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sloop; Lyon having, in his eagerness to get the prize before she could be seen from the other ships, carried the Ringdove quite within the bay, and thus misled Cuffe and Sir Frede rick.
"There can no longer be any doubt!" exclaimed the captain of the Proserpine, dropping his glass, with vexation too strongly painted in his manner to be mistaken; "that is a ship; and, as you say, Winchester, it must be the Ringdove; though what the devil Lyon is doing away in there with her, unless he sees something close under the land, is more than I can tell. As there is clearly nothing in this quarter, we will stand on, and take a look for ourselves." This nearly destroyed the hope of success. The officers began to suspect that their look-out on Campanella had been deceived, and that what he had supposed to be a lugger, was, in truth, a felucca, or perhaps a xebec; a craft which might well be mistaken for a lugger, at the distance of a few leagues. The error, however, was with those in the ship. The officer sent upon the heights was a shrewd, practised master's-mate, who knew everything about his profession, that properly came within his line, and knew little else. But for a habit of drinking, he would long since have been a lieutenant, being, in truth, an older sailor than Winchester; but, satisfied of his own infirmity, and coming from a class in life in which preferment was viewed as a God-send, rather than as a right, he had long settled down into the belief that he was to live and die in his present station, thereby losing most of the desire to rise. The name of this man was Clinch. In consequence of his long experience, within the circle of his duties, his opinion was greatly respected by his superiors, when he was sober; and, as he had the precaution not to be otherwise, when engaged on service, his weakness seldom brought him into any serious difficulties. Cuffe, as a last hope, had sent him up on the heights of Campanella, with a perfect conviction that, if anything were really in sight, he would not fail to see it. All this confidence, however, had now ended in disappointment; and, half-an-hour later, when it was announced to Cuffe, that "the cutter, with Mr. Clinch, was coming down the bay towards them," the former even heard the name of his drunken favourite with disgust. As was usual with him, when out of humour, he
went below, as the boat drew near, leaving orders for her officer to be sent down to him, the instant the latter got on board. Five minutes later, Clinch thrust his hard-looking, weather-beaten, but handsome red countenance in at the cabin-door.
"Well, sir," commenced the captain, on a tolerably high key—“a d- -d pretty wild goose chase you've sent us all on, down here, into this bay! The southerly wind is failing already, and, in half-an-hour, the ships will be frying the pitch off their decks, without a breath of air: when the wind does come, it will come out at west, and bring us all four or five leagues dead to leeward!"
Clinch's experience had taught him the useful man-of-war lesson, to bow to the tempest, and not to attempt to brave it. Whenever he was "rattled-down," as he called it, he had the habit of throwing an expression of surprise, comically blended with contrition, into his countenance that seemed to say, "what have I done, now ?"—or, "if I have done any. thing amiss, you see how sorry I am for it." He met his irritated commander, on the present occasion, with this expression, and it produced the usual effect of mollifying him, a little.
"Well, sir-explain this matter, if you please,” con tinued Cuffe, after a moment's hesitation.
"Will you please to tell me, sir, what you wish explained?" inquired Clinch, throwing more surprise than common, even, into his countenance.
"That is an extraordinary question, Mr. Clinch! I wish the signal you made from yonder head-land explained, sir. Did you not signal the ship, to say that you saw the le Few-Folly down here, at the southward!"
"Well, sir, I'm glad there was no mistake in the matter,' answered Clinch, in a confident and a relieved manner. " I was afraid, at first, Captain Cuffe, my signal had not been understood."
"Understood!-How could it be mistaken? You showed a black ball, for 'the lugger's in sight.' You'll not deny that, I trust?"
"No, sir- one black ball, for the lugger's in sight.' 'That's just what I did show, Captain Cuffe."
And three black balls together, for 'she bears due south from Capri.' What do you say to that?"
"All right, sir. Three black balls together, for 'she bears due south from Capri.' I didn't tell the distance, Captain Cuffe, because Mr. Winchester gave me no signals for that."
"And these signals you kept showing every half-hour, as long as it was light; even until the Proserpine was off." "All according to orders, Captain Cuffe, as Mr. Winchester will tell you. I was to repeat every half-hour, as long as the lugger was in sight, and the day lasted."
Ay, sir; but you were not ordered to send us after a jack-o'-lantern, or to mistake some xebec or other, from one of the Greek islands, for a light, handy French lugger."
"Nor did I, Captain Cuffe, begging your pardon, sir. I signalled the Few-Folly, and nothing else, I give you my word for it."
Cuffe looked hard at the master's-mate for half a minute, and his ire insensibly lessened as he gazed.
