Part 6 out of 10
surface of the water, according to the known habits of the fish, as
if watching his own movements. There being no time to be wasted, our
young mate turned on his face, and began again to swim in the
direction of the setting star, though nearly chilled by despair. For
ten minutes longer did he struggle on, beginning to feel exhaustion,
however, and always accompanied by those two dark, sharp and gliding
fins. There was no difficulty in knowing the position of the animal,
and Mulford's eyes were oftener on those fins than on the beacon
before him. Strange as it may appear, he actually became accustomed
to the vicinity of this formidable creature, and soon felt his
presence a sort of relief against the dreadful solitude of his
situation. He had been told by seamen of instances, and had once
witnessed a case himself, in which a shark had attended a swimming
man for a long distance, either forbearing to do him harm, from
repletion, or influenced by that awe which nature has instilled into
all of the inferior, for the highest animal of the creation. He
began to think that he was thus favoured, and really regarded the
shark as a friendly neighbour, rather than as a voracious foe. In
this manner did the two proceed, nearly another third of a mile, the
fins sometimes in sight ahead, gliding hither and thither, and
sometimes out of view behind the swimmer, leaving him in dreadful
doubts as to the movements of the fish, when Mulford suddenly felt
something hard hit his foot. Believing it to be the shark, dipping
for his prey, a slight exclamation escaped him. At the next instant
both feet hit the unknown substance again, and he stood erect, the
water no higher than his waist! Quick, and comprehending everything
connected with the sea, the young man at once understood that he was
on a part of the reef where the water was so shallow as to admit of
Mulford felt that he had been providentially rescued from death. His
strength had been about to fail him, when he was thus led, unknown
to himself, to a spot where his life might yet be possibly prolonged
for a few more hours, or days. He had leisure to look about him, and
to reflect on what was next to be done. Almost unwittingly, he
turned in quest of his terrible companion, in whose voracious mouth
he had actually believed himself about to be immolated, a few
seconds before. There the two horn-like fins still were, gliding
about above the water, and indicating the smallest movement of their
formidable owner. The mate observed that they went a short distance
ahead of him, describing nearly a semi-circle, and then returned,
doing the same thing in his rear, repeating the movements
incessantly, keeping always on his right. This convinced him that
shoaler water existed on his left hand, and he waded in that
direction, until he reached a small spot of naked rock.
For a time, at least, he was safe! The fragment of coral on which
the mate now stood, was irregular in shape, but might have contained
a hundred feet square in superficial measurement, and was so little
raised above the level of the water as not to be visible, even by
daylight, at the distance of a hundred yards. Mulford found it was
perfectly dry, however, an important discovery to him, as by a close
calculation he had made of the tides, since quitting the Dry
Tortugas, he knew it must be near high water. Could he have even
this small portion of bare rock secure, it made him, for the moment,
rich as the most extensive landholder living. A considerable
quantity of sea-weed had lodged on the rock, and, as most of this
was also quite dry, it convinced the young sailor that the place was
usually bare. But, though most of this sea-weed was dry, there were
portions of the more recent accessions there that still lay in, or
quite near to the water, which formed exceptions. In handling these
weeds, in order to ascertain the facts, Mulford caught a small
shell-fish, and finding it fresh and easy to open, he swallowed it
with the eagerness of a famishing man. Never had food proved half so
grateful to him as that single swallow of a very palatable
testaceous animal. By feeling further, he found several others of
the same family, and made quite as large a meal, as, under the
circumstances, was probably good for him. Then, grateful for his
escape, but overcome by fatigue, he hastily arranged a bed of
sea-weed, drew a portion of the plant over his body, to keep him
warm, and fell into a deep sleep that lasted for hours.
Mulford did not regain his consciousness until the rays of the
rising sun fell upon his eye-lids, and the genial warmth of the
great luminary shed its benign influence over his frame. At first
his mind was confused, and it required a few seconds to bring a
perfect recollection of the past, and a true understanding of his
real situation. They came, however, and the young man moved to the
highest part of his little domain, and cast an anxious, hurried look
around in quest of the wreck. A knowledge of the course in which he
had swum, aided by the position of the sun, told him on what part of
the naked waste to look for the object he sought. God had not yet
forsaken them! There was the wreck; or, it might be more exact to
say, there were those whom the remaining buoyancy of the wreck still
upheld from sinking into the depths of the gulf. In point of fact,
but a very little of the bottom of the vessel actually remained
above water, some two or three yards square at most, and that little
was what seamen term nearly awash. Two or three hours must bury that
small portion of the still naked wood beneath the surface of the
sea, though sufficient buoyancy might possibly remain for the entire
day still to keep the living from death.
There the wreck was, however, yet floating; and, though not visible
to Mulford, with a small portion of it above water. He saw the four
persons only; and what was more, they saw him. This was evident by
Jack Tier's waving his hat like a man cheering. When Mulford
returned this signal, the shawl of Rose was tossed into the air, in
a way to leave no doubt that he was seen and known. The explanation
of this early recognition and discovery of the young mate was very
simple. Tier was not asleep when Harry left the wreck, though,
seeing the importance of the step the other was taking, he had
feigned to be so. When Rose awoke, missed her lover, and was told
what had happened, her heart was kept from sinking by his
encouraging tale and hopes. An hour of agony had succeeded,
nevertheless, when light returned and no Mulford was to be seen. The
despair that burst upon the heart of our heroine was followed by the
joy of discovering him on the rock.
It is scarcely necessary to say how much the parties were relieved
on ascertaining their respective positions. Faint as were the hopes
of each of eventual delivery, the two or three minutes that
succeeded seemed to be minutes of perfect happiness. After this rush
of unlooked-for joy, Mulford continued his intelligent examination
of surrounding objects.
The wreck was fully half a mile from the rock of the mate, but much
nearer to the reef than it had been the previous night. "Could it
but ground on the rocks," thought the young man, "it would be a most
blessed event." The thing was possible, though the first half hour
of his observations told him that its drift was in the direction of
the open passage so often named, rather than toward the nearest
rocks. Still, that drift brought Rose each minute nearer and nearer
to himself again. In looking round, however, the young man saw the
boat. It was a quarter of a mile distant, with open water between
them, apparently grounded on a rock, for it was more within the reef
than he was himself. He must have passed it in the dark, and the
boat had been left to obey the wind and currents, and to drift to
the spot where it then lay.
Mulford shouted aloud when he saw the boat, and at once determined
to swim in quest of it, as soon as he had collected a little
refreshment from among the sea-weed. On taking a look at his rock by
daylight, he saw that its size was quadrupled to the eye by the
falling of the tide, and that water was lying in several of the
cavities of its uneven surface. At first he supposed this to be
sea-water, left by the flood; but, reflecting a moment, he
remembered the rain, and hoped it might be possible that one little
cavity, containing two or three gallons of the fluid, would turn out
to be fresh. Kneeling beside it, he applied his lips in feverish
haste, and drank the sweetest draught that had ever passed his lips.
Slaking his thirst, which had begun again to be painfully severe, he
arose with a heart overflowing with gratitude--could he only get
Rose to that narrow and barren rock, it would seem to be an earthly
paradise. Mulford next made his scanty, but, all things considered,
sufficient meal, drank moderately afterward, and then turned his
attention and energies toward the boat, which, though now aground
and fast, might soon float on the rising tide, and drift once more
beyond his reach. It was his first intention to swim directly for
his object; but, just when about to enter the water, he saw with
horror the fins of at least a dozen sharks, which were prowling
about in the deeper water of the reef, and almost encircling his
hold. To throw himself in the midst of such enemies would be
madness, and he stopped to reflect, and again to look about him. For
the first time that morning, he took a survey of the entire horizon,
to see if anything were in sight; for, hitherto, his thoughts had
been too much occupied with Rose and her companions, to remember
anything else. To the northward and westward he distinctly saw the
upper sails of a large ship, that was standing on a wind to the
northward and eastward. As there was no port to which a vessel of
that character would be likely to be bound in the quarter of the
Gulf to which such a course would lead, Mulford at once inferred it
was the sloop-of-war, which, after having examined the islets, at
the Dry Tortugas, and finding them deserted, was beating up, either
to go into Key West, or to pass to the southward of the reef again,
by the passage through which she had come as lately as the previous
day. This was highly encouraging; and could he only get to the boat,
and remove the party from the wreck before it sunk, there was now
every prospect of a final escape.
To the southward, also, the mate fancied he saw a sail. It was
probably a much smaller vessel than the ship in the north-west, and
at a greater distance. It might, however, be the lofty sails of some
large craft; standing along the reef, going westward, bound to New
Orleans, or to that new and important port, Point Isabel: or it
might be some wrecker, or other craft, edging away into the passage.
As it was, it appeared only as a speck in the horizon; and was too
far off to offer much prospect of succour.
Thus acquainted with the state of things around him, Mulford gave
his attention seriously to his duties. He was chiefly afraid that
the returning tide might lift the boat from the rock on which it had
grounded, and that it would float beyond his reach. Then there was
the frightful and ever-increasing peril of the wreck, and the
dreadful fate that so inevitably menaced those that it held, were
not relief prompt. This thought goaded him nearly to desperation,
and he felt at moments almost ready to plunge into the midst of the
sharks, and fight his way to his object.
But reflection showed him a less hazardous way of making an effort
to reach the boat. The sharks' fins described a semicircle only, as
had been the case of his single attendant during the night, and he
thought that the shealness of the water prevented their going
further than they did, in a south-easterly direction, which was that
of the boat. He well knew that a shark required sufficient water to
sink beneath its prey, ere it made its swoop, and that it uniformly
turned on its back, and struck upward whenever it gave one of its
voracious bites. This was owing to the greater length of its upper
than of its lower jaw, and Mulford had heard it was a physical
necessity of its formation. Right or wrong, he determined to act on
this theory, and began at once to wade along the part of the reef
that his enemies seemed unwilling to approach.
Had our young mate a weapon of any sort larger than his knife, he
would have felt greater confidence in his success. As it was,
however, he drew that knife, and was prepared to sell his life
dearly should a foe assail him. No sooner was his step heard in the
water, than the whole group of sharks were set in violent motion,
glancing past, and frequently quite near him, as if aware their
intended prey was about to escape. Had the water deepened much,
Harry would have returned at once, for a conflict with such numbers
would have been hopeless; but it did not; on the contrary, it
shoaled again, after a very short distance, at which it had been
waist-deep; and Mulford found himself wading over a long, broad
surface of rock, and that directly toward the boat, through water
that seldom rose above his knees, and which, occasionally, scarce
covered his feet. There was no absolutely naked rock near him, but
there seemed to be acres of that which might be almost said to be
awash. Amid the greedy throng that endeavoured to accompany him, the
mate even fancied he recognised the enormous fins of his old
companion, who sailed to and fro in the crowd in a stately manner,
as if merely a curious looker-on of his own movements. It was the
smaller, and probably the younger sharks, that betrayed the greatest
hardihood and voracity. One or two of these made fierce swoops
toward Harry, as if bent on having him at every hazard; but they
invariably glided off when they found their customary mode of attack
resisted by the shoalness of the water.
Our young mate got ahead but slowly, being obliged to pay a cautious
attention to the movements of his escort. Sometimes he was compelled
to wade up to his arms in order to cross narrow places, that he
might get on portions of the rock that were nearly bare; and once he
was actually compelled to swim eight or ten yards. Nevertheless, he
did get on, and after an hour of this sort of work, he found himself
within a hundred yards of the boat, which lay grounded near a low
piece of naked rock, but separated from it by a channel of deep
water, into which all the sharks rushed in a body, as if expressly
to cut off his escape. Mulford now paused to take breath, and to
consider what ought to be done. On the spot where he stood he was
quite safe, though ancle-deep in the sea, the shallow water
extending to a considerable distance on all sides of him, with the
single exception of the channel in his front. He stood on the very
verge of that channel, and could see in the pellucid element before
him, that it was deep enough to float a vessel of some size.
