33. The Queen's Room
To Stephen all that now happened seemed like a dream. She saw Hector and his gallant
young master forge across the smoother water of the current whose boisterous stream had
been somewhat stilled in the churning amongst the rocks, and then go north in the direction
of the swimmer who, strange to say, was drifting in again towards the sunken rocks. Then
she saw the swimmer's head sink under the water; and her heart grew cold. Was this to be
the end! Was such a brave man to be lost after such gallant effort as he had made, and just
at the moment when help was at hand!
The few seconds seemed ages. Instinctively she shut her eyes and prayed again. 'Oh! God.
Give me this man's life that I may atone!'
God seemed to have heard her prayer. Nay, more! He had mercifully allowed her to be the
means of averting great danger. She would never, could never, forget the look on the man's
face when he saw, by the flame that she had kindled, ahead of him the danger from the
sunken rocks. She had exulted at the thought. And now . . .
She was recalled by a wild cheer beside her. Opening her eyes she saw that the man's head
had risen again from the water. He was swimming furiously, this time seaward. But close at
hand were the heads of the swimming horse and man . . . She saw the young squire seize
the man . . .
And then the rush of her tears blinded her. When she could see again the horse had turned
and was making back again to the shelter of the point. The squire had his arm stretched
across the horse's back; he was holding up the sailor's head, which seemed to roll helplessly
with every motion of the cumbering sea.
For a little she thought he was dead, but the voice of the old whaler reassured her:
'He was just in time! The poor chap was done!' And so with beating heart and eyes that did
not flinch now she watched the slow progress to the shelter of the point. The coastguards
and fishermen had made up their minds where the landing could be made, and were ready;
on the rocky shelf, whence Hector had at jumped, they stood by with lines. When the squire
had steered and encouraged the horse, whose snorting could be heard from the sheltered
water, till he was just below the rocks, they lowered a noosed rope. This he fastened round
the senseless man below his shoulders. One strong, careful pull, and he was safe on land;
and soon was being borne up the steep zigzag on the shoulders of the willing crowd.
In the meantime other ropes were passed down to the squire. One he placed round his own
waist; two others he fastened one on each side of the horse's girth. Then his friend lowered
the bridle, and he managed to put it on the horse and attached a rope to it. The fishermen
took the lines, and, paying out as they went so as to leave plenty of slack line, got on the
rocks just above the little beach whereon, sheltered though it was, the seas broke heavily.