Read Chapter XIV. of The Red Rover, free online book, by James Fenimore Cooper, on ReadCentral.com.

  “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” ­Macbeth.

The first watch of the night was marked by no change.  Wilder had joined his passengers, cheerful, and with that air of enjoyment which every officer of the sea is more or less wont to exhibit, when he has disengaged his vessel from the dangers of the land, and has fairly launched her on the trackless and fathomless abyss of the ocean.  He no longer alluded to the hazards of the passage, but strove, by the thousand nameless assiduities which his station enabled him to man fest, to expel all recollection of had passed from their minds.  Mrs Wyllys lent herself to his evident efforts to remove their apprehensions and one, ignorant of what had occurred between them, would have thought the little party, around the evening’s repast, was a contented and unsuspecting group of travellers, who had commenced their enterprise under the happiest auguries.

Still there was that, in the thoughtful eye and clouded brow of the governess, as at times she turned her bewildered look on our adventurer, which denoted a mind far from being at ease.  She listened to the gay and peculiar, because professional, sallies of the young mariner, with smiles that were indulgent while they were melancholy, as though his youthful spirits, exhibited as they were by touches of a humour that was thoroughly and quaintly nautical recalled familiar, but sad, images to her fancy Gertrude had less alloy in her pleasure.  Home, with a beloved and indulgent father, were before her; and she felt, while the ship yielded to each fresh impulse of the wind, as if another of those weary miles which had so long separated them, was already conquered.

During these short but pleasant hours, the adventurer who had been so oddly called into the command of the Bristol trader, appeared in a new character.  Though his conversation was characterized by the frank manliness of a seaman, it was, nevertheless tempered by the delicacy of perfect breeding.  The beautiful mouth of Gertrude often struggled to conceal the smiles which played around her lips and dimpled her cheeks, like a soft air ruffling the surface of some limpid spring; and once or twice, when the humour of Wilder came unexpectedly across her youthful fancy, she was compelled to yield to the impulses of an irresistible merriment.

One hour of the free intercourse of a ship can do more towards softening the cold exterior in which the world encrusts the best of human feelings, than weeks of the unmeaning ceremonies of the land.  He who has not felt this truth, would do well to distrust his own companionable qualities.  It would seem that man, when he finds himself in the solitude of the ocean, feels the deepest how great is his dependancy on others for happiness.  Then it is that he yields to sentiments with which he trifled, in the wantonness of abundance, and is glad to seek relief in the sympathies of his kind.  A community of hazard makes a community of interest, whether person or property composes the stake.  Perhaps a meta-physical and a too literal, reasoner might add, that, as in such situations each one is conscious the condition and fortunes of his neighbour are the mere indexes of his own, they acquire value in his eyes from their affinity to himself.  If this conclusion be true, Providence has happily so constituted the best of the species, that the sordid feeling is too latent to be discovered; and least of all was any one of the three, who passed the first hours of the night around the cabin table of the “Royal Caroline,” to be included in so selfish a class.  The nature of the intercourse, which had rendered the first hours of their acquaintance so singularly equivocal, appeared to be forgotten in the freedom of the moment; or, if it were remembered at all, it merely served to give the young seaman additional interest in the eyes of the females, as much by the mystery of the circumstances as by the evident concern he had manifested in their behalf.

The bell had struck eight; and the hoarse long-drawn call, which summoned the sleepers to the deck, was heard, before either of the party seemed aware of the lateness of the hour.

“It is the middle watch,” said Wilder, smiling at he observed that Gertrude started at the strange sounds, and sat listening, like a timid doe that catches the note of the hunter’s horn.  “We seamen are not always musical, as you may judge by the strains of the spokesman on this occasion.  There are, however, ears in the ship to whom his notes are even more discordant than to your own.”

“You mean the sleepers?” said Mrs Wyllys.

“I mean the watch below.  There is nothing so sweet to the foremast mariner as his sleep; for it is the most precarious of all his enjoyments:  on the other hand, perhaps, it is the most treacherous companion the Commander knows.”