To venture into the midst of twenty sharks required desperation, and
Harry was not yet reduced to that. He had been so busy in making his
way to the point where he stood as to have no leisure to look for
the wreck; but he now turned his eyes in quest of that
all-interesting object. He saw the shawl fluttering in the breeze,
and that was all he could see. Tier had contrived to keep it flying
as a signal where he was to be found, but the hull of the schooner
had sunk so low in the water that they who were seated on its keel
were not visible even at the short distance which now separated them
from Mulford. Encouraged by this signal, and animated by the revived
hope of still saving his companions, Harry turned toward the
channel, half inclined to face every danger rather than to wait any
longer. At that moment the fins were all gliding along the channel
from him, and in the same direction. Some object drew the sharks
away in a body, and the young mate let himself easily into the
water, and swam as noiselessly as he could toward the boat.
It was a fearful trial, but Mulford felt that everything depended on
his success. Stimulated by his motive, and strengthened by the food
and water taken an hour before, never had he shown so much skill and
power in the water. In an incredibly short period he was half-way
across the channel, still swimming strong and unharmed. A few
strokes more sent him so near the boat that hope took full
possession of his soul, and he shouted in exultation. That
indiscreet but natural cry, uttered so near the surface of the sea,
turned every shark upon him, as the pack springs at the fox in view.
Mulford was conscious of the folly of his cry the instant it escaped
him, and involuntarily he turned his head to note the effect on his
enemies. Every fin was gliding toward him--a dark array of swift and
furious foes. Ten thousand bayonets, levelled in their line, could
not have been one-half as terrible, and the efforts of the young man
became nearly frantic. But strong as he was, and ready in the
element, what is the movement of a man in the water compared to that
of a vigorous and voracious fish? Mulford could see those fins
coming on like a tempest, and he had just given up all hope, and was
feeling his flesh creep with terror, when his foot hit the rock.
Giving himself an onward plunge, he threw his body upward toward the
boat, and into so much shoaler water, at least a dozen feet by that
single effort. Recovering his legs as soon as possible, he turned to
look behind him. The water seemed alive with fins, each pair gliding
back and forth, as the bull-dog bounds in front of the ox's muzzle.
Just then a light-coloured object glanced past the young man, so
near as almost to touch him. It was a shark that had actually turned
on its back to seize its prey, and was only prevented from
succeeding by being driven from the line of its course by hitting
the slimy rock, over which it was compelled to make its plunge. The
momentum with which it came on, added to the inclination of the
rock, forced the head and half of the body of this terrible
assailant into the air, giving the intended victim an opportunity of
seeing from what a fate he had escaped. Mulford avoided this fish
without much trouble, however, and the next instant he threw himself
into the boat, on the bottom of which he lay panting with the
violence of his exertions, and unable to move under the reaction
which now came over his system.
The mate lay in the bottom of the boat, exhausted and unable to
rise, for several minutes; during that space he devoutly returned
thanks to God for his escape, and bethought him of the course he was
next to pursue, in order to effect the rescue of his companions. The
boat was larger than common. It was also well equipped--a mast and
sail lying along with the oars, on its thwarts. The rock placed
Harry to windward of the wreck, and by the time he felt sufficiently
revived to rise and look about him, his plan of proceeding was fully
arranged in his own mind. Among other things that he saw, as he
still lay in the bottom of the boat, was a breaker which he knew
contained fresh water, and a bread-bag. These were provisions that
it was customary for the men to make, when employed on boat duty;
and the articles had been left where he now saw them, in the hurry
of the movements, as the brig quitted the islets.
Harry rose the instant he felt his strength returning. Striking the
breaker with his foot, and feeling the basket with a hand, he
ascertained that the one held its water, and the other its bread.
This was immense relief, for by this time the sufferings of the
party on the wreck must be returning with redoubled force. The mate
then stepped the mast, and fitted the sprit to the sail, knowing
that the latter would be seen fluttering in the wind by those on the
wreck, and carry joy to their hearts. After this considerate act, he
began to examine into the position of the boat. It was still
aground, having been left by the tide; but the water had already
risen several inches, and by placing himself on a gunwale, so as to
bring the boat on its bilge, and pushing with an oar, he soon got it
into deep water. It only remained to haul aft the sheet, and right
the helm, to be standing through the channel, at a rate that
promised a speedy deliverance to his friends, and, most of all, to
Mulford glanced past the rocks and shoals, attended by the whole
company of the sharks. They moved before, behind, and on each side
of him, as if unwilling to abandon their prey, even after he had got
beyond the limits of their power to do him harm. It was not an easy
thing to manage the boat in that narrow and crooked channel, with no
other guide for the courses than the eye, and it required so much of
the mate's vigilance to keep clear of the sharp angles of the rocks,
that he could not once cast his eyes aside, to look for the
fluttering shawl, which now composed the standing signal of the
wreck. At length the boat shot through the last passage of the reef,
and issued into open water. Mulford knew that he must come out half
a mile at least to leeward of his object, and, without even raising
his head, he flattened in the sheet, put his helm down, and luffed
close to the wind. Then, and then only, did he venture to look
Our mate felt his heart leap toward his mouth, as he observed the
present state of the wreck. It was dead to windward of him, in the
first place, and it seemed to be entirely submerged. He saw the
shawl fluttering as before; for Tier had fastened one corner to a
button-hole of his own jacket, and another to the dress of Biddy,
leaving the part which might be called the fly, to rise at moments
almost perpendicularly in the air, in a way to render it visible at
some distance. He saw also the heads and the bodies of those on the
schooner's bottom, but to him they appeared to be standing in, or
on, the water. The distance may have contributed a little to this
appearance, but no doubt remained that so much air had escaped from
the hold of the vessel, as to permit it to sink altogether beneath
the surface of the sea. It was time, indeed, to proceed to the
relief of the sufferers.
Notwithstanding the boat sailed particularly fast, and worked
beautifully, it could not equal the impatience of Mulford to get on.
Passing away to the north-east a sufficient distance, as he thought,
to weather on the wreck, the young man tacked at last, and had the
happiness to see that every foot he proceeded was now in a direct
line toward Rose. It was only while tacking he perceived that all
the fins had disappeared. He felt little doubt that they had
deserted him, in order to push for the wreck, which offered so much
larger, and so much more attainable prey. This increased his
feverish desire to get on, the boat seeming to drag, in his eyes, at
the very moment it was leaving a wake full of eddies and little
whirlpools. The wind was steady, but it seemed to Mulford that the
boat was set to leeward of her course by a current, though this
could hardly have been the case, as the wreck, the sole mark of his
progress, would have had at least as great a drift as the boat. At
length Mulford--to him it appeared to be an age; in truth it was
after a run of about twenty minutes--came near the goal he so
earnestly sought, and got an accurate view of the state of the
wreck, and of those on it. The hull of the schooner had, in truth,
sunk entirely beneath the surface of the sea; and the party it
sustained stood already knee-deep in the water. This was
sufficiently appalling; but the presence of the sharks, who were
crowding around the spot, rendered the whole scene frightful. To the
young mate it seemed as if he must still be too late to save Rose
from a fate more terrible than drowning, for his boat fell so far to
leeward as to compel him to tack once more. As he swept past the
wreck, he called out to encourage his friends, begging them to be of
good heart for five minutes longer, when he should be able to reach
them. Rose held out her arms entreatingly, and the screams of Mrs.
Budd and Biddy, which were extorted by the closer and closer
approach of the sharks, proclaimed the imminency of the danger they
ran, and the importance of not losing a moment of time.
Mulford took his distance with a seaman's eye, and the boat went
about like a top. The latter fell off, and the sail filled on the
other tack. Then the young mariner saw, with a joy no description
can pourtray, that he looked to windward of the fluttering shawl,
toward which his little craft was already flying. He afterward
believed that shawl alone prevented the voracious party of fish from
assailing those on the wreck, for, though there might not yet be
sufficient depth of water to allow of their customary mode of
attack, creatures of their voracity did not always wait for such
conveniences. But the boat was soon in the midst of the fins,
scattering them in all directions; and Mulford let go his sheet, put
his helm down, and sprang forward to catch the extended arms of
It might have been accident, or it might have been the result of
skill and interest in our heroine, but certain it is, that the bows
of the boat came on the wreck precisely at the place where Rose
stood, and her hand was the first object that the young man touched.
"Take my aunt first," cried Rose, resisting Mulford's efforts to
lift her into the boat; "she is dreadfully alarmed, and can stand
Although two of Rose's activity and lightness might have been drawn
into the boat, while the process was going on in behalf of the
widow, Mulford lost no time in discussion, but did as he was
desired. First directing Tier to hold on to the painter, he applied
his strength to the arms of Mrs. Budd, and, assisted by Rose and
Biddy, got her safely into the boat, over its bows. Rose now waited
not for assistance, but followed her aunt with a haste that proved
fear lent her strength in despite her long fast. Biddy came next,
though clumsily, and not without trouble, and Jack Tier followed the
instant he was permitted so to do. Of course, the boat, no longer
held by its painter, drifted away from the spot, and the hull of the
schooner, relieved from the weight of four human beings, rose so
near the surface again as to bring a small line of its keel out of
water. No better evidence could have been given of the trifling
power which sustained it, and of the timely nature of the succour
brought by Mulford. Had the boat remained near the schooner, it
would have been found half an hour later that the hull had sunk
slowly out of sight, finding its way, doubtless, inch by inch,
toward the bottom of the Gulf.
By this time the sun was well up, and the warmth of the hour,
season, and latitude, was shed on the sufferers. There was an old
sail in the boat, and in this the party dried their limbs and feet,
which were getting to be numb by their long immersion. Then the mate
produced the bag and opened it, in quest of bread. A small portion
was given to each, and, on looking farther, the mate discovered that
a piece of boiled ship's beef had been secreted in this receptacle.
Of this also he gave each a moderate slice, taking a larger portion
for himself, as requiring less precaution. The suffering of the
party from hunger was far less than that they endured from thirst.
Neither had been endured long enough seriously to enfeeble them or
render a full meal very dangerous, but the thirst had been much the
hardest to be borne. Of this fact Biddy soon gave audible evidence.
"The mate is good," she said, "and the bread tastes swate and
refreshing, but wather is a blessed thing. Can you no give us one
dhrap of the wather that falls from heaven, Mr. Mulford; for this
wather of the saa is of no use but to drown Christians in?"
In an instant the mate had opened a breaker, and filled the tin pot
which is almost always to be found in a boat. Biddy said no more,
but her eyes pleaded so eloquently, that Rose begged the faithful
creature might have the first drink. One eager swallow went down,
and then a cry of disappointment succeeded. The water was salt, and
had been put in the breaker for ballast. The other breaker was tried
with the same success.
"It is terrible to be without one drop of water," murmured Rose,
"and this food makes it more necessary than ever."
"Patience, patience, dearest Rose--patience for ten minutes, and you
shall all drink," answered the mate, filling the sail and keeping
the boat away while speaking. "There is water, God be praised, on
the rock to which I first swam, and we will secure it before another
day's sun help to make it evaporate."
