Loud over the wild yells of the crowd we heard the voice we knew—old Burke’s bull-roar: “Let ‘er rip, Taki’! Let ’er rip, bye!”
Takia’s eyes gleamed as he sped us up—up—up! ’Troke became a yelp like a wounded dog’s. He crouched, standing, in the sternsheets, and lashed us up to a furious thrash of oars! Still quicker! . . . The eyes of him glared at each of us, as if daring us to fail! The yelp became a scream as we drew level—the Germans still at top speed. “Up! Up! Up!” yells Takia, little yellow devil with a white froth at his lips! “Up! Up! Up!” swaying unsteadily to meet the furious urging.
The ring of the German rowlocks deepens—deepens—we see the green bow at our blades again. Her number two falters—jars—recovers again—and pulls stubbornly on. Their “shot” is fired! They can do no more! Done!
And so are we! Takia drops the yoke ropes and leans forward on the gunwale! Oars jar together! Big Jones bends forward with his mouth wide—wide! Done!
But not before a hush—a solitary pistol shot—then roar of voices and shrilling of steamer syrens tell us that the Cup is ours!
A month later there was a stir in the western seaports. No longer the ships lay swinging idly at their moorings. The harvest of grain was ready for the carriers, and every day sail was spread to the free wind outside the Golden Gates, and laden ships went speeding on their homeward voyages. The days of boat-races and pleasant time-passing harbour jobs were gone; it was now work—work—to get the ship ready for her burden, and, swaying the great sails aloft, to rig harness for the power that was to bear us home. From early morning till late evening we were kept hard at it; for Captain Burke and the mate were as keen on getting the Hilda to sea after her long stay in port as they were on jockeying us up to win the Cup. Often, when we turned to in the morning, we would find a new shipmate ready to bear a hand with us. The old man believed in picking up a likely man when he offered. Long experience of Pacific ports had taught him how difficult it is to get a crew at the last moment.
So when at length the cargo was stowed, we were quite ready to go to sea, while many others—the Hedwig Rickmers among them—were waiting for men.
On the day before sailing a number of the ship captains were gathered together in the chandler’s store, talking of freights and passages, and speculating on the runs they hoped to make. Burke and Schencke were the loudest talkers, for we were both bound to Falmouth “for orders,” and the Rickmers would probably sail three days after we had gone.
“Vat ’bout dot bett you make mit me, Cabtin?” said Schenke. “Dot is all recht, no?”
“Oh, yess,” answered the old man, but without enthusiasm. “That stands.”