and, since
this war has commenced, it has been sending off cruiser after cruiser
into the Gulf. The Mexicans dare not send a vessel of war to sea, which
would be sending them to Norfolk, or New York, at once; but no one can
say when they may begin to make a prey of our commerce."
"They have taken nothing as yet, Mr. Mulford, and, to tell you the
truth, I'd much rather fall in with one of Don Montezuma's craft than
one of Uncle Sam's."
"That is a singular taste, for an American, Captain Spike, unless
you think, now our guns are mounted, we can handle a Mexican," returned
Mulford coldly. "At all events, it is some answer to those who ask
'What is the navy about?' that months of war have gone by, and not an
American has been captured. Take away that navy, and the insurance
offices in Wall-street would tumble like a New York party-wall in a
"Nevertheless, I'd rather take my chance, just now, with Don
Montezuma than with Uncle Sam."
Mulford did not reply, though the earnest manner in which Spike
expressed himself, helped to increase his distrust touching the nature
of the voyage. With him the captain had no further conference, but it
was different as respects the boatswain. That worthy was called aft,
and for half an hour he and Spike were conversing apart, keeping their
eyes fastened on the strange vessel most of the time.
It was noon before all uncertainly touching the character of the
stranger ceased. By that time, however, both vessels were entering the
Mona Passage; the brig well to windward, on the Porto Rico side; while
the ship was so far toleeward as to be compelled to keep everything
close-hauled, in order to weather the island. The hull of the last
could now be seen, and no doubt was entertained about her being a
cruiser, and one of some size, too. Spike thought she was a frigate;
but Mulford still inclined to the opinion that she was one of the new
ships; perhaps a real corvette, or with a light spar-deck over her
batteries. Two or three of the new vessels were known to be thus
fitted, and this might be one. At length all doubt on the subject
ceased, the stranger setting an American ensign, and getting so near as
to make it apparent that she had but a single line of guns. Still she
was a large ship, and the manner that she ploughed through the brine,
close-hauled as she was, extorted admiration even from Spike.
"We had better begin to shorten sail, Mr. Mulford," the captain at
length most reluctantly remarked. "We might give the chap the slip,
perhaps, by keeping close in under Porto Rico, but he would give us a
long chase, and might drive us away to windward, when I wish to keep
off between Cuba and Jamaica. He's a traveller; look, how he stands up
to it under that could of canvas!"
Mulford was slow to commence on the studding-sails, and the cruiser
was getting nearer and nearer. At length a gun was fired, and a heavy
shot fell about two hundred yards short of the brig, and a little out
of line with her. On this hint, Spike turned the hands up, and began to
shorten sail. In ten minutes the Swash was under her topsail, mainsail
and jib, with her light sails hanging in the gear, and all the steering
canvas in. In ten minutes more the cruiser was so near as to admit of
the faces of the three or four men whose heads were above the
hammock-cloths being visible, when she too began to fold her wings. In
went her royals, topgallant-sails, and various kites, as it might be by
some common muscular agency; and up went her courses. Everything was
done at once. By this time she was crossing the brig's wake, looking
exceedingly beautiful, with her topsails lifting, her light sails
blowing out, and even her heavy courses fluttering in the breeze. There
flew the glorious stars and stripes also; of brief existence, but full
of recollections! The moment she had room, her helm went up, her bows
fell off, and down she came, on the weather quarter of the Swash, so
near as to render a trumpet nearly useless.
On board the brig everybody was on deck; even the relict having
forgotten her mortification in curiosity. On board the cruiser no one
was visible, with the exception of a few men in each top, and a group
of gold-banded caps on the poop. Among these officers stood the
captain, a red-faced, middle-aged man, with the usual signs of his rank
about him; and at his side was his lynx-eyed first lieutenant. The
surgeon and purser were also there, though they stood a little apart
from the more nautical dignitaries. The hail that followed came out of
a trumpet that was thrust through the mizzen-rigging; the officer who
used it taking his cue from the poop.
"What brig is that?" commenced the discourse.
"The Molly Swash, of New York, Stephen Spike, master."
"Where from, and whither bound?"
"From New York, and bound to Key West and a market."
A pause succeeded this answer, during which the officers on the
poop of the cruiser held some discourse with him of the trumpet. During
the interval the cruiser ranged fairly up abeam.
"You are well to windward of your port, sir," observed he of the
"I know it; but it's war times, and I didn't know but there might
be piccaroons hovering about the Havanna."
"The coast is clear, and our cruisers will keep it so. I see you
have a battery, sir!"
"Ay, ay; some old guns that I've had aboard these ten years:
they're useful, sometimes, in these seas."
"Very true. I'll range ahead of you, and as soon as you've room,
I'll thank you to heave-to. I wish to send a boat on board you."
Spike was sullen enough on receiving this order, but there was no
help for it. He was now in the jaws of the lion, and his wisest course
was to submit to the penalties of his position with the best grace he
could. The necessary orders were consequently given, and the brig no
sooner got room than she came by the wind and backed her topsail. The
cruiser went about, and passing to windward, backed hermain-topsail
just forward of the Swash's beam. Then the latter lowered a boat, and
sent it, with a lieutenant and a midshipman in its stern-sheets, on
board the brigantine. As the cutter approached, Spike went to the
gangway to receive the strangers.
Although there will be frequent occasion to mention this cruiser,
the circumstances are of so recent occurrence, that we do not choose to
give either her name, or that of any one belonging to her. We shall,
consequently, tell the curious, who may be disposed to turn to their
navy-lists and blue-books, that the search will be of no use, as all
the names we shall use, in reference to this cruiser, will be
fictitious. As much of the rest of our story as the reader please may
be taken for gospel; but we tell him frankly, that we have thought it
most expedient to adopt assumed names, in connection with this vessel
and all her officers. There are good reasons for so doing; and, among
others, is that of abstaining from arming a clique to calumniate her
commander, (who, by the way, like another commander in the Gulf that
might be named, and who has actually been exposed to the sort of
tracasserie to which there is allusion, is one of the very ablest men
in the service,) in order to put another in his place.
The officer who now came over the side of the Swash we shall call
Wallace; he was the second lieutenant of the vessel of war. He was
about thirty, and the midshipman who followed him was a well-grown lad
of nineteen. Both had a decided man-of-war look, and both looked a
little curiously at the vessel they had boarded.
"Your servant, sir," said Wallace, touching his cap in reply to
Spike's somewhat awkward bow. "Your brig is the Molly Swash, Stephen
Spike, bound from New York to Key West and a market."
"You've got it all as straight, lieutenant, as if you was a readin'
it from the log."
"The next thing, sir, is to know of what your cargo is composed?"
"Flour; eight hundred barrels of flour."
"Flour! Would you not do better to carry that to Liverpool? The
Mississippi must be almost turned into paste by the quantity of flour
it floats to market."
"Notwithstanding that, lieutenant, I know Uncle Sam's economy so
well, as to believe I shall part with every barrel of my flour to his
contractors, at a handsome profit."
"You read Whig newspapers principally, I rather think, Mr. Spike,"
answered Wallace, in his cool, deliberate way, smiling, however, as he
We may just as well say here, that nature intended this gentleman
for a second lieutenant, the very place he filled. He was a capital
second lieutenant, while he would not have earned his rations as first.
So well was he assured of this peculiarity in his moral composition,
that he did not wish to be the first lieutenant of anything in which he
sailed. A respectable seaman, a well-read and intelligent man, a
capital deck officer, or watch officer, he was too indolent to desire
to be anything more, and was as happy as the day was long, in the easy
berth he filled. The first lieutenant had been his messmate as a
midshipman, and ranked him but two on the list in his present
commission; but he did not envy him in the least. On the contrary, one
of his greatest pleasures was to get. "Working Willy," as he called his
senior, over a glass of wine, or a tumbler of "hot stuff," and make him
recount the labours of the day. On such occasions, Wallace never failed
to compare the situation of "Working Willy" with his own gentlemanlike
ease and independence. As second lieutenant, his rank raised him above
most of the unpleasant duty of the ship, while it did not raise him
high enough to plunge him into the never-ending labours of his senior.
He delighted to call himself the "ship's gentleman," a sobriquet he
well deserved, on more accounts than one.
"You read Whig newspapers principally, I rather think, Mr. Spike,"
answered the lieutenant, as has been just mentioned, "while we on board
the Poughkeepsie indulge in looking over the columns of the Union, as
well as over those of the Intelligencer, when by good luck we can lay
our hands on a stray number."
"That ship, then, is called the Poughkeepsie, is she, sir?"
"Such is her name, thanks to a most beneficent and sage provision
of Congress, which has extended its parental care over the navy so far
as to imagine that a man chosen by thepeople to exercise so many of the
functions of a sovereign, is not fit to name a ship. All our two and
three deckers are to be called after states; the frigates after rivers;
and the sloops after towns. Thus it is that our craft has the honour to
be called the United States ship the 'Poughkeepsie,' instead of the
'Arrow,' or the 'Wasp,' or the 'Curlew,' or the 'Petrel,' as might
otherwise have been the case. But the wisdom of Congress is manifest,
for the plan teaches us sailors geography."
"Yes, sir, yes, one can pick up a bit of l'arnin' in that way
cheap. The Poughkeepsie, Captain—?"
"The United States' ship Poughkeepsie, 20, Captain Adam Mull, at
your service. But, Mr. Spike, you will allow me to look at your papers.
It is a duty I like, for it can be performed quietly, and without any
Spike looked distrustfully at his new acquaintance, but went for
his vessel's papers without any very apparent hesitation. Every thing
was en regle, and Wallace soon got through with the clearance,
manifest, Indeed the cargo, on paper at least, was of the simplest and
least complicated character, being composed of nothing but eight
hundred barrels of flour.
"It all looks very well on paper, Mr. Spike," added the boarding
officer. "With your permission, we will next see how it looks in sober
reality. I perceive your main hatch is open, and I suppose it will be
no difficult matter just to take a glance at your hold."
"Here is a ladder, sir, that will take us at once to the half-deck,
for I have no proper 'twixt decks in this craft; she's too small for
that sort of outfit."
"No matter, she has a hold, I suppose, and that can contain cargo.
Take me to it by the shortest road, Mr. Spike, for I am no great
admirer of trouble."
Spike now led the way below, Wallace following, leaving the
midshipman on deck, who had fallen into conversation with the relict
and her pretty niece. The half-deck of the brigantine contained spare
sails, provisions, and water, as usual, while quantities of old canvas
lay scattered over the cargo; more especially in the wake of the
hatches, of which there were two besides that which led from the
"Flour to the number of eight hundred barrels," said Wallace,
striking his foot against a barrel that lay within his reach. "The
cargo is somewhat singular to come from New York, going to Key West, my
"I suppose you know what sort of a place Key West is, sir; a bit of
an island in which there is scarce so much as a potatoe grows."
"Ay, ay, sir; I know Key West very well, having been in and out a
dozen times. All eatables are imported, turtle excepted. But flour can
be brought down the Mississippi so much cheaper than it can be brought
from New York."
"Have you any idee, lieutenant, what Uncle Sam's men are paying for
it at New Orleens, just to keep soul and bodies together among the
"That may be true, sir—quite true, I dare say, Mr. Spike. Have n't
you a bit of a chair that a fellow can sit down on—this half-deck of
your's is none of the most comfortable places to stand in. Thank you,
sir—thank you with all my heart. What lots of old sails you have
scattered about the hold, especially in the wake of the hatches!"
"Why, the craft being little more than in good ballast trim, I keep
the hatches off to air her; and the spray might spit down upon the
flour at odd times but for them 'ere sails."
"Ay, a prudent caution. So you think Uncle Sam's people will be
after this flour as soon as they learn you have got it snug in at Key
"What more likely, sir? You know how it is with our
government—always wrong, whatever it does! and I can show you
paragraphs in letters written from New Orleens, which tell us that
Uncle Sam is paying seventy-five and eighty per cent. more for flour
than anybody else."
"He must be a flush old chap to be able to do that, Spike."
"Flush! I rather think he is. Do you know that he is spendin',
accordin' to approved accounts, at this blessed moment, as much as half
a million a day? I own a wish to be pickin' up some of the coppers
while they are scattered about so plentifully."
"Half a million a day! why that is only at the rate of $187,000,000
per annum; a mere trifle, Spike, that is scarce worth mentioning among
"It's so in the newspapers, I can swear, lieutenant."
"Ay, ay, and the newspapers will swear to it, too, andthey that
gave the newspapers their cue. But no matter, our business is with this
flour. Will you sell us a barrel or two for our mess? I heard the
caterer say we should want flour in the course of a week or so."
Spike seemed embarrassed, though not to a degree to awaken
suspicion in his companion.
"I never sold cargo at sea, long as I've sailed and owned a craft,"
he answered, as if uncertain what to do. "If you'll pay the price I
expect to get in the Gulf, and will take ten barrels, I do n't know but
we may make a trade on't. I shall only ask expected prices."
"Which will be—?"
"Ten dollars a barrel. For one hundred silver dollars I will put
into your boat ten barrels of the very best brand known in the western
"This is dealing rather more extensively than I anticipated, but we
will reflect on it."
Wallance now indolently arose and ascended to the quarter-deck,
followed by Spike, who continued to press the flour on him, as if
anxious to make money. But the lieutenant hesitated about paying a
price as high as ten dollars, or to take a quantity as large as ten
"Our mess is no great matter after all," he said carelessly. "Four
lieutenants, the purser, two doctors, the master, and a marine officer,
and you get us all. Nine men could never eat ten barrels of flour, my
dear Spike, you will see for yourself, with the quantity of excellent
bread we carry. You forget the bread."
"Not a bit of it, Mr. Wallace, since that is your name. But such
flour as this of mine has not been seen in the Gulf this many a day. I
ought in reason to ask twelve dollars for it, and insist on such a ship
as your'n's taking twenty instead of the ten barrels."
"I thank you, sir, the ten will more than suffice; unless, indeed,
the captain wants some for the cabin. How is it with your steerage
messes, Mr. Archer—do you want any flour?"
"We draw a little from the ship, according to rule, sir, but we
can't go as many puddings latterly as we could before we touched last
at the Havanna," answered the laughing midshipman. "There is n't a
fellow among us, sir, thatcould pay a shore-boat for landing him,
should we go in again before the end of another month. I never knew
such a place as Havanna. They say midshipmen's money melts there twice
as soon as lieutenants' money."
"It's clear, then, you'll not take any of the ten. I am afraid
after all, Mr. Spike, we cannot trade, unless you will consent to let
me have two barrels. I'll venture on two at ten dollars, high as the
"I should n't forgive myself in six months for making so had a
bargain, lieutenant, so we'll say no more about it if you please."
"Here is a lady that wishes to say a word to you, Mr. Wallace,
before we go back to the ship, if you are at leisure to hear her, or
them—for there are two of them," put in Archer.
At this moment Mrs. Budd was approaching with a dignified step,
while Rose followed timidly a little in the rear. Wallace was a good
deal surprised at this application, and Spike was quite as much
provoked. As for Mulford, he watched the interview from a distance, a
great deal more interested in its result than he cared to have known,
more especially to his commanding officer. Its object was to get a
passage in the vessel of war.
"You are an officer of that Uncle Sam vessel," commenced Mrs. Budd,
who thought that she would so much the more command the respect and
attention of her listener, by showing him early how familiar she was
with even the slang dialect of the seas.
"I have the honour, ma'am, to belong to that Uncle Sam craft,"
answered Wallace gravely, though he bowed politely at the same time,
looking intently at the beautiful girl in the back-ground as he so did.
"So I've been told, sir. She's a beautiful vessel, lieutenant, and
is full jiggered, I perceive."
For the first time in his life, or at least for the first time
since his first cruise, Wallace wore a mystified look, being absolutely
at a loss to imagine what "full jiggered" could mean. He only looked,
therefore, for he did not answer.
"Mrs. Budd means that you've a full rigged craft," put in Spike,
anxious to have a voice in the conference, "this vessel being only a
"Oh! ay; yes, yes—the lady is quite right. We are full jiggered
from our dead-eyes to our eye-bolts."
"I thought as much, sir, from your ground hamper and top-tackles,"
added the relict smiling. "For my part there is nothing in nature that
I so much admire as a full jiggered ship, with her canvas out of the
bolt-ropes, and her clewlines and clew-garnets braced sharp, and her
yards all abroad."
"Yes, ma'am, it is just as you say, a very charming spectacle. Our
baby was born full grown, and with all her hamper aloft just as you see
her. Some persons refer vessels to art, but I think you are quite right
in referring them to nature."
"Nothing can be more natural to me, lieutenant, than a fine ship
standing on her canvas. It's an object to improve the heart and to
soften the understanding."
"So I should think, ma'am," returned Wallace, a little quizzically,
"judging from the effect on yourself."
This speech, unfortunately timed as it was, wrought a complete
change in Rose's feelings, and she no longer wished to exchange the
Swash for the Poughkeepsie. She saw that her aunt was laughed at in
secret, and that was a circumstance that never failed to grate on every
nerve in her system. She had been prepared to second and sustain the
intended application—she was now determined to oppose it.
"Yes, sir," resumed the unconscious relict, "and to soften the
understanding. Lieutenant, did you ever cross the Capricorn?"
"No less than six times; three going and three returning, you
"And did Neptune come on board you, and were you shaved?"
"Everything was done secundem artem, ma'am. The razor was quite an
example of what are called in poetry 'thoughts too deep for tears.' "
"That must have been delightful. As for me, I'm quite a devotee of
Neptune's; but I'm losing time, for no doubt your ship is all ready to
pull away and carry on sail—"
"Aunt, may I say a word to you before you go any further," put in
Rose in her quiet but very controlling way.
The aunt complied, and Wallace, as soon as left alone, felt like a
man who was released from a quick-sand, into which every effort to
extricate himself only plunged him so much the deeper. At this moment
the ship hailed, and the lieutenant took a hasty leave of Spike,
motioned to the midshipman to precede him, and followed the latter into
his boat. Spike saw his visiter off in person, tending the side and
offering the man-ropes with his own hands. For this civility Wallace
thanked him, calling out as his boat pulled him from the brig's
side—"If we 'pull away,' " accenting the "pull" in secret derision of
the relict's mistake, "you can pull away; our filling the topsail being
a sign for you to do the same."
"There you go, and joy go with you," muttered Spike, as he
descended from the gangway. "A pretty kettle of fish would there have
been cooked had I let him have his two barrels of flour."
The man-of-war's cutter was soon under the lee of the ship, where
it discharged its freight, when it was immediately run up. During the
whole time Wallace had been absent, Captain Mull and his officers
remained on the poop, principally occupied in examining and discussing
the merits of the Swash. No sooner had their officer returned, however,
than an order was given to fill away, it being supposed that the
Poughkeepsie had no further concern with the brigantine. As for
Wallace, he ascended to the poop and made the customary report.
"It's a queer cargo to be carrying to Key West from the Atlantic
coast," observed the captain in a deliberating sort of manner, as if
the circumstance excited suspicion; "Yet the Mexicans can hardly be in
want of any such supplies."
"Did you see the flour, Wallace?" inquired the first lieutenant,
who was well aware of his messmate's indolence.
"Yes, sir, and felt it too. The lower hold of the brig is full of
flour, and of nothing else."
"Ware round, sir—ware round and pass athwart the brig's wake,"
interrupted the captain. "There's plenty of room now, and I wish to
pass as near that craft as we can."
This manœuvre was executed. The sloop-of-war no sooner filled her
maintop-sail than she drew ahead, leavingplenty of room for the
brigantine to make sail on her course. Spike did not profit by this
opening, however, but he sent several men aloft forward, where they
appeared to be getting ready to send down the upper yards and the
topgallant-mast. No sooner was the sloop-of-war's helm put up than that
vessel passed close along the brigantine's weather side, and kept off
across her stern on her course. As she did this the canvas was
fluttering aboard her, in the process of making sail, and Mull held a
short discourse with Spike.
"Is anything the matter aloft?" demanded the man-of-war's man.
"Ay, ay; I've sprung my topgallant-mast, and think this a good
occasion to get another up in its place."
"Shall I lend you a carpenter or two, Mr. Spike?"
"Thank'ee, sir, thank'ee with all my heart; but we can do without
them. It's an old stick, and it's high time a better stood where it
does. Who knows but I may be chased and feel the want of reliable
Captain Mull smiled and raised his cap in the way of an adieu, when
the conversation ended; the Poughkeepsie sliding off rapidly with a
free wind, leaving the Swash nearly stationary. In ten minutes the two
vessels were more than a mile apart; in twenty, beyond the reach of
Notwithstanding the natural and common-place manner in which this
separation took place, there was much distrust on board each vessel,
and a good deal of consummate management on the part of Spike. The
latter knew that every foot the sloop-of-war went on her course,
carried her just so far to leeward, placing his own brig, in-so-much,
dead to windward of her. As the Swash's best point of sailing,
relatively considered, was close-hauled, this was giving to Spike a
great security against any change of purpose on the part of the vessel
of war. Although his people were aloft and actually sent down the
topgallant-mast, it was only to send it up again, the spar being of
admirable toughness, and as sound as the day it was cut.
"I don't think, Mr. Mulford," said the captain sarcastically, "that
Uncle Sam's glasses are good enough to tell the difference in wood at
two leagues' distance, so we'll trust to the old stick a little longer.
Ay, ay, let 'em run off before it, we'll find another road by which to
reach our port."
"The sloop-of-war is going round the south side of Cuba, Captain
Spike," answered the mate, "and I have understood you to say that you
intended to go by the same passage."
"A body may change his mind, and no murder. Only consider, Harry,
how common it is for folks to change their minds. I did intend to pass
between Cuba and Jamaica, but I intend it no longer. Our run from
Montauk has been oncommon short, and I've time enough to spare to go to
the southward of Jamaica too, if the notion takes me."
"That would greatly prolong the passage, Captain Spike, —a week at
"What if it does—I've a week to spare; we're nine days afore our
"Our time for what, sir? Is there any particular time set for a
vessel's going into Key West?"
"Don't be womanish and over-cur'ous, Mulford. I sail with sealed
orders, and when we get well to windward of Jamaica, 't will be time
enough to open them."
Spike was as good as his word. As soon as he thought the
sloop-of-war was far enough to leeward, or when she was hull down, he
filled away and made sail on the wind to get nearer to Porto Rico. Long
ere it was dark he had lost sight of the sloop-of-war, when he altered
his course to south-westerly, which was carrying him in the direction
he named, or to windward of Jamaica.
While this artifice was being practised on board the Molly Swash,
the officers of the Poughkeepsie were not quite satisfied with their
own mode of proceeding with the brigantine. The more they reasoned on
the matter, the more unlikely it seemed to them that Spike could be
really carrying a cargo of flour from New York to Key West, in the
expectation of disposing of it to the United States' contractors, and
the more out of the way did he seem to be in running through the Mona
"His true course should have been by the Hole in the Wall, and so
down along the north side of Cuba, before the wind," observed the first
lieutenant. "I wonder that never struck you, Wallace; you, who so
little like trouble."
"Certainly I knew it, but we lazy people like running off before
the wind, and I did not know but such were Mr.Spike's tastes," answered
the "ship's gentleman." "In my judgment, the reluctance he showed to
letting us have any of his flour, is much the most suspicious
circumstance in the whole affair."
These two speeches were made on the poop, in the presence of the
captain, but in a sort of an aside that admitted of some of the
ward-room familiarity exhibited. Captain Mull was not supposed to hear
what passed, though hear it he in fact did, as was seen by his own
remarks, which immediately succeeded.
"I understood you to say, Mr. Wallace," observed the captain, a
little drily, "that you saw the flour yourself?"
"I saw the flour-barrels, sir; and as regularly built were they as
any barrels that ever were branded. But a flour-barrel may have
contained something beside flour."
"Flour usually makes itself visible in the handling; were these
barrels quite clean?"
"Far from it, sir. They showed flour on their staves, like any
other cargo. After all, the man may have more sense than we give him
credit for, and find a high market for his cargo."
Captain Mull seemed to muse, which was a hint for his juniors not
to continue the conversation, but rather to seem to muse, too. After a
short pause, the captain quietly remarked—"Well, gentlemen, he will be
coming down after us, I suppose, as soon as he gets his new
topgallant-mast on-end, and then we can keep a bright look-out for him.
We shall cruise off Cape St. Antonio for a day or two, and no doubt
shall get another look at him. I should like to have one baking from
But Spike had no intention to give the Poughkeepsie the desired
opportunity. As has been stated, he stood off to the southward on a
wind, and completely doubled the eastern end of Jamaica, when he put
his helm up, and went, with favouring wind and current, toward the
northward and westward. The consequence was, that he did not fall in
with the Poughkeepsie at all, which vessel was keeping a sharp look-out
for him in the neighbourhood of Cape St. Antonio and the Isle of Pines,
at the very moment he was running down the coast of Yucatan. Of all the
large maritime countries of the world, Mexico, on the Atlantic, is that
which is the most easily blockaded, by a superior naval power. By
maintaining a proper force between Key West and the Havanna, and
another squadron between Cape St. Antonio and Loggerhead Key, the whole
country, the Bay of Honduras excepted, is shut up, as it might be in a
band-box. It is true the Gulf would be left open to the Mexicans, were
not squadrons kept nearer in; but, as for anything getting out into the
broad Atlantic, it would be next to hopeless. The distance to be
watched between the Havanna and Key West is only about sixty miles,
while that in the other direction is not much greater.
While the Swash was making the circuit of Jamaica, as described,
her captain had little communication with his passengers. The
misunderstanding with the relict embarrassed him as much as it
embarrassed her; and he was quite willing to let time mitigate her
resentment. Rose would be just as much in his power a fortnight hence
as she was today. This cessation in the captain's attentions gave the
females greater liberty, and they improved it, singularly enough as it
seemed to Mulford, by cultivating a strange sort of intimacy with Jack
Tier. The very day that succeeded the delicate conversation with Mrs.
Budd, to a part of which Jack had been an auditor, the uncouth-looking
steward's assistant was seen in close conference with the pretty Rose;
the subject of their conversation being, apparently, of a most
engrossing nature. From that hour, Jack got to be not only a confidant,
but a favourite, to Mulford's great surprise. A less inviting subject
for tête-à-têtes and confidential dialogues, thought the young man,
could not well exist; but so it was; woman's caprices are inexplicable;
and not only Rose and her aunt, but even the captious and somewhat
distrustful Biddy, manifested on all occasions not only friendship, but
kindness and consideration for Jack.
"You quite put my nose out o' joint, you Jack Tier, with 'e lady,"
grumbled Josh, the steward de jure, if not now de facto, of the craft,
"and I neber see nuttin' like it! I s'pose you expect ten dollar, at
least, from dem passenger, when we gets in. But I'd have you to know,
Misser Jack, if you please, dat a steward be a steward, and he do n't
like to hab trick played wid him, afore he own face."
"Poh! poh! Joshua," answered Jack good-naturedly,"do n't distress
yourself on a consail. In the first place, you've got no nose to be put
out of joint; or, if you have really a nose, it has no joint. It's
nat'ral for folks to like their own colour, and the ladies prefar me,
because I'm white."
"No so werry white as all dat, nudder," grumbled Josh. "I see great
many whiter dan you. But, if dem lady like you so much as to gib you
ten dollar, as I expects, when we gets in, I presumes you'll hand over
half, or six dollar, of dat money to your superior officer, as is law
in de case."
"Do you call six the half of ten, Joshua, my scholar, eh?"
"Well, den, seven, if you like dat better. I wants just half, and
just half I means to git."
"And half you shall have, maty. I only wish you would just tell me
where we shall be, when we gets in."
"How I know, white man? Dat belong to skipper, and better ask him.
If he do n't gib you lick in de chop, p'rhaps he tell you."
As Jack Tier had no taste for "licks in the chops," he did not
follow Josh's advice. But his agreeing to give half of the ten dollars
to the steward kept peace in the cabins. He was even so scrupulous of
his word, as to hand to Josh a half-eagle that very day; money he had
received from Rose; saying he would trust to Providence for his own
half of the expected douceur. This concession placed Jack Tier on high
grounds with his "superior officer," and from that time the former was
left to do the whole of the customary service of the ladies' cabin.
As respects the vessel, nothing worthy of notice occurred until she
had passed Loggerhead Key, and was fairly launched in the Gulf of
Mexico. Then, indeed, Spike took a step that greatly surprised his
mate. The latter was directed to bring all his instruments, charts, and
place them in the captain's state-room, where it was understood they
were to remain until the brig got into port. Spike was but an
indifferent navigator, while Mulford was one of a higher order than
common. So much had the former been accustomed to rely on the latter,
indeed, as they approached a strange coast, that he could not possibly
have taken any step, that was not positively criminal, which would have
given his mate more uneasiness than this.
At first, Mulford naturally enough suspected that Spike intended to
push for some Mexican port, by thus blinding his eyes as to the
position of the vessel. The direction steered, however, soon relieved
the mate from this apprehension. From the eastern extremity of Yucatan,
the Mexican coast trends to the westward, and even to the south of
west, for a long distance, whereas the course steered by Spike was
north, easterly. This was diverging from the enemy's coast instead of
approaching it, and the circumstance greatly relieved the apprehensions
Nor was the sequestration of the mate's instruments the only
suspicious act of Spike. He caused the brig's paint to be entirely
altered, and even went so far toward disguising her, as to make some
changes aloft. All this was done as the vessel passed swiftly on her
course, and everything had been effected, apparently to the captain's
satisfaction, when the cry of "land-ho!" was once more heard. The land
proved to be a cluster of low, small islands, part coral, part sand,
that might have been eight or ten in number, and the largest of which
did not possess a surface of more than a very few acres. Many were the
merest islets imaginable, and on one of the largest of the cluster rose
a tall, gaunt light-house, having the customary dwelling of its keeper
at its base. Nothing else was visible; the broad expanse of the blue
waters of the Gulf excepted. All the land in sight would not probably
have made one field of twenty acres in extent, and that seemed cut off
from the rest of the world, by a broad barrier of water. It was a spot
of such singular situation and accessories, that Mulford gazed at it
with a burning desire to know where he was, as the brig steered through
a channel between two of the islets, into a capacious and perfectly
safe basin, formed by the group, and dropped her anchor in its centre.
He sleeps; but dreams of massy gold,
And heaps of pearl. He stretch'd his hands—
He hears a voice—"Ill man withhold!"
A pale one near him stands.
It was near night-fall when the Swash anchored among the low and
small islets mentioned. Rose had been on deck, as the vessel approached
this singular and solitary haven, watching the movements of those on
board, as well as the appearance of objects on the land, with the
interest her situation would be-likely to awaken. She saw the light and
manageable craft glide through the narrow and crooked passages that led
into the port, the process of anchoring, and the scene of tranquil
solitude that succeeded; each following the other as by a law of
nature. The light-house next attracted her attention, and, as soon as
the sun disappeared, her eyes were fastened on the lantern, in
expectation of beholding the watchful and warning fires gleaming there,
to give the mariner notice of the position of the dangers that
surrounded the place. Minute went by after minute, however, and the
customary illumination seemed to be forgotten.