This announcement quieted the longings of those who endured a thirst
which disappointment rendered doubly hard to bear; and away the boat
glided toward the rock. As he now flew over the distance, lessened
more than one-half by the drift of the wreck, Mulford recalled the
scene through which he had so painfully passed the previous night.
As often happens, he shuddered at the recollection of things which,
at the moment, a desperate resolution had enabled him to encounter
with firmness. Still, he thought nothing less than the ardent desire
to save Rose could have carried him through the trial with the
success which attended his struggles. The dear being at his side
asked a few explanations of what had passed; and she bowed her head
and wept, equally with pain and delight, as imagination pictured to
her the situation of her betrothed, amid that waste of water, with
his fearful companions, and all in the hours of deep night.
But that was over now. There was the rock--the blessed rock on which
Mulford had so accidentally struck, close before them--and presently
they were all on it. The mate took the pot and ran to the little
reservoir, returning with a sweet draught for each of the party.
"A blessed, blessed thing, is wather!" exclaimed Biddy, this time
finding the relief she sought, "and a thousand blessings on _you,_
Mr. Mulford, who have niver done us anything but good."
Rose looked a still higher eulogy on the young man, and even Mrs.
Budd had something commendatory and grateful to say. Jack Tier was
silent, but he had all his eyes about him, as he now proved.
"We've all on us been so much taken up with our own affairs,"
remarked the steward's assistant, "that we've taken but little
notice of the neighbourhood. If that is n't the brig, Mr. Mulford,
running through this very passage, with stun'sails set alow and
aloft, I do n't know the Molly Swash when I see her!"
"The brig!" exclaimed the mate, recollecting the vessels he had seen
at the break-of-day, for the first time in hours. "Can it be
possible that the craft I made out to the southward, is the brig?"
"Look, and judge for yourself, sir. There she comes, like a
race-horse, and if she holds her present course, she must pass
somewhere within a mile or so of us, if we stay where we are."
Mulford did look, as did all with him. There was the Swash, sure
enough, coming down before the wind, and under a cloud of canvas.
She might be still a league, or a league and a half distant, but, at
the rate at which she was travelling, that distance would soon be
past. She was running through the passage, no doubt with a view to
proceed to the Dry Tortugas, to look after the schooner, Spike
having the hope that he had dodged his pursuers on the coast of
Cuba. The mate now looked for the ship, in the north-western board,
believing, as he did, that she was the sloop-of-war. That vessel had
gone about, and was standing to the southward, on a taut bowline.
She was still a long way off, three or four leagues at least, but
the change she had made in her position, since last seen, proved
that she was a great sailer. Then she was more than hull down,
whereas, now, she was near enough to let the outline of a long,
straight fabric be discovered beneath her canvas.
"It is hardly possible that Spike should not see the vessel here in
the northern board," Mulford observed to Tier, who had been
examining the ship with him. "The lookout is usually good on board
the Swash, and, just now, should certainly be as good as common.
Spike is no dawdler with serious business before him."
"He's a willain!" muttered Jack Tier.
The mate regarded his companion with some surprise. Jack was a very
insignificant-looking personage in common, and one would scarcely
pause to give him a second look, unless it might be to laugh at his
rotundity and little waddling legs. But, now, the mate fancied he
was swelling with feelings that actually imparted somewhat more than
usual stature and dignity to his appearance. His face was full of
indignation, and there was something about the eye, that to Mulford
was inexplicable. As Rose, however, had related to him the scene
that took place on the islet, at the moment when Spike was
departing, the mate supposed that Jack still felt a portion of the
resentment that such a collision would be apt to create. From the
expression of Jack's countenance at that instant, it struck him
Spike might not be exactly safe, should accident put it in the power
of the former to do him an injury.
It was now necessary to decide on the course that ought to be
pursued. The bag contained sufficient food to last the party several
days, and a gallon of water still remained in the cavity of the
rock. This last was collected and put in one of the breakers, which
was emptied of the salt water in order to receive it. As water,
however, was the great necessity in that latitude, Mulford did not
deem it prudent to set sail with so small a supply, and he
accordingly commenced a search, on some of the adjacent rocks, Jack
Tier accompanying him. They succeeded in doubling their stock of
water, and collected several shell-fish, that the females found
exceedingly grateful and refreshing. On the score of hunger and
thirst, indeed, no one was now suffering. By judiciously sipping a
little water at a time, and retaining it in the mouth before
swallowing, the latter painful feeling had been gotten rid of; and
as for food, there was even more than was actually needed, and that
of a very good quality. It is probable that standing in the water
for hours, as Rose, and her aunt, and Biddy had been obliged to do,
had contributed to lessen the pain endured from thirst, though they
had all suffered a good deal from that cause, especially while the
Mulford and Tier were half an hour in obtaining the water. By the
end of that period the brigantine was so near as to render her hull
distinctly visible. It was high time to decide on their future
course. The sail had been brailed when the boat reached the rock,
and the boat itself lay on the side of the latter opposite to the
brig, and where no part of it could be seen to those on board the
Swash, with the exception of the mast. Under the circumstances,
therefore, Mulford thought it wisest to remain where they were, and
let the vessel pass, before they attempted to proceed toward Key
West, their intended place of refuge. In order to do this, however,
it was necessary to cause the whole party to lie down, in such a way
as to be hid by the inequalities in the rock, as it was now very
evident the brig would pass within half a mile of them. Hitherto, it
was not probable that they had been seen, and by using due caution,
the chances of Spike's overlooking them altogether amounted nearly
The necessary arrangements were soon made, the boat's masts
unstepped, the party placed behind their covers, and the females
comfortably bestowed in the spare sail, where they might got a
little undisturbed sleep after the dreadful night, or morning, they
had passed. Even Jack Tier lay down to catch his nap, as the most
useful manner of bestowing himself for a couple of hours; the time
Mulford had mentioned as the period of their stay where they were.
As for the mate, vigilance was his portion, and he took his
position, hid like all the rest, where he could watch the movements
of his old craft. In about twenty minutes, the brig was quite near;
so near that Mulford not only saw the people on board her, who
showed themselves in the rigging, but fancied he could recognise
their persons. As yet, nothing had occurred in the way of change,
but, just as the Swash got abreast of the rock, she began to take in
her studding-sails, and that hurriedly, as is apt to occur on board
a vessel in sudden emergencies. Our young man was a little alarmed
at first, believing that they might have been discovered, but he was
soon induced to think that the crew of the brigantine had just then
begun to suspect the character of the ship to the northward. That
vessel had been drawing near all this time, and was now only some
three leagues distant. Owing to the manner in which she headed, or
bows on, it was not a very easy matter to tell the character of this
stranger, though the symmetry and squareness of his yards rendered
it nearly certain he was a cruiser. Though Spike could not expect to
meet his old acquaintance here, after the chase he had so lately led
her, down on the opposite coast, he might and would have his
misgivings, and Mulford thought it was his intention to haul up
close round the northern angle of the reef, and maintain his
advantage of the wind, over the stranger. If this were actually
done, it might expose the boat to view, for the brig would pass
within a quarter of a mile of it, and on the side of the rock on
which it lay. It was too late, however, to attempt a change, since
the appearance of human beings in such a place would be certain to
draw the brig's glasses on them, and the glasses must at once let
Spike know who they were. It remained, therefore, only to await the
result as patiently as possible.
A very few minutes removed all doubt. The brig hauled as close round
the reef as she dared to venture, and in a very short time the boat
lay exposed to view to all on board her. The vessel was now so near
that Mulford plainly saw the boatswain get upon the coach-house, or
little hurricane-house deck, where Spike stood examining the ship
with his glass, and point out the boat, where it lay at the side of
the rock. In an instant, the glass was levelled at the spot, and the
movements on board the brig immediately betrayed to Mulford that the
boat was recognised. Sail was shortened on board the Swash, and men
were seen preparing to lower her stern boat, while everything
indicated that the vessel was about to be hove-to. There was no time
now to be lost, but the young man immediately gave the alarm.
No sooner did the party arise and show themselves, than the crew of
the Swash gave three cheers. By the aid of the glass, Spike
doubtless recognised their persons, and the fact was announced to
the men, by way of stimulating their exertions. This gave an
additional spur to the movements of those on the rock, who hastened
into their own boat, and made sail as soon as possible.
It was far easier to do all that has been described, than to
determine on the future course. Capture was certain if the fugitives
ventured into the open water, and their only hope was to remain on
the reef. If channels for the passage of the boat could be found,
escape was highly probable, as the schooner's boat could sail much
faster than the brig's boat could row, fast as Mulford knew the last
to be. But the experience of the morning had told the mate that the
rock rose too near the surface, in many places, for the boat, small
as it was, to pass over it; and he must trust a great deal to
chance. Away he went, however, standing along a narrow channel,
through which the wind just permitted him to lay, with the sail
By this time the Swash had her boat in the water, manned with four
powerful oars, Spike steering it in his own person. Our young mate
placed Tier in the bows, to point out the deepest water, and kept
his sail a rap full, in order to get ahead as fast as possible.
Ahead he did get, but it was on a course that soon brought him out
in the open water of the main passage through the reef, leaving
Spike materially astern. The latter now rose in his boat, and made a
signal with his hat, which the boatswain perfectly understood. The
latter caused the brig to ware short round on her heel, and boarded
his foretack in chase, hauling up into the passage as soon as he
could again round the reef. Mulford soon saw that it would never do
for him to venture far from the rocks, the brig going two feet to
his one, though not looking quite as high as he did in the boat. But
the Swash had her guns, and it was probable they would be used
rather than he should escape. When distant two hundred yards from
the reef, therefore, he tacked. The new course brought the fugitives
nearly at right angles to that steered by Spike, who stood directly
on, as if conscious that, sooner or later, such a rencounter must
occur. It would seem that the tide was setting through the passage,
for when the boat of Mulford again reached the reef, it was
considerably to windward of the channel out of which she had issued,
and opposite to another which offered very opportunely for her
entrance. Into this new channel, then, the mate somewhat blindly
ran, feeling the necessity of getting out of gun-shot of the brig at
every hazard. She at least could not follow him among the rocks, let
Spike, in his boat, proceed as he might.
According to appearances, Spike was not likely to be very
successful. He was obliged to diverge from his course, in order to
go into the main passage at the very point where Mulford had just
before done the same thing, and pull along the reef to windward, in
order to get into the new channel, into which the boat he was
pursuing had just entered. This brought him not only astern again,
but a long bit astern, inasmuch as he was compelled to make the
circuit described. On he went, however, as eager in the chase as the
hound with his game in view.
Mulford's boat seemed to fly, and glided ahead at least three feet
to that of Spike's two. The direction of the channel it was in,
brought it pretty close to the wind, but the water was quite smooth,
and our mate managed to keep the sail full, and his little craft at
the same time quite near the weatherly side of the rocks. In the
course of ten minutes the fugitives were fully a mile from the brig,
which was unable to follow them, but kept standing off and on, in
the main passage, waiting the result. At one time Mulford thought
the channel would bring him out into open water again, on the
northern side of the reef, and more than a mile to the eastward of
the point where the ship-channel in which the Swash was plying
commenced; but an accidental circumstance prevented his standing in
far enough to ascertain the fact. That circumstance was as follows:
In running a mile and a half over the reef, in the manner described,
Mulford had left the boat of Spike quite half a mile astern. He was
now out of gun-shot from the brig, or at least beyond the range of
her grape, the only missile he feared, and so far to windward that
he kept his eye on every opening to the southward, which he fancied
might allow of his making a stretch deeper into the mazes of the
reef, among which he believed it easiest for him to escape, and to
weary the oarsmen of his pursuers. Two or three of these openings
offered as he glided along, but it struck him that they all looked
so high that the boat would not lay through them--an opinion in
which he was right. At length he came abreast of one that seemed
straight and clear of obstacles as far as he could see, and through
which he might run with a flowing sheet. Down went his helm, and
about went his boat, running away to the southward as fast as ever.
