Part 7 out of 10
"Yes," added Jack, coolly, "it _may_ be a mistake, a'ter all, for I
was lookin' at the maty six miles off, and through a spy-glass. No
one can be sure of anything at such a distance. So overlook the
matter, my good Biddy, and carry Mr. Mulford the nice things you've
mustered in that basket, all the same as if he was pope."
"This is a subject we had better drop," Rose quietly observed.
"Anything to oblige you, Miss Rose, though religion is a matter it
would do me no harm to talk about once and awhile. It's many a long
year since I've had time and opportunity to bring my thoughts to
dwell on holy things. Ever since I left my mother's side, I've been
a wanderer in my mind, as much as in my body."
"Poor Jack! I understand and feel for your sufferings; but a better
time will come, when you may return to the habits of your youth, and
to the observances of your church."
"I do n't know that, Miss Rose; I do n't know that," answered Tier,
placing the elbow of his short arm on the seemingly shorter leg, and
bending his head so low as to lean his face on the palm of the hand,
an attitude in which he appeared to be suffering keenly through his
recollections. "Childhood and innocence never come back to us in
this world. What the grave may do, we shall all learn in time."
"Innocence can return to all with repentance, Jack; and the heart
that prompts you to do acts as generous as this you are now engaged
in, must contain some good seed yet."
"If Jack will go to a praste and just confess, when he can find a
father, it will do his sowl good," said Biddy, who was touched by
the mental suffering of the strange little being at her side.
But the necessity of managing the boat soon compelled its coxswain
to raise his head, and to attend to his duty. The wind sometimes
came in puffs, and at such moments Jack saw that the large sail of
the light-house boat required watching, a circumstance that induced
him to shake off his melancholy, and give his mind more exclusively
to the business before him. As for Rose, she sympathised deeply with
Jack Tier, for she knew his history, his origin, the story of his
youth, and the well-grounded causes of his contrition and regrets.
From her, Jack had concealed nothing, the gentle commiseration of
one like Rose being a balm to wounds that had bled for long and
bitter years. The great poet of our language, and the greatest that
ever lived, perhaps, short of the inspired writers of the Old
Testament, and old Homer and Dante, has well reminded us that the
"little beetle," in yielding its breath, can "feel a pang as great
as when a giant dies." Thus is it, too, in morals. Abasement, and
misery, and poverty, and sin, may, and all do, contribute to lower
the tone of our moral existence; but the principle that has been
planted by nature, can be eradicated by nature only. It exists as
long as we exist; and if dormant for a time, under the pressure of
circumstances, it merely lies, in the moral system, like the acorn,
or the chestnut, in the ground, waiting its time and season to
sprout, and bud, and blossom. Should that time never arrive, it is
not because the seed is not there, but because it is neglected. Thus
was it with the singular being of whose feelings we have just
spoken. The germ of goodness had been implanted early in him, and
was nursed with tenderness and care, until, self-willed, and
governed by passion; he had thrown off the connections of youth and
childhood, to connect himself with Spike--a connection that had left
him what he was. Before closing our legend, we shall have occasion
to explain it.
"We have run our hour; Miss Rose," resumed Jack, breaking a
continued silence, during which the boat had passed through a long
line of water; "we have run our hour, and ought to be near the rock
we are in search of. But the morning is so dark that I fear we shall
have difficulty in finding it. It will never do to run past it, and
we must haul closer into the reef, and shorten sail, that we may be
sartain to make no such mistake."
Rose begged her companion to omit no precaution, as it would be
dreadful to fail in their search, after incurring so much risk in
their own persons.
"Harry may be sleeping on the sea-weed of which you spoke," she
added, "and the danger of passing him will be much increased in such
a case. What a gloomy and frightful spot is this, in which to
abandon a human being! I fear, Jack, that we have come faster than
we have supposed, and may already have passed the rock."
"I hope not, Miss Rose--it seemed to me a good two leagues to the
place where I saw him, and the boat is fast that will run two
leagues in an hour."
"We do not know the time, Jack, and are obliged to guess at that as
well as at the distance. How very dark it is!"
Dark, in one sense, it was not, though Rose's apprehensions,
doubtless, induced her to magnify every evil. The clouds certainly
lessened the light of the moon; but there was still enough of the
last to enable one to see surrounding objects; and most especially
to render distinct the character of the solitude that reigned over
The proximity of the reef, which formed a weather shore to the boat,
prevented anything like a swell on the water, notwithstanding the
steadiness and strength of the breeze, which had now blown for near
twenty-four hours. The same wind, in open water, would have raised
sea enough to cause a ship to pitch, or roll; whereas, the
light-house boat, placed where she was, scarce rose and fell under
the undulations of the channel through which she was glancing.
"This is a good boat, and a fast boat too," observed Jack Tier,
after he had luffed up several minutes, in order to make sure of his
proximity to the reef; "and it might carry us all safe enough to Key
West, or certainly back to the Dry Tortugas, was we inclined to try
our hands at either."
"I cannot quit my aunt," said Rose, quickly, "so we will not even
think of any such thing."
"No, 't would never do to abandon the missus," said Biddy, "and she
on the wrack wid us, and falin' the want of wather as much as
"We three have sartainly gone through much in company," returned
Jack, "and it ought to make us friends for life."
"I trust it will, Jack; I hope, when we return to New York, to see
you among us, anchored, as you would call it, for the rest of your
days under my aunt's roof, or under my own, should I ever have one."
"No, Miss Rose, my business is with the Swash and her captain. I
shall stick by both, now I've found 'em again, until they once more
desart me. A man's duty is _his_ duty, and a woman's duty is _her_
"You same to like the brig and her captain, Jack Tier," observed
Biddy, "and there's no use in gainsaying such a likin'. What _will_
come to pass, must come to pass. Captain Spike is a mighty great
"He's a willian!" muttered Jack.
"There!" cried Rose, almost breathless, "there is a rock above the
water, surely. Do not fly by it so swiftly, Jack, but let us stop
and examine it."
"There is a rock, sure enough, and a large piece it is," answered
Tier. "We will go alongside of it, and see what it is made of. Biddy
shall be boat-keeper, while you and I, Miss Rose, explore."
Jack had thrown the boat into the wind, and was shooting close
alongside of the reef, even while speaking. The party found no
difficulty in landing; the margin of the rock admitting the boat to
lie close alongside of it, and its surface being even and dry. Jack
had brailed the sail, and he brought the painter ashore, and
fastened it securely to a fragment of stone, that made a very
sufficient anchor. In addition to this precaution, a lazy painter
was put into Biddy's hands, and she was directed not to let go of it
while her companions were absent. These arrangements concluded, Rose
and Jack commenced a hurried examination of the spot.
A few minutes sufficed to give our adventurers a tolerably accurate
notion of the general features of the place on which they had
landed. It was a considerable portion of the reef that was usually
above water, and which had even some fragments of soil, or sand, on
which was a stinted growth of bushes. Of these last, however, there
were very few, nor were there many spots of the sand. Drift-wood and
sea-weed were lodged in considerable quantities about its margin,
and, in places, piles of both had been tossed upon the rock itself,
by the billows of former gales of wind. Nor was it long before Jack
discovered a turtle that had been up to a hillock of sand, probably
to deposit its eggs. There was enough of the sportsman in Jack,
notwithstanding the business he was on, to turn this animal; though
with what object, he might have been puzzled himself to say. This
exploit effected, Jack followed Rose as fast as his short legs would
permit, our heroine pressing forward eagerly, though almost without
hope, in order to assertain if Mulford were there.
"I am afraid this is not the rock," said Rose, nearly breathless
with her own haste, when Jack had overtaken her. "I see nothing of
him, and we have passed over most of the place."
"Very true, Miss Rose," answered her companion, who was in a good
humour on account of his capture of the turtle; "but there are other
rocks besides this. Ha! what was that, yonder," pointing with a
finger, "here, more toward the brig. As I'm a sinner, there was a
flashing, as of fire."
"If a fire, it must be that made by Harry. Let us go to the spot at
Jack led the way, and, sure enough, he soon reached a place where
the embers of what had been a considerable body of fire, were
smouldering on the rock. The wind had probably caused some brand to
kindle momentarily, which was the object that had caught Tier's eye.
No doubt any longer remained of their having found the very place
where the mate had cooked his supper, and lighted his beacon, though
he himself was not near it. Around these embers were all the signs
of Mulford's having made the meal, of which Jack had seen the
preparations. A portion of the turtle, much the greater part of it,
indeed, lay in its shell; and piles of wood and sea-weed, both dry,
had been placed at hand, ready for use. A ship's topgallant-yard,
with most of its rope attached, lay with a charred end near the
fire, of where the fire had been, the wood having burned until the
flames went out for want of contact with other fuel. There were many
pieces of boards of pitch-pine in the adjacent heap, and two or
three beautiful planks of the same wood, entire. In short, from the
character and quantity of the materials of this nature that had thus
been heaped together, Jack gave it as his opinion that some vessel,
freighted with lumber, had been wrecked to windward, and that the
adjacent rocks had been receiving the tribute of her cargo. Wrecks
are of very, very frequent occurrence on the Florida Reef; and there
are always moments when such gleanings are to be made in some part
of it or other.
"I see no better way to give a call to the mate, Miss Rose, than to
throw some of this dry weed, and some of this lumber on the fire,"
said Jack, after he had rummaged about the place sufficiently to
become master of its condition. "There is plenty of amunition, and
here goes for a broadside."
Jack had no great difficulty in effecting his object. In a few
minutes he succeeded in obtaining a flame, and then he fed it with
such fragments of the brands and boards as were best adapted to his
purpose. The flames extended gradually, and by the time Tier had
dragged the topgallant-yard over the pile, and placed several
planks, on their edges, alongside of it, the whole was ready to
burst into a blaze. The light was shed athwart the rock for a long
distance, and the whole place, which was lately so gloomy and
obscure, now became gay, under the bright radiance of a blazing
"There is a beacon-light that might almost be seen on board!" said
Jack, exulting in his success. If the mate is anywhere in this
latitude, he will soon turn up."
"I see nothing of him," answered Rose, in a melancholy voice.
"Surely, surely, Jack, he cannot have left the rock just as we have
come to rescue him!"
Rose and her companion had turned their faces from the fire to look
in an opposite direction in quest of him they sought. Unseen by
them, a human form advanced swiftly toward the fire, from a point on
its other side. It advanced nearer, then hesitated, afterward rushed
forward with a tread that caused the two to turn, and at the next
moment, Rose was clasped to the heart of Mulford.
I might have pass'd that lovely cheek,
Nor, perchance, my heart have left me;
But the sensitive blush that came trembling there,
Of my heart it for ever bereft me.
Who could blame had I loved that face,
Ere my eyes could twice explore her;
Yet it is for the fairy intelligence there,
And her warm, warm heart I adore her.
