Part 4 out of 10
This plan was very simple, though it had its own ingenuity. It will
be remembered that water could now only enter the vessel's hold at
the main-hatch, all the other hatchways having their coamings above
the element. The carpenter proposed, therefore, that the
main-hatches, which had been off when the tornado occurred, but
which had been found on deck when the vessel righted, should now be
put on, oakum being first laid along in their rabbetings, and that
the cracks should be stuffed with additional oakum, to exclude as
much water as possible. He thought that two or three men, by using
caulking irons for ten minutes, would make the hatch-way so tight
that very little water would penetrate. While this was doing, he
himself would bore as many holes forward and aft as he could, with a
two inch auger, out of which the water then in the vessel would be
certain to run. Spike was delighted with this project, and gave the
necessary orders on the spot.
This much must be said of the crew of the Molly Swash--whatever they
did in their own profession, they did intelligently and well. On the
present occasion they maintained their claim to this character, and
were both active and expert. The hatches were soon on, and, in an
imperfect manner, caulked. While this was doing, the carpenter got
into a boat, and going under the schooner's bows, where a whole
plank was out of water, he chose a spot between two of the timbers,
and bored a hole as near the surface of the water as he dared to do.
Not satisfied with one hole, however, he bored many--choosing both
sides of the vessel to make them, and putting some aft as well as
forward. In a word, in the course of twenty minutes the schooner was
tapped in at least a dozen places, and jets of water, two inches in
diameter, were spouting from her on each bow, and under each
Spike and Mulford noted the effect. Some water, doubtless, still
worked itself into the vessel about the main-hatch, but that more
flowed from her by means of the outlets just named, was quite
apparent. After close watching at the outlets for some time, Spike
was convinced that the schooner was slowly rising, the intense
strain that still came from the brig producing that effect as the
vessel gradually became lighter. By the end of half an hour, there
could be no longer any doubt, the holes, which had been bored within
an inch of the water, being now fully two inches above it. The auger
was applied anew, still nearer to the surface of the sea, and as
fresh outlets were made, those that began to manifest a dulness in
their streams were carefully plugged.
Spike now thought it was time to take a look at the state of things
on deck. Here, to his joy, he ascertained that the coamings had
actually risen a little above the water. The reader is not to
suppose by this rising of the vessel, that she had become
sufficiently buoyant, in consequence of the water that had run out
of her, to float of herself. This was far from being the case; but
the constant upward pressure from the brig, which, on mechanical
principles, tended constantly to bring that craft upright, had the
effect to lift the schooner as the latter was gradually relieved
from the weight that pressed her toward the bottom.
The hatches were next removed, when it was found that the water in
the schooner's hold had so far lowered, as to leave a vacant space
of quite a foot between the lowest part of the deck and its surface.
Toward the two extremities of the vessel this space necessarily was
much increased, in consequence of the sheer. Men were now sent into
the hatchway with orders to hook on to the flour-barrels--a whip
having been rigged in readiness to hoist them on deck. At the same
time gangs were sent to the pumps, though Spike still depended for
getting rid of the water somewhat on the auger--the carpenter
continuing to bore and plug his holes as new opportunities offered,
and the old outlets became useless. It was true this expedient would
soon cease, for the water having found its level in the vessel's
hold, was very nearly on a level also with that on the outside.
Bailing also was commenced, both forward and aft.
Spike's next material advantage was obtained by means of the cargo.
By the time the sun had set, fully two hundred barrels had been
rolled into the hatchway, and passed on deck, whence about half of
them were sent in the lighthouse boat to the nearest islet, and the
remainder were transferred to the deck of the brig. These last were
placed on the off side of the Swash, and aided in bringing her
nearer upright. A great deal was gained in getting rid of these
barrels. The water in the schooner lowered just as much as the space
they had occupied,-and the vessel was relieved at once of twenty
tons in weight.
Just after the sun had set, Se¤or Don Juan Montefalderon and his
party returned on board. They had staid on the island to the last
moment, at Rose's request, for she had taken as close an observation
of everything as possible, in order to ascertain if any means of
concealment existed, in the event of her aunt, Biddy, and herself
quitting the brig. The islets were all too naked and too small,
however; and she was compelled to return to the Swash, without any
hopes derived from this quarter.
Spike had just directed the people to get their suppers as the
Mexican came on board. Together they descended to the schooner's
deck, where they had a long but secret conference. Se¤or
Montefalderon was a calm, quiet and reasonable man, and while he
felt as one would be apt to feel who had recently seen so many
associates swept suddenly out of existence, the late catastrophe did
not in the least unman him. It is too much the habit of the American
people to receive their impressions from newspapers, which throw off
their articles unreflectingly, and often ignorantly, as crones in
petticoats utter their gossip. In a word, the opinions thus obtained
are very much on a level, in value, with the thoughts of those who
are said to think aloud, and who give utterance to all the crudities
and trivial rumours that may happen to reach their ears. In this
manner, we apprehend, very false notions of our neighbours of Mexico
have become circulated among us. That nation is a mixed race, and
has necessarily the various characteristics of such an origin, and
it is unfortunately little influenced by the diffusion of
intelligence which certainly exists here. Although an enemy, it
ought to be acknowledged, however, that even Mexico has her
redeeming points. Anglo-Saxons as we are, we have no desire
unnecessarily to illustrate that very marked feature in the
Anglo-Saxon character, which prompts the mother stock to calumniate
all who oppose it, but would rather adopt some of that chivalrous
courtesy of which so much that is lofty and commendable is to be
found among the descendants of Old Spain.
The Se¤or Montefalderon was earnestly engaged in what he conceived
to be the cause of his country. It was scarcely possible to bring
together two men impelled by motives more distinct than Spike and
this gentleman. The first was acting under impulses of the lowest
and most grovelling nature; while the last was influenced by motives
of the highest. However much Mexico may, and has, weakened her cause
by her own punic faith, instability, military oppression, and
political revolutions, giving to the Texans in particular ample
justification for their revolt, it was not probable that Don Juan
Montefalderon saw the force of all the arguments that a casuist of
ordinary ingenuity could certainly adduce against his country; for
it is a most unusual thing to find a man anywhere, who is willing to
admit that the positions of an opponent are good. He saw in the
events of the day, a province wrested from his nation; and, in his
reasoning on the subject, entirely overlooking the numerous
occasions on which his own fluctuating government had given
sufficient justification, not to say motives, to their powerful
neighbours to take the law into their own hands, and redress
themselves, he fancied all that has occurred was previously planned;
instead of regarding it, as it truly is, as merely the result of
political events that no man could have foreseen, that no man had
originally imagined, or that any man could control.
Don Juan understood Spike completely, and quite justly appreciated
not only his character, but his capabilities. Their acquaintance was
not of a day, though it had ever been marked by that singular
combination of caution and reliance that is apt to characterize the
intercourse between the knave and the honest man, when circumstances
compel not only communication, but, to a certain extent, confidence.
They now paced the deck of the schooner, side by side, for fully an
hour, during which time the price of the vessel, the means, and the
mode of payment and transfer, were fully settled between them.
"But what will you do with your passengers, Don Esteban?" asked the
Mexican pleasantly, when the more material points were adjusted. "I
feel a great interest in the young lady in particular, who is a
charming se¤orita, and who tells me that her aunt brought her this
voyage on account of her health. She looks much too blooming to be
out of health, and if she were, this is a singular voyage for an
invalid to make!"
"You don't understand human natur' yet, altogether, I see, Don Wan,"
answered Spike, chuckling and winking. "As you and I are not only
good friends, but what a body may call old friends, I'll let you
into a secret in this affair, well knowing that you'll not betray
it. It's quite true that the old woman thinks her niece is a
pulmonary, as they call it, and that this v'y'ge is recommended for
her, but the gal is as healthy as she's handsom'."
"Her constitution, then, must be very excellent, for it is seldom I
have seen so charming a young woman. But if the aunt is misled in
this matter, how has it been with the niece?"
Spike did not answer in words, but he leered upon his companion, and
"You mean to be understood that you are in intelligence with each
other, I suppose, Don Esteban," returned the Se¤or Montefalderon,
who did not like the captain's manner, and was willing to drop the
Spike then informed his companion, in confidence, that he and Rose
were affianced, though without the aunt's knowledge,--that he
intended to marry the niece the moment he reached a Mexican port
with the brig, and that it was their joint intention to settle in
the country. He added that the affair required management, as his
intended had property, and expected more, and he begged Don Juan to
aid him, as things drew near to a crisis. The Mexican evaded an
answer, and the discourse dropped.
The moon was now shining, and would continue to throw its pale light
over the scene for two or three hours longer. Spike profited by the
circumstance to continue the work of lightening the schooner. One of
the first things done next was to get up the dead, and to remove
them to the boat. This melancholy office occupied an hour, the
bodies being landed on the islet, near the powder, and there
interred in the sands. Don Juan Montefalderon attended on this
occasion, and repeated some prayers over the graves, as he had done
in the morning, in the cases of the two who had been buried near the
While this melancholy duty was in the course of performance, that of
pumping and bailing was continued, under the immediate personal
superintendence of Mulford. It would not be easy to define, with
perfect clearness, the conflicting feelings by which the mate of the
Swash was now impelled. He had no longer any doubt on the subject of
Spike's treason, and had it not been for Rose, he would not have
hesitated a moment about making off in the light-house boat for Key
West, in order to report all that had passed to the authorities. But
not only Rose was there, and to be cared for, but what was far more
difficult to get along with, her aunt was with her. It is true, Mrs.
Budd was no longer Spike's dupe; but under any circumstances she was
a difficult subject to manage, and most especially so in all matters
that related to the sea. Then the young man submitted, more or less,
to the strange influence which a fine craft almost invariably
obtains over those that belong to her. He did not like the idea of
deserting the Swash, at the very moment he would not have hesitated
about punishing her owner for his many misdeeds. In a word, Harry
was too much of a tar not to feel a deep reluctance to turn against
his cruise, or his voyage, however much either might be condemned by
his judgment, or even by his principles.
It was quite nine o'clock when the Se¤or Montefalderon and Spike
returned from burying the dead. No sooner did the last put his foot
on the deck of his own vessel, than he felt the fall of one of the
purchases which had been employed in raising the schooner. It was so
far slack as to satisfy him that the latter now floated by her own
buoyancy, though it might be well to let all stand until morning,
for the purposes of security. Thus apprised of the condition of the
two vessels, he gave the welcome order to "knock off for the night."
"At the piping of all hands,
When the judgment signal's spread--
When the islands and the land,
And the seas give up their dead,
And the south and the north shall come;
When the sinner is dismayed,
And the just man is afraid,
Then heaven be thy aid,
The people had now a cessation from their toil. Of all the labour
known to sea-faring men, that of pumping is usually thought to be
the most severe. Those who work at it have to be relieved every
minute, and it is only by having gangs to succeed each other, that
the duty can be done at all with anything like steadiness. In the
present instance, it is true, that the people of the Swash were
sustained by the love of gold, but glad enough were they when
Mulford called out to them to "knock off, and turn in for the
night." It was high time this summons should be made, for not only
were the people excessively wearied, but the customary hours of
labour were so far spent, that the light of the moon had some time
before begun to blend with the little left by the parting sun. Glad
enough were all hands to quit the toil; and two minutes were
scarcely elapsed ere most of the crew had thrown themselves down,
and were buried in deep sleep. Even Spike and Mulford took the rest
they needed, the cook alone being left to look out for the changes
in the weather. In a word, everybody but this idler was exhausted
with pumping and bailing, and even gold had lost its power to charm,
until nature was recruited by rest.
