There was a different feeling on the quarter-deck. The two lieutenants put their heads together, and looked grave; while one or two of the midshipmen, who had been in the boats, were observed to whisper with their messmates, and to indulge in smothered laughter. As the captain, however, maintained his ordinary dignified and authoritative mien, the merriment went no further, and was soon entirely repressed.
While on this subject, it may be proper to add that, in course of time, the Stately Pine reached the capes of North Carolina, in safety; and that, having effected her passage over Edenton bar, without striking, she ascended the river to the point of her destination. Here the crew soon began to throw out hints, relative to an encounter of their schooner with a French cruiser. As the British empire, even in its most remote corners, was at all times alive to its nautical glory, the event soon became the discourse in more distant parts of the colony; and in less than six months, the London journals contained a very glowing account of an engagement, in which the names of the Stately Pine, and of John Turner, made some respectable advances towards immortality.
If Captain Ludlow ever gave any further account of the transaction than what was stated in the log-book of his ship, the bienseance, observed by the Lords of the Admiralty, prevented it from becoming public.
Returning from this digression, which has no other connexion with the immediate thread of the narrative, than that which arises from a reflected interest, we shall revert to the further proceedings on board the cruiser.
When the Coquette had hoisted in her boats, that portion of the crew which did not belong to the watch was dismissed to their hammocks, the lights were lowered, and tranquillity once more reigned in the ship. Ludlow sought his rest, and although there is reason to think that his slumbers were a little disturbed by dreams, he remained tolerably quiet in the hammock-cloths, the place in which it has already been said he saw fit to take his repose, until the morning watch had been called.
Although the utmost vigilance was observed among the officers and look-outs, during the rest of the night, there occurred nothing to arouse the crew from their usual recumbent attitudes between the guns. The wind continued light but steady, the sea smooth, and the heavens clouded, as during the first hours of darkness.
“The mouse ne’er
shunned the cat, as they did budge
From rascals worse than they.”
Day dawned on the Atlantic, with its pearly light, succeeded by the usual flushing of the skies, and the stately rising of the sun from out the water. The instant the vigilant officer, who commanded the morning watch, caught the first glimpses of the returning brightness, Ludlow was awakened. A finger laid on his arm, was sufficient to arouse one who slept with the responsibility of his station ever present to his mind. A minute did not pass, before the young man was on the quarter-deck, closely examining the heavens and the horizon. His first question was to ask if nothing had been seen during the watch. The answer was in the negative.