The yawl carried a lugg, as is usually the case with boats at sea, and the first blast of the breeze upon it satisfied Spike that his present enterprise was one of the most dangerous of any in which he had ever been engaged. The puffs of wind were quite as much as the boat would bear; but this he did not mind, as he was running off before it, and there was little danger of the yawl capsizing with such a weight in her. It was also an advantage to have swift way on, to prevent the combing waves from shooting into the boat, though the wind itself scarce outstrips the send of the sea in a stiff blow. As the yawl cleared the brig and began to feel the united power of the wind and waves, the following short dialogue occurred between the boatswain and Spike.
“I dare not keep my eyes off the breakers ahead,” the captain commenced, “and must trust to you, Strand, to report what is going on among the man-of-war’s men. What is the ship about?”
“Reefing her top-sails just now, sir. All three are on the caps, and the vessel is laying-to, in a manner.”
“And her boats?”
“I see none, sir—ay, ay, there they come from alongside of her in a little fleet! There are four of them, sir, and all are coming down before the wind, wing and wing, carrying their luggs reefed.”
“Ours ought to be reefed by rights, too, but we dare not stop to do it; and these infernal combing seas seem ready to glance aboard us with all the way we can gather. Stand by to bail, men; we must pass through a strip of white water—there is no help for it. God send that we go clear of the rocks!”
All this was fearfully true. The adventurers were not yet more than a cable’s length from the brig, and they found themselves so completely environed with the breakers as to be compelled to go through them. No man in his senses would ever have come into such a place at all, except in the most unavoidable circumstances; and it was with a species of despair that the seamen of the yawl now saw their little craft go plunging into the foam.