Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/56

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14
PICTURESQUE NEW GUINEA.

changed, the last tearful embraces were given and taken, the last good wishes were spoken; the visitors were conducted on board the "Gladys;" and, with waving of white handkerchiefs and many unspoken prayers for a prosperous voyage and a safe return for the adventurers, they reluctantly turned their faces in the direction of Sydney.

The North Head was passed at 10.40, and, steering her course North by East, our gallant little vessel fairly entered on her mission, with a fair westerly wind, a smooth sea, and weather of the true Australian mildness and brilliancy. Broken Bay was speedily left behind us, and next Newcastle, famed for its coal mines. As the sun was sinking below the horizon we found ourselves abreast of the Port Stephens Lighthouse. The wind had freshened considerably during the afternoon, so as to spoil the appetites of some of our party, who had not yet found their sea-legs; the carpenter was battening down the hatches, evidently in anticipation of a squally night, and the company generally betook themselves to the horizontal position in their berths at an early hour of the evening. Happily, the fears of a coming storm were not realised. About midnight the wind fell, and the adventurers slept as calmly in their bunks as if they had been in a palatial hotel on shore.

Sunday morning dawned with Sabbath stillness and brightness. After breakfast the Commissioner issued orders for a general muster at half-past ten. The hour appointed found every man not actually engaged on duty ranged on the quarter-deck; the roll was called, and the Captain announced that Divine Service would be held at eleven, that attendance was not compulsory, but that the Commissioner would be pleased to see every man in attendance. Punctually at eleven the bell tolled for prayers; the crew, to a man, came up on deck, the ship then going at half-speed; prayer books and hymn books were handed round, and then the Commissioner read with great solemnity the beautiful service of the Church of England for those at sea, Mr. Fort leading in the reading of the responses. The singing of the 166th hymn, in which the whole of the little congregation heartily joined, concluded this very impressive service, and every one of the worshippers seemed to feel that he had performed an act of devout thankfulness to Almighty