A great semicircular wall of red shut out the gray of the sea and sky to leeward, and for an instant the horrified men in the boat saw—as people see by a lightning flash—dark lines radiating from the centre of this red wall, and near this centre poised on end in mid-air, with deck and sponsons still intact, a bowless, bottomless remnant of the cruiser. Then, and before the remnant sank into the vortex beneath, the spectacle went out in the darkness of unconsciousness; for a report, as of concentrated thunder, struck them down. A great wave had left the crater-like depression in the sea, which threw the boat on end, and with the inward rush of surrounding water rose a mighty gray cone, which then subsided to a hollow, while another wave followed the first. Again and again this gray pillar rose and fell, each subsidence marked by the sending forth of a wave. And long before these concentric waves had lost themselves in the battle with the storm-driven combers from the ocean, the half-filled boat, with her unconscious passengers, had drifted over the spot where lay the shattered remnant, which, with the splintered fragments of wood and iron strewn on the surface and bottom of the sea for a mile around, and the lessening cloud of dust in the air, was all that was left of the derelict Neptune and one of the finest cruisers in the Spanish navy.
A few days later, two exhausted, half-starved men pulled a whaleboat up to the steps of the wharf at Cadiz, where they told some lies and sold their boat. Six months after, these two men, sitting at a camp-fire of the Cuban army, read from a discolored newspaper, brought ashore with the last supplies, the following:
“By cable to the ‘Herald.’
“CADIZ, March 13, 1895.—Anxiety for the safety of the Reina Regente has grown rapidly to-day, and this evening it is feared, generally, that she went down with her four hundred and twenty souls in the storm which swept the southern coast on Sunday night and Monday morning. Despatches from Gibraltar say that pieces of a boat and several semaphore flags belonging to the cruiser came ashore at Ceuta and Tarifa this afternoon.”
THE TERRIBLE SOLOMONS*
From “South Sea Tales,” BY JACK LONDON
Reprinted by courtesy of the Macmillan Co.
There is no gainsaying that the Solomons are a hard-bitten bunch of islands. On the other hand, there are worse places in the world. But to the new chum who has no constitutional understanding of men and life in the rough, the Solomons may indeed prove terrible.