Had Spike followed, doubled the same shoal, and kept away again in
the same channel as had been done by the boat he chased, all his
hopes of success must have vanished at once. This he did not
attempt, therefore; but, sheering into one of the openings which the
mate had rejected, he cut off quite half a mile in his distance.
This was easy enough for him to accomplish, as a row-boat would pull
even easier, near to the wind, than with the wind broad on its bow.
In consequence of this short cut, therefore, Spike was actually
crossing out into Mulford's new channel, just as the latter had
handsomely cleared the mouth of the opening through which he
effected his purpose.
It is scarcely necessary to say that the two boats must have been
for a few minutes quite near to each other; so near, indeed, did the
fugitives now pass to their pursuers, that it would have been easy
for them to have conversed, had they been so disposed. Not a word
was spoken, however, but Mulford went by, leaving Spike about a
hundred yards astern. This was a trying moment to the latter, and
the devil tempted him to seek his revenge. He had not come unarmed
on his enterprise, but three or four loaded muskets lay in the
stern-sheets of his yawl. He looked at his men, and saw that they
could not hold out much longer to pull as they had been pulling.
Then he looked at Mulford's boat, and saw it gliding away from him
at a rate that would shortly place it another half mile in advance.
He seized a musket, and raised it to his shoulder, nay, was in the
act of taking aim at his mate, when Rose, who watched his movements,
threw herself before Harry, and if she did not actually save his
life, at least prevented Spike's attempt on it for that occasion. In
the course of the next ten minutes the fugitives had again so far
gained on their pursuers, that the latter began to see that their
efforts were useless. Spike muttered a few bitter curses, and told
his men to lay on their oars.
"It's well for the runaway," he added, "that the gal put herself
between us, else would his grog have been stopped for ever. I've
long suspected this; but had I been sure of it, the Gulf Stream
would have had the keeping of his body, the first dark night we were
in it together. Lay on your oars, men, lay on your oars; I'm afeared
the villian will get through our fingers, a'ter all."
The men obeyed, and then, for the first time, did they turn their
heads, to look at those they had been so vehemently pursuing. The
other boat was quite half a mile from them, and it had again tacked.
This last occurrence induced Spike to pull slowly ahead, in quest of
another short passage to cut the fugitives off; but no such opening
"There he goes about again, by George!" exclaimed Spike. "Give way,
lads--give way; an easy stroke, for if he is embayed, he can't
Sure enough, poor Mulford _was_ embayed, and could see no outlet by
which to pass ahead. He tacked his boat two or three times, and he
wore round as often; but on every side shoals, or rocks that
actually rose above the surface of the water, impeded his course.
The fact was not to be concealed; after all his efforts, and so many
promises of success, not only was his further progress ahead cut
off, but equally so was retreat. The passage was not wide enough to
admit the hope of getting by his pursuers, and the young man came to
the conclusion that his better course was to submit with dignity to
his fate. For himself he had no hope--he knew Spike's character too
well for that; but he did not apprehend any great immediate danger
to his companions. Spike had a coarse, brutal admiration for Rose!
but her expected fortune, which was believed to be of more amount
than was actually the case, was a sort of pledge that he would not
willingly put himself in a situation that would prevent the
possibility of enjoying it. Strange, hurried, and somewhat confused
thoughts passed through Harry Mulford's mind, as he brailed his
sail, and waited for his captors to approach and take possession of
his boat and himself. This was done quietly, and with very few words
on the part of Spike.
Mulford would have liked the appearance of things better had his old
commander cursed him, and betrayed other signs of the fury that was
boiling in his very soul. On the contrary, never had Stephen Spike
seemed more calm, or under better self-command. He smiled, and
saluted Mrs. Budd, just as if nothing unpleasant had occurred, and
alluded to the sharpness of the chase with facetiousness and seeming
good-humour. The females were deceived by this manner, and hoped,
after all, that the worst that would happen would be a return to
their old position on board the Swash. This was being so much better
off than their horrible situation on the wreck, that the change was
not frightful to them.
"What has become of the schooner, Mr. Mulford?" asked Spike, as the
boats began to pass down the channel to return to the brig--two of
the Swash's men taking their seats in that which had been captured,
along with their commander, while the other two got a tow from the
use of the sail. "I see you have the boat here that we used
alongside of her, and suppose you know something of the craft
"She capsized with us in a squall," answered the mate, "and we only
left the wreck this morning."
"Capsized!--hum--that was a hard fate, to be sure, and denotes bad
seamanship. Now I've sailed all sorts of craft these forty years, or
five-and-thirty at least, and never cap-sized anything in my life.
Stand by there for'ard to hold on by that rock."
A solitary cap of the coral rose above the water two or three feet,
close to the channel, and was the rock to which Spike alluded. It
was only some fifty feet in diameter, and of an oval form, rising
quite above the ordinary tides, as was apparent by its appearance.
It is scarcely necessary to say it had no other fresh water than
that which occasionally fell on its surface, which surface being
quite smooth, retained very little of the rain it received. The boat
was soon alongside of this rock, where it was held broadside-to by
the two seamen.
"Mr. Mulford, do me the favour to step up here," said Spike, leading
the way on to the rock himself. "I have a word to say to you before
we get on board the old Molly once more."
Mulford silently complied, fully expecting that Spike intended to
blow his brains out, and willing the bloody deed should be done in a
way to be as little shocking to Rose as circumstances would allow.
But Spike manifested no such intention. A more refined cruelty was
uppermost in his mind; and his revenge was calculated, and took care
to fortify itself with some of the quibbles and artifices of the
law. He might not be exactly right in his legal reservations, but he
did not the less rely on their virtue.
"Hark'e, Mr. Mulford," said Spike, sharply, as soon as both were on
the rock, "you have run from my brig, thereby showing your distaste
for her; and I've no disposition to keep a man who wishes to quit
me. Here you are, sir, on _terrum firm,_ as the scholars call it;
and here you have my full permission to remain. I wish you a good
morning, sir; and will not fail to report, when we get in, that you
left the brig of your own pleasure."
"You will not have the cruelty to abandon me on this naked rock,
Captain Spike, and that without a morsel of food, or a drop of
"Wather is a blessed thing!" exclaimed Biddy. "Do not think of
lavin' the gentleman widout wather."
"You left _me,_ sir, without food or water, and you can fit out your
own rock--yes, d--e, sir, you left me _under fire,_ and that is a
thing no true-hearted man would have thought of. Stand by to make
sail, boys; and if he offer to enter the boat, pitch him out with
Spike was getting angry, and he entered the boat again, without
perceiving that Rose had left it. Light of foot, and resolute of
spirit, the beautiful girl, handsomer than ever perhaps, by her
excited feelings and dishevelled hair, had sprung on the rock, as
Spike stepped into the boat forward, and when the latter turned
round, after loosening the sail, he found he was drifting away from
the very being who was the object of all his efforts. Mulford,
believing that Rose was to be abandoned as well as himself, received
the noble girl in his arms, though ready to implore Spike, on his
knees, to return and at least to take her off. But Spike wanted no
solicitation on that point. He returned of his own accord, and had
just reached the rock again when a report of a gun drew all eyes
toward the brig.
The Swash had again run out of the passage, and was beating up,
close to the reef as she dared to go, with a signal flying. All the
seamen at once understood the cause of this hint. The strange sail
was getting too near, and everybody could see that it was the
sloop-of-war. Spike looked at Rose, a moment, in doubt. But Mulford
raised his beloved in his arms, and carried her to the side of the
rock, stepping on board the boat.
Spike watched the movements of the young man with jealous vigilance,
and no sooner was Rose placed on her seat, than he motioned
significantly to the mate to quit the boat.
"I cannot and will not voluntarily, Captain Spike," answered Harry,
calmly. "It would be committing a sort of suicide."
A sign brought two of the men to the captain's assistance. While the
latter held Rose in her place, the sailors shoved Harry on the rock
again. Had Mulford been disposed to resist, these two men could not
very easily have ejected him from the boat, if they could have done
it at all; but he knew there were others in reserve, and feared that
blood might be shed, in the irritated state of Spike, in the
presence of Rose. While, therefore, he would not be accessary to his
own destruction, he would not engage in what he knew would prove not
only a most harassing, but a bootless resistance. The consequence
was that the boats proceeded, leaving him alone on the rock.
It was perhaps fortunate for Rose that she fainted. Her condition
occupied her aunt and Biddy, and Spike was enabled to reach his brig
without any further interruption. Rose was taken on board still
nearly insensible, while her two female companions were so much
confused and distressed, that neither could have given a reasonably
clear account of what had just occurred. Not so with Jack Tier,
however. That singular being noted all that passed, seated in the
eyes of the boat, away from the confusion that prevailed in its
stern-sheets, and apparently undisturbed by it.
As the party was sailing back toward the brig, the lighthouse boat
towing the Swash's yawl, Jack took as good an observation of the
channels of that part of the reef as his low position would allow.
He tried to form in his mind a sort of chart of the spot, for, from
the instant Mulford was thus deserted, the little fellow had formed
a stern resolution to attempt his rescue. How that was to be done,
however, was more than he yet knew; and when they reached the brig's
side, Tier may be said to have been filled with good intentions,
rather than with any very available knowledge to enable him to put
them in execution.
As respects the two vessels, the arrival of Spike on board his own
was not a moment too soon. The Poughkeepsie, for the stranger to the
northward was now ascertained to be that sloop-of-war, was within
long gun-shot by this time, and near enough to make certain, by
means of her glasses, of the character of the craft with which she
was closing. Luckily for the brig she lay in the channel so often
mentioned, and through which both she and her present pursuer had so
lately come, on their way to the northward. This brought her to
windward, as the wind then stood, with a clear passage before her.
Not a moment was lost. No sooner were the females sent below, than
sail was made on the brig, and she began to beat through the
passage, making long legs and short ones. She was chased, as a
matter of course, and that hard, the difference in sailing between
the two crafts not being sufficiently great to render the
brigantine's escape by any means certain, while absolutely within
the range of those terrible missiles that were used by the
But Spike soon determined not to leave a point so delicate as that
of his own and his vessel's security to be decided by a mere
superiority in the way of heels. The Florida Reef, with all its
dangers, windings, and rocks, was as well known to him as the
entrances to the port of New York. In addition to its larger
channels, of which there are three or four, through which ships of
size can pass, it had many others that would admit only vessels of a
lighter draught of water. The brig was not flying light, it is true,
but she was merely in good ballast trim, and passages would be
available to her, into which the Poughkeepsie would not dare to
venture. One of these lesser channels was favourably placed to
further the escape of Spike, and he shoved the brig into it after
the struggle had lasted less than an hour. This passage offered a
shorter cut to the south side of the reef than the main channel, and
the sloop-of-war, doubtless perceiving the uselessness of pursuit,
under such circumstances, wore round on her heel, and came down
through the main channel again, just entering the open water, near
the spot where the schooner had sunk, as the sun was setting.
_Shallow._ Did her grandsire leave her seven hundred pound?
_Evans._ Ay, and her father is make her a petter penny.
_Shallow._ I know the young gentlewoman; she has good gifts.
_Evans._ Seven hundred pounds, and possibilities, is good gifts.
