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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 31
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The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 31 Post by :imported_n/a Category :Long Stories Author :James Fenimore Cooper Date :May 2012 Read :1875

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The Water-witch; Or The Skimmer Of The Seas - Chapter 31

Chapter XXXI

"Now; the business!"

Othello.


Three hours later, and every noise was hushed on board the royal cruiser. The toil of repairing damages had ceased, and most of the living, with the dead, lay alike in common silence. The watchfulness necessary to the situation of the fatigued mariners, however, was not forgotten, and though so many slept, a few eyes were still open, and affecting to be alert. Here and there, some drowsy seaman paced the deck, or a solitary young officer endeavored to keep himself awake, by humming a low air, in his narrow bounds. The mass of the crew slept heavily, with pistols in their belts and cutlasses at their sides, between the guns. There was one figure-extended upon the quarter-deck, with the head resting on a shot-box. The deep breathing of this person denoted the unquiet slumbers of a powerful frame, in which weariness contended with suffering. It was the wounded and feverish master, who had placed himself in that position to catch an hour of the repose that was necessary to his situation. Oh an arm-chest, which had been emptied of its contents, lay another but a motionless human form, with the limbs composed in decent order, and with the face turned towards the melancholy stars. This was the body of the young Dumont, which had been kept, with the intention of consigning it to consecrated earth, when the ship should return to port. Ludlow, with the delicacy of a generous and chivalrous enemy had with his own hands spread the stainless ensign of his country over the remains of the inexperienced but gallant young Frenchman.

There was one little group on the raised deck in the stern of the vessel, in which the ordinary interests of life still seemed to exercise their influence. Hither Ludlow had led Alida and her companions, after the duties of the day were over, in order that they might breathe an air fresher than that of the interior of the vessel. The negress nodded near her young mistress; the tired Alderman sate with his back supported against the mizen-mast, giving audible evidence of his situation; and Ludlow stood erect, occasionally throwing an earnest look on the surrounding and unruffled waters, and then lending his attention to the discourse of his companions. Alida and Seadrift were seated near each other, on chairs. The conversation was low, while the melancholy and the tremor in the voice of la belle Barberie denoted how much the events of the day had shaken her usually firm and spirited mind.

"There is a mingling of the terrific and the beautiful, of the grand and the seducing, in this unquiet profession of yours!" observed, or rather continued Alida, replying to a previous remark of the young sailor. "That tranquil sea--the hollow sound of the surf on the shore--and this soft canopy above us form objects on which even a girl might dwell in admiration, were not her ears still ringing with the roar and cries of the combat. Did you say the commander of the Frenchman was but a youth?"

"A mere boy in appearance, and one who doubtless owed his rank to the advantages of birth and family. We know it to be the captain, by his dress, no less than by the desperate effort he made to recover the false step taken in the earlier part of the action."

"Perhaps he has a mother, Ludlow!--a sister--a wife--or----"

Alida paused, for, with maiden diffidence, she hesitated to pronounce the tie which was uppermost in her thoughts.

"He may have had one, or all! Such are the sailor's hazards, and----"

"Such the hazards of those who feel an interest in their safety!" uttered the low but expressive voice of Seadrift.

A deep and eloquent silence succeeded. Then the voice of Myndert was heard muttering indistinctly, "twenty of beaver, and three of marten--as per invoice." The smile which, spite of the train of his thoughts, rose on the lips of Ludlow, had scarcely passed away, when the hoarse tones of Trysail, rendered still hoarser by his sleep, were plainly heard in a stifled cry, saying, "Bear a hand, there, with your stoppers!--the Frenchman is coming round upon us, again."

"That is prophetic!" said one, aloud, behind the listening group. Ludlow turned, quick as the flag fluttering on its vane, and through the darkness he recognized, in the motionless but manly form that stood near him on the poop, the fine person of the 'Skimmer of the Seas.'

"Call away----!"

"Call none!"--interrupted Tiller, stopping the hurried order which involuntarily broke from the lips of Ludlow. "Let thy ship feign the silence of a wreck, but, in truth, let there be watchfulness and preparation even to her store-rooms! You have done well, Captain Ludlow, to be on the alert, though I have known sharper eyes than those of some of your look-outs."

"Whence come you, audacious man, and what mad errand has brought you again on the deck of my ship?"

"I come from my habitation on the sea. My business here is warning!"

