The breeches buoy, a canvas arrangement, shaped like a short pair of trousers, and attached to a frame which ran back and forth on the cable by means of pulleys, had been adjusted. To it were fastened ropes, one being retained by the life savers and one by those on the ship. All was in readiness.
The breeches buoy was now pulled toward the ship, by those aboard hauling on the proper line. It moved along, sliding on the heavy cable, the angry waves below seeming to try to leap up and engulf it, in revenge for being cheated of their prey.
“Look sharp now, men!” cried the captain. “Get ready to take care of the poor souls as they come ashore.”
The storm still kept up, and the waves were so high that a second attempt to save some by means of the life-boat, even launching it in the protected cove, had to be given up. But the breeches buoy could be depended on.
A signal from the ship told those on shore that the buoy was loaded with a passenger, and ready to be hauled back. Willing hands pulled on the rope. On it came through the driving rain; on it came above the waves, though not so high but what the spray from the crests wet the rescued one.
“It’s a woman!” cried the captain, as he caught sight of the person in the buoy.
“And a baby! Bless my soul!” added Bailey. “She’s got a baby in her arms!”
And so it proved; for, wrapped in a shawl, which was tied over her shoulders, so as to keep the water from the tiny form, was an infant clasped tightly to its mother’s breast.
“Take her to the station!” cried the captain, as he helped the woman to get out of the canvas holder in which she had ridden safely to shore. “My wife will look after her. Now for the rest, men. There’s lots of ’em, and the ship can’t last much longer! Lively, men. Every minute means a life!”
“I’ll take her to the station!” volunteered Larry, for there was nothing he could do to help now, and he thought he could get a good story of the wreck from the first person rescued.
“Go ahead!” exclaimed the life savers’ captain.
The woman, in spite of her terrible experience, had not fainted. Still clasping her baby, she moved through the crowd of men, who cheered her as they set to work again.
“Come with me,” said Larry. “We will take care of you!”
“Oh, it is so good to be on land again!” the woman cried. “I am not a coward—but oh, the cruel waves!” and she shuddered.
“Are there many women aboard?” asked Larry, as he moved off through the rain toward the life-saving station with the rescued passenger.
“I was the only one,” was the answer the woman made, in a pronounced Italian accent. “I am the purser’s wife. They made me come first. Me and the baby,” and she put her lips down and kissed the little face nestled in the folds of the shawl.