“They hope to have it land right on deck, or carry the line over,” said Bailey, who paused in his work of helping the men to lay out from the wagon parts of the apparatus.
Larry watched intently. Now and then he gazed out to the ship, a speck of black amid white foam, for the seas were breaking over her.
At the side of the cannon was a box, containing the line, one end of which was fastened to the projectile. The rope was coiled in a peculiar cris-cross manner, to prevent it being tangled as it paid rapidly out when the shot was fired.
“All ready?” called Captain Needam, as he looked at his men.
“Ready, sir,” answered George Tucker.
“Put in the primer!” ordered the chief of the life savers. One of the men inserted a percussion fuse in the touchhole of the mortar. The captain grasped a lanyard. The men all stood at attention, waiting to see the effect of the shot.
Captain Needam sighted over the muzzle of the cannon. It was pointed so as to clear the stern of the ship, but this was necessary, as the high wind would carry the projectile to one side.
The arm of the captain stiffened. The lanyard tauted. There was a spark at the breach of the mortar, a sharp crackle as the primer ignited, and then a dull boom as the charge was fired. Through the mist of rain Larry saw a black object shooting out toward the ship. After it trailed the long thin line, like a tail to a kite.
It was scarcely a moment later that there sounded a gun from the ship.
“Good!” cried Captain Needam. “The shot went true!”
“That was the ship signalling that they had the line,” explained Bailey, shouting the words in Larry’s ear.
From the shore to the ship there now stretched out a long thin rope. Larry had no time to wonder what would happen next.
“Bend on the cable!” cried the captain, and the men quickly attached a thick rope to the line which the cannon-shot had carried aboard the Olivia. This soon began to pay out, as it was hauled in by those on the wrecked vessel. In a short time the heavy cable was all out, and securely fastened to the ship, high enough up so as to clear the rail. Directions how to do this were printed on a board which was hauled in with the rope, and, lest those on a doomed ship might not understand English, the instructions were given in several languages.
“They have it fast! Rig up the shears!” cried the captain.
Once more his men were busy. They set up on the sand two stout wooden pieces, exactly like, a pair of enormous shears. The longer parts, corresponding to the blades, were nearest the ground, while what answered for the handles were several feet in the air, opened in “V” shape.
Through this “V” the heavy cable was passed, the one end being fast to the anchor buried in the sand, and the other being attached to the ship. By moving the shears nearer to the anchor the cable was tightened until it hung taut from shore to ship, a slender bridge on which to save life.