Finding that the tide was getting unfavourable and the wind too light to stem it, the sails were then drawn to her yards in festoons, and an anchor was dropped to the bottom.
“What have here? A man, or a fish?”—The Tempest.
The “Caroline” now lay within a cable’s length of the supposed slaver. In dismissing the pilot, Wilder had assumed a responsibility from which a seaman usually shrinks, since, in the case of any untoward accident in leaving the port, it would involve a loss of insurance, and his own probable punishment. How far he had been influenced, in taking so decided a step, by a knowledge of his being beyond or above, the reach of the law, will probably be made manifest in the course of the narrative; the only immediate effect of the measure, was, to draw the whole of his attention, which had before been so much divided between his passengers and the ship, to the care of the latter. But, so soon as his vessel was secured, for a time at least, and his mind was no longer excited by the expectation of a scene of immediate violence, our adventurer found leisure to return to his former, though (to so thorough a seaman) scarcely more agreeable occupation. The success of his delicate manoeuvre had imparted to his countenance a glow of something very like triumph; and his step, as he advanced towards Mrs. Wyllys and Gertrude, was that of a man who enjoyed the consciousness of having acquitted himself dexterously, in circumstances that required no small exhibition of professional skill. At least, such was the construction the former lady put upon his kindling eye and exulting air; though the latter might, possibly be disposed to judge of his motives with greater indulgence. Perhaps both were ignorant of the secret reasons of his self-felicitation; and it is possible that a sentiment, of a far more generous nature than either of them could imagine, had a full share of its influence in his present feelings.
Be this as it might, Wilder no sooner saw that the “Caroline” was swinging to her anchor, and that his services were of no further immediate use, than he sought an opportunity to renew a conversation which had hitherto been so vague, and so often interrupted. Mrs Wyllys had long been viewing the neighbouring vessel with a steady look; nor did she now turn her gaze from the motionless and silent object, until the young mariner was near her person. She was then the first to speak.
“Yonder vessel must possess an extraordinary, not to say an insensible, crew!” exclaimed the governess in a tone bordering on astonishment. “If such things were, it would not be difficult to fancy her a spectre-ship.”
“She is truly an admirably proportioned and a beautifully equipped trader!”
“Did my apprehensions deceive me? or were we in actual danger of getting the two vessels entangled?”
“There was certainly some reason for apprehension; but you see we are safe.”