“Perhaps the light-house keeper is afraid to show himself, in the presence of the Swash?”
“That can hardly be, for vessels must often enter the port, if port it can be called. But Spike is as much concerned at the circumstance that the lamps are not lighted, as any of us can be. Look, he is about to visit the building in the boat, accompanied by two of his oldest sea-dogs.”
“Why might we not raise the anchor, and sail out of this place, leaving Spike ashore?” suggested Rose, with more decision and spirit than discretion.
“For the simple reason that the act would be piracy, even if I could get the rest of the people to obey my orders, as certainly I could not. No, Rose: you, and your aunt, and Biddy, however, might land at these buildings, and refuse to return, Spike having no authority over his passengers.”
“Still he would have the power to make us come back to his brig. Look, he has left the vessel’s side, and is going directly toward the light-house.”
Mulford made no immediate answer, but remained at Rose’s side, watching the movements of the captain. The last pulled directly to the islet with the buildings, a distance of only a few hundred feet, the light-house being constructed on a rocky island that was nearly in the centre of the cluster, most probably to protect it from the ravages of the waves. The fact, however, proved, as Mulford did not fail to suggest to his companion, that the beacon had been erected less to guide vessels into the haven, than to warn mariners at a distance, of the position of the whole group.
In less than five minutes after he had landed, Spike himself was seen in the lantern, in the act of lighting its lamps. In a very short time the place was in a brilliant blaze, reflectors and all the other parts of the machinery of the place performing their duties as regularly as if tended by the usual keeper. Soon after Spike returned on board, and the anchor-watch was set. Then everybody sought the rest that it was customary to take at that hour.
Mulford was on deck with the appearance of the sun; but he found that Spike had preceded him, had gone ashore again, had extinguished the lamps, and was coming alongside of the brig on his return. A minute later the captain came over the side.
“You were right about your sail, last night, a’ter all, Mr. Mulford,” said Spike, on coming aft. “There she is, sure enough; and we shall have her alongside to strike cargo out and in, by the time the people have got their breakfasts.”
As Spike pointed toward the light-house while speaking, the mate changed his position a little, and saw that a schooner was coming down toward the islets before the wind. Mulford now began to understand the motives of the captain’s proceedings, though a good deal yet remained veiled in mystery. He could not tell where the brig was, nor did he know precisely why so many expedients were adopted to conceal the transfer of a cargo as simple as that of flour. But he who was in the secret left but little time for reflection; for swallowing a hasty breakfast on deck, he issued orders enough to his mate to give him quite as much duty as he could perform, when he again entered the yawl, and pulled toward the stranger.