At the end of another hour the Pyrenees had scarcely gained her length, but the wind freshened and she began to forge ahead.

'Better get into the boats, some of you,' Captain Davenport commanded.

His voice was still ringing, and the men were just beginning to move in obedience, when the amidship deck of the Pyrenees, in a mass of flame and smoke, was flung upward into the sails and rigging, part of it remaining there and the rest falling into the sea. The wind being abeam, was what had saved the men crowded aft. They made a blind rush to gain the boats, but McCoy's voice, carrying its convincing message of vast calm and endless time, stopped them.

'Take it easy,' he was saying. 'Everything is all right. Pass that boy down somebody, please.'

The man at the wheel had forsaken it in a funk, and Captain Davenport had leaped and caught the spokes in time to prevent the ship from yawing in the current and going ashore.

'Better take charge of the boats,' he said to Mr. Konig. 'Tow one of them short, right under the quarter…. When I go over, it'll be on the jump.'

Mr. Konig hesitated, then went over the rail and lowered himself into the boat.

'Keep her off half a point, Captain.'

Captain Davenport gave a start. He had thought he had the ship to himself.

'Ay, ay; half a point it is,' he answered.

Amidships the Pyrenees was an open flaming furnace, out of which poured an immense volume of smoke which rose high above the masts and completely hid the forward part of the ship. McCoy, in the shelter of the mizzen-shrouds, continued his difficult task of conning the ship through the intricate channel. The fire was working aft along the deck from the seat of explosion, while the soaring tower of canvas on the mainmast went up and vanished in a sheet of flame. Forward, though they could not see them, they knew that the head-sails were still drawing.

'If only she don't burn all her canvas off before she makes inside,' the captain groaned.

'She'll make it,' McCoy assured him with supreme confidence. 'There is plenty of time. She is bound to make it. And once inside, we'll put her before it; that will keep the smoke away from us and hold back the fire from working aft.'

A tongue of flame sprang up the mizzen, reached hungrily for the lowest tier of canvas, missed it, and vanished. From aloft a burning shred of rope stuff fell square on the back of Captain Davenport's neck. He acted with the celerity of one stung by a bee as he reached up and brushed the offending fire from his skin.

'How is she heading, Captain?'

'Nor'west by west.'

'Keep her west-nor-west.'

Captain Davenport put the wheel up and steadied her.

'West by north, Captain.'

'West by north she is.'

'And now west.'

Slowly, point by point, as she entered the lagoon, the PYRENEES described the circle that put her before the wind; and point by point, with all the calm certitude of a thousand years of time to spare, McCoy chanted the changing course.

'Another point, Captain.'

'A point it is.'

Captain Davenport whirled several spokes over, suddenly reversing and coming back one to check her.


'Steady she is—right on it.'

Despite the fact that the wind was now astern, the heat was so intense that Captain Davenport was compelled to steal sidelong glances into the binnacle, letting go the wheel now with one hand, now with the other, to rub or shield his blistering cheeks.

McCoy's beard was crinkling and shriveling and the smell of it, strong in the other's nostrils, compelled him to look toward McCoy with sudden solicitude. Captain Davenport was letting go the spokes alternately with his hands in order to rub their blistering backs against his trousers. Every sail on the mizzenmast vanished in a rush of flame, compelling the two men to crouch and shield their faces.

'Now,' said McCoy, stealing a glance ahead at the low shore, 'four points up, Captain, and let her drive.'

Shreds and patches of burning rope and canvas were falling about them and upon them. The tarry smoke from a smouldering piece of rope at the captain's feet set him off into a violent coughing fit, during which he still clung to the spokes.

The Pyrenees struck, her bow lifted and she ground ahead gently to a stop. A shower of burning fragments, dislodged by the shock, fell about them. The ship moved ahead again and struck a second time. She crushed the fragile coral under her keel, drove on, and struck a third time.

'Hard over,' said McCoy. 'Hard over?' he questioned gently, a minute later.

'She won't answer,' was the reply.

'All right. She is swinging around.' McCoy peered over the side. 'Soft, white sand. Couldn't ask better. A beautiful bed.'

As the Pyrenees swung around her stern away from the wind, a fearful blast of smoke and flame poured aft. Captain Davenport deserted the wheel in blistering agony. He reached the painter of the boat that lay under the quarter, then looked for McCoy, who was standing aside to let him go down.

'You first,' the captain cried, gripping him by the shoulder and almost throwing him over the rail. But the flame and smoke were too terrible, and he followed hard after McCoy, both men wriggling on the rope and sliding down into the boat together. A sailor in the bow, without waiting for orders, slashed the painter through with his sheath knife. The oars, poised in readiness, bit into the water, and the boat shot away.

'A beautiful bed, Captain,' McCoy murmured, looking back.

'Ay, a beautiful bed, and all thanks to you,' was the answer.

The three boats pulled away for the white beach of pounded coral, beyond which, on the edge of a cocoanut grove, could be seen a half dozen grass houses and a score or more of excited natives, gazing wide-eyed at the conflagration that had come to land.

The boats grounded and they stepped out on the white beach.

'And now,' said McCoy, 'I must see about getting back to Pitcairn.'

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