And thus it was exactly twenty minutes from the time that the Kangaroo sank the whaler (for, although these events have taken some time to describe, they did not take long to enact) that her own hour came, and, with the exception of some eight-and-twenty souls, all told, the hour also of every living creature who had taken passage in her.
As soon as Mr. Meeson, saved from drowning by her intervention, lay gasping at the bottom of the boat, Augusta, overcome by a momentary faintness, let her head fall forward on to the bundle of blankets in which she had wrapped up the child she had rescued, and who, too terrified to speak or cry, stared about him with wide-opened and frightened eyes. When she lifted it, a few seconds later, a ray from the rising sun had pierced the mist, and striking full on the sinking ship, as, her stern well out of the water and her bow well under it, she rolled sullenly to and fro in the trough of the heavy sea, seemed to wrap her from hull to truck in wild and stormy light.
“She’s going!—by George, she’s going!” said the seaman Johnnie; and as he said it the mighty ship slowly reared herself up on end. Slowly—very slowly, amidst the hideous and despairing shrieks of the doomed wretches on board of her, she lifted her stern higher and higher, and plunged her bows deeper and deeper. They shrieked, they cried to Heaven for help; but Heaven heeded them not, for man’s agony cannot avert man’s doom. Now, for a space, she was standing almost upright upon the water, out of which about a hundred feet of her vast length towered like some monstrous ocean growth, whilst men fell from her in showers, like flies benumbed by frost, down into the churning foam beneath. Then suddenly, with a swift and awful rush, with a rending sound of breaking spars, a loud explosion of her boilers, and a smothered boom of bursting bulkheads, she plunged down into the measureless deeps, and was seen no more forever.
The water closed in over where she had been, boiling and foaming and sucking down all things in the wake of her last journey, while the steam and prisoned air came up in huge hissing jets and bubbles that exploded into spray on the surface.
The men groaned, the child stared stupified, and Augusta cried out, “Oh! oh!” like one in pain.
“Row back!” she gasped, “row back and see if we cannot pick some of them up.”
“No! no!” shouted Meeson; “they will sink the boat!”