“And why is the rest of the superior so much less grateful than that of the common man?”

“Because he pillows his head on responsibility.”

“You are young, Mr Wilder, for a trust like this you bear.”

“It is a service which makes us all prematurely old.”

“Then, why not quit it?” said Gertrude, a little hastily.

“Quit it!” he replied, gazing at her intently, for an instant, while he suspended his reply.  “It would be to me like quitting the air we breathe.”

“Have you so long been devoted to your profession?” resumed Mrs Wyllys, bending her thoughtful eye, from the ingenuous countenance of her pupil, once more towards the features of him she addressed.

“I have reason to think I was born on the sea.”

“Think!  You surely know your birth-place.”

“We are all of us dependant on the testimony of others,” said Wilder, smiling, “for the account of that important event.  My earliest recollections are blended with the sight of the ocean, and I can hardly say that I am a creature of the land at all.”

“You have, at least, been fortunate in those who have had the charge to watch over your education and your younger days.”

“I have!” he answered, with strong emphasis.  Then, after shading his face an instant with his hands, he arose, and added, with a melancholy smile:  “And now to my last duty for the twenty four hours.  Have you a disposition to look at the night?  So skilful and so stout a sailor should not seek her birth, without passing an opinion on the weather.”

The governess took his offered arm, and, with his aid, ascended the stairs of the cabin in silence, each seemingly finding sufficient employment in meditation.  She was followed by the more youthful, and therefore more active Gertrude, who joined them as they stood together, on the weather side of the quarter-deck.

The night was rather misty than dark.  A full and bright moon had arisen; but it pursued its path, through the heavens, behind a body of dusky clouds, that was much too dense for any borrowed rays to penetrate.  Here and there, a straggling gleam appeared to find its way through a covering of vapour less dense than the rest, and fell upon the water like the dim illumination of a distant taper.  As the wind was fresh and easterly, the sea seemed to throw upward from its agitated surface, more light, than it received; long lines of white, glittering foam following each other, and lending, at moments, a distinctness to the surface of the waters, that the heavens themselves wanted.  The ship was bowed low on its side; and, as it entered each rolling swell of the ocean, a wide crescent of foam was driven ahead, as if the element gambolled along its path.  But, though the time was propitious, the wind not absolutely adverse, and the heavens rather gloomy than threatening, an uncertain (and, to a landsman, it might seem an unnatural) light gave to the view a character of the wildest loneliness.

Gertrude shuddered, on reaching the deck, while she murmured an expression of strange delight.  Even Mrs Wyllys gazed upon the dark waves, that were heaving and setting in the horizon, around which was shed most of that radiance that seemed so supernatural, with a deep conviction that she was now entirely in the hands of the Being who had created the waters and the land.  But Wilder looked upon the scene as one fastens his gaze on a placid sky.  To him the view possessed neither novelty, nor dread, nor charm.  Not so, however, with his more youthful and slightly enthusiastic companion.  After the first sensations of awe had a little subsided, she exclaimed, in the fullest ardour of admiration, ­

“One such sight would repay a month of imprisonment in a ship!  You must find deep enjoyment in these scenes, Mr Wilder; you, who have them always at command.”

“Yes, yes; there is pleasure to be found in them, without doubt, I would that the wind had veer’d a point or two!  I like not that sky, nor yonder misty horizon, nor this breeze hanging so dead at east.”

“The vessel makes great progress,” returned Mrs Wyllys, calmly, observing that the young man spoke without consciousness, and fearing the effect of his words on the mind of her pupil.  “If we are going on our course, there is the appearance of a quick and prosperous passage.”

“True!” exclaimed Wilder, as though he had just become conscious of her presence.  “Quite probable and very true.  Mr Earing, the air is getting too heavy for that duck.  Hand all your top-gallant sails, and haul the ship up closer.  Should the wind hang here at east-with-southing, we may want what offing we can get.”

