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looking a little misty and distant. She might then have been half a league distant, and would not have been visible at all by that light, but for the circumstance that she had no back-ground to swallow up her outlines. Drawn against clouds, above which the rays of the moon were shed, her tracery was to be discerned, however, and, minute by minute, it was getting to be more and more distinct, until it was now so plainly to be seen as to admonish the mate of the necessity of preparation in the manner mentioned. Tier now communicated to the mate his own proposed manner of proceeding. The brig tended to the trades, the tides having very little influence on her, in the bight of the reef where she lay. As the wind stood at about east southeast, the brig's stern pointed to about west north-west, while the boat was coming down the passage from a direction nearly north from her, having, as a matter of course, the wind just free enough to lay her course. Jack's plan was to pass the brig to windward, and having got well on her bow, to brail the sail, and drift down upon her, expecting to fall in alongside, abreast of the fore-chains, into which he had intended to help Biddy, and to ascend himself, when he supposed that Mulford would again make sail, and carry off his mistress. To this scheme the mate objected that it was awkward, and a little lubberly. He substituted one in its place that differed in seamanship, and which was altogether better. Instead of passing to windward, Mulford suggested the expediency of approaching to leeward, and of coming alongside under the open bowport, letting the sheet fly and brailing the sail, when the boat should be near enough to carry her to the point of destination without further assistance from her canvass.
Jack Tier took his officer's improvement on his own plan in perfect good part, readily and cheerfully expressing his willingness to aid the execution of it all that lay in his power. As the boat sailed unusually well, there was barely time to explain to each individual his or her part in the approaching critical movements, ere the crisis itself drew near; then each of the party became silent and anxious, and events were regarded rather than words.
It is scarcely necessary to say that Mulford sailed a boat well. He held the sheet in his hand, as the little craft
came up under the lee-quarter of the brig, while Jack stood by the brail. The eyes of the mate glanced over the hull of the vessel to ascertain, if possible, who might be stirring; but not a sign of life could he detect on board her. This very silence made Mulford more distrustful and anxious, for he feared a trap was set for him. He expected to see the head of one of the blacks at least peering over the bulwarks, but nothing like a man was visible. It was too late to pause, however, and the sheet was slowly eased off, Jack hauling on the brail at the same time; the object being to prevent the sail's flapping, and the sound reaching the ears of Spike. As Mulford used great caution, and had previously schooled Jack on the subject, this important point was successfully achieved. Then the mate put his helm down, and the boat shot up under the brig's lee-bow. Jack was ready to lay hold of one of the bow-sprit shrouds, and presently the boat was breasted up under the desired port, and secured in that position. Mulford quitted the sternsheets, and cast a look in upon deck. Nothing was to be seen, though he heard the heavy breathing of the blacks, both of whom were sound asleep on a sail that they had spread on the forecastle.
The mate whispered for Biddy to come to the port. This the Irishwoman did at once, having kissed Rose, and taken her leave of her previously. Tier also came to the port, through which he passed, getting on deck with a view to assist Biddy, who was awkward, almost as a matter of course, to pass through the same opening. He had just succeeded, when the whole party was startled, some of them almost petrified, indeed, by a hail from the quarter-deck in the well-known, deep tones of Spike.
"For'ard, there?" hailed the captain. Receiving no answer, he immediately repeated, in a shorter, quicker call," Forecastle, there?"
Sir," answered Jack Tier, who by this time had come to his senses.
"Who has the look-out on that forecastle?"
"I have it, sir—I, Jack Tier.
have it from two 'till daylight."
Ay, ay, I remember now. her anchor ?"
You know, sir, I was to
How does the brig ride to
"As steady as a church, sir. She's had no more sheer the whole watch than if she was moored head and starn." "Does the wind stand as it did?"
"No change, sir. As dead a trade wind as ever blowed." "What hard breathing is that I hear for'ard?"
""Tis the two niggers, sir. They've turned in on deck, and are napping it off at the rate of six knots. There's no keepin' way with a nigger in snorin'."
"I thought I heard loud whispering, too, but I suppose it was a sort of half-dream. I'm often in that way now-adays. Jack!"
"Go to the scuttle-butt and get me a pot of fresh water -my coppers are hot with hard thinking."
Jack did as ordered, and soon stood beneath the coachhouse deck with Spike, who had come out of his state-room, heated and uneasy at he knew not what. The captain drank a full pint of water at a single draught. "That's refreshing," he said, returning Jack the tinpot," and I feel the cooler for it. How much does it want
of daylight, Jack?"
