Part 3 out of 10
back-stays, bringing down all the forrard hamper about our ears."
This description produced such a confusion in the mind of the widow,
that she was glad when it came to an end. As for the captain,
fearful that the "goose's wings" might be touched upon again, he
thought it wisest to attempt another flight on those of Cupid.
"As I was sayin', Madam Budd, friendship is n't love; no, not a bit
of it! Friendship is a common sort of feelin': but love, as you must
know by exper'ence, Madam Budd, is an uncommon sort of feelin'."
"Fie, Captain Spike, gentlemen should never allude to ladies knowing
any thing about love. Ladies respect, and admire, and esteem, and
have a regard for gentlemen; but it is almost too strong to talk
about their love."
"Yes, Madam Budd, yes; I dare say it is so, and ought to be so; and
I ask pardon for having said as much as I did. But my love for your
niece is of so animated and lastin' a natur', that I scarce know
what I did say."
"Captain Spike, you amaze me! I declare I can hardly breathe for
astonishment. My niece! Surely you do not mean Rosy!"
"Who else should I mean? My love for Miss Rose is so very decided
and animated, I tell you, Madam Budd, that I will not answer for the
consequences, should you not consent to her marryin' me."
"I can scarce believe my ears! You, Stephen Spike, and an old friend
of her uncle's, wishing to marry his niece!"
"Just so, Madam Budd; that's it, to a shavin'. The regard I have for
the whole family is so great, that nothin' less than the hand of
Miss Rose in marriage can, what I call, mitigate my feelin's."
Now the relict had not one spark of tenderness herself in behalf of
Spike; while she did love Rose better than any human being, her own
self excepted. But she had viewed all the sentiment of that morning,
and all the fine speeches of the captain, very differently from what
the present state of things told her she ought to have viewed them;
and she felt the mortification natural to her situation. The captain
was so much bent on the attainment of his own object, that he saw
nothing else, and was even unconscious that his extraordinary and
somewhat loud discourse had been overheard. Least of all did he
suspect that his admiration had been mistaken; and that in what he
called "courtin'" the niece, he had been all the while "courtin'"
the aunt. But little apt as she was to discover any thing, Mrs. Budd
had enough of her sex's discernment in a matter of this sort, to
perceive that she had fallen into an awkward mistake, and enough of
her sex's pride to resent it. Taking her work in her hand, she left
her seat, and descended to the cabin, with quite as much dignity in
her manner as it was in the power of one of her height and "build"
to express. What is the most extraordinary, neither she nor Spike
ever ascertained that their whole dialogue had been overheard. Spike
continued to pace the quarter-deck for several minutes, scarce
knowing what to think of the relict's manner, when his attention was
suddenly drawn to other matters by the familiar cry of "sail-ho!"
This was positively the first vessel with which the Molly Swash had
fallen in since she lost sight of two or three craft that had passed
her in the distance, as she left the American coast. As usual, this
cry brought all hands on deck, and Mulford out of his state-room.
It has been stated already that the brig was just beginning to feel
the trades, and it might have been added, to see the mountains of
San Domingo. The winds had been variable for the last day or two,
and they still continued light, and disposed to be unsteady, ranging
from north-east to south-east, with a preponderance in favour of the
first point. At the cry of "sail-ho!" everybody looked in the
indicated direction, which was west, a little northerly, but for a
long time without success. The cry had come from aloft, and Mulford
went up as high as the fore-top before he got any glimpse of the
stranger at all. He had slung a glass, and Spike was unusually
anxious to know the result of his examination.
"Well, Mr. Mulford, what do you make of her?" he called out as soon
as the mate announced that he saw the strange vessel.
"Wait a moment, sir, till I get a look,--she's a long way off, and
"Well, sir, well?"
"I can only see the heads of her top-gallant sails. She seems a ship
steering to the southward, with as many kites flying as an Indiaman
in the trades. She looks as if she were carrying royal stun'-sails,
"The devil she does! Such a chap must not only be in a hurry, but he
must be strong-handed to give himself all this trouble in such light
and var'able winds. Are his yards square?--Is he man-of-war-ish?"
"There's no telling, sir, at this distance; though I rather think
its stun'-sails that I see. Go down and get your breakfast, and in
half an hour I'll give a better account of him."
This was done, Mrs. Budd appearing at the table with great dignity
in her manner. Although she had so naturally supposed that Spike's
attentions had been intended for herself, she was rather mortified
than hurt on discovering her mistake. Her appetite, consequently,
was not impaired, though her stomach might have been said to be very
full. The meal passed off without any scene, notwithstanding, and
Spike soon re-appeared on deck, still masticating the last mouthful
like a man in a hurry, and a good deal … l' Am‚ricaine. Mulford saw
his arrival, and immediately levelled his glass again.
"Well, what news now, sir?" called out the captain. "You must have a
better chance at him by this time, for I can see the chap from off
the coach-house here."
"Ay, ay, sir; he's a bit nearer, certainly. I should say that craft
is a ship under stun'-sails, looking to the eastward of south, and
that there are caps with gold bands on her quarter-deck."
"How low down can you see her?" demanded Spike, in a voice of
So emphatic and remarkable was the captain's manner in putting this
question, that the mate cast a look of surprise beneath him ere he
answered it. A look with the glass succeeded, when the reply was
"Ay, ay, sir; there can be no mistake--it's a cruiser, you may
depend on it. I can see the heads of her topsails now, and they are
so square and symmetrical, that gold bands are below beyond all
"Perhaps he's a Frenchman--Johnny Crapaud keeps cruisers in these
seas as well as the rest on'em."
"Johnny Crapaud's craft don't spread such arms, sir. The ship is
either English or American; and he's heading for the Mona Passage as
well as ourselves."
"Come down, sir, come down--there's work to be done as soon as you
Mulford did come down, and he was soon seated at the table, with
both Josh and Jack Tier for attendants. The aunt and the niece were
in their own cabin, a few yards distant, with the door open.
"What a fuss'e cap'in make 'bout dat sail," grumbled Josh, who had
been in the brig so long that he sometimes took liberties with even
Spike himself. "What good he t'ink t'will do to measure him inch by
inch? Bye'm by he get alongside, and den 'e ladies even can tell all
"He nat'rally wishes to know who gets alongside," put in Tier,
"What matter dat. All sort of folk get alongside of Molly Swash; and
what good it do 'em? Yoh! yoh! yoh! I do remem'er sich times vid'e
"What old hussy do you mean?" demanded Jack Tier a little fiercely,
and in a way to draw Mulford's eyes from the profile of Rose's face
to the visages of his two attendants.
"Come, come, gentlemen, if you please; recollect where you are,"
interrupted the mate authoritatively. "You are not now squabbling in
your galley, but are in the cabin. What is it to you, Tier, if Josh
does call the brig an old hussy; she is old, as we all know, and
years are respectable; and as for her being a `hussy,' that is a
term of endearment sometimes. I've heard the captain himself call
the Molly a `hussy,' fifty times, and he loves her as he does the
apple of his eye."
This interference put an end to the gathering storm as a matter of
course, and the two disputants shortly after passed on deck. No
sooner was the coast clear than Rose stood in the door of her own
"Do you think the strange vessel is an American?" she asked eagerly.
"It is impossible to say--English or American I make no doubt. But
why do you inquire?"
"But my aunt and myself desire to quit the brig, and if the stranger
should prove to be an American vessel of war, might not the occasion
"And what reason can you give for desiring to do so?"
"What signifies a reason," answered Rose with spirit. "Spike is not
our master, and we can come and go as we may see fit."
"But a reason must be given to satisfy the commander of the vessel
of war. Craft of that character are very particular about the
passengers they receive; nor would it be altogether wise in two
unprotected females to go on board a cruiser, unless in a case of
the most obvious necessity."
"Will not what has passed this morning be thought a sufficient
reason," added Rose, drawing nearer to the mate, and dropping her
voice so as not to be heard by her aunt.
Mulford smiled as he gazed at the earnest but attractive countenance
of his charming companion.
"And who could tell it, or how could it be told? Would the commander
of a vessel of war incur the risk of receiving such a person as
yourself on board his vessel, for the reason that the master of the
craft she was in when he fell in with her desired to marry her?"
Rose appeared vexed, but she was at once made sensible that it was
not quite as easy to change her vessel at sea, as to step into a
strange door in a town. She drew slowly back into her own cabin
silent and thoughtful; her aunt pursuing her netting the whole time
with an air of dignified industry.
"Well, Mr. Mulford, well," called out Spike at the head of the cabin
stairs, "what news from the coffee?"
"All ready, sir," answered the mate, exchanging significant glances
with Rose. "I shall be up in a moment."
That moment soon came, and Mulford was ready for duty. While below,
Spike had caused certain purchases to be got aloft, and the
main-hatch was open and the men collected around it, in readiness to
proceed with the work. Harry asked no questions, for the
preparations told him what was about to be done, but passing below,
he took charge of the duty there, while the captain superintended
the part that was conducted on deck. In the course of the next hour
eight twelve-pound carronades were sent up out of the hold, and
mounted in as many of the ports which lined the bulwarks of the
brigantine. The men seemed to be accustomed to the sort of work in
which they were now engaged, and soon had their light batteries in
order, and ready for service. In the mean time the two vessels kept
on their respective courses, and by the time the guns were mounted,
there was a sensible difference in their relative positions. The
stranger had drawn so near the brigantine as to be very obvious from
the latter's deck, while the brigantine had drawn so much nearer to
the islands of San Domingo and Porto Rico, as to render the opening
between them, the well-known Mona Passage, distinctly visible.
Of all this Spike appeared to be fully aware, for he quitted the
work several times before it was finished, in order to take a look
at the stranger, and at the land. When the batteries were arranged,
he and Mulford, each provided with a glass, gave a few minutes to a
more deliberate examination of the first.
"That's the Mona ahead of us," said the captain; "of that there can
be no question, and a very pretty land-fall you've made of it,
Harry. I'll allow you to be as good a navigator as floats."
"Nevertheless, sir, you have not seen fit to let me know whither the
brig is really bound this voyage."
"No matter for that, young man--no matter, as yet. All in good time.
When I tell you to lay your course for the Mona, you can lay your
course for the Mona; and, as soon as we are through the passage,
I'll let you know what is wanted next--if that bloody chap, who is
nearing us, will let me."
"And why should any vessel wish to molest us on our passage, Captain
"Why, sure enough! It's war-times, you know, and war-times always
bring trouble to the trader--though it sometimes brings profit,
As Spike concluded, he gave his mate a knowing wink, which the other
understood to mean that he expected himself some of the unusual
profit to which he alluded. Mulford did not relish this secret
communication, for the past had induced him to suspect the character
of the trade in which his commander was accustomed to engage.
