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24. From The Deeps
Presently the Captain handed Mrs. Stonehouse a pair of binoculars. For an instant she
looked through them, then handed them back and continued gazing out to where the two
heads appeared--when they did appear on the crest of the waves like pin-heads. The
Captain said half to himself and half to the father:
'Mother's eyes! Mother's eyes!' and the father understood.
As the ship swept back to the rescue, her funnels sending out huge volumes of smoke
which the gale beat down on the sea to leeward, the excitement grew tenser and tenser.
Men dared hardly breathe; women wept and clasped their hands convulsively as they
prayed. In the emergency boat the men sat like statues, their oars upright, ready for
instant use. The officer stood with the falls in his hand ready to lower away.
When opposite the lifebuoy, and about a furlong from Harold and Pearl, the Captain gave
the signal 'Stop,' and then a second later: 'Full speed astern.'
'Ready, men! Steady!' As the coming wave slipping under the ship began to rise up her
side, the officer freed the falls and the boat sank softly into the lifting sea.
Instantly the oars struck the water, and as the men bent to them a cheer rang out.
Harold and Pearl heard, and the man turning his head for a moment saw that the ship was
close at hand, gradually drifting down to the weather side of them. He raised the child in
his arms, saying:
'Now, Pearl, wave your hand to mother and say, hurrah!' The child, fired into fresh hope,
waved her tiny hand and cried 'Hurrah! Hurrah!' The sound could not reach the mother's
ears; but she saw, and her heart leaped. She too waved her hand, but she uttered no
sound. The sweet high voice of the child crept over the water to the ears of the men in the
boat, and seemed to fire their arms with renewed strength.
A few more strokes brought them close, Harold with a last effort raised the child in his
arms as the boat drove down on them. The boatswain leaning over the bow grabbed the
child, and with one sweep of his strong arm took her into the boat. The bow oarsman
caught Harold by the wrist. The way of the boat took him for a moment under water; but
the next man; pulling his oar across the boat, stooped over and caught him by the collar,
and clung fast. A few seconds more and he was hauled abroad. A wild cheer from all on
the Scoriac came, sweeping down on the wind.
When once the boat's head had been turned towards the ship, and the oars had bent again
to their work, they came soon within shelter. When they had got close enough ropes were
thrown out, caught and made fast; and then came down one of the bowlines which the
seamen held ready along the rail of the lower deck. This was seized by the boatswain,