The stories of the respective parties who had thus so strangely met
on that barren and isolated rock, were soon told. Harry confirmed
all of Jack's statements as to his own proceedings, and Rose had
little more to say than to add how much her own affections had led
her to risk in his behalf. In a word, ten minutes made each fully
acquainted with the other's movements. Then Tier considerately
retired to the boat, under the pretence of minding it, and seeing
everything ready for a departure, but as much to allow the lovers
the ten or fifteen minutes of uninterrupted discourse that they now
enjoyed, as for any other reason.
It was a strange scene that now offered on the rock. By this time
the fire was burning not only brightly, but fiercely, shedding its
bright light far and near. Under its most brilliant rays stood Harry
and Rose, both smiling and happy, delighted in their meeting, and,
for the moment, forgetful of all but their present felicity. Never,
indeed, had Rose appeared more lovely than under these
circumstances. Her face was radiant with those feelings which had so
recently changed from despair to delight--a condition that is ever
most propitious to beauty; and charms that always appeared feminine
and soft, now seemed elevated to a bright benignancy that might best
be likened to our fancied images of angels. The mild, beaming,
serene and intelligent blue eyes, the cheeks flushed with happiness,
the smiles that came so easily, and were so replete with tenderness,
and the rich hair, deranged by the breeze, and moistened by the air
of the sea, each and all, perhaps, borrowed some additional lustre
from the peculiar light under which they were exhibited. As for
Harry, happiness had thrown all the disadvantages of exposure, want
of dress, and a face that had not felt the razor for six-and-thirty
hours, into the back-ground. When he left the wreck, he had cast
aside his cap and his light summer jacket, in order that they might
not encumber him in swimming, but both had been recovered when he
returned with the boat to take off his friends. In his ordinary sea
attire, then, he now stood, holding Rose's two hands in front of the
fire, every garment clean and white as the waters of the ocean could
make them, but all betraying some of the signs of his recent trials.
His fine countenance was full of the love he bore for the intrepid
and devoted girl who had risked so much in his behalf; and a painter
might have wished to preserve the expression of ardent, manly
admiration which glowed in his face, answering to the gentle
sympathy and womanly tenderness it met in that of Rose.
The back-ground of this picture was the wide, even surface of the
coral reef, with its exterior setting of the dark and gloomy sea. On
the side of the channel, however, appeared the boat, already winded,
with Biddy still on the rock, looking kindly at the lovers by the
fire, while Jack was holding the painter, beginning to manifest a
little impatience at the delay.
"They'll stay there an hour, holding each other's hands, and looking
into each other's faces," half grumbled the little, rotund,
assistant-steward, anxious to be on his way back to the brig,
"unless a body gives 'em a call. Captain Spike will be in no very
good humour to receive you and me on board ag'in, if he should find
out what sort of a trip we've been making hereaway."
"Let 'em alone--let 'em alone, Jacky," answered the good-natured and
kind-hearted Irish woman. "It's happy they bees, jist now, and it
does my eyes good to look at 'em."
"Ay, they're happy enough, _now;_ I only hope it may last."
"Last! what should help its lasting? Miss Rose is so good, and so
handsome--and she's a fortin', too; and the mate so nice a young
man. Think of the likes of them, Jack, wantin' the blessed gift of
wather, and all within one day and two nights. Sure it's Providence
that takes care of, and not we ourselves! Kings on their thrones is
n't as happy as _them_ at this moment."
"Men's willians!" growled Jack; "and more fools women for trustin'
"Not sich a nice young man as our mate, Jacky; no, not he. Now the
mate of the ship I came from Liverpool in, this time ten years
agone, he was a villain. He grudged us our potaties, and our own
bread; and he grudged us every dhrap of swate wather that went into
our mouths. Call him a villain, if you will, Jack; but niver call
the likes of Mr. Mulford by so hard a name."
"I wish him well, and nothing else; and for that very reason must
put a stop to his looking so fondly into that young woman's face.
Time wont stand still, Biddy, to suit the wishes of lovers; and
Stephen Spike is a man not to be trifled with. Halloo, there, maty!
It's high time to think of getting under way."
At this summons both Harry and Rose started, becoming aware of the
precious moments they were losing. Carrying a large portion of the
turtle, the former moved toward the craft, in which all were seated
in less than three minutes, with the sail loose, and the boat in
motion. For a few moments the mate was so much occupied with Rose,
that he did not advert to the course; but one of his experience
could not long be misled on such a point, and he turned suddenly to
Tier, who was steering, to remonstrate.
"How's this, Jack!" cried Mulford; "you've got the boat's head the
"Not I, sir. She's heading for the brig as straight as she can go.
This wind favours us on both legs; and it's lucky it does, for't
will be hard on upon daylight afore we are alongside of her. You'll
want half an hour of dark, at the very least, to get a good start of
the Swash, in case she makes sail a'ter you."
"Straight for the brig!--what have we to do with the brig? Our
course is for Key West, unless it might be better to run down before
the wind to the Dry Tortugas again, and look for the sloop-of-war.
Duty, and perhaps my own safety, tells me to let Captain Mull know
what Spike is about with the Swash; and I shall not hesitate a
moment about doing it, after all that has passed. Give me the helm,
Jack, and let us ware short round on our heel."
"Never, master maty--never. I must go back to the brig. Miss Rose,
there, knows that my business is with Stephen Spike, and with him
"And I must return to my aunt, Harry," put in Rose, herself. "It
would never do for me to desert my aunt, you know."
"And I have been taken from that rock, to be given up to the tender
mercies of Spike again?"
This was said rather in surprise, than in a complaining way; and it
at once induced Rose to tell the young man the whole of their
"Never, Harry, never," she said firmly. "It is our intention to
return to the brig ourselves, and let you escape in the boat
afterwards. Jack Tier is of opinion this can be done without much
risk, if we use proper caution and do not lose too much time. On no
account would I consent to place you in the hands of Spike
again--death would be preferable to that, Harry!"
"And on no account can or will I consent to place _you_ again in
the hands of Spike, Rose," answered the young man. "Now that we know
his intentions, such an act would be almost impious."
"Remember my aunt, dear Harry. What would be her situation in the
morning, when she found herself deserted by her niece and Biddy--by
me, whom she has nursed and watched from childhood, and whom she
loves so well."
"I shall not deny your obligations to your aunt, Rose, and your duty
to her under ordinary circumstances. But these are not ordinary
circumstances; and it would be courting the direst misfortunes, nay,
almost braving Providence, to place yourself in the hands of that
scoundrel again, now that you are clear of them."
"Spike's a willian!" muttered Jack.
"And my desartin' the missus would be a sin that no praste would
overlook aisily," put in Biddy. "When Miss Rose told me of this
v'y'ge that she meant to make in the boat wid Jack Tier, I asked to
come along, that I might take care of her, and see that there was
plenty of wather; but ill-luck befall me if I would have t'ought of
sich a thing, and the missus desarted."
"We can then run alongside of the brig, and put Biddy and Jack on
board of her," said Mulford, reflecting a moment on what had just
been said, "when you and I can make the best of our way to Key West,
where the means of sending government vessels out after the Swash
will soon offer. In this way we can not only get our friends out of
the lion's jaws, but keep out of them ourselves."
"Reflect a moment, Harry," said Rose, in a low voice, but not
without tenderness in its tones; "it would not do for me to go off
alone with you in this boat."
"Not when you have confessed your willingness to go over the wide
world with me, Rose--with me, and with me only?"
"Not even then, Harry. I know you will think better of this, when
your generous nature has time to reason with your heart, on my
"I can only answer in your own words, Rose--never. If you return to
the Swash, I shall go on board with you, and throw defiance into the
very teeth of Spike. I know the men do not dislike me, and, perhaps,
assisted by Señor Montefalderon, and a few friends among the people,
I can muster a force that will prevent my being thrown into the
Rose burst into tears, and then succeeded many minutes, during which
Mulford was endeavouring, with manly tenderness, to soothe her. As
soon as our heroine recovered her self-command, she began to discuss
the matter at issue between them more coolly. For half an hour
everything was urged by each that feeling, affection, delicacy, or
distrust of Spike could well urge, and Mulford was slowly getting
the best of the argument, as well he might, the truth being mostly
of his side. Rose was bewildered, really feeling a strong reluctance
to quit her aunt, even with so justifiable a motive, but principally
shrinking from the appearance of going off alone in a boat, and
almost in the open sea, with Mulford. Had she loved Harry less, her
scruples might not have been so active, but the consciousness of the
strength of her attachment, as well as her fixed intention to become
his wife the moment it was in her power to give him her hand with
the decencies of her sex, contributed strangely to prevent her
yielding to the young man's reasoning. On the subject of the aunt,
the mate made out so good a case, that it was apparent to all in the
boat Rose would have to abandon that ground of refusal. Spike had no
object to gain by ill-treating Mrs. Budd; and the probability
certainly was that he would get rid of her as soon as he could, and
in the most easy manner. This was so apparent to all, that Harry had
little difficulty in getting Rose to assent to its probability. But
there remained the reluctance to go off alone with the mate in a
boat. This part of the subject was more difficult to manage than the
other; and Mulford betrayed as much by the awkwardness with which he
managed it. At length the discussion was brought to a close by Jack
Tier suddenly saying,--
"Yonder is the brig; and we are heading for her as straight as if
she was the pole, and the keel of this boat was a compass. I see how
it is, Miss Rose, and a'ter all, I must give in. I suppose some
other opportunity will offer for me to get on board of the brig
ag'in, and I'll trust to that. If you won't go off with the mate
alone, I suppose you'll not refuse to go off in my company."
"Will you accompany us, Jack? This is more than I had hoped for!
Yes, Harry, if Jack Tier will be of the party, I will trust my aunt
to Biddy, and go with you to Key West, in order to escape from
This was said so rapidly, and so unexpectedly, as to take Mulford
completely by surprise. Scarce believing what he heard, the young
man was disposed, at first, to feel hurt, though a moment's
reflection showed him that he ought to rejoice in the result let the
cause be what it might.
"More than I had hoped for!" he could not refrain from repeating a
little bitterly; "is Jack Tier, then, of so much importance, that
_his_ company is thought preferable to mine!"
"Hush, Harry!" said Rose, laying her hand on Mulford's arm, by way
of strengthening her appeal. "Do not say _that_. You are ignorant of
circumstances; at another time you shall know them, but not now. Let
it be enough for the present, that I promise to accompany you if
Jack will be of our party."
"Ay, ay, Miss Rose, I will be of the party, seeing there is no other
way of getting the lamb out of the jaws of the wolf. A'ter all, it
may be the wisest thing I can do, though back to the Swash I must
and _will_ come, powder or no powder, treason or no treason, at the
first opportunity. Yes, _my_ business is with the Molly, and to the
Molly I shall return. It's lucky, Miss Rose, since you have made up
your mind to ship for this new cruise, that I bethought me of
telling Biddy to make up a bundle of duds for you. This carpet-bag
has a change or two in it, and all owing to my forethought. Your
woman said `Miss Rose will come back wid us, Jack, and what's the
use of rumplin' the clothes for a few hours' sail in the boat;' but
I knew womankind better, and foreseed that if master mate fell in
alongside of you ag'in, you would not be apt to part company very
"I thank you, Jack, for the provision made for my comfort; though
some money would have added to it materially. My purse has a little
gold in it, but a very little, and I fear you are not much better
off, Harry. It will be awkward to find ourselves in Key West
"We shall not be quite that. I left the brig absolutely without a
cent, but foreseeing that necessity might make them of use, I
borrowed half a dozen of the doubloons from the bag of Señor
Montefalderon, and, fortunately, they are still in my pocket. All I
am worth in the world is in a bag of half-eagles, rather more than a
hundred altogether, which I left in my chest, in my own state-room
aboard the brig."
