“For myself, I care not;” said the stout mariner mournfully. “Of what consequence is it, in what sea, or on what voyage, a seaman goes into his watery tomb?—but for thee, my hapless and playful Eudora, I could wish another fate—ha!—she tacks!—the sea-green lady has an instinct for her children, after all!”
The brigantine was in stays.—In ten or fifteen minutes more, the vessel was again abeam of the raft, and to windward.
“If she pass us now, our chance is gone, without a shadow of hope;” said the Skimmer, motioning solemnly for silence. Then, applying his hands to his mouth, he shouted, as if despair lent a giant’s volume to his lungs—
“Ho! The Water-Witch!—ahoy!”
The last word issued from his lips with the clear, audible cry, that the peculiar sound is intended to produce. It appeared as if the conscious little bark knew its commander’s voice; for its course changed slightly, as if the fabric were possessed of the consciousness and faculties of life.
“Ho! The Water-Witch!—ahoy!” shouted the Skimmer, with a still mightier effort.
“—Hilloa!” came down faintly on the breeze, and the direction of the brigantine again altered.
“The Water-Witch!—the Water-Witch!—ahoy!” broke out of the lips of the mariner of the shawl, with a supernatural force,—the last cry being drawn out, till he who uttered it sunk back exhausted with the effort.
The words were still ringing in the ears of the breathless party on the raft, when a heavy shout swept across the water. At the next moment the boom of the brigantine swung off, and her narrow bows were seen pointing towards the little beacon of white that played above the sea. It was but a moment, but it was a moment pregnant with a thousand hopes and fears, before the beautiful craft was gliding within fifty feet of the top. In less than five minutes, the spars of the Coquette were floating on the wide ocean, unpeopled and abandoned.
The first sensation of the ‘Skimmer of the Seas,’ when his foot touched the deck of his brigantine might have been one of deep and intense gratitude. He was silent, and seemingly oppressed at the throat. Stepping along the planks, he cast an eye aloft, and struck his hand powerfully on the capstan, in a manner that was divided between convulsion and affection. Then he smiled grimly on his attentive and obedient crew, speaking with all his wonted cheerfulness and authority.
“Fill away the top-sail—brace up and haul aft! Trim every thing flat as boards, boys;—jam the hussy in with the coast!”
“Beseech you, Sir, were you present at this relation?”
On the following morning, the windows of the Lust in Rust denoted the presence of its owner. There was an air of melancholy, and yet of happiness, in the faces of many who were seen about the buildings and the grounds, as if a great good had been accompanied by some grave and qualifying circumstances of sorrow. The negroes wore an air of that love of the extraordinary which is the concomitant of ignorance, while those of the more fortunate class resembled men who retained a recollection of serious evils that were past.