My consternation was, indeed, so great that I could not speak. I felt Laura press my hand, as though the dew in the palm of it and the tremor of my fingers were hints sufficient to her of the sudden desperate fit of nervousness that possessed me; but I could not find my tongue. Figure being out in a horrible thunderstorm, miles from all shelter, and seized by an overmastering apprehension that the next or the next flash will strike you dead! My torment of mind was of this sort. I philosophised to myself in vain. There was nothing in the consideration that others shared my danger—most often a source of wonderful comfort to a person in peril—that I could but die once, that there were harder deaths than drowning, and the like, to restore me my self-possession. I was unnerved and in a panic of terror, fired afresh by the fearful fancy that had entered my brain on the preceding night of this head of rock gaping and letting us down to God knows what depth. All the time I was feeling with a hideous, nervous intensity with feet, fibres, and instincts for any faint premonitory jar or thrill in the hull to announce that this island was getting under way for the bottom again.
I believe that the electric rain had a deal to do with the insufferable distress of my mind at that time, for when it ceased—with the same startling suddenness that had marked the drop of the wind—I rallied as though to a huge bumper of brandy. My hands were wringing wet, yet cold as though lifted from a bucket of water; the perspiration poured down my face, but my nerves had returned to me.
‘What now is to be the next act of this wild play?’ said I.
‘A breeze of wind, your honour,’ cried Finn out of the black gap of the door; and sure enough I felt the grateful blowing of air cooled by the wet.
The weight of rain had wonderfully deadened the sea, and the surf that a little while ago broke with passion and fury now beat the rocks with a subdued and sulky roaring sound. It had clarified to the westwards somewhat, the dusk was of a thinner and finer sort there, with a look of wind in the texture of the darkness; but it continued a black night, with no other relief to the eye than the pale preternatural haze of light in the square of the main-hatch and the occasional vivid flash of phosphor out at sea. But the wind swept up rapidly, and within a quarter of an hour of the first of its breezing it was blowing hard upon a whole gale; the old galleon hummed to it as though she had all her rigging aloft. In an incredibly short time the sea was making clean breaches over the island, rendering the blackness hoary with a look of snow squalls as it slung its sheets of thrilling and throbbing and hissing spume high into the dark sweep of the gale. One saw the difference between this sort of weather and the night on which the ‘Bride’ had struck. Then the heaviest of the surf left a clear space of rock; but there were times now when the smother came boiling to the very bends of the galleon, striking her till you felt her tremble with huge quivering upheavals of froth over and into her; and it was like being at sea to look over the side and witness the white madness of water raging and beating on either hand. Every now and again a prodigious height of steam-like spray would go yelling up with the sound of a giantess’s scream into the flying darkness from some pipe-like conduit in the porous rock. These columns of water were so luminous with fire, so white with the crystalline smoke into which they were converted by the incalculable weight of the sea sweeping into the apertures, that, dark as it was, one saw them instantly and clearly. They soared with hurricane speed in a straight line, then were arched by the gale like a palm; and if ever the wind brought the falling torrent to our decks the stonified ship shook to the mighty discharge as though the point of land on which she lay were being rent by the force of flame and thunder which created it.
We sat in the cabin in total darkness. It made our condition unspeakably dreadful to be without light. We had tinder-boxes, but there was nothing to set fire to, nothing that would steadily flame and enable us to see; nor was there any prospect now of our being able to make a flare should we catch a glimpse of a ship, for what before would have made a fine bonfire was soaked through. It was up to a man’s knees on the main-deck, and the cabin would have been flooded but for the sharp spring or rise of the planks from the poop front to the stern. Such darkness as we sat in was like being blind. There was nothing to be seen through the door but pale clouds of spray flying through the air. Just the faintest outline of our figures upon the white ground of the sail was visible, but so dim, so indeterminable as to seem but a mere cheat of the fancy. A lamp or a candle would have rendered our condition less intolerable. The men could then have made shift to bring some sherry and provisions from the forecastle; the mere toying with food would have served to kill the time. We could have looked upon one another as we conversed, but the blackness of that interior was so profound that it weighed down upon us like the very spirit of dumbness itself. I have often since wondered whether men who are trapped in the bottom of a mine and lie waiting in the blackness there for deliverance—I 佛山夜生活网 have often wondered, I say, how long such poor fellows continue to talk to one another. The intervals of silence, I am sure, must rapidly grow greater and greater. There is something in intense darkness in a time of peril that seems to eat all the heart and courage out of a man. The voice appears
to fall dead in the opacity as a stone vanishes when hurled at snow.