The excitement produced by the scenes through which they had so
lately passed, caused the females to sleep soundly, too. The
death-like stillness which pervaded the vessel contributed to their
rest, and Rose never woke, from the first few minutes after her head
was on her pillow, until near four in the morning. The deep quiet
seemed ominous to one who had so lately witnessed the calm which
precedes the tornado, and she arose. In that low latitude and warm
season, few clothes were necessary, and our heroine was on deck in a
very few minutes. Here she found the same grave-like sleep pervading
everything. There was not a breath of air, and the ocean seemed to
be in one of its profoundest slumbers. The hard-breathing of Spike
could be heard through the open windows of his state-room, and this
was positively the only sound that was audible. The common men, who
lay scattered about the decks, more especially from the mainmast
forward, seemed to be so many logs, and from Mulford no breathing
The morning was neither very dark nor very light, it being easy to
distinguish objects that were near, while those at a distance were
necessarily lost in obscurity. Availing herself of the circumstance,
Rose went as far as the gangway, to ascertain if the cook were at
his post. She saw him lying near his galley, in as profound a sleep
as any of the crew. This she felt to be wrong, and she felt alarmed,
though she knew not why. Perhaps it was the consciousness of being
the only person up and awake at that hour of deepest night, in a
vessel so situated as the Swash, and in a climate in which
hurricanes seem to be the natural offspring of the air. Some one
must be aroused, and her tastes, feelings, and judgment, all pointed
to Harry Mulford as the person she ought to awaken. He slept
habitually in his clothes--the lightest summer dress of the tropics;
and the window of his little state-room was always open for air.
Moving lightly to the place, Rose laid her own little, soft hand on
the arm of the young man, when the latter was on his feet in an
instant. A single moment only was necessary to regain his
consciousness, when Mulford left the state-room and joined Rose on
"Why am I called, Rose," the young man asked, attempering his voice
to the calm that reigned around him; "and why am I called by you?"
Rose explained the state of the brig, and the feeling which induced
her to awaken him. With woman's gentleness she now expressed her
regret for having robbed Harry of his rest; had she reflected a
moment, she might have kept watch herself, and allowed him to obtain
the sleep he must surely so much require.
But Mulford laughed at this; protested he had never been awakened at
a more favourable moment, and would have sworn, had it been proper,
that a minute's further sleep would have been too much for him.
After these first explanations, Mulford walked round the decks,
carefully felt how much strain there was on the purchases, and
rejoined Rose to report that all was right, and that he did not
consider it necessary to call even the cook. The black was an idler
in no sense but that of keeping watch, and he had toiled the past
day as much as any of the men, though it was not exactly at the
A long and semi-confidential conversation now occurred between Harry
and Rose. They talked of Spike, the brig, and her cargo, and of the
delusion of the captain's widow. It was scarcely possible that
powder should be so much wanted at the Havanna as to render
smuggling, at so much cost, a profitable adventure; and Mulford
admitted his convictions that the pretended flour was originally
intended for Mexico. Rose related the tenor of the conversation she
had overheard between the two parties, Don Juan and Don Esteban, and
the mate no longer doubted that it was Spike's intention to sell the
brig to the enemy. She also alluded to what had passed between
herself and the stranger.
Mulford took this occasion to introduce the subject of Jack Tier's
intimacy and favour with Rose. He even professed to feel some
jealousy on account of it, little as there might be to alarm most
men in the rivalry of such a competitor. Rose laughed, as girls will
laugh when there is question of their power over the other sex, and
she fairly shook her rich tresses as she declared her determination
to continue to smile on Jack to the close of the voyage. Then, as if
she had said more than she intended, she added with woman's
generosity and tenderness,--"After all, Harry, you know how much I
promised to you even before we sailed, and how much more since, and
have no just cause to dread even Jack. There is another reason,
however, that ought to set your mind entirely at case on his
account. Jack is married, and has a partner living at this very
moment, as he does not scruple to avow himself."
A hissing noise, a bright light, and a slight explosion, interrupted
the half-laughing girl, and Mulford, turning on his heel, quick as
thought, saw that a rocket had shot into the air, from a point close
under the bows of the brig. He was still in the act of moving toward
the forecastle, when, at the distance of several leagues, he saw the
explosion of another rocket high in the air. He knew enough of the
practices of vessels of war, to feel certain that these were a
signal and its answer from some one in the service of government.
Not at all sorry to have the career of the Swash arrested, before
she could pass into hostile hands, or before evil could befall Rose,
Mulford reached the forecastle just in time to answer the inquiry
that was immediately put to him, in the way of a hail. A gig,
pulling four oars only, with two officers in its stern-sheets, was
fairly under the vessel's bows, and the mate could almost
distinguish the countenance of the officer who questioned him, the
instant he showed his head and shoulders above the bulwarks.
"What vessels are these?" demanded the stranger, speaking in the
authoritative manner of one who acted for the state, but not
speaking much above the usual conversational tone.
"American and Spanish," was the answer. "This brig is American--the
schooner alongside is a Spaniard, that turned turtle in a tornado,
about six-and-thirty hours since, and on which we have been hard at
work trying to raise her, since the gale which succeeded the tornado
has blown its pipe out."
"Ay, ay, that's the story, is it? I did not know what to make of
you, lying cheek by jowl, in this fashion. Was anybody lost on board
"All hands, including every soul aft and forward, the supercargo
excepted, who happened to be aboard here. We buried seventeen bodies
this afternoon on the smallest of the Keys that you see near at
hand, and two this morning alongside of the light. But what boat is
that, and where are you from, and whom are you signalling?"
"The boat is a gig," answered the stranger, deliberately, "and she
belongs to a cruiser of Uncle Sam's, that is off the reef, a short
bit to the eastward, and we signalled our captain. But I'll come on
board you, sir, if you please."
Mulford walked aft to meet the stranger at the gangway, and was
relieved, rather than otherwise, at finding that Spike was already
on the quarter-deck. Should the vessel of war seize the brig, he
could rejoice at it, but so strong were his professional ideas of
duty to the craft he sailed in, that he did not find it in his heart
to say aught against her. Were any mishap to befall it, or were
justice to be done, he preferred that it might be done under Spike's
own supervision, rather than under his.
"Call all hands, Mr. Mulford," said Spike, as they met. "I see a
streak of day coming yonder in the east--let all hands be called at
once. What strange boat is this we have alongside?"
This question was put to the strangers, Spike standing on his
gangway-ladder to ask it, while the mate was summoning the crew. The
officer saw that a new person was to be dealt with, and in his
quiet, easy way, he answered, while stretching out his hands to take
the man-rope--"Your servant, sir--we are man-of-war's men,
belonging to one of Uncle Sam's craft, outside, and have just come
in to pay you a visit of ceremony. I told one, whom I suppose was
your mate, that I would just step on board of you."
"Ay, ay--one at a time, if you please. It's war-time, and I cannot
suffer armed boat's crews to board me at night, without knowing
something about them. Come up yourself, if you please, but order
your people to stay in the boat. Here, muster about this gangway,
half a dozen of you, and keep an eye on the crew of this strange
These orders had no effect on the cool and deliberate lieutenant,
who ascended the brig's side, and immediately stood on her deck. No
sooner had he and Spike confronted each other, than each gave a
little start, like that of recognition, and the lieutenant spoke.
"Ay, ay--I believe I know this vessel now. It is the Molly Swash, of
New York, bound to Key West, and a market; and I have the honour to
see Captain Stephen Spike again."
It was Mr. Wallace, the second lieutenant of the sloop-of-war that
had boarded the brig in the Mona Passage, and to avoid whom Spike
had gone to the southward of Jamaica. The meeting was very
mal-…-propos, but it would not do to betray that the captain and
owner of the vessel thought as much as this; on the contrary,
Wallace was warmly welcomed, and received, not only as an old
acquaintance, but as a very agreeable visiter. To have seen the two,
as they walked aft together, one might have supposed that the
meeting was conducive of nothing but a very mutual satisfaction, it
was so much like that which happens between those who keep up a
"Well, I'm glad to see you again, Captain Spike," cried Wallace,
after the greetings were passed, "if it be only to ask where you
flew to, the day we left you in the Mona Passage? We looked out for
you with all our eyes, expecting you would be down between San
Domingo and Jamaica, but I hardly think you got by us in the night.
Our master thinks you must have dove, and gone past loon-fashion. Do
you ever perform that manoeuvre?"
"No, we've kept above water the whole time, lieutenant," answered
Spike, heartily; "and that is more than can be said of the poor
fellow alongside of us. I was so much afraid of the Isle of Pines,
that I went round Jamaica."
"You might have given the Isle of Pines a berth, and still have
passed to the northward of the Englishmen," said Wallace, a little
drily. "However, that island is somewhat of a scarecrow, and we have
been to take a look at it ourselves. All's right there, just now.
But you seem light; what have you done with your flour?"
"Parted with every barrel of it. You may remember I was bound to Key
West, and a market. Well, I found my market here, in American
"You have been lucky, sir. This `emporium' does not seem to be
exactly a commercial emporium."
"The fact is, the flour is intended for the Havanna; and I fancy it
is to be shipped for slavers. But I am to know nothing of all that,
you'll understand, lieutenant. If I sell my flour in American
waters, at two prices, it's no concern of mine what becomes of it
"Unless it happen to pass into enemy's hands, certainly not; and you
are too patriotic to deal with Mexico, just now, I'm sure. Pray, did
that flour go down when the schooner turned turtle?"
"Every barrel of it; but Don Wan, below there, thinks that most of
it may yet be saved, by landing it on one of those Keys to dry.
Flour, well packed, wets in slowly. You see we have some of it on
"And who may Don Wan be, sir, pray? We are sent here to look after
Dons and Donas, you know."
"Don Wan is a Cuban merchant, and deals in such articles as he
wants. I fell in with him among the reefs here, where he was
rummaging about in hopes of meeting with a wrack, he tells me, and
thinking to purchase something profitable in that way; but finding I
had flour, he agreed to take it out of me at this anchorage, and
send me away in ballast at once. I have found Don Wan Montefalderon
ready pay, and very honourable."
Wallace then requested an explanation of the disaster, to the
details of which he listened with a sailor's interest. He asked a
great many questions, all of which bore on the more nautical
features of the event; and, day having now fairly appeared, he
examined the purchases and backings of the Swash with professional
nicety. The schooner was no lower in the water than when the men had
knocked off work the previous night; and Spike set the people at the
pumps and their bailing again, as the most effectual method of
preventing their making any indiscreet communications to the
About this time the relict appeared on deck, when Spike gallantly
introduced the lieutenant anew to his passengers. It is true he knew
no name to use, but that was of little moment, as he called the
officer "the lieutenant," and nothing else.
Mrs. Budd was delighted with this occasion to show-off, and she soon
broke out on the easy, indolent, but waggish Wallace, in a strain to
surprise him, notwithstanding the specimen of the lady's skill from
which he had formerly escaped.
