The other two were different. A strong, blond man, young, handsome, and brave I know, stood bareheaded in front of the cockpit. With a sudden, vehement motion he drew the head of a girl to his breast and held it there as if to shut out the horrible world. There was no fear in his face,—just pain and distress that he was unable to do more. I am thankful that I did not see the face of the girl. Her brown hair has floated in my dreams until I have cried out for help; what would her face have done?
In the twinkling of an eye it was over. I heard a sound as when one breaks an egg on the edge of a cup,—no more. I screamed with horror, ran across the guarded plank, climbed the gate, and fell headlong and screaming over the donkey-engine. Picking up my battered self, I shouted:
“Bahrens! Bahrens! for God’s sake, help! Man overboard! Stop the ship!”
I reached the ladder to the bridge just as the captain came out of the chart house.
“For God’s sake, stop the ship! You’ve run down a boat with four people! Stop her, can’t you!”
“It can’t be done, man. If we’ve run down a boat, it’s all over with it and all in it. I can’t risk a thousand lives without hope of saving one. This is a gale, Doctor, and we have our hands full.”
I turned from him in horror and despair. I stumbled to my stateroom, dropped my wet clothing in the middle of the floor, and knew no more until the trumpet called for breakfast. The rush of green waters was pounding at my porthole; the experience of the night came back to me with horror; the reek of my wet clothes sickened my heart, and I rang for the steward.
“Take these things away, Gustav, and don’t bring them back until they are dry and pressed.”
“What things does the Herr Doctor speak for?”
“The wet things there on the floor.”
“Excuse me, but I have seen no things wet.”
“You Dutch chump!” said I, half rising, “what do you mean by saying—Well, I’ll be damned!” There were my clothes, dry and folded, on the couch, and my ulster and cap on their hook, without evidence of moisture or use.
“Gustav, remind me to give you three rix-dollars at breakfast.”
“Danke, Herr Doctor.”
Of such stuff are dreams made. But I will know those terror-stricken sailors if I do not see them for a hundred years; and I am glad the dark-haired girl did not realize the horror, but simply knew that the man loved her; and I often think of the man who did the nice thing when no one was looking, and whose face was not terrorized by the crack of doom.