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hatchway and cabin in the great ship human beingsmen, women, and children-came rushing and tumbling with faces white with terror—white as their nightgear. Some were absolutely naked, having slipped off their night-dress and had no time to put on anything else; some had put on ulsters and great-coats, others had blankets thrown round them or carried their clothes in their hands. Up they came, hundreds and hundreds of them (for there were a thousand souls on board the Kangaroo), pouring aft like terrified spirits flying from the mouth of hell, and from them arose such a hideous clamour as few have lived to hear.
Augusta clung to the nettings to let the rush go by, trying to collect her scattered senses and to prevent herself from catching the dreadful contagion of the panic. Being a brave and cool-headed woman, she presently succeeded, and with her returning clearness of vision she realized that she and all on board were in great peril. It was clear that so frightful a collision could not have taken place without injury to their own vessel. Nothing short of an ironclad ram could have stood such a shock. Probably they would founder in a few minutes, and all be drowned. In a few minutes she might be dead! Her heart stood still at the horror of the thought, but once more she recovered herself. Well, after all, life had not been pleasant; and she had nothing to fear from another world, she had done no wrong. Then suddenly she began to think of the others. Where was Lady Holmhurst ? and where were the boy and the nurse? Acting upon
an impulse she did not stay to realize, she ran to the saloon hatchway. It was fairly clear now, for most of the people were on deck, and she found her way to the child's cabin with but little difficulty. There was a light in it, and the first glance showed her that the nurse had gone; gone, and deserted the child — for there he lay, asleep, with a smile upon his little round face. The shock had scarcely wakened the boy, and, knowing nothing of shipwrecks, he had just shut his eyes and gone to sleep again.
“Dick, Dick !” she said, shaking him.
He yawned and sat up, and then threw himself down again, saying, “ Dick sleepy."
“Yes, but Dick must wake up, and auntie” (he called her “auntie”) “ will take him up on deck to look for mummy.
Won't it be nice to go on deck in the dark ?"
“Yes,” said Dick, with confidence; and Augusta took him on her knee and hurried him into such of his clothes as came handy, as quickly as she could. On the cabin door was a warm little pea-jacket which the child wore when it was cold. This she put on over his blouse and flannel shirt, and then, by an after-thought, took the two blankets off his bunk and wrapped them round him. At the foot of the nurse's bed was a box of biscuits and some milk. The biscuits she emptied into the pockets of her ulster, and having given the child as much of the milk as he would drink, swallowed the rest herself. Then, pinning a shawl which lay about round her own shoulders, she took up
your wife ?"
the child and made her way with him on to the deck.
At the head of the companion she met Lord Holmhurst himself, rushing down to look after the child.
“I have got him, Lord Holmhurst,” she cried; "the nurse has run away. Where is
" “Bless you !” he said, fervently; "you are a good girl. Bessie is aft somewhere; I would not let her come. They are trying to keep the people off the boats—they are all mad !"
“ Are we sinking ?" she asked, faintly.
“God knows--ah! here is the captain,” pointing to a man who was walking, or rather pushing his way rapidly towards them through the maddened, screeching mob. Lord Holmhurst caught him by the arm.
“Let me go,” he said, roughly, trying to shake himself loose. “Oh! it is you, Lord Holmhurst.”
“Yes, step in here for one second and tell us the worst; speak up, man, and let us know all !"
“Very well, Lord Holmhurst, I will. We have run down a whaler of about five hundred tons, which was cruising along under reduced canvas and showing no lights. Our fore compartment is stove right in, bulging out the plates on each side of the cut-water, and loosening the fore bulkhead. The carpenter and his mates are doing their best to shore it up from the inside with balks of timber, but the water is coming in like a mill-race, and I fear that there are other injuries. All the pumps are at work, but there's a deal of water, and if the bulkhead goes—"
“We shall go, too,” said Lord Holmhurst, calmly. “Well, we must take to the boats. Is that all ?”
“In Heaven's name, is not that enough ?” said the captain, looking up, so that the light that was fixed in the companion threw his ghastly face into bold relief. “No, Lord Holmhurst, it is not all. The boats will hold something over three hundred people. There are about one thousand souls aboard the Kangaroo, of whom more than three hundred are women and children.”
“Therefore the men must drown," said Lord Holmhurst, quietly. “God's will be done !"
“Your lordship will, of course, take a place in the boats," said the captain, hurriedly. “I have ordered them to be prepared, and, fortunately, day is breaking. I rely upon you to explain matters to the owners if you escape, and clear my character. The boats must make for Kerguelen Land. It is about seventy miles to the eastward."
“You must give your message to some one else, captain,” was the answer; “I shall stay and share the fate of the other men.”
There was no pomposity about Lord Holmhurst now—all that had gone—and nothing but the simple, gallant nature of the English gentleman remained.
“No, no,” said the captain, as they hurried aft, pushing their way through the fear-distracted crowd. "Have you got your revolver?"
“Well, then, keep it handy; you may have to use it presently: they will try and rush the boats.”
By this time the gray dawn was slowly breaking, throwing a cold and ghastly light upon the hideous scene of terror. Round about the boats were gathered the officers and some of the crew, doing their best to prepare them for lowering. Indeed, one had already been got away. In it was Lady Holmhurst, who had been thrown there against her will, shrieking for her child and husband, and about a score of women and children, together with half a dozen sailors and an officer.
Augusta caught sight of her friend's face in the faint light. “Bessie! Bessie! Lady Holmhurst !" she cried, “I have got the boy. It is all right—I have got
— the boy !"
She heard her, and waved her hand wildly towards her; and then the men in the boat gave way, and in a second it was out of earshot. Just then a tall form seized Augusta by the arm. She looked
up: Mr. Tombey, and she saw that in his other hand he held a revolver.
“ Thank God!” he shouted in her ear, “I have found you! This way—this way-quick!” And he dragged her aft to where two sailors, standing by the davits that supported a small boat, were lowering her to the level of the bulwarks.
“Now then, women!” shouted an officer who was in charge of the operation. Some men made a rush.
“ Women first! Women first!”