As for Spike, he had no intention of going to the southward of the
Florida Reef again until his business called him there. The lost bag
of doubloons was still gleaming before his imagination, and no
sooner did the Poughkeepsie bear up, than he shortened sail,
standing back and forth in his narrow and crooked channel, rather
losing ground than gaining, though he took great pains not to let
his artifice be seen. When the Poughkeepsie was so far to the
northward as to render it safe, he took in everything but one or two
of his lowest sails, and followed easily in the same direction. As
the sloop-of-war carried her light and loftier sails, she remained
visible to the people of the Swash long after the Swash had ceased
to be visible to her. Profiting by this circumstance, Spike entered
the main channel again some time before it was dark, and selected a
safe anchorage there that was well known to him; a spot where
sufficient sand had collected on the coral to make good holding
ground, and where a vessel would be nearly embayed, though always to
windward of her channel going out, by the formation of the reef.
Here he anchored, in order to wait until morning ere he ventured
further north. During the whole of that dreadful day, Rose had
remained in her cabin, disconsolate, nearly unable, as she was
absolutely unwilling to converse. Now it was that she felt the total
insufficiency of a mind feeble as that of her aunt's to administer
consolation to misery like her own. Nevertheless, the affectionate
solicitude of Mrs. Budd, as well as that of the faithful creature,
Biddy, brought some relief, and reason and resignation began slowly
to resume their influence. Yet was the horrible picture of Harry,
dying by inches, deserted in the midst of the waters on his solitary
rock, ever present to her thoughts, until, once or twice, her
feelings verged on madness. Prayer brought its customary relief,
however; and we do not think that we much exaggerate the fact, when
we say that Rose passed fully one-half of that terrible afternoon on
As for Jack Tier, he was received on board the brig much as if
nothing had happened. Spike passed and repassed him fifty times,
without even an angry look, or a word of abuse; and the
deputy-steward dropped quietly into the duties of his office,
without meeting with either reproach or hindrance. The only
allusion, indeed, that was made to his recent adventures, took place
in a conversation that was held on the subject in the galley, the
interlocutors being Jack himself, Josh, the steward, and Simon, the
"Where you been scullin' to, 'bout on dat reef, Jack, wid dem' ere
women, I won'er now?" demanded Josh, after tasting the cabin soup,
in order to ascertain how near it was to being done. "It'ink it no
great fun to dodge 'bout among dem rock in a boat, for anudder
hurricane might come when a body least expeck him."
"Oh," said Jack, cavalierly, "two hurricanes no more come in one
month, than two shot in the same hole. We've been turtlin', that's
all. I wish we had in your coppers, cook, some of the critturs that
we fell in with in our cruise."
"Wish'e had, master steward, wid all my heart," answered the fat,
glistening potentate of the galley. "But, hark'ee, Jack; what became
of our young mate, can 'e tell? Some say he get kill at'e Dry
Tortugas, and some say he war' scullin' round in dat boat you hab,
wid'e young woman, eh?"
"Ah, boys," answered Jack, mournfully, "sure enough, what _has_
become of him?"
"You know, why can't you tell? What good to hab secret among
"_Are_ ye his friends, lads? Do you really feel as if you could give
a poor soul in its agony a helpin' hand?"
"Why not?" said Josh, in a reproachful way. "Misser Mulford'e bess
mate dis brig ebber get; and I don't see why Cap'in Spike-want to be
rid of him."
"Because he's a willian!" returned Jack between his grated teeth.
"D'ye know what that means in English, master Josh; and can you and
cook here, both of whom have sailed with the man years in and years
out, say whether my words be true or not?"
"Dat as a body understand 'em. Accordin' to some rule, Stephen Spike
not a werry honest man; but accordin' to 'nudder some, he as good as
any body else."
"Yes, dat just be upshot of de matter," put in Simon, approvingly.
"De whole case lie in dat meanin'."
"D'ye call it right to leave a human being to starve, or to suffer
for water, on a naked rock, in the midst of the ocean?"
"Who do dat?"
"The willian who is captain of this brig; and all because he thinks
young eyes and bloomin' cheeks prefar young eyes and bloomin' cheeks
to his own grizzly beard and old look-outs."
"Dat bad; dat werry bad," said Josh, shaking his head, a way of
denoting dissatisfaction, in which Simon joined him; for no crime
appeared sufficiently grave in the eyes of these two sleek and
well-fed officials to justify such a punishment. "Dat mons'ous bad,
and cap'in ought to know better dan do _dat_. I nebber starves a
mouse, if I catches him in de bread-locker. Now, dat a sort of
reason'ble punishment, too; but I nebber does it. If mouse eat my
bread, it do seem right to tell mouse dat he hab enough, and dat he
must not eat any more for a week, or a mont', but it too cruel for
me, and I nebber does it; no, I t'rows de little debil overboard,
and lets him drown like a gentle'em."
"Y-e-s," drawled out Simon, in a philanthropical tone of voice,
"dat'e best way. What good it do to torment a fellow critter? If
Misser Mulford run, why put him down run, and let him go, I say,
on'y mulk his wages; but what good it do anybody to starve him? Now
dis is my opinion, gentle'em, and dat is, dat starwation be wuss dan
choleric. Choleric kill, I knows, and so does starwation kill; but
of de two, gib me de choleric fuss; if I gets well of dat, den try
starwation if you can."
"I'm glad to hear you talk in this manner, my hearties," put in
Jack; "and I hope I may find you accommodatin' in a plan I've got to
help the maty out of this difficulty. As a friend of Stephen Spike's
I would do it; for it must be a terrible thing to die with such a
murder on one's soul. Here's the boat that we pick'd up at the
light-house, yonder, in tow of the brig at this minute; and there's
everything in her comfortable for a good long run, as I know from
having sailed in her; and what I mean is this: as we left Mr.
Mulford, I took the bearings and distance of the rock he was on,
d'ye understand, and think I could find my way back to it. You see
the brig is travelin' slowly north ag'in, and afore long we shall be
in the neighbourhood of that very rock. We, cook and stewards, will
be called on to keep an anchor-watch, if the brig fetches up, as I
heard the captain tell the Spanish gentleman he thought she would;
and then we can take the boat that's in the water and go and have a
hunt for the maty."
The two blacks looked at Tier earnestly; then they turned their
heads to look at each other. The idea struck each as bold and novel,
but each saw serious difficulties in it. At length Josh, as became
his superior station, took on himself the office of expressing the
objections that occurred to his mind.
"Dat nebber do!" exclaimed the steward. "We be's quite willin' to
sarve'e mate, who's a good gentle'em, and as nice a young man as
ever sung out, `hard a-lee," but we must t'ink little bit of number
one; or, for dat matter, of number two, as Simon would be
implercated as well as myself. If Cap'in Spike once knew we've lent
a hand in sich a job, he'd never overlook it. I knows him, _well;_
and that is sayin' as much as need be said of any man's character.
You nebber catch _me_ runnin' myself into his jaws; would rather
fight a shark widout any knife. No, no--I knows him _well_. Den
comes anudder werry unanswerable objecsh'un, and dat is, dat'e brig
owe bot' Simon and I money. Fifty dollars, each on us, if she owe
one cent. Now, do you t'ink in cander, Jack, dat two colour'
gentle'em, like us, can t'row away our fortins like two sons of a
York merchant dat has inherited a hundred t'ousand dollar tudder
"There is no occasion for running at all, or for losing your wages."
"How you get'e mate off, den? Can he walk away on de water? If so,
let him go widout us. A werry good gentle'em is Misser Mulford, but
not good enough to mulk Simon and me out of fifty dollar each."
"You will not hear my project, Josh, and so will never know what I
would be at."
"Well, come, tell him jest as you surposes him. Now listen, Simon,
so dat not a word be loss."
"My plan is to take the boat, if we anchor, as anchor I know we
shall, and go and find the rock and bring Mr. Mulford off; then we
can come back to the brig, and get on board ourselves, and let the
mate sail away in the boat by himself. On this plan nobody will run,
and no wages be mulcted."
"But dat take time and an anchor-watch last but two hour, surposin'
even dat'ey puts all t'ree of us in de same watch."
"Spike usually does that, you know. `Let the cook and the stewards
keep the midnight watch,' he commonly says, `and that will give the
foremost hands a better snooze."'
"Yes, he do say _dat,_ Josh," put in Simon, "most ebbery time we
"I know he does, and surposes he will say it to-night, if he
comes-to to-night. But a two hour watch may not be long enough to do
all you wants; and den, jest t'ink for a moment, should 'e cap'in
come on deck and hail'e forecastle, and find us all gone, I wouldn't
be in your skin, Jack, for dis brig, in sich a kerlamity. I knows
Cap'in Spike well; t'ree time I endebber to run myself, and each
time he bring me up wid a round turn; so, now-a-days, I nebber
t'inks of sich a projeck any longer."
"But I do not intend to leave the forecastle without some one on it
to answer a hail. No, all I want is a companion; for I do not like
to go out on the reef at midnight, all alone. If one of you will go
with me, the other can stay and answer the captain's hail, should he
really come on deck in our watch--a thing very little likely to
happen. When once his head is on his pillow, a'ter a hard day's
work, it's not very apt to be lifted ag'in without a call, or a
squall. If you do know Stephen Spike _well,_ Josh, I know him
"Well, Jack, dis here is a new idee, d'ye see, and a body must take
time to consider on it. If Simon and I do ship for dis v'y'ge, 't
will be for lub of Mr. Mulford, and not for _his_ money or
This was all the encouragement of his project Jack Tier could
obtain, on that occasion, from either his brother steward, or from
the cook. These blacks were well enough disposed to rescue an
innocent and unoffending man from the atrocious death to which Spike
had condemned his mate, but neither lost sight of his own security
and interest. They promised Tier not to betray him, however; and he
had the fullest confidence in their pledges. They who live together
in common, usually understand the feeling that prevails, on any
given point, in their own set; and Jack felt pretty certain that
Harry was a greater favourite in and about the camboose than the
captain. On that feeling he relied, and he was fain to wait the
course of events, ere he came to any absolute conclusion as to his
The interview in the galley took place about half an hour before the
brig anchored for the night. Tier, who often assisted on such
occasions, went aloft to help secure the royal, one of the gaskets
of which had got loose, and from the yard he had an excellent
opportunity to take a look at the reef, the situation of the vessel,
and the probable bearings of the rock on which poor Mulford had been
devoted to a miserable death. This opportunity was much increased by
Spike's hailing him, while on the yard, and ordering him to take a
good look at the sloop-of-war, and at the same time to ascertain if
any boats were "prowlin' about, in order to make a set upon us in
the night." On receiving this welcome order, Jack answered with a
cheerful "Ay, ay, sir," and standing up on the yard, he placed an
arm around the mast, and remained for a long time making his
observations. The command to look-out for boats would have been a
sufficient excuse had he continued on the yard as long as it was
Jack had no difficulty in finding the Poughkeepsie, which was
already through the passage, and no longer visible from the deck.
She appeared to be standing to the northward and westward, under
easy canvas, like a craft that was in no hurry. This fact was
communicated to Spike in the usual way. The latter seemed pleased,
and he answered in a hearty manner, just as if no difficulty had
ever occurred between him and the steward's assistant.
"Very well, Jack! bravo, Jack!--now take a good look for boats;
you'll have light enough for that this half hour," cried the
captain. "If any are out, you'll find them pulling down the channel,
or maybe they'll try to shorten the cut, by attempting to pull
athwart the reef. Take a good and steady look for them, my man."
