Welcome to PhiloLogic  
   home |  the ARTFL project |  download |  documentation |  sample databases |   
Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1848], Jack Tier, volume 1 (Burgess, Stringer & Co., New York) [word count] [eaf079v1].
To look up a word in a dictionary, select the word with your mouse and press 'd' on your keyboard.

Previous section

Next section


If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on


Truly, by your office, you may; but I think they that touch
pitch will be defiled; the most peaceable way for you, if you do take
a thief, is, to let him show himself what he is, and steal out of your

Much Ado About Nothing.

[figure description] Page 035.[end figure description]

We left the brigantine of Capt. Spike in a very critical
situation, and the master himself in great confusion of mind.

A thorough seaman, this accident would never have happened,
but for the sudden appearance of the boat and its passengers;
one of whom appeared to be a source of great
uneasiness to him. As might be expected, the circumstance
of striking a place as dangerous as the Pot Rock in Hell-Gate,
produced a great sensation on board the vessel. This
sensation betrayed itself in various ways, and according to
the characters, habits, and native firmness of the parties. As
for the ship-master's relict, she seized hold of the main-mast,
and screamed so loud and perseveringly, as to cause the
sensation to extend itself into the adjacent and thriving village
of Astoria, where it was distinctly heard by divers of
those who dwelt near the water. Biddy Noon had her share
in this clamour, lying down on the deck in order to prevent
rolling over, and possibly to scream more at her leisure, while
Rose had sufficient self-command to be silent, though her
cheeks lost their colour.

Nor was there anything extraordinary in females betraying
this alarm, when one remembers the somewhat astounding
signs of danger by which these persons were surrounded.
There is always something imposing in the swift movement
of a considerable body of water. When this movement is
aided by whirlpools and the other similar accessories of an
interrupted current, it frequently becomes startling, more
especially to those who happen to be on the element itself.
This is peculiarly the case with the Pot Rock, where, not
only does the water roll and roar as if agitated by a mighty

-- 036 --

[figure description] Page 036.[end figure description]

wind, but where it even breaks, the foam seeming to glance
up stream, in the rapid succession of wave to wave. Had
the Swash remained in her terrific berth more than a second
or two, she would have proved what is termed a “total
loss;” but she did not. Happily, the Pot Rock lies so low
that it is not apt to fetch up anything of a light draught of
water, and the brigantine's fore-foot had just settled on its
summit, long enough to cause the vessel to whirl round and
make her obeisance to the place, when a succeeding swell
lifted her clear, and away she went down stream, rolling as
if scudding in a gale, and, for a moment, under no command
whatever. There lay another danger ahead, or it would be
better to say astern, for the brig was drifting stern foremost;
and that was in an eddy under a bluff, which bluff lies at an
angle in the reach, where it is no uncommon thing for craft
to be cast ashore, after they have passed all the more imposing
and more visible dangers above. It was in escaping
this danger, and in recovering the command of his vessel,
that Spike now manifested the sort of stuff of which he was
really made, in emergencies of this sort. The yards were
all sharp up when the accident occurred, and springing to
the lee braces, just as a man winks when his eye is menaced,
he seized the weather fore-brace with his own hands, and
began to round in the yard, shouting out to the man at the
wheel to “port his helm” at the same time. Some of the
people flew to his assistance, and the yards were not only
squared, but braced a little up on the other tack, in much
less time than we have taken to relate the evolution. Mulford
attended to the main-sheet, and succeeded in getting
the boom out in the right direction. Although the wind was
in truth very light, the velocity of the drift filled the canvas,
and taking the arrow-like current on her lee bow, the Swash,
like a frantic steed that is alarmed with the wreck made by
his own madness, came under command, and sheered out
into the stream again, where she could drift clear of the
apprehended danger astern.

“Sound the pumps!” called out Spike to Mulford, the
instant he saw he had regained his seat in the saddle. Harry
sprang amidships to obey, and the eye of every mariner in
that vessel was on the young man, as, in the midst of a
death-like silence, he performed this all-important duty. It

-- 037 --

[figure description] Page 037.[end figure description]

was like the physician's feeling the pulse of his patient before
he pronounces on the degree of his danger.

“Well, sir?” cried out Spike, impatiently, as the rod reappeared.

“All right, sir,” answered Harry, cheerfully—“the well
is nearly empty.”

“Hold on a moment longer, and give the water time to
find its way amidships, if there be any.”

The mate remained perched up on the pump, in order to
comply, while Spike and his people, who now breathed more
freely again, improved the leisure to brace up and haul aft,
to the new course.

“Biddy,” said Mrs. Budd considerately, during this pause
in the incidents, “you need n't scream any longer. The
danger seems to be past, and you may get up off the deck
now. See, I have let go of the mast. The pumps have
been sounded, and are found tight.”

Biddy, like an obedient and respectful servant, did as directed,
quite satisfied if the pumps were tight. It was some
little time, to be sure, before she was perfectly certain whether
she were alive or not—but, once certain of this circumstance,
her alarm very sensibly abated, and she became
reasonable. As for Mulford, he dropped the sounding
rod again, and had the same cheering report to make.

“The brig is as tight as a bottle, sir.”

“So much the better,” answered Spike. “I never had
such a whirl in her before in my life, and I thought she was
going to stop and pass the night there. That's the very
spot on which `The Hussar' frigate was wrecked.”

“So I have heard, sir. But she drew so much water that
she hit slap against the rock, and started a butt. We
merely touched on its top with our fore-foot, and slid off.”

This was the simple explanation of the Swash's escape,
and, everybody being now well assured that no harm had
been done, things fell into their old and regular train again.
As for Spike, his gallantry, notwithstanding, was upset for
some hours, and glad enough was he when he saw all three
of his passengers quit the deck to go below. Mrs. Budd's
spirits had been so much agitated that she told Rose she
would go down into the cabin and rest a few minutes on its
sofa. We say sofa, for that article of furniture, now-a-days,

-- 038 --

[figure description] Page 038.[end figure description]

is far more common in vessels than it was thirty years ago
in the dwellings of the country.

“There, Mulford,” growled Spike, pointing ahead of the
brig, to an object on the water that was about half a mile
ahead of them, “there's that bloody boat—d'ye see? I
should like of all things to give it the slip. There's a chap
in that boat I do n't like.”

“I do n't see how that can be very well done, sir, unless
we anchor, repass the Gate at the turn of the tide, and go to
sea by the way of Sandy Hook.”

“That will never do. I've no wish to be parading the
brig before the town. You see, Mulford, nothing can be
more innocent and proper than the Molly Swash, as you
know from having sailed in her these twelve months. You'll
give her that character, I'll be sworn?”

“I know no harm of her, Capt. Spike, and hope I never

“No, sir—you know no harm of her, nor does any one
else. A nursing infant is not more innocent than the Molly
Swash, or could have a clearer character if nothing but
truth was said of her. But the world is so much given to
lying, that one of the old saints, of whom we read in the
good book, such as Calvin and John Rogers, would be vilified
if he lived in these times. Then, it must be owned,
Mr. Mulford, whatever may be the raal innocence of the brig,
she has a most desperate wicked look.”

