“No!” answered Worse, in a low tone; “I am working in sheer desperation.”
“So am I,” said the attache, with a nod; “but think of poor Christian Frederick.”
Just then a murmur went through the crowd, who could read the name of the vessel—Marten W. Garman.
“Why, that’s the old Consul’s name,” said several voices.
Uncle Richard had already heard the name from his brother, and, looking up, he saw the name of their father standing out in its gold letters amidst the flames, which were curling up the vessel’s side. Jacob Worse seized the nozzle of the hose, and with one sweep forced the water to such a height that the fire was quenched for the moment.
But now it was plain to all that the ship’s fate was sealed, and even if there were some among the spectators who might owe Garman and Worse a grudge, still they could not but feel that it was a pity for the proud ship to be thus doomed to destruction.
Morten had returned after his interview with his father, and was standing close by Uncle Richard. Every eye was fixed on the ship. The fire increased every second, and with a loud roar the flames burst out above the roof of the storehouse, and at each blast of wind the conflagration waxed higher and higher, until the heat by the engines became almost intolerable. The more furiously the fire raged, the more silent grew the crowd. No orders were heard, and the shouts of encouragement from the seamen died away; while the strokes of the pump no longer fell with the same determined regularity. Even Jacob Worse lost heart.
But now a shout is heard from a small boy belonging to the West End, who had climbed up into the rigging of a coaster which lay off one of the warehouses. “She’s giving way! She’s off! Hurrah! She’s off!”
A murmur of disapproval went through the crowd at this ill-timed joke. But see! it almost seems as if the joke were a reality. The excitement increases every moment, and with it are heard cries of hope and fear. Yes!—no!—yes! she really is moving. She’s off! The pumps are deserted amidst breathless expectation, while the sound of voices waxes higher and higher, not only in the yard itself, but among the crowd who surround it, till it becomes a cheer, a joyous cry of hundreds; men, women, boys, all shouting they know not what, till all is mingled in one tumultuous roar.
For see! she’s starting. The huge dark mass begins to move; and inch by inch, with ever-increasing speed, the massive hull glides out through the flames; her shining sides disappear foot by foot through the smoke; the golden band flashes in the glare, and high as if in triumph does the bow rear itself heavenwards, while the stern dives deep into the waves. Then is heard a hissing and a crackling as if a hundred glowing irons had been cast into the water, as the burning stern cleaves its way into the billows, which come foaming up over the sides, and in under the counter, while the tiny flames which were flickering along the seams are quenched by the rush of air.