“Don’t talk to me of your liquors and other dhrinks,” murmured Biddy in her sleep. “It’s wather that is a blessed thing; and I wish I lived, the night and the day, by the swate pump that’s in our own yard, I do.”
“The woman has been talking in her sleep, in this fashion, most of the watch,” observed Jack, coolly, and perhaps a little contemptuously. “But, Mr. Mulford, unless my eyes have cheated me, we are near that boat again. The passage through the reef is close aboard us, here, on our larboard bow, as it might be, and the current has sucked us in it in a fashion to bring it in a sort of athwart-hawse direction to us.”
“If that boat, after all, should be sent by Providence to our relief! How long is it since you saw it, Jack.”
“But a bit since, sir; or, for that matter, I think I see it now. Look hereaway, sir, just where the dead-eyes of the fore-rigging would bear from us, if the craft stood upon her legs, as she ought to do. If that isn’t a boat, it’s a rock out of water.”
Mulford gazed through the gloom of midnight, and saw, or fancied he saw, an object that might really be the boat. It could not be very distant either; and his mind was instantly made up as to the course he would pursue. Should it actually turn out to be that which he now so much hoped for, and its distance in the morning did not prove too great for human powers, he was resolved to swim for it at the hazard of his life. In the meantime, or until light should return, there remained nothing to do but to exercise as much patience as could be summoned, and to confide in God, soliciting his powerful succour by secret prayer.
Mulford was no sooner left alone, as it might be, by Tier’s seeking a place in which to take his rest, than he again examined the state of the wreck. Little as he had hoped from its long-continued buoyancy, he found matters even worse than he apprehended they would be. The hull had lost much air, and had consequently sunk in the water in an exact proportion to this loss. The space that was actually above the water, was reduced to an area not more than six or seven feet in one direction, by some ten or twelve in the other. This was reducing its extent, since the evening previous, by fully one-half; and there could be no doubt that the air was escaping, in consequence of the additional pressure, in a ratio that increased by a sort of arithmetical progression. The young man knew that the whole wreck, under its peculiar circumstances, might sink entirely beneath the surface, and yet possess sufficient buoyancy to sustain those that were on it for a time longer, but this involved the terrible necessity of leaving the females partly submerged themselves.