“Why, yes, sir—it must be owned she is what we sailors
call a wicked-looking craft. But some of Uncle Sam's cruisers
have that appearance, also.”

“I know it—I know it, sir, and think nothing of looks
myself. Men are often deceived in me, by my looks, which
have none of your long-shore softness about 'em, perhaps;
but my mother used to say I was one of the most tender-hearted
boys she had ever heard spoken of—like one of
the babes in the woods, as it might be. But mankind go so
much by appearances that I do n't like to trust the brig too
much afore their eyes. Now, should we be seen in the lower
bay, waiting for a wind, or for the ebb tide to make, to
carry us over the bar, ten to one but some philotropic or
other would be off with a complaint to the District Attorney
that we looked like a slaver, and have us all fetched up to be

-- 039 --

[figure description] Page 039.[end figure description]

tried for our lives as pirates. No, no—I like to keep the
brig in out-of-the-way places, where she can give no offence
to your 'tropics, whether they be philos, or of any other

“Well, sir, we are to the eastward of the Gate, and all's
safe. That boat cannot bring us up.”

“You forget, Mr. Mulford, the revenue-craft that steamed
up, on the ebb. That vessel must be off Sands' Point by
this time, and she may hear something to our disparagement
from the feller in the boat, and take it into her smoky head
to walk us back to town. I wish we were well to the eastward
of that steamer! But there's no use in lamentations.
If there is really any danger, it's some distance ahead yet,
thank Heaven!”

“You have no fears of the man who calls himself Jack
Tier, Capt. Spike?”

“None in the world. That feller, as I remember him,
was a little bustlin' chap that I kept in the cabin, as a sort
of steward's mate. There was neither good nor harm in
him, to the best of my recollection. But Josh can tell us
all about him—just give Josh a call.”

The best thing in the known history of Spike was the fact
that his steward had sailed with him for more than twenty
years. Where he had picked up Josh no one could say,
but Josh and himself, and neither chose to be very communicative
on the subject. But Josh had certainly been with
him as long as he had sailed the Swash, and that was from
a time actually anterior to the birth of Mulford. The mate
soon had the negro in the council.

“I say, Josh,” asked Spike, “do you happen to remember
such a hand aboard here as one Jack Tier?”

“Lor' bless you, yes sir—'members he as well as I do
the pea soup that was burnt, and which you t'rowed all over
him, to scald him for punishment.”

“I've had to do that so often, to one careless fellow or
other, that the circumstance does n't recall the man. I
remember him—but not as clear as I could wish. How
long did he sail with us?”

“Sebberal v'y'ge, sir, and got left ashore down on the
main, one night, when'e boat were obliged to shove off in
a hurry. Yes, 'members little Jack, right well I does.”

-- 040 --

[figure description] Page 040.[end figure description]

“Did you see the man that spoke us from the wharf, and
hailed for this very Jack Tier?”

“I see'd a man, sir, dat was won'erful Jack Tier built
like, sir, but I did n't hear the conwersation, habbin' the
ladies to 'tend to. But Jack was oncommon short in his
floor timbers, sir, and had no length of keel at all. His beam
was won'erful for his length, altogedder—what you call
jolly-boat, or bum-boat build, and was only good afore'e
wind, Cap'n Spike.”

“Was he good for anything aboard ship, Josh? Worth
heaving-to for, should he try to get aboard of us again?”

“Why, sir, can't say much for him in dat fashion. Jack
was handy in the cabin, and capital feller to carry soup from
the gally, aft. You see, sir, he was so low-rigged that the
brig's lurchin' and pitchin' could n't get him off his pins,
and he stood up like a church in the heaviest wea'der. Yes,
sir, Jack was right good for dat.”

Spike mused a moment—then he rolled the tobacco over
in his mouth, and added, in the way a man speaks when his
mind is made up—

“Ay ay! I see into the fellow. He'll make a handy
lady's maid, and we want such a chap just now. It's better
to have an old friend aboard, than to be pickin' up strangers,
'long shore. So, should this Jack Tier come off to us, from
any of the islands or points ahead, Mr. Mulford, you'll
round to and take him aboard. As for the steamer, if she
will only pass out into the Sound where there's room, it
shall go hard with us but I get to the eastward of her, without
speaking. On the other hand, should she anchor this
side of the fort, I'll not attempt to pass her. There is deep
water inside of most of the islands, I know, and we'll try
and dodge her in that way, if no better offer. I've no more
reason than another craft to fear a government vessel, but
the sight of one of them makes me oncomfortable; that's

Mulford shrugged his shoulders and remained silent, perceiving
that his commander was not disposed to pursue the
subject any further. In the mean time, the brig had passed
beyond the influence of the bluff, and was beginning to feel
a stronger breeze, that was coming down the wide opening
of Flushing Bay. As the tide still continued strong in her

-- 041 --

[figure description] Page 041.[end figure description]

favour, and her motion through the water was getting to be
four or five knots, there was every prospect of her soon
reaching Whitestone, the point where the tides meet, and
where it would become necessary to anchor; unless, indeed,
the wind, which was now getting to the southward and eastward,
should come round more to the south. All this Spike
and his mate discussed together, while the people were clearing
the decks, and making the preparations that are customary
on board a vessel before she gets into rough water.

By this time it was ascertained that the brig had received
no damage by her salute of the Pot Rock, and every trace
of uneasiness on that account was removed. But Spike kept
harping on the boat, and “the pilot-looking chap who was
in her.” As they passed Riker's Island, all hands expected
a boat would put off with a pilot, or to demand pilotage; but
none came, and the Swash now seemed released from all
her present dangers, unless some might still be connected
with the revenue steamer. To retard her advance, however,
the wind came out a smart working breeze from the southward
and eastward, compelling her to make “long legs and
short ones” on her way towards Whitestone.

“This is beating the wind, Rosy dear,” said Mrs. Budd,
complacently, she and her niece having returned to the deck
a few minutes after this change had taken place. “Your
respected uncle did a great deal of this in his time, and was
very successful in it. I have heard him say, that in one of
his voyages between Liverpool and New York, he beat the
wind by a whole fortnight, everybody talking of it in the
insurance offices, as if it was a miracle.”

“Ay, ay, Madam Budd,” put in Spike, “I'll answer for
that. They're desperate talkers in and about them there
insurance offices in Wall street. Great gossips be they,
and they think they know everything. Now just because
this brig is a little old or so, and was built for a privateer in
the last war, they'd refuse to rate her as even B, No. 2,
and my blessing on 'em.”

“Yes, B, No. 2, that's just what your dear uncle used
to call me, Rosy—his charming B, No. 2, or Betsy, No. 2;
particularly when he was in a loving mood. Captain Spike,
did you ever beat the wind in a long voyage?”