"You'll find that in the carpet-bag too, master mate," said Jack,
"Find what, man--not my money, surely?"
"Ay, every piece of it. Spike broke into your chest this a'ternoon,
and made me hold the tools while he was doing it. He found the bag,
and overhauled it--a hundred and seven half, eleven quarter, and one
full-grown eagle, was the count. When he had done the job, he put
all back ag'in, a'ter giving me the full-grown eagle for my share of
the plunder, and told me to say nothing of what I had seen. I did
say nothing, but I did a good bit of work, for, while he was at
supper. I confiserated that bag, as they call it--and you will find
it there among Miss Rose's clothes, with the full-grown gentleman
back in his nest ag'in."
"This is being not only honest, Tier," cried Mulford, heartily, "but
thoughtful. One-half that money shall be yours for this act."
"I thank'e, sir; but I'll not touch a cent of it. It came hard, I
know, Mr. Mulford; for my own hands have smarted too much with tar,
not to know that the seaman `earns his money like the horse.'"
"Still it would not be `spending it like an ass,' Jack, to give you
a portion of mine. But there will be other opportunities to talk of
this. It is a sign of returning to the concerns of life, Rose, that
money begins to be of interest to us. How little did we think of the
doubloons, or half-eagles, a few hours since, when on the wreck!"
"It was wather that we t'ought of then," put in Biddy. "Goold is
good in a market, or in a town, or to send back to Ireland, to help
a body's aged fader or mudder in comfort wid; but wather is the
blessed thing on a wrack!"
"The brig is coming quite plainly into view, and you had better give
me the helm, Jack. It is time to bethink us of the manner of
approaching her, and how we are to proceed when alongside."
This was so obviously true, that everybody felt disposed to forget
all other matters, in order to conduct the proceedings of the next
twenty minutes, with the necessary prudence and caution. When
Mulford first took the helm, the brig was just coming clearly into
view, though still looking a little misty and distant. She might
then have been half a league distant, and would not have been
visible at all by that light, but for the circumstance that she had
no back-ground to swallow up her outlines. Drawn against clouds,
above which the rays of the moon were shed, her tracery was to be
discerned, however, and, minute by minute, it was getting to be more
and more distinct, until it was now so plainly to be seen as to
admonish the mate of the necessity of preparation in the manner
Tier now communicated to the mate his own proposed manner of
proceeding. The brig tended to the trades, the tides having very
little influence on her, in the bight of the reef where she lay. As
the wind stood at about east south-east, the brig's stern pointed to
about west north-west, while the boat was coming down the passage
from a direction nearly north from her, having, as a matter of
course, the wind just free enough to lay her course. Jack's plan was
to pass the brig to windward, and having got well on her bow, to
brail the sail, and drift down upon her, expecting to fall in
alongside, abreast of the fore-chains, into which he had intended to
help Biddy, and to ascend himself, when he supposed that Mulford
would again make sail, and carry off his mistress. To this scheme
the mate objected that it was awkward, and a little lubberly. He
substituted one in its place that differed in seamanship, and which
was altogether better. Instead of passing to wind-ward, Mulford
suggested the expediency of approaching to leeward, and of coming
alongside under the open bow-port, letting the sheet fly and
brailing the sail, when the boat should be near enough to carry her
to the point of destination without further assistance from her
Jack Tier took his officer's improvement on his own plan in perfect
good part, readily and cheerfully expressing his willingness to aid
the execution of it all that lay in his power. As the boat sailed
unusually well, there was barely time to explain to each individual
his or her part in the approaching critical movements, ere the
crisis itself drew near; then each of the party became silent and
anxious, and events were regarded rather than words.
It is scarcely necessary to say that Mulford sailed a boat well. He
held the sheet in his hand, as the little craft came up under the
lee-quarter of the brig, while Jack stood by the brail. The eyes of
the mate glanced over the hull of the vessel to ascertain, if
possible, who might be stirring; but not a sign of life could he
detect on board her. This very silence made Mulford more distrustful
and anxious, for he feared a trap was set for him. He expected to
see the head of one of the blacks at least peering over the
bulwarks, but nothing like a man was visible. It was too late to
pause, however, and the sheet was slowly eased off, Jack hauling on
the brail at the same time; the object being to prevent the sail's
flapping, and the sound reaching the ears of Spike. As Mulford used
great caution, and had previously schooled Jack on the subject, this
important point was successfully achieved. Then the mate put his
helm down, and the boat shot up under the brig's lee-bow. Jack was
ready to lay hold of one of the bow-sprit shrouds, and presently the
boat was breasted up under the desired port, and secured in that
position. Mulford quitted the stern-sheets, and cast a look in upon
deck. Nothing was to be seen, though he heard the heavy breathing of
the blacks, both of whom were sound asleep on a sail that they had
spread on the forecastle.
The mate whispered for Biddy to come to the port. This the
Irishwoman did at once, having kissed Rose, and taken her leave of
her previously. Tier also came to the port, through which he passed,
getting on deck with a view to assist Biddy, who was awkward, almost
as a matter of course, to pass through the same opening. He had just
succeeded, when the whole party was startled, some of them almost
petrified, indeed, by a hail from the quarter-deck in the
well-known, deep tones of Spike.
"For'ard, there?" hailed the captain. Receiving no answer, he
immediately repeated, in a shorter, quicker call, "Forecastle,
"Sir," answered Jack Tier, who by this time had come to his senses.
"Who has the look-out on that forecastle?"
"I have it, sir--I, Jack Tier. You know, sir, I was to have it from
two 'till daylight."
"Ay, ay, I remember now. How does the brig ride to her anchor?"
"As steady as a church, sir. She's had no more sheer the whole watch
than if she was moored head and starn."
"Does the wind stand as it did?"
"No change, sir. As dead a trade wind as ever blowed."
"What hard breathing is that I hear for'ard?"
"'T is the two niggers, sir. They've turned in on deck, and are
napping it off at the rate of six knots. There's no keepin' way with
a nigger in snorin'."
"I thought I heard loud whispering, too, but I suppose it was a sort
of half-dream. I'm often in that way now-a-days. Jack!"
"Go to the scuttle-butt and get me a pot of fresh water--my coppers
are hot with hard thinking."
Jack did as ordered, and soon stood beneath the coach-house deck
with Spike, who had come out of his state-room, heated and uneasy at
he knew not what. The captain drank a full pint of water at a single
"That's refreshing," he said, returning Jack the tinpot, "and I feel
the cooler for it. How much does it want of daylight, Jack?"
"Two hours, I think, sir. The order was passed to me to have all
hands called as soon as it was broad day."
"Ay, that is right. We must get our anchor and be off as soon as
there is light to do it in. Doubloons may melt as well as flour, and
are best cared for soon when cared for at all."
"I shall see and give the call as soon as it is day. I hope, Captain
Spike, I can take the liberty of an old ship-mate, however, and say
one thing to you, which is this--look out for the Poughkeepsie,
which is very likely to be on your heels when you least expect her."
"That's your way of thinking, is it, Jack. Well, I thank you, old
one, for the hint, but have little fear of that craft. We've had our
legs together, and I think the brig has the longest."
As the captain said this, he gaped like a hound, and went into his
state-room. Jack lingered on the quarter-deck, waiting to hear him
fairly in his berth, when he made a sign to Biddy, who had got as
far aft as the galley, where she was secreted, to pass down into the
cabin, as silently as possible. In a minute or two more, he moved
forward, singing in a low, cracked voice, as was often his practice,
and slowly made his way to the forecastle. Mulford was just
beginning to think the fellow had changed his mind, and meant to
stick by the brig, when the little, rotund figure of the
assistant-steward was seen passing through the port, and to drop
noiselessly on a thwart. Jack then moved to the bow, and cast off
the painter, the head of the boat slowly falling off under the
pressure of the breeze on that part of her mast and sail which rose
above the hull of the Swash. Almost at the same moment, the mate let
go the stern-fast, and the boat was free.
It required some care to set the sail without the canvas flapping.
It was done, however, before the boat fairly took the breeze, when
all was safe. In half a minute the wind struck the sail, and away
the little craft started, passing swiftly ahead of the brig. Soon as
far enough off, Mulford put up his helm and wore short round,
bringing the boat's head to the northward, or in its proper
direction; after which they flew along before the wind, which seemed
to be increasing in force, with a velocity that really appeared to
defy pursuit. All this time the brig lay in its silence and
solitude, no one stirring on board her, and all, in fact, Biddy
alone excepted, profoundly ignorant of what had just been passing
alongside of her. Ten minutes of running off with a flowing sheet,
caused the Swash to look indistinct and hazy again; in ten minutes
more she was swallowed up, hull, spars, and all, in the gloom of
Mulford and Rose now felt something like that security, without the
sense of which happiness itself is but an uneasy feeling, rendering
the anticipations of evil the more painful by the magnitude of the
stake. There they sat, now, in the stern-sheets by themselves, Jack
Tier having placed himself near the bows of the boat, to look out
for rocks, as well as to trim the craft. It was not long before Rose
was leaning on Harry's shoulder, and ere an hour was past, she had
fallen into a sweet sleep in that attitude, the young man having
carefully covered her person with a capacious shawl, the same that
had been used on the wreck. As for Jack, he maintained his post in
silence, sitting with his arms crossed, and the hands thrust into
the breast of his jacket, sailor fashion, a picture of nautical
vigilance. It was some time after Rose had fallen asleep, that this
singular being spoke for the first time.
"Keep her away a bit, maty," he said, "keep her away, half a point
or so. She's been travelin' like a racer since we left the brig; and
yonder's the first streak of day."
"By the time we have been running," observed Mulford, "I should
think we must be getting near the northern side of the reef."
"All of that, sir, depend on it. Here's a rock close aboard on us,
to which we're comin' fast--just off here, on our weather-bow, that
looks to me like the place where you landed a'ter that swim, and
where we had stowed ourselves when Stephen Spike made us out, and
"It is surprising to me, Jack, that you should have any fancy to
stick by a man of Spike's character. He is a precious rascal, as we
all can see, now, and you are rather an honest sort of fellow."
"Do you love the young woman there, that's lying in your arms, as it
might be, and whom you say you wish to marry."
"The question is a queer one, but it is easily answered. More than
my life, Jack."
"Well, how happens it that _you_ succeed, when the world has so many
other young men who might please her as well as yourself."
"It may be that no other loves her as well, and she has had the
sagacity to discover it."