"Why is not this light shining?" Rose asked of Mulford, as the
young man came near her, after having discharged his duty in helping to
moor the vessel, and in clearing the decks. "All the light-houses we
have passed, and they have been fifty, have shown bright lights at this
hour, but this."
"I cannot explain it; nor have I the smallest notion where we are.
I have been aloft, and there was nothing in sight but this cluster of
low islets, far or near. I did fancy, for a moment, I saw a speck like
a distant sail, off here, to the northward and eastward, but I rather
think it was a gull, or some other sea-bird glancing upward on the
wing. I mentioned it to the captain when I came down, and he appeared
to believe it a mistake. I have watched that light-house closely, too,
ever since we came in, and I have not seen the smallest sign of life
about it. It is altogether an extraordinary place!"
"One suited to acts of villany, I fear, Harry!"
"Of that we shall be better judges to-morrow. You, at least, have
one vigilant friend, who will die sooner than harm shall come to you. I
believe Spike to be thoroughly unprincipled; still he knows he can go
so far and no further, and has a wholesome dread of the law. But the
circumstance that there should be such a port as this, with a regular
light-house, and no person near the last, is so much out of the common
way, that I do not know what to make of it."
"Perhaps the light-house keeper is afraid to show himself, in the
presence of the Swash?"
"That can hardly be, for vessels must often enter the port, if port
it can be called. But Spike is as much concerned at the circumstance
that the lamps are not lighted, as any of us can be. Look, he is about
to visit the building in the boat, accompanied by two of his oldest
"Why might we not raise the anchor, and sail out of this place,
leaving Spike ashore?" suggested Rose, with more decision and spirit
"For the simple reason that the act would be piracy, even if I
could get the rest of the people to obey my orders, as certainly I
could not. No, Rose: you, and your aunt, and Biddy, however, might land
at these buildings, and refuse to return, Spike having no authority
over his passengers."
"Still he would have the power to make us come back to his brig.
Look, he has left the vessel's side, and is going directly toward the
Mulford made no immediate answer, but remained at Rose's side,
watching the movements of the captain. The last pulled directly to the
islet with the buildings, a distance of only a few hundred feet, the
light-house being constructed on a rocky island that was nearly in the
centre of the cluster, most probably to protect it from the ravages of
the waves. The fact, however, proved, as Mulford did not fail to
suggest to his companion, that the beacon had beenerected less to guide
vessels into the haven, than to warn mariners at a distance, of the
position of the whole group.
In less than five minutes after he had landed, Spike himself was
seen in the lantern, in the act of lighting its lamps. In a very short
time the place was in a brilliant blaze, reflectors and all the other
parts of the machinery of the place performing their duties as
regularly as if tended by the usual keeper. Soon after Spike returned
on board, and the anchor-watch was set. Then everybody sought the rest
that it was customary to take at that hour.
Mulford was on deck with the appearance of the sun; but he found
that Spike had preceded him, had gone ashore again, had extinguished
the lamps, and was coming alongside of the brig on his return. A minute
later the captain came over the side.
"You were right about your sail, last night, a'ter all, Mr.
Mulford," said Spike, on coming aft. "There she is, sure enough; and we
shall have her alongside to strike cargo out and in, by the time the
people have got their breakfasts."
As Spike pointed toward the light-house while speaking, the mate
changed his position a little, and saw that a schooner was coming down
toward the islets before the wind. Mulford now began to understand the
motives of the captain's proceedings, though a good deal yet remained
veiled in mystery. He could not tell where the brig was, nor did he
know precisely why so many expedients were adopted to conceal the
transfer of a cargo as simple as that of flour. But he who was in the
secret left but little time for reflection; for swallowing a hasty
breakfast on deck, he issued orders enough to his mate to give him
quite as much duty as he could perform, when he again entered the yawl,
and pulled toward the stranger.
Rose soon appeared on deck, and she naturally began to question
Harry concerning their position and prospects. He was confessing his
ignorance, as well as lamenting it, when his companion's sweet face
suddenly flushed. She advanced a step eagerly toward the open window of
Spike's state-room, then compressed her full, rich under-lip with the
ivory of her upper teeth, and stood a single instant, a beautiful
statue of irresolution instigated by spirit. The lastquality prevailed;
and Mulford was really startled when he saw Rose advance quite to the
window, thrust in an arm, and turn toward him with his own sextant in
her hand. During the course of the passage out, the young man had
taught Rose to assist him in observing the longitude; and she was now
ready to repeat the practice. Not a moment was lost in executing her
intention. Sights were had, and the instrument was returned to its
place without attracting the attention of the men, who were all busy in
getting up purchases, and in making the other necessary dispositions
for discharging the flour. The observations answered the purpose,
though somewhat imperfectly made. Mulford had a tolerable notion of
their latitude, having kept the brig's run in his head since quitting
Yutacan; and he now found that their longitude was about 83 ° west from
Greenwich. After ascertaining this fact, a glance at the open chart,
which lay on Spike's desk, satisfied him that the vessel was anchored
within the group of the Dry Tortugas, or at the western termination of
the well-known, formidable, and extensive Florida Reef. He had never
been in that part of the world before, but had heard enough in
sea-gossip, and had read enough in books, to be at once apprised of the
true character of their situation. The islets were American; the
light-house was American; and the haven in which the Swash lay was the
very spot in the contemplation of government for an outer man-of-war
harbour, where fleets might rendezvous in the future wars of that
portion of the world. He now saw plainly enough the signs of the
existence of a vast reef, a short distance to the southward of the
vessel, that formed a species of sea-wall, or mole, to protect the port
against the waves of the gulf in that direction. This reef he knew to
be miles in width.
There was little time for speculation, Spike soon bringing the
strange schooner directly alongside of the brig. The two vessels
immediately became a scene of activity, one discharging, and the other
receiving the flour as fast as it could be struck out of the hold of
the Swash and lowered upon the deck of the schooner. Mulford, however,
had practised a little artifice, as the stranger entered the haven,
which drew down upon him an anathema or two from Spike, as soon as they
were alone. The mate had set thebrig's ensign, and this compelled the
stranger to be markedly rude, or to answer the compliment. Accordingly
he had shown the ancient flag of Spain. For thus extorting a national
symbol from the schooner, the mate was sharply rebuked at a suitable
moment, though nothing could have been more forbearing than the
deportment of his commander when they first met.
When Spike returned to his own vessel, he was accompanied by a
dark-looking, well-dressed, and decidedly gentleman-like personage,
whom he addressed indifferently, in his very imperfect Spanish, as Don
Wan, (Don Juan, or John,) or Señor Montefalderon. By the latter
appellation he even saw fit to introduce the very respectable-looking
stranger to his mate. This stranger spoke English well, though with an
"Don Wan has taken all the flour, Mr. Mulford, and intends shoving
it over into Cuba, without troubling the custom-house, I believe; but
that is not a matter to give us any concern, you know."
The wink, and the knowing look by which this speech was
accompanied, seemed particularly disagreeable to Don Juan, who now paid
his compliments to Rose, with no little surprise betrayed in his
countenance, but with the ease and reserve of a gentleman. Mulford
thought it strange that a smuggler of flour should be so polished a
personage, though his duty did not admit of his bestowing much
attention on the little trifling of the interview that succeeded.
For about an hour the work went steadily and rapidly on. During
that time Mulford was several times on board the schooner, as, indeed,
was Josh, Jack Tier, and others belonging to the Swash. The Spanish
vessel was Baltimore, or clipper built, with a trunk-cabin, and had
every appearance of sailing fast. Mulford was struck with her model,
and, while on board of her, he passed both forward and aft to examine
it. This was so natural in a seaman, that Spike, while he noted the
proceeding, took it in good part. He even called out to his mate, from
his own quarter-deck, to admire this or that point in the schooner's
construction. As is customary with the vessels of southern nations,
this stranger was full of men, but they continued at their work, some
half dozen of brawny negroes amongthem, shouting their songs as they
swayed at the falls, no one appearing to manifest jealousy or concern.
At length Tier came near the mate, and said,
"Uncle Sam will not be pleased when he hears the reason that the
keeper is not in his light-house."
"And what is that reason, Jack? If you know it, tell it to me."
"Go aft and look down the companion-way, maty, and see it for
Mulford did go aft, and he made an occasion to look down into the
schooner's cabin, where he caught a glimpse of the persons of a man and
a boy, whom he at once supposed had been taken from the light-house.
This one fact of itself doubled his distrust of the character of
Spike's proceedings. There was no sufficient apparent reason why a mere
smuggler should care about the presence of an individual more or less
in a foreign port. Everything that had occurred, looked like
pre-concert between the brig and the schooner; and the mate was just
beginning to entertain the strongest distrust that their vessel was
holding treasonable communication with the enemy, when an accident
removed all doubt on the subject, from his own mind at least. Spike
had, once or twice, given his opinion that the weather was treacherous,
and urged the people of both crafts to extraordinary exertions, in
order that the vessels might get clear of each other as soon as
possible. This appeal had set various expedients in motion to second
the more regular work of the purchases. Among other things, planks had
been laid from one vessel to the other, and barrels were rolled along
them with very little attention to the speed or the direction. Several
had fallen on the schooner's deck with rude shocks, but no damage was
done, until one, of which the hoops had not been properly secured, met
with a fall, and burst nearly at Mulford's feet. It was at the precise
moment when the mate was returning, from taking his glance into the
cabin, toward the side of the Swash. A white cloud arose, and half a
dozen of the schooner's people sprang for buckets, kids, or dishes, in
order to secure enough of the contents of the broken barrel to furnish
them with a meal. At first nothing was visible but the white cloud that
succeeded the fall, and the scrambling sailors in its midst. No sooner,
however, hadthe air got to be a little clear, than Mulford saw an
object lying in centre of the wreck, that he at once recognised for a
keg of the gunpowder! The captain of the schooner seized this keg, gave
a knowing look at Mulford, and disappeared in the hold of his own
vessel, carrying with him, what was out of all question, a most
material part of the true cargo of the Swash.
At the moment when the flour-barrel burst, Spike was below, in
close conference with his Spanish, or Mexican guest; and the wreck
being so soon cleared away, it is probable that he never heard of the
accident. As for the two crews, they laughed a little among themselves
at the revelation which had been made, as well as at the manner; but to
old sea-dogs like them, it was a matter of very little moment, whether
the cargo was, in reality, flour or gunpowder. In a few minutes the
affair seemed to be forgotten. In the course of another hour the Swash
was light, having nothing in her but some pig-lead, which she used for
ballast, while the schooner was loaded to her hatches, and full. Spike
now sent a boat, with orders to drop a kedge about a hundred yards from
the place where his own brig lay. The schooner warped up to this kedge,
and dropped an anchor of her own, leaving a very short range of cable
out, it being a flat calm. Ordinarily, the trades prevail at the Dry
Tortugas, and all along the Florida Reef. Sometimes, indeed, this
breeze sweeps across the whole width of the Gulf of Mexico, blowing
home, as it is called—reaching even to the coast of Texas. It is
subject, however, to occasional interruptions everywhere, varying many
points in its direction, and occasionally ceasing entirely. The latter
was the condition of the weather about noon on this day, or when the
schooner hauled off from the brig, and was secured at her own anchor.
"Mr. Mulford," said Spike, "I do not like the state of the
atmosphere. D'ye see that fiery streak along the western horizon—well,
sir, as the sun gets nearer to that streak, there'll be trouble, or I'm
no judge of weather."
"You surely do not imagine, Captain Spike, that the sun will be any
nearer to that fiery streak, as you call it, when he is about to set,
than he is at this moment?" answered the mate, smiling.
"I'm sure of one thing, young man, and that is, that old heads are
better than young ones. What a man has onceseen, he may expect to see
again, if the same leading signs offer. Man the boat, sir, and carry
out the kedge, which is still in it, and lay it off here, about three
p'ints on our larboard bow."
Mulford had a profound respect for Spike's seamanship, whatever he
might think of his principles. The order was consequently obeyed. The
mate was then directed to send down various articles out of the top,
and to get the top-gallant and royal yards on deck. Spike carried his
precautions so far, as to have the mainsail lowered, it ordinarily
brailing at that season of the year, with a standing gaff. With this
disposition completed, the captain seemed more at his ease, and went
below to join Señor Montefalderon in a siesta. The Mexican, for such,
in truth, was the national character of the owner of the schooner, had
preceded him in this indulgence; and most of the people of the brig
having laid themselves down to sleep under the heat of the hour,
Mulford soon enjoyed another favourable opportunity for a private
conference with Rose.
"Harry," commenced the latter, as soon as they were alone; "I have
much to tell you. While you have been absent I have overheard a
conversation between this Spanish gentleman and Spike, that shows the
last is in treaty with the other for the sale of the brig. Spike
extolled his vessel to the skies, while Don Wan, as he calls him,
complains that the brig is old, and cannot last long; to which Spike
answered 'to be sure she is old, Señor Montefalderon, but she will last
as long as your war, and under a bold captain might be made to return
her cost a hundred fold!' What war can he mean, and to what does such a
"The war alludes to the war now existing between America and
Mexico, and the money to be made is to be plundered at sea, from our
own merchant-vessels. If Don Juan Montefalderon is really in treaty for
the purchase of the brig, it is to convert her into a Mexican cruiser,
either public or private."
"But this would be treason on the part of Spike!"
"Not more so than supplying the enemy with gunpowder, as he has
just been doing. I have ascertained the reason he was so unwilling to
be overhauled by the revenuesteamer, as well as the reason why the
revenue steamer wished so earnestly to overhaul us. Each barrel of
flour contains another of gunpowder, and that has been sold to this
Señor Montefalderon, who is doubtless an officer of the Mexican
government, and no smuggler."
"He has been at New York, this very summer, I know," continued
Rose, "for he spoke of his visit, and made such other remarks, as
leaves no doubt that Spike expected to find him here, on this very day
of the month. He also paid Spike a large sum of money in doubloons, and
took back the bag to his schooner, when he had done so, after showing
the captain enough was left to pay for the brig could they only agree
on the terms of their bargain."
"Ay, ay; it is all plain enough now, Spike has determined on a
desperate push for fortune, and foreseeing it might not soon be in his
power to return to New York in safety, he has included his designs on
you and your fortune, in the plot."
"My fortune! the trifle I possess can scarcely be called a fortune,
"It would be a fortune to Spike, Rose; and I shall be honest enough
to own it would be a fortune to me. I say this frankly, for I do
believe you think too well of me to suppose that I seek you for any
other reason than the ardent love I bear your person and character; but
a fact is not to be denied because it may lead certain persons to
distrust our motives. Spike is poor, like myself; and the brig is not
only getting to be very old, but she has been losing money for the last
Mulford and Rose now conversed long and confidentially, on their
situation and prospects. The mate neither magnified nor concealed the
dangers of both; but freely pointed out the risk to himself, in being
on board a vessel that was aiding and comforting the enemy. It was
determined between there that both would quit the brig the moment an
opportunity offered; and the mate even went so far as to propose an
attempt to escape in one of the boats, although he might incur the
hazards of a double accusation, those of mutiny and larceny, for making
the experiment. Unfortunately, neither Rose, nor her aunt, nor Biddy,
nor Jack Tier had seen the barrel of powder, and neither could testify
as to the true character of Spike's connection with the schooner. It
was manifestly necessary, therefore, independently of the risks that
might be run by "bearding the lion in his den," to proceed with great
intelligence and caution.
This dialogue between Harry and Rose, occurred just after the turn
in the day, and lasted fully an hour. Each had been too much interested
to observe the heavens, but, as they were on the point of separating,
Rose pointed out to her companion the unusual and most menacing aspect
of the sky in the western horizon. It appeared as if a fiery heat was
glowing there, behind a curtain of black vapour; and what rendered it
more remarkable, was the circumstance that an extraordinary degree of
placidity prevailed in all other parts of the heavens. Mulford scarce
knew what to make of it; his experience not going so far as to enable
him to explain the novel and alarming appearance. He stepped on a gun,
and gazed around him for a moment. There lay the schooner, without a
being visible on board of her, and there stood the light-house, gloomy
in its desertion and solitude. The birds alone seemed to be alive and
conscious of what was approaching. They were all on the wing, wheeling
wildly in the air, and screaming discordantly, as belonged to their
habits. The young man leaped off the gun, gave a loud call to Spike, at
the companion-way, and sprang forward to call all hands.
One minute only was lost, when every seaman on board the Swash,
from the captain to Jack Tier, was on deck. Mulford met Spike at the
cabin door, and pointed toward the fiery column, that was booming down
upon the anchorage, with a velocity and direction that would now admit
of no misinterpretation. For one instant that sturdy old seaman stood
aghast; gazing at the enemy as one conscious of his impotency might
have been supposed to quail before an assault that he foresaw must
prove irresistible. Then his native spirit, and most of all the effects
of training, began to show themselves in him, and he became at once,
not only the man again, but the resolute, practised, and ready
"Come aft to the spring, men—" he shouted—"clap on the spring,
Mr. Mulford, and bring the brig head to wind."
This order was obeyed as seamen best obey, in cases ofsudden and
extreme emergency; or with intelligence, aptitude and power. The brig
had swung nearly round, in the desired direction, when the tornado
struck her. It will be difficult, we do not know but it is impossible,
to give a clear and accurate account of what followed. As most of our
readers have doubtless felt how great is the power of the wind,
whiffling and pressing different ways, in sudden and passing gusts,
they have only to imagine this power increased many, many fold, and the
baffling currents made furious, as it might be, by meeting with
resistance, to form some notion of the appalling strength and frightful
inconstancy with which it blew for about a minute.
Notwithstanding the circumstance of Spike's precaution had greatly
lessened the danger, every man on the deck of the Swash believed the
brig was gone when the gust struck her. Over she went, in fact, until
the water came pouring in above her half-ports, like so many little
cascades, and spouting up through her scupper-holes, resembling the
blowing of young whales. It was the whiffling energy of the tornado
that alone saved her. As if disappointed in not destroying its intended
victim at one swoop, the tornado "let up" in its pressure, like a
dexterous wrestler, making a fresh and desperate effort to overturn the
vessel, by a slight variation in its course. That change saved the
Swash. She righted, and even rolled in the other direction, or what
might be called to windward, with her decks full of water. For a minute
longer these baffling, changing gusts continued, each causing the brig
to bow like a reed to their power, one lifting as another pressed her
down, and then the weight, or the more dangerous part of the tornado
was passed, though it continued to blow heavily, always in whiffling
blasts, several minutes longer.
During the weight of the gust, no one had leisure, or indeed
inclination to look to aught beyond its effect on the brig. Had one
been otherwise disposed, the attempt would have been useless, for the
wind had filled the air with spray, and near the islets even with sand.
The lurid but fiery tinge, too, interposed a veil that no human eye
could penetrate. As the tornado passed onward, however, and the winds
lulled, the air again became clear, and in five minutes after the
moment when the Swash lay nearly on her side, withher lower yard-arm
actually within a few feet of the water, all was still and placid
around her, as one is accustomed to see the ocean in a calm, of a
summer's afternoon. Then it was that those who had been in such extreme
jeopardy could breathe freely and look about them. On board the Swash
all was well—not a rope-yarn had parted, or an eyebolt drawn. The
timely precautions of Spike had saved his brig, and great was his joy
In the midst of the infernal din of the tornado, screams had
ascended from the cabin, and the instant he could quit the deck with
propriety, Mulford sprang below, in order to ascertain their cause. He
apprehended that some of the females had been driven to leeward when
the brig went over, and that part of the luggage or furniture had
fallen on them. In the main cabin, the mate found Señor Montefalderon
just quitting his berth, composed, gentleman-like, and collected. Josh
was braced in a corner nearly grey with fear, while Jack Tier still lay
on the cabin floor, at the last point to which he had rolled. One word
sufficed to let Don Juan know that the gust had passed, and the brig
was safe, when Mulford tapped at the deor of the inner cabin. Rose
appeared, pale, but calm and unhurt.
"Is any one injured?" asked the young man, his mind relieved at
once, as soon as he saw that she who most occupied his thoughts was
safe; "we heard screams from this cabin."
"My aunt and Biddy have been frightened," answered Rose, "but
neither has been hurt. Oh, Harry, what terrible thing has happened to
us? I heard the roaring of—"
" 'T was a tornado," interrupted Mulford eagerly, "but 't is over.
'T was one of those sudden and tremendous gusts that sometimes occur
within the tropics, in which the danger is usually in the first shock.
If no one is injured in this cabin, no one is injured at all."
"Oh, Mr. Mulford—dear Mr. Mulford!" exclaimed the relict, from the
corner into which she had been followed and jammed by Biddy, "Oh, Mr.
Mulford, are we foundered or not?"
"Heaven be praised, not, my dear ma'am, though we came nearer to it
than I ever was before."
"Are we cap-asided?"
"Nor that, Mrs. Budd; the brig is as upright as a church."
"Upright!" repeated Biddy, in her customary accent,— "is it as a
church? Sure, then, Mr. Mate, 't is a Presbyterian church that you
mane, and that is always totterin'."
"Catholic, or Dutch—no church in York is more completely up and
down than the brig at this moment."
"Get off of me—get off of me, Biddy, and let me rise," said the
widow, with dignity. "The danger is over I see, and, as we return our
thanks for it, we have the consolation of knowing that we have done our
duty. It is incumbent on all, at such moments, to be at their posts,
and to set examples of decision and prudence."
As Mulford saw all was well in the cabin, he hastened on deck,
followed by Señor Montefalderon. Just as they emerged from the
companion-way, Spike was hailing the forecastle.
"Forecastle, there," he cried, standing on the trunk himself as he
did so, and moving from side to side, as if to catch a glimpse of some
"Sir," came back from an old salt, who was coiling up rigging in
that seat of seamanship.
"Where-away is the schooner? She ought to be dead ahead of us, as
we tend now—but blast me if I can see as much as her mast-heads."
At this suggestion, a dozen men sprang upon guns or other objects,
to look for the vessel in question. The old salt forward, however, had
much the best chance, for he stepped on the heel of the bowsprit, and
walked as far out as the knight-heads, to command the whole view ahead
of the brig. There he stood half a minute, looking first on one side of
the head-gear, then the other, when he gave his trousers a hitch, put a
fresh quid in his mouth, and called out in a voice almost as hoarse as
the tempest, that had just gone by,
"The schooner has gone down at her anchor, sir. There's her buoy
watching still, as if nothing had happened; but as for the craft
itself, there's not so much as a bloody yard-arm, or mast-head of her
to be seen!"
This news produced a sensation in the brig at once, as may be
supposed. Even Señor Montefalderon, a quiet, gentleman-like person,
altogether superior in deportment to the bustle and fuss that usually
marks the manners of persons in trade, was disturbed; for to him the
blow was heavy indeed. Whether he were acting for himself, or was an
agent of the Mexican government, the loss was much the same.
"Tom is right enough," put in Spike, rather coolly for the
circumstances—"that there schooner of yourn has foundered, Don Wan, as
any one can see. She must have capsized and filled, for I obsarved they
had left the hatches off, meaning, no doubt, to make an end of the
storage as soon as they had done sleeping."
"And what has become of all her men, Don Esteban?" for so the
Mexican politely called his companion. "Have all my poor countrymen
perished in this disaster?"
"I fear they have, Don Wan; for I see no head, as of any one
swimming. The vessel lay so near that island next to it, that a poor
swimmer would have no difficulty in reaching the place; but there is no
living thing to be seen. But man the boat, men; we will go to the spot,
Señor, and examine for ourselves."
There were two boats in the water, and along-side of the brig. One
was the Swash's yawl, a small but convenient craft, while the other was
much larger, fitted with a sail, and had all the appearance of having
been built to withstand breezes and seas. Mulford felt perfectly
satisfied, the moment he saw this boat, which had come into the haven
in tow of the schooner, that it had been originally in the service of
the light-house keeper. As there was a very general desire among those
on the quarter-deck to go to the assistance of the schooner, Spike
ordered both boats manned, jumping into the yawl himself, accompanied
by Don Juan Montefalderon, and telling Mulford to follow with the
larger craft, bringing with him as many of the females as might choose
to accompany him. As Mrs. Budd thought it incumbent on her to be active
in such a scene, all did go, including Biddy, though with great
reluctance on the part of Rose.
With the buoy for a guide, Spike had no difficulty in finding the
spot where the schooner lay. She had scarcely shifted her berth in the
least, there having been no time for her even to swing to the gust, but
she had probably capsizedat the first blast, filled, and gone down
instantly. The water was nearly as clear as the calm, mild atmosphere
of the tropics; and it was almost as easy to discern the vessel, and
all her hamper, as if she lay on a beach. She had sunk as she filled,
or on her side, and still continued in that position. As the water was
little more than three fathoms deep, the upper side was submerged but a
few inches, and her yard-arms would have been out of the water, but for
the circumstance that the yards had canted under the pressure.
At first, no sign was seen of any of those who had been on board
this ill-fated schooner when she went down. It was known that
twenty-one souls were in her, including the man and the boy who had
belonged to the light-house. As the boat moved slowly over this sad
ruin, however, a horrible and startling spectacle came in view. Two
bodies were seen, within a few feet of the surface of the water, one
grasped in the arms of the other, in the gripe of despair. The man held
in the grasp, was kept beneath the water solely by the death-lock of
his companion, who was himself held where he floated, by the
circumstance that one of his feet was entangled in a rope. The struggle
could not have been long over, for the two bodies were slowly settling
toward the bottom when first seen. It is probable that both these men
had more than once risen to the surface in their dreadful struggle.
Spike seized a boat-hook, and made an effort to catch the clothes of
the nearest body, but ineffectually, both sinking to the sands beneath,
lifeless, and without motion. There being no sharks in sight, Mulford
volunteered to dive and fasten a line to one of these unfortunate men,
whom Don Juan declared at once was the schooner's captain. Some little
time was lost in procuring a lead-line from the brig, when the lead was
dropped alongside of the drowned. Provided with another piece of the
same sort of line, which had a small running bowline around that which
was fastened to the lead, the mate made his plunge, and went down with
great vigour of arm. It required resolution and steadiness to descend
so far into salt water; but Harry succeeded, and rose with the bodies,
which came up with the slightest impulse. All were immediately got into
theboat, and away the latter went toward the light-house, which was
nearer and more easy of access than the brig.
It is probable that one of these unfortunate men might have been
revived under judicious treatment; but he was not fated to receive it.
Spike, who knew nothing of such matters, undertook to direct
everything, and, instead of having recourse to warmth and gentle
treatment, he ordered the bodies to be rolled on a cask, suspended them
by the heels, and resorted to a sort of practice that might have
destroyed well men, instead of resuscitating those in whom the vital
spark was dormant, if not actually extinct.
Two hours later, Rose, seated in her own cabin, unavoidably
overheard the following dialogue, which passed in English, a language
that Señor Montefalderon spoke perfectly well, as has been said.
"Well, Señor," said Spike, "I hope this little accident will not
prevent our final trade. You will want the brig now, to take the
"And how am I to pay you for the brig, Señor Spike, even if I buy
"I'll ventur' to guess there is plenty of money in Mexico. Though
they do say the government is so backward about paying, I have always
found you punctual, and am not afraid to put faith in you ag'in."
"But I have no longer any money to pay you half in hand, as I did
for the powder, when last in New York."
"The bag was pretty well lined with doubloons when I saw it last,
"And do you know where that bag is; and where there is another that
holds the same sum?"
Spike started, and he mused in silence some little time, ere he
"I had forgotten," he at length answered. "The gold must have all
gone down in the schooner, along with the powder!"
"And the poor men!"
"Why, as for the men, Señor, more may be had for the asking; but
powder and doubloons will be hard to find, when most wanted. Then the
men were poor men, accordin' to my idees of what an able seaman should
be, or theynever would have let their schooner turn turtle with them as
"We will talk of the money, Don Esteban, if you please," said the
Mexican, with reserve.
"With all my heart, Don Wan—nothing is more agreeable to me than
money. How many of them doubloons shall fall to my share, if I raise
the schooner and put you in possession of your craft again?"
"Can that be done, Señor?" demanded Don Juan earnestly.
"A seaman can do almost anything, in that way, Don Wan, if you will
give him time and means. For one-half the doubloons I can find in the
wrack, the job shall be done."
"You can have them," answered Don Juan, quietly, a good deal
surprised that Spike should deem it necessary to offer him any part of
the sum he might find. "As for the powder, I suppose that is lost to my
"Not at all, Don Wan. The flour is well packed around it, and I
don't expect it would take any harm in a month. I shall not only turn
over the flour to you, just as if nothing had happened, but I shall put
four first-rate hands aboard your schooner, who will take her into port
for you, with a good deal more sartainty than forty of the men you had.
My mate is a prime navigator."
This concluded the bargain, every word of which was heard by Rose,
and every word of which she did not fail to communicate to Mulford, the
moment there was an opportunity. The young man heard it with great
interest, telling Rose that he should do all he could to assist in
raising the schooner, in the hope that something might turn up to
enable him to escape in her, taking off Rose and her aunt. As for his
carrying her into a Mexican port, let them trust him for that!
Agreeably to the arrangement, orders were given that afternoon to
commence the necessary preparations for the work, and considerable
progress was made in them by the time the Swash's people were ordered
to knock off work for the night.
After the sun had set, the reaction in the currents again
commenced, and it blew for a few hours heavily, during the night.
Toward morning, however, it moderated, and whenthe sun re-appeared it
scarcely ever diffused its rays over a more peaceful or quiet day.
Spike caused all hands to be called, and immediately set about the
important business he had before him.
In order that the vessel might be as free as possible, Jack Tier
was directed to skull the females ashore, in the brig's yawl; Señor
Montefalderon, a man of polished manners, as we maintain is very apt to
be the case with Mexican gentlemen, whatever may be the opinion of this
good republic on the subject just at this moment, asked permission to
be of the party. Mulford found an opportunity to beg Rose, if they
landed at the light, to reconnoitre the place well, with a view to
ascertain what facilities it could afford in an attempt to escape. They
did land at the light, and glad enough were Mrs. Budd, Rose and Biddy
to place their feet on terrá firmâ after so long a confinement to the
narrow limits of a vessel.
"Well," said Jack Tier, as they walked up to the spot where the
buildings stood, "this is a rum place for a light'us, Miss Rose, and I
don't wonder the keeper and his messmates has cleared out."
