Welcome to PhiloLogic  
   home |  the ARTFL project |  download |  documentation |  sample databases |   
Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1848], Jack Tier, volume 2 (Burgess, Stringer & Co., New York) [word count] [eaf079v2].
To look up a word in a dictionary, select the word with your mouse and press 'd' on your keyboard.

Next section


The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down: and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death;
And prophesying, with accents terrible,
Of dire combustion, and confused events,
New hatched to the woful time.

[figure description] Page 003.[end figure description]

It is seldom that man is required to make an exertion
as desperate and appalling, in all its circumstances, as that
on which Harry Mulford was now bent. The night was
starlight, it was true, and it was possible to see objects
near by with tolerable distinctness; still, it was midnight,
and the gloom of that hour rested on the face of the sea,
lending its solemn mystery and obscurity to the other trying
features of the undertaking. Then there was the
uncertainty whether it was the boat at all, of which he
was in pursuit; and, if the boat, it might drift away from
him as fast as he could follow it. Nevertheless, the perfect
conviction that, without some early succour, the party
on the wreck, including Rose Budd, must inevitably perish,
stimulated him to proceed, and a passing feeling of doubt,
touching the prudence of his course, that came over the
young mate, when he was a few yards from the wreck,
vanished under a vivid renewal of this last conviction. On
he swam, therefore, riveting his eye on the “thoughtful
star” that guided his course, and keeping his mind as
tranquil as possible, in order that the exertions of his body
might be the easier.

Mulford was an excellent swimmer. The want of food
was a serious obstacle to his making one of his best efforts,

-- 004 --

[figure description] Page 004.[end figure description]

but, as yet, he was not very sensible of any great loss of
strength. Understanding fully the necessity of swimming
easily, if he would swim long, he did not throw out all his
energy at first, but made the movements of his limbs as
regular, continued, and skilful as possible. No strength
was thrown away, and his progress was in proportion to
the prudence of this manner of proceeding. For some
twenty minutes he held on his course, in this way, when
he began to experience a little of that weariness which is
apt to accompany an unremitted use of the same set of
muscles, in a monotonous and undeviating mode. Accustomed
to all the resources of his art, he turned on his back,
for the double purpose of relieving his arms for a minute,
and of getting a glimpse of the wreck, if possible, in order
to ascertain the distance he had overcome. Swim
long in this new manner, however, he could not with
prudence, as the star was necessary in order to keep the
direct line of his course. It may be well to explain to
some of our readers, that, though the surface of the
ocean may be like glass, as sometimes really happens, it is
never absolutely free from the long, undulating motion that
is known by the name of a “ground swell.” This swell,
on the present occasion, was not very heavy, but it was
sufficient to place our young mate, at moments, between
two dark mounds of water, that limited his view in either
direction to some eighty or a hundred yards; then it raised
him on the summit of a rounded wave, that enabled him
to see, far as his eye could reach under that obscure light.
Profiting by this advantage, Mulford now looked behind
him, in quest of the wreck, but uselessly. It might have
been in the trough, while he was thus on the summit of
the waves, or it might be that it floated so low as to be
totally lost to the view of one whose head was scarcely
above the surface of the water. For a single instant, the
young man felt a chill at his heart, as he fancied that the
wreck had already sunk; but it passed away when he recalled
the slow progress by which the air escaped, and he
saw the certainty that the catastrophe, however inevitable,
could not yet have really arrived. He waited for another
swell to lift him on its summit, when, by “treading water,”
he raised his head and shoulders fairly above the surface

-- 005 --

[figure description] Page 005.[end figure description]

of the sea, and strained his eyes in another vain effort to
catch a glimpse of the wreck. He could not see it. In
point of fact, the mate had swum much further than he had
supposed, and was already so distant as to render any such
attempt hopeless. He was fully a third of a mile distant
from the point of his departure.

Disappointed, and in a slight degree disheartened, Mulford
turned, and swam in the direction of the sinking star.
He now looked anxiously for the boat. It was time that it
came more plainly into view, and a new source of anxiety
beset him, as he could discover no signs of its vicinity.
Certain that he was on the course, after making a due allowance
for the direction of the wind, the stout-hearted
young man swam on. He next determined not to annoy
himself by fruitless searches, or vain regrets, but to swim
steadily for a certain time, a period long enough to carry
him a material distance, ere he again looked for the object
of his search.

For twenty minutes longer did that courageous and active
youth struggle with the waste of waters, amid the obscurity
and solitude of midnight. He now believed himself
near a mile from the wreck, and the star which had so long
served him for a beacon was getting near to the horizon.
He took a new observation of another of the heavenly
bodies nigh it, to serve him in its stead when it should disappear
altogether, and then he raised himself in the water,
and looked about again for the boat. The search was in
vain. No boat was very near him, of a certainty, and the
dreadful apprehension began to possess his mind, of perishing
uselessly in that waste of gloomy waters. While thus
gazing about him, turning his eyes in every quarter, hoping
intently to catch some glimpse of the much-desired object
in the gloom, he saw two dark, pointed objects, that resembled
small stakes, in the water within twenty feet of him.
Mulford knew them at a glance, and a cold shudder passed
through his frame, as he recognised them. They were,
out of all question, the fins of an enormous shark; an animal
that could not measure less than eighteen or twenty
feet in length.

It is scarcely necessary to say, that when our young mate
discovered the proximity of this dangerous animal, situated

-- 006 --

[figure description] Page 006.[end figure description]

as he was, he gave himself up for lost. He possessed his
knife, however, and had heard of the manner in which even
sharks were overcome, and that too in their own element,
by the skilful and resolute. At first, he was resolved to
make one desperate effort for life, before he submitted to a
fate as horrible as that which now menaced him; but the
movements of his dangerous neighbour induced him to wait.
It did not approach any nearer, but continued swimming
back and fro, on the surface of the water, according to the
known habits of the fish, as if watching his own movements.
There being no time to be wasted, our young mate turned
on his face, and began again to swim in the direction of
the setting star, though nearly chilled by despair. For ten
minutes longer did he struggle on, beginning to feel exhaustion,
however, and always accompanied by those two
dark, sharp and gliding fins. There was no difficulty in
knowing the position of the animal, and Mulford's eyes
were oftener on those fins than on the beacon before him.
Strange as it may appear, he actually became accustomed
to the vicinity of this formidable creature, and soon felt his
presence a sort of relief against the dreadful solitude of his
situation. He had been told by seamen of instances, and
had once witnessed a case himself, in which a shark had
attended a swimming man for a long distance, either forbearing
to do him harm, from repletion, or influenced by
that awe which nature has instilled into all of the inferior,
for the highest animal of the creation. He began to think
that he was thus favoured, and really regarded the shark as
a friendly neighbour, rather than as a voracious foe. In
this manner did the two proceed, nearly another third of a
mile, the fins sometimes in sight ahead, gliding hither and
thither, and sometimes out of view behind the swimmer,
leaving him in dreadful doubts as to the movements of the
fish, when Mulford suddenly felt something hard hit his
foot. Believing it to be the shark, dipping for his prey, a
slight exclamation escaped him. At the next instant both
feet hit the unknown substance again, and he stood erect,
the water no higher than his waist! Quick, and comprehending
everything connected with the sea, the young man
at once understood that he was on a part of the reef where
the water was so shallow as to admit of his wading.