The mate replied in the prompt and obedient manner which seamen use to their superiors; and; lifter scanning the signs of the weather for a moment, he promptly proceeded to see the order executed.  While the men were on the yards furling the light canvas, the females walked apart, leaving the young Commander to the uninterrupted discharge of his duty.  But Wilder, so far from deeming it necessary to lend his attention to so ordinary a service, the moment after he had spoken, seemed perfectly unconscious that the mandate had issued from his mouth.  He stood on the precise spot where the view of the ocean and the heavens had first caught his eye, and his gaze still continued fastened on the aspect of the two elements.  His look was always in the direction of the wind, which, though far from a gale, often fell upon the sails of the ship in heavy and sullen puffs.  After a long and anxious examination, the young mariner muttered his thoughts to himself, and commenced pacing the deck with rapid footsteps.  Still he would make sudden and short pauses, and again rivet his gaze on the point of the compass whence the blasts came sweeping across the waste of waters; as though he distrusted the weather, and would fain cause his keen glance to penetrate the gloom of night, in order to relieve some painful doubts.  At length his step became arrested, in one of those quick turns that he made at each end of his narrow walk.  Mrs Wyllys and Gertrude stood nigh, and were enabled to read something of the anxious character of his countenance, as his eye became suddenly fastened on a distant point of the ocean, though in a quarter exactly opposite to that whither his former looks had been directed.

“Do you so much distrust the weather?” asked the governess, when she thought his examination had endured long enough to become ominous of evil.

“One looks not to leeward for the signs of the weather, in a breeze like this,” was the answer.

“What see you, then, to fasten your eye on thus intently?”

Wilder slowly raised his arm, and was about to point with his finger, when the limb suddenly fell again.

“It was delusion!” he muttered, turning quickly on his heel, and pacing the deck still more rapidly than ever.

His companions watched the extraordinary, and apparently unconscious, movements of the young Commander, with amazement, and not without a little secret dismay.  Their own looks wandered over the expanse of troubled water to leeward, but nowhere could they see more than the tossing element, capped with those ridges of garish foam which served only to make the chilling waste more dreary and imposing.

“We see nothing,” said Gertrude, when Wilder again stopped in his walk, and once more gazed, as before, on the seeming void.

“Look!” he answered, directing their eyes with his finger:  “Is there nothing there?”

“Nothing.”

“You look into the sea.  Here, just where the heavens and the waters meet; along that streak of misty light, into which the waves are tossing themselves, like little hillocks on the land.  There; now ’tis smooth again, and my eyes did not deceive me.  By heavens, it is a ship!”

“Sail, ho!” shouted a voice, from out atop, which sounded in the ears of our adventurer like the croaking of some sinister spirit, sweeping across the deep.

“Whereaway?” was the stern demand.

“Here on our lee-quarter, sir,” returned the seaman at the top of his voice.  “I make her out a ship close-hauled; but, for an hour past, she has looked more like mist than a vessel.”

“Ay, he is right,” muttered Wilder; “and yet ’tis a strange thing that a ship should be just there.”

“And why stranger than that we are here?”

“Why!” said the young man, regarding Mrs Wyllys, who had put this question, with a perfectly unconscious eye.  “I say, ’tis strange she should be there.  I would she were steering northward.”

“But you give no reason.  Are we always to have warnings from you,” she continued, with a smile, “without reasons?  Do you deem us so utterly unworthy of a reason? or do you think us incapable of thought on a subject connected with the sea?  You have failed to make the essay, and are too quick to decide.  Try us this once.  We may possibly deceive your expectations.”

Wilder laughed faintly, and bowed, as if he recollected himself.  Still he entered into no explanation; but again turned his gaze on the quarter of the ocean where the strange sail was said to be.  The females followed his example, but ever with the same want of success.  As Gertrude expressed her disappointment aloud, the soft tones of the complainant found their way to the ears of our adventurer.

