It was all a quick, pulsating scene, as one views something in a kinetoscope, and then it was lost as the waters rose between them. Dan stumbled over to the wheel. He was not a man of many words.
“Boys, there’s work for us to do. There’s a yacht in distress about a quarter of a mile off on the port hand. We’ll go over and see.”
“It’ll mean throwing her head off from seas that we’ve been bucking since morning,” said the mate. And the inflection cast into the words suggested no protest, only a reminder that it would be no child’s play.
“Yes,” said Dan simply, leaning forward to take advantage of the uproll of the tug to locate the yacht more exactly. “There—there—throw her off three points—— That’s it,” he added, as the tug floundered on her new course,—a course no longer into, but across, the waves, which now began to come from everywhere, buffeting the tug, keel and bow, rail and pilot-house—crazy cross-seas, fighting among themselves, slashing, crashing, falling over one another.
But on the Fledgling went, climbing the waves insanely now, sometimes bow on, sometimes crab-wise—but ever on. Each wave that was topped gave a better view of the yacht, also enabling those on that wallowing craft to see the tug, as evidence of which the continuous blasts of the whistle were borne to the towmen’s ears.
Nearer, until the yacht was never lost to view. Evidently she was not under control; but, even so, it was plain that no high degree of intelligence was being exerted in handling her. She was not steaming at all, merely drifting in the trough, and none of the means to bring her head into the seas which sailors utilize at a pinch had even been attempted. Whatever was the matter with the yacht, Dan and his men were sure that the officers and crew were nothing less than blockheads.
Making a wide detour, they brought the tug around under the lee of the craft and about fifty yards away, where Dan, leaving the wheel to his men, seized a megaphone and ran on deck.
“What’s the matter with you?” he shouted angrily through his megaphone, aimed toward a group of men on the shattered bridge. “Are you trying to see how quickly you can sink? Why don’t you put her head up?”
A young officer in a wet and bedraggled uniform crawled along the swaying platform to the megaphone rack and, seizing a cone, shouted from a kneeling posture:
“Help us, for God’s sake! Our thrust shaft has cracked!” The words came faintly. “Our Captain was washed from the bridge. . . . Tried to put out sea anchor, but couldn’t make it hold without steerage way. . . . It broke adrift. . . . This . . . the Veiled Ladye, with Mr. Horace Howland and a party aboard.”