-- 007 --

[figure description] Page 007.[end figure description]

Mulford felt that he had been providentially rescued from
death. His strength had been about to fail him, when he
was thus led, unknown to himself, to a spot where his life
might yet be possibly prolonged for a few more hours, or
days. He had leisure to look about him, and to reflect on
what was next to be done. Almost unwittingly, he turned
in quest of his terrible companion, in whose voracious
mouth he had actually believed himself about to be immolated,
a few seconds before. There the two horn-like fins
still were, gliding about above the water, and indicating
the smallest movement of their formidable owner. The
mate observed that they went a short distance ahead of him,
describing nearly a semi-circle, and then returned, doing
the same thing in his rear, repeating the movements incessantly,
keeping always on his right. This convinced him
that shoaler water existed on his left hand, and he waded
in that direction, until he reached a small spot of naked

For a time, at least, he was safe! The fragment of coral
on which the mate now stood, was irregular in shape, but
might have contained a hundred feet square in superficial
measurement, and was so little raised above the level of
the water as not to be visible, even by daylight, at the distance
of a hundred yards. Mulford found it was perfectly
dry, however, an important discovery to him, as by a close
calculation he had made of the tides, since quitting the Dry
Tortugas, he knew it must be near high water. Could he
have even this small portion of bare rock secure, it made
him, for the moment, rich as the most extensive landholder
living. A considerable quantity of sea-weed had lodged
on the rock, and, as most of this was also quite dry, it convinced
the young sailor that the place was usually bare.
But, though most of this sea-weed was dry, there were portions
of the more recent accessions there that still lay in,
or quite near to the water, which formed exceptions. In
handling these weeds, in order to ascertain the facts, Mulford
caught a small shell-fish, and finding it fresh and easy
to open, he swallowed it with the eagerness of a famishing
man. Never had food proved half so grateful to him as
that single swallow of a very palatable testaceous animal.
By feeling further, he found several others of the same

-- 008 --

[figure description] Page 008.[end figure description]

family, and made quite as large a meal, as, under the circumstances,
was probably good for him. Then, grateful
for his escape, but overcome by fatigue, he hastily arranged
a bed of sea-weed, drew a portion of the plant over his body,
to keep him warm, and fell into a deep sleep that lasted for

Mulford did not regain his consciousness until the rays
of the rising sun fell upon his eye-lids, and the genial
warmth of the great luminary shed its benign influence
over his frame. At first his mind was confused, and it required
a few seconds to bring a perfect recollection of the
past, and a true understanding of his real situation. They
came, however, and the young man moved to the highest
part of his little domain, and cast an anxious, hurried look
around in quest of the wreck. A knowledge of the course
in which he had swum, aided by the position of the sun,
told him on what part of the naked waste to look for the
object he sought. God had not yet forsaken them! There
was the wreck; or, it might be more exact to say, there
were those whom the remaining buoyancy of the wreck
still upheld from sinking into the depths of the gulf. In
point of fact, but a very little of the bottom of the vessel
actually remained above water, some two or three yards
square at most, and that little was what seamen term nearly
awash. Two or three hours must bury that small portion
of the still naked wood beneath the surface of the sea,
though sufficient buoyancy might possibly remain for the
entire day still to keep the living from death.

There the wreck was, however, yet floating; and, though
not visible to Mulford, with a small portion of it above
water. He saw the four persons only; and what was more,
they saw him. This was evident by Jack Tier's waving
his hat like a man cheering. When Mulford returned this
signal, the shawl of Rose was tossed into the air, in a way
to leave no doubt that he was seen and known. The explanation
of this early recognition and discovery of the
young mate was very simple. Tier was not asleep when
Harry left the wreck, though, seeing the importance of the
step the other was taking, he had feigned to be so. When
Rose awoke, missed her lover, and was told what had happened,
her heart was kept from sinking by his encouraging

-- 009 --

[figure description] Page 009.[end figure description]

tale and hopes. An hour of agony had succeeded, nevertheless,
when light returned and no Mulford was to be seen.
The despair that burst upon the heart of our heroine was
followed by the joy of discovering him on the rock.

It is scarcely necessary to say how much the parties were
relieved on ascertaining their respective positions. Faint
as were the hopes of each of eventual delivery, the two or
three minutes that succeeded seemed to be minutes of perfect
happiness. After this rush of unlooked-for joy, Mulford
continued his intelligent examination of surrounding

The wreck was fully half a mile from the rock of the
mate, but much nearer to the reef than it had been the
previous night. “Could it but ground on the rocks,”
thought the young man, “it would be a most blessed
event.” The thing was possible, though the first half hour
of his observations told him that its drift was in the direction
of the open passage so often named, rather than toward
the nearest rocks. Still, that drift brought Rose each
minute nearer and nearer to himself again. In looking
round, however, the young man saw the boat. It was a
quarter of a mile distant, with open water between them,
apparently grounded on a rock, for it was more within the
reef than he was himself. He must have passed it in the
dark, and the boat had been left to obey the wind and currents,
and to drift to the spot where it then lay.

Mulford shouted aloud when he saw the boat, and at
once determined to swim in quest of it, as soon as he had
collected a little refreshment from among the sea-weed. On
taking a look at his rock by daylight, he saw that its size
was quadrupled to the eye by the falling of the tide, and
that water was lying in several of the cavities of its uneven
surface. At first he supposed this to be sea-water, left by
the flood; but, reflecting a moment, he remembered the
rain, and hoped it might be possible that one little cavity,
containing two or three gallons of the fluid, would turn out
to be fresh. Kneeling beside it, he applied his lips in feverish
haste, and drank the sweetest draught that had ever
passed his lips. Slaking his thirst, which had begun again
to be painfully severe, he arose with a heart overflowing
with gratitude—could he only get Rose to that narrow and

-- 010 --

[figure description] Page 010.[end figure description]

barren rock, it would seem to be an earthly paradise. Mulford
next made his scanty, but, all things considered, sufficient
meal, drank moderately afterward, and then turned
his attention and energies toward the boat, which, though
now aground and fast, might soon float on the rising tide,
and drift once more beyond his reach. It was his first intention
to swim directly for his object; but, just when about
to enter the water, he saw with horror the fins of at least a
dozen sharks, which were prowling about in the deeper water
of the reef, and almost encircling his hold. To throw himself
in the midst of such enemies would be madness, and
he stopped to reflect, and again to look about him. For
the first time that morning, he took a survey of the entire
horizon, to see if anything were in sight; for, hitherto, his
thoughts had been too much occupied with Rose and her
companions, to remember anything else. To the northward
and westward he distinctly saw the upper sails of a
large ship, that was standing on a wind to the northward
and eastward. As there was no port to which a vessel of
that character would be likely to be bound in the quarter
of the Gulf to which such a course would lead, Mulford at
once inferred it was the sloop-of-war, which, after having
examined the islets, at the Dry Tortugas, and finding them
deserted, was beating up, either to go into Key West, or
to pass to the southward of the reef again, by the passage
through which she had come as lately as the previous day.
This was highly encouraging; and could he only get to the
boat, and remove the party from the wreck before it sunk,
there was now every prospect of a final escape.

