The surface of the sea was so universally white, that there was no line of dark water to guide the pirate captain on his bold and desperate course. He was obliged to trust almost entirely to his intimate knowledge of the coast, and to the occasional patches in the surrounding waste where the comparative flatness of the boiling flood indicated less shallow water. As the danger increased, the smile left Gascoyne’s lips; but the flashing of his bright eyes and his deepened color showed that the spirit boiled within almost as wildly as the ocean raged around him.
The center of the shoal was gained, and a feeling of hope and exultation began to rise in the breasts of the crew, when a terrific shock caused the little schooner to quiver from stem to stern, while an involuntary cry burst from the men, many of whom were thrown violently on the deck. At the same time a shot from the Talisman came in through the stern bulwarks, struck the wheel, and carried it away, with part of the tackle attached to the tiller.
“Another leap like that, lass, and you’re over,” cried Gascoyne, with a light smile, as he sprang to the iron tiller, and, seizing it with his strong hands, steered the schooner as if she had been a boat.
“Get new tackle rove, Scraggs,” said he cheerfully. “I’ll keep her straight for Eel’s Gate with this. That was the first bar of the gate; there are only two altogether, and the second won’t be so bad.”
As the captain spoke, the schooner seemed to recover from the shock, and again rushed forward on her foaming course; but before the men had time to breathe, she struck again,—this time less violently, as had been predicted,—and the next wave lifting her over the shoals, launched her into deep water.
“There, that will do,” said Gascoyne, resigning the helm to Scraggs. “You can keep her as she goes: there’s plenty of water now, and no fear of that big bully following us. Meanwhile, I will go below, and see to the welfare of our passengers.”
Gascoyne was wrong in supposing that the Talisman would not follow. She could not indeed follow in the same course; but the moment that Mulroy observed that the pirate had passed the shoals in safety, he stood inshore, and, without waiting to pick up the gig, traversed the channel by which they had entered the bay. Then, trusting to the lead and to his knowledge of the general appearance of shallows, he steered carefully along until he cleared the reefs, and finally stood out to sea.
In less than half an hour afterwards, the party on shore beheld the two vessels disappear among the black storm-clouds that gathered over the distant horizon.
THE GOAT’S PASS—AN ATTACK, A BLOODLESS VICTORY, AND A SERMON.
When Ole Thorwald was landed at the foot of that wild gorge in the cliffs which have been designated the Goat’s Pass, he felt himself to be an aggrieved man, and growled accordingly.