"I am very sorry to say," observed Señor Montefalderon, whose
countenance expressed the concern he really felt, "that the keeper and
his only companion, a boy, were on board the schooner, and have
perished in her, in common with so many of my poor countrymen. There
are the graves of two whom we buried here last evening, after vain
efforts to restore them to life!"
"What a dreadful catastrophe it has been, Señor," said Rose, whose
sweet countenance eloquently expressed the horror and regret she so
naturally felt—"Twenty fellow-beings hurried into eternity without
even an instant for prayer!"
"You feel for them, Señorita—it is natural you should, and it is
natural that I, their countryman and leader, should feel for them,
also. I do not know what God has in reserve for my unfortunate country!
We may have cruel and unscrupulous men among us, Señorita, but we have
thousands who are just, and brave, and honourable."
"So Mr. Mulford tells me, Señor; and he has been much in your
ports, on the west coast."
"I like that young man, and wonder not a little at his and your
situation in this brig—" rejoined the Mexican, dropping his voice so
as not to be heard by their companions, as they walked a little ahead
of Mrs. Budd and Biddy. "The Señor Spike is scarcely worthy to be his
commander or your guardian."
"Yet you find him worthy of your intercourse and trust, Don Juan?"
The Mexican shrugged his shoulders, and smiled equivocally; still,
in a melancholy manner. It would seem he did not deem it wise to push
this branch of the subject further, since he turned to another.
"I like the Señor Mulford," he resumed, "for his general deportment
and principles, so far as I can judge of him on so short an
"Excuse me, Señor," interrupted Rose, hurriedly—"but you never saw
him until you met him here."
"Never—I understand you, Señorita, and can do full justice to the
young man's character. I am willing to think he did not know the errand
of his vessel, or I should not have seen him now. But what I most like
him for, is this: Last night, during the gale, he and I walked the deck
together, for an hour. We talked of Mexico, and of this war, so
unfortunate for my country already, and which may become still more so,
when he uttered this noble sentiment— 'My country is more powerful
than yours, Señor Montefalderon,' he said, 'and in this it has been
more favoured by God. You have suffered from ambitious rulers, and from
military rule, while we have been advancing under the arts of peace,
favoured by a most beneficent Providence. As for this war, I know but
little about it, though I dare say the Mexican government may have been
wrong in some things that it might have controlled and some that it
might not—but let right be where it will, I am sorry to see a nation
that has taken so firm a stand in favour of popular government, pressed
upon so hard by another that is supposed to be the great support of
such principles. America and Mexico are neighbours, and ought to be
friends; and while I do not, cannot blame my own country for pursuing
the war with vigour, nothing would please me more than to hear peace
"That is just like Harry Mulford," said Rose, thoughtfully, as soon
as her companion ceased to speak. "I do wish, Señor, that there could
be no use for this powder, that is now buried in the sea."
Don Juan Montefalderon smiled, and seemed a little surprised that
the fair young thing at his side should have known of the treacherous
contents of the flour-barrels. No doubt he found it inexplicable, that
persons like Rose and Mulford should, seemingly, be united with one
like Spike; but he was too well bred, and, indeed, too effectually
mystified, to push the subject further than might be discreet.
By this time they were near the entrance of the light-house, into
which the whole party entered, in a sort of mute awe at its silence and
solitude. At Señor Montefalderon's invitation, they ascended to the
lantern, whence they could command a wide and fair view of the
surrounding waters. The reef was much more apparent from that elevation
than from below; and Rose could see that numbers of its rocks were
bare, while on other parts of it there was the appearance of many feet
of water. Rose gazed at it with longing eyes, for, from a few remarks
that had fallen from Mulford, she suspected he had hopes of escaping
among its channels and coral.
As they descended and walked through the buildings, Rose also took
good heed of the supplies the place afforded. There were flour, and
beef, and pork, and many other of the common articles of food, as well
as water in a cistern, that caught it as it flowed from the roof of the
dwelling. Water was also to be found in casks—nothing like a spring or
a well existing among those islets. All these things Rose noted,
putting them aside in her memory for ready reference hereafter.
In the mean time the mariners were not idle. Spike moved his brig,
and moored her, head and stern, alongside of the wreck, before the
people got their breakfasts. As soon as that meal was ended, both
captain and mate set about their duty in earnest. Mulford carried out
an anchor on the off-side of the Swash, and dropped it at a distance of
about eighty fathoms from the vessel's beam. Purchases were brought
from both mast-heads of the brig to the chain of this anchor, and were
hove upon until the vessel wasgiven a heel of more than a streak, and
the cable was tolerably taut. Other purchases were got up opposite, and
overhauled down, in readiness to take hold of the schooner's masts. The
anchor of the schooner was weighed by its buoy-rope, and the chain,
after being rove through the upper or opposite hawse-hole, brought in
on board the Swash. Another chain was dropped astern, in such a way,
that when the schooner came upright, it would be sure to pass beneath
her keel, some six or eight feet from the rudder. Slings were then sunk
over the mast-heads, and the purchases were hooked on. Hours were
consumed in these preliminary labours, and the people went to dinner as
soon as they were completed.
When the men had dined, Spike brought one of his purchases to the
windlass, and the other to the capstan, though not until each was
bowsed taut by hand; a few minutes having brought the strain so far on
everything, as to enable a seaman, like Spike, to form some judgment of
the likelihood that his preventers and purchases would stand. Some
changes were found necessary to equalize the strain, but, on the whole,
the captain was satisfied with his work, and the crew were soon ordered
to "heave-away; the windlass best."
In the course of half an hour the hull of the vessel, which lay on
its bilge, began to turn on its keel, and the heads of the spars to
rise above the water. This was the easiest part of the process, all
that was required of the purchases being to turn over a mass which
rested on the sands of the bay. Aided by the long levers afforded by
the spars, the work advanced so rapidly, that, in just one hour's time
after his people had begun to heave, Spike had the pleasure to see the
schooner standing upright, alongside of his own brig, though still sunk
to the bottom. The wreck was secured in this position, by means of guys
and preventers, in order that it might not again cant, when the order
was issued to hook on the slings that were to raise it to the surface.
These slings were the chains of the schooner, one of which went under
her keel, while for the other the captain trusted to the strength of
the two hawse-holes, having passed the cable out of one and in at the
other, in a way to serve his purposes, as has just been stated.
When all was ready, Spike mustered his crew, and made a speech. He
told the men that he was about a job that was out of the usual line of
their duty, and that he knew they had a right to expect extra pay for
such extra work. The schooner contained money, and his object was to
get at it. If he succeeded, their reward would be a doubloon a man,
which would be earning more than a month's wages by twenty-four hours'
work. This was enough. The men wanted to hear no more; but they cheered
their commander, and set about their task in the happiest disposition
The reader will understand that the object to be first achieved,
was to raise a vessel, with a hold filled with flour and gunpowder,
from off the bottom of the bay to its surface. As she stood, the deck
of this vessel was about six feet under water, and every one will
understand that her weight, so long as it was submerged in a fluid as
dense as that of the sea, would be much more manageable than if
suspended in air. The barrels, for instance, were not much heavier than
the water they displaced, and the wood work of the vessel itself, was,
on the whole, positively lighter than the element in which it had sunk.
As for the water in the hold, that was of the same weight as the water
on the outside of tne craft, and there had not been much to carry the
schooner down, beside her iron, the spars that were out of water, and
her ballast. This last, some ten or twelve tons in weight, was in fact
the principal difficulty, and alone induced Spike to have any doubts
about his eventual success. There was no foreseeing the result until he
had made a trial, however; and the order was again given to "heave
To the infinite satisfaction of the Swash's crew, the weight was
found quite manageable, so long as the hull remained beneath the water.
Mulford, with three or four assistants, was kept on board the schooner
lightening her, by getting the other anchor off her bows, and throwing
the different objects overboard, or on the decks of the brig. By the
time the bulwarks reached the surface, as much was gained in this way,
as was lost by having so much of the lighter woodwork rise above the
water. As a matter of course, however, the weight increased as the
vessel rose, and more especially as the lower portion of the spars, the
bowsprit, boom,from being buoyant assistants, became so much dead
weight to be lifted.
Spike kept a watchful eye on his spars, and the extra supports he
had given them. He was moving, the whole time, from point to point,
feeling shrouds and back-stays, and preventers, in order to ascertain
the degree of strain on each, or examining how the purchases stood. As
for the crew, they cheered at their toil, incessantly, passing from
capstan bars to the handspikes, and vice versâ. They, too, felt that
their task was increasing in resistance as it advanced, and now found
it more difficult to gain an inch, than it had been at first to gain a
foot. They seemed, indeed, to be heaving their own vessel out, instead
of heaving the other craft up, and it was not long before they had the
Swash heeling over toward the wreck several streaks. The strain,
moreover, on everything, became not only severe, but somewhat menacing.
Every shroud, back-stay, and preventer was as taut as a bar of iron,
and the chain-cable that led to the anchor planted off abeam, was as
straight as if the brig were riding by it in a gale of wind. One or two
ominous surges aloft, too, had been heard, and, though no more than
straps and slings settling into their places under hard strains, they
served to remind the crew that danger might come from that quarter.
Such was the state of things, when Spike called out to "heave and
pall," that he might take a look at the condition of the wreck.
Although a great deal remained to be done, in order to get the
schooner to float, a great deal had already been done. Her precise
condition was as follows: Having no cabin windows, the water had
entered her, when she capsized, by the only four apertures her
construction possessed. These were the companion-way, or cabin-doors;
the sky-light; the main-hatch, or the large inlet amid-ships, by which
cargo went up and down; and the booby-hatch, which was the counterpart
of the companion-way, forward; being intended to admit of ingress to
the forecastle, the apartment of the crew. Each of these hatch-ways, or
orifices, had the usual defences of "coamings," strong frame-work
around their margins. These coamings rose six or eight inches above the
deck, and answered the double purpose of strengthening the vessel, in a
part, that without them would be weakerhan common, and of preventing
any water that might be washing about the decks from running below. As
soon, therefore, as these three apertures, or their coamings, could be
raised above the level of the water of the basin, all danger of the
vessel's receiving any further tribute of that sort from the ocean
would be over. It was to this end, consequently, that Spike's efforts
had been latterly directed, though they had only in part succeeded. The
schooner possessed a good deal of sheer, as it is termed; or, her two
extremities rose nearly a foot above her centre, when on an even keel.
This had brought her extremities first to the surface, and it was the
additional weight which had consequently been brought into the air that
had so much increased the strain, and induced Spike to pause. The deck
forward, as far aft as the foremast, and aft as far forward as the
centre of the trunk, or to the sky-light, was above the water, or at
least awash; while all the rest of it was covered. In the vicinity of
the main-hatch there were several inches of water; enough indeed to
leave the upper edge of the coamings submerged by about an inch. To
raise the keel that inch by means of the purchases, Spike well knew
would cost him more labour, and would incur more risk than all that had
been done previously, and he paused before he would attempt it.
The men were now called from the brig and ordered to come on board
the schooner. Spike ascertained by actual measurement how much was
wanted to bring the coamings of the main-hatch above the water, until
which, he knew, pumping and bailing would be useless. He found it was
quite an inch, and was at a great loss to know how that inch should be
obtained. Mulford advised another trial with the handspikes and bars,
but to this Spike would not consent. He believed that the masts of the
brig had already as much pressure on them as they would bear. The mate
next proposed getting the main boom off the vessel, and to lighten the
craft by cutting away her bowsprit and masts. The captain was well
enough disposed to do this, but he doubted whether it would meet with
the approbation of "Don Wan," who was still ashore with Rose and her
aunt, and who probably looked forward to recovering his gunpowderby
means of those very spars. At length the carpenter hit upon a plan that
This plan was very simple, though it had its own ingenuity. It will
be remembered that water could now only enter the vessel's hold at the
main-hatch, all the other hatchways having their coamings above the
element. The carpenter proposed, therefore, that the main-hatches,
which had been off when the tornado occurred, but which had been found
on deck when the vessel righted, should now be put on, oakum being
first laid along in their rabbetings, and that the cracks should be
stuffed with additional oakum, to exclude as much water as possible. He
thought that two or three men, by using caulking irons for ten minutes,
would make the hatch-way so tight that very little water would
penetrate. While this was doing, he himself would bore as many holes
forward and aft as he could, with a two inch auger, out of which the
water then in the vessel would be certain to run. Spike was delighted
with this project, and gave the necessary orders on the spot.
This much must be said of the crew of the Molly Swash —whatever
they did in their own profession, they did intelligently and well. On
the present occasion they maintained their claim to this character, and
were both active and expert. The hatches were soon on, and, in an
imperfect manner, caulked. While this was doing, the carpenter got into
a boat, and going under the schooner's bows, where a whole plank was
out of water, he chose a spot between two of the timbers, and bored a
hole as near the surface of the water as he dared to do. Not satisfied
with one hole, however, he bored many—choosing both sides of the
vessel to make them, and putting some aft as well as forward. In a
word, in the course of twenty minutes the schooner was tapped in at
least a dozen places, and jets of water, two inches in diameter, were
spouting from her on each bow, and under each quarter.
Spike and Mulford noted the effect. Some water, doubtless, still
worked itself into the vessel about the main-hatch, but that more
flowed from her by means of the outlets just named, was quite apparent.
After close watching at the outlets for some time, Spike was convinced
that the schooner was slowly rising, the intense strain that still came
from the brig producing that effect as the vessel gradually became
lighter. By the end of half an hour, there could be no longer any
doubt, the holes, which had been bored within an inch of the water,
being now fully two inches above it. The auger was applied anew, still
nearer to the surface of the sea, and as fresh outlets were made, those
that began to manifest a dulness in their streams were carefully
Spike now thought it was time to take a look at the state of things
on deck. Here, to his joy, he ascertained that the coamings had
actually risen a little above the water. The reader is not to suppose
by this rising of the vessel, that she had become sufficiently buoyant,
in consequence of the water that had run out of her, to float of
herself. This was far from being the case; but the constant upward
pressure from the brig, which, on mechanical principles, tended
constantly to bring that craft upright, had the effect to lift the
schooner as the latter was gradually relieved from the weight that
pressed her toward the bottom.
The hatches were next removed, when it was found that the water in
the schooner's hold had so far lowered, as to leave a vacant space of
quite a foot between the lowest part of the deck and its surface.
Toward the two extremities of the vessel this space necessarily was
much increased, in consequence of the sheer. Men were now sent into the
hatchway with orders to hook on to the flour-barrels—a whip having
been rigged in readiness to hoist them on deck. At the same time gangs
were sent to the pumps, though Spike still depended for getting rid of
the water somewhat on the auger—the carpenter continuing to bore and
plug his holes as new opportunities offered, and the old outlets became
useless. It was true this expedient would soon cease, for the water
having found its level in the vessel's hold, was very nearly on a level
also with that on the outside. Bailing also was commenced, both forward
Spike's next material advantage was obtained by means of the cargo.
By the time the sun had set, fully two hundred barrels had been rolled
into the hatchway, and passed on deck, whence about half of them were
sent in the light-house boat to the nearest islet, and the remainder
were transferred to the deck of the brig. These last were placed on the
off side of the Swash, and aided in bringing hernearer upright. A great
deal was gained in getting rid of these barrels. The water in the
schooner lowered just as much as the space they had occupied,-and the
vessel was relieved at once of twenty tons in weight.
Just after the sun had set, Señor Don Juan Montefalderon and his
party returned on board. They had staid on the island to the last
moment, at Rose's request, for she had taken as close an observation of
everything as possible, in order to ascertain if any means of
concealment existed, in the event of her aunt, Biddy, and herself
quitting the brig. The islets were all too naked and too small,
however; and she was compelled to return to the Swash, without any
hopes derived from this quarter.
Spike had just directed the people to get their suppers as the
Mexican came on board. Together they descended to the schooner's deck,
where they had a long but secret conference. Señor Montefalderon was a
calm, quiet and reasonable man, and while he felt as one would be apt
to feel who had recently seen so many associates swept suddenly out of
existence, the late catastrophe did not in the least unman him. It is
too much the habit of the American people to receive their impressions
from newspapers, which throw off their articles unreflectingly, and
often ignorantly, as crones in petticoats utter their gossip. In a
word, the opinions thus obtained are very much on a level, in value,
with the thoughts of those who are said to think aloud, and who give
utterance to all the crudities and trivial rumours that may happen to
reach their ears. In this manner, we apprehend, very false notions of
our neighbours of Mexico have become circulated among us. That nation
is a mixed race, and has necessarily the various characteristics of
such an origin, and it is unfortunately little influenced by the
diffusion of intelligence which certainly exists here. Although an
enemy, it ought to be acknowledged, however, that even Mexico has her
redeeming points. Anglo-Saxons as we are, we have no desire
unnecessarily to illustrate that very marked feature in the Anglo-Saxon
character, which prompts the mother stock to calumniate all who oppose
it, but would rather adopt some of that chivalrous courtesy of which so
much that is lofty and commendable is to be found among the descendants
of Old Spain.
The Señor Montefalderon was earnestly engaged in what he conceived
to be the cause of his country. It was scarcely possible to bring
together two men impelled by motives more distinct than Spike and this
gentleman. The first was acting under impulses of the lowest and most
grovelling nature; while the last was influenced by motives of the
highest. However much Mexico may, and has, weakened her cause by her
own punic faith, instability, military oppression, and political
revolutions, giving to the Texans in particular ample justification for
their revolt, it was not probable that Don Juan Montefalderon saw the
force of all the arguments that a casuist of ordinary ingenuity could
certainly adduce against his country; for it is a most unusual thing to
find a man anywhere, who is willing to admit that the positions of an
opponent are good. He saw in the events of the day, a province wrested
from his nation; and, in his reasoning on the subject, entirely
overlooking the numerous occasions on which his own fluctuating
government had given sufficient justification, not to say motives, to
their powerful neighbours to take the law into their own hands, and
redress themselves, he fancied all that has occurred was previously
planned; instead of regarding it, as it truly is, as merely the result
of political events that no man could have foreseen, that no man had
originally imagined, or that any man could control.
Don Juan understood Spike completely, and quite justly appreciated
not only his character, but his capabilities. Their acquaintance was
not of a day, though it had ever been marked by that singular
combination of caution and reliance that is apt to characterize the
intercourse between the knave and the honest man, when circumstances
compel not only communication, but, to a certain extent, confidence.
They now paced the deck of the schooner, side by side, for fully an
hour, during which time the price of the vessel, the means, and the
mode of payment and transfer, were fully settled between them.
"But what will you do with your passengers, Don Esteban?" asked the
Mexican pleasantly, when the more material points were adjusted. "I
feel a great interest in the young lady in particular, who is a
charming señorita, and who tells me that her aunt brought her this
voyage on account of her health. She looks much too blooming to beout
of health, and if she were, this is a singular voyage for an invalid to
"You don't understand human natur' yet, altogether, I see, Don
Wan," answered Spike, chuckling and winking. "As you and I are not only
good friends, but what a body may call old friends, I'll let you into a
secret in this affair, well knowing that you'll not betray it. It's
quite true that the old woman thinks her niece is a pulmonary, as they
call it, and that this v'y'ge is recommended for her, but the gal is as
healthy as she's handsom'."
"Her constitution, then, must be very excellent, for it is seldom I
have seen so charming a young woman. But if the aunt is misled in this
matter, how has it been with the niece?"
Spike did not answer in words, but he leered upon his companion,
and he winked.
"You mean to be understood that you are in intelligence with each
other, I suppose, Don Esteban," returned the Señor Montefalderon, who
did not like the captain's manner, and was willing to drop the
Spike then informed his companion, in confidence, that he and Rose
were affianced, though without the aunt's knowledge,—that he intended
to marry the niece the moment he reached a Mexican port with the brig,
and that it was their joint intention to settle in the country. He
added that the affair required management, as his intended had
property, and expected more, and he begged Don Juan to aid him, as
things drew near to a crisis. The Mexican evaded an answer, and the
The moon was now shining, and would continue to throw its pale
light over the scene for two or three hours longer. Spike profited by
the circumstance to continue the work of lightening the schooner. One
of the first things done next was to get up the dead, and to remove
them to the boat. This melancholy office occupied an hour, the bodies
being landed on the islet, near the powder, and there interred in the
sands. Don Juan Montefalderon attended on this occasion, and repeated
some prayers over the graves, as he had done in the morning, in the
cases of the two who had been buried near the light-house.
While this melancholy duty was in the course of performance, that
of pumping and bailing was continued, under the immediate personal
superintendence of Mulford. It would not be easy to define, with
perfect clearness, the conflicting feelings by which the mate of the
Swash was now impelled. He had no longer any doubt on the subject of
Spike's treason, and had it not been for Rose, he would not have
hesitated a moment about making off in the light-house boat for Key
West, in order to report all that had passed to the authorities. But
not only Rose was there, and to be cared for, but what was far more
difficult to get along with, her aunt was with her. It is true, Mrs.
Budd was no longer Spike's dupe; but under any circumstances she was a
difficult subject to manage, and most especially so in all matters that
related to the sea. Then the young man submitted, more or less, to the
strange influence which a fine craft almost invariably obtains over
those that belong to her. He did not like the idea of deserting the
Swash, at the very moment he would not have hesitated about punishing
her owner for his many misdeeds. In a word, Harry was too much of a tar
not to feel a deep reluctance to turn against his cruise, or his
voyage, however much either might be condemned by his judgment, or even
by his principles.
It was quite nine o'clock when the Señor Montefalderon and Spike
returned from burying the dead. No sooner did the last put his foot on
the deck of his own vessel, than he felt the fall of one of the
purchases which had been employed in raising the schooner. It was so
far slack as to satisfy him that the latter now floated by her own
buoyancy, though it might be well to let all stand until morning, for
the purposes of security. Thus apprised of the condition of the two
vessels, he gave the welcome order to "knock off for the night."
At the piping of all hands,
When the judgment signal's spread—
When the islands and the land,
And the seas give up their dead,
And the south and the north shall come;
When the sinner is dismayed,
And the just man is afraid,
Then heaven be thy aid,
The people had now a cessation from their toil. Of all the labour
known to sea-faring men, that of pumping is usually thought to be the
most severe. Those who work at it have to be relieved every minute, and
it is only by having gangs to succeed each other, that the duty can be
done at all with anything like steadiness. In the present instance, it
is true, that the people of the Swash were sustained by the love of
gold, but glad enough were they when Mulford called out to them to
"knock off, and turn in for the night." It was high time this summons
should be made, for not only were the people excessively wearied, but
the customary hours of labour were so far spent, that the light of the
moon had some time before begun to blend with the little left by the
parting sun. Glad enough were all hands to quit the toil; and two
minutes were scarcely elapsed ere most of the crew had thrown
themselves down, and were buried in deep sleep. Even Spike and Mulford
took the rest they needed, the cook alone being left to look out for
the changes in the weather. In a word, everybody but this idler was
exhausted with pumping and bailing, and even gold had lost its power to
charm, until nature was recruited by rest.
The excitement produced by the scenes through which they had so
lately passed, caused the females to sleep soundly, too. The death-like
stillness which pervaded thevessel contributed to their rest, and Rose
never woke, from the first few minutes after her head was on her
pillow, until near four in the morning. The deep quiet seemed ominous
to one who had so lately witnessed the calm which precedes the tornado,
and she arose. In that low latitude and warm season, few clothes were
necessary, and our heroine was on deck in a very few minutes. Here she
found the same grave-like sleep pervading everything. There was not a
breath of air, and the ocean seemed to be in one of its profoundest
slumbers. The hard-breathing of Spike could be heard through the open
windows of his state-room, and this was positively the only sound that
was audible. The common men, who lay scattered about the decks, more
especially from the mainmast forward, seemed to be so many logs, and
from Mulford no breathing was heard.
The morning was neither very dark nor very light, it being easy to
distinguish objects that were near, while those at a distance were
necessarily lost in obscurity. Availing herself of the circumstance,
Rose went as far as the gangway, to ascertain if the cook were at his
post. She saw him lying near his galley, in as profound a sleep as any
of the crew. This she felt to be wrong, and she felt alarmed, though
she knew not why. Perhaps it was the consciousness of being the only
person up and awake at that hour of deepest night, in a vessel so
situated as the Swash, and in a climate in which hurricanes seem to be
the natural offspring of the air. Some one must be aroused, and her
tastes, feelings, and judgment, all pointed to Harry Mulford as the
person she ought to awaken. He slept habitually in his clothes—the
lightest summer dress of the tropics; and the window of his little
state-room was always open for air. Moving lightly to the place, Rose
laid her own little, soft hand on the arm of the young man, when the
latter was on his feet in an instant. A single moment only was
necessary to regain his consciousness, when Mulford left the state-room
and joined Rose on the quarter-deck.
"Why am I called, Rose," the young man asked, attempering his voice
to the calm that reigned around him; "and why am I called by you?"
Rose explained the state of the brig, and the feeling which induced
her to awaken him. With woman's gentleness shenow expressed her regret
for having robbed Harry of his rest; had she reflected a moment, she
might have kept watch herself, and allowed him to obtain the sleep he
must surely so much require.
But Mulford laughed at this; protested he had never been awakened
at a more favourable moment, and would have sworn, had it been proper,
that a minute's further sleep would have been too much for him. After
these first explanations, Mulford walked round the decks, carefully
felt how much strain there was on the purchases, and rejoined Rose to
report that all was right, and that he did not consider it necessary to
call even the cook. The black was an idler in no sense but that of
keeping watch, and he had toiled the past day as much as any of the
men, though it was not exactly at the pumps.
A long and semi-confidential conversation now occurred between
Harry and Rose. They talked of Spike, the brig, and her cargo, and of
the delusion of the captain's widow. It was scarcely possible that
powder should be so much wanted at the Havanna as to render smuggling,
at so much cost, a profitable adventure; and Mulford admitted his
convictions that the pretended flour was originally intended for
Mexico. Rose related the tenor of the conversation she had overheard
between the two parties, Don Juan and Don Esteban, and the mate no
longer doubted that it was Spike's intention to sell the brig to the
enemy. She also alluded to what had passed between herself and the
Mulford took this occasion to introduce the subject of Jack Tier's
intimacy and favour with Rose. He even professed to feel some jealousy
on account of it, little as there might be to alarm most men in the
rivalry of such a competitor. Rose laughed, as girls will laugh when
there is question of their power over the other sex, and she fairly
shook her rich tresses as she declared her determination to continue to
smile on Jack to the close of the voyage. Then, as if she had said more
than she intended, she added with woman's generosity and tenderness,—
"After all, Harry, you know how much I promised to you even before
we sailed, and how much more since, and have no just cause to dread
even Jack. There is another reason, however, that ought to set your
mind entirely at case on his account. Jack is married, and has a
partner living at this very moment, as he does not scruple to avow
A hissing noise, a bright light, and a slight explosion,
interrupted the half-laughing girl, and Mulford, turning on his heel,
quick as thought, saw that a rocket had shot into the air, from a point
close under the bows of the brig. He was still in the act of moving
toward the forecastle, when, at the distance of several leagues, he saw
the explosion of another rocket high in the air. He knew enough of the
practices of vessels of war, to feel certain that these were a signal
and its answer from some one in the service of government. Not at all
sorry to have the career of the Swash arrested, before she could pass
into hostile hands, or before evil could befall Rose, Mulford reached
the forecastle just in time to answer the inquiry that was immediately
put to him, in the way of a hail. A gig, pulling four oars only, with
two officers in its stern-sheets, was fairly under the vessel's bows,
and the mate could almost distinguish the countenance of the officer
who questioned him, the instant he showed his head and shoulders above
"What vessels are these?" demanded the stranger, speaking in the
authoritative manner of one who acted for the state, but not speaking
much above the usual conversational tone.
"American and Spanish," was the answer. "This brig is American—the
schooner alongside is a Spaniard, that turned turtle in a tornado,
about six-and-thirty hours since, and on which we have been hard at
work trying to raise her, since the gale which succeeded the tornado
has blown its pipe out."
"Ay, ay, that's the story, is it? I did not know what to make of
you, lying cheek by jowl, in this fashion. Was anybody lost on board
"All hands, including every soul aft and forward, the supercargo
excepted, who happened to be aboard here. We buried seventeen bodies
this afternoon on the smallest of the Keys that you see near at hand,
and two this morning alongside of the light. But what boat is that, and
where are you from, and whom are you signalling?"
"The boat is a gig," answered the stranger, deliberately,"and she
belongs to a cruiser of Uncle Sam's, that is off the reef, a short bit
to the eastward, and we signalled our captain. But I'll come on board
you, sir, if you please."
Mulford walked aft to meet the stranger at the gangway, and was
relieved, rather than otherwise, at finding that Spike was already on
the quarter-deck. Should the vessel of war seize the brig, he could
rejoice at it, but so strong were his professional ideas of duty to the
craft he sailed in, that he did not find it in his heart to say aught
against her. Were any mishap to befall it, or were justice to be done,
he preferred that it might be done under Spike's own supervision,
rather than under his.
"Call all hands, Mr. Mulford," said Spike, as they met. "I see a
streak of day coming yonder in the east—let all hands be called at
once. What strange boat is this we have alongside?"
This question was put to the strangers, Spike standing on his
gangway-ladder to ask it, while the mate was summoning the crew. The
officer saw that a new person was to be dealt with, and in his quiet,
easy way, he answered, while stretching out his hands to take the
"Your servant, sir—we are man-of-war's men, belonging to one of
Uncle Sam's craft, outside, and have just come in to pay you a visit of
ceremony. I told one, whom I suppose was your mate, that I would just
step on board of you."
"Ay, ay—one at a time, if you please. It's war-time, and I cannot
suffer armed boat's crews to board me at night, without knowing
something about them. Come up yourself, if you please, but order your
people to stay in the boat. Here, muster about this gangway, half a
dozen of you, and keep an eye on the crew of this strange boat."
These orders had no effect on the cool and deliberate lieutenant,
who ascended the brig's side, and immediately stood on her deck. No
sooner had he and Spike confronted each other, than each gave a little
start, like that of recognition, and the lieutenant spoke.
"Ay, ay—I believe I know this vessel now. It is the Molly Swash,
of New York, bound to Key West, and a market; and I have the honour to
see Captain Stephen Spike again."
It was Mr. Wallace, the second lieutenant of the sloop-of-warthat
had boarded the brig in the Mona Passage, and to avoid whom Spike had
gone to the southward of Jamaica. The meeting was very mal-à-propos,
but it would not do to betray that the captain and owner of the vessel
thought as much as this; on the contrary, Wallace was warmly welcomed,
and received, not only as an old acquaintance, but as a very agreeable
visiter. To have seen the two, as they walked aft together, one might
have supposed that the meeting was conducive of nothing but a very
mutual satisfaction, it was so much like that which happens between
those who keep up a hearty acquaintance.