To the southward, also, the mate fancied he saw a sail.
It was probably a much smaller vessel than the ship in the
north-west, and at a greater distance. It might, however,
be the lofty sails of some large craft; standing along the
reef, going westward, bound to New Orleans, or to that
new and important port, Point Isabel: or it might be some
wrecker, or other craft, edging away into the passage. As
it was, it appeared only as a speck in the horizon; and was
too far off to offer much prospect of succour.

Thus acquainted with the state of things around him,
Mulford gave his attention seriously to his duties. He was
chiefly afraid that the returning tide might lift the boat

-- 011 --

[figure description] Page 011.[end figure description]

from the rock on which it had grounded, and that it would
float beyond his reach. Then there was the frightful and
ever-increasing peril of the wreck, and the dreadful fate
that so inevitably menaced those that it held, were not relief
prompt. This thought goaded him nearly to desperation,
and he felt at moments almost ready to plunge into
the midst of the sharks, and fight his way to his object.

But reflection showed him a less hazardous way of making
an effort to reach the boat. The sharks' fins described
a semicircle only, as had been the case of his single attendant
during the night, and he thought that the shealness of
the water prevented their going further than they did, in a
south-easterly direction, which was that of the boat. He
well knew that a shark required sufficient water to sink
beneath its prey, ere it made its swoop, and that it uniformly
turned on its back, and struck upward whenever it
gave one of its voracious bites. This was owing to the
greater length of its upper than of its lower jaw, and Mulford
had heard it was a physical necessity of its formation.
Right or wrong, he determined to act on this theory, and
began at once to wade along the part of the reef that his
enemies seemed unwilling to approach.

Had our young mate a weapon of any sort larger than
his knife, he would have felt greater confidence in his success.
As it was, however, he drew that knife, and was
prepared to sell his life dearly should a foe assail him. No
sooner was his step heard in the water, than the whole
group of sharks were set in violent motion, glancing past,
and frequently quite near him, as if aware their intended
prey was about to escape. Had the water deepened much,
Harry would have returned at once, for a conflict with such
numbers would have been hopeless; but it did not; on the
contrary, it shoaled again, after a very short distance, at
which it had been waist-deep; and Mulford found himself
wading over a long, broad surface of rock, and that directly
toward the boat, through water that seldom rose above his
knees, and which, occasionally, scarce covered his feet.
There was no absolutely naked rock near him, but there
seemed to be acres of that which might be almost said to
be awash. Amid the greedy throng that endeavoured to
accompany him, the mate even fancied he recognised the

-- 012 --

[figure description] Page 012.[end figure description]

enormous fins of his old companion, who sailed to and fro
in the crowd in a stately manner, as if merely a curious
looker-on of his own movements. It was the smaller, and
probably the younger sharks, that betrayed the greatest
hardihood and voracity. One or two of these made fierce
swoops toward Harry, as if bent on having him at every
hazard; but they invariably glided off when they found
their customary mode of attack resisted by the shoalness
of the water.

Our young mate got ahead but slowly, being obliged to
pay a cautious attention to the movements of his escort.
Sometimes he was compelled to wade up to his arms in
order to cross narrow places, that he might get on portions
of the rock that were nearly bare; and once he was actually
compelled to swim eight or ten yards. Nevertheless,
he did get on, and after an hour of this sort of work, he
found himself within a hundred yards of the boat, which
lay grounded near a low piece of naked rock, but separated
from it by a channel of deep water, into which all the
sharks rushed in a body, as if expressly to cut off his escape.
Mulford now paused to take breath, and to consider
what ought to be done. On the spot where he stood he
was quite safe, though ancle-deep in the sea, the shallow
water extending to a considerable distance on all sides of
him, with the single exception of the channel in his front.
He stood on the very verge of that channel, and could see
in the pellucid element before him, that it was deep enough
to float a vessel of some size.

To venture into the midst of twenty sharks required
desperation, and Harry was not yet reduced to that. He
had been so busy in making his way to the point where he
stood as to have no leisure to look for the wreck; but he
now turned his eyes in quest of that all-interesting object.
He saw the shawl fluttering in the breeze, and that was all
he could see. Tier had contrived to keep it flying as a
signal where he was to be found, but the hull of the schooner
had sunk so low in the water that they who were seated
on its keel were not visible even at the short distance which
now separated them from Mulford. Encouraged by this
signal, and animated by the revived hope of still saving his
companions, Harry turned toward the channel, half inclined

-- 013 --

[figure description] Page 013.[end figure description]

to face every danger rather than to wait any longer. At
that moment the fins were all gliding along the channel
from him, and in the same direction. Some object drew
the sharks away in a body, and the young mate let himself
easily into the water, and swam as noiselessly as he could
toward the boat.

It was a fearful trial, but Mulford felt that everything
depended on his success. Stimulated by his motive, and
strengthened by the food and water taken an hour before,
never had he shown so much skill and power in the water.
In an incredibly short period he was half-way across the
channel, still swimming strong and unharmed. A few
strokes more sent him so near the boat that hope took full
possession of his soul, and he shouted in exultation. That
indiscreet but natural cry, uttered so near the surface of
the sea, turned every shark upon him, as the pack springs
at the fox in view. Mulford was conscious of the folly of
his cry the instant it escaped him, and involuntarily he
turned his head to note the effect on his enemies. Every
fin was gliding toward him—a dark array of swift and furious
foes. Ten thousand bayonets, levelled in their line,
could not have been one-half as terrible, and the efforts of
the young man became nearly frantic. But strong as he
was, and ready in the element, what is the movement of a
man in the water compared to that of a vigorous and
voracious fish? Mulford could see those fins coming on like
a tempest, and he had just given up all hope, and was feeling
his flesh creep with terror, when his foot hit the rock.
Giving himself an onward plunge, he threw his body
upward toward the boat, and into so much shoaler water,
at least a dozen feet by that single effort. Recovering his
legs as soon as possible, he turned to look behind him.
The water seemed alive with fins, each pair gliding back
and forth, as the bull-dog bounds in front of the ox's muzzle.
Just then a light-coloured object glanced past the
young man, so near as almost to touch him. It was a
shark that had actually turned on its back to seize its prey,
and was only prevented from succeeding by being driven
from the line of its course by hitting the slimy rock, over
which it was compelled to make its plunge. The momentum
with which it came on, added to the inclination of the

-- 014 --

[figure description] Page 014.[end figure description]

rock, forced the head and half of the body of this terrible
assailant into the air, giving the intended victim an opportunity
of seeing from what a fate he had escaped. Mulford
avoided this fish without much trouble, however, and the
next instant he threw himself into the boat, on the bottom
of which he lay panting with the violence of his exertions,
and unable to move under the reaction which now came
over his system.

