But it was perilous work for a good hour after the squall struck us. I have occasionally seen in my later days some bold and even reckless match-sailing, but I have never yet seen a craft so desperately overdriven as was, perforce, the little "Mouette" on that memorable night.
Stout little craft were thus put together, and sometimes when the vessel was completed the farmer-builder took his place at the helm and steered her to the fishing banks, or took her through Hell Gate to the great and thriving city of New York. The world has never seen a more amphibious populace.
Five feet under the surface, a grey, fish-shaped craft with tail and fins, almost exactly resembling those of a flying fish, was darting about, now jumping forward like a cat pouncing on a bird, now drawing back, and then suddenly coming to a standstill. Another moment, it sank to the bottom, and lay there as if it had been a wreck.
Had they known it, they could have controlled the boat more or less with the rough oar the one with which Ralph had sounded the depth of the river but, of course, they were inexpert in the management of such a craft. They could do nothing but keep still and trust to luck to bring them safely out of their extraordinary predicament.
As the minutes passed and the liner came on and on, it looked still more as though she would run down the three middies. At last, however, the craft was passing, showing her port side, not very far distant, to be sure.
When the brigantine had passed the island a reach of a mile and a half lay open before her; neither in the stream nor by the bank was any large craft to be seen; near the shore were only barges and rowing-boats. The man-of-war went a little higher, cruised about in the river, and then returned to the shore.
And it was a mightily awkward thing for the good folk of Charleston to behold day after day a black flag with its white skull and crossbones fluttering at the fore of the pirate captain's craft, over across the level stretch of green salt marshes; and it was mightily unpleasant, too, to know that this or that prominent citizen was crowded down with the other prisoners under the hatches.
"Oh, hang it, no; I hope not," answered Hanks, with considerable doubt, notwithstanding, in his tone. "The Commander cross-questioned them a great deal too close for them to deceive us. We shall see the right craft by-and-by." We were soon convinced, however, that the lugger in sight was a chasse maree. She hauled her wind, and stood along shore.
Tell 'em home it was all right if I goes." Almost as he stopped speaking, the rising swell caught the craft, and threw her once more on her beam-ends. As for a moment she lay on her side, the men attempted to free the masts, but could do nothing, for the boat almost immediately again fell over, bottom up.
The pensive and reflective attitude of this young man, dressed as a beggar, the power expressed in his large forehead, the acuteness of his penetrating glance, and the firm lines of the mouth, seemed to reveal indomitable resolution, combined with superior intelligence and ready craft.