“You can’t live in it,” said Andrew. He lifted his face to the light. Far to the east a boat crawled against it. “It’ll strike in five minutes,” he said.
“Like enough,” said Uncle William—“like enough. Easy there!” He seized the stern of the Andrew Halloran and sprang on board. They worked in swift silence, hoisting the anchor, letting out the sail,—a single reef,—making it fast. “All she’ll stan’,” said Uncle William. He turned to the helm.
Andrew, seated on the tiller bench, glared at him defiantly. “If she’s going out, I take her,” he said.
“You get right over there and tend the sheet, Andy,” said Uncle William.
In silence the other obeyed. He undid the rope, letting it out with cautious hand. The low sail caught the breeze and stiffened to it. The boat came round to the wind, dipping lightly. She moved through the murky light as if drawn by unseen hands.
The light thickened and grew black—clouded and dense and swift. Then, with a wrench, heaven parted about them. The water descended in sheets, gray-black planes that shut them in—blinded them, crushed them. Andrew, crouching to the blows, drew in the sheet, closer, closer—hugging the wind with tense grasp. About them, the water flattened like a plate beneath the flood. When the rain shifted a second they saw it, a gray-white floor, stretching as far as the eye could reach. Uncle William bent to it, scanning the east. “Hold her tight, Andy,” he yelled. His leg was braced against the tiller, and his back strained to it. His hat was gone. The tufts of hair, lashed flat to the big skull, were mere lines. “Hold her tight! Make fast!” he yelled again.
Through the dark they drove, stunned and grim. The minutes lengthened to ages and beat them, eternally, in torment. Water and clouds were all about them—underneath them, and over. The boat, towering on each wave, dropped from its crest like a ball. Andy, crouching on the bottom of the boat, held on like grim death. Then, in a breath the storm was gone. With a sucking sound it had swept beyond them, its black skirts hurtling behind it as it ran, kicking a wake of foam.
Andrew from beneath the bench lifted his sopped head, like a turtle, breathless. Uncle William, bent far to the right, gazed to the east. Slowly his face lightened. He drew his big hand down its length, mopping off the wet. “There she is!” he said in a deep voice. “Let her out, Andy.”
With stiff fingers, Andrew reached to the sail, untying a second reef and loosing it to the wind.
The water still tossed in tumbling waves and the fitful rain blew past. But the force of the storm was gone. Away to the north it towered, monstrous and black.
With his eyes strained to the east, Uncle William held the tiller. “We’ll make it, Andy,” he said quietly. “We’ll make it yet if the Jennie holds out—” Suddenly he stood upright, his hand on the tiller, his eyes glued fast.