Without making any sort of reply, or encouraging the confidence by
even a smile, he levelled his glass at the stranger, as did Spike,
the instant he ceased to grin.
"That's one of Uncle Sam's fellows!" exclaimed the captain, dropping
the glass. "I'd swear to the chap in any admiralty court on 'arth."
"'T is a vessel of war, out of all doubt," returned the mate, "and
under a cloud of canvas. I can make out the heads of her courses
now, and see that she is carrying hard, for a craft that is almost
"Ay, ay; no merchantmen keeps his light stun'-sails set, as near the
wind as that fellow's going. He's a big chap, too--a frigate, at
least, by his canvas."
"I do not know, sir--they build such heavy corvettes now-a-days,
that I should rather take her for one of them. They tell me ships
are now sent to sea which mount only two-and-twenty guns, but which
measure quite a thousand tons."
"With thunderin' batteries, of course."
"With short thirty-twos and a few rapping sixty-eight Paixhans--or
Columbiads, as they ought in justice to be called."
"And you think this chap likely to be a craft of that sort?"
"Nothing is more probable, sir. Government has several, and, since
this war has commenced, it has been sending off cruiser after
cruiser into the Gulf. The Mexicans dare not send a vessel of war to
sea, which would be sending them to Norfolk, or New York, at once;
but no one can say when they may begin to make a prey of our
"They have taken nothing as yet, Mr. Mulford, and, to tell you the
truth, I'd much rather fall in with one of Don Montezuma's craft
than one of Uncle Sam's."
"That is a singular taste, for an American, Captain Spike, unless
you think, now our guns are mounted, we can handle a Mexican,"
returned Mulford coldly. "At all events, it is some answer to those
who ask `What is the navy about?' that months of war have gone by,
and not an American has been captured. Take away that navy, and the
insurance offices in Wall-street would tumble like a New York
party-wall in a fire."
"Nevertheless, I'd rather take my chance, just now, with Don
Montezuma than with Uncle Sam."
Mulford did not reply, though the earnest manner in which Spike
expressed himself, helped to increase his distrust touching the
nature of the voyage. With him the captain had no further
conference, but it was different as respects the boatswain. That
worthy was called aft, and for half an hour he and Spike were
conversing apart, keeping their eyes fastened on the strange vessel
most of the time.
It was noon before all uncertainly touching the character of the
stranger ceased. By that time, however, both vessels were entering
the Mona Passage; the brig well to windward, on the Porto Rico side;
while the ship was so far to leeward as to be compelled to keep
everything close-hauled, in order to weather the island. The hull of
the last could now be seen, and no doubt was entertained about her
being a cruiser, and one of some size, too. Spike thought she was a
frigate; but Mulford still inclined to the opinion that she was one
of the new ships; perhaps a real corvette, or with a light spar-deck
over her batteries. Two or three of the new vessels were known to be
thus fitted, and this might be one. At length all doubt on the
subject ceased, the stranger setting an American ensign, and getting
so near as to make it apparent that she had but a single line of
guns. Still she was a large ship, and the manner that she ploughed
through the brine, close-hauled as she was, extorted admiration even
"We had better begin to shorten sail, Mr. Mulford," the captain at
length most reluctantly remarked. "We might give the chap the slip,
perhaps, by keeping close in under Porto Rico, but he would give us
a long chase, and might drive us away to windward, when I wish to
keep off between Cuba and Jamaica. He's a traveller; look, how he
stands up to it under that could of canvas!"
Mulford was slow to commence on the studding-sails, and the cruiser
was getting nearer and nearer. At length a gun was fired, and a
heavy shot fell about two hundred yards short of the brig, and a
little out of line with her. On this hint, Spike turned the hands
up, and began to shorten sail. In ten minutes the Swash was under
her topsail, mainsail and jib, with her light sails hanging in the
gear, and all the steering canvas in. In ten minutes more the
cruiser was so near as to admit of the faces of the three or four
men whose heads were above the hammock-cloths being visible, when
she too began to fold her wings. In went her royals,
topgallant-sails, and various kites, as it might be by some common
muscular agency; and up went her courses. Everything was done at
once. By this time she was crossing the brig's wake, looking
exceedingly beautiful, with her topsails lifting, her light sails
blowing out, and even her heavy courses fluttering in the breeze.
There flew the glorious stars and stripes also; of brief existence,
but full of recollections! The moment she had room, her helm went
up, her bows fell off, and down she came, on the weather quarter of
the Swash, so near as to render a trumpet nearly useless.
On board the brig everybody was on deck; even the relict having
forgotten her mortification in curiosity. On board the cruiser no
one was visible, with the exception of a few men in each top, and a
group of gold-banded caps on the poop. Among these officers stood
the captain, a red-faced, middle-aged man, with the usual signs of
his rank about him; and at his side was his lynx-eyed first
lieutenant. The surgeon and purser were also there, though they
stood a little apart from the more nautical dignitaries. The hail
that followed came out of a trumpet that was thrust through the
mizzen-rigging; the officer who used it taking his cue from the
"What brig is that?" commenced the discourse.
"The Molly Swash, of New York, Stephen Spike, master."
"Where from, and whither bound?"
"From New York, and bound to Key West and a market."
A pause succeeded this answer, during which the officers on the poop
of the cruiser held some discourse with him of the trumpet. During
the interval the cruiser ranged fairly up abeam.
"You are well to windward of your port, sir," observed he of the
"I know it; but it's war times, and I didn't know but there might be
piccaroons hovering about the Havanna."
"The coast is clear, and our cruisers will keep it so. I see you
have a battery, sir!"
"Ay, ay; some old guns that I've had aboard these ten years: they're
useful, sometimes, in these seas."
"Very true. I'll range ahead of you, and as soon as you've room,
I'll thank you to heave-to. I wish to send a boat on board you."
Spike was sullen enough on receiving this order, but there was no
help for it. He was now in the jaws of the lion, and his wisest
course was to submit to the penalties of his position with the best
grace he could. The necessary orders were consequently given, and
the brig no sooner got room than she came by the wind and backed her
topsail. The cruiser went about, and passing to windward, backed her
main-topsail just forward of the Swash's beam. Then the latter
lowered a boat, and sent it, with a lieutenant and a midshipman in
its stern-sheets, on board the brigantine. As the cutter approached,
Spike went to the gangway to receive the strangers.
Although there will be frequent occasion to mention this cruiser,
the circumstances are of so recent occurrence, that we do not choose
to give either her name, or that of any one belonging to her. We
shall, consequently, tell the curious, who may be disposed to turn
to their navy-lists and blue-books, that the search will be of no
use, as all the names we shall use, in reference to this cruiser,
will be fictitious. As much of the rest of our story as the reader
please may be taken for gospel; but we tell him frankly, that we
have thought it most expedient to adopt assumed names, in connection
with this vessel and all her officers. There are good reasons for so
doing; and, among others, is that of abstaining from arming a clique
to calumniate her commander, (who, by the way, like another
commander in the Gulf that might be named, and who has actually been
exposed to the sort of tracasserie to which there is allusion, is
one of the very ablest men in the service,) in order to put another
in his place.
The officer who now came over the side of the Swash we shall call
Wallace; he was the second lieutenant of the vessel of war. He was
about thirty, and the midshipman who followed him was a well-grown
lad of nineteen. Both had a decided man-of-war look, and both looked
a little curiously at the vessel they had boarded.
"Your servant, sir," said Wallace, touching his cap in reply to
Spike's somewhat awkward bow. "Your brig is the Molly Swash, Stephen
Spike, bound from New York to Key West and a market."
"You've got it all as straight, lieutenant, as if you was a readin'
it from the log."
"The next thing, sir, is to know of what your cargo is composed?"
"Flour; eight hundred barrels of flour."
"Flour! Would you not do better to carry that to Liverpool? The
Mississippi must be almost turned into paste by the quantity of
flour it floats to market."
"Notwithstanding that, lieutenant, I know Uncle Sam's economy so
well, as to believe I shall part with every barrel of my flour to
his contractors, at a handsome profit."
"You read Whig newspapers principally, I rather think, Mr. Spike,"
answered Wallace, in his cool, deliberate way, smiling, however, as
We may just as well say here, that nature intended this gentleman
for a second lieutenant, the very place he filled. He was a capital
second lieutenant, while he would not have earned his rations as
first. So well was he assured of this peculiarity in his moral
composition, that he did not wish to be the first lieutenant of
anything in which he sailed. A respectable seaman, a well-read and
intelligent man, a capital deck officer, or watch officer, he was
too indolent to desire to be anything more, and was as happy as the
day was long, in the easy berth he filled. The first lieutenant had
been his messmate as a midshipman, and ranked him but two on the
list in his present commission; but he did not envy him in the
least. On the contrary, one of his greatest pleasures was to get.
"Working Willy," as he called his senior, over a glass of wine, or a
tumbler of "hot stuff," and make him recount the labours of the day.
On such occasions, Wallace never failed to compare the situation of
"Working Willy" with his own gentlemanlike ease and independence. As
second lieutenant, his rank raised him above most of the unpleasant
duty of the ship, while it did not raise him high enough to plunge
him into the never-ending labours of his senior. He delighted to
call himself the "ship's gentleman," a sobriquet he well deserved,
on more accounts than one.
"You read Whig newspapers principally, I rather think, Mr. Spike,"
answered the lieutenant, as has been just mentioned, "while we on
board the Poughkeepsie indulge in looking over the columns of the
Union, as well as over those of the Intelligencer, when by good luck
we can lay our hands on a stray number."
"That ship, then, is called the Poughkeepsie, is she, sir?" inquired
"Such is her name, thanks to a most beneficent and sage provision of
Congress, which has extended its parental care over the navy so far
as to imagine that a man chosen by the people to exercise so many of
the functions of a sovereign, is not fit to name a ship. All our two
and three deckers are to be called after states; the frigates after
rivers; and the sloops after towns. Thus it is that our craft has
the honour to be called the United States ship the `Poughkeepsie,'
instead of the `Arrow,' or the `Wasp,' or the `Curlew,' or the
`Petrel,' as might otherwise have been the case. But the wisdom of
Congress is manifest, for the plan teaches us sailors geography."
"Yes, sir, yes, one can pick up a bit of l'arnin' in that way cheap.
The Poughkeepsie, Captain--?"
"The United States' ship Poughkeepsie, 20, Captain Adam Mull, at
your service. But, Mr. Spike, you will allow me to look at your
papers. It is a duty I like, for it can be performed quietly, and
without any fuss."
Spike looked distrustfully at his new acquaintance, but went for his
vessel's papers without any very apparent hesitation. Every thing
was en regle, and Wallace soon got through with the clearance,
manifest, &c. Indeed the cargo, on paper at least, was of the
simplest and least complicated character, being composed of nothing
but eight hundred barrels of flour.
