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UNDER ONE ROOF:
AN EPISODE IN A FAMILY HISTORY.
BY JAMES PAYN.
killed at once by their heads being
dashed against the sides, and even the ON THE REEF.
roof of the cabin, many on deck were flung into the sea.
It was the very AS
S to the locality in which the crisis of horror and despair.
Rhineland was now situated, * To the fore-top for your lives,' exthe Captain himself had only an ap
claimed Pearce to the two young peoproximate idea of it, while the majori- | ple. ty of the passengers only knew that Go, Mr. Gresham, go,' cried Elise, they were in the Bristol Channel. you have already done your best for
The American, whose name was me. I cannot climb the shrouds.' Pearce, and who preferred, as it after- • It is probable you never tried,'obward appeared to be called “Commo- served the American, drily. Gresdore,' being appealed to (by reason of ham's only reply was to lift her in his his knowing looks) upon this subject, arms, and aided by Pearce and her own grimly replied that he did not know in exertions, they managed to make their what portion of the Channel they were, way through the terrified crowd to the but that in his opinion the question forecastle ; the crew had already fled would soon be solved; the expression there, and were running up the rigging he used was, “I guess it won't be long in swarms. The top was occupied at before we're at the bottom of it.' To once by as many as it would hold. do him justice, he only gave this an- With the help of the two men, howswer to the men; to the women he ever, Elise climbed to the very foot of always expressed himself hopefully. it, and out of the reach of the waves He said that there was a mighty dif- that now swept the ship from stem to ference between being drowned and stern. having the starch taken out of their * There is a woman here,' said Grescollars—which had happened to the ham to those above; is there not a poor creatures already. It was known, man among you who will give up his of course, by this time to himself and place?' every seaman on board, that the ship There was no answer except from was driving on shore, and that the the American from below. No they question of safety for every soul on won't, I bet. They will never oblige board depended on what sort of shore a lady even by so much as a seat in a
You are better where you are, While he was making this very ob- Miss,' he added, in a lower tone, if servation in Gresham's ear the ship your young man will only lash you to suddenly struck with tremendous viol- the rigging.' ence, though against no visible object, For this purpose Gresham had noand like a dreadful echo a shriek of thing but a handkerchief, supplementhorror burst from every part of the ed by the strength of his own arms. ship. Many of those still below were can hold you on till daylight,
Elise,' he whispered, and longer ; while I have life I will keep life in you.'
· Next to God, I trust in you,' answered she, simply.
It was fortunate that she had more than one friend, for though every inch above them was occupied by clinging linıbs, the wretched people below endeavoured to make their way up, and even to climb over their very bodies. The horrors of their situation, rocked by every blow of the sea, and drenched with its spray, was aggravated by the pitiful cries which burst from those around them. From the broken skylight above the cabin miserable groans still issued, and now and then a sharp shriek of agony : • My child, my little one, is drowned !' was one of them, which went to Elise's heart. For the most part they were cries wrung by necessity from human throats, but now and then there was an ejaculation of frenzied terror. For instance, a young fellow immediately below the American suddenly exclaimed that the ship was breaking to pieces.
• Let it break,' answered the Yankee, contemptuously, you'll keep whole enough, I'll warrant.'
It was curious to observe what an effect this one man's coolness and quaint good sense had upon those around him, notwithstanding the peril and misery of their position. That they were on a rock, and a hidden one, was all of which the best-informed were conscious.
The force of the wave that had just thrown them upon it had been such as to carry the whole vessel on to the reef; otherwise, had part only been driven on to it, and part left on a lower level exposed to the breach of the sea, the ship would have been torn asunder in a few minutes. Thanks to the lowness of the tide, the masts and rigging stood out of water, and were only washed to any height by some exceptionally huge wave, but in the mean time it was only too plain that the ship's timbers were giving way under the reiterated blows of the
The wind was as keen as it was furious, and the cold soon began to tell upon these poor creatures, many of whom had rushed from below but scantily clad. Only a few women besides Elise Hurt had obtained a footing on the shrouds at all, and one by one, overcome by fatigue and fear, these relaxed their hold of the ropes, and were whirled away into the raging deep, as often as not in silence. The two men bade Elise shut her eyes, under pretence of her thus obtaining a little rest, but in reality to prevent her witnessing these distressing scenes. More than once, however, a man came tumbling down from the foretop or the shrouds more immediately above them, and that so close as to imperil her own safety in his descent into his watery tomb. The cold had benumbed the hands of these poor fellows, and they had become too weak from exhaustion and hunger to retain their position.
And here it was that the forethought of the American stood Gresham and his companion in good stead. Not only did the young fellow insist upon her partaking of the viands with which he had filled his pockets, but also administered, 'under Mr. Pearce's directions, an amount of brandy which, in other circumstances, would have had a most unpleasant effect upon any young lady's organization.
• « The blood is the life," says the Scripture,' were Mr. Pearce's words ;
and the brandy is the blood upon this occasion-you needn't be afraid of taking too much, ma'am.'
Elise, though very unwillingly, being as temperate as all German maidensare, took what was given her : wbich, after all, was not so very much, for what with the swaying of the mast, and the numbness of Gresham's hands, much of the liquor missed the mouth it was aimed at. Nor was it only the young man's hands that were numb, for his feet had become like marble ; and, in compliance with his request, Elise, more than once, had to stamp upon them to restore their circulation. That
she herself was exempt from this inconvenience of course proved the care that the other took of her, in which it must be acknowledged that he was greatly assisted by Mr. Pearce.
It was strange to see how during those weary hours these three were drawn together—almost as much mentally as physically-by the circumstances of that supreme occasion. Each spoke to the other of himself and of his private affairs with a frankness and confidence that they could not have used after six weeks of ordinary intercourse.