"Quite likely. So it is with me and Stephen Spike. I fancy a man
whom other folk despise and condemn. _Why_ I stand by him is my own
secret; but stand by him I do and will."
"This is all very strange, after your conduct on the island, and
your conduct to-night. I shall not disturb your secret, however,
Jack, but leave you to enjoy it by yourself. Is this the rock of
which you spoke, that we are now passing?"
"The same; and there's the spot in which we was stowed when they
made us out from the brig; and here-away, a cable's length, more or
less, the wreck of that Mexican craft must lie."
"What is that rising above the water, thereaway, Jack; more on our
"I see what you mean, sir; it looks like a spar. By George! there's
two on 'em; and they _do_ seem to be the schooner's masts."
Sure enough! a second look satisfied Mulford that two mast-heads
were out of water, and that within a hundred yards of the place the
boat was running past. Standing on a short distance, or far enough
to give himself room, the mate put his helm down, and tacked the
boat. The flapping of the sail, and the little movement of shifting
over the sheet, awoke Rose, who was immediately apprized of the
discovery. As soon as round, the boat went glancing up to the spars,
and presently was riding by one, Jack Tier having caught hold of a
topmast-shroud, when Mulford let fly his sheet again, and luffed
short up to the spot. By this time the increasing light was
sufficiently strong to render objects distinct, when near by, and no
doubt remained any longer in the mind of Mulford about the two
mast-heads being those of the unfortunate Mexican schooner.
"Well, of all I have ever seen I've never see'd the like of this
afore!" exclaimed Jack. "When we left this here craft, sir, you'll
remember, she had almost turned turtle, laying over so far as to
bring her upper coamings under water; now she stands right side up,
as erect as if docked! My navigation can't get along with this, Mr.
Mulford, and it does seem like witchcraft."
"It is certainly a very singular incident, Jack, and I have been
trying to come at its causes."
"Have you succeeded, Harry?" asked Rose, by this time wide awake,
and wondering like the others.
"It must have happened in this wise. The wreck was abandoned by us
some little distance out here, to windward. The schooner's masts, of
course, pointed to leeward, and when she drifted in here, they have
first touched on a shelving rock, and as they have been shoved up,
little by little, they have acted as levers to right the hull, until
the cargo has shifted back into its proper berth, which has suddenly
set the vessel up again."
"Ay, ay, sir," answered Jack, "all that might have happened had she
been above water, or any part of her above water; but you'll
remember, maty, that soon after we left her she went down."
"Not entirely. The wreck settled in the water no faster after we had
left it, than it had done before. It continued to sink, inch by
inch, as the air escaped, and no faster after it had gone entirely
out of sight than before; not as fast, indeed, as the water became
denser the lower it got. The great argument against my theory, is
the fact, that after the hull got beneath the surface, the wind
could not act on it. This is true in one sense, however, and not in
another. The waves, or the pressure of the water produced by the
wind, might act on the hull for some time after we ceased to see it.
But the currents have set the craft in here, and the hull floating
always, very little force would cant the craft. If the rock were
shelving and slippery, I see no great difficulty in the way; and the
barrels may have been so lodged, that a trifle would set them
rolling back again, each one helping to produce a change that would
move another. As for the ballast, that, I am certain, could not
shift, for it was stowed with great care. As the vessel righted, the
air still in her moved, and as soon as the water permitted, it
escaped by the hatches, when the craft went down, as a matter of
course. This air may have aided in bringing the hull upright by its
movements in the water."
This was the only explanation to which the ingenuity of Mulford
could help him, under the circumstances, and it may have been the
right one, or not. There lay the schooner, however, in some five or
six fathoms of water, with her two topmasts, and lower mast-heads
out of the element, as upright as if docked! It may all have
occurred as the mate fancied, or the unusual incident may have been
owing to some of the many mysterious causes which baffle inquiry,
when the agents are necessarily hidden from examination.
"Spike intends to come and look for this wreck, you tell me, Jack;
in the hope of getting at the doubloons it contains?" said Mulford;
when the boat had lain a minute or two longer, riding by the
"Ay, ay, sir; that's his notion, sir, and he'll be in a great stew,
as soon as he turns out, which must be about this time, and finds me
missing; for I was to pilot him to the spot."
"He'll want no pilot now. It will be scarcely possible to pass
anywhere near this and not see these spars. But this discovery
almost induces me to change my own plans. What say _you,_ Rose? We
have now reached the northern side of the reef, when it is time to
haul close by the wind, if we wish to beat up to Key West. There is
a moral certainty, however, that the sloop-of-war is somewhere in
the neighbourhood of the Dry Tortugas, which are much the most
easily reached, being to leeward. We might run down to the
light-house by mid-day, while it is doubtful if we could reach the
town until to-morrow morning. I should like exceedingly to have five
minutes conversation with the commander of the Poughkeepsie."
"Ay, to let him know where he will be likely to fall in with the
Molly Swash and her traitor master, Stephen Spike," cried Jack Tier.
"Never mind, maty; let 'em come on; both the Molly and her master
have got long legs and clean heels. Stephen Spike will show 'em how
to thread the channels of a reef."
"It is amazing to me, Jack, that you should stand by your old
captain in feeling, while you are helping to thwart him, all you
can, in his warmest wishes."
"He's a willian!" muttered Jack--"a reg'lar willian is Stephen
"If a villain, why do you so evidently wish to keep him out of the
hands of the law? Let him be captured and punished, as his crimes
"Men's willians, all round," still muttered Jack. "Hark'e, Mr.
Mulford, I've sailed in the brig longer than you, and know'd her in
her comeliest and best days--when she was young, and blooming, and
lovely to the eye, as the young creature at your side--and it would
go to my heart to have anything happen to _her_. Then, I've know'd
Stephen a long time, too, and old shipmates get a feelin' for each
other, sooner or later. I tell you now, honestly, Mr. Mulford,
Captain Adam Mull shall never make a prisoner of Stephen Spike, if I
can prevent it."
The mate laughed at this sally, but Rose appeared anxious to change
the conversation, and she managed to open a discussion on the
subject of the course it might be best to steer. Mulford had several
excellent reasons to urge for wishing to run down to the islets, all
of which, with a single exception, he laid before his betrothed. The
concealed reason was one of the strongest of them all, as usually
happens when there is a reason to conceal, but of that he took care
to say nothing. The result was an acquiescence on the part of Rose,
whose consent was yielded more to the influence of one particular
consideration than to all the rest united. That one was this: Harry
had pointed out to her the importance to himself of his appearing
early to denounce the character and movements of the brig, lest,
through his former situation in her, his own conduct might be
seriously called in question.
As soon as the matter was determined, Jack was told to let go his
hold, the sheet was drawn aft, and away sped the boat. No sooner did
Mulford cause the little craft to keep away than it almost flew, as
if conscious it were bound to its proper home, skimming swiftly over
the waves, like a bird returning eagerly to its nest. An hour later
the party breakfasted. While at this meal, Jack Tier pointed out to
the mate a white speck, in the south-eastern board, which he took to
be the brig coming through the passage, on her way to the wreck.
"No matter," returned the mate. "Though we can see her, she cannot
see us. There is that much advantage in our being small, Rose, if it
do prevent our taking exercise by walking the deck."
Soon after, Mulford made a very distant sail in the north-western
board, which he hoped might turn out to be the Poughkeepsie. It was
but another speck, but its position was somewhat like that in which
he had expected to meet the sloop-of-war. The two vessels were so
far apart that one could not be seen from the other, and there was
little hope that the Poughkeepsie would detect Spike at his toil on
the wreck; but the mate fully expected that the ship would go into
the anchorage, among the islets, in order to ascertain what had
become of the schooner. If she did not go in herself, she would be
almost certain to send in a boat.
The party from the brigantine had run down before the wind more than
two hours before the light-house began to show itself, just rising
out of the waves. This gave them the advantage of a beacon, Mulford
having steered hitherto altogether by the sun, the direction of the
wind, and the treading of the reef. Now he had his port in sight, it
being his intention to take possession of the dwelling of the
light-house keeper, and to remain in it, until a favourable
opportunity occurred to remove Rose to Key West. The young man had
also another important project in view, which it will be in season
to mention as it reaches the moment of its fulfillment.
The rate of sailing of the light-house boat, running before a brisk
trade wind, could not be much less than nine miles in the hour.
About eleven o'clock, therefore, the lively craft shot through one
of the narrow channels of the islets, and entered the haven. In a
few minutes all three of the adventurers were on the little wharf
where the light-house people were in the habit of landing. Rose
proceeded to the house, while Harry and Jack remained to secure the
boat. For the latter purpose a sort of slip, or little dock, had
been made, and when the boat was hauled into it, it lay so snug that
not only was the craft secure from injury, but it was actually hid
from the view of all but those who stood directly above it.
"This is a snug berth for the boat, Jack," observed the mate, when
he had hauled it into the place mentioned, "and by unstepping the
mast, a passer-by would not suspect such a craft of lying in it. Who
knows what occasion there may be for concealment, and I'll e'en do
To a casual listener, Harry, in unstepping the mast, might have
seemed influenced merely by a motiveless impulse; but, in truth, a
latent suspicion of Jack's intentions instigated him, and as he laid
the mast, sprit and sail on the thwarts, he determined, in his own
mind, to remove them all to some other place, as soon as an
opportunity for doing so unobserved should occur. He and Jack now
followed Rose to the house.
The islets were found deserted and tenantless. Not a human being had
entered the house since Rose left it, the evening she had remained
so long ashore, in company with her aunt and the Señor
Montefalderon. This our heroine knew from the circumstance of
finding a slight fastening of the outer door in the precise
situation in which she had left it with her own hands. At first a
feeling of oppression and awe prevailed with both Harry and Rose,
when they recollected the fate of those who had so lately been
tenants of the place; but this gradually wore off, and each soon got
to be more at home. As for Jack, he very coolly rummaged the
lockers, as he called the drawers and closets of the place, and made
his preparations for cooking a very delicious repast, in which
_callipash_ and _callipee_ were to be material ingredients. The
necessary condiments were easily enough found in that place, turtle
being a common dish there, and it was not long before steams that
might have quickened the appetite of an alderman filled the kitchen.
Rose rummaged, too, and found a clean table-cloth, plates, glasses,
bowls, spoons, and knives; in a word, all that was necessary to
spread a plain but plentiful board. While all this was doing, Harry
took some fishing-tackle, and proceeded to a favourable spot among
the rocks. In twenty minutes he returned with a fine mess of that
most delicious little fish that goes by the very unpoetical name of
"hog-fish," from the circumstance of its giving a grunt not unlike
that of a living porker, when rudely drawn from its proper element.
Nothing was now wanting to not only a comfortable, but to what was
really a most epicurian meal, and Jack just begged the lovers to
have patience for an hour or so, when he promised them dishes that
even New York could not furnish.
