Page:Colymbia (1873).djvu/17

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I was almost as much at home in the water as on land, in such a sea and under such circumstances I had no chance for my life. But I had no time to make this reflection. Without knowing how it happened, I found myself overwhelmed by the world of seething waters. I came speedily to the surface, and then the whole gravity of my position forced itself upon me. The only part of the gallant ship still visible was a portion of the hull, keel uppermost, and that was heeling over and sinking rapidly. Had I had leisure to reflect, I would have suffered myself to go down along with the ship, for what chance had I alone in such a wilderness of water? But the instinct of self-preservation was the only faculty awake at that moment, and I struck out from the engulphing whirlpool caused by the sinking ship as vigorously as I could. With a feeling of agonised despair I saw the life-boat, which had been kept ready for other emergencies, floating away broadside on at the distance of half a wave from me, and so much farther to leeward. When I rose on the crest of the wave the boat was down in the hollow, and when I sank it rose. I thought I could reach it by a few strokes, but I found that the rate at which the wind drove it was fully equal to the way I could gain by the utmost exertion. After a few minutes of vigorous swimming, I saw, to my consternation, for I now fully realised my position, that the boat was as far from me as at first. The utmost exertion I could make did not diminish my distance an atom, and I was about to abandon the attempt in despair, when I perceived close beside me the trail of a rope in the water. I seized hold of it, and found it was a loose rope hanging over the stern of the life-boat. A thrill of joy shot