"The sea!" echoed Ludlow, gazing about him at the narrow and empty view. "The hour for mockery is past, and you would do well to trifle no more with those who have serious duties to discharge."

"The hour is indeed one for serious duties--duties, more serious than any you apprehend. But before I enter on explanation, there must be conditions between us. You have one of the sea-green lady's servitors, here; I claim his liberty, for my secret."

"The error into which I had fallen exists no longer;" returned Ludlow, looking for an instant towards the shrinking form of Seadrift. "My conquest is worthless, unless you come to supply his place."

"I come for other purposes--here is one who knows I do not trifle when urgent affairs are on hand. Let thy companions retire, that I may speak openly."

Ludlow hesitated, for he had not yet recovered from the surprise of finding the redoubtable free-trader so unexpectedly on the deck of his ship. But Alida and her companion arose, like those who had more confidence in their visiter, and, arousing the negress from her sleep, they descended the ladder and entered the cabin. When Ludlow found himself alone with Tiller, he demanded an explanation.

"It shall not be withheld, for time presses, and that which is to be done must be done with a seaman's care and coolness;" returned the other.--"You have had a close brush with one of Louis's rovers, Captain Ludlow, and prettily was the ship of Queen Anne handled! Have your people suffered, and are you still strong enough to make good a defence worthy of your conduct this morning?"

"These are facts you would have me utter to the ear of one who may be false;--even a spy!"

"Captain Ludlow--but circumstances warrant thy suspicions!"

"One whose vessel and life I have threatened--an outlaw!"

"This is too true," returned the 'Skimmer of the Seas,' suppressing a sudden impulse of pride and resentment. "I am threatened and pursued--I am a smuggler and an outlaw: still am I human! You see that dusky object, which borders the sea to the northward!"

"It is too plainly land, to be mistaken."

"Land, and the land of my birth!--the earliest, perhaps I may say the happiest of my days, were passed on that long and narrow island."

"Had I known it earlier, there would have been a closer look among its bays and inlets."

"The search might have been rewarded. A cannon would easily throw its shot from this deck to the spot where my brigantine now lies, snug at a single anchor."

"Unless you have swept her near since the setting of the sun, that is impossible! When the night drew on, nothing was in view but the frigate and corvette of the enemy."

"We have not stirred a fathom; and yet, true as the word of a fearless man, there lies the vessel of the sea-green lady. You see the place where the beach falls--here, at the nearest point of the land--the island is nearly severed by the water at that spot, and the Water-Witch is safe in the depths of the bay which enters from the northward. There is not a mile between us. From the eastern hill, I witnessed your spirit this day, Captain Ludlow, and though condemned in person, I felt that the heart could never be outlawed. There is a fealty here, that can survive even the persecutions of the custom-houses!"

"You are happy in your terms, Sir. I will not conceal that I think a seaman, even as skilful as yourself, must allow that the Coquette was kept prettily in command!"

"No pilot-boat could have been more sure, or more lively. I knew your weakness, for the absence of all your boats was no secret to me; and I confess I could have spared some of the profits of the voyage, to have been on your decks this day with a dozen of my truest fellows!"

"A man who can feel this loyalty to the flag, should find a more honorable occupation for his usual life."

"A country that can inspire it, should be cautious not to estrange the affections of its children, by monopolies and injustice. But these are discussions unsuited to the moment. I am doubly your countryman in this strait, and all the past is no more than the rough liberties which friends take with each other. Captain Ludlow, there is danger brooding in that dark void which lies to seaward!"

"On what authority do you speak thus?"

"Sight.--I have been among your enemies, and have seen their deadly preparations. I know the caution is given to a brave man, and nothing shall be extenuated. You have need of all your resolution and of every arm--for they will be upon you, in overwhelming numbers!"

"True or false, thy warning shall not be neglected."

"Hold!" said the Skimmer, arresting a forward movement of his companion, with his hand. "Let them sleep to the last moment. You have yet an hour, and rest will renew their strength. You may trust the experience of a seaman who has passed half of the life of man on the ocean, and who has witnessed all its most stirring scenes, from the conflict of the elements to every variety of strife that man has invented to destroy his fellows. For another hour, you will be secure.--After that hour, God protect the unprepared! and God be merciful to him whose minutes are numbered!"

"Thy language and manner are those of one who deals honestly;" returned Ludlow, struck by the apparent sincerity of the free-trader's communication "In every event, we shall be ready, though the manner of your having gained this knowledge is as great a mystery as your appearance on the deck of my ship."

