“This is a mess,” shouted Steve, peering through the spray-wet glass ahead. “I wish we were about seven or eight miles further along, fellows.”
“Well, we will be presently,” replied Phil cheerfully. “I dare say this blow won’t last long. It’s only a squall, probably.”
“It’s a good one, then,” muttered Steve. “If you don’t believe it take hold of this wheel. Feel her kick? Keep a lookout for that island in there, Joe.”
Things went from bad to worse and ten minutes after the first warning the Adventurer was tossing about like a cork, her propeller as often out of water as in, and making hard work of it.
They had to hold tight to whatever was nearest to keep from being pitched across the bridge deck. The seas began to pile in over the roof of the after cabin and the deck was soon awash. Steve held to the wheel like grim death, with Joe at his side when needed, and they plunged on. But it didn’t take Steve long to realise that to attempt to make the haven under such conditions would be folly. There were islands and reefs ahead and the gloom made it impossible to see for any distance.
“The only thing we can do, fellows,” he said presently, shouting to make himself heard above the wind, “is to run for it straight down the shore. If we can get in past Wass Island we can anchor, I guess, but if we try to make Englishman’s Bay we’ll pile up somewhere as sure as shooting! I wish I was certain the Follow Me was all right.”
“If we are, she’s sure to be,” said Joe. “She’s a nifty little chip in tough weather. Here comes some rain, Steve!”
Joe’s description was weak, however. It was more than “some” rain; it was a deluge! It swept past the edges of the curtains and splashed on the deck in dipperfulls. And it hid everything beyond the torn and tattered Union Jack at the bow. Looking through the dripping windows was like looking through the glass side of an aquarium, for beyond it was a solid sheet of water. Steve gazed anxiously from chart to compass under the electric lights and eased off to port.
“There’s too much land around here,” he shouted to Joe, “to leave me happy. And, what’s more, I’m none too certain just where we are at this blessed minute. So it’s the wide ocean for yours truly. We’ll just have to run for it and trust to luck!”
“Right-o,” called Joe sturdily. “Let her flicker, old man! There’s one thing plumb certain, and that is if we come across an island we’re—um—likely to run clean over it!”
But Joe was wrong.
The words were scarcely off his lips when a cry of mingled astonishment and alarm sprang from Steve as he threw his weight on the wheel. At the same moment there was a shock that sent all hands reeling, the Adventurer quivered from stern to stern, and then, after a moment no longer than a heart-beat, lurched forward again. Directly over the bow, glimpsed vaguely through the rain and gloom, rose a towering cliff. Steve’s frantic efforts were in vain, for although he tore at the clutch and the propeller thrashed the water astern, the Adventurer was already in the smother of the surf and an instant later she struck.