“I can't say I ever did, Mrs. Budd,” answered Spike,

-- 042 --

[figure description] Page 042.[end figure description]

looking grimly around, to ascertain if any one dared to smile
at his passenger's mistake; “especially for so long a pull
as from New York to Liverpool.”

“Then your uncle used to boast of the Rose In Bloom's
wearing and attacking. She would attack anything that
came in her way, no matter who, and as for wearing, I
think he once told me she would wear just what she had a
mind to, like any human being.”

Rose was a little mystified, but she looked vexed at the
same time, as if she distrusted all was not right.

“I remember all my sea education,” continued the unsuspecting
widow, “as if it had been learnt yesterday. Beating
the wind and attacking ship, my poor Mr. Budd used
to say, were nice manœuvres, and required most of his tactics,
especially in heavy weather. Did you know, Rosy
dear, that sailors weigh the weather, and know when it is
heavy and when it is light?”

“I did not, aunt; nor do I understand now how it can
very well be done.”

“Oh! child, before you have been at sea a week, you will
learn so many things that are new, and get so many ideas
of which you never had any notion before, that you'll not
be the same person. My captain had an instrument he
called a thermometer, and with that he used to weigh the
weather, and then he would write down in the log-book `today,
heavy weather, or to-morrow, light weather,' just as it
happened, and that helped him mightily along in his voyages.”

“Mrs. Budd has merely mistaken the name of the instrument—
the `barometer' is what she wished to say,” put in
Mulford, opportunely.

Rose looked grateful, as well as relieved. Though profoundly
ignorant on these subjects herself, she had always
suspected her aunt's knowledge. It was, consequently,
grateful to her to ascertain that, in this instance, the old
lady's mistake had been so trifling.

“Well, it may have been the barometer, for I know he
had them both,” resumed the aunt. “Barometer, or thermometer,
it do n't make any great difference; or quadrant,
or sextant. They are all instruments, and sometimes he
used one, and sometimes another. Sailors take on board

-- 043 --

[figure description] Page 043.[end figure description]

the sun, too, and have an instrument for that, as well as
one to weigh the weather with. Sometimes they take on
board the stars, and the moon, and `fill their ships with the
heavenly bodies,' as I've heard my dear husband say, again
and again! But the most curious thing at sea, as all sailors
tell me, is crossing the line, and I do hope we shall cross
the line, Rosy, that you and I may see it.”

“What is the line, aunty, and how do vessels cross it.”

“The line, my dear, is a place in the ocean where the
earth is divided into two parts, one part being called the
North Pole, and the other part the South Pole. Neptune
lives near this line, and he allows no vessel to go out of one
pole into the other, without paying it a visit. Never! never!—
he would as soon think of living on dry land as think of
letting even a canoe pass, without visiting it.”

“Do you suppose there is such a being, really, as Neptune,

“To be sure I do; he is king of the sea. Why should n't
there be? The sea must have a king, as well as the land.”

“The sea may be a republic, aunty, like this country;
then, no king is necessary. I have always supposed Neptune
to be an imaginary being.”

“Oh that's impossible—the sea is no republic; there are
but two republics, America and Texas. I've heard that the
sea is a highway, it is true—the `highway of nations,' I
believe it is called, and that must mean something particular.
But my poor Mr. Budd always told me that Neptune was
king of the seas, and he was always so accurate, you might
depend on everything he said. Why, he called his last Newfoundland
dog Neptune; and do you think, Rosy, that your
dear uncle would call his dog after an imaginary being?—
and he a man to beat the wind, and attack ship, and take
the sun, moon and stars aboard! No, no, child; fanciful
folk may see imaginary beings, but solid folk see solid beings.”

Even Spike was dumfounded at this, and there is no
knowing what he might have said, had not an old sea-dog,
who had just come out of the fore-topmast cross-trees, come
aft, and, hitching up his trowsers with one hand while he
touched his hat with the other, said with immoveable gravity,

-- 044 --

[figure description] Page 044.[end figure description]

“The revenue-steamer has brought up just under the fort,
Capt. Spike.”

“How do you know that, Bill?” demanded the captain,
with a rapidity that showed how completely Mrs. Budd and
all her absurdities were momentarily forgotten.

“I was up on the fore-topgallant yard, sir, a bit ago, just
to look to the strap of the jewel-block, which wants some
sarvice on it, and I see'd her over the land, blowin' off steam
and takin' in her kites. Afore I got out of the cross-trees,
she was head to wind under bare-poles, and if she had n't
anchored, she was about to do so. I'm sartin 't was she,
sir, and that she was about to bring up.”

Spike gave a long, low whistle, after his fashion, and he
walked away from the females, with the air of a man who
wanted room to think in. Half a minute later, he called

“Stand by to shorten sail, boys. Man fore-clew-garnets,
flying jib down haul, topgallant sheets, and gaff-topsail
gear. In with 'em all, my lads—in with everything, with a

An order to deal with the canvas in any way, on board
ship, immediately commands the whole attention of all whose
duty it is to attend to such matters, and there was an end
of all discourse while the Swash was shortening sail. Everybody
understood, too, that it was to gain time, and prevent
the brig from reaching Throg's Neck sooner than was desirable.

“Keep the brig off,” called out Spike, “and let her ware—
we're too busy to tack just now.”

The man at the wheel knew very well what was wanted,
and he put his helm up, instead of putting it down, as he
might have done without this injunction. As this change
brought the brig before the wind, and Spike was in no hurry
to luff up on the other tack, the Swash soon ran over a mile
of the distance she had already made, putting her back that
much on her way to the Neck. It is out of our power to
say what the people of the different craft in sight thought of
all this, but an opportunity soon offered of putting them on
a wrong scent. A large coasting schooner, carrying everything
that would draw on a wind, came sweeping under the
stern of the Swash, and hailed.

-- 045 --

[figure description] Page 045.[end figure description]

“Has anything happened, on board that brig?” demanded
her master.

“Man overboard,” answered Spike—“you hav'nt seen
his hat, have you?”

“No—no,” came back, just as the schooner, in her onward
course, swept beyond the reach of the voice. Her
people collected together, and one or two ran up the rigging
a short distance, stretching their necks, on the look-out for
the “poor fellow,” but they were soon called down to “'bout
ship.” In less than five minutes, another vessel, a rakish
coasting sloop, came within hail.

“Did n't that brig strike the Pot Rock, in passing the
Gate?” demanded her captain.

“Ay, ay!—and a devil of a rap she got, too.”

This satisfied him; there being nothing remarkable in a
vessel's acting strangely that had hit the Pot Rock in passing
Hell Gate.

“I think we may get in our mainsail on the strength of
this, Mr. Mulford,” said Spike. “There can be nothing oncommon
in a craft's shortening sail, that has a man overboard,
and which has hit the Pot Rock. I wonder I never
thought of all this before.”

