An hour and a half later, twenty men of Chance Along were clustered at the edge of the broken cliff overlooking the beach of Nolan’s Cove and the rock-scarred sea beyond. But they could see nothing of beach or tide. The fog clung around them like black and sodden curtains. Here and there a lantern made an orange blur against the black. Some of the men held coils of rope with light grappling-irons spliced to the free ends. Others had home-made boat-hooks, the poles of which were fully ten feet long.
They heard the dull boom of a gun to seaward.
“She bes closer in!” exclaimed Pat Lynch. “Aye, closer in nor when I first heared her. She bain’t so far to the south’ard, neither.”
“Sure, then, the tide bes a-pullin’ on her an’ will drag her in, lads,” remarked an old man, with a white beard that reached half-way down his breast.
“What d’ye make o’ her, Barney Keen?” asked the skipper of the old man.
“Well, skipper, I’ll tell ‘e what I makes o’ her. ’Twas afore yer day, lad—aye, as much as t’irty year ago—arter just sich weather as this, an’ this time o’ year, a grand big ship altogether went all abroad on these here rocks. Aye, skipper, a grand ship. Nought come ashore but a junk o’ her hull an’ a cask o’ brandy, an’ one o’ her boats wid the name on all complete. The Manchester City she was, from Liverpool. We figgered as how she was heading for the gulf—for Quebec, like as not. So I makes it, skipper, as how this here vessel may be bound for Quebec, too.”
Black Dennis Nolan took a lantern from another man, and led the way down the broken slope to the beach. The gear was passed down and piled at the edge of the tide. Dry wood—the fragments of ships long since broken on the outer rocks—was gathered from where it had been stranded high by many spring tides, and heaped on a wide, flat rock half-way up the slope. Another heap of splintered planks and wave-worn timbers was constructed on the level of the beach, close to the water—all this by the skipper’s orders. The sea hammered and sobbed among the rocks, and splintered the new ice along the land-wash.
“If she comes ashore we’ll be needin’ more nor candle-light to work wid,” remarked the skipper.
Again the dull boom of a gun drifted in through the fog.
“Aye, lads, she bes a-drawin’ in to us,” said old Barney Keen, with a note of intense satisfaction in his rusty voice.
NOLAN SHOWS HIS APTITUDE FOR COMMAND
The big ship was hopelessly astray in the fog and in the grip of a black, unseen current that dragged at her keel and bulging beam, pulling her inexorably landward towards the hidden rocks. Her commander felt danger lurking in the fog, but was at a loss to know on which side to look for it, at what point to guard against it. He was a brave man and a master of seamanship in all the minute knacks and tricks