"It all looks very well on paper, Mr. Spike," added the boarding
officer. "With your permission, we will next see how it looks in
sober reality. I perceive your main hatch is open, and I suppose it
will be no difficult matter just to take a glance at your hold."
"Here is a ladder, sir, that will take us at once to the half-deck,
for I have no proper 'twixt decks in this craft; she's too small for
that sort of outfit."
"No matter, she has a hold, I suppose, and that can contain cargo.
Take me to it by the shortest road, Mr. Spike, for I am no great
admirer of trouble."
Spike now led the way below, Wallace following, leaving the
midshipman on deck, who had fallen into conversation with the relict
and her pretty niece. The half-deck of the brigantine contained
spare sails, provisions, and water, as usual, while quantities of
old canvas lay scattered over the cargo; more especially in the wake
of the hatches, of which there were two besides that which led from
"Flour to the number of eight hundred barrels," said Wallace,
striking his foot against a barrel that lay within his reach. "The
cargo is somewhat singular to come from New York, going to Key West,
my dear Spike?"
"I suppose you know what sort of a place Key West is, sir; a bit of
an island in which there is scarce so much as a potatoe grows."
"Ay, ay, sir; I know Key West very well, having been in and out a
dozen times. All eatables are imported, turtle excepted. But flour
can be brought down the Mississippi so much cheaper than it can be
brought from New York."
"Have you any idee, lieutenant, what Uncle Sam's men are paying for
it at New Orleens, just to keep soul and bodies together among the
"That may be true, sir--quite true, I dare say, Mr. Spike. Have n't
you a bit of a chair that a fellow can sit down on--this half-deck
of your's is none of the most comfortable places to stand in. Thank
you, sir--thank you with all my heart. What lots of old sails you
have scattered about the hold, especially in the wake of the
"Why, the craft being little more than in good ballast trim, I keep
the hatches off to air her; and the spray might spit down upon the
flour at odd times but for them 'ere sails."
"Ay, a prudent caution. So you think Uncle Sam's people will be
after this flour as soon as they learn you have got it snug in at
"What more likely, sir? You know how it is with our
government--always wrong, whatever it does! and I can show you
paragraphs in letters written from New Orleens, which tell us that
Uncle Sam is paying seventy-five and eighty per cent. more for flour
than anybody else."
"He must be a flush old chap to be able to do that, Spike."
"Flush! I rather think he is. Do you know that he is spendin',
accordin' to approved accounts, at this blessed moment, as much as
half a million a day? I own a wish to be pickin' up some of the
coppers while they are scattered about so plentifully."
"Half a million a day! why that is only at the rate of $187,000,000
per annum; a mere trifle, Spike, that is scarce worth mentioning
among us mariners."
"It's so in the newspapers, I can swear, lieutenant."
"Ay, ay, and the newspapers will swear to it, too, and they that
gave the newspapers their cue. But no matter, our business is with
this flour. Will you sell us a barrel or two for our mess? I heard
the caterer say we should want flour in the course of a week or so."
Spike seemed embarrassed, though not to a degree to awaken suspicion
in his companion.
"I never sold cargo at sea, long as I've sailed and owned a craft,"
he answered, as if uncertain what to do. "If you'll pay the price I
expect to get in the Gulf, and will take ten barrels, I do n't know
but we may make a trade on't. I shall only ask expected prices."
"Which will be--?"
"Ten dollars a barrel. For one hundred silver dollars I will put
into your boat ten barrels of the very best brand known in the
"This is dealing rather more extensively than I anticipated, but we
will reflect on it."
Wallance now indolently arose and ascended to the quarter-deck,
followed by Spike, who continued to press the flour on him, as if
anxious to make money. But the lieutenant hesitated about paying a
price as high as ten dollars, or to take a quantity as large as ten
"Our mess is no great matter after all," he said carelessly. "Four
lieutenants, the purser, two doctors, the master, and a marine
officer, and you get us all. Nine men could never eat ten barrels of
flour, my dear Spike, you will see for yourself, with the quantity
of excellent bread we carry. You forget the bread."
"Not a bit of it, Mr. Wallace, since that is your name. But such
flour as this of mine has not been seen in the Gulf this many a day.
I ought in reason to ask twelve dollars for it, and insist on such a
ship as your'n's taking twenty instead of the ten barrels."
"I thank you, sir, the ten will more than suffice; unless, indeed,
the captain wants some for the cabin. How is it with your steerage
messes, Mr. Archer--do you want any flour?"
"We draw a little from the ship, according to rule, sir, but we
can't go as many puddings latterly as we could before we touched
last at the Havanna," answered the laughing midshipman. "There is
n't a fellow among us, sir, that could pay a shore-boat for landing
him, should we go in again before the end of another month. I never
knew such a place as Havanna. They say midshipmen's money melts
there twice as soon as lieutenants' money."
"It's clear, then, you'll not take any of the ten. I am afraid after
all, Mr. Spike, we cannot trade, unless you will consent to let me
have two barrels. I'll venture on two at ten dollars, high as the
"I should n't forgive myself in six months for making so had a
bargain, lieutenant, so we'll say no more about it if you please."
"Here is a lady that wishes to say a word to you, Mr. Wallace,
before we go back to the ship, if you are at leisure to hear her, or
them--for there are two of them," put in Archer.
At this moment Mrs. Budd was approaching with a dignified step,
while Rose followed timidly a little in the rear. Wallace was a good
deal surprised at this application, and Spike was quite as much
provoked. As for Mulford, he watched the interview from a distance,
a great deal more interested in its result than he cared to have
known, more especially to his commanding officer. Its object was to
get a passage in the vessel of war.
"You are an officer of that Uncle Sam vessel," commenced Mrs. Budd,
who thought that she would so much the more command the respect and
attention of her listener, by showing him early how familiar she was
with even the slang dialect of the seas.
"I have the honour, ma'am, to belong to that Uncle Sam craft,"
answered Wallace gravely, though he bowed politely at the same time,
looking intently at the beautiful girl in the back-ground as he so
"So I've been told, sir. She's a beautiful vessel, lieutenant, and
is full jiggered, I perceive."
For the first time in his life, or at least for the first time since
his first cruise, Wallace wore a mystified look, being absolutely at
a loss to imagine what "full jiggered" could mean. He only looked,
therefore, for he did not answer.
"Mrs. Budd means that you've a full rigged craft," put in Spike,
anxious to have a voice in the conference, "this vessel being only a
"Oh! ay; yes, yes--the lady is quite right. We are full jiggered
from our dead-eyes to our eye-bolts."
"I thought as much, sir, from your ground hamper and top-tackles,"
added the relict smiling. "For my part there is nothing in nature
that I so much admire as a full jiggered ship, with her canvas out
of the bolt-ropes, and her clew-lines and clew-garnets braced sharp,
and her yards all abroad."
"Yes, ma'am, it is just as you say, a very charming spectacle. Our
baby was born full grown, and with all her hamper aloft just as you
see her. Some persons refer vessels to art, but I think you are
quite right in referring them to nature."
"Nothing can be more natural to me, lieutenant, than a fine ship
standing on her canvas. It's an object to improve the heart and to
soften the understanding."
"So I should think, ma'am," returned Wallace, a little quizzically,
"judging from the effect on yourself."
This speech, unfortunately timed as it was, wrought a complete
change in Rose's feelings, and she no longer wished to exchange the
Swash for the Poughkeepsie. She saw that her aunt was laughed at in
secret, and that was a circumstance that never failed to grate on
every nerve in her system. She had been prepared to second and
sustain the intended application--she was now determined to oppose
"Yes, sir," resumed the unconscious relict, "and to soften the
understanding. Lieutenant, did you ever cross the Capricorn?"
"No less than six times; three going and three returning, you know."
"And did Neptune come on board you, and were you shaved?"
"Everything was done secundem artem, ma'am. The razor was quite an
example of what are called in poetry `thoughts too deep for tears.'
"That must have been delightful. As for me, I'm quite a devotee of
Neptune's; but I'm losing time, for no doubt your ship is all ready
to pull away and carry on sail--"
"Aunt, may I say a word to you before you go any further," put in
Rose in her quiet but very controlling way.
The aunt complied, and Wallace, as soon as left alone, felt like a
man who was released from a quick-sand, into which every effort to
extricate himself only plunged him so much the deeper. At this
moment the ship hailed, and the lieutenant took a hasty leave of
Spike, motioned to the midshipman to precede him, and followed the
latter into his boat. Spike saw his visiter off in person, tending
the side and offering the man-ropes with his own hands. For this
civility Wallace thanked him, calling out as his boat pulled him
from the brig's side--"If we `pull away,'" accenting the "pull" in
secret derision of the relict's mistake, "you can pull away; our
filling the topsail being a sign for you to do the same."
"There you go, and joy go with you," muttered Spike, as he descended
from the gangway. "A pretty kettle of fish would there have been
cooked had I let him have his two barrels of flour."
The man-of-war's cutter was soon under the lee of the ship, where it
discharged its freight, when it was immediately run up. During the
whole time Wallace had been absent, Captain Mull and his officers
remained on the poop, principally occupied in examining and
discussing the merits of the Swash. No sooner had their officer
returned, however, than an order was given to fill away, it being
supposed that the Poughkeepsie had no further concern with the
brigantine. As for Wallace, he ascended to the poop and made the
"It's a queer cargo to be carrying to Key West from the Atlantic
coast," observed the captain in a deliberating sort of manner, as if
the circumstance excited suspicion; "Yet the Mexicans can hardly be
in want of any such supplies."
"Did you see the flour, Wallace?" inquired the first lieutenant, who
was well aware of his messmate's indolence.
"Yes, sir, and felt it too. The lower hold of the brig is full of
flour, and of nothing else."
"Ware round, sir--ware round and pass athwart the brig's wake,"
interrupted the captain. "There's plenty of room now, and I wish to
pass as near that craft as we can."
This manoeuvre was executed. The sloop-of-war no sooner filled her
maintop-sail than she drew ahead, leaving plenty of room for the
brigantine to make sail on her course. Spike did not profit by this
opening, however, but he sent several men aloft forward, where they
appeared to be getting ready to send down the upper yards and the
topgallant-mast. No sooner was the sloop-of-war's helm put up than
that vessel passed close along the brigantine's weather side, and
kept off across her stern on her course. As she did this the canvas
was fluttering aboard her, in the process of making sail, and Mull
held a short discourse with Spike.
"Is anything the matter aloft?" demanded the man-of-war's man.
"Ay, ay; I've sprung my topgallant-mast, and think this a good
occasion to get another up in its place."
"Shall I lend you a carpenter or two, Mr. Spike?"
