A thorough seaman, this accident would never have happened, but for the sudden appearance of the boat and its passengers; one of whom appeared to be a source of great uneasiness to him. As might be expected, the circumstance of striking a place as dangerous as the Pot Rock in Hell-Gate, produced a great sensation on board the vessel. This sensation betrayed itself in various ways, and according to the characters, habits, and native firmness of the parties. As for the ship-master’s relict, she seized hold of the main-mast, and screamed so loud and perseveringly, as to cause the sensation to extend itself into the adjacent and thriving village of Astoria, where it was distinctly heard by divers of those who dwelt near the water. Biddy Noon had her share in this clamour, lying down on the deck in order to prevent rolling over, and possibly to scream more at her leisure, while Rose had sufficient self-command to be silent, though her cheeks lost their colour.
Nor was there anything extraordinary in females betraying this alarm, when one remembers the somewhat astounding signs of danger by which these persons were surrounded. There is always something imposing in the swift movement of a considerable body of water. When this movement is aided by whirlpools and the other similar accessories of an interrupted current, it frequently becomes startling, more especially to those who happen to be on the element itself. This is peculiarly the case with the Pot Rock, where, not only does the water roll and roar as if agitated by a mighty wind, but where it even breaks, the foam seeming to glance up stream, in the rapid succession of wave to wave. Had the Swash remained in her terrific berth more than a second or two, she would have proved what is termed a “total loss;” but she did not. Happily, the Pot Rock lies so low that it is not apt to fetch up anything of a light draught of water, and the brigantine’s fore-foot had just settled on its summit, long enough to cause the vessel to whirl round and make her obeisance to the place, when a succeeding swell lifted her clear, and away she went down stream, rolling as if scudding in a gale, and, for a moment, under no command whatever. There lay another danger ahead, or it would be better to say astern, for the brig was drifting stern foremost; and that was in an eddy under a bluff, which bluff lies at an angle in the reach, where it is no uncommon thing for craft to be cast ashore, after they have passed all the more imposing and more visible dangers above. It was in escaping this danger, and in recovering the command of his vessel, that Spike now manifested the sort of stuff of which he was really made, in emergencies of this sort. The yards were all sharp up when the accident occurred, and springing to the lee braces, just as a man winks when his eye is menaced, he seized the weather fore-brace with his own hands, and began to round in the yard, shouting out to the man at the wheel to “port his helm”