“For God’s sake, hurry!” called Hamilton from afar. “We are turning into the trough.”
How our friends got into the cumbersome preservers and prepared themselves for the end they could never have told. Everything seemed a blank, the whole world whirled, all the noises in the universe rolled in their ears. Then they were stumbling, rolling, tearing toward the upper deck, hardly knowing whither they went or how they progressed. Before, behind, beside them were yelling, maddened men and women, rushing upward ruthlessly into the very waves of the ocean, all to be lost.
On the steps Hugh and Grace, who were together in advance of Veath and Lady Tennys, encountered the latter’s husband. Pie had fallen, and was grovelling, cursing, screaming, praying on the steps. Hugh pulled him to his feet. With a mad yell he fled onward and upward. At the top he was checked by the sailors, who were vainly trying to keep the people back. He struggled past them and on toward the open deck. An officer caught him and held him firmly until Hugh, Veath, and the two trembling women came up.
“Get back, all of you!” yelled Shadburn. “You can’t come out here. Every sailor on deck has been washed overboard!”
“Don’t let us sink! Don’t let us sink! For God’s sake!” shrieked Lord Huntingford. Then he saw his wife. “Save me, Tennys; we are lost! We are lost!”
A great wave swept over the deck, washing all of them back into the companionway, half drowned.
“Is there any hope, Mr. Frayne?” yelled Hugh to the second officer, holding himself and his half-dead sweetheart against the leaping of the boat.
“One chance in a million! Stay back there and we’ll try the boats. God knows they can’t live in this sea, but they’re the only hope. We’ll turn clear over with the next big wave. Stay back!” he yelled. “We are trying to get the boats ready. Stay back!”
Hugh and Grace from where they clung could see the great black mountains of water rushing upon them, each wave a most terrifying spectacle. Then again the whole dark, seething ocean seemed to be below them and they were flying to the clouds. The breath of relief died instantly, for again the helpless ship sank into the trough and the foaming mountains towered about her. Grace hid her eyes and screamed with terror. Those huge murderous waves already had swept many from the ship. A score of sailors and as many courageous soldiers were in the churn of the merciless waters.
Crash! A horrid grating sound, splintering! Then the instantaneous shock, the awful, stunning force of a frightful blow and a shipful of human beings were flung violently in all directions, many never to rise again. The Tempest Queen had struck! The last chance was gone!
“My God!” groaned the captain. “It’s all over!” Then he roared: “All hands! All hands! Stations! To the boats! Stand back there! Women first!”