Harry and Rose first retired to pay a little attention to their
dress, and then they joined each other in a walk. The mate had found
some razors, and was clean shaved. He had also sequestered a shirt,
and made some other little additions to his attire, that contributed
to give him the appearance of being, that which he really was, a
very gentleman-like looking young sailor. Rose had felt no necessity
for taking liberties with the effects of others, though a good deal
of female attire was found in the dwelling. As was afterward
ascertained, a family ordinarily dwelt there, but most of it had
gone to Key West, on a visit, at the moment when the man and boy
left in charge had fallen into the hands of the Mexicans, losing
their lives in the manner mentioned.
While walking together, Harry opened his mind to Rose, on the
subject which lay nearest to his heart, and which had been at the
bottom of this second visit to the islets of the Dry Tortugas.
During the different visits of Wallace to the brig, the boat's crew
of the Poughkeepsie had held more or less discourse with the people
of the Swash. This usually happens on such occasions, and although
Spike had endeavoured to prevent it, when his brig lay in this bay,
he had not been entirely successful. Such discourse is commonly
jocular, and sometimes witty; every speech, coming from which side
it may, ordinarily commencing with "shipmate," though the
interlocutors never saw each other before that interview. In one of
the visits an allusion was made to cargo, when "the pretty gal aft,"
was mentioned as being a part of the cargo of the Swash. In answer
to this remark, the wit of the Poughkeepsie had told the brig's man,
"you had better send her on board us, for we carry a chaplain, a
regular-built one, that will be a bishop some day or other, perhaps,
and we can get her spliced to one of our young officers." This
remark had induced the sailor of the Molly to ask if a sloop-of-war
really carried such a piece of marine luxury as a chaplain, and the
explanation given went to say that the clergyman in question did not
properly belong to the Poughkeepsie, but was to be put on board a
frigate, as soon as they fell in with one that he named. Now, all
this Mulford overheard, and he remembered it at a moment when it
might be of use. Situated as he and Rose were, he felt the wisdom
and propriety of their being united, and his present object was to
persuade his companion to be of the same way of thinking. He doubted
not that the sloop-of-war would come in, ere long, perhaps that very
day, and he believed it would be an easy matter to induce her
chaplain to perform the ceremony. America is a country in which
every facility exists, with the fewest possible impediments, to
getting married; and, we regret to be compelled to add, to getting
unmarried also. There are no banns, no licenses, no consent of
parents even, usually necessary, and persons who are of the age of
discretion, which, as respects females and matrimony, is a very
tender age indeed, may be married, if they see fit, almost without
form or ceremony. There existed, therefore, no legal impediment to
the course Mulford desired to take; and his principal, if not his
only difficulty, would be with Rose. Over her scruples he hoped to
prevail, and not without reason, as the case he could and did
present, was certainly one of a character that entitled him to be
heard with great attention.
In the first place, Mrs. Budd had approved of the connection, and it
was understood between them, that the young people were to be united
at the first port in which a clergyman of their own persuasion could
be found, and previously to reaching home. This had been the aunt's
own project, for, weak and silly as she was, the relict had a
woman's sense of the proprieties. It had occured to her that it
would be more respectable to make the long journey which lay before
them, escorted by a nephew and husband, than escorted by even an
accepted lover. It is true that she had never anticipated a marriage
in a light-house, and under the circumstances in which Rose was now
placed, though it might be more reputable that her niece should quit
the islets as the wife of Harry than as his betrothed. Then Mulford
still apprehended Spike. In that remote part of the world, almost
beyond the confines of society, it was not easy to foretell what
claims he might set up, in the event of his meeting them there.
Armed with the authority of a husband, Mulford could resist him, in
any such case, with far better prospects of success than if he
should appear only in the character of a suitor.
Rose listened to these arguments, ardently and somewhat eloquently
put, as a girl of her years and habits would be apt to listen to a
favoured lover. She was much too sincere to deny her own attachment,
which the events of the last few days had increased almost to
intenseness, so apt is our tenderness to augment in behalf of those
for whom we feel solicitude; and her judgment told her that the more
sober part of Harry's reasoning was entitled to consideration. As
his wife, her situation would certainly be much less equivocal and
awkward, than while she bore a different name, and was admitted to
be a single woman, and it might yet be weeks before the duty she
owed her aunt would allow her to proceed to the north. But, after
all, Harry prevailed more through the influence of his hold on
Rose's affections, as would have been the case with almost every
other woman, than through any force of reasoning. He truly loved,
and that made him eloquent when he spoke of love; sympathy in all he
uttered being his great ally. When summoned to the house, by the
call of Jack, who announced that the turtle-soup was ready, they
returned with the understanding that the chaplain of the
Poughkeepsie should unite them, did the vessel come in, and would
the functionary mentioned consent to perform the ceremony.
"It would be awkward--nay, it would be distressing, Harry, to have
him refuse," said the blushing Rose, as they walked slowly back to
the house, more desirous to prolong their conversation than to
partake of the bountiful provision of Jack Tier. The latter could
not but be acceptable, nevertheless, to a young man like Mulford,
who was in robust health, and who had fared so badly for the last
eight-and-forty hours. When he sat down to the table, therefore,
which was covered by a snow-white cloth, with smoking and most
savoury viands on it, it will not be surprising if we say it was
with a pleasure that was derived from one of the great necessities
of our nature.
Sancho calls for benediction "on the man who invented sleep." It
would have been more just to have asked this boon in behalf of him
who invented eating and turtle-soup. The wearied fall into sleep, as
it might be unwittingly; sometimes against their will, and often
against their interests; while many a man is hungry without
possessing the means of appeasing his appetite. Still more daily
feel hunger without possessing turtle-soup. Certain persons impute
this delicious compound to the genius of some London alderman, but
we rather think unjustly. Aldermanic genius is easily excited and
rendered active, no doubt, by strong appeals on such a theme, but
our own experience inclines us to believe that the tropics usually
send their inventions to the less fruitful regions of the earth
along with their products. We have little doubt, could the fact be
now ascertained, that it would be found turtle-soup was originally
invented by just some such worthy as Jack Tier, who in filling his
coppers to tickle the captain's appetite, had used all the
condiments within his reach; ventured on a sort of Regent's punch;
and, as the consequence, had brought forth the dish so often
eulogized, and so well beloved. It is a little extraordinary that in
Paris, the seat of gastronomy, one rarely, if ever, hears of or sees
this dish; while in London it is to be met in almost as great
abundance as in one of our larger commercial towns. But so it is,
and we cannot say we much envy a _cuisine_ its _patés,_ and
_soufflets,_ and its _à la_ this and _à la_ thats, but which was
never redolent with the odours of turtle-soup.
"Upon my word, Jack, you have made out famously with your dinner, or
supper, whichever you may please to call it," cried Mulford gaily,
as he took his seat at table, after having furnished Rose with a
chair. "Nothing appears to be wanting; but here is good pilot bread,
potatoes even, and other little niceties, in addition to the turtle
and the fish. These good people of the light seem to have lived
comfortably, at any rate."
"Why should they not, maty?" answered Jack, beginning to help to
soup. "Living on one of these islets is like living afloat.
Everything is laid in, as for an outward bound craft; then the reef
must always furnish fish and turtle. I've overhauled the lockers
pretty thoroughly, and find a plenty of stores to last _us_ a month.
Tea, sugar, coffee, bread, pickles, potatoes, onions, and all other
"The poor people who own these stores will be heavy-hearted enough
when they come to learn the reason why we have been put in
undisturbed possession of their property," said Rose. "We must
contrive some means of repaying them for such articles as we may
"That's easily enough done, Miss Rose. Drop one of the half-eagles
in a tea-pot, or a mug, and they'll be certain to fall in with it
when they come back. Nothin' is easier than to pay a body's debts,
when a body has the will and the means. Now, the worst enemy of
Stephen Spike must own that his brig never quits port with unsettled
bills. Stephen has his faults, like other mortals; but he has his
good p'ints, too."
"Still praising Spike, my good Jack," cried the mate, a little
provoked at this pertinacity in the deputy-steward, in sticking to
his ship and his shipmate. "I should have thought that you had
sailed with him long enough to have found him out, and to wish never
to put your foot in his cabin again."
"Why, no, maty, a craft is a craft, and a body gets to like even the
faults of one in which a body has gone through gales, and squalls,
with a whole skin. I like the Swash, and, for sartain things I like
"Meaning by that, it is your intention to get on board of the one,
and to sail with the other, again, as soon as you can."
"I do, Mr. Mulford, and make no bones in telling on't. You know that
I came here without wishing it."
"Well, Jack, no one will attempt to control your movements, but you
shall be left your own master. I feel it to be a duty, however, as
one who may know more of the law than yourself, as well as more of
Stephen Spike, to tell you that he is engaged in a treasonable
commerce with the enemy, and that he, and all who voluntarily remain
with him, knowing this fact, may be made to swing for it."
"Then I'll swing for it," returned Jack, sullenly.
"There is a little obstinacy in this, my good fellow, and you must
be reasoned out of it. I am under infinite obligations to you, Jack,
and shall ever be ready to own them. Without you to sail the boat, I
might have been left to perish on that rock,--for God only knows
whether any vessel would have seen me in passing. Most of those who
go through that passage keep the western side of the reef aboard,
they tell me, on account of there being better water on that side of
the channel, and the chance of a man's being seen on a rock, by
ships a league or two off, would be small indeed. Yes, Jack, I owe
my life to you, and am proud to own it."
"You owe it to Miss Rose, maty, who put me up to the enterprise, and
who shared it with me."
"To her I owe more than life," answered Harry, looking at his
beloved as she delighted in being regarded by him, "but even she,
with all her wishes to serve me, would have been helpless without
your skill in managing a boat. I owe also to your good-nature the
happiness of having Rose with me at this moment; for without you she
would not have come."
"I'll not deny it, maty--take another ladle-full of the soup, Miss
Rosy: a quart of it would n't hurt an infant--I'll not deny it, Mr.
Mulford--I know by the way you've got rid of the first bowl-full
that _you_ are ready for another, and there it is--I'll not deny it,
and all I can say is that you are heartily welcome to my sarvices."
"I thank you, Jack; but all this only makes me more desirous of
being of use to you, now, when it's in my power. I wish you to stick
by me, and not to return to the Swash. As soon as I get to New York
I shall build or buy a ship, and the berth of steward in her shall
always be open to you."
"Thank'e, maty; thank'e, with all my heart. It's something to know
that a port is open to leeward, and, though I cannot _now_ accept
your offer, the day _may_ come when I shall be glad to do so."
"If you like living ashore better, our house will always be ready to
receive you. I should be glad to leave as handy a little fellow as
yourself behind me whenever I went to sea. There are a hundred
things in which you might be useful, and fully earn your biscuit, so
as to have no qualms about eating the bread of idleness."
"Thank'e, thank'e, maty," cried Jack, dashing a tear out of his eye
with the back of his hand, "thank'e, sir, from the bottom of my
heart. The time _may_ come, but not now. My papers is signed for
this v'y'ge. Stephen Spike has a halter round his neck, as you say
yourself, and it's necessary for me to be there to look to't. We all
have our callin's and duties, and this is mine. I stick by the Molly
and her captain until both are out of this scrape, or both are
condemned. I know nothin' of treason; but if the law wants another
victim, I must take my chance."
