Meanwhile the sea was running mountains; and during the paroxysm of struggle, while the boat pitched heavily, the cord attached from her stern to the beam snapped asunder. One man was on the spar. Yet a minute or so the moonlight showed us the heads of the five survivors as they tried to regain the boat; had they done it we were all lost; then a huge wave separated them from us. “May God have mercy on the poor drowning men!” exclaimed the captain: their bodies were washed ashore three or four days later. We now remained sole survivors—if, indeed, we were to prove so.
Our men rowed hard, and the night wore on; at last the coast came in full view. Before us was a high black rock, jutting out into the foaming sea, whence it rose sheer like the wall of a fortress; at some distance on the left a peculiar glimmer and a long white line of breakers assured me of the existence of an even and sandy beach. The three sailors now at the oars, and the passenger who had taken the place of the fourth, grown reckless by long toil under the momentary expectation of death, and longing to see an end anyhow to this protracted misery, were for pushing the boat on the rocks, because the nearest land, and thus having it all over as soon as possible. This would have been certain destruction. The captain and pilot, well nigh stupefied by what they had undergone, offered no opposition. I saw that a vigorous effort must be made; so I laid hold of them both, shook them to arouse their attention, and bade them take heed to what the rowers were about; adding that it was sheer suicide, and that our only hope of life was to bear up for the sandy creek, which I pointed out to them at a short distance.
Thus awakened from their lethargy, they started up, and joined with me in expostulating with the sailors. But the men doggedly answered that they could hold out no more; that wherever the land was nearest they would make for it, come what might; and with this they pulled on straight towards the cliff.
The captain hastily thrust the rudder into the pilot’s hand, and springing on one of the sailors, pushed him from the bench and seized his oar, while I did the same to another on the opposite side; and we now got the boat’s head round towards the bay. The refractory sailors, ashamed of their own faintheartedness, begged pardon, and promised to act henceforth according to our orders. We gave them back their oars, very glad to see a strife so dangerous, especially at such a moment, soon at an end; and the men pulled for left, though full half an hour’s rowing yet remained between us and the breakers; and the course which we had to hold was more hazardous than before, because it laid the boat almost parallel with the sweep of the water: but half an hour! yet I thought we should never come opposite the desired spot.