They found one, and tried to land; but so irresistible was the suction of the retiring wave, that, whenever they got foot on the sand, and tried to run, they were wrenched out to sea again, and pounded black and blue and breathless by the curling breaker they met coming in.
After a score of vain efforts, the negro, throwing himself on his back, went in with a high wave, and, on touching the sand, turned, dug all his ten claws into it clenched his teeth, and scrambled like a cat at a wall. Having more power in his toes than the Europeans, and luckily getting one hand on a firm stone, his prodigious strength just enabled him to stick first while the wave went back; and then, seizing the moment, he tore himself ashore, but bleeding and bruised all over, and with a tooth actually broken by clenching in the convulsive struggle.
He found some natives dancing about in violent agitation with a rope, but afraid to go in and help him; and no wonder, not being seagulls. By the light of their lanterns, he saw Fullalove washing in and out like a log. He seized one end of the rope, and dashed in and grabbed his friend, and they were hauled ashore together, both breathless, and Fullalove speechless
The negro looked round for the sailor, but could not see him. Soon, however, there was a cry from some more natives about fifty yards off and laterns held up; away he dashed with the rope just in time to see Jack make a last gallant attempt to land. It ended in his being flung up like a straw into the air on the very crest of a wave fifteen feet high, and out to sea with his arms whirling, and a death shriek which was echoed by every woman within hearing.
In dashed Vespasian with the rope, and gripped the drowning man's long hair with his teeth: then jerked the rope, and they were both pulled ashore with infinite difficulty. The good-natured Frenchmen gave them all three lots of _vivats_ and brandy and pats on the back, and carried the line for them to a flagstaff on the rocks nearer the stern of the ship.
The ship began to show the first signs of breaking up: hammered to death by the sea, she discharged the oakum from her opening seams, and her decks began to gape and grin fore and aft. Corpses of drunken sailors drowned between decks now floated up amidships, and washed and rolled about among the survivors' feet These, seeing no hope, went about making up all quarrels, and shaking hands in token of a Christian end. One or two came to Dodd with their hands out.
"Avast ye lubbers!" said he angrily; "do you think I have time for nonsense? Foksel ahoy! axes, and cut the weather shrouds!"
It was done; the foremast went by the board directly, and fell to leeward: a few blows of the axe from Dodd's own hand sent the mainmast after it.