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Cooper, James Fenimore, 1789-1851 [1848], Jack Tier, volume 2 (Burgess, Stringer & Co., New York) [word count] [eaf079v2].
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She's in a scene of nature's war,
The winds and waters are at strife;
And both with her contending for
The brittle thread of human life.
Miss Gould.

Spike was sleeping hard in his berth, quite early on the
following morning, before the return of light, indeed, when
he suddenly started up, rubbed his eyes, and sprang upon
deck like a man alarmed. He had heard, or fancied he
had heard, a cry. A voice once well known and listened
to, seemed to call him in the very portals of his ear. At
first he had listened to its words in wonder, entranced like
the bird by the snake, the tones recalling scenes and persons
that had once possessed a strong control over his rude
feelings. Presently the voice became harsher in its utterance,
and it said.

“Stephen Spike, awake! The hour is getting late, and
you have enemies nearer to you than you imagine. Awake,
Stephen, awake!”

When the captain was on his feet, and had plunged his
head into a basin of water that stood ready for him in the
state-room, he could not have told, for his life, whether he
had been dreaming or waking, whether what he had heard
was the result of a feverish imagination, or of the laws of
nature. The call haunted him all that morning, or until
events of importance so pressed upon him as to draw his
undivided attention to them alone.

It was not yet day. The men were still in heavy sleep,
lying about the decks, for they avoided the small and

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crowded forecastle in that warm climate, and the night was
apparently at its deepest hour. Spike walked forward to
look for the man charged with the anchor-watch. It proved
to be Jack Tier, who was standing near the galley, his
arms folded as usual, apparently watching the few signs of
approaching day that were beginning to be apparent in the
western sky. The captain was in none of the best humours
with the steward's assistant; but Jack had unaccountably
got an ascendency over his commander, which it was certainly
very unusual for any subordinate in the Swash to
obtain. Spike had deferred more to Mulford than to any
mate he had ever before employed; but this was the deference
due to superior information, manners, and origin. It
was common-place, if not vulgar; whereas, the ascendency
obtained by little Jack Tier was, even to its subject, entirely
inexplicable. He was unwilling to admit it to himself
in the most secret manner, though he had begun to
feel it on all occasions which brought them in contact, and
to submit to it as a thing not to be averted.

“Jack Tier,” demanded the captain, now that he found
himself once more alone with the other, desirous of obtaining
his opinion on a point that harassed him, though he
knew not why; “Jack Tier, answer me one thing. Do
you believe that we saw the form of a dead or of a living
man at the foot of the light-house?”

“The dead are never seen leaning against walls in that
manner, Stephen Spike,” answered Jack, coolly, not even
taking the trouble to uncoil his arms. “What you saw
was a living man; and you would do well to be on your
guard against him. Harry Mulford is not your friend—
and there is reason for it.”

“Harry Mulford, and living! How can that be, Jack?
You know the port in which he chose to run.”

“I know the rock on which you chose to abandon him,
Captain Spike.”

“If so, how could he be living and at the Dry Tortugas.
The thing is impossible!”

“The thing is so. You saw Harry Mulford, living and
well, and ready to hunt you to the gallows. Beware of
him, then; and beware of his handsome wife!”

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“Wife! the fellow has no wife—he has always professed
to be a single man!”

“The man is married—and I bid you beware of his
handsome wife. She, too, will be a witness ag'in you.”

“This will be news, then, for Rose Budd. I shall delight
in telling it to her, at least.”

“'T will be no news to Rose Budd. She was present at
the wedding, and will not be taken by surprise. Rose loves
Harry too well to let him marry, and she not present at the

“Jack, you talk strangely! What is the meaning of all
this? I am captain of this craft, and will not be trifled
with—tell me at once your meaning, fellow.”

“My meaning is simple enough, and easily told. Rose
Budd is the wife of Harry Mulford.”

“You're dreaming, fellow, or are wishing to trifle with

“It may be a dream, but it is one that will turn out to
be true. If they have found the Poughkeepsie sloop-of-war,
as I make no doubt they have by this time, Mulford
and Rose are man and wife.”

