“Captain,” said the mate, as he stood viewing the prospect, with a marlinespike in one hand and a piece of seizing in the other—“I verily think, if that blow had stuck to us two hours longer, the old tub would a’ rolled her futtocks out. Ye don’t know her as well as I do. She’s unlucky, anyhow; and always has been since she sot upon the water. I’ve seen her top-sides open like a basket when we’ve been trying to work her into port in heavy weather: and a craft that won’t look nearer than nine points close-hauled, with a stiff breeze, ought to be sent into the Clyde for a coal-droger. An old vessel’s a perfect pickpocket to owners; and if this old thing hasn’t opened their purses as bad as her own seams, I’ll miss my reckonin’. I’ve had a strong foreknowledge that we wouldn’t get across in her. I saw the rats leaving in Jamaica—taking up their line of march, like marines on the fore. It’s a sure sign. And then I’d a dream, which is as sure as a mainstay—never deceives me. I can depend on its presentiment. I have dreamed it several times, and we always had an awful passage. Twice we come within a bobstay of all goin’ to Old Davy’s store-house. I once escaped it, after I’d had my mysterious dream; but then I made the cook throw the cat overboard just after we left port, and ’twas all that saved us.”
Thus saying, he went forward to serve a topgallant-stay that was stretched across the forecastle-hatch from the cat-heads, and had just been spliced by the men, followed by an old-fashioned sea-urchin, a miniature of the tar, with a mallet in his hand. The captain, although a firm, intelligent man, and little given to such notions of fate as are generally entertained by sailors, who never shake off the spiritual imaginings of the forecastle, displayed some discomfiture of mind at the strong character of the mate’s misgivings. He knew him to be a good sailor, firm in his duty, and unmoved by peril. This he had proved on several occasions when sailing in other vessels, when the last ray of hope seemed to be gone. He approached the mate again, and with a pretence of making inquiries about the storage of the cargo, sounded him further in regard to his knowledge of the Bahamas, and with special reference to the port of Nassau.
“Six-tenths of her timbers are as rotten as punk,” said the mate; “this North American timber never lasts long; the pump-wells are defective, and when we carry sail upon her, they don’t affect the water in the lee-bilge, and she rolls it through her air-streaks like a whale. She’ll damage the best cargo that ever floated, in that way. Take my word for it, skipper, she’ll never go across the Banks; she’ll roll to splinters as soon as she gets into them long seas; and if we get dismasted again, it’s gone Davy.”