The mate lay in the bottom of the boat, exhausted and
unable to rise, for several minutes; during that space he
devoutly returned thanks to God for his escape, and bethought
him of the course he was next to pursue, in order
to effect the rescue of his companions. The boat was
larger than common. It was also well equipped—a mast
and sail lying along with the oars, on its thwarts. The
rock placed Harry to windward of the wreck, and by the
time he felt sufficiently revived to rise and look about him,
his plan of proceeding was fully arranged in his own mind.
Among other things that he saw, as he still lay in the bottom
of the boat, was a breaker which he knew contained
fresh water, and a bread-bag. These were provisions that
it was customary for the men to make, when employed on
boat duty; and the articles had been left where he now
saw them, in the hurry of the movements, as the brig quitted
the islets.

Harry rose the instant he felt his strength returning.
Striking the breaker with his foot, and feeling the basket
with a hand, he ascertained that the one held its water, and
the other its bread. This was immense relief, for by this
time the sufferings of the party on the wreck must be returning
with redoubled force. The mate then stepped the
mast, and fitted the sprit to the sail, knowing that the latter
would be seen fluttering in the wind by those on the wreck,
and carry joy to their hearts. After this considerate act,
he began to examine into the position of the boat. It was
still aground, having been left by the tide; but the water
had already risen several inches, and by placing himself
on a gunwale, so as to bring the boat on its bilge, and pushing
with an oar, he soon got it into deep water. It only
remained to haul aft the sheet, and right the helm, to be
standing through the channel, at a rate that promised a

-- 015 --

[figure description] Page 015.[end figure description]

speedy deliverance to his friends, and, most of all, to

Mulford glanced past the rocks and shoals, attended by
the whole company of the sharks. They moved before,
behind, and on each side of him, as if unwilling to abandon
their prey, even after he had got beyond the limits of
their power to do him harm. It was not an easy thing to
manage the boat in that narrow and crooked channel, with
no other guide for the courses than the eye, and it required
so much of the mate's vigilance to keep clear of the sharp
angles of the rocks, that he could not once cast his eyes
aside, to look for the fluttering shawl, which now composed
the standing signal of the wreck. At length the boat shot
through the last passage of the reef, and issued into open
water. Mulford knew that he must come out half a mile
at least to leeward of his object, and, without even raising
his head, he flattened in the sheet, put his helm down, and
luffed close to the wind. Then, and then only, did he venture
to look around him.

Our mate felt his heart leap toward his mouth, as he
observed the present state of the wreck. It was dead to
windward of him, in the first place, and it seemed to be
entirely submerged. He saw the shawl fluttering as before;
for Tier had fastened one corner to a button-hole of his
own jacket, and another to the dress of Biddy, leaving the
part which might be called the fly, to rise at moments
almost perpendicularly in the air, in a way to render it
visible at some distance. He saw also the heads and the
bodies of those on the schooner's bottom, but to him they
appeared to be standing in, or on, the water. The distance
may have contributed a little to this appearance, but
no doubt remained that so much air had escaped from the
hold of the vessel, as to permit it to sink altogether beneath
the surface of the sea. It was time, indeed, to proceed to
the relief of the sufferers.

Notwithstanding the boat sailed particularly fast, and
worked beautifully, it could not equal the impatience of
Mulford to get on. Passing away to the north-east a sufficient
distance, as he thought, to weather on the wreck,
the young man tacked at last, and had the happiness to see
that every foot he proceeded was now in a direct line toward
Rose. It was only while tacking he perceived that

-- 016 --

[figure description] Page 016.[end figure description]

all the fins had disappeared. He felt little doubt that they
had deserted him, in order to push for the wreck, which
offered so much larger, and so much more attainable prey.
This increased his feverish desire to get on, the boat seeming
to drag, in his eyes, at the very moment it was leaving
a wake full of eddies and little whirlpools. The wind was
steady, but it seemed to Mulford that the boat was set to
leeward of her course by a current, though this could
hardly have been the case, as the wreck, the sole mark of
his progress, would have had at least as great a drift as the
boat. At length Mulford—to him it appeared to be an age;
in truth it was after a run of about twenty minutes—came
near the goal he so earnestly sought, and got an accurate
view of the state of the wreck, and of those on it. The
hull of the schooner had, in truth, sunk entirely beneath
the surface of the sea; and the party it sustained stood
already knee-deep in the water. This was sufficiently appalling;
but the presence of the sharks, who were crowding
around the spot, rendered the whole scene frightful. To
the young mate it seemed as if he must still be too late to
save Rose from a fate more terrible than drowning, for his
boat fell so far to leeward as to compel him to tack once
more. As he swept past the wreck, he called out to encourage
his friends, begging them to be of good heart for
five minutes longer, when he should be able to reach them.
Rose held out her arms entreatingly, and the screams of
Mrs. Budd and Biddy, which were extorted by the closer
and closer approach of the sharks, proclaimed the imminency
of the danger they ran, and the importance of not
losing a moment of time.

Mulford took his distance with a seaman's eye, and the
boat went about like a top. The latter fell off, and the sail
filled on the other tack. Then the young mariner saw,
with a joy no description can pourtray, that he looked to
windward of the fluttering shawl, toward which his little
craft was already flying. He afterward believed that shawl
alone prevented the voracious party of fish from assailing
those on the wreck, for, though there might not yet be sufficient
depth of water to allow of their customary mode of
attack, creatures of their voracity did not always wait for
such conveniences. But the boat was soon in the midst

-- 017 --

[figure description] Page 017.[end figure description]

of the fins, scattering them in all directions; and Mulford
let go his sheet, put his helm down, and sprang forward to
catch the extended arms of Rose.

It might have been accident, or it might have been the
result of skill and interest in our heroine, but certain it is,
that the bows of the boat came on the wreck precisely at
the place where Rose stood, and her hand was the first object
that the young man touched.

“Take my aunt first,” cried Rose, resisting Mulford's
efforts to lift her into the boat; “she is dreadfully alarmed,
and can stand with difficulty.”

