Then there was a disturbance in the water, too weak to be called a splash. I called out again, but there was no reply.
I saw her then. She was no longer struggling. I already had a life ring in hand, hanked onto thirty meters of line. I sailed it out beyond her. She made no response when it hit the surface and none when I dragged it back to within three feet of her. She was too far gone.
Wahini was drifting down upon her, but also slipping away by the stern. She would pass off the starboard bow, only yards from safety. By the time I maneuvered around again, it would be too late.
I unsnapped the lifeline from my safety harness and dove in. The water was as black as the inside of a whale. I came up swimming in a low, fast crawl.
There had been no time to drop the mizzen. Behind me the Wahini would be slipping away. I porpoised to gain a foot of altitude, saw the girl, and corrected my direction. I caught the floating life ring as I passed. Then my fingers found the mass of her hair just as the line attached to the life ring tightened to drag me away. I dragged her after me.
The rope tightened and loosened with every surge as the yawl pitched in the rising seas. I brought my body up double and got a foot into the life ring. With the next loosening as Wahini’s bow came down, I straightened, dragging the girl along by a precarious grip on her hair. I nearly lost everything as the motion dragged me under. There was an eternity of blackness beneath the water with lungs caught unprepared, until the wave passed and I came to the surface again. In the moment of slack, I managed to attach my safety harness to the line and drag the girl closer.
She gave me nothing to hook on to. Somehow she had managed to get rid of the dress. She was eel-slick and hard to hold. I just got a breath and managed to get my arms around her waist before the next surge pulled us under.
She was too limp to still be living, but I could not give her up now.
We were tailing out like a fish on a line as the Wahini moved through the water. I put my ear to her mouth and heard the faint rasp of her breathing. I just managed to slap my hand over her mouth and nose before we were hauled under again, and when we came up, she began to struggle feebly.
I took her long hair in my teeth and pulled us up the rope hand over hand. We went under again, and I had no hand free to cover her mouth. The resistance of her body through the water nearly tore my head off. Up again, and repeat. Under. Black as hell. Cold tropical waters and desperation, with her twisting and turning like a hooked tuna on the strands of her hair. Then air and stars, only a little less black than the pit of waters.
Now I had fifteen feet of slack. I dragged the bobbing life ring to us, made a pillow of it under her head and looped the line packstrap fashion under her arms and across her upper chest. Then I let her go and went up the line hand over hand.
Five minutes later, I had her on board. more tomorrow