"Captain Spike is of opinion, lieutenant, that our cast-anchor here
is excellent, and I know the value of a good cast-anchor place; for
my poor Mr. Budd was a sea-faring man, and taught me almost as much
of your noble profession as he knew himself."
"And he taught you, ma'am," said Wallace, fairly opening his eyes,
under the influence of astonishment, "to be very particular about
"Indeed he did. He used to say, that roads-instead were never as
good, for such purposes, as land that's locked havens, for the
anchors would return home, as he called it, in roads-instead."
"Yes, ma'am," answered Wallace, looking very queer at first, as if
disposed to laugh outright, then catching a glance of Rose, and
changing his mind; "I perceive that Mr. Budd knew what he was about,
and preferred an anchorage where he was well land-locked, and where
there was no danger of his anchors coming home, as so often happens
in your open roadsteads."
"Yes, that's just it! That was just his notion! You cannot feel how
delightful it is, Rose, to converse with one that thoroughly
understands such subjects! My poor Mr. Budd did, indeed, denounce
roads-instead, at all times calling them `savage.'"
"Savage, aunt," put in Rose, hoping to stop the good relict by her
own interposition--"that is a strange word to apply to an
"Not at all, young lady," said Wallace gravely. "They are often wild
berths, and wild berths are not essentially different from wild
beasts. Each is savage, as a matter of course."
"I knew I was right!" exclaimed the widow. "Savage cast-anchors come
of wild births, as do savage Indians. Oh! the language of the ocean,
as my poor Mr. Budd used to say, is eloquence tempered by common
Wallace stared again, but his attention was called to other things,
just at that moment. The appearance of Don Juan Montefalderon y
Castro on deck, reminded him of his duty, and approaching that
gentleman he condoled with him on the grave loss he had sustained.
After a few civil expressions on both sides, Wallace made a delicate
allusion to the character of the schooner.
"Under other circumstances," he said, "it might be my duty to
inquire a little particularly as to the nationality of your vessel,
Se¤or, for we are at war with the Mexicans, as you doubtless know."
"Certainly," answered Don Juan, with an unmoved air and great
politeness of manner, "though it would be out of my power to satisfy
you. Everything was lost in the schooner, and I have not a paper of
any sort to show you. If it be your pleasure to make a prize of a
vessel in this situation, certainly it is in your power to do it. A
few barrels of wet flour are scarce worth disputing about."
Wallace now seemed a little ashamed, the sang froid of the other
throwing dust in his eyes, and he was in a hurry to change the
subject. Se¤or Don Juan was very civilly condoled with again, and he
was made to repeat the incidents of the loss, as if his auditor took
a deep interest in what he said, but no further hint was given
touching the nationality of the vessel. The lieutenant's tact let
him see that Se¤or Montefalderon was a person of a very different
calibre from Spike, as well as of different habits; and he did not
choose to indulge in the quiet irony that formed so large an
ingredient in his own character, with this new acquaintance. He
spoke Spanish himself, with tolerable fluency, and a conversation
now occurred between the two, which was maintained for some time
with spirit and a very manifest courtesy.
This dialogue between Wallace and the Spaniard gave Spike a little
leisure for reflection. As the day advanced the cruiser came more
and more plainly in view, and his first business was to take a good
survey of her. She might have been three leagues distant, but
approaching with a very light breeze, at the rate of something less
than two knots in the hour. Unless there was some one on board her
who was acquainted with the channels of the Dry Tortugas, Spike felt
little apprehension of the ship's getting very near to him; but he
very well understood that, with the sort of artillery that was in
modern use among vessels of war, he would hardly be safe could the
cruiser get within a league. That near Uncle Sam's craft might
certainly come without encountering the hazards of the channels, and
within that distance she would be likely to get in the course of the
morning, should he have the complaisance to wait for her. He
determined, therefore, not to be guilty of that act of folly.
All this time the business of lightening the schooner proceeded.
Although Mulford earnestly wished that the man-of-war might get an
accurate notion of the true character and objects of the brig, he
could not prevail on himself to become an informer. In order to
avoid the temptation so to do, he exerted himself in keeping the men
at their tasks, and never before had pumping and bailing been
carried on with more spirit. The schooner soon floated of herself,
and the purchases which led to the Swash were removed. Near a
hundred more barrels of the flour had been taken out of the hold of
the Spanish craft, and had been struck on the deck of the brig, or
sent to the Key by means of the boats. This made a material change
in the buoyancy of the vessel, and enabled the bailing to go on with
greater facility. The pumps were never idle, but two small streams
of water were running the whole time toward the scuppers, and
through them into the sea.
At length the men were ordered to knock off, and to get their
breakfasts. This appeared to arouse Wallace, who had been chatting,
quite agreeably to himself, with Rose, and seemed reluctant to
depart, but who now became sensible that he was neglecting his duty.
He called away his boat's crew, and took a civil leave of the
passengers; after which he went over the side. The gig was some
little distance from the Swash, when Wallace rose and asked to see
Spike, with whom he had a word to say at parting.
"I will soon return," he said, "and bring you forty or fifty fresh
men, who will make light work with your wreck. I am certain our
commander will consent to my doing so, and will gladly send on board
you two or three boat's crews."
"If I let him," muttered Spike between his teeth, "I shall be a
poor, miserable cast-anchor devil, that's all."
To Wallace, however, he expressed his hearty acknowledgments; begged
him not to be in a hurry, as the worst was now over, and the row was
still a long one. If he got back toward evening it would be all in
good time. Wallace waved his hand, and the gig glided away. As for
Spike, he sat down on the plank-sheer where he had stood, and
remained there ruminating intently for two or three minutes. When he
descended to the deck his mind was fully made up. His first act was
to give some private orders to the boatswain, after which he
withdrew to the cabin, whither he summoned Tier, without delay.
"Jack," commenced the captain, using very little circumlocution in
opening his mind, "you and I are old shipmates, and ought to be old
friends, though I think your natur' has undergone some changes since
we last met. Twenty years ago there was no man in the ship on whom I
could so certainly depend as on Jack Tier; now, you seem given up
altogether to the women. Your mind has changed even more than your
"Time does that for all of us, Captain Spike," returned Tier coolly.
"I am not what I used to be, I'll own, nor are you yourself, for
that matter. When I saw you last, noble captain, you were a handsome
man of forty, and could go aloft with any youngster in the brig;
but, now, you're heavy, and not over-active."
"I!--Not a bit of change has taken place in me for the last thirty
years. I defy any man to show the contrary. But that's neither here
nor there; you are no young woman, Jack, that I need be boasting of
my health and beauty before you. I want a bit of real sarvice from
you, and want it done in old-times fashion; and I mean to pay for it
in old-times fashion, too."
As Spike concluded, he put into Tier's hand one of the doubloons
that he had received from Se¤or Montefalderon, in payment for the
powder. The doubloons, for which so much pumping and bailing were
then in process, were still beneath the waters of the gulf.
"Ay, ay, sir," returned Jack, smiling and pocketing the gold, with a
wink of the eye, and a knowing look; "this does resemble old times
sum'at. I now begin to know Captain Spike, my old commander again,
and see that he's more like himself than I had just thought him.
What am I to do for this, sir? speak plain, that I may be sartain to
steer the true course."
"Oh, just a trifle, Jack--nothing that will break up the ground-tier
of your wits, my old shipmate. You see the state of the brig, and
know that she is in no condition for ladies."
"'T would have been better all round, sir, had they never come
aboard at all," answered Jack, looking dark.
Spike was surprised, but he was too much bent on his projects to
"You know what sort of flour they're whipping out of the schooner,
and must understand that the brig will soon be in a pretty litter. I
do not intend to let them send a single barrel of it beneath my
hatches again, but the deck and the islands must take it all. Now I
wish to relieve my passengers from the confinement this will
occasion, and I have ordered the boatswain to pitch a tent for them
on the largest of these here Tortugas; and what I want of you, is to
muster food and water, and other women's knicknacks, and go ashore
with them, and make them as comfortable as you can for a few days,
or until we can get this schooner loaded and off."
Jack Tier looked at his commander as if he would penetrate his most
secret thoughts. A short pause succeeded, during which the steward's
mate was intently musing, then his countenance suddenly brightened;
he gave the doubloon a fillip, and caught it on the palm of his hand
as it descended, and he uttered the customary "Ay, ay, sir," with
apparent cheerfulness. Nothing more passed between these two
worthies, who now parted, Jack to make his arrangements, and Spike
to "tell his yarn," as he termed the operation in his own mind, to
Mrs. Budd, Rose, and Biddy. The widow listened complacently, though
she seemed half doubting, half ready to comply. As for Rose, she
received the proposal with delight--The confinement of the vessel
having become irksome to her. The principal obstacle was in
overcoming the difficulties made by the aunt, Biddy appearing to
like the notion quite as much as "Miss Rosy." As for the
light-house, Mrs. Budd had declared nothing would induce her to go
there; for she did not doubt that the place would soon be, if it
were not already, haunted. In this opinion she was sustained by
Biddy; and it was the knowledge of this opinion that induced Spike
to propose the tent.
"Are you sure, Captain Spike, it is not a desert island?" asked the
widow; "I remember that my poor Mr. Budd always spoke of desert
islands as horrid places, and spots that every one should avoid."
"What if it is, aunty," said Rose eagerly, "while we have the brig
here, close at hand. We shall suffer none of the wants of such a
place, so long as our friends can supply us."
"And such friends, Miss Rose," exclaimed Spike, a little
sentimentally for him, "friends that would undergo hunger and thirst
themselves, before you should want for any comforts."
"Do, now, Madam Budd," put in Biddy in her hearty way, "it's an
island, ye'll remimber: and sure that's just what ould Ireland has
ever been, God bless it! Islands make the pleasantest risidences."
"Well I'll venture to oblige you and Biddy, Rosy, dear," returned
the aunt, still half reluctant to yield; "but you'll remember, that
if I find it at all a desert island, I'll not pass the night on it
on any account whatever."
With this understanding the party was transferred to the shore. The
boatswain had already erected a sort of a tent, on a favourable
spot, using some of the old sails that had covered the
flour-barrels, not only for the walls, but for a carpet of some
extent also. This tent was ingeniously enough contrived. In addition
to the little room that was entirely enclosed, there was a sort of
piazza, or open verandah, which would enable its tenants to enjoy
the shade in the open air. Beneath this verandah, a barrel of fresh
water was placed, as well as three or four ship's stools, all of
which had been sent ashore with the materials for constructing the
tent. The boat had been going and coming for some time, and the
distance being short, the "desert island" was soon a desert no
longer. It is true that the supplies necessary to support three
women for as many days, were no great matter, and were soon landed,
but Jack Tier had made a provision somewhat more ample. A capital
caterer, he had forgotten nothing within the compass of his means,
that could contribute to the comfort of those who had been put
especially under his care. Long before the people "knocked off" for
their dinners, the arrangements were completed, and the boatswain
was ready to take his leave.
"Well, ladies," said that grum old salt, "I can do no more for you,
as I can see. This here island is now almost as comfortable as a
ship that has been in blue water for a month, and I do n't know how
it can be made more comfortabler."