Mulford was surprised at this steadiness of Jack's, in what he
thought a very bad cause, and he was quite as much surprised that
Rose did not join him, in his endeavours to persuade the steward not
to be so foolhardy, as to endeavour to go back to the brig. Rose did
not, however; sitting silently eating her dinner the whole time,
though she occasionally cast glances of interest at both the
speakers the while. In this state of things the mate abandoned the
attempt, for the moment, intending to return to the subject, after
having had a private conference with his betrothed.
Notwithstanding the little drawback just related, that was a happy
as well as a delicious repast. The mate did full justice to the
soup, and afterward to the fish with the unpoetical name; and Rose
ate more than she had done in the last three days. The habits of
discipline prevented Jack from taking his seat at table, though
pressed by both Rose and Harry to do so, but he helped himself to
the contents of a bowl and did full justice to his own art, on one
aside. The little fellow was delighted with the praises that were
bestowed on his dishes; and for the moment, the sea, its dangers,
its tornadoes, wrecks and races, were all forgotten in the security
and pleasures of so savoury a repast.
"Folk ashore do n't know how sailors sometimes live," said Jack,
holding a large spoon filled with the soup ready to plunge into a
tolerably capacious mouth.
"Or how they sometimes starve," answered Rose. "Remember our own
situation, less than forty-eight hours since!"
"All very true, Miss Rose; yet, you see, turtle-soup brings us up,
a'ter all. Would you like a glass of wine, maty?"
"Very much indeed, Jack, after so luscious a soup; but wishing for
it will not bring it here."
"That remains to be seen, sir. I call this a bottle of something
that looks wery much like a wine."
"Claret, as I live! Why, where should light-house keepers get the
taste for claret?"
"I've thought of that myself, Mr. Mulford, and have supposed that
some of Uncle Sam's officers have brought the liquor to this part of
the world. I understand a party on 'em was here surveyin' all last
winter. It seems they come in the cool weather, and get their sights
and measure their distances, and go home in the warm weather, and
work out their traverses in the shade, as it might be."
"This seems likely, Jack; but, come whence it may it is welcome, and
we will taste it."
Mulford then drew the cork of this mild and grateful liquor, and
helped his companions and himself. In this age of moral _tours de
force,_ one scarcely dare say anything favourable of a liquid that
even bears the name of wine, or extol the shape of a bottle. It is
truly the era of exaggeration. Nothing is treated in the
old-fashioned, natural, common sense way. Virtue is no longer
virtue, unless it get upon stilts; and, as for sin's being confined
to "transgression against the law of God," audacious would be the
wretch who should presume to limit the sway of the societies by any
dogma so narrow! A man may be as abstemious as an anchorite and get
no credit for it, unless "he sigu the pledge;" or, signing the
pledge, he may get fuddled in corners, and be cited as a miracle of
sobriety. The test of morals is no longer in the abuse of the gifts
of Providence, but in their use; prayers are deserting the closet
for the corners of streets, and charity (not the giving of alms) has
got to be so earnest in the demonstration of its nature, as to be
pretty certain to "begin at home," and to end where it begins. Even
the art of mendacity has been aroused by the great progress which is
making by all around it, and many manifest the strength of their
ambition by telling ten lies where their fathers would have been
satisfied with telling only one. This art has made an extraordinary
progress within the last quarter of a century, aspiring to an
ascendency that was formerly conceded only to truth, until he who
gains his daily bread by it has some such contempt for the sneaking
wretch who does business on the small scale, as the slayer of his
thousands in the field is known to entertain for him who kills only
a single man in the course of a long life.
At the risk of damaging the reputations of our hero and heroine, we
shall frankly aver the fact that both Harry and Rose partook of the
_vin de Bordeaux,_ a very respectable bottle of _Medoc,_ by the way,
which had been forgotten by Uncle Sam's people, in the course of the
preceding winter, agreeably to Jack Tier's conjecture. One glass
sufficed for Rose, and, contrary as it may be to all modern theory,
she was somewhat the better for it; while the mate and Jack Tier
quite half emptied the bottle, being none the worse. There they sat,
enjoying the security and abundance which had succeeded to their
late danger, happy in that security, happy in themselves, and happy
in the prospects of a bright future. It was just as practicable for
them to remain at the Dry Tortugas, as it was for the family which
ordinarily dwelt at the light. The place was amply supplied with
everything that would be necessary for their wants, for months to
come, and Harry caused his betrothed to blush, as he whispered to
her, should the chaplain arrive, he should delight in passing the
honey-moon where they then were.
"I could tend the light," he added, smiling, "which would be not
only an occupation, but a useful occupation; you could read all
those books from beginning to end, and Jack could keep us suplied
with fish. By the way, master steward, are you in the humour for
motion, so soon after your hearty meal?"
"Anything to be useful," answered Jack, cheerfully.
"Then do me the favour to go up into the lantern of the light-house,
and take a look for the sloop-of-war. If she's in sight at all,
you'll find her off here to the northward; and while you are aloft
you may as well make a sweep of the whole horizon. There hangs the
light-house keeper's glass, which may help your eyes, by stepping
into the gallery outside of the lantern."
Jack willingly complied, taking the glass and proceeding forthwith
to the other building. Mulford had two objects in view in giving
this commission to the steward. He really wished to ascertain what
was the chance of seeing the Poughkeepsie, in the neighbourhood of
the islets, and felt just that indisposition to move himself, that
is apt to come over one who has recently made a very bountiful meal,
while he also desired to have another private conversation with
A good portion of the time that Jack was gone, and he stayed quite
an hour in the lantern, our lovers conversed as lovers are much
inclined to converse; that is to say, of themselves, their feelings,
and their prospects. Mulford told Rose of his hopes and fears, while
he visited at the house of her aunt, previously to sailing, and the
manner in which his suspicions had been first awakened in reference
to the intentions of Spike--intentions, so far as they were
connected with an admiration of his old commander's niece, and
possibly in connection also with the little fortune she was known to
possess, but not in reference to the bold project to which he had,
in fact, resorted. No distrust of the scheme finally put in practice
had ever crossed the mind of the young mate, until he received the
unexpected order, mentioned in our opening chapter, to prepare the
brig for the reception of Mrs. Budd and her party. Harry confessed
his jealousy of one youth whom he dreaded far more even than he had
ever dreaded Spike, and whose apparent favour with Rose, and actual
favour with her aunt, had given him many a sleepless night.
They next conversed of the future, which to them seemed full of
flowers. Various were the projects started, discussed, and
dismissed, between them, the last almost as soon as proposed. On one
thing they were of a mind, as soon as proposed. Harry was to have a
ship as quick as one could be purchased by Rose's means, and the
promised bride laughingly consented to make one voyage to Europe
along with her husband.
"I wonder, dear Rose, my poverty has never presented any
difficulties in the way of our union," said Harry, sensibly touched
with the free way his betrothed disposed of her own money in his
behalf; "but neither you nor Mrs. Budd has ever seemed to think of
the difference there is between us in this respect."
"What is the trifle I possess, Harry, set in the balance against
your worth? My aunt, as you say, has thought I might even be the
gainer by the exchange."
"I am sure I feel a thousand times indebted to Mrs. Budd--"
"_Aunt_ Budd. You must learn to say, `_my_ Aunt Budd,' Mr. Henry
Mulford, if you mean to live in peace with her unworthy niece."
"_Aunt_ Budd, then," returned Harry, laughing, for the laugh came
easily that evening; "Aunt Budd, if you wish it, Rose. I can have no
objection to call any relative of yours, uncle or aunt."
"I think we are intimate enough, now, to ask you a question or two,
Harry, touching my aunt," continued Rose, looking stealthily over
her shoulder, as if apprehensive of being overheard. "You know how
fond she is of speaking of the sea, and of indulging in nautical
"Any one must have observed that, Rose," answered the young man,
gazing up at the wall, in order not to be compelled to look the
beautiful creature before him in the eyes--"Mrs. Budd has very
strong tastes that way."
"Now tell me, Harry--that is, answer me frankly--I mean--she is not
_always_ right, is she?"
"Why, no; not absolutely so--that is, not absolutely _always_
so--few persons are _always_ right, you know."
Rose remained silent and embarrassed for a moment; after which she
pursued the discourse.
"But aunty does not know as much of the sea and of ships as she
thinks she does?"
"Perhaps not. We all overrate our own acquirements. I dare say that
even I am not as good a seaman as I fancy myself to be."
"Even Spike admits that you are what he calls `a prime seaman.' But
it is not easy for a woman to get a correct knowledge of the use of
all the strange, and sometimes uncouth, terms that you sailors use."
"Certainly not, and for that reason I would rather you should never
attempt it, Rose. We rough sons of the ocean would prefer to hear
our wives make divers pretty blunders, rather than to be swaggering
about like so many `old salts.'"
"Mr. Mulford! Does Aunt Budd swagger like an old salt?"
"Dearest Rose, I was not thinking of your aunt, but of _you_. Of
you, as you are, feminine, spirited, lovely alike in form and
character, and of you a graduate of the ocean, and full of its
language and ideas."
It was probable Rose was not displeased at this allusion to herself,
for a smile struggled around her pretty mouth, and she did not look
at all angry. After another short pause, she resumed the discourse.
"My aunt did not very clearly comprehend those explanations of yours
about the time of day, and the longitude," she said, "nor am I quite
certain that I did myself."
"You understood them far better than Mrs. Budd, Rose. Women are so
little accustomed to _think_ on such subjects at all, that it is not
surprising they sometimes get confused. I do wish, however, that
your aunt could be persuaded to be more cautious in the presence of
strangers, on the subject of terms she does not understand."
"I feared it might be so, Harry," answered Rose, in a low voice, as
if unwilling even he should know the full extent of her thoughts on
this subject; "but my aunt's heart is most excellent, though she may
make mistakes occasionally, I owe her a great deal, if not
absolutely my education, certainly my health and comfort through
childhood, and more prudent, womanly advice than you may suppose,
perhaps, since I have left school. How she became the dupe of Spike,
indeed, is to me unaccountable; for in all that relates to health,
she is, in general, both acute and skilful."
"Spike is a man of more art than he appears to be to superficial
observers. On my first acquaintance with him, I mistook him for a
frank, fearless but well-meaning sailor, who loved hazardous voyages
and desperate speculation--a sort of innocent gambler; but I have
learned to know better. His means are pretty much reduced to his
brig, and she is getting old, and can do but little more service.
His projects are plain enough, now. By getting you into his power,
he hoped to compel a marriage, in which case both your fortune and
your aunt's would contribute to repair his."
"He might have killed me, but I never would have married him,"
rejoined Rose, firmly. "Is not that Jack coming down the steps of
"It is. I find that fellow's attachment to Spike very extraordinary,
Rose. Can you, in any manner, account for it?"