`Here is a skiff trying to get alongside of us, Capt. Spike,”
called out the boatswain.

“Skiff be d—d! I want no skiff here.”

“The man that called himself Jack Tier is in her, sir.”

“The d—l he is!” cried Spike, springing over to the opposite
side of the deck to take a look for himself. To his
infinite satisfaction he perceived that Tier was alone in the
skiff, with the exception of a negro, who pulled its sculls,
and that this was a very different boat from that which had
glanced through Hell Gate, like an arrow darting from its

“Luff, and shake your topsail,” called out Spike. “Get
a rope there to throw to this skiff.”

The orders were obeyed, and Jack Tier, with his clothes-bag,
was soon on the deck of the Swash. As for the skiff
and the negro, they were cast adrift the instant the latter
had received his quarter. The meeting between Spike and
his quondam steward's mate was a little remarkable. Each
stood looking intently at the other, as if to note the changes

-- 046 --

[figure description] Page 046.[end figure description]

which time had made. We cannot say that Spike's hard,
red, selfish countenance betrayed any great feeling, though
such was not the case with Jack Tier's. The last, a lymphatic,
puffy sort of a person at the best, seemed really a
little touched, and he either actually brushed a tear from his
eye, or he affected so to do.

“So, you are my old shipmate, Jack Tier, are ye?”
exclaimed Spike, in a half-patronizing, half-hesitating way—
and you want to try the old craft ag'in. Give us a leaf
of your log, and let me know where you have been this
many a day, and what you have been about? Keep the
brig off, Mr. Mulford. We are in no particular hurry to
reach Throg's, you'll remember, sir.”

Tier gave an account of his proceedings, which could
have no interest with the reader. His narrative was anything
but very clear, and it was delivered in a cracked,
octave sort of a voice, such as little dapper people not
unfrequently enjoy—tones between those of a man and a
boy. The substance of the whole story was this. Tier
had been left ashore, as sometimes happens to sailors, and,
by necessary connection, was left to shift for himself. After
making some vain endeavours to rejoin his brig, he had
shipped in one vessel after another, until he accidentally
found himself in the port of New York, at the same time as
the Swash. He know'd he never should be truly happy
ag'in until he could once more get aboard the old hussy, and
had hurried up to the wharf, where he understood the brig
was lying. As he came in sight, he saw she was about to
cast off, and, dropping his clothes-bag, he had made the best
of his way to the wharf, where the conversation passed that
has been related.

“The gentleman on the wharf was about to take boat,
to go through the Gate,” concluded Tier, “and so I begs a
passage of him. He was good-natured enough to wait until
I could find my bag, and as soon a'terwards as the men
could get their grog we shoved off. The Molly was just
getting in behind Blackwell's as we left the wharf, and,
having four good oars, and the shortest road, we come out
into the Gate just ahead on you. My eye! what a place
that is to go through in a boat, and on a strong flood! The
gentleman, who watched the brig as a cat watches a mouse,

-- 047 --

[figure description] Page 047.[end figure description]

says you struck on the Pot, as he called it, but I says `no,'
for the Molly Swash was never know'd to hit rock or shoal
in my time aboard her.”

“And where did you quit that gentleman, and what has
become of him?” asked Spike.

“He put me ashore on that point above us, where I see'd
a nigger with his skiff, who I thought would be willin' to 'arn
his quarter by giving me a cast alongside. So here I am,
and a long pull I've had to get here.”

As this was said, Jack removed his hat and wiped his
brow with a handkerchief, which, if it had never seen better
days, had doubtless been cleaner. After this, he looked
about him, with an air not entirely free from exultation.

This conversation had taken place in the gangway, a
somewhat public place, and Spike beckoned to his recruit
to walk aft, where he might be questioned without being

“What became of the gentleman in the boat, as you call
him?” demanded Spike.

“He pulled ahead, seeming to be in a hurry.”

“Do you know who he was?”

“Not a bit of it. I never saw the man before, and he
did n't tell me his business, sir.”

“Had he anything like a silver oar about him.”

“I saw nothing of the sort, Capt. Spike, and knows nothing
consarning him.”

“What sort of a boat was he in, and where did he get it?”

“Well, as to the boat, sir, I can say a word, seein' it was
so much to my mind, and pulled so wonderful smart. It
was a light ship's yawl, with four oars, and came round the
Hook just a'ter you had got the brig's head round to the
eastward. You must have seen it, I should think, though
it kept close in with the wharves, as if it wished to be snug.”

“Then the gentleman, as you call him, expected that
very boat to come and take him off?”

“I suppose so, sir, because it did come and take him off.
That's all I knows about it.”

“Had you no jaw with the gentleman? You was n't
mnm the whole time you was in the boat with him?”

“Not a bit of it, sir. Silence and I does n't agree together
long, and so we talked most of the time.”

-- 048 --

[figure description] Page 048.[end figure description]

“And what did the stranger say of the brig?”

“Lord, sir, he catechised me like as if I had been a child
at Sunday-school. He asked me how long I had sailed in
her; what ports we'd visited, and what trade we'd been in.
You can't think the sight of questions he put, and how
cur'ous he was for the answers.”

“And what did you tell him in your answers? You said
nothin' about our call down on the Spanish Main, the time
you were left ashore, I hope, Jack?”

“Not I, sir. I played him off surprisin'ly. He got nothin'
to count upon out of me. Though I do owe the Molly Swash
a grudge, I'm not goin' to betray her.”

“You owe the Molly Swash a grudge! Have I taken an
enemy on board her, then?”

Jack started, and seemed sorry he had said so much;
while Spike eyed him keenly. But the answer set all right.
It was not given, however, without a moment for recollection.

“Oh, you knows what I mean, sir. I owe the old hussy
a grudge for having desarted me like; but it's only a love
quarrel atween us. The old Molly will never come to harm
by my means.”

“I hope not, Jack. The man that wrongs the craft he
sails in can never be a true-hearted sailor. Stick by your
ship in all weathers is my rule, and a good rule it is to go
by. But what did you tell the stranger?”

“Oh! I told him I'd been six v'y'ges in the brig. The
first was to Madagascar—”

“The d—l you did? Was he soft enough to believe

“That's more than I knows, sir. I can only tell you
what I said; I do n't pretend to know how much he believed.”

“Heave ahead—what next?”

“Then I told him we went to Kamschatka for gold dust
and ivory.”

“Whe-e-ew! What did the man say to that?”

“Why, he smiled a bit, and a'ter that he seemed more
cur'ous than ever to hear all about it. I told him my third
v'y'ge was to Canton, with a cargo of broom-corn, where
we took in salmon and dun-fish for home. A'ter that we

-- 049 --

[figure description] Page 049.[end figure description]

went to Norway with ice, and brought back silks and money.
Our next run was to the Havana, with salt and 'nips—”

“'Nips! what the devil be they?”