"Ay, ay, sir; I'll do all I can with naked eyes," answered Jack,
"but I could do better, sir, if they would only send me up a glass
by these here signal-halyards. With a glass, a fellow might speak
with some sartainty."
Spike seemed struck with the truth of this suggestion; and he soon
sent a glass aloft by the signal-halyards. Thus provided, Jack
descended as low as the cross-trees, where he took his seat, and
began a survey at his leisure. While thus employed, the brig was
secured for the night, her decks were cleared, and the people were
ordered to get their suppers, previously to setting an anchor-watch,
and turning-in for the night. No one heeded the movements of
Tier,--for Spike had gone into his own state-room,--with the
exception of Josh and Simon. Those two worthies were still in the
galley, conversing on the subject of Jack's recent communications;
and ever and anon one of them would stick his head out of the door
and look aloft, withdrawing it, and shaking it significantly, as
soon as his observations were ended.
As for Tier, he was seated quite at his ease; and having slung his
glass to one of the shrouds, in a way to admit of its being turned
as on a pivot, he had every opportunity for observing accurately,
and at his leisure. The first thing Jack did, was to examine the
channel very closely, in order to make sure that no boats were in
it, after which he turned the glass with great eagerness toward the
reef, in the almost hopeless office of ascertaining something
concerning Mulford. In point of fact, the brig had anchored quite
three leagues from the solitary rock of the deserted mate, and,
favoured as he was by his elevation, Jack could hardly expect to
discern so small and low an object as that rock at so great a
distance. Nevertheless, the glass was much better than common. It
had been a present to Spike from one who was careful in his
selections of such objects, and who had accidentally been under a
serious obligation to the captain. Knowing the importance of a good
look, as regards the boats, Spike had brought this particular
instrument, of which, in common, he was very chary, from his own
state-room, and sent it aloft, in order that Jack might have every
available opportunity of ascertaining his facts. It was this glass,
then, which was the means of the important discoveries the little
fellow, who was thus perched on the fore-topmast cross-trees of the
Swash, did actually succeed in making.
Jack actually started, when he first ascertained how distinctly and
near the glass he was using brought distant objects. The gulls that
sailed across its disk, though a league off, appeared as if near
enough to be touched by the hand, and even their feathers gave out
not only their hues, but their forms. Thus, too, was it with the
surface of the ocean, of which the little waves that agitated the
water of the reef, might be seen tossing up and down, at more than
twice the range of the Poughkeepsie's heaviest gun. Naked rocks, low
and subdued as they were in colour, too, were to be noted, scattered
up and down in the panorama. At length Tier fancied his glass
covered a field that he recognized. It was distant, but might be
seen from his present elevation. A second look satisfied him he was
right; and he next clearly traced the last channel in which they had
endeavoured to escape from Spike, or that in which the boat had been
taken. Following it along, by slowly moving the glass, he actually
hit the rock on which Mulford had been deserted. It was peculiar in
shape, size, and elevation above the water, and connected with the
circumstance of the channel, which was easily enough seen by the
colour of the water, and more easily from his height than if he had
been in it, he could not be mistaken. The little fellow's heart beat
quick as he made the glass move slowly over its surface, anxiously
searching for the form of the mate. It was not to be seen. A second,
and a more careful sweep of the glass, made it certain that the rock
Although a little reflection might have satisfied any one Mulford
was not to be sought in that particular spot, so long after he had
been left there, Jack Tier felt grievously disappointed when he was
first made certain of the accuracy of his observations. A minute
later he began to reason on the matter, and he felt more encouraged.
The rock on which the mate had been abandoned was smooth, and could
not hold any fresh water that might have been left by the late
showers. Jack also remembered that it had neither sea-weed nor
shell-fish. In short, the utmost malice of Spike could not have
selected, for the immolation of his victim, a more suitable place.
Now Tier had heard Harry's explanation to Rose, touching the manner
in which he had waded and swum about the reef that very morning, and
it at once occurred to him that the young man had too much energy
and spirit to remain helpless and inactive to perish on a naked
rock, when there might be a possibility of at least prolonging
existence, if not of saving it. This induced the steward to turn the
glass slowly over the water, and along all the ranges of visible
rock that he could find in that vicinity. For a long time the search
was useless, the distance rendering such an examination not only
difficult but painful. At length Jack, about to give up the matter
in despair, took one sweep with the glass nearer to the brig, as
much to obtain a general idea of the boat-channels of the reef, as
in any hope of finding Mulford, when an object moving in the water
came within the field of the glass. He saw it but for an instant, as
the glass swept slowly past, but it struck him it was something that
had life, and was in motion. Carefully going over the same ground
again, after a long search, he again found what he so anxiously
sought. A good look satisfied him that he was right. It was
certainly a man wading along the shallow water of the reef, immersed
to his waist--and it must be Mulford.
So excited was Jack Tier by this discovery that he trembled like a
leaf. A minute or two elapsed before he could again use the glass;
and when he did, a long and anxious search was necessary before so
small an object could be once more found. Find it he did, however,
and then he got its range by the vessel, in a way to make sure of
it. Yes, it was a man, and it was Mulford.
Circumstances conspired to aid Jack in the investigation that
succeeded. The sun was near setting, but a stream of golden light
gleamed over the waters, particularly illuminating the portion which
came within the field of the glass. It appeared then that Harry, in
his efforts to escape from the rock, and to get nearer to the edge
of the main channel, where his chances of being seen and rescued
would be ten-fold what they were on his rock, had moved south, by
following the naked reef and the shallow places, and was actually
more than a league nearer to the brig than he would have been had he
remained stationary. There had been hours in which to make this
change, and the young man had probably improved them to the utmost.
Jack watched the form that was wading slowly along with an interest
he had never before felt in the movements of any human being.
Whether Mulford saw the brig or not, it was difficult to say. She
was quite two leagues from him, and, now that her sails were furled,
she offered but little for the eye to rest on at that distance. At
first, Jack thought the young man was actually endeavouring to get
nearer to her, though it must have been a forlorn hope that should
again place him in the hands of Spike. It was, however, a more
probable conjecture that the young man was endeavouring to reach the
margin of the passage, where a good deal of rock was above water,
and near to which he had already managed to reach. At one time Jack
saw that the mate was obliged to swim, and he actually lost sight of
him for a time. His form, however, reappeared, and then it slowly
emerged from the water, and stood erect on a bare rock of some
extent. Jack breathed freer at this; for Mulford was now on the very
margin of the channel, and might be easily reached by the boat,
should he prevail on Josh, or Simon, to attempt the rescue.
At first, Jack Tier fancied that Mulford had knelt to return thanks
on his arrival at a place of comparative safety; but a second look
satisfied him that Harry was drinking from one of the little pools
of fresh water left by the late shower. When he rose from drinking,
the young man walked about the place, occasionally stooping, signs
that he was picking up shell-fish for his supper. Suddenly, Mulford
darted forward, and passed beyond the field of the glass. When Jack
found him again, he was in the act of turning a small turtle, using
his knife on the animal immediately after. Had Jack been in danger
of starvation himself, and found a source of food as ample and as
grateful as this, he could scarcely have been more delighted. The
light now began to wane perceptibly, still Harry's movements could
be discerned. The turtle was killed and dressed, sufficiently at
least for the mate's purposes, and the latter was seen collecting
sea-weed, and bits of plank, boards, and sticks of wood, of which
more or less, in drifting past, had lodged upon the rocks. "Is it
possible," thought Jack, "that he is so werry partic'lar he can't
eat his turtle raw! Will he, indeed, venture to light a fire, or has
he the means?" Mulford was so particular, however, he did venture to
light a fire, and he had the means. This may be said to be the age
of matches--not in a connubial, though in an inflammatory sense--and
the mate had a small stock in a tight box that he habitually carried
on his person. Tier saw him at work over a little pile he had made
for a long time, the beams of day departing now so fast as to make
him fearful he should soon lose his object in the increasing
obscurity of twilight. Suddenly a light gleamed, and the pile sent
forth a clear flame. Mulford went to and fro, collecting materials
to feed his fire, and was soon busied in cooking his turtle. All
this Tier saw and understood, the light of the flames coming in
proper time to supply the vacuum left by the departure of that of
In a minute Tier had no difficulty in seeing the fire that Mulford
had lighted on his low and insulated domains with the naked eye. It
gleamed brightly in that solitary place; and the steward was much
afraid it would be seen by some one on deck, get to be reported to
Spike, and lead to Harry's destruction after all. The mate appeared
to be insensible to his danger, however, occasionally casting piles
of dry sea-weed on his fire, in a way to cause the flames to flash
up, as if kindled anew by gunpowder. It now occurred to Tier that
the young man had a double object in lighting this fire, which would
answer not only the purposes of his cookery, but as a signal of
distress to anything passing near. The sloop-of-war, though more
distant than the brig, was in his neighbourhood; and she might
possibly yet send relief. Such was the state of things when Jack was
startled by a sudden hail from below. It was Spike's voice, and came
up to him short and quick.
"Fore-topmast cross-trees, there! What are ye about all this time,
Master Jack Tier, in them fore-topmast cross-trees, I say?" demanded
"Keeping a look-out for boats from the sloop-of-war, as you bade me,
sir," answered Jack, coolly.
"D'ye see any, my man? Is the water clear ahead of us, or not?"
"It's getting to be so dark, sir, I can see no longer. While there
was day-light, no boat was to be seen."
"Come down, man--come down; I've business for you below. The sloop
is far enough to the nor'ard, and we shall neither see nor hear from
her to-night. Come down, I say, Jack--come down."
Jack obeyed, and securing the glass, he began to descend the
rigging. He was soon as low as the top, when he paused a moment to
take another look. The fire was still visible, shining like a torch
on the surface of the water, casting its beams abroad like "a good
deed in a naughty world." Jack was sorry to see it, though he once
more took its bearing from the brig, in order that he might know
where to find the spot, in the event of a search for it. When on the
stretcher of the fore-rigging, Jack stopped and again looked for his
beacon. It had disappeared, having sunk below the circular formation
of the earth. By ascending two or three ratlins, it came into view,
and by going down as low as the stretcher again, it disappeared.
Trusting that no one, at that hour, would have occasion to go aloft,
Jack now descended to the deck, and went aft with the spy-glass.
Spike and the Seņor Montefalderon were under the coach-house, no one
else appearing on any part of the quarter-deck. The people were
eating their suppers, and Josh and Simon were busy in the galley. As
for the females, they chose to remain in their own cabin, where
Spike was well pleased to leave them.
"Come this way, Jack," said the captain, in his best-humoured tone
of voice, "I've a word to say to you. Put the glass in at my
state-room window, and come hither."
Tier did as ordered.
"So you can make out no boats to the nor'ard, ha, Jack! nothing to
be seen thereaway?"
"Nothing in the way of a boat, sir."
"Ay, ay, I dare say there's plenty of water, and some rock. The
Florida Reef has no scarcity of either, to them that knows where to
look for one, and to steer clear of the other. Hark'e, Jack; so you
got the schooner under way from the Dry Tortugas, and undertook to
beat her up to Key West, when she fancied herself a turtle, and over
she went with you--is that it, my man?"
"The schooner turned turtle with us, sure enough, sir; and we all
came near drowning on her bottom."
"No sharks in that latitude and longitude, eh Jack?"
"Plenty on 'em, sir; and I thought they would have got us all, at
one time. More than twenty set of fins were in sight at once, for
"You could hardly have supplied the gentlemen with a leg, or an arm,
each. But where was the boat all this time--you had the light-house
boat in tow, I suppose?"
