“If I caught him—” Taffy began: but the poor child, who for two minutes had been twisting his face heroically, interrupted with a wail:
“Oh, mother! my foot—it hurts so!”
FACE TO FACE.
The first winter had interrupted all work upon the rock; but Taffy and his men had used the calm days of the following spring and summer to such purpose that before the end of July the foundations began to show above high-water neaps, and in September he was able to report that the building could be pushed forward in any ordinary weather. The workmen were carried to and from the mainland by a wire hawser and cradle, and the rising breastwork of masonry protected them from the beat of the sea. Progress was slow, for each separate stone had to be dovetailed above, below, and on all sides with the blocks adjoining it, besides being cemented; and care to be taken that no salt mingled with the fresh water, or found its way into the joints of the building. Taffy studied the barometer hour by hour, and kept a constant look-out to windward against sudden gales.
On November 16th the men had finished their dinner, and sat smoking under the lee of the wall, when Taffy, with his pocket-aneroid in his hand, gave the order to snug down and man the cradle for shore. They stared. The morning had been a halcyon one; and the northerly breeze, which had sprung up with the turn of the tide and was freshening, carried no cloud across the sky. Two vessels, abrigantine and a three-masted schooner, were merrily reaching down-channel before it, the brigantine leading; at two miles’ distance they could see distinctly the white foam running from her bluff bows, and her forward deck from bulwark to bulwark as she heeled to it.
One or two grumbled. Half a day’s work meant half a day’s pay to them. It was all very well for the Cap’n, who drew his by the week.
“Come, look alive!” Taffy called sharply. He pinned his faith to the barometer, and as he shut it in its case he glanced at the brigantine and saw that her crew were busy with the braces, flattening the forward canvas. “See there, boys. There’ll be a gale from the west’ard before night.”
For a minute the brigantine seemed to have run into a calm. The schooner, half a mile behind her, came reaching along steadily.
“That there two-master’s got a fool for a skipper,” grumbled a voice. But almost at the moment the wind took her right aback—or would have done so had the crew not been preparing for it. Her stern swung slowly around into view, and within two minutes she was fetching away from them on the port tack, her sails hauled closer and closer as she went. Already the schooner was preparing to follow suit.
“Snug down, boys! We must be out of this in half an hour.”