"You are too old a seaman, Clinch, not to know what you were about! If you saw the privateer, be good enough to tell us what has become of her?"
"That is more than I can say, Captain Cuffe, though see her I did; and that so plainly, as to be able to make out her jigger, even. You know, sir, we shot away her jiggermast in the chase off Elba, and she got a new one that steves for❜rard uncommonly. I noticed that when we fell in with her in the canal of Piombino; and seeing it again, could not but know it. But there's no mistaking the saucy Folly, for them that has once seen her; and I am certain we made her out, about four leagues to the southward of the cape, at the time I first signalled."
"Four leagues!-I had thought she must be at least eight or ten, and kept off that distance, to get her in the net. Why did you not let us know her distance?"
"Had no signals for that, Captain Cuffe."
"Well, then, why not send a boat to tell us the fact?" "Had no orders, sir. Was told by Mr. Winchester just to signal the lugger and her bearings; and this, you must own, Captain Cuffe, we did plain enough. Besides, sir—-”
"Well; besides what?" demanded the captain, observing that the master's-mate hesitated.
Why, sir, how was I to know that any one in the ship would think a lugger could be seen eight or ten leagues? That's a long bit of water, sir; and it would take a heavy ship's spars to rise high enough for such a sight.'
"The land you were on, Clinch, was much loftier than any vessel's spars."
"Quite true, sir; but not lofty enough for that, Captain Cuffe. That I saw the Folly, I'm as certain as I am of being in this cabin.”
"What has become of her, then? not in the bay now."
- You perceive she is
"I suppose, Captain Cuffe, that she stood in until near enough for her purpose, and that she must have hauled off the land, after night set in. There was plenty of room for her to pass out to sea again between the two frigates, and not be seen in the dark."
This conjecture was so plausible, as to satisfy Cuffe; and yet it was not the fact. Clinch had made le Feu-Follet, from his elevated post, to the southward, as his signal had said; and he was right in all his statements about her, until darkness concealed her movements. Instead of passing out of the Bay, as he imagined, however, she had hauled up within a quarter of a league of Campanella, doubled that point, brushed along the coast to the northward of it, fairly within the Bay of Naples, and pushed out to sea, between Capri and Ischia; going directly athwart the anchorage the men-of-war had so recently quitted, in order to do so.
When Raoul quitted his vessel, he ordered her to stand directly off the land, just keeping Ischia and Capri in view, lying-to under her jigger. As this was low sail, and a lugger shows so little aloft, it was a common expedient with cruisers of that rig, when they wished to escape observation. Monsieur Pintard, Raoul's first-lieutenant, had expected a signal from his commander at the very spot where Clinch had taken his station; but seeing none, he had swept along the coast, after dark, in the hope of discovering his position by the burning of a blue-light. Failing of this, however, he went off the land again, in time to get an offing before the return of day, and to save the wind. It was the boldness
of the manœuvre, that saved the lugger; Lyon going out through the pass between Capri and Campanella, about twenty minutes before Pintard brushed close round the rocks, under his jigger and jib only, anxiously looking out for a signal from his captain. The Frenchmen saw the sloop-of-war quite plainly, and, by the aid of their nightglasses, ascertained her character; mistaking her, however, for another ship, bound to Sicily or Malta; while their own vessel escaped observation, owing to the little sail she carried, the want of hamper, and her situation so near the land, which gave her a back-ground of rocks. Clinch had not seen the movements of the lugger after dark, in consequence of his retiring to the village of St. Agata to seek lodgings, as soon as he perceived that his own ship had gone to sea, and left him and his boat's crew behind. The following morning, when he made the ship to the southward, he pushed off, and pulled towards his proper vessel, as related.
"Where did you pass the night, Clinch ?" demanded the captain, after they had discussed the probabilities of the lugger's escape. "Not on the heights, under the canopy of
"On the heights, and under the great canopy that has covered us both so often, Captain Cuffe; but with a gooa Neapolitan mud-roof between it and my head. As soon as it was dark, and I saw that the ship was off, I found a vil. lage named St. Agata, that stands on the heights, just abeam of those rocks they call the Sirens, and there we were well berthed until morning."
"You are lucky in bringing back all the boat's crew, Clinch. You know it's low-water with us as to men, just now; and our fellows are not all to be trusted ashore, in a country that is full of stone walls, good wine, and pretty girls.'
"I always take a set of regular steady-ones with me, Captain Cuffe; I haven't lost a man from a boat, these five years."
"You must have some secret, then, worth knowing; for even the admirals sometimes lose their barge-men. I dare say, now, yours are all married chaps, that hold on to their wives, as so many sheet-anchors; they say that is often a good expedient."