They were now lying far over, and the water was two or three planks up the lee deck. Each time the cutter went about, the ladies carried their footstools up to windward, when the vessel was for a moment on an even keel. When there they were obliged to sit with one hand over the rail, to prevent themselves from sliding down to leeward as the vessel heeled.
“There goes the Chrysalis’s topmast,” the skipper exclaimed suddenly. “That does for her chance. I think I had better get the jib header ready for hoisting, Mr. Carthew; the spar is bending like a whip.”
“Yes, I think you had better get it up at once, captain. It is no use running any risk.”
As the Phantom’s big topsail came down, the Osprey’s was seen to flutter and then to descend.
“He has only been waiting for us,” the captain said.
Carthew made no reply. He was still intently watching the craft ahead.
“It is just as well for him,” the captain went on. “He will be in the race directly.”
Bertha was still watching Carthew’s face. Cheerful as his tones were, there was an expression of anxiety in it. Three minutes later, he gave an exclamation as of relief, and a shout rose from the men forward.
Following the direction of his eyes, she saw the bowsprit of the Osprey swing to leeward, and a moment later her topmast fall over her side.
“What did I tell you?” Carthew said, exultingly. “A race is never lost till it is won.”
“Oh! I am sorry,” Bertha said. “I do think it is hard to lose a race by an accident.”
“Every yacht has to abide by its own accidents, Miss Greendale; and carrying away a spar is one of the accidents one counts on. If it were not for that risk, yachts would always carry on too long. It is a matter of judgment and of attention to gear. The loss of a spar is in nine times out of ten the result either of rashness or of inattention.
“However, I am sorry myself; that is to say, I would prefer winning the cup by arriving first at the flag boat. However, I am certainly not disposed to grumble at Fortune just at present.”
“I should think not, Mr. Carthew,” Lady Olive said. “I am sure I congratulate you very heartily. Of course, I have seen scores of races, and whenever there is any wind someone is always sure to lose a spar, and sometimes two or three will do so. I don’t think you need fear any of the boats behind.”
“No, yet I don’t feel quite safe. I have no fear of any of the cutters, but once round the Needles, it will be a broad reach, and you will see that the schooners will come up fast, and I have to allow them a good bit of time. However, I think we are pretty safe.”
The Phantom presently came along close to the Osprey, and Carthew shouted:
“Is there anything that I can do for you?”
“No, thank you,” Frank replied.