It was close upon noon when the first line was made fast between the cliff and the broken foremast of the wreck. The wind had slackened and the seas fallen in a marked degree by this time. Looking down from the cliff the men of Chance Along could see the slanted deck, cleared of all superstructures and bulwarks, the stumps of spars with only the foremast intact to the cross-trees and a tangle of rigging, yards, canvas and tackle awash against the face of the cliff. Something—a swathed human figure, perhaps—was lashed in the fore-top.
The skipper was the first to venture a passage from the edge of the cliff to the foremast. He made it with several life-lines around his waist. He reached the bundle lashed to the cross-trees and, clinging with hands and feet, looked into the face of an unconscious but living woman. So he hung for a long half-minute, staring. Then, hoisting himself up to a more secure position, he pulled a flask of brandy from his pocket.
So Black Dennis Nolan brought back to consciousness the person who was to be the undoing of his great plans!
THE GIRL FROM THE CROSS-TREES
Clinging to the cross-trees, with the winter seas smoking over the slanted deck beneath him and the whole wrenched fabric of the ship quaking at every sloshing blow, Black Dennis Nolan pressed the mouth of the flask to the girl’s colorless lips. A lurch of the hull sent the brandy streaming over her face; but in a second and better-timed attempt he succeeded in forcing a little of it between her teeth. He pulled the glove from her left hand—a glove of brown leather lined with gray fur and sodden with water—and rubbed the icy palm and wrist with the liquor. There were several rings on the fingers; but he scarcely noticed them. He thought of nothing but the girl herself. Never before had he seen or dreamed of such a face as hers, and a breathless desire possessed him to see her eyes unveiled. He worked feverishly, heedless of the yeasting seas beneath, of the wind that worried at him as if it would tear him from his leaping perch, of the wealth of cargo under the reeking deck and the men of Chance Along on the edge of the cliff. He returned the glove to the left hand with fumbling fingers, stripped the other hand and rubbed it with brandy. After finishing with this and regloving it he glanced again at the girl’s face. The wet lashes stirred, the pale lids fluttered and blinked wide and two wonderful eyes gazed up at him. The eyes were clear yet with cross-lights at their depths, like the water of a still pool floored with sand and touched with the first level gleams of sunrise. They were sea-eyes—sea-gray, sea-blue, with a hint even of sea-green. Never before had the master of Chance Along seen or dreamed of such eyes.
The skipper was strangely and deeply stirred by the clear, inquiring regard of those eyes; but, despite his dreams and ambitions, he was an eminently practical young man. He extended the flask and held it to her lips with a trembling hand.