He knew the boat instantly,—the Arrow shooting through the night at twenty miles an hour, scurrying to shelter under the full thrust of her tremendous power. For an appreciable instant her high bow loomed over him, while his hands twisted the wheel. But the Blackbird was heavy, sluggish on her helm. She swung a little, from square across the rushing Arrow, to a slight angle. Two seconds would have cleared him. By the rules of the road at sea the Blackbird had the right of way. If MacRae had held by the book this speeding mass of mahogany and brass and steel would have cut him in two amidships. As it was, her high bow, the stem shod with a cast bronze cutwater edged like a knife, struck him on the port quarter, sheared through guard, planking, cabin.
There was a crash of riven timbers, the crunching ring of metal, quick oaths, a cry. The Arrow scarcely hesitated. She had cut away nearly the entire stern works of the Blackbird. But such was her momentum that the shock barely slowed her up. Her hull bumped the Blackbird aside. She passed on. She did not even stand by to see what she had done. There was a sound of shouting on her decks, but she kept on.
MacRae could have stepped aboard her as she brushed by. Her rail was within reach of his hand. But that did not occur to him. Steve Ferrara was asleep in the cabin, in the path of that destroying stem. For a stunned moment MacRae stood as the Arrow drew clear. The Blackbird began to settle under his feet.
MacRae dived down the after companion. He went into water to his waist. His hands, groping blindly, laid hold of clothing, a limp body. He struggled back, up, gained the deck, dragging Steve after him. The Blackbird was deep by the holed stern now, awash to her after fish hatch. She rose slowly, like a log, on each swell. Only the buoyancy of her tanks and timbers kept her from the last plunge. There was a light skiff bottom up across her hatches by the steering wheel. MacRae moved warily toward that, holding to the bulwark with one hand, dragging Steve with the other lest a sea sweep them both away.
He noticed, with his brain functioning unruffled, that the Arrow drove headlong into Cradle Bay. He could hear her exhaust roaring. He could still hear shouting. And he could see also that the wind and the tide and the roll of the swells carried the water-logged hulk of the Blackbird in the opposite direction. She was past the Rock, but she was edging shoreward, in under the granite walls that ran between Point Old and the Cove. He steadied himself, keeping his hold on Steve, and reached for the skiff. As his fingers touched it a comber flung itself up out of the black and shot two feet of foam and green water across the swamped hull. It picked up the light cedar skiff like a chip and cast it beyond his reach and beyond his sight. And as he clung to the cabin pipe-rail, drenched with the cold sea, he heard that big roller burst against the shore very near at hand. He saw the white spray lift ghostly in the black.