This was only according to the boatswain's notion of comfort; but
Rose thanked him for his care in her winning way, while her aunt
admitted that, "for a place that was almost a desert island, things
did look somewhat promising." In a few minutes the men were all
gone, and the islet was left to the sole possession of the three
females, and their constant companion, Jack Tier. Rose was pleased
with the novelty of her situation, though the islet certainly did
deserve the opprobrium of being a "desert island." There was no
shade but that of the tent, and its verandah-like covering, though
the last, in particular, was quite extensive. There was no water,
that in the barrel and that of the ocean excepted. Of herbage there
was very little on this islet, and that was of the most meagre and
coarse character, being a long wiry grass, with here and there a few
stunted bushes. The sand was reasonably firm, however, more
especially round the shore, and the walking was far from unpleasant.
Little did Rose know it, but a week earlier, the spot would have
been next to intolerable to her, on account of the musquitoes,
gallinippers, and other similar insects of the family of tormentors;
but everything of the sort had temporarily disappeared in the
currents of the tornado. To do Spike justice, he was aware of this
circumstance, or he might have hesitated about exposing females to
the ordinary annoyances of one of these spots. Not a musquito, or
anything of the sort was left, however, all having gone to leeward,
in the vortex which had come so near sweeping off the Mexican
"This place will do very well, aunty, for a day or two," cried Rose
cheerfully, as she returned from a short excursion, and threw aside
her hat, one made to shade her face from the sun of a warm climate,
leaving the sea-breeze that was just beginning to blow, to fan her
blooming and sunny cheeks. "It is better than the brig. The worst
piece of land is better than the brig."
"Do not say that, Rose--not if it's a desert island, dear; and this
is desperately like a desert island; I am almost sorry I ventured on
"It will not be deserted by us, aunty, until we shall see occasion
to do so. Why not endeavour to get on board of yonder ship, and
return to New York in her; or at least induce her captain to put us
ashore somewhere near this, and go home by land. Your health never
seemed better than it is at this moment; and as for mine, I do
assure you, aunty, dear, I am as perfectly well as I ever was in my
"All from this voyage. I knew it would set you up, and am delighted
to hear you say as much. Biddy and I were talking of you this very
morning, my child, and we both agreed that you were getting to be
yourself again. Oh, ships, and brigs, and schooners, full-jigger or
half-jigger, for pulmonary complaints, say I! My poor Mr. Budd
always maintained that the ocean was the cure for all diseases, and
I determined that to sea you should go, the moment I became alarmed
for your health."
The good widow loved Rose most tenderly, and she was obliged to use
her handkerchief to dry the tears from her eyes as she concluded.
Those tears sprung equally from a past feeling of apprehension, and
a present feeling of gratitude. Rose saw this, and she took a seat
at her aunt's side, touched herself, as she never failed to be on
similar occasions with this proof of her relative's affection. At
that moment even Harry Mulford would have lost a good deal in her
kind feelings toward him, had he so much as smiled at one of the
widow's nautical absurdities. At such times, Rose seemed to be her
aunt's guardian and protectress, instead of reversing the relations,
and she entirely forgot herself the many reasons which existed for
wishing that she had been placed in childhood, under the care of one
better qualified than the well-meaning relict of her uncle, for the
performance of her duties.
"Thank you, aunty--thank'ee, dear aunty," said Rose, kissing the
widow affectionately. "I know that you mean the best for me, though
you are a little mistaken in supposing me ill. I do assure you,
dear," patting her aunt's cheek, as if she herself had been merely a
playful child, "I never was better; and if I have been pulmonary, I
am entirely cured, and am now ready to return home."
"God be praised for this, Rosy. Under His divine providence, it is
all owing to the sea. If you really feel so much restored, however,
I do not wish to keep you a moment longer on a ship's board than is
necessary. We owe something to Captain Spike's care, and cannot quit
him too unceremoniously; but as soon as he is at liberty to go into
a harbour, I will engage him to do so, and we can return home by
land--unless, indeed, the brig intends to make the home voyage
"I do not like this brig, aunty, and now we are out of her, I wish
we could keep out of her. Nor do I like your Captain Spike, who
seems to me anything but an agreeable gentleman."
"That's because you arn't accustomed to the sea. My poor Mr. Budd
had his ways, like all the rest of them; it takes time to get
acquainted with them. All sailors are so."
Rose bent her face involuntarily, but so low as to conceal the
increasing brightness of her native bloom, as she answered,
"Harry Mulford is not so, aunty, dear--and he is every inch a
"Well, there is a difference, I must acknowledge, though I dare say
Harry will grow every day more and more like all the rest of them.
In the end, he will resemble Captain Spike."
"Never," said Rose, firmly.
"You can't tell, child. I never saw your uncle when he was Harry's
age, for I was n't born till he was thirty, but often and often has
he pointed out to me some slender, genteel youth, and say, `just
such a lad was I at twenty,' though nothing could be less alike, at
the moment he was speaking, than they two. We all change with our
years. Now I was once as slender, and almost--not quite, Rosy, for
few there are that be--but almost as handsome as you yourself."
"Yes, aunty, I've heard that before," said Rose, springing up, in
order to change the discourse; "but Harry Mulford will never become
like Stephen Spike. I wish we had never known the man, dearest
"It was all your own doings, child. He's a cousin of your most
intimate friend, and she brought him to the house; and one could n't
offend Mary Mulford, by telling her we did n't like her cousin."
Rose seemed vexed, and she kept her little foot in motion, patting
the sail that formed the carpet, as girls will pat the ground with
their feet when vexed. This gleam of displeasure was soon over,
however, and her countenance became as placid as the clear, blue sky
that formed the vault of the heavens above her head. As if to atone
for the passing rebellion of her feelings, she threw her arms around
her aunt's neck; after which she walked away, along the beach,
ruminating on her present situation, and of the best means of
extricating their party from the power of Spike.
It requires great familiarity with vessels and the seas, for one to
think, read, and pursue the customary train of reasoning on board a
ship that one has practised ashore. Rose had felt this embarrassment
during the past month, for the whole of which time she had scarcely
been in a condition to act up to her true character, suffering her
energies, and in some measure her faculties, to be drawn into the
vortex produced by the bustle, novelties, and scenes of the vessel
and the ocean. But, now she was once more on the land, diminutive
and naked as was the islet that composed her present world, and she
found leisure and solitude for reflection and decision. She was not
ignorant of the nature of a vessel of war, or of the impropriety of
unprotected females placing themselves on board of one; but
gentlemen of character, like the officers of the ship in sight,
could hardly be wanting in the feelings of their caste; and anything
was better than to return voluntarily within the power of Spike. She
determined within her own mind that voluntarily she would not. We
shall leave this young girl, slowly wandering along the beach of her
islet, musing on matters like these, while we return to the vessels
and the mariners.
A good breeze had come in over the reef from the Gulf, throwing the
sloop-of-war dead to leeward of the brigantine's anchorage. This was
the reason that the former had closed so slowly. Still the distance
between the vessels was so small, that a swift cruiser, like the
ship of war, would soon have been alongside of the wreckers, but for
the intervening islets and the intricacies of their channels. She
had made sail on the wind, however, and was evidently disposed to
come as near to the danger as her lead showed would be safe, even if
she did not venture among them.
Spike noted all these movements, and he took his measures
accordingly. The pumping and bailing had been going on since the
appearance of light, and the flour had been quite half removed from
the schooner's hold. That vessel consequently floated with
sufficient buoyancy, and no further anxiety was felt on account of
her sinking. Still, a great deal of water remained in her, the cabin
itself being nearly half full. Spike's object was to reduce this
water sufficiently to enable him to descend into the state-room
which Se¤or Montefalderon had occupied, and bring away the doubloons
that alone kept him in the vicinity of so ticklish a neighbour as
the Poughkeepsie. Escape was easy enough to one who knew the
passages of the reef and islets; more especially since the wind had
so fortunately brought the cruiser to leeward. Spike most
apprehended a movement upon him in the boats, and he had almost made
up his mind, should such an enterprise be attempted, to try his hand
in beating it off with his guns. A good deal of uncertainty on the
subject of Mulford's consenting to resist the recognised authorities
of the country, as well as some doubts of a similar nature in
reference to two or three of the best of the foremast hands, alone
left him at all in doubt as to the expediency of such a course. As
no boats were lowered from the cruiser, however, the necessity of
resorting to so desperate a measure, did not occur, and the duty of
lightening the schooner had proceeded without interruption. As soon
as the boatswain came off from the islet, he and the men with him
were directed to take the hands and lift the anchors, of which it
will be remembered the Swash had several down. Even Mulford was
shortly after set at work on the same duty; and these expert and
ready seamen soon had the brig clear of the ground. As the schooner
was anchored, and floated without assistance, the Swash rode by her.
Such was the state of things when the men turned to, after having
had their dinners. By this time, the sloop-of-war was within half a
league of the bay, her progress having been materially retarded by
the set of the current, which was directly against her. Spike saw
that a collision of some sort or other must speedily occur, and he
determined to take the boatswain with him, and descend into the
cabin of the schooner in quest of the gold. The boatswain was
summoned, and Se¤or Montefalderon repeated in this man's presence
the instructions that he thought it necessary for the adventurers to
follow, in order to secure the prize. Knowing how little locks would
avail on board a vessel, were the men disposed to rob him, that
gentleman had trusted more to secreting his treasure, than to
securing it in the more ordinary way. When the story had again been
told, Spike and his boatswain went on board the schooner, and,
undressing, they prepared to descend into the cabin. The captain
paused a single instant to take a look at the sloop-of-war, and to
examine the state of the weather. It is probable some new impression
was made on him by this inquiry, for, hailing Mulford, he ordered
him to loosen the sails, and to sheet home, and hoist the
foretopsail. In a word, to "see all ready to cast off, and make sail
on the brig at the shortest notice." With this command he
disappeared by the schooner's companion-way.
Spike and his companion found the water in the cabin very much
deeper than they had supposed. With a view to comfort, the
cabin-floor had been sunk much lower than is usual on board American
vessels, and this brought the water up nearly to the arm-pits of two
men as short as our captain and his sturdy little boatswain. The
former grumbled a good deal, when he ascertained the fact, and said
something about the mate's being better fitted to make a search in
such a place, but concluding with the remark, that "the man who
wants ticklish duty well done, must see to it himself."
The gold-hunters groped their way cautiously about the cabin for
some time, feeling for a drawer, in which they had been told they
should find the key of Se¤or Montefalderon's state-room door. In
this Spike himself finally succeeded, he being much better
acquainted with cabins and their fixtures, than the boatswain.
"Here it is, Ben," said the captain, "now for a dive among the Don's
val'ables. Should you pick up anything worth speaking of, you can
condemn it for salvage, as I mean to cast off, and quit the wrack
the moment we've made sure of the doubloons."
"And what will become of all the black flour that is lying about,
sir?" asked the boatswain with a grin.
"It may take care of itself. My agreement will be up as soon as the
doubloons are found. If the Don will come down handsomely with his
share of what will be left, I may be bought to put the kegs we have
in the brig ashore for him somewhere in Mexico; but my wish is to
get out of the neighbourhood of that bloody sloop-of-war, as soon as
"She makes but slow headway ag'in the current, sir; but a body would
think she might send in her boats."
"The boats might be glad to get back again," muttered Spike. "Ay,
here is the door unlocked, and we can now fish for the money."