Although two of Rose's activity and lightness might have
been drawn into the boat, while the process was going on
in behalf of the widow, Mulford lost no time in discussion,
but did as he was desired. First directing Tier to hold on
to the painter, he applied his strength to the arms of Mrs.
Budd, and, assisted by Rose and Biddy, got her safely into
the boat, over its bows. Rose now waited not for assistance,
but followed her aunt with a haste that proved fear
lent her strength in despite her long fast. Biddy came
next, though clumsily, and not without trouble, and Jack
Tier followed the instant he was permitted so to do. Of
course, the boat, no longer held by its painter, drifted away
from the spot, and the hull of the schooner, relieved from
the weight of four human beings, rose so near the surface
again as to bring a small line of its keel out of water. No
better evidence could have been given of the trifling power
which sustained it, and of the timely nature of the succour
brought by Mulford. Had the boat remained near the
schooner, it would have been found half an hour later that
the hull had sunk slowly out of sight, finding its way,
doubtless, inch by inch, toward the bottom of the Gulf.

By this time the sun was well up, and the warmth of the
hour, season, and latitude, was shed on the sufferers.
There was an old sail in the boat, and in this the party
dried their limbs and feet, which were getting to be numb
by their long immersion. Then the mate produced the
bag and opened it, in quest of bread. A small portion was
given to each, and, on looking farther, the mate discovered
that a piece of boiled ship's beef had been secreted in this
receptacle. Of this also he gave each a moderate slice,

-- 018 --

[figure description] Page 018.[end figure description]

taking a larger portion for himself, as requiring less precaution.
The suffering of the party from hunger was far less
than that they endured from thirst. Neither had been
endured long enough seriously to enfeeble them or render
a full meal very dangerous, but the thirst had been much
the hardest to be borne. Of this fact Biddy soon gave
audible evidence.

“The mate is good,” she said, “and the bread tastes
swate and refreshing, but wather is a blessed thing. Can
you no give us one dhrap of the wather that falls from heaven,
Mr. Mulford; for this wather of the saa is of no use
but to drown Christians in?”

In an instant the mate had opened a breaker, and filled
the tin pot which is almost always to be found in a boat.
Biddy said no more, but her eyes pleaded so eloquently,
that Rose begged the faithful creature might have the first
drink. One eager swallow went down, and then a cry of
disappointment succeeded. The water was salt, and had
been put in the breaker for ballast. The other breaker
was tried with the same success.

“It is terrible to be without one drop of water,” murmured
Rose, “and this food makes it more necessary than

“Patience, patience, dearest Rose—patience for ten
minutes, and you shall all drink,” answered the mate, filling
the sail and keeping the boat away while speaking. “There
is water, God be praised, on the rock to which I first swam,
and we will secure it before another day's sun help to make
it evaporate.”

This announcement quieted the longings of those who
endured a thirst which disappointment rendered doubly
hard to bear; and away the boat glided toward the rock.
As he now flew over the distance, lessened more than one-half
by the drift of the wreck, Mulford recalled the scene
through which he had so painfully passed the previous night.
As often happens, he shuddered at the recollection of things
which, at the moment, a desperate resolution had enabled
him to encounter with firmness. Still, he thought nothing
less than the ardent desire to save Rose could have carried
him through the trial with the success which attended his
struggles. The dear being at his side asked a few

-- 019 --

[figure description] Page 019.[end figure description]

explanations of what had passed; and she bowed her head and
wept, equally with pain and delight, as imagination pictured
to her the situation of her betrothed, amid that waste of
water, with his fearful companions, and all in the hours of
deep night.

But that was over now. There was the rock—the blessed
rock on which Mulford had so accidentally struck, close
before them—and presently they were all on it. The mate
took the pot and ran to the little reservoir, returning with
a sweet draught for each of the party.

“A blessed, blessed thing, is wather!” exclaimed Biddy,
this time finding the relief she sought, “and a thousand
blessings on you, Mr. Mulford, who have niver done us
anything but good.”

Rose looked a still higher eulogy on the young man,
and even Mrs. Budd had something commendatory and
grateful to say. Jack Tier was silent, but he had all his
eyes about him, as he now proved.

“We've all on us been so much taken up with our own
affairs,” remarked the steward's assistant, “that we've
taken but little notice of the neighbourhood. If that is n't
the brig, Mr. Mulford, running through this very passage,
with stun'sails set alow and aloft, I do n't know the Molly
Swash when I see her!”

“The brig!” exclaimed the mate, recollecting the vessels
he had seen at the break-of-day, for the first time in hours.
“Can it be possible that the craft I made out to the southward,
is the brig?”

“Look, and judge for yourself, sir. There she comes,
like a race-horse, and if she holds her present course, she
must pass somewhere within a mile or so of us, if we stay
where we are.”

Mulford did look, as did all with him. There was the
Swash, sure enough, coming down before the wind, and
under a cloud of canvas. She might be still a league, or
a league and a half distant, but, at the rate at which she
was travelling, that distance would soon be past. She was
running through the passage, no doubt with a view to proceed
to the Dry Tortugas, to look after the schooner, Spike
having the hope that he had dodged his pursuers on the
coast of Cuba. The mate now looked for the ship, in the

-- 020 --

[figure description] Page 020.[end figure description]

north-western board, believing, as he did, that she was the
sloop-of-war. That vessel had gone about, and was standing
to the southward, on a taut bowline. She was still a
long way off, three or four leagues at least, but the change
she had made in her position, since last seen, proved that
she was a great sailer. Then she was more than hull down,
whereas, now, she was near enough to let the outline of a
long, straight fabric be discovered beneath her canvas.

“It is hardly possible that Spike should not see the vessel
here in the northern board,” Mulford observed to Tier,
who had been examining the ship with him. “The look-out
is usually good on board the Swash, and, just now,
should certainly be as good as common. Spike is no dawdler
with serious business before him.”

“He's a willain!” muttered Jack Tier.

The mate regarded his companion with some surprise.
Jack was a very insignificant-looking personage in common,
and one would scarcely pause to give him a second look,
unless it might be to laugh at his rotundity and little waddling
legs. But, now, the mate fancied he was swelling
with feelings that actually imparted somewhat more than
usual stature and dignity to his appearance. His face was
full of indignation, and there was something about the eye,
that to Mulford was inexplicable. As Rose, however, had
related to him the scene that took place on the islet, at the
moment when Spike was departing, the mate supposed that
Jack still felt a portion of the resentment that such a collision
would be apt to create. From the expression of
Jack's countenance at that instant, it struck him Spike
might not be exactly safe, should accident put it in the
power of the former to do him an injury.