"Thank'ee, sir, thank'ee with all my heart; but we can do without
them. It's an old stick, and it's high time a better stood where it
does. Who knows but I may be chased and feel the want of reliable
Captain Mull smiled and raised his cap in the way of an adieu, when
the conversation ended; the Poughkeepsie sliding off rapidly with a
free wind, leaving the Swash nearly stationary. In ten minutes the
two vessels were more than a mile apart; in twenty, beyond the reach
Notwithstanding the natural and common-place manner in which this
separation took place, there was much distrust on board each vessel,
and a good deal of consummate management on the part of Spike. The
latter knew that every foot the sloop-of-war went on her course,
carried her just so far to leeward, placing his own brig,
in-so-much, dead to windward of her. As the Swash's best point of
sailing, relatively considered, was close-hauled, this was giving to
Spike a great security against any change of purpose on the part of
the vessel of war. Although his people were aloft and actually sent
down the topgallant-mast, it was only to send it up again, the spar
being of admirable toughness, and as sound as the day it was cut.
"I don't think, Mr. Mulford," said the captain sarcastically, "that
Uncle Sam's glasses are good enough to tell the difference in wood
at two leagues' distance, so we'll trust to the old stick a little
longer. Ay, ay, let 'em run off before it, we'll find another road
by which to reach our port."
"The sloop-of-war is going round the south side of Cuba, Captain
Spike," answered the mate, "and I have understood you to say that
you intended to go by the same passage."
"A body may change his mind, and no murder. Only consider, Harry,
how common it is for folks to change their minds. I did intend to
pass between Cuba and Jamaica, but I intend it no longer. Our run
from Montauk has been oncommon short, and I've time enough to spare
to go to the southward of Jamaica too, if the notion takes me."
"That would greatly prolong the passage, Captain Spike,--a week at
"What if it does--I've a week to spare; we're nine days afore our
"Our time for what, sir? Is there any particular time set for a
vessel's going into Key West?"
"Don't be womanish and over-cur'ous, Mulford. I sail with sealed
orders, and when we get well to windward of Jamaica, 't will be time
enough to open them."
Spike was as good as his word. As soon as he thought the
sloop-of-war was far enough to leeward, or when she was hull down,
he filled away and made sail on the wind to get nearer to Porto
Rico. Long ere it was dark he had lost sight of the sloop-of-war,
when he altered his course to south-westerly, which was carrying him
in the direction he named, or to windward of Jamaica.
While this artifice was being practised on board the Molly Swash,
the officers of the Poughkeepsie were not quite satisfied with their
own mode of proceeding with the brigantine. The more they reasoned
on the matter, the more unlikely it seemed to them that Spike could
be really carrying a cargo of flour from New York to Key West, in
the expectation of disposing of it to the United States'
contractors, and the more out of the way did he seem to be in
running through the Mona Passage.
"His true course should have been by the Hole in the Wall, and so
down along the north side of Cuba, before the wind," observed the
first lieutenant. "I wonder that never struck you, Wallace; you, who
so little like trouble."
"Certainly I knew it, but we lazy people like running off before the
wind, and I did not know but such were Mr. Spike's tastes," answered
the "ship's gentleman." "In my judgment, the reluctance he showed to
letting us have any of his flour, is much the most suspicious
circumstance in the whole affair."
These two speeches were made on the poop, in the presence of the
captain, but in a sort of an aside that admitted of some of the
ward-room familiarity exhibited. Captain Mull was not supposed to
hear what passed, though hear it he in fact did, as was seen by his
own remarks, which immediately succeeded.
"I understood you to say, Mr. Wallace," observed the captain, a
little drily, "that you saw the flour yourself?"
"I saw the flour-barrels, sir; and as regularly built were they as
any barrels that ever were branded. But a flour-barrel may have
contained something beside flour."
"Flour usually makes itself visible in the handling; were these
barrels quite clean?"
"Far from it, sir. They showed flour on their staves, like any other
cargo. After all, the man may have more sense than we give him
credit for, and find a high market for his cargo."
Captain Mull seemed to muse, which was a hint for his juniors not to
continue the conversation, but rather to seem to muse, too. After a
short pause, the captain quietly remarked--"Well, gentlemen, he will
be coming down after us, I suppose, as soon as he gets his new
topgallant-mast on-end, and then we can keep a bright look-out for
him. We shall cruise off Cape St. Antonio for a day or two, and no
doubt shall get another look at him. I should like to have one
baking from his flour."
But Spike had no intention to give the Poughkeepsie the desired
opportunity. As has been stated, he stood off to the southward on a
wind, and completely doubled the eastern end of Jamaica, when he put
his helm up, and went, with favouring wind and current, toward the
northward and westward. The consequence was, that he did not fall in
with the Poughkeepsie at all, which vessel was keeping a sharp
look-out for him in the neighbourhood of Cape St. Antonio and the
Isle of Pines, at the very moment he was running down the coast of
Yucatan. Of all the large maritime countries of the world, Mexico,
on the Atlantic, is that which is the most easily blockaded, by a
superior naval power. By maintaining a proper force between Key West
and the Havanna, and another squadron between Cape St. Antonio and
Loggerhead Key, the whole country, the Bay of Honduras excepted, is
shut up, as it might be in a band-box. It is true the Gulf would be
left open to the Mexicans, were not squadrons kept nearer in; but,
as for anything getting out into the broad Atlantic, it would be
next to hopeless. The distance to be watched between the Havanna and
Key West is only about sixty miles, while that in the other
direction is not much greater.
While the Swash was making the circuit of Jamaica, as described, her
captain had little communication with his passengers. The
misunderstanding with the relict embarrassed him as much as it
embarrassed her; and he was quite willing to let time mitigate her
resentment. Rose would be just as much in his power a fortnight
hence as she was today. This cessation in the captain's attentions
gave the females greater liberty, and they improved it, singularly
enough as it seemed to Mulford, by cultivating a strange sort of
intimacy with Jack Tier. The very day that succeeded the delicate
conversation with Mrs. Budd, to a part of which Jack had been an
auditor, the uncouth-looking steward's assistant was seen in close
conference with the pretty Rose; the subject of their conversation
being, apparently, of a most engrossing nature. From that hour, Jack
got to be not only a confidant, but a favourite, to Mulford's great
surprise. A less inviting subject for tˆte-…-tˆtes and confidential
dialogues, thought the young man, could not well exist; but so it
was; woman's caprices are inexplicable; and not only Rose and her
aunt, but even the captious and somewhat distrustful Biddy,
manifested on all occasions not only friendship, but kindness and
consideration for Jack.
"You quite put my nose out o' joint, you Jack Tier, with 'e lady,"
grumbled Josh, the steward de jure, if not now de facto, of the
craft, "and I neber see nuttin' like it! I s'pose you expect ten
dollar, at least, from dem passenger, when we gets in. But I'd have
you to know, Misser Jack, if you please, dat a steward be a steward,
and he do n't like to hab trick played wid him, afore he own face."
"Poh! poh! Joshua," answered Jack good-naturedly, "do n't distress
yourself on a consail. In the first place, you've got no nose to be
put out of joint; or, if you have really a nose, it has no joint.
It's nat'ral for folks to like their own colour, and the ladies
prefar me, because I'm white."
"No so werry white as all dat, nudder," grumbled Josh. "I see great
many whiter dan you. But, if dem lady like you so much as to gib you
ten dollar, as I expects, when we gets in, I presumes you'll hand
over half, or six dollar, of dat money to your superior officer, as
is law in de case."
"Do you call six the half of ten, Joshua, my scholar, eh?"
"Well, den, seven, if you like dat better. I wants just half, and
just half I means to git."
"And half you shall have, maty. I only wish you would just tell me
where we shall be, when we gets in."
"How I know, white man? Dat belong to skipper, and better ask him.
If he do n't gib you lick in de chop, p'rhaps he tell you."
As Jack Tier had no taste for "licks in the chops," he did not
follow Josh's advice. But his agreeing to give half of the ten
dollars to the steward kept peace in the cabins. He was even so
scrupulous of his word, as to hand to Josh a half-eagle that very
day; money he had received from Rose; saying he would trust to
Providence for his own half of the expected douceur. This concession
placed Jack Tier on high grounds with his "superior officer," and
from that time the former was left to do the whole of the customary
service of the ladies' cabin.
As respects the vessel, nothing worthy of notice occurred until she
had passed Loggerhead Key, and was fairly launched in the Gulf of
Mexico. Then, indeed, Spike took a step that greatly surprised his
mate. The latter was directed to bring all his instruments, charts,
&c., and place them in the captain's state-room, where it was
understood they were to remain until the brig got into port. Spike
was but an indifferent navigator, while Mulford was one of a higher
order than common. So much had the former been accustomed to rely on
the latter, indeed, as they approached a strange coast, that he
could not possibly have taken any step, that was not positively
criminal, which would have given his mate more uneasiness than this.
At first, Mulford naturally enough suspected that Spike intended to
push for some Mexican port, by thus blinding his eyes as to the
position of the vessel. The direction steered, however, soon
relieved the mate from this apprehension. From the eastern extremity
of Yucatan, the Mexican coast trends to the westward, and even to
the south of west, for a long distance, whereas the course steered
by Spike was north, easterly. This was diverging from the enemy's
coast instead of approaching it, and the circumstance greatly
relieved the apprehensions of Mulford.
Nor was the sequestration of the mate's instruments the only
suspicious act of Spike. He caused the brig's paint to be entirely
altered, and even went so far toward disguising her, as to make some
changes aloft. All this was done as the vessel passed swiftly on her
course, and everything had been effected, apparently to the
captain's satisfaction, when the cry of "land-ho!" was once more
heard. The land proved to be a cluster of low, small islands, part
coral, part sand, that might have been eight or ten in number, and
the largest of which did not possess a surface of more than a very
few acres. Many were the merest islets imaginable, and on one of the
largest of the cluster rose a tall, gaunt light-house, having the
customary dwelling of its keeper at its base. Nothing else was
visible; the broad expanse of the blue waters of the Gulf excepted.
All the land in sight would not probably have made one field of
twenty acres in extent, and that seemed cut off from the rest of the
world, by a broad barrier of water. It was a spot of such singular
situation and accessories, that Mulford gazed at it with a burning
desire to know where he was, as the brig steered through a channel
between two of the islets, into a capacious and perfectly safe
basin, formed by the group, and dropped her anchor in its centre.
"He sleeps; but dreams of massy gold,
And heaps of pearl. He stretch'd his hands--
He hears a voice--
"Ill man withhold!'
A pale one near him stands."