Some object had rolled against the state-room door, when the vessel
was capsized, and there was a good deal of difficulty in forcing it
open. They succeeded at last, and Spike led the way by wading into
the small apartment. Here they began to feel about beneath the
water, and by a very insufficient light, in quest of the hidden
treasure. Spike and his boatswain differed as to the place which had
just been described to them, as men will differ even in the account
of events that pass directly before their eyes. While thus employed,
the report of a heavy gun came through the doors of the cabin,
penetrating to the recess in which they were thus employed.
"Ay, that's the beginning of it!" exclaimed Spike. "I wonder that
the fool has put it off so long."
"That gun was a heavy fellow, Captain Spike," returned the
boatswain; "and it sounded in my ears as if't was shotted."
"Ay, ay, I dare say you're right enough in both opinions. They put
such guns on board their sloops-of-war, now-adays, as a fellow used
to find in the lower batteries of a two-decker only in old times;
and as for shot, why Uncle Sam pays, and they think it cheaper to
fire one out of a gun, than to take the trouble of drawing it."
"I believe here's one of the bags, Captain Spike," said the
boatswain, making a dip, and coming up with one-half of the desired
treasure in his fist. "By George, I've grabbed him, sir; and the
other bag can't be far off."
"Hand that over to me," said the captain, a little authoritatively,
"and take a dive for the next."
As the boatswain was obeying this order, a second gun was heard, and
Spike thought that the noise made by the near passage of a large
shot was audible also. He called out to Ben to "bear a hand, as the
ship seems in 'arnest." But the head of the boatswain being under
water at the time, the admonition was thrown away. The fellow soon
came up, however, puffing like a porpoise that has risen to the
surface to blow.
"Hand it over to me at once," said Spike, stretching out his
unoccupied hand to receive the prize; "we have little time to lose."
"That's sooner said than done, sir," answered the boat-swain; "a box
has driven down upon the bag, and there's a tight jam. I got hold of
the neck of the bag, and pulled like a horse, but it wouldn't come
"Show me the place, and let me have a drag at it. There goes another
of his bloody guns!"
Down went Spike, and the length of time he was under water, proved
how much he was in earnest. Up he came at length, and with no better
luck than his companion. He had got hold of the bag, satisfied
himself by feeling its outside that it contained the doubloons, and
hauled with all his strength, but it would not come. The boatswain
now proposed to take a jamming hitch with a rope around the neck of
the bag, which was long enough to admit of such a fastening, and
then to apply their united force. Spike assented, and the boatswain
rummaged about for a piece of small rope to suit his purpose. At
this moment Mulford appeared at the companion-way to announce the
movements on the part of the sloop-of-war. He had been purposely
tardy, in order to give the ship as much time as possible; but he
saw by the looks of the men that a longer delay might excite
"Below there!" called out the mate.
"What's wanting, sir?--what's wanting, sir?" answered Spike; "let's
know at once."
"Have you heard the guns, Captain Spike?"
"Ay, ay, every grumbler of them. They've done no mischief, I trust,
"None as yet, sir; though the last shot, and it was a heavy fellow,
passed just above the schooner's deck. I've the topsail sheeted home
and hoisted, and it's that which has set them at work. If I clewed
up again, I dare say they'd not fire another gun."
"Clew up nothing, sir, but see all clear for casting off and making
sail through the South Pass. What do you say, Ben, are you ready for
"All ready, sir," answered the boatswain, once more coming up to
breathe. "Now for it, sir; a steady pull, and a pull all together."
They did pull, but the hitch slipped, and both went down beneath the
water. In a moment they were up again, puffing a little and swearing
a great deal. Just then another gun, and a clatter above their
heads, brought them to a stand.
"What means that, Mr. Mulford?" demanded Spike, a good deal
"It means that the sloop-of-war has shot away the head of this
schooner's foremast, sir, and that the shot has chipp'd a small
piece out of the heel of our maintop-mast--that's all."
Though excessively provoked at the mate's cool manner of replying,
Spike saw that he might lose all by being too tenacious about
securing the remainder of the doubloons. Pronouncing in very
energetic terms on Uncle Sam, and all his cruisers, an anathema that
we do not care to repeat, he gave a surly order to Ben to
"knock-off," and abandoned his late design. In a minute he was on
deck and dressed.
"Cast off, lads," cried the captain, as soon as on the deck of his
own brig again, "and four of you man that boat. We have got half of
your treasure, Se¤or Wan, but have been driven from the rest of it,
as you see. There is the bag; when at leisure we'll divide it, and
give the people their share. Mr. Mulford, keep the brig in motion,
hauling up toward the South Pass, while I go ashore for the ladies.
I'll meet you just in the throat of the passage."
This said, Spike tumbled into his boat, and was pulled ashore. As
for Mulford, though he cast many an anxious glance toward the islet,
he obeyed his orders, keeping the brig standing off and on, under
easy canvas, but working her up toward the indicated passage.
Spike was met by Jack Tier on the beach of the little island.
"Muster the women at once," ordered the captain, "we have no time to
lose, for that fellow will soon be firing broad-sides, and his shot
now range half a mile beyond us."
"You'll no more move the widow and her maid, than you'll move the
island," answered Jack, laconically.
"Why should I not move them? Do they wish to stay here and starve?"
"It's little that they think of that. The sloop-of-war no sooner
begun to fire than down went Mrs. Budd on the canvas floor of the
tent, and set up just such a screaming as you may remember she tried
her hand at the night the revenue craft fired into us. Biddy lay
down alongside of her mistress, and at every gun, they just scream
as loud as they can, as if they fancied they might frighten off
Uncle Sam's men from their duty."
"Duty!--You little scamp, do you call tormenting honest traders in
this fashion the duty of any man?"
"Well, captain, I'm no ways partic'lar about a word or two. Their
`ways,' if you like that better than duty, sir."
"Where's Rose? Is she down too, screaming and squalling?"
"No, Captain Spike, no. Miss Rose is endeavouring, like a handsome
young Christian lady as she is, to pacify and mollify her aunt and
Biddy; and right down sensible talk does she give them."
"Then she at least can go aboard the brig," exclaimed Spike, with a
sudden animation, and an expression of countenance that Jack did not
at all like.
"I ray-y-ther think she'll wish to hold on to the old lady,"
observed the steward's-mate, a little emphatically.
"You be d--d," cried Spike, fiercely; "when your opinion is wanted,
I'll ask for it. If I find you've been setting that young woman's
mind ag'in me, I'll toss you overboard, as I would the offals of a
"Young women's minds, when they are only nineteen, get set ag'in
boys of fifty-six without much assistance."
"I'm fifty-three--that I'll own without making faces at it,"
returned Jack, meekly; "and, Stephen Spike, you logged fifty-six
your last birthday, or a false entry was made."
This conversation did not take place in the presence of the boat's
crew, but as the two walked together toward the tent. They were now
in the verandah, as we have called the shaded opening in front, and
actually within sound of the sweet voice of Rose, as she exhorted
her aunt, in tones a little louder than usual for her to use, to
manifest more fortitude. Under such circumstances Spike did not deem
it expedient to utter that which was uppermost in his mind, but,
turning short upon Tier, he directed a tremendous blow directly
between his eyes. Jack saw the danger and dodged, falling backward
to avoid a concussion which he knew would otherwise be fearful,
coming as it would from one of the best forecastle boxers of his
time. The full force of the blow was avoided, though Jack got enough
of it to knock him down, and to give him a pair of black eyes. Spike
did not stop to pick the assistant steward up, for another gun was
fired at that very instant, and Mrs. Budd and Biddy renewed their
screams. Instead of pausing to kick the prostrate Tier, as had just
before been his intention, the captain entered the tent.
A scene that was sufficiently absurd met the view of Spike, when he
found himself in the presence of the females. The widow had thrown
herself on the ground, and was grasping the cloth of the sail on
which the tent had been erected with both her hands, and was
screaming at the top of her voice. Biddy's imitation was not exactly
literal, for she had taken a comfortable seat at the side of her
mistress, but in the way of cries, she rather outdid her principal.
"We must be off," cried Spike, somewhat unceremoniously. "The
man-of-war is blazing away, as if she was a firin' minute-guns over
our destruction, and I can wait no longer."
"I'll not stir," answered the widow--"I can't stir--I shall be shot
if I go out. No, no, no--I'll not stir an inch."
"We'll be kilt!--we'll be kilt!" echoed Biddy, "and a wicket
murther't will be in that same man, war or no war."
The captain perceived the uselessness of remonstrance at such a
moment, and perhaps he was secretly rejoiced thereat; but it is
certain that he whipped Rose up under his arm, and walked away with
her, as if she had been a child of two or three years of age. Rose
did not scream, but she struggled and protested vehemently. It was
in vain. Already the captain had carried her half the distance
between the tent and the boat, in the last of which, a minute more
would have deposited his victim, when a severe blow on the back of
his head caused Spike to stumble, and he permitted Rose to escape
from his grasp, in the effort to save himself from a fall. Turning
fiercely toward his assailant, whom he suspected to be one of his
boat's crew, he saw Tier standing within a few yards, levelling a
pistol at him.
"Advance a step, and you're a dead man, villain!" screamed Jack, his
voice almost cracked with rage, and the effort he made to menace.
Spike muttered an oath too revolting for our pages; but it was such
a curse as none but an old salt could give vent to, and that in the
bitterness of his fiercest wrath. At that critical moment, while
Rose was swelling with indignation and wounded maiden pride, almost
within reach of his arms, looking more lovely than ever, as the
flush of anger deepened the colour in her cheeks, a fresh and deep
report from one of the guns of the sloop-of-war drew all eyes in her
direction. The belching of that gun seemed to be of double the power
of those which had preceded it, and jets of water, that were twenty
feet in height, marked the course of the formidable missile that was
projected from the piece. The ship had, indeed, discharged one of
those monster-cannons that bear the name of a distinguished French
engineer, but which should more properly be called by the name of
the ingenious officer who is at the head of our own ordnance, as
they came originally from his inventive faculties, though somewhat
improved by their European adopter. Spike suspected the truth, for
he had heard of these "Pazans," as he called them, and he watched
the booming, leaping progress of the eight-inch shell that this gun
threw, with the apprehension that unknown danger is apt to excite.
As jet succeeded jet, each rising nearer and nearer to his brig, the
interval of time between them seeming fearfully to diminish, he
muttered oath upon oath. The last leap that the shell made on the
water was at about a quarter of a mile's distance of the islet on
which his people had deposited at least a hundred and fifty barrels
of his spurious flour:-thence it flew, as it might be without an
effort, with a grand and stately bound into the very centre of the
barrels, exploding at the moment it struck. All saw the scattering
of flour, which was instantly succeeded by the heavy though slightly
straggling explosion of all the powder on the island. A hundred kegs
were lighted, as it might be, in a common flash, and a cloud of
white smoke poured out and concealed the whole islet, and all near
Rose stood confounded, nor was Jack Tier in a much better state of
mind, though he still kept the pistol levelled, and menaced Spike.
But the last was no longer dangerous to any there. He recollected
that piles of the barrels encumbered the decks of his vessel, and he
rushed to the boat, nearly frantic with haste, ordering the men to
pull for their lives. In less than five minutes he was alongside,
and on the deck of the Swash--his first order being to--"Tumble
every barrel of this bloody powder into the sea, men. Over with it,
Mr. Mulford, clear away the midship ports, and launch as much as you
can through them."
