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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 aboard her.”
“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 get here.”
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.
6 What became of the gentleman in the boat, as you call him ?" demanded Spike.
“ 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 consarning him."
“What sort of a boat was he in, and where did he get it?"
6 Well, as to the boat, sir, I can say a word, seein' it was 50 much to my mind, and pulled so wonderful smart. It was a light ship’s yawl, with four oars, and came round the Hook jusi 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 snug.'
“ 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 ong, 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 hope, Jack ?"
“ 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 her, then ?"
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 baving 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 stranger ?".
“Oh! I told him I'd been six v'y'ges in the brig. The first was to Madagascar-”
“ The d- 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.”
6 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-." 6 '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 bet. ter for a vessel than a clean bill of health. Was there no. thing said about the revenue-steamer ?”
“ 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 un. der 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 il 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 inti. mated, 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 execution.
While these things were floating in his mind, Mrs. Budd and her handsome niece were making preparations for pass ing 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 seawoman. ship below decks, as she had been above board. The effect, however, gave Spike great satisfaction, since it kept her out uf sight, and left him more at liberty to carry out his own plans. About nine, however, the good woman came on
deck, intending to take a look at the weather, like a skilful mariperess 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 de. ceived 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 females