"Both can be explained," returned the Skimmer, motioning to his companion to follow to the tanrail. Here he pointed to a small and nearly imperceptible skiff, which floated at the bottom of a stern-ladder, and continued--"One who so often pays secret visits to the land, can never be in want of the means. This nut-shell was easily transported across the narrow slip of land that separates the bay from the ocean, and though the surf moans so hoarsely, it is easily passed by a steady and dexterous oarsman. I have been under the martingale of the Frenchman, and you see that I am here. If your look-outs are less alert than usual, you will remember that a low gunwale, a dusky side, and a muffled oar, are not readily detected, when the eye is heavy and the body wearied. I must now quit you--unless you think it more prudent to send those who can be of no service, out of the ship, before the trial shall come?"

Ludlow hesitated. A strong desire to put Alida in a place of safety, was met by his distrust of the smuggler's faith. He reflected a moment, ere he answered.

"Your cockle-shell is not sufficiently secure for more than its owner.--Go, and as you prove loyal, may you prosper!"

"Abide the blow!" said the Skimmer, grasping his hand. He then stepped carelessly on the dangling ropes, and descended into the boat beneath. Ludlow watched his movements, with an intense and possibly with a distrustful curiosity. When seated at the sculls, the person of the free-trader was nearly indistinct; and as the boat glided noiselessly away, the young commander no longer felt disposed to censure those who had permitted its approach without a warning. In less than a minute, the dusky object was confounded with the surface of the sea.

Left to himself, the young commander of the Coquette seriously reflected on what had passed. The manner of the Skimmer, the voluntary character of his communication, its probability, and the means by which his knowledge had been obtained, united to confirm his truth. Instances of similar attachment to their flag, in seamen whose ordinary pursuits were opposed to its interests, were not uncommon. Their misdeeds resemble the errors of passion, and temptation, while the momentary return to better things is like the inextinguishable impulses of nature.

The admonition of the free-trader, who had enjoined the captain to allow his people to sleep, was remembered. Twenty times, within as many minutes, did our young sailor examine his watch, to note the tardy passage of the time; and as often did he return it to his pocket, with a determination to forbear. At length he descended to the quarter-deck, and drew near the only form that was erect. The watch was commanded by a youth of sixteen, whose regular period of probationary service had not passed, but who, in the absence of his superiors, was intrusted with this delicate and important duty. He stood leaning against the capstan, one hand supporting his cheek, while the elbow rested against the drum, and the body was without motion. Ludlow regarded him a moment, and then lifting a lighted battle-lantern to his face, he saw that he slept. Without disturbing the delinquent, the captain replaced the lantern and passed forward. In the gangway there stood a marine, with his musket shouldered, in an attitude of attention. As Ludlow brushed within a few inches of his eyes, it was easy to be seen that they opened and shut involuntarily, and without consciousness of what lay before them. On the top-gallant-forecastle was a short, square, and well-balanced figure, that stood without support of any kind, with both arms thrust into the bosom of a jacket, and a head that turned slowly to the west and south, as if it were examining the ocean in those directions.

Stepping lightly up the ladder, Ludlow saw that it was the veteran seaman who was rated as the captain of the forecastle.

"I am glad, at last, to find one pair of eyes open, in my ship," said the captain. "Of the whole watch, you alone are alert."

"I have doubled cape fifty, your Honor, and the seaman who has made that voyage, rarely wants the second call of the boatswain. Young heads have young eyes, and sleep is next to food, after a heavy drag at gun-tackles and lanyards."

"And what draws your attention so steadily in that quarter? There is nothing visible but the haze of the sea."

"'Tis the direction of the Frenchmen, Sir--does your Honor hear nothing?"

"Nothing;" said Ludlow, after intently listening for half a minute. "Nothing, unless it be the wash of the surf on the beach."

"It may be only fancy, but there came a sound like the fall of an oar-blade on a thwart, and 'tis but natural, your Honor, to expect the mounsheer will be out, in this smooth water, to see what has become of us.--There went the flash of a light, or my name is not Bob Cleet!"

Ludlow was silent. A light was certainly visible in the quarter where the enemy was known to be anchored, and it came and disappeared like a moving lantern. At length it was seen to descend slowly, and vanish as if it were extinguished in the water.