Remonstrance on the part of Se¤or Montefalderon would have been
useless, had he been disposed to make it; but, sooth to say, he was
as ready to get rid of the powder as any there, after the specimen
he had just witnessed of the power of a Paixhan gun.
Thus it is ever with men. Had two or three of those shells been
first thrown without effect, as might very well have happened under
the circumstances, none there would have cared for the risk they
were running; but the chance explosion which had occurred, presented
so vivid a picture of the danger, dormant and remote as it really
was, as to throw the entire crew of the Swash into a frenzy of
Nor was the vessel at all free from danger. On the contrary, she ran
very serious risk of being destroyed, and in some degree, in the
very manner apprehended. Perceiving that Spike was luffing up
through one of the passages nearest the reef, which would carry him
clear of the group, a long distance to windward of the point where
he could only effect the same object, the commander of the
sloop-of-war opened his fire in good earnest, hoping to shoot away
something material on board the Swash, before she could get beyond
the reach of his shot. The courses steered by the two vessels, just
at that moment, favoured such an attempt, though they made it
necessarily very short-lived. While the Swash was near the wind, the
sloop-of-war was obliged to run off to avoid islets ahead of her, a
circumstance which, while it brought the brig square with the ship's
broadside, compelled the latter to steer on a diverging line to the
course of her chase. It was in consequence of these facts, that the
sloop-of-war now opened in earnest, and was soon canopied in the
smoke of her own fire.
Great and important changes, as has been already mentioned, have
been made in the armaments of all the smaller cruisers within the
last few years. Half a generation since, a ship of the rate--we do
not say of the size--of the vessel which was in chase of Spike and
his craft, would not have had it in her power to molest an enemy at
the distance these two vessels were now apart. But recent
improvements have made ships of this nominal force formidable at
nearly a league's distance; more especially by means of their
Paixhans and their shells.
For some little time the range carried the shot directly over the
islet of the tent; Jack Tier and Rose, both of whom were watching
all that passed with intense interest, standing in the open air the
whole time, seemingly with no concern for themselves, so absorbed
was each, notwithstanding all that had passed, in the safety of the
brig. As for Rose, she thought only of Harry Mulford, and of the
danger he was in by those fearful explosions of the shells. Her
quick intellect comprehended the peculiar nature of the risk that
was incurred by having the flour-barrels on deck, and she could not
but see the manner in which Spike and his men were tumbling them
into the water, as the quickest manner of getting rid of them. After
what had just passed between Jack Tier and his commander, it might
not be so easy to account for his manifest, nay, intense interest in
the escape of the Swash. This was apparent by his troubled
countenance, by his exclamations, and occasionally by his openly
expressed wishes for her safety. Perhaps it was no more than the
interest the seaman is so apt to feel in the craft in which he has
so long sailed, and which to him has been a home, and of which
Mulford exhibited so much, in his struggles between feeling and
conscience--between a true and a false duty.
As for Spike and his people, we have already mentioned their efforts
to get rid of the powder. Shell after shell exploded, though none
very near the brig, the ship working her guns as if in action. At
length the officers of the sloop-of-war detected a source of error
in their aim, that is of very common occurrence in sea-gunnery.
Their shot had been thrown to ricochet, quartering a low, but very
regular succession of little waves. Each shot striking the water at
an acute angle to its agitated surface, was deflected from a
straight line, and described a regular curve toward the end of its
career; or, it might be truer to say, an irregular curvature, for
the deflection increased as the momentum of the missile diminished.
No sooner did the commanding officer of the sloop-of-war discover
this fact, and it was easy to trace the course of the shots by the
jets of water they cast into the air, and to see as well as to hear
the explosions of the shells, than he ordered the guns pointed more
to windward, as a means of counteracting the departure from the
straight lines. This expedient succeeded in part, the solid shot
falling much nearer to the brig the moment the practice was resorted
to. No shell was fired for some little time after the new order was
issued, and Spike and his people began to hope these terrific
missiles had ceased their annoyance. The men cheered, finding their
voices for the first time since the danger had seemed so imminent,
and Spike was heard animating them to their duty. As for Mulford, he
was on the coach-house deck, working the brig, the captain having
confided to him that delicate duty, the highest proof he could
furnish of confidence in his seamanship. The handsome young mate had
just made a half-board, in the neatest manner, shoving the brig by
its means through a most difficult part of the passage, and had got
her handsomely filled again on the same tack, looking right out into
open water, by a channel through which she could now stand on a very
easy bowline. Everything seemed propitious, and the sloop-of-war's
solid shot began to drop into the water, a hundred yards short of
the brig. In this state of things one of the Paixhans belched forth
its angry flame and sullen roar again. There was no mistaking the
gun. Then came its mass of iron, a globe that would have weighed
just sixty-eight pounds, had not sufficient metal been left out of
its interior to leave a cavity to contain a single pound of powder.
Its course, as usual, was to be marked by its path along the sea, as
it bounded, half a mile at a time, from wave to wave. Spike saw by
its undeviating course that this shell was booming terrifically
toward his brig, and a cry to "look out for the shell," caused the
work to be suspended. That shell struck the water for the last time,
within two hundred yards of the brig, rose dark and menacing in its
furious leap, but exploded at the next instant. The fragments of the
iron were scattered on each side, and ahead. Of the last, three or
four fell into the water so near the vessel as to cast their spray
on her decks.
"Overboard with the rest of the powder!" shouted Spike. "Keep the
brig off a little, Mr. Mulford--keep her off, sir; you luff too
"Ay, ay, sir," answered the mate. "Keep her off, it is."
"There comes the other shell!" cried Ben, but the men did not quit
their toil to gaze this time. Each seaman worked as if life and
death depended on his single exertions. Spike alone watched the
course of the missile. On it came, booming and hurtling through the
air, tossing high the jets, at each leap it made from the surface,
striking the water for its last bound, seemingly in a line with the
shell that had just preceded it. From that spot it made its final
leap. Every hand in the brig was stayed and every eye was raised as
the rushing tempest was heard advancing. The mass went muttering
directly between the masts of the Swash. It had scarcely seemed to
go by when the fierce flash of fire and the sharp explosion
followed. Happily for those in the brig, the projectile force given
by the gun carried the fragments from them, as in the other instance
it had brought them forward; else would few have escaped mutilation,
or death, among their crew.
The flashing of fire so near the barrels of powder that still
remained on their deck, caused the frantic efforts to be renewed,
and barrel after barrel was tumbled overboard, amid the shouts that
were now raised to animate the people to their duty.
"Luff, Mr. Mulford--luff you may, sir," cried Spike. No answer was
"D'ye hear there, Mr. Mulford?--it is luff you may, sir."
"Mr. Mulford is not aft, sir," called out the man at the helm--"but
luff it is, sir."
"Mr. Mulford not aft! Where's the mate, man? Tell him he is wanted."
No Mulford was to be found! A call passed round the decks, was sent
below, and echoed through the entire brig, but no sign or tidings
could be had of the handsome mate. At that exciting moment the
sloop-of-war seemed to cease her firing, and appeared to be securing
Thou art the same, eternal sea!
The earth has many shapes and forms,
Of hill and valley, flower and tree;
Fields that the fervid noontide warms,
Or winter's rugged grasp deforms,
Or bright with autumn's golden store;
Thou coverest up thy face with storms,
Or smilest serene,--but still thy roar
And dashing foam go up to vex the sea-beat shore:
We shall now advance the time eight-and-forty hours. The baffling
winds and calms that succeeded the tornado had gone, and the trades
blew in their stead. Both vessels had disappeared, the brig leading,
doubling the western extremity of the reef, and going off before
both wind and current, with flowing sheets, fully three hours before
the sloop-of-war could beat up against the latter, to a point that
enabled her to do the same thing. By that time, the Swash was
five-and-twenty miles to the eastward, and consequently but just
discernible in her loftiest sails, from the ship's royal yards.
Still, the latter continued the chase; and that evening both vessels
were beating down along the southern margin of the Florida Reef,
against the trades, but favoured by a three or four knot current,
the brig out of sight to windward. Our narrative leads us to lose
sight of both these vessels, for a time, in order to return to the
islets of the Gulf. Eight-and-forty hours had made some changes in
and around the haven of the Dry Tortugas. The tent still stood, and
a small fire that was boiling its pot and its kettle, at no great
distance from it, proved that the tent was still inhabited. The
schooner also rode at her anchors, very much as she had been
abandoned by Spike. The bag of doubloons, however, had been found,
and there it lay, tied but totally unguarded, in the canvas verandah
of Rose Budd's habitation. Jack Tier passed and repassed it with
apparent indifference, as he went to and fro, between his pantry and
kitchen, busy as a bee in preparing his noontide meal for the day.
This man seemed to have the islet all to himself, however, no one
else being visible on any part of it. He sang his song, in a
cracked, contre alto voice, and appeared to be happy in his
solitude. Occasionally he talked to himself aloud, most probably
because he had no one else to speak to. We shall record one of his
recitatives, which came in between the strains of a very
inharmonious air, the words of which treated of the seas, while the
steward's assistant was stirring an exceedingly savoury mess that he
had concocted of the ingredients to be found in the united larders
of the Swash and the Mexican schooner.
"Stephen Spike is a capital willian!" exclaimed Jack, smelling at a
ladle filled with his soup--"a capital willian, I call him. To
think, at his time of life, of such a handsome and pleasant young
thing as this Rose Budd; and then to try to get her by underhand
means, and by making a fool of her silly old aunt. It 's wonderful
what fools some old aunts be! Quite wonderful! If I was as great a
simpleton as this Mrs. Budd, I'd never cross my threshhold. Yes,
Stephen Spike is a prodigious willian, as his best friend must own!
Well, I gave him a thump on the head that he'll not forget this
v'y'ge. To think of carryin' off that pretty Rose Budd in his very
arms, in so indecent a manner! Yet, the man has his good p'ints, if
a body could only forget his bad ones. He's a first-rate seaman. How
he worked the brig till he doubled the reef, a'ter she got into open
water; and how he made her walk off afore the wind, with stun'sails
alow and aloft, as soon as ever he could make 'em draw! My life for
it, he 'll tire the legs of Uncle Sam's man, afore he can fetch up
with him. For running away, when hard chased, Stephen Spike has n't
his equal on 'arth. But, he's a great willian--a prodigious willian!
I cannot say I actually wish him hanged; but I would rather have him
hanged than see him get pretty Rose in his power. What has he to do
with girls of nineteen? If the rascal is one year old, he's
fifty-six. I hope the sloop-of-war will find her match, and I think
she will. The Molly's a great traveller, and not to be outdone
easily. 'T would be a thousand pities so lovely a craft should be
cut off in the flower of her days, as it might be, and I do hope
she'll lead that bloody sloop on some sunken rock.
