Chapter XLVIII: Captain Hamilton Miggs sees a Vision

“Our dress isn’t quite what you would expect to see in a fishing-boat,” he said. “There is no use setting tongues wagging.” There was still a fresh breeze, and the little boat continued to fly before it at the rate of six or eight knots. “This wind is a lucky chance,” Ezra remarked, rather to himself than to his companion.

“It is the working of Providence,” answered John Girdlestone, with an earnestness which showed that his mind still retained its habitual peculiarity.

By ten o’clock they were abreast of the long stone terraces of Hastings; at half-past eleven they saw the masts of the fishing-smacks of Winchelsea. By one they were rounding the sharp bold promontory of Dungeness. They kept further to sea after that, so that the long white wall and the spires of Folkestone and of Dover lay far on the horizon. On the other side a dim haze upon the blue water marked the position of the French coast. It was nearly five, and the sun was beginning to sink down again in the west, when the fisherman, after gazing steadily ahead for some time, with his horny hand shading his eyes, touched Ezra on the sleeve.

“See them breakers over there,” he said, pointing over the starboard bow. Far away Ezra could see a long roll of foam breaking the monotony of the broad stretch of ocean. “Them’s the Goodwins,” he went on; “and them craft ahead is at anchor in the Downs.”

The vessels in question were miles away, but Ezra brightened up at the sight of their destination, and he once again arranged his toilet and that of his father.

“Thank goodness!” he muttered, with a long sigh of relief as he peered at the ships, which were growing clearer and larger every moment. “That outer one is the Black Eagle, or I am much mistaken. He’s not gone yet!”

“That is the Black Eagle,” his father said with confidence. “I know her by the cut of her stern and the rake of her masts.”

As they came nearer still, any lingering doubt was finally dispelled.

“There’s the white paint line,” said Ezra. “It’s certainly her.
Take us alongside that ship which is lying to the outside there,

The fisherman looked ahead once more. “To the barque which has just got her anchor up?” he said. “Why, we won’t be in time to catch her.”

“Her anchor up!” screamed Ezra. “You don’t mean to tell me she’s off!”

“Look at that!” the man answered.

As he spoke they saw first one great square of canvas appear above the vessel, and then another, until she had spread her white wings to their fullest extent.

“Don’t say we can’t catch her!” cried Ezra, with a furious oath.
“I tell you, man, that we must catch her. Everything depends on that.”

“She must take three short tacks before she’s out from the Goodwins. If we run right on as we are going, we may get near her before she’s free.”

“For God’s sake! clap on all the sail you can! Get these reefs out!” With trembling fingers Ezra let out the sail, and the boat lay over further under the increased pressure. “Is there no other sail that we could put up?”

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