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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
was a wild shout forward-"Ship ahead!" Then came an awful yell from about a dozen voices—
Starboard! Hard a-starboard, for God's sake!” With a fierce leap, like the leap of a man suddenly shot, the captain left her side and rushed on to the bridge. At the same instant the engine-bell rang and the steering-chains began to rattle furiously on the rollers at her feet, as the steam steering-gear did its work. Then came another yell—
"It's a whaler!-no lights!" and an answering shriek of terror from some big black object that loomed ahead. Before the echoes had died away, before the great ship could even answer to her helm, there was a crash, such as Augusta had never heard, and a sickening shock, that threw her on her hands and knees on to the deck, shaking the iron masts till they trembled as though they were willow wands, and making the huge sails flap and for an instant fly aback. The great vessel, rushing along at her frightful speed of seventeen knots, had plunged into the ship ahead with such hideous energy that she cut her clean in two-cut her in two and passed over her, as though she were a pleasure-boat!
Shriek upon shriek of despair rent the gloomy night, and then, as Augusta struggled to her feet, she felt a horrible succession of bumps, which were accompanied by a crushing grinding noise. It was the Kangaroo driving right over the remains of the whaler!
In a very few seconds it was done, and looking
astern, Augusta could just make out something black that seemed to float for a second or two upon the water, and then disappear into its depths. It was the shattered hull of the whaler.
Then there arose a faint murmuring sound, that grew first into a hum, then into a roar, and then into a clamour that shook the skies, and up from every hatchway and cabin in the great ship, human beingsmen, women, and children—came rushing and tumbling, with faces white with terror-white as their night-gear. Some were almost naked, having slipped off their nightdress and had no time to put on anything else; some wore ulsters and greatcoats, 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 succeded, and with her returning clearness of vision realised that she and all on board were in great peril. It was plain 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 realise, 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 as quickly as she could into such of his clothes as came handy. On the cabin door was a warm little pea-jacket which the
Ichild wore when it was cold.
This she put on over
his blouse and flannel shirt, and then, by an afterthought, took the two blankets off his bunk and wrapped them round him. At the foot of the nurse's bed were 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 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 your wife?"
"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
"Very well, Lord Holmhurst, I will.
Mr. Meeson's Will.
We have run