“This is a sad accident, Don Esteban,” observed the Mexican, as he and Spike paced the quarter-deck together, just before the last turned in; “a sad accident! My miserable schooner seems to be deserted by its patron saint. Then your poor carpenter!”
“Yes, he was a good fellow enough with a saw, or an adze,” answered Spike, yawning. “But we get used to such things at sea. It’s neither more nor less than a carpenter expended. Good night, Senor Don Wan; in the morning we’ll be at that gold ag’in.”
She’s in a scene of nature’s
The winds and waters are at strife;
And both with her contending for
The brittle thread of human life.
Spike was sleeping hard in his berth, quite early on the following morning, before the return of light, indeed, when he suddenly started up, rubbed his eyes, and sprang upon deck like a man alarmed. He had heard, or fancied he had heard, a cry. A voice once well known and listened to, seemed to call him in the very portals of his ear. At first he had listened to its words in wonder, entranced like the bird by the snake, the tones recalling scenes and persons that had once possessed a strong control over his rude feelings. Presently the voice became harsher in its utterance, and it said.
“Stephen Spike, awake! The hour is getting late, and you have enemies nearer to you than you imagine. Awake, Stephen, awake!”
When the captain was on his feet, and had plunged his head into a basin of water that stood ready for him in the state-room, he could not have told, for his life, whether he had been dreaming or waking, whether what he had heard was the result of a feverish imagination, or of the laws of nature. The call haunted him all that morning, or until events of importance so pressed upon him as to draw his undivided attention to them alone.
It was not yet day. The men were still in heavy sleep, lying about the decks, for they avoided the small and crowded forecastle in that warm climate, and the night was apparently at its deepest hour. Spike walked forward to look for the man charged with the anchor-watch. It proved to be Jack Tier, who was standing near the galley, his arms folded as usual, apparently watching the few signs of approaching day that were beginning to be apparent in the western sky. The captain was in none of the best humours with the steward’s assistant; but Jack had unaccountably got an ascendency over his commander, which it was certainly very unusual for any subordinate in the Swash to obtain. Spike had deferred more to Mulford than to any mate he had ever before employed; but this was the deference due to superior information, manners, and origin. It was common-place, if not vulgar; whereas, the ascendency obtained by little Jack Tier was, even to its subject, entirely inexplicable. He was unwilling to admit it to himself in the most secret manner, though he had begun to feel it on all occasions which brought them in contact, and to submit to it as a thing not to be averted.