Suddenly there came a lull. It quite startled us. But about half-a-mile away, I could see over Alister’s shoulders that the clouds were blacker, and the sea took up the colour and seemed to heave and rock more sulkily than before. There was no white water here, only a greenish ink. And at the same moment Dennis and Alister each laid a hand upon my arm, but none of us spoke. We lost ourselves in intense watching.
For by degrees the black water, leaving its natural motion, seemed to pile up under the black cloud, and then, very suddenly, before one could see how it happened, either the cloud stretched out a trunk to the sea, or the sea to the cloud, and two funnel-shaped masses were joined together by a long, twisting, whirling column of water that neither sea nor sky seemed able to break away from. It was a weird sight to see this dark shape writhe and spin before the storm, and at last the base of it struck a coral reef, and it disappeared, leaving nothing but a blinding squall of rain and a tumult of white waves breaking on the reef. And then the water whirled and tossed, and flung its white arms about, till the whole sea, which had been ink a few minutes before, had lashed itself into a vast sheet of foam.
We relaxed our grip of each other, and drew breath, and Alister, stretching his arms seawards after a fashion peculiar to him in moments of extreme excitement, gave vent to his feelings in the following words—
“Sirs! yon’s a water-spout.”
But before we had time to reply, a convict warder, whom we had not noticed, called sharply to us, “Lie down, or you’ll be blown down!” and the gale was upon us. We had quite enough to do to hold on to the ground, and keep the stone-dust out of our eyes by shutting them. Further observations were impossible, though it felt as if everything in the world was breaking up, and tumbling about one’s ears.
Luckily nothing did strike us, though not more than a hundred yards away a row of fine trees went down like a pack of cards, each one parallel with its neighbour. House-tiles flew in every direction, shutters were whipped off and whirled away; palm-trees snapped like fishing-rods, and when the wind-squall had passed, and we sat up, and tried to get the sand out of our ears, we found the whole place a mass of debris.
But when we looked seaward we saw the black arch going as fast as it came. All sense of fever and lassitude had left us. The air was fresh, and calm, and bright, and within half-an-hour the tern and sea-gulls were fishing over the reef and skimming and swooping above the prismatic waters as before.
“Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire;
... so shall inferior eyes,
That borrow their behaviours from the great,
Grow great by your example, and put on
The dauntless spirit of resolution.”
King John, V. i.