Rose at first seemed disposed to reply. Her lips parted, as if about
to speak, and closed again, as glancing her eyes toward the open
door, she seemed to expect the appearance of the steward's little,
rotund form on its threshold, which held her tongue-tied. A brief
interval elapsed, however, ere Jack actually arrived, and Rose,
perceiving that Harry was curiously expecting her answer, said
hurriedly--"It may be hatred, not attachment."
The next instant Jack Tier entered the room. He had been gone rather
more than an hour, not returning until just as the sun was about to
set in a flame of fire.
"Well, Jack, what news from the Poughkeepsie?" demanded the mate.
"You have been gone long enough to make sure of your errand. Is it
certain that we are not to see the man-of-war's-men to-night."
"Whatever you see, my advice to you is to keep close, and to be on
your guard," answered Jack, evasively.
"I have little fear of any of Uncle Sam's craft. A plain story, and
an honest heart, will make all clear to a well-disposed listener. We
have not been accomplices in Spike's treasons, and cannot be made to
answer for them."
"Take my advice, maty, and be in no hurry to hail every vessel you
see. Uncle Sam's fellows may not always be at hand to help you. Do
you not know that this island will be tabooed to seamen for some
time to come?"
"Why so, Jack? The islet has done no harm, though others may have
performed wicked deeds near it."
"Two of the drowned men lie within a hundred yards of this spot, and
sailors never go near new-made graves, if they can find any other
place to resort to."
"You deal in enigmas, Jack; and did I not know that you are very
temperate, I might suspect that the time you have been gone has been
passed in the company of a bottle of brandy."
"That will explain my meanin'," said Jack, laconically, pointing as
he spoke seemingly at some object that was to be seen without.
The door of the house was wide open, for the admission of air. It
faced the haven of the islets, and just as the mate's eyes were
turned to it, the end of a flying-jib-boom, with the sail down, and
fluttering beneath it, was coming into the view. "The Poughkeepsie!"
exclaimed Mulford, in delight, seeing all his hopes realized, while
Rose blushed to the eyes. A pause succeeded, during which Mulford
drew aside, keeping his betrothed in the back-ground, and as much
out of sight as possible. The vessel was shooting swiftly into view,
and presently all there could see it was the Swash.
But no--he surely is not dreaming.
Another minute makes it clear,
A scream, a rush, a burning tear,
From Inez' cheek, dispel the fear
That bliss like his is only seeming.
A moment of appalled surprise succeeded the instant when Harry and
Rose first ascertained the real character of the vessel that had
entered the haven of the Dry Tortugas. Then the first turned toward
Jack Tier, and sternly demanded an explanation of his apparent
"Rascal," he cried, "has this treachery been intended? Did you not
see the brig and know her?"
"Hush, Harry--_dear_ Harry," exclaimed Rose, entreatingly. "My life
for it, Jack has _not_ been faithless."
"Why, then, has he not let us know that the brig was coming? For
more than an hour has he been aloft, on the look-out, and here are
we taken quite by surprise. Rely on it, Rose, he has seen the
approach of the brig, and might have sooner put us on our guard."
"Ay, ay, lay it on, maty," said Jack, coolly, neither angry nor
mortified, so far as appearances went, at these expressions of
dissatisfaction; "my back is used to it. If I did n't know what it
is to get hard raps on the knuckles, I should be but a young
steward. But, as for this business, a little reflection will tell
you I am not to blame."
"Give us your own explanations, for without them I shall trust you
"Well, sir, what good would it have done, _had_ I told you the brig
was standing for this place? There she came down, like a race-horse,
and escape for you was impossible. As the wind is now blowin', the
Molly would go two feet to the boat's one, and a chase would have
"I do n't know that, sirrah" answered the mate." The boat might have
got into the smaller passages of the reef, where the brig could not
enter, or she might have dodged about among these islets, until it
was night, and then escaped in the darkness."
"I thought of all that, Mr. Mulford, but it came too late. When I
first went aloft, I came out on the north-west side of the lantern,
and took my seat, to look out for the sloop-of-war, as you bade me,
sir. Well, there I was sweepin' the horizon with the glass for the
better part of an hour, sometimes fancyin' I saw her, and then
givin' it up; for to this moment I am not sartain there is n't a
sail off here to the westward, turning up toward the light on a
bowline; but if there be, she's too far off to know anything
partic'lar about her. Well, sir, there I sat, looking for the
Poughkeepsie, for the better part of an hour, when I thought I would
go round on t' other side of the lantern and take a look to
windward. My heart was in my mouth, I can tell you, Miss Rose, when
I saw the brig; and I felt both glad and sorry. Glad on my own
account, and sorry on your'n. There she was, however, and no help
for it, within two miles of this very spot, and coming down as if
she despised touching the water at all. Now, what could I do? There
was n't time, Mr. Mulford, to get the boat out, and the mast
stepped, afore we should have been within reach of canister, and
Stephen Spike would not have spared _that,_ in order to get you
again within his power."
"Depend on it, Harry, this is all true," said Rose, earnestly. "I
know Jack well, and can answer for his fidelity. He wishes to, and
if he can he _will_ return to the brig, whither he thinks his duty
calls him, but he will never willingly betray _us_--least of all,
_me_. Do I speak as I ought, Jack?"
"Gospel truth, Miss Rose, and Mr. Mulford will get over this squall,
as soon as he comes to think of matters as he ought. There 's my
hand, maty, to show I bear no malice."
"I take it, Jack, for I must believe you honest, after all you have
done for us. Excuse my warmth, which, if a little unreasonable, was
somewhat natural under the circumstances. I suppose our case is now
hopeless, and that we shall all be soon on board the brig again; for
Spike will hardly think of abandoning me again on an island
provisioned and fitted as is this!"
"It's not so sartain, sir, that you fall into his hands at all," put
in Jack. "The men of the brig will never come here of their own
accord, depend on that, for sailors don't like graves. Spike has
come in here a'ter the schooner's chain, that he dropped into the
water when he made sail from the sloop-of-war, at the time he was
here afore, and is not expectin' to find us here. No--no--he thinks
we are beatin' up toward Key West this very minute, if, indeed, he
has missed us at all. 'T is possible he believes the boat has got
adrift by accident, and has no thought of our bein' out of the
"That is impossible, Jack. Do you suppose he is ignorant that Rose
"Sartain of it, maty, if Mrs. Budd has read the letter well that
Miss Rose left for her, and Biddy has obeyed orders. If they've
followed instructions, Miss Rose is thought to be in her state-room,
mournin' for a young man who was abandoned on a naked rock, and Jack
Tier, havin' eat somethin' that has disagreed with him, is in his
berth. Recollect, Spike will not be apt to look into Miss Rose's
state-room or my berth, to see if all this is true. The cook and
Josh are both in my secret, and know I mean to come back, and when
the fit is over I have only to return to duty, like any other hand.
It is my calculation that Spike believes both Miss Rose and myself
on board the Molly at this very moment."
"And the boat--what can he suppose has become of the boat?"
"Sartainly, the boat makes the only chance ag'in us. But the boat
was ridin' by its painter astarn, and accidents sometimes happen to
such craft. Then we two are the wery last he will suspect of havin'
made off in the boat by ourselves. There'll be Mrs. Budd and Biddy
as a sort of pledge that Miss Rose is aboard, and as for Jack Tier,
he is too insignificant to occupy the captain's thoughts just now.
He will probably muster the people for'ard, when he finds the boat
is gone, but I do not think he'll trouble the cabins or
Mulford admitted that this was _possible,_ though it scarcely seemed
probable to him. There was no help, however, for the actual state of
things, and they all now turned their attention to the brig, and to
the movements of those on board her. Jack Tier had swung-to the
outer-door of the house, as soon as the Swash came in view through
it, and fortunately none of the windows on that side of the building
had been opened at all. The air entered to windward, which was on
the rear of the dwelling, so that it was possible to be comfortable
and yet leave the front, in view from the vessel, with its deserted
air. As for the brig, she had already anchored and got both her
boats into the water. The yawl was hauled alongside, in readiness
for any service that might be required of it, while the launch had
been manned at once, and was already weighing the anchor, and
securing the chain to which Tier had alluded. All this served very
much to lessen the uneasiness of Mulford and Rose, as it went far to
prove that Spike had not come to the Dry Tortugas in quest of them,
as, at first, both had very naturally supposed. It might, indeed,
turn out that his sole object was to obtain this anchor and chain,
with a view to use them in raising the ill-fated vessel that had now
twice gone to the bottom.
"I wish an explanation with you, Jack, on one other point," said the
mate, after all three had been for sometime observing the movements
on board and around the Swash. "Do you actually intend to get on
board the brig?"
"If it's to be done, maty. My v'y'ge is up with you and Miss Rose. I
may be said to have shipped for Key West and a market, and the
market's found at this port."
"You will hardly leave us _yet,_ Jack," said Rose, with a manner and
emphasis that did not fail to strike her betrothed lover, though he
could in no way account for either. That Rose should not wish to be
left alone with him in that solitary place was natural enough; or,
might rather be referred to education and the peculiar notions of
her sex; but he could not understand why so much importance should
be attached to the presence of a being of Jack Tier's mould and
character. It was true, that there was little choice, under present
circumstances, but it occurred to Mulford that Rose had manifested
the same strange predilection when there might have been something
nearer to a selection. The moment, however, was not one for much
reflection on the subject.
"You will hardly leave us yet, Jack?" said Rose, in the manner
"it's now or never, Miss Rose. If the brig once gets away from this
anchorage without me, I may never lay eyes on her ag'in. Her time is
nearly up, for wood and iron wont hold together always, any more
than flesh and blood. Consider how many years I've been busy in
huntin' her up, and how hard 't will be to lose that which has given
me so many weary days and sleepless nights to find."
Rose said no more. If not convinced, she was evidently silenced,
while Harry was left to wonder and surmise, as best he might. Both
quitted the subject, to watch the people of the brig. By this time
the anchor had been lifted, and the chain was heaving in on board
the vessel, by means of a line that had been got around its bight.
The work went on rapidly, and Mulford observed to Rose that he did
not think it was the intention of Spike to remain long at the
Tortugas, inasmuch as his brig was riding by a very short range of
cable. This opinion was confirmed, half an hour later, when it was
seen that the launch was hooked on and hoisted in again, as soon as
the chain and anchor of the schooner were secured.
Jack Tier watched every movement with palpable uneasiness. His
apprehensions that Spike would obtain all he wanted, and be off
before he could rejoin him, increased at each instant, and he did
not scruple to announce an intention to take the boat and go
alongside of the Swash at every hazard, rather than be left.
"You do not reflect on what you say, Jack," answered Harry; "unless,
indeed, it be your intention to betray us. How could you appear in
the boat, at this place, without letting it be known that we must be
"That don't follow at all, maty," answered Jack. "Suppose I go
alongside the brig and own to the captain that I took the boat last
night, with the hope of findin' you, and that failin' to succeed, I
bore up for this port, to look for provisions and water. Miss Rose
he thinks on board at this moment, and in my judgment he would take
me at my word, give me a good cursing, and think no more about it."
