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"You are very good to me, Lady Holmhurst," said Augusta, with something like a sob.

"Suppose, my dear," answered the great lady, laying her little hand upon Augusta's beautiful hair, "that you were to drop the 'Lady Holmhurst' and call me 'Bessie'? It sounds so much more sociable, you know, and, besides, it is shorter, and does not waste so much breath."

Then Augusta sobbed outright, for her nerves were shaken: "You don't know what your kindness means to me," she said; "I have never had a friend, and since my darling died I have been so very lonely!"

CHAPTER VII.

THE CATASTROPHE.

AND SO these two fair women talked, making plans for the future as though all things endured for ever, and all plans were destined to be realised. But even as they talked, somewhere up in the high heavens the Voice that rules the world spoke a word, and the Messenger of Fate rushed forth to do its bidding. On board the great ship were music and laughter and the sweet voices of singing women; but above it hung a pall of doom. Not the most timid heart dreamed of danger. What danger could there be aboard of that grand ship, which sped across the waves with the lightness and confidence of the swallow? There was naught to fear. A prosperous voyage was drawing to its end, and mothers put their babes to sleep with as sure a heart as though they were on solid English ground. Oh! surely, when his overflowing load of sorrows and dire miseries was meted out to man, some gentle Spirit pleaded for him-that he should not have foresight added to the tale, that he should not see the falling knife or hear the water lapping that one day shall entomb him? Or, was it kept back because man,

having knowledge, would be man without reason?-for terror would make him mad, and he would end his fears by hurrying their fulfilment! At least, we are blind to the future, and let us be thankful for it.

Presently Lady Holmhurst got up from her chair, and said that she was going to bed, but that, first of all, she must kiss Dick, her little boy, who slept with his nurse in another cabin. Augusta rose and went with her, and they both kissed the sleeping child, a bonny boy of five, and then they kissed each other and separated for the night.

Some hours afterwards, Augusta woke up, feeling very restless. For an hour or more she lay thinking of Mr. Tombey and many other things, and listening to the swift "lap, lap," of the water as it slipped past the vessel's sides, and the occasional tramp of the watch as they set fresh sails. At last her feeling of unrest became too much for her, and she rose and partially, very partially, dressed herself-for in the gloom she could only find her flannel vest and petticoat-twisted her long hair in a coil round her head, put on a hat and a thick ulster that hung upon the door-for they were running into chilly latitudes-and slipped out on deck.

It was growing towards dawn, but the night was still dark. Looking up, Augusta could only just make out the outlines of the huge bellying sails, for the Kangaroo was rushing along before the westerly wind

under a full head of steam, and with every inch of her canvas set to ease the screw. There was something very exhilarating about the movement, the freshness of the night, and the wild sweet song of the wind as it sang amongst the rigging. Augusta turned her face towards it, and, being alone, stretched out her arms as though to catch it. The whole scene awoke some answering greatness in her heart: something that slumbers in the bosoms of the higher race of human beings, and only stirs and then but faintly-when the passions move them, or when Nature communes with her nobler children. She felt that at that moment she could write as she had never written yet. All sorts of beautiful ideas, all sorts of aspirations after that noble calm, and purity of thought and life for which we pray and long, but are not allowed to reach, came flowing into her heart. She almost thought that she could hear her lost Jeannie's voice calling down the gale, and her strong imagination began to paint her hovering like a sea-bird upon white wings high above the mainmast's taper point, and gazing through the darkness into the soul of her she loved. Then, by those faint and imperceptible degrees with which ideas fade one into another, from Jeannie her thought got round to Eustace Meeson. She wondered if he had ever called at the lodgings at Birmingham after she left? Somehow, she had an idea that she was not altogether indifferent to him; there had been a look in his eyes she did not quite understand. She almost wished now that she had sent him

a line or a message. Perhaps she would do so from

New Zealand.

Just then her meditations were interrupted by a step, and, turning round, she found herself face to face with the captain.

"Why, Miss Smithers!" he said, "what on earth are you doing here at this hour-making up romances?"

"Yes," she answered, laughing, and with perfect truth. "The fact of the matter is, I could not sleep, so I came on deck: and very pleasant it is!"

"Yes," said the captain, "if you want something to put into your stories you won't find anything better than this. The Kangaroo is showing her heels, isn't she, Miss Smithers? That's the beauty of her, she can sail as well as steam; and when she has a strong wind like this abaft, it would have to be something very quick that could catch her. I believe that we have been running over seventeen knots an hour ever since midnight. I hope to make Kerguelen Island by seven o'clock to correct my chronometers."

"What is Kerguelen Island?" asked Augusta.

"Oh! it is a desert place where nobody goes, except now and then a whaler to fill up with water. I believe that the astronomers sent an expedition there a few years ago, to observe the transit of Venus: but it was a failure because the weather was so misty-it is nearly always misty there. Well, I must be off, Miss Smithers. Good night; or rather, good morning."

Before the words were well out of his mouth, there

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