It was now necessary to decide on the course that ought
to be pursued. The bag contained sufficient food to last
the party several days, and a gallon of water still remained
in the cavity of the rock. This last was collected and put
in one of the breakers, which was emptied of the salt water
in order to receive it. As water, however, was the great
necessity in that latitude, Mulford did not deem it prudent
to set sail with so small a supply, and he accordingly commenced
a search, on some of the adjacent rocks, Jack Tier
accompanying him. They succeeded in doubling their stock

-- 021 --

[figure description] Page 021.[end figure description]

of water, and collected several shell-fish, that the females
found exceedingly grateful and refreshing. On the score of
hunger and thirst, indeed, no one was now suffering. By
judiciously sipping a little water at a time, and retaining it
in the mouth before swallowing, the latter painful feeling
had been gotten rid of; and as for food, there was even
more than was actually needed, and that of a very good
quality. It is probable that standing in the water for hours,
as Rose, and her aunt, and Biddy had been obliged to do,
had contributed to lessen the pain endured from thirst,
though they had all suffered a good deal from that cause,
especially while the sun shone.

Mulford and Tier were half an hour in obtaining the
water. By the end of that period the brigantine was so
near as to render her hull distinctly visible. It was high
time to decide on their future course. The sail had been
brailed when the boat reached the rock, and the boat itself
lay on the side of the latter opposite to the brig, and where
no part of it could be seen to those on board the Swash,
with the exception of the mast. Under the circumstances,
therefore, Mulford thought it wisest to remain where they
were, and let the vessel pass, before they attempted to proceed
toward Key West, their intended place of refuge. In
order to do this, however, it was necessary to cause the
whole party to lie down, in such a way as to be hid by
the inequalities in the rock, as it was now very evident the
brig would pass within half a mile of them. Hitherto, it
was not probable that they had been seen, and by using due
caution, the chances of Spike's overlooking them altogether
amounted nearly to certainty.

The necessary arrangements were soon made, the boat's
masts unstepped, the party placed behind their covers, and
the females comfortably bestowed in the spare sail, where
they might got a little undisturbed sleep after the dreadful
night, or morning, they had passed. Even Jack Tier lay
down to catch his nap, as the most useful manner of bestowing
himself for a couple of hours; the time Mulford had
mentioned as the period of their stay where they were.

As for the mate, vigilance was his portion, and he took
his position, hid like all the rest, where he could watch the
movements of his old craft. In about twenty minutes, the

-- 022 --

[figure description] Page 022.[end figure description]

brig was quite near; so near that Mulford not only saw
the people on board her, who showed themselves in the
rigging, but fancied he could recognise their persons. As
yet, nothing had occurred in the way of change, but, just
as the Swash got abreast of the rock, she began to take in
her studding-sails, and that hurriedly, as is apt to occur on
board a vessel in sudden emergencies. Our young man
was a little alarmed at first, believing that they might have
been discovered, but he was soon induced to think that the
crew of the brigantine had just then begun to suspect the
character of the ship to the northward. That vessel had
been drawing near all this time, and was now only some
three leagues distant. Owing to the manner in which she
headed, or bows on, it was not a very easy matter to tell
the character of this stranger, though the symmetry and
squareness of his yards rendered it nearly certain he was
a cruiser. Though Spike could not expect to meet his old
acquaintance here, after the chase he had so lately led her,
down on the opposite coast, he might and would have his
misgivings, and Mulford thought it was his intention to
haul up close round the northern angle of the reef, and
maintain his advantage of the wind, over the stranger. If
this were actually done, it might expose the boat to view,
for the brig would pass within a quarter of a mile of it, and
on the side of the rock on which it lay. It was too late,
however, to attempt a change, since the appearance of
human beings in such a place would be certain to draw the
brig's glasses on them, and the glasses must at once let
Spike know who they were. It remained, therefore, only
to await the result as patiently as possible.

A very few minutes removed all doubt. The brig hauled
as close round the reef as she dared to venture, and in a
very short time the boat lay exposed to view to all on board
her. The vessel was now so near that Mulford plainly saw
the boatswain get upon the coach-house, or little hurricane-house
deck, where Spike stood examining the ship with
his glass, and point out the boat, where it lay at the side
of the rock. In an instant, the glass was levelled at the
spot, and the movements on board the brig immediately
betrayed to Mulford that the boat was recognised. Sail
was shortened on board the Swash, and men were seen

-- 023 --

[figure description] Page 023.[end figure description]

preparing to lower her stern boat, while everything indicated
that the vessel was about to be hove-to. There was
no time now to be lost, but the young man immediately
gave the alarm.

No sooner did the party arise and show themselves, than
the crew of the Swash gave three cheers. By the aid of
the glass, Spike doubtless recognised their persons, and
the fact was announced to the men, by way of stimulating
their exertions. This gave an additional spur to the movements
of those on the rock, who hastened into their own
boat, and made sail as soon as possible.

It was far easier to do all that has been described, than
to determine on the future course. Capture was certain
if the fugitives ventured into the open water, and their
only hope was to remain on the reef. If channels for the
passage of the boat could be found, escape was highly probable,
as the schooner's boat could sail much faster than
the brig's boat could row, fast as Mulford knew the last to
be. But the experience of the morning had told the mate
that the rock rose too near the surface, in many places, for
the boat, small as it was, to pass over it; and he must trust
a great deal to chance. Away he went, however, standing
along a narrow channel, through which the wind just
permitted him to lay, with the sail occasionally shaking.

By this time the Swash had her boat in the water,
manned with four powerful oars, Spike steering it in his
own person. Our young mate placed Tier in the bows, to
point out the deepest water, and kept his sail a rap full, in
order to get ahead as fast as possible. Ahead he did get,
but it was on a course that soon brought him out in the
open water of the main passage through the reef, leaving
Spike materially astern. The latter now rose in his boat,
and made a signal with his hat, which the boatswain perfectly
understood. The latter caused the brig to ware short
round on her heel, and boarded his foretack in chase, hauling
up into the passage as soon as he could again round
the reef. Mulford soon saw that it would never do for him
to venture far from the rocks, the brig going two feet to
his one, though not looking quite as high as he did in the
boat. But the Swash had her guns, and it was probable
they would be used rather than he should escape. When

-- 024 --

[figure description] Page 024.[end figure description]

distant two hundred yards from the reef, therefore, he
tacked. The new course brought the fugitives nearly at
right angles to that steered by Spike, who stood directly on,
as if conscious that, sooner or later, such a rencounter
must occur. It would seem that the tide was setting through
the passage, for when the boat of Mulford again reached
the reef, it was considerably to windward of the channel
out of which she had issued, and opposite to another which
offered very opportunely for her entrance. Into this new
channel, then, the mate somewhat blindly ran, feeling the
necessity of getting out of gun-shot of the brig at every
hazard. She at least could not follow him among the rocks,
let Spike, in his boat, proceed as he might.