“Fool! you know not what you say! Rose is at this
moment in her berth, sick at heart on account of the young
gentleman who preferred to live on the Florida Reef rather
than to sail in the Molly!”

“Rose is not in her berth, sick or well; neither is she on
board this brig at all. She went off in the light-house boat
to deliver her lover from the naked rock—and well did she
succeed in so doing. God was of her side, Stephen Spike;
and a body seldom fails with such a friend to support one.”

Spike was astounded at these words, and not less so at
the cool and confident manner with which they were pronounced.
Jack spoke in a certain dogmatical, oracular
manner, it is true, one that might have lessened his authority
with a person over whom he had less influence; but
this in no degree diminished its effect on Spike. On the
contrary, it even disposed the captain to yield an implicit
faith to what he heard, and all so much the more because
the facts he was told appeared of themselves to be nearly
impossible. It was half a minute before he had sufficiently
recovered from his surprise to continue the discourse.

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“The light-house boat!” Spike then slowly repeated.
“Why, fellow, you told me the light-house boat went adrift
from your own hands!”

“So it did,” answered Jack, coolly, “since I cast off the
painter—and what is more, went in it.”

“You! This is impossible. You are telling me a fabricated
lie. If you had gone away in that boat, how could
you now be here? No, no—it is a miserable lie, and Rose
is below!”

“Go and look into her state-room, and satisfy yourself
with your own eyes.”

Spike did as was suggested. He went below, took a
lamp that was always suspended, lighted in the main cabin,
and, without ceremony, proceeded to Rose's state-room,
where he soon found that the bird had really flown. A
direful execration followed this discovery, one so loud as
to awaken Mrs. Budd and Biddy. Determined not to do
things by halves, he broke open the door of the widow's
state-room, and ascertained that the person he sought was
not there. A fierce explosion of oaths and denunciations
followed, which produced an answer in the customary
screams. In the midst of this violent scene, however,
questions were put, and answers obtained, that not only
served to let the captain know that Jack had told him nothing
but truth, but to put an end to everything like amicable
relations between himself and the relict of his old
commander. Until this explosion, appearances had been
observed between them; but, from that moment, there must
necessarily be an end of all professions of even civility.
Spike was never particularly refined in his intercourse with
females, but he now threw aside even its pretension. His
rage was so great that he totally forgot his manhood, and
lavished on both Mrs. Budd and Biddy epithets that were
altogether inexcusable, and many of which it will not do
to repeat. Weak and silly as was the widow, she was not
without spirit; and on this occasion she was indisposed to
submit to all this unmerited abuse in silence. Biddy, as
usual, took her cue from her mistress, and between the two,
their part of the wordy conflict was kept up with a very
respectable degree of animation.

“I know you—I know you, now!” screamed the widow,

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at the tope of her voice; “and you can no longer deceive
me, unworthy son of Neptune as you are! You are unfit
to be a lubber, and would be log-booked for an or'nary by
every gentleman on board ship. You, a full-jiggered seaman!
No, you are not even half-jiggered, sir; and I tell
you so to your face.”

“Yes, and it is n't half that might be tould the likes of
yees!” put in Biddy, as her mistress stopped to breathe.
“And it's Miss Rose you'd have for a wife, when Biddy
Noon would be too good for ye! We knows ye, and all
about ye, and can give yer history as complate from the
day ye was born down to the prisent moment; and not find
a good word to say in yer favour in all that time — and a
precious time it is, too, for a gentleman that would marry
pretthy, young Miss Rose! Och! I scorn to look at ye,
yer so ugly!”

“And trying to persuade me you were a friend of my
poor, dear Mr. Budd, whose shoe you are unworthy to
touch, and who had the heart and soul for the noble profession
you disgrace,” cut in the widow, the moment Biddy
gave her a chance, by pausing to make a wry face as she
pronounced the word “ugly.” “I now believe you capasided
them poor Mexicans, in order to get their money;
and the moment we cast anchor in a road-side, I'll go ashore,
and complain of you for murder, I will.”