"She had been in tow, sir; but Madam Budd talked so much dictionary
to the painter, that it got adrift."
"Yet I found you all in it."
"Very true, sir. Mr. Mulford swam quite a mile to reach the rocks,
and found the boat aground on one on 'em. As soon as he got the
boat, he made sail, and came and took us off. We had reason to thank
God he could do so."
Spike looked dark and thoughtful. He muttered the words "swam," and
"rocks," but was too cautious to allow any expressions to escape
him, that might betray to the Mexican officer that which was
uppermost in his mind. He was silent, however, for quite a minute,
and Jack saw that he had awakened a dangerous source of distrust in
the captain's breast.
"Well, Jack," resumed Spike, after the pause, "can you tell us
anything of the doubloons? I nat'rally expected to find them in the
boat, but there were none to be seen. You scarcely pumped the
schooner out, without overhauling her lockers, and falling in with
"We found them, sure enough, and had them ashore with us, in the
tent, down to the moment when we sailed."
"When you took them off to the schooner, eh? My life for it, the
gold was not forgotten."
"It was not, sure enough, sir; but we took it off with us to the
schooner, and it went down in her when she finally sunk."
Another pause, during which Seņor Montefalderon and Captain Spike
looked significantly at each other.
"Do you think, Jack, you could find the spot where the schooner went
"I could come pretty near it, sir, though not on the very spot
itself. Water leaves no mark over the grave of a sunken ship."
"If you can take us within a reasonable distance, we might find it
by sweeping for it. Them doubloons are worth some trouble; and their
recovery would be better than a long v'y'ge to us, any day."
"They would, indeed, Don Esteban," observed the Mexican; "and my
poor country is not in a condition to bear heavy losses. If Seņor
Jack Tier can find the wreck, and we regain the money, ten of those
doubloons shall be his reward, though I take them from my own share,
much diminished as it will be."
"You hear, Jack--here is a chance to make your fortune! You say you
sailed with me in old times--and old times were good times with this
brig, though times has changed; but if you sailed with me, in _old_
times, you must remember that whatever the Swash touched she turned
"I hope you do n't doubt, Captain Spike, my having sailed in the
brig, not only in old times, but in her best times."
Jack seemed hurt as he put this question, and Spike appeared in
doubt. The latter gazed at the little, rotund, queer-looking figure
before him, as if endeavouring to recognise him; and when he had
done, he passed his hand over his brow, like one who endeavoured to
recall past objects by excluding those that are present.
"You will then show us the spot where my unfortunate schooner did
sink, Seņor Jack Tier?" put in the Mexican.
"With all my heart, seņor, if it is to be found. I think I could
take you within a cable's length of the place, though hunger, and
thirst, and sharks, and the fear of drowning, will keep a fellow
from having a very bright look-out for such a matter."
"In what water do you suppose the craft to lie, Jack?" demanded the
"You know as much of that as I do myself, sir. She went down about a
cable's length from the reef, toward which she was a settin' at the
time; and had she kept afloat an hour longer, she might have
grounded on the rocks."
"She 's better where she is, if we can only find her by sweeping. On
the rocks we could do nothing with her but break her up, and ten to
one the doubloons would be lost. By the way, Jack, do you happen to
know where that scoundrel of a mate of mine stowed the money?"
"When we left the island, I carried it down to the boat myself--and
a good lift I had of it. As sure as you are there, seņor, I was
obliged to take it on a shoulder. When it came out of the boat, Mr.
Mulford carried it below; and I heard him tell Miss Rose, a'terwards
that he had thrown it into a bread-locker."
"Where we shall find it, Don Wan, notwithstanding all this veering
and hauling. The old brig has luck when, doubloons are in question,
and ever has had since I've commanded her. Jack, we shall have to
call on the cook and stewards for an anchor-watch to-night. The
people are a good deal fagged with boxing about this reef so much,
and I shall want 'em all as fresh to-morrow as they can be got. You
idlers had better take the middle watches, which will give the
fore-castle chaps longer naps."
"Ay, ay, sir; we'll manage that for 'em. Josh and Simon can go on at
twelve, and I will take the watch at two, which will give the men
all the rest they want, as I can hold out for four hours full. I'm
as good for an anchor-watch as any man in the brig, Captain Spike."
"That you are, Jack, and better than some on 'em. Take you all
round, and round it is, you 're a rum 'un, my lad--the queerest
little jigger that ever lay out on a royal-yard."
Jack might have been a little offended at Spike's compliments, but
he was certainly not sorry to find him so good-natured, after all
that had passed. He now left the captain, and his Mexican companion,
seemingly in close conference together, while he went below himself,
and dropped as naturally into the routine of his duty, as if he had
never left the brig. In the cabin he found the females, of course.
Rose scarce raising her face from the shawl which lay on the bed of
her own berth. Jack busied himself in a locker near this berth,
until an opportunity occurred to touch Rose, unseen by her aunt or
Biddy. The poor heart-stricken girl raised her face, from which all
the colour had departed, and looked almost vacantly at Jack, as if
to ask an explanation. Hope is truly, by a most benevolent provision
of Providence, one of the very last blessings to abandon us. It is
probable that we are thus gifted, in order to encourage us to rely
on the great atonement to the last moment, since, without this
natural endowment to cling to hope, despair might well be the fate
of millions, who, there is reason to think, reap the benefit of that
act of divine mercy. It would hardly do to say that anything like
hope was blended with the look Rose now cast on Jack, but it was
anxious and inquiring.
The steward bent his head to the locker, bringing his face quite
near to that of Rose, and whispered--"There is hope, Miss Rose--but
do not betray me."
These were blessed words for our heroine to hear, and they produced
an immediate and great revolution in her feelings. Commanding
herself, however, she looked her questions, instead of trusting even
to a whisper. Jack did not say any more, just then; but, shortly
after, he called Rose, whose eyes were now never off him, into the
main cabin, which was empty. It was so much pleasanter to sleep in
an airy state-room on deck, that Seņor Montefalderon, indeed, had
given up the use of this cabin, in a great measure, seldom appearing
in it, except at meals, having taken possession of the deserted
apartment of Mulford. Josh was in the galley, where he spent most of
his time, and Rose and Jack had no one to disturb their conference.
"He is safe, Miss Rose--God be praised!" whispered Jack. "Safe for
the present, at least; with food, and water, and fire to keep him
warm at night."
It was impossible for Rose not to understand to whom there was
allusion, though her head became dizzy under the painful confusion
that prevailed in it. She pressed her temples with both hands, and
asked a thousand questions with her eyes. Jack considerately handed
her a glass of water before he proceeded. As soon as he found her a
little more composed, he related the facts connected with his
discovery of Mulford, precisely as they had occurred.
"He is now on a large rock--a little island, indeed--where he is
safe from the ocean unless it comes on to blow a hurricane,"
concluded Jack, "has fresh water and fresh turtle in the bargain. A
man might live a month on one such turtle as I saw Mr. Mulford
cutting up this evening."
"Is there no way of rescuing him from the situation you have
mentioned, Jack? In a year or two I shall be my own mistress, and
have money to do as I please with; put me only in the way of taking
Mr. Mulford from that rock, and I will share all I am worth on earth
with you, dear Jack."
"Ay, so it is with the whole sex," muttered Tier; "let them only
once give up their affections to a man, and he becomes dearer to
them than pearls and rubies! But you know me, Miss Rose, and know
_why_ and _how well_ I would sarve you. My story and my feelin's are
as much your secret, as your story and your feelin's is mine. We
shall pull together, if we do n't pull so very strong. Now, hearken
to me, Miss Rose, and I will let you into the secret of my plan to
help Mr. Mulford make a launch."
Jack then communicated to his companion his whole project for the
night. Spike had, of his own accord, given to him and his two
associates, Simon and Josh, the care of the brig between midnight
and morning. If he could prevail on either of these men to accompany
him, it was his intention to take the light-house boat, which was
riding by its painter astern of the brig, and proceed as fast as
they could to the spot whither Mulford had found his way. By his
calculations, if the wind stood as it then was, little more than an
hour would be necessary to reach the rock, and about as much more to
return. Should the breeze lull, of which there was no great danger,
since the easterly trades were again blowing, Jack thought he and
Josh might go over the distance with the oars in about double the
time. Should both Josh and Simon refuse to accompany him, he thought
he should attempt the rescue of the mate alone, did the wind stand,
trusting to Mulford's assistance, should he need it, in getting back
to the brig.
"You surely would not come back here with Harry, did you once get
him safe from off that rock!" exclaimed Rose.
"Why, you know how it is with me, Miss Rose," answered Jack. "_My_
business is here, on board the Swash, and I must attend to it.
Nothing shall tempt me to give up the brig so long as she floats,
and sartain folk float in her, unless it might be some such matter
as that which happened on the bit of an island at the Dry Tortugas.
Ah! he's a willian! But if I do come back, it will be only to get
into my own proper berth ag'in, and not to bring Mr. Mulford into
the lion's jaws. He will only have to put me back on board the Molly
here, when he can make the best of his own way to Key West. Half an
hour would place him out of harm's way; especially as I happen to
know the course Spike means to steer in the morning."
"I will go with you, Jack," said Rose, mildly, but with great
"You, Miss Rose! But why should I show surprise! It's like all the
sex, when they have given away their affections. Yes, woman will be
woman, put her on a naked rock, or put her in silks and satins in
her parlour at home. How different is it with men! They dote for a
little while, and turn to a new face. It must be said, men's
"Not Mulford, Jack--no, not Harry Mulford! A truer or a nobler heart
never beat in a human breast; and you and I will drown together,
rather than he should not be taken from that rock."
"It shall be as you say," answered Jack, a little thoughtfully.
"Perhaps it would be best that you should quit the brig altogether.
Spike is getting desperate, and you will be safer with the young
mate than with so great an old willian. Yes, you shall go with me,
Miss Rose; and if Josh and Simon both refuse, we will go alone."
"With you, Jack, but not with Mr. Mulford. I cannot desert my aunt,
nor can I quit the Swash alone in company with her mate. As for
Spike, I despise him too much to fear him. He must soon go into port
somewhere, and at the first place where he touches we shall quit
him. He dare not detain us--nay, he _cannot_--and I do not fear him.
We will save Harry, but I shall remain with my aunt."
"We'll see, Miss Rose, we'll see," said Tier, smiling. "Perhaps a
handsome young man, like Mr. Mulford, will have better luck in
persuading you than an old fellow like me. If he should fail, 't
will be his own fault."
So thought Jack Tier, judging of women as he had found them, but so
did not think Rose Budd. The conversation ended here, however, each
keeping in view its purport, and the serious business that was
The duty of the vessel went on as usual. The night promised to be
clouded, but not very dark, as there was a moon. When Spike ordered
the anchor-watches, he had great care to spare his crew as much as
possible, for the next day was likely to be one of great toil to
them. He intended to get the schooner up again, if possible; and
though he might not actually pump her out so as to cause her to
float, enough water was to be removed to enable him to get at the
doubloons. The situation of the bread-locker was known, and as soon
as the cabin was sufficiently freed from water to enable one to move
about in it, Spike did not doubt his being able to get at the gold.
With his resources and ingenuity, the matter in his own mind was
reduced to one of toil and time. Eight-and-forty hours, and some
hard labour, he doubted not would effect all he cared for.
In setting the anchor-watches for the night, therefore, Stephen
Spike bethought him as much of the morrow as of the present moment.
Don Juan offered to remain on deck until midnight, and as he was as
capable of giving an alarm as any one else, the offer was accepted.
