Part 1 out of 10
Edited by Charles Aldarondo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
THE FLORIDA REEF.
BY THE AUTHOR OF
"THE PILOT," "RED ROVER," "TWO ADMIRALS," "WING AND
WING," "MILES WALLINGFORD," ETC.
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 rules.
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 an
American 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
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 lay more 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
"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
"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
"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 about it."
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
to dwell 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 it.
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 revenue flag 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 eye.
"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
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 about Rose 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
"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 plank-sheer of the
bulwarks, in the act of passing to the wharf again. On reaching the
shore, he turned and looked intently at 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 steamer.
"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
"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 sea-worthiness. 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 just proportions.
By half-past two, P. M., everything was ready for getting the
brigantine under way. Her fore-topsail--or foretawsail 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 see over 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 is, sir!"
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, &c., 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 deep-blue 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 from wishing 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 minuti‘. The only ostensible difference
between his 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 her go."
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 foretopsail 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-four hours 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
"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 inertioe 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
"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
"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; turned full 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 life.
"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
"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
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,
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 be found 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 quarter-deck, nudder."
"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 'emself."
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 pilgrimage on 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
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
"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 surprise--"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 ingenuous and 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 question--"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
"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
"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 spirits--"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 opportunity offered.
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 branch."
"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
"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.
"Watch. If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on
Dogb. 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 colour.
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 mighty wind,
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
"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 country.
"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
"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 look."
"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 be tried 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
"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
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
"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
"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 manoeuvres, 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
board the 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
"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
"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
"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 beings."
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 gravity,
"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 was desirable.
"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
"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 changes which 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
"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 aboard her."
"And where did you quit that gentleman, and what has become of him?"
"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.
"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 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 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
"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 execution.
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 on deck, 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 females re-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.