Not a man there but knew she could never recover from this blow; but, she did. Rolling and wallowing she slowly emerged; and as the water sluiced from her deck, David saw the little old man going with it toward the bow, and he lunged after him.
The mast had gone, leaving only a stump, around which was tangled cordage and a section of the sail, that had fouled and ripped away, just as he reached this, David caught the little old man by one ankle; then, as he himself was being washed toward the stern, he managed to seize hold of the cordage and retain his hold until the last of the water had gone over the side.
He thought that a man one hundred and fifty-three years old could never recover from such a shock; and he was about to pick him up and carry him back, when Ah-gilak scrambled to his feet.
“Dad-burn it!” ejaculated the old man, “I durn near got my feet wet that time, as the feller said.”
“Are you all right?” David asked.
“Never felt so fit in my life,” replied Ah-gilak. “Say, you come after me, didn’t you? Why, you dod-burned fool, you might have been washed overboard.” That was all he ever said about it.
That last wave marked the height of the storm. The wind continued to blow a gale, but the hurricane was past. The sea still ran high, but was diminishing. After what the Amoz had withstood, she seemed safe enough now. With no headway, she wallowed in the trough of the sea; often standing on her beam ends, but always righting herself.
“It’d take a dod-burned act of Congress to upset this tub,” said Ah-gilak. “You can’t sail her, an’ you can’t steer her; but, by gum, you can’t wreck her; an’ if I’d a had her instead o’ the Dolly Dorcas I wouldn’t be down here now in this dod-burned hole-in-the-ground, but back in Cape Cod, probably votin’ for John Tyler again, or some other good Democrat.”
David went below, at the risk of life and limb, to see how the men there had fared. With the coming of the storm, they had closed all ports, and fastened the guns down more securely. Fortunately, none of them had broken loose; and there were only a few minor casualties among the men, from being thrown about during the wild pitching of the ship.
The Mezop sailors above had not fared so well; all but twenty-five of them had been washed overboard. And the boats were gone, the mast was gone, and most of the sail. The Amoz was pretty much of a derelict. Neither of the other ships was in sight; and David had given them both up for lost, especially the little Sari.
Their situation looked rather hopeless to these men of the Stone Age. “If the boats hadn’t been lost,” said Ghak, “some of us could get ashore.”
“Why can’t we break up the deck and build a raft-several of them?” suggested Hodon. “We could paddle rafts to shore, but we couldn’t ever paddle the Amoz.”
“You dod-burned landlubbers give me a pain,” snorted Ah-gilak. “We got the stub of a mast, part of the sail, and plenty cordage; we can jury rig the dod-durned tub, an’ get to shore twice as fast an’ ten times as easy as buildin’ rafts an’ paddlin’. Give me some hands, an’ I’ll have her shipshape in two shakes of a dead lamb’s tail, as the feller said. How fer is to port?”
David shrugged. “That depends on how far the hurricane carried us and in what direction. We may be fifty miles from port, or we may be five hundred. Your guess would be better than mine.”
“How’s the fresh water?” demanded Ah-gilak.
“We’ve enough for many sleeps,” said Ja.
“Dod-burn it!” cried the old man; “how in tarnation’s a fellow goin’ to do any figurin’ with a bunch of landlubbers that ain’t never knowed what time it was they was born.”
“On the contrary,” said David, “they always know what time it is.”
“How come?” demanded Ah-gilak.
“It is always noon.”
Ah-gilak snorted. He was in no mood for persiflage. “Well,” he said, “we’ll do the dod-burndest best we can. We may run short of water, but we got plenty food,” he cast his eyes on the warriors coming up from the lower deck.