Cutbill and Finn did their best to keep up our hearts. They spoke of the certainty of this wind bringing a ship along with it. What should we have done without this galleon? they asked; but for the shelter it provided us with we should have been swept like smoke by the seas off the rocks. There was no fear, they said, of the old hooker not holding together. She was bound into one piece by the brine that had made a stone of her, and by the coating of shells, 佛山桑拿体验 and if all ships afloat were as staunch as she was there would be an end of underwriting and drowned sailors would be few.
I helped in such talk and did my best, but our spirits could not continue to make headway against the blackness that was rendered yet more subduing by the uproar without,
and by our being unable to imagine from moment to moment what was next to happen.
By-and-by the men stretched themselves upon the sail and slept. I passed my arm round Laura’s waist and brought her head to my shoulder, and after a little her regular breathing let me know that she was asleep. Lady Monson was close to us, but she might have been on the forecastle for all that I could distinguish of her. Whether she sat or reclined, whether she slumbered or was wide awake throughout, I could not imagine. She never once spoke. At times my 南海盐步桑拿网 head would nod, but as regularly would I start into wakefulness afresh to the heavy fall of a sheet of water splashing into the main-deck, or to some sudden shock of the blow of a sea either against the galleon’s side or upon the near rock. Nobody had suggested keeping a look-out. Indeed, had ships been passing us every five minutes we could have done nothing.
It was probably about two o’clock in the morning when the gale abated. The wind fell swiftly, as it mostly does in those parallels; a star shone in the black square of the door; the pouring and boiling of waters about us ceased, and the sounds of the sea sank away into the distance of the beach. I should have stepped on deck to take a look round but for Laura, who slumbered stirlessly and most reposefully upon my shoulder, supported by my arm, and I had not the heart to 佛山桑拿干磨水磨服务 disturb the sweet girl by quitting her. Added to this, I could guess by looking through the doorway that it was still too black to see anything spite of the glance of starlight, and even though I should discern some pallid vision of a running ship, there was nothing dry enough to signal her with. So, being dog-tired, I let drop my chin, and was presently in as deep a sleep as the soundest slumberer of them all.
Deep and deathlike indeed must have been my repose, for somehow I was sensible of being stormily shaken even whilst my wits were still locked up in sleep.
‘Why, Mr. Monson, sir,’ roared Finn in my ear, ‘ye ain’t so sleepy, I hope, as not to care to git away. Hallo, I say, hallo!’
‘Father of mercy, what is it now?’ I cried, terrified in my dazed condition by his bull-like voice.
‘Why, sir,’ he answered, ‘there’s a 佛山桑拿第一站 barque just off the island. She’s seen our signals, and ’s slipping close in with hands at the maintops’l brace.’
‘Ha!’ said I, and I sprang to my feet.
Finn rushed out again. I had been the last of the sleepers apparently, and was the only occupant of the cabin. The sun was risen, but, as I might suppose by his light, he had scarce floated yet to three or four times the height of his diameter. The doorway framed a silvery blue heaven, and the wondrous vegetation of the deck sparkled in fifty gorgeous dyes, streaming wet after the night, and every blob of moisture was jewel-coloured by the particular splendour it rested upon. I darted on to the quarter-deck, looked wildly towards the forecastle, then perceived that my companions had gathered upon the poop. Laura came running to me, heedless of the perilous deck, pointing and speechless, her eyes radiant. There was a long swell washing from the westwards, but to the eastwards of the island the water ran away smooth like the short wake of a great ship, till the shouldering welter swept to it again; and there where the blue heave was, with the sun’s dazzle a little away to the right, was a small barque slightly leaning from the pleasant morning breeze, and sliding slowly but crisply through it with a delicate lift of foam to the ruddy gleam of her sheathing, and her canvas glistening sunwards, bright as the cloths of a pleasure vessel.
