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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 grey dawn was slowly breaking in 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 were 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: it was
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!"
“I am in no hurry," said Augusta, stepping forward with the trembling child in her arms; and her action for a few seconds produced a calming effect, for the men stopped.
"Come on!" said Mr. Tombey, stooping to lift her over the side, only to be nearly knocked down by a man who made a desperate effort to get into the boat. It was Mr. Meeson, and, recognising him, Mr. Tombey dealt him a blow that sent him spinning back.
"A thousand pounds for a place!" he roared. "Ten thousand pounds for a seat in a boat!" And once more he scrambled up at the bulwarks, trampling down a child as he did so, and was once more thrown back.
Mr. Tombey took Augusta and the child into his strong arms and put them into the boat. As he did so he kissed her forehead and murmured, "God bless you; good-bye!"
At that instant there was a loud report forward, and the stern of the vessed lifted perceptibly. The bulk
head had given way, and there arose such a yell as surely was seldom heard before. To Augusta's ears it seemed to shape itself into the word "Sinking!"
Up from the bowels of the ship poured the firemen, the appearance of whose blackened faces, lined with white streaks of perspiration, added a new impulse of terror to the panic-stricken throng. Aft they came, accompanied by a crowd of sailors and emigrants.
"Rush the boats," sung out a coarse voice, “or we'll be drowned!"
Taking the hint, the maddened mob burst towards the boats like a flood, blaspheming and shrieking as it came. In a moment the women and children who were waiting to take to the boat in which Augusta and the two seamen were already, were swept aside, and a determined effort was made to rush it, headed by a great raw-boned navvy, the same who had called out.
Augusta saw Mr. Tombey, Lord Holmhurst, who had come up, and the officer lift their pistols, which exploded almost simultaneously, and the navvy and another man pitched forward on to their hands and knees.
"Never mind the pistols, lads," shouted a voice; 66 as well be shot as drown. There isn't room for half of us in the boats; come on!" And a second fearful rush was made, which bore the three gentlemen, firing as they went, back against the bulwark nettings.
"Bill," halloaed the man who was holding on to the
foremost tackle, "lower away; we shall be rushed and swamped!"
Bill obeyed with heart and soul, and down sank the boat below the level of the upper decks, just as the mob was getting the mastery. In five seconds more they were hanging close over the water, and while they were in this position a man leapt at the boat from the bulwarks. He struck on the thwarts, rolled off into the water, and was no more seen. A lady, the wife of a Colonial Judge, threw her child; Augusta tried to catch it, but missed, and the boy sank and was lost. In another moment the two sailors had shoved off from the ship's side. As they did so, the stern of the Kangaroo lifted right out of the water so that they could see under her rudderpost. Just then, too, with a yell of terror, Mr. Meeson, in whom the elementary principle of self-preservation at all costs was strongly developed, cast himself from the ship's side and fell with a splash within a few feet of the boat. Rising to the surface, he clutched hold of the gunwale, and implored to be taken in.
"Knock the old varmint over the knuckles, Bill," shouted the other man; "he'll upset us!"
"No! no!" cried Augusta, her heart moved, at seeing her old enemy in such a case. "There is plenty of room in the boat."
"Hold on then," said the man addressed, whose name was Johnnie; "when we get clear we'll haul you in."