It was near night-fall when the Swash anchored among the low and
small islets mentioned. Rose had been on deck, as the vessel
approached this singular and solitary haven, watching the movements
of those on board, as well as the appearance of objects on the land,
with the interest her situation would be-likely to awaken. She saw
the light and manageable craft glide through the narrow and crooked
passages that led into the port, the process of anchoring, and the
scene of tranquil solitude that succeeded; each following the other
as by a law of nature. The light-house next attracted her attention,
and, as soon as the sun disappeared, her eyes were fastened on the
lantern, in expectation of beholding the watchful and warning fires
gleaming there, to give the mariner notice of the position of the
dangers that surrounded the place. Minute went by after minute,
however, and the customary illumination seemed to be forgotten.
"Why is not this light shining?" Rose asked of Mulford, as the young
man came near her, after having discharged his duty in helping to
moor the vessel, and in clearing the decks. "All the light-houses we
have passed, and they have been fifty, have shown bright lights at
this hour, but this."
"I cannot explain it; nor have I the smallest notion where we are. I
have been aloft, and there was nothing in sight but this cluster of
low islets, far or near. I did fancy, for a moment, I saw a speck
like a distant sail, off here, to the northward and eastward, but I
rather think it was a gull, or some other sea-bird glancing upward
on the wing. I mentioned it to the captain when I came down, and he
appeared to believe it a mistake. I have watched that light-house
closely, too, ever since we came in, and I have not seen the
smallest sign of life about it. It is altogether an extraordinary
"One suited to acts of villany, I fear, Harry!"
"Of that we shall be better judges to-morrow. You, at least, have
one vigilant friend, who will die sooner than harm shall come to
you. I believe Spike to be thoroughly unprincipled; still he knows
he can go so far and no further, and has a wholesome dread of the
law. But the circumstance that there should be such a port as this,
with a regular light-house, and no person near the last, is so much
out of the common way, that I do not know what to make of it."
"Perhaps the light-house keeper is afraid to show himself, in the
presence of the Swash?"
"That can hardly be, for vessels must often enter the port, if port
it can be called. But Spike is as much concerned at the circumstance
that the lamps are not lighted, as any of us can be. Look, he is
about to visit the building in the boat, accompanied by two of his
"Why might we not raise the anchor, and sail out of this place,
leaving Spike ashore?" suggested Rose, with more decision and spirit
"For the simple reason that the act would be piracy, even if I could
get the rest of the people to obey my orders, as certainly I could
not. No, Rose: you, and your aunt, and Biddy, however, might land at
these buildings, and refuse to return, Spike having no authority
over his passengers."
"Still he would have the power to make us come back to his brig.
Look, he has left the vessel's side, and is going directly toward
Mulford made no immediate answer, but remained at Rose's side,
watching the movements of the captain. The last pulled directly to
the islet with the buildings, a distance of only a few hundred feet,
the light-house being constructed on a rocky island that was nearly
in the centre of the cluster, most probably to protect it from the
ravages of the waves. The fact, however, proved, as Mulford did not
fail to suggest to his companion, that the beacon had been erected
less to guide vessels into the haven, than to warn mariners at a
distance, of the position of the whole group.
In less than five minutes after he had landed, Spike himself was
seen in the lantern, in the act of lighting its lamps. In a very
short time the place was in a brilliant blaze, reflectors and all
the other parts of the machinery of the place performing their
duties as regularly as if tended by the usual keeper. Soon after
Spike returned on board, and the anchor-watch was set. Then
everybody sought the rest that it was customary to take at that
Mulford was on deck with the appearance of the sun; but he found
that Spike had preceded him, had gone ashore again, had extinguished
the lamps, and was coming alongside of the brig on his return. A
minute later the captain came over the side.
"You were right about your sail, last night, a'ter all, Mr.
Mulford," said Spike, on coming aft. "There she is, sure enough; and
we shall have her alongside to strike cargo out and in, by the time
the people have got their breakfasts."
As Spike pointed toward the light-house while speaking, the mate
changed his position a little, and saw that a schooner was coming
down toward the islets before the wind. Mulford now began to
understand the motives of the captain's proceedings, though a good
deal yet remained veiled in mystery. He could not tell where the
brig was, nor did he know precisely why so many expedients were
adopted to conceal the transfer of a cargo as simple as that of
flour. But he who was in the secret left but little time for
reflection; for swallowing a hasty breakfast on deck, he issued
orders enough to his mate to give him quite as much duty as he could
perform, when he again entered the yawl, and pulled toward the
Rose soon appeared on deck, and she naturally began to question
Harry concerning their position and prospects. He was confessing his
ignorance, as well as lamenting it, when his companion's sweet face
suddenly flushed. She advanced a step eagerly toward the open window
of Spike's state-room, then compressed her full, rich under-lip with
the ivory of her upper teeth, and stood a single instant, a
beautiful statue of irresolution instigated by spirit. The last
quality prevailed; and Mulford was really startled when he saw Rose
advance quite to the window, thrust in an arm, and turn toward him
with his own sextant in her hand. During the course of the passage
out, the young man had taught Rose to assist him in observing the
longitude; and she was now ready to repeat the practice. Not a
moment was lost in executing her intention. Sights were had, and the
instrument was returned to its place without attracting the
attention of the men, who were all busy in getting up purchases, and
in making the other necessary dispositions for discharging the
flour. The observations answered the purpose, though somewhat
imperfectly made. Mulford had a tolerable notion of their latitude,
having kept the brig's run in his head since quitting Yutacan; and
he now found that their longitude was about 83 o west from
Greenwich. After ascertaining this fact, a glance at the open chart,
which lay on Spike's desk, satisfied him that the vessel was
anchored within the group of the Dry Tortugas, or at the western
termination of the well-known, formidable, and extensive Florida
Reef. He had never been in that part of the world before, but had
heard enough in sea-gossip, and had read enough in books, to be at
once apprised of the true character of their situation. The islets
were American; the light-house was American; and the haven in which
the Swash lay was the very spot in the contemplation of government
for an outer man-of-war harbour, where fleets might rendezvous in
the future wars of that portion of the world. He now saw plainly
enough the signs of the existence of a vast reef, a short distance
to the southward of the vessel, that formed a species of sea-wall,
or mole, to protect the port against the waves of the gulf in that
direction. This reef he knew to be miles in width.
There was little time for speculation, Spike soon bringing the
strange schooner directly alongside of the brig. The two vessels
immediately became a scene of activity, one discharging, and the
other receiving the flour as fast as it could be struck out of the
hold of the Swash and lowered upon the deck of the schooner.
Mulford, however, had practised a little artifice, as the stranger
entered the haven, which drew down upon him an anathema or two from
Spike, as soon as they were alone. The mate had set the brig's
ensign, and this compelled the stranger to be markedly rude, or to
answer the compliment. Accordingly he had shown the ancient flag of
Spain. For thus extorting a national symbol from the schooner, the
mate was sharply rebuked at a suitable moment, though nothing could
have been more forbearing than the deportment of his commander when
they first met.
When Spike returned to his own vessel, he was accompanied by a
dark-looking, well-dressed, and decidedly gentleman-like personage,
whom he addressed indifferently, in his very imperfect Spanish, as
Don Wan, (Don Juan, or John,) or Se¤or Montefalderon. By the latter
appellation he even saw fit to introduce the very
respectable-looking stranger to his mate. This stranger spoke
English well, though with an accent.
"Don Wan has taken all the flour, Mr. Mulford, and intends shoving
it over into Cuba, without troubling the custom-house, I believe;
but that is not a matter to give us any concern, you know."
The wink, and the knowing look by which this speech was accompanied,
seemed particularly disagreeable to Don Juan, who now paid his
compliments to Rose, with no little surprise betrayed in his
countenance, but with the ease and reserve of a gentleman. Mulford
thought it strange that a smuggler of flour should be so polished a
personage, though his duty did not admit of his bestowing much
attention on the little trifling of the interview that succeeded.
For about an hour the work went steadily and rapidly on. During that
time Mulford was several times on board the schooner, as, indeed,
was Josh, Jack Tier, and others belonging to the Swash. The Spanish
vessel was Baltimore, or clipper built, with a trunk-cabin, and had
every appearance of sailing fast. Mulford was struck with her model,
and, while on board of her, he passed both forward and aft to
examine it. This was so natural in a seaman, that Spike, while he
noted the proceeding, took it in good part. He even called out to
his mate, from his own quarter-deck, to admire this or that point in
the schooner's construction. As is customary with the vessels of
southern nations, this stranger was full of men, but they continued
at their work, some half dozen of brawny negroes among them,
shouting their songs as they swayed at the falls, no one appearing
to manifest jealousy or concern. At length Tier came near the mate,
"Uncle Sam will not be pleased when he hears the reason that the
keeper is not in his light-house."
"And what is that reason, Jack? If you know it, tell it to me."
"Go aft and look down the companion-way, maty, and see it for
Mulford did go aft, and he made an occasion to look down into the
schooner's cabin, where he caught a glimpse of the persons of a man
and a boy, whom he at once supposed had been taken from the
light-house. This one fact of itself doubled his distrust of the
character of Spike's proceedings. There was no sufficient apparent
reason why a mere smuggler should care about the presence of an
individual more or less in a foreign port. Everything that had
occurred, looked like pre-concert between the brig and the schooner;
and the mate was just beginning to entertain the strongest distrust
that their vessel was holding treasonable communication with the
enemy, when an accident removed all doubt on the subject, from his
own mind at least. Spike had, once or twice, given his opinion that
the weather was treacherous, and urged the people of both crafts to
extraordinary exertions, in order that the vessels might get clear
of each other as soon as possible. This appeal had set various
expedients in motion to second the more regular work of the
purchases. Among other things, planks had been laid from one vessel
to the other, and barrels were rolled along them with very little
attention to the speed or the direction. Several had fallen on the
schooner's deck with rude shocks, but no damage was done, until one,
of which the hoops had not been properly secured, met with a fall,
and burst nearly at Mulford's feet. It was at the precise moment
when the mate was returning, from taking his glance into the cabin,
toward the side of the Swash. A white cloud arose, and half a dozen
of the schooner's people sprang for buckets, kids, or dishes, in
order to secure enough of the contents of the broken barrel to
furnish them with a meal. At first nothing was visible but the white
cloud that succeeded the fall, and the scrambling sailors in its
midst. No sooner, however, had the air got to be a little clear,
than Mulford saw an object lying in centre of the wreck, that he at
once recognised for a keg of the gunpowder! The captain of the
schooner seized this keg, gave a knowing look at Mulford, and
disappeared in the hold of his own vessel, carrying with him, what
was out of all question, a most material part of the true cargo of
At the moment when the flour-barrel burst, Spike was below, in close
conference with his Spanish, or Mexican guest; and the wreck being
so soon cleared away, it is probable that he never heard of the
accident. As for the two crews, they laughed a little among
themselves at the revelation which had been made, as well as at the
manner; but to old sea-dogs like them, it was a matter of very
little moment, whether the cargo was, in reality, flour or
gunpowder. In a few minutes the affair seemed to be forgotten. In
the course of another hour the Swash was light, having nothing in
her but some pig-lead, which she used for ballast, while the
schooner was loaded to her hatches, and full. Spike now sent a boat,
with orders to drop a kedge about a hundred yards from the place
where his own brig lay. The schooner warped up to this kedge, and
dropped an anchor of her own, leaving a very short range of cable
out, it being a flat calm. Ordinarily, the trades prevail at the Dry
Tortugas, and all along the Florida Reef. Sometimes, indeed, this
breeze sweeps across the whole width of the Gulf of Mexico, blowing
home, as it is called--reaching even to the coast of Texas. It is
subject, however, to occasional interruptions everywhere, varying
many points in its direction, and occasionally ceasing entirely. The
latter was the condition of the weather about noon on this day, or
when the schooner hauled off from the brig, and was secured at her
"Mr. Mulford," said Spike, "I do not like the state of the
atmosphere. D'ye see that fiery streak along the western
horizon--well, sir, as the sun gets nearer to that streak, there'll
be trouble, or I'm no judge of weather."
