I took no part in an argument. Neither did Trunnell or the skipper. They both seemed satisfied of their position and took no pains to talk to the men as if they suspected a rising. I stood in the waist and remained looking steadily at the horizon until the sun dipped, and there was every prospect that night would come before we raised the black mast of the wreck. My pistol was in my pocket ready for instant use, and I saw by the bunch under Chips’ coat that he was also ready. His small black mustache was worked into points under the pressure of his nervous fingers, and he sat on the hatch-combings apart from all save Johnson. The sailor walked athwartships before him on the deck as if to get the stiffness out of his little legs, which seemed now thinner than ever, as the setting sun shone between them through the curious gap.
The upper limb of the red sun was just touching the line of water when the man in the foretop hailed the deck.
“Wreck on weather bow, sir!” he bawled.
My heart gave a great jump and I looked at Chips. Johnson made a movement with his hand as if holding a knife and went to the weather rail and looked over.
“Weather maintopsail brace!” came the call from Trunnell. The men came tumbling aft and took their places.
“Lee braces, Mr. Rolling,” he called again, and I crossed the deck, knowing that he would jam her as high as he could to make as far to windward as possible before darkness set in.
We braced her sharper, and she pointed a bit higher, but she could not quite head up to the black stick that showed above the horizon. The wind, however, was steady, and under her royals the Pirate was about the fastest and prettiest ship afloat. She heeled gently to the breeze and went through it to the tune of seven knots, rolling the heft of the long sea away from her clipper bows and tossing off the foam without a jar or tremble. I looked hard at the distant speck which was now just visible from the deck, and wondered how Andrews and his crew felt. I could see nothing of the Sovereign’s hull, and hope rose within me. I found myself saying over and over again to myself, “She’s gone under, she’s gone under.” Then just before it grew too dark to see any longer I went aft and took up the glass. Through it the black forecastle of the wreck showed above the sea.
It was quite dark before the Pirate had come up with the wreck. The skipper and Trunnell had gone below to their supper, and I had charge of the deck, with orders to heave the ship into the wind when we came abreast, and sing out for the mate to man the boat.
We were barely able to make within half a mile dead to leeward, but when we did, I backed the main yards and clewed up the courses, taking in the royals to keep from drifting off too fast in the gloom.
Trunnell came on deck and gave orders to get out the boat. She was soon at the channels, jumping and thrashing in the sea, for the breeze was now quite strong. The mate jumped into her with four men, and Thompson went to the break of the poop and told me I could go below to supper. Chips and the steward came aft, also, and we made out to eat a square meal in silence, each making a sign to his neighbor toward the back of his belt.