“Turnips, you knows, sir. We always calls 'em 'nips
in cargo. At the Havana I told him we took in leather and
jerked beef, and came home. Oh! he got nothin' from me,
Capt. Spike, that'll ever do the brig a morsel of harm!”

“I am glad of that, Jack. You must know enough of
the seas to understand that a close mouth is sometimes better
for a vessel than a clean bill of health. Was there nothing
said about the revenue-steamer?”

“Now you name her, sir, I believe there was—ay, ay,
sir, the gentleman did say, if the steamer fetched up to the
westward of the fort, that he should overhaul her without
difficulty, on this flood.

“That'll do, Jack; that'll do, my honest fellow. Go
below, and tell Josh to take you into the cabin again, as
steward's mate. You're rather too Dutch built, in your old
age, to do much aloft.”

One can hardly say whether Jack received this remark
as complimentary, or not. He looked a little glum, for a
man may be as round as a barrel, and wish to be thought
genteel and slender; but he went below, in quest of Josh,
without making any reply.

The succeeding movements of Spike appeared to be much
influenced by what he had just heard. He kept the brig under
short canvas for near two hours, sheering about in the
same place, taking care to tell everything which spoke him
that he had lost a man overboard. In this way, not only
the tide, but the day itself, was nearly spent. About the
time the former began to lose its strength, however, the
fore-course and the main-sail were got on the brigantine,
with the intention of working her up toward Whitestone,
where the tides meet, and near which the revenue-steamer
was known to be anchored. We say near, though it was,
in fact, a mile or two more to the eastward, and close to the
extremity of the Point.

Notwithstanding these demonstrations of a wish to work
to windward, Spike was really in no hurry. He had made
up his mind to pass the steamer in the dark, if possible, and
the night promised to favour him; but, in order to do this,

-- 050 --

[figure description] Page 050.[end figure description]

it might be necessary not to come in sight of her at all; or,
at least, not until the obscurity should in some measure
conceal his rig and character. In consequence of this plan,
the Swash made no great progress, even after she had got
sail on her, on her old course. The wind lessened, too,
after the sun went down, though it still hung to the eastward,
or nearly ahead. As the tide gradually lost its force,
moreover, the set to windward became less and less, until
it finally disappeared altogether.

There is necessarily a short reach in this passage, where
it is always slack water, so far as current is concerned.
This is precisely where the tides meet, or, as has been intimated,
at Whitestone, which is somewhat more than a mile
to the westward of Throgmorton's Neck, near the point of
which stands Fort Schuyler, one of the works recently
erected for the defence of New York. Off the pitch of the
point, nearly mid-channel, had the steamer anchored, a fact
of which Spike had made certain, by going aloft himself,
and reconnoitering her over the land, before it had got to be
too dark to do so. He entertained no manner of doubt that
this vessel was in waiting for him, and he well knew there
was good reason for it; but he would not return and attempt
the passage to sea by way of Sandy Hook. His manner of
regarding the whole matter was cool and judicious. The
distance to the Hook was too great to be made in such short
nights ere the return of day, and he had no manner of doubt
he was watched for in that direction, as well as in this.
Then he was particularly unwilling to show his craft at all
in front of the town, even in the night. Moreover, he had
ways of his own for effecting his purposes, and this was the
very spot and time to put them in execution.

While these things were floating in his mind, Mrs. Budd
and her handsome niece were making preparations for passing
the night, aided by Biddy Noon. The old lady was
factotum, or factota, as it might be most classical to call her,
though we are entirely without authorities on the subject,
and was just as self-complacent and ambitious of seawomanship
below decks, as she had been above board. The effect,
however, gave Spike great satisfaction, since it kept her out
of sight, and left him more at liberty to carry out his own
plans. About nine, however, the good woman came on

-- 051 --

[figure description] Page 051.[end figure description]

deck, intending to take a look at the weather, like a skilful
marineress as she was, before she turned in. Not a little
was she astonished at what she then and there beheld, as
she whispered to Rose and Biddy, both of whom stuck close
to her side, feeling the want of good pilotage, no doubt, in
strange waters.

The Molly Swash was still under her canvas, though very
little sufficed for her present purposes. She was directly off
Whitestone, and was making easy stretches across the passage,
or river, as it is called, having nothing set but her huge
fore-and-aft mainsail and the jib. Under this sail she
worked like a top, and Spike sometimes fancied she travelled
too fast for his purposes, the night air having thickened the
canvas as usual, until it “held the wind as a bottle holds
water.” There was nothing in this, however, to attract the
particular attention of the ship-master's widow, a sail, more
or less, being connected with observation much too critical
for her schooling, nice as the last had been. She was surprised
to find the men stripping the brig forward, and converting
her into a schooner. Nor was this done in a loose
and slovenly manner, under favour of the obscurity. On
the contrary, it was so well executed that it might have deceived
even a seaman under a noon-day sun, provided the
vessel were a mile or two distant. The manner in which
the metamorphosis was made was as follows: the studding-sail
booms had been taken off the topsail-yard, in order
to shorten it to the eye, and the yard itself was swayed up
about half-mast, to give it the appearance of a schooner's
fore-yard. The brig's real lower yard was lowered on the
bulwarks, while her royal yard was sent down altogether,
and the topgallant-mast was lowered until the heel rested on
the topsail yard, all of which, in the night, gave the gear
forward very much the appearance of that of a fore-topsail
schooner, instead of that of a half-rigged brig, as the craft
really was. As the vessel carried a try-sail on her foremast,
it answered very well, in the dark, to represent a
schooner's foresail. Several other little dispositions of this
nature were made, about which it might weary the uninitiated
to read, but which will readily suggest themselves to the
mind of a sailor.

These alterations were far advanced when the females

-- 052 --

[figure description] Page 052.[end figure description]

re-appeared on deck. They at once attracted their attention,
and the captain's widow felt the imperative necessity,
as connected with her professional character, of proving the
same. She soon found Spike, who was bustling around the
deck, now looking around to see that his brig was kept in
the channel, now and then issuing an order to complete her

“Captain Spike, what can be the meaning of all these
changes? The tamper of your vessel is so much altered
that I declare I should not have known her!”

“Is it, by George! Then she is just in the state I want
her to be in.”

“But why have you done it—and what does it all mean?”

“Oh, Molly's going to bed for the night, and she's only
undressing herself—that's all.”

“Yes, Rosy dear, Captain Spike is right. I remember
that my poor Mr. Budd used to talk about The Rose In Bloom
having her clothes on, and her clothes off, just as if she was
a born woman! But do n't you mean to navigate at all in
the night, Captain Spike? Or will the brig navigate without

“That's it—she's just as good in the dark, under one
sort of canvas, as under another. So, Mr. Mulford, we'll
take a reef in that mainsail; it will bring it nearer to the
size of our new foresail, and seem more ship-shape and
Brister fashion—then I think she'll do, as the night is getting
to be rather darkish.”