“You see the streak of dim light,” he said, again pointing across the waste.  “The clouds have lifted a little there, but the spray of the sea is floating between us and the opening.  Her spars look like the delicate work of a spider, against the sky, and yet you see there are all the proportions, with the three masts, of a noble ship.”

Aided by these minute directions, Gertrude at length caught a glimpse of the faint object, and soon succeeded in giving the true direction to the look of her governess also.  Nothing was visible but the dim outline, not unaptly described by Wilder himself assembling a spider’s web.

“It must be a ship!” said Mrs Wyllys; “but at a vast distance.”

“Hum!  Would it were farther.  I could wish that vessel any where but there.”

“And why not there?  Have you reason to dread an enemy has been waiting for us in this particular spot?”

“No:  Still I like not her position.  Would to God the were going north!”

“It is some vessel from the port of New York steering to his Majesty’s islands in the Caribbean sea.”

“Not so,” said Wilder, shaking his head; “no vessel, from under the heights of Never-sink, could gain that offing with a wind like this!”

“It is then some ship going into the same place, or perhaps bound for one of the bays of the Middle Colonies!”

“Her road would be too plain to be mistaken.  See; the stranger is close upon a wind.”

“It may be a trader, or a cruiser coming from one of the places I have named.”

“Neither.  The wind has had too much northing, the last two days, for that.”

“It is a vessel that we have overtaken, and which has come out of the waters of Long Island Sound.”

“That, indeed, may we yet hope,” muttered Wilder in a smothered voice.

The governess, who had put the foregoing questions in order to extract from the Commander of the “Caroline” the information he so pertinaciously withheld, had now exhausted all her own knowledge on the subject, and was compelled to await his further pleasure in the matter, or resort to the less equivocal means of direct interrogation.  But the busy state of Wilder’s thoughts left her no immediate opportunity to pursue the subject.  He soon summoned the officer of the watch to his councils, and they consulted together, apart, for many minutes.  The hardy, but far from quick witted, seaman who tilled the second station in the ship saw nothing so remarkable in the appearance of a strange sail, in the precise spot where the dim and nearly aerial image of the unknown vessel was still visible; nor did he hesitate to pronounce her some honest trader bent, like themselves, on her purpose of lawful commerce.  It would seem that his Commander thought otherwise, as will appear by the short dialogue that passed between them.

“Is it not extraordinary that she should be just there?” demanded Wilder, after they had, each in turn, made a closer examination of the faint object, by the aid of an excellent night-glass.

“She would be better off, here,” returned the literal seaman, who only had an eye for the nautical situation of the stranger; “and we should be none the worse for being a dozen leagues more to the eastward, ourselves.  If the wind holds here at east-by-south-half-south we shall have need of all that offing.  I got jammed once between Hatteras and the Gulf” ­

“But, do you not perceive that she is where no vessel could or ought to be, unless she has run exactly the same course with ourselves?” interrupted Wilder.  “Nothing, from any harbour south of New York, could have such northing, as the wind has been; while nothing, from the Colony of York would stand on this tack, if bound east; or would be here, if going southward.”

The plain-going ideas of the honest mate were open to a reasoning which the reader may find a little obscure:  for his mind contained a sort of chart of the ocean, to which he could at any time refer, with a proper discrimination between the various winds, and all the different points of the compass.  When properly directed, he was not slow to see, as a mariner, the probable justice of his young Commander’s inferences; and then wonder, in its turn began to take possession of his more obtuse faculties.

“It is downright unnatural, truly, that the fellow should be there!” he replied, shaking his head, but meaning no more than that it was entirely out of the order of nautical propriety; “I see the philosophy of what you say, Captain Wilder; and little do I know how to explain it.  It is a ship, to a mortal certainty!”

“Of that there is no doubt.  But a ship most strangely placed!”

“I doubled the Good-Hope in the year ’46,” continued the other, “and saw a vessel lying, as it might be, here, on our weather-bow ­which is just opposite to this fellow, since he is on our lee-quarter ­but there I saw a ship standing for an hour across our fore-foot, and yet, though we set the azimuth, not a degree did he budge, starboard or larboard, during all that time, which, as it was heavy weather, was, to say the least, something out of the common order.”

