Then Bertha called out:
“I am so sorry.”
Frank waved his hand in reply. The men were all busy trying to get the wreckage alongside. The cross-trees had been carried away by the fall of the topmast, and her deck forward was littered with gear. The difficulty was greatly increased by the heavy sea in the race.
“As soon as you have got everything on board, Hawkins, we will put a couple of reefs in the mainsail. She will go well enough under that and the foresail. If the mizzen is too much for her, we can take it off.”
It was nearly half an hour before all was clear, and the last of the yachts in the race had passed them before the leeward sheet of the foresail was hauled aft, and the Phantom resumed her course. As soon as she did so, the captain came aft with part of the copper bar of the bobstay.
“There has been foul play, sir,” he said. “I thought there must have been, for I could not imagine that this bar would have broken unless there had been a flaw in the metal or it had been tampered with. I unshackled it myself, for I thought it was better that the men should not see it until I had told you about it.”
“Quite right, Hawkins. Yes, there is no doubt that there has been foul play. The bar has been sawn three-quarters of the way through with a fine saw, and, of course, it went as soon as she began to dip her bowsprit well into it in the race. You see, whoever has done it has poured some acid into it, and darkened the copper, partly perhaps to prevent the colour of the freshly-cut metal from being noticed, and partly to give it the appearance, after it was broken, of being an old cut.”
“It cannot have been that, sir, for we were out in quite as rough a sea as this last week, and the bowsprit would have gone then if this cut had been there. Besides, we should have been sure to have noticed it when we went round her to polish up her sides.”
“I don’t know about that, Hawkins. You see, the cut is from below, and it is only two or three inches above the waterline. It might very well have been there without being noticed. Still, I agree with you, it could not have been there last week, or it must have gone when she put her nose into it then. In point of fact, I have no doubt that it was done last night or the night before. It could easily have been managed. Of course, everyone was below, both here and in the yachts lying round us, and a man might very well have come out in a small boat between one and two o’clock in the morning, and done this without being noticed.”
“He might have done that, sir, but we should have heard the grating down in the forecastle.”