Burke and Shirley were a little surprised when they found that the captain had determined to stop at Valparaiso, a plan so decidedly opposed to what he had before said on the subject. But when they found it was for the purpose of sending a letter to his wife, and that he intended, if possible, barely to touch and go, they said nothing more, nor did Burke make any further allusions to improvement in their store of provisions.
When, at last, the captain found himself off Valparaiso, it was on a dark, cloudy evening and nothing could be done until the next morning, and they dropped anchor to wait until dawn.
As soon as it was light, the captain saw that a British steamer was anchored about a mile from the Miranda, and he immediately sent a boat, with Shirley and two of the negroes, to ask the officer on duty to post his letter when he sent on shore. In a little more than an hour Shirley returned, with the report that the first mate of the steamer knew Captain Horn and would gladly take charge of his letter.
The boat was quickly hauled to the davits, and all hands were called to weigh anchor and set sail. But all hands did not respond to the call. One of the negroes, a big, good-natured fellow, who, on account of his unpronounceable African name, had been dubbed “Inkspot,” was not to be found. This was a very depressing thing, under the circumstances, and it, almost counterbalanced the pleasure the captain felt in having started a letter on its way to his party in France.
It seemed strange that Inkspot should have deserted the vessel, for it was a long way to the shore, and, besides, what possible reason could he have for leaving his fellow-Africans and taking up his lot among absolute strangers? The crew had all worked together so earnestly and faithfully that the captain had come to believe in them and trust them to an extent to which he had never before trusted seamen.
The officers held a consultation as to what was to be done, and they very quickly arrived at a decision. To remain at anchor, to send a boat on shore to look for the missing negro, would be dangerous and useless. Inquiries about the deserter would provoke inquiries about the brig, and if Inkspot really wished to run away from the vessel, it would take a long time to find him and bring him back. The right course was quite plain to every one. Having finished the business which brought them there, they must up anchor and sail away as soon as possible. As for the loss of the man, they must bear that as well as they could. Whether he had been drowned, eaten by a shark, or had safely reached the shore, he was certainly lost to them.
At the best, their crew had been small enough, but six men had sailed a brig, and six men could do it again.
So the anchor was weighed, the sails were set, and before a northeast wind the Miranda went out to sea as gayly as the nature of her build permitted, which is not saying much. It was a good wind, however, and when the log had been thrown, the captain remarked that the brig was making better time than she had made since they left Acapulco.