As soon as reinforced, Mrs. Budd began to bustle about, and to give commands, such as they were, in order to prove that she was unterrified. Jack Tier gaped at her elbow, and by way of something to do, he laid his hand on the painter of the Swash’s boat, which boat was towing astern, and remarked that “some know-nothing had belayed it with three half-hitches.” This was enough for the relict. She had often heard the saying that “three half-hitches lost the king’s long-boat,” and she busied herself, at once, in repairing so imminent an evil. It was far easier for the good woman to talk than to act; she became what is called “all fingers and thumbs,” and in loosening the third half-hitch, she cast off the two others. At that instant, a puff of wind struck the schooner again, and the end of the painter got away from the widow, who had a last glimpse at the boat, as the vessel darted ahead, leaving its little tender to vanish in the gloom of the night.
Jack was excessively provoked at this accident, for he had foreseen the possibility of having recourse to that boat yet, in order to escape from Spike. By abandoning the schooner, and pulling on to the reef, it might have been possible to get out of their pursuer’s hands, when all other means should fail them. As he was at the tiller, he put his helm up, and ran off, until far enough to leeward to be to the westward of the boat, when he might tack, fetch and recover it. Nevertheless, it now blew much harder than he liked, for the schooner seemed to be unusually tender. Had he had the force to do it, he would have brailed the foresail. He desired Rose to call Mulford, but she hesitated about complying.
“Call him—call the mate, I say,” cried out Jack, in a voice that proved how much he was in earnest. “These puffs come heavy, I can tell you, and they come often, too. Call him—call him, at once, Miss Rose, for it is time to tack if we wish to recover the boat. Tell him, too, to brail the foresail, while we are in stays—that’s right; another call will start him up.”
The other call was given, aided by a gentle shake from Rose’s hand. Harry was on his feet in a moment. A passing instant was necessary to clear his faculties, and to recover the tenor of his thoughts. During that instant, the mate heard Jack Tier’s shrill cry of “Hard a-lee—get in that foresail—bear a-hand—in with it, I say!”
The wind came rushing and roaring, and the flaps of the canvas were violent and heavy.
“In with the foresail, I say,” shouted Jack Tier. “She files round like a top, and will be off the wind on the other tack presently. Bear a-hand!—bear a-hand! It looks black as night to windward.”