"Well, I'm glad to see you again, Captain Spike," cried Wallace,
after the greetings were passed, "if it be only to ask where you flew
to, the day we left you in the Mona Passage? We looked out for you with
all our eyes, expecting you would be down between San Domingo and
Jamaica, but I hardly think you got by us in the night. Our master
thinks you must have dove, and gone past loon-fashion. Do you ever
perform that manœuvre?"
"No, we've kept above water the whole time, lieutenant," answered
Spike, heartily; "and that is more than can be said of the poor fellow
alongside of us. I was so much afraid of the Isle of Pines, that I went
"You might have given the Isle of Pines a berth, and still have
passed to the northward of the Englishmen," said Wallace, a little
drily. "However, that island is somewhat of a scarecrow, and we have
been to take a look at it ourselves. All's right there, just now. But
you seem light; what have you done with your flour?"
"Parted with every barrel of it. You may remember I was bound to
Key West, and a market. Well, I found my market here, in American
"You have been lucky, sir. This 'emporium' does not seem to be
exactly a commercial emporium."
"The fact is, the flour is intended for the Havanna; and I fancy it
is to be shipped for slavers. But I am to know nothing of all that,
you'll understand, lieutenant. If I sell my flour in American waters,
at two prices, it's no concern of mine what becomes of it a'terwards."
"Unless it happen to pass into enemy's hands, certainly not; and
you are too patriotic to deal with Mexico, just now,I'm sure. Pray, did
that flour go down when the schooner turned turtle?"
"Every barrel of it; but Don Wan, below there, thinks that most of
it may yet be saved, by landing it on one of those Keys to dry. Flour,
well packed, wets in slowly. You see we have some of it on deck."
"And who may Don Wan be, sir, pray? We are sent here to look after
Dons and Donas, you know."
"Don Wan is a Cuban merchant, and deals in such articles as he
wants. I fell in with him among the reefs here, where he was rummaging
about in hopes of meeting with a wrack, he tells me, and thinking to
purchase something profitable in that way; but finding I had flour, he
agreed to take it out of me at this anchorage, and send me away in
ballast at once. I have found Don Wan Montefalderon ready pay, and very
Wallace then requested an explanation of the disaster, to the
details of which he listened with a sailor's interest. He asked a great
many questions, all of which bore on the more nautical features of the
event; and, day having now fairly appeared, he examined the purchases
and backings of the Swash with professional nicety. The schooner was no
lower in the water than when the men had knocked off work the previous
night; and Spike set the people at the pumps and their bailing again,
as the most effectual method of preventing their making any indiscreet
communications to the man-of-war's men.
About this time the relict appeared on deck, when Spike gallantly
introduced the lieutenant anew to his passengers. It is true he knew no
name to use, but that was of little moment, as he called the officer
"the lieutenant," and nothing else.
Mrs. Budd was delighted with this occasion to show-off, and she
soon broke out on the easy, indolent, but waggish Wallace, in a strain
to surprise him, notwithstanding the specimen of the lady's skill from
which he had formerly escaped.
"Captain Spike is of opinion, lieutenant, that our cast-anchor here
is excellent, and I know the value of a good cast-anchor place; for my
poor Mr. Budd was a sea-faring man, and taught me almost as much of
your noble profession as he knew himself."
"And he taught you, ma'am," said Wallace, fairly opening his eyes,
under the influence of astonishment, "to be very particular about
"Indeed he did. He used to say, that roads-instead were never as
good, for such purposes, as land that's locked havens, for the anchors
would return home, as he called it, in roads-instead."
"Yes, ma'am," answered Wallace, looking very queer at first, as if
disposed to laugh outright, then catching a glance of Rose, and
changing his mind; "I perceive that Mr. Budd knew what he was about,
and preferred an anchorage where he was well land-locked, and where
there was no danger of his anchors coming home, as so often happens in
your open roadsteads."
"Yes, that's just it! That was just his notion! You cannot feel how
delightful it is, Rose, to converse with one that thoroughly
understands such subjects! My poor Mr. Budd did, indeed, denounce
roads-instead, at all times calling them 'savage.' "
"Savage, aunt," put in Rose, hoping to stop the good relict by her
own interposition—"that is a strange word to apply to an anchorage!"
"Not at all, young lady," said Wallace gravely. "They are often
wild berths, and wild berths are not essentially different from wild
beasts. Each is savage, as a matter of course."
"I knew I was right!" exclaimed the widow. "Savage cast-anchors
come of wild births, as do savage Indians. Oh! the language of the
ocean, as my poor Mr. Budd used to say, is eloquence tempered by common
Wallace stared again, but his attention was called to other things,
just at that moment. The appearance of Don Juan Montefalderon y Castro
on deck, reminded him of his duty, and approaching that gentleman he
condoled with him on the grave loss he had sustained. After a few civil
expressions on both sides, Wallace made a delicate allusion to the
character of the schooner.
"Under other circumstances," he said, "it might be my duty to
inquire a little particularly as to the nationality ofyour vessel,
Señor, for we are at war with the Mexicans, as you doubtless know."
"Certainly," answered Don Juan, with an unmoved air and great
politeness of manner, "though it would be out of my power to satisfy
you. Everything was lost in the schooner, and I have not a paper of any
sort to show you. If it be your pleasure to make a prize of a vessel in
this situation, certainly it is in your power to do it. A few barrels
of wet flour are scarce worth disputing about."
Wallace now seemed a little ashamed, the sang froid of the other
throwing dust in his eyes, and he was in a hurry to change the subject.
Señor Don Juan was very civilly condoled with again, and he was made to
repeat the incidents of the loss, as if his auditor took a deep
interest in what he said, but no further hint was given touching the
nationality of the vessel. The lieutenant's tact let him see that Señor
Montefalderon was a person of a very different calibre from Spike, as
well as of different habits; and he did not choose to indulge in the
quiet irony that formed so large an ingredient in his own character,
with this new acquaintance. He spoke Spanish himself, with tolerable
fluency, and a conversation now occurred between the two, which was
maintained for some time with spirit and a very manifest courtesy.
This dialogue between Wallace and the Spaniard gave Spike a little
leisure for reflection. As the day advanced the cruiser came more and
more plainly in view, and his first business was to take a good survey
of her. She might have been three leagues distant, but approaching with
a very light breeze, at the rate of something less than two knots in
the hour. Unless there was some one on board her who was acquainted
with the channels of the Dry Tortugas, Spike felt little apprehension
of the ship's getting very near to him; but he very well understood
that, with the sort of artillery that was in modern use among vessels
of war, he would hardly be safe could the cruiser get within a league.
That near Uncle Sam's craft might certainly come without encountering
the hazards of the channels, and within that distance she would be
likely to get in the course of the morning, should he have the
complaisance to wait for her. He determined, therefore, not to be
guilty of that act of folly.
All this time the business of lightening the schooner proceeded.
Although Mulford earnestly wished that the man-of-war might get an
accurate notion of the true character and objects of the brig, he could
not prevail on himself to become an informer. In order to avoid the
temptation so to do, he exerted himself in keeping the men at their
tasks, and never before had pumping and bailing been carried on with
more spirit. The schooner soon floated of herself, and the purchases
which led to the Swash were removed. Near a hundred more barrels of the
flour had been taken out of the hold of the Spanish craft, and had been
struck on the deck of the brig, or sent to the Key by means of the
boats. This made a material change in the buoyancy of the vessel, and
enabled the bailing to go on with greater facility. The pumps were
never idle, but two small streams of water were running the whole time
toward the scuppers, and through them into the sea.
At length the men were ordered to knock off, and to get their
breakfasts. This appeared to arouse Wallace, who had been chatting,
quite agreeably to himself, with Rose, and seemed reluctant to depart,
but who now became sensible that he was neglecting his duty. He called
away his boat's crew, and took a civil leave of the passengers; after
which he went over the side. The gig was some little distance from the
Swash, when Wallace rose and asked to see Spike, with whom he had a
word to say at parting.
"I will soon return," he said, "and bring you forty or fifty fresh
men, who will make light work with your wreck. I am certain our
commander will consent to my doing so, and will gladly send on board
you two or three boat's crews."
"If I let him," muttered Spike between his teeth, "I shall be a
poor, miserable cast-anchor devil, that's all."
To Wallace, however, he expressed his hearty acknowledgments;
begged him not to be in a hurry, as the worst was now over, and the row
was still a long one. If he got back toward evening it would be all in
good time. Wallace waved his hand, and the gig glided away. As for
Spike, he sat down on the plank-sheer where he had stood, and remained
there ruminating intently for two or three minutes. When he descended
to the deck his mind was fully madeup. His first act was to give some
private orders to the boatswain, after which he withdrew to the cabin,
whither he summoned Tier, without delay.
"Jack," commenced the captain, using very little circumlocution in
opening his mind, "you and I are old shipmates, and ought to be old
friends, though I think your natur' has undergone some changes since we
last met. Twenty years ago there was no man in the ship on whom I could
so certainly depend as on Jack Tier; now, you seem given up altogether
to the women. Your mind has changed even more than your body."
"Time does that for all of us, Captain Spike," returned Tier
coolly. "I am not what I used to be, I'll own, nor are you yourself,
for that matter. When I saw you last, noble captain, you were a
handsome man of forty, and could go aloft with any youngster in the
brig; but, now, you're heavy, and not over-active."
"I!—Not a bit of change has taken place in me for the last thirty
years. I defy any man to show the contrary. But that's neither here nor
there; you are no young woman, Jack, that I need be boasting of my
health and beauty before you. I want a bit of real sarvice from you,
and want it done in old-times fashion; and I mean to pay for it in
old-times fashion, too."
As Spike concluded, he put into Tier's hand one of the doubloons
that he had received from Señor Montefalderon, in payment for the
powder. The doubloons, for which so much pumping and bailing were then
in process, were still beneath the waters of the gulf.
"Ay, ay, sir," returned Jack, smiling and pocketing the gold, with
a wink of the eye, and a knowing look; "this does resemble old times
sum'at. I now begin to know Captain Spike, my old commander again, and
see that he's more like himself than I had just thought him. What am I
to do for this, sir? speak plain, that I may be sartain to steer the
"Oh, just a trifle, Jack—nothing that will break up the
ground-tier of your wits, my old shipmate. You see the state of the
brig, and know that she is in no condition for ladies."
" 'T would have been better all round, sir, had they never come
aboard at all," answered Jack, looking dark.
Spike was surprised, but he was too much bent on his projects to
"You know what sort of flour they're whipping out of the schooner,
and must understand that the brig will soon be in a pretty litter. I do
not intend to let them send a single barrel of it beneath my hatches
again, but the deck and the islands must take it all. Now I wish to
relieve my passengers from the confinement this will occasion, and I
have ordered the boatswain to pitch a tent for them on the largest of
these here Tortugas; and what I want of you, is to muster food and
water, and other women's knicknacks, and go ashore with them, and make
them as comfortable as you can for a few days, or until we can get this
schooner loaded and off."
Jack Tier looked at his commander as if he would penetrate his most
secret thoughts. A short pause succeeded, during which the steward's
mate was intently musing, then his countenance suddenly brightened; he
gave the doubloon a fillip, and caught it on the palm of his hand as it
descended, and he uttered the customary "Ay, ay, sir," with apparent
cheerfulness. Nothing more passed between these two worthies, who now
parted, Jack to make his arrangements, and Spike to "tell his yarn," as
he termed the operation in his own mind, to Mrs. Budd, Rose, and Biddy.
The widow listened complacently, though she seemed half doubting, half
ready to comply. As for Rose, she received the proposal with
delight—The confinement of the vessel having become irksome to her.
The principal obstacle was in overcoming the difficulties made by the
aunt, Biddy appearing to like the notion quite as much as "Miss Rosy."
As for the light-house, Mrs. Budd had declared nothing would induce her
to go there; for she did not doubt that the place would soon be, if it
were not already, haunted. In this opinion she was sustained by Biddy;
and it was the knowledge of this opinion that induced Spike to propose
"Are you sure, Captain Spike, it is not a desert island?" asked the
widow; "I remember that my poor Mr. Budd always spoke of desert islands
as horrid places, and spots that every one should avoid."
"What if it is, aunty," said Rose eagerly, "while we have the brig
here, close at hand. We shall suffer none of the wants of such a place,
so long as our friends can supply us."
"And such friends, Miss Rose," exclaimed Spike, a little
sentimentally for him, "friends that would undergo hunger and thirst
themselves, before you should want for any comforts."
"Do, now, Madam Budd," put in Biddy in her hearty way, "it's an
island, ye'll remimber: and sure that's just what ould Ireland has ever
been, God bless it! Islands make the pleasantest risidences."
"Well I'll venture to oblige you and Biddy, Rosy, dear," returned
the aunt, still half reluctant to yield; "but you'll remember, that if
I find it at all a desert island, I'll not pass the night on it on any
With this understanding the party was transferred to the shore. The
boatswain had already erected a sort of a tent, on a favourable spot,
using some of the old sails that had covered the flour-barrels, not
only for the walls, but for a carpet of some extent also. This tent was
ingeniously enough contrived. In addition to the little room that was
entirely enclosed, there was a sort of piazza, or open verandah, which
would enable its tenants to enjoy the shade in the open air. Beneath
this verandah, a barrel of fresh water was placed, as well as three or
four ship's stools, all of which had been sent ashore with the
materials for constructing the tent. The boat had been going and coming
for some time, and the distance being short, the "desert island" was
soon a desert no longer. It is true that the supplies necessary to
support three women for as many days, were no great matter, and were
soon landed, but Jack Tier had made a provision somewhat more ample. A
capital caterer, he had forgotten nothing within the compass of his
means, that could contribute to the comfort of those who had been put
especially under his care. Long before the people "knocked off" for
their dinners, the arrangements were completed, and the boatswain was
ready to take his leave.
"Well, ladies," said that grum old salt, "I can do no more for you,
as I can see. This here island is now almost as comfortable as a ship
that has been in blue water for amonth, and I do n't know how it can be
made more comfortabler."
This was only according to the boatswain's notion of comfort; but
Rose thanked him for his care in her winning way, while her aunt
admitted that, "for a place that was almost a desert island, things did
look somewhat promising." In a few minutes the men were all gone, and
the islet was left to the sole possession of the three females, and
their constant companion, Jack Tier. Rose was pleased with the novelty
of her situation, though the islet certainly did deserve the opprobrium
of being a "desert island." There was no shade but that of the tent,
and its verandah-like covering, though the last, in particular, was
quite extensive. There was no water, that in the barrel and that of the
ocean excepted. Of herbage there was very little on this islet, and
that was of the most meagre and coarse character, being a long wiry
grass, with here and there a few stunted bushes. The sand was
reasonably firm, however, more especially round the shore, and the
walking was far from unpleasant. Little did Rose know it, but a week
earlier, the spot would have been next to intolerable to her, on
account of the musquitoes, gallinippers, and other similar insects of
the family of tormentors; but everything of the sort had temporarily
disappeared in the currents of the tornado. To do Spike justice, he was
aware of this circumstance, or he might have hesitated about exposing
females to the ordinary annoyances of one of these spots. Not a
musquito, or anything of the sort was left, however, all having gone to
leeward, in the vortex which had come so near sweeping off the Mexican
"This place will do very well, aunty, for a day or two," cried Rose
cheerfully, as she returned from a short excursion, and threw aside her
hat, one made to shade her face from the sun of a warm climate, leaving
the sea-breeze that was just beginning to blow, to fan her blooming and
sunny cheeks. "It is better than the brig. The worst piece of land is
better than the brig."
"Do not say that, Rose—not if it's a desert island, dear; and this
is desperately like a desert island; I am almost sorry I ventured on
"It will not be deserted by us, aunty, until we shall seeoccasion
to do so. Why not endeavour to get on board of yonder ship, and return
to New York in her; or at least induce her captain to put us ashore
somewhere near this, and go home by land. Your health never seemed
better than it is at this moment; and as for mine, I do assure you,
aunty, dear, I am as perfectly well as I ever was in my life."
"All from this voyage. I knew it would set you up, and am delighted
to hear you say as much. Biddy and I were talking of you this very
morning, my child, and we both agreed that you were getting to be
yourself again. Oh, ships, and brigs, and schooners, full-jigger or
half-jigger, for pulmonary complaints, say I! My poor Mr. Budd always
maintained that the ocean was the cure for all diseases, and I
determined that to sea you should go, the moment I became alarmed for
The good widow loved Rose most tenderly, and she was obliged to use
her handkerchief to dry the tears from her eyes as she concluded. Those
tears sprung equally from a past feeling of apprehension, and a present
feeling of gratitude. Rose saw this, and she took a seat at her aunt's
side, touched herself, as she never failed to be on similar occasions
with this proof of her relative's affection. At that moment even Harry
Mulford would have lost a good deal in her kind feelings toward him,
had he so much as smiled at one of the widow's nautical absurdities. At
such times, Rose seemed to be her aunt's guardian and protectress,
instead of reversing the relations, and she entirely forgot herself the
many reasons which existed for wishing that she had been placed in
childhood, under the care of one better qualified than the well-meaning
relict of her uncle, for the performance of her duties.
"Thank you, aunty—thank'ee, dear aunty," said Rose, kissing the
widow affectionately. "I know that you mean the best for me, though you
are a little mistaken in supposing me ill. I do assure you, dear,"
patting her aunt's cheek, as if she herself had been merely a playful
child, "I never was better; and if I have been pulmonary, I am entirely
cured, and am now ready to return home."
"God be praised for this, Rosy. Under His divine providence, it is
all owing to the sea. If you really feel so much restored, however, I
do not wish to keep you a moment longer on a ship's board than is
necessary. We owe something to Captain Spike's care, and cannot quit
him too unceremoniously; but as soon as he is at liberty to go into a
harbour, I will engage him to do so, and we can return home by
land—unless, indeed, the brig intends to make the home voyage
"I do not like this brig, aunty, and now we are out of her, I wish
we could keep out of her. Nor do I like your Captain Spike, who seems
to me anything but an agreeable gentleman."
"That's because you arn't accustomed to the sea. My poor Mr. Budd
had his ways, like all the rest of them; it takes time to get
acquainted with them. All sailors are so."
Rose bent her face involuntarily, but so low as to conceal the
increasing brightness of her native bloom, as she answered,
"Harry Mulford is not so, aunty, dear—and he is every inch a
"Well, there is a difference, I must acknowledge, though I dare say
Harry will grow every day more and more like all the rest of them. In
the end, he will resemble Captain Spike."
"Never," said Rose, firmly.
"You can't tell, child. I never saw your uncle when he was Harry's
age, for I was n't born till he was thirty, but often and often has he
pointed out to me some slender, genteel youth, and say, 'just such a
lad was I at twenty,' though nothing could be less alike, at the moment
he was speaking, than they two. We all change with our years. Now I was
once as slender, and almost—not quite, Rosy, for few there are that
be—but almost as handsome as you yourself."
"Yes, aunty, I've heard that before," said Rose, springing up, in
order to change the discourse; "but Harry Mulford will never become
like Stephen Spike. I wish we had never known the man, dearest aunty."
"It was all your own doings, child. He's a cousin of your most
intimate friend, and she brought him to the house; and one could n't
offend Mary Mulford, by telling her we did n't like her cousin."
Rose seemed vexed, and she kept her little foot in motion, patting
the sail that formed the carpet, as girls will pat theground with their
feet when vexed. This gleam of displeasure was soon over, however, and
her countenance became as placid as the clear, blue sky that formed the
vault of the heavens above her head. As if to atone for the passing
rebellion of her feelings, she threw her arms around her aunt's neck;
after which she walked away, along the beach, ruminating on her present
situation, and of the best means of extricating their party from the
power of Spike.
It requires great familiarity with vessels and the seas, for one to
think, read, and pursue the customary train of reasoning on board a
ship that one has practised ashore. Rose had felt this embarrassment
during the past month, for the whole of which time she had scarcely
been in a condition to act up to her true character, suffering her
energies, and in some measure her faculties, to be drawn into the
vortex produced by the bustle, novelties, and scenes of the vessel and
the ocean. But, now she was once more on the land, diminutive and naked
as was the islet that composed her present world, and she found leisure
and solitude for reflection and decision. She was not ignorant of the
nature of a vessel of war, or of the impropriety of unprotected females
placing themselves on board of one; but gentlemen of character, like
the officers of the ship in sight, could hardly be wanting in the
feelings of their caste; and anything was better than to return
voluntarily within the power of Spike. She determined within her own
mind that voluntarily she would not. We shall leave this young girl,
slowly wandering along the beach of her islet, musing on matters like
these, while we return to the vessels and the mariners.
A good breeze had come in over the reef from the Gulf, throwing the
sloop-of-war dead to leeward of the brigantine's anchorage. This was
the reason that the former had closed so slowly. Still the distance
between the vessels was so small, that a swift cruiser, like the ship
of war, would soon have been alongside of the wreckers, but for the
intervening islets and the intricacies of their channels. She had made
sail on the wind, however, and was evidently disposed to come as near
to the danger as her lead showed would be safe, even if she did not
venture among them.
Spike noted all these movements, and he took his measures
accordingly. The pumping and bailing had been goingon since the
appearance of light, and the flour had been quite half removed from the
schooner's hold. That vessel consequently floated with sufficient
buoyancy, and no further anxiety was felt on account of her sinking.
Still, a great deal of water remained in her, the cabin itself being
nearly half full. Spike's object was to reduce this water sufficiently
to enable him to descend into the state-room which Señor Montefalderon
had occupied, and bring away the doubloons that alone kept him in the
vicinity of so ticklish a neighbour as the Poughkeepsie. Escape was
easy enough to one who knew the passages of the reef and islets; more
especially since the wind had so fortunately brought the cruiser to
leeward. Spike most apprehended a movement upon him in the boats, and
he had almost made up his mind, should such an enterprise be attempted,
to try his hand in beating it off with his guns. A good deal of
uncertainty on the subject of Mulford's consenting to resist the
recognised authorities of the country, as well as some doubts of a
similar nature in reference to two or three of the best of the foremast
hands, alone left him at all in doubt as to the expediency of such a
course. As no boats were lowered from the cruiser, however, the
necessity of resorting to so desperate a measure, did not occur, and
the duty of lightening the schooner had proceeded without interruption.
As soon as the boatswain came off from the islet, he and the men with
him were directed to take the hands and lift the anchors, of which it
will be remembered the Swash had several down. Even Mulford was shortly
after set at work on the same duty; and these expert and ready seamen
soon had the brig clear of the ground. As the schooner was anchored,
and floated without assistance, the Swash rode by her.
Such was the state of things when the men turned to, after having
had their dinners. By this time, the sloop-of-war was within half a
league of the bay, her progress having been materially retarded by the
set of the current, which was directly against her. Spike saw that a
collision of some sort or other must speedily occur, and he determined
to take the boatswain with him, and descend into the cabin of the
schooner in quest of the gold. The boatswain was summoned, and Señor
Montefalderon repeated in this man's presence the instructions that he
thought it necessaryfor the adventurers to follow, in order to secure
the prize. Knowing how little locks would avail on board a vessel, were
the men disposed to rob him, that gentleman had trusted more to
secreting his treasure, than to securing it in the more ordinary way.
When the story had again been told, Spike and his boatswain went on
board the schooner, and, undressing, they prepared to descend into the
cabin. The captain paused a single instant to take a look at the
sloop-of-war, and to examine the state of the weather. It is probable
some new impression was made on him by this inquiry, for, hailing
Mulford, he ordered him to loosen the sails, and to sheet home, and
hoist the foretopsail. In a word, to "see all ready to cast off, and
make sail on the brig at the shortest notice." With this command he
disappeared by the schooner's companion-way.
Spike and his companion found the water in the cabin very much
deeper than they had supposed. With a view to comfort, the cabin-floor
had been sunk much lower than is usual on board American vessels, and
this brought the water up nearly to the arm-pits of two men as short as
our captain and his sturdy little boatswain. The former grumbled a good
deal, when he ascertained the fact, and said something about the mate's
being better fitted to make a search in such a place, but concluding
with the remark, that "the man who wants ticklish duty well done, must
see to it himself."
The gold-hunters groped their way cautiously about the cabin for
some time, feeling for a drawer, in which they had been told they
should find the key of Señor Montefalderon's state-room door. In this
Spike himself finally succeeded, he being much better acquainted with
cabins and their fixtures, than the boatswain.
"Here it is, Ben," said the captain, "now for a dive among the
Don's val'ables. Should you pick up anything worth speaking of, you can
condemn it for salvage, as I mean to cast off, and quit the wrack the
moment we've made sure of the doubloons."
"And what will become of all the black flour that is lying about,
sir?" asked the boatswain with a grin.
"It may take care of itself. My agreement will be up as soon as the
doubloons are found. If the Don will comedown handsomely with his share
of what will be left, I may be bought to put the kegs we have in the
brig ashore for him somewhere in Mexico; but my wish is to get out of
the neighbourhood of that bloody sloop-of-war, as soon as possible."
"She makes but slow headway ag'in the current, sir; but a body
would think she might send in her boats."
"The boats might be glad to get back again," muttered Spike. "Ay,
here is the door unlocked, and we can now fish for the money."
Some object had rolled against the state-room door, when the vessel
was capsized, and there was a good deal of difficulty in forcing it
open. They succeeded at last, and Spike led the way by wading into the
small apartment. Here they began to feel about beneath the water, and
by a very insufficient light, in quest of the hidden treasure. Spike
and his boatswain differed as to the place which had just been
described to them, as men will differ even in the account of events
that pass directly before their eyes. While thus employed, the report
of a heavy gun came through the doors of the cabin, penetrating to the
recess in which they were thus employed.
"Ay, that's the beginning of it!" exclaimed Spike. "I wonder that
the fool has put it off so long."
"That gun was a heavy fellow, Captain Spike," returned the
boatswain; "and it sounded in my ears as if't was shotted."
"Ay, ay, I dare say you're right enough in both opinions. They put
such guns on board their sloops-of-war, now-a-days, as a fellow used to
find in the lower batteries of a two-decker only in old times; and as
for shot, why Uncle Sam pays, and they think it cheaper to fire one out
of a gun, than to take the trouble of drawing it."
"I believe here's one of the bags, Captain Spike," said the
boatswain, making a dip, and coming up with one-half of the desired
treasure in his fist. "By George, I've grabbed him, sir; and the other
bag can't be far off."
"Hand that over to me," said the captain, a little authoritatively,
"and take a dive for the next."
As the boatswain was obeying this order, a second gun was heard,
and Spike thought that the noise made by thenear passage of a large
shot was audible also. He called out to Ben to "bear a hand, as the
ship seems in 'arnest." But the head of the boatswain being under water
at the time, the admonition was thrown away. The fellow soon came up,
however, puffing like a porpoise that has risen to the surface to blow.
"Hand it over to me at once," said Spike, stretching out his
unoccupied hand to receive the prize; "we have little time to lose."
"That's sooner said than done, sir," answered the boatswain; "a box
has driven down upon the bag, and there's a tight jam. I got hold of
the neck of the bag, and pulled like a horse, but it wouldn't come no
"Show me the place, and let me have a drag at it. There goes
another of his bloody guns!"
Down went Spike, and the length of time he was under water, proved
how much he was in earnest. Up he came at length, and with no better
luck than his companion. He had got hold of the bag, satisfied himself
by feeling its outside that it contained the doubloons, and hauled with
all his strength, but it would not come. The boatswain now proposed to
take a jamming hitch with a rope around the neck of the bag, which was
long enough to admit of such a fastening, and then to apply their
united force. Spike assented, and the boatswain rummaged about for a
piece of small rope to suit his purpose. At this moment Mulford
appeared at the companion-way to announce the movements on the part of
the sloop-of-war. He had been purposely tardy, in order to give the
ship as much time as possible; but he saw by the looks of the men that
a longer delay might excite suspicion.
"Below there!" called out the mate.
"What's wanting, sir?—what's wanting, sir?" answered Spike; "let's
know at once."
"Have you heard the guns, Captain Spike?"
"Ay, ay, every grumbler of them. They've done no mischief, I trust,
"None as yet, sir; though the last shot, and it was a heavy fellow,
passed just above the schooner's deck. I've the topsail sheeted home
and hoisted, and it's that which has set them at work. If I clewed up
again, I dare say they'd not fire another gun."
"Clew up nothing, sir, but see all clear for casting off and making
sail through the South Pass. What do you say, Ben, are you ready for a
"All ready, sir," answered the boatswain, once more coming up to
breathe. "Now for it, sir; a steady pull, and a pull all together."
They did pull, but the hitch slipped, and both went down beneath
the water. In a moment they were up again, puffing a little and
swearing a great deal. Just then another gun, and a clatter above their
heads, brought them to a stand.
"What means that, Mr. Mulford?" demanded Spike, a good deal
It means that the sloop-of-war has shot away the head of this
schooner's foremast, sir, and that the shot has chipp'd a small piece
out of the heel of our maintop-mast—that's all."
Though excessively provoked at the mate's cool manner of replying,
Spike saw that he might lose all by being too tenacious about securing
the remainder of the doubloons. Pronouncing in very energetic terms on
Uncle Sam, and all his cruisers, an anathema that we do not care to
repeat, he gave a surly order to Ben to "knock-off," and abandoned his
late design. In a minute he was on deck and dressed.
"Cast off, lads," cried the captain, as soon as on the deck of his
own brig again, "and four of you man that boat. We have got half of
your treasure, Señor Wan, but have been driven from the rest of it, as
you see. There is the bag; when at leisure we'll divide it, and give
the people their share. Mr. Mulford, keep the brig in motion, hauling
up toward the South Pass, while I go ashore for the ladies. I'll meet
you just in the throat of the passage."
This said, Spike tumbled into his boat, and was pulled ashore. As
for Mulford, though he cast many an anxious glance toward the islet, he
obeyed his orders, keeping the brig standing off and on, under easy
canvas, but working her up toward the indicated passage.
Spike was met by Jack Tier on the beach of the little island.
"Muster the women at once," ordered the captain, "we have no time
to lose, for that fellow will soon be firing broadsides, and his shot
now range half a mile beyond us."
"You'll no more move the widow and her maid, than you'll move the
island," answered Jack, laconically.
"Why should I not move them? Do they wish to stay here and starve?"
"It's little that they think of that. The sloop-of-war no sooner
begun to fire than down went Mrs. Budd on the canvas floor of the tent,
and set up just such a screaming as you may remember she tried her hand
at the night the revenue craft fired into us. Biddy lay down alongside
of her mistress, and at every gun, they just scream as loud as they
can, as if they fancied they might frighten off Uncle Sam's men from
"Duty!—You little scamp, do you call tormenting honest traders in
this fashion the duty of any man?"
"Well, captain, I'm no ways partic'lar about a word or two. Their
'ways,' if you like that better than duty, sir."
"Where's Rose? Is she down too, screaming and squalling?"
