The Sound was now several miles in width, and Spike, at first, proposed to his mate, to keep off dead before the wind, and by crossing over to the north shore, let the steamer pass ahead, and continue a bootless chase to the eastward. Several vessels, however, were visible in the middle of the passage, at distances varying from one to three miles, and Mulford pointed out the hopelessness of attempting to cross the sheet of open water, and expect to go unseen by the watchful eyes of the revenue people.
“What you say is true enough, Mr. Mulford,” answered Spike, after a moment of profound reflection, “and every foot that they come nearer, the less will be our chance. But here is Hempstead Harbour a few leagues ahead; if we can reach that before the blackguards close, we may do well enough. It is a deep bay, and has high land to darken the view. I don’t think the brig could be seen at midnight by anything outside; if she was once fairly up that water a mile or two.”
“That is our chance, sir!” exclaimed Mulford cheerfully. “Ay, ay, I know the spot; and everything is favourable—try that, Captain Spike; I’ll answer for it that we go clear.”
Spike did try it. For a considerable time longer he stood on, keeping as close to the land as he thought it safe to run, and carrying everything that would draw. But the steamer was on his heels, evidently gaining fast. Her chimneys gave out flames, and there was every sign that her people were in earnest. To those on board the Swash these flames seemed to draw nearer each instant, as indeed was the fact, and just as the breeze came fresher out of the opening in the hills, or the low mountains, which surround the place of refuge in which they designed to enter, Mulford announced that by aid of the night-glass he could distinguish both sails and hull of their pursuer. Spike took a look, and throwing down the instrument, in a way to endanger it, he ordered the studding-sails taken in. The men went aloft like cats, and worked as if they could stand in air. In a minute or two the Swash was under what Mrs. Budd might have called her “attacking” canvas, and was close by the wind, looking on a good leg well up the harbour. The brig seemed to be conscious of the emergency, and glided ahead at capital speed. In five minutes she had shut in the flaming chimneys of the steamer. In five minutes more Spike tacked, to keep under the western side of the harbour, and out of sight as long as possible, and because he thought the breeze drew down fresher where he was than more out in the bay.
All now depended on the single fact whether the brig had been seen from the steamer or not, before she hauled into the bay. If seen, she had probably been watched; if not seen, there were strong grounds for hoping that she might still escape. About a quarter of an hour after Spike hauled up, the burning chimneys came again into view. The brig was then half a league within the bay, with a fine dark background