"That lantern went into a boat, Captain Ludlow, though a lubber carried it!" said the positive old forecastle-man, shaking his head and beginning to pace across the deck, with the air of a man who needed no further confirmation of his suspicions.

Ludlow returned towards the quarter-deck, thoughtful but calm. He passed among his sleeping crew, without awaking a man, and even forbearing to touch the still motionless midshipman, he entered his cabin without speaking.

The commander of the Coquette was absent but a few minutes. When he again appeared on deck, there was more of decision and of preparation in his manner.

"'Tis time to call the watch, Mr. Reef;" he whispered at the elbow of the drowsy officer of the deck, without betraying his consciousness of the youth's forgetfulness of duty. "The glass is out."

"Ay, ay, Sir.--Bear a hand, and turn the glass!" muttered the young man. "A fine night, Sir, and very smooth water.--I was just thinking of----"

"Home and thy mother! 'Tis the way with us all in youth. Well, we have now something else to occupy the thoughts. Muster all the gentlemen, here, on the quarter-deck, Sir."

"When the half-sleeping midshipman quitted his captain to obey this order, the latter drew near the spot where Trysail still lay in an unquiet sleep. A light touch of a single finger was sufficient to raise the master on his feet. The first look of the veteran tar was aloft, the second at the heavens, and the last at his captain.

"I fear thy wound stiffens, and that the night air has added to the pain?" observed the latter, speaking in a kind and considerate tone.

"The wounded spar cannot be trusted like a sound stick, Captain Ludlow; but as I am no foot-soldier on a march, the duty of the ship may go on without my calling for a horse."

"I rejoice in thy cheerful spirit, my old friend, for here is serious work likely to fall upon our hands. The Frenchmen are in their boats, and we shall shortly be brought to close quarters, or prognostics are false."

"Boats!" repeated the master. "I had rather it were under our canvas, with a stiff breeze! The play of this ship is a lively foot, and a touching leech but, when, it comes to boats, a marine is nearly as good a man as a quarter-master!"

"We must take fortune as it offers.--Here is our council!--It is composed of young heads, but of hearts that might do credit to gray hairs."

Ludlow joined the little group of officers that was by this time assembled near the capstan. Here, in a few words, he explained the reason why he had summoned them from their sleep. When each of the youths understood his orders, and the nature of the new danger that threatened the ship, they separated, and began to enter with activity, but in guarded silence, on the necessary preparations. The sound of footsteps awoke a dozen of the older seamen, who immediately joined their officers.

Half an hour passed like a moment, in such an occupation. At the end of that time, Ludlow deemed his ship ready. The two forward guns had been run in, and the shot having been drawn, their places were supplied with double charges of grape and canister. Several Swivels, a species of armament much used in that age, were loaded to the muzzles, and placed in situations to rake the deck, while the fore-top was plentifully stored with arms and ammunition. The matches were prepared, and then the whole of the crew was mustered, by a particular call of each man. Five minutes sufficed to issue the necessary orders, and to see each post occupied. After this, the low hum ceased in the ship, and the silence again became so deep and general, that the wash of the receding surf was nearly as audible as the plunge of the wave on the sands.

Ludlow stood on the forecastle, accompanied by the master. Here he lent all his senses to the appearance of the elements, and to the signs of the moment. Wind there was none, though occasionally a breath of hot air came from the land, like the first efforts of the night-breeze. The heavens were clouded, though a few thoughtful stars glimmered between the masses of vapor.

"A calmer night never shut in the Americas!" said the veteran Trysail, shaking his head doubtingly and speaking in a suppressed and cautious tone. "I am one of those, Captain Ludlow, who think more than half the virtue is out of a ship when her anchor is down!"

"With a weakened crew, it may be better for us that the people have no yards to handle, nor any bowlines to steady. All our care can be given to defence."

"This is much like telling the hawk he can fight the better with a clipped wing, since he has not the trouble of flying! The nature of a ship is motion, and the merit of a seaman is judicious and lively handling;--but of what use is complaining, since it will neither lift an anchor nor fill a sail? What is your opinion, Captain Ludlow, concerning an after life, and of all those matters one occasionally hears of it he happens to drift in the way of a church?"

"The question is broad as the ocean, my good friend, and a fitting answer might lead us into abstrusities deeper than any problem in our trigonometry.--Was that the stroke of an oar?"