‘That’s what we’ve been awaiting for!’ shouted Finn.
I came to a dead halt, looking at the barque with Laura hanging on my arm. There was a fellow in the mainchains swinging a leadline, but it was plain that the weight fell to the full scope without result. Then on a sudden round came the maintopsail yard to us with a flattening in of the cotton white cloths from the folds of the course to the airy film of the tiny sky-sail.
‘Forward, Head! forward, Dowling, as if the devil were in chase of ’ee,’ bawled Finn, ‘and get that whip rove and the chair made fast.’
The men ran to the work. Cutbill was following them.
‘No, William,’ cried Finn; ‘stop where ’ee are a minute. The shipwreck t’other night ain’t left me my old woice. Hist! there’s a chap hailing us.’
‘What island’s that, and who are you and what manner of craft is that you’re aboard of?’ came from the rail of the barque’s quarter-deck in a thin, reed-like, but distinctly audible voice.
Cutbill roared back, ‘We’re the surwiwors of the schooner-yacht ‘Bride,’ cast away three nights ago. Will you take us off, sir?’
‘How many are there of you?’
‘Seven, including two ladies.’
‘Five, Mr. Cutbill, tell ’em,’ shouted Dowling from the forecastle; ‘me and Head stops here.’
‘Have you a boat?’ came from the barque.
‘No, sir,’ roared Cutbill.
‘I’ll send one. Make ready to come along.’
Lady Monson was the first of us to press forward to the forecastle. The main-deck was ankle deep, but we splashed through it like a pack of racing children and gained the fore-end of the galleon without misadventure. I was mad with impatience, and all being ready with the whip and chair I plumped Laura most unceremoniously into the seat, caught hold of the line over her head, and down we were lowered. Up then soared the empty chair and out swung her ladyship, who plunged into my arms and came very near to throwing me in her eagerness to leap out before the rocks were within reach of her feet.
‘Now,’ said I, ‘the men can manage for themselves,’ and with that I seized hold of Lady Monson’s hand, grasped Laura by the arm, and away we trudged to the beach off which the barque was lying. I was still so newly awakened from a very stupor of slumber that I moved and thought as though in a dream. Yet my wits were sufficiently collected to enable me to keep a bright look-out for holes. Again and again I secretly heaped curses upon the hindrance of this porous surface, for it forced us into deviations which seemed to make a league of a distance that would have been but a few minutes’ walk on reasonable soil. The energy of our strides forbade speech; we could only breathe, and what little mind this sudden chance of deliverance had left us we had to exclusively devote to the pitfalls.
They had lowered a boat aboard the barque by the time that we arrived at the water’s edge, breathless, and the three of us staring with a feverish greediness, a thirsty, frantic desire, I may say, which ocean peril, of all earthly dangers, paints with most perfection upon the eye. She was a good-sized boat of a whaling pattern, sharp at both ends, pulled by three men who peered continuously over their shoulders as they rowed, and steered by a small man in a blue jacket and a broad-brimmed straw hat. By the time she was close in the others had joined us. I had heard much heated talk amongst them as they came down from the galleon, springing over the holes and wells, and Finn at once said to me:
‘What d’ee think, your honour? here’s Head and Dowling gone mad! They say there’s bullion to be met with in that hulk up there, and they mean to stop with her till they’ve got it.’
‘Nonsense!’ I exclaimed.
‘By the ’Tarnal, then, Mr. Monson,’ cried Dowling, ‘there’s no leaving with me yet. Here’s a chance that ain’t going to happen more’n once to a sailor-man.’
‘Ashore there!’ came from the little chap at the tiller of the boat; ‘what sort of beach have you got for grounding?’
‘Pumice-stone, sir,’ answered Finn.
‘Don’t like it,’ said the little fellow with a shake of his head. ‘Is it steep to?’
‘He ought to be able to see by looking over the side,’ grumbled Finn; then aloud, ‘Slopes as gradual as the calf of a man’s leg.’