The outburst greeted Dan’s ears sweetly. Evidently Howland had a man down below the water line, anyway. He grinned as he clapped his lips to the tube.
“I’ve just come aboard to take charge of this craft,” he yelled; “now you do as I say and do it quick. See!”
A great relieved, blasphemous roar came up the tube, and the next instant the engines were laying down to their work.
The bow began to cut nicely into the waves, and Dan turned to the two sailors.
“Here, you boys, tail on here and steer as I tell you.” Whereupon, fingering a pocket compass, he called the course, after which he fastened the little instrument to the wreck of the binnacle.
“We will pull through,” he said, turning to Mr. Howland, who, with his daughter, had followed him to the bridge. “We are somewhere off the Winter Quarter Shoals; if I can get the sun at noon I’ll know exactly; anyway, we will make Norfolk if that shaft holds. If it doesn’t—well, banking on that engineer you’ve got down below, I think it will hold.” Then inclining his head in the direction of Miss Howland, he added, “I’d advise you to go below, Miss Howland.” He thrilled as he uttered her name, “You’re wet; and then—I may have to swear.”
“I should love awfully to hear some one swear to some purpose,” she replied. “Oh, I want to stay,” she cried, speaking to her father, as Dan suddenly turned his back and spoke to the second mate. “Father, I am going to stay. The rest are seasick or frightened to pieces. I feel braver up here.”
She was perfectly candid. She did feel braver there on the bridge. For Dan was the one dominant personality aboard the yacht. In her eyes he typified bravery, skill, strength—safety, in a word, for all. It was as though out of the wrack of despair and the overriding elements had arisen the spirit of a man and all that at best he stands for, to reclaim the lost honors of the darker hours. And so she clung to him with her eyes and felt she could smile at danger; her soul went out to him and enveloped him with gratitude and tenderness. And she neither knew nor cared whether in these emotions was the uprearing of woman’s submerged, primal nature, giving all to the sheer power of the stronger sex, or whether it was the result of a burden of dread suddenly lifted from her heart—it made no difference which. She was living the moment—here and now—clear, serene, justified, and ennobled.
And standing thus she watched him as he snapped the yacht slantwise from the grip of succeeding sea hollows and guided her over the gray hills, panting and straining, with much of pudgy deliberation, but surely.
“We will make it easily,” said Dan, “if nothing happens.”
“Good,” cried Mr. Rowland, and, taking his daughter by the arm, he added, “come below, Virginia, and give them the good news. Your friend Oddington has forgotten his cigarettes for a full twenty-four hours, and the Dale girls are candidates for a sanitarium.” There was a chuckle of relief in his voice.