"No, Captain Spike, no. Miss Rose is endeavouring, like a handsome
young Christian lady as she is, to pacify and mollify her aunt and
Biddy; and right down sensible talk does she give them."
"Then she at least can go aboard the brig," exclaimed Spike, with a
sudden animation, and an expression of countenance that Jack did not at
"I ray-y-ther think she'll wish to hold on to the old lady,"
observed the steward's-mate, a little emphatically.
"You be d—d," cried Spike, fiercely; "when your opinion is wanted,
I'll ask for it. If I find you've been setting that young woman's mind
ag'in me, I'll toss you overboard, as I would the offals of a shark."
"Young women's minds, when they are only nineteen, get set ag'in
boys of fifty-six without much assistance."
"I'm fifty-three—that I'll own without making faces at it,"
returned Jack, meekly; "and, Stephen Spike, you logged fifty-six your
last birthday, or a false entry was made."
This conversation did not take place in the presence of the boat's
crew, but as the two walked together toward the tent. They were now in
the verandah, as we have called the shaded opening in front, and
actually within sound ofthe sweet voice of Rose, as she exhorted her
aunt, in tones a little louder than usual for her to use, to manifest
more fortitude. Under such circumstances Spike did not deem it
expedient to utter that which was uppermost in his mind, but, turning
short upon Tier, he directed a tremendous blow directly between his
eyes. Jack saw the danger and dodged, falling backward to avoid a
concussion which he knew would otherwise be fearful, coming as it would
from one of the best forecastle boxers of his time. The full force of
the blow was avoided, though Jack got enough of it to knock him down,
and to give him a pair of black eyes. Spike did not stop to pick the
assistant steward up, for another gun was fired at that very instant,
and Mrs. Budd and Biddy renewed their screams. Instead of pausing to
kick the prostrate Tier, as had just before been his intention, the
captain entered the tent.
A scene that was sufficiently absurd met the view of Spike, when he
found himself in the presence of the females. The widow had thrown
herself on the ground, and was grasping the cloth of the sail on which
the tent had been erected with both her hands, and was screaming at the
top of her voice. Biddy's imitation was not exactly literal, for she
had taken a comfortable seat at the side of her mistress, but in the
way of cries, she rather outdid her principal.
"We must be off," cried Spike, somewhat unceremoniously. "The
man-of-war is blazing away, as if she was a firin' minute-guns over our
destruction, and I can wait no longer."
"I'll not stir," answered the widow—"I can't stir—I shall be shot
if I go out. No, no, no—I'll not stir an inch."
"We'll be kilt!—we'll be kilt!" echoed Biddy, "and a wicket
murther't will be in that same man, war or no war."
The captain perceived the uselessness of remonstrance at such a
moment, and perhaps he was secretly rejoiced thereat; but it is certain
that he whipped Rose up under his arm, and walked away with her, as if
she had been a child of two or three years of age. Rose did not scream,
but she struggled and protested vehemently. It was in vain. Already the
captain had carried her half the distance between the tent and the
boat, in the last of which, a minute more would have deposited his
victim, when a severe blow on the backof his head caused Spike to
stumble, and he permitted Rose to escape from his grasp, in the effort
to save himself from a fall. Turning fiercely toward his assailant,
whom he suspected to be one of his boat's crew, he saw Tier standing
within a few yards, levelling a pistol at him.
"Advance a step, and you're a dead man, villain!" screamed Jack,
his voice almost cracked with rage, and the effort he made to menace.
Spike muttered an oath too revolting for our pages; but it was such
a curse as none but an old salt could give vent to, and that in the
bitterness of his fiercest wrath. At that critical moment, while Rose
was swelling with indignation and wounded maiden pride, almost within
reach of his arms, looking more lovely than ever, as the flush of anger
deepened the colour in her cheeks, a fresh and deep report from one of
the guns of the sloop-of-war drew all eyes in her direction. The
belching of that gun seemed to be of double the power of those which
had preceded it, and jets of water, that were twenty feet in height,
marked the course of the formidable missile that was projected from the
piece. The ship had, indeed, discharged one of those monster-cannons
that bear the name of a distinguished French engineer, but which should
more properly be called by the name of the ingenious officer who is at
the head of our own ordnance, as they came originally from his
inventive faculties, though somewhat improved by their European
adopter. Spike suspected the truth, for he had heard of these "Pazans,"
as he called them, and he watched the booming, leaping progress of the
eight-inch shell that this gun threw, with the apprehension that
unknown danger is apt to excite. As jet succeeded jet, each rising
nearer and nearer to his brig, the interval of time between them
seeming fearfully to diminish, he muttered oath upon oath. The last
leap that the shell made on the water was at about a quarter of a
mile's distance of the islet on which his people had deposited at least
a hundred and fifty barrels of his spurious flour:-thence it flew, as
it might be without an effort, with a grand and stately bound into the
very centre of the barrels, exploding at the moment it struck. All saw
the scattering of flour, which was instantly succeeded by the heavy
though slightly straggling explosion of all the powder on the island. A
hundredkegs were lighted, as it might be, in a common flash, and a
cloud of white smoke poured out and concealed the whole islet, and all
Rose stood confounded, nor was Jack Tier in a much better state of
mind, though he still kept the pistol levelled, and menaced Spike. But
the last was no longer dangerous to any there. He recollected that
piles of the barrels encumbered the decks of his vessel, and he rushed
to the boat, nearly frantic with haste, ordering the men to pull for
their lives. In less than five minutes he was alongside, and on the
deck of the Swash—his first order being to—"Tumble every barrel of
this bloody powder into the sea, men. Over with it, Mr. Mulford, clear
away the midship ports, and launch as much as you can through them."
Remonstrance on the part of Señor Montefalderon would have been
useless, had he been disposed to make it; but, sooth to say, he was as
ready to get rid of the powder as any there, after the specimen he had
just witnessed of the power of a Paixhan gun.
Thus it is ever with men. Had two or three of those shells been
first thrown without effect, as might very well have happened under the
circumstances, none there would have cared for the risk they were
running; but the chance explosion which had occurred, presented so
vivid a picture of the danger, dormant and remote as it really was, as
to throw the entire crew of the Swash into a frenzy of exertion.
Nor was the vessel at all free from danger. On the contrary, she
ran very serious risk of being destroyed, and in some degree, in the
very manner apprehended. Perceiving that Spike was luffing up through
one of the passages nearest the reef, which would carry him clear of
the group, a long distance to windward of the point where he could only
effect the same object, the commander of the sloop-of-war opened his
fire in good earnest, hoping to shoot away something material on board
the Swash, before she could get beyond the reach of his shot. The
courses steered by the two vessels, just at that moment, favoured such
an attempt, though they made it necessarily very short-lived. While the
Swash was near the wind, the sloop-of-war was obliged to run off to
avoid islets ahead of her, a circumstance which, while it brought the
brig square with the ship's broadside, compelledthe latter to steer on
a diverging line to the course of her chase. It was in consequence of
these facts, that the sloop-of-war now opened in earnest, and was soon
canopied in the smoke of her own fire.
Great and important changes, as has been already mentioned, have
been made in the armaments of all the smaller cruisers within the last
few years. Half a generation since, a ship of the rate—we do not say
of the size—of the vessel which was in chase of Spike and his craft,
would not have had it in her power to molest an enemy at the distance
these two vessels were now apart. But recent improvements have made
ships of this nominal force formidable at nearly a league's distance;
more especially by means of their Paixhans and their shells.
For some little time the range carried the shot directly over the
islet of the tent; Jack Tier and Rose, both of whom were watching all
that passed with intense interest, standing in the open air the whole
time, seemingly with no concern for themselves, so absorbed was each,
notwithstanding all that had passed, in the safety of the brig. As for
Rose, she thought only of Harry Mulford, and of the danger he was in by
those fearful explosions of the shells. Her quick intellect
comprehended the peculiar nature of the risk that was incurred by
having the flour-barrels on deck, and she could not but see the manner
in which Spike and his men were tumbling them into the water, as the
quickest manner of getting rid of them. After what had just passed
between Jack Tier and his commander, it might not be so easy to account
for his manifest, nay, intense interest in the escape of the Swash.
This was apparent by his troubled countenance, by his exclamations, and
occasionally by his openly expressed wishes for her safety. Perhaps it
was no more than the interest the seaman is so apt to feel in the craft
in which he has so long sailed, and which to him has been a home, and
of which Mulford exhibited so much, in his struggles between feeling
and conscience—between a true and a false duty.
As for Spike and his people, we have already mentioned their
efforts to get rid of the powder. Shell after shell exploded, though
none very near the brig, the ship working her guns as if in action. At
length the officers of the sloop-of-wardetected a source of error in
their aim, that is of very common occurrence in sea-gunnery. Their shot
had been thrown to ricochet, quartering a low, but very regular
succession of little waves. Each shot striking the water at an acute
angle to its agitated surface, was deflected from a straight line, and
described a regular curve toward the end of its career; or, it might be
truer to say, an irregular curvature, for the deflection increased as
the momentum of the missile diminished.
No sooner did the commanding officer of the sloop-of-war discover
this fact, and it was easy to trace the course of the shots by the jets
of water they cast into the air, and to see as well as to hear the
explosions of the shells, than he ordered the guns pointed more to
windward, as a means of counteracting the departure from the straight
lines. This expedient succeeded in part, the solid shot falling much
nearer to the brig the moment the practice was resorted to. No shell
was fired for some little time after the new order was issued, and
Spike and his people began to hope these terrific missiles had ceased
their annoyance. The men cheered, finding their voices for the first
time since the danger had seemed so imminent, and Spike was heard
animating them to their duty. As for Mulford, he was on the coach-house
deck, working the brig, the captain having confided to him that
delicate duty, the highest proof he could furnish of confidence in his
seamanship. The handsome young mate had just made a half-board, in the
neatest manner, shoving the brig by its means through a most difficult
part of the passage, and had got her handsomely filled again on the
same tack, looking right out into open water, by a channel through
which she could now stand on a very easy bowline. Everything seemed
propitious, and the sloop-of-war's solid shot began to drop into the
water, a hundred yards short of the brig. In this state of things one
of the Paixhans belched forth its angry flame and sullen roar again.
There was no mistaking the gun. Then came its mass of iron, a globe
that would have weighed just sixty-eight pounds, had not sufficient
metal been left out of its interior to leave a cavity to contain a
single pound of powder. Its course, as usual, was to be marked by its
path along the sea, as it bounded, half a mile at a time, from wave to
wave. Spikesaw by its undeviating course that this shell was booming
terrifically toward his brig, and a cry to "look out for the shell,"
caused the work to be suspended. That shell struck the water for the
last time, within two hundred yards of the brig, rose dark and menacing
in its furious leap, but exploded at the next instant. The fragments of
the iron were scattered on each side, and ahead. Of the last, three or
four fell into the water so near the vessel as to cast their spray on
"Overboard with the rest of the powder!" shouted Spike. "Keep the
brig off a little, Mr. Mulford—keep her off, sir; you luff too much,
"Ay, ay, sir," answered the mate. "Keep her off, it is."
"There comes the other shell!" cried Ben, but the men did not quit
their toil to gaze this time. Each seaman worked as if life and death
depended on his single exertions. Spike alone watched the course of the
missile. On it came, booming and hurtling through the air, tossing high
the jets, at each leap it made from the surface, striking the water for
its last bound, seemingly in a line with the shell that had just
preceded it. From that spot it made its final leap. Every hand in the
brig was stayed and every eye was raised as the rushing tempest was
heard advancing. The mass went muttering directly between the masts of
the Swash. It had scarcely seemed to go by when the fierce flash of
fire and the sharp explosion followed. Happily for those in the brig,
the projectile force given by the gun carried the fragments from them,
as in the other instance it had brought them forward; else would few
have escaped mutilation, or death, among their crew.
The flashing of fire so near the barrels of powder that still
remained on their deck, caused the frantic efforts to be renewed, and
barrel after barrel was tumbled overboard, amid the shouts that were
now raised to animate the people to their duty.
"Luff, Mr. Mulford—luff you may, sir," cried Spike. No answer was
"D'ye hear there, Mr. Mulford?—it is luff you may, sir."
"Mr. Mulford is not aft, sir," called out the man at the helm—"but
luff it is, sir."
"Mr. Mulford not aft! Where's the mate, man? Tell him he is
No Mulford was to be found! A call passed round the decks, was sent
below, and echoed through the entire brig, but no sign or tidings could
be had of the handsome mate. At that exciting moment the sloop-of-war
seemed to cease her firing, and appeared to be securing her guns.
Thou art the same, eternal sea!
The earth has many shapes and forms,
Of hill and valley, flower and tree;
Fields that the fervid noontide warms,
Or winter's rugged grasp deforms,
Or bright with autumn's golden store;
Thou coverest up thy face with storms,
Or smilest serene,—but still thy roar
And dashing foam go up to vex the sea-beat shore:
We shall now advance the time eight-and-forty hours. The baffling
winds and calms that succeeded the tornado had gone, and the trades
blew in their stead. Both vessels had disappeared, the brig leading,
doubling the western extremity of the reef, and going off before both
wind and current, with flowing sheets, fully three hours before the
sloop-of-war could beat up against the latter, to a point that enabled
her to do the same thing. By that time, the Swash was five-and-twenty
miles to the eastward, and consequently but just discernible in her
loftiest sails, from the ship's royal yards. Still, the latter
continued the chase; and that evening both vessels were beating down
along the southern margin of the Florida Reef, against the trades, but
favoured by a three or four knot current, the brig out of sight to
windward. Our narrative leads us to lose sight of both these vessels,
for a time, in order to return to the islets of the Gulf.
Eight-and-forty hours had made some changes inand around the haven of
the Dry Tortugas. The tent still stood, and a small fire that was
boiling its pot and its kettle, at no great distance from it, proved
that the tent was still inhabited. The schooner also rode at her
anchors, very much as she had been abandoned by Spike. The bag of
doubloons, however, had been found, and there it lay, tied but totally
unguarded, in the canvas verandah of Rose Budd's habitation. Jack Tier
passed and repassed it with apparent indifference, as he went to and
fro, between his pantry and kitchen, busy as a bee in preparing his
noontide meal for the day. This man seemed to have the islet all to
himself, however, no one else being visible on any part of it. He sang
his song, in a cracked, contre alto voice, and appeared to be happy in
his solitude. Occasionally he talked to himself aloud, most probably
because he had no one else to speak to. We shall record one of his
recitatives, which came in between the strains of a very inharmonious
air, the words of which treated of the seas, while the steward's
assistant was stirring an exceedingly savoury mess that he had
concocted of the ingredients to be found in the united larders of the
Swash and the Mexican schooner.
"Stephen Spike is a capital willian!" exclaimed Jack, smelling at a
ladle filled with his soup—"a capital willian, I call him. To think,
at his time of life, of such a handsome and pleasant young thing as
this Rose Budd; and then to try to get her by underhand means, and by
making a fool of her silly old aunt. It 's wonderful what fools some
old aunts be! Quite wonderful! If I was as great a simpleton as this
Mrs. Budd, I'd never cross my threshhold. Yes, Stephen Spike is a
prodigious willian, as his best friend must own! Well, I gave him a
thump on the head that he'll not forget this v'y'ge. To think of
carryin' off that pretty Rose Budd in his very arms, in so indecent a
manner! Yet, the man has his good p'ints, if a body could only forget
his bad ones. He's a first-rate seaman. How he worked the brig till he
doubled the reef, a'ter she got into open water; and how he made her
walk off afore the wind, with stun'sails alow and aloft, as soon as
ever he could make 'em draw! My life for it, he 'll tire the legs of
Uncle Sam's man, afore he can fetch up with him. For running away, when
hard chased, Stephen Spike has n't his equal on 'arth. But, he's a
great willian—a prodigious willian! I cannot say I actually wish him
hanged; but I would rather have him hanged than see him get pretty Rose
in his power. What has he to do with girls of nineteen? If the rascal
is one year old, he's fifty-six. I hope the sloop-of-war will find her
match, and I think she will. The Molly's a great traveller, and not to
be outdone easily. 'T would be a thousand pities so lovely a craft
should be cut off in the flower of her days, as it might be, and I do
hope she'll lead that bloody sloop on some sunken rock.
"Well, there's the other bag of doubloons. It seems Stephen could
not get it. That's odd, too, for he's great at grabbin' gold. The man
bears his age well; but he's a willian! I wonder whether he or Mulford
made that half-board in the narrow channel. It was well done, and
Stephen is a perfect sailor; but he says Mulford is the same. Nice
young man, that Mulford; just fit for Rose, and Rose for him. Pity to
part them. Can find no great fault with him, except that he has too
much conscience. There's such a thing as having too much, as well as
too little conscience. Mulford has too much, and Spike has too little.
For him to think of carryin' off a gal of nineteen! I say he's
fifty-six, if he's a day. How fond he used to be of this very soup! If
I've seen him eat a quart of it, I've seen him eat a puncheon full of
it, in my time. What an appetite the man has when he's had a hard day's
duty on 't! There 's a great deal to admire, and a great deal to like
in Stephen Spike, but he's a reg'lar willian. I dare say he fancies
himself a smart, jaunty youth ag'in, as I can remember him; a lad of
twenty, which was about his years when I first saw him, by the sign
that I was very little turned of fifteen myself. Spike was comely then,
though I acknowledge he's a willian. I can see him now, with his deep
blue roundabout, his bell-mouthed trowsers, both of fine cloth—too
fine for such a willian—but fine it was, and much did it become him."
Here Jack made a long pause, during which, though he may have
thought much, he said nothing. Nevertheless, he was n't idle the while.
On the contrary, he passed no less than three several times from the
fire to the tent, and returned. Each time, in going and coming, he
looked intentlyat the bag of doubloons, though he did not stop at it or
touch it. Some associations connected with Spike's fruitless attempts
to obtain it must have formed its principal interest with this singular
being, as he muttered his captain's name each time in passing, though
he said no more audibly. The concerns of the dinner carried him back
and forth; and in his last visit to the tent, he began to set a small
table— one that had been brought for the convenience of Mrs. Budd and
her niece, from the brig, and which of course still remained on the
islet. It was while thus occupied, that Jack Tier recommenced his
"I hope that money may do some worthy fellow good yet. It's Mexican
gold, and that's inemy's gold, and might be condemned by law, I do
suppose. Stephen had a hankerin' a'ter it, but he did not get it. It
come easy enough to the next man that tried. That Spike 's a willian,
and the gold was too good for him. He has no conscience at all to think
of a gal of nineteen! And one fit for his betters, in the bargain. The
time has been when Stephen Spike might have pretended to Rose Budd's
equal. That much I'll ever maintain, but that time's gone; and, what is
more, it will never come again. I should like Mulford better if he had
a little less conscience. Conscience may do for Uncle Sam's ships, but
it is sometimes in the way aboard a trading craft. What can a fellow do
with a conscience when dollars is to be smuggled off, or tobacco
smuggled ashore? I do suppose I've about as much conscience as it is
useful to have, and I've got ashore in my day twenty thousand dollars'
worth of stuff, of one sort or another, if I've got ashore the valie of
ten dollars. But Spike carries on business on too large a scale, and
many's the time I've told him so. I could have forgiven him anything
but this attempt on Rose Budd; and he's altogether too old for that, to
say nothing of other people's rights. He's an up-and-down willian, and
a body can make no more, nor any less of him. That soup must be near
done, and I'll hoist the signal for grub."
This signal was a blue-peter of which one had been brought ashore
to signal the brig; and with which Jack now signalled the schooner. If
the reader will turn his eyes toward the last named vessel, he will
find the guests whom Tier expected to surround his table. Rose, her
aunt, andBiddy were all seated, under an awning made by a sail, on the
deck of the schooner, which now floated so buoyantly as to show that
she had materially lightened since last seen. Such indeed was the fact,
and he who had been the instrument of producing this change, appeared
on deck in the person of Mulford, as soon as he was told that the
blue-peter of Jack Tier was flying.
The boat of the light-house, that in which Spike had landed in
quest of Rose, was lying alongside of the schooner, and sufficiently
explained the manner in which the mate had left the brig. This boat, in
fact, had been fastened astern, in the hurry of getting from under the
sloop-of-war's fire, and Mulford had taken the opportunity of the
consternation and frantic efforts produced by the explosion of the last
shell thrown, to descend from his station on the coach-house into this
boat, to cut the painter, and to let the Swash glide away from him.
This the vessel had done with great rapidity, leaving him unseen under
the cover of her stern. As soon as in the boat, the mate had seized an
oar, and sculled to an islet that was within fifty yards, concealing
the boat behind a low hummock that formed a tiny bay. All this was done
so rapidly, that united to the confusion on board the Swash, no one
discovered the mate or the boat. Had he been seen, however, it is very
little probable that Spike would have lost a moment of time, in the
attempt to recover either. But he was not seen, and it was the general
opinion on board the Swash, for quite an hour, that her handsome mate
had been knocked overboard and killed, by a fragment of the shell that
had seemed to explode almost in the ears of her people. When the reef
was doubled, however, and Spike made his preparations for meeting the
rough water, he hove to, and ordered his own yawl, which was also
towing astern, to be hauled up alongside, in order to be hoisted in.
Then, indeed, some glimmerings of the truth were shed on the crew, who
missed the light-house boat. Though many contended that its painter
must also have been cut by a fragment of the shell, and that the mate
had died loyal to roguery and treason. Mulford was much liked by the
crew, and he was highly valued by Spike, on account of his seamanship
and integrity, this latter being a quality that is just as necessary
for one of the captain's character to meet with in those hetrusts as to
any other man. But Spike thought differently of the cause of Mulford's
disappearance, from his crew. He ascribed it altogether to love for
Rose, when, in truth, it ought in justice to have been quite as much
imputed to a determination to sail no longer with a man who was clearly
guilty of treason. Of smuggling, Mulford had long suspected Spike,
though he had no direct proof of the fact; but now he could not doubt
that he was not only engaged in supplying the enemy with the munitions
of war, but was actually bargaining to sell his brig for a hostile
cruiser, and possibly to transfer himself and crew along with her.
It is scarcely necessary to speak of the welcome Mulford received
when he reached the islet of the tent. He and Rose had a long private
conference, the result of which was to let the handsome mate into the
secret of his pretty companion's true feelings toward himself. She had
received him with tears, and a betrayal of emotion that gave him every
encouragement, and now she did not deny her preference. In that
interview the young people plighted to each other their troth. Rose
never doubted of obtaining her aunt's consent in due time, all her
prejudices being in favour of the sea and sailors; and should she not,
she would soon be her own mistress, and at liberty to dispose of
herself and her pretty little fortune as she might choose. But a cypher
as she was, in all questions of real moment, Mrs. Budd was not a person
likely to throw any real obstacle in the way of the young people's
wishes; the true grounds of whose present apprehensions were all to be
referred to Spike, his intentions, and his well-known perseverance.
Mulford was convinced that the brig would be back in quest of the
remaining doubloons, as soon as she could get clear of the
sloop-of-war, though he was not altogether without a hope that the
latter, when she found it impossible to overhaul her chase, might also
return in order to ascertain what discoveries could be made in and
about the schooner. The explosion of the powder, on the islet, must
have put the man-of-war's men in possession of the secret of the real
quality of the flour that had composed her cargo, and it doubtless had
awakened all their distrust on the subject of the Swash's real business
in the Gulf. Under all the circumstances, therefore, it did appear
quite as probable that one of theparties should reappear at the scene
of their recent interview as the other.
Bearing all these things in mind, Mulford had lost no time in
completing his own arrangements. He felt that he had some atonement to
make to the country, for the part he had seemingly taken in the late
events, and it occurred to him, could he put the schooner in a state to
be moved, then place her in the hands of the authorities, his own peace
would be made, and his character cleared. Rose no sooner understood his
plans and motives, than she entered into them with all the ardour and
self-devotion of her sex; for the single hour of confidential and frank
communication which had just passed, doubled the interest she felt in
Mulford and in all that belonged to him. Jack Tier was useful on board
a vessel, though his want of stature and force rendered him less so
than was common with sea-faring men. His proper sphere certainly had
been the cabins, where his usefulness was beyond all cavil; but he was
now very serviceable to Mulford on the deck of the schooner. The first
two days, Mrs. Budd had been left on the islet, to look to the concerns
of the kitchen, while Mulford, accompanied by Rose, Biddy and Jack
Tier, had gone off to the schooner, and set her pumps in motion again.
It was little that Rose could do, or indeed attempt to do, at this
toil, but the pumps being small and easily worked, Biddy and Jack were
of great service. By the end of the second day the pumps sucked; the
cargo that remained in the schooner, as well as the form of her bottom,
contributing greatly to lessen the quantity of the water that was to be
got out of her.
Then it was that the doubloons fell into Mulford's hands, along
with everything else that remained below decks. It was perhaps
fortunate that the vessel was thoroughly purified by her immersion, and
the articles that were brought on deck to be dried were found in a
condition to give no great offence to those who removed them. By
leaving the hatches off, and the cabin doors open, the warm winds of
the trades effectually dried the interior of the schooner in the course
of a single night; and when Mulford repaired on board of her, on the
morning of the third day, he found her in a condition to be fitted for
his purposes. On this occasion Mrs. Budd had expressed a wish to go off
to look ather future accommodations, and Jack was left on the islet to
cook the dinner, which will explain the actual state of things as
described in the opening of this chapter.
As those who toil usually have a relish for their food, the
appearance of the blue-peter was far from being unwelcome to those on
board of the schooner. They got into the boat, and were sculled ashore
by Mulford, who, seaman-like, used only one hand in performing this
service. In a very few minutes they were all seated at the little
table, which was brought out into the tent-verandah for the enjoyment
of the breeze.
"So far, well," said Mulford, after his appetite was mainly
appeased; Rose picking crumbs, and affecting to eat, merely to have the
air of keeping him company; one of the minor proofs of the little
attentions that spring from the affections. "So far, well. The sails
are bent, and though they might be never and better, they can be made
to answer. It was fortunate to find anything like a second suit on
board a Mexican craft of that size at all. As it is, we have foresail,
mainsail, and jib, and with that canvas I think we might beat the
schooner down to Key West in the course of a day and a night. If I
dared to venture outside of the reef, it might be done sooner even, for
they tell me there is a four-knot current sometimes in that track; but
I do not like to venture outside, so short-handed. The current inside
must serve our turn, and we shall get smooth water by keeping under the
lee of the rocks. I only hope we shall not get into an eddy as we go
further from the end of the reef, and into the bight of the coast."
"Is there danger of that?" demanded Rose, whose quick intellect had
taught her many of these things, since her acquaintance with vessels.
"There may be, looking at the formation of the reef and islands,
though I know nothing of the fact by actual observation. This is my
first visit in this quarter."
"Eddies are serious matters," put in Mrs. Budd, "and my poor
husband could not abide them. Tides are good things; but eddies are
"Well, aunty, I should think eddies might sometimes be as welcome
as tides. It must depend, however, very much on the way one wishes to
"Rose, you surprise me! All that you have read, and all that you
have heard, must have shown you the difference. Do they not say 'a man
is floating with the tide,' when things are prosperous with him—and
don't ships drop down with the tide, and beat the wind with the tide?
And don't vessels sometimes 'tide it up to town,' as it is called, and
is n't it thought an advantage to have the tide with you?"
"All very true, aunty; but I do not see how that makes eddies any
"Because eddies are the opposite of tides, child. When the tide
goes one way, the eddy goes another—is n't it so, Harry Mulford? You
never heard of one's floating in an eddy."
"That's what we mean by an eddy, Mrs. Budd," answered the handsome
mate, delighted to hear Rose's aunt call him by an appellation so kind
and familiar,—a thing she had never done previously to the intercourse
which had been the consequence of their present situation. "Though I
agree with Rose in thinking an eddy may be a good or a bad thing, and
very much like a tide, as one wishes to steer."
"You amaze me, both of you! Tides are always spoken of favourably,
but eddies never. If a ship gets ashore, the tide can float her off;
that I've heard a thousand times. Then, what do the newspapers say of
President—,and Governor —, and Congressman —? Why, that they all
'float in the tide of public opinion,' and that must mean something
particularly good, as they are always in office. No, no, Harry; I'll
acknowledge that you do know something about ships; a good deal,
considering how young you are; but you have something to learn about
eddies. Never trust one as long as you live."
Mulford was silent, and Rose took the occasion to change the
"I hope we shall soon be able to quit this place," she said; "for I
confess to some dread of Captain Spike's return."
"Captain Stephen Spike has greatly disappointed me,"observed the
aunt, gravely. "I do not know that I was ever before deceived in
judging a person. I could have sworn he was an honest, frank,
well-meaning sailor—a character, of all others, that I love; but it
has turned out otherwise."
"He's a willian!" mutttered Jack Tier.
Mulford smiled; at which speech we must leave to conjecture; but he
answered Rose, as he ever did, promptly and with pleasure.
"The schooner is ready, and this must be our last meal ashore," he
said. "Our outfit will be no great matter; but if it will carry us down
to Key West, I shall ask no more of it. As for the return of the Swash,
I look upon it as certain. She could easily get clear of the
sloop-of-war, with the start she had, and Spike is a man that never yet
abandoned a doubloon, when he knew where one was to be found."
"Stephen Spike is like all his fellow-creatures," put in Jack Tier,
pointedly. "He has his faults, and he has his virtues."
"Virtue is a term I should never think of applying to such a man,"
returned Mulford, a little surprised at the fellow's earnestness. "The
word is a big one, and belongs to quite another class of persons." Jack
muttered a few syllables that were unintelligible, when again the
Rose now inquired of Mulford as to their prospects of getting to
Key West. He told her that the distance was about sixty miles; their
route lying along the north or inner side of the Florida Reef. The
whole distance was to be made against the trade-wind, which was then
blowing about an eight-knot breeze, though, bating eddies, they might
expect to be favoured with the current, which was less strong inside
than outside of the reef. As for handling the schooner, Mulford saw no
great difficulty in that. She was not large, and was both lightly
sparred and lightly rigged. All her top-hamper had been taken down by
Spike, and nothing remained but the plainest and most readily-managed
gear. A fore-and-aft vessel, sailing close by the wind, is not
difficult to steer; will almost steer herself, indeed, in smooth water.