"You surely do not imagine, Captain Spike, that the sun will be any
nearer to that fiery streak, as you call it, when he is about to
set, than he is at this moment?" answered the mate, smiling.
"I'm sure of one thing, young man, and that is, that old heads are
better than young ones. What a man has once seen, he may expect to
see again, if the same leading signs offer. Man the boat, sir, and
carry out the kedge, which is still in it, and lay it off here,
about three p'ints on our larboard bow."
Mulford had a profound respect for Spike's seamanship, whatever he
might think of his principles. The order was consequently obeyed.
The mate was then directed to send down various articles out of the
top, and to get the top-gallant and royal yards on deck. Spike
carried his precautions so far, as to have the mainsail lowered, it
ordinarily brailing at that season of the year, with a standing
gaff. With this disposition completed, the captain seemed more at
his ease, and went below to join Se¤or Montefalderon in a siesta.
The Mexican, for such, in truth, was the national character of the
owner of the schooner, had preceded him in this indulgence; and most
of the people of the brig having laid themselves down to sleep under
the heat of the hour, Mulford soon enjoyed another favourable
opportunity for a private conference with Rose.
"Harry," commenced the latter, as soon as they were alone; "I have
much to tell you. While you have been absent I have overheard a
conversation between this Spanish gentleman and Spike, that shows
the last is in treaty with the other for the sale of the brig. Spike
extolled his vessel to the skies, while Don Wan, as he calls him,
complains that the brig is old, and cannot last long; to which Spike
answered `to be sure she is old, Se¤or Montefalderon, but she will
last as long as your war, and under a bold captain might be made to
return her cost a hundred fold!' What war can he mean, and to what
does such a discourse tend?"
"The war alludes to the war now existing between America and Mexico,
and the money to be made is to be plundered at sea, from our own
merchant-vessels. If Don Juan Montefalderon is really in treaty for
the purchase of the brig, it is to convert her into a Mexican
cruiser, either public or private."
"But this would be treason on the part of Spike!"
"Not more so than supplying the enemy with gunpowder, as he has just
been doing. I have ascertained the reason he was so unwilling to be
overhauled by the revenue steamer, as well as the reason why the
revenue steamer wished so earnestly to overhaul us. Each barrel of
flour contains another of gunpowder, and that has been sold to this
Se¤or Montefalderon, who is doubtless an officer of the Mexican
government, and no smuggler."
"He has been at New York, this very summer, I know," continued Rose,
"for he spoke of his visit, and made such other remarks, as leaves
no doubt that Spike expected to find him here, on this very day of
the month. He also paid Spike a large sum of money in doubloons, and
took back the bag to his schooner, when he had done so, after
showing the captain enough was left to pay for the brig could they
only agree on the terms of their bargain."
"Ay, ay; it is all plain enough now, Spike has determined on a
desperate push for fortune, and foreseeing it might not soon be in
his power to return to New York in safety, he has included his
designs on you and your fortune, in the plot."
"My fortune! the trifle I possess can scarcely be called a fortune,
"It would be a fortune to Spike, Rose; and I shall be honest enough
to own it would be a fortune to me. I say this frankly, for I do
believe you think too well of me to suppose that I seek you for any
other reason than the ardent love I bear your person and character;
but a fact is not to be denied because it may lead certain persons
to distrust our motives. Spike is poor, like myself; and the brig is
not only getting to be very old, but she has been losing money for
the last twelve months."
Mulford and Rose now conversed long and confidentially, on their
situation and prospects. The mate neither magnified nor concealed
the dangers of both; but freely pointed out the risk to himself, in
being on board a vessel that was aiding and comforting the enemy. It
was determined between there that both would quit the brig the
moment an opportunity offered; and the mate even went so far as to
propose an attempt to escape in one of the boats, although he might
incur the hazards of a double accusation, those of mutiny and
larceny, for making the experiment. Unfortunately, neither Rose, nor
her aunt, nor Biddy, nor Jack Tier had seen the barrel of powder,
and neither could testify as to the true character of Spike's
connection with the schooner. It was manifestly necessary,
therefore, independently of the risks that might be run by "bearding
the lion in his den," to proceed with great intelligence and
This dialogue between Harry and Rose, occurred just after the turn
in the day, and lasted fully an hour. Each had been too much
interested to observe the heavens, but, as they were on the point of
separating, Rose pointed out to her companion the unusual and most
menacing aspect of the sky in the western horizon. It appeared as if
a fiery heat was glowing there, behind a curtain of black vapour;
and what rendered it more remarkable, was the circumstance that an
extraordinary degree of placidity prevailed in all other parts of
the heavens. Mulford scarce knew what to make of it; his experience
not going so far as to enable him to explain the novel and alarming
appearance. He stepped on a gun, and gazed around him for a moment.
There lay the schooner, without a being visible on board of her, and
there stood the light-house, gloomy in its desertion and solitude.
The birds alone seemed to be alive and conscious of what was
approaching. They were all on the wing, wheeling wildly in the air,
and screaming discordantly, as belonged to their habits. The young
man leaped off the gun, gave a loud call to Spike, at the
companion-way, and sprang forward to call all hands.
One minute only was lost, when every seaman on board the Swash, from
the captain to Jack Tier, was on deck. Mulford met Spike at the
cabin door, and pointed toward the fiery column, that was booming
down upon the anchorage, with a velocity and direction that would
now admit of no misinterpretation. For one instant that sturdy old
seaman stood aghast; gazing at the enemy as one conscious of his
impotency might have been supposed to quail before an assault that
he foresaw must prove irresistible. Then his native spirit, and most
of all the effects of training, began to show themselves in him, and
he became at once, not only the man again, but the resolute,
practised, and ready commander.
"Come aft to the spring, men--" he shouted--"clap on the spring, Mr.
Mulford, and bring the brig head to wind."
This order was obeyed as seamen best obey, in cases of sudden and
extreme emergency; or with intelligence, aptitude and power. The
brig had swung nearly round, in the desired direction, when the
tornado struck her. It will be difficult, we do not know but it is
impossible, to give a clear and accurate account of what followed.
As most of our readers have doubtless felt how great is the power of
the wind, whiffling and pressing different ways, in sudden and
passing gusts, they have only to imagine this power increased many,
many fold, and the baffling currents made furious, as it might be,
by meeting with resistance, to form some notion of the appalling
strength and frightful inconstancy with which it blew for about a
Notwithstanding the circumstance of Spike's precaution had greatly
lessened the danger, every man on the deck of the Swash believed the
brig was gone when the gust struck her. Over she went, in fact,
until the water came pouring in above her half-ports, like so many
little cascades, and spouting up through her scupper-holes,
resembling the blowing of young whales. It was the whiffling energy
of the tornado that alone saved her. As if disappointed in not
destroying its intended victim at one swoop, the tornado "let up" in
its pressure, like a dexterous wrestler, making a fresh and
desperate effort to overturn the vessel, by a slight variation in
its course. That change saved the Swash. She righted, and even
rolled in the other direction, or what might be called to windward,
with her decks full of water. For a minute longer these baffling,
changing gusts continued, each causing the brig to bow like a reed
to their power, one lifting as another pressed her down, and then
the weight, or the more dangerous part of the tornado was passed,
though it continued to blow heavily, always in whiffling blasts,
several minutes longer.
During the weight of the gust, no one had leisure, or indeed
inclination to look to aught beyond its effect on the brig. Had one
been otherwise disposed, the attempt would have been useless, for
the wind had filled the air with spray, and near the islets even
with sand. The lurid but fiery tinge, too, interposed a veil that no
human eye could penetrate. As the tornado passed onward, however,
and the winds lulled, the air again became clear, and in five
minutes after the moment when the Swash lay nearly on her side, with
her lower yard-arm actually within a few feet of the water, all was
still and placid around her, as one is accustomed to see the ocean
in a calm, of a summer's afternoon. Then it was that those who had
been in such extreme jeopardy could breathe freely and look about
them. On board the Swash all was well--not a rope-yarn had parted,
or an eyebolt drawn. The timely precautions of Spike had saved his
brig, and great was his joy thereat.
In the midst of the infernal din of the tornado, screams had
ascended from the cabin, and the instant he could quit the deck with
propriety, Mulford sprang below, in order to ascertain their cause.
He apprehended that some of the females had been driven to leeward
when the brig went over, and that part of the luggage or furniture
had fallen on them. In the main cabin, the mate found Se¤or
Montefalderon just quitting his berth, composed, gentleman-like, and
collected. Josh was braced in a corner nearly grey with fear, while
Jack Tier still lay on the cabin floor, at the last point to which
he had rolled. One word sufficed to let Don Juan know that the gust
had passed, and the brig was safe, when Mulford tapped at the deor
of the inner cabin. Rose appeared, pale, but calm and unhurt.
"Is any one injured?" asked the young man, his mind relieved at
once, as soon as he saw that she who most occupied his thoughts was
safe; "we heard screams from this cabin."
"My aunt and Biddy have been frightened," answered Rose, "but
neither has been hurt. Oh, Harry, what terrible thing has happened
to us? I heard the roaring of--"
" 'T was a tornado," interrupted Mulford eagerly, "but 't is over.
'T was one of those sudden and tremendous gusts that sometimes occur
within the tropics, in which the danger is usually in the first
shock. If no one is injured in this cabin, no one is injured at
"Oh, Mr. Mulford--dear Mr. Mulford!" exclaimed the relict, from the
corner into which she had been followed and jammed by Biddy, "Oh,
Mr. Mulford, are we foundered or not?"
"Heaven be praised, not, my dear ma'am, though we came nearer to it
than I ever was before."
"Are we cap-asided?"
"Nor that, Mrs. Budd; the brig is as upright as a church."