According to appearances, Spike was not likely to be
very successful. He was obliged to diverge from his course,
in order to go into the main passage at the very point
where Mulford had just before done the same thing, and
pull along the reef to windward, in order to get into the
new channel, into which the boat he was pursuing had just
entered. This brought him not only astern again, but a
long bit astern, inasmuch as he was compelled to make the
circuit described. On he went, however, as eager in the
chase as the hound with his game in view.

Mulford's boat seemed to fly, and glided ahead at least
three feet to that of Spike's two. The direction of the
channel it was in, brought it pretty close to the wind, but
the water was quite smooth, and our mate managed to keep
the sail full, and his little craft at the same time quite near
the weatherly side of the rocks. In the course of ten
minutes the fugitives were fully a mile from the brig, which
was unable to follow them, but kept standing off and on,
in the main passage, waiting the result. At one time Mulford
thought the channel would bring him out into open
water again, on the northern side of the reef, and more
than a mile to the eastward of the point where the ship-channel
in which the Swash was plying commenced; but
an accidental circumstance prevented his standing in far
enough to ascertain the fact. That circumstance was as

In running a mile and a half over the reef, in the manner
described, Mulford had left the boat of Spike quite half

-- 025 --

[figure description] Page 025.[end figure description]

a mile astern. He was now out of gun-shot from the brig,
or at least beyond the range of her grape, the only missile
he feared, and so far to windward that he kept his eye on
every opening to the southward, which he fancied might
allow of his making a stretch deeper into the mazes of the
reef, among which he believed it easiest for him to escape,
and to weary the oarsmen of his pursuers. Two or three
of these openings offered as he glided along, but it struck
him that they all looked so high that the boat would not
lay through them—an opinion in which he was right. At
length he came abreast of one that seemed straight and
clear of obstacles as far as he could see, and through which
he might run with a flowing sheet. Down went his helm,
and about went his boat, running away to the southward as
fast as ever.

Had Spike followed, doubled the same shoal, and kept
away again in the same channel as had been done by the
boat he chased, all his hopes of success must have vanished
at once. This he did not attempt, therefore; but, sheering
into one of the openings which the mate had rejected, he
cut off quite half a mile in his distance. This was easy
enough for him to accomplish, as a row-boat would pull
even easier, near to the wind, than with the wind broad on
its bow. In consequence of this short cut, therefore, Spike
was actually crossing out into Mulford's new channel, just
as the latter had handsomely cleared the mouth of the
opening through which he effected his purpose.

It is scarcely necessary to say that the two boats must
have been for a few minutes quite near to each other; so
near, indeed, did the fugitives now pass to their pursuers,
that it would have been easy for them to have conversed,
had they been so disposed. Not a word was spoken, however,
but Mulford went by, leaving Spike about a hundred
yards astern. This was a trying moment to the latter, and
the devil tempted him to seek his revenge. He had not
come unarmed on his enterprise, but three or four loaded
muskets lay in the stern-sheets of his yawl. He looked at
his men, and saw that they could not hold out much longer
to pull as they had been pulling. Then he looked at Mulford's
boat, and saw it gliding away from him at a rate that
would shortly place it another half mile in advance. He

-- 026 --

[figure description] Page 026.[end figure description]

seized a musket, and raised it to his shoulder, nay, was in
the act of taking aim at his mate, when Rose, who watched
his movements, threw herself before Harry, and if she did
not actually save his life, at least prevented Spike's attempt
on it for that occasion. In the course of the next ten
minutes the fugitives had again so far gained on their pursuers,
that the latter began to see that their efforts were
useless. Spike muttered a few bitter curses, and told his
men to lay on their oars.

“It's well for the runaway,” he added, “that the gal put
herself between us, else would his grog have been stopped
for ever. I've long suspected this; but had I been sure
of it, the Gulf Stream would have had the keeping of his
body, the first dark night we were in it together. Lay on
your oars, men, lay on your oars; I'm afeared the villian
will get through our fingers, a'ter all.”

The men obeyed, and then, for the first time, did they
turn their heads, to look at those they had been so vehemently
pursuing. The other boat was quite half a mile
from them, and it had again tacked. This last occurrence
induced Spike to pull slowly ahead, in quest of another
short passage to cut the fugitives off; but no such opening

“There he goes about again, by George!” exclaimed
Spike. “Give way, lads—give way; an easy stroke, for
if he is embayed, he can't escape us!”

Sure enough, poor Mulford was embayed, and could see
no outlet by which to pass ahead. He tacked his boat two
or three times, and he wore round as often; but on every
side shoals, or rocks that actually rose above the surface
of the water, impeded his course. The fact was not to be
concealed; after all his efforts, and so many promises of
success, not only was his further progress ahead cut off,
but equally so was retreat. The passage was not wide
enough to admit the hope of getting by his pursuers, and
the young man came to the conclusion that his better course
was to submit with dignity to his fate. For himself he had
no hope—he knew Spike's character too well for that; but
he did not apprehend any great immediate danger to his
companions. Spike had a coarse, brutal admiration for
Rose! but her expected fortune, which was believed to be

-- 027 --

[figure description] Page 027.[end figure description]

of more amount than was actually the case, was a sort of
pledge that he would not willingly put himself in a situation
that would prevent the possibility of enjoying it. Strange,
hurried, and somewhat confused thoughts passed through
Harry Mulford's mind, as he brailed his sail, and waited
for his captors to approach and take possession of his boat
and himself. This was done quietly, and with very few
words on the part of Spike.

Mulford would have liked the appearance of things better
had his old commander cursed him, and betrayed other
signs of the fury that was boiling in his very soul. On the
contrary, never had Stephen Spike seemed more calm, or
under better self-command. He smiled, and saluted Mrs.
Budd, just as if nothing unpleasant had occurred, and alluded
to the sharpness of the chase with facetiousness and
seeming good-humour. The females were deceived by this
manner, and hoped, after all, that the worst that would
happen would be a return to their old position on board the
Swash. This was being so much better off than their horrible
situation on the wreck, that the change was not
frightful to them.

“What has become of the schooner, Mr. Mulford?”
asked Spike, as the boats began to pass down the channel
to return to the brig—two of the Swash's men taking their
seats in that which had been captured, along with their
commander, while the other two got a tow from the use
of the sail. “I see you have the boat here that we used
alongside of her, and suppose you know something of the
craft itself.”

“She capsized with us in a squall,” answered the mate,
“and we only left the wreck this morning.”

“Capsized!—hum—that was a hard fate, to be sure, and
denotes bad seamanship. Now I've sailed all sorts of craft
these forty years, or five-and-thirty at least, and never capsized
anything in my life. Stand by there for'ard to hold
on by that rock.”

