|Newspaper Title||Southern Argus (Port Elliot, SA : 1866 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Kennises|
C. tfaiual Sale.
( Written expressly for the Southern Argus.) n
BY txODFEEY EGEEMONT [Anthoi-8 rights teservjd.j
Chapter V. (Continued from our last )
lossed and whirled hither and thither, the ocean seemed a tremendous chaldron settling in mighty convulsion. Amid the foam, submarine hills of rock were sometimes discovered swept bare, to be buried next moment by heaving masses torn and driven to frothine eddies and
white heaps of spray. Occasionally a wide-winged bird would come flapping forward, utter a melancholy wail, swoop down nigh the blinding send, and slowly swing by, then suddenly fly back across the waste of waters and be lost to sight behind mountains of cloud. Nightfall approached, the gloom grew intensified, the rain fell with increased violence, the blasts swept by seemingly freighted with fiendish cries, the great deep thundered against the shore as though striving to break all bounds ; and drawn thither by the element's witchery, some of the most daring spirits stood on the cliffs and safe places wondering .if' the usual lazy ebb and flow would ever . reign there again. Hark! a dull sound is borne up on the gale. What is it? Old Tilling, the fisherman, a smart sailor once, peers forward intent to catch Us meaning. Again— dull, heavy, thudding dismally against their ears. Thunder, someone suggested — weather been very warm lately — plenty of blow-flies about. Someone else approved this explanation, and the sound not recurring for a few minutes it is pretty well understood that low, muttering peals of thunder are the cause. Old Tilling fancies he knows better, but offers no opinion as yet. And again the dull thud comes, and nearer. * Bob 1* he shouts beneath his sou* wester — forming a speaking trumpet with bis hands - Bob !' to the bare footed bay at his side ' run home for my glass* Darker and darker the evening closed round the little group on the Point as Bob dashes off on his errand, shutting out the distant world of cloud and water and confining vision to perhaps a mile of frothing billows. They stand silent till the boy returns. Old Tilling takes tho telescope, fixes it between split ends of a rotted post, and endeavours to pierce the black bank ahead. Again the same dull sound — a guide to the grizzly sea dog who directs his gaze to one particu
lar quarter. Boom ! boom I Old Til ling's keen sight has discovered a flash amid the gloom — a dark, lumbering form behind the flash, and cries excitedly without shifting his position. 'My God! it's a ship! dismasted— and driving right in !' * A ship ? great Heaven !' shouts one of them aghast. * Yes ! a ship 1 I can hardly see her now though. God help 'em V and his eye is fixed to the aiding tube. He could discern nothing more, for darkness swept down, and there is not a night-glass in the district. The sound came again, and now there could be no mistake — it was the report of a cannon hoarsely calling from some storm-beaten ship for help ! Louder and louder it seemed to call as night deep ened, till presently a distant flash could be noticed before each report by those who looked seaward. Then the gun ceased its distant appeal — 'engulped, may be* shuddered some ; * out of danger1 said others. Yet waterlogged, dismasted, s wreck already, the doomed vessel laboured and pitched through the raging main on, on, to that merciless, rock bound coast.
Most people at Poolamponk went to bed late that night. Old Tilling and a chosen few, Sam Tyrrell among them, remained at the public-house waiting for the end which they felt might come. John Craemer needed rest, he affirmed, when asked to join the band of volun teers, and could be of no use whatever in saving life if it were possible, though it wasn't because he did not swim. So he went to his bedroom and soon slept soundly despite the howling wind and shattering rain. Tho tidings that a shipwreck there about was imminent spread fast, and many willing workers soon joined the party of which Old Tilling was recog nised head. He had seen plenty of rough weather, his brown, battered fea tures attested, and knew what wanted doing in the circumstances. Unfortu nately it was impossible to be of much real use at a place like Poolamponk. In the calmest hours the rocks were dangerous, and demanded much caution, even from those who sailed or rowed among them daily. But on a night like this, the dest boat ever launched could not live an instant in such a sea suppos ing no rock existed within ten miles. They could only hope to succour any of the crew who might be washed ashore
alive — a forlorn hope indeed I All available lanterns were procured, stout ropes provided, beds and blankets prepared, and everything suggested by merciful forethought was had in readi ness. * Well, I fancy, gentlemen, its best to go now' said Old Tilling at last. ? By this time, d'ye see, she's either too far off or too close (which God prevent !) for our lights to mislead her anyhow. She couldu't take 'em for signals that all's right ; and if she's close, whv, it don't matter — I mean our lights couldn't put her in a worse fix — she's so bad off we couldn't do her any harm, and per'aps some poor soul might get ashore, when, d'ye see, we should be able to do him a good turn. Mot that I really think any human creature could ever get through them breakers and on to the beach with any life in him.'
