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--------__n__--1 A MAD BETROTHAL;…



CHAPTER XXXIV. A TERRIBLE CALAMITY IN MID-OCEAN. MR. RENWICK sent his note to state-room No. 212, and paced the deck eagerly, awaiting her reply but, ah me The best laid plan of mice and man Aft gang aglee." Even while he waited he became aware that there was a sudden change in the weather immi- nent. Dark clouds began to gather in the cold- grey leaden sky the wind freshened, and the dark waves began to lash each other into foam- crested mountains, swaying the steamer to and fro like an egg shell on the breast of an angry sea. In the midst of it lie received a verbal mes- sage from Nadine, saying she would be very pleased to see the picture on the morrow; she could not leave her aunt just at present, as she was very ill, indeed, from the effects of the coming storm. "I shall see her to-morrow," he says, joyously and, like all impatient lovers, he counts the hours that will intervene between that time and this, and he concludes that the best way to do is to engross himself in his picture while it is yet light. But he soon finds, with the pitching and rocking of the steamer, this is impossible. He knows he could find Wetherell on deck, but he does not feel in the mood for conver- sation. "People in love like their own thoughts better than any companion's," he thought, smiling. It is going to be a terrible night, Renwick," said Gilbert Wetherell, as he caught sight of his Irietid as he passed him on his way to his state- room. So I imagine," replied Renwick, and for that reason my berth will be preferable to sitting out on dfifik with you. You had better follow my example and turn in." I will, a little later on," replied Gilbert Wetherell. They parted with a pleasant nod. Neither of them ever dreamed under what distressing circumstances they should meet again. How long Wetherell stood there he never knew. Long since the darkness of Hades had settled over the plunging, swaying steamer and the world of inky, turbulent waters. The storm commenced in earnest. The rain fell in torrents the lightning flashed in red, blinding glares of light, making the horrible scene vividly lurid for one brief instant, then leaving the world to darkness and the wild fury of the raging st..mi. The fierce gales of wind almost took Wetherell from his feet. Sometimes he quite wishes that his life would end here and now. Who would care ? Who would miss him, save his sister and his oJd mother? Someone touches him on the arm. Glancing around with a start, he finds himself face to face with one of the sailors. "It's an awful night, sir," the man says, adding, in his bluff. hearty way: "And it's anything but safe to be standing here on deck. We've just lost a man, sir-as good a lad as I ever I was afloat with. Take my advice and go below." Wetherell smiled gloomily. "The warring of the elements just suits my frame of mind to-night. You are k;:id to advise me. I shall remain here for a short time, though." „ The old sailor, passed on, muttering some- thing about what fools some people were to expose themselves to the merciless storm when they warn't obleeged to." An hour later the same old sailor saw the tall, straight figure still standing on deck, breasting the fury of the bitter storm. "He'll get enough of it within the next half hour if the wind continues to rise as it is risin now," he thought. And the wind did rise. It almost seemed to tilibert Wetherell that the flood gates of Heaven were opened wide to deluge the earth on this a awful night. "Twelve o'clock and all's well," sang out the watch below. But simultaneously with those words, there were horrible cries, and a deaftening sound of crashing timber. Intuitively, Wetherell understood what had occurred — the steamer had been struck by lightning—but he did not known then how much damage had been done-that the vessel had been nearly rent in twain. In an instant a scene of the wildest confusion prevailed. There were wild, piteous cries from dazed women and children who had been pre- cipitated from their berths. And over the din was I heard the cry "To the life-boats I There is a hole in the vessel's side She is sinking Yes, the doomed steamer was settling. Already the mad waters covered the hold, and with each instant of time were rising higher and higher. No pen can picture the awful confusion of the scene, as that terrible cry ran from lip to lip- The steamer is sinking The fright, the con- fusion, the dismay, the hoarse cry of the sailors the terrible screams of loved ones who had been separated by the mad, paraiys^u LhlOUg strug- gling toward. the life-boats. They were hurled down and trampled upon by the stronger. What did one person care for another in that great struggle for life or for death Wetherell's first thought was for his friend, Renwick; but it was impossible to force his way through the panic-stricken, mad throng who were pushing forward. In this awful calamity the few men with cool heads and steady nerves were attempting to care 1 for the helpless- women and children first; fore- most among them was Wetherell. The last boat had been lowered, and the captain and Wetherell had stepped into it. Row for your lives, lads commanded the captain, in a voice like a bugle blast, "or the steamer will draw us down with her Even while he spoke, there was a cry of horror from one of the men. "Look, Captain!" he cried. 'All are not saved. My God there is a woman standing on the deck; the storm drowns her frantic cries "Push ahead!" commanded the captain. To pull one stroke nearer that doomed vessel means death for us all. Twenty lives cannot, must not, be sacrificed for one Hold cried Wetherell, leaping to his feet. I cannot desert a woman in such a peril as that ? Push on without me," and before those about him could lift a hand to save him he had plunged boldly into the boiling sea and struck out for the sinking ship. The man is mad cried the captain. Life is too precious to the crew to give the matter a second thought. They pulled hard, and the mighty strokes drove the life-boat out of the wake of the plunging, swaying, deserted steamer. As our noble hero struck the hissing waves, who shall picture the thoughts that surged like a flash through his breast? "Nadine, my darling," he murmured, "God bless you wherever you are to-night God bless you—and good-bye There was little need in striking out toward the steamer. The suction of thexwater as the vessel settled drew him toward her and in the meteoric flashes of lightning he could see the slender form cling to the railing of the deck. It will be death with both of us," he thought, in horrible despair. "Jump!" he cried out, "and I wijl save you I" He realised that it was their only chance now, for struggle against it as valiantly "Quld, he- voiug ciiitWIl uuder. "Jump!" he cried again. "I can come no nearer!" And, thank Heaven, she heard that loud command over the wild warring or the furious elements, and obeyed. She sank; the wild waves closed over her but in the next flash of light Wetherell saw her near at hand and grasped her. "Cling close to me!" he cried, hoarsely. "It is our only chance of life. We are facing death together." He heard a sharp cry, and the arms relaxed their hold, and she would have fallen back into the waves that were yearning to receive them both, if he had not anticipated the emergency aiid caught her closely with his left arm, while he struck out valiantly with his right. He was a bold and fearless swimmer, but, in the face of peril like this, no wonder his heart sank but, even in this moment of con- centrated, awful despair he did not regret risking his life to save that of the poor creature they had all abandoned and left alone-to die. No humait imagination can paint truthfully, in its horrible reality, that gallant death struggle in its awful terror. There was a fearful commotion in the waves as the steamer went down; but, thank Heaven rescuer and rescued were out of her wake. How he kept up, with that heavy burden to support, Heaven knew. An hundred times he was on the point of giving up the struggle, but hope urged him on. When daylight broke, with the first faint streak of early dawn, he observed a dark object floating on the water near him. "A boat!" he gasped. "JGod be praised!" It was floating bottom side up in the water. With- nuieh difficulty he righed it, succeeded in lifting his heavy burden over the edge of it, dropping her into the bottom of it, and clam- bering in himself. Then, and not until then, did he fully realise the almost superhuman strength he had put forth, for, without a cry or moan, strong man though lie was, he sank into a dead faint to the bottom of the boat beside the woman he had rescued. ( To be continued.)












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