“It was remarkable!” returned Wilder, with an air so vacant, as to prove that he rather communed with himself than attended to his companion.

“There are mariners who say that the flying Dutchman cruises off that Cape, and that he often gets on the weather side of a stranger, and bears down upon him, like a ship about to lay him aboard.  Many is the King’s cruiser, as they say, that has turned her hands up from a sweet sleep, when the look-outs have seen a double decker coming down in the night, with ports up, and batteries lighted but then this can’t be any such craft as the Dutchman, since she is, at the most, no more than a large sloop of war, if a cruiser at all.”

“No, no,” said Wilder, “this can never be the Dutchman.”

“Yon vessel shows no lights; and, for that matter, she has such a misty look, that one might well question its being a ship at all.  Then, again, the Dutchman is always seen to windward, and the strange sail we have here lies broad upon our lee-quarter!”

“It is no Dutchman,” said Wilder, drawing a long breath, like a man awaking from a trance.  “Main topmast-cross-trees, there!”

The man who was stationed aloft answered to this hail in the customary manner, the short conversation that succeeded being necessarily maintained in shouts, rather than in speeches.

“How long have you seen the stranger?” was the first demand of Wilder.

“I have just come aloft, sir; but the man I relieved tells me more than an hour.”

“And has the man you relieved come down? or what is that I see sitting on the lee side of the mast-head?”

“’Tis Bob Brace, sir; who says he cannot sleep, and so he stays upon the yard to keep me company.”

“Send the man down.  I would speak to him.”

While the wakeful seaman was descending the rigging, the two officers continued silent, each seeming to find sufficient occupation in musing on what had already passed.

“And why are you not in your hammock?” said Wilder, a little sternly, to the man who, in obedience to his order, had descended to the quarter-deck.

“I am not sleep-bound, your Honour, and therefore I had the mind to pass another hour aloft.”

“And why are you, who have two night-watches to keep already, so willing to enlist in a third?”

“To own the truth, sir, my mind has been a little misgiving about this passage, since the moment we lifted our anchor.”

Mrs Wyllys and Gertrude, who were auditors, insensibly drew nigher, to listen, with a species of interest which betrayed itself by the thrilling of nerves, and an accelerated movement of the pulse.

“And you have your doubts, sir!” exclaimed the Captain, in a tone of slight contempt.  “Pray, may I ask what you have seen, on board here, to make you distrust the ship.”

“No harm in asking, your Honour,” returned the seaman, crushing the hat he held between two hands that had a gripe like a couple of vices, “and so I hope there is none in answering.  I pulled an oar in the boat after the old man this morning, and I cannot say I like the manner in which he got from the chase.  Then, there is something in the ship to leeward that comes athwart my fancy like a drag, and I confess, your Honour, that I should make but little head-way in a nap, though I should try the swing of a hammock.”

“How long is it since you made the ship to leeward?” gravely demanded Wilder.

“I will not swear that a real living ship has been made out at all, sir.  Something I did see, just before the bell struck seven, and there it is, just as clear and just as dim, to be seen now by them that have good eyes.”

“And how did she bear when you first saw her?”

“Two or three points more toward the beam than it is now.”

“Then we are passing her!” exclaimed Wilder, with a pleasure too evident to be concealed.

“No, your Honour, no.  You forget, sir, the ship has come closer to the wind since the middle watch was set.”

“True,” returned his young Commander, in a tone of disappointment; “true, very true.  And her bearing has not changed since you first made her?”

“Not by compass, sir.  It is a quick boat that, or would never hold such way with the ‘Royal Caroline,’ and that too upon a stiffened bow-line, which every body knows is the real play of this ship.”

“Go, get you to your hammock.  In the morning we may have a better look at the fellow.”

“And ­you hear me, sir,” added the attentive mate, “do not keep the men’s eyes open below, with a tale as long as the short cable, but take your own natural rest, and leave all others, that have clear consciences, to do the same.”