• If you get to land, Mr. Gresham,' said Elise, send a few words of tender farewell for me to my good aunt;' and she gave him her address with methodical exactness.
• If I live, Elise, you will live,' returned the young fellow, simply. It would be no self-sacrifice to perish in trying to save you, since life without you would not be worth having.'
He spoke with earnestness as well as fervour, and was quite unconscious of any extravagance of expression. In such sublime moments the emotions become, as it were, condensed : his whole previous existence appeared divided into two parts ; during one part he had known Elise Hurt; during the other he had not known her. And the former part monopolized his thoughts
Do not talk so,' answered the girl, reprovingly ; ' for in my case there is but one person to mourn me; and my good aunt, I am thankful to think, has others to love her. you yourself told me that you have dear friends and relatives
*One relative- a very kind one,' interrupted the young fellow ; 'and some dear friends certainly.'
He hesitated a moment; should be tell her something he had in his mind, or should he not? The waves were beating against the doomed vessel more frantically, it seemed, than ever. The tide was rising. No, it was not worth while. 'You, Elise,
are more than all to me,' he added, simply.
Presently Gresham, turning to the American, begged him to send the girl's message to her aunt, in case he should be the sole survivor of the three.
"Oh, yes,' he answered ; and do you remember, for my sake, the address of Henry Pearce, at the “Figure Head” Hotel, Charing Cross.'
Gresham smiled sadly; for small as either of their chances of life were, his chance—bound up as it was with that of the girl—was surely the smaller. • That is
your brother, I he answered.
• No, sir ; it is myself,' replied the other, coolly. The “Figure Head is always my address in London town, in case you should want a skipper for. a yacht. My friends call me Commodore. I've got my certificates ––
Here a great wave filled his mouth with salt water, and blinded all three of them with its spray.
Two more wretched creatures were thrown from their hold by the shock of it, and were carried away in its whirl. These had occupied positions above the tops,' and were worn out with hunger as much as fatigue; those, on the other hand, in Gresham's vicinity, had been supplied, at Elise's entreaty, with the remainder of his provisions.
' It is no use keeping them for me, love,' she had whispered ; ‘for death will come to me before hunger returns.'
Her logic was unanswerable ; plain that the vessel could now only hold together for a very short time.
Presently the dawn, the dawn!' she moaned in German.
• What is it?' inquired the American, anxiously Her strength is failing. Give her more brandy. '
Before Gresham could explain, some one cried out, “The land, the land !' And in a moment the coast line became distinct against the sky.
. Great Heaven ! it is Halcombe Point!' exclaimed Gresham.
'It is something to know your bear- proaching them, but to the ordinary ings,' observed the American. What observer it looked scarcely help at all, sort of landing do you give to strang. but merely more of wreck and ruin. ers hereabouts ?'
Was it possible that that frail undecked ' It is a rock-bound shore,' answered boat, now tossed on the foam of some Gresham, gravely. The ship must be mighty wave, now lost in the trough on the Lancet Reef,' he murmured. of the sea, not urged by its rowers at * There are people on the pier. all, but flying before the fury of the Robert
gale, could be Rescue-Life ? To those "“Sir Robert,” and “Halcombe," on shore it seemed so at all events ; ejaculated Elise * Is it Sir Robert for though the sound of their cheering Arden of Halcombe Hall of whom you could not reach the ears for which they speak ?
| were intended, the poor shipwrecked Yes, dearest ; do you know any- creatures could see flags waving from thing of him?
the little pier and from the windows " It was to his house I was going as of the mill in token of joyful sympagoverness.'
thy. Notwithstanding their evil ' And I am his nephew,' said Gres- plight, this moral support - the symham. The coincidence, strange as it pathy of their fellow creatures --had was, did not strike him so forcibly as an inspiring effect; they felt, as it might be expected ; those words of his were, that the great heart of humanity companion, ‘I was going,' speaking was beating high for them. They were of herself in the past tense, had sad- not cut off, these things seemed to asdened him too much to admit of won- sure them, from the sunshine, yet. der.
‘Hold on all,' cried the American, in a sharp, clear voice. "I see a boat
CHAPTER VIII. coming-a life-boat.' It was well that he had given his
A RECOGNITION. warning before he gave his news ; for the excitement which his good OHN DYNELEY had not spared tidings communicated to the poor wretches about him passed the bounds way to Archester ; it was not his way of reason. Even as it was, it was with to push a willing horse to the full exdifficulty that some could be persuaded tent of its powers, but human life was not to cast themselves into the sea to in the balance that night, and he had meet the coming succour.
not spared the spur. He was a heavy What an an apt term is that of man for so speedy a journey, but his Life-boat! How nobly does the god- weight had this advantage, that it child prove its right to the name that steadied the gallant bay, against whom has been given to it! What an ark such a wind was blowing, broadside of safety does it appear to those for on, as had never swept Halcombe whom the depths of ocean rage and Moor within the memory of man. roar-thanks to it--in vain! In no The curate, however, paid little heed other visible form do Human Endea- to the gale ; he was recalling to his invour and Divine Intention combine ward gaze the bright look of approval so sublimely. Consider, too, the com- that had lit up Evy Nicoll's face when parative humility-nay, to all appear- he had asked her stepfather for the ance, the inadequacy-of the means use of his mare; that would have been of salvation. The Commodore's' reward enough, if he had needed any, keen eyes and technical knowledge for the discomforts of his ride, of which had at once caused him to recognize in truth he reckel but little. He was the nature of the help that was ap- a man to whom wind and rain, and