“Captain Spike,” said the boatswain, who had been set
to look-out for that particular change—“the brig begins to
feel the new tide, and sets to windward.”

“Let her go, then—now is as good a time as another.
We've got to run the gantlet, and the sooner it is done the

As the moment seemed propitious, not only Mulford, but
all the people, heard this order with satisfaction. The night
was star-light, though not very clear at that. Objects on
the water, however, were more visible than those on the land,
while those on the last could be seen well enough, even from
the brig, though in confused and somewhat shapeless piles.
When the Swash was brought close by the wind, she had
just got into the last reach of the “river,” or that which

-- 053 --

[figure description] Page 053.[end figure description]

runs parallel with the Neck for near a mile, doubling where
the Sound expands itself, gradually, to a breadth of many
leagues. Still the navigation at the entrance of this end of
the Sound was intricate and somewhat dangerous, rendering
it indispensable for a vessel of any size to make a crooked
course. The wind stood at south-east, and was very scant
to lay through the reach with, while the tide was so slack
as barely to possess a visible current at that place. The
steamer lay directly off the Point, mid-channel, as mentioned,
showing lights, to mark her position to anything which might
be passing in or out. The great thing was to get by her
without exciting her suspicion. As all on board, the females
excepted, knew what their captain was at, the attempt was
made amid an anxious and profound silence; or, if any one
spoke at all, it was only to give an order in a low tone, or
its answer in a simple monosyllable.

Although her aunt assured her that everything which had
been done already, and which was now doing, was quite in
rule, the quick-eyed and quick-witted Rose noted these unusual
proceedings, and had an opinion of her own on the
subject. Spike had gone forward, and posted himself on the
weather-side of the forecastle, where he could get the clearest
look ahead, and there he remained most of the time,
leaving Mulford on the quarter-deck, to work the vessel,
Perceiving this, she managed to get near the mate, without
attracting her aunt's attention, and at the same time out of

“Why is everybody so still and seemingly so anxious,
Harry Mulford?” she asked, speaking in a low tone herself,
as if desirous of conforming to a common necessity. “Is
there any new danger here? I thought the Gate had been
passed altogether, some hours ago?”

“So it has. D'ye see that large dark mass on the water,
off the Point, which seems almost as huge as the fort, with
lights above it? That is a revenue-steamer which came out
of York a few hours before us. We wish to get past her
without being troubled by any of her questions.”

“And what do any in this brig care about her questions?
They can be answered, surely.”

“Ay, ay, Rose—they may be answered, as you say, but
the answers sometimes are unsatisfactory. Captain Spike,

-- 054 --

[figure description] Page 054.[end figure description]

for some reason or other, is uneasy, and would rather not
have anything to say to her. He has the greatest aversion
to speaking the smallest craft when on a coast.”

“And that's the reason he has undressed his Molly, as
he calls her, that he might not be known.”

Mulford turned his head quickly toward his companion,
as if surprised by her quickness of apprehension, but he
had too just a sense of his duty to make any reply. Instead
of pursuing the discourse, he adroitly contrived to change
it, by pointing out to Rose the manner in which they were
getting on, which seemed to be very successfully.

Although the Swash was under much reduced canvas,
she glided along with great ease and with considerable rapidity
of motion. The heavy night air kept her canvas
distended, and the weatherly set of the tide, trifling as it yet
was, pressed her up against the breeze, so as to turn all to
account. It was apparent enough, by the manner in which
objects on the land were passed, that the crisis was fast approaching.
Rose rejoined her aunt, in order to await the
result, in nearly breathless expectation. At that moment,
she would have given the world to be safe on shore. This
wish was not the consequence of any constitutional timidity,
for Rose was much the reverse from timid, but it was the
fruit of a newly-awakened and painful, though still vague,
suspicion. Happy, thrice happy was it for one of her naturally
confiding and guileless nature, that distrust was thus
opportunely awakened, for she was without a guardian competent
to advise and guide her youth, as circumstances required.

The brig was not long in reaching the passage that
opened to the Sound. It is probable she did this so much
the sooner because Spike kept her a little off the wind, with
a view of not passing too near the steamer. At this point,
the direction of the passage changes at nearly a right angle,
the revenue-steamer lying on a line with the Neck, and
leaving a sort of bay, in the angle, for the Swash to enter.
The land was somewhat low in all directions but one, and
that was by drawing a straight line from the Point, through
the steamer, to the Long Island shore. On the latter, and
in that quarter, rose a bluff of considerable elevation, with
deep water quite near it; and, under the shadows of that

-- 055 --

[figure description] Page 055.[end figure description]

bluff, Spike intended to perform his nicest evolutions. He
saw that the revenue vessel had let her fires go down, and
that she was entirely without steam. Under canvas, he had
no doubt of beating her hand over hand, could he once fairly
get to windward; and then she was at anchor, and would
lose some time in getting under way, should she even commence
a pursuit. It was all important, therefore, to gain as
much to windward as possible, before the people of the
government vessel took the alarm.

There can be no doubt that the alterations made on board
the Swash served her a very good turn on this occasion.
Although the night could not be called positively dark, there
was sufficient obscurity to render her hull confused and indistinct
at any distance, and this so much the more when
seen from the steamer outside, or between her and the land.
All this Spike very well understood, and largely calculated
on. In effect he was not deceived; the look-outs on board
the revenue craft could trace little of the vessel that was
approaching beyond the spars and sails which rose above
the shores, and these seemed to be the spars and sails of a
common foretopsail schooner. As this was not the sort of
craft for which they were on the watch, no suspicion was
awakened, nor did any reports go from the quarter-deck to
the cabin. The steamer had her quarter watches, and
officers of the deck, like a vessel of war, the discipline of
which was fairly enough imitated, but even a man-of-war
may be overreached on an occasion.

Spike was only great in a crisis, and then merely as a
seaman. He understood his calling to its minutiæ, and he
understood the Molly Swash better than he understood any
other craft that floated. For more than twenty years had
he sailed her, and the careful parent does not better understand
the humours of the child, than he understood exactly
what might be expected from his brig. His satisfaction
sensibly increased, therefore, as she stole along the land,
toward the angle mentioned, without a sound audible but the
gentle gurgling of the water, stirred by the stem, and which
sounded like the ripple of the gentlest wave, as it washes
the shingle of some placid beach.

As the brig drew nearer to the bluff, the latter brought
the wind more ahead, as respected the desired course. This

-- 056 --

[figure description] Page 056.[end figure description]

was unfavourable, but it did not disconcert her watchful

“Let her come round, Mr. Mulford,” said this pilot-captain,
in a low voice—“we are as near in as we ought to

The helm was put down, the head sheets started, and
away into the wind shot the Molly Swash, fore-reaching famously
in stays, and, of course, gaining so much on her
true course. In a minute she was round, and filled on the
other tack. Spike was now so near the land, that he could
perceive the tide was beginning to aid him, and that his weatherly
set was getting to be considerable. Delighted at
this, he walked aft, and told Mulford to go about again as
soon as the vessel had sufficient way to make sure of her in
stays. The mate inquired if he did not think the revenue
people might suspect something, unless they stood further
out toward mid-channel, but Spike reminded him that they
would be apt to think the schooner was working up under
the southern shore, because the ebb first made there. This
reason satisfied Mulford, and, as soon as they were half-way
between the bluff and the steamer, the Swash was again
tacked, with her head to the former. This manœuvre was
executed when the brig was about two hundred yards from
the steamer, a distance that was sufficient to preserve, under
all the circumstances, the disguise she had assumed.