A solitary cap of the coral rose above the water two or
three feet, close to the channel, and was the rock to which
Spike alluded. It was only some fifty feet in diameter, and
of an oval form, rising quite above the ordinary tides, as
was apparent by its appearance. It is scarcely necessary

-- 028 --

[figure description] Page 028.[end figure description]

to say it had no other fresh water than that which occasionally
fell on its surface, which surface being quite smooth,
retained very little of the rain it received. The boat was
soon alongside of this rock, where it was held broadside-to
by the two seamen.

“Mr. Mulford, do me the favour to step up here,” said
Spike, leading the way on to the rock himself. “I have a
word to say to you before we get on board the old Molly
once more.”

Mulford silently complied, fully expecting that Spike
intended to blow his brains out, and willing the bloody
deed should be done in a way to be as little shocking to
Rose as circumstances would allow. But Spike manifested
no such intention. A more refined cruelty was uppermost
in his mind; and his revenge was calculated, and took care
to fortify itself with some of the quibbles and artifices of
the law. He might not be exactly right in his legal reservations,
but he did not the less rely on their virtue.

“Hark'e, Mr. Mulford,” said Spike, sharply, as soon as
both were on the rock, “you have run from my brig,
thereby showing your distaste for her; and I've no disposition
to keep a man who wishes to quit me. Here you
are, sir, on terrum firm, as the scholars call it; and here
you have my full permission to remain. I wish you a good
morning, sir; and will not fail to report, when we get in,
that you left the brig of your own pleasure.”

“You will not have the cruelty to abandon me on this
naked rock, Captain Spike, and that without a morsel of
food, or a drop of water.”

“Wather is a blessed thing!” exclaimed Biddy. “Do not
think of lavin' the gentleman widout wather.”

“You left me, sir, without food or water, and you can
fit out your own rock—yes, d—e, sir, you left me under fire,
and that is a thing no true-hearted man would have thought
of. Stand by to make sail, boys; and if he offer to enter
the boat, pitch him out with the boat-hooks.”

Spike was getting angry, and he entered the boat again,
without perceiving that Rose had left it. Light of foot,
and resolute of spirit, the beautiful girl, handsomer than
ever perhaps, by her excited feelings and dishevelled hair,
had sprung on the rock, as Spike stepped into the boat

-- 029 --

[figure description] Page 029.[end figure description]

forward, and when the latter turned round, after loosening
the sail, he found he was drifting away from the very being
who was the object of all his efforts. Mulford, believing
that Rose was to be abandoned as well as himself, received
the noble girl in his arms, though ready to implore Spike,
on his knees, to return and at least to take her off. But
Spike wanted no solicitation on that point. He returned
of his own accord, and had just reached the rock again
when a report of a gun drew all eyes toward the brig.

The Swash had again run out of the passage, and was
beating up, close to the reef as she dared to go, with a
signal flying. All the seamen at once understood the cause
of this hint. The strange sail was getting too near, and
everybody could see that it was the sloop-of-war. Spike
looked at Rose, a moment, in doubt. But Mulford raised
his beloved in his arms, and carried her to the side of the
rock, stepping on board the boat.

Spike watched the movements of the young man with
jealous vigilance, and no sooner was Rose placed on her
seat, than he motioned significantly to the mate to quit the

“I cannot and will not voluntarily, Captain Spike,”
answered Harry, calmly. “It would be committing a sort
of suicide.”

A sign brought two of the men to the captain's assistance.
While the latter held Rose in her place, the sailors shoved
Harry on the rock again. Had Mulford been disposed to
resist, these two men could not very easily have ejected him
from the boat, if they could have done it at all; but he knew
there were others in reserve, and feared that blood might
be shed, in the irritated state of Spike, in the presence of
Rose. While, therefore, he would not be accessary to his
own destruction, he would not engage in what he knew
would prove not only a most harassing, but a bootless resistance.
The consequence was that the boats proceeded,
leaving him alone on the rock.

It was perhaps fortunate for Rose that she fainted. Her
condition occupied her aunt and Biddy, and Spike was
enabled to reach his brig without any further interruption.
Rose was taken on board still nearly insensible, while her
two female companions were so much confused and

-- 030 --

[figure description] Page 030.[end figure description]

distressed, that neither could have given a reasonably clear
account of what had just occurred. Not so with Jack
Tier, however. That singular being noted all that passed,
seated in the eyes of the boat, away from the confusion
that prevailed in its stern-sheets, and apparently undisturbed
by it.

As the party was sailing back toward the brig, the light-house
boat towing the Swash's yawl, Jack took as good an
observation of the channels of that part of the reef as his
low position would allow. He tried to form in his mind a
sort of chart of the spot, for, from the instant Mulford was
thus deserted, the little fellow had formed a stern resolution
to attempt his rescue. How that was to be done, however,
was more than he yet knew; and when they reached the
brig's side, Tier may be said to have been filled with good
intentions, rather than with any very available knowledge
to enable him to put them in execution.

As respects the two vessels, the arrival of Spike on board
his own was not a moment too soon. The Poughkeepsie,
for the stranger to the northward was now ascertained to
be that sloop-of-war, was within long gun-shot by this time,
and near enough to make certain, by means of her glasses,
of the character of the craft with which she was closing.
Luckily for the brig she lay in the channel so often mentioned,
and through which both she and her present pursuer
had so lately come, on their way to the northward. This
brought her to windward, as the wind then stood, with a
clear passage before her. Not a moment was lost. No
sooner were the females sent below, than sail was made on
the brig, and she began to beat through the passage, making
long legs and short ones. She was chased, as a matter of
course, and that hard, the difference in sailing between the
two crafts not being sufficiently great to render the brigantine's
escape by any means certain, while absolutely within
the range of those terrible missiles that were used by the
man-of-war's men.

But Spike soon determined not to leave a point so delicate
as that of his own and his vessel's security to be decided
by a mere superiority in the way of heels. The Florida
Reef, with all its dangers, windings, and rocks, was as well
known to him as the entrances to the port of New York.

-- 031 --

[figure description] Page 031.[end figure description]

In addition to its larger channels, of which there are three
or four, through which ships of size can pass, it had many
others that would admit only vessels of a lighter draught
of water. The brig was not flying light, it is true, but she
was merely in good ballast trim, and passages would be
available to her, into which the Poughkeepsie would not
dare to venture. One of these lesser channels was favourably
placed to further the escape of Spike, and he shoved the
brig into it after the struggle had lasted less than an hour.
This passage offered a shorter cut to the south side of the
reef than the main channel, and the sloop-of-war, doubtless
perceiving the uselessness of pursuit, under such circumstances,
wore round on her heel, and came down through
the main channel again, just entering the open water, near
the spot where the schooner had sunk, as the sun was setting.

Next section

Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1848], Jack Tier, volume 2 (Burgess, Stringer & Co., New York) [word count] [eaf079v2].
Powered by PhiloLogic