"'Twas a land noise. Well, I am no great navigator among the crooked channels of religion. Every new argument is a sand-bar, or a shoal, that obliges me to tack and stand off again; else I might have been a bishop, for any thing the world knows to the contrary. 'Tis a gloomy night, Captain Ludlow, and one that is sparing of its stars. I never knew luck come of an expedition on which a natural light did not fall!"

"So much the worse for those who seek to harm us.--I surely heard an oar in the row-lock!"

"It came from the shore, and had the sound of the land about it;" quietly returned the master, who still kept his look riveted on the heavens. "This world, in which we live, Captain Ludlow, is one of extraordinary uses; but that, to which we are steering, is still more unaccountable. They say that worlds are sailing above us, like ships in a clear sea; and there are people who believe, that when we take our departure from this planet, we are only bound to another, in which we are to be rated according to our own deeds here; which is much the same as being drafted for a new ship, with a certificate of service in one's pocket."

"The resemblance is perfect;" returned the other leaning far over a timber-head, to catch the smallest sound that might come from the ocean. "That was no more than the blowing of a porpoise!"

"It was strong enough for the puff of a whale. There is no scarcity of big fish on the coast of this island, and bold harpooners are the men who are scattered about on the sandy downs, here-away, to the northward. I once sailed with an officer who knew the name, of every star in the heavens, and often have I passed hours in listening to his history of their magnitude and character, during the middle watches. It was his opinion, that there is but one navigator for all the rovers of the air, whether meteors, comets, or planets."

"No doubt he must be right, having been there."

"No, that is more than I can say for him, though few men have gone deeper into the high latitudes on both sides of our own equator, than he. One surely spoke--here, in a line with yonder low star!"

"Was it not a water-fowl?"

"No gull--ha! here we have the object, just within the starboard jib-boom-guy. There comes the Frenchman in his pride, and 'twill be lucky for him who lives to count the slain, or to boast of his deeds!"

The master descended from the forecastle, and passed among the crew, with every thought recalled from its excursive flight to the duty of the moment. Ludlow continued on the forecastle, alone. There was a low, whispering sound in the ship, like that which is made by the murmuring of a rising breeze,--and then all was still as death.

The Coquette lay with her head to seaward, the stern necessarily pointing towards the land. The distance from the latter was less than a mile, and the direction of the ship's hull was caused by the course of the heavy ground-swell, which incessantly rolled the waters on the wide beach of the island. The head-gear lay in the way of the dim _view_, and Ludlow walked out on the bowsprit, in order that nothing should lie between him and the part of the ocean he wished to study. Here he had not stood a minute, when he caught, first a confused and then a more distinct glimpse of a line of dark objects, advancing slowly towards the ship. Assured of the position of his enemy, he returned in-board, and descended among his people. In another moment he was again on the forecastle, across which he paced leisurely, and, to all appearance, with the calmness of one who enjoyed the refreshing coolness of the night.

At the distance of a hundred fathoms, the dusky line of boats paused, and began to change its order. At that instant the first puffs of the land breeze were felt, and the stern of the ship made a gentle inclination seaward.

"Help her with the mizen! Let fall the top-sail!" whispered the young captain to those beneath him. Ere another moment, the flap of the loosened sail was heard. The ship swung still further, and Ludlow stamped on the deck.

A round fiery light shot beyond the martingale, and the smoke rolled along the sea, outstripped by a crowd of missiles that were hissing across the water. A shout, in which command was mingled with shrieks, followed, and then oar-blades were heard dashing the water aside, regardless of concealment. The ocean lighted, and three or four boat-guns returned the fatal discharge from the ship. Ludlow had not spoken. Still alone on his elevated and exposed post, he watched the effects of both fires, with a commander's coolness. The smile that struggled about his compressed mouth, when the momentary confusion among the boats betrayed the success of his own attack, had been wild and exulting; but when he heard the rending of the plank beneath him, the heavy groans that succeeded, and the rattling of lighter objects that were scattered by the shot, as it passed with lessened force along the deck of his ship, it became fierce and resentful.

"Let them have it!" he shouted, in a clear animating voice, that assured the people of his presence and his care. "Show them the humor of an Englishman's sleep, my lads! Speak to them, tops and decks!"

The order was obeyed. The remaining bow-gun was fired, and the discharge of all the Coquette's musketry and blunderbusses followed. A crowd of boats came sweeping under the bowsprit of the ship at the same moment, and then arose the clamor and shouts of the boarders.