“Do, missus, dear, and I'll be your bail, will I, and
swear to all that happened, and more too. Och! yer a
wretch, to wish to be the husband of Miss Rose, and she
so young and pretthy, and you so ould and ugly!”

“Come away—come away, Stephen Spike, and do not
stand wrangling with women, when you and your brig, and
all that belongs to you, are in danger,” called out Jack Tier
from the companion-way. “Day is come; and what is
much worse for you, your most dangerous enemy is coming
with it.”

Spike was almost livid with rage, and ready to burst out
in awful maledictions; but at this summons he sprang to
the ladder, and was on deck in a moment. At first, he felt
a strong disposition to wreak his vengeance on Tier, but,
fortunately for the latter, as the captain's foot touched the
quarter-deck, his eye fell on the Poughkeepsie, then within

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half a league of the Swash, standing in toward the reef,
though fully half a mile to leeward. This spectre drove
all other subjects from his mind, leaving the captain of the
Swash in the only character in which he could be said to
be respectable, or that of a seaman. Almost instinctively
he called all hands, then he gave one brief minute to a survey
of his situation.

It was, indeed, time for the Swash to be moving. There
she lay, with three anchors down, including that of the
schooner, all she had, in fact, with the exception of her
best bower, and one kedge, with the purchases aloft, in
readiness for hooking on to the wreck, and all the extra securities
up that had been given to the masts. As for the
sloop-of-war, she was under the very same canvas as that
with which she had come out from the Dry Tortugas, or
her three top-sails, spanker, and jib; but most of her other
sails were loose, even to her royals and flying-jibs; though
closely gathered into their spars by means of the running
gear. In a word, every sailor would know, at a glance,
that the ship was merely waiting for the proper moment to
spread her wings, when she would be flying through the
water at the top of her speed. The weather looked dirty,
and the wind was gradually increasing, threatening to blow
heavily as the day advanced.

“Unshackle, unshackle!” shouted Spike to the boatswain,
who was the first man that appeared on deck. “The
bloody sloop-of-war is upon us, and there is not a moment
to lose. We must get the brig clear of the ground in the
shortest way we can, and abandon everything. Unshackle,
and cast off for'ard and aft, men.”

A few minutes of almost desperate exertion succeeded.
No men work like sailors, when the last are in a hurry,
their efforts being directed to counteracting squalls, and
avoiding emergencies of the most pressing character.
Thus was it now with the crew of the Swash. The clanking
of chains lasted but a minute, when the parts attached
to the anchors were thrust through the hawse-holes, or were
dropped into the water from other parts of the brig. This
at once released the vessel, though a great deal remained
to be done to clear her for working, and to put her in the
best trim.

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“Away with this out-hauler!” again shouted Spike, casting
loose the main-brails as he did so; “loose the jibs!”

All went on at once, and the Swash moved away from
the grave of the poor carpenter with the ease and facility
of motion that marked all her evolutions. Then the topsail
was let fall, and presently all the upper square-sails
were sheeted home, and hoisted, and the fore-tack was
hauled aboard. The Molly was soon alive, and jumping
into the seas that met her with more power than was common,
as she drew out from under the shelter of the reef
into rough water. From the time when Spike gave his
first order, to that when all his canvas was spread, was just
seven minutes.

The Poughkeepsie, with her vastly superior crew, was
not idle the while. Although the watch below was not disturbed,
she tacked beautifully, and stood off the reef, in a
line parallel to the course of the brig, and distant from her
about half a mile. Then sail was made, her tacks having
been boarded in stays. Spike knew the play of his craft
was short legs, for she was so nimble in her movements that
he believed she could go about in half the time that would
be required for a vessel of the Poughkeepsie's length.
“Ready about,” was his cry, therefore, when less than a
mile distant from the reef—“ready about, and let her go
round.” Round the Molly did go, like a top, being full on
the other tack in just fifty-six seconds. The movement of
the corvette was more stately, and somewhat more deliberate.
Still, she stayed beautifully, and both Spike and
the boatswain shook their heads, as they saw her coming
into the wind with her sails all lifting and the sheets

“That fellow will fore-reach a cable's length before he
gets about!” exclaimed Spike. “He will prove too much
for us at this sport! Keep her away, my man—keep the
brig away for the passage. We must run through the reef,
instead of trusting ourselves to our heels in open water.”

