The sack was accomplished; and the crowd, heated but conscious of a duty done, was returning with the spoil, when towards the north a white glare leapt into the heaven and as suddenly vanished. In a moment or so a dull roar followed, and the earth shuddered underfoot.
Troy trembled. It remembered its neglected Sabbath, and trembled again.
IN WHICH SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ARE MADE TO PUT A PERIOD TO THIS HISTORY.
The congregation at St. Symphorian’s on this memorable Sunday morning numbered nine persons. Possibly this was the reason why, against all precedent, the Vicar’s sermon terminated at “thirdly.”
Woman has been stated so often, and by such capable observers, to be more inquisitive than man, that I will content myself with establishing an exception. Of these nine persons, five were women, and the remainder held the salaried posts of organist, organ-blower, pew-opener, and parish-clerk. Of the women, one was Tamsin Dearlove. It is noteworthy that Caleb spent his morning at “The Bower.”
Service was over, and Tamsin was rowing homewards. She was alone; for Troy was not the Dearloves’ parish, and the Twins attended their own church—being, indeed, churchwardens. As she pulled quietly upwards, a shade of thought rested on her pretty face. I do not know of what she was thinking; and may add that if I did, I should not tell you. I would as lief rob a church.
She had passed the jetties, and was pulling her left paddle to turn the corner off Kit’s House, when a flash crossed the heaven from behind her, and in an instant followed that rending explosion which (at different distances) has been twice presented to the reader, and with pardonable pride; for the story of Troy has now a catastrophe as well as episodes, and is vindicated as a theme.
As soon as the throbbing of the atmosphere and the buzzing in her ears began to die away, two swift thoughts crossed her brain. Oddly enough, the first was for the safety of Kit’s House. She glanced over her shoulder. A mere film of smoke hung over the creek, and to the right of this she saw the house standing, seemingly unharmed. Then came the second thought—
If the explosion came from the creek, where the light smoke hung, there would be a wave.
She half turned on the thwart and looked intently.
Yes. It was curling towards her, widening from the creek’s mouth, and arching with a hateful crest. On it came, a dark and glossy wall; and she knew that if it broke or caught her boat in the least aslant, she must be either swamped or overset.
With a sound that was half a sob and half a prayer she grasped her paddles and, still looking over her shoulder, gently moved the boat’s nose to face it.
A moment, and it rose above her, hissing death; another, and the boat was caught high in air, tottered on the summit, and then with a shiver shot swiftly down into the trough beyond—safe.