Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/16

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10
COLYMBIA.

free on the deck and was well supplied with oars, mast and sail, some cases of preserved meat, some bags of biscuit and kegs of water; for, though he spoke, and I believe felt, as confident of the safety of his ship as ever, he, like a prudent man, was resolved to provide against accidents, however remote they appeared to him.

We had not long to wait for the outbreak of the storm. The sky became covered with a thick pall of black cloud, and the wind came on with a roar, lashing the sea into white-crested billows, that every moment increased in size. We had been laid head to wind, with every stitch of canvas furled, and yet we were driven rapidly astern by the furious gale.

Every instant the wind increased in violence, the darkness became greater, and our condition more perilous. Suddenly the shrill voice of a boy, perched up somewhere among the shrouds, alarmed us with the cry of "Breakers astern!" Our captain ran up beside the boy, and presently descended with a face pale with emotion; but with consummate calmness he gave the necessary orders for avoiding the danger. A jib-sail was unfurled and the rudder put hard a-port. The force of the gale caused the vessel to swing suddenly round, and just as she presented her side to the full force of the wind, she turned right over and almost immediately disappeared beneath the waves. The whole thing happened so suddenly, so unexpectedly, that there was not an instant of time for making any preparations for the catastrophe. I was standing on the windward side of the vessel, clinging to the bulwarks, and, before I could realise what had happened, I found myself projected with considerable force into the boiling abyss of water. Now, although