The brig was kept away accordingly, and sheets were
eased off, and braces just touched, to meet the new line of
sailing. As the wind stood, it was possible to lay through
the passage on an easy bowline, though the breeze, which
was getting to be fresher than Spike wished it to be,

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promised to haul more to the southward of east, as the day
advanced. Nevertheless, this was the Swash's best point
of sailing, and all on board of her had strong hopes of her
being too much for her pursuer, could she maintain it.
Until this feeling began to diffuse itself in the brig, not a
countenance was to be seen on her decks that did not betray
intense anxiety; but now something like grim smiles
passed among the crew, as their craft seemed rather to fly
than force her way through the water, toward the entrance
of the passage so often adverted to in this narrative.

On the other hand, the Poughkeepsie was admirably
sailed and handled. Everybody was now on deck, and the
first lieutenant had taken the trumpet. Captain Mull was
a man of method, and a thorough man-of-war's man. Whatever
he did was done according to rule, and with great
system. Just as the Swash was about to enter the passage,
the drum of the Poughkeepsie beat to quarters. No sooner
were the men mustered, in the leeward, or the starboard
batteries, than orders were sent to cast loose the guns, and
to get them ready for service. Owing to the more leeward
position of his vessel, and to the fact that she always head-reached
so much in stays, Captain Mull knew that she
would not lose much by luffing into the wind, or by making
half-boards, while he might gain everything by one well-directed

The strife commenced by the sloop-of-war, firing her
weather bow-gun, single-shotted, at the Swash. No damage
was done, though the fore-yard of the brig had a very narrow
escape. This experiment was repeated three times,
without even a rope-yarn being carried away, though the
gun was pointed by Wallace himself, and well pointed, too.
But it is possible for a shot to come very near its object
and still to do no injury. Such was the fact on this occasion,
though the “ship's gentleman” was a good deal mortified
by the result. Men look so much at success as the
test of merit, that few pause to inquire into the reasons of
failures, though it frequently happens that adventures prosper
by means of their very blunders. Captain Mull now
determined on a half-board, for his ship was more to leeward
than he desired. Directions were given to the officers
in the batteries to be deliberate, and the helm was put

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down. As the ship shot into the wind, each gun was fired,
as it could be brought to bear, until the last of them all
was discharged. Then the course of the vessel was
changed, the helm being righted before the ship had lost
her way, and the sloop-of-war fell off again to her course.

All this was done in such a short period of time as
scarcely to cause the Poughkeepsie to lose anything, while
it did the Swash the most serious injury. The guns had
been directed at the brig's spars and sails, Captain Mull
desiring no more than to capture his chase, and the destruction
they produced aloft was such as to induce Spike
and his men, at first, to imagine that the whole hamper
above their heads was about to come clattering down on
deck. One shot carried away all the weather fore-topmast
rigging of the brig, and would no doubt have brought
about the loss of the mast, if another, that almost instantly
succeeded it, had not cut the spar itself in two, bringing
down, as a matter of course, everything above it. Nearly
half of the main-mast was gouged out of that spar, and the
gaff was taken fairly out of its jaws. The fore-yard was
cut in the slings, and various important ropes were carried
away in different parts of the vessel.

Flight, under such circumstances, was impossible, unless
some extraordinary external assistance was to be obtained.
This Spike saw at once, and he had recourse to
the only expedient that remained; which might possibly
yet save him. The guns were still belching forth their
smoke and flames, when he shouted out the order to put
the helm hard up. The width of the passage in which the
vessels were was not so great but that he might hope to
pass across it, and to enter a channel among the rocks,
which was favourably placed for such a purpose, ere the
sloop-of-war could overtake him. Whither that channel
led, what water it possessed, or whether it were not a shallow
cul de sac, were all facts of which Spike was ignorant.
The circumstances, however, would not admit of an alternative.

