“Overboard with the rest of the powder!” shouted Spike. “Keep the brig off a little, Mr. Mulford—keep her off, sir; you luff too much, sir.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” answered the mate. “Keep her off, it is.”
“There comes the other shell!” cried Ben, but the men did not quit their toil to gaze this time. Each seaman worked as if life and death depended on his single exertions. Spike alone watched the course of the missile. On it came, booming and hurtling through the air, tossing high the jets, at each leap it made from the surface, striking the water for its last bound, seemingly in a line with the shell that had just preceded it. From that spot it made its final leap. Every hand in the brig was stayed and every eye was raised as the rushing tempest was heard advancing. The mass went muttering directly between the masts of the Swash. It had scarcely seemed to go by when the fierce flash of fire and the sharp explosion followed. Happily for those in the brig, the projectile force given by the gun carried the fragments from them, as in the other instance it had brought them forward; else would few have escaped mutilation, or death, among their crew.
The flashing of fire so near the barrels of powder that still remained on their deck, caused the frantic efforts to be renewed, and barrel after barrel was tumbled overboard, amid the shouts that were now raised to animate the people to their duty.
“Luff, Mr. Mulford—luff you may, sir,” cried Spike. No answer was given.
“D’ye hear there, Mr. Mulford?—it is luff you may, sir.”
“Mr. Mulford is not aft, sir,” called out the man at the helm—“but luff it is, sir.”
“Mr. Mulford not aft! Where’s the mate, man? Tell him he is wanted.”
No Mulford was to be found! A call passed round the decks, was sent below, and echoed through the entire brig, but no sign or tidings could be had of the handsome mate. At that exciting moment the sloop-of-war seemed to cease her firing, and appeared to be securing her guns.
Thou art the same, eternal sea!
The earth has many shapes and forms,
Of hill and valley, flower and tree;
Fields that the fervid noontide warms,
Or winter’s rugged grasp deforms,
Or bright with autumn’s golden store;
Thou coverest up thy face with storms,
Or smilest serene,—but still thy roar
And dashing foam go up to vex the sea-beat shore:
We shall now advance the time eight-and-forty hours. The baffling winds and calms that succeeded the tornado had gone, and the trades blew in their stead. Both vessels had disappeared, the brig leading, doubling the western extremity of the reef, and going off before both wind and current, with flowing sheets, fully three hours before the sloop-of-war could beat up against the latter, to a point that enabled her to do the