"Two hours, I think, sir. The order was passed to me to have all hands called as soon as it was broad day."
Ay, that is right. We must get our anchor and be off as soon as there is light to do it in. Doubloons may melt as well as flour, and are best cared for soon when cared for at all."
"I shall see and give the call as soon as it is day. I hope, Captain Spike, I can take the liberty of an old shipmate, however, and say one thing to you, which is thislook out for the Poughkeepsie, which is very likely to be on your heels when you least expect her."
"That's your way of thinking, is it, Jack. Well, I thank you, old one, for the hint, but have little fear of that craft. We've had our legs together, and I think the brig has the longest."
As the captain said this, he gaped like a hound, and went into his state-room. Jack lingered on the quarterdeck, waiting to hear him fairly in his berth, when he made a sign to Biddy, who had got as far aft as the galley, where she was secreted, to pass down into the cabin, as silently
as possible. In a minute or two more, he moved forward, singing in a low, cracked voice, as was often his practice, and slowly made his way > the forecastle. Mulford was just beginning to think the fellow had changed his mind, and meant to stick by the brig, when the little, rotund figure of the assistant-steward was seen passing through the port, and to drop noiselessly on a thwart. Jack then moved to the bow, and cast off the painter, the head of the boat slowly falling off under the pressure of the breeze on that part of her mast and sail which rose above the hull of the Swash. Almost at the same moment, the mate let go the stern-fast, and the boat was free.
It required some care to set the sail without the canvas flapping. It was done, however, before the boat fairly took the breeze, when all was safe. In half a minute the wind struck the sail, and away the little craft started, passing swiftly ahead of the brig. Soon as far enough off, Mulford put up his helm and wore short round, bringing the boat's head to the northward, or in its proper direction; after which they flew along before the wind, which seemed to be increasing in force, with a velocity that really appeared to defy pursuit. All this time the brig lay in its silence and solitude, no one stirring on board her, and all, in fact, Biddy alone excepted, profoundly ignorant of what had just been passing alongside of her. Ten minutes of running off with a flowing sheet, caused the Swash to look indistinct and hazy again; in ten minutes more she was swallowed up, hull, spars, and all, in the gloom of night.
Mulford and Rose now felt something like that security, without the sense of which happiness itself is but an uneasy feeling, rendering the anticipations of evil the more painful by the magnitude of the stake. There they sat, now, in the stern-sheets by themselves, Jack Tier having placed himself near the bows of the boat, to look out fo. rocks, as well as to trim the craft. It was not long before Rose was leaning on Harry's shoulder, and ere an hour was past, she had fallen into a sweet sleep in that attitude, the young man having carefully covered her person with a capacious shawl, the same that had been used on the wreckAs for Jack, he maintained his post in silence, sitting with his arms crossed, and the hands thrust into the breast of
his jacket, sailor fashion, a picture of nautical vigilance. It was some time after Rose had fallen asleep, that this singular being spoke for the first time.
Keep her away a bit, maty," he said, "keep her away, half a point or so. She's been travelin' like a racer since we left the brig; and yonder's the first streak of day."
By the time we have been running," observed Mulford, "I should think we must be getting near the northern side of the reef."
"All of that, sir, depend on it. Here's a rock close aboard on us, to which we're comin' fast-just off here, on our weather-bow, that looks to me like the place where you landed a'ter that swim, and where we had stowed ourselves when Stephen Spike made us out, and gave chase.” "It is surprising to me, Jack, that you should have any fancy to stick by a man of Spike's character. He is a precious rascal, as we all can see, now, and you are rather an honest sort of fellow."
"Do you love the young woman there, that's lying in your arms, as it might be, and whom you say you wish to marry."
"The question is a queer one, but it is easily answered. More than my life, Jack."
Well, how happens it that you succeed, when the world has so many other young men who might please her as well as yourself."
"It may be that no other loves her as well, and she has had the sagacity to discover it.”
"Quite likely. So it is with me and Stephen Spike. I fancy a man whom other folk despise and condemn. Why I stand by him is my own secret; but stand by him I do and will."
"This is all very strange, after your conduct on the island, and your conduct to-night. I shall not disturb your secret, however, Jack, but leave you to enjoy it by yourself. Is this the rock of which you spoke, that we are now passing?"
"The same; and there's the spot in which we was stowed when they made us out from the brig; and hereaway, a cable's length, more or less, the wreck of that Mexican craft must lie."