"Well, there's the other bag of doubloons. It seems Stephen could
not get it. That's odd, too, for he's great at grabbin' gold. The
man bears his age well; but he's a willian! I wonder whether he or
Mulford made that half-board in the narrow channel. It was well
done, and Stephen is a perfect sailor; but he says Mulford is the
same. Nice young man, that Mulford; just fit for Rose, and Rose for
him. Pity to part them. Can find no great fault with him, except
that he has too much conscience. There's such a thing as having too
much, as well as too little conscience. Mulford has too much, and
Spike has too little. For him to think of carryin' off a gal of
nineteen! I say he's fifty-six, if he's a day. How fond he used to
be of this very soup! If I've seen him eat a quart of it, I've seen
him eat a puncheon full of it, in my time. What an appetite the man
has when he's had a hard day's duty on 't! There 's a great deal to
admire, and a great deal to like in Stephen Spike, but he's a
reg'lar willian. I dare say he fancies himself a smart, jaunty youth
ag'in, as I can remember him; a lad of twenty, which was about his
years when I first saw him, by the sign that I was very little
turned of fifteen myself. Spike was comely then, though I
acknowledge he's a willian. I can see him now, with his deep blue
roundabout, his bell-mouthed trowsers, both of fine cloth--too fine
for such a willian--but fine it was, and much did it become him."
Here Jack made a long pause, during which, though he may have
thought much, he said nothing. Nevertheless, he was n't idle the
while. On the contrary, he passed no less than three several times
from the fire to the tent, and returned. Each time, in going and
coming, he looked intently at the bag of doubloons, though he did
not stop at it or touch it. Some associations connected with Spike's
fruitless attempts to obtain it must have formed its principal
interest with this singular being, as he muttered his captain's name
each time in passing, though he said no more audibly. The concerns
of the dinner carried him back and forth; and in his last visit to
the tent, he began to set a small table--one that had been brought
for the convenience of Mrs. Budd and her niece, from the brig, and
which of course still remained on the islet. It was while thus
occupied, that Jack Tier recommenced his soliloquy.
"I hope that money may do some worthy fellow good yet. It's Mexican
gold, and that's inemy's gold, and might be condemned by law, I do
suppose. Stephen had a hankerin' a'ter it, but he did not get it. It
come easy enough to the next man that tried. That Spike 's a
willian, and the gold was too good for him. He has no conscience at
all to think of a gal of nineteen! And one fit for his betters, in
the bargain. The time has been when Stephen Spike might have
pretended to Rose Budd's equal. That much I'll ever maintain, but
that time's gone; and, what is more, it will never come again. I
should like Mulford better if he had a little less conscience.
Conscience may do for Uncle Sam's ships, but it is sometimes in the
way aboard a trading craft. What can a fellow do with a conscience
when dollars is to be smuggled off, or tobacco smuggled ashore? I do
suppose I've about as much conscience as it is useful to have, and
I've got ashore in my day twenty thousand dollars' worth of stuff,
of one sort or another, if I've got ashore the valie of ten dollars.
But Spike carries on business on too large a scale, and many's the
time I've told him so. I could have forgiven him anything but this
attempt on Rose Budd; and he's altogether too old for that, to say
nothing of other people's rights. He's an up-and-down willian, and a
body can make no more, nor any less of him. That soup must be near
done, and I'll hoist the signal for grub."
This signal was a blue-peter of which one had been brought ashore to
signal the brig; and with which Jack now signalled the schooner. If
the reader will turn his eyes toward the last named vessel, he will
find the guests whom Tier expected to surround his table. Rose, her
aunt, and Biddy were all seated, under an awning made by a sail, on
the deck of the schooner, which now floated so buoyantly as to show
that she had materially lightened since last seen. Such indeed was
the fact, and he who had been the instrument of producing this
change, appeared on deck in the person of Mulford, as soon as he was
told that the blue-peter of Jack Tier was flying.
The boat of the light-house, that in which Spike had landed in quest
of Rose, was lying alongside of the schooner, and sufficiently
explained the manner in which the mate had left the brig. This boat,
in fact, had been fastened astern, in the hurry of getting from
under the sloop-of-war's fire, and Mulford had taken the opportunity
of the consternation and frantic efforts produced by the explosion
of the last shell thrown, to descend from his station on the
coach-house into this boat, to cut the painter, and to let the Swash
glide away from him. This the vessel had done with great rapidity,
leaving him unseen under the cover of her stern. As soon as in the
boat, the mate had seized an oar, and sculled to an islet that was
within fifty yards, concealing the boat behind a low hummock that
formed a tiny bay. All this was done so rapidly, that united to the
confusion on board the Swash, no one discovered the mate or the
boat. Had he been seen, however, it is very little probable that
Spike would have lost a moment of time, in the attempt to recover
either. But he was not seen, and it was the general opinion on board
the Swash, for quite an hour, that her handsome mate had been
knocked overboard and killed, by a fragment of the shell that had
seemed to explode almost in the ears of her people. When the reef
was doubled, however, and Spike made his preparations for meeting
the rough water, he hove to, and ordered his own yawl, which was
also towing astern, to be hauled up alongside, in order to be
hoisted in. Then, indeed, some glimmerings of the truth were shed on
the crew, who missed the light-house boat. Though many contended
that its painter must also have been cut by a fragment of the shell,
and that the mate had died loyal to roguery and treason. Mulford was
much liked by the crew, and he was highly valued by Spike, on
account of his seamanship and integrity, this latter being a quality
that is just as necessary for one of the captain's character to meet
with in those he trusts as to any other man. But Spike thought
differently of the cause of Mulford's disappearance, from his crew.
He ascribed it altogether to love for Rose, when, in truth, it ought
in justice to have been quite as much imputed to a determination to
sail no longer with a man who was clearly guilty of treason. Of
smuggling, Mulford had long suspected Spike, though he had no direct
proof of the fact; but now he could not doubt that he was not only
engaged in supplying the enemy with the munitions of war, but was
actually bargaining to sell his brig for a hostile cruiser, and
possibly to transfer himself and crew along with her.
It is scarcely necessary to speak of the welcome Mulford received
when he reached the islet of the tent. He and Rose had a long
private conference, the result of which was to let the handsome mate
into the secret of his pretty companion's true feelings toward
himself. She had received him with tears, and a betrayal of emotion
that gave him every encouragement, and now she did not deny her
preference. In that interview the young people plighted to each
other their troth. Rose never doubted of obtaining her aunt's
consent in due time, all her prejudices being in favour of the sea
and sailors; and should she not, she would soon be her own mistress,
and at liberty to dispose of herself and her pretty little fortune
as she might choose. But a cypher as she was, in all questions of
real moment, Mrs. Budd was not a person likely to throw any real
obstacle in the way of the young people's wishes; the true grounds
of whose present apprehensions were all to be referred to Spike, his
intentions, and his well-known perseverance. Mulford was convinced
that the brig would be back in quest of the remaining doubloons, as
soon as she could get clear of the sloop-of-war, though he was not
altogether without a hope that the latter, when she found it
impossible to overhaul her chase, might also return in order to
ascertain what discoveries could be made in and about the schooner.
The explosion of the powder, on the islet, must have put the
man-of-war's men in possession of the secret of the real quality of
the flour that had composed her cargo, and it doubtless had awakened
all their distrust on the subject of the Swash's real business in
the Gulf. Under all the circumstances, therefore, it did appear
quite as probable that one of the parties should reappear at the
scene of their recent interview as the other.
Bearing all these things in mind, Mulford had lost no time in
completing his own arrangements. He felt that he had some atonement
to make to the country, for the part he had seemingly taken in the
late events, and it occurred to him, could he put the schooner in a
state to be moved, then place her in the hands of the authorities,
his own peace would be made, and his character cleared. Rose no
sooner understood his plans and motives, than she entered into them
with all the ardour and self-devotion of her sex; for the single
hour of confidential and frank communication which had just passed,
doubled the interest she felt in Mulford and in all that belonged to
him. Jack Tier was useful on board a vessel, though his want of
stature and force rendered him less so than was common with
sea-faring men. His proper sphere certainly had been the cabins,
where his usefulness was beyond all cavil; but he was now very
serviceable to Mulford on the deck of the schooner. The first two
days, Mrs. Budd had been left on the islet, to look to the concerns
of the kitchen, while Mulford, accompanied by Rose, Biddy and Jack
Tier, had gone off to the schooner, and set her pumps in motion
again. It was little that Rose could do, or indeed attempt to do, at
this toil, but the pumps being small and easily worked, Biddy and
Jack were of great service. By the end of the second day the pumps
sucked; the cargo that remained in the schooner, as well as the form
of her bottom, contributing greatly to lessen the quantity of the
water that was to be got out of her.
Then it was that the doubloons fell into Mulford's hands, along with
everything else that remained below decks. It was perhaps fortunate
that the vessel was thoroughly purified by her immersion, and the
articles that were brought on deck to be dried were found in a
condition to give no great offence to those who removed them. By
leaving the hatches off, and the cabin doors open, the warm winds of
the trades effectually dried the interior of the schooner in the
course of a single night; and when Mulford repaired on board of her,
on the morning of the third day, he found her in a condition to be
fitted for his purposes. On this occasion Mrs. Budd had expressed a
wish to go off to look at her future accommodations, and Jack was
left on the islet to cook the dinner, which will explain the actual
state of things as described in the opening of this chapter.
As those who toil usually have a relish for their food, the
appearance of the blue-peter was far from being unwelcome to those
on board of the schooner. They got into the boat, and were sculled
ashore by Mulford, who, seaman-like, used only one hand in
performing this service. In a very few minutes they were all seated
at the little table, which was brought out into the tent-verandah
for the enjoyment of the breeze.
"So far, well," said Mulford, after his appetite was mainly
appeased; Rose picking crumbs, and affecting to eat, merely to have
the air of keeping him company; one of the minor proofs of the
little attentions that spring from the affections. "So far, well.
The sails are bent, and though they might be never and better, they
can be made to answer. It was fortunate to find anything like a
second suit on board a Mexican craft of that size at all. As it is,
we have foresail, mainsail, and jib, and with that canvas I think we
might beat the schooner down to Key West in the course of a day and
a night. If I dared to venture outside of the reef, it might be done
sooner even, for they tell me there is a four-knot current sometimes
in that track; but I do not like to venture outside, so
short-handed. The current inside must serve our turn, and we shall
get smooth water by keeping under the lee of the rocks. I only hope
we shall not get into an eddy as we go further from the end of the
reef, and into the bight of the coast."
"Is there danger of that?" demanded Rose, whose quick intellect had
taught her many of these things, since her acquaintance with
"There may be, looking at the formation of the reef and islands,
though I know nothing of the fact by actual observation. This is my
first visit in this quarter."
"Eddies are serious matters," put in Mrs. Budd, "and my poor husband
could not abide them. Tides are good things; but eddies are very
"Well, aunty, I should think eddies might sometimes be as welcome as
tides. It must depend, however, very much on the way one wishes to
"Rose, you surprise me! All that you have read, and all that you
have heard, must have shown you the difference. Do they not say `a
man is floating with the tide,' when things are prosperous with
him--and don't ships drop down with the tide, and beat the wind with
the tide? And don't vessels sometimes `tide it up to town,' as it is
called, and is n't it thought an advantage to have the tide with
"All very true, aunty; but I do not see how that makes eddies any
"Because eddies are the opposite of tides, child. When the tide goes
one way, the eddy goes another--is n't it so, Harry Mulford? You
never heard of one's floating in an eddy."