"Upright!" repeated Biddy, in her customary accent,--"is it as a
church? Sure, then, Mr. Mate, 't is a Presbyterian church that you
mane, and that is always totterin'."
"Catholic, or Dutch--no church in York is more completely up and
down than the brig at this moment."
"Get off of me--get off of me, Biddy, and let me rise," said the
widow, with dignity. "The danger is over I see, and, as we return
our thanks for it, we have the consolation of knowing that we have
done our duty. It is incumbent on all, at such moments, to be at
their posts, and to set examples of decision and prudence."
As Mulford saw all was well in the cabin, he hastened on deck,
followed by Se¤or Montefalderon. Just as they emerged from the
companion-way, Spike was hailing the forecastle.
"Forecastle, there," he cried, standing on the trunk himself as he
did so, and moving from side to side, as if to catch a glimpse of
some object ahead.
"Sir," came back from an old salt, who was coiling up rigging in
that seat of seamanship.
"Where-away is the schooner? She ought to be dead ahead of us, as we
tend now--but blast me if I can see as much as her mast-heads."
At this suggestion, a dozen men sprang upon guns or other objects,
to look for the vessel in question. The old salt forward, however,
had much the best chance, for he stepped on the heel of the
bowsprit, and walked as far out as the knight-heads, to command the
whole view ahead of the brig. There he stood half a minute, looking
first on one side of the head-gear, then the other, when he gave his
trousers a hitch, put a fresh quid in his mouth, and called out in a
voice almost as hoarse as the tempest, that had just gone by,
"The schooner has gone down at her anchor, sir. There's her buoy
watching still, as if nothing had happened; but as for the craft
itself, there's not so much as a bloody yard-arm, or mast-head of
her to be seen!"
This news produced a sensation in the brig at once, as may be
supposed. Even Se¤or Montefalderon, a quiet, gentleman-like person,
altogether superior in deportment to the bustle and fuss that
usually marks the manners of persons in trade, was disturbed; for to
him the blow was heavy indeed. Whether he were acting for himself,
or was an agent of the Mexican government, the loss was much the
"Tom is right enough," put in Spike, rather coolly for the
circumstances--"that there schooner of yourn has foundered, Don Wan,
as any one can see. She must have cap-sized and filled, for I
obsarved they had left the hatches off, meaning, no doubt, to make
an end of the storage as soon as they had done sleeping."
"And what has become of all her men, Don Esteban?" for so the
Mexican politely called his companion. "Have all my poor countrymen
perished in this disaster?"
"I fear they have, Don Wan; for I see no head, as of any one
swimming. The vessel lay so near that island next to it, that a poor
swimmer would have no difficulty in reaching the place; but there is
no living thing to be seen. But man the boat, men; we will go to the
spot, Se¤or, and examine for ourselves."
There were two boats in the water, and along-side of the brig. One
was the Swash's yawl, a small but convenient craft, while the other
was much larger, fitted with a sail, and had all the appearance of
having been built to withstand breezes and seas. Mulford felt
perfectly satisfied, the moment he saw this boat, which had come
into the haven in tow of the schooner, that it had been originally
in the service of the light-house keeper. As there was a very
general desire among those on the quarter-deck to go to the
assistance of the schooner, Spike ordered both boats manned, jumping
into the yawl himself, accompanied by Don Juan Montefalderon, and
telling Mulford to follow with the larger craft, bringing with him
as many of the females as might choose to accompany him. As Mrs.
Budd thought it incumbent on her to be active in such a scene, all
did go, including Biddy, though with great reluctance on the part of
With the buoy for a guide, Spike had no difficulty in finding the
spot where the schooner lay. She had scarcely shifted her berth in
the least, there having been no time for her even to swing to the
gust, but she had probably cap-sized at the first blast, filled, and
gone down instantly. The water was nearly as clear as the calm, mild
atmosphere of the tropics; and it was almost as easy to discern the
vessel, and all her hamper, as if she lay on a beach. She had sunk
as she filled, or on her side, and still continued in that position.
As the water was little more than three fathoms deep, the upper side
was submerged but a few inches, and her yard-arms would have been
out of the water, but for the circumstance that the yards had canted
under the pressure.
At first, no sign was seen of any of those who had been on board
this ill-fated schooner when she went down. It was known that
twenty-one souls were in her, including the man and the boy who had
belonged to the light-house. As the boat moved slowly over this sad
ruin, however, a horrible and startling spectacle came in view. Two
bodies were seen, within a few feet of the surface of the water, one
grasped in the arms of the other, in the gripe of despair. The man
held in the grasp, was kept beneath the water solely by the
death-lock of his companion, who was himself held where he floated,
by the circumstance that one of his feet was entangled in a rope.
The struggle could not have been long over, for the two bodies were
slowly settling toward the bottom when first seen. It is probable
that both these men had more than once risen to the surface in their
dreadful struggle. Spike seized a boat-hook, and made an effort to
catch the clothes of the nearest body, but ineffectually, both
sinking to the sands beneath, lifeless, and without motion. There
being no sharks in sight, Mulford volunteered to dive and fasten a
line to one of these unfortunate men, whom Don Juan declared at once
was the schooner's captain. Some little time was lost in procuring a
lead-line from the brig, when the lead was dropped alongside of the
drowned. Provided with another piece of the same sort of line, which
had a small running bowline around that which was fastened to the
lead, the mate made his plunge, and went down with great vigour of
arm. It required resolution and steadiness to descend so far into
salt water; but Harry succeeded, and rose with the bodies, which
came up with the slightest impulse. All were immediately got into
the boat, and away the latter went toward the light-house, which was
nearer and more easy of access than the brig.
It is probable that one of these unfortunate men might have been
revived under judicious treatment; but he was not fated to receive
it. Spike, who knew nothing of such matters, undertook to direct
everything, and, instead of having recourse to warmth and gentle
treatment, he ordered the bodies to be rolled on a cask, suspended
them by the heels, and resorted to a sort of practice that might
have destroyed well men, instead of resuscitating those in whom the
vital spark was dormant, if not actually extinct.
Two hours later, Rose, seated in her own cabin, unavoidably
overheard the following dialogue, which passed in English, a
language that Se¤or Montefalderon spoke perfectly well, as has been
"Well, Se¤or," said Spike, "I hope this little accident will not
prevent our final trade. You will want the brig now, to take the
"And how am I to pay you for the brig, Se¤or Spike, even if I buy
"I'll ventur' to guess there is plenty of money in Mexico. Though
they do say the government is so backward about paying, I have
always found you punctual, and am not afraid to put faith in you
"But I have no longer any money to pay you half in hand, as I did
for the powder, when last in New York."
"The bag was pretty well lined with doubloons when I saw it last,
"And do you know where that bag is; and where there is another that
holds the same sum?"
Spike started, and he mused in silence some little time, ere he
"I had forgotten," he at length answered. "The gold must have all
gone down in the schooner, along with the powder!"
"And the poor men!"
"Why, as for the men, Se¤or, more may be had for the asking; but
powder and doubloons will be hard to find, when most wanted. Then
the men were poor men, accordin' to my idees of what an able seaman
should be, or they never would have let their schooner turn turtle
with them as she did."
"We will talk of the money, Don Esteban, if you please," said the
Mexican, with reserve.
"With all my heart, Don Wan--nothing is more agreeable to me than
money. How many of them doubloons shall fall to my share, if I raise
the schooner and put you in possession of your craft again?"
"Can that be done, Se¤or?" demanded Don Juan earnestly.
"A seaman can do almost anything, in that way, Don Wan, if you will
give him time and means. For one-half the doubloons I can find in
the wrack, the job shall be done."
"You can have them," answered Don Juan, quietly, a good deal
surprised that Spike should deem it necessary to offer him any part
of the sum he might find. "As for the powder, I suppose that is lost
to my country."
"Not at all, Don Wan. The flour is well packed around it, and I
don't expect it would take any harm in a month. I shall not only
turn over the flour to you, just as if nothing had happened, but I
shall put four first-rate hands aboard your schooner, who will take
her into port for you, with a good deal more sartainty than forty of
the men you had. My mate is a prime navigator."
This concluded the bargain, every word of which was heard by Rose,
and every word of which she did not fail to communicate to Mulford,
the moment there was an opportunity. The young man heard it with
great interest, telling Rose that he should do all he could to
assist in raising the schooner, in the hope that something might
turn up to enable him to escape in her, taking off Rose and her
aunt. As for his carrying her into a Mexican port, let them trust
him for that! Agreeably to the arrangement, orders were given that
afternoon to commence the necessary preparations for the work, and
considerable progress was made in them by the time the Swash's
people were ordered to knock off work for the night.
After the sun had set, the reaction in the currents again commenced,
and it blew for a few hours heavily, during the night. Toward
morning, however, it moderated, and when the sun re-appeared it
scarcely ever diffused its rays over a more peaceful or quiet day.
Spike caused all hands to be called, and immediately set about the
important business he had before him.
In order that the vessel might be as free as possible, Jack Tier was
directed to skull the females ashore, in the brig's yawl; Se¤or
Montefalderon, a man of polished manners, as we maintain is very apt
to be the case with Mexican gentlemen, whatever may be the opinion
of this good republic on the subject just at this moment, asked
permission to be of the party. Mulford found an opportunity to beg
Rose, if they landed at the light, to reconnoitre the place well,
with a view to ascertain what facilities it could afford in an
attempt to escape. They did land at the light, and glad enough were
Mrs. Budd, Rose and Biddy to place their feet on terr firmƒ after
so long a confinement to the narrow limits of a vessel.
"Well," said Jack Tier, as they walked up to the spot where the
buildings stood, "this is a rum place for a light'us, Miss Rose, and
I don't wonder the keeper and his mess-mates has cleared out."
"I am very sorry to say," observed Se¤or Montefalderon, whose
countenance expressed the concern he really felt, "that the keeper
and his only companion, a boy, were on board the schooner, and have
perished in her, in common with so many of my poor countrymen. There
are the graves of two whom we buried here last evening, after vain
efforts to restore them to life!"
"What a dreadful catastrophe it has been, Se¤or," said Rose, whose
sweet countenance eloquently expressed the horror and regret she so
naturally felt--"Twenty fellow-beings hurried into eternity without
even an instant for prayer!"
"You feel for them, Se¤orita--it is natural you should, and it is
natural that I, their countryman and leader, should feel for them,
also. I do not know what God has in reserve for my unfortunate
country! We may have cruel and unscrupulous men among us, Se¤orita,
but we have thousands who are just, and brave, and honourable."
"So Mr. Mulford tells me, Se¤or; and he has been much in your ports,
on the west coast."
"I like that young man, and wonder not a little at his and your
situation in this brig--" rejoined the Mexican, dropping his voice
so as not to be heard by their companions, as they walked a little
ahead of Mrs. Budd and Biddy. "The Se¤or Spike is scarcely worthy to
be his commander or your guardian."
