“Stay where you are, coward! are you afraid of dead men standing against walls? Stay where you are. Ah! here is the chisel—now let us see what you can do with it.”
“I am certain I heard another groan, Captain Spike. I cannot work, sir. I’m of no use here—do let me come out, sir, and send a hand down that can swim.”
Spike uttered a terrible malediction on the miserable carpenter, one we do not care to repeat; then he cast the light of the lantern full in the man’s face. The quivering flesh, the pallid face, and the whole countenance wrought up almost to a frenzy of terror, astonished, as well as alarmed him.
“What ails you, man?” said the captain in a voice of thunder. “Clap in the chisel, or I’ll hurl you off into the water. There is nothing here, dead or alive, to harm ye!”
“The groan, sir—I hear it again! Do let me come out, Captain Spike.”
Spike himself, this time, heard what even he took for a groan. It came from the depths of the vessel, apparently, and was sufficiently distinct and audible. Astonished, yet appalled, he thrust his shoulders into the aperture, as if to dare the demon that tormented him, and was met by the carpenter endeavouring to escape. In the struggle that ensued, the lantern was dropped into the water, leaving the half-frenzied combatants contending in the dark. The groan was renewed, when the truth flashed on the minds of both.
“The shores! the shores!” exclaimed the carpenter from within. “The shores!” repeated Spike, throwing himself back into the boat, and shouting to his men to “see all clear of the wreck!” The grating of one of the shores on the coral beneath was now heard plainer than ever, and the lower extremity slipped outward, not astern, as had been apprehended, letting the wreck slowly settle to the bottom again. One piercing shriek arose from the narrow cavity within; then the gurgling of water into the aperture was heard, when naught of sound could be distinguished but the sullen and steady wash of the waves of the gulf over the rocks of the reef.
The impression made by this accident was most profound. A fatality appeared to attend the brig; and most of the men connected the sad occurrence of this night with the strange appearance of the previous evening. Even the Senor Montefalderon was disposed to abandon the doubloons, and he urged Spike to make the best of his way for Yucatan, to seek a friendly harbour. The captain wavered, but avarice was too strong a passion in him to be easily diverted from its object, and he refused to give up his purpose.
As the wreck was entirely free from the brig when it went down for the third time, no injury was sustained by the last on this occasion. By renewing the lashings, everything would be ready to begin the work anew—and this, Spike was resolved to attempt in the morning. The men were too much fatigued, and it was too dark to think of pushing matters any further that night; and it was very questionable whether they could have been got to work. Orders were consequently given for all hands to turn in, the captain, relieved by Don Juan and Jack Tier, having arranged to keep the watches of the night.