Happily for the execution of Spike's present design,
nothing from aloft had fallen into the water, to impede the
brig's way. Forward, in particular, she seemed all wreck;
her fore-yard having come down altogether, so as to

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enried the forecastle, while her top-mast, with its dependent
spars and gear, was suspended but a short distance
above. Still, nothing had gone over the side, so as actually
to touch the water, and the craft obeyed her helm as usual.
Away she went, then, for the lateral opening in the reef
just mentioned, driven ahead by the pressure of a strong
breeze on her sails, which still offered large surfaces to the
wind, at a rapid rate. Instead of keeping away to follow,
the Poughkeepsie maintained her luff, and just as the Swash
entered the unknown passage, into which she was blindly
plunging, the sloop-of-war was about a quarter of a mile to
windward, and standing directly across her stern. Nothing
would have been easier, now, than for Captain Mull to
destroy his chase; but humanity prevented his firing. He
knew that her career must be short, and he fully expected
to see her anchor; when it would be easy for him to take
possession with his boats. With this expectation, indeed,
he shortened sail, furling top-gallant-sails, and hauling up
his courage. By this time, the wind had so much freshened,
as to induce him to think of putting in a reef, and
the step now taken had a double object in view.

To the surprise of all on board the man-of-war, the brig
continued on, until she was fully a mile distant, finding
her way deeper and deeper among the mazes of the reef
without meeting with any impediment! This fact induced
Captain Mull to order his Paixhans to throw their shells
beyond her, by way of a hint to anchor. While the guns
were getting ready, Spike stood on boldly, knowing it was
neck or nothing, and beginning to feel a faint revival of
hope, as he found himself getting further and further from
his pursuers, and the rocks not fetching him up. Even the
men, who had begun to murmur at what seemed to them
to be risking too much, partook, in a slight degree, of the
same feeling, and began to execute the order they had received
to try to get the launch into the water, with some
appearance of an intention to succeed. Previously, the
work could scarcely be said to go on at all; but two or
three of the older seamen now bestirred themselves, and
suggestions were made and attended to, that promised results
But it was no easy thing to get the launch out of a
half-rigged brig, that had lost her fore-yard, and which

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carried nothing square abaft. A derrick was used in common,
to lift the stern of the boat, but a derrick would now
be useless aft, without an assistant forward. While these
things were in discussion, under the superintendence of
the boatswain, and Spike was standing between the knight-heads,
conning the craft, the sloop-of-war let fly the first of
her hollow shot. Down came the hurtling mass upon the
Swash, keeping every head elevated and all eyes looking
for the dark object, as it went booming through the air
above their heads. The shot passed fully a mile to leeward,
where it exploded. This great range had been given
to the first shot, with a view to admonish the captain how
long he must continue under the guns of the ship, and as
advice to come to. The second gun followed immediately.
Its shot was seem to ricochet, directly in a line with the
brig, making leaps of about half a mile in length. It struck
the water about fifty yards astern of the vessel, bounded
directly over her decks, passing through the main-sail and
some of the fallen hamper forward, and exploded about a
hundred yards ahead. As usually happens with such projectiles,
most of the fragments were either scattered laterally,
or went on, impelled by the original momentum.

The effect of this last gun on the crew of the Swash
was instantaneous and deep. The faint gleamings of hope
vanished at once, and a lively consciousness of the desperate
nature of their condition succeeded in every mind.
The launch was forgotten, and, after conferring together
for a moment, the men went in a body, with the boatswain
at their head, to the forecastle, and offered a remonstrance
to their commander, on the subject of holding out any
longer, under circumstances so very hazardous, and which
menaced their lives in so many different ways. Spike listened
to them with eyes that fairly glared with fury. He
ordered them back to their duty in a voice of thunder, tapping
the breast of his jacket, where he was known to carry
revolvers, with a significance that could convey but one