"It would never do, Jack," interposed Rose, instantly. "It would
cause the destruction of Harry, as Spike would not believe you had
not found him, without an examination of this house."
"What are they about with the yawl, Mr. Mulford?" asked Jack, whose
eye was never off the vessel for a single moment. "It's gettin' to
be so dark that one can hardly see the boat, but it seems as if
they're about to man the yawl."
"They are, and there goes a lantern into it. And that is Spike
himself coming down the brig's side this instant."
"They can only bring a lantern to search this house," exclaimed
Rose. "Oh! Harry, you are lost!"
"I rather think the lantern is for the light-house," answered
Mulford, whose coolness, at what was certainly a most trying moment,
did not desert him. "Spike may wish to keep the light burning, for
once before, you will remember, he had it kindled after the keeper
was removed. As for his sailing, he would not be apt to sail until
the moon rises; and in beating back to the wreck the light may serve
to let him know the bearings and position of the reef."
"There they come," whispered Rose, half breathless with alarm. "The
boat has left the brig, and is coming directly hither!"
All this was true enough. The yawl had shoved off, and with two men
to row it, was pulling for the wharf in front of the house, and
among the timbers of which lay the boat, pretty well concealed
beneath a sort of bridge. Mulford would not retreat, though he
looked to the fastenings of the door as a means of increasing his
chances of defence. In the stern-sheets of the boat sat two men,
though it was not easy to ascertain who they were by the fading
light. One was known to be Spike, however, and the other, it was
conjectured, must be Don Juan Montefalderon, from the circumstance
of his being in the place of honour. Three minutes solved this
question, the boat reaching the wharf by that time. It was instantly
secured, and all four of the men left it. Spike was now plainly to
be discerned by means of the lantern which he carried in his own
hands, He gave some orders, in his customary authoritative way, and
in a high key, after which he led the way from the wharf, walking
side by side with the Señor Montefalderon. These two last came up
within a yard of the door of the house, where they paused, enabling
those within not only to see their persons and the working of their
countenances, but to hear all that was said; this last the more
especially, since Spike never thought it necessary to keep his
powerful voice within moderate limits.
"It's hardly worth while, Don Wan, for you to go into the
light-house," said Spike. "'T is but a greasy, dirty place at the
best, and one's clothes are never the better for dealin' with ile.
Here, Bill, take the lantern, and get a filled can, that we may go
up and trim and fill the lamp, and make a blaze. Bear a hand, lads,
and I'll be a'ter ye afore you reach the lantern. Be careful with
the flame about the ile, for seamen ought never to wish to see a
"What do you expect to gain by lighting the lamps above, Don
Esteban?" demanded the Mexican, when the sailors had disappeared in
the light-house, taking their own lantern with them.
"It's wisest to keep things reg'lar about this spot, Don Wan, which
will prevent unnecessary suspicions. But, as the brig stretches in
toward the reef to-night, on our way back, the light will be a great
assistance. I am short of officers, you know, and want all the help
of this sort I can get."
"To be sincere with you, Don Esteban, I greatly regret you _are_ so
short of officers, and do not yet despair of inducing you to go and
take off the mate, whom I hear you have left on a barren rock. He
was a fine young fellow, Señor Spike, and the deed was not one that
you will wish to remember a few years hence."
"The fellow run, and I took him at his word, Don Wan. I'm not
obliged to receive back a deserter unless it suits me."
"We are all obliged to see we do not cause a fellow creature the
loss of life. This will prove the death of the charming young woman
who is so much attached to him, unless you relent and are merciful!"
"Women have tender looks but tough hearts," answered Spike,
carelessly, though Mulford felt certain, by the tone of his voice,
that great bitterness of feeling lay smothered beneath the affected
indifference of his manner; "few die of love."
"The young lady has not been on deck all day; and the Irish woman
tells me that she does nothing but drink water--the certain proof of
a high fever."
"Ay, ay, she keeps her room if you will, Don Wan, but she is not
about to make a dupe of me by any such tricks. I must go and look to
the lamps, however, and you will find the graves you seek in the
rear of this house, about thirty yards behind it, you'll remember.
That's a very pretty cross you've made, señor, and the skipper of
the schooner's soul will be all the better for settin' it up at the
head of his grave."
"It will serve to let those who come after us know that a Christian
sleeps beneath the sand, Don Esteban," answered the Mexican, mildly.
"I have no other expectation from this sacred symbol."
The two now separated, Spike going into the light-house, little in a
hurry, while Don Juan Montefalderon walked round the building to its
rear in quest of the grave. Mulford waited a moment for Spike to get
a short distance up the stairs of the high tower he had to ascend,
when placing the arm of Rose within his own, he opened the door in
the rear of the house, and walked boldly toward the Mexican. Don
Juan was actually forcing the pointed end of his little cross into
the sand, at the head of his countryman's grave, when Mulford and
his trembling companion reached the spot. Although night had shut
in, it was not so dark that persons could not be recognised at small
distances. The Señor Montefalderon was startled at an apparition so
sudden and unexpected, when Mulford saluted him by name; but
recognising first the voice of Harry, and then the persons of
himself and his companion, surprise, rather than alarm, became the
emotion that was uppermost. Notwithstanding the strength of the
first of these feelings, he instantly saluted the young couple with
the polished ease that marked his manner, which had much of the
courtesy of a Castilian in it, tempered a little, perhaps, by the
greater flexibility of a Southern American.
"I _see_ you," exclaimed Don Juan, "and must believe my eyes.
Without their evidence, however, I could scarce believe it can be
you two, one of whom I thought on board the brig, and the other
suffering a most miserable death on a naked rock."
"I am aware of your kind feelings in our behalf, Don Juan," said
Mulford, "and it is the reason I now confide in you. I was taken off
that rock by means of the boat, which you doubtless have missed; and
this is the gentle being who has been the means of saving my life.
To her and Jack Tier, who is yonder, under the shadows of the house,
I owe my not being the victim of Spike's cruelty."
"I now comprehend the whole matter, Don Henriquez. Jack Tier has
managed the boat for the señorita; and those whom we were told were
too ill to be seen on deck, have been really out of the brig!"
"Such are the facts, señor, and from _you_ there is no wish to
conceal them. We are then to understand that the absence of Rose and
Jack from the brig is not known to Spike."
"I believe not, señor. He has alluded to both, once or twice to-day,
as being ill below; but would you not do well to retire within the
shade of the dwelling, lest a glance from the lantern might let
those in it know that I am not alone."
"There is little danger, Don Juan, as they who stand near a light
cannot well see those who are in the darkness. Beside, they are high
in the air, while we are on the ground, which will greatly add to
the obscurity down here. We can retire, nevertheless, as I have a
few questions to ask, which may as well be put in perfect security,
as put where there is any risk."
The three now drew near the house, Rose actually stepping within its
door, though Harry remained on its exterior, in order to watch the
proceedings of those in the light-house. Here the Señor
Montefalderon entered into a more detailed explanation of what had
occurred on board the brig, since the appearance of day, that very
morning. According to his account of the matter, Spike had
immediately called upon the people to explain the loss of the boat.
Tier was not interrogated on this occasion, it being understood he
had gone below and turned in, after having the look-out for fully
half the night. As no one could, or would, give an account of the
manner in which the boat was missing, Josh was ordered to go below
and question Jack on the subject. Whether it was from consciousness
of his connection with the escape of Jack, and apprehensions of the
consequences, or from innate good-nature, and a desire to befriend
the lovers, this black now admitted that Jack confessed to him that
the boat had got away from him while endeavouring to shift the turns
of its painter from a cleet where they ought not to be, to their
proper place. This occurred early in Jack's watch, according to
Josh's story, and had not been reported, as the boat did not
properly belong to the brig, and was an incumbrance rather than an
advantage. The mate admired the negro's cunning, as Don Juan related
this part of his story, which put him in a situation to throw all
the blame on Jack's mendacity in the event of a discovery, while it
had the effect to allow the fugitives more time for their escape.
The result was, that Spike bestowed a few hearty curses, as usual,
on the clumsiness of Jack Tier, and seemed to forget all about the
matter. It is probable he connected Jack's abstaining from showing
himself on deck, and his alleged indisposition, with his supposed
delinquency in this matter of the boat. From that moment the captain
appeared to give himself no further concern on the subject, the boat
having been, in truth, an incumbrance rather than a benefit, as
As for Rose, her keeping her room, under the circumstances, was so
very natural, that the Señor Montefalderon had been completely
deceived, as, from his tranquillity on this point, there was no
question was the case with Spike also. Biddy appeared on deck,
though the widow did not, and the Irish woman shook her head
anxiously when questioned about her young mistress, giving the
spectators reason to suppose that the latter was in a very bad way.
As respects the brig and her movements, Spike had got under way as
soon as there was light enough to find his course, and had run
through the passage. It is probable that the boat was seen; for
something that was taken for a small sail had just been made out for
a single instant, and then became lost again. This little sail was
made, if made at all, in the direction of the Dry Tortugas, but so
completely was all suspicion at rest in the minds of those on the
quarter-deck of the Swash, that neither Spike nor the Mexican had
the least idea what it was. When the circumstance was reported to
the former, he answered that it was probably some small wrecker, of
which many were hovering about the reef, and added, laughingly,
though in a way to prove how little he thought seriously on the
subject at all, "who knows but the light-house boat has fallen into
their hands, and that they've made sail on _her;_ if they have, my
word for it, that she goes, hull, spars, rigging, canvas, and cargo,
all in a lump, for salvage."
As the brig came out of the passage, in broad day, the heads of the
schooner's masts were seen, as a matter of course. This induced
Spike to heave-to, lower a boat, and to go in person to examine the
condition of the wreck. It will be seen that Jack's presence could
now be all the better dispensed with. The examination, with the
soundings, and other calculations connected with raising the vessel,
occupied hours. When they were completed, Spike returned on board,
run up his boat, and squared away for the Dry Tortugas. Señor
Montefalderon confirmed the justice of Jack Tier's surmises, as to
the object of this unexpected visit. The brig had come solely for
the chain and anchor mentioned, and having secured them, it was
Spike's intention to get under way and beat up to the wreck again as
soon as the moon rose. As for the sloop-of-war, he believed she had
given him up; for by this time she must know that she had no chance
with the brig, so long as the latter kept near the reef, and that
she ran the constant hazard of shipwreck, while playing so near the
Before the Señor Montefalderon exhausted all he had to communicate,
he was interrupted by Jack Tier with a singular proposition. Jack's
great desire was to get on board the Swash; and he now begged the
Mexican to let Mulford take the yawl and scull him off to the brig,
and return to the islet before Spike and his companions should
descend from the lantern of the light-house. The little fellow
insisted there was sufficient time for such a purpose, as the three
in the lantern had not yet succeeded in filling the lamps with the
oil necessary to their burning for a night--a duty that usually
occupied the regular keeper for an hour. Five or six minutes would
suffice for him; and if he were seen going up the brig's side, it
would be easy for him to maintain that he had come ashore in the
boat. No one took such precise note of what was going on; as to be