“They do not suspect us, Harry!” whispered Spike to
his mate. “We shall get to windward of 'em, as sartain
as the breeze stands. That boatin' gentleman might as well
have staid at home, as for any good his hurry done him or
his employers!”

“Whom do you suppose him to be, Captain Spike?”

“Who,—a feller that lives by his own wicked deeds.
No matter who he is. An informer, perhaps. At any rate,
he is not the man to outwit the Molly Swash, and her old,
stupid, foolish master and owner, Stephen Spike. Luff, Mr.
Mulford, luff. Now's the time to make the most of your
leg—Luff her up and shake her. She is setting to windward
fast, the ebb is sucking along that bluff like a boy at
a molasses hogshead. All she can drift on this tack is clear
gain; there is no hurry, so long as they are asleep aboard
the steamer. That's it—make a half-board at once, but

-- 057 --

[figure description] Page 057.[end figure description]

take care and not come round. As soon as we are fairly
clear of the bluff, and open the bay that makes up behind it,
we shall get the wind more to the southward, and have a
fine long leg for the next stretch.”

Of course Mulford obeyed, throwing the brig up into the
wind, and allowing her to set to windward, but filling again
on the same tack, as ordered. This, of course, delayed her
progress toward the land, and protracted the agony, but it
carried the vessel in the direction she most wished to go,
while it kept her not only end on to the steamer, but in a
line with the bluff, and consequently in the position most favourable
to conceal her true character. Presently, the bay
mentioned, which was several miles deep, opened darkly toward
the south, and the wind came directly out of it, or
more to the southward. At this moment the Swash was
near a quarter of a mile from the steamer, and all that distance
dead to windward of her, as the breeze came out of
the bay. Spike tacked his vessel himself now, and got her
head up so high that she brought the steamer on her lee
quarter, and looked away toward the island which lies northwardly
from the Point, and quite near to which all vessels
of any draught of water are compelled to pass, even with
the fairest winds.

“Shake the reef out of the mainsail, Mr. Mulford,” said
Spike, when the Swash was fairly in motion again on this
advantageous tack. “We shall pass well to windward of
the steamer, and may as well begin to open our cloth

“Is it not a little too soon, sir?” Mulford ventured to remonstrate;
“the reef is a large one, and will make a great
difference in the size of the sail.”

“They'll not see it at this distance. No, no, sir, shake
out the reef, and sway away on the topgallant-mast rope;
I'm for bringing the Molly Swash into her old shape again,
and make her look handsome once more.”

“Do you dress the brig, as well as undress her, o'mights;
Captain Spike?” inquired the ship-master's reliet, a little
puzzled with this fickleness of purpose. “I do not believe
my poor Mr. Budd ever did that.”

“Fashions change, madam, with the times—ay, ay, sir—
shake out the reef, and sway away on that mast-rope,

-- 058 --

[figure description] Page 058.[end figure description]

boys, as soon as you have manned it. We'll convart our
schooner into a brig again.”

As these orders were obeyed, of course, a general bustle
now took place. Mulford soon had the reef out, and the
sail distended to the utmost, while the topgallant-mast was
soon up and fidded. The next thing was to sway upon the
fore-yard, and get that into its place. The people were
busied at this duty, when a hoarse hail came across the
water on the heavy night air.

“Brig ahoy!” was the call.

“Sway upon that fore-yard,” said Spike, unmoved by
this summons—“start it, start it at once.”

“The steamer hails us, sir,” said the mate.

“Not she. She is hailing a brig; we are a schooner

A moment of active exertion succeeded, during which the
fore-yard went into its place. Then came a second hail.

“Schooner, ahoy!” was the summons this time.

“The steamer hails us again, Captain Spike.”

“The devil a bit. We're a brig now, and she hails a
schooner. Come boys, bestir yourselves, and get the canvas
on Molly for'ard. Loose the fore-course before you quit
the yard there, then up aloft and loosen everything you can

All was done as ordered, and done rapidly, as is ever the
case on board a well-ordered vessel when there is occasion
for exertion. That occasion now appeared to exist in earnest,
for while the men were sheeting home the topsail, a
flash of light illuminated the scene, when the roar of a gun
came booming across the water, succeeded by the very distinct
whistling of its shot. We regret that the relict of the
late Captain Budd did not behave exactly as became a ship-master's
widow, under fire. Instead of remaining silent and
passive, even while frightened, as was the case with Rose,
she screamed quite as loud as she had previously done that
very day in Hell-Gate. It appeared to Spike, indeed, that
practice was making her perfect; and, as for Biddy, the
spirit of emulation became so powerful in her bosom, that,
if anything, she actually outshrieked her mistress. Hearing
this, the widow made a second effort, and fairly recovered
the ground some might have fancied she had lost.

-- 059 --

[figure description] Page 059.[end figure description]

“Oh! Captain Spike,” exclaimed the agitated widow,
“do not—do not, if you love me, do not let them fire

“How am I to help it!” asked the captain, a good deal to
the point, though he overlooked the essential fact, that, by
heaving-to, and waiting for the steamer's boat to board him,
he might have prevented a second shot, as completely as if
he had the ordering of the whole affair. No second shot
was fired, however. As it afterward appeared, the screams
of Mrs. Budd and Biddy were heard on board the steamer,
the captain of which, naturally enough, supposing that the
slaughter must be terrible where such cries had arisen, was
satisfied with the mischief he had already done, and directed
his people to secure their gun and go to the capstan-bars, in
order to help lift the anchor. In a word, the revenue vessel
was getting under way, man-of-war fashion, which means
somewhat expeditiously.

Spike understood the sounds that reached him, among
which was the call of the boatswain, and he bestirred himself
accordingly. Experienced as he was in chases and all
sorts of nautical artifices, he very well knew that his situation
was sufficiently critical. It would have been so, with
a steamer at his heels, in the open ocean; but, situated as
he was, he was compelled to steer but one course, and to
accept the wind on that course as it might offer. If he
varied at all in his direction it was only in a trifling way,
though he did make some of these variations. Every
moment was now precious, however, and he endeavoured to
improve the time to the utmost. He knew that he could
greatly outsail the revenue vessel, under canvas, and some
time would be necessary to enable her to get up her steam;
half an hour at the very least. On that half hour, then,
depended the fate of the Molly Swash.