No one else had other opinions to offer, they were most of them, landsmen, so each took his lantern, or rope, or whatever suited, and followed the fisher man. They went, out into the wild night struggling against the strong wind through the rain and pitchy darkness towards where the sloping sides and irregular hummocks of a sandbank gave access to the small beach lying two hun dred feet below the village. ( What a night !' exclaimed Sam Tyrrell. 'God help those at seal' responded Old Tilling, and a hearty * amen' from the others gave his words the character of a prayer. The glimmering lantern-lights seemed unable to pierce beyond a few feet — now and then one would be extinguished by some terribly violent gust forcing its way down the air-hole or through the horn chinks. A pause for relighting, all clustering round the sputtering match and making a sufficient breakwind. Then on again, almost at hazard, great blinding drops pelting in their faces, soaking every stich of clothing. Still forward, staggering over great heaps of sand, and stumbling against half-sunken pieces of rock, till weary with this toil some march of a hundred yards, they gain ed the fragment of fence upon which, that evening, Old Tilling had rested his teles cope. * This way ! this way !' he shouted. 1 It's all right ; I know my road now,' proceeding carefully sideways into what seemed a frightful abyss, with waves tumbling angrily on the bottom. At this moment— above the fury of the storm, above the howling blasts, above the ocean's thunder — a cry came ringing over the deep. A shrill, agonized, desparing cry from human throats never to speak again. That horrible cry smote to the hearts of all who heard, palsied their steps, paled their cheeks, sickened their brain, and made them wish to God they had never heard it. That cry haunted them long afterwards, rang in their ears through hideous dreams, and lived in their recollection while life lasted. Oh, such a cry as drowning mortals give when the last plank is riven, the last hope vanished, and suffocating death approaches in the overwhelming waters 1 It did not come again, and, as if satis fied with its Bavage work, the tempest
abated, the breezes lessened, and the clouds began to break overhead. ( God preserve us,' old Tilling moaned, his teeth chattering, his eyes staring into the gloomy waste before them, ' God preserve as ; She's struck, and they're all going down. Come on, come on; perhaps we can save some poor fellow vet.'
They scrambled down after him, as best as they might, to the water's edge, shouting, hallooing, waving their lan terns, and searching along the shore. No answer came from the surging bil lows, no success blessed their kindly endeavours. The sea kept its secret, hugged its last prisoners close, cast up that night on the salty rivage, broken spare, bith of rigging, coops, boxes, and all the lumber of a wreck, but none of the human forms it had robbed of life. Morning dawned bright and glorious, a quiet morning, beautiful and calm, yet showing the sad results of the wild night's turmoil in a low, black bulk, crushed into shapelessness, and jammed among the rockB some half-mile from the beach, in drifting planks and splin ters, ay, and in the dead men, now dis entombed from the battered ship, float ing, mangled, and misshapen to their mother earth.
John Cremer, too, is among the crowd who flock there gathering together the drifted tokens of the lost vessel, and anon exclaiming pitifully when a corpse is found on the sand or between the rock. He haa had a dream which (he trusts) may be fulfilled — not that he believes in dreams — bat this matter of the wreck is strangely confirmatory so far. A peculiar dream, a highly satisfactory dream — to this effect. He dreamt he saw Harry Kennis lashed to the rigging of a storm tossed ship and beseeching assistance. That, being the only person who could give the needed help, he (Cremer) had approached Harry Kennis — had put his foot on his neck, had yelled out * Wretchl you can never have her now !' — had trod him under, pressed his whole weight upon him, and watched him slowly die strangled and purple beneath his heel. Awaking, he found it was morning, arose, dressed himself, stepped into the passage, and was told of the wreck. Mr. John Cremer strolled away from the crowd to where the little beach ended walled in by immense rocks. Ha sat down in the shade of a huge boulder, for the sun's heat was becoming uapleasm*, watching the scene, and thinking of his dream. Looking landward for the nonce, his attention was arrested bv a awarm of blowflies appearing and dis appearing behind a jutting point higher up the shore. A strange desire prompt
ed him to quit his seat and see what attracted these beastly insects. As he approached nearer, he noticed they were in swarms, some settling, some flying away, others coming, aud an audible gratified hum sounded at the back of the rock. Closer still, and the mystery was explained. First, human feet al most buried in the sand came to view, then the legs, trunk, and lastly, the head of a corpse. A strongly-built, middle-sized young fellow this had been, the lawyer saw, as he lounged to the place, only a pair of trousers and short-sleeved flannel under-jacket on, other clothes probably discarded to better the chance of swimming ashore. A fine, muscular young fellow evidently, despite his swollen aspeat, blotches, and fearful bruises. Back uppermost, face and hands buried in the sand. Mr. John Cremer looks at the low figure,
the still emblem of what had been a man, and suddenly finds a resemblance therin, feels familiar with that broad, lifeless frame, and curiously turns it over. The lies buzz hither and thither, vexed at being disturbed as his foot prizes their legitimate prey to one side. So intently are they occupied they do not mark the absorbing interest the dead has for the living, the concentrated thought with which living features regard that dead countenance. To be continued in our next.