"That's what we mean by an eddy, Mrs. Budd," answered the handsome
mate, delighted to hear Rose's aunt call him by an appellation so
kind and familiar,--a thing she had never done previously to the
intercourse which had been the consequence of their present
situation. "Though I agree with Rose in thinking an eddy may be a
good or a bad thing, and very much like a tide, as one wishes to
"You amaze me, both of you! Tides are always spoken of favourably,
but eddies never. If a ship gets ashore, the tide can float her off;
that I've heard a thousand times. Then, what do the newspapers say
of President--, and Governor--, and Congressman--? Why, that they
all `float in the tide of public opinion,' and that must mean
something particularly good, as they are always in office. No, no,
Harry; I'll acknowledge that you do know something about ships; a
good deal, considering how young you are; but you have something to
learn about eddies. Never trust one as long as you live."
Mulford was silent, and Rose took the occasion to change the
"I hope we shall soon be able to quit this place," she said; "for I
confess to some dread of Captain Spike's return."
"Captain Stephen Spike has greatly disappointed me," observed the
aunt, gravely. "I do not know that I was ever before deceived in
judging a person. I could have sworn he was an honest, frank,
well-meaning sailor--a character, of all others, that I love; but it
has turned out otherwise."
"He's a willian!" mutttered Jack Tier.
Mulford smiled; at which speech we must leave to conjecture; but he
answered Rose, as he ever did, promptly and with pleasure.
"The schooner is ready, and this must be our last meal ashore," he
said. "Our outfit will be no great matter; but if it will carry us
down to Key West, I shall ask no more of it. As for the return of
the Swash, I look upon it as certain. She could easily get clear of
the sloop-of-war, with the start she had, and Spike is a man that
never yet abandoned a doubloon, when he knew where one was to be
"Stephen Spike is like all his fellow-creatures," put in Jack Tier,
pointedly. "He has his faults, and he has his virtues."
"Virtue is a term I should never think of applying to such a man,"
returned Mulford, a little surprised at the fellow's earnestness.
"The word is a big one, and belongs to quite another class of
persons." Jack muttered a few syllables that were unintelligible,
when again the conversation changed.
Rose now inquired of Mulford as to their prospects of getting to Key
West. He told her that the distance was about sixty miles; their
route lying along the north or inner side of the Florida Reef. The
whole distance was to be made against the trade-wind, which was then
blowing about an eight-knot breeze, though, bating eddies, they
might expect to be favoured with the current, which was less strong
inside than outside of the reef. As for handling the schooner,
Mulford saw no great difficulty in that. She was not large, and was
both lightly sparred and lightly rigged. All her top-hamper had been
taken down by Spike, and nothing remained but the plainest and most
readily-managed gear. A fore-and-aft vessel, sailing close by the
wind, is not difficult to steer; will almost steer herself, indeed,
in smooth water. Jack Tier could take his trick at the helm, in any
weather, even in running before the wind, the time when it is most
difficult to guide a craft, and Rose might be made to understand the
use of the tiller, and taught to govern the motions of a vessel so
small and so simply rigged, when on a wind and in smooth water. On
the score of managing the schooner, therefore, Mulford thought there
would be little cause for apprehension. Should the weather continue
settled, he had little doubt of safely landing the whole party at
Key West, in the course of the next four-and-twenty hours. Short
sail he should be obliged to carry, as well on account of the
greater facility of managing it, as on account of the circumstance
that the schooner was now in light ballast trim, and would not bear
much canvas. He thought that the sooner they left the islets the
better, as it could not be long ere the brig would be seen hovering
around the spot. All these matters were discussed as the party still
sat at table; and when they left it, which was a few minutes later,
it was to remove the effects they intended to carry away to the
boat. This was soon done, both Jack Tier and Biddy proving very
serviceable, while Rose tripped backward and forward, with a step
elastic as a gazelle's, carrying light burdens. In half an hour the
boat was ready. "Here lies the bag of doubloons still," said
Mulford, smiling. "Is it to be left, or shall we give it up to the
admiralty court at Key West, and put in a claim for salvage?"
"Better leave it for Spike," said Jack unexpectedly. "Should he come
back, and find the doubloons, he may be satisfied, and not look for
the schooner. On the other hand, when the vessel is missing, he will
think that the money is in her. Better leave it for old Stephen."
"I do not agree with you, Tier," said Rose, though she looked as
amicably at the steward's assistant, as she thus opposed his
opinion, as if anxious to persuade rather than coerce. "I do not
quite agree with you. This money belongs to the Spanish merchant;
and, as we take away with us his vessel, to give it up to the
authorities at Key West, I do not think we have a right to put his
gold on the shore and abandon it."
This disposed of the question. Mulford took the bag, and carried it
to the boat, without waiting to ascertain if Jack had any objection;
while the whole party followed. In a few minutes everybody and
everything in the boat were transferred to the deck of the schooner.
As for the tent, the old sails of which it was made, the furniture
it contained, and such articles of provisions as were not wanted,
they were left on the islet, without regret. The schooner had
several casks of fresh water, which were found in her hold, and she
had also a cask or two of salted meats, besides several articles of
food more delicate, that had been provided by Se¤or Montefalderon
for his own use, and which had not been damaged by the water. A keg
of Boston crackers were among these eatables, quite half of which
were still in a state to be eaten. They were Biddy's delight; and it
was seldom that she could be seen when not nibbling at one of them.
The bread of the crew was hopelessly damaged. But Jack had made an
ample provision of bread when sent ashore, and there was still a
hundred barrels of the flour in the schooner's hold. One of these
had been hoisted on deck by Mulford, and opened. The injured flour
was easily removed, leaving a considerable quantity fit for the uses
of the kitchen. As for the keg of gunpowder, it was incontinently
committed to the deep.
Thus provided for, Mulford decided that the time had arrived when he
ought to quit his anchorage. He had been employed most of that
morning in getting the schooner's anchor, a work of great toil to
him, though everybody had assisted. He had succeeded, and the vessel
now rode by a kedge, that he could easily weigh by means of a deck
tackle. It remained now, therefore, to lift this kedge and to stand
out of the bay of the islets. No sooner was the boat secured astern,
and its freight disposed of, than the mate began to make sail. In
order to hoist the mainsail well up, he was obliged to carry the
halyards to the windlass. Thus aided, he succeeded without much
difficulty. He and Jack Tier and Biddy got the jib hoisted by hand;
and as for the fore-sail, that would almost set itself. Of course,
it was not touched until the kedge was aweigh. Mulford found little
difficulty in lifting the last, and he soon had the satisfaction of
finding his craft clear of the ground. As Jack Tier was every way
competent to take charge of the forecastle, Mulford now sprang aft,
and took his own station at the helm; Rose acting as his pretty
assistant on the quarter-deck.
There is little mystery in getting a fore-and-aft vessel under way.
Her sails fill almost as a matter of course, and motion follows as a
necessary law. Thus did it prove with the Mexican schooner, which
turned out to be a fast-sailing and an easily-worked craft. She was,
indeed, an American bottom, as it is termed, having been originally
built for the Chesapeake; and, though not absolutely what is
understood by a Baltimore clipper, so nearly of that mould and
nature as to possess some of the more essential qualities. As
usually happens, however, when a foreigner gets hold of an American
schooner, the Mexicans had shortened her masts and lessened her
canvas. This circumstance was rather an advantage to Mulford, who
would probably have had more to attend to than he wished under the
original rig of the craft.
Everybody, even to the fastidious Mrs. Budd, was delighted with the
easy and swift movement of the schooner. Mulford, now he had got her
under canvas, handled her without any difficulty, letting her stand
toward the channel through which he intended to pass, with her
sheets just taken in, though compelled to keep a little off, in
order to enter between the islets. No difficulty occurred, however,
and in less than ten minutes the vessel was clear of the channels,
and in open water. The sheets were now flattened in, and the
schooner brought close by the wind. A trial of the vessel on this
mode of sailing was no sooner made, than Mulford was induced to
regret he had taken so many precautions against any increasing power
of the wind. To meet emergencies, and under the notion he should
have his craft more under command, the young man had reefed his
mainsail, and taken the bonnets off of the foresail and jib. As the
schooner stood up better than he had anticipated, the mate felt as
all seamen are so apt to feel, when they see that their vessels
might be made to perform more than is actually got out of them. As
the breeze was fresh, however, he determined not to let out the
reef; and the labour of lacing on the bonnets again was too great to
be thought of just at that moment.
We all find relief on getting in motion, when pressed by
circumstances. Mulford had been in great apprehension of the
re-appearance of the Swash all that day; for it was about the time
when Spike would be apt to return, in the event of his escaping from
the sloop-of-war, and he dreaded Rose's again falling into the hands
of a man so desperate. Nor is it imputing more than a very natural
care to the young man, to say that he had some misgivings concerning
himself. Spike, by this time, must be convinced that his business in
the Gulf was known; and one who had openly thrown off his service,
as his mate had done, would unquestionably be regarded as a traitor
to his interests, whatever might be the relation in which he would
stand to the laws of the country. It was probable such an alleged
offender would not be allowed to appear before the tribunals of the
land, to justify himself and to accuse the truly guilty, if it were
in the power of the last to prevent it. Great, therefore, was the
satisfaction of our handsome young mate when he found himself again
fairly in motion, with a craft under him, that glided ahead in a way
to prove that she might give even the Swash some trouble to catch
her, in the event of a trial of speed.
Everybody entered into the feelings of Mulford, as the schooner
passed gallantly out from between the islets, and entered the open
water. Fathom by fathom did her wake rapidly increase, until it
could no longer be traced back as far as the sandy beaches that had
just been left. In a quarter of an hour more, the vessel had drawn
so far from the land, that some of the smaller and lowest of the
islets were getting to be indistinct. At that instant everybody had
come aft, the females taking their seats on the trunk, which, in
this vessel as in the Swash herself, gave space and height to the
"Well," exclaimed Mrs. Budd, who found the freshness of the sea air
invigorating, as well as their speed exciting, "this is what I call
maritime, Rosy, dear. This is what is meant by the Maritime States,
about which we read so much, and which are commonly thought to be so
important. We are now in a Maritime State, and I feel perfectly
happy after all our dangers and adventures!"
"Yes, aunty, and I am delighted that you are happy," answered Rose,
with frank affection. "We are now rid of that infamous Spike, and
may hope never to see his face more."
"Stephen Spike has his good p'ints as well as another," said Jack
"I know that he is an old shipmate of yours, Tier, and that you
cannot forget how he once stood connected with you, and am sorry I
have said so much against him," answered Rose, expressing her
concern even more by her looks and tones, than by her words.
Jack was mollified by this, and he let his feeling be seen, though
he said no more than to mutter, "He's a willian!" words that had
frequently issued from his lips within the last day or two.
"Stephen Spike is a capital seaman, and that is something in any
man," observed the relict of Captain Budd. "He learned his trade
from one who was every way qualified to teach him, and it's no
wonder he should be expert. Do you expect, Mr. Mulford, to beat the
wind the whole distance to Key West?"
It was not possible for any one to look more grave than the mate did
habitually, while the widow was floundering through her sea-terms.
Rose had taught him that respect for her aunt was to be one of the
conditions of her own regard, though Rose had never opened her lips
to him on the subject.
"Yes, ma'am," answered the mate, respectfully, "we are in the
trades, and shall have to turn to windward, every inch of the way to
"Of what lock is this place the key, Rosy?" asked the aunt,
innocently enough. "I know that forts and towns are sometimes called
keys, but they always have locks of some sort or other. Now,