“Mr Earing,” said Wilder, as the seaman reluctantly proceeded towards his place of rest, “we will bring the ship upon the other tack, and get more easting, while the land is so far from us.  This course will be setting us upon Hatteras.  Besides” ­

“Yes, sir,” the mate replied, observing his superior to hesitate, “as you were saying, ­besides, no one can foretel the length of a gale, nor the real quarter it may come from.”

“Precisely.  No one can answer for the weather.  The men are scarcely in their hammocks; turn them up at once, sir, before their eyes are heavy, and we will bring the ship’s head the other way.”

The mate instantly sounded the well-known cry, which summoned the watch below to the assistance of their shipmates on the deck.  Little delay occurred, and not a word was uttered, but the short, authoritative mandates which Wilder saw fit to deliver from his own lips.  No longer pressed up against the wind, the ship, obedient to her helm, gracefully began to incline her head from the waves, and to bring the wind abeam.  Then, instead of breasting and mounting the endless hillocks, like a being that toiled heavily along its path, she fell into the trough of the sea, from which she issued like a courser, who, have conquered an ascent, shoots along the track with redoubled velocity.  For an instant the wind appear ed to have lulled, though the wide ridge of foam which rolled along on each side the vessel’s bows, sufficiently proclaimed that she was skimming lightly before it.  In another moment, the tall spars began to incline again to the west, and the vessel came swooping up to the wind, until her plunges and shocks against the seas were renewed as violently as before.  When every yard and sheet were properly trimmed to meet the new position of the vessel, Wilder turned anxiously to get a glimpse of the stranger.  A minute was lost in ascertaining the precise spot where he ought to appear; for, in such a chaos of water, and with no guide but the judgment, the eye was apt to deceive itself, by referring to the nearer and more familiar objects by which the spectator was surrounded.

“The stranger has vanished!” said Earing, with a voice in whose tones mental relief and distrust were both, at the same moment, oddly manifesting themselves.

“He should be on this quarter; but I confess I see him not!”

“Ay, ay, sir; this is the way that the midnight cruiser off the Hope is said to come and go.  There are men who have seen that vessel shut in by a fog, in as fine a star-light night as was ever met in a southern latitude.  But then this cannot be the Dutchman, since it is so many long leagues from the pitch of the Cape to the coast of North-America.

“Here he lies; and, by heaven! he has already gone about!” cried Wilder.

The truth of what our young adventurer had just affirmed was indeed now sufficiently evident to the eye of any seaman.  The same diminutive and misty tracery, as before, was to be seen on the light background of the threatening horizon, looking not unlike the faintest shadows cast upon some brighter surface by the deception of the phantasmagoria.  But to the mariners, who so well knew how to distinguish between the different lines of her masts, it was very evident that her course had been suddenly and dexterously changed, and that she was now steering no longer to the south and west, but, like themselves, holding her way towards the north-east.  The fact appeared to make a sensible impression on them all; though probably, had their reasons been sifted, they would have been found to be entirely different.

“That ship has truly tacked!” Earing exclaimed, after a long, meditative pause, and with a voice in which distrust, or rather awe, was beginning to get the ascendancy.  “Long as I have followed the sea, have I never before seen a vessel tack against such a head-beating sea.  He must have been all shaking in the wind, when we gave him the last look, or we should not have lost sight of him.”

“A lively and quick-working vessel might do it,” said Wilder; “especially if strong handed.”

“Ay, the hand of Beelzebub is always strong; and a light job would he make of it, in forcing even a dull craft to sail.”

“Mr Earing,” interrupted Wilder, “we will pack upon the ‘Caroline,’ and try our sailing with this taunting stranger.  Get the main tack aboard, and set the top-gallant-sail.”

