By this the horror had become a dream to her. As in a dream she saw one of her servants—a poor little under-housemaid, rise to her knees from the floor where she had been flung, totter to the edge of the house-front, and stand, piteously gazing down over a height impossible to leap.
A man’s voice shouted. Around the corner of the house, from the stables, Mr. Langton came running, by a bare moment escaping death from a mass of masonry that broke from the parapet, and crashed to the ground close behind his heels.
“Lady Vyell! Where is Lady Vyell?”
Ruth called to him, and he scrambled towards her over the gaping pavement. He called as he came, but she could distinguish no words, for within the last few seconds another and different sound had grown on the ear—more terrible even than the first roar of ruin.
“My God! look!” He was at her side, shouting in her ear, for a wind like a gale was roaring past them down from the hills. With one hand he steadied her against it, lest it should blow her over the verge. His other pointed out over Tagus.
She stared. She did not comprehend; she only saw that a stroke more awful than any was falling, or about to fall. The first convulsion had lifted the river bed, leaving the anchored ships high and dry. Some lay canted almost on their beam ends. As the bottom sank again they slowly righted, but too late; for the mass of water, flung to the opposite shore, and hurled back from it, came swooping with a refluent wave, that even from this high hillside was seen to be monstrous. It fell on their decks, drowning and smothering: their masts only were visible above the smother, some pointing firmly, others tottering and breaking. Some rose no more. Others, as the great wave passed on, lurched up into sight again, broken, dismasted, wrenched from their moorings, spinning about aimlessly, tossed like corks amid the spume; and still, its crest arching, its deep note gathering, the great wave came on straight for the harbour quay.