"Yet you find him worthy of your intercourse and trust, Don Juan?"
The Mexican shrugged his shoulders, and smiled equivocally; still,
in a melancholy manner. It would seem he did not deem it wise to
push this branch of the subject further, since he turned to another.
"I like the Se¤or Mulford," he resumed, "for his general deportment
and principles, so far as I can judge of him on so short an
"Excuse me, Se¤or," interrupted Rose, hurriedly--"but you never saw
him until you met him here."
"Never--I understand you, Se¤orita, and can do full justice to the
young man's character. I am willing to think he did not know the
errand of his vessel, or I should not have seen him now. But what I
most like him for, is this: Last night, during the gale, he and I
walked the deck together, for an hour. We talked of Mexico, and of
this war, so unfortunate for my country already, and which may
become still more so, when he uttered this noble sentiment--`My
country is more powerful than yours, Se¤or Montefalderon,' he said,
`and in this it has been more favoured by God. You have suffered
from ambitious rulers, and from military rule, while we have been
advancing under the arts of peace, favoured by a most beneficent
Providence. As for this war, I know but little about it, though I
dare say the Mexican government may have been wrong in some things
that it might have controlled and some that it might not--but let
right be where it will, I am sorry to see a nation that has taken so
firm a stand in favour of popular government, pressed upon so hard
by another that is supposed to be the great support of such
principles. America and Mexico are neighbours, and ought to be
friends; and while I do not, cannot blame my own country for
pursuing the war with vigour, nothing would please me more than to
hear peace proclaimed.'"
"That is just like Harry Mulford," said Rose, thoughtfully, as soon
as her companion ceased to speak. "I do wish, Se¤or, that there
could be no use for this powder, that is now buried in the sea."
Don Juan Montefalderon smiled, and seemed a little surprised that
the fair young thing at his side should have known of the
treacherous contents of the flour-barrels. No doubt he found it
inexplicable, that persons like Rose and Mulford should, seemingly,
be united with one like Spike; but he was too well bred, and,
indeed, too effectually mystified, to push the subject further than
might be discreet.
By this time they were near the entrance of the lighthouse, into
which the whole party entered, in a sort of mute awe at its silence
and solitude. At Se¤or Montefalderon's invitation, they ascended to
the lantern, whence they could command a wide and fair view of the
surrounding waters. The reef was much more apparent from that
elevation than from below; and Rose could see that numbers of its
rocks were bare, while on other parts of it there was the appearance
of many feet of water. Rose gazed at it with longing eyes, for, from
a few remarks that had fallen from Mulford, she suspected he had
hopes of escaping among its channels and coral.
As they descended and walked through the buildings, Rose also took
good heed of the supplies the place afforded. There were flour, and
beef, and pork, and many other of the common articles of food, as
well as water in a cistern, that caught it as it flowed from the
roof of the dwelling. Water was also to be found in casks--nothing
like a spring or a well existing among those islets. All these
things Rose noted, putting them aside in her memory for ready
In the mean time the mariners were not idle. Spike moved his brig,
and moored her, head and stern, alongside of the wreck, before the
people got their breakfasts. As soon as that meal was ended, both
captain and mate set about their duty in earnest. Mulford carried
out an anchor on the off-side of the Swash, and dropped it at a
distance of about eighty fathoms from the vessel's beam. Purchases
were brought from both mast-heads of the brig to the chain of this
anchor, and were hove upon until the vessel was given a heel of more
than a streak, and the cable was tolerably taut. Other purchases
were got up opposite, and overhauled down, in readiness to take hold
of the schooner's masts. The anchor of the schooner was weighed by
its buoy-rope, and the chain, after being rove through the upper or
opposite hawse-hole, brought in on board the Swash. Another chain
was dropped astern, in such a way, that when the schooner came
upright, it would be sure to pass beneath her keel, some six or
eight feet from the rudder. Slings were then sunk over the
mast-heads, and the purchases were hooked on. Hours were consumed in
these preliminary labours, and the people went to dinner as soon as
they were completed.
When the men had dined, Spike brought one of his purchases to the
windlass, and the other to the capstan, though not until each was
bowsed taut by hand; a few minutes having brought the strain so far
on everything, as to enable a seaman, like Spike, to form some
judgment of the likelihood that his preventers and purchases would
stand. Some changes were found necessary to equalize the strain,
but, on the whole, the captain was satisfied with his work, and the
crew were soon ordered to "heave-away; the windlass best."
In the course of half an hour the hull of the vessel, which lay on
its bilge, began to turn on its keel, and the heads of the spars to
rise above the water. This was the easiest part of the process, all
that was required of the purchases being to turn over a mass which
rested on the sands of the bay. Aided by the long levers afforded by
the spars, the work advanced so rapidly, that, in just one hour's
time after his people had begun to heave, Spike had the pleasure to
see the schooner standing upright, alongside of his own brig, though
still sunk to the bottom. The wreck was secured in this position, by
means of guys and preventers, in order that it might not again cant,
when the order was issued to hook on the slings that were to raise
it to the surface. These slings were the chains of the schooner, one
of which went under her keel, while for the other the captain
trusted to the strength of the two hawse-holes, having passed the
cable out of one and in at the other, in a way to serve his
purposes, as has just been stated.
When all was ready, Spike mustered his crew, and made a speech. He
told the men that he was about a job that was out of the usual line
of their duty, and that he knew they had a right to expect extra pay
for such extra work. The schooner contained money, and his object
was to get at it. If he succeeded, their reward would be a doubloon
a man, which would be earning more than a month's wages by
twenty-four hours' work. This was enough. The men wanted to hear no
more; but they cheered their commander, and set about their task in
the happiest disposition possible.
The reader will understand that the object to be first achieved, was
to raise a vessel, with a hold filled with flour and gunpowder, from
off the bottom of the bay to its surface. As she stood, the deck of
this vessel was about six feet under water, and every one will
understand that her weight, so long as it was submerged in a fluid
as dense as that of the sea, would be much more manageable than if
suspended in air. The barrels, for instance, were not much heavier
than the water they displaced, and the wood work of the vessel
itself, was, on the whole, positively lighter than the element in
which it had sunk. As for the water in the hold, that was of the
same weight as the water on the outside of tne craft, and there had
not been much to carry the schooner down, beside her iron, the spars
that were out of water, and her ballast. This last, some ten or
twelve tons in weight, was in fact the principal difficulty, and
alone induced Spike to have any doubts about his eventual success.
There was no foreseeing the result until he had made a trial,
however; and the order was again given to "heave away."
To the infinite satisfaction of the Swash's crew, the weight was
found quite manageable, so long as the hull remained beneath the
water. Mulford, with three or four assistants, was kept on board the
schooner lightening her, by getting the other anchor off her bows,
and throwing the different objects overboard, or on the decks of the
brig. By the time the bulwarks reached the surface, as much was
gained in this way, as was lost by having so much of the lighter
woodwork rise above the water. As a matter of course, however, the
weight increased as the vessel rose, and more especially as the
lower portion of the spars, the bowsprit, boom, &c., from being
buoyant assistants, became so much dead weight to be lifted.
Spike kept a watchful eye on his spars, and the extra supports he
had given them. He was moving, the whole time, from point to point,
feeling shrouds and back-stays, and preventers, in order to
ascertain the degree of strain on each, or examining how the
purchases stood. As for the crew, they cheered at their toil,
incessantly, passing from capstan bars to the handspikes, and vice
versƒ. They, too, felt that their task was increasing in resistance
as it advanced, and now found it more difficult to gain an inch,
than it had been at first to gain a foot. They seemed, indeed, to be
heaving their own vessel out, instead of heaving the other craft up,
and it was not long before they had the Swash heeling over toward
the wreck several streaks. The strain, moreover, on everything,
became not only severe, but somewhat menacing. Every shroud,
back-stay, and preventer was as taut as a bar of iron, and the
chain-cable that led to the anchor planted off abeam, was as
straight as if the brig were riding by it in a gale of wind. One or
two ominous surges aloft, too, had been heard, and, though no more
than straps and slings settling into their places under hard
strains, they served to remind the crew that danger might come from
that quarter. Such was the state of things, when Spike called out to
"heave and pall," that he might take a look at the condition of the
Although a great deal remained to be done, in order to get the
schooner to float, a great deal had already been done. Her precise
condition was as follows: Having no cabin windows, the water had
entered her, when she capsized, by the only four apertures her
construction possessed. These were the companion-way, or
cabin-doors; the sky-light; the main-hatch, or the large inlet
amid-ships, by which cargo went up and down; and the booby-hatch,
which was the counterpart of the companion-way, forward; being
intended to admit of ingress to the forecastle, the apartment of the
crew. Each of these hatch-ways, or orifices, had the usual defences
of "coamings," strong frame-work around their margins. These
coamings rose six or eight inches above the deck, and answered the
double purpose of strengthening the vessel, in a part, that without
them would be weaker han common, and of preventing any water that
might be washing about the decks from running below. As soon,
therefore, as these three apertures, or their coamings, could be
raised above the level of the water of the basin, all danger of the
vessel's receiving any further tribute of that sort from the ocean
would be over. It was to this end, consequently, that Spike's
efforts had been latterly directed, though they had only in part
succeeded. The schooner possessed a good deal of sheer, as it is
termed; or, her two extremities rose nearly a foot above her centre,
when on an even keel. This had brought her extremities first to the
surface, and it was the additional weight which had consequently
been brought into the air that had so much increased the strain, and
induced Spike to pause. The deck forward, as far aft as the
foremast, and aft as far forward as the centre of the trunk, or to
the sky-light, was above the water, or at least awash; while all the
rest of it was covered. In the vicinity of the main-hatch there were
several inches of water; enough indeed to leave the upper edge of
the coamings submerged by about an inch. To raise the keel that inch
by means of the purchases, Spike well knew would cost him more
labour, and would incur more risk than all that had been done
previously, and he paused before he would attempt it.
The men were now called from the brig and ordered to come on board
the schooner. Spike ascertained by actual measurement how much was
wanted to bring the coamings of the main-hatch above the water,
until which, he knew, pumping and bailing would be useless. He found
it was quite an inch, and was at a great loss to know how that inch
should be obtained. Mulford advised another trial with the
handspikes and bars, but to this Spike would not consent. He
believed that the masts of the brig had already as much pressure on
them as they would bear. The mate next proposed getting the main
boom off the vessel, and to lighten the craft by cutting away her
bowsprit and masts. The captain was well enough disposed to do this,
but he doubted whether it would meet with the approbation of "Don
Wan," who was still ashore with Rose and her aunt, and who probably
looked forward to recovering his gunpowder by means of those very
spars. At length the carpenter hit upon a plan that was adopted.