It is wonderful the ascendency that men sometimes obtain
over their fellows, by means of character, the habits
of command, and obedience, and intimidation. Spike was
a stern disciplinarian, relying on that and ample pay for

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the unlimited control he often found it necessary to exercise
over his crew. On the present occasion, his people
were profoundly alarmed, but habitual deference and submission
to their leader counteracted the feeling, and held
them in suspense. They were fully aware of the nature
of the position they occupied in a legal sense, and were
deeply reluctant to increase the appearances of crime; but
most of them had been extricated from so many grave difficulties
in former instances, by the coolness, nerve and
readiness of the captain, that a latent ray of hope was perhaps
dimly shining in the rude breast of every old sea-dog
among them. As a consequence of these several causes,
they abandoned their remonstrance, for the moment at
least, and made a show of returning to their duty; though
it was in a sullen and moody manner.

It was easier, however, to make a show of hoisting out
the launch, than to effect the object. This was soon made
apparent on trial, and Spike himself gave the matter up.
He ordered the yawl to be lowered, got alongside, and to
be prepared for the reception of the crew, by putting into
it a small provision of food and water. All this time the
brig was rushing madly to leeward, among rocks and breakers,
without any other guide than that which the visible
dangers afforded. Spike knew no more where he was
going than the meanest man in his vessel. His sole aim
was to get away from his pursuers, and to save his neck
from the rope. He magnified the danger of punishment
that he really ran, for he best knew the extent and nature
of his crimes, of which the few that have been laid before
the reader, while they might have been amongst the most
prominent, as viewed through the statutes and international
law, were far from the gravest he had committed in the eyes
of morals.

About this time the Señor Montefalderon went forward
to confer with Spike. The calmness of this gentleman's
demeanour, the simplicity and coolness of his movements,
denoted a conscience that saw no particular ground for
alarm. He wished to escape captivity, that he might continue
to serve his country, but no other apprehension troubled

“Do you intend to trust yourself in the yawl, Don

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Esteban?” demanded the Mexican quietly. “If so, is she not
too small to contain so many as we shall make altogether?”

Spike's answer was given in a low voice; and it evidently
came from a very husky throat.

“Speak lower, Don Wan,” he said. “The boat would
be greatly overloaded with all hands in it, especially among
the breakers, and blowing as it does; but we may leave
some of the party behind.”

“The brig must go on the rocks, sooner or later, Don
Esteban; when she does, she will go to pieces in an hour.

“I expect to hear her strike every minute, señor; the
moment she does, we must be off. I have had my eye on
that ship for some time, expecting to see her lower her cutters
and gigs to board us. You will not be out of the way,
Don Wan; but there is no need of being talkative on the
subject of our escape.”

Spike now turned his back on the Mexican, looking anxiously
ahead, with the desire to get as far into the reef as
possible with his brig, which he conned with great skill
and coolness. The Señor Montefalderon left him. With
the chivalry and consideration of a man and a gentleman,
he went in quest of Mrs. Budd and Biddy. A hint sufficed
for them, and gathering together a few necessaries they
were in the yawl in the next three minutes. This movement
was unseen by Spike, or he might have prevented it.
His eyes were now riveted on the channel ahead. It had
been fully his original intention to make off in the boat, the
instant the brig struck, abandoning not only Don Juan,
with Mrs. Budd and Biddy to their fates, but most of the
crew. A private order had been given to the boatswain,
and three of the ablest-bodied among the seamen, each and
all of whom kept the secret with religious fidelity, as it
was believed their own personal safety might be connected
with the success of this plan.

Nothing is so contagious as alarm. It requires not only
great natural steadiness of nerve, but much acquired firmness
to remain unmoved when sudden terror has seized on
the minds of those around us. Habitual respect had prevented
the crew from interfering with the movements of
the Mexican, who not only descended into the boat with
his female companions uninterrupted, but also took with

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him the little bag of doubloons which fell to his share from
the first raising of the schooner. Josh and Jack Tier
assisted in getting Mrs. Budd and Biddy over the side, and
both took their own places in the yawl, as soon as this
pious duty was discharged. This served as a hint to others
near at hand; and man after man left his work to steal
into the yawl, until every living being had disappeared
from the deck of the Swash, Spike himself excepted. The
man at the wheel had been the last to desert his post, nor
would he have done so then, but for a signal from the boatswain,
with whom he was a favourite.

