“Cast off the after fall, Stoody!” said he sharply to the cockswain; and the order was promptly obeyed. “Cast off your fall, Knott!” he added almost instantly. “Let fall! Give way!”
A receding wave carried the boat away from the side of the ship, precisely as Mr. Boulong had calculated. The six oars dropped into the water as one, and the men began to pull, getting a firm hold on the receding wave, which sent the cutter to a safe distance from the ship. As soon as she was clear, the commander, who had remained in the pilot-house, rang the gong to go ahead. When the steamer had gathered sufficient headway, she was brought about as cautiously as before.
The second cutter was on the port quarter of the vessel, and this movement placed the boat under the lee. Mr. Gaskette had remained aft, and when the ship had stopped her screw and nearly lost her headway, the captain shouted to him through his speaking-trumpet, which the roar of the waves and the escaping steam rendered necessary, to “Lower away!”
“Lower away when you are ready, Mr. Scott!” repeated the second officer.
Though Scott was only eighteen years old, he was an intuitive sailor, and had a good deal of experience for his years. He had never before occupied his present position; but his nautical genius, fortified by sundry combats with wind and waves, made him feel quite at home. As the first officer had done, he seized the auspicious moment when the retiring wave promised its efficient aid, and gave the orders to cast off the falls.
The six oars grappled with the water on the smooth side of a great wave, and carried it to the apex of the next billow; and she went off as handsomely as the first cutter had done. Mr. Gaskette saw these manoeuvres successfully accomplished, and then started for the pilot-house, to report to the captain. On his way he could not help giving an inquiring look at the manner in which the substitute for Bargate performed his duty.
At eighteen Louis was a healthy, vigorous, athletic fellow, developed by an active life on the ocean, and weighing one hundred and fifty pounds. In any trial of strength he was more than the equal of any other member of the “Big Four,” as the four young men berthing in the cabin called themselves, borrowing the name from a combination of railroads in the West. He was well trained as an oarsman, and the second officer was satisfied that he was doing his full share of the work.
As Mr. Gaskette reached the pilot-house there was a commotion there, and it was evident to him that something unlooked for had occurred. He glanced at the two cutters; but they were all right, and were steadily making their way to the locality of the wreck.
“The wreck is going down, sir!” exclaimed Bangs with startling energy just before the second officer reached the door.
“It is all up with that craft!” added Twist, the other quartermaster.