Another half-hour. The steamship, a stout coaster, had now climbed over the horizon. Mr. Howland, through the glasses, had picked out her red-and-black funnel and recognized her as one of his own boats. But it had plainly come to a race between the steamship and the straining bulkhead. No need now to tell any one of the situation. The Veiled Ladye was plainly settling astern. The engine-room bulkhead was quivering, ready to break. Arthur and his men had piled up from the engine-room, the engines still pulsing with no one to watch them. The sailors were splendid, going about their work quietly, calmly. They had carried the injured mate, groaning with his broken leg, to the deck. Mrs. Van Vleck, Mr. Rowland’s sister, the chaperone, sat with her niece’s arms about her, passing in and out of successive attacks of hysteria. A sailor had knocked one of the young men of the party down to quiet an incipient exhibition of panic. Ralph Oddington and Reginald Wotherspoon stood at the rail, trying with nerveless fingers to roll cigarettes. Two of the girls were weeping in each other’s arms. The water bubbled under the turn of the yacht’s counters. Two of the sailors were discharging blank shells from the rifle astern in hopes of calling attention to the plight of the craft. The deck was a conglomerate, nervous confusion of smart yachting costumes, uniforms, and greasy overalls.
Dan, noting the flutter, leaned back from the wheel.
“Don’t get excited down there,” he roared. “If the bulkhead holds, we’re all right. If it doesn’t, there’ll be plenty of time for all. Do you understand? We can float for a week on the ocean the way it is now.”
“It won’t hold long, Mr. Howland,” he added to the man at his side, “but it will hold until that steamship reaches us. She’s seen us and is coming like hell.”
A few minutes later a joyous shout sounded from the men on the bridge, a cry vibrant with electricity, which thrilled through the yacht and finally trembled on all tongues. For the steamship had sized the situation and was fairly leaping toward them. Great clouds of smoke were belching from her funnel. They could see sparks mingling with the thunderclouds of sepia, and the Veiled Ladye hobbled woundily to meet her. On came the freighter; her hull was plainly discerned now, picking the waves from under her bluff bows and throwing them impatiently to either side.
Cries of joy and appeals for the succoring vessel to hurry sounded from the yacht’s decks.
As the vessel drew nearer. Miss Howland ran to the bridge and took her father by the arm.
“Father!” she cried. “You must come now. Isn’t there anything in your cabin you want to save?” With a muttered “By George!” Mr. Howland dived below and the girl faced Dan.
Oddington’s voice thrilling in joyous, cadence sounded from beneath the bridge.