“Send the booms on the yards, and set stun'sails at once,
Mr. Mulford,” said Spike, the instant the more regular canvas
was spread forward. “This wind will be free enough
for all but the lower stun'sail, and we must drive the brig

“Are we not looking up too high, Captain Spike? The
Stepping-Stones are ahead of us, sir.”

“I know that very well, Mulford. But it's nearly high

-- 060 --

[figure description] Page 060.[end figure description]

water, and the brig's in light trim, and we may rub and go.
By making a short cut here, we shall gain a full mile on
the steamer; that mile may save us.”

“Do you really think it possible to get away from that
craft, which can always make a fair wind of it, in these
narrow waters, Captain Spike?”

“One don't know, sir. Nothin' is done without tryin',
and by tryin' more is often done than was hoped for. I
have a scheme in my head, and Providence may favour me
in bringing it about.”

Providence! The religionist quarrels with the philosopher
if the latter happen to remove this interposition of a
higher power, even so triflingly as by the intervention of
secondary agencies, while the biggest rascal dignifies even
his success by such phrases as Providential aid! But it is
not surprising men should misunderstand terms, when they
make such sad confusion in the acts which these terms are
merely meant to represent. Spike had his Providence as
well as a priest, and we dare say he often counted on its
succour, with quite as rational grounds of dependence as
many of the pharisees who are constantly exclaiming,
“The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord are

Sail was made on board the Swash with great rapidity,
and the brig made a bold push at the Stepping-Stones.
Spike was a capital pilot. He insisted if he could once gain
sight of the spar that was moored on those rocks for a
buoy, he should run with great confidence. The two lights
were of great assistance, of course; but the revenue vessel
could see these lights as well as the brig, and she, doubtless,
had an excellent pilot on board. By the time the studding-sails
were set on board the Swash, the steamer was aweigh,
and her long line of peculiar sails became visible. Unfortunately
for men who were in a hurry, she lay so much
within the bluff as to get the wind scant, and her commander
thought it necessary to make a stretch over to the southern
shore, before he attempted to lay his course. When he
was ready to tack, an operation of some time with a vessel
of her great length, the Swash was barely visible in the obscurity,
gliding off upon a slack bowline, at a rate which
nothing but the damp night air, the ballast-trim of the vessel,

-- 061 --

[figure description] Page 061.[end figure description]

united to her excellent sailing qualities, could have produced
with so light a breeze.

The first half hour took the Swash completely out of sight
of the steamer. In that time, in truth, by actual superiority
in sailing, by her greater state of preparation, and by the
distance saved by a bold navigation, she had gained fully a
league on her pursuer. But, while the steamer had lost sight
of the Swash, the latter kept the former in view, and that
by means of a signal that was very portentous. She saw
the light of the steamer's chimneys, and could form some
opinion of her distance and position.

It was about eleven o'clock when the Swash passed the
light at Sands' Point, close in with the land. The wind
stood much as it had been. If there was a change at all,
it was half a point more to the southward, and it was a little
fresher. Such as it was, Spike saw he was getting, in that
smooth water, quite eight knots out of his craft, and he made
his calculations thereon. As yet, and possibly for half an
hour longer, he was gaining, and might hope to continue to
gain on the steamer. Then her turn would come. Though
no great traveller, it was not to be expected that, favoured
by smooth water and the breeze, her speed would be less
than ten knots, while there was no hope of increasing his
own without an increase of the wind. He might be five
miles in advance, or six at the most; these six miles would
be overcome in three hours of steaming, to a dead certainty,
and they might possibly be overcome much sooner. It was
obviously necessary to resort to some other experiment than
that of dead sailing, if an escape was to be effected.

The Sound was now several miles in width, and Spike,
at first, proposed to his mate, to keep off dead before the
wind, and by crossing over to the north shore, let the
steamer pass ahead, and continue a bootless chase to the
eastward. Several vessels, however, were visible in the
middle of the passage, at distances varying from one to
three miles, and Mulford pointed out the hopelessness of
attempting to cross the sheet of open water, and expect
to go unseen by the watchful eyes of the revenue people.

“What you say is true enough, Mr. Mulford,” answered
Spike, after a moment of profound reflection, “and every
foot that they come nearer, the less will be our chance.

-- 062 --

[figure description] Page 062.[end figure description]

But here is Hempstead Harbour a few leagues ahead; if we
can reach that before the blackguards close, we may do well
enough. It is a deep bay, and has high land to darken the
view. I don't think the brig could be seen at midnight by
anything outside; if she was once fairly up that water a mile
or two.”

“That is our chance, sir!” exclaimed Mulford cheerfully.
“Ay, ay, I know the spot; and everything is favourable—
try that, Captain Spike; I'll answer for it that we go clear.”

Spike did try it. For a considerable time longer he stood
on, keeping as close to the land as he thought it safe to run,
and carrying everything that would draw. But the steamer
was on his heels, evidently gaining fast. Her chimneys
gave out flames, and there was every sign that her people
were in earnest. To those on board the Swash these flames
seemed to draw nearer each instant, as indeed was the fact,
and just as the breeze came fresher out of the opening in
the hills, or the low mountains, which surround the place
of refuge in which they designed to enter, Mulford announced
that by aid of the night-glass he could distinguish both sails
and hull of their pursuer. Spike took a look, and throwing
down the instrument, in a way to endanger it, he ordered
the studding-sails taken in. The men went aloft like cats,
and worked as if they could stand in air. In a minute or
two the Swash was under what Mrs. Budd might have called
her “attacking” canvas, and was close by the wind, looking
on a good leg well up the harbour. The brig seemed to
be conscious of the emergency, and glided ahead at capital
speed. In five minutes she had shut in the flaming chimneys
of the steamer. In five minutes more Spike tacked,
to keep under the western side of the harbour, and out of
sight as long as possible, and because he thought the breeze
drew down fresher where he was than more out in the

All now depended on the single fact whether the brig had
been seen from the steamer or not, before she hauled into
the bay. If seen, she had probably been watched; if not
seen, there were strong grounds for hoping that she might
still escape. About a quarter of an hour after Spike hauled
up, the burning chimneys came again into view. The brig
was then half a league within the bay, with a fine dark

-- 063 --

[figure description] Page 063.[end figure description]

background of hills to throw her into shadow. Spike ordered
everything taken in but the trysail, under which the brig
was left to set slowly over toward the western side of the
harbour. He now rubbed his hands with delight, and
pointed out to Mulford the circumstance that the steamer
kept on her course directly athwart the harbour's mouth!
Had she seen the Swash, no doubt she would have turned
into the bay also. Nevertheless, an anxious ten minutes
succeeded, during which the revenue vessel steamed fairly
past, and shut in her flaming chimneys again by the eastern
headlands of the estuary.

Previous section

Next section

Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1848], Jack Tier, volume 1 (Burgess, Stringer & Co., New York) [word count] [eaf079v1].
Powered by PhiloLogic