no effect upon the vessel when
lying-to. Indeed, the helm had far better be left loose than lashed very
fast, for the rudder is apt to be torn off by heavy seas if there be no
room for the helm to play. As long as the sail holds, a well modelled
vessel will maintain her situation, and ride every sea, as if instinct
with life and reason. If the violence of the wind, however, should tear
the sail into pieces (a feat which it requires a perfect hurricane to
accomplish under ordinary circumstances), there is then imminent danger.
The vessel falls off from the wind, and, coming broadside to the sea,
is completely at its mercy: the only resource in this case is to put her
quietly before the wind, letting her scud until some other sail can be
set. Some vessels will lie-to under no sail whatever, but such are not
to be trusted at sea.
But to return from this digression. It had never been customary with the
mate to have any watch on deck when lying-to in a gale of wind, and the
fact that he had now one, coupled with the circumstance of the missing
axes and handspikes, fully convinced us that the crew were too well on
the watch to be taken by surprise in the manner Peters had suggested.
Something, however, was to be done, and that with as little delay as
practicable, for there could be no doubt that a suspicion having
been once entertained against Peters, he would be sacrificed upon the
earliest occasion, and one would certainly be either found or made upon
the breaking of the gale.
Augustus now suggested that if Peters could contrive to remove, under
any pretext, the piece of chain-cable which lay over the trap in the
stateroom, we might possibly be able to come upon them unawares by means
of the hold; but a little reflection convinced us that the vessel rolled
and pitched too violently for any attempt of that nature.
By good fortune I at length hit upon the idea of working upon the
superstitious terrors and guilty conscience of the mate. It will be
remembered that one of the crew, Hartman Rogers, had died during the
morning, having been attacked two days before with spasms after drinking
some spirits and water. Peters had expressed to us his opinion that this
man had been poisoned by the mate, and for this belief he had reasons,
so he said, which were incontrovertible, but which he could not be
prevailed upon to explain to us--this wayward refusal being only in
THE CITY IN THE SEA.