The next instant Jack Tier entered the room. He had been gone rather more than an hour, not returning until just as the sun was about to set in a flame of fire.
“Well, Jack, what news from the Poughkeepsie?” demanded the mate. “You have been gone long enough to make sure of your errand. Is it certain that we are not to see the man-of-war’s-men to-night.”
“Whatever you see, my advice to you is to keep close, and to be on your guard,” answered Jack, evasively.
“I have little fear of any of Uncle Sam’s craft. A plain story, and an honest heart, will make all clear to a well-disposed listener. We have not been accomplices in Spike’s treasons, and cannot be made to answer for them.”
“Take my advice, maty, and be in no hurry to hail every vessel you see. Uncle Sam’s fellows may not always be at hand to help you. Do you not know that this island will be tabooed to seamen for some time to come?”
“Why so, Jack? The islet has done no harm, though others may have performed wicked deeds near it.”
“Two of the drowned men lie within a hundred yards of this spot, and sailors never go near new-made graves, if they can find any other place to resort to.”
“You deal in enigmas, Jack; and did I not know that you are very temperate, I might suspect that the time you have been gone has been passed in the company of a bottle of brandy.”
“That will explain my meanin’,” said Jack, laconically, pointing as he spoke seemingly at some object that was to be seen without.
The door of the house was wide open, for the admission of air. It faced the haven of the islets, and just as the mate’s eyes were turned to it, the end of a flying-jib-boom, with the sail down, and fluttering beneath it, was coming into the view. “The Poughkeepsie!” exclaimed Mulford, in delight, seeing all his hopes realized, while Rose blushed to the eyes. A pause succeeded, during which Mulford drew aside, keeping his betrothed in the back-ground, and as much out of sight as possible. The vessel was shooting swiftly into view, and presently all there could see it was the Swash.
But no—he surely is not dreaming.
Another minute makes it clear,
A scream, a rush, a burning tear,
From Inez’ cheek, dispel the fear
That bliss like his is only seeming.
A moment of appalled surprise succeeded the instant when Harry and Rose first ascertained the real character of the vessel that had entered the haven of the Dry Tortugas. Then the first turned toward Jack Tier, and sternly demanded an explanation of his apparent faithlessness.
“Rascal,” he cried, “has this treachery been intended? Did you not see the brig and know her?”
“Hush, Harry—dear Harry,” exclaimed Rose, entreatingly. “My life for it, Jack has not been faithless.”