Jack Tier could take his trick at the helm, in any weather, even in
running before the wind, the time when it is most difficult to guide a
craft, and Rose might be made to understand the use of the tiller, and
taught to govern the motions of a vessel so small and so simply rigged,
when on a wind and in smooth water. On the score of managing the
schooner, therefore, Mulford thought there would be little cause for
apprehension. Should the weather continue settled, he had little doubt
of safely landing the whole party at Key West, in the course of the
next four-and-twenty hours. Short sail he should be obliged to carry,
as well on account of the greater facility of managing it, as on
account of the circumstance that the schooner was now in light ballast
trim, and would not bear much canvas. He thought that the sooner they
left the islets the better, as it could not be long ere the brig would
be seen hovering around the spot. All these matters were discussed as
the party still sat at table; and when they left it, which was a few
minutes later, it was to remove the effects they intended to carry away
to the boat. This was soon done, both Jack Tier and Biddy proving very
serviceable, while Rose tripped backward and forward, with a step
elastic as a gazelle's, carrying light burdens. In half an hour the
boat was ready. "Here lies the bag of doubloons still," said Mulford,
smiling. "Is it to be left, or shall we give it up to the admiralty
court at Key West, and put in a claim for salvage?"
"Better leave it for Spike," said Jack unexpectedly. "Should he
come back, and find the doubloons, he may be satisfied, and not look
for the schooner. On the other hand, when the vessel is missing, he
will think that the money is in her. Better leave it for old Stephen."
"I do not agree with you, Tier," said Rose, though she looked as
amicably at the steward's assistant, as she thus opposed his opinion,
as if anxious to persuade rather than coerce. "I do not quite agree
with you. This money belongs to the Spanish merchant; and, as we take
away with us his vessel, to give it up to the authorities at Key West,
I do not think we have a right to put his gold on the shore and abandon
This disposed of the question. Mulford took the bag, and carried it
to the boat, without waiting to ascertain if Jack had any objection;
while the whole party followed. In afew minutes everybody and
everything in the boat were transferred to the deck of the schooner. As
for the tent, the old sails of which it was made, the furniture it
contained, and such articles of provisions as were not wanted, they
were left on the islet, without regret. The schooner had several casks
of fresh water, which were found in her hold, and she had also a cask
or two of salted meats, besides several articles of food more delicate,
that had been provided by Señor Montefalderon for his own use, and
which had not been damaged by the water. A keg of Boston crackers were
among these eatables, quite half of which were still in a state to be
eaten. They were Biddy's delight; and it was seldom that she could be
seen when not nibbling at one of them. The bread of the crew was
hopelessly damaged. But Jack had made an ample provision of bread when
sent ashore, and there was still a hundred barrels of the flour in the
schooner's hold. One of these had been hoisted on deck by Mulford, and
opened. The injured flour was easily removed, leaving a considerable
quantity fit for the uses of the kitchen. As for the keg of gunpowder,
it was incontinently committed to the deep.
Thus provided for, Mulford decided that the time had arrived when
he ought to quit his anchorage. He had been employed most of that
morning in getting the schooner's anchor, a work of great toil to him,
though everybody had assisted. He had succeeded, and the vessel now
rode by a kedge, that he could easily weigh by means of a deck tackle.
It remained now, therefore, to lift this kedge and to stand out of the
bay of the islets. No sooner was the boat secured astern, and its
freight disposed of, than the mate began to make sail. In order to
hoist the mainsail well up, he was obliged to carry the halyards to the
windlass. Thus aided, he succeeded without much difficulty. He and Jack
Tier and Biddy got the jib hoisted by hand; and as for the foresail,
that would almost set itself. Of course, it was not touched until the
kedge was aweigh. Mulford found little difficulty in lifting the last,
and he soon had the satisfaction of finding his craft clear of the
ground. As Jack Tier was every way competent to take charge of the
forecastle, Mulford now sprang aft, and took his own station at the
helm; Rose acting as his pretty assistant on the quarter-deck.
There is little mystery in getting a fore-and-aft vessel under way.
Her sails fill almost as a matter of course, and motion follows as a
necessary law. Thus did it prove with the Mexican schooner, which
turned out to be a fast-sailing and an easily-worked craft. She was,
indeed, an American bottom, as it is termed, having been originally
built for the Chesapeake; and, though not absolutely what is understood
by a Baltimore clipper, so nearly of that mould and nature as to
possess some of the more essential qualities. As usually happens,
however, when a foreigner gets hold of an American schooner, the
Mexicans had shortened her masts and lessened her canvas. This
circumstance was rather an advantage to Mulford, who would probably
have had more to attend to than he wished under the original rig of the
Everybody, even to the fastidious Mrs. Budd, was delighted with the
easy and swift movement of the schooner. Mulford, now he had got her
under canvas, handled her without any difficulty, letting her stand
toward the channel through which he intended to pass, with her sheets
just taken in, though compelled to keep a little off, in order to enter
between the islets. No difficulty occurred, however, and in less than
ten minutes the vessel was clear of the channels, and in open water.
The sheets were now flattened in, and the schooner brought close by the
wind. A trial of the vessel on this mode of sailing was no sooner made,
than Mulford was induced to regret he had taken so many precautions
against any increasing power of the wind. To meet emergencies, and
under the notion he should have his craft more under command, the young
man had reefed his mainsail, and taken the bonnets off of the foresail
and jib. As the schooner stood up better than he had anticipated, the
mate felt as all seamen are so apt to feel, when they see that their
vessels might be made to perform more than is actually got out of them.
As the breeze was fresh, however, he determined not to let out the
reef; and the labour of lacing on the bonnets again was too great to be
thought of just at that moment.
We all find relief on getting in motion, when pressed by
circumstances. Mulford had been in great apprehension of the
re-appearance of the Swash all that day; for it wasabout the time when
Spike would be apt to return, in the event of his escaping from the
sloop-of-war, and he dreaded Rose's again falling into the hands of a
man so desperate. Nor is it imputing more than a very natural care to
the young man, to say that he had some misgivings concerning himself.
Spike, by this time, must be convinced that his business in the Gulf
was known; and one who had openly thrown off his service, as his mate
had done, would unquestionably be regarded as a traitor to his
interests, whatever might be the relation in which he would stand to
the laws of the country. It was probable such an alleged offender would
not be allowed to appear before the tribunals of the land, to justify
himself and to accuse the truly guilty, if it were in the power of the
last to prevent it. Great, therefore, was the satisfaction of our
handsome young mate when he found himself again fairly in motion, with
a craft under him, that glided ahead in a way to prove that she might
give even the Swash some trouble to catch her, in the event of a trial
Everybody entered into the feelings of Mulford, as the schooner
passed gallantly out from between the islets, and entered the open
water. Fathom by fathom did her wake rapidly increase, until it could
no longer be traced back as far as the sandy beaches that had just been
left. In a quarter of an hour more, the vessel had drawn so far from
the land, that some of the smaller and lowest of the islets were
getting to be indistinct. At that instant everybody had come aft, the
females taking their seats on the trunk, which, in this vessel as in
the Swash herself, gave space and height to the cabin.
"Well," exclaimed Mrs. Budd, who found the freshness of the sea air
invigorating, as well as their speed exciting, "this is what I call
maritime, Rosy, dear. This is what is meant by the Maritime States,
about which we read so much, and which are commonly thought to be so
important. We are now in a Maritime State, and I feel perfectly happy
after all our dangers and adventures!"
"Yes, aunty, and I am delighted that you are happy," answered Rose,
with frank affection. "We are now rid of that infamous Spike, and may
hope never to see his face more."
"Stephen Spike has his good p'ints as well as another," said Jack
"I know that he is an old shipmate of yours, Tier, and that you
cannot forget how he once stood connected with you, and am sorry I have
said so much against him," answered Rose, expressing her concern even
more by her looks and tones, than by her words.
Jack was mollified by this, and he let his feeling be seen, though
he said no more than to mutter, "He's a willian!" words that had
frequently issued from his lips within the last day or two.
"Stephen Spike is a capital seaman, and that is something in any
man," observed the relict of Captain Budd. "He learned his trade from
one who was every way qualified to teach him, and it's no wonder he
should be expert. Do you expect, Mr. Mulford, to beat the wind the
whole distance to Key West?"
It was not possible for any one to look more grave than the mate
did habitually, while the widow was floundering through her sea-terms.
Rose had taught him that respect for her aunt was to be one of the
conditions of her own regard, though Rose had never opened her lips to
him on the subject.
"Yes, ma'am," answered the mate, respectfully, "we are in the
trades, and shall have to turn to windward, every inch of the way to
"Of what lock is this place the key, Rosy?" asked the aunt,
innocently enough. "I know that forts and towns are sometimes called
keys, but they always have locks of some sort or other. Now, Gibraltar
is the key of the Mediterranean, as your uncle has told me fifty times;
and I have been there, and can understand why it should be,— but I do
not know of what lock this West is the key."
"It is not that sort of key which is meant, aunty, at all— but
quite a different thing. The key meant is an island."
"And why should any one be so silly as to call an island a key?"
"The place where vessels unload is sometimes called a key,"
answered Mulford;—"the French calling it a quai, and the Dutch kaye. I
suppose our English word is derived from these. Now, a low, sandy
island, looking somewhatlike keys, or wharves, seamen have given them
this name. Key West is merely a low island."
"Then there is no lock to it, or anything to be unfastened," said
the widow, in her most simple manner.
"It may turn out to be the key to the Gulf of Mexico, one of these
days, ma'am. Uncle Sam is surveying the reef, and intends to do
something here, I believe. When Uncle Sam is really in earnest, he is
capable of performing great things."
Mrs. Budd was satisfied with this explanation, though she told
Biddy that evening, that "locks and keys go together, and that the
person who christened the island to which they were going, must have
been very weak in his upper story." But these reflections on the
intellects of her fellow-creatures were by no means uncommon with the
worthy relict; and we cannot say that her remarks made any particular
impression on her Irish maid.
In the mean time, the Mexican schooner behaved quite to Mulford's
satisfaction. He thought her a little tender in the squalls, of which
they had several that afternoon; but he remarked to Rose, who expressed
her uneasiness at the manner in which the vessel lay over in one of
them, that "she comes down quite easy to her bearings, but it is hard
forcing her beyond them. The vessel needs more cargo to ballast her,
though, on the whole, I find her as stiff as one could expect. I am now
glad that I reefed, and reduced the head sails, though I was sorry at
having done so when we first came out. At this rate of sailing, we
ought to be up with Key West by morning."
But that rate of sailing did not continue. Toward evening, the
breeze lessened almost to a calm again, the late tornado appearing to
have quite deranged the ordinary stability of the trades. When the sun
set, and it went down into the broad waters of the Gulf a flood of
flame, there was barely a two-knot breeze, and Mulford had no longer
any anxiety on the subject of keeping his vessel on her legs. His
solicitude, now, was confined to the probability of falling in with the
Swash. As yet, nothing was visible, either in the shape of land or in
that of a sail. Between the islets of the Dry Tortugas and the next
nearest visible keys, there is a space of open water, of some forty
miles in width. Thereef extends across it, of course; but nowhere does
the rock protrude itself above the surface of the sea. The depth of
water on this reef varies essentially. In some places, a ship of size
might pass on to it, if not across it; while in others a man could wade
for miles. There is one deep and safe channel—safe to those who are
acquainted with it—through the centre of this open space, and which is
sometimes used by vessels that wish to pass from one side to the other;
but it is ever better for those whose business does not call them in
that direction, to give the rocks a good berth, more especially in the
Mulford had gleaned many of the leading facts connected with the
channels, and the navigation of those waters, from Spike and the older
seamen of the brig, during the time they had been lying at the
Tortugas. Such questions and answers are common enough on board ships,
and, as they are usually put and given with intelligence, one of our
mate's general knowledge of his profession, was likely to carry away
much useful information. By conversations of this nature, and by
consulting the charts, which Spike did not affect to conceal after the
name of his port became known, the young man, in fact, had so far made
himself master of the subject, as to have tolerably accurate notions of
the courses, distances, and general peculiarities of the reef. When the
sun went down, he supposed himself to be about half-way across the
space of open water, and some five-and-twenty miles dead to windward of
his port of departure. This was doing very well for the circumstances,
and Mulford believed himself and his companions clear of spike, when,
as night drew its veil over the tranquil sea, nothing was in sight.
A very judicious arrangement was made for the watches on board the
Mexican schooner, on this important night. Mrs. Budd had a great fancy
to keep a watch, for once in her life, and, after the party had supped,
and the subject came up in the natural course of things, a dialogue
like this occurred:
"Harry must be fatigued," said Rose, kindly, "and must want sleep.
The wind is so light, and the weather appears to be so settled, that I
think it would be better for him to 'turn in,' as he calls it;"—here
Rose laughed so prettilythat the handsome mate wished she would repeat
the words, —"better that he should 'turn in' now, and we can call him,
should there be need of his advice or assistance. I dare say Jack Tier
and I can take very good care of the schooner until daylight."
Mrs. Budd thought it would be no more than proper for one of her
experience and years to rebuke this levity, as well as to enlighten the
ignorance her niece had betrayed.
"You should be cautious, my child, how you propose anything to be
done on a ship's board," observed the aunt. "It requires great
experience and a suitable knowledge of rigging to give maritime advice.
Now, as might have been expected, considering your years, and the short
time you have been at sea, you have made several serious mistakes in
what you have proposed. In the first place, there should always be a
mate on the deck, as I have heard your dear departed uncle say, again
and again; and how can there be a mate on the deck if Mr. Mulford
'turns in,' as you propose, seeing that he's the only mate we have.
Then you should never laugh at any maritime expression, for each and
all are, as a body might say, solemnized by storms and dangers. That
Harry is fatigued I think is very probable; and he must set our
watches, as they call it, when he can make his arrangements for the
night, and take his rest as is usual. Here is my watch to begin with;
and I'll engage he does not find it two minutes out of the way, though
yours, Rosy dear, like most girl's time-pieces, is, I'll venture to
say, dreadfully wrong. Where is your chronometer, Mr. Mulford? let us
see how this excellent watch of mine, which was once my poor departed
Mr. Budd's, will agree with that piece of your's, which I have heard
you say is excellent."
Here was a flight in science and nautical language that poor
Mulford could not have anticipated, even in the captain's relict! That
Mrs. Budd should mistake "setting the watch" for "setting our watches,"
was not so very violent a blunder that one ought to be much astonished
at it in her; but that she should expect to find a chronometer that was
intended to keep the time of Greenwich, agreeing with a watch that was
set for the time of New York, betrayed a degree of ignorance that the
handsome mate was afraid Rose would resent on him, when the mistake was
made toappear. As the widow held out her own watch for the comparison,
however, he could not refuse to produce his own. By Mrs. Budd's watch
it was past seven o'clock, while by his own, or the Greenwich-set
chronometer, it was a little past twelve.
"How very wrong your watch is, Mr. Mulford," cried the good lady,
"notwithstanding all you have said in its favour. It's quite five hours
too fast, I do declare; and now, Rosy dear, you see the importance of
setting watches on a ship's board, as is done every evening, my
departed husband has often told me."
"Harry's must be what he calls a dog-watch, aunty," said Rose,
laughing, though she scarce knew at what.
"The watch goes, too," added the widow, raising the chronometer to
her ear, "though it is so very wrong. Well, set it, Mr. Mulford; then
we will set Rose's, which I'll engage is half an hour out of the way,
though it can never be as wrong as yours."
Mulford was a good deal embarrassed, but he gained courage by
looking at Rose, who appeared to him to be quite as much mystified as
her aunt. For once he hoped Rose was ignorant; for nothing would be so
likely to diminish the feeling produced by the exposure of the aunt's
mistake, as to include the niece in the same category.
"My watch is a chronometer, you will recollect, Mrs. Budd," said
the young man.
"I know it; and they ought to keep the very best time— that I've
always heard. My poor Mr. Budd had two, and they were as large as
compasses, and sold for hundreds after his lamented decease."
"They were ship's chronometers, but mine was made for the pocket.
It is true, chronometers are intended to keep the most accurate time,
and usually they do; this of mine, in particular, would not lose ten
seconds in a twelvemonth, did I not carry it on my person."
"No, no, it does not seem to lose any, Harry; it only gains," cried
Mulford was now satisfied, notwithstanding all that had passed on a
previous occasion, that the laughing, bright-eyed, and quick-witted
girl at his elbow, knew no more of the uses of a chronometer than her
unusually dull and ignorantaunt; and he felt himself relieved from all
embarrassment at once. Though he dared not even seem to distrust Mrs.
Budd's intellect or knowledge before Rose, he did not scruple to laugh
at Rose herself, to Rose. With her there was no jealousy on the score
of capacity, her quickness being almost as obvious to all who
approached her as her beauty.
"Rose Budd, you do not understand the uses of a chronometer, I
see," said the mate, firmly, "notwithstanding all I have told you
"It is to keep time, Harry Mulford, is it not?"
"True, to keep time—but to keep the time of a particular meridian;
you know what meridian means, I hope?"
Rose looked intently at her lover, and she looked singularly
lovely, for she blushed slightly, though her smile was as open and
amicable as ingenuousness and affection could make it.
"A meridian means a point over our heads—the spot where the sun is
at noon," said Rose, doubtingly.
"Quite right; but it also means longitude, in one sense. If you
draw a line from one pole to the other, all the places it crosses are
on the same meridian. As the sun first appears in the east, it follows
that he rises sooner in places that are east, than in places that are
further west. Thus it is, that at Greenwich, in England, where there is
an observatory made for nautical purposes, the sun rises about five
hours sooner than it does here. All this difference is subject to
rules, and we know exactly how to measure it."
"How can that be, Harry? You told me this but the other day, yet
have I forgotten it."
"Quite easily. As the earth turns round in just twenty-four hours,
and its circumference is divided into three hundred and sixty equal
parts, called degrees, we have only to divide 360 by 24, to know how
many of these degrees are included in the difference produced by one
hour of time. There are just fifteen of them, as you will find by
multiplying 24 by 15. It follows that the sun rises just one hour
later, each fifteen degrees of longitude, as you go west, or one hour
earlier each fifteen degrees of longitude as you go east. Having
ascertained the difference by the hour, it is easy enough to calculate
for the minutes and seconds."
"Yes, yes," said Rose, eagerly, "I see all that—go on."
"Now a chronometer is nothing but a watch, made with great care, so
as not to lose or gain more than a few seconds in a twelvemonth. Its
whole merit is in keeping time accurately."
"Still I do not see how that can be anything more than a very good
"You will see in a minute, Rose. For purposes that you will
presently understand, books are calculated for certain meridians, or
longitudes, as at Greenwich and Paris, and those who use the books
calculated for Greenwich, get their chronometers set at Greenwich, and
those who use the Paris, get their chronometers set to Paris time. When
I was last in England, I took this watch to Greenwich, and had it set
at the Observatory by the true solar time. Ever since it has been
running by that time, and what you see here is the true Greenwich time,
after allowing for a second or two that it may have lost or gained."
"All that is plain enough," said the much interested Rose—"but of
what use is it all?"
"To help mariners to find their longitude at sea, and thus know
where they are. As the sun passes so far north, and so far south of the
equator each year, it is easy enough to find the latitude, by observing
his position at noon-day; but for a long time seamen had great
difficulty in ascertaining their longitudes. That, too, is done by
observing the different heavenly bodies, and with greater accuracy than
by any other process; but this thought of measuring the time is very
simple, and so easily put in practice, that we all run by it now."
"Still I cannot understand it," said Rose, looking so intently, so
eagerly, and so intelligently into the handsome mate's eyes, that he
found it was pleasant to teach her other things besides how to love.
"I will explain it. Having the Greenwich time in the watch, we
observe the sun, in order to ascertain the true time, wherever we may
happen to be. It is a simple thing to ascertain the true time of day by
an observation of the sun, which marks the hours in his track; and when
we get our observation, we have some one to note the time at a
particular instant on the chronometer. By noting the hour,minutes, and
seconds, at Greenwich, at the very instant we observe here, when we
have calculated from that observation the time here, we have only to
add, or subtract, the time here from that of Greenwich, to know
precisely how far east or west we are from Greenwich, which gives us
"I begin to comprehend it again," exclaimed Rose, delighted at the
acquisition in knowledge she had just made. "How beautiful it is, yet
how simple—but why do I forget it?"
"Perfectly simple, and perfectly sure, too, when the chronometer is
accurate, and the observations are nicely made. It is seldom we are
more than eight or ten miles out of the way, and for them we keep a
look-out. It is only to ascertain the time where you are, by means that
are easily used, then look at your watch to learn the time of day at
Greenwich, or any other meridian you may have selected, and to
calculate your distance, east or west, from that meridian, by the
difference in the two times."
Rose could have listened all night, for her quick mind readily
comprehended the principle which lies at the bottom of this useful
process, though still ignorant of some of the details. This time she
was determined to secure her acquisition, though it is quite probable
that, woman-like, they were once more lost, almost as easily as made.
Mulford, however, was obliged to leave her, to look at the vessel,
before he stretched himself on the deck, in an old sail; it having been
previously determined that he should sleep first, while the wind was
light, and that Jack Tier, assisted by the females, should keep the
first watch. Rose would not detain the mate, therefore, but let him go
his way, in order to see that all was right before he took his rest.
Mrs. Budd had listened to Mulford's second explanation of the
common mode of ascertaining the longitude, with all the attention of
which she was capable; but it far exceeded the powers of her mind to
comprehend it. There are persons who accustom themselves to think so
superficially, that it becomes a painful process to attempt to dive
into any of the arcana of nature, and who ever turn from such
investigations wearied and disgusted. Many of these persons, perhaps
most of them, need only a little patience and perseveranceto comprehend
all the more familiar phenomena, but they cannot command even that much
of the two qualities named to obtain the knowledge they would fain wish
to possess. Mrs. Budd did not belong to a division as high in the
intellectual scale as even this vapid class. Her intellect was unequal
to embracing anything of an abstracted character, and only received the
most obvious impressions, and those quite half the time it received
wrong. The mate's reasoning, therefore, was not only inexplicable to
her, but it sounded absurd and impossible.
"Rosy, dear," said the worthy relict, as soon as she saw Mulford
stretch his fine frame on his bed of canvas, speaking at the same time
in a low, confidential tone to her niece, "what was it that Harry was
telling you a little while ago? It sounded to me like rank nonsense;
and men will talk nonsense to young girls, as I have so often warned
you, child. You must never listen to their nonsense, Rosy; but remember
your catechism and confirmation vow, and be a good girl."
To how many of the feeble-minded and erring do those offices of the
church prove a stay and support, when their own ordinary powers of
resistance would fail them! Rose, however, viewed the matter just as it
was, and answered accordingly.
"But this was nothing of that nature, aunty," she said, "and only
an account of the mode of finding out where a ship is, when out of
sight of land, in the middle of the ocean. We had the same subject up
the other day."
"And how did Harry tell you, this time, that was done, my dear?"
"By finding the difference in the time of day between two
places—just as he did before."
"But there is no difference in the time of day, child, when the
clocks go well."
"Yes, there is, aunty dear, as the sun rises in one place before it
does in another."
"Rose you've been listening to nonsense now! Remember what I have
so often told you about young men, and their way of talking. I admit
Harry Mulford is a respectable youth, and has respectable connections,
and since you like one another, you may have him, with all my heart,
assoon as he gets a full-jiggered ship, for I am resolved no niece of
my poor dear husband's shall ever marry a mate, or a captain even,
unless he has a full-jiggered ship under his feet. But do not talk
nonsense with him. Nonsense is nonsense, though a sensible man talks
it. As for all this stuff about the time of day, you can see it is
nonsense, as the sun rises but once in twenty-four hours, and of course
there cannot be two times, as you call it."
"But, aunty dear, it is not always noon at London when it is noon
at New York."
"Fiddle-faddle, child; noon is noon, and there are no more two
noons than two suns, or two times. Distrust what young men tell you,
Rosy, if you would be safe, though they should tell you you are
Poor Rose sighed, and gave up the explanation in despair. Then a
smile played around her pretty mouth. It was not at her aunt that she
smiled; this she never permitted herself to do, weak as was that
person, and weak as she saw her to be; she smiled at the recollection
how often Mulford had hinted at her good looks—for Rose was a female,
and had her own weaknesses, as well as another. But the necessity of
acting soon drove these thoughts from her mind, and Rose sought Jack
Tier, to confer with him on the subject of their new duties.
As for Harry Mulford, his head was no sooner laid on its bunch of
sail than he fell into a profound sleep. There he lay, slumbering as
the seaman slumbers, with no sense of surrounding things. The immense
fatigues of that and of the two preceding days,—for he had toiled at
the pumps even long after night had come, until the vessel was clear,—
weighed him down, and nature was now claiming her influence, and taking
a respite from exertion. Had he been left to himself, it is probable
the mate would not have arisen until the sun had reappeared some hours.
It is now necessary to explain more minutely the precise condition,
as well as the situation of the schooner. On quitting his port, Mulford
had made a stretch of some two leagues in length, toward the northward
and eastward, when he tacked and stood to the southward. There was
enough of southing in the wind, to make his last course nearly due
south. As he neared the reef, he found that he fell in somemiles to the
eastward of the islets,—proof that he was doing very well, and that
there was no current to do him any material harm, if, indeed, there
were not actually a current in his favour. He next tacked to the
northward again, and stood in that direction until near night, when he
once more went about. The wind was now so light that he saw little
prospect of getting in with the reef again, until the return of day;
but as he had left orders with Jack Tier to be called at twelve
o'clock, at all events, this gave him no uneasiness. At the time when
the mate lay down to take his rest, therefore, the schooner was quite
five-and-twenty miles to windward of the Dry Tortugas, and some twenty
miles to the northward of the Florida Reef, with the wind quite light
at east-south-east. Such, then, was the position or situation of the
As respects her condition, it is easily described. She had but the
three sails bent,—mainsail, foresail, and jib. Her topmasts had been
struck, and all the hamper that belonged to them was below. The
mainsail was single reefed, and the foresail and jib were without their
bonnets, as has already been mentioned. This was somewhat short canvas,
but Mulford knew that it would render his craft more manageable in the
event of a blow. Usually, at that season and in that region, the east
trades prevailed with great steadiness, sometimes diverging a little
south of east, as at present, and generally blowing fresh. But, for a
short time previously to, and ever since the tornado, the wind had been
unsettled, the old currents appearing to regain their ascendancy by
fits, and then losing it, in squalls, contrary currents, and even by
The conference between Jack Tier and Rose was frank and
"We must depend mainly on you," said the latter, turning to look
toward the spot where Mulford lay, buried in the deepest sleep that had
ever gained power over him. "Harry is so fatigued! It would be shameful
to awaken him a moment sooner than is necessary."
"Ay, ay; so it is always with young women, when they lets a young
man gain their ears," answered Jack, without the least circumlocution;
"so it is, and so it always will be, I'm afeard. Nevertheless, men is
Rose was not affronted at this plain allusion to the power that
Mulford had obtained over her feelings. It would seem that Jack had got
to be so intimate in the cabins, that his sex was, in a measure,
forgotten; and it is certain that his recent services were not. Without
a question, but for his interference, the pretty Rose Budd would, at
that moment, have been the prisoner of Spike, and most probably the
victim of his design to compel her to marry him.
"All men are not Stephen Spikes," said Rose, earnestly, "and least
of all is Harry Mulford to be reckoned as one of his sort. But, we must
manage to take care of the schooner the whole night, and let Harry get
his rest. He wished to be called at twelve, but we can easily let the
hour go by, and not awaken him."
"The commanding officer ought not to be sarved so, Miss Rose. What
he says is to be done."
"I know it, Jack, as to ordinary matters; but Harry left these
orders that we might have our share of rest, and for no other reason at
all. And what is to prevent our having it? We are four, and can divide
ourselves into two watches; one watch can sleep while the other keeps a
"Ay, ay, and pretty watches they would be! There's Madam Budd, now;
why, she's quite a navigator, and knows all about weerin' and haulin',
and I dares to say could put the schooner about, to keep her off the
reef, on a pinch; though which way the craft would come round, could
best be told a'ter it has been done. It's as much as I'd undertake
myself, Miss Rose, to take care of the schooner, should it come on to
blow; and as for you, Madam Budd, and that squalling Irishwoman, you'd
be no better than so many housewives ashore."
"We have strength, and we have courage, and we can pull, as you
have seen. I know very well which way to put the helm now, and Biddy is
as strong as you are yourself, and could help me all I wished. Then we
could always call you, at need, and have your assistance. Nay, Harry
himself can be called, if there should be a real necessity for it, and
I do wish he may not be disturbed until there is that necessity."
It was with a good deal of reluctance that Jack allowed himself to
be persuaded into this scheme. He insisted, for a long time, that an
officer should be called at the hour mentioned by himself, and declared
he had never known such an order neglected, "marchant-man, privateer,
or man-of-war." Rose prevailed over his scruples, however, and there
was a meeting of the three females to make the final arrangements. Mrs.
Budd, a kind-hearted woman, at the worst, gave her assent most
cheerfully, though Rose was a little startled with the nature of the
reasoning, with which it was accompanied.
"You are quite right, Rosy dear," said the aunt, "and the thing is
very easily done. I've long wanted to keep one watch, at sea; just one
watch; to complete my maritime education. Your poor uncle used to say,
'Give my wife but one night-watch, and you'd have as good a seaman in
her as heart could wish.' I'm sure I've had night-watches enough with
him and his ailings; but it seems that they were not the sort of
watches he meant. Indeed, I did n't know till this evening there were
so many watches in the world, at all. But this is just what I want, and
just what I'm resolved to have. Tier shall command one watch and I'll
command the other. Jack's shall be the 'dog-watch,' as they call it,
and mine shall be the 'middle-watch,' and last till morning. You shall
be in Jack's watch, Rose, and Biddy shall be in mine. You know a good
deal that Jack do n't know, and Biddy can do a good deal I'm rather too
stout to do. I do n't like pulling ropes, but as for ordering, I'll
turn my back on no captain's widow out of York."
Rose had her own misgivings on the subject of her aunt's issuing
orders on such a subject to any one, but she made the best of
necessity, and completed the arrangements without further discussion.
Her great anxiety was to secure a good night's rest for Harry, already
feeling a woman's care in the comfort and ease of the man she loved.
And Rose did love Harry Mulford warmly and sincerely. If the very
decided preference with which she regarded him before they sailed, had
not absolutely amounted to passion, it had come so very near it as to
render that access of feeling certain, under the influence of the
association and events which succeeded. We have not thought it
necessary to relate a tithe of the interviews and intercourse that had
taken place between the handsome mate and the pretty Rose Budd,
duringthe month they had now been shipmates, having left the reader to
imagine the natural course of things, under such circumstances.
Nevertheless, the plighted troth had not been actually given until
Harry joined her on the islet, at a moment when she fancied herself
abandoned to a fate almost as serious as death. Rose had seen Mulford
quit the brig, had watched the mode and manner of his escape, and in
almost breathless amazement, and felt how dear to her he had become, by
the glow of delight which warmed her heart, when assured that he could
not, would not, forsake her, even though he remained at the risk of
life. She was now, true to the instinct of her sex, mostly occupied in
making such a return for an attachment so devoted as became her
tenderness and the habits of her mind.