The slow-minded mate would have remonstrated against the order, had he dared; but there was that, in the calm, subdued, but deep tones of his young Commander, which admonished him of the hazard.  He was not wrong, however, in considering the duty he was now to perform as one not without some risk.  The ship was already moving under quite as much canvas as he deemed it prudent to show at such an hour, and with so many threatening symptoms of heavier weather hanging about the horizon.  The necessary orders were, however, repeated as promptly as they had been given.  The seamen had already begun to consider the stranger, and to converse among themselves concerning his appearance and situation; and they obeyed with an alacrity that might perhaps have been traced to a secret but common wish to escape from his vicinity.  The sails were successively and speedily set; and then each man folded his arms, and stood gazing steadily and intently at the shadowy object to leeward, in order to witness the effect of the change.

The “Royal Caroline” seemed, like her crew, sensible of the necessity of increasing her speed.  As she felt the pressure of the broad sheets of canvas that had just been distended, the ship bowed lower, and appeared to recline on the bed of water which rose under her lee nearly to the scuppers.  On the other side, the dark planks, and polished copper, lay bare for many feet, though often washed by the waves that came sweeping along her length, green and angrily, still capped, as usual, with crests of lucid foam.  The shocks, as the vessel tilted against the billows, were becoming every moment more severe; and, from each encounter, a bright cloud of spray arose, which either fell glittering on the deck, or drove, in brilliant mist, across the rolling water, far to leeward.

Wilder long watched the ship, with an excited mien, but with all the intelligence of a seaman.  Once or twice, when she trembled, and appeared to stop, in her violent encounter with a wave, as suddenly as though she had struck a rock, his lips severed, and he was about to give the order to reduce the sail; but a glance at the misty looking image on the western horizon seemed ever to cause his mind to change its purpose.  Like a desperate adventurer, who had cast his fortunes on some hazardous experiment, he appeared to await the issue with a resolution that was as haughty as it was unconquerable.

“That topmast is bending like a whip,” muttered the careful Earing, at his elbow.

“Let it go; we have spare spars to put in its place,” was the answer.

“I have always found the ‘Caroline’ leaky after she has been strained by driving her against the sea.”

“We have our pumps.”

“True, sir; but, in my poor judgment, it is idle to think of outsailing a craft that the devil commands if he does not altogether handle it.”

“One will never know that, Mr Earing, till he tries.”

“We gave the Dutchman a chance of that sort; and, I must say, we not only had the most canvas spread, but much the best of the wind:  And what good did it all do? there he lay, under his three topsails driver, and jib; and we, with studding sails alow and aloft, couldn’t alter his bearing a foot.”

“The Dutchman is never seen in a northern latitude.”

“Well, I cannot say he is,” returned Earing, in a sort of compelled resignation; “but he who has put that flyer off the Cape may have found the cruise so profitable, as to wish to send another ship into these seas.”

Wilder made no reply.  He had either humoured the superstitious apprehension of his mate enough, or his mind was too intent on its principal object, to dwell longer on a foreign subject.

Notwithstanding the seas that met her advance, in such quick succession as greatly to retard her progress the Bristol trader had soon toiled her way through a league of the troubled element.  At every plunge she took, the bow divided a mass of water, that appeared, at each instant, to become more vast and more violent in its rushing; and more than once the struggling hull was nearly buried forward, in some wave which it had equal difficulty in mounting or penetrating.

The mariners narrowly watched the smallest movements of their vessel.  Not a man left her deck, for hours.  The superstitious awe, which had taken such deep hold of the untutored faculties of the chief mate, had not been slow to extend its influence to the meanest of her crew.  Even the accident which had befallen their former Commander, and the sudden and mysterious manner in which the young officer, who now trod the quarter-deck, so singularly firm and calm, under circumstances deemed so imposing, had their influence in heightening the wild impression The impunity with which the “Caroline” bore such a press of canvas, under the circumstances in which she was placed, added to their kindling admiration; and, ere Wilder had determined, in his own mind, on the powers of his ship, in comparison with those of the vessel that so strangely hung in the horizon, he was himself becoming the subject of unnatural and revolting suspicions to his own crew.