The succeeding minutes were full of confusion, and of devoted exertion. Twice were the head and bowsprit of the ship filled with dark groups of men, whose grim visages were only visible by the pistol's flash, and as often were they cleared by the pike and bayonet. A third effort was more successful, and the tread of the assailants was heard on the deck of the forecastle. The struggle was but momentary, though many fell, and the narrow arena was soon slippery with blood. The Boulognese mariner was foremost among his countrymen, and at that desperate emergency Ludlow and Trysail fought in the common herd. Numbers prevailed, and it was fortunate for the commander of the Coquette, that the sudden recoil of a human body that fell upon him, drove him from his footing to the deck beneath.

Recovering from the fall, the young captain cheered his men by his voice, and was answered by the deep-mouthed shouts, which an excited seaman is ever ready to deliver, even to the death.

"Rally in the gangways, and defy them!" was the animated cry--"Rally in the gangways, hearts of oak." was returned by Trysail, in a ready but weakened voice. The men obeyed, and Ludlow saw that he could still muster a force capable of resistance.

Both parties for a moment paused. The fire of the top annoyed the boarders, and the defendants hesitated to advance. But the rush from both was common, and a fierce encounter occurred at the foot of the fore-mast. The crowd thickened in the rear of the French, and one of their number no sooner fell than another filled his place. The English receded, and Ludlow, extricating himself from the mass, retired to the quarter-deck.

"Give way, men!" he again shouted, so clear and steady, as to be heard above the cries and execrations of the fight. "Into the wings; down,--between the guns--down--to your covers!"

The English disappeared, as if by magic. Some leaped upon the ridge-ropes, others sought the protection of the guns, and many went through the hatches. At that moment Ludlow made his most desperate effort. Aided by the gunner, he applied matches to the two swivels, which had been placed in readiness for a last resort. The deck was enveloped in smoke, and, when the vapor lifted, the forward part of the ship was as clear as if man had never trod it. All who had not fallen, had vanished.

A shout, and a loud hurrah! brought back the defendants, and Ludlow headed a charge upon the top-gallant-forecastle, again, in person. A few of the assailants showed themselves from behind covers on the deck, and the struggle was renewed. Glaring balls of fire sailed over the heads of the combatants, and fell among the throng in the rear. Ludlow saw the danger, and he endeavored to urge his people on to regain the bow-guns, one of which was known to be loaded. But the explosion of a grenade on deck, and in his rear, was followed by a shock in the hold, that threatened to force the bottom out of the vessel. The alarmed and weakened crew began to waver, and as a fresh attack of grenades was followed by a fierce rally, in which the assailants brought up fifty men in a body from their boats, Ludlow found himself compelled to retire amid the retreating mass of his own crew.

The defence now assumed the character of hopeless but desperate resistance. The cries of the enemy were more and more clamorous; and they succeeded in nearly silencing the top, by a heavy fire of musketry established on the bowsprit and sprit-sail-yard.

Events passed much faster than they can be related. The enemy were in possession of all the forward part of the ship to her fore-hatches, but into these young Hopper had thrown himself, with half-a-dozen men, and, aided by a brother midshipman in the launch, backed by a few followers, they still held the assailants at bay. Ludlow cast an eye behind him, and began to think of selling his life as dearly as possible in the cabins. That glance was arrested by the sight of the malign smile of the sea-green lady, as the gleaming face rose above the taffrail. A dozen dark forms leaped upon the poop, and then arose a voice that sent every tone it uttered to his heart.

"Abide the shock!" was the shout of those who came to the succor; and "abide the shock!" was echoed by the crew. The mysterious image glided along the deck, and Ludlow knew the athletic frame that brushed through the throng at its side.

There was little noise in the onset, save the groans of the sufferers. It endured but a moment, but it was a moment that resembled the passage of a whirlwind. The defendants knew that they were succored, and the assailants recoiled before so unexpected a foe. The few that were caught beneath the forecastle were mercilessly slain, and those above were swept from their post like chaff drifting in a gale. The living and the dead were heard falling alike into the sea, and in an unconceivably short space of time, the decks of the Coquette were free. A solitary enemy still hesitated on the bowsprit. A powerful and active frame leaped along the spar, and though the blow was not seen, its effects were visible, as the victim tumbled helplessly into the ocean.

The hurried dash of oars followed, and before the defendants had time to assure themselves of the completeness of their success, the gloomy void of the surrounding ocean had swallowed up the boats.

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