As Mrs. Budd chose what she was pleased to term the 'middle-watch,'
giving to Jack Tier and Rose her 'dog-watch,' the two last were first
on duty. It is scarcely necessary to say, the captain's widow got the
names of the watches all wrong, as she got the names of everything else
about a vessel; but the plan was to divide the night equally between
these quasi mariners, giving the first half to those who were first on
the look-out, and the remainder to their successors. It soon became so
calm, that Jack left the helm, and came and sat by Rose, on the trunk,
where they conversed confidentially for a long time. Although the
reader will, hereafter, be enabled to form some plausible conjectures
on the subject of this dialogue, we shall give him no part of it here.
All that need now be said, is to add, that Jack did most of the
talking, that his past life was the principal theme, and that the
terrible Stephen Spike, he from whom they were now so desirous of
escaping, was largely mixed up with the adventures recounted. Jack
found in his companion a deeply interested listener, although this was
by no means the first time they had gone over together the same story
and discussed the same events. The conversation lasted until Tier, who
watched the glass, seeing that its sands had run out for the last time,
announced the hour of midnight. This was the moment when Mulford should
have been called, but when Mrs. Budd and Biddy Noon were actually
awakened in his stead.
"Now, dear aunty," said Rose, as she parted from thenew watch to go
and catch a little sleep herself, "remember you are not to awaken Harry
first, but to call Tier and myself. It would have done your heart good
to have seen how sweetly he has been sleeping all this time. I do not
think he has stirred once since his head was laid on that bunch of
sails, and there he is, at this moment, sleeping like an infant!"
"Yes," returned the relict, "it is always so with your true
maritime people. I have been sleeping a great deal more soundly, the
whole of the dog-watch, than I ever slept at home, in my own excellent
bed. But it's your watch below, Rosy, and contrary to rule for you to
stay on the deck, after you've been relieved. I've heard this a
Rose was not sorry to lie down; and her head was scarcely on its
pillow, in the cabin, before she was fast asleep. As for Jack, he found
a place among Mulford's sails, and was quickly in the same state.
To own the truth, Mrs. Budd was not quite as much at ease, in her
new station, for the first half hour, as she had fancied to herself
might prove to be the case. It was a flat calm, it is true; but the
widow felt oppressed with responsibility and the novelty of her
situation. Time and again had she said, and even imagined, she should
be delighted to fill the very station she then occupied, or to be in
charge of a deck, in a "middle watch." In this instance, however, as in
so many others, reality did not equal anticipation. She wished to be
doing everything, but did not know how to do anything. As for Biddy,
she was even worse off than her mistress. A month's experience, or for
that matter a twelvemonth's, could not unravel to her the mysteries of
even a schooner's rigging. Mrs. Budd had placed her "at the wheel," as
she called it, though the vessel had no wheel, being steered by a
tiller on deck, in the 'long-shore fashion. In stationing Biddy, the
widow told her that she was to play "tricks at the wheel," leaving it
to the astounded Irish woman's imagination to discover what those
tricks were. Failing in ascertaining what might be the nature of her
"tricks at the wheel," Biddy was content to do nothing, and nothing,
under the circumstances, was perhaps the very best thing she could have
Little was required to be done for the first four hours of Mrs.
Budd's watch. All that time, Rose slept in her berth, and Mulford and
Jack Tier on their sail, while Biddy had played the wheel a "trick,"
indeed, by lying down on deck, and sleeping, too, as soundly as if she
were in the county Down itself. But there was to be an end of this
tranquillity. Suddenly the wind began to blow. At first, the breeze
came in fitful puffs, which were neither very strong nor very lasting.
This induced Mrs. Budd to awaken Biddy. Luckily, a schooner without a
topsail could not very well be taken aback, especially as the
head-sheets worked on travellers, and Mrs. Budd and her assistant
contrived to manage the tiller very well for the first hour that these
varying puffs of wind lasted. It is true, the tiller was lashed, and it
is also true, the schooner ran in all directions, having actually
headed to all the cardinal points of the compass, under her present
management. At length, Mrs. Budd became alarmed. A puff of wind came so
strong, as to cause the vessel to lie over so far as to bring the water
into the lee scuppers. She called Jack Tier herself, therefore, and
sent Biddy down to awaken Rose. In a minute, both these auxiliaries
appeared on deck. The wind just then lulled, and Rose, supposing her
aunt was frightened at trifles, insisted on it that Harry should be
permitted to sleep on. He had turned over once, in the course of the
night, but not once had he raised his head from his pillow.
As soon as reinforced, Mrs. Budd began to bustle about, and to give
commands, such as they were, in order to prove that she was
unterrified. Jack Tier gaped at her elbow, and by way of something to
do, he laid his hand on the painter of the Swash's boat, which boat was
towing astern, and remarked that "some know-nothing had belayed it with
three half-hitches." This was enough for the relict. She had often
heard the saying that "three half-hitches lost the king's long-boat,"
and she busied herself, at once, in repairing so imminent an evil. It
was far easier for the good woman to talk than to act; she became what
is called "all fingers and thumbs," and in loosening the third
half-hitch, she cast off the two others. At that instant, a puff of
wind struck the schooner again, and the end of the painter got away
from the widow, who had a last glimpse at the boat, as the vessel
darted ahead, leaving its little tender to vanish in the gloom of the
Jack was excessively provoked at this accident, for he had foreseen
the possibility of having recourse to that boat yet, in order to escape
from Spike. By abandoning the schooner, and pulling on to the reef, it
might have been possible to get out of their pursuer's hands, when all
other means should fail them. As he was at the tiller, he put his helm
up, and ran off, until far enough to leeward to be to the westward of
the boat, when he might tack, fetch and recover it. Nevertheless, it
now blew much harder than he liked, for the schooner seemed to be
unusually tender. Had he had the force to do it, he would have brailed
the foresail. He desired Rose to call Mulford, but she hesitated about
"Call him—call the mate, I say," cried out Jack, in a voice that
proved how much he was in earnest. "These puffs come heavy, I can tell
you, and they come often, too. Call him—call him, at once, Miss Rose,
for it is time to tack if we wish to recover the boat. Tell him, too,
to brail the foresail, while we are in stays—that's right; another
call will start him up."
The other call was given, aided by a gentle shake from Rose's hand.
Harry was on his feet in a moment. A passing instant was necessary to
clear his faculties, and to recover the tenor of his thoughts. During
that instant, the mate heard Jack Tier's shrill cry of "Hard a-lee—get
in that foresail—bear a-hand—in with it, I say!"
The wind came rushing and roaring, and the flaps of the canvas were
violent and heavy.
"In with the foresail, I say," shouted Jack Tier. "She files round
like a top, and will be off the wind on the other tack presently. Bear
a-hand!—bear a-hand! It looks black as night to windward."
Mulford then regained all his powers. He sprang to the fore-sheet,
calling on the others for aid. The violent surges produced by the wind
prevented his grasping the sheet as soon as he could wish, and the
vessel whirled round on her heel, like a steed that is frightened. At
that critical and dangerous instant, when the schooner was nearly
without motion through the water, a squall struck the flattened
sails,and bowed her down as the willow bends to the gale. Mrs. Budd and
Biddy screamed as usual, and Jack shouted until his voice seemed
cracked, to "let go the head-sheets." Mulford did make one leap
forward, to execute this necessary office, when the inclining plane of
the deck told him it was too late. The wind fairly howled for a minute,
and over went the schooner, the remains of her cargo shifting as she
capsized, in a way to bring her very nearly bottom upward.
Ay, fare you well, fair gentleman.
— —As You Like it.
While the tyro believes the vessel is about to capsize at every
puff of wind, the practised seaman alone knows when danger truly besets
him in this particular form. Thus it was with Harry Mulford, when the
Mexican schooner went over, as related in the close of the preceding
chapter. He felt no alarm until the danger actually came. Then, indeed,
no one there was so quickly, or so thoroughly apprized of what the
result would be, and he directed all his exertions to meet the
exigency. While there was the smallest hope of success, he did not
lessen, in the least, his endeavours to save the vessel; making almost
superhuman efforts to cast off the fore-sheet, so as to relieve the
schooner from the pressure of one of her sails. But, no sooner did he
hear the barrels in the hold surging to leeward, and feel by the
inclination of the deck beneath his feet, that nothing could save the
craft, than he abandoned the sheet, and sprang to the assistance of
Rose. It was time he did; for, having followed him into the vessel's
lee-waist, she was the first to be submerged in the sea, and would have
been hopelessly drowned, but for Mulford's timely succour. Women might
swim more readily than men, and do so swim, in those portions of the
world where the laws of nature are not counteracted by human
conventions. Rose Budd, however, had received the vicious education
which civilized society inflicts onher sex, and, as a matter of course,
was totally helpless in an element in which it was the design of Divine
Providence she should possess the common means of sustaining herself,
like every other being endued with animal life. Not so with Mulford: he
swam with ease and force, and had no difficulty in sustaining Rose
until the schooner had settled into her new berth, or in hauling her on
the vessel's bottom immediately after.
Luckily, there was no swell, or so little as not to endanger those
who were on the schooner's bilge; and Mulford had no sooner placed her
in momentary safety at least, whom he prized far higher than his own
life, than he bethought him of his other companions. Jack Tier had
hauled himself up to windward by the rope that steadied the tiller, and
he had called on Mrs. Budd to imitate his example. It was so natural
for even a woman to grasp anything like a rope at such a moment, that
the widow instinctively obeyed, while Biddy seized, at random, the
first thing of the sort that offered. Owing to these fortunate chances,
Jack and Mrs. Budd succeeded in reaching the quarter of the schooner,
the former actually getting up on the bottom of the wreck, on to which
he was enabled to float the widow, who was almost as buoyant as cork,
as indeed was the case with Jack himself. All the stern and bows of the
vessel were under water, in consequence of her leanness forward and
aft; but though submerged, she offered a precarious footing, even in
these extremities, to such as could reach them. On the other hand, the
place where Rose stood, or the bilge of the vessel, was two or three
feet above the surface of the sea, though slippery and inclining in
It was not half a minute from the time that Mulford sprang to
Rose's succour, ere he had her on the vessel's bottom. In another half
minute, he had waded down on the schooner's counter, where Jack Tier
was lustily calling to him for "help!" and assisted the widow to her
feet, and supported her until she stood at Rose's side. Leaving the
last in her aunt's arms, half distracted between dread and joy, he
turned to the assistance of Biddy. The rope at which the Irish woman
had caught, was a straggling end that had been made fast to the main
channels of the schooner, for the support of a fender, and had been
hauled partly in-board tokeep it out of the water. Biddy had found no
difficulty in dragging herself up to the chains, therefore; and had she
been content to sustain herself by the rope, leaving as much of her
body submerged as comported with breathing, her task would have been
easy. But, like most persons who do not know how to swim, the good
woman was fast exhausting her strength, by vain efforts to walk on the
surface of an element that was never made to sustain her. Unpractised
persons, in such situations, cannot be taught to believe that their
greatest safety is in leaving as much of their bodies as possible
beneath the water, keeping the mouth and nose alone free for breath.
But we have seen even instances in which men, who were in danger of
drowning, seemed to believe it might be possible for them to craw! over
the waves on their hands and knees. The philosophy of the contrary
course is so very simple, that one would fancy a very child might be
made to comprehend it; yet, it is rare to find one unaccustomed to the
water, and who is suddenly exposed to its dangers, that does not
resort, under the pressure of present alarm, to the very reverse of the
true means to save his or her life.
Mulford had no difficulty in finding Bridget, whose exclamations of
"murther!" "help!" "he-l-lup!" "Jasus!" and other similar cries, led
him directly to the spot, where she was fast drowning herself by her
own senseless struggles. Seizing her by the arm, the active young mate
soon placed her on her feet, though her cries did not cease until she
was ordered by her mistress to keep silence.
Having thus rescued the whole of his companions from immediate
danger, Mulford began to think of the future. He was seized with sudden
surprise that the vessel did not sink, and for a minute he was unable
to account for the unusual fact. On the former occasion, the schooner
had gone down almost as soon as she fell over; but now she floated with
so much buoyancy as to leave most of her keel and all of her bilge on
one side quite clear of the water. As one of the main hatches was off,
and the cabin-doors, and booby-hatch doors forward were open, and all
were under water, it required a little reflection on the part of
Mulford to understand on what circumstance all their lives now
depended. The mate soon ascertained the truth, however, and we may as
well explain it to the reader in our own fashion, in order to put him
on a level with the young seaman.
The puff of wind, or little squall, had struck the schooner at the
most unfavourable moment for her safety. She had just lost her way in
tacking, and the hull not moving ahead, as happens when a craft is thus
assailed with the motion on her, all the power of the wind was expended
in the direction necessary to capsize her. Another disadvantage arose
from the want of motion. The rudder, which acts solely by pressing
against the water as the vessel meets it, was useless, and it was not
possible to luff, and throw the wind from the sails, as is usually
practised by fore-and-aft rigged craft, in moments of such peril. In
consequence of these united difficulties, the shifting of the cargo in
the hold, the tenderness of the craft itself, and the force of the
squall, the schooner had gone so far over as to carry all three of the
openings to her interior suddenly under water, where they remained,
held by the pressure of the cargo that had rolled to leeward. Had not
the water completely covered these openings, or hatches, the schooner
must have sunk in a minute or two, or by the time Mulford had got all
his companions safe on her bilge. But they were completely submerged,
and so continued to be, which circumstance alone prevented the vessel
from sinking, as the following simple explanation will show.
Any person who will put an empty tumbler, bottom upwards, into a
bucket of water, will find that the water will not rise within the
tumbler more than an inch at most. At that point it is arrested by the
resistance of the air, which, unable to escape, and compressed into a
narrow compass, forms a body that the other fluid cannot penetrate. It
is on this simple and familiar principle, that the chemist keeps his
gases, in inverted glasses, placing them on shelves, slightly submerged
in water. Thus it was, then, that the schooner continued to float,
though nearly bottom upward, and with three inlets open, by which the
water could and did penetrate. A considerable quantity of the element
had rushed in at the instant of capsizing, but meeting with resistance
from the compressed and pent air, its progress had been arrested, and
the wreck continued to float, sustained by the buoyancy that was
imparted to it, in containing so large abody of a substance no heavier
than atmospheric air. After displacing its weight of water, enough of
buoyancy remained to raise the keel a few feet above the level of the
As soon as Mulford had ascertained the facts of their situation, he
communicated them to his companions, encouraging them to hope for
eventual safety. It was true, their situation was nearly desperate,
admitting that the wreck should continue to float for ever, since they
were almost without food, or anything to drink, and had no means of
urging the hull through the water. They must float, too, at the mercy
of the winds and waves, and should a sea get up, it might soon be
impossible for Mulford himself to maintain his footing on the bottom of
the wreck. All this the young man had dimly shadowed forth to him,
through his professional experience; but the certainty of the vessel's
not sinking immediately had so far revived his spirits, as to cause him
to look on the bright side of the future, pale as that glimmering of
hope was made to appear whenever reason cast one of its severe glances
Harry had no difficulty in making Rose comprehend their precise
situation. Her active and clear mind understood at once the causes of
their present preservation, and most of the hazards of the future. It
was not so with Jack Tier. He was composed, even resigned; but he could
not see the reason why the schooner still floated.
"I know that the cabin-doors were open," he said, "and if they
wasn't, of no great matter would it be, since the joints ar'n't
caulked, and the water would run through them as through a sieve. I'm
afeard, Mr. Mulford, we shall find the wreck going from under our feet
afore long, and when we least wish it, perhaps."
"I tell you the wreck will float so long as the air remains in its
hold," returned the mate, cheerfully. "Do you not see how buoyant it
is?—the certain proof that there is plenty of air within. So long as
that remains, the hull must float."
"I've always understood," said Jack, sticking to his opinion, "that
wessels floats by vartue of water, and not by vartue of air; and, that
when the water gets on the wrong side on 'em, there's little hope left
of keepin' 'em up."
"What has become of the boat?" suddenly cried the mate. "I have
been so much occupied as to have forgottenthe boat. In that boat we
might all of us still reach Key West. I see nothing of the boat!"
A profound silence succeeded this sudden and unexpected question.
All knew that the boat was gone, and all knew that it had been lost by
the widow's pertinacity and clumsiness; but no one felt disposed to
betray her at that grave moment. Mulford left the bilge, and waded as
far aft as it was at all prudent for him to proceed, in the vain hope
that the boat might be there, fastened by its painter to the schooner's
tafferel, as he had left it, but concealed from view by the darkness of
the night. Not finding what he was after, he returned to his
companions, still uttering exclamations of surprise at the
unaccountable loss of the boat. Rose now told him that the boat had got
adrift some ten or fifteen minutes before the accident befell them, and
that they were actually endeavouring to recover it when the squall
which capsized the schooner struck them.
"And why did you not call me, Rose?" asked Harry, with a little of
gentle reproach in his manner. "It must have soon been my watch on
deck, and it would have been better that I should lose half an hour of
my watch below, than that we should lose the boat."
Rose was now obliged to confess that the time for calling him had
long been past, and that the faint streak of light, which was just
appearing in the east, was the near approach of day. This explanation
was made gently, but frankly; and Mulford experienced a glow of
pleasure at his heart, even in that moment of jeopardy, when he
understood Rose's motive for not having him disturbed. As the boat was
gone, with little or no prospect of its being recovered again, no more
was said about it; and the window, who had stood on thorns the while,
had the relief of believing that her awkwardness was forgotten.
It was such a relief from an imminent danger to have escaped from
drowning when the schooner capsized, that those on her bottom did not,
for some little time, realize all the terrors of their actual
situation. The inconvenience of being wet was a trifle not to be
thought of, and, in fact, the light summer dresses worn by all, linen
or cotton as they were entirely, were soon effectually dried in the
wind. The keel made a tolerably convenient seat, and the wholeparty
placed themselves on it to await the return of day, in order to obtain
a view of all that their situation offered in the way of a prospect.
While thus awaiting, a broken and short dialogue occurred.
"Had you stood to the northward the whole night?" asked Mulford,
gloomily, of Jack Tier; for gloomily he began to feel, as all the facts
of their case began to press more closely on his mind. "If so, we must
be well off the reef, and out of the track of wreckers and turtlers.
How had you the wind, and how did you head before the accident
"The wind was light the whole time, and for some hours it was
nearly calm," answered Jack, in the same vein; "I kept the schooner's
head to the nor'ard, until I thought we were getting too far off our
course, and then I put her about. I do not think we could have been any
great distance from the reef, when the boat got away from us, and I
suppose we are in its neighbourhood now, for I was tacking to fall in
with the boat when the craft went over."
"To fall in with the boat! Did you keep off to leeward of it, then,
that you expected to fetch it by tacking?"
"Ay, a good bit; and I think the boat is now away here to windward
of us, drifting athwart our bows."
This was important news to Mulford. Could he only get that boat,
the chances of being saved would be increased a hundred fold, nay,
would almost amount to a certainty; whereas, so long as the wind held
to the southward and eastward, the drift of the wreck must be toward
the open water, and consequently so much the further removed from the
means of succor. The general direction of the trades, in that quarter
of the world, is east, and should they get round into their old and
proper quarter, it would not benefit them much; for the reef running
south-west, they could scarcely hope to hit the Dry Tortugas again, in
their drift, were life even spared them sufficiently long to float the
distance. Then there might be currents, about which Mulford knew
nothing with certainty; they might set them in any direction; and did
they exist, as was almost sure to be the case, were much more powerful
than the wind in controlling the movements of a wreck.
The mate strained his eyes in the direction pointed out by Jack
Tier, in the hope of discovering the boat through the haze of the
morning, and he actually did discern something that, it appeared to
him, might be the much desired little craft. If he were right, there
was every reason to think the boat would drift down so near them as to
enable him to recover it by swimming. This cheering intelligence was
communicated to his companions, who received it with gratitude and
delight. But the approach of day gradually dispelled that hope, the
object which Mulford had mistaken for the boat, within two hundred
yards of the wreck, turning out to be a small, low, but bare hummock of
the reef, at a distance of more than two miles.
"That is a proof that we are not far from the reef, at least,"
cried Mulford, willing to encourage those around him all he could, and
really much relieved at finding himself so near even this isolated
fragment of terra firma. "This fact is the next encouraging thing to
finding ourselves near the boat, or to falling in with a sail."
"Ay, ay," said Jack, gloomily; "boat or no boat, 't will make no
great matter of difference now. There's customers that'll be sartain to
take all the grists you can send to their mill."
"What things are those glancing about the vessel?" cried Rose,
almost in the same breath; "those dark, sharp-looking sticks—see,
there are five or six of them! and they move as if fastened to
something under the water that pulls them about."
"Them's the customers I mean, Miss Rose," answered Jack, in the
same strain as that in which he had first spoken; "they're the same
thing at sea as lawyers be ashore, and seem made to live on other
folks. Them's sharks."
"And yonder is truly the boat!" added Mulford, with a sigh that
almost amounted to a groan. The light had, by this time, so far
returned as to enable the party not only to see the fins of half a
dozen sharks, which were already prowling about the wreck, the almost
necessary consequence of their proximity to a reef in that latitude,
but actually to discern the boat drifting down toward them, at a
distance that promised to carry it past, within the reach of Mulford's
powers of swimming, though not as near as he could havewished, even
under more favourable circumstances. Had their extremity been greater,
or had Rose begun to suffer from hunger or thirst, Mulford might have
attempted the experiment of endeavoring to regain the boat, though the
chances of death by means of the sharks would be more than equal to
those of escape; but still fresh, and not yet feeling even the heat of
the sun of that low latitude, he was not quite goaded into such an act
of desperation. All that remained for the party, therefore, was to sit
on the keel of the wreck, and gaze with longing eyes at a little object
floating past, which, once at their command, might so readily be made
to save them from a fate that already began to appear terrible in the
perspective. Near an hour was thus consumed, ere the boat was about
half a mile to leeward; during which scarcely an eye was turned from it
for one instant, or a word was spoken.
"It is beyond my reach now," Mulford at length exclaimed, sighing
heavily, like one who became conscious of some great and irretrievable
loss. "Were there no sharks, I could hardly venture to attempt swimming
so far, with the boat drifting from me at the same time."
"I should never consent to let you make the trial, Harry," murmured
Rose, "though it were only half as far."
Another pause succeeded.
"We have now the light of day," resumed the mate, a minute or two
later, "and may see our true situation. No sail is in sight, and the
wind stands steadily in its old quarter. Still I do not think we leave
the reef. There, you may see breakers off here at the southward, and it
seems as if more rocks rise above the sea, in that direction. I do not
know that our situation would be any the better, however, were we
actually on them, instead of being on this floating wreck."
"The rocks will never sink," said Jack Tier, with so much emphasis
as to startle the listeners.
"I do not think this hull will sink until we are taken off it, or
are beyond caring whether it sink or swim," returned Mulford.
"I do not know that, Mr. Mulford. Nothing keeps us up but the air
in the hold, you say."
"Certainly not; but that air will suffice as long as it remains
"And what do you call these things?" rejoined the assistant
steward, pointing at the water near him, in or on which no one else saw
anything worthy of attention.
Mulford, however, was not satisfied with a cursory glance, but went
nearer to the spot where Tier was standing. Then, indeed, he saw to
what the steward alluded, and was impressed by it, though he said
nothing. Hundreds of little bubbles rose to the surface of the water,
much as one sees them rising in springs. These bubbles are often met
with in lakes and other comparatively shallow waters, but they are
rarely seen in those of the ocean. The mate understood, at a glance,
that those he now beheld were produced by the air which escaped from
the hold of the wreck; in small quantities at a time, it was true, but
by a constant and increasing process. The great pressure of the water
forced this air through crevices so minute that, under ordinary
circumstances, they would have proved impenetrable to this, as they
were still to the other fluid, though they now permitted the passage of
the former. It might take a long time to force the air from the
interior of the vessel by such means, but the result was as certain as
it might be slow. As constant dropping will wear a stone, so might the
power that kept the wreck afloat be exhausted by the ceaseless rising
of these minute air-bubbles.
Although Mulford was entirely sensible of the nature of this new
source of danger, we cannot say he was much affected by it at the
moment. It seemed to him far more probable that they must die of
exhaustion, long before the wreck would lose all of its buoyancy by
this slow process, than that even the strongest of their number could
survive for such a period. The new danger, therefore, lost most of its
terrors under this view of the subject, though it certainly did not add
to the small sense of security that remained, to know that inevitably
their fate must be sealed through its agency, should they be able to
hold out for a sufficient time against hunger and thirst. It caused
Mulford to muse in silence for many more minutes.
"I hope we are not altogether without food," the mate at length
said. "It sometimes happens that persons at seacarry pieces of biscuit
in their pockets, especially those who keep watch at night. The
smallest morsel is now of the last importance."
At this suggestion, every one set about an examination. The result
was, that neither Mrs. Budd nor Rose had a particle of food, of any
sort, about their persons. Biddy produced from her pockets, however, a
whole biscuit, a large bunch of excellent raisins that she had filched
from the steward's stores, and two apples,—the last being the remains
of some fruit that Spike had procured a month earlier in New York.
Mulford had half a biscuit, at which he had been accustomed to nibble
in his watches; and Jack lugged out, along with a small plug of
tobacco, a couple of sweet oranges. Here, then, was everything in the
shape of victuals or drink, that could be found for the use of five
persons, in all probability for many days. The importance of securing
it for equal distribution, was so obvious, that Mulford's proposal to
do so met with a common assent. The whole was put in Mrs. Budd's bag,
and she was intrusted with the keeping of this precious store.
"It may be harder to abstain from food at first, when we have not
suffered from its want, than it will become after a little endurance,"
said the mate. "We are now strong, and it will be wiser to fast as long
as we conveniently can, to-day, and relieve our hunger by a moderate
allowance toward evening, than to waste our means by too much
indulgence at a time when we are strong. Weakness will be sure to come
if we remain long on the wreck."
"Have you ever suffered in this way, Harry?" demanded Rose, with
"I have, and that dreadfully. But a merciful Providence came to my
rescue then, and it may not fail me now. The seaman is accustomed to
carry his life in his hand, and to live on the edge of eternity."
The truth of this was so apparent as to produce a thoughtful
silence. Anxious glances were cast around the horizon from time to
time, in quest of any sail that might come in sight, but uselessly.
None appeared, and the day advanced without bringing the slightest
prospect of relief. Mulford could see, by the now almost sunken
hummocks, that they were slowly drifting along the reef, toward the
southwardand eastward, a current no doubt acting slightly from the
north-west. Their proximity to the reef, however, was of no advantage,
as the distance was still so great as to render any attempt to reach
it, even on the part of the mate, unavailable. Nor would he have been
any better off could he have gained a spot on the rocks that was
shallow enough to admit of his walking, since wading about in such a
place would have been less desirable than to be floating where he was.
The want of water to drink threatened to be the great evil. Of
this, the party on the wreck had not a single drop! As the warmth of
the day was added to the feverish feeling produced by excitement, they
all experienced thirst, though no one murmured. So utterly without
means of relieving this necessity did each person know them all to be,
that no one spoke on the subject at all. In fact, shipwreck never
produced a more complete destitution of all the ordinary agents of
helping themselves, in any form or manner, than was the case here. So
sudden and complete had been the disaster, that not a single article,
beyond those on the persons of the sufferers, came even in view. The
masts, sails, rigging, spare spars, in a word, everything belonging to
the vessel was submerged and hidden from their sight, with the
exception of a portion of the vessel's bottom, which might be forty
feet in length, and some ten or fifteen in width, including that which
was above water on both sides of the keel, though one only of these
sides was available to the females, as a place to move about on. Had
Mulford only a boat-hook, he would have felt it a relief; for not only
did the sharks increase in number, but they grew more audacious,
swimming so near the wreck that, more than once, Mulford apprehended
that some one of the boldest of them might make an effort literally to
board them. It is true, he had never known of one of these fishes
attempting to quit his own element in pursuit of his prey; but such
things were reported, and those around the wreck swam so close, and
seemed so eager to get at those who were on it, that there really might
be some excuse for fancying they might resort to unusual means of
effecting their object. It is probable that, like all other animals,
they were emboldened by their own numbers, and wereacting in a sort of
concert, that was governed by some of the many mysterious laws of
nature that have still escaped human observation.
Thus passed the earlier hours of that appalling day. Toward noon,
Mulford had insisted on the females dividing one of the oranges between
them, and extracting its juice by way of assuaging their thirst. The
effect was most grateful, as all admitted, and even Mrs. Budd urged
Harry and Tier to take a portion of the remaining orange; but this both
steadily refused. Mulford did consent to receive a small portion of one
of the apples, more with a view of moistening his throat than to
appease his hunger, though it had, in a slight degree, the latter
effect also. As for Jack Tier, he declined even the morsel of apple,
saying that tobacco answered his purpose, as indeed it temporarily
It was near sunset, when the steward's assistant called Mulford
aside, and whispered to him that he had something private to
communicate. The mate bade him say on, as they were out of ear-shot of
"I've been in sitiations like this afore," said Jack, "and one
l'arns exper'ence by exper'ence. I know how cruel it is on the feelin's
to have the hopes disapp'inted in these cases, and therefore shall
proceed with caution. But, Mr. Mulford, there's a sail in sight, if
there is a drop of water in the Gulf!"
"A sail, Jack! I trust in Heaven you are not deceived!"
"Old eyes are true eyes in such matters, sir. Be careful not to
start the women. They go off like gunpowder, and, Lord help 'em! have
no more command over themselves, when you loosen 'em once, than so many
flying-fish with a dozen dolphins a'ter them. Look hereaway, sir, just
clear of the Irishwoman's bonnet, a little broad off the spot where the
reef was last seen—if that an't a sail, my flame is not Jack Tier."
A sail there was, sure enough! It was so very distant, however, as
to render its character still uncertain, though Mulford fancied it was
a square-rigged vessel heading to the northward. By its position, it
must be in one of the channels of the reef, and by its course, if he
were not deceived, it was standing through, from the main passagealong
the southern side of the rocks, to come out on the northern. All this
was favourable, and at first the young mate felt such a throbbing of
the heart as we all experience when great and unexpected good
intelligence is received. A moment's reflection, however, made him
aware how little was to be hoped for from this vessel. In the first
place, her distance was so great as to render it uncertain even which
way she was steering. Then, there was the probability that she would
pass at so great a distance as to render it impossible to perceive an
object as low as the wreck, and the additional chance of her passing in
the night. Under all the circumstances, therefore, Mulford felt
convinced that there was very little probability of their receiving any
succour from the strange sail; and he fully appreciated Jack Tier's
motive in forbearing to give the usual call of "Sail, ho!" when he made
this discovery. Still, he could not deny himself the pleasure of
communicating to Rose the cheering fact that a vessel was actually in
sight. She could not reason on the circumstances as he had done, and
might at least pass several hours of comparative happiness by believing
that there was some visible chance of delivery.