Josh and Simon were to succeed the Mexican, and to hold the lookout
for two hours, when Jack was to relieve them, and to continue on
deck until light returned, when he was to give the captain a call.
This arrangement made, Tier turned in at once, desiring the cook to
call him half an hour before the proper period of his watch
commenced. That half hour Jack intended to employ in exercising his
eloquence in endeavouring to persuade either Josh or Simon to be of
his party. By eight o'clock the vessel lay in a profound quiet,
Seņor Montefalderon pacing the quarterdeck alone, while the deep
breathing of Spike was to be heard issuing through the open window
of his state-room; a window which it may be well to say to the
uninitiated, opened in-board, or toward the deck, and not outboard,
or toward the sea.
For four solitary hours did the Mexican pace the deck of the
stranger, resting himself for a few minutes at a time only, when
wearied with walking. Does the reader fancy that a man so situated
had not plenty of occupation for his thoughts? Don Juan
Montefalderon was a soldier and a gallant cavalier; and love of
country had alone induced him to engage in his present duties. Not
that patriotism which looks to political preferment through a
popularity purchased by the valgar acclamation which attends success
in arms, even when undeserved, or that patriotism which induces men
of fallen characters to endeavour to retrieve former offences by the
shortest and most reckless mode, or that patriotism which shouts
"our country right or wrong," regardless alike of God and his
eternal laws, that are never to be forgotten with impunity; but the
patriotism which would defend his home and fire-side, his altars and
the graves of his fathers, from the ruthless steps of the invader.
We shall not pretend to say how far this gentleman entered into the
merits of the quarrel between the two republics, which no arts of
European jealousy can ever conceal from the judgment of truth, for,
with him, matters had gone beyond the point when men feel the
necessity of reasoning, and when, perhaps, if such a condition of
the mind is ever to be defended, he found his perfect justification
in feeling. He had travelled, and knew life by observation, and not
through traditions and books. He had never believed, therefore, that
his countrymen could march to Washington, or even to the Sabine; but
he had hoped for better things than had since occurred. The warlike
qualities of the Americans of the North, as he was accustomed to
call those who term themselves, _par excellence,_ Americans, a name
they are fated to retain, and to raise high on the scale of national
power and national pre-eminence, unless they fall by their own
hands, had taken him by surprise, as they have taken all but those
who knew the country well, and who understood its people. Little had
he imagined that the small, widely-spread body of regulars, that
figured in the blue books, almanacs and army-registers of America,
as some six or seven thousand men, scattered along frontiers of a
thousand leagues in extent, could, at the beck of the government,
swell into legions of invaders, men able to carry war to the
capitals of his own states, thousands of miles from their doors, and
formidable alike for their energy, their bravery, their readiness in
the use of arms, and their numbers. He saw what is perhaps justly
called the boasting of the American character, vindicated by their
exploits; and marches, conquests and victories that, if sober truth
were alone to cover the pages of history, would far outdo in real
labour and danger the boasted passage of the Alps under Napoleon,
and the exploits that succeeded it.
Don Juan Montefalderon was a grave and thoughtful man, of pure
Iberian blood. He might have had about him a little of the
exaltation of the Spanish character; the overflowings of a generous
chivalry at the bottom; and, under its influence, he may have set
too high an estimate on Mexico and her sons, but he was not one to
shut his eyes to the truth. He saw plainly that the northern
neighbours of his country were a race formidable and enterprising,
and that of all the calumnies that had been heaped upon them by
rivalries and European superciliousness, that of their not being
military by temperament was, perhaps, the most absurd of all. On the
contrary, he had himself, though anticipating evil, been astounded
by the suddenness and magnitude of their conquests, which in a few
short months after the breaking out of hostilities, had overrun
regions larger in extent than many ancient empires. All this had
been done, too, not by disorderly and barbarous hordes, seeking in
other lands the abundance that was wanting at home; but with system
and regularity, by men who had turned the ploughshare into the sword
for the occasion, quitting abundance to encounter fatigue, famine,
and danger. In a word, the Seņor Montefalderon saw all the evils
that environed his own land, and foresaw others, of a still graver
character that menaced the future. On matters such as these did he
brood in his walk, and bitter did he find the minutes of that sad
and lonely watch. Although a Mexican, he could feel; although an
avowed foe of this good republic of ours, he had his principles, his
affections, and his sense of right. Whatever may be the merits of
the quarrel, and we are not disposed to deny that our provocation
has been great, a sense of right should teach every man that what
may be patriotic in an American, would not be exactly the same thing
in a Mexican, and that we ought to respect in others sentiments that
are so much vaunted among ourselves. Midnight at length arrived,
and, calling the cook and steward, the unhappy gentleman was
relieved, and went to his berth to dream, in sorrow, over the same
pictures of national misfortunes, on which, while waking, he had
brooded in such deep melancholy.
The watch of Josh and Simon was tranquil, meeting with no
interruption until it was time to summon Jack. One thing these men
had done, however, that was of some moment to Tier, under a pledge
given by Josh, and which had been taken in return for a dollar in
hand. They had managed to haul the light-house boat alongside, from
its position astern, and this so noiselessly as not to give the
alarm to any one. There it lay, when Jack appeared, ready at the
main-rigging, to receive him at any moment he might choose to enter
A few minutes after Jack appeared on deck, Rose and Biddy came
stealthily out of the cabin, the latter carrying a basket filled
with bread and broken meat, and not wanting in sundry little
delicacies, such as woman's hands prepare, and, in this instance,
woman's tenderness had provided. The whole party met at the galley,
a place so far removed from the state-rooms aft as to be out of
ear-shot. Here Jack renewed his endeavours to persuade either Josh
or Simon to go in the boat, but without success. The negroes had
talked the matter over in their watch, and had come to the
conclusion the enterprise was too hazardous.
"I tell you, Jack, you does n't know Cap'in Spike as well as I
does," Josh said, in continuance of the discourse. "No, you does n't
know him at all as well as I does. If he finds out that anybody has
quit dis brig dis werry night, woful will come! It no good to try to
run; I run t'ree time, an' Simon here run twice. What good it all
do? We got cotched, and here we is, just as fast as ever. I knows
Cap'in Spike, and does n't want to fall in athwart his hawse any
"Y-e-s, dat my judgment too," put in the cook. "We wishes you well,
Jack, and we wishes Miss Rose well, and Mr. Mulford well, but we
can't, no how, run ath'art hawse, as Josh says. Dat is my judgment,
"Well, if your minds are made up to this, my darkies, I s'pose
there'll be no changing them," said Jack. "At all ewents you'll lend
us a hand, by answering any hail that may come from aft, in my
watch, and in keepin' our secret. There's another thing you can do
for us, which may be of service. Should Captain Spike miss the boat,
and lay any trap to catch us, you can just light this here bit of
lantern and hang it over the brig's bows, where he'll not be likely
to see it, that we may know matters are going wrong, and give the
craft a wide berth."
"Sartain," said Josh, who entered heartily into the affair, so far
as good wishes for its success were concerned, at the very moment
when he had a most salutary care of his own back. "Sartain; we do
all dat, and no t'ank asked. It no great matter to answer a hail, or
to light a lantern and sling him over de bows; and if Captain Spike
want to know who did it, let him find out."
Here both negroes laughed heartily, manifesting so little care to
suppress their mirth, that Rose trembled lest their noise should
awaken Spike. Accustomed sounds, however, seldom produce this effect
on the ears of the sleeper, and the heavy breathing from the
state-room, succeeded the merriment of the blacks, as soon as the
latter ceased. Jack now announced his readiness to depart. Some
little care and management were necessary to get into the boat
noiselessly, more especially with Biddy. It was done however, with
the assistance of the blacks, who cast off the painter, when Jack
gave the boat a shove to clear the brig, and suffered it to drift
astern for a considerable distance before he ventured to cast loose
"I know Spike well," said Jack, in answer to a remonstrance from the
impatient Rose concerning his delay: "A single flap of that canvas
would wake him up, with the brig anchored, while he would sleep
through a salute of heavy guns if it came in regular course. Quick
ears has old Stephen, and it's best to humour them. In a minute more
we'll set our canvas and be off."
All was done as Jack desired, and the boat got away from the brig
unheard and undetected. It was blowing a good breeze, and Jack Tier
had no sooner got the sail on the boat, than away it started at a
speed that would have soon distanced Spike in his yawl, and with his
best oarsmen. The main point was to keep the course, though the
direction of the wind was a great assistant. By keeping the wind
abeam, Jack thought he should be going toward the rock of Mulford.
In one hour, or even in less time, he expected to reach it, and he
was guided by time, in his calculations, as much as by any other
criterion. Previously to quitting the brig, he had gone up a few
ratlins of the fore-rigging to take the bearings of the fire on
Mulford's rock, but the light was no longer visible. As no star was
to be seen, the course was a little vague, but Jack was navigator
enough to understand that by keeping on the weather side of the
channel he was in the right road, and that his great danger of
missing his object was in over-running it.
So much of the reef was above water, that it was not difficult to
steer a boat along its margin. The darkness, to be sure, rendered it
a little uncertain how near they were running to the rocks, but, on
the whole, Jack assured Rose he had no great difficulty in getting
"These trades are almost as good as compasses," he said, "and the
rocks are better, if we can keep close aboard them without going on
to them. I do not know the exact distance of the spot we seek from
the brig, but I judged it to be about two leagues, as I looked at it
from aloft. Now, this boat will travel them two leagues in an hour,
with this breeze and in smooth water."
"I wish you had seen the fire again before we left the brig," said
Rose, too anxious for the result not to feel uneasiness on some
account or other.
"The mate is asleep, and the fire has burned down; that's the
explanation. Besides, fuel is not too plenty on a place like that
Mr. Mulford inhabits just now. As we get near the spot, I shall look
out for embers, which may sarve as a light-house, or beacon, to
guide us into port."
"Mr. Mulford will be charmed to see us, now that we take him
wather!" exclaimed Biddy. "Wather is a blessed thing, and it's hard
will be the heart that does not fale gratitude for a planty of swate
"The maty has plenty of food and water where he is," said Jack.
"I'll answer for both them sarcumstances. I saw him turn a turtle as
plain as if I had been at his elbow, and I saw him drinking at a
hole in the rock, as heartily as a boy ever pulled at a gimblet-hole
in a molasses hogs-head."
"But the distance was so great, Jack, I should hardly think you
could have distinguished objects so small."
"I went by the motions altogether. I saw the man, and I saw the
movements, and I knowed what the last meant. It's true I couldn't
swear to the turtle, though I saw something on the rock that I
knowed, by the way in which it was handled, _must_ be a turtle. Then
I saw the mate kneel, and put his head low, and then I knowed he was
"Perhaps he prayed," said Rose, solemnly.
"Not he. Sailors isn't so apt to pray, Miss Rose; not as apt as they
ought to be. Women for prayers, and men for work. Mr. Mulford is no
worse than many others, but I doubt if he be much given to _that_."
To this Rose made no answer, but Biddy took the matter up, and, as
the boat went briskly ahead, she pursued the subject.
"Then more is the shame for him," said the Irish woman, "and Miss
Rose, and missus, and even I prayin' _for_ him, all as if he was our
own brudder. It's seldom I ask anything for a heretic, but I could
not forget a fine young man like Mr. Mulford, and Miss Rose so
partial to him, and he in so bad a way. He ought to be ashamed to
make his brags that he is too proud to pray."
"Harry has made no such wicked boast," put in Rose, mildly; "nor do
we know that he has not prayed for us, as well as for himself. It
may all be a mistake of Jack's, you know."