It is certain there was a secret desire among the people
of the Swash, who were now crowded into a boat not large
enough to contain more than half their number with safety,
to push off from the brig's side, and abandon her commander
and owner to his fate. All had passed so soon,
however, and events succeeded each other with so much
rapidity, that little time was given for consultation. Habit
kept them in their places, though the appearances around
them were strong motives for taking care of themselves.

Notwithstanding the time necessary to relate the foregoing
events, a quarter of an hour had not elapsed, from
the moment when the Swash entered this unknown channel
among the rocks, ere she struck. No sooner was her
helm deserted than she broached-to, and Spike was in the
act of denouncing the steerage, ignorant of its cause, when
the brig was thrown, broadside-to, on a sharp, angular bed
of rocks. It was fortunate for the boat, and all in it, that
it was brought to leeward by the broaching-to of the vessel,
and that the water was still sufficiently deep around
them to prevent the waves from breaking. Breakers there
were, however, in thousands, on every side; and the seamen
understood that their situation was almost desperately
perilous, without shipwreck coming to increase the

The storm itself was scarcely more noisy and boisterous
than was Spike, when he ascertained the manner in which
his people had behaved. At first, he believed it was their
plan to abandon him to his fate; but, on rushing to the
lee-gangway, Don Juan Montefalderon assured him that no
such intention existed, and that he would not allow the

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[figure description] Page 170.[end figure description]

boat to be cast off until the captain was received on board.
This brief respite gave Spike a moment to care for his portion
of the doubloons; and he rushed to his state-room to
secure them, together with his quadrant.

The grinding of the brig's bottom on the coral, announced
a speedy breaking up of the craft, while her commander
was thus employed. So violent were some of the
shocks with which she came down on the hard bed in
which she was now cradled, that Spike expected to see her
burst asunder, while he was yet on her decks. The cracking
of timbers told him that all was over with the Swash,
nor had he got back as far as the gangway with his prize,
before he saw plainly that the vessel had broken her back,
as it is termed, and that her plank-sheer was opening in a
way that threatened to permit a separation of the craft into
two sections, one forward and the other aft. Notwithstanding
all these portentous proofs that the minutes of the
Molly were numbered, and the danger that existed of his
being abandoned by his crew, Spike paused a moment, ere
he went over the vessel's side, to take a hasty survey of the
reef. His object was to get a general idea of the position
of the breakers, with a view to avoid them. As much of
the interest of that which is to succeed is connected with
these particular dangers, it may be well to explain their character,
along with a few other points of a similar bearing.

The brig had gone ashore fully two miles within the passage
she had entered, and which, indeed, terminated at the
very spot where she had struck. The Poughkeepsie was
standing off and on, in the main channel, with her boats
in the water, evidently preparing to carry the brig in that
mode. As for the breakers, they whitened the surface of
the ocean in all directions around the wreck, far as the eye
could reach, but in two. The passage in which the Poughkeepsie
was standing to and fro was clear of them, of
course; and about a mile and a half to the northward,
Spike saw that he should be in open water, or altogether
on the northern side of the reef, could he only get there.
The gravest dangers would exist in the passage, which led
among breakers on all sides, and very possibly among rocks
so near the surface as absolutely to obstruct the way. In
one sense, however, the breakers were useful. By

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[figure description] Page 171.[end figure description]

avoiding them as much as possible, and by keeping in the unbroken
water, the boat would be running in the channels
of the reef, and consequently would be the safer. The
result of the survey, short as it was, and it did not last a
minute, was to give Spike something like a plan; and when
he went over the side, and got into the boat, it was with a
determination to work his way out of the reef to its northern
edge, as soon as possible, and then to skirt it as near as he
could, in his flight toward the Dry Tortugas.

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