The females received the intelligence with very different degrees
of hope. Rose was delighted. To her their rescue appeared an event so
very probable now, that Harry Mulford almost regretted he had given
rise to an expectation which he himself feared was to be disappointed.
The feelings of Mrs. Budd were more suppressed. The wreck and her
present situation were so completely at variance with all her former
notions of the sea and its incidents, that she was almost dumb-founded,
and feared either to speak or to think. Biddy differed from either of
her mistresses—the young or the old; she appeared to have lost all
hope, and her physical energy was fast giving way under her profound
From the return of light that day, Mulford had thought, if it were
to prove that Providence had withdrawn its protecting hand from them,
Biddy, who to all appearance ought to be the longest liver among the
females at least, would be the first to sink under her sufferings. Such
is the influence of moral causes on the mere animal.
Rose saw the night shut in around them, amid the solemnsolitude of
the ocean, with a mingled sensation of awe and hope. She had prayed
devoutly, and often, in the course of the preceding day, and her
devotions had contributed to calm her spirits. Once or twice, while
kneeling with her head bowed to the keel, she had raised her eyes
toward Harry with a look of entreaty, as if she would implore him to
humble his proud spirit and place himself at her side, and ask that
succour from God which was so much needed, and which indeed it began
most seriously to appear that God alone could yield. The young mate did
not comply, for his pride of profession and of manhood offered
themselves as stumbling-blocks to prevent submission to his secret
wishes. Though he rarely prayed, Harry Mulford was far from being an
unbeliever, or one altogether regardless of his duties and obligations
to his Divine Creator. On the contrary, his heart was more disposed to
resort to such means of self-abasement and submission, than he put in
practice, and this because he had been taught to believe that the
Anglo-Saxon mariner did not call on Hercules, on every occasion of
difficulty and distress that occurred, as was the fashion with the
Italian and Romish seamen, but he put his own shoulder to the wheel,
confident that Hercules would not forget to help him who knew how to
help himself. But Harry had great difficulty in withstanding Rose's
silent appeal that evening, as she knelt at the keel for the last time,
and turned her gentle eyes upward at him, as if to ask him once more to
take his place at her side. Withstand the appeal he did, however,
though in his inward spirit he prayed fervently to God to put away this
dreadful affliction from the young and innocent creature before him.
When these evening devotions were ended, the whole party became
thoughtful and silent.
It was necessary to sleep, and arrangements were made to do so, if
possible, with a proper regard for their security. Mulford and Tier
were to have the look-out, watch and watch. This was done that no
vessel might pass near them unseen, and that any change in the weather
might be noted and looked to. As it was, the wind had fallen, and
seemed about to vary, though it yet stood in its old quarter, or a
little more easterly, perhaps. As a consequence, the drift of the
wreck, insomuch as it depended on the currents of the air, was more
nearly in a line with the direction of the reef, and there was little
ground for apprehending that they might be driven further from it in
the night. Although that reef offered in reality no place of safety,
that was available to his party, Mulford felt it as a sort of relief,
to be certain that it was not distant, possibly influenced by a vague
hope that some passing wrecker or turtler might yet pick them up.
The bottom of the schooner and the destitute condition of the party
admitted of only very simple arrangements for the night. The females
placed themselves against the keel in the best manner they could, and
thus endeavoured to get a little of the rest they so much needed. The
day had been warm, as a matter of course, and the contrast produced by
the setting of the sun was at first rather agreeable than otherwise.
Luckily Rose had thrown a shawl over her shoulders, not long before the
vessel capsized, and in this shawl she had been saved. It had been
dried, and it now served for a light covering to herself and her aunt,
and added essentially to their comfort. As for Biddy, she was too hardy
to need a shawl, and she protested that she should not think of using
one, had she been better provided. The patient, meek manner in which
that humble, but generous-hearted creature submitted to her fate, and
the earnestness with which she had begged that "Miss Rosy" might have
her morsel of the portion of biscuit each received for a supper, had
sensibly impressed Mulford in her favour; and knowing how much more
necessary food was to sustain one of her robust frame and sturdy
habits, than to Rose, he had contrived to give the woman, unknown to
herself, a double allowance. Nor was it surprising that Biddy did not
detect this little act of fraud in her favour, for this double
allowance was merely a single mouthful. The want of water had made
itself much more keenly felt than the want of food, for as yet anxiety,
excitement and apprehension prevented the appetite from being much
awakened, while the claims of thirst were increased rather than the
reverse, by these very causes. Still, no one had complained, on this or
any other account, throughout the whole of the long and weary day which
Mulford took the first look-out, with the intention of catching a
little sleep, if possible, during the middle hours of thenight, and of
returning to his duty as morning approached. For the first hour nothing
occurred to divert his attention from brooding on the melancholy
circumstances of their situation. It seemed as if all around him had
actually lost the sense of their cares in sleep, and no sound was
audible amid that ocean waste, but the light washing of the water, as
the gentle waves rolled at intervals against the weather side of the
wreck. It was now that Mulford found a moment for prayer, and seated on
the keel, that he called on the Divine aid, in a fervent but silent
petition to God, to put away this trial from the youthful and beautiful
Rose, at least, though he himself perished. It was the first prayer
that Mulford had made in many months, or since he had joined the
Swash—a craft in which that duty was very seldom thought of.
A few minutes succeeded this petition, when Biddy spoke.
"Missus—Madam Budd—dear Missus"—half whispered the Irish woman,
anxious not to disturb Rose, who lay furthest from her—"Missus, bees
ye asleep at sich a time as this?"
"No, Biddy; sleep and I are strangers to each other, and are likely
to be till morning. What do you wish to say?"
"Anything is better than my own t'oughts, missus dear, and I wants
to talk to ye. Is it no wather at all they'll give us so long as we
stay in this place?"
"There is no one to give it to us but God, poor Biddy, and he alone
can say what, in his gracious mercy, it may please him to do. Ah!
Biddy, I fear me that I did an unwise and thoughtless thing, to bring
my poor Rose to such a place as this. Were it to be done over again,
the riches of Wall Street would not tempt me to be guilty of so wrong a
The arm of Rose was thrown around her aunt's neck, and its gentle
pressure announced how completely the offender was forgiven.
"I's very sorry for Miss Rose," rejoined Biddy "and I suffers so
much the more meself in thinking how hard it must be for the like of
her to be wantin' in a swallow of fresh wather."
"It is no harder for me to bear it, poor Biddy," answered the
gentle voice of our heroine, "than it is for yourself."
"Is it meself then? Sure am I, that if I had a quar-r-t of good,
swate wather from our own pump, and that's far betther is it than the
Crothon the best day the Crothon ever seed—but had I a quar-r-t of it,
every dhrap would I give to you, Miss Rose, to app'ase your thirst, I
"Water would be a great relief to us all, just now, my excellent
Biddy," answered Rose, "and I wish we had but a tumbler full of that
you name, to divide equally among the whole five of us."
"Is it divide? Then it would be ag'in dividin' that my voice would
be raised, for that same ra'son that the tumbler would never hold as
much as you could dhrink yourself, Miss Rose."
"Yet the tumbler full would be a great blessing for us all, just
now," murmured Mrs. Budd.
"And is n't mutthon good 'atin', ladies! Och! if I had but a good
swate pratie, now, from my own native Ireland, and a dhrap of milk to
help wash it down! It's mighty little that a body thinks of sich
thrifles when there's abundance of them; but when there's none at all,
they get to be stronger in the mind than riches and honours."
"You say the truth, Biddy," rejoined the mistress, "and there is a
pleasure in talking of them, if one can't enjoy them. I've been
thinking all the afternoon, Rose, what a delicious food is a good roast
turkey, with cranberry sauce; and I wonder, now, that I have not been
more grateful for the very many that Providence has bestowed on me in
my time. My poor Mr. Budd was passionately fond of mutton, and I used
wickedly to laugh at his fondness for it, sometimes, when he always had
his answer ready, and that was that there are no sheep at sea. How true
that is, Rosy dear! there are indeed no sheep at sea!"
"No, aunty," answered Rose's gentle voice from beneath the
shawl;—"there are no such animals on the ocean, but God is with us
here as much as he would be in New York."
A long silence succeeded this simple remark of his well beloved,
and the young mate hoped that there would be no more of a dialogue,
every syllable of which was a dagger to his feelings. But nature was
stronger than reflection in Mrs. Budd and Biddy, and the latter spoke
again, after a pause of near a quarter of an hour.
"Pray for me, Missus," she said, moaningly, "that I may sleep. A
bit of sleep would do a body almost as much good as a bit of bread—I
won't say as much as a dhrap of wather."
"Be quiet, Biddy, and we will pray for you," answered Rose, who
fancied by her breathing that her aunt was about to forget her
sufferings for a brief space, in broken slumbers.
"Is it for you I'll do that—and sure will I, Miss Rose. Niver
would I have quitted Ireland, could I have thought there was sich a
spot on this earth as a place where no wather was to be had."
This was the last of Biddy's audible complaints, for the remainder
of this long and anxious watch of Mulford. He then set himself about an
arrangement which shall be mentioned in its proper place. At twelve
o'clock, or when he thought it was twelve, he called Jack Tier, who in
turn called the mate again at four.
"It looks dark and threatening," said Mulford, as he rose to his
feet and began to look about him once more, "though there does not
appear to be any wind."
"It's a flat calm, Mr. Mate, and the darkness comes from yonder
cloud, which seems likely to bring a little rain."
"Rain! Then God is indeed with us here. You are right, Jack; rain
must fall from that cloud. We must catch some of it, if it be only a
drop to cool Rose's parched tongue."
"In what?" answered Tier, gloomily. "She may wring her clothes when
the shower is over, and in that way get a drop. I see no other method."
"I have bethought me of all that, and passed most of my watch in
making the preparations."
Mulford then showed Tier what he had been about, in the long and
solitary hours of the first watch. It would seem that the young man had
dug a little trench with his knife, along the schooner's bottom,
commencing two or three feet from the keel, and near the spot where
Rose was lying, and carrying it as far as was convenient toward the
run, until he reached a point where he had dug out a sort of reservoir
to contain the precious fluid, should any be sent them by Providence.
While doing this, there were no signs of rain; but the young man knew
that a shower alone could save them from insanity, if not from death;
and in speculating on the means of profiting by one, should it come, he
had bethought him of this expedient. The large knife of a seaman had
served him a good turn, in carrying on his work, to complete which
there remained now very little to do, and that was in enlarging the
receptacle for the water. The hole was already big enough to contain a
pint, and it might easily be sufficiently enlarged to hold double that
Jack was no sooner made acquainted with what had been done, than he
out knife and commenced tearing splinter after splinter from the
planks, to help enlarge the reservoir. This could only be done by
cutting on the surface, for the wood was not three inches in thickness,
and the smallest hole through the plank, would have led to the rapid
escape of the air and to the certain sinking of the wreck. It required
a good deal of judgment to preserve the necessary level also, and
Mulford was obliged to interfere more than once to prevent his
companion from doing more harm than good. He succeeded, however, and
had actually made a cavity that might contain more than a quart of
water, when the first large drop fell from the heavens. This cavity was
not a hole, but a long, deep trench—deep for the circumstances—so
nicely cut on the proper level, as to admit of its holding a fluid in
the quantity mentioned.
"Rose—dearest—rise, and be ready to drink," said Mulford,
tenderly disturbing the uneasy slumbers of his beloved. "It is about to
rain, and God is with us here, as he might be on the land."
"Wather!" exclaimed Biddy, who was awoke with the same call. "What
a blessed thing is good swate wather, and sure am I we ought all to be
thankful that there is such a precious gift in the wor-r-ld."
"Come, then," said Mulford, hurriedly, "it will soon rain —I hear
it pattering on the sea. Come hither, all of you, and drink, as a
merciful God furnishes the means."
This summons was not likely to be neglected. All arose in haste,
and the word "water" was murmured from every lip. Biddy had less
self-command than the others, and she was heard saying aloud,—"Och!
and did n't I dhrame of the blessed springs and wells of Ireland the
night, andhaven't I dhrunk at 'em all? but now it's over, and I am
awake, no good has't done me, and I'm ready to die for one dhrap of
That drop soon came, however, and with it the blessed relief which
such a boon bestows. Mulford had barely time to explain his
arrangements, and to place the party on their knees, along his little
reservoir and the gutter which led to it, when the pattering of the
rain advanced along the sea, with a deep rushing sound. Presently, the
uplifted faces and open mouths caught a few heavy straggling drops, to
cool the parched tongues, when the water came tumbling down upon them
in a thousand little streams. There was scarcely any wind, and merely
the skirt of a large black cloud floated over the wreck, on which the
rain fell barely one minute. But it fell as rain comes down within the
tropics, and in sufficient quantities for all present purposes.
Everybody drank, and found relief, and, when all was over, Mulford
ascertained by examination that his receptacle for the fluid was still
full to overflowing. The abstinence had not been of sufficient length,
nor the quantity taken of large enough amount, to produce injury,
though the thirst was generally and temporarily appeased. It is
probable that the coolness of the hour, day dawning as the cloud moved
past, and the circumstance that the sufferers were wetted to their
skins, contributed to the change.
"Oh, blessed, blessed wather!" exclaimed Biddy, as she rose from
her knees; "America, afther all, isn't as dhry a country as some say.
I've niver tasted swater wather in Ireland itself!"
Rose murmured her thanksgiving in more appropriate language. A few
exclamations also escaped Mrs. Budd, and Jack Tier had his sententious
eulogy on the precious qualities of sweet water.
The wind rose as the day advanced, and a swell began to heave the
wreck with a power that had hitherto been dormant. Mulford understood
this to be a sign that there had been a blow at some distance from
them, that had thrown the sea into a state of agitation, which extended
itself beyond the influence of the wind. Eagerly did the young mate
examine the horizon, as the curtain of night arose, inch by inch, as it
might be, on the watery panorama, in the hope that a vessel of some
sort or other might be brought within the view. Nor was he wholly
disappointed. The strange sail seen the previous evening was actually
there; and what was more, so near as to allow her hull to be distinctly
visible. It was a ship, under her square canvas, standing from between
divided portions of the reef, as if getting to the northward, in order
to avoid the opposing current of the Gulf Stream. Vessels bound to
Mobile, New Orleans, and other ports along the coast of the Republic,
in that quarter of the ocean, often did this; and when the young mate
first caught glimpses of the shadowy outline of this ship, he supposed
it to be some packet, or cotton-droger, standing for her port on the
northern shore. But a few minutes removed the veil, and with it the
error of this notion. A seaman could no longer mistake the craft. Her
length, her square and massive hamper, with the symmetry of her spars,
and the long, straight outline of the hull, left no doubt that it was a
cruiser, with her hammocks unstowed. Mulford now cheerfully announced
to his companions, that the ship they so plainly saw, scarcely a
gun-shot distant from them, was the sloop-of-war which had already
become a sort of an acquaintance.
"If we can succeed in making them see our signal," cried Mulford,
"all will yet be well. Come, Jack, and help me to put abroad this
shawl, the only ensign we can show."
The shawl of Rose was the signal spread. Tier and Mulford stood on
the keel, and holding opposite corners, let the rest of the cloth blow
out with the wind. For near an hour did these two extend their arms,
and try all possible expedients to make their signal conspicuous. But,
unfortunately, the wind blew directly toward the cruiser, and instead
of exposing a surface of any breadth to the vision of those on board
her, it must, at most, have offered little more than a flitting, waving
As the day advanced, sail was made on the cruiser. She had stood
through the passage, in which she had been becalmed most of the night,
under short canvas; but now she threw out fold after fold of her
studding-sails, and moved away to the westward, with the stately motion
of a ship before the wind. No sooner had she got far enough to
thenorthward of the reef, than she made a deviation from her course as
first seen, turning her stern entirely to the wreck, and rapidly
becoming less and less distinct to the eyes of those who floated on it.
Mulford saw the hopelessness of their case, as it respected relief
from this vessel; still, he persevered in maintaining his position on
the keel, tossing and waving the shawl, in all the variations that his
ingenuity could devise. He well knew, however, that their chances of
being seen would have been trebled could they have been ahead instead
of astern of the ship. Mariners have few occasions to look behind them,
while a hundred watchful eyes are usually turned ahead, more especially
when running near rocks and shoals. Mrs. Budd wept like an infant when
she saw the sloop-of-war gliding away, reaching a distance that
rendered sight useless, in detecting an object that floated as low on
the water as the wreck. As for Biddy, unable to control her feelings,
the poor creature actually called to the crew of the departing vessel,
as if her voice had the power to make itself heard, at a distance which
already exceeded two leagues. It was only by means of the earnest
remonstrances of Rose, that the faithful creature could be quieted.
"Why will ye not come to our relaif?" she cried at the top of her
voice. "Here are we, helpless as new-born babies, and ye sailing away
from us in a conthrary way! D'ye not bethink you of the missus, who is
much of a sailor, but not sich a one as to sail on a wrack; and poor
Miss Rose, who is the char-rm and delight of all eyes. Only come and
take off Miss Rose, and lave the rest of us, if ye so likes; for it's a
sin and a shame to lave the likes of her to die in the midst of the
ocean, as if she was no betther nor a fish. Then it will be soon that
we shall ag'in feel the want of wather, and that, too, with nothing but
wather to be seen on all sides of us."
"It is of no use," said Harry, mournfully, stepping down from the
keel, and laying aside the shawl. "They cannot see us, and the distance
is now so great as to render it certain they never will. There is only
one hope left. We are evidently set to and fro by the tides, and it is
possible that by keeping in or near this passage, some other craft may
appear, and we be more fortunate. The relief of therain is a sign that
we are not forgotten by Divine Providence, and with such a protector we
ought not to despair."
A gloomy and scanty breaking of the fast succeeded. Each person had
one large mouthful of bread, which was all that prudence would
authorize Mulford to distribute. He attempted a pious fraud, however,
by placing his own allowance along with that of Rose's, under the
impression that her strength might not endure privation as well as his
own. But the tender solicitude of Rose was not to be thus deceived.
Judging of his wishes and motives by her own, she at once detected the
deception, and insisted on retaining no more than her proper share.
When this distribution was completed, and the meagre allowance taken,
only sufficient bread remained to make one more similar scanty meal, if
meal a single mouthful could be termed. As for the water, a want of
which would be certain to be felt as soon as the sun obtained its
noon-day power, the shawl was extended over it, in a way to prevent
evaporation as much as possible, and at the same time to offer some
resistance to the fluid's being washed from its shallow receptacle by
the motion of the wreck, which was sensibly increasing with the
increase of the wind and waves.
Mulford had next an anxious duty to perform. Throughout the whole
of the preceding day he had seen the air escaping from the hull, in an
incessant succession of small bubbles, which were formidable through
their numbers, if not through their size. The mate was aware that this
unceasing loss of the buoyant property of the wreck, must eventually
lead to their destruction, should no assistance come, and he had marked
the floating line, on the bottom of the vessel with his knife, ere
darkness set in, on the previous evening. No sooner did his thoughts
recur to this fact, after the excitement of the first hour of daylight
was over, than he stepped to the different places thus marked, and saw,
with an alarm that it would be difficult to describe, that the wreck
had actually sunk into the water several inches within the last few
hours. This was, indeed, menacing their security in a most serious
manner, setting a limit to their existence, which rendered all
precaution on the subject of food and water useless. By the
calculations of the mate, the wreck could not float more than
eight-and-fortyhours, should it continue to lose the air at the rate at
which it had been hitherto lost. Bad as all this appeared, things were
fated to become much more serious. The motion of the water quite
sensibly increased, lifting the wreck at times in a way greatly to
increase the danger of their situation. The reader will understand this
movement did not proceed from the waves of the existing wind, but from
what is technically called a ground-swell, or the long, heavy
undulations that are left by the tempest that is past, or by some
distant gale. The waves of the present breeze were not very formidable,
the reef making a lee; though they might possibly become inconvenient
from breaking on the weather side of the wreck, as soon as the drift
carried the latter fairly abreast of the passage already mentioned. But
the dangers that proceeded from the heavy ground-swell, which now began
to give a considerable motion to the wreck, will best explain itself by
narrating the incidents as they occurred.
Harry had left his marks, and had taken his seat on the keel at
Rose's side, impatiently waiting for any turn that Providence might
next give to their situation, when a heavy roll of the wreck first
attracted his attention to this new circumstance.
"If any one is thirsty," he observed quietly, "he or she had better
drink now, while it may be done. Two or three more such rolls as this
last will wash all the water from our gutters."
"Wather is a blessed thing," said Biddy, with a longing expression
of the eyes, "and it would be betther to swallow it than to let it be
"Then drink, for Heaven's sake, good woman—it may be the last
occasion that will offer."
"Sure am I that I would not touch a dhrap, while the missus and
Miss Rosy was a sufferin'."
"I have no thirst at all," answered Rose, sweetly, "and have
already taken more water than was good for me, with so little food on
"Eat another morsel of the bread, beloved," whispered Harry, in a
manner so urgent that Rose gratefully complied. "Drink, Biddy, and we
will come and share with you before the water is wasted by this
Biddy did as desired, and each knelt in turn and took a little of
the grateful fluid, leaving about a gill in the gutters for the use of
those whose lips might again become parched.
"Wather is a blessed thing," repeated Biddy, for the twentieth
time—"a blessed, blessed thing is wather!"
A little scream from Mrs. Budd, which was dutifully taken up by the
maid, interrupted the speech of the latter, and every eye was turned on
Mulford, as if to ask an explanation of the groaning sound that had
been heard within the wreck. The young mate comprehended only too well.
The rolling of the wreck had lifted a portion of the open hatchway
above the undulating surface of the sea, and a large quantity of the
pent air within the hold had escaped in a body. The entrance of water
to supply the vacuum had produced the groan. Mulford had made new marks
on the vessel's bottom with his knife, and he stepped down to them,
anxious and nearly heart-broken, to note the effect. That one surging
of the wreck had permitted air enough to escape to lower it in the
water several inches. As yet, however, the visible limits of their
floating foundation had not been sufficiently reduced to attract the
attention of the females; and the young man said nothing on the
subject. He thought that Jack Tier was sensible of the existence of
this new source of danger, but if he were, that experienced mariner
imitated his own reserve, and made no allusion to it. Thus passed the
day. Occasionally the wreck rolled heavily, when more air escaped, the
hull settling lower and lower in the water as a necessary consequence.
The little bubbles continued incessantly to rise, and Mulford became
satisfied that another day must decide their fate. Taking this view of
their situation, he saw no use in reserving their food, but encouraged
his companions to share the whole of what remained at sunset. Little
persuasion was necessary, and when night once more came to envelope
them in darkness, not a mouthful of food or a drop of water remained to
meet the necessities of the coming morn. It had rained again for a
short time, in the course of the afternoon, when enough water had been
caught to allay their thirst, and what was almost of as much importance
to the females now, a sufficiency of sun had succeeded to dry their
clothes, thus enabling them to sleep without enduring the chilling
dampsthat might otherwise have prevented it. The wind had sensibly
fallen, and the ground-swell was altogether gone, but Mulford was
certain that the relief had come too late. So much air had escaped
while it lasted as scarce to leave him the hope that the wreck could
float until morning. The rising of the bubbles was now incessant, the
crevices by which they escaped having most probably opened a little, in
consequence of the pressure and the unceasing action of the currents,
small as the latter were.
Just as darkness was shutting in around them for the second time,
Rose remarked to Mulford that it seemed to her that they had not as
large a space for their little world as when they were first placed on
it. The mate, however, successfully avoided an explanation; and when
the watch was again set for the night, the females lay down to seek
their repose, more troubled with apprehensions for a morrow of hunger
and thirst, than by any just fears that might so well have arisen from
the physical certainty that the body which alone kept them from being
engulfed in the sea, could float but a few hours longer. This night
Tier kept the look-out until Jupiter reached the zenith, when Mulford
was called to hold the watch until light returned.
It may seem singular that any could sleep at all in such a
situation. But we get accustomed, in an incredibly short time, to the
most violent changes; and calamities that seem insupportable, when
looked at from a distance, lose half their power if met and resisted
with fortitude. The last may, indeed, be too insignificant a word to be
applied to all of the party on the wreck, on the occasion of which we
are writing, though no one of them all betrayed fears that were
troublesome. Of Mulford it is unnecessary to speak. His deportment had
been quiet, thoughtful, and full of a manly interest in the comfort of
others, from the first moment of the calamity. That Rose should share
the largest in his attentions was natural enough, but he neglected no
essential duty to her companions. Rose, herself, had little hope of
being rescued. Her naturally courageous character, however, prevented
any undue exhibitions of despair, and now it was that the niece became
the principal support of the aunt, completely changing the relations
that had formerly existed between them. Mrs. Budd had lost all the
little buoyancy of her mind. Not a syllable did she now utter
concerning ships and their manœuvres. She had been, at first, a little
disposed to be querulous and despairing, but the soothing and pious
conversation of Rose awakened a certain degree of resolution in her,
and habit soon exercised its influence over even her inactive mind.
Biddy was a strange mixture of courage, despair, humility, and
consideration for others. Not once had she taken her small allowance of
food without first offering it, and that, too, in perfect good faith,
to her "Missus and Miss Rosy;" yet her moanings for this sort of
support, and her complaints of bodily suffering much exceeded that of
all the rest of the party put together. As for Jack Tier, his conduct
singularly belied his appearance. No one would have expected any great
show of manly resolution from the little rotund, lymphatic figure of
Tier; but he had manifested a calmness that denoted either great
natural courage, or a resolution derived from familiarity with danger.
In this particular, even Mulford regarded his deportment with surprise,
not unmingled with respect.
"You have had a tranquil watch, Jack," said Harry, when he was
called by the person named, and had fairly aroused himself from his
slumbers. "Has the wind stood as it is since sunset?"
"No change whatever, sir. It has blown a good working breeze the
whole watch, and what is surprising not as much lipper has got up as
would frighten a colt on a sea-beach."
"We must be near the reef, by that. I think the only currents we
feel come from the tide, and they seem to be setting us back and forth,
instead of carrying us in any one settled direction."
"Quite likely, sir; and this makes my opinion of what I saw an hour
since all the more probable."
"What you saw! In the name of a merciful Providence, Tier, do not
trifle with me! Has any thing been seen near by?"
"Don't talk to me of your liquors and other dhrinks," murmured
Biddy in her sleep. "It's wather that is a blessed thing; and I wish I
lived, the night and the day, by the swate pump that's in our own yard,
"The woman has been talking in her sleep, in this fashion,most of
the watch," observed Jack, coolly, and perhaps a little contemptuously.
"But, Mr. Mulford, unless my eyes have cheated me, we are near that
boat again. The passage through the reef is close aboard us, here, on
our larboard bow, as it might be, and the current has sucked us in it
in a fashion to bring it in a sort of athwart-hawse direction to us."
"If that boat, after all, should be sent by Providence to our
relief! How long is it since you saw it, Jack."
"But a bit since, sir; or, for that matter, I think I see it now.
Look hereaway, sir, just where the dead-eyes of the fore-rigging would
bear from us, if the craft stood upon her legs, as she ought to do. If
that isn't a boat, it's a rock out of water."
Mulford gazed through the gloom of midnight, and saw, or fancied he
saw, an object that might really be the boat. It could not be very
distant either; and his mind was instantly made up as to the course he
would pursue. Should it actually turn out to be that which he now so
much hoped for, and its distance in the morning did not prove too great
for human powers, he was resolved to swim for it at the hazard of his
life. In the meantime, or until light should return, there remained
nothing to do but to exercise as much patience as could be summoned,
and to confide in God, soliciting his powerful succour by secret
Mulford was no sooner left alone, as it might be, by Tier's seeking
a place in which to take his rest, than he again examined the state of
the wreck. Little as he had hoped from its long-continued buoyancy, he
found matters even worse than he apprehended they would be. The hull
had lost much air, and had consequently sunk in the water in an exact
proportion to this loss. The space that was actually above the water,
was reduced to an area not more than six or seven feet in one
direction, by some ten or twelve in the other. This was reducing its
extent, since the evening previous, by fully one-half; and there could
be no doubt that the air was escaping, in consequence of the additional
pressure, in a ratio that increased by a sort of arithmetical
progression. The young man knew that the whole wreck, under its
peculiar circumstances, might sink entirely beneath the surface, and
yet possess sufficientbuoyancy to sustain those that were on it for a
time longer, but this involved the terrible necessity of leaving the
females partly submerged themselves.
Our mate heard his own heart beat, as he became satisfied of the
actual condition of the wreck, and of the physical certainty that
existed of its sinking, at least to the point last mentioned, ere the
sun came to throw his glories over the last view that the sufferers
would be permitted to take of the face of day. It appeared to him that
no time was to be lost. There lay the dim and shapeless object that
seemed to be the boat, distant, as he thought, about a mile. It would
not have been visible at all but for the perfect smoothness of the sea,
and the low position occupied by the observer. At times it did
disappear altogether, when it would rise again, as if undulating in the
ground-swell. This last circumstance, more than any other, persuaded
Harry that it was not a rock, but some floating object that he beheld.
Thus encouraged, he delayed no longer. Every moment was precious, and
all might be lost by indecision. He did not like the appearance of
deserting his companions, but, should he fail, the motive would appear
in the act. Should he fail, every one would alike soon be beyond the
reach of censure, and in a state of being that would do full justice to
Harry threw off most of his clothes, reserving only his shirt and a
pair of light summer trowsers. He could not quit the wreck, however,
without taking a sort of leave of Rose. On no account would he awake
her, for he appreciated the agony she would feel during the period of
his struggles. Kneeling at her side, he made a short prayer, then
pressed his lips to her warm cheek, and left her. Rose murmured his
name at that instant, but it was as the innocent and young betray their
secrets in their slumbers. Neither of the party awoke.
It was a moment to prove the heart of man, that in which Harry
Mulford, in the darkness of midnight, alone, unsustained by any
encouraging eye, or approving voice, with no other aid than his own
stout arm, and the unknown designs of a mysterious Providence,
committed his form to the sea. For an instant he paused, after he had
waded down on the wreck to a spot where the water alreadymounted to his
breast, but it was not in misgivings. He calculated the chances, and
made an intelligent use of such assistance as could be had. There had
been no sharks near the wreck that day, but a splash in the water might
bring them back again in a crowd. They were probably prowling over the
reef, near at hand. The mate used great care, therefore, to make no
noise. There was the distant object, and he set it by a bright star,
that wanted about an hour before it would sink beneath the horizon.
That star was his beacon, and muttering a few words in earnest prayer,
the young man threw his body forward, and left the wreck, swimming
lightly but with vigour.
END OF VOL. I.