Several times while the operation was being performed great crashes were heard, followed by loud shouts and screams, as vessel after vessel drove ashore to the right or left of them. But Jack and his friend, who consulted together, agreed that by no possibility could these be aided, as it was only just at the point where the wreck lay that the rocks at the foot of the cliff were high enough to be above all but exceptionally high waves, and any one adventuring many yards either to the right or left would have been dashed to pieces against the cliff by the first wave.
The midshipmen were the last to leave the ship. Dick had in vain begged his messmate to go up in one of the preceding batches, as the last pair would necessarily be deprived of the assistance from the lower rope, which had so materially aided the rest. Jack, however, refused to hear of it. When the slings came down to them for the last time, they put them on, and stood on the wreck watching till a great wave came. When it had passed, they slipped down the side of the ship by a rope, and hurried over the rocks till immediately under the spar, whose position was indicated by a lantern held there. Then, in answer to their shout, the rope tightened, and they again swung in the air.
The wind blew no more fiercely than before; indeed, it was scarce possible it could do so; but they were now both utterly exhausted. During the hour and a half which they had stood upon the remains of the wreck, they had been, every minute or two, deluged with water. Sometimes, indeed, the sea had swept clean over them, and had it not been that they had lashed themselves with ropes, they must have been swept away.
Every great wave had swept away some plank or beam of the wreck, and when they left it, scarce a fragment of the deck remained attached to the rudder-post. Terrible was the buffeting they received as they ascended, and time after time they were dashed with immense force against the face of the cliff.
To Jack the noise and confusion seemed to increase. A strange singing sounded in his ears, and as the slings reached the top, and a burst of cheering broke from the seamen there, all consciousness left him.
The officer in command of the party was himself at the spot; he and many others having made their way down, when the news spread that a rescue was being attempted. Dick, too, was unable to stand, and both were carried by the sailors to the top of the slope. Here a cup of strong rum-and-water was given to Dick, while some pure spirits poured down his throat soon recalled Jack to consciousness. The latter, upon opening his eyes, would have got up, but this his officer would not allow; and he was placed on a stretcher and carried by four tars up to the heights, where he was laid in one of the sod huts, and his arm, which was badly fractured, set by the surgeon.
The sixteen rescued men had, as they gained the top, been at once taken down into Balaklava, the sole survivors of the crews of over twenty ships which had gone to pieces in that terrible hurricane.