“Ay, in mist, or clouds,” responded Nighthead, who now kept obstinately at his elbow, watching with the most jealous distrust, the smallest movement of his unknown Commander.
“In the heavens, or in the sea, I care not, provided she be gone.”
“Most seamen would rejoice to see a strange sail, from the hull of a vessel shaved to the deck like this.”
“Men often court their destruction, from ignorance of their own interests. Let him drive on, say I, and pray I! He goes four feet to our one; and now I ask no better favour than that this hurricane may blow until the sun shall rise.”
Nighthead started, and cast an oblique glance which resembled denunciation, at his companion. To his blunted faculties, and superstitious mind, there was profanity in thus invoking the tempest, at a moment when the winds seemed already to be pouring out their utmost wrath.
“This is a heavy squall, I will allow,” he said, “and such an one as many mariners pass whole lives without seeing; but he knows little of the sea who thinks there is not more wind where this comes from.”
“Let it blow!” cried the other, striking his hands together a little wildly; “I pray only for wind!”
All the doubts of Nighthead, as to the character of the young stranger who had so unaccountably got possession of the office of Nicholas Nichols, if, indeed, any remained, were now removed. He walked forward among the silent and thoughtful crew with the air of a man whose opinion was settled. Wilder, however, paid no attention to the movements of his subordinate, but continued pacing the deck for hours; now casting his eyes at the heavens or now sending frequent and anxious glances around the limited horizon, while the “Royal Caroline” still continued drifting before the wind, a shorn and naked wreck.
“Sit still, and hear the last of our sea sorrow.”—Shakspeare
The weight of the tempest had been felt at that hapless moment when Earing and his unfortunate companions were precipitated from their giddy elevation into the sea. Though the wind continued to blow long after this fatal event, it was with a constantly diminishing power. As the gale decreased the sea began to rise, and the vessel to labour in proportion. Then followed two hours of anxious watchfulness on the part of Wilder, during which the whole of his professional knowledge was needed in order to keep the despoiled hull of the Bristol trader from becoming a prey to the greedy waters. His consummate skill, however, proved equal to the task that was required at his hands; and, just as the symptoms of day were becoming visible along the east, both wind and waves were rapidly subsiding together. During the whole of this doubtful period our adventurer did not receive the smallest assistance from any of the crew, with the exception of two experienced seamen whom he had previously stationed at the wheel. But to this neglect he was indifferent